For OSHA Construction and General Industry

Crane Collapse In New York Leads to Criminal Charges

Crane Collapse Leads To Criminal Charges

Crane collapse leads to OSHA Investigation

As they started their day on March 15, 2008, construction workers, Wayne Bleidner, Clifford Canzona, Brad Cohen, Santino Gallone, Anthony Mazzo, Aaron Stephens, and Florida tourist, Odin Torres probably never imagined they would never make it home again. Each of them died when there as a  crane collapse at a New York construction work site. The project, a skyscraper on 303 East 51st Street was located in Manhattan’s Turtle Bay neighborhood. Master rigger, William Rapetti was charged with seven counts of manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, and reckless endangerment in association with the crane collapse. He was acquitted of all charges in July 2010. Causes of the crane collapse include too few girders to support the structure and not having the 200 foot crane securely bolted to the ground. Rapetti and his attorney contended these issues were not his responsibility as he was charged with completing careless, substandard work at the job site.




Crane Collapse Are Targeted in OSHA’s Deadly Dozen Focus

The causes of the crane collapse are directly related to Construction’s Deadly Dozen unsafe acts. These are unsafe acts that lead to many common workplace incidents. Of course, the 2008 Turtle Bay crane collapse incident was extremely uncommon as it relates to everyday occurrences. However, the root causes of the incident directly connect to common safety practices. Safety precautionsand procedures should be in place at every construction job site. Throughout 2013, this blog will focus on construction’s deadly dozen and elaborate on effective strategies to avoid accidents or fatal injuries.

OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) officials consistently emphasize many work site incidents can be prevented with proper training and familiarity of construction working environments and conditions, including crane collapse incidents.  Unsafe acts include careless or negligible actions conducted at the work site that consistently lead to fatalities or serious injuries.

Unsafe Acts

1. Unauthorized use or operation of equipment.

2. Failure to secure or tie down materials to prevent unexpected movement.

3. Working or operating equipment too fast.

4. Failure to issue warnings or signals as required.

5. Using defective tools or equipment.

6. Removing guards.

7. Improperly using tools or equipment.

8. Standing in an unsafe place or assuming an improper posture (as in lifting).

9. Servicing moving equipment.

10. Riding equipment not designed for passengers.

11. Horseplay.

12. Failure to wear the proper personal protective equipment.

Construction is a risky profession. Construction professionals should always stay mindful of their environments and working conditions. Safety should be a priority. Unsafe conditions as they relate to construction are listed below.

Unsafe Conditions

1. Lack of proper guards.

2. Lack of a proper warning system.

3. Fire and explosion hazards.

4. Poor housekeeping.

5. Unexpected movements.

6. Protruding objects such as nails, wire, or other metals.

7. Improper clearance or congestion at aisles or passageways.

8. Poor placement, storage or arrangement of materials.

9. Hazardous tools, equipment or materials.

10. Poor lighting, high noise levels.

11. Hazardous atmospheric conditions.

12. Improper personal attire.

As we embark upon 2013, safety should be a major priority and focus at all job sites. Extra effort should be made this year to become better informed, better prepared, better motivated to address safety issues and prevent accidents at construction sites. Advanced safety training with our OSHA-Approved 30 Hour Construction Training course and our 30 Hour General Industry Training Course, can be helpful for both contractors and employees.

Better Informed, Better Prepared, Better Motivated to Handle Safety!

 

Peach State Roofing Cited For Fall Protection Violations

Fall Protection Violations Target Atlanta-Based Roofing Company

Fall protection violations target Atlanta Roofing CompanyFall protection, one of OSHA’s Focus Four, was at the center of OSHA’s investigation of Peach State Roofing. They were cited by for a willful violation. Peach State Roofing was cited because workers were exposed to fall hazards at a work site in Spring, Texas. Peach State Roofing is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia.

According to the company’s official website, Peach State Roofing specializes in commercial roofing. The company has 15 fully staffed offices supporting their customer base nationwide. Established in 1990, Peach State Roofing is considered one of the largest roofing applicators of single ply and metal roof systems.

The willful violation involving fall protection was neglecting to provide personal protective equipment such as a harness to protect workers from falls of 6 feet or more above lower levels. Willful violations are considered an intentional disregard for the law’s requirements, or indifference to worker safety and health.

