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Confined Space Fatality Follow-up

Monday, August 29, 2011

Here’s a follow up to a Confined Space Fatality story we published earlier this year. One of the injured persons (a “would be” rescuer and co-worker of the initial victim) remains hospitalized since January. According to a Cal/OSHA Chief, “it is unfortunately common for other employees to be injured or killed while attempting impromptu rescue of the initial victim.” In fact, NIOSH states that prior to enactment of the permit-required confined space regulation, 60% of all fatalities in confined space incidents where multiple fatalities occurred were “would-be” rescuers.

This article also addresses the importance of proper planning for confined space operations. These incidents continue to happen all too often when workers aren’t properly trained to deal with the hazards of confined spaces and the appropriate actions to take prior to entering a space – especially if a co-worker is already down. Keep in mind, most likely, there’s something very wrong in the space! As a rescuer, or a “would be” rescuer/co-worker, don’t rush into a confined space. You must protect yourself first!

Cal/OSHA fines prominent pharmaceutical firm $371,000 for safety violations leading to worker fatality

Los Angeles – Cal/OSHA issued eleven citations totaling $371,250 to Baxter Healthcare Corporation dba Baxter Bioscience this week for deliberate and willful workplace safety violations which resulted in the death of one of their technicians and serious injury of two others. The violations included four willful citations, indicating intentional violation or knowledge of a violation. Baxter has 15 business days to appeal or pay the citations. “We will not tolerate employers who intentionally sacrifice the safety of their workers,” said DIR Acting Director Christine Baker. “Our goal is to prevent these needless tragedies and ensure employers live up to their responsibility of protecting their workers.”

On January 21, Baxter technician Henry Astilla, 33, collapsed when he entered a seven foot deep, 6,000 liter tank in which nitrogen gas was being bubbled through plasma as part of a protein extraction process. Air in the tank had been displaced by the nitrogen gas resulting in an oxygen deficient atmosphere in the tank. Cal/OSHA regulations require employers to have special protective procedures in place prior to the entrance by employees into these types of confined spaces. In this case, the employer had not tested the atmosphere prior to entrance to insure there was sufficient oxygen, which led to Astilla’s death.

Cal OSHA’s investigation further revealed that when Astilla was discovered, a supervisor ordered two other employees to enter the tank and retrieve him, without testing the atmosphere of the tank or providing proper equipment and other safeguards necessary for a safe rescue. As a result, Astilla died and the two employees sent to retrieve him were seriously injured. One remains hospitalized since January.

“The hazards of working in confined spaces are well documented and this is a classic example of the kind of injury that occurs when employers fail to adequately protect their employees,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Ellen Widess. “When confined space operations are not properly planned, it is unfortunately common for other employees to be injured or killed while attempting impromptu rescue of the initial victim.”

Cal/OSHA determined that Baxter’s confined space program failed to comply with all requirements, including appropriate atmospheric testing, protective equipment as well as rescue equipment and procedures. Baxter Bioscience is a multi-national pharmaceutical company with a Los Angeles plant located in Atwater Village. The facility is the largest of its kind in the nation, utilizing advanced technology to produce plasma proteins.

The citations Cal/OSHA issued this week included one classified as general and ten classified as serious, four of which were classified as willful. Willful classifications are issued when an employer either commits an intentional violation and is aware that it violates a safety law, or when an employer is aware that an unsafe or hazardous condition exists and makes no reasonable effort to eliminate the hazard.
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A Special Tribute…

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

With last week’s tragic helicopter crash, our nation suffered a tremendous loss. Having provided training for these special teams for more than ten years, we know first-hand the dedication and commitment these individuals have to our country and our freedom. Because of this, ROCO has supported the Special Operations Warrior Foundation for many years now and is very committed to its cause, which is to support the families of these brave individuals. We feel that the BEST thing we can do now is to pray for these families and HELP support their children’s education. We hope you will take a look and pass the word.

The mission of Special Operations Warrior Foundation (SOWF) is to provide a college education to every child who has lost a parent while serving in Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps Special Operations during an operational or training mission. Because the SOWF will add as many children to the program from last week’s helicopter crash as it normally does in an entire year, we wanted to bring your attention to this most worthy organization.

