Posts Tagged ‘California Occupational Safety and Health Administration’
Tuesday, November 3, 2015 @ 07:11 PM gHale
Fresno County is facing a fine of more than $100,000 for its role in the April 17 gas line explosion that killed a Fresno County Jail inmate worker and injured 12 others, said officials at the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal OSHA).
The county failed to outline the hazard presented by an underground line at the work site, Cal OSHA officials said.
The county disagrees with the state’s violation notice and is appealing the fines, said Paul Nerland, Fresno County’s interim director of personnel services.
Cal OSHA’s report said a county worker severed the 12-inch Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) gas line, leading to an explosion that shot flames 150 feet into the air and threw the worker from his front loader. Nearby workers at the Fresno County Sheriff’s Foundation shooting range suffered burns and one died from injuries caused by the explosion.
A Fresno County public works employee operated the front-end loader on a road formed over a berm that sat above the shooting range, near Highway 99 and the San Joaquin River.
The Cal-OSHA report describes the work being done on the site as “re-establishing and widening an existing access road which had eroded and building up access ramps on the east and west side of the access road.”
The fines were for four serious violations and one general violation totaling $101,125. The four serious violations led to fines of $25,000 each. The general violation was failure to call the “dig-alert” 811 phone number to find out if there were underground utilities in the project’s vicinity. That fine was $1,125.
Among the serious violations, the state document said, the county “did not make a thorough survey of the conditions of the site to determine … the predictable hazards to employees with respect to underground utilities, such as an existing natural gas line.”
The county also ended up fined for failing to mark up the excavation site and not seeking a positive response from the pipeline owner about the existence of the gas line. Other violations ended up related to site work done without determining existence of the pipeline.
The county corrected all the violations, state documents said.
Denny Boyles, a PG&E spokesman, said the utility’s “primary focus remains on the safe operation of our gas pipeline system and educating the public about the importance of digging safely.”
A 260-page report prepared by Exponent, a consulting firm for the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC), said in July the “PG&E line ruptured when it was struck by a front loader that was operating in the area at the time of the incident. The significant gouging, scraping and deformation present at the rupture location could only have been caused by contact with the front-loader bucket.”
The report was not the final word on the PUC’s investigation before fault is determined, agency officials said.
In its report, Exponent ruled out the possibility of a bullet striking the gas line and causing the 19-inch fracture that triggered the blast. It also said “the cause of the rupture cannot be attributed to inadequate material properties or manufacturing defects.”
Monday, June 6, 2011 @ 05:06 PM gHale
Sometimes there are better ways to conduct safety tests and officials at the University of California at San Diego feel doing a test without a potent greenhouse gas is the way to go.
UC San Diego and the University of California Office of the President convinced state regulators to drop a requirement that UC campuses use a greenhouse gas in a required laboratory safety test. The change gained approval by the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal-OSHA).
The state ruling grants UC campuses the ability to permanently stop using sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) gas in the required tests of newly retrofitted energy-efficient laboratory fume hoods.
UC San Diego will immediately switch to nitrous oxide gas, a less environmentally hazardous alternative. The ruling does not apply to the California State University system or other colleges, universities, companies and research institutes in California.
Fume hoods are standard equipment in most research labs. They provide safe working areas for laboratory workers and researchers who must handle hazardous solvents and other volatile materials. The fume hoods continually ventilate through air ducts with powerful fans. The continuous flow of room air into the hoods to roof-top vents requires constant heating or cooling to maintain needed room temperatures.
UC San Diego officials wanted to seek the variance because of the university’s concern SF6 is 22,800 times more potent than carbon dioxide in warming the Earth’s lower atmosphere. Each 20-minute test of a single fume hood using SF6 releases the equivalent of about 10 metric tons of carbon dioxide. The substitute, nitrous oxide, has about 1 percent of the global-warming impact of SF6.
“This change represents a victory for common sense, as well as a significant reduction in UC San Diego’s carbon-equivalent footprint,” said Ray Weiss, a distinguished research professor of atmospheric chemistry at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. “Nitrous oxide is still a significant greenhouse gas, which also plays a role in the depletion of stratospheric ozone, so I hope that we will not rest on our laurels and that we will continue to lead the University of California to even more benign testing procedures.”
The colorless, odorless SF6 gas is non-toxic to humans, but Weiss noted in addition to its strong greenhouse-gas effect it remains in the atmosphere for thousands of years. Nitrous oxide degrades after 120 years in the atmosphere.
The state Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board approved the variance application after research by Technical Safety Services Inc. showed nitrous oxide worked just as well as SF6 and there would not be a compromise in worker safety.
“We confirmed the safety and efficiency of using nitrous oxide as a substitute for a very bad greenhouse gas,” said Larry Wong, program manager of UCOP’s Office of Environment, Health and Safety. “We also are doing the research necessary to change the national consensus standard on this kind of test on hundreds of thousands of fume hoods in the nation.”