Friday, September 19, 2008

It's About Time

OSHA Finally to Issue
Crane Standard Update

According to the article below by Market Watch, finally, OSHA has "Announced" that they are "going" to issue new Crane Standards. Now that they have "Announced" the changes, it will take a little less than two years to become effective!

The announcement heavily emphasizes that all Crane Operators will be formally tested by an authorized company. The primary thing that I see that is missing is that it DOES NOT address any required training for Riggers and Supervisors of lifting operations. The Operators are limited as to what they can do from the Operator's Cab. The riggers are the ones who do all the attachment that go on the hooks. The Supervisors are the ones who, ultimately are the ones that oversee the whole operation and safe lifting of the load. ALL THREE GROUPS SHOULD BE TRAINED AND BE ABLE TO READ THE CRANE'S LOAD CHART AND SHOULD KNOW THE WEIGHT OF THE LOAD.

OSHA to issue proposed cranes and derricks construction standard

Last update: 3:05 p.m. EDT Sept. 18, 2008
WASHINGTON, Sept 18, 2008 /PRNewswire-USNewswire via COMTEX/ -- The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) today announced that a proposed rule for cranes and derricks in construction will be published shortly in the Federal Register.
A current copy of the proposed standard is available on OSHA's Web site at for the public to review. The public comment period on the proposed rule will only begin after the proposal has been formally published in the Federal Register.
"The cranes and derricks proposed rule comprehensively addresses the hazards associated with the use of cranes and derricks in construction, including tower cranes," said Edwin G. Foulke Jr., assistant secretary of labor for OSHA. "This draft rule will both protect construction employees and help prevent crane accidents by updating existing protections and requiring crane operators to be trained in the use of construction cranes."
The cranes and derricks proposed rule would apply to the estimated 96,000 construction cranes in the U.S., including 2,000 tower cranes. The proposed standard addresses key safety issues associated with cranes, including ground conditions, the assembly and disassembly of cranes, the operation of cranes near power lines, the certification and training of crane operators, the use of safety devices and signals, and inspections of cranes. It significantly updates existing tower crane requirements and more comprehensively addresses tower crane safety, with respect both to erecting and dismantling, and to crane operations.
The proposed standard would establish four options for the qualification or certification of crane operators: (1) certification through an accredited third-party testing organization, (2) qualification through an audited employer testing program, (3) qualification issued by the U.S. military and (4) qualification by a state or local licensing authority.
This proposed rule was developed through negotiated rulemaking by the Cranes and Derricks Advisory Committee (C-DAC). The federal Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health subsequently recommended that OSHA use that document for developing its proposed rule. Since then and as required by law, OSHA has conducted a regulatory flexibility analysis, small business review and paperwork burden analysis of the proposed rule. In addition, OSHA was required to write a preamble to the regulatory proposal that explains in detail the purpose and application of the proposed standard. That preamble is almost 1,000 pages. The members of C-DAC were sent an advance copy for review as part of their role in the negotiated rulemaking.
OSHA has improved workplace safety and health over the past 37 years. This success is reflected in the latest data showing the lowest national fatality and injury and illness incidence rate that the Bureau of Labor Statistics has ever recorded.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthy workplace for their employees. OSHA's role is to promote the safety and health of America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual process improvement in workplace safety and health. For more information, visit
SOURCE U.S. Department of Labor

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Do Not Lie To The Authorities

Tell The Truth!
It doesn't pay to lie to authorities! The article below from the New York Times, written by Anahad O'Connor clearly reports a Criminal Act by the owner of a construction company where a worker was killed while not being properly secured to prevent his falling from a scaffold in Harlem.

The actions after the incident proved to be a lie to authorities, then a willful act of forging of a worker's identity that identified the fallen worker as a licensed rigger.

There is just plain NO SENSE, especially no Horse Sense for this type thing to happen. I don't know what the maximum charges would be in this case, but it should include putting this company totally out of business and some prison time for this willful cause of a fatality.

2 Arrested After Death at Work Site in Harlem

Malik Hussain was quick to assign blame on Thursday when one of his construction workers, Miguel Rodriguez, fell to his death from a scaffold at a six-story building in Harlem.

Mr. Hussain, 26, told investigators that Mr. Rodriguez, 38, who was patching the building’s facade, broke at least two safety regulations — and he insisted that a licensed foreman had been present at the site, overseeing the work the entire time.

