The U.S. Department of Labor recently updated regulations for marine cranes after a number of violations at a Florida marine cargo company resulted in $113,400 in fines.
OSHA inspectors cited Florida Transportation Services of Port Everglades, Florida for repeated, willful and serious violations resulting in proposed penalties of $113,400.
The inspection was sparked by a fatal accident at the firm in January. In that incident, a forklift was working with another vehicle to unload steel bars from a cargo vessel. The worker was killed after being crushed between one of the vehicles and a collision barrier.
Forklifts are one of the most common – and most dangerous – pieces of equipment in use today. Forklifts, also called powered industrial trucks or PITs, look easy to operate because they have four wheels like an automobile. However, because the PIT steers and handles very differently from an auto, they are involved in more accidents in the workplace than nearly any other type of equipment.
In the case of this fatal Florida accident, OSHA found that the employees operating the forklifts were not properly trained. The vehicles were operated while employees walked past and worked nearby, which is a violation of normal safety precautions.
During the investigation, OSHA found that the conditions leading to the fatal accident had not been corrected. The company was cited repeatedly when vehicles were driven near employees standing in front of stationary objects. Inspectors also found that the forklifts lacked functioning headlights and horns. These conditions resulted in one serious and two repeat violations, with $28,000 in penalties.
In a follow-up inspection 60 days later, OSHA found 4 serious and 2 willful violations with penalties of $85,400. Several of these violations again included unsafe operation of forklifts. This included the use of a platform that was not secured to the forklift, and using a personnel platform without the required guardrail. OSHA also found employees working near the water without life jackets. The company was also cited for having workers high atop intermodal containers without the required safety harness.
The second inspection sparked fiery words from the OSHA area director in Fort Lauderdale. “OSHA has inspected this company five times in the past three years and has found serious safety violations,” said Darlene Fossum, “The employer has failed to keep the workplace free of recognized hazards that were likely to cause death or serious physical harm.”
As in all OSHA inspections, the company was given 15 days to dispute the proposed fines.
This is just the most recent in a number of large fines to companies that OSHA has levied.
The tragic death of a steel mill employee in January of 2007 sparked an investigation that took more than 6 months, due to the number of violations.
In that case, OSHA levied fines totaling $163,000 in penalties for a number of violations of health and safety regulations by the Lorain, Ohio plant. The company melts scrap metal and metal pellets into molten steel, which is used to manufacture rolled steel. Sources at OHSA characterized the company’s actions as “willful, serious and repeat” violations, justifying higher fines than normal.
The initial accident investigation grew to encompass the entire facility when OSHA found multiple violations. One citation carrying a penalty of $70,000 was for the “willful” failure to provide guard-rails or barriers to prevent workers on open-sided floors or work platforms from falling to their deaths.
OSHA issued an additional 16 citations to the steel mill for serious violations with penalties totaling $43,000. These additional violations cover a number of issues at the plant, including hazardous machinery being operated without the required safety guards.
During multiple inspections, OSHA found repeated violations of the same safety issues, even though the company had already been warned that they could potentially be fatal.
Even worse, inspectors found that the company had never corrected two violations that were identified during a routine safety check in 2006. For these two penalties alone, OSHA levied a $50,000 fine.
In 2006, the agency conducted more than 38,000 inspections in 28 states resulting in nearly 84,000 violations. OSHA’s mission is to “assure the safety and health of America’s working men and women by preventing injuries, illnesses and fatalities.”
A manufacturer recall has been issued for two brands of chainsaws that pose a hazard to workers.
Worker safety is the main concern behind a recent Florida OSHA alert. The plastic front handle that’s used on these chainsaws can break during times of heavy usage. If the handle does break, the saw becomes difficult to control, which can lead to severe cuts.
The Troy-Bilt chainsaws impacted by this recall are those with gasoline-powered, two-cycle 46cc to 55cc engines. These chainsaws have cutting blades that measure 18 inches or 20 inches. The Craftsman chainsaw impacted by this recall is the “Incredi-Pull” model. This chainsaw has a two-cycle, 55cc gasoline engine and an 18-inch cutting blade.
Why are these chainsaws being recalled?
These chainsaws have a plastic handle that can break if you are using the product a great deal. When this handle breaks, you may lose control of the chainsaw and injure yourself.
Have injuries occurred from these saws?
Yes. Reports have been made to OSHA stating that when the plastic handle broke, workers were injured. The injuries included severe cuts, burns, sprains, and bruising.
Employers should make certain that workers stop using these chainsaws immediately until the handle on the saw is replaced. If workers continue to use these saw without replacing the handle, injuries and possibly even death can result.
To receive a safety kit for free, employers need to contact either the manufacturer of their brand of chainsaw or OSHA. The safety kit includes a handle replacement and instructions on how to install this new handle.
Who is handling the recall?
The manufacturers are voluntarily recalling these chainsaws. Troy-Bilt and Craftsman are working with OSHA and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
What is the role of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission?
