Posted with permission from Confined Space, a newsletter of workplace safety and labor issues.
I get a lot of health and safety-related news alerts emailed to be every day. Some days are worse than others. Here is a sample from yesterday. (With a little commentary.)
Someone asked me this morning how writing this blog doesn’t throw me into depression. To some extent it’s an outlet, keeping me from kicking the dogs and throwing things at TV. But then there are days like today when it all seems like too much.
Brian “Keith” Wilmoth, 31, from Wilkes County, North Carolina, died Wednesday after a tree he was cutting fell on him after it hit power lines. “Officials do believe what happened Wednesday morning was just an accident, but OSHA and other officials will be looking into the situation.”
I never can figure out what “just an accident” means. Just “one of those things.” Unavoidable? “Freak” accident?
A pipeline worker, Wesley J. Johnson, 60, was killed Monday in Wooster, OH when a natural gas line blew. He was thrown into a fence and died instantly. He and another Columbia Gas Transmission worker were completing maintenance at a metering station. Investigators believe the end cap came off the pipe, spewing natural gas and other materials used in the transmission line. The pressure of the materials threw Johnson backward into the fence.
So what do we have here? Poor valve maintenance? Bad training? Faulty procedures? All of the above?
Derek Mesenbring, 31, died after he was exposed to methyl bromide at a Chicago Ridge chemical plant. was at work when he began feeling ill on Monday afternoon. His wife called the Chicago Ridge Police Department and asked them to check up on her husband at Industrial Fumigant Co., a company that provides pest management and sanitation solution services. He had complained to her earlier that he wasn’t feeling well. When officers arrived, they saw Mesenbring’s car parked in the lot.
Methyl bromide is particularly dangerous. “Soon after inhalation of large doses, symptoms may include headache, dizziness, nausea, chest and abdominal pain, and a dry throat. Three to 12 hours after vapor inhalation, symptoms include slurred speech, blurred vision, temporary blindness, mental confusion, and sweating. More severe symptoms may include lung swelling; congestion; hemorrhaging of the brain, heart, and spleen; severe kidney damage; and numbness. Death may occur within 1-30 hours, usually from respiratory failure.” So, he was feeling ill. Working alone. His wife had to call the police who found his car in the parking lot. There’s a lot that doesn’t make sense here. And working with such a toxic product, what kind of hazard communication training had he received?
A 22-year-old , Brett Morrow, 22 was killed Wednesday while adding a fiberglass lining to a sewer line. A neighbor said he was drawn to the scene from his house by the odor of the liner’s sealer.
So how does a sewer lining company not know enough about confined spaces to have a worker — apparently working alone — apply a substance to the inside of a sewer line whose fumes are so strong that a neighbor was bothered by the odor?
A worker installing solar panels at a Corona home was killed when he plunged two stories to the sidewalk on October 19. The 60-year-old Sunrun Solar employee was installing solar panels on a two-story home when he fell while testing¦ anchors installed on the roof to hold the panels. The worker was pulling on the anchors to make sure they were secure, an eyewitness told police. “He wasn’t wearing a harness or safety belt up there. He wasn’t tied on to anything on the roof, and when he pulled at a loose anchor he just flew off the roof,” the eyewitness said.
How often do you see a worker up on a one or two story roof in your neighborhood not using fall protection? Just because someone is working on a residential home and not an commercial worksite doesn’t mean that fall protection isn’t needed. Gravity wins.
A private contractor was buried up to his chest when a 15- to 20-foot trench collapsed on him in the Pulaski Industrial Area in Baltimore early Wednesday, the Fire Department said.
This was an extremely lucky worker. But 15-20 feet deep? Really? The OSHA standard says that any trench deeper than 5 feet has to be shored.
Melissa Stephens, 44, died late Saturday after an accident with a machine at Autoneum, a Swiss-based company that manufactures GM and Ford parts. In May, Autoneum’s Toledo, Ohio, plant was cited nearly $570,000 for violations following the amputation of an employee’s hand, wrist and part of his forearm. Included in the citation were three “willful violations,” which means the company was aware of them, and two repeated violations. A spokesman for the company said that “As a globally producing company, Autoneum complies with occupational health and safety regulations at all locations and is committed to the highest local and international standards in this area.”
Lockout issue? All locations? A commenter summarized my thoughts: “It sure don’t sound like your committed to safety.”
A Collin County sheriff’s deputy and four firefighters were called to check out a van, which belonged to a lawn care company, at about 4 p.m. Wednesday. Two people inside the van, Ross Powell, 49, and Lyle Powell, 72, believed to be employees of the lawn care company, were pronounced dead. They have been identified as . The medical examiner’s office has determined that they died of accidental carbon monoxide toxicity. But when emergency crews opened the door, they were overcome by a strong smell of ammonia. They had skin irritation, chest pain, nausea, and a dry cough, and were sent to the hospital to be checked out. They have all since been released. HazMat teams called to the scene found different chemicals inside the van. However, nothing was over the limit as far as being hazardous.
Chemicals? Ammonia? Carbon monoxide? Why were they alone in the truck?
Authorities report 55-year-old Jacqueline Jill Brueggemeier, of Biscay, was driving a dump truck for WM Mueller and Sons Inc. Shortly after 8 a.m., she was outside her truck for a road construction project in the 500 block of Railroad Ave. E. Another truck, driven by an Eden Valley woman and owned by Molnau Trucking LLC, backed over Brueggemeier. She died at the scene.
OSHA pulled a planned standard to protect workers from being backed over by construction vehicles off of the regulatory agenda last Spring.
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