Testimonials

OSHA fines Waukegan plant after explosion kills 4, including 3 from Kenosha Count

OSHA fines Waukegan plant after explosion kills 4, including 3 from Kenosha Count

Investigators continue to search for one missing person in the rubble of the former factory.

WAUKEGAN, Ill. — The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has fined an Illinois plant following an explosion that killed four workers.

The Waukegan-based company, AB Specialty Silicones, is facing $1.59 million in fines for 12 federal safety violations after four employees were killed in an explosion on May 3, 2019. Three of the four killed were from Kenosha County.

OSHA investigators determined that “AB Specialty Silicones failed to ensure that electrical equipment and installations in the production area of the plant complied with OSHA electrical standards, and were approved for hazardous locations.”

The Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Loren Sweatt said, “By ignoring safety and health requirements, this employer created an unsafe work environment with deadly consequences.”

Click here for the entire story from WTMJ-TV Milwaukee

Construction worker critically injured in electrical accident in Jacksonville

Jacksonville police say boom truck lifting traffic signal hit energized line

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A construction worker installing traffic signals Friday morning on North Kernan Boulevard in East Arlington was critically injured when a boom truck he was in hit a high power transmission line, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.

The man operating the crane was doing electrical work for a subcontractor working on a Jacksonville Transportation Authority, tried to get off the truck but was shocked. Police said the victim was hospitalized in life-threatening condition.

Residents in the area heard what sounded like an explosion, smelled something burning and came outside to see what was happening.

“We got to the stop sign and there was a gentleman that had grabbed (the victim) and put him on the ground and started doing CPR,” Angela Ahern said. “(Paramedics) had to pull him away and when they did, he dropped to the ground and four guys got on the ground with him and held him. Every guy over there was crying.”

The JEA told News4Jax the utility has no record of a request from the subcontractor or the contractor, Superior Construction, to turn off power to the transmission lines in the area while the traffic lights were being installed.

According to the JTA, the man is an employee of James D. Hinson Electrical Contracting Co. Inc. The company told News4Jax it would not be making a comment.

JTA spokesman David Cawton II released a statement Friday afternoon:

“JTA’s main concern is the health and well-being of the subcontractor who was seriously injured today while working on the Kernan Blvd. improvement project, part of JTA’s MobiltyWorks program. We are fully cooperating with authorities as they investigate the cause of the accident.”

Police and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration were on the scene, investigating.

Click here for the story from WJXT News4Jax

Employer Willfully Failed to Train Employee for the Hazardous Electrical Work He Was Directed to Perform

OSHA News Release – Region 2

The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC) has issued a decision affirming all safety and health citations issued by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) against Jersey City Medical Center. OSHA cited the medical center, based in Jersey City, NJ,  for electrical hazards after a maintenance employee’s fatal fall after receiving an electric shock. The judge also affirmed OSHA’s proposed penalties totaling $174,593.

In June 2016, the decedent – who was untrained in electrical safety work practices – was repairing a ceiling light fixture when the incident occurred. The judge found that the employer willfully failed to train the employee for the hazardous electrical work he was directed to perform. A three-day hearing was held in New York City in April 2018, and the decision from OSHRC issued on June 17, 2019.

“The outcome of this case shows the employer will be held accountable for willfully exposing employees to serious hazards, and the U.S. Department of Labor stands ready to litigate such issues when employers refuse to accept responsibility,” said the Department’s Regional Solicitor Jeffrey S. Rogoff, in New York.

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 help ensure these conditions for American working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education, and assistance. For more information, visit https://www.osha.gov.

OSHA Cites Metal Extraction Facility After Workers Burned by Arc Flash

OSHA Cites Metal Extraction Facility After Workers Burned by Arc Flash

ASARCO faces $278,456 in penalties for two willful violations and one serious violation.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited ASARCO – a metal smelting company – for electrical hazards after an arc flash caused three workers to suffer severe burns at its facility in Hayden, Arizona. The company faces $278,456 in penalties for two willful violations and one serious violation.

OSHA inspectors determined the arc flash occurred after the insertion of a breaker into a 4,160-volt switchgear. OSHA cited the company for its failure to provide a pre-job briefing before work began on the energized switchgear, render the electrical breaker inoperable before work began, and ensure the injured employees had arc-flash protective clothing.

“Employers must not jeopardize the safety of workers,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Barbara Goto, in San Francisco, California. “Arc flash hazards are well known, but can be eliminated when workers are properly trained and protective equipment is provided.”

 Click here for the OSHA News

 

“I Hear You Knocking . . . But You Can’t Come In!”

Check out this months article from Employment Law Monthly, written by Melanie D. Lipomanis, an Associate on the Employment Team at Porzio, Bromberg & Newman, P.C.

I Hear You Knocking . . . But You Can’t Come In!

The time to plan and implement procedures for handling a worksite inspection is definitely not when the Occupational Safety and Health inspector, known as a compliance safety and health officer (“CSHO”), is knocking on the door. Frequently, employers permit CSHOs to expand their inspection to areas in the workplace that are not specifically related to the injury or illness under investigation. Since the inspectors can cite any violations they see in “plain view” regardless of the purpose of the inspection, permitting them unfettered access to the entire worksite can lead to additional citations and penalties.