Falls are one of the leading causes of death in the construction industry according to recent statistics released by OSHA. In 2011, 251 construction workers died from falls, thus the intense interest in fall protection.  The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has initiated an educational program aimed at informing construction professionals about fall prevention strategies. The information can be accessed at http://www.osha.gov/stopfalls.

Peach State Roofing has 15 business days to dispute OSHA’s findings. Fall protection proposed penalties total $70,000. David Doucet, director of Houston’s North area office emphasized employers have a responsibility to ensure workers exposed to fall hazards are provided with fall protection equipment appropriate for the job at all times when a fall hazard is present.

Companies with employees that are constantly in harms way due to possible fall hazards, should invest in quality training that provide safety tenets approved by OSHA. Employees and contractors would benefit from the OSHA-Approved 30 Hour Construction Training Course Online, that teaches safety fundamentals and advanced safety management.

Avoiding Mold Hazards during Hurricane Sandy Cleanup

Avoiding Mold Hazards During Hurricane Cleanup

Mold removal dangers after disasters.Molds are fungi which grow in moist environments, and therefore can often develop where flooding has occurred. While most molds are harmless, some can cause infections, allergy symptoms, or produce toxins. Mold remediation often is necessary before cleanup and renovation of flooded areas to avoid an unhealthy environment for workers.

 

Mold Cleanup Plan Targets Moisture Control

Most important is to create a mold cleanup plan before beginning. The first step in eliminating mold is to control the moisture where it thrives. The types of materials in the area must be assessed to determine the strategy for remediation and protecting workers. The size of the area must also be considered. Materials that cannot be dried or fully cleaned must be removed using methods that will minimize the workers’ exposure. Often it may be more cost-effective to replace building materials than to attempt to dry and clean mold-contaminated materials. If the materials seem salvageable, fans, blowers, and/or humidifiers can be used to dry them, but if there is too much humidity in the air, these methods may not be completely effective.

If the area of mold remediation is less than 30 square feet, the work area should be unoccupied, but people in adjacent spaces do not necessarily need to be removed. The exceptions are infants, persons recovering from surgery, immune-suppressed people, and people with asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, and severe allergies. It is not necessary to contain a small work area, but surfaces that might be contaminated should be covered with secured plastic sheets to contain dust and debris and prevent the spread of contamination. For larger areas of 30 to 100 square feet, areas directly adjacent should be unoccupied and ventilation ducts and grills in the work area and adjacent areas should be sealed. The surfaces in the work area should be covered with secured plastic sheets to contain spores, dust, and debris that may spread contamination.

When In Doubt, Hire An Industrial Hygienist

If there is a visibly heavy concentration of mold, or the remediation procedures are expected to generate a lot of dust, such as when plaster walls must be demolished or abrasive cleaning of contaminated surfaces is necessary, additional steps must be added to the mold remediation plan. It may be necessary to consult with industrial hygienists or other environmental health and safety professionals experienced with mold remediation for this level of remediation. The work area must be isolated and may require the use of airlocks or a decontamination room. Exhaust fans with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration may be needed for drying the area.

Assessing the type of materials to be cleaned will help determine the methods needed. Non-porous materials such as metal, glass, and hard plastics can be dried, fully cleaned, and reused. Detergent can be used to clear hard and non-porous surfaces. A disinfectant made by mixing ½ cup of liquid household bleach into one gallon of water can be used to rinse the surfaces. Be careful to AVOID mixing bleach with any cleaning products containing ammonia. Semi-porous materials such as wood and concrete can be cleaned if they are structurally sound. Porous materials such as drywall, carpets, insulation, and ceiling tile are difficult to fully clean as mold can penetrate into them. If the porous material has been wet for more than 48 hours, it is best to remove and replace it.

Methods For Protection of Remediation Workers

There are three methods that can be used to protect workers during mold remediation.

Engineering controls include:

• Providing natural or local exhaust ventilation during all cleanup steps

• Re-wetting materials with a mist of water to help prevent the spread of spores, dust, and debris

• Wrapping and sealing the items that will be discarded in plastic bags or sheets to reduce the spread of spores

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) includes:

• Respirators

  • For small areas less than 100 square feet, either approved half-face or full-face N, R, or P-95 respirators should be used
  • For areas larger than 100 square feet, or areas with heavy mold or where substantial dust will be generated during cleaning, either approved half-face or full-face N, R, or P-100 respirators should be used.
  • Charcoal impregnated filters can be used for odors.

• Non-vented goggles

• Long gloves of a material that will protect workers from any chemicals that may be used for surface cleaning

• Protective clothing such as disposable coveralls to prevent contamination and skin contact with mold and chemicals. For larger areas over 100 square feet, protective clothing should cover the entire body including head and feet.

Work Practices that protect workers include:

• No eating, drinking or smoking in work areas

• Avoid breathing dusts

• Vacuum the area with a HEPA vacuum after the it has been cleaned and is completely dry. HEPA vacuums will also help remove dust that may have settled on surfaces outside the work area

• A decontamination area should be set up. The area should be kept clean using a damp cloth or mop and a detergent solution

• After working, wash thoroughly, including hair, scalp, and nails

Following a plan using these steps will help keep workers safe during mold remediation. For additional information on this topic, visit www.osha.gov.

 

Fire Safety Standards Save Lives

Fire Hazard Safety Emphasized by OSHA

Fire Safety Hazards lead to OSHA InvestigationRecently a terrible fire occurred in a garment factory in Bangladesh that resulted in the deaths of 112 people. There was only one fire exit in the building, and it was locked, preventing the workers who were able to reach it from escaping. A similar tragic fire occurred in New York City in 1911 at the now infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. That terrible fire resulted in the deaths of 146 workers. As a response, laws were developed in the United States for increased fire safety efforts. The purpose was to protect workers from the type of situation that led to such a tragedy.

OSHA Supporting Fire Safety Standards in the Workplace

OSHA now enforces the standards developed to support fire safety in the workplace. With proper planning and training,  fires can be prevented. Damages can be minimized if a fire should occur. Following certain procedures can save lives.  Employers have a responsibility to train their employees about fire safety. Workers must know what to do in the case of a fire emergency. Certain types of workplaces special chemicals are kept are required by law to develop an emergency action plan to be followed in case of fire.The chemicals Ethylene Oxide, Methylenedianiline, and 1, 3 Butadiene are especially targeted.

One of the most important things an employer can do to protect workers is develop fire safety standards. If firefighting equipment is provided, workers should be trained to use the equipment properly. Employees should also be trained in how to evacuate the area if fire occurs. employees should be aware of all fire exits. Workplaces are required to have enough fire exits to assure prompt evacuation. The type of building and the type of industry are factors in effective fire safety. That floor plan must be considered in creating the fire exits. The exits must never be blocked or obstructed. OSHA standard 29 CFR Part 1910.36 provides the details concerning fire exits. Employers are not required to provide fire extinguishers. If they do, proper OSHA fire safety regulations  dictate that workers be trained in proper use of them.

OSHA Fire Safety Standards Emergency Action Plans

Workplaces required by OSHA to develop emergency action plans include those where any of the following are found:

• Ethylene Oxide

• Methylenedianiline

• 1, 3 Butadiene

• Process Safety Management of Highly Hazardous Chemicals

• Fixed Extinguishing Systems

• Fire Detection Systems

• Grain Handling

OSHA fire safety standards list specific elements that must be included in an emergency action plan. There are also specific requirements regarding fixed extinguishing systems. These systems are highly effective. They detect fires, sound an alarm, and use water or chemicals to extinguish them. Employers using fixed extinguishing systems must provide for a fire watch of trained employees. They must be available if the system is out of service. Some chemical systems can cause health hazards. In this case, employees should be alerted to the danger.

Not all employers are required by OSHA to have a fire prevention plan. Guidelines for that plan are useful to reduce fire hazards. Key fundamentals start with proper handling and storage of flammable materials. Isolating possible ignition sources such as smoking or welding are also key. Employers should ensure proper maintenance of heat producing equipment. Ovens, burners, or boilers are targets for this prevention. Making sure that employees are well informed is the cornerstone of prevention. Knowing how to deal with potential fire hazards is an important step in fire safety in the workplace.

