Gravity is a serious yet often overlooked safety hazard. Failure to protect workers from falls was the most common OSHA violation in 2015 with 6,721 violations. The risk of worker falls has grown rapidly with the growth of the communications industry and the use of communications towers. By enrolling your workers in an OSHA 10 hour workplace safety course, you can create a safer environment and help prevent needless accidents. Read more
Category: Violations and Fines
OSHA Fines Are Going Up
OSHA Fines Increases Emphasize Importance of Workplace Safety Training
Businesses now have another incentive to bring their occupational safety training up to date. For the first time in 25 years, fines for workplace safety violations are due to increase following passage of a new bill signed by President Barack Obama.
As a result of the legislation, analysts expect a possible 80 percent increase in OSHA fines, which are set to rise steeply to catch up with inflation rates. Despite the hefty OSHA penalty boost, other safety organizations, including the EPA, will also soon issue significantly larger fine increases. As such, businesses are encouraged to add environmental health and safety training to their list of priorities. Read more
Furniture Fiasco: A Case for LOTO Training
There’s no excuse for putting profits before worker safety. According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) work injury report survey, moving machine parts resulted in 88 percent of all equipment-related injuries among respondents. Investing in lock out tag out (LOTO) training helps save lives, prevent costly legal proceedings, and protect a company’s reputation. Read more
Fall Protection: A Matter of Life and Death
Falls are the number one cause of death in the construction industry. In 2013 alone, falls claimed the lives of nearly 700 construction workers. Many employers overlook the importance of workplace safety training, a growing concern among roofing professionals. An OSHA online fall protection course teaches Read more
Ammonia Hazards in the Workplace
Companies that manufacture products requiring refrigeration commonly use ammonia. Ammonia is a generally safe and cost-effective way to regulate temperatures and prevent spoilage. However ammonia is a hazardous chemical, and, without proper safety procedures, ammonia leaks in the workplace can endanger workers and even the public. Development and compliance with Process Safety Management (PSM) standards, combined with adequate OSHA HAZWOPER training, can help companies protect employees from injuries caused by ammonia accidents and avoid severe fines and penalties for safety violations.
The Dangers of Ammonia
The ammonia refrigeration process has seen little change since the early 20th century. It is used to create a cool environment that helps keep products fresh and prevent bacterial growth. Refrigerant grade anhydrous ammonia is a clear colorless gas or liquid and is considered an irritant. At high levels, its corrosive properties can severely damage lungs, eyes and other human tissue. Ammonia is not flammable, but canisters exposed to high heat may explode.
Anhydrous ammonia leakages can threaten the safety of workers and others inside and outside of the operating plant. These risks include:
- • A risk of fire and combustion when concentrations exceed 16 to 25 percent
- • Severe corrosion and displacement of oxygen in poorly ventilated areas
- • Extreme leakages that flow outside and endanger the public
- • Contamination of food and beverages in process and storage units
The Atlantic Glacier case
In September 2014, ice manufacturer and distributor Atlantic Glacier USA incurred 19 OSHA safety citations and paid over a quarter million dollars in fines related to ammonia usage after failing a comprehensive inspection of its ice manufacturing plant where it had nearly 15,000 pounds of ammonia in use. The company had extremely poor PSM in place, which resulted in the identification of numerous safety hazards that could have had catastrophic and potentially lethal results in the case of an accident and anhydrous ammonia release.
