Sunday, December 28, 2008

New Crane Goes Down

Don't Dump Your New Crane

Note: I received this post as an email. I do not know where this event occurred. But, it does demonstrate the need for assuring that a crane MUST be placed on a firm foundation before beginning any lifting.)

Nine-Day-Old, 250 T Liebherr Crane (never used before) $4 Million Price tag.

Failure of back propping beneath the 200mm thick concrete deck.
Crane support outrigger punches through slab causing crane to lose balance and collapse across the site and onto adjoining property.
Crane balanced in the air for approximately 1 hour before the entire rig and boom collapse completely across site and rig falls through to the basement level.

Amazing that no-one was seriously injured or killed.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

OSHA Fines Cintas

Cintas Fined

The article below appeared in the (Mobile)
Press Register on Saturday, December 20, 2008. It was written by Sean Reilly from their Washington Bureau.

On several of my previous posts, I have complained that the fines by OSHA have been much too lax. In comparison of those minimal posts with the fines to Cintas, it seems that the pendulum has swung to the opposite direction. This is not to say that the fines are excess to Cintas as compared to others, but I mean to say that the others should have been more in line with these.

It just does not make Horse Sense for one company in the Construction Industry to receive mere pats-on-the-back while a General Industry company is fined more severely. After all, I guess that one side of the fence is governed one way and the other side is governed differently!

Cintas Whacked With a Large Fine
Problems cited at industrial laundries in Mobile, other plants.
By Sean Reilly
Washington Bureau

Washington--Cintas Corp., the nation's largest uniform supplier, will pay almost $2.8 million to settle alleged health and safety violations at its industrial laundries in Mobile and five other locations around the country, including a Tulsa facility where a man died last year after being trapped in a 330--degree industrial dryer.

The agreement also requires that the Cincinnati-based company hire new safety and health coordinators, including one at its Mobile plant, and install new safeguards in its washing and drying operations over the next two years. It must take immediate, interim steps to protect employees in the wash areas, according to the settlement announced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

In return, federal labor regulators downgraded citations accusing the company of "willful" health and safety violations and took 10 percent off the amount of the fines originally proposed. Cintas did not admit to any wrongdoing.

In a statement, Acting Assistant Labor Secretary Thomas Stohler said the agreement is binding on the company and "will help create a more safety-conscious corporate culture." Cintas spokeswoman Pam Lowe called the plan "one of the most comprehensive, forward-looking safety programs designed for our industry." Before the settlement, the company had expanded training and taken other steps to improve safety, according to a release.

But while the fine is relatively large by OSHA standards, it amounts to 1 percent of Cintas' annual profits, said Eric Frumin, health and safety director for Unite Here, a New Your based union that represents laundry and garment workers. The settlement also sets no schedule for OSHA inspections to ensure compliance, Frumin said.

"If I were Cintas, I would not worry about OSHA inspectors showing up because of this agreement," he said.

In April, Cintas' safety record was probed in a congressional hearing that focused on the March 2007 death of the Tulsa employee, Eleazor Torres Gomez. Later that year OSHA proposed $196,000 in fines for the Mobile plant, citing 15 safety violations including an unguarded hole in the floor, as well as repeated failures to protect employees from electrical shock and implement measures to keep machines from starting accidentally.

The Mobile plant has about 120 employees; under the settlement, it is one of three Cintas facilities that must hire a full-time safety and health coordinator. The other two are in Tulsa and Columbus, Ohio.

plant in the wake of the agreement. Kurt It is unclear whether Mobile's OSHA office plans added oversight of the CintasPetermeyer, the office's newly named area director, referred questions Friday to an agency spokesman in Atlanta, who declined to comment.

The settlement terms will apply to other Cintas facilities in states where OSHA has direct oversight, but not to 41 Cintas plants in the 15 states that run their own health and sadfety programs under OSHA's authorization, Frumin said.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Vegas Newspaper Editorial

Las Vegas Sun Editorial
The Editorial from the Las Vegas Sun really makes Horse Sense in urging officials to work more closely to assure that the jobsites in the Vegas area are safe places to work.

What is the payoff for preventing one incident
that stops any worker from being killed or maimed? What is the value of keeping all workers safe on the job?

A simple Horse Sense approach to a good safety program that is conformed to prevent the workers on any jobsite from unsafe acts is worth untold monetary costs from loss of income to the workers and their families, the cost of workers comp for medical expenses, the higher cost of insurance to the contractors and the loss of good, producing craftspersons on the site.

I have advocated in previous posts that I oppose individual state and city safety programs that substitute for Federal OSHA. There are just plain too many versions of too many safe work approaches from one of these programs to the basic OSHA nationwide standards. It is well known that many construction workers move from state to state to perform construction work. Variying safety procedures from state to state, city to city, et al are confusing and dangerous to workers if consistant regulations are issued.

I commend the Sun Times for this Editorial and hope and trust that, not only the safe work practices in the Las Vegas area, but across the nation will be closely followed during the 2009 year.

Improving safety

Officials should press in the next year to make changes to help protect workers

Tue, Dec 16, 2008 (2:07 a.m.)

In the wake of six construction deaths at the massive CityCenter project on the Las Vegas Strip, state and federal investigators found 109 safety violations, including 42 that could have resulted in serious injury.

That number is high given that the inspections came after the high-profile accidents and a worker protest about safety on the job.

For example, a Las Vegas Sun analysis of the investigators’ reports found there were 20 violations of standards designed to keep workers from falling. That is troubling considering falls killed two workers at CityCenter and two workers at the neighboring Cosmopolitan, which is being built by the same general contractor, Perini Building Co.

Perini has said it is doing all it can to make the workplace safe and blames the deaths on workers’ mistakes. However, the government investigators’ reports paint a picture of a systemic problem on the job site, and a failure of government oversight.

As we have said before, Congress should overhaul the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the federal agency created to protect workers. But this isn’t just a federal issue. Nevada has its own agency, a miniature version of OSHA, that regulates safety in the state, and like its federal counterpart, it is understaffed and doesn’t have the resources to do the job. State officials had to call in federal OSHA inspectors to conduct the CityCenter review because it didn’t have the resources to do the job.

While Congress moves toward changing federal OSHA, state and local leaders can make a difference in Nevada by working to improve the state agency and its regulations.

On Wednesday state and local government officials are scheduled to meet with union and construction leaders at the Clark County Government Center, following up on a meeting they held in June. They plan to discuss policy changes that could improve worker safety, including whether to allow the practice of round-the-clock construction.

State lawmakers should pay attention to this group’s ideas and make worker safety legislation a priority next year.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Charlotte Worksite Still Dangerous

More Dangers Exposed on Worksite

The article below from Creative Loafing News from Charlotte by Ryan Pitkin exposes more dangers in the Wachovia tower project in downtown Charlotte.

In a post that I made on November 11th, I stated that I wondered why the public is allowed to pass down the street where materials are lifted up to the ever increasing heights. Apparently everyone who wishes to drive or walk by this site can and has been exposed to falling items onto the street and apparently a side walk cover built of plywood.

It seems as the powers that be that are permitting these conditions that expose the public need to back up and seriously look into the closure of this street and close the street and side walks during lift operations to protect the public.

Apparently, there is a real problem with Safe Work practices on this site that has resulted in at least one fatality and a number of injuries and "near misses." Again, I think it is long past due to use some Horse Sense pertaining to the on the job safety and the safety of the public in the area.

Wachovia tower incident provides window into worksite rules

Published 12.09.08
Karen Shugart

OSHA: Number of accidents at the Uptown project doesn't appear disproportionate

With one death and at least two other accidents within a month, the Wachovia tower Uptown may appear to have experienced more construction problems than usual. But appearances don't necessarily make it so.

"This is the biggest [Uptown] job site in Charlotte history, that I know about. If you were to combine the NASCAR Hall of Fame with the Epicentre project, it would be about that big. I wouldn't say it's a disproportionate amount so far, but if a couple more accidents were to happen, I might have to," said Robby Jones, local compliance supervisor of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

OSHA, the federal workplace safety regulator, has been called in to investigate the Dec. 2 death of Jonathan Beatty, a 24-year-old construction worker who was struck when a tool fell down an elevator shaft at the site, which is part of an massive mixed-use development.

Beatty's death followed other incidents. On Nov. 10, a crane dropped two steal beams, shattering building windows and sending shards toward pedestrians and vehicles below. And on Nov. 4, a similar incident occurred. That day, Leslie Hoppes and her daughter had just left the Discovery Place and were on their way out of town when glass rained down on her car, breaking the windshield, chipping her sunroof and flattening her tires.

"The only warning we had that something was wrong was that there was already glass in the street," Hoppes said not long afterward. "And we couldn't see that until we were right on top of it."

Hoppes was frustrated by what she felt was a seeming lack of concern for safety. "What worried me was that they didn't stop cars or pedestrians," she said. "They closed down the street long enough to sweep away the glass, and they said they stopped doing whatever it was that made the glass fall.

"I just keep thinking how lucky I am that it was a rainy day, or I probably would have had my sunroof opened," she said.

Perhaps one disturbing aspect of these incidents is that, excepting the Dec. 2 death, if they didn't happen on such busy streets, they would remain private matters. Employers covered by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 are only required to report incidents to OSHA if someone dies or three or more people are hospitalized. The Nov. 11 steel beam fall is also being investigated by OSHA, yet that might only be due to media attention, Jones said. Sometimes work sites are reluctant to call regulators. "There's a lot of accidents that happen at construction sites in Charlotte that nobody will ever know about," he said.

How can it be ensured that construction companies aren't just allowed to overlook potential safety hazards up until someone gets seriously hurt? Jones said OSHA has a "good relationship" with the Charlotte Fire Department. When the department goes to a construction site for any number of reasons, they know what to look for as unsafe, and they call OSHA and give them a heads up. Jones said, "I try to do as much as I can, but we just wouldn't have the manpower to watch every work site ourselves."

The first sign of trouble at the Wachovia site happened in August when a crane tipped over and landed on the Goodyear Auto Services Center on Stonewall. The subcontractor who employed the man working the crane was issued a citation, Jones said.

When an accident is reported, OHSA workers show up at the site to conduct interviews with witnesses and to make sure everybody was complying with regulatory standards, said Jones. When they feel they have acquired enough information, the investigator compiles a report and decides whether the company running the construction site should be issued a citation. This process usually takes between four and five weeks, said Jones.

Construction companies, such as Batson-Cook, the contractor in charge of the Wachovia site, gain "credit" from OHSA when they go certain periods of time accident free, said Jones. If a company is found to have a clean record after experiencing an accident, there will usually be a ten percent cut on any citation issued, he said. If the company has a history of problems, they pay the maximum amount, according to Jones.

"There's a misconception out there that OHSA is supposed to be there to keep the job safe, but that's not true," said Jones, "It's the construction company's job to ensure the safety of their workers. We are just the safety police. We come through and make sure everybody is complying with regulations, but we've never put people on sites to watch over the work."

Since its 1970 creation, OSHA has been a somewhat controversial agency, alternately criticized by conservatives for being an onerous burden on business and by liberals for insufficient resources and enforcement.

Regardless of whatever happens, Jones said, OSHA doesn't have authority to shut down jobsites.