Gunpowder Manufacturer Charged with Manslaughter, Negligent Homicide for Improper Gear

COLEBROOK, N.H. (AP) — The owner of a New Hampshire gunpowder company that was the site of a 2010 factory explosion that killed two men is scheduled for trial in May.

Craig Sanborn of Maidstone, Vt., was indicted last year on two counts of manslaughter and two counts of negligent homicide for negligently engaging in the manufacture, production, testing and storage of explosive material. The explosion at the Black Mag plant in Colebrook killed Donald Kendall and Jesse Kennett. The trial would be held at Coos Superior Court in Lancaster.

The Caledonian-Record reports thethe case also resulted in two lawsuits alleging wrongful death that were filed by the victims’ families. A civil trial is scheduled in federal court in Concord after the criminal trial is completed, federal court representatives said Monday. The lawsuits name other co-owners of the building that housed the Black Mag plant as defendants.

The explosion happened on the afternoon of May 14, 2010, at the site that manufactured a gunpowder substitute for muzzleloader rifles.

The New Hampshire Fire Marshal’s office said there were possible violations of state statute in the handling, manufacturing and storage of gunpowder at the plant, violations of general fire safety and indications the fatal blast might have happened during the manufacturing process.

In 2011, Black Mag entered into an agreement with the U.S. Labor Department that resolved more than 50 workplace safety and health violations issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, with penalties totaling $1.2 million. The agreement required Sanborn to surrender his explosives manufacturing license and permanently refrain from employing workers in explosives-related businesses. Sanborn had declined to comment about the agreement.

OSHA said earlier the company failed to train the workers and chose not to use or install remote starters, isolated operating stations or appropriate shields and barriers. Employees also were not given proper protective gear such as fire resistant clothing and face shields.

Wyoming Proposes Requirements for NFPA-Certified Flame Resistant Clothing On Oil Drilling Sites

October 5, 2012 at 1:00 pm • Posted in Flame Resistant, National Fire Protection AssociationNo comments yet

Wyoming’s Occupational Safety and Health Commission has proposed amendments to its oil and gas industry safety rules due to the risk of fire in petrochemical production and processing. The amentments call for a requirement for all workers at drilling sites to wear NFPA-certified flame resistant clothing while working within 75 feet of the well bore, and for shutdown devices to be used on diesel engines used on or near the rig.

The Wyoming State AFL-CIO and Equality State Police Center have come out in support of the amendment, particularly the requirement for tying the standards used for flame resistant clothing to the latest standards approved by the National Fire Protection Association, which coordinates over 7,000 volunteer experts with a wide range of areas of professional expertise in determining standards for worker safety.

A public hearing is being held today in Casper, Wyoming, to discuss the proposed amendments.

Bulwark Protective Apparel Ltd. – The Market Leader in Flame Resistant Clothing

Manning an oil rig while handling flammable substances, maintaining utility lines with electrical power surging through the wires and working in manufacturing facilities with fire-spewing machines are some of the most dangerous jobs in modern history. The threat of risk, however, has not stopped global demand for oil, electricity or manufactured goods. But it has prompted Bulwark Protective Apparel to develop ways to conduct some of the most dangerous work safer.

These jobs come with a lengthy list of procedures to prevent and handle accidents, and anyone in these industries is familiar with the abbreviated term PPE – personal protective equipment. It’s the barrier that keeps workers safe from the harmful elements they come in contact with every day. Of course, everyone hopes that the PPE will never have to actually perform, but in case it does, its reliability is crucial.

Bulwark Protective Apparel, the leading maker of flame-resistant clothing in North America, knows what’s at risk when it comes to PPE, which is why the company keeps nearly all of its manufacturing processes in house.

“We are somewhat unique for an apparel company in that most apparel companies outsource their manufacturing,” explains Stan Jewell, vice president and general manger. “But flame resistant clothing is more than just apparel. It’s protective equipment and it’s safety equipment. We feel it’s critical to have traceability throughout our whole network. If there is a shirt or coverall that an end user at Exxon Mobil is wearing, we can look at their tag and tell you the exact history all the way back to the bale of cotton it came from.”

It’s something that companies in the three sectors Bulwark serves – oil and gas, electrical utilities and manufacturing – are demanding more and more. If an accident occurs, for instance, companies want to know that the PPE performed as its specifications said it would. Jewell says having information regarding the materials and testing used in each product has avoided many a lawsuit.

Having the right PPE is also something that the government is imposing more stringently. Jewell, who monitors industry trends of its customer core, says that during Democratic administrations, such as the one in Washington, D.C., today, OSHA tends to take a more active role in enforcing compliance of its safety procedures. The right PPE is one way companies stay within OSHA’s good graces.

“The responsibility of Bulwark is that flame resistant apparel carrying our label will meet the performance requirements of the specifications and standards as stated on the garment labels and in our product literature,” the company says. “As long as our laundry instructions are followed, the flame resistance of Bulwark garments is guaranteed for the life of the garment.”

