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Managers Blamed for NV Mine Deaths – Lack of Electrical System Maintenance Cited

November 28, 2011 Leave a comment

RENO, NV –  Two Nevadans were killed in a mining accident partly because someone wedged a broom handle against a reset button to bypass an alarm that would have shut down the system, federal safety investigators said.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration said Monday that managers of Barrick Goldstrike’s Meikle Mine are responsible for the August 2010 accident in Carlin that killed Daniel Noel, 47, and Joel “Ethan” Schorr, 38.

The two Spring Creek men were struck by a pipe that gave way in a ventilation shaft because it was clogged with excessive waste rock material.

MSHA said the pipe overfilled because the broom handle kept the loading system from tripping off. The agency blames managers for failing to ensure the safe operation, inspection and maintenance of the mine.

“Management failed to ensure that the pipe, its support system, and electrical system were maintained in a safe condition to protect all persons who could be exposed to a hazard from any failure of the system,” MSHA said in the new report issued Monday.

“Additionally, management failed to maintain the electrical sensors and alarm systems and ensure that these systems could not be by-passed. A broom handle was used to wedge the electrical control panel reset button so the aggregate delivery system would continue to operate and not trip out,” the report said.

MSHA issued Toronto-based Barrick six safety violations as a result of the accident. MSHA terminated the last of the safety orders stemming from those violations on June 21 after Barrick constructed a new aggregate delivery system that eliminated the hazards, the agency said.

Amy Louviere, a spokeswoman for MSHA’s parent Labor Department in Washington, said now that the investigative report is complete, MSHA officials will begin to consider what, if any, fines are warranted for each of the six safety violations.

Fines can range anywhere from $60 to $220,000 per violation, Louivere said. Once notified of an assessment, a company has 30 days to either pay it or contest it, she said.

Greg Lang, president of Barrick Gold of North America, said the findings “affirm Barrick’s belief that every accident is preventable.”

“While we have made great progress over many years at Barrick, this tragic accident reminds all of us that we have yet to achieve our goal of zero accidents and zero injuries,” Lang said in a statement on Monday. He said the company will thoroughly review MSHA’s report “to identify actions that need to be taken to prevent a similar accident at Meikle or any other Barrick mine.”

“Nothing can compensate for the impact that the loss of Dan Noel and Ethan Schorr has had on their loved ones and everyone who knew them, and our thoughts and prayers remain with their families,” he said.

The men were being lowered in the cage to inspect the pipe when the accident occurred about 2 a.m. on Aug. 12, 2010. Rescue crews found their bodies 32 hours later at an area about 1,300 feet below ground at the mine about 55 miles northwest of Elko and 275 miles northeast of Reno.

It marked the sixth and seventh fatalities at the mine since it opened in 1994.

One worker told investigators he had been asked to be on lookout on the day shift before the accident “because another employee had wedged a broom handle against the electrical control panel reset button and he wanted to be alerted if a supervisor was approaching,” MSHA’s report said.

MSHA investigators discovered a modified broom handle hidden near the instrument panel reset button.

“The end of the broom handle had been shaped with a notch of the correct size to allow it to be used to jam the panel reset button,” the report said. “Investigators positioned the broom handle and found it to fit perfectly when wedged between an electrical junction box and the instrument panel reset button.”

Story via FoxNews.com

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Hospital Cited by OSHA on Electrical Safety Failures

February 18, 2011 Leave a comment

OSHA has cited Northeast Hospital Corp. for alleged repeat and serious violations of electrical safety standards at its facility in Beverly. The employer faces a total of $63,000 in proposed fines following an OSHA inspection prompted by a worker complaint.

OSHA found that some hospital employees were exposed to potential electric shock, burns, arc flash incidents and electrocution while changing circuit breakers on live electrical panels. Specifically, the employees lacked or did not use personal protective equipment while working with energized electrical equipment; electrical protective equipment was not periodically tested; electrical safety related work practices were not used; and specific procedures were not developed for the control of hazardous energy while replacing electrical breakers.

These conditions resulted in the issuance of four serious citations with $28,000 in fines. OSHA issues a serious citation when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

The hospital also was issued one repeat citation, with a fine of $35,000, for failing to ensure that unused openings in electrical panels and cabinet motor control centers were effectively closed. The citation was classified as repeat because OSHA had cited the hospital in May 2010 for a similar condition. A repeat citation is issued when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years.

“Electricity can kill or severely injure workers, literally in a flash. There is no margin for error here,” said Jeffrey Erskine, OSHA’s area director for Essex and Middlesex counties. “That’s why it is vitally important for the safety and well-being of employees working with electricity that they be properly trained and equipped with effective protective equipment.”

Northeast Hospital Corp. has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with the OSHA area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The inspection was conducted by OSHA’s Andover Area Office; telephone 978-837-4460. To report workplace incidents, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, call the agency’s toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742).

NFPA to Consider Inspection Tasks in Protection

January 14, 2011 Leave a comment

From a release by NFPA.org

NFPA 70E Revision to add Electrical Inspection to tasks covered for electrical safety in the workplace.

Section 90.1 of NFPA 70E®, Electrical Safety in the Workplace®, says that the primary purpose of the standard is “to provide a practical safe working area for employees relative to the hazards arising from the use of electricity.” The tasks covered by the standard include the installation, operation, maintenance, and demolition of electric conductors, electric equipment, signaling and communications conductors and equipment, and raceways

Absent from these tasks, ironically, is inspection, meaning that the scope of the standard does not cover electrical inspectors, whose job is to ensure public safety.

It is not unusual for electrical inspectors to be in the vicinity of exposed, energized electrical conductors or circuit parts while performing their duties. In fact, inspectors could be inside the limited approach boundary and, in some cases, may cross into the restricted approach boundary. Depending on the equipment being inspected, it is likely an inspector could also be within the arc flash boundary without the appropriate level of personal protective equipment.

Exposure is eliminated provided the inspection is performed on equipment that has been placed in an electrically safe work condition. But is that always feasible? The need for some inspections to be conducted on energized electrical equipment must be reconciled with the fundamental rule of NFPA 70E, which calls for tasks to be performed on de-energized equipment. Only where it can be demonstrated that turning the equipment off introduces additional hazards or is somehow infeasible does the standard permit the tasks to be performed on energized equipment.

The Technical Committee on Electrical Safety in the Workplace accepted Proposal 70E-9 to the 2012 edition of NFPA 70E to include inspection among the tasks the standard covers. Since the committee received no public comments on this action, the 2012 edition is expected to cover inspection of electrical installations.

It is safe to say that assimilation of NFPA 70E into the work practices of electrical inspectors will not occur overnight. However, the fact that the American National Standard on safe work practices will now cover electrical inspections cannot be ignored. Those who employ electrical inspectors will have to accept the added responsibility of making sure their employees follow safe work practices. The government, be it federal, state, or municipal, employs many electrical inspectors, and the question of law on whether federal- and state-administered occupational safety and health rules apply will have to be sorted out. NFPA 70E is blind to whom inspection employees work for, and the proposed revision brings any inspection employee exposed to an electrical hazard under the NFPA 70E umbrella.

There may be some initial pushback on implementing safe work practices in the inspection workplace, but that would be a natural reaction to something new and unfamiliar. Before this change was proposed to the NFPA 70E technical committee, some inspection agencies in the public and private sectors actively embraced the value of electrical safety for their employees by implementing electrical safety training programs. The State of Idaho, under the leadership of Program Director Al Caine, is a leader in this area, providing training and personal protective equipment to state-employed electrical inspectors.

Electrical inspectors provide a valuable service to the public, and while they aren’t typically subject to the same level of hazard exposure as those performing electrical installation and maintenance, they are not immune to electrical hazards. Electrical inspectors need to be pro-tected like any other employee exposed to a potential electrical shock, arc-flash, or arc-blast hazard, and the 2012 edition of NFPA 70E will help make this happen.

Visit NFPA for more information on electrical safety standards in the workplace