Last month Cal/OSHA fined Bumble Bee Foods issued six citations for safety violations with penalties of $74,000. This past October an employee at the Bumble Bee Foods manufacturing plant in Santa Fe Springs California, Jose Melena, became trapped in a pressure cooking machine and was literally cooked to death.
The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health began an investigation to find out what the cause of Melena’s death. A 25-page report on the investigation was released at that time detailing the events that led to the fatal accident.
Melena, who had been employed at the plant for five years, had the responsibility of loading cans of tuna into the 36 foot ovens that are used to process the tuna and also to sterilize aluminum cans in which the tuna is packaged. On the day of the accident Melena was given the task of loading one of the ovens, but as he worked he discovered a problem with the oven and went in to attempt to repair or adjust it.
Another employee saw the pallet jack that Melena left outside the machine, and assuming Melena had gone to the bathroom, decided to use the pallet jack to load the baskets containing the tuna cans into the machine, unaware that Melena was inside the oven. A supervisor noticed the second employee loading the oven and inquired as to the whereabouts of Melena. After an hour and a half search, Melena’s body was finally discovered inside the oven.
Bumble Bee Foods was issued citations for serious violations including failure to evaluate and identify the ten ovens like the one in which Melena was trapped as hazardous, permit-required confined spaces. The company was also cited for not identifying dangerous areas with signage and not implementing a safety plan for working in the ovens according to standards for confined space entry.
Because of a number of fatalities related to confined space entry violations in the state in recent years, Cal/OSHA has initiated a statewide Confined Space Special Emphasis Initiative to help promote awareness of the hazards of working in confined spaces and educate workers and employers on how to prevent injuries and deaths by following the proper safety procedures. By following OSHA standards related to confined space entry – such as training for both supervisors and workers, clearly labeling the dangerous spaces, creating and following safety plans for working in a confined space including obtaining the necessary permits, and developing an emergency response plan – serious accidents and the resulting injuries and fatalities can be prevented.
Both the Cal/OSHA website at www.dir.ca.gov/dosh and the OSHA website at www.osha.gov have information available on the regulations regarding confined space entry including permit-required confined spaces, and on the hazards and safety procedures to follow to prevent those hazards when working in confined spaces.
Entering grain storage bins can be a very dangerous activity and requires following safety procedures to prevent potentially fatal hazards. The atmosphere inside the bins can sometimes be toxic of lack adequate oxygen. There is also a danger that workers can be engulfed by grain and suffocate as a result.
The following safety procedures should be followed when entering grain storage bins:
• Turn off, disconnect, lock-out and tag, or block off all equipment, particularly grain-moving equipment.
• Test the air in the bin for oxygen content and the possible presence of hazardous gases before workers enter. Ventilation should be provided, if necessary, to eliminate unsafe atmospheric conditions. If the unsafe conditions cannot be eliminated, respirators should be provided to workers.
• Prohibit “walking down” grain to make it flow.
• Prohibit entry where grain is built up on the sides of the bin.
• Provide each worker with a body harness that has a lifeline, or with a boatswain’s chair. Ensure that the lifeline is long enough and positioned in a way that will prevent the worker from sinking more than waist-deep in the grain.
• Provide workers with rescue equipment, such as winch systems.
• Have an observer outside the bin who is equipped to provide assistance or perform rescue operations.
• Ensure that the observer and the workers inside the bin maintain visual, voice or signal line communications at all times.
• Unless the employer is present during the entire operation, a permit should be issued each time a worker enters a bin certifying that all of the above precautions have been implemented.
The hazard of engulfment within a grain bin can be caused by several different situations. “Walking down” grain can result in the grain acting like quicksand and a worker can become buried within a few seconds. Another cause of engulfment is known as bridging. This occurs when a worker stands on or below “bridged” grain, which is grain that has clumped together due to moisture or mold. There can be empty spaces below the clumps that can cause the bridged grain to suddenly collapse under the weight of a worker, causing the worker to become buried in the grain. Grain which has accumulated on the sides of a bin can suddenly collapse onto a worker. Sometimes workers are instructed to dislodge the grain from the bin’s sides and it will collapse during this procedure. Often when other workers attempt to rescue a coworker who is buried in grain, they also become victims.
By following these procedures which are required by OSHA’s Inspection of Grain
Handling Facilities standard, 29 CFR 1910.272, injuries and fatalities of workers entering grain bins can be prevented.
