Good Friday to you,
This was the week that was (6.11) in safetyland:
Cal/OSHA DOLES OUT STRONG MEDICINE FOR HEAT STRESS VIOLATORS
On Wednesday Cal/OSHA officials announced during a statewide Heat Illness Prevention Network conference call that they will not only be vigorously pursuing heat illness enforcement this year, but also conducting an innovative heat illness prevention marketing campaign, reports Terry Thedell, health and safety advisor, San Diego Gas and Electric.
This surprising and creative Cal/OSHA “Three Step Campaign," according to Thedell, will place advertisements on roadside billboards and radio spots with a very simple and frank message - water, shade, rest in English, Spanish, and Hmong.
Cal/OSHA Chief, Lyn Welsh, has declared heat illness prevention to be a "great experiment" in good government by both partnering with the willing work community and yet increased enforcement of those who choose to ignore the first in the country enforced heat illness standards.
Welsh is more than willing to use the "order to prohibit use" to shut down recalcitrant employers in what he called, "Save the strong medicine for those that deserve it". Last year Cal/OSHA conducted more than 3,500 heat illness inspections, found 1163 violations, and levied a total amount of fines in excessive of $1M. The net result is that in 2005 12 employees died from heat illness but only one in 2009.
Welsh went on to describe the benefits of having the discipline of drinking water throughout the shift and recommended one cup of water every 15 minutes during particularly hot days. Other heat illness prevention measures include having shade readily available and in use when temperatures exceed 85 degrees F.
OSHA DEEPLY FRUSRTATED BY REFINERY INDUSTRY
On Thursday, Jordan Barab, deputy assistant secretary for OSHA, testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety. Among his comments:
“In the wake of the Texas City explosion, OSHA initiated a national emphasis program with the goal of inspecting the process safety management programs of almost all of the nation’s oil refineries. I am sorry to report that the results of this NEP are deeply troubling. Not only are we finding a significant lack of compliance during our inspections, but time and again, our inspectors are finding the same violations in multiple refineries, including those with common ownership, and sometimes even in different units in the same refinery.
“This is a clear indication that essential safety lessons are not being communicated within the industry and often not even within a single corporation or facility. We are particularly disturbed to find even refineries that have already suffered serious incidents or received major OSHA citations making the same mistakes again.
“Consistently throughout the course of the Refinery NEP, we have found that more than 70 percent of the violations we are finding involve failures to comply with the same four essential requirements:
“Process Safety Information: Frequent process safety information violations include failure to document compliance with Recognized and Generally Accepted Good Engineering Practices, (or RAGAGEP, which consists primarily of industry technical guidance on safe engineering, operating or maintenance activities); failure to keep process safety information up to date; and failure to document the design of emergency pressure relief systems.
“Process Hazards Analysis: We are finding many failures to conduct complete process hazards analyses. Often, there are significant shortcomings in attention to human factors and facility siting, and in many cases employers have failed to address process hazard analysis findings and recommendations in a timely manner, or, even to address them at all.
“Operating Procedures: Operating procedures citations are for failure to establish and follow procedures for key operating phases, such as start-ups and emergency shutdowns, and for using inaccurate or out-of-date procedures.
“Mechanical Integrity: This is a particular concern given the aging of refineries in the United States. Violations found by OSHA typically include failure to perform inspections and tests, and failure to correct deficiencies in a timely manner. In the Delek Refinery case mentioned above, for example, OSHA discovered multiple substandard pipes being operated, and the naphtha pipe whose explosion killed two workers and hospitalized three others had already ruptured once within the past few years.
“I have been deeply frustrated by these results. Over a year ago, we sent a letter to every petroleum refinery manager in the country, informing them of these frequently cited hazards. Yet, a year later, our inspectors are still finding the same problems in too many facilities. Clearly, much more work must be done to ensure effective chemical process safety.
INJURY LOGS DON’T TELL ALL
Testified Barab: “One of the most important challenges in trying to measure performance is determining how and what we measure. Companies have good tools for measuring and managing personal, or “hard hat” safety, and the refining and chemical sectors have generally done well in this area.