But on Friday, city investigators turned the tables on Mr. Hussain. They charged that immediately after the accident, Mr. Hussain lied to the authorities when he said that a certified foreman had been present. They said that he even went as far as to force an unlicensed employee to pose as one.

Mr. Hussain and the uncertified employee, Jinal Patel, were arrested on Friday and charged with impersonation in the second degree, a misdemeanor that carries up to one year of jail time, the city’s Department of Investigation said.

As a result of the arrests, the authorities said, the Buildings Department is suspending work at 28 other sites across the city where Mr. Hussain’s company, Classic Painting and Restoration of Brooklyn, was working.

“This supervisor showed absolutely no regard for the safety of his workers or the public,” said Robert LiMandri, the commissioner-designate of the Buildings Department. “This tragedy could have been prevented if basic safety regulations were followed.”

According to investigators and witnesses at the scene, Mr. Rodriguez, a husband and father of two who immigrated from Ecuador, was doing patch-up and cement work on the building at 226 West 111 Street when the accident occurred shortly before 2 p.m.

Mr. Rodriguez was on a scaffold between the fifth and sixth floors, the police said, when another worker on the scaffold stepped off and entered the building. Moments later, Mr. Rodriguez, who was wearing a harness that investigators said was not properly attached to the building, plummeted to his death. It was unclear whether Mr. Rodriguez simply fell from the platform or the platform had collapsed, officials said.

In an interview shortly after the accident, Mr. Hussain said that Mr. Rodriguez was at fault for trying to lower the scaffold without his partner.

“He tried to lower the scaffolding by himself,” he said. “It’s against the rules. You have to have two guys at a time.”

When asked whether he had informed Mr. Rodriguez of that regulation, Mr. Hussain said only: “He knows everything. He was working for a long time.”

The names of lawyers for Mr. Hussain and Mr. Patel could not be immediately obtained on Friday night.

According to building codes, the scaffold was required to be set up by a licensed rigger, and a person with certification who could ensure that the scaffold was being operated properly was supposed to be present at the site.

But according to the Department of Investigation, when investigators asked to speak with that person, Mr. Hussain lied to them. They said Mr. Hussain told Mr. Patel to impersonate a rigging foreman, and — days earlier — gave him a government-issued foreman’s identification card to pass off as his own if questioned by inspectors. The card apparently belonged to another employee of Mr. Hussain’s company, the authorities said.

Four More Killed In A Ditch

Another Report of a Collapsed Ditch
In the article below, from Action Three News, an incident in Verdet, NE, it is announced that four more workers were killed in an unprotected ditch. It seems as one of the workers was pinned by dirt caving in on him while in the trench, then three more jumped in to save the first one and they all perished.

Well, if OSHA holds true to many other fatalities, especially in trench collapsed the company will only be fined $12,000 for all four fatalities.

The only way to stop these trench wall collapsing is to make the fines of a sufficient amount to "Get the Contractor's Attention." As in a similar incident in Mississippi, there were three workers killed and they only received a $12,000 fine.

Other than their insurance rates going up, there is a mere "pat on the hand" of these contractors, not even a "slap on the hands!" This totally does not make Horse Sense to give these low, low fines, but it does show Donkey Sense!

Accident Kills Four Construction Workers

Posted: Sep 12, 2008 03:40 PM CDT

Verdel, NE - Knox County officials say four men have died in a highway construction accident outside the town of Verdel. Verdel is near the border of South Dakota, in northeast Nebraska.

Three of the construction workers died trying to save a fourth man who fell into a collapsing trench. The victims were working on the drainage trench on Friday morning when
a part of it collapsed.

Investigators believe 24-year-old Travis Lunn of O'Neill fell into the collapsing trench. The three others tried to rescue him and also became trapped in the dirt.

The other three men who died are 35-year-old David Peterson of O'Neill, 61-year-old Gary Forsch of Spencer and 43-year-old Brad Kelly of Lynch.

The collapse was reported around 9:15 on Friday morning along state Highway 12 near Verdel.

An investigator with the Occupational Safety and Health Administatation is on the scene, trying to find out what went wrong.

Posted by Mark Barmann,

Friday, September 12, 2008

Why Contest a Small Citation and Fines?