U.S. Cosmetics Corp. has been fined by the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration for 20 allegedly serious violations at its manufacturing plant in Dayville, Connecticut. The company manufactures surface treated pigments and mineral substrates such as talc, mica, sericite, and kaolin for the cosmetics industry. Inspections began at the plant in October 2012 as part of OSHA’s Site-Specific Targeting Programs which directs enforcement resources to workplaces with high injury and illness rates.
OSHA found deficiencies in the facility’s program for regulating employee entry into confined spaces. Deficiencies included entry permits that did not address entry procedures, safeguards, and hazards; not locking out hazardous power sources before entry; and no rescue service or retrieval equipment to remove employees during an emergency in a confined space.
Other violations at the manufacturing plant included unguarded machinery; fall and tripping hazards; unlabeled containers of hazardous chemicals, ungrounded containers used to dispense flammable liquids; lack of quick drenching facilities for employees working with caustic chemicals; ungrounded electrical equipment; and damaged power cords and other electrical hazards.
The OSHA inspection also found that the employer failed to develop and implement an electrical safety-related work practices program for employees performing live electrical diagnostic work. The employer also failed to supply personal protective equipment to employees performing live trouble-shooting, or who verified that electrical equipment was properly de-energized. Maintenance personnel at the facility had not been trained regarding safe electrical work practices and personal protective equipment.
Warren Simpson, OSHA’s area director in Hartford, Connecticut stated, “These citations address a cross section of electrical, mechanical, chemical, and other hazards that can exist in a manufacturing environment, but which must be addressed systematically and effectively to protect the safety and health of workers at this plant. Left uncorrected, they expose employees to the hazards of electrocution, arc blasts, lacerations, falls, and being trapped or overcome in confined spaces.”
The proposed fines for the violations total $53,561. U.S. Cosmetics Corp. has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with the OSHA area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational safety and Health Review Commission.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has regulations on confined space entry that apply specifically to construction work, while some standards are under the general industry regulations, and some are covered under the American National Standard ANSI Z117.1-1989, Safety Requirements for Confined Spaces.
OSHA General Industry regulation 1910.146 Permit-required confined spaces, details the practices and procedures for safe entry for work in a permit-required confined space. This regulation does not apply construction work.
OSHA regulation 1926 applies to construction safety and health. It does not contain a permit-required space regulation. The following portions of 1926 apply to confined space entry in construction work:
Subpart C – 1926.21 Safety training and education covers the requirements for safety training prior to entering and working in a confined space and defines a confined or enclosed space as:
…any space having a limited means of egress, which is subject to the accumulation of toxic or flammable contaminants or has an oxygen deficient atmosphere. Confined or enclosed spaces include, but are not limited to, storage tanks, process vessels, bins, boilers, ventilation or exhaust ducts, sewers, underground utility vaults, tunnels pipelines, and open top spaces more than 4 feet in depth such as pits, tubs, vaults, and vessels.
Subpart S – 1926.8 applies to the construction of underground tunnels, chambers, and passageways. It also includes to cut-and-cover excavations that are connected to underground construction operations and are covered in a manner that creates conditions characteristic of underground construction.
1926.956 covers underground electric transmission and distribution work. It includes guarding and ventilating street openings used for access to underground lines or equipment -1926.956(a), trenching and excavating – 1926.956(c), and other related operations.
1926 Subpart P contains additional requirements for confined space entry applying specifically to excavations.
1926 Subpart J applies to welding and cutting and includes requirements for ventilation and protection in welding, cutting, and heating and other confined space related regulations.
Other general guidelines which are applied to confined space work beyond OSHA regulations are found in American National Standard ANSI Z117.1-1989, Safety Requirements for Confined Spaces which provides minimum safety requirements for entering, exiting, and working in confined spaces at normal atmospheric pressure.
OSHA defines a confined space as one that is large enough to enter and perform assigned work in, but has limited or restricted ways to enter or exit and is not designed to be occupied continuously by a worker. A permit space is a confined space that has any serious safety or health hazards such as containing a hazardous atmosphere; containing a material than can engulf a person; or one that has an inside design that could trap or asphyxiate a person who is inside. Any one of these hazards or a combination of these or any hazards to health or safety in a confined space requires a permit to be issued in order to enter and work in the confined space.