In United States v. Mar-Jac Poultry, Inc., the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit held that OSHA could not expand the scope of a narrow injury-based inspection to a facility-wide general inspection based on the employer’s OSHA 300 injury and illness logs.

In her article she lays out the Facts, Impact of Mar-Jac, and Employer Takeaway from this case.

Facts: Mar-Jac operates a poultry plant in Georgia. In 2016, an employee was hospitalized after being burned by an electrical arc flash. The employer reported the incident as required under OSHA regulations. OSHA’s initial inspection uncovered the potential for other electrical hazards in the poultry plant. OSHA sought to expand the scope of the inspection to cover the entire facility and search for additional hazards in the plant that had no relation to the electrical accident whatsoever, including ergonomics, biological hazards, and slips/falls.

The employer consented to an inspection of the specific worksite and tools involved in the electrical accident, but refused to allow inspection of any additional areas or hazards. OSHA applied for and was granted a warrant to inspect the entire facility. Mar-Jac filed an emergency motion to quash the warrant.

Procedurally, in a warrant application, OSHA must establish probable cause by providing reasonable suspicion that a violation exists. OSHA argued that Mar-Jac’s OSHA 300 injuries and illnesses logs created reasonable suspicion of hazards which suggested the existence of violations. The Eleventh Circuit rejected this argument, holding that a recorded injury or illness does not by itself demonstrate that it resulted from an OSHA violation. The Court distinguished hazards from violations, and explained that the existence of a hazard does not necessarily establish the existence of a violation. OSHA must show a violation to demonstrate reasonable suspicion in a warrant application.

Impact of Mar-Jac: Mar-Jac reinforces that there are limits on OSHA’s inspection authority. OSHA cannot expand its inspection of a facility based solely on the existence of an injury or hazard. Rather, OSHA must proffer additional evidence to support its reasonable suspicion of a violation. Although Mar-Jac is an Eleventh Circuit decision and not binding precedent in other jurisdictions, it does offer a valuable lesson for employers to reasonably limit their consent for inspection to the specific area or tools involved in the reported injury or illness.

Employer Takeaway: Employers are entitled to Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures of their workplaces, including inspections by OSHA. Accordingly, a CSHO must obtain either the employer’s consent or an inspection warrant prior to any inspection of the employer’s premises. Frequently, the CSHO will arrive at the worksite unannounced, and unarmed with a warrant. Employers do not want employees to make an all too common mistake of throwing the company doors wide-open when they absolutely have no obligation to do so. The initial contact is the first opportunity the employer has to negotiate with the CSHO to limit the scope of the inspection and control how the inspection process will be carried out. This is where the employer’s advanced planning really will pay off.

Section 8(a) of the OSH Act provides: “OSHA may inspect at reasonable times any workplace during regular working hours and at other reasonable times within such reasonable limits and in a reasonable manner.” During the initial consultation, the employer should try to come to terms with the CSHO regarding the reasonableness of the scope and limitations of the inspection, i.e., define the equipment, and/or area of the worksite that is to be inspected by the CSHO. Once that is established, the employer should confine the CSHO’s access and travel routes to only the areas within the scope of the inspection. The CSHO’s physical access to the premises should be with a management escort only, including the company compliance officer during any walk around and sample collection activities.

The CSHO has the right to interview employees as part of any inspection, however, the employer is entitled, and should insist, to be present for the interviews of any management employees.

Click here for the complete article.

 

 

OSHA reviews cause of two arc flash accidents, finding they could have been prevented if the workers performed a simple test

In both cases the workers did not test to verify the equipment was actually deenergized before beginning the work- they believed it was, and that could have cost them their life. If they had taken the extra time to perform a simple test, these accidents could have been prevented.

Summary from ISHN of OSHA analysis of two arc flash accidents:
–In the first case study, an electrician was working on a circuit breaker panel that he thought was deenergized. After completing the work, the electrician was closing one of the enclosure doors when an arc flash occurred. Electric current from the energized panel moved through the air to the closed panel door. The rapid release of energy caused the panel door to fly open, hitting the worker and knocking him unconscious as the panel continued to arc.

Although the electrician believed that all power had been deenergized from the electrical panel, OSHA said this incident could have been prevented by voltage testing the electrical panel before starting work. Taking the time to perform a simple test can ensure workers’ safety.

Often arc flashes occur when reenergizing panels after maintenance. Proper cleaning is one method of reducing this hazard.

–In the second case study, an electrician and a coworker were retrofitting dated equipment, installing new buckets on a switch gear. The electrician mechanically disconnected the switch, but he did not test it to verify deenergization. As he attempted to remove the switch from the switch gear, an arc flash occurred. The electrician was severely burned and suffered acute respiratory stress.

OSHA said disconnecting the switch was not sufficient to prevent the flow of electricity through the equipment. The equipment should have been voltage tested to verify that it was deenergized before beginning work, as all sources of power to the equipment were not secured.

We cannot say it enough, it’s so important to always test to verify equipment is deenergized before starting any work. You must assume it’s live and wear the proper PPE to perform the test. Take those few extra minutes. It can safe your life.