OSHA proposes fines of $133,900

welder-railcarOMAHA, Nebraska – A worker at Watco Investments LLC reported suffering from respiratory inflammation after performing welding work inside a rail car in Omaha. The company, operating as Watco Companies Inc., has been cited by OSHA for three repeat and three serious safety violations, many involving confined space safety regulations.  Proposed fines total $133,900 for the company, which specializes in rail car repairs.

“Confined spaces can put workers at risk for serious injury and illness. These spaces often have poor air quality and other serious hazards,” said Bonita Winingham, OSHA’s area director in Omaha. “Employers, such as Watco Companies, have a responsibility to train workers in the unique dangers of confined space entry and to ensure spaces are safe for the work tasks performed.”

OSHA initiated the March 27, 2014, inspection after receiving a report of the illness from the Nebraska Department of Labor Workers’ Compensation Division. OSHA has a Local Emphasis Program on Workers’ Compensation to reduce injuries and illnesses in private industry within Nebraska. The inspection found that Watco Companies allowed employees to enter rail cars to perform repair tasks, including welding, without implementing procedures required under OSHA’s permit-required confined space regulations. A confined space is one large enough for workers to enter and perform certain jobs, has limited or restricted means for entry or exit and is not designed for continuous occupancy, such as an enclosed rail car.

OSHA found three repeat violations for failure to implement training, procedures and practices for safe entry into these spaces, including the company’s failure to evaluate for hazards, and to provide workers with communication devices or implement measures to prevent unauthorized entry.

OSHA issues repeat violations if an employer was previously cited for the same or a similar violation of any standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years. Watco Companies was previously cited for these violations in 2013 in Texas.

Serious violations were cited for failure to provide administrative and engineering controls to reduce damaging noise exposure, electrical hazards and lack of atmospheric controls in confined spaces. An OSHA violation is serious if death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard an employer knew or should have known exits.

Watco Companies, a transportation company based in Pittsburg, Kansas, provides mechanical, transportation, terminal and port service solutions for customers throughout North America and Australia. Watco Companies employs about 4,500 workers nationwide and 30 in Omaha.

View current citations here.

Posted in Confined Space, Electrical, Hearing Protection | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

09/23/2014 – From Kentucky Department of Labor

Notice regarding OSHA’s New Recordkeeping and Reporting Final Rule:

On September 18, OSHA published a final rule in the Federal Register revising the reporting requirements of severe injuries and updating the list of industries partially exempt from recordkeeping requirements established in 29 CFR 1904. Establishments in federal jurisdictions must comply with the new requirements beginning January 1, 2015.

In 2006, Kentucky implemented reporting requirements found in 803 Kentucky Administrative Regulation (KAR) 2:180 that differ from OSHA’s current requirements but are similar to the final rule OSHA published on September 18. The Department of Workplace Standards is reviewing the effect of OSHA’s September 18 final rule to determine what action by the Labor Cabinet may be necessary. Right now, 803 KAR 2:180 remains in effect in the Commonwealth of Kentucky until a determination is made.

Questions can be directed to the Office of Standards Interpretation and Development at (502) 564-3070.

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Siemens SBGA-34 Audible Base showing snap-in detector mounting

Siemens SBGA-34 Audible Base showing snap-in detector mounting

Siemens SBGA-34 Audible Base (Reverse Side) showing Model Number, Date Code, and screw terminals for connecting to smoke detector

Siemens SBGA-34 Audible Base (Reverse Side) showing Model Number, Date Code, and screw terminals for connecting to smoke detector











Recall Date:  September 18, 2014

Recall Numbers:  14-278

Name of Product:  SBGA-34 Audible Fire Alarm Base

Hazard:  The fire alarm base can fail to sound an alarm, posing a risk of personal injury and property damage.

Remedy:  Consumers should immediately contact Siemens to schedule a free inspection and replacement of the recalled audible base.

Consumer Contact:  Siemens at (800) 516-9964 from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. CT Monday through Friday, or online at www.usa.siemens.com/buildingtechnologies and click on “Product Safety Recall” for more information.

Units:  About 9,000

Description:  This recall involves the SBGA-34 audible base that is affixed to ceiling-mounted smoke detectors in order to sound an alarm when the fire alarm system is activated. The audible base has part number S54370-F13 and date codes 0113 through 2314 in a WWYY format printed on a white label on the back of the unit part affixed to the wall. “MODEL SBGA-34” is printed on a blue label also affixed to the back of the device. The base is off-white and measures about 6 inches in diameter. The audible base is used with the following fire detectors:

•Cerberus PRO models (HI921, OOHC941, OOH941, OH921, OP921)

•Desigo Fire Safety models (FDOOTC441, FDOOT441, FDO421, FDOT421, FDT421)

•H-Series (HFP-11, HFPT-11, HFPO-11)

•Faraday 87XX-Series, models (8713, 8712, 8710)

The audible base and fire detectors are used with the following alarm systems:

•Siemens model FireFinder® XLS via DLC 6312 Device Loop Card

•Siemens model FS -250

•Desigo model FC2005, (50-point panel)

•Desigo model FC2025, (252-point system)

•Desigo model FC2050, (504-point system)

•Cerberus PRO FC901, (50-point panel

•Cerberus PRO FC922, (252-point system)

•Cerberus PRO FC924, (504-point system)

•Faraday models MPC-600 & MPC-7000

Incidents/Injuries:  None reported.

Sold at:  Siemens sales offices, authorized distributors and installers nationwide from February 2013 through June 2014 for about $120.

Importer:  Siemens, of Buffalo, Ill.

Manufacturer:  Beijing Siemens Cerberus Electronics Ltd., of China

Manufactured in:  China

Posted in Fire Prevention & Protection, Home safety, Product Safety Recall | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Welding company exposed employees to fire, chemical, respiratory hazards

iStock_000018872028_ExtraSmallBRAINTREE, Massachusetts – Guiseppe Falcone and Daniele Falcone, doing business as D & J Ironworks, failed to follow safety precautions, which fire officials indicated led to a fire that cost the lives of two Boston fire fighters, an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration determined.

The fire in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood on March 26, 2014, was caused because the Malden-based welding company allowed its employees to install railings using arc welding equipment during high wind conditions. Fire officials said sparks from welding railings at 296 Beacon St. ignited clapboards on an adjacent shed at 298 Beacon St., which led to the fire.

“OSHA found that the company lacked an effective fire prevention and protection program, failed to train its employees in fire safety, did not have a fire watch present and did not move the railing to another location where the welding could be performed safely,” said Brenda Gordon, OSHA’s area director for Boston and southeastern Massachusetts. “This company’s failure to implement these required, common-sense safeguards put its own employees at risk and resulted in a needless, tragic fire.”

The company also failed to protect its employees against respiratory and chemical hazards associated with welding, cutting, drilling and painting operations. It failed to evaluate employees’ medical fitness to wear respirators or train employees how to clean, store and maintain respirators; evaluate respiratory hazards for workers; inform employees of chemical hazards associated with welding and how to address them; and maintain safety data sheets on hazardous chemicals.

OSHA cited D & J Ironworks for 10 serious violations of workplace safety standards and imposed fines of $58,000.  The citations can be viewed here.

Posted in Chemical Safety, Fire Prevention & Protection, OSHA, OSHA Inspections, Respiratory Protection, Welding | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

JC Stucco and Stone Inc. facing $235,700 in proposed penalties

climbing scaffoldMasonry contractor JC Stucco and Stone Inc. has been cited for three willful and three repeat safety violations. OSHA’s March 2014 inspection was initiated in response to a referral by the Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections due to an imminent threat to worker health and safety at the site. The investigation found workers were exposed to fall hazards while applying stucco to the exterior of a residential construction site in Philadelphia. The proposed penalties total $235,700.

“This employer was placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program in 2011 after multiple instances of repeated, high-gravity violations,” said Nicholas DeJesse, director of OSHA’s Philadelphia Area Office. “By refusing to provide the proper fall protection, this company is putting workers’ lives at risk. Falls are the leading cause of death in construction. Protecting workers from fall hazards must be a priority.”

The willful violations, carrying a $200,500 penalty, were cited for the company’s failure to use scaffolding with adequate bracing to prevent tipping or collapse and to provide fall protection for employees working up to a height of 32 feet. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, falls to lower levels accounted for 11 percent of all worker fatalities suffered in the Philadelphia area during 2012, the most recent year with available data. 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.

