OSHA reports that two workers are killed every month in trench collapses. Just recently, OSHA cited two contractors following a trench collapse that buried 22-year-old laborer Carlos Moncayo beneath tons of soil and debris at a Manhattan construction site. OSHA found that Moncayo's death could have been prevented if the general contractor and subcontractor had provided cave-in protection for the trench or braced an adjacent section of undermined and unsupported sidewalk. In connection with Moncayo's death, officials from both companies were indicted for manslaughter and other charges in the New York State Supreme Court on Aug. 5.
"Managers from these companies were aware of these deadly hazards and did not remove employees from the trench, even after warnings from project safety officials."
OSHA issued each employer two citations for willful violations of workplace safety standards on Oct. 5. Proposed fines total $280,000 – $140,000 for each company – the maximum allowable fines under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. A willful violation is committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.
"Carlos Moncayo was a person, not a statistic. His death was completely avoidable. Had the trench been guarded properly against collapse, he would not have died in the cave-in. This unconscionable behavior needlessly and shamefully cost a man his life."Quotes by Kay Gee, OSHA Area Director-Manhattan
Trench and excavation work are among the most hazardous operations in construction. Because one cubic yard of soil can weigh as much as a car, an unprotected trench can be an early grave. OSHA's updated guide to Trenching and Excavation Safety highlights key elements of the applicable workplace standards and describes safe practices that employers can follow to protect workers from cave-ins and other hazards. A new section in the updated guide addresses safety factors that an employer should consider when bidding on a job. Expanded sections describe maintaining materials and equipment used for worker protection systems as well as additional hazards associated with excavations.
Remember, an unprotected trench can become an early grave. Learn how to keep workers safe. Download these OSHA Guides for details.
Reported by James Breen, Special Projects Manager for Roco Rescue, Inc.
Whether you’re a relatively new or a well-established Technical Search and Rescue (TSAR) organization, following an established Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment process is a great way to ensure you’re prepared for the “Big One."
The “Big One” is that incident where you’re called upon to deliver on the organizational investment of having a TSAR capability. A great deal of organizational time, money, and effort is invested in developing, maintaining, and deploying a Rescue Team. Plant Administrators, Fire Chiefs, and elected officials (private board members or public officials) want to see a return on that investment when their rescue service is called into action to save a life.
The purpose of this article is to assist the Rescue Team Leader (RTL) and aspiring RTL (because we should always be developing our replacement) in establishing a Rescue Team, developing a new TSAR capability, or ensuring an established Rescue Team is adequately prepared for the “Big One."
Firstly, if there is a potential for a TSAR incident to occur within your jurisdiction, NFPA 1670 requires the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) to address a number of “General Requirements” found in Chapter 4. The review and completion of these requirements are usually a function of the Rescue Team Leader along with key management personnel who authorize, budget, schedule, and equip the Rescue Team.
The format of Chapter 4 is useful for all Rescue Teams, whether newly formed or long established. It is an excellent tool for ensuring some of the foundational aspects of preparedness and organizational structure are (or have been) properly established. Most “senior rescuers” (not those on Medicare but those that have the respect, time, and experience that makes them leaders in technical rescue) will tell you that the TSAR incident potential, including their hazards and risks, change as industrial processes are updated, installed, or eliminated.
Key to all emergency response success is planning and preparation. However, incident preparation should be driven by the types of emergency incidents that have a potential for occurring within a given jurisdiction. This is the starting point for determining rescue capabilities, SOP/SOG’s, staffing, training, and equipment.
The Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment is one method for assessing incident potential. NFPA defines:
• Hazard Identification - The process of identifying situations or conditions that have the potential to cause injury to people, damage to property, or damage to the environment.
• Risk Assessment - An assessment of the likelihood, vulnerability, and magnitude of incidents that could result from the exposure to hazards.
This process identifies the possibility of conducting TSAR operations within a jurisdiction by evaluating environmental, physical, social, and cultural factors that influence the scope, frequency and magnitude of a potential TSAR incident. It also addresses the impact the incident has on the AHJ to respond and conduct operations while minimizing threats to rescuers (NPFA 1670, 4.2.1 and 4.2.2). The standard lists a number of scientific methodologies in its annex but in the spirit of keeping it, we’ll approach this process using a Preliminary Checklist. (See Sample Checklist.)
Once completed, the checklist may have entries that require further analysis, identify a need to develop or expand a capability, or require entering into an agreement with an external resource.
This checklist is for day-to-day incident responses under predictable jurisdictional response conditions and should not be used for disaster scenarios where large scale regional and federal resources will be required to mitigate the incident. These scenarios should be addressed through Emergency Response Plans.
Most fire departments and other emergency response organizations want to maintain a response capability that match potential incidents in order to be operationally effective, provide for rescuer safety, and have positive incident outcomes.
A Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment is an excellent way to evaluate your organization’s preparedness level for technical rescue incidents based the potential for one to occur; it also aids in the development of specific capability.
About the Author: James (Jim) Breen is Special Projects Manager for Roco Rescue where he handles a wide variety of projects and provides program support, while still engaging in instructional services. Jim previously served for over 23 years with the Albuquerque Fire Department and retired as the agency's Fire Chief in 2013. He previously had served as a Battalion Commander for the city’s busiest battalion, and has extensive experience in Incident Command and Heavy Rescue Operations. He is a former USAF Pararescueman and a Rescue Squad Manager and Task Force Leader with NMTF-1 where he was deployed to several national disasters.
In January 2004, an explosion at the West Pharmaceutical Company in Kingston, NC killed 6 workers and injured 34 others. Two firefighters were injured during the response to the incident. One month later, an explosion and fire occurred at the CTA Acoustics manufacturing facility in Corbin, KY, killing 7 workers. In February 2008, an explosion at the Imperial Sugar Company facility in Wentworth, GA, killed 13 workers and injured 42 others. Three very different types of facilities with very different products, but with one thing in common—dust!"A 'safe’ area can become a ticking bomb if ventilation results in the suspension of otherwise stable dust accumulations."
The Chemical Safety Board reported that there were 281 explosions of combustible dust in the United States between 1980 and 2005. These explosions resulted in 199 deaths and 718 injuries. And these are just the actual explosions. There are countless more combustible dust environments just waiting for the right (or wrong) conditions to align to become the next fatal explosion. The fact is that with the exception of silicon or sand, every kind of dust is potentially combustible to some degree.
Combustible dusts are measured on a “deflagration index,” (see box) which measures the relative explosion severity compared to other dusts. They range from such seemingly innocuous items such as dust from powdered milk and egg whites that can create “weak explosions,” to dusts from items such as magnesium and aluminum that can result in “very strong explosions.” But I think we can all agree that no explosion, even a “weak” explosion, is a good explosion—especially if it occurs during rescue operations.
As rescuers, you should already be familiar with the “fire triangle.” To understand the danger of combustible dusts, you should also be familiar with the “dust explosion pentagon.” The dust explosion pentagon consists of the following:
- Combustible Dust (Fuel)
- Ignition Source
- Dispersion of dust (suspension)
- Containment of the dust in a confined or semi-confined area (Enclosures/Building/Confined Space)
Rescuers should be on the lookout for any appreciable accumulation of dust when sizing up a rescue situation. Keep in mind that your atmospheric monitor containing a sensor for combustible gases is not effective for detecting a hazard from combustible dust.
Always remain aware that in a suspended state, dust becomes explosive. Dust explosions occur when combustible dust is present, forms a dust cloud in an enclosed environment, and is exposed to oxygen and an ignition source. The explosion occurs as a result of the rapid burning of the dust cloud, which creates a rapid pressure rise in the enclosed area or confined space.
A dust pile that may burn while an ignition source is being applied, then go out immediately or shortly after the ignition source is removed, can become lethally explosive when scattered and suspended in the air.
Always consider the potential for combustible dust in any rescue situation, particularly when ventilation of an enclosure, building, or confined space is considered. A “safe” area can become a ticking bomb if ventilation results in the suspension of otherwise stable dust accumulations.
This article was written by Robert Aguiluz, who is currently an
Administrative Law Judge for the State of Louisiana. He is also an
attorney who specializes in Occupational Safety and Health Law, and
regulatory and compliance issues. He is a former Certified Safety
Professional and Roco Rescue Instructor with over twenty years’
experience in both industrial and municipal emergency response and
Combustible Dust Considerations for Emergency Responders:
1. Know your response area and the types of industry that may have the potential for combustible dust. If you are performing standby rescue duties, meet with the SH&E management team to learn about any combustible dust hazards at their facility.
2. Become familiar with the “deflagration index” for various types of materials. See sample Chart below.
Examples of Kst Values for Different Types of Dust
3. Consider the effect of ventilating a space that has accumulations of combustible dust.
• Will you cause the dust to become suspended?
• Will the suspended moving dust create a static charge/discharge and become a source of ignition?
• Can your ventilation equipment become a source of ignition?
4. Is there information to review on the SDS (Safety Data Sheet) regarding the material’s potential to become combustible dust?
Is your rescue team (or service) truly capable of rescuing workers from the various types of confined spaces on your site?
What about rescue services for the contractor who’s working on your site with personnel entering permit spaces?
As a rescue team, have you considered all the angles in preparing for confined space rescue?
Refineries, plants and manufacturing facilities have a wide range of confined spaces – some having only a few, where others may have hundreds. In OSHA’s 1910.146, a big consideration is allowing rescue teams the opportunity to practice and plan for the various types of confined spaces they may be required to respond for rescue.
Most backboards are 16 to 20-inches wide. With an 18-inch round portal, the backboard will only fit through the “widest” part (or diameter) of the opening. In effect, this cuts the size of the opening in half (see illustration). If the thickness of the backboard is approximately 1-inch, then you only have about 7 or 8-inches of space remaining to clear the patient. This is one example where all the rescue equipment components may fit into the space but cannot be removed once the patient is packaged.