OSHA maintains strict guidelines for the safe use and maintenance of large amounts of hazardous chemicals like ammonia. The company failed to establish adequate precautions, thereby placing its workers in danger. Its violations included:
- • Incomplete and inadequate operating procedures
- • Lack of testing and inspections documentation
- • Failure to prove that equipment met safety and engineering standards
- • Failure to train and educate employees on process safety and emergency response procedures
- • Inadequate work space around process equipment
- • Lack of accessible exit routes
- • Using improperly rated electrical switches in a wet setting
The Importance of Process Safety Management (PSM)
Companies having over 10,000 lbs of ammonia must have a comprehensive and fully documented PSM program. All workers must be trained and fully aware of the PSM standards and procedures and be able to carry out proper implementation of the safety protocols. Due to the size and complexity of many ammonia refrigeration systems, regular maintenance and equipment upgrades are a must. Most companies have a team of maintenance professionals well-versed in engineering design and handling of ammonia refrigeration systems. They also partner with contractors who aid in system repair and upgrades. A team of workers should be on site at all times to regularly inspect systems for deficiencies and resolve issues as necessary. Many companies using hazardous materials like ammonia also employ workers certified in various first-aid and emergency procedures.
OSHA HAZWOPER training and PSM
Companies can find extensive information about recommended safety standards and PSM procedures on OSHA’s website. By consolidating these guidelines with their own safety practices, companies can create a workplace environment that maximizes worker safety and minimizes the risk of dangerous ammonia leaks and worker exposure.
Proper implementation of PSM also means adequate safety training for employees who work with and around hazardous materials. Workers should be familiar with OSHA HAZWOPER safety standards. OSHA HAZWOPER training provides comprehensive training to help workers learn to safely handle equipment and hazardous materials in the workplace, as well as learn the correct use of personal protective equipment. A comprehensive safety program that includes PSM and HAZWOPER training of employees will help employers prevent accidents, injuries and fines.
Company Learns Expensive Lesson from Welding Safety Violations
Poor Welding Safety Practices Lead to Disaster
Even with advances in welding technology, attention to safety remains a serious issue. That became especially evident to Black Elk Energy, a Houston-based offshore oil producer that racked up 356 citations in just three years for violating OSHA safety regulations and endangering the lives of workers. The company’s risky practices culminated in a rig explosion that claimed the lives of three contractors. A month earlier, another safety oversight had injured six more workers.
A regulator for the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) stated that in terms of safety in offshore operations, Black Elk repeatedly failed to make sound decisions. The company’s contractors failed to remove dangerous hydrocarbons from pipes before welding commenced, and Black Elk failed to conduct a safety audit prior to the accident. When the contractors proceeded to weld the pipe, which led to a wet oil tank, the hydrocarbons ignited, causing the pipes to combust.
This case reflects repeated instances of failure to take workplace safety seriously. In the Black Elk case, neither the company nor its contractors practiced proper safety procedures, and neither stopped work even when they could smell the distinct odor of gas. Had each company put in place and routinely used proper welding safety procedures, this tragedy would likely have been averted. The resulting fines and lawsuits in this case demonstrate the serious consequences of safety failures that can follow companies and their affected workers and workers’ families for years.
Safety training such as OSHA 30 training essential to building a safety culture
The impact to Black Elk may be irreparable to the company. The blast resulted in tens of millions of dollars in costs and the company has had to sell off assets and has lost much of its top management. Other firms should take such negligence and its consequences as a lesson and take action today to make sure that there is adequate attention to safety throughout their organizations.
In the oil drilling industry, or any industry involving dangerous tasks like welding, company leadership has an obligation to its workers and to itself to provide adequate training, safety-based processes and procedures, management oversight of the safety environment, and an overall culture of safety throughout the organization. Safety protocols, procedures and regular safety reminders must be used throughout the organization to avoid situations such as Black Elk’s.
A key part of any safety program, all welders and other line workers, as well as supervisors and managers, should complete formal OSHA safety training. Taking an OSHA safety training course is a small commitment each worker can make to master basic OSHA safety standards that may save a life, possibly their own. Our online OSHA 30 hour Construction training and OSHA 30 hour General Industry training course includes welding safety training. Demonstrate your commitment to safety by completing adequate OSHA training for your job and help prevent accidents like Black Elk’s from happening in your workplace.
To test your welding safety knowledge now, take our welding safety quiz.