In addition, the agency issued repeat citations, with a $35,200 penalty, for additional scaffolding hazards, lack of training on fall dangers and the company’s failure to develop and implement a hazard communication program. The company was cited for similar violations in 2011 and 2012.

Citations can be viewed at: http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/JCStuccoandStoneCitationPackage965013.pdf.

Posted in Fall Protection, Hazard Communication, OSHA Inspections, Scaffolding | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nearly $235K in penalties proposed

iStock_000003526780XSmallSupreme Oil Co.-South was cited for 14 safety and health violations following a March 2014 inspection at the company’s oil production facility Brundidge, Alabama. OSHA initiated the inspection due to a complaint and to complete a follow-up to a previous inspection it conducted in March 2012. Proposed penalties total $234,960. Since 1994, Supreme Oil has undergone 11 OSHA inspections conducted at its Alabama and New Jersey facilities. In 2012, the Alabama facility received citations for eight safety violations.

“Workers continue to be exposed to safety hazards, such as falls, unsafe forklift usage and amputation hazards. I am disappointed to see these violations present after they had been identified during an earlier inspection,” said Joseph Roesler, director of OSHA’s Mobile Area Office. “Companies with more than one facility need to understand that a repeat violation is not just based upon the history of the site where the original violation occurred, and it can be based upon any of their locations covered nationally by federal OSHA. OSHA requires companies to communicate with their facilities corporate wide to ensure hazards are addressed at all locations.”

OSHA issued the repeat citations for the employer’s failure to provide guardrails for staircases and open-sided platforms, maintain dry floors in areas where oil and water were mixed, and train workers to turn off machinery to prevent accidental startup while performing maintenance and services. Additionally, the employer exposed workers to being struck-by falling stock from damaged metal shelves, amputation and electrical hazards.

The serious citations were issued to the employer for exposing workers to electrical hazards from improperly labeled wiring and not providing workers with the required training to operate an industrial truck. The employer failed to develop procedures to prevent accidental startup and to identify the energy shut-off valves properly on machinery.

View the citations at http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/supreme-oil-company-south-962780_09_10_14.pdf

Supreme Oil Co.-South, headquartered in Englewood, New Jersey, manufactures condiments, including salad dressing, mayonnaise, and liquid oils. The company employs approximately 86 workers at this facility and 450 workers at two additional sites.


Posted in Caught Between/Struck By, Electrical, Lockout/Tagout, OSHA, OSHA Inspections, Powered Industrial Trucks, Slips/Trips/Falls | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Prairie Ag Partners cited for 1 willful, 2 repeat, 8 serious violations

SONY DSCLAKE PRESTON, S.D. – A 51-year-old worker was fatally injured when he became engulfed in flowing grain in a railcar load-out elevator at Prairie Ag Partners. The incident occurred when the worker attempted to remove a jam from a chute while the auger operated. OSHA has cited the Lake Preston-company for one willful, two repeat and eight serious safety violations, many involving OSHA’s grain handling, permit-required confined space and fall protection safety regulations.

“A worker can be completely submerged in flowing grain within a matter of seconds. Allowing workers to move grain while machines are operating can cause the worker to become entangled in this dangerous equipment and become submerged. That is what happened in this case, and a worker paid with his life,” said Eric Brooks, OSHA’s area director in Bismarck. “If Prairie Ag Partners had followed basic safety standards, this tragic incident could have been prevented.”

OSHA’s inspection found that Prairie Ag Partners allowed employees inside the grain bin while the auger and conveyor systems operated, despite a comprehensive safety and health program in place that outlined how to keep workers safe in the grain bin. This resulted in a willful violation issued.

The company failed to complete a confined space entry permit before allowing workers to enter grain bins and to provide fall protection for workers exposed to falls of up to 60 feet while performing work activities around an unguarded floor opening in the main elevator shaft. OSHA regulations require fall protection for heights greater than 4 feet. Prairie Ag Partners was previously cited for these violations in 2010 at its Lake Preston and Oldham grain elevators.

OSHA issues repeat violations if an employer was previously cited for the same or a similar violation of any standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years.

Additional citations were issued for other violations related to OSHA’s permit-required confined space regulations and grain handling standards. A confined space is one large enough for workers to enter and perform certain jobs, has limited or restricted means for entry or exit, and is not designed for continuous occupancy. OSHA found that Prairie Ag Partners failed to implement training and procedures for safe entry into the grain bin, including testing the atmosphere for the presence of combustible gases, vapors and toxic agents.

