Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Welders exposed to toxic substances at storage tank manufacturing company

Welding without proper safety precautions can expose workers
to hazardous chemicals and fumes. 
Workers welding stainless steel and other alloy steels containing chromium metal at a Wisconsin bulk storage tank manufacturer were exposed to hazardous levels of hexavalent chromium.

At high levels, hexavalent chromium can cause lung cancer and respiratory, eye and skin damage.

After a complaint, U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors visited Imperial Industries in Rothschild and identified two willful and 12 serious safety violations.

Proposed penalties total $161,100.

"Each year 50,000 workers die from exposures to hazardous substances like chromium during their careers. Failing to take steps to limit exposure to this dangerous substance is inexcusable," said Robert Bonack, area director of OSHA's Appleton office.

"Workers pay the price when companies don't follow standards to reduce injuries and illnesses. Imperial Industries needs to take immediate steps to comply with safety and health standards."

Inspectors determined employees were exposed to hexavalent chromium at levels exceeding permissible exposure limits while welding steels containing chromium metal. Chromium is added to harden alloy steel and help it resist corrosion.

Additionally, the company failed to implement engineering controls to reduce and monitor exposure levels among workers.

The November 2014 investigation also found workers endangered by amputation and struck-by hazards because machines lacked safety mechanisms. Numerous electrical safety hazards were also identified, and workers were found operating damaged powered industrial vehicles.

Imperial Industries manufactures heavy gauge metal industrial tanks that are typically mounted to commercial trucks.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees.

OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.

Source: OSHA

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Monday, May 4, 2015

Hotel cosmetics manufacturer exposed employees to dangerous chemicals

OSHA found new and repeated hazards
at the manufacturing facility.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. – A leading maker of soap and shampoo for hotels and retail sale exposed workers to chemical and fire hazards and blocked emergency exit routes, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration found in a November 2014 inspection.

A company that provided it the manufacturer with temporary employees was cited for chemical-related hazards.

The fact that new and repeated hazards were found shows Marietta Corp. must take worker health and well-being more seriously.

Acting on employee complaints, inspectors visited Marietta Corp. in Cortland and found flammable liquids were not stored or used properly; employees with respirators were not trained or checked medically; and containers with hazardous chemicals were not labeled correctly.

Similar hazards were found at the Cortland plant in 2011 and at the company's Chicago facility in 2010.

In addition, inspectors found workers without needed eye and face protection and emergency eyewash stations; employees not trained in the use of dangerous chemicals; and forklift operators who did not receive refresher training.

In total, Marietta was cited for three repeat and six serious violations with $103,800 in fines.

Select Staffing, the temporary agency that recruits workers for Marietta, received two serious violations with $10,000 in fines proposed. The staffing agency did not provide workers exposed to dangerous chemicals with proper eye and face protection; lacked accessible data sheets for hazardous chemicals; and did not prove that a hazard assessment had been done to determine what protective equipment employees would need.

In April 2013, OSHA announced an initiative to improve workplace safety and health for temporary workers, who are at increased risk of work-related injury and illness. The initiative includes outreach, training and enforcement to ensure that temporary workers are protected in their workplaces.

OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health have issued a "Recommended Practices*" publication that focuses on ensuring that temporary workers receive the same training and protection that existing workers receive.

The companies have 15 business days from receipt of their citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.

Source: OSHA.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Oil and gas drilling connected to earthquakes, studies show

Man-made quakes are a concern, experts say.
With the evidence coming in from one study after another, scientists are now more certain than ever that oil and gas drilling is causing hundreds upon hundreds of earthquakes across the U.S.

So far, the quakes have been mostly small and have done little damage beyond cracking plaster, toppling bricks and rattling nerves.

But seismologists warn that the shaking can dramatically increase the chances of bigger, more dangerous quakes.

Up to now, the oil and gas industry has generally argued that any such link requires further study.

But the rapidly mounting evidence could bring heavier regulation down on drillers and make it more difficult for them to get projects approved.

The potential for man-made quakes "is an important and legitimate concern that must be taken very seriously by regulators and industry," said Jason Bordoff, founding director of the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University.

He said companies and states can reduce the risk by taking such steps as monitoring operations more closely, imposing tighter standards and recycling wastewater from drilling instead of injecting it underground.

A series of government and academic studies over the past few years has added to the body of evidence implicating the U.S. drilling boom that has created a bounty of jobs and tax revenue over the past decade or so.

The U.S. Geological Survey has released the first comprehensive maps pinpointing more than a dozen areas in the central and eastern U.S. that have been jolted by quakes that the researchers said were triggered by drilling.

The report said man-made quakes tied to industry operations have been on the rise.

Scientists have mainly attributed the spike to the injection of wastewater deep underground, a practice they say can activate dormant faults.

Only a few cases of shaking have been blamed on fracking, in which large volumes of water, sand and chemicals are pumped into rock formations to crack them open and free oil or gas.

"The picture is very clear" that wastewater injection can cause faults to move, said USGS geophysicist William Ellsworth.

For decades, earthquakes were an afterthought in the central and eastern U.S., which worried more about tornadoes, floods and hurricanes. Since 2009, quakes have sharply increased, and in some surprising places.

The ground has been trembling in regions that were once seismically stable, including parts of Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas.

The largest jolt linked to wastewater injection — a magnitude-5.6 that hit Prague, Oklahoma, in 2011 — damaged 200 buildings and shook a college football stadium.

The uptick in Oklahoma quakes has prompted state regulators to require a seismic review of all proposed disposal wells.

Source: KPCC. The article has been edited for length.

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