Designed for continuous wear, Bulwark’s products meet the requirements specified in American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) International Standard F2302-08 for labeling protective clothing as heat and flame resistant. They also meet the performance requirements of National Fire Protection Association Standard 70E; Electrical Safety Requirements for Employee Workplaces, 2009 Edition; ASTM Standard F1506-02a; and Flame Resistant Materials for Wearing Apparel for Use by Electrical Workers Exposed to Momentary Electric Arc and Related Thermal Hazards. Because these fabrics are flame resistant, they are also acceptable under the OSHA Final Rule 1910.269, which lays out guidelines related to electric power generation, transmission and distribution.

Equipment that protects and meets government standards is what Bulwark’s customers are looking for. Maintaining its strength in meeting the customers’ needs will become even more crucial as Bulwark plans to expand into new markets.

“We have been the market leader in North America for a while, and about 95 percent of our revenue comes from the United States and Canada,” Jewell says. “But we are focused on global expansion, as well. We’ve opened a new office in Dubai and have new distribution there to capitalize on the oil and gas market in the Middle East and in northern Africa. We’re also working to expand in Latin America, as well. Those are two things that will help in our global growth, which is a big part of our plan.”

In order to make sure it delivers on its customer’s expectations in current and new markets, Bulwark maintains autonomy of its manufacturing process but also leverages the resources of its parent company, VF Corp.

The Perfect Parent

VF Corp. defines itself as a lifestyle apparel company. Its portfolio consists of a number of fashion brands such as 7 For All Mankind, Wrangler, Lee and Splendid. It also owns some of the most recognized brands in outdoor clothing and sportswear such as The North Face, Vans, Jansport and Nautica. Bulwark falls within the parent company’s VF Imagewear Inc., which encompasses all of its workforce brands such as Red Kap, the leader in industrial work wear.

Jewell explains that being part of a larger organization comes with advantages that many of its competitors lack. The supply chain, for instance, is one network for the whole organization. Instead of each company keeping individual vendor lists and leveraging buying power as one entity – VF Corp. maintains one network for all of its companies. It also uses one global distribution network. Also, companies typically share manufacturing space with one or two sister companies that require similar processes, machines and capabilities. Employees are cross-trained as much as possible to work for each company.

“It would be hard to have the sourcing, distribution and manufacturing capabilities that we do if we were just Bulwark,” Jewell says. “But because we have the backing of a multi-billion dollar organization, we have access to a much larger network.”

These shared capabilities allows Bulwark total control of most of its processes and the ability to remain flexible to short-term market fluctuations – two things that have been key as Bulwark’s client base grows, especially those in the oil and gas sectors.

“The reason the oil and gas sector is growing so much is because the level of exploration in North America is significantly higher in the last couple of years,” Jewell says. “I track it weekly by looking at the number of oil rigs operating in the United States, a statistic that is readily available. It’s a good leading indication of what the industry is doing.”

As the oil and gas industry has grown, Bulwark has been able to capture the new market share. “We went from about a mid-20 percent share of the market five years ago, to about a high-30s percent of the market share today,” Jewell explains. “Owning our own manufacturing facility has allowed us to capitalize on better than projected market growth and given us the flexibility to meet those demands.” In the past two years, largely spurred by Bulwark’s fast growth, the VF Corp. factories that support Bulwark’s operations have added 600 new jobs. At its manufacturing facilities in Mexico and Honduras, Bulwark manufactures 95 percent of its products.

Quality Is a Must

To get to the finished product, Bulwark has developed innovative flame-resistant technology used in a variety of its trademarked fabrics, such as the Nomex fabric – a lightweight, breathable and inherently flame-resistant fabric that’s durable enough for the petrochemical and refinery workforce. The company’s Excel FR fabric is a 100 percent cotton and 100 percent flame resistant fabric ideal for foundries, flame cutting and welding, as well as electrical utility workers and those in the chemical, oil, gas and petrochemical industries.

Other products, such as the Cool Touch 2 is a hazard risk category 2-compliant fabric that provides flame-resistant protection in a lightweight blended fabric that is both soft and durable. Bulwark’s wide array of fabrics can be manipulated into a variety of forms, such as coveralls, pants, shirts, sweatshirts and vests.

For the few fabrics that it outsources, the company calls on preferred providers such as PyroSafe by antex, which provides Bulwark with flame-resistant fabric, a small but important slice of Bulwark’s business, and one that it couldn’t leave to fate. Bulwark began working with PyroSafe a couple of years ago.

“They are our preferred knit supplier,” Jewell explains. “Their innovative capabilities and their quality product are preferable to our previous supplier.”