The SOWF Board of Directors decided earlier this week that the Warrior Foundation will offer full college scholarships to the children of ALL of the American servicemen who perished in the recent CH-47 helicopter crash in Afghanistan.  “This was a tragic day for our military and our families. While the majority of personnel onboard the CH-47 were special operators, and they are automatically covered by the foundation, we wanted to offer our services to all who were on that fateful mission,” said retired Air Force Col. John T. Carney, Jr., the foundation’s president.

The Warrior Foundation is in the process of contacting all of the families affected by this tragedy to inform them about the SOWF college program, which provides funds for a full post-secondary education, including tuition, books, fees, room and board and a computer and printer. Currently, the SOWF has 144 children of fallen Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps special operations personnel enrolled in colleges and universities across the country; and 182 students have graduated via SOWF scholarships. The foundation has pledged to provide a college education for another 600 boys and girls who are not yet college age.

Because the SOWF expects to add many children to the scholarship program from last week’s loss of 30 U.S. servicemen, your donation would not only be a fitting tribute to these brave and selfless warriors, but help ensure their sons and daughters are among those who receive the education that their fallen parents would have wanted them to have.

Click to donate – thank you!
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Is your team ready for a 750-ft cell tower rescue?

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Burleson (TX) Fire Department recently got a chance to put their skills (and stamina)to the test when they rescued a worker from atop a 750-ft cell tower. It sounds like they did a great job, and serves as an important reminder of the challenges these towers can pose to local emergency responders. Preplanning for this type of incident is critical – especially when it occurs in the middle of summer! Temperatures were 100+ degrees at the time of the dramatic rescue.

In situations like this, rescuers not only need the proper technical skills and equipment for a rescue of this intensity, but also adequate manning for such a physically demanding endeavor.

Here are a few things to keep in mind. Rescue rope is heavy, especially when climbing a 700-plus foot vertical face in extreme heat. Hydrate, or you run the risk of crossing the line from asset to liability. Be willing to adapt as needed – for example, you may need additional manpower just to deal with the weight of the rope. Plan for the unexpected – the worker had removed his harness!

Hopefully, if faced with a situation like this, you will have personnel who are trained, equipped and physically able to deal with it. Fortunately, it was a great outcome for this team. However, let’s not miss the opportunity to learn from their experience and be prepared if we get this type of call!
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First Nationwide Emergency Alert System Test Planned

Thursday, August 04, 2011

FEMA and the FCC will conduct the first “nationwide” test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) on Nov. 9 at 2 p.m. Eastern time. The test may last up to three and a half minutes, FEMA announced. The test will involve broadcast radio and television stations, cable TV, satellite radio and TV services, and wireline video service providers in all states and the territories of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa. The two agencies said this test will help the federal partners and EAS participants determine the reliability of the system and its effectiveness at notifying the public of critical information that could save lives and protect property.

“Because there has never been an activation of the Emergency Alert System on a national level, FEMA views this test as an excellent opportunity to assess the readiness and effectiveness of the current system,” according to Damon Penn, FEMA’s assistant administrator of National Continuity Programs. “It is important to remember that the Emergency Alert System is one of many tools in our communications toolbox, and we will continue to work on additional channels that can be a lifeline of information for people during an emergency.

“The upcoming national test is critical to ensuring that the EAS works as designed,” said Jamie Barnett, chief of FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau. “As recent disasters here at home and in Japan have reminded us, a reliable and effective emergency alert and warning system is key to ensuring the public’s safety during times of emergency. We look forward to working with FEMA in preparation for this important test.”

(as reported in OH&S; Jun 09, 2011)
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Valero’s Measure of Success: Safety

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Valero Energy Corporation pledges “consistent, high-quality products” but its most important measure of success is the “health and safety of its employees, contractors, customers and neighbors.” So, it’s no surprise that Valero sends its rescue teams to the Roco Challenge. One Valero team member professed that while Roco’s Rescue Challenge was indeed “very challenging,” he also added that his team benefited from the communication, leadership, safety awareness, problem-solving experience and teamwork.

Valero invests in emergency preparedness and response training to ensure that employees are prepared to respond quickly to any emergency. The company is committed to “frequent training for all personnel in emergency management, incident command and tactical operations.”

Each of Valero’s four rescue teams, one for each of their shifts, completes quarterly training that covers IPE’s (Individual Performance Evaluations), TPE’s (Team Performance Evaluations), High Angle Rescue, Confined Space Rescue and Team Building.

With its recordable-injury rate among the lowest in the industry, the Valero teams have been fortunate not to have to use their skills in a real rescue,  but without a doubt will be ready in case an emergency arises.
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