“Standard, OSHA-mandated injury and illness recording on the OSHA 300 log measures conventional hazards such as, for example, those from falls, broken bones and amputations, and yields rates for mishaps resulting in days away from work, restricted work or job transfer (the “DART rate”).
“Unfortunately, as we have also discovered, having good numbers on the OSHA 300 injury logs does not correlate with having an effective chemical process safety program. The classic example of this is BP-Texas City, which had very good injury and illness numbers for its own employees prior to the 2005 explosion. That tragedy, of course, revealed serious problems with process safety and workplace culture at the facility. Focusing on low DART rates alone will not protect workers or employers from disaster.
“…DART rates are useful â€• but we must not let those numbers lull us into a false sense of security. Looking only at these numbers does not warn us about pending doom from cutting corners on process safety. And to the extent we continue to factor DART rates into our targeting mechanism, we need to make sure that they are accurate. That is why we are paying special attention to incentive and discipline programs that discourage workers from reporting injuries and illnesses.
OSHA ASKS FOR BROADER POWERS
Said Barab: “We need to pass the Protecting America’s Workers Act, which would significantly increase OSHA’s ability to protect workers, and specifically workers in refineries and chemical plants. The act would make meaningful and substantial changes to the Occupational Safety and Health Act that would increase OSHA’s civil and criminal penalties for safety and health violations, making us much more able to issue significant and meaningful penalties to large oil companies before a disaster occurs.
“And because safe process safety depends heavily on lessons learned from close calls and near misses, workers need to feel that they are protected when reporting these events and exercising other health and safety rights. The enhanced whistleblower protections that are included in PAWA would go far toward ensuring that workers are protected for speaking out. Another way PAWA could strengthen workers’ rights would be to clarify that the whistleblower provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, contained in section 11(c), prohibit retaliation for protected activity in connection with occupational safety and health hazards, similar to those aboard the Deepwater Horizon, that are regulated by other federal agencies.
“Giving OSHA the ability to require abatement of hazardous conditions before contests are decided would also significantly enhance the safety of refineries. Ultimately, stronger OSHA enforcement and a modern Occupational Safety and Health Act will save lives.
COAST GUARD AND OSHA SIGN MEMO OF COOPERATION
On Thursday, the federal on scene coordinator for the BP Deepwater Horizon response and OSHA announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding concerning worker safety and health issues related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill response in the Gulf of Mexico.
The MOU solidifies the close working relationship between the Coast Guard and OSHA, and establishes a specific mechanism for coordination between the Deepwater Horizon FOSC and OSHA. OSHA and the FOSC recognize the importance of close cooperation among all agencies that have responsibilities during the oil cleanup efforts. The MOU furthers joint efforts to monitor compliance with safety standards and to protect workers.
“We are actively collaborating with the FOSC and the Coast Guard to ensure the protection of workers involved in the oil spill cleanup,” said OSHA honcho Dr. David Michaels. “OSHA staff is on the ground proactively monitoring worker safety and health.Our staff is on the beaches, at the staging areas and on the boats to make sure BP is protecting clean up workers from safety and health hazards.”
“From the beginning of our response to this tragic event, we have placed preservation of life and safety at the top of our list of priorities,” said Coast Guard Rear Adm. James Watson, federal on scene coordinator for the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill response. “My signature on this MOU reasserts our commitment to the safety of the more than 24,000 people who are working to mitigate the threat from this catastrophic oil spill.”
The federal on scene coordinator and OSHA will share relevant information to promote worksite safety in the Deepwater Horizon Response, including information provided by workers, local government officials or any other person.
OSHA has the authority to conduct safety and health inspections to ensure employees are being protected and to determine if the worksite is in compliance with safety and health standards and regulations promulgated under the Occupational Safety and Health Act and its general duty clause. The MOU provides the means for OSHA to notify the FOSC when it intends to take enforcement action against BP, BP’s contractors, or any other employer engaged in response activities.