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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.

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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.”

Wednesday, May 7, 2014 @ 01:05 PM gHale

Tesla Motors is facing $89,000 in fines for seven safety violations, six considered serious, related to a workplace incident that injured and burned three workers in November, said officials at the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal-OSHA).

The employees at Tesla’s Fremont factory suffered injuries Nov. 13 when a low-pressure aluminum casting press failed, spilling hot metal on the workers and causing their clothing to catch fire.

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“Molten metal was released splattering the three victims, the victims’ clothing caught fire, they stopped and rolled on the floor,” according to a Cal-OSHA report released Thursday. “The safety department called 911. The Fremont Fire Department arrived within 10 minutes, approximately.”

Tesla employees Jesus Navarro, Kevin Carter and Jorge Terrazas went to Valley Medical Center in San Jose with second- and third-degree burns. Carter and Terrazas have returned to work. Navarro, who had burns on his hands, stomach, hip, lower back and ankles, ended up hospitalized for 20 days and continues to recuperate at home.

Cal-OSHA’s investigation found Tesla failed to ensure the low-pressure die casting machine stayed maintained in a safe operating condition and allowed its employees to operate the machine while the safety interlock was broken. It also found the employees did not have proper training regarding the hazards of the machine, and were not wearing the required eye and face protection.

“The citations speak for themselves,” Peter Melton, a spokesman for Cal-OSHA, said in an interview. “It was a hazardous situation for three employees.”

Tesla, headquartered in Palo Alto, makes its all-electric Model S sedan at the Fremont factory. Tesla took ownership of the former NUMMI plant in October 2010 and transformed a portion of the cavernous auto plant into a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility.

Tesla said it plans to appeal the fine because “we believe there are aspects of the citations that merit further discussion.”

“We take safety extremely seriously and have taken numerous steps to ensure nothing like it happens again,” the company said in a statement. “We fully shut down the low-pressure die casting operation and decommissioned the equipment. We provided the injured employees with dedicated HR support and maintained full pay beyond that provided by workers’ compensation.” “It’s worth noting that the accident rate at our Fremont factory is nearly twice as good as the automotive industry average, according to the most recent Bureau of Labor data.”

Monday, November 18, 2013 @ 04:11 PM gHale

Three Tesla Motors employees suffered injuries Wednesday after an aluminum casting press failed at its San Francisco Bay Area factory, officials said.

One employee ended up seriously hurt and two others sustained minor injuries when the low-pressure press spilled hot metal shortly before noon, said Greg Siggins, a spokesman for the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal-OSHA).

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“Hot metal somehow burned the workers,” said Siggins, who added there was no fire inside the plant.

The most seriously injured Telsa worker received chest and upper-body burns, Cal-OSHA spokesman Peter Melton said. The three workers went to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose with second-degree burns, Siggins said.

One of workers ended up released Wednesday afternoon, hospital spokeswoman Joy Alexiou said. She could not disclose the workers’ identities or conditions due to privacy laws.

Telsa Chief Executive Elon Musk said he planned “to visit them in the hospital (Wednesday) and will personally ensure that they receive the best possible care.”

They are treating the incident as an industrial accident, Siggins said.

“We will be talking to any witnesses, reviewing training documents and manuals to see if they are in accordance with specifications as part of finding out what happened,” Siggins said.

Palo Alto, CA-based Tesla Motors makes its all-electric Model S sedan at the Fremont factory. Tesla took ownership of the former plant jointly-owned General Motors and Toyota four years ago and has transformed a portion of the cavernous auto plant into a state-of-the-art facility.

Wednesday’s accident follows recent Telsa car fires in Washington state, Tennessee and Mexico. Two Model S sedans caught fire after hitting a metal object in the road and a third caught fire after a high-speed chase. No drivers suffered injuries.

Musk said there are no plans for a recall and insisted the Model S is one of the safest cars on the road.

Monday, February 18, 2013 @ 10:02 AM gHale

Chevron Corp. knew for years of a problem with a corroded pipe that caused the massive fire last year at its refinery in Richmond, CA, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board said.

The August fire at the 245,000 barrel-a-day refinery near San Francisco burned for hours, sending a column of thick, black smoke over the San Francisco Bay and causing an estimated 15,000 area residents with eye and respiratory problems to visit emergency rooms.

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The board, an independent entity that investigates industrial accidents, said Chevron metallurgists and inspectors had warned the company as early as 2002 about the pipe’s potential to cause a major accident, but failed to replace it.

“This report confirms what Chevron already knew — that the pipe was severely corroded and should have been replaced — but failed to act on before the August fire,” said Ellen Widess, head of the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which helped with the investigation.

The fire started in the crude-distillation unit, the first stop in the refining process where crude oil cooks at more than 600 degrees Fahrenheit before going to other units. The Chemical Safety Board criticized Chevron for not shutting down the unit while employees searched for the source of the leak fluid, which eventually turned into a vapor cloud that injured six workers.

“Continuing to troubleshoot the problem and having firefighters remove insulation searching for a leak while flammable hydrocarbons were flowing through the leaking pipe was inconsistent with good safety practices,” said Board Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso.

Cal/OSHA in January levied nearly $1 million in fines against Chevron after citing the company with 25 workplace-safety violations. The Chemical Safety Board does not have the power to levy fines or citations.

Chevron said it would appeal the citations. The San Ramon, CA-based oil company, which is still conducting an internal investigation into the accident, said it would replace any pipes in the refinery that were “unsuitable for service.”

“We are implementing corrective actions that will strengthen management oversight, process safety, mechanical integrity and leak response,” Chevron spokesman Sean Comey said.

Chevron expects to restart the crude unit by the end of the first quarter, Comey said.

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.”

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