OSHA to Share Jurisdiction over Aviation Safety with FAA

Aviation Safety Now A Joint Effort Between FAA and OSHA

Aviation Safety drives OSHA and FAA partnershipAviation safety got a boost recently when the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration proposed that OSHA be able to enforce certain occupational safety and health standards that are currently not covered by FAA oversight, under a new policy for addressing flight attendant workplace safety.

Earlier this year, Congress passed the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, which requires the FAA to develop a policy statement outlining the circumstances in which OSHA requirements could be applied to crew members while they are working on aircraft. Currently flight attendants have OSHA protections on the ground, but lose them once they board a plane thus leaving gaps in aviation safety.

Acting FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said, “Flight attendants contribute to the safe operation of every flight each day. This proposed policy is an important step toward establishing procedures for resolving flight attendant workplace health and safety concerns.”

Aviation safety of flight attendants  includes things such as exposure to noise or blood-borne pathogens. It may also include access to information on hazardous chemicals. (Training on these safety tenets are found in basic OSHA-Approved training found in our Online OSHA 30 Hour General Industry Training Course).The FAA and OSHA will work to identify all conditions where OSHA requirements could apply. They will also develop procedures to ensure that OSHA does not apply requirements that might affect aviation safety. FAA aviation safety regulations will take precedence over OSHA standards.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood stated, “Safety is our highest priority and that certainly extends to those who work in the transportation industry. Under this proposal, flight attendants would, for the first time, be able to report workplace injury and illness complaints to OSHA for response and investigation.”

Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis commented, “The policy announced today with the FAA will not only enhance the health and safety of flight attendants by connecting them directly with OSHA but will, by extension, improve the flying experience of millions of airline passengers.”

“We look forward to working with the FAA and the airlines to assure the protection of flight attendants, said Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health.

Airline unions have sought these additional safety protections for 37 years. The FAA claimed jurisdiction over these issues in 1975, but flight attendants felt that health issues such as air quality, noise, and radiation exposure have never been addressed adequately. Aviation safety was always incomplete once personnel were in the air.

Veda Shook, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, the largest flight attendant union with 60,000 members, said “AFA looks forward to continuing work with the FAA and OSHA as we finally bring vital safety and health protections to our nation’s flight attendants.”

“This is a validation that the aircraft cabin is our work space,” Ms. Shook continued. “Any enhancement for flight attendants would also be an enhancement for passengers.” She said that OSHA could help change aviation safety practices and policies, such as some airlines providing both training and equipment to deal with bleeding passengers, while others do not.

Rep. Marie Hirono, D-Hawaii and a member of the Transportation Committee, has advocated for the OSHA coverage for flight attendants and called the proposal “a long overdue victory.” She said, “Flight attendants are our first responders in the sky, so ensuring a safe workplace for them helps to keep air travel safer for everyone.”

Airlines, represented by the industry trade group Airlines for America, consider the current FAA oversight adequate. Victoria Day a spokesman for the trade group, said, “Airlines for America believes that expanding the regulatory process across multiple agencies is unnecessary, creates conflicting regulatory authority and a host of logistical problems throughout the industry.” Ms. Day said, “”Airlines will thoroughly review the proposal and submit comments outlining their concerns.”

The policy notice was sent to the Federal Register on November 30, 2012. It is available at http://www.faa.gov/about/initiatives/ashp. A 30-day comment period for the public begins when the policy notice is published in the Federal Register.

HELP WANTED! Hurricane Sandy Construction Jobs Outlook and Resources

Hurricane Sandy Spawning New Construction Jobs

Construction Jobs leap in wake of Hurricane SandyConstruction jobs in the Northeast have boomed. On October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy swept through New York and New Jersey killing approximately 72 people.  The storm caused massive destruction. It shattered the lives and properties of thousands. Nearly one month later, various parts of New York and New Jersey are still flooded. Many communities remain under evacuation.

According to Economic Outlook Group, a New Jersey research company, hiring and reconstruction  efforts may reach billions of dollars. This could increase U.S. economic growth by 0.5 percent Constructions jobs stand to increase. According to experts, the construction industry will experience a modest job increase during the first quarter of 2013. Construction firms, general contractors, and the federal government will hire skilled workers. The effort will attempt  to rebuild all that Hurricane Sandy destroyed. The storm caused approximately 50 billion dollars in property damage.