Fall Protection is not Optional
In November 2013, Douglas Klein, a 25 year old communications worker in Wichita, Kansas fell 50 feet to his death while descending a cell tower after performing routine maintenance. OSHA issued three serious citations and $21,000 in fines to his employer, Pinpoint Towers. This was one of 13 preventable deaths from cell tower falls in 2013. An alarming rise in falls and accidents have prompted action from OSHA to improve fall protection safety for communications tower workers.
Activity involving communication tower construction and maintenance has vastly increased over the last few decades, as have the number of employers and workers involved in building, maintaining or inspecting them. The growth of the telecommunications industry and therefore the increased activity around towers involving climbing, hoisting equipment, repairs in inclement weather and carrying out regular maintenance and inspections highlights the need for increased attention to fall prevention equipment and procedures and adequate worker fall prevention safety training.
The alarming 13 deaths in 2013 and 9 so far in 2014 prompted OSHA to send a warning letter to employers in February and to issue new directives on cell tower fall prevention safety. Along with recommendations to consistently apply and enforce safety measures, particularly in regards to fall protection, the letter said, “OSHA will consider issuing willful citations, in appropriate cases, for a failure to provide and use fall protection.” OSHA is working with the industry to identify the causes of comm tower accidents and continues to strengthen its guidance on comm tower fall safety. They have created a dedicated new OSHA web page highlighting the issues around communications towers safety.
Watch this video of Asst. Secretary Dr. David Michaels addressing the National Assoc. of Tower Erectors (NATE) Conference Feb 25 2014
OSHA’s new fall protection requirements apply to any tower inspection event using a hoist during field hazard inspections and replaces the previous guidelines issued in 2002. Employers must provide fall protection such as guardrails, safety nets or personal fall arrest systems for work on existing towers above 6 feet elevation.
Additionally, OSHA fall protection training is required under 29 CFR 1926.503 for workers who may be involved in construction, maintenance or inspection of communications tower equipment. It covers:
- understanding fall hazards related to comm towers
- appropriate use and operation of fall protection systems, such as:
- personal fall arrest systems
- safety nets
- warning lines
- safety monitoring
- controlled access zones
- learning procedures for erection, maintenance, disassembly and inspection of fall protection systems
As an employer, you want to assure you meet all OSHA fall safety standards for both proper fall prevention equipment and worker training and certification. OSHA Pros online safety courses cover requirements for OSHA fall protection training in our OSHA construction safety courses. Make sure your workers and their supervisors are up to date on important fall protection training today.
Twin Pines Construction Inc. Cited for Willful, Repeat Fall Hazards
Twin Pines Construction, Inc., an Everett, Massachusetts based wood framing contractor, has been cited by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration for alleged willful, repeat, and serious violations of workplace safety standards regarding fall hazards at its Durham, New Hampshire work site.
Workers at the site were exposed to falls risks of 9 feet up to 30 feet due to inadequate or missing fall protection safeguards. Fall hazards related to front ladder misuse and inadequate personal fall arrest systems that could allow workers to fall more than 6 feet and strike lower levels in violation of OSHA standards were also found. The standards require that employees working 6 or more feet above a lower level be protected against falls by guardrails, safety nets, or personal fall arrest systems. As a result of these violations, Twin Pines Construction Inc. was issued three willful citations with fines of $200,500. Willful violations are ones committed with intentional, knowing, or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.
Rosemarie Ohar, OSHA New Hampshire area director said, “The sizable penalties proposed here reflect the gravity and recurring nature of these hazards, plus this employer’s knowledge of and refusal to correct them. This is unacceptable. Falls remain the number one killer in construction work, having cost the lives of 264 workers in 2010. Employers who fail to supply and ensure the use of proper and effective fall protection safeguards are gambling with the lives and well-being of their employees.”
