Prepare Yourself for Confined Space Entry

A confined space can be one of the most hazardous areas in your workplace. As defined by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), a confined space is anywhere that is large enough for you to enter and work, has entry and exit restrictions, and is not meant for continuous occupancy. Workers should be alerted to these areas through training and the posting of confined space signage. There are two types of confined spaces: those that require permits and those that do not. Permit-required confined spaces may have hazardous atmospheric conditions, materials that could engulf those that enter, structures that slope or taper in and could trap someone, and other serious hazards. “Non-permit” spaces generally lack these life-threatening hazards, but precautions need to be taken before work in any type of space.

Monitors for testing the atmosphere are essential to detect colorless, and at times odorless, gases that may be present in a confined space. If potentially toxic gases are detected, ventilation systems and ducts can be used to provide adequate levels of breathable air.

Safety harnesses and lifelines are also important pieces of personal protection equipment that workers should use when entering confined spaces. Depending on the situation, pockets of harmful gas may still exist, or footing could become unstable in the area. With the help of spotters and other attendants, falls due to the space or asphyxiation can be prevented if the workers are properly harnessed.

Lockout procedures are necessary in many confined space settings. With such a small space to work in, the disconnection of power to the area is vital. If a machine turned on, the atmospheric pressure or gases could change, or the space itself could be altered by moving parts or rotating augers. Lockout procedures ensure that the risk of electrical shock or accidental machine use will not occur. The lockout plan that workers follow is just as important as the precautions taken for entering the confined space.

By following a comprehensive safety plan, which includes necessary signage and personal protective equipment, workers can safely work in confined spaces and be prepared for unforeseen circumstances.

What Are My Rights as A Worker Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act?

As providers of personal protective equipment and work zone safety gear, we at American Work Safety often point out OSHA requirements and regulations that employers must follow. However, many workers aren’t aware of their basic rights under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. In short, it boils down to the right to a work environment that takes steps to minimize or eliminate the risk of serious harm on the job. While accidents can happen to even the most prepared individuals and companies, it is a worker’s right to:

* Receive information and training about the hazards inherent in the workplace, methods to prevent harm, and the OSHA standards relevant to their workplace, in a language the workers can understand;

* Receive copies of test results and monitoring done to evaluate workplace hazards;

* Review records of work-related injuries and illnesses within the workplace;

* Receive copies of their workplace medical records;

* File a confidential complaint with OSHA to have their workplace inspected;

* Participate in OSHA inspection procedures and raise concerns privately with an inspector;

* File a complaint with OSHA if they have been discriminated or retaliated against as a result of requesting an inspection or using any other right inherent to the Occupational Safety and Health Act;

* And file a complaint if they are punished or otherwise discriminated against for acting as a ‘whistleblower’ under federal laws for which OSHA has jurisdiction.

You have the right to a workplace free of known dangers, and to receive equipment and training to minimize the risk of known dangers and operate in a safe working environment. For more information about common job hazards and the proper safety equipment required, contact our sales department.

Experts Say West, TX Fertilizer Explosion Was Preventable

During a June 27th hearing before a Senate committee, safety experts testified to confirm that proper federal enforcement and compliance with EPA and OSHA standards, as well as expanding these standards to account for reactive chemicals such as ammonia nitrate, could have prevented the April 17th blast that killed 14 people and injured 200. In 2002, the Chemical Safety Board had recommended that EPA and OSHA expand their standards to include these chemicals, but neither agency has done so. Senator Barbara Boxer, during questioning of EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response deputy assistant administrator Barry Breen, accused Breen of lacking urgency in his tone on the subject and offering ‘vague testimony’, urging that the EPA issue a new alert and guidance instead of relying on their existing hazard alert written in 1997. Another expert witness, professor M. Sam Mannan from Texas A&M, said that better federal enforcement of existing regulations was needed, and suggested that if OSHA regulations had been followed, the probability of an explosion occurring would have been “almost none.”

Summer Heat Means Risk of Summer Heat Stress

May 10, 2013 at 2:19 pm • Posted in Safety at the Workplace, Safety Topics for WorkNo comments yet

Heat stroke and heat exhaustion are an ever-present danger to people who work outside during the summer, and can lead to loss of life for farmers, football players, firefighters, construction workers, and others who are regularly required to perform significant physical labor in hot conditions. Heat exhaustion’s symptoms are usually most easily recognized by coworkers, who should be vigilant and make sure to drink plenty of fluids and wear light, loose-fitting fabrics. Job sites may be interested in our cooling gear for particularly hot situations – we routinely provide quotes for large orders, so don’t hesitate to stock up in advance!

Safety Fraud Results in 6.5 Year Prison Sentence for Former Safety Manager

Walter Cardin was once a safety manager for the Shaw Group (formerly Stone and Webster Construction) while working at three Tennessee Valley Authority nuclear plants. His company collected safety bonuses worth over $2.5 million for his group’s low injury rates. He was sentenced last week to 78 months in prison for major fraud and his company was forced to pay back over $5 million after a six-year investigation revealed that Cardin had regularly provided false information about injuries by misreporting the number and severity of 80 incidents, including broken bones, torn ligaments, hernias, lacerations, and shoulder, back, and knee injuries. Aside from defrauding the government, Cardin’s actions also resulted in injured employees being denied or delayed medical treatment, reduced the safety of the work environment on job sites, and forcing employees to work through medical conditions that created risks of additional injuries. Cardin denied intentionally misclassifying injuries and knowing that safety bonuses were tied to his classifications of injuries, but emails sent by Cardin to this effect as well as paperwork in his desk were uncovered by investigators, proving his guilt.

Fontarome Chemical in St. Francis, Wisconsin Cited for Safety Deficiencies Following Fire

Fontarome Chemical Inc. has been slapped with 17 serious safety violations following a fire at the company’s pharmaceutical manufacturing facility because, according to George Yoksas, OSHA’s Milwaukee area director, “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.” The fire occurred while employees were troubleshooting an electrical component on the hot oil heater. Violations include failure to address hazards related to potential engineering and administrative control failures, failure to implement written operating procedures, failure to review and certify operating procedures annually, failure to train workers on the procedures, failure develop emergency procedures for the shutdown of process equipment or to address deviations from normal operating limits, failure to validate management of change procedures, failure to conduct a compliance audit at least every three years and failure to respond to deficiencies found in compliance audits. Furthermore, serious violations were found in their faiure to develop machine-specific procedures for locking and tagging out energy sources, failure to perform periodic inspections of machinery, failure to guard machines appropriately, failure to require workers to wear insulating gloves and fire-retardant clothing when working on energized circuits, and failure to conduct an arc flash hazard analysis.

In short, it is a very, very fortunate thing that all they are facing is $51,200 in penalties at this juncture, and not deaths or serious physical injury from having employees work on live equipment that handles hazardous and flammable chemicals without any safety procedures or protective equipment at all.

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.

Black Friday Strikes Mean Hope for Wal-Mart Worker Safety

November 23, 2012 at 10:47 am • Posted in Safety at the Workplace, Safety Topics for WorkNo comments yet

As people brave the streets in search of slightly discounted products to indebt themselves over this Black Friday, it is interesting to note that this year’s Black Friday actually marks a potential improvement in worker safety and health for the associates of Wal-Mart Stores.

Wal-Mart associates have historically been the worst-treated retail associates and have progressively been rewarded with lower pay, worse hours, schedule roulette, shrinking benefits, and shoddy and insufficient safety measures and equipment whenever possible. Understaffing is rampant, management is trained to suppress unionization whenever possible, profit margins are usually in the 30 to 40% range on everything but food, and profits are directed towards foreign shareholders instead of the American work force.

This year, however, Wal-Mart associates have been making themselves known. Despite active retaliation, they have been going on strike, walking off their jobs, and finally beginning to air their concerns regarding their below-average salaries and benefits, poor scheduling, lack of proper arc flash safety equipment when operating electrical equipment for lockout/tagout purposes, lack of proper high-visibility safety vests when working in parking lots, lack of proper leather palm work gloves for unloading trucks, and other grievances regarding unfair and abusive treatment at the hands of their corporate overlords.

Wal-Mart has attempted to stop these protests at the hands of their employees through legal injunctions and threats during daily meetings, while simultaneously claiming during press releases that there are so few employees interested in these protests that they will have no effect, and attempting to use security forces and law enforcement to intimidate anyone who dares even speak up at a meeting, let alone looks as if they may be considering joining a walk-out or may be engaged in a protest. It will be interesting to see whether these strikes finally lead to worker safety improvements at Wal-Mart, or even to a Wal-Mart that is fully staffed, well-run, and safe and pleasant to work and shop at. Perhaps next Black Friday won’t start on Thanksgiving, and the associates will mean it when they say, “Welcome to Wal-Mart!”

