by ICC Compliance Center on April 18, 2013 at 2:08 pm · in Uncategorized
By now most people have heard about the fertilizer plant explosion in West, TX. CNN is reporting several (5-15) fatalities and over 200 injured. Located north of Waco, TX and approximately 75 miles south of Dallas, TX on I-35 and it has a reported population of 2,700 people. This information may be premature as reports are still coming in as of 0900 (CST) on April 18, 2013.
One emergency worker who had been reported as missing, a constable serving as a volunteer firefighter, has been found in a hospital with critical injuries. Three or four first responders, among the first to fight the fire before the fertilizer plant exploded shortly before 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 17, 2013 remain missing. And there is a confirmation that there are at least 2 emergency responders who received fatal injuries.
The plant is surrounded by homes and businesses which included a nearby apartment complex with about 50 units and a nursing home and a middle school that had been destroyed. Also there were between 50-75 homes that were destroyed.
According to eyewitnesses, “It was a small fire and then water got sprayed on the ammonium nitrate, and it exploded just like the Oklahoma City bomb.”
People as far as 50 miles away reported feeling what seemed like an earthquake. The U.S. Geological Survey reported that the blast generated enough force to register like a magnitude 2.1 earthquake.
One of the plants tanks had exploded and another was being monitored by emergency responders. A shelter in place order had been given to those who were not in the immediate area due to the leaks from tanks and piping the plants ruins.
The West Fertilizer Plant is an Anhydrous Ammonia plant and had a reported amount of over 54,000 pounds of the chemical on site before the explosion.
Ammonia, as used commercially, is often called anhydrous ammonia. This term emphasizes the absence of water in the material.
The proper name is UN1005 Ammonia, Anhydrous 2.3 (8) for international and a 2.2 for domestic (US) transportation. It is considered so corrosive to the skin that OSHA has mandated that anytime it is transported they are required to have 5 gallons of water to wash off any spills with. It is toxic by inhalation and causes severe respiratory distress. It is also a cryogenic liquid.
Anhydrous Ammonia is heavier than air and fills in depressions and as you can guess, under the right conditions highly volatile. During World War II, Belgium used it to power their buses.
Anhydrous Ammonia is not only used as a fertilizer, but as a commercial refrigerant for places like meat lockers and cold storage. It is also one of the main components for making Meth.
It was listed in the 49 CFR 172 Appendix A, Subpart B as a Hazardous Substance with an RQ of 10 lbs. But farmers have a strong lobbying group (hence the 2.2 domestic classification) and in this case it makes sense to have it removed from the table as they were putting it in the ground anyway. That does not alleviate the fact that there will probably be some long term, chronic health issues in the future.
The U. S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set a 15-minute exposure limit for gaseous ammonia of 35 ppm by volume in the environmental air and an 8-hour exposure limit of 25 ppm by volume. NIOSH recently reduced the IDLH from 500 to 300 based on recent more conservative interpretations of original research in 1943. IDLH (Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health) is the level to which a healthy worker can be exposed for 30 minutes without suffering irreversible health effects.
Anhydrous ammonia is a colorless, highly irritating gas with a sharp, suffocating odor. People will notice the pungent odor at levels ranging from 5 – 50 parts per million (ppm). Irritating effects generally begin at levels between 25-50 ppm. More serious effects generally will not occur until levels are greater than 100 ppm. Anhydrous ammonia can rapidly cause dehydration and severe burns if it combines with water in the body.
Immediate health symptoms include: burning of the eyes, nose, and throat after breathing even small amounts. With higher doses, coughing or choking may occur. Exposure to high levels of anhydrous ammonia can cause death from a swollen throat or from chemical burns to the lungs. Eye exposure to concentrated gas or liquid can cause serious corneal burns or blindness.
Generally, the severity of symptoms depends on the degree of exposure. Most people recover from a single low exposure to anhydrous ammonia without any delayed or long-term effects. After a severe exposure, injury to the eyes, lungs, skin, or digestive system may continue to develop for 18 to 24 hours, and delayed effects primarily to the respiratory system or the eyes are possible.
Anhydrous Ammonia is not known to cause cancer.
There may be a white powder residual left over after it dries. This substance is ammonium hