OSHA announces Imperial Sugar will pay more than $6 million and implement extensive safety and health abatement measures Settlement resolves violations found after 14 died at Georgia plant
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration today announced it has resolved litigation with Imperial Sugar Co. stemming from the February 2008 explosion at its Port Wentworth, Ga., plant and subsequently discovered safety and health violations at the company's Gramercy, La., facility.
Parts of Dust Standard Likely to Be Retroactive
The OSHA Combustible Dust Team's web chat with more than 400 stakeholders also gave some idea of the timetable for the combustible dust standard that will be developed.
OSHA's first virtual stakeholder meeting on June 28 was a hit, understandably, because it focused on a topic that will soon be addressed in an OSHA rulemaking: combustible dust. More than 400 people offered comments, OSHA says, and the agency has posted the archived chat online so others can read it.
The OSHA Combustible Dust Team responded to many of the comments as they came in, giving some idea of the dust standard's timetable -- a small business impact panel will evaluate it in April 2011 -- as well as recognition of NFPA standards, training requirements, retroactivity of the standard, and other issues. The team mentioned the Labor Department's Work in Progress blog and encouraged chat participants to read materials and offer comments there.
Several commenters said employee training/involvement is essential. Some predicted the standard will be challenging for small businesses; comments asserted certain mineral dusts are not explosive and in fact are useful for inerting combustible dusts, agricultural dusts should not be covered, and OSHA must adequately train its enforcement personnel so they can fairly evaluate facilities' dusts and their control methods. One commenter suggested that the standard contain a decision tree for evaluating and controlling dust hazards at a site, and another recommended that the standard use an "action level" and "PEL limit" approach to keep compliance costs down.
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CSB Approves Urgent Recommendations to Prevent Deadly Explosions During Pipe Cleaning and Purging Operations
On June 28, CSB approved series of 18 urgent recommendations aimed at preventing fires and explosions caused when fuel gas is used to clean or purge gas pipes of debris, air or other substances, typically during facility construction and maintenance.
The recommendations, which were directed to OSHA, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and others, resulted from extensive CSB investigations into the Feb. 7 explosion at the Kleen Energy power plant in Middletown, Conn., that caused six deaths and multiple injuries, and the June 9, 2009, explosion at the ConAgra Foods Slim Jim plant in Garner, N.C., that killed four workers and injured 67.
The accident at Kleen Energy occurred during the planned cleaning of natural gas piping during the commissioning and startup phase of construction. Natural gas was forced through large piping that was to fuel the plant’s large electricity-generating gas turbines, in an operation called a “natural gas blow.” This gas was vented directly to the atmosphere from open pipe ends that were less than 20 feet off the ground and were located in congested areas adjacent to the power generation building.
CSB investigators obtained gas company records showing some two million standard cubic feet of natural gas were released to the atmosphere during gas blows on Feb. 7 – enough, the CSB calculated, to provide heating and cooking fuel to a typical American home every day for more than 25 years. The gas found an ignition source and exploded.
In CSB’s recommendations, OSHA is urged to pass regulations that would prohibit the use of natural gas for pipe cleaning, the cause of the explosion at Kleen Energy, and would prohibit the venting or purging of fuel gas indoors, the cause of the explosion at the ConAgra Slim Jim plant. Both explosions resulted from releases of natural gas during the installation and commissioning of new piping that led to gas-fired appliances.
OSHA also is urged to require companies to involve their workers and contractors in developing safe procedures and training for handling fuel gas.
In testimony at a June 28 field hearing before a subcommittee of the U.S House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor, CSB Board Member John Bresland said there is a “significant gap” in the current gas safety standards for general industry and construction, “a gap that threatens the continued safety of workers at facilities that handle flammable natural gas.”
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Dr. Rafael Moure-Eraso Confirmed as New Chairman and Mark Griffon as Board Member
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