OSHA inspectors present ‘Most Interesting’ cases at NSC Congress & Expo session

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Houston — The cases of an employee sustaining a third-degree burn on his foot after slipping on a tank, a temporary worker having a mixture of butane and propane injected in his finger and arm, and a platform system failure high above one of Miami’s busiest streets were highlighted Monday during OSHA’s “Most Interesting” Technical Session at the 2018 National Safety Council Congress & Expo.

A plating company employee was burned and missed months of work after slipping and momentarily dipping his foot into a tank containing a strong acid (pH of less than 1) that was about 170° F, according to Janelle Madzia, an OSHA compliance officer from the Cleveland area office.

The company’s only method of clearing equipment jams on one of its production lines was to have employees climb on top of the tanks. Even though similar incidents of slips and falls into tanks had occurred since the 1980s, the company contended that all other engineering controls were not feasible.

“They just went back to their old ways until an injury would occur again,” Madzia said.

The company had 16 injuries related to slipping and tripping into tanks in its OSHA 300 logs from 2011 to 2015, Madzia said. It was hit with 11 serious violations, one willful and another with fines totaling more than $250,000.

In the end, the company took “a number of corrective actions,” including improved fall protection and a personal protective equipment vending machine that included chemical-resistant gloves.

“Correct the hazard when it’s identified,” said Madzia, reviewing the lessons of the case. “Listen to employee concerns. Review OSHA 300 logs and look for patterns. Audit health and safety programs, procedures, policies and the facility.”

Call 911, don’t delay

“When in doubt, use 911. Don’t delay,” said Edward Grzybowski, an OSHA compliance safety and health officer with the Springfield, MA, area office. In the case he presented, a 25-year-old temp worker at a third-party manufacturer of aerosol cans had a mixture of butane and propane injected in his finger and arm after attempting to stop a conveyor belt.

Instead of the host employer calling emergency medical services immediately, the worker had to dial 911 about 25 minutes after the incident. Half of the employee’s arm is now disabled.

The host employer tried to claim a minor servicing exception to OSHA’s Lockout/Tagout Standard (1910.147) but to no avail. The employer and the temp worker’s staffing agency each were fined.

(Lockout/Tagout Standard violations totaled 2,944 in fiscal year 2018, according to preliminary data from OSHA.)

“You have to provide effective, alternative means,” Grzybowski said. “What are those? Primarily, it is an appropriately designed safety interlock. Another thing they overlooked was the standard specifically says that anytime someone is going to be bypassing the guard or going to be accessing the point of operation, lockout/tagout is required.”

Platform system failure

An improperly used platform system sent building materials and tools tumbling 460 feet down onto one of Miami’s busiest streets, striking a car that was at a stop sign, according to Anthony Campos, a compliance safety and health officer with OSHA’s Fort Lauderdale, FL, office.

The platform had too much unbalanced weight and the rail hooks did not engage because the height between the 47th and 48th floors on the Echo Brickell building was 4 feet more than the height between each of the floors below.

The ensuing stress caused the rails to give way. According to media reports, five people were injured – including two construction workers – and a bystander experienced a fatal heart attack while running from the scene. An occupant in the stopped car sustained a broken nose.