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Know When NOT to Enter a Confined Space!

Friday, August 17, 2018

There are countless injuries and deaths across the nation when workers are not taught to recognize the inherent dangers of permit spaces. They are not trained when "not to enter" for their own safety. Many of these tragedies could be averted if workers were taught to recognize the dangers and know when NOT to enter a confined space.

While this incident happened several years ago, it emphasizes the senseless loss of life due to a lack of proper atmospheric monitoring and confined space training. Generally, the focus for training is for those who will be entering spaces to do the work. However, we also must consider those who work around confined spaces – those who may be accidentally exposed to the dangers. Making these individuals aware of the possible hazards as well as to stay clear unless they are properly trained.

Note: This case summary from the New York State Department of Health goes on to say that the DPW had a confined space training program but stopped the training after the last trainer retired.

CASE SUMMARY - TWO (2) FATALITIES
A 48-year-old male worker (Victim I) employed by the Department of Public Works (DPW) and a 51-year-old male volunteer firefighter (FF Victim II) died after entering a sewer manhole located behind the firehouse. In fact, the Fire Chief was on scene because he had been called by the DPW general foreman to unlock the firehouse and move the firetruck so it would not be blocked by the DPW utility truck working at the manhole. Another firefighter also arrived to offer assistance, he later became FF Victim II.

The manhole was 18 feet deep with an opening 24-inches in diameter (see photo above). Worker Victim I started climbing down the metal rungs on the manhole wall wearing a Tyvek suit and work boots in an attempt to clear a sewer blockage. The DPW foreman, another firefighter and FF Victim II walked over to observe. They saw Victim I lying on the manhole floor motionless. They speculated that he had slipped and fallen off the rungs and injured himself. The Fire Chief immediately called for an ambulance.

Meanwhile, FF Victim II entered the manhole to rescue Victim I without wearing respiratory protection. The other firefighter saw that FF Victim II fell off the rungs backwards while he was half way down and informed the Fire Chief. The Fire Chief immediately called for a second ambulance and summoned the FD to respond. FD responders arrived within minutes.

The Assistant Fire Chief (AFC) then donned a self-contained breathing apparatus. He could not go through the manhole opening with the air cylinder on his back. The cylinder was tied to a rope that was held by the assisting firefighters at the ground level. The AFC entered the manhole with the cylinder suspended above his head. He did not wear a lifeline although there was a tripod retrieval system. He secured FF Victim II with a rope that was attached to the tripod.

FF Victim II was successfully lifted out of the manhole. The AFC exited the manhole before a second rescuer entered the manhole and extricated Victim I in the same manner. Both victims were transported to an emergency medical center where they were pronounced dead an hour later. The cause of death for both victims was asphyxia due to low oxygen and exposure to sewer gases.

Contributors to the Firefighter's Death:
• Firefighters were not trained in confined space rescue procedures.
• FD confined space rescue protocol was not followed.
• Standard operating procedures (SOPs) were not established for confined space rescue.

The DPW had developed a permit-required confined space program but stopped implementing it in 2004 when the last trained employee retired. They also had purchased a four-gas (oxygen, hydrogen sulfide, carbon monoxide and combustible gases) monitor and a retrieval tripod to be used during the training. It was reported that a permit-required confined space program was never developed because DPW policy “prohibited workers” from entering a manhole. However, the no-entry policy was not enforced. Numerous incidents of workers entering manholes were confirmed by employee interviews.

This incident could have been much worse. Training is the key, whether it’s just an awareness of the dangers in confined spaces or proper entry and rescue procedures. In this case, the victims had no C/S training even though they may have to respond to an incident, and the worker had not had on-going training through out his career. Periodic training to keep our people safe and aware of proper protocols is key to maintaining a safe work force.

Unfortunately, training is usually one of the first things to be cut when the budget gets tight; however, after an incident, it usually becomes the primary focus. Often the lack of training is determined to be a key element in the tragedy.
Investing in periodic training for the safety of your workforce includes spending the time and money to keep your trainers and training programs up to speed and in compliance. The old saying, “closing the barn doors after the horses escaped,” is no way to protect your people – a little investment in prevention goes along way in preventing these tragedies.

One last comment on my biggest pet peeve – proper, continuous air monitoring. This one step can reduce the potential of a confined space incident by about 50%! Don’t take unnecessary chances that can be deadly.

Dennis O'Connell has been a technical rescue consultant and professional instructor for Roco Rescue since 1989. He joined the company full-time in 2002 and is now the Director of Training and a Chief Instructor. Prior to joining Roco, he served on the NYPD Emergency Services Unit (ESU) for 17 years.

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Why is LOTO So Important?

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Foundry Fined for Confined Space Amputation Accident

Los Angeles - Cal/OSHA has cited a local foundry $283,390 for workplace safety and health violations following a confined space accident that resulted in the amputation of an employee’s legs. Cal/OSHA had cited the foundry for similar violations eight years ago.