Skilled workers have started re-locating to New York and New Jersey  leading to construction jobs opportunities. Construction companies have started opening satellite offices and collaborating with local companies in an effort to take advantage of business opportunities. Many local construction companies have already hired additional professionals. Other construction firms are finding it a bit challenging to recruit local experienced and skilled workers.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced New York State has received funds to assist workers who lost jobs due to Hurricane Sandy. This includes those who were unemployed before the storm occurred. Construction jobs are in demand. Applicants can access the New York State Department of Labor’s website for more information https://www.labor.ny.gov/home/. Applicants can also inquire about these positions via telephone by contacting the New York State Department of Labor at 1-888-469-7635.

In addition, an online application is available at this link, https://www.labor.ny.gov/secure/neg/2012-hurricane-sandy-form.asp .

Governor Cuomo has also partnered with FEMA to offer jobs for the recovery effort. FEMA has a few construction jobs available. The FEMA website can be accessed from this link, http://newyork.us.jobs/results.asp?si=427210168&pi=1&ri=1&so=relevance&as=crep&cname=FEMA%20Region%20II

Construction jobs will have opportunities to pursue in the New York and New Jersey areas during the next several months. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) urges workers and members of the public involved in Hurricane Sandy cleanup efforts to be cognizant of the hazards they might encounter and become familiar with protection and prevention strategies. Robert Kulick, OSHA’s New York regional administrator stated the agency wanted workers to be aware of the hazards involved in cleanup and take the necessary precautions to prevent serious injuries.

For skilled construction workers looking for work in the New York and New Jersey areas, the links below may be beneficial to your job search.

www.indeed.com

Type terms such as “hurricane sandy jobs” in the “what” column to receive relevant search hits.

http://hurricanesandy.jobs/jobs/

 

ProMaxima Cited for Machine Guarding by OSHA

Houston Based Manufacturing Firm Cited by OSHA For Machine Guarding Violations

Machine Guarding cited by OSHA involving Pro-Maxima equipmentProMaxima Manufacturing located in Houston, Texas has been cited by OSHA with 9 serious safety violations involving machine guarding. Proposed penalties total $47,700. ProMaxima Manufacturing has 15 business days to dispute the citations,  according to OSHA’s Houston South Area Director, Mark Briggs.

Machine guarding is a precautionary safety feature on many manufacturing machines. Typically,  it is a shield or other engineered component that covers hazardous areas of a machine. It’s job is to prevent contact with body parts. The machine guarding may also include extra protection to keep harmful by-products away from the operator.

According to ProMaxima’s official website www.promaxima.com , the company has been in business for 40 years. The company designs, manufactures, ships, and installs fitness equipment. The company maintains its operations in a 30,000 square foot plant in Houston, Texas. ProMaxima employs 200 people.

The nine serious violations involved proper machine guarding for power equipment such as saws and grinders. In addition, ProMaxima was cited for other violations listed below.

• Failure to provide lockout/tagout procedures for machines’ energy sources.

• Failure to properly store gas cylinders.

• Failure to keep electrical equipment free and clear of obstacles.

• Failure to train and certify forklift operators

• Worker exposure to amputations as well as a fire and electrical hazards.

Several of ProMaxima’s violations were among the top ten most frequently cited OSHA violations. Improper machine guarding, electrical and lockout/tagout violations are cited often by OSHA according to the agency’s inspection statistics.  OSHA’s Houston South Area Director Mark Briggs stated ProMaxima has an obligation to promote and enforce worker safety. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration assists companies with this obligation by offering educational materials and training resources that can be accessed from its website www.osha.gov.

Managers and Supervisors alike can benefit from basic safety protocols training to avoid having to deal with machine guarding and other critical violations. We can offer an OSHA-approved 30-Hour General Industry Training for these managers and supervisors that’s fast and easy ONLINE training to fit the busy schedules of these individuals. If need be, we can even provide those classes on-site for larger groups of individuals that want to be completed trained.