Prairie Ag Partners allowed grain bin dust to accumulate, which created a combustible dust hazard, and used equipment that provided a potential source of ignition for combustible dust. Other equipment lacked machine guarding, and the company failed to ensure the use of protective equipment, such as body harnesses with a lifeline, while employees performed required work operations in grain elevators.

Prairie Ag Partners has been issued proposed penalties of $120,120 and was placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program. To view current citations, visit http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/PrairieAgPartners_963718.pdf.

Prairie Ag Partners employs about 60 workers and operates an agriculture company encompassing multiple departments throughout the South Dakota area. Grain departments are located in Arlington, Bancroft, Lake Preston and Oldham, and agronomy and feed departments are located in Arlington and Lake Preston.

OSHA’s National Emphasis Program for Grain Handling Facilities focuses on the grain and feed industry’s six major hazards. OSHA has published information related to common grain industry hazards and fixes, proper bin entry techniques, sweep auger use and other grain-related topics.

Posted in Combustible Dust, Confined Space, Grain Handling, PPE | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mezger Enterprises Ltd. cited for 27 violations with fines totaling $234,900

ear plugsAUSTIN, Texas – Cut limestone manufacturer Mezger Enterprises Ltd. has been cited by OSHA for 27 safety and health violations, including two willful. The company exposed workers to unguarded machines, unsafe electrical equipment, infrequent crane inspections and noise levels that could cause hearing loss at its Kempner facility. Proposed penalties total $234,900.

OSHA’s Austin Area Office initially conducted a health inspection in March 2014 as part of the agency’s Regional Emphasis Program for Noise. A referral was then made for a safety inspection to address machine guarding concerns. That inspection was expanded to include overhead cranes and other safety concerns.

“Employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful working environments, and this inspection found Mezger Enterprises woefully short in meeting their responsibilities,” said Casey Perkins, OSHA’s area director in Austin. “Failing to inspect cranes, maintain electrical equipment in a safe condition, guard cutting machines and ensure hearing protection for workers is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”

With a penalty of $126,000, the two willful violations were cited for failure to conduct hearing tests for workers exposed to noise levels exceeding 90 decibels; in this case, exposures ranged up to 99 decibels averaged over the eight-hour workday and failure to guard large, circular stone saws; a hazard that could result in severe injury or death. 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.

Twenty-three (23) serious violations, carrying a penalty of $108,000, were cited for failure to provide proper sanitation, guard machines, inspect cranes, and repair electrical hazards.

Two other violations, with a $900 fine, were cited for failure to maintain the injury and illness logs and provide workers with the respiratory protection standard’s Appendix D for voluntary use of respirator devices.

The citations can be viewed at http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/MezgerEnterprises_964291_0911_14.pdf and http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/MezgerEnterprises_963570_0911_14.pdf.

Posted in Electrical, Hearing Protection, Industrial Hygiene, Machine Safety | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

by Dwayne Towles

On September 11th, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released their preliminary results of the National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries for 2013.  There is some good news in the numbers:  2013 has a preliminary total of 4,405 fatal work injuries vs. 4,628 in 2012.  The fatality rate dropped from 3.4 per 100,000 workers in 2012 to 3.2 per 100,000 in 2013.  While these numbers always tend to creep upward by the time the final report is issued next spring, we did see a reduction in the total cases from 2012.

Some of the key findings:

  • Private industry saw a 6% reduction in the number of work-related fatalities from 2012.  The count of 3,929 fatal injuries is the lowest annual total since the Census was first conducted in 1992.
  • There was a 7% rise in Hispanic and Latino worker deaths, with a total of 797 fatalities.
  • Work-related suicides were up 8% from 2012.  However, work-related homicides were 16% lower than 2012.  Even so, workplace violence accounts for one out of every six fatal injuries in 2013.
  • Fatal work-related injuries among self-employed workers were down 16% from 1,057 in 2012 to 892 in 2013.
  • Fatal transportation incidents were lowered by 10% in 2013, but still account for 40% of all work-related fatalities.

Fatalities by Event-2013












            Click the image of a larger view

Read the full report.