Hurricane Sandy Proves Lessons Learned From Katrina

November 2, 2012 at 12:53 pm • Posted in Safety at the Workplace, Safety Topics for WorkNo comments yet

In light of Hurricane Katrina and the damage caused to New Orleans, the reputation of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) seemed permanently tarnished, and it seemed impossible for the federal government to handle an emergency on a state-wide scale. And yet…

Seven years later, we on the East Coast (especially those of us in New York and New Jersey) have had the misfortune of being introduced to Hurricane Sandy. Though Katrina was a much stronger Category 4 storm, the reach of Category 1 Sandy was over one thousand miles wide, affecting seventeen states. The New York Stock Exchange was closed for two days in a row for the first time since 1888, though as all affected agencies had several days’ advance notice, no economic disaster unfolded. Subways flooded; the Jersey Shore and its islands were ravaged; power lines fell, trees were shattered, and fires were sparked from North Carolina to Toronto; thousands are still without power; dozens lost their lives.

In seven years, though, it appears that the art of disaster management has taken strong lessons from Hurricane Katrina – on a local level, on a state level, and on a national level.

On a local level, New Jersey communities had established hurricane preparation plans based on last year’s extreme storms, which they quickly put into practice, alerting residents up to a week in advance and preparing shelter, supplies, and bracing where needed. New York City Michael Bloomberg sent uniformed city workers to help evacuate NYU Tisch Hospital after its backup generator failed. Newark Mayor Cory Booker responded to citizen requests for help via Twitter.

On a state level, our governor Chris Christie was already arranging evacuations of the Jersey Shore days before the storm hit, declaring a state of emergency in advance and coordinating the response to the hurricane in the hours before and after it made landfall. While politically, Gov. Christie is often contentious, few can argue that he did exactly what a governor should do in a time of crisis.

On a federal level, when President Obama picked his replacement for head of FEMA, he chose an experienced disaster management expert by the name of Chris Fugate, previously a director of Florida’s Division of Emergency Management, to reorganize and improve the agency. In addition, FEMA had received high levels of funding in the wake of Katrina, in understanding that preparation for emergencies was not an ‘optional’ expense. When the hurricane was detected, instead of continuing political campaigning, the president decided to focus on actually handling the emergency and coordinating management efforts, focusing FEMA assistance and making contact with Governor Christie (as we’ve heard) on several occasions throughout the storm. Emergency workers are still conducting search and rescue operations as well as providing supplies and assistance to those in need.

As we recover from the biting chill of the hurricane winds, snows, and rain and pick up the pieces, we are glad that our government has learned the lessons harshly taught by previous storms.

Hurricane Weather Means Time To Review Your Safety Procedures

With wintry weather just around the corner (and for those of us in the Northeast, a hurricane on the way), everything seems to get a little colder, wetter, and nastier. As a result, any workplace that has heavy foot traffic from customers, employees, or visitors finds itself dealing with an increased risk of slip hazards and unexpected emergency situations. Here are a few reminders of things you should be addressing in your workplace.

First, proper hazard signs can give advance notice to people of dangerous situations within your workplace that have developed due to the weather – slippery floors due to people trailing in water or snow, for example. Conveying this information directly and promptly as new risks arise, in addition to performing a proper risk assessment of your workplace for permanent signs that may be required, is key to preserving the safety of your workers and guests.

Second, properly positioned safety mats at the entrances and exits of your building can reduce slip hazards dramatically by removing liquid and other material from the shoes of people walking on them, keeping your floors cleaner and your building safer. Over one million Americans suffer a slip, trip, and fall injury every year, and reducing the cause of these incidents can reduce your liability.

Third, for those working outdoors around electrical equipment, make certain that their heavy duty rainwear and cold-weather outerwear is properly arc-rated as well – many inexpensive coats are filled with polyester filling that is extremely flammable and can be a lethal hazard in the event of an arc flash incident, even if the worker is wearing proper arc flash protection underneath! Likewise, ANSI-rated high-visibility outerwear is even more important as weather worsens for those working outdoors in high traffic areas, so make sure your workers are wearing proper gear for their jobs!

Hopefully this has given you a bit of food for thought — we’ve got a hurricane to buckle down for, so stay safe out there!