In short, PyroSafe, as well as the other suppliers Bulwark works with, must meet the same standards the company sets for itself. Bulwark’s facilities, testing procedures and products are all UL-certified. During peaks, the company calls on its three overflow manufacturers who are also UL-certified. Bulwark also respects the key differences between manufacturing fashion apparel versus safety apparel, such as stamping numbers to all flame-resistant materials so they can be easily identified.

Other factors affecting quality assurance happen outside of the actual manufacturing process. In addition to in-house skills and remaining flexible, Jewell says the third leg to Bulwark’s success is innovation in fabric and finishes, as well as garment construction. The company also provides modifications to standard products, such as clothing marked with an employee’s or company’s name. Thirty-five percent of the company’s products are customized, non-standard products.

To provide the innovation that its customers seek, Bulwark keeps a close ear to what the industries are saying, even getting involved in the standard-setting process. Some of the company’s leaders sit on regulatory boards and the company is a constant presence at conferences and symposiums that discuss PPE. It enables Bulwark to be on the first wave of new standards and keep its customers in compliance as well.

“We put a lot of resources into growing our technical abilities,” Jewell says. “Things don’t change fast in safety procedures, but it is a constant conversation and it’s important for us to know what’s coming down the pipe because there is a lead time to develop our products and we want to have products available when new rules are enacted.”

Five DC Firefighters Burned By Bureaucracy

April 6, 2012 at 11:08 am • Posted in Flame Resistant, Safety at the WorkplaceNo comments yet

At American Work Safety, we want workers of all stripes to have the safety equipment they need to do their jobs. That’s why when we heard about this, we were frankly a little appalled at this story by the Washington Examiner:

Apparently, an order placed in October 2010 to be filled by January 2011 resulted in the Washington DC fire department receiving a total of 1,750 fire-resistant shirts costing the city $68,250. Ordinarily, this wouldn’t be surprising; firefighters wear fire-resistant shirts under their turnout gear as an additional layer of protection, similar to how other industrial workers wear flame-resistant shirts under arc flash suits or other protective wear for extra protection. Here’s the surprising part: none of the shirts were given to firefighters. They sat there in boxes for over a full year because they did not have the correct D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services patch applied to them, and thus the Fire Chief forbade them from being worn, leaving them in storage instead of distributing them.

What’s the big deal about this? President Ed Smith of the Washington DC Firefighters’ Union is not amused specifically because this oversight has left the fire crews without important and necessary safety equipment — and resulted in a team of five firefighters being hospitalized last April for serious or critical injuries that may very well have been reduced had they been wearing that extra layer of protection under their turnout gear. Worse, replacement fire-resistant uniform shirts are unlikely to arrive at firehouses until mid-June or later.

The moral of this story? Nothing is as dangerous to a safety program as a bureaucratic program that does not consider safety as its primary objective. Always bear in mind that protecting the lives of your workers with the proper flame resistant apparel today is going to be far less costly than the possible effects of lawsuits and public relations damage should you insist upon safety violations for aesthetics.

Flame Resistant Coat May Have Saved LA Researcher

When felony charges were filed against the University of California and Professor Patrick Harran in the death of 23-year-old researcher Sheharbano (Sheri) Sangji last month from a chemical fire that took place in 2008, the three-year old case also reignited a controversy about the fact that Sangji wasn’t wearing a fire resistant lab coat. Some say that fact is overemphasized, but we at American Work Safety disagree.

It’s not only a blatant disregard for worker safety to not follow proper safety procedures for chemical handling, it was equally clear that the young woman was unfamiliar with procedure regarding a chemical fire. The 23-year-old ran about the lab frantically which only fed the flames that eventually burned nearly half her body, according to the LA Times. The injuries claimed her life 18 days later.

While there were other factors involved in the incident, clearly an inexpensive fire resistant coat would have slowed the flames and perhaps saved the young woman from a painful death. Moreover, proper training in the use of personal protective equipment and proper emergency procedure would have further protected a bright prospect. The cost? A couple hundred dollars maybe, but what is the loss to our society and the economic strength of our economy when someone of this caliber dies an unnecessary death? Far more. Read the rest of this entry »

NFPA 2112 Standard 2012 Edition Now In Effect

December 22, 2011 at 7:22 pm • Posted in Flame Resistant, NFPA 2112No comments yet

The 2012 edition of NFPA 2112, Standard on Flame-Resistant Garments for Protection of Industrial Personnel against Flash Fire, 2012 Edition became effective August 31, 2011. These revisions mostly consisted of updates to specific standard requirements, and clarifications of existing wording. Specific changes are as follows:

Garment label wording now highlights the requirement for garments to provide upper and lower body protection in order to be fully compliant with the standard. Specifically, this emphasizes that NFPA 2112 compliant shirts or pants worn alone does not provide adequate protection. The standard now also acknowledges that garment ignition and resultant wearer injury from flammable clothing can result from any type of fire (jet flames, liquid pool fires, solid fires, etc) and not just from flash fires. Read the rest of this entry »