The company was also issued four repeat citations for hazards similar to ones cited in 2008 and 2011 at other worksites in Boston, Lakeville, Lexington, Newbury, and New Bedford, Massachusetts, and in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The fines for these citations total $75,900. The citations were for hazards including lack of fall protection training, missing handrails, lack of eye protection for workers using pneumatic nail guns, and ungrounded electrical cords.
Additionally, citations were issued for three serious violations for wood and metal trusses which were inadequately braced during installation, lack of protection from falling objects, and missing fire extinguishers. Proposed fines for these violations are $14,300.
Because falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry, OSHA has created a Fall Prevention Campaign to raise awareness of fall hazards and how to prevent them. The web page for the campaign can be found at www.osha.gov/stopfalls. The page provides detailed information on fall protection standards in both English and Spanish. There are also printable fact sheets, posters, and videos which illustrate fall hazards and appropriate preventive measures.
OSHA area director Ohar said, “All employers must plan ahead to identify fall hazards and use the proper type of fall protection, provide proper and properly maintained equipment, and train workers to protect themselves against fall hazards.”
Safety Manager Receives Jail Sentence for Falsifying Records
Walter Cardin, 55, of Metairie, Tennessee, was sentenced on April 12 in U.S. District Court for lying about worker injuries while working as safety manager for the Shaw Group. Cardin was sentenced to six and half years in prison followed by two years of supervised release. In November Cardin was convicted of eight counts of major fraud against the United States. The charges involved not reporting or misclassifying worker injuries at three plants owned by his employer, Stone and Webster Construction, a subsidiary of the Shaw Group. The falsified injury records enabled his company to collect $2.5 million in safety bonuses from the Tennessee Valley Authority, the U.S. government agency which oversees nuclear facilities. Cardin could have received a sentence of up to 10 years in prison and fined up to $1,000,000 for each offense.
Cardin’s employer, Stone and Webster Construction had been contracted by the TVA to provide repair and maintenance services at three nuclear sites as well as construction work for a restart at one of the facilities. Cardin falsified safety records at the Sequoyah and Watts Bar plants in Tennessee and Brown’s Ferry in Alabama between 2004 and 2006. The TVA-Office of Inspector General conducted an investigation that led to the charges being filed.
Evidence was presented in the case of more than 80 injuries not properly recorded. Employees testified that medical treatment for their injuries was delayed or denied due to the falsified reports. In early 2009, Stone and Webster Construction, Inc. paid $6.2 million to the federal government in a civil settlement for the alleged improper recording of safety records while under a $10-billion long-term contract with the TVA.
In addition to the charges of falsifying records, Cardin was found to have obstructed justice after denying that he intentionally misclassified the records and saying that he had no knowledge of safety bonuses being tied to the injury reports, after investigators found emails that proved otherwise. This charge was taken into account in deciding Cardin’s sentence.
Prosecutors comments on the case pointed out that Cardin’s actions in his role as safety manager affected safety at nuclear sites, discouraged employees from reporting injuries, resulted in employees having to work with injuries that could create further risks to themselves and others, and kept employers from addressing other safety issues.
U.S. Attorney Bill Killian said, “These convictions will put all Tennessee Valley Authority contractors on notice that criminal violations to maximize profits with TVA will not be tolerated in the Eastern District of Tennessee.”
OSHA Cites Construction Firm after Massachusetts Police Officer’s Death
On July 26, 2012, Police Officer Jose Torres, 53, who had been assigned to direct traffic at a work site in Westfield, Massachusetts, was killed when a dump truck operated by a Revoli employee backed over him. At the time there were two backup alarms sounding from different vehicles. Torres apparently was unaware that the dump truck was backing toward him. Officer Torres, an Army veteran, was well-liked and had twice received citations for heroism during his career. He is survived by a wife and two sons.