 

Tips and Resources for Surviving an OSHA Inspection

Surviving an OSHA Inspection Starts With Safety Priorities

OSHA Inspection survival Tips and TricksAn OSHA Inspection can be the most critical activity for any company. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration was established in 1971 to protect workers’ safety and health. OSHA’s primary purpose is to monitor workplace safety in the United States. According to the agency’s website, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) mission is to ensure the safety and health of American workers by implementing and enforcing standards as well as providing training, outreach, and education.

Since OSHA’s inception in 1971, workplace fatalities have been reduced by 65 percent and occupational illnesses and injuries have declined by 62 percent. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) upholds its standards, mission, and purpose by conducting routine inspection at work sites throughout the United States. In 2011, OSHA completed 40,648 total federal inspections and 52,056 state plan inspections. OSHA employs 2,200 inspectors nationwide to monitor the health and safety of approximately 130 million workers. According to statistics, the agency inspects fewer than 50,000 of the more than 8 million work sites across the country each year. OSHA prioritizes inspection sites based on fatalities/catastrophes, imminent danger, and work sites with employee complaints. This article will provide basic tips on surviving an inspection if an OSHA inspector visits your worksite.

Be Prepared

An OSHA Inspection  can occur without notice. Workplace health and safety should be a priority every day. Work sites should operate as if they going to be inspected at all times. Workers should always be focused on maintaining health and safety standards. A qualified and trained member of management or safety professional should be available to handle OSHA inspections as well as other investigations at all times.

Get a Mock OSHA Inspection To See Where You Stand

Before OSHA shows up on on your doorstep, have an OSHA-trained consultant do a walk-through of your facility or site and perform a Mock OSHA Inspection.  The end result will be the equivalent of a real inspection, and you can work with the consultant to remediate any vulnerabilities or potential violation.  For more information on mock OSHA inspections click here.

Be Familiar with Your Rights

You should be educated on the rights of employers in regards to an OSHA inspection. In addition, you need to be up to date on your company policies. This information will prove to be crucial when deciding how to exercise your rights and proceed with the inspection.

Reason for the OSHA Inspection

Before the inspection starts, the purpose for the inspection should be clear. Documents prepared for the inspection by OSHA’s representative should be reviewed. Information regarding the purpose of the inspection is important and will enable you to make wise decisions on how to handle your legal rights as well as continue with the inspection process.

Interact with the Representative During the Entire OSHA Inspection

You would never allow a stranger to walk through your house without accompanying them. DO NOT ALLOW AN INSPECTOR TO WALK THROUGH YOUR FACILITY UNACCOMPANIED BY MANAGEMENT OR A SAFETY PROFESSIONAL. You have a right to walk through your facility with the OSHA representative.

Documentation

Be sure to document the visit and take accurate notes. Make certain the notes are comprehensive and legible. In addition, you should have office supplies handy if necessary. You should take the same measurements and photographs as the OSHA inspector.

Limit Information Delivery

Do not provide unnecessary unrequested information. Supply answers to only the questions asked by the inspector. Offer only those documents requested by the inspector. Do not offer information not requested by the inspector. Always maintain appropriate OSHA documentation files and consult with company officials before distributing documents to OSHA officials.

Professionalism

Surviving an OSHA inspection can be challenging. You should maintain high professional standards and composure. It would not be beneficial to allow the situation to become uncomfortable or unprofessional.

OSHA Inspection Resources

The links below were used to write this article and provide valuable information on preparing for an OSHA inspection.

OSHA Statistics

http://www.osha.gov/oshstats/commonstats.html

OSHA Inspections

http://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/data_General_Facts/factsheet-inspections.pdf

http://www.nfib.com/Portals/0/PDF/AllUsers/benefits/webinars/Advice_Managing_OSHA_Inspection.pdf

http://www.osha.gov/pls/publications/publication.athruz?pType=Industry&pID=113

 

 

Workplace Violence and the General Duty Clause

Workplace Violence Focus of OSHA Citation at TMT, Inc.

Workplace violence is OSHA focus at TMTTMT, Inc., headquartered in Dallas, Texas, has been cited by OSHA for four serious safety violations related to workplace violence. These were on the heels of an aggravated robbery that resulted in the death of an employee at the Whip-In convenience store in Garland, Texas. An investigation was opened by the Dallas area office of OSHA after the incident. An employee was robbed and then set on fire by the robber. The employee, a 76-year-old woman, suffered second- and third-degree burns in the incident. She was taken to a hospital where she died a week later.

OSHA’s investigation included the three other stores owned by TMT in Dallas and Mesquite. They found that workers at all the locations were exposed to similar workplace violence hazards. Stephen Boyd, OSHA’s area director,  stated, “Handling money, working alone and standing behind open counters leaves employees vulnerable to violent crimes. The employer should have conducted an analysis to identify risk for violence. Then, they should have implemented appropriate control measures. Providing  training to ensure awareness of workplace violence, can save lives. This tragic loss of life could have been avoided.”

Each of TMT’s four stores was cited with violation of OSHA’s “general duty clause.”  This focused on the  failure to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards likely to cause serious injury or death. The hazards in these stores present the threat of workplace violence to employees. Workplace violence is defined as any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening and disruptive behavior that occurs at a work site. It can include threats and verbal abuse, physical assaults, and even homicide. Workplace violence can affect and involve employees, clients, customers, and visitors.

OSHA’s website has resources for more information on workplace violence including risk factors, prevention programs available, training resources, and information about enforcement. Links to online versions of publications about specific aspects of workplace violence are also available. This information can be found at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/workplaceviolence.

TMT, Inc. which employs more than 60 employees in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, has 15 business days to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s Dallas area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Executives in many companies have chosen to train their Managers and supervisors in workplace violence and general safety protocols in light of of OSHA’s attention to the growing issue. Online OSHA-Approved Safety Training Programs are encouraged for their ability to provide vital safety information in a quick and easy format that matches a busy schedule.

Chemical Fire Blazes at Garland, Texas Plant

Garland, Texas Chemical Fire Triggers EPA Response

Chemical Fire Triggers EPA AlertA chemical fire broke out at a Nexeo Solutions plant on Friday, November 16, 2012 in Garland, Texas. The two alarm fire was contained, but a pillar of black smoke rose to 7,000 feet according to the National Weather Service. As the fire burned, containers of chemicals were engulfed causing several explosions.

 

EPA Called In to Monitor Air Quality

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) monitored air quality in the area but tests showed no immediate danger for people in the area. The Garland Health Department also tested the water and found no contamination from the fire. The fire was found to contain mostly methanol, a highly flammable liquid used to produce materials such as plastics, paints, and fuels. Methanol is poisonous if ingested. Also burning in the chemical fire was toluene, a high-powered solvent found in products such as nail polish and glue. Toluene can be dangerous at high levels. The EPA continued to test the air in Garland and nearby Dallas through the night. Businesses within a quarter mile of the facility were evacuated as a precaution until the following morning. The fire was contained to a loading rack, using first water, then sand, and was allowed to burn out on its own. 

The plant is shared between Nexeo Solutions, LLC and Valvoline. The facility was bought by Nexeo Solutions in April 2011 from Ashland Chemicals. Nexeo, which is based in the Houston suburb of The Woodlands is a chemical and plastic producer. They own facilities in the U.S., Europe, and Asia and employ 2,200 people.

A Nexeo plant in Massachusetts was fined $7,000 in October 2011 by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for the serious violation of exposing employees to chemical fire hazards due to improper storage of organic peroxides near flammable liquids and other combustible material. . The company reached a settlement with OSHA for a reduced fine of $4,500.

The Garland facility received 4 notices from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality during 2011 for failure to prevent unauthorized discharge of industrial and hazardous wastes, failure to update the notice of registration to reflect current active container, failure to conduct all required training annually, and failure to conduct all required weekly inspections of the facility’s security equipment. Three of the violations were considered minor and one moderate. Notices are not considered violations. Overall the TCEQ gave the facility a satisfactory rating and it has had no violations during 2012.

The cause of the chemical fire at the Garland facility has not yet been determined and is still being investigated. All of the 41 employees at the plant escaped without injury.

Safety protocols and procedures are paramount to a company’s vitality. Management and employees both need continuing education on fire safety, as well as general tenets of day-to-day workplace safety.  Managers and supervisors should consider taking an OSHA Approved safety training course that outlines management protocols for employee safety.