Two workers were cleaning and unjamming a 38-foot long auger screw conveyor at the bottom hopper of an industrial air filtration device without effectively de-energizing or locking out the equipment.

One of the workers re-entered the 20-inch square opening after the cleaning was done to retrieve a work light from inside the confined space, when a maintenance worker 45 feet away energized the equipment to perform a test.

The moving auger screw pulled the worker into the screw conveyor. Both his legs had to be amputated in order to free him.

“Sending a worker into a confined space is dangerous, especially inside machinery that can be powered on at any time,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum.
Employers must ensure that machinery and equipment are de-energized and locked out before workers enter the space to perform operations involving cleaning and servicing.

Cal/OSHA’s investigation found that:

• The foundry did not have a permit-required confined space program.
• The screw conveyor was not de-energized and locked out before workers entered the hopper, and accident prevention signs were not placed on the controls.
• The worker re-entering the hopper was not monitored by a confined space attendant.
• The foundry lacked specific procedures for de-energizing and locking out the equipment.

Cal/OSHA issued eight citations with proposed penalties totaling $283,390. The eight violations cited included one willful serious accident-related, one willful serious, four serious, one willful general and one general in nature.

Source: www.dir.ca.gov News Release No.: 2018-15 Date: March 7, 2018
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Another Preventable Confined Space Fatality

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Comments by Dennis O'Connell, Roco Director of Training & Chief Instructor

The following “OSHA Fatal Facts” is another example of simple safety procedures not being followed or having no procedures in place.

Whether you’re in the refinery, chemical plant, agriculture, shipyards, construction or municipal fields, all of us have an obligation to protect ourselves, our employees and those we work with.

In this case, a fairly harmless looking tank and product resulted in another confined space fatality. As I’ve said many times before, using proper air monitoring techniques is probably the one thing you can enforce that would have the greatest impact on reducing fatalities. This tragic story is another example.

It’s also important to note that while there are different standards for different industry segments, they all attempt to lead us down the same path in using appropriate safety precautions – particularly, in this case, when entering confined spaces. We must remember that these specific standards have all grown from the General Duty Clause, as cited in this article. Basic and to-the-point, the General Duty Clause provides protection from hazards not covered in the more industry specific standards.

I know most of us are used to dealing with more spectacular-looking confined spaces with much more hazardous products; however, this one was just as deadly. It drives home the point…

a confined space is a confined space, no matter how benign it may appear, regardless of whether it’s located at the workplace or the homestead.

If it meets the definition of a confined space, it should be treated as a potential “permit-required confined space” until it is proven that there are no hazards present, or the hazards have been properly addressed.

(Click here to OSHA Fatal Facts)
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Manslaughter Charges Filed in Trench Death

Monday, January 15, 2018

Second-degree manslaughter charges have been filed against the owner of a Seattle construction company resulting from a 2016 trench fatality. This marks the first time a workplace fatality in Washington state has prompted a felony charge, according to the Washington Department of Labor & Industries.

On January 5, the company owner was charged by the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, which alleges criminal negligence in the January 2016 death of a worker, who died when the trench he was working in collapsed.

“The evidence shows an extraordinary level of negligence surrounding this dangerous worksite,” said Mindy Young, King County senior deputy prosecuting attorney.

The company was fined more than $50,000 and cited for multiple safety violations in 2016 after an investigation into the incident.

“There are times when a monetary penalty isn’t enough,” Washington L&I Director Joel Sacks said in a Jan. 8 press release. “This company knew what the safety risks and requirements were and ignored them. The felony charges show that employers can be held criminally accountable when the tragedy of a preventable workplace death or injury occurs.”

The owner also faces a gross misdemeanor charge for violating a labor safety regulation with death resulting. His arraignment is scheduled for Jan. 18.

Two workers are killed in trench collapses each month, according to OSHA. The agency states that a cubic yard of soil can weigh as much as 3,000 pounds.

Source: www.safetyandhealthmagazine.com

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Trench Collapses…one of the most dangerous hazards in construction

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A month after a 33-year-old worker died while working in an unprotected trench, OSHA inspectors found another employee of the same Missouri plumbing contractor working in a similarly unprotected trench at another job site. OSHA determined that, in both cases, the company failed to provide basic safeguards to prevent trench collapse and did not train its employees to recognize and avoid cave-in and other hazards. OSHA issued 14 safety violations found during both inspections, and proposed penalties totaling $714,142.

Trench collapses are among the most dangerous hazards in the construction industry.

Twenty-three deaths from trench and excavation operations were reported in 2016. In the first five months of 2017, at least 15 fatalities have been reported nationwide.

Gain knowledge, develop skills, and learn to recognize trench hazards by registering for Roco's Trench Rescue course. Our desire is for everyone to return home safely each day, and for this fatality number to not continue to increase.

Source: OSHA QuickTakes July 2017

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