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is focused on protecting workers and consumers from potentially dangerous products. Injuries and property damage from consumer products costs more than $700 billion each year. The jurisdiction of this agency is overseeing more than 15,000 types of consumer products.
To prevent slips, trips and falls it is very important to develop a strong safety awareness program. For example, if you need to move mechanical tools, you will need aisles sufficiently wide.
Another example is the space in a corridor: there should be lots of room for two people to go by. If you combine aisles with too little space, bad maintenance and vehicle traffic, the result can be damaged equipment, injured employees, and even serious accidents. This is especially true during a fire or another emergency, when many employees must leave the building quickly. Too many employees are injured when they hurry to exit a building.
The number of people who are killed because of slip, trip and fall accidents is exceptionally high. According to OSHA, they constitute a large part of general industry accidents. Fifteen percent of all accidental fatalities in the workplace are produced by this kind of accident, and it is the second cause of death in the workplace in the United States. The first cause is motor vehicles accidents.
Maintaining clean, sanitary conditions and a well-ordered workplace can prevent future accidents. Housekeeping is often ignored as a cause of slips, trips and falls. Good housekeeping includes cleaning the offices, but also other places, like warehouses, service rooms and corridors.
Displaying posters with slip, trip and fall warnings and tips is a good way to prevent accidents. Such posters advise employees to clean up debris or dry spills when they are noticed. Every part of the workplace must be maintained in a dry and clean condition. Carpets, gratings or platforms should be used in areas that are inevitably wet.
Splinters, protruding nails, and holes could be causes of mishaps in passageways, floors and working places. Appropriate signs in permanent aisles and corridors, and good conditions and no obstacles in any aisle, help employees avoid needless risks.
The OSHA standards regulate safety programs for walking and working. They apply to most private businesses except mineworkers, employees in agricultural operations and domestic workers.
Does your workplace have a plan for a global influenza pandemic?
If not, it should, according to a recent OSHA alert. Employers and workers should be aware of the workplace emergency plans. But a new Florida OSHA alert is recommending that along with those other plans, contingencies should be in place for the possibility of a flu pandemic. Such a pandemic, according to OSHA – the Occupational Safety and Health Administration – could have worldwide economic impacts, on a scale greater than any single terrorist attack.
Pandemics occur when a new strain of the virus emerges to which we haven’t developed immunity. No new strain of virus has appeared and no flu pandemic exists now.
Workplace plans could include limiting the effects of the disease through cutting back on contact between coworkers. Some methods are conducting conference calls rather than meetings or encouraging employees to work from home when possible. Some businesses might decide to construct drive-throughs or create other barriers between their workforce and the public.
It’s important to know the difference between seasonal flu and a pandemic. Normally we perceive flu as an irritant that’s not life threatening except in certain cases. But a pandemic is much more serious. It can occur when a new influenza virus comes on the scene. Because we have not developed immunity, the disease can spread fast from one person to another, eventually finding its way around the world. The last big pandemic was the outbreak from 1918 to 1920, when in 18 months 50 million people lost their lives.
Not only the aged, small children, or those with weakened immune systems were endangered, as is the case with seasonal flu. In the pandemic during World War I, health young adults died within a few days of catching the illness. The disease was called “Spanish Flu” only because Spanish newspapers, not subject to the wartime censorship faced by newspapers in other countries, wrote extensively about it. In reality the first outbreak was at a military base in Kansas. From there it spread worldwide.
We’re all familiar with the flu, but a recent Florida OSHA alert points out that an influenza pandemic is a real possibility and could be a hazard in the workplace. When we think about the flu, most of us think about the annoying symptoms. We don’t think of the flu as life threatening to anyone other than infants, seniors, and people with weakened immune systems.
As the Florida OSHA alert points out, though, if a flu pandemic occurs, the consequences could be immense. A pandemic occurs when a disease has a worldwide outbreak. A new form of influenza could emerge, and no one would be immune to it. Although researchers would scramble to develop a vaccine, in the meantime, the virus could spread around the world.
Although no pandemic exists at the moment, the Florida OSHA alert makes it clear that employers and employees alike should prepare in case a pandemic does occur. If the virus were to be especially deadly, a pandemic could result in many deaths, cause disruptions to the social network of society, and have a massive impact on the global economy.
One concern at the moment is the avian influenza, which most people know as the bird flu. This virus, found in wild birds, has spread to domestic birds, including chickens and turkeys. In a few cases, the virus has spread from birds to humans. The concern is if the virus mutates so it easily spreads from birds to humans, a pandemic could occur.
Although the bird flu could cause a pandemic, the more likely pandemic scenario is one caused by a familiar form of influenza. When they happen, pandemics can take a real toll on human lives. In 1957, the influenza pandemic killed about 1 million people worldwide. In 1918, the Spanish Flu pandemic killed 25 million people in 25 weeks. An influenza pandemic is a serious concern to everyone in society, and employers and employees need to be prepared in case the worst-case scenario occurs.