An IN automotive manufacturing facility has been fined $224,000 by the Indiana - OSHA for five alleged safety violations following the death of an employee in October. A female worker, 44, died after an incident with a machine at the plant on Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. The preliminary cause of her death was ruled multiple blunt force trauma, but a final cause has not yet been determined, according to Clark County Coroner. The safety order and violations resulted from an investigation at the facility that began Oct. 23.  Two of the violations were deemed to cause a "high probability of death or serious harm". These violations, totaling $14,000, were a failure to establish and maintain safe work conditions through employees' exposure to being caught in rotating machine parts due to loose clothing; and lack of effective training on hazardous power sources, such as power from moving belts, that could cause employees to become caught or pinched by machinery. The remaining three were violations that the facility management "knowingly [committed] with plain indifference to the law; the employer either [knew] action is a violation or [was] aware of hazardous conditions with no effort to eliminate". These violations, totaling $210,000, were inadequate procedures in identifying how to control the belt and pulley power and how to stop it; failure to properly guard pulleys that were 7 feet or less from the floor or work area, and failure to properly guard rotating belts from employees.  In January, OSHA fined one of the company's Ohio facilities $569,463 for five violations, which are under contest by the company. Those fines came from an investigation following an employee losing his hand and part of his arm while at work.  The company, which specializes in vehicle acoustics and thermal management systems, has 50 locations in more than 20 countries and employs more than 11,000 people. Here are the citations:

One of the sad trends we continue to see in OSH centers around the use of respirators and facial hair.  OSHA has stated more times that I can count on two hands that facial hair is NOT allowed in the face-to-mask seal area.  In fact, personnel are NOT even permitted to be fit-tested if they have facial hair.  And yet we still see personnel who are in respirator programs with full beards; this year we have even seen workers with full beards wearing respirators in clear violation of their company's policy/procedures.  The argument put forth is the same lame argument I have been hearing for nearly 30 years (going all the way back to my days as a firefighter)... '"I can get a good seal with my beard, so why can't I XXXXXXX".  The answer is simple and can be stated in a one-word response:  CONSISTENCY. 

Even though a worker passed a fit test (albeit improperly) with some facial hair, the length and thickness of that facial hair will not be the same weeks/months later.  This can be seen clearly from the 1983 study by McGee and Oestenstad where they tested this theory.  And yes, a lot has changed since 1983; however, facial hair on humans has NOT!  Here are the scientific studies OSHA/NIOSH have used over the years:

I am curious to know how other facilities manage this situation.  Having been a FPE for several years in my career, I grew up learning that if there is one "sacred rule" regarding hot work it is that Hot Work is NEVER EVER done when the sprinkler system is out of service.  It was one of those rules you did not even ask for a "variance" as you would be looked upon in a bad way.  We can also point to OSHA's minimum requirements for Hot Work in 1910.252(a) where it is stated: (emphasis by me)

This week OSHA posted a new batch of 2017 propane/LPG accident summaries and investigations.  These are always handy when trying to raise awareness, educate, and change the hearts and minds of employees.  

For those of you that do "fit-testing" what can you see in these photos that make you go Hmmmmm?

Hints:

  1. Color
  2. 1910.134 App A - Fit Testing Procedures (Mandatory)

Both the construction and general industry standards have identical requirements when it comes to storing oxygen cylinders and flammable gas cylinders.

Here is the construction industry requirement:

1926.350(a)(10) Oxygen cylinders in storage shall be separated from fuel-gas cylinders or combustible materials (especially oil or grease), a minimum distance of 20 feet (6.1 m) or by a noncombustible barrier at least 5 feet (1.5 m) high having a fire-resistance rating of at least one-half hour.

and here is the general industry requirement:

1910.253(b)(4)(iii) Oxygen cylinders in storage shall be separated from fuel-gas cylinders or combustible materials (especially oil or grease), a minimum distance of 20 feet (6.1 m) or by a noncombustible barrier at least 5 feet (1.5 m) high having a fire-resistance rating of at least one-half hour.

The issues in dispute are:

  1. the applicability of the cited standard (e.g. were the cylinders in "storage"), and
  2. whether the fire-barrier on the in-house made storage rack complied with the terms of the standard

For the reasons indicated below, the Court concludes the citation must be VACATED.  This is a MUST READ for anyone who stores compressed gas cylinders, especially if they are oxygen and flammable gas cylinders.  The ALJ does a nice job laying out the argument of when a cylinder is in "storage" and then does a nice job breaking down the fire-barrier requirements if the cylinders are not separated by 20' or more.

 
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