Why Would a Company Contest Citations and Fines for a Death of a Worker?
The article below from KFYR-TV in North Dakota caught my eye and roused my ire as to why this citation was contested.

It amazes me to read items about companies who want to contest citations and minimal fines resulting from the death of a worker. The only thing I could even fathom would be to try to keep their insurance rates and records cleared.

If a worker is killed and if the company has failed to properly provide a safe working area, has trained the worker properly to be aware of the dangers of doing whatever it was when the incident occurred, and if it could be proven that the worker was "clowning around," under the influence of drugs or alcohol or some other totally ignoring safety rules, then the company should be cited and fined.

It continues to remind me how low the imposed fines are issued by OSHA for the death of a worker on a job site. Is the life and safety of any worker's value less than a measley $17,500? It seems like a pittance to me.

Company Contesting Citations, Fines in Oil Rig Accident


The Occupational Safety and Health Administration says a company is contesting fines and citations issued in an oil rig accident that killed a Montana man.

Mountrail County authorities say 21-year-old Nathaniel Zinn, of Chinook, Montana, died in May, at a rig site about 11 miles south of Stanley. The rig was owned by Cyclone Drilling of Gillette, Wyoming.

Mike Maslowski is an assistant area director for OSHA in Bismarck. He says OSHA issued six "serious" safety citations and fines totaling $17,500 to the company. He says the company is contesting the citations and fines.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Fines For Pike Electric

OSHA Wants $63K Fine For Pike Electric

This article appeared in the Mobile Press Register on Saturday, September 6, 2008 and was written by Jeff Amy, Business Reporter.

Also, this ties to a post I made on May 6, 2008 on this incident.

It amuses me that with repeated trench colapses maiming and killing workers in Mississippi and Alabama, as well as all over the country a little crying to OSHA and they will reduce fines for deaths or injuries from up in the hundreds of thousands down to $12,000. Not really a slap on the wrist! These kind of fines WILL NOT deter these companies from taking the same short cuts again and possibly killing more workers.

Worker near USA was badly injured in May when trench collapsed onto him.

Federal workplace safety officials have proposed a $63,000 fine against Pike Electric, Inc. after a trench collapsed and severely injured a worker earlier this year.

The company, which builds and maintains power lines, was doing work near the corner of Old Shell and Hillcrest roads, near the University of South Alabama, when the cave-in happened May 6, according to federal records

A statement from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration said that the walls of the trench were "near vertical." Spokesman Michael Wald said the worker was hospitalized after the collapse, although he was unable to say whether the worker was permanently impaired.

Pike's Michael Heath declined to comment Friday.

Federal safety rules call for trenches to be sloped or held up by supporting structure, such as a metal frame, to keep workers from being crushed by collapsing dirt.

"Pike Electric has lots of experience in trenching, but the company's managent still failed to take basic preventative measures that could have saved this employee from harm." Clyde Payne, interim director of OSHA's Mobile office, said in a statement.

The company was fined over two separate infractions -- $56,000 for a willful rule violation for failing to protect workers in the trench, and $7,000 for piling excavated dirt too close to the side of the trench.

Based in Mount Airy, N.C., Pike Electric (NYSE:PEC) commonly does work for Alabama Power Co. and other electric utilities throughout the South and Midwest. In its most recent budget year, it reported profits of $20.2 million on revenues of $552 million.

The company has 15 days to appeal the violations and fine to the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, or it can request for an informal settlement with the head of the Mobile OSHA office.

Fines are commonly reduced through such appeals and settlements. For Example, in the past five years, OSHA has proposed $246,680 in fines against Pike throughout the nation, according to the agency's online record of completed cases, but after appeals and settlements, the company has paid only $70, 430.50.

For example, the Mobile office initially proposed a $77,000 fine for failing to cut off power to a line safely after lineman Ronnie Adams died by electrocution while working in Flomaton on July 12, 2005, after Hurricane Dennis. A resident's generator was backfeeding power into a line believed to be dead, a possibility that Alabama Power had warned Pike about, according to documents. Pike contested the fine, saying in part that Adams' death was his own fault because he was wearing leather and not rubber gloves. The latter would have insulated him from electrocution.

An administrative law judge reduced the amount to $12,000 in 2007, saying the company's conduct was not a willful violation, which carries a higher fine.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Fatality In New York

Worker Fell 400 Feet
The article below from The New York Times, written by Ken Belson and William K Rashbaum and titled this report as "Worker Is Killed in City's Latest Crane Accident."

I think that this would be more appropriately posted as "Rigger Fell to His Death When He Was Not Properly Anchored."

In the report, the deceased worker had been working on lowering the tower crane, but it appears that the CAUSE for his fall was his failure to attach his lanyard to a point that would support 5,000 pounds of force. Also, his fellow workers in his immediate work area should have been aware of his failure to be properly anchored. This is a shared responsibily of all workers to be aware of not only their own safety practices, but of their coworkers also.

In reading the article and being familiar with "tight working situations," it seems like that the worker was required to move beyond the length of his lanyard, took it loose, but failed to secure a second lanyard before releasing the first one. This type situation can and will contribute to a fatality or serious injury of the person that was not properly secured.

It is so tragic for any fatality on a project anywhere and any time, but when they can be so easily prevented by the proper use of safety equipment. My heart goes out to this worker's family as well as his fellow workers on that site.

Worker Is Killed in City’s Latest Crane Accident

Published: September 4, 2008

A construction worker fell about 400 feet to his death on Thursday as he and others worked to lower a tower crane at a building site on the West Side of Manhattan. It was the latest in a series of high-rise accidents in recent months — and the third fatal accident involving cranes — that are certain to bring renewed scrutiny to the Bloomberg administration.

Skip to next paragraph
Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

The 1,350-unit residential building with 58-story towers where a crane rigger fell to his death on West 42nd Street in Manhattan.

Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

Construction workers after the accident.

The accident occurred about 9:30 a.m. as a team of seven men worked to lower part of a tower crane that had been used to erect a 58-story tower at 600 West 42nd Street, between 11th and 12th Avenues, where the developer Larry A. Silverstein is building the Silver Towers on the River, a 1,350-unit residential building scheduled to open next year.

The worker, Anthony Esposito, 48, a crane rigger, was on a 20-foot working platform attached to the crane about 40 floors up, said Deputy Chief Anthony DeVita of the Fire Department. The platform apparently tilted, according to one investigator, and Mr. Esposito lost his footing.

Mr. Esposito was wearing a safety harness, but it was not attached to anything, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said.

The authorities are trying to determine whether the platform was properly anchored, the investigator said. It appeared to have been secured at only two points instead of four, the investigator added.

Tony Sclafani, a spokesman for the Buildings Department, said the platform was inspected on Tuesday. But he would not say whether it had been moved or altered since then.

Hours after the accident, a stream of family and friends had gathered at Mr. Esposito’s house in Baldwin, on Long Island.

A family friend who called himself Rocky but would not give his last name said Mr. Esposito had three children — one who just received confirmation, and a 13-year-old daughter and a child in high school.

“He worked for his family first,” Rocky said, adding that Mr. Esposito knew his job was risky. “He caught the train at 5:30 a.m. every morning, he worked Saturdays, holidays, whenever he can for his family.”

Chief DeVita and other city officials said the crane did not appear to have any structural problems.

The operation and inspection of tower cranes have received considerable scrutiny this year after nine people were killed when two of them fell in separate accidents.

The first accident occurred in March on East 51st Street, and left seven people dead. In that case, nylon straps snapped as they were being used to help “jump” the crane — in that case, raising it. The crane in Thursday’s accident was also being jumped, although in this case it was being dismantled, or lowered — an equally perilous operation.

The March collapse prompted the Buildings Department to issue tougher safety protocols for jumping cranes, and this was the first fatal accident to occur during a jump since.

Those protocols required that a Buildings Department inspector be present when a crane is jumped.

That provision was eliminated when the department issued a later set of protocols just two days before a second fatal crane accident in May.

That accident, on East 91st Street, did not involve a crane jump and left two workers dead.

There was no inspector at the scene on Thursday, Mr. Sclafani said.

In issuing the protocols in May, the department said it stopped requiring an inspector because a review of crane jumps found it unnecessary.

As friends of the Esposito family gathered in Baldwin, the New York City Council voted unanimously to adopt a series of crane safety measures, many of which echoed the new protocols.

The accident happened early in the workday at the gleaming glass towers overlooking the Hudson River, as cars and tourist buses streamed past on the West Side Highway.

Several construction workers, visibly shaken, waved off reporters as they left the building and walked to their cars.

Keith Gray, 44, the foreman of the sheet metal workers at the site, said he saw Mr. Esposito half-covered with an orange tarp as emergency workers worked on him. Mr. Gray, who works for Aabco Sheet Metal, said Mr. Esposito was wearing a yellow body harness that stretched from his thigh area up to and around his shoulders.

“The guy had a harness on when he was on the ground,” Mr. Gray said, “but I heard he was not attached — he was not hooked off. If he was hooked off, we have supports along the building and he’d have been attached to that, and then if he fell he’d a been dangling in the air.”

One investigator involved in the inquiry said Mr. Esposito had unhooked the harness shortly before he fell.

Another investigator said federal safety officials were looking into whether the platform was sufficiently secured and whether one of the safety railings on the back side of it — where Mr. Esposito apparently fell — had been removed.

Skip to next paragraph
Dan Alcade/The New York Times

The scene of the fall Thursday. The 9:30 a.m. accident took the life of a father of three children.

Experts said jumping a tower crane was one of the most dangerous phases in the use of the giant machines.

Mr. Sclafani said the department had issued a stop-work order on the site, which includes two 58-story towers. Mr. Esposito fell from the northwest corner of the complex. Work began in October 2007, and the towers have been built to their full height.

Richard Mendelson, the area director for the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration who will supervise the agency’s investigation, said it was too soon to draw conclusions about what led to Mr. Esposito’s death.

In the investigation, OSHA and the Buildings Department are being joined by prosecutors from the rackets bureau in the office of the Manhattan district attorney, Robert M. Morgenthau, which has looked into the two earlier fatal tower crane accidents, and the city’s Department of Investigation.

As Chief DeVita briefed reporters about two hours after the accident on Thursday, a large black section of the crane was being lowered to the ground behind him, with nylon straps clearly visible securing a section of the crane’s frame.

The bills that the City Council approved late Thursday would, among other things, require that general contractors hold safety coordination meetings with engineers, riggers and safety managers before erecting or dismantling a crane, and that crane workers take a 30-hour training course. The law allowed stop-work orders to be imposed faster.

“We’re not going to tolerate sloppiness that leads to injury and death,” Mayor Bloomberg said.

The general contractor at the site of Thursday’s accident was Gotham Construction, and the concrete subcontractor was DiFama Concrete, according to city records. Mr. Esposito worked for DFC Structures, an affiliate of DiFama, according to a spokesman for the company.

A worker for DiFama died in January when he fell 42 stories from the top of Trump SoHo, a condominium hotel under construction at Varick and Spring Streets in Manhattan.

DiFama has a history of safety violations at projects in Manhattan and has been fined tens of thousands of dollars in penalties, according to federal records.

In November 2004, another DiFama employee died when he fell 60 feet from a platform on the mast of a construction crane at what is now the Lumiere, a seven-story condominium on 53rd Street, west of Eighth Avenue.

A woman who answered the phone at the company on Thursday said it would have no comment.

Mr. Morgenthau’s rackets bureau and the city’s Department of Investigation are conducting a broad criminal investigation into corruption in the Buildings Department’s cranes and derricks division, which has already resulted in the arrests of an inspector and the unit’s acting chief inspector. The office of a crane company, Nu-Way Crane Services, were searched as part of the investigation and more charges are expected, people briefed on the inquiry have said.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Log Truck Incident

Be Aware of your Sourroundings

The photos posted here of an incident that shows the need for Horse Sense in the logging industry as well as any construction project.

The driver was attempting to bind his load down for safe transport when he overpowered his toss of the binding chain over his load of logs.

When he was attempting to throw the chain over the logs the chain's hook attached itself to the 7.2 kv primary electric distribution line. He said that his tires began to "fry" within seconds. He could have easily been fried himself.

There were several unsafe issues where this driver should have used Horse Sense that would have prevented the possible danger of his fatality as well as saving his truck and load.

One was to be aware of the dangers in the immediate area of unsafe conditions or perils. The driver should have moved his rig to an area away from overhead power lines before securing his load.

Another was that the driver could have been electrocuted had he been in contact with the other end of the chain after it made contact with the power line.

This incident simply shows the need to be aware of your souroundings before performing work operations on your jobsite

Experience Dangerous Exposures!

Construction Workers Not Only Ones Who Need to Experience Perilous Environments

In the article from Federal by Tim Kauaffman, we see that agencies that help provide safe work practices and handling unstable materials show need for continuous oversight in their work environment.

I'm posting this article to remind all agencies, construction companies and individuals of continual perils in their workplaces.

Plutonium spill, laser accident prompt reviews
September 01, 2008

In early June, a glass vial of plutonium powder broke at the National Institutes of Standards and Technology lab in Boulder, Colo. More than a dozen researchers were exposed to radiation — and the agency was exposed as a dysfunctional workplace.

The plutonium spill was only one of several serious accidents reported at NIST labs in the last couple years. In March, a university researcher was shot in the eye with an infrared laser while placing a slide on a microscope at the agency’s headquarters in Gaithersburg, Md.

The researcher is under continuing medical care, and NIST said it tightened its laser safety policies as a result. And in June 2006, a contract construction worker sustained near-fatal injuries when a 500-pound steel beam fell on his head while working at the Boulder campus. The worker has a damages claim pending against the agency, although NIST refused to discuss it.

The incidents have revealed management flaws at the labs, embarrassed NIST leaders, and prompted efforts to overhaul what is viewed as a lax safety culture at the agency.

Discussing the plutonium spill, NIST Deputy Director James Turner told a House panel at a July hearing that “a culture has developed with respect to safety issues that NIST understands must be addressed broadly, beyond this specific event.”

The plutonium spill has sparked no fewer than seven investigations, including one by a blue-ribbon panel of scientific experts being impaneled this month by the agency’s parent organization, the Commerce Department.

Preliminary findings from investigations by agency and industry experts found the accident stemmed from sloppy management and lab practices. A guest researcher, who had joined the Boulder lab in December, was allowed to work with the plutonium powder even though he had no training on the proper handling of radioactive materials. He was allowed to work alone in the laboratory with the plutonium after hours, during which time he removed the vial from several sealed plastic bags.

On the workday before the plutonium spill, the guest researcher and another NIST employee tapped the vial on a marble lab bench to settle the powder. According to one investigator, this action may have caused damage to the bottle that was not immediately evident.

The following workday, the guest researcher was holding the unprotected bottle in one hand while using a computer with his other hand when the bottle apparently struck lead bricks that were placed on the table to shield a nearby computer from the radiation. After noticing a crack in the bottle, he washed his hands in the lab sink, went to his office, used the bathroom and informed the principal investigator of the damage.

Because the spill was not contained, contamination spread out of the laboratory and into the city’s sewer system.

The vial held just one-fourth of a gram of powder — about the size of a dime — but the failure to contain the contamination resulted in about half of the 29 employees tested testing positive for radiation exposure. NIST said the employees should suffer no long-term effects from the exposure, noting that employees were exposed to less radiation than Boulder residents receive on average each year from natural background radiation.

The preliminary findings indicate that the plutonium spill was preventable but occurred because line supervisors failed to take responsibility for safety issues, training was inadequate and insufficient, and no emergency response plan existed.

“Apparently no one at Boulder considered a spill of [plutonium] powder as a possibility, and therefore they were unprepared to deal with it,” said Kenneth Rogers, a former commissioner at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, who investigated the spill.

Safety policies at NIST are woefully behind the times, said Richard Toohey, who also investigated the spill. He is director of Oak Ridge Associated Universities, a consortium of academic institutions in Tennessee and a federal contractor for the Energy Department.

“The safety culture at NIST reminds me of that at DOE research labs some 20 years ago,” Toohey said.

NIST fails to recognize safety as the responsibility of line managers and individual employees, and fails to foster a culture in which employees look out for one another’s safety, he said. Instead, safety is seen as an isolated responsibility of the internal safety and health staff.

Energy created a voluntary protection program in 1994, patterned after an Occupational Safety and Health Administration program, to encourage employees and contractors to not just meet but to exceed federal health and safety regulations. NIST considered launching a similar safety management program four or five years ago, but dropped the idea because of pushback from researchers, Toohey said.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which controls the use of radioactive materials by research facilities, authorized the Boulder lab in February 2007 to acquire plutonium, which it used in its research to develop better radiation detectors for nuclear inspectors.

But lab officials ordered the plutonium without notifying supervisors at headquarters in Gaithersburg, and failed to train its employees on the proper handling of the radioactive material — a precondition for NRC approving the application. In October, the lab received three plutonium samples from Energy’s New Brunswick Laboratory. The lab has suspended use of the other samples until further notice.

NIST said it is reviewing its safety programs and procedures and studying how to prevent future accidents. No one has been disciplined as a result of the plutonium spill, pending the outcome of the investigations.

Mike Quear, a former chemical engineer at Union Carbide Corp. who now serves as staff director for the House subcommittee on technology and the environment, said it took the plutonium spill to draw NIST’s attention to lax training and safety procedures.

“At all levels of NIST management, they realize now they have a serious problem they must deal with and that they have not given environmental safety and health issues adequate consideration,” Quear said.

Pay Attention !

Pay Attention to What You Are Doing
The article below from The Daily Toreador by Matt McGowan is a REAL problem not only to college students on campus, but to all people who keep earphones to their ears, use text messaging while walking or driving, or talking on cell phones while walking or driving.

In reading McGowan's post, it had never occurred to me the unsafe practices in using these electronic devices while doing things like "walking and chewing gum!" This is a VERY important Safety Precaution for people using them.

This post makes total Horse Sense.

Pedestrian use of personal electronics poses safety risks

Matt McGowan

Issue date: 9/2/08 Section: La Vida

When Cindy Maxwell drives her bus route through Texas Tech's campus, she knows what to look for: plugged-in pedestrians who, instead of looking back at her, are glued to a little screen.

Although officials cannot accurately gauge how many serious personal electronics-related pedestrian accidents have occurred in Lubbock, the unrelenting rise in the use of personal electronics may be the main ingredient in a recipe for disaster.

"Last week, I was driving between Wall Hall and Gates (Hall), and there was a kid standing on the curb talking on his cell phone," said Maxwell, an eight-year veteran of driving buses. "I just knew he was going to step out. I was going real slow and I had a whole bus full of kids and was just creeping along. He just walked. Never looked up."

While the majority of pedestrians' distractions stem from cell-phone conversations and text messaging, she said iPods and other personal electronics also inhibit a student's situational awareness as they stroll through campus.

Determining how many pedestrian accidents involved electronics can prove tricky for investigators, said Capt. James Shavers of the Lubbock Police Department, because many victims refuse to admit that they were distracted when they got into the accident.

The lack of statistics, however, does not rule out risk, he said, especially when one considers the pervasive nature of electronics in society.

Shavers said he once saw a student wearing headphones as he walked toward campus through a construction zone.

"I was having to blow my horn and hit my siren because he had his iPod going," he said. "If he couldn't hear me with my siren next to him, then he couldn't hear somebody yelling, 'Hey, look out. There's a bulldozer coming.'"

Cpl. Jack Floyd with the Texas Tech Police Department said he cannot recall any serious accidents on campus that involved pedestrians who were distracted by electronics, but he understands the Russian Roulette-type risk associated with being plugged in while walking near traffic.

But that doesn't mean it hasn't happened elsewhere.

"We've been kind of lucky," said Dr. Juan Fitz, a doctor who works in the emergency room of Covenant Medical Center, "but we have had the reports of this kid from El Paso who was in New York. He had just gotten engaged. He was excited and telling his friends. Basically he wasn't paying attention, got into the street and got run over.

"The last text message he sent was telling them what he was going to give her for their wedding."

Not all pedestrian accidents involve cars, Fitz said. In fact, the electronics-related pedestrian injuries that he has seen in the emergency room resulted from people who weren't paying attention as they climbed up or down stairs.

"When you're out, look around," he said. "You'll see a lot of people text messaging, on the phone, looking down. They're not paying attention. That's very unsafe. Very unsafe."

As a bicyclist who rides six miles per day, Fitz said he never wears headphones when he cycles and leaves his cell phone at home so he can be "constantly listening to traffic."

"If you're going to talk on (cell phones), stay stationary," Maxwell said. "Don't walk and talk on them. I know that's impossible, but it's for their life, their safety. Just stay stationary for a minute or call them back, you know. A bus is big."

Many pedestrians assume they have the right-of-way on campus, Shavers said, so they assume cars automatically will stop for them, which is an unsafe assumption.

Taking risks when it comes to pedestrian-car accidents is a serious gamble, he said, because cars will severely injure pedestrians, regardless of whose fault it was.

"Even if you're right, that's not necessarily going to keep you alive," Shavers said, "so you need to be alert and watch for traffic."