Posted in Injury Prevention, Statistics, Transportation Safety, Uncategorized, Workplace Violence | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

by Laura Dietrich, CPE

Portrait of business woman with back pain in officeIf you are experiencing back pain while sitting at your desk, you are not alone.  Back pain is the most common reason for missing work.  A recent survey found that 8 out of 10 people experienced some form of back pain in the last year.  The most important thing to remember is to not give up on finding a way to reduce the pain.  The fix often turns out to be a combination of changes and may require multiple improvements before the right mix is found.

If you have already adjusted your chair to its proper position but are still having back pain, here are a few ‘out of the box’ ideas you may not have tried:

Add Hourly Movement to Your Agenda

A recent study found that sitting for just two hours per day increases your risk for many of the chronic health problems we are facing today.  In addition, decreasing the amount of time you sit has a direct correlation with a decrease in back pain.  In an effort to be as efficient as possible, people will often sit stationary for three to four hours before getting up.  Changing that paradigm so that being more efficient means getting up regularly is the first step to reducing back pain.  So, add to your daily agenda the habit of getting up approximately every hour and moving your body.  Even something as simple as going to talk with a co-worker in person versus sending an email will help to increase blood flow to your back and relax muscles that have been held statically for the past hour.  There are many free computer apps (PC Work Break, Big Stretch Reminder, and Workrave, to name a few) you can install that act as a reminder to get up and move.  They can also be programmed to pause your computer to force you take a break!

Try Out an Exercise Ball Chair

If used correctly, an exercise ball chair allows for small movement while sitting and helps increase blood flow and decrease fatigue.  The key to using this style of chair is to insure that the lower lumbar curve is maintained while sitting.  The temptation is to allow your back to slump while using the ball, which can lead to pain.  When sitting on the ball chair, subtle bouncing movement occurs.  These movements aid circulation and help decrease muscle tightness.  The cost of the chair is very reasonable and definitely worth a try.

Strap on a Pedometer

Increasing total body movement can offer a wide range of health benefits from weight loss and better sleep to a decrease in back pain.  Strapping on a pedometer can help motivate people to increase their amount of walking.  There is even a free app (Footsteps Pedometer Free) that downloads a pedometer right to your smart phone.  A good starting goal is 10,000 steps per day which sounds like a lot but can really impact your overall health.

Try a Sit/Stand Desk

One really effective tool that many people have found to be helpful in eliminating back pain is a sit/stand module.  Your computer monitor and keyboard is placed on a stand that can either be used at desk level or raised so you can type while in the standing position.  Lumbar disc pressure is higher when sitting compared to standing; therefore, performing your work in a standing position lowers the overall pressure on the disc.  This is a great concept that allows a person to choose when and for how long to sit or stand. The models vary greatly in cost and complexity, but a simple stand that is manually adjustable costs between $300 and $600.  If you do purchase the module and plan to stand the majority of the day, I recommend that an anti-fatigue matting be placed on your standing surface to increase comfort.

Consider a Treadmill Desk

Missed your early morning workout?  Not to worry because now, if your monitor is on a treadmill desk, you can read your email while walking.  While it sounds challenging, companies such as the FBI, Dell, and Google have their employees use them and report an increase in productivity.  The desks can be pricey (in the neighborhood of $4,500), so you may want to try out the concept before actually purchasing a treadmill desk.

Try Yoga or a Massage

Developing a regular habit of yoga can help reduce muscle tightness and help increase blood flow to the spine.  Many people find relief from back pain through the gentle flow of yoga poses.  Yoga classes are now found in most gyms and are relatively inexpensive.  If you prefer to do yoga on your own schedule, there are many free websites available (try Yogamazing for back pain).  Many people who experience chronic back pain find they see quick results after just a few classes; it is definitely worth giving yoga a try.

Massage can provide rapid relief from back pain.  Many companies now offer in-house chair massages to assist their employees in relaxing tired back muscles.  A simple 30-minute back massage can help increase blood flow to back muscles and to loosen tight muscles surrounding the spine which can cause pain.  While massage can be expensive, the results are definitely worth the investment.

So . . . don‘t give up looking for relief from your back pain.  Sometimes it takes trying something completely different to find relief!

Posted in Back Safety, Ergonomic Consultants, Health & Wellness | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment