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Atmospheric Monitors: “Calibration vs. Bump Testing”

Friday, January 21, 2011

“The fact that we rely on these instruments to detect hazards that may be colorless, odorless, and very often fatal, should be reason enough to motivate us to complete a very strict schedule of instrument calibration/maintenance and pre-use bump testing.”

Here at Roco, we’re often asked for an explanation of the difference between “calibration” and “bump testing” of portable atmospheric monitors. There seems to be some confusion, specifically regarding bump testing. Some folks believe that bump testing and calibration are the same thing. Others think that bump testing is no more than allowing the monitor to run its “auto span function” during the initial startup sequence – or by running a “manual auto span” in order to zero out the display if there is any deviation from the expected values.

To preface this explanation, it is important that the user maintain and operate the monitor in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions for use. There are some general guidelines that apply to all portable atmospheric monitors and some of the information in this article is drawn from an OSHA Safety and Health Information Bulletin (SHIB) dated 5/4/2004 titled “Verification of Calibration for Direct Reading Portable Gas Monitors.”

Considering that atmospheric hazards account for the majority of confined space fatalities, it is absolutely imperative that the instruments used to detect and quantify the presence of atmospheric hazards be maintained in a reliable and ready state. Environmental factors such as shifts in temperature, humidity, vibration, and rough handling all contribute to inaccurate readings or outright failure of these instruments. Therefore it is critical to perform periodic calibration and pre-use bump testing to ensure the instruments are capable of providing accurate/reliable information to the operator.

Calibration of the monitor involves using a certified calibration gas in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. This includes exposing the instrument sensors and allowing the instrument to automatically adjust the readings to coincide with the known concentration of the calibration gas. Or, if necessary, the operator will manually adjust the readings to match the known concentration of the calibration gas.

In addition to using a certified calibration gas appropriate to the sensors being targeted, do not ever use calibration gas that has passed its expiration date. The best practice is to use calibration gas, tubing, flow rate regulators, and adapter hoods provided by the manufacturer of the instrument.

The frequency of calibration should also adhere to the manufacturer’s instructions for use; or, if more frequent, the set protocol of the user’s company or facility. Once the monitor has been calibrated, it is important to maintain a written record of the results including adjustments for calibration drift, excessive maintenance/repairs, or if an instrument is prone to inaccurate readings.

Each day prior to use, the operator should verify the instrument’s accuracy. This can be done by completing a full calibration or running a bump test, also known as a functional test. To perform a bump test, use the same calibration gas and equipment used during the full calibration and expose the instrument to the calibration gas. If the readings displayed are in an acceptable range compared to the concentrations of the calibration gas, then that is verification of instrument accuracy. If the values are not within an acceptable range, then a full calibration must be performed and repairs/replacement completed as necessary.

Modern electro-mechanical direct reading atmospheric monitors have come a long way in recent years in terms of reliability, accuracy, and ease of use. But they are still relatively fragile instruments that need to be handled and maintained with a high degree of care. The fact that we rely on these instruments to detect hazards that may be colorless, odorless, and very often fatal should be reason enough to motivate us to complete a very strict schedule of instrument calibration/maintenance and pre-use bump testing.

For more information on this subject, please refer to the November 20, 2002 ISEA position Statement “Verification of Calibration for Direct Reading Portable Gas Monitors Used In Confined Spaces”; “Are Your Gas Monitors Just expensive Paperweights?” by Joe Sprately, and James MacNeal’s article as it appears in the October 2006 issue of Occupational Safety and Health magazine.
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Industrial Rescue I/II…Practical Skills, Industrial Focus

Monday, January 03, 2011

New for 2011! Practical skills training with a focus on compliance, but without the certification testing.

We’ve had many requests for a course that provides the skills, techniques and problem-solving scenarios for industrial rescue without the NFPA certification testing. Focusing on OSHA compliance, Roco’s new Industrial Rescue I/II will prepare rescuers and rescue teams for industrial confined space and elevated rescue as well as “rescue from fall protection.” Here’s more…

INDUSTRIAL RESCUE I/II (50 Hours)

This course offers a very practical, hands-on approach to industrial rescue that will provide the skills necessary to meet OSHA compliance guidelines for a competent rescue team or rescue team member.

Participants will be taught safe, simple and proven techniques that will allow them to effectively perform confined space and elevated rescues from towers, tanks, vessels and other industrial structures. Rescues from simulated IDLH atmospheres requiring the use of Supplied Air Respirators and SCBA will also be practiced. This course is designed for all rescuers, both industrial and municipal, who may be required to handle confined space rescues in industrial settings. It also includes Rescue from Fall Protection (rescue of suspended workers) as well as OSHA Authorized Entrant, Attendant and Supervisor training.

The problem-solving scenarios can be used to document annual practice requirements in representative spaces as required by OSHA 1910.146 and as referenced in NFPA 1006. For training conducted at Roco’s training facility, scenarios will be completed in all six (6) types of confined spaces. At other sites, the number of types completed will depend on the availability of practice spaces.

OSHA 1910.146(k)(2)(iv)
Ensure that affected employees practice making permit space rescues at least once every 12 months, by means of simulated rescue operations in which they remove dummies, manikins, or actual persons from the actual permit spaces or from representative permit spaces. Representative permit spaces shall, with respect to opening size, configuration, and accessibility, simulate the types of permit spaces from which rescue is to be performed.

NFPA 1006 A.3.3.38 Confined Space Type
Figure A.3.3.38* shows predefined types of confined spaces normally found in an industrial setting. Classifying spaces by “types” can be used to prepare a rescue training plan to include representative permit spaces for simulated rescue practice as specified by OSHA. (*Roco Confined Space Types Chart)
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What does it mean when my atmospheric monitor gives negative or minus readings?

Thursday, December 02, 2010

At some point, most atmospheric monitors will display a “negative” or minus reading for a flammable gas or toxic contaminant. First of all, it is not actually possible for an atmosphere to contain a “negative amount” of a substance. These negative readings usually result from improper use of the monitor.

Most monitors will “Field Zero” or “Fresh Air Calibrate” its sensors when powered on. Because of this, it is very important to power on the unit in a clean, fresh air environment away from confined spaces, running equipment or other possible contaminants. Otherwise, the monitor may falsely calibrate based on the contaminant that is present.For example, a monitor that is powered on in an atmosphere that contains 10 ppm of a contaminant and then moved to fresh air may display a reading of minus 10 ppm. Even more troublesome, if that same monitor is then brought to a confined space that actually contains 25 ppm of the contaminant, it may display a reading of only 15 ppm. As you can see, this could easily lead to the improper selection of PPE for the entrant and result in a confined space emergency.

As always, it is very important to consult with the manufacturer of your particular atmospheric monitor in order to determine how to use it properly. Don’t take any chances with this critical part of preparing for confined space entry or rescue operations.
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Is there a regulation requiring rescuers to use respiratory protection that is “one level higher” than that required for the entrants?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

To our knowledge, there is no regulatory requirement. However, we’ve heard this before and have used it as well when stressing the importance of proper PPE for rescuers, particularly when IDLH atmospheres may be involved. Here’s our thinking… if the entrant’s PPE did not provide adequate protection and he or she is now requiring rescue assistance, then using their “same level of protection” isn’t going to protect you either!

What triggers the use of a greater level of protection? This comes from the rescuer’s assessment of the hazards – including the use of an independent atmospheric monitor from that used by the entrant(s). That’s why it’s so important for the rescue team to provide their own atmospheric monitoring equipment. It also illustrates why written rescue preplans are so important – you need to preplan what equipment and techniques will be required well in advance of an emergency. It’s critical; the PPE selected must be adequate to protect the rescuers.

When preparing rescue preplans, you must also take into consideration any unusual hazards or circumstances that may arise from any work being done inside or near the space. For example, special cleaning solvents might be used or other hazards may be introduced into the space by the workers. Referencing and understanding the MSDS as well as “listening to what your monitor is telling you” are key factors in PPE determination.

OSHA does mention, however, if the atmospheric condition is unknown, then it should be considered IDLH and the use of positive pressure SCBA/SAR must be used. This will protect you from low O2 levels and other inhalation dangers; however, you must also consider LEL/LFL levels. Other factors include non-atmospheric conditions as well. For example, have you considered “skin absorption” hazards and what precautions must be taken?

So, the bottom line, the decision to go with breathing air for rescuers can be determined from your hazard assessment; or, in some cases, by company policy; and even required by OSHA when there’s an unknown atmosphere involved. Remember, it’s much better to be safe than sorry!
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Municipal Response to Permit-Required Confined Spaces

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A blog reader, who is a member of a municipal rescue team assigned to an airport, expressed concern about fulfilling “timely response” obligations for permit-required confined space entries within his district. Here are some suggestions from our Tech Panel…

First of all, the departments and agencies involved must carefully consider the obligations in providing rescue response for permit-required confined spaces.

Obviously, we cannot advise on departmental policy concerning response and notification, this must be determined by management officials. However, for you as an emergency responder, we cannot stress enough the importance of preplanning and conducting a hazard analysis for all confined spaces within your response area. The information gained by the analysis will help you determine what level of “timely response” may be required for a particular type of entry.

OSHA does not set a specific response time because there are too many variables involved – plus, they don’t want to set requirements that might cause a rescue team to “rush” into entering a space to attempt a rescue. OSHA does reference how long a person might survive an IDLH atmosphere (such as an oxygen deficient atmosphere) before becoming incapacitated (4 to 6 minutes). However, even this is up to interpretation depending on the level of oxygen present. For example, an 18% O2 level vs. a 6% O2 level, both are O2 deficient but have very different response requirements for successful rescue.

Another important consideration is when an entrant is entering an IDLH environment. In this case, having a team standing by the portal, fully equipped and ready to go may be the only way to meet a timely response for that situation. OSHA’s 1910.134, Respiratory Protection, “requires that employers provide a standby person or persons capable of immediate action to rescue employee(s) wearing respiratory protection while in work areas defined as IDLH atmospheres.”

Most entries, however, are not IDLH. This means that other forms of “external” rescue (vs. internal rescue) may be appropriate. Many times, in the rush of the moment, rescuers forget about external retrieval. Guessing that many of the spaces around the airport are manholes or vaults, these can most often be handled by the confined space attendant with an external retrieval system. This would include a mechanical winch attached to a tripod with a cable attached to the entrant’s high-point dorsal connection. Of course, this decision would be based on a prior hazard analysis.

NOTE: It’s important to note that ALL entrants are required to have “an immediate means of retrieval.” Reference OSHA 1910.146 [note to paragraph (k)(1)(i)] concerning timely response: “What will be considered timely will vary according to the specific hazards involved in each entry…”

As a final note, if hazard analysis and rescue preplans have not been conducted on your potential sites as required by OSHA, we encourage you to do so. Taking the time to do so will better enable you to determine what would be considered an appropriate “timely response” for a particular type of entry. It will also better prepare you as an emergency responder should the need arise.
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Is a “tailboard briefing” enough prior to a confined space entry?

Monday, November 08, 2010

We had this question from a reader and wanted to post for all to read.

Would a proper tailboard briefing conducted before a confined space entry be sufficient for identifying hazards that may be encountered by the entrants or the rescue team?

It’s true that a tailboard briefing should be an integral part of the larger overall preplanning for a confined space entry. However, well in advance of the entry, a detailed “hazard analysis” of the space should be performed.

A hazard analysis is used to identify the types of hazards, lock-out/tag-out needs, PPE required for entry, method of entry and important rescue considerations. In fact, OSHA requires these written assessments to be completed prior to an entry being made and the confined space permit acts as a secondary written assessment performed at the time of the entry. Here are some OSHA references concerning this topic…

1910.146(c)(5)(ii)(H)
The employer shall verify that the space is safe for entry and that the pre-entry measures required by paragraph (c)(5)(ii) of this section have been taken, through a written certification that contains the date, the location of the space, and the signature of the person providing the certification. The certification shall be made before entry and shall be made available to each employee entering the space or to that employee’s authorized representative.

1910.146(d)(2)
Identify and evaluate the hazards of permit spaces before employees enter them;

1910.146(d)(3)
Develop and implement the means, procedures, and practices necessary for safe permit space entry operations;

The tailboard briefing should be used to confirm or reinforce the information already gathered in the hazard analysis. Because it deals with an individual space at the time of entry, the tailboard briefing is also a very useful tool in finding out if conditions have changed since the hazard analysis was completed.

So, the bottom line… having a detailed hazard analysis for each space that includes a detailed rescue preplan allows a rescue team to review and prepare for potential problems well in advance. Reviewing this information at a tailboard briefing just prior to the entry helps to remind everyone of the possible hazards, the proper precautions, and the potential solutions should an emergency occur.
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Retrieval vs. Entry Rescue

Monday, October 25, 2010

There’s no doubt about it, confined space entry is risky business. A first consideration should always be to try and eliminate the known and potential hazards – or, even better, “engineer out” the need for entry when possible. If it’s not possible (or feasible), and entry must be made, then as part of OSHA’s Permit-Required Confined Space standard (1910.146), the employer must take action to protect its workers. This regulation requires employers to develop and implement procedures for summoning rescue and emergency services, for rescuing entrants from permit spaces, and for preventing unauthorized personnel from attempting a rescue.
Planning for rescue of the entrant should always be approached in a logical hierarchy. The first choice for rescue should always be “self-rescue.

However, there are too many lads named “Murphy” lurking about to be able to rely on this as the only means of rescue. That leads to the next option, which is “retrieval rescue.” This means that retrieval (or rescue) of the entrant(s) can be made without anyone else having to enter the space.

NOTE: It’s important to note that the hierarchy of rescue needs to be followed even when an “entry rescue team” is located on site. For example, when an entry is made into a simple vertical vault, a retrieval system must be used even if a trained rescue team is standing by – again, preventing rescuers from having to enter the space unless necessary.

To facilitate non-entry rescue, retrieval systems or methods shall be used whenever an authorized entrant enters a permit space, unless the retrieval equipment would increase the overall risk of entry or would not contribute to the rescue of the entrant. The retrieval system shall include a chest or full body harness, with a retrieval line attached at the center of the entrant’s back near shoulder level, above the entrant’s head, or in such a way to present a small enough profile for successful removal of the entrant. In certain instances wristlets may be used. The retrieval line shall be attached to a fixed point outside the space or to a mechanical device. For vertical entries more than 5 feet in depth, a mechanical device such as a retrieval winch or mechanical advantage rope system shall be available.

Relying on non-entry retrieval rescue requires a thorough and honest assessment of the retrieval system’s ability to function as intended should the need arise. Are there any entanglement issues within the space that would cause the retrieval line to fail? If the entrant must travel around any 90 degree corners or between levels, will the retrieval line work? Any and all potential causes of retrieval system failure would require the need to plan for entry rescue.

One of the advantages of non-entry retrieval rescue is that oftentimes it can be performed by the attendant. Modern retrieval equipment may utilize powerful gear reductions or rope mechanical advantages and are usually quite easy for the attendant to learn to operate. It is encouraged and quite common for the attendant to be trained and capable of performing non-entry rescue. The attendant is prohibited, however, from entering the space to perform rescue unless properly trained and equipped for ”entry rescue,” which is the last option in the hierarchy of rescue.

NOTE: Even if the attendant is trained and equipped for entry rescue, he or she must be relieved by another authorized attendant before abandoning their attendant duties.

Entry rescue requires the rescuer(s) to enter the confined space, thus possibly exposing them to the same hazards as the victim. That’s why it is critical for rescuers to be trained and equipped with the proper PPE to protect themselves from the hazards involved. In fact, OSHA states that if you don’t have the proper PPE or training, DO NOT ATTEMPT THE RESCUE!

This warning is driven by the great number of “would be” rescuers dying in confined spaces while attempting to save a life. Safe, successful entry rescue requires sufficient training in the proper techniques, a proficiency in the use of the appropriate PPE and rescue equipment, and the ability to recognize and identify the hazards and potential hazards in confined spaces.

Again, it’s important to keep in mind that there are many permit required confined spaces where non-entry retrieval is a viable option – and it should be used whenever possible. Vertical utility vaults with no entanglement hazards, horizontal entries with no corners or elevation changes are just a few. The proper course is to always perform a thorough assessment of the space to determine which type of rescue will be needed and to make sure the appropriate rescue response is in place should the entrants need assistance.
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To Pre-rig, or not to Pre-rig?

Monday, September 27, 2010

We received an interesting question about pre-rigged systems from one of our subscribers. The TechPanel had some helpful comments to share, so we have re-posted the info here. It’s a great topic.

Here are some things to consider about leaving systems pre-rigged.First of all, whether to pre-rig systems or not depends a lot on the types of rescues you will be doing.

Pre-rigged systems make sense for most industrial and municipal teams who have rope equipment designated specifically for rescues. However, it makes less sense for climbers and wilderness personnel who will be using the same equipment for multiple uses and putting systems together based on a specific need. This also reduces the amount and weight of equipment they must carry, which is a big concern. However, it also requires a high level of proficiency in a variety of systems in order to build systems safely and in a timely manner.

Next, let’s clarify what we mean by “pre-rigged systems.”

“Plug-n-Play” – These are systems that come pre-built and seem to require little training to operate. These “Plug-n-Play” systems may work for a specific location or type of rescue but may not work in every situation. Training for these systems should address what to do if the device/system malfunctions, or if it will not work for the type of scenario you may be faced with.

“Customized Pre-rigged Systems” – These are customized pre-rigged systems that rescuers build for site-specific needs and their team’s needs using existing equipment and training.

Confined space and rope rescue can be broken down to three core tasks… (1) Lowering, (2) Safety line Belay, and (3) Mechanical Advantage/Retrieval systems. You can build pre-rigged systems that make sense for your specific needs. Many of the teams we work with have adopted a three bag system.

For example, one rope bag is designated for “Lowering” along with the typical equipment needed for a lowering system (i.e. descent control device, carabiners, anchor straps, padding). This will provide a pre-rigged system that will handle most of your lowering needs. You may decide to supplement that with another anchor strap and a pulley for a high-point directional, etc.

Your “Safety line/Belay” bag can be set up the same way with enough carabiners and shock absorbers attached to the rope bag to allow for at least two rescuers and a victim. The third bag of rope (“Mechanical Advantage/Retrieval”) with a simple, pre-built Block-n-Tackle hauling system and its own anchor straps will give your team an “immediate means of retrieval” for either the main line or a safety line retrieval. With a few additional pieces of hardware, you will be able handle the vast majority of urban rope/confined space rescue scenarios.

We find that for industrial rescue teams or municipal fire and police rescue squads, these pre-rigged systems make sense. They save set-up time and get a rescuer to the victim as quickly as possible, which is especially critical for an IDLH emergency.

Many times teams will arrange their equipment so that it’s easier to inventory rather than what’s the fastest way to deploy it. For example, if you have twenty carabiners, why not have them attached to a rapid deployment bag type system rather than in a hardware bag that a team member will have to go through and pick out what is needed?

Our best advice would be to look at your team’s response area and consider the types of rescues that may be needed. You can then customize and build pre-rigged systems that make sense for your team. “Plug-n-Play” systems may handle most of your rescue situations or they may be part of a larger pre-rigged rescue system like the one above. Using a “pre-rigged systems” approach saves time, cuts down on confusion, and uses equipment more efficiently – especially when the pressure is on.
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Firefighter and Worker Die in Confined Space Incident

Thursday, September 09, 2010

TARRYTOWN, NY (WABC) — A fire department official says oxygen levels were dangerously low in a manhole where a sewer worker and a firefighter died.

No cause of death has been established in Monday’s deaths of sewer worker Anthony Ruggiero and Tarrytown firefighter John Kelly. At firehouses throughout Tarrytown, there are the ceremonial displays that no department ever wants to have to put up: black and purple bunting and flags at half staff.

Inside the headquarters there’s a memorial for one of the fallen men, John Kelly. “Our prayers all go out to the families of these two men, who were doing their jobs,” Tarrytown Mayor Drew Fixell said. “One of them a firefighter, acting heroic and trying to save the other one.”

Ruggerio was trying to clear a backup of sewage as part of his full time job in the village’s Public Works Department. He was overcome by fumes and collapsed. Kelly had tried to save Ruggiero, but also the fumes overwhelmed him as well.

Assistant Fire Chief John McGee said Tuesday that a hazardous materials team measured the oxygen level at 14 percent. The normal amount of oxygen in air is about 21 percent. He said he did not know if other, deadly gases were detected. Those are life threatening conditions that may have taken the men by surprise.

Village Administrator Michael Blau said neither of the men who died had put on a protective masks before entering the manhole. He said autopsies were planned. The deaths were being investigated by federal, state and local agencies.

“It’s very, very sad,” resident Susie Poore said. “I’m speechless, because…I don’t know even what to say. I don’t know what to say, other than I must have said ‘Oh my God’ 100 times already.”

Both victims spent over 20 years as volunteer firefighters. Ruggerio was a supervisor in the DPW by trade. Kelly worked as a state Department of Transportation worker.
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Delayed Rescue Response Cited in Fatal Tunnel Fire

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Here’s another deadly reminder of the importance of a capable and timely response to confined space emergencies. Five people were killed in this fatal tunnel fire. According to OSHA, the case involving Xcel Energy and RPI Coating is not being tried until next year. After reading the official Chemical Safety Board report, here are some key findings…

    1. Did not have adequate technical rescue services standing by at the Permit Required Confined Space.       “911″ was listed on paperwork. Took the rescue team 1 hr and 15   mins to arrive at the site.
    2. Confined space was assessed as Non-PRCS even though the inability to self rescue and the introduction of MEK.
    3. RPI did not have an adequate confined space program.
    4. No hazard analysis was conducted.
    5. Not recognizing that 10% LEL or higher is an IDLH condition.
    6. Workers were located over 1400 ft away from where atmospheric monitoring was being performed.

Article below written by: P. Solomon Banda, Associated Press Writer

DENVER – The U.S. Chemical Safety Board slammed Xcel Energy Inc. on Monday for the company’s handling of the aftermath of a tunnel fire that killed five workers at a hydroelectric plant, as well as for a host of “troubling episodes.”

The board cited the electric and gas utility’s failure to cooperate in the agency’s probe and said that investigators had to turn to the U.S. Attorney’s Office Civil Division in Denver to compel the company to turn over information. “Xcel Energy believes it has always cooperated and acted responsibly and continues to be fully committed to safety as a core value and an operational priority,” the company said in a statement.

The board, an independent federal agency that investigates serious chemical accidents and makes safety recommendations, plans to release its final report and recommendations Wednesday. That report comes about two weeks after Xcel decided to release a draft version after initially trying to block it. The company feared it would be released close to the criminal trial in the case, possibly influencing jurors.

Xcel, contractor RPI Coating and RPI executives Philippe Goutagny and James Thompson each are charged with violating U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards. They’re expected to go on trial next year. The safety board said the report wasn’t complete that it had instructed Xcel to keep the draft confidential. Xcel also said it wanted to release the draft report because the company wanted to show that the board excluded findings of a gap in OSHA standards.

Xcel and the board are at odds over whether OSHA regulations were sufficient or clear enough to ensure worker safety. The board says the utility should have had a specially trained rescue crew on-hand in emergencies, rather than calling 911 as directed by Xcel’s plan. The tunnel fire started when flammable vapors ignited on a machine that was being used to spray a coat of epoxy sealant on a portion of a 4,000-foot-long water pipe, trapping five of nine workers inside the pipe.

Specially trained rescue crews didn’t arrive until an hour and a half after the fire started. Donald Dejaynes, 43, Dupree Holt, 37, James St. Peters, 52, Gary Foster, 48, Anthony Aguirre, 18 – all from California – ultimately died from smoke inhalation.

In the letter sent Monday to Xcel CEO Richard Kelly, the board said Xcel’s “unprecedented” legal action to block the report delayed its release and diverted resources from other investigations. “In the wake of the corporate responsibility concerns raised by the Big Branch Mine accident in West Virginia and the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, I strongly urge Xcel to renew its focus on safety and to swiftly implement the CSB’s recommendations,” wrote Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso.

This link is from an online magazine:
http://www.hazardexonthenet.net/article.aspx?AreaID=2&ArticleID=36075

This link is the official 145 page CSB report:
http://extras.mnginteractive.com/live/media/site36/2010/0816/20100816_021722_Xcel%20Energy_Plant_Report.pdf
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