Atmospheric testing is required to evaluate the hazards of a permit space and to verify that acceptable conditions exist to allow entry into that space. To test the atmosphere in a confined space, equipment that can detect chemicals at levels well below the defined exposure limits is used. In this way it can be determined what chemical hazards may be present (or become present) in the space’s atmosphere. Once hazardous chemicals are identified, it can be determined what steps will be necessary to ensure that the atmosphere is safe for a worker to enter. Testing results are evaluated or reviewed by a technically qualified professional such as a certified industrial hygienist, a registered safety engineer, or a certified safety professional from an OSHA consultation service.
Before workers can enter a permit space, the same testing must be done again to make sure that the chemical hazards that may be present are within safe levels, as identified on the permit. Tests are done for oxygen levels, for combustible gases, and for toxic gases and vapors. These test results are also recorded on the permit. There is a minimum response time for the testing device to detect the chemicals set by the manufacturer of the equipment, but if hosing or a probe extension is attached for spaces with different depths, additional time is needed to test thoroughly.
If the permit space is deep or extends a distance beyond the entry point, the atmosphere must be tested four feet from the entry point in the direction of travel and four feet to each side. The person doing the testing must move slowly enough to allow the equipment time to properly respond in each area before moving to a new area. Each time a space is entered or re-entered this testing must be repeated to make sure the atmospheric conditions are safe for entry.
These requirements are covered by Title 29 Code of Federal Regulations1910.146, Appendix B.
Dedicated TCS, LLC was recently issued 11 citations by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) with proposed penalties of $142,000. An OSHA inspection at the company’s Lansing, Illinois facility, which cleans tank trailers, was initiated after a complaint was received. The inspection found serious violations related to confines space standards, including two willful violations.
Gary Anderson, OSHA area director in Calumet City stated, “A confined space has limited or restricted means for entry or exit, and it is not designed for continuous employee occupancy, which makes monitoring workers’ activities in these spaces vital to their safety and health. OSHA is committed to protecting workers on the job, especially when employers fail to do so.”
The OSHA permit-required confined space standard provides procedures to protect workers who enter, work in, or exit confined spaces that hinder their activities. The configurations of these spaces can increase workers’ exposure to hazards which include entrapment, engulfment, and/or hazardous atmospheric conditions, all of which could lead to serious injury, illness, or death.
Two willful violations were found at the Lansing facility, one for failing to provide a mechanical lifting device that could help rescue workers from confines spaces, and one for failing to provide an attendant to monitor the safety of workers operating within permit-required spaces. Willful violations are ones committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirement, or indifference to worker safety and health.
Nine serious violations were found, seven of which also related to the confined space standard. The violations include: failing to test conditions; failure to verify permit entries with required tests and procedures; failing to sign permits to authorize entry; failure to provide appropriate explosion-proof lighting; failure to review entry operations; failure to provide training for safe performance of duties in confined spaces; and failing to certify that training had been accomplished. The other safety violations included failure to provide hazard communication and failure to provide personal protective equipment training for workers exposed to contact with corrosive chemicals.
Dedicated TCS, LLC is based in Lansing but also has facilities in Channahon, Illinois and in New Orleans, Louisiana. Their Channahon facility received eight serious citations in September which were also primarily related to permit-required confined space violations. The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with the OSHA area director, or contest findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
OSHA has a toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) to report workplace incidents, fatalities, or situations which pose imminent danger to workers.
On January 8, 2013 OSHA published its Semiannual Regulatory Agenda. One of the items on the agenda is the issuance of a final rule on construction confined space safety. There is a general industry standard, 29 CFR 1910.146, on confined space safety, but it did not cover construction because construction sites have different and changing hazards associated with them. OSHA has been working a confined space safety rule for construction for the past decade, and is finally ready to issue the final rule in July 2013.
Another final rule set to be issued in March 2013 is an updated construction standard on electrical protective equipment worn during the construction of electric power transmission and distribution lines. In addition, the similar general industry standard will be amended so that requirements for maintenance work on electric power transmission and distribution installations will be the same as for similar work in construction. The final rule will also address fall protection in aerial lifst for work on power generation, transmission, and distribution installations.
The agenda also includes plans to issue proposed rulemaking for occupational exposure to crystalline silica in May 2013 and for occupational exposure to beryllium in July 2013.
A long range item on the agenda is a proposed rule that would protect workers from occupational exposures to food flavorings containing diacetyl and diacetal substitutes. OSHA will base their health effects analysis and quantitative risk assessment for the rulemaking on a criteria document still being developed by NIOSH on these types of exposures.
For more information on the Semiannual Agenda of Regulations visit:
For information on the existing confined space standards visit:
Information about OSHA’s requirements for training on confined space entry is available at: