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TX: Vann Energy fined $246,000 by OSHA, Repeat Electrical Violations

November 19, 2012 Leave a comment

Nixon, TX: U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Vann Energy Services LLC in Nixon, Texas, with 13 safety and health violations including two willful and three repeat for exposing workers to flash fires and other hazards. Proposed penalties total $246,000.

OSHA’s Austin Area Office opened an inspection after two workers were injured by a fire that occurred in an oil and gas field tank.

Inspectors found that the employer had failed to ensure that the air inside the tank was tested for flammable or toxic materials before providing employees with electrical equipment that is capable of causing a potentially flammable environment to ignite.

The repeat violations include failing to provide eye and face protection, communicate chemical hazard information to workers and protect flexible electric cords from damage.

A repeat violation exists 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. OSHA cited the company for similar violations in August 2011.

One of the willful violations involves failing to implement a respiratory protection program that includes an evaluation of respiratory hazards, medical evaluations for workers, fit testing, training, and the proper means to clean and store the respirators.

The other violation involves failing to implement a permit-required confined space entry program that includes atmospheric testing, proper written permits, a qualified attendant and rescue plans.

A willful violation is one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.

Eight serious violations include failing to ensure that electrical equipment such as a portable lamp is approved for hazardous locations, maintain electrical conductors and cords in a safe operating condition, train workers on the proper use of personal protective equipment, consult workers on confined space entry procedures and maintain fire extinguishers in a proper working condition.

A serious violation occurs 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 company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director in Austin or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Story via insurancejournal.com

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WI: OSHA Fines Fontarome Chemical Inc. over $51K – Lock Out Tag Out and PPE

October 15, 2012 Leave a comment
Milwaukee, WI: The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Fontarome Chemical Inc. for 17 serious safety violations following an electrical fire at the company’s pharmaceutical manufacturing facility in St. Francis on April 13.  The fire occurred during the troubleshooting of an electrical component on the hot oil heater. OSHA initiated an inspection under its national emphasis program on process safety management for covered chemical facilities. Proposed fines total $51,800.
“Employers must provide safe working conditions, especially for employees who work with highly hazardous chemicals,” said George Yoksas, OSHA’s area director in Milwaukee. “It is clear that Fontarome Chemical failed to create safety procedures, much less train employees or review procedures to ensure their effectiveness, as is necessary for these kinds of operations.”
Twelve violations cited relate to process safety management, including failing to address hazards related to potential engineering and administrative control failures, implement written operating procedures, review and certify operating procedures annually, train workers on the procedures, develop emergency procedures for the shutdown of process equipment or to address deviations from normal operating limits, validate management of change procedures, conduct a compliance audit at least every three years and respond to deficiencies found in compliance audits.
Five other violations involve failing to develop machine-specific procedures for locking and tagging out energy sources, perform periodic inspections of machinery, guard machines, require workers to wear insulating gloves and fire-retardant clothing when working on energized circuits, and conduct an arc flash hazard analysis. A serious violation occurs 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.
Fontarome Chemical manufactures ingredients for pharmaceuticals and the flavor and fragrance industries. The inspection was OSHA’s third of the St. Francis facility, which previously had been cited for a total of 22 violations. The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area office or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Story via biztimes.com
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Falling Chainsaw creates Arc Flash

Thou shall not use an electrical room for storage!” We all know this rule as one of the electrical commandments, right? At least that’s what I thought. However, when I looked in the NEC, I couldn’t find it anywhere **. Upon further investigation, I realized it is actually not a Code requirement, but rather a good practice, as is noted in 110.26(B) and evidenced by the lesson in this forensic case study. It all started when an experienced electrician was dispatched to a big box store for what he thought was a typical service call. This was not his first visit to the store’s equipment room. On previous occasions, he’d operated circuit breakers at the facility but never removed any panel covers. This time was different.

Setting the Stage

The store manager was not happy because the ballasts in the fluorescent luminaires over the sales area were failing frequently. Because the main electrical room, which had two entrances, was locked, the manager had to unlock one of the doors for the electrician. The manager unlocked the interior door in the general back office area. The other door, which was equipped with an emergency push bar and opened to the outdoors, was located at the opposite end of the room. Although there was no sign posted on the door identifying it as an electrical equipment room, it was locked to prevent unauthorized entry.

The Accident

The electrician arrived on-site with his tool belt, hand tools, and gloves but no personal protective equipment (PPE). The company he worked for — a large regional electrical contractor —  just so happened to be in the process of issuing PPE to all of its workers. Previously, PPE was available for a minority of employees, generally provided on an “as-needed” basis if the worker reserved it ahead of time. Because this was a simple service call, the electrician hadn’t made arrangements to check out PPE. Although the electrician was trained to use the gear, he had never actually used it in the field — he’d only watched a video on proper usage.

The electrician proceeded to change out the ballasts. He did not switch the circuit breaker off prior to doing so because these units had plug-type disconnects that allow you to swap them out “hot.” After changing out the first ballast, the electrician checked the connection and voltage level at the 20A circuit breaker in the 277/480VAC lighting panel. He removed his tool belt and the panel cover, placing his clamp-on meter on the panel enclosure, which was located about 10 ft from the front door. He bent down in front of the panel, preparing to perform a visual examination when he heard the door open. The next thing he knew something was falling toward him.

Although he hadn’t noticed it upon entering the room initially, there was a shelving unit situated behind the door that held many storage items — one of which was a chain saw resting on the top shelf. As shown in Photo 1, notice how the door swings inward. Due to the substantial weight of the chain saw, the structure’s center of gravity produced a downward tipping force when it was hit by the opening door.

Reflexively, the electrician raised his right arm to protect his head when he saw the falling objects. The next thing he remembered he was sitting up against the panel cover, which was propped up by the main distribution cabinet (Photo 2). As shown in Photo 3, the chain saw struck the right bottom phase lug, resulting in arc flash damage to the red shield. The arc blast was heard in all offices.

The Aftermath

The electrician’s resulting injuries were more a result of the blast shock wave than burns. There was no evidence of classic electrical entry and exit wounds. EMS was called immediately, and the victim was transported to a specialty burn unit. Burns to the top of his head indicated that he was fortunately oriented face down at the time of the accident. Symptoms of blast-related traumatic brain injury (TBI) seemed to be the best fit for the electrician’s permanent impairment condition.

When I met the victim two years after the accident, he was still unable to walk without a brace, had no short-term memory, and was in rehab for stroke symptoms on his left side. His marriage had ended, and his future indicated lifetime support needs. Because the workman’s comp claim was insufficient to cover the victim’s extensive rehabilitation costs and loss of income, the electrician filed suit against the big box retailer. I was hired by the victim’s attorney to analyze the electrical forensic evidence in the case and determine the cause of the accident as well as liability.

The Investigation

At my initial site visit, I was accompanied by the electrician, his attorney, the defense attorney, employees of the electrician’s previous employer, and the store manager. The electrician’s former employer had an electrician with him who wore full PPE when removing the lighting panel cover and dead front, which covers exposed wiring to the breakers. After he finished removing the covers, the 200A circuit breaker feeding the lighting panel was turned off. We were told we were not allowed to approach within 5 ft of the panel while it was energized.

Now that the panel was de-energized, we asked the other parties to leave the room. This left me, the electrician, and the lawyer. Once the other parties had vacated, I asked the electrician to place his clamp-on meter where it was at the time of the accident and show me where and how he was positioned. Working with this information, I could establish a theory of how the chain saw fell and was ultimately deflected by his right arm into the panel. This would have put the impact point area at the bottom of the panel, which was the feeder location.

After lifting the arc shield, I could see the orientation of cables at the bottom of the panel. I was also able to match up the damage to the chain saw to the panel. Given the amount of smoke char to the back of the shield, I concluded the chain saw fault was between the line and ground. This placed the electrician about 2 ft to 3 ft in front of the arc flash location.

Independent and store incident investigations confirmed that at the time of the accident there was an electric chain saw resting on the top shelf of the 5-ft plastic sectional shelving unit adjacent to the interior door. Paint cans were also stored on lower shelves, as shown in Photo 4. The damage I observed to the chain saw obviously had to come from contact with an energized source, as shown in Photo 5. Unfortunately, the chain saw had been lost and never located, although it was being held as evidence (according to the store manager).

My examination of damage to the chain saw bar based on a single image from the scene indicated arc damage at two points consistent with contact with the lug and grounded cabinet. I marveled at the small probability of how the original and deflected fall trajectory resulted in coincidental alignment with the shield edge.

Who Done It?

Despite these conclusions, one question remained: Who opened the door? The electrician was able to recall a familiar-looking woman opening the door prior to the impact; however, deposition testimony did not reveal the responsible party. There were several women working in adjacent offices who were aware someone was working in the electrical room. My working theory was that one of these women opened the door to check on the electrician or see what was going on. In the process of doing so, the door struck the shelf, causing the unit to tip over and launching the chain saw toward the victim.

Forensic Analysis

Clearly, the store had violated a number of its own policies that expressly prohibited using an electrical room for storage. Store policy also required shelves loaded with the heaviest objects at the bottom, which effectively lowers the center of gravity. Had the chain saw been located on the bottom shelf per store requirements, this accident would not have occurred.

It was discovered during deposition testimony that the chain saw was used to trim Christmas trees — and had been stored in the electrical room for quite some time. There was no question that the chain saw was stored in violation of store policy with respect to its presence and location. The fact that the chain saw disappeared post accident did not help the defendant’s case either.

Legal Arguments

The store’s litigation team argued that if the electrician had been using appropriate PPE he would not have been injured. Although I agreed that PPE would have protected him from burns, I argued it would not have prevented the shock wave injuries and resulting TBI. In the end, the case settled out of court in favor of the victim for an undisclosed amount prior to trial.

Lessons Learned

The moral of this story is that even innocuous storage in an electrical room should not be allowed and always reported to management. Of course, we know this happens all too frequently. After seeing the results of this improbable accident, I know I will always admonish responsible parties to remove any and all stored items from electrical rooms. In the end, your willingness to follow this unwritten electrical commandment may save your life and the lives of others.

BLOGGER’S NOTES:  ** This arc flash article originally from ECM seems to have a particular bias to it, has some improper information and ignores some key electrical safety requirements.

The opening paragraph about NEC and clear spaces not being a requirement, but rather just a good practice is incorrect and it also ignores OSHA federal laws and NFPA 70E standards.   OSHA, NEC and and NFPA 70E all have this is a requirement as “shall”, not as a “good practice”.  Work space is one of the most common citations by OSHA and all states have adopted work space around electrical equipment as part of their own electrical code if different from NEC.  Pictures were provided in the article.  From the pictures, it would appear the shelving was violating the work space, and the door itself might also violate the workspace.  The door would also violate NEC 110.26(C)(3) if the equipment was rated 1200A + and NFPA 70E 130.6 (G) as the door clearly created a hazard.

Prior to beginning the work, the worker should have done a Pre – Job Hazard assessment and if so he should have identified the hazards in the room and  cleared the hazards before removing the cover.

Further, he should have followed proper alerting techniques and either blocked the area with warning signs and caution tape to prevent access to the area or assigned an attendant to watch the door.

While the article here tries to define the storage room as the culprit, following electrical safety practices as outlined in NFPA 70E would have most likely eliminatd this accident.

Story via ecmweb.com

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NJ: $124K in OSHA Electrical Safety Fines

July 10, 2012 1 comment

Norwood, NJ:  The employees of a cleaning-products company face “serious” hazards, OSHA says.

Earth Friendly Products, which makes plant-based cleaning products, faces a $124,000 fine for 23 alleged safety and health violations at its Norwood facility, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration said on Thursday.

In response to a complaint, OSHA inspected the operation from Dec. 28 to May 31 and found workers were exposed to hazards like insufficient machine guarding, flammable liquids and deficient personal protective equipment(PPE), among other violations, the federal agency said.

“The large number and extensive range of safety and health hazards found at this establishment are of great concern to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration,” Lisa Levy, OSHA’s area director in Hasbrouck Heights, said in a statement. “This employer needs to address the hazards to prevent injuries from occurring at its facility.”

The company, based in Addison, Ill., makes “environmentally friendly” cleaning products. It employs 38 people at 380 Chestnut St. in Norwood.

The alleged “serious” violations at the Norwood plant include safety hazards related to confined-space entry, which means having workers in an enclosed area not meant for human occupancy, with limited access and only one way in or out, according to OSHA.

Other alleged violations include: deficient “lockout/tagout” procedures to prevent machinery from accidentally starting up; failing to train powered industrial truck operators and make sure that truck modifications are performed with the manufacturer’s prior written approval, and insufficient machine-guarding equipment.

Also on the list of alleged violations are: junction boxes connected with flexible cords instead of being mounted on the wall; unlabeled breakers on the electrcial panel; unsafe flammable liquid storage and handling; personal protective equipment and respirator deficiencies; a lack of eye-wash stations, and a deficiency in fire extinguisher training and hazard communications.

Earth Friendly Products has 15 business days from receiving the citations and penalties to either comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the citations and proposed penalties before OSHA’s independent review commission.

The company’s chief executive and owner, Van Vlahakis, said his lawyer, Amber Enriquez, will be meeting with OSHA officials next week. Enriquez said she couldn’t discuss the case in any detail, but added, “We are working with them to reduce the fine.”

Vlahakis said the company was once cited by OSHA at another one of its facilities for a minor infraction.

OSHA considers a violation “serious” 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,” according to the agency.

Story via North Jersey.com

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Bluefield WV Post Office Fined $280K by OSHA for Electrical Safety Violations

November 18, 2010 Leave a comment

BLUEFIELD, WEST VIRGINIA — A mail-processing facility in Bluefield has been cited for several workplace safety violations for allegedly exposing workers to electrical hazards.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration found multiple violations at the 3010 East Cumberland Road facility in Bluefield. OSHA said employees were working with live electrical parts, leaving them vulnerable to multiple hazards. OSHA said one serious citation was issued for allowing an unauthorized employee to perform inspections at the facility.

The violations allege the Bluefield facility failed to label electrical cabinets, properly train employees, use safety-related work practices when exposed to energized electrical parts and provide proper electrical protective equipment.

Cathy Yarosky, a communications program specialist with the United States Postal Service in Charleston, said the citations will have no impact on the normal customer operations at the Bluefield facility. Yaroksy said the alleged violations occurred in a plant facility where there is no access to customers.

“The postal service places the safety and well being of its employees as a top priority,” Yarosky said. “Bureau of Labor statistics validate that the postal service works twice as safe as other delivery organizations. The National Safety Council recognized more than 5,800 of our employees for driving a million miles without an accident. No other business comes close. The council’s 2009 Safe Driver of the Year award was presented to one of our dedicated employees who drove two million miles accident free.”

Yarosky said efforts to enhance safe electrical work practices are already underway.

“Additionally, in January 2010, the postal service began implementing an electrical work plan to enhance its safe electrical work practices for employees, and the postal service believes this plan meets OSHA standards,” Yarosky said. “The plan provides for electrical risk assessments, training, personal protective equipment (ppe), enhanced safe electrical work practices and insulated tools. As a result of the plan, the Postal Service has already provided 123,000 hours of training for more than 20,000 maintenance employees. We are in the process of distributing more than $2 million in protective safety gear to them.”

OSHA initiated an inspection of the Bluefield facility in May. Inspectors cited the facility with four willful violations carrying a penalty of $280,000 and one serious violation with a penalty of $7,000.

The postal service has 15 business days from the receipt of the citations to comply with, meet with the OSHA area director or contest the findings of the citations, according to the OSHA press release.

Story via BDTonline.com