Revoli had been hired by the city of West Springfield to complete a pipe project. Part of the work involved was in the neighboring city of Westfield, where the accident occurred. The company is scheduled to return in the spring to finish the job at the Westfield worksite where the fatal accident occurred. Due to the citation issued by OSHA and a history of safety violations by Revoli, Westfield Mayor Daniel M. Knapnik has made the decision that when work resumes at the site, roads where work is being done will be closed to all traffic for safety reasons. Knapnik, who has 20 years of experience in his career before becoming mayor said, “The number one killer on a job site is a dump truck that is backing up.”
The citation issued by OSHA to Revoli is for a repeat violation of standard 29 CFR 1926.21 (b)(2). The citation states that the “employer did not instruct each employee in the recognition and avoidance of unsafe conditions and the regulations applicable to his work environment to control or eliminate any hazards or other exposure to illness or injury.” The citation requires that the company must “conduct and document daily (or as necessary) briefings with all exposed employees on the job site where those employees are exposed to vehicular and other job site hazards…Specific abatement documentation that this violation has been corrected must be provided [to OSHA] within 10 days of the abatement in accordance with 29 CFR 1903.19(d)(1).”
OSHA Springfield area director Mary E. Hoye also wrote a letter addressed to Shawqi Alsarabi at Revoli with recommendations for improving conditions which, though they were not found to be violations in the OSHA inspection, would be significant to reducing or eliminating safety hazards. The letter stated, “Specifically, OSHA is concerned with your company’s apparent lack of focus on safety and accident prevention…Had a comprehensive safety program been in place and enforced, an accident of this magnitude may have been avoided.”
The OSHA investigation found that the truck involved in the accident was equipped with a backup alarm as required by federal law. However, the truck driver was unable to see what was behind him as he backed up and was relying on anyone in the way to remove themselves from the truck’s path. Hoye’s letter to the company’s representative recommended that Revoli explore the use of backup cameras and microwave-Doppler backup warning systems which would alert drivers of obstructions they are not able to see.
Revoli has a history of safety violations. The company received a citation from OSHA in 2005 for failing to provide cave-in protection for its workers at a work site in Gloucester, Massachusetts and was fined $115,900. The citation noted that in the previous twelve years, Revoli had been cited nine times for not providing cave-in protection for workers. Revoli also received citations from OSHA in 2008 and 2009.
Connecticut Roofing Company Fined for Fall Hazards
A Milford, Connecticut roofing contractor, Roof Systems of Connecticut has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Proposed fines total $44,880. The citations are a result of a November 2012 inspection where officials spotted fall hazards.
Robert Kowalski, OSHA area director in Bridgeport, Connecticut explained inspection officials consistently visit job sites with inadequate or absent fall protection. It is critical workers have access to fall protection and training relevant to fall hazards.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration(OSHA) initiated an aggressive awareness campaign focusing on fall hazards. Information, fact sheets, videos, and posters can be accessed from this link, http://www.osha.gov/stopfalls/index.html. OSHA loops falls into a category termed construction’s focus four. Falls, along with electrocutions, struck-by object, and caught-in or-between are the most common causes of death in the construction industry. Falls contributed to 35% of worker fatalities according to the latest statistics released by OSHA.
Despite OSHA’s increased emphasis on fall prevention and fall protection, Roof Systems of Connecticut was cited with three repeat violations. It is not the first time the company violated industry regulations regarding fall protection. The company was also cited in 2008 and 2009. At the November 2012 inspection, OSHA officials found workers exposed to falls of up to 11 feet 2 inches while installing roofing without fall protection. Workers were not trained to identify fall hazards and officials also noticed workers using a pneumatic gun without eye protection.
The three serious violations involved ladder hazards and neglecting to familiarize workers on ladder hazards. OSHA suggests the following basic tips to workers when working with ladders.
Ladder Safety Tips
• Select the appropriate ladder for the job.
• Maintain three points of contact.
• Secure the ladder.
• Stand in front of the ladder at ALL times.
Roof Systems of Connecticut has fifteen days from receipt of the citation to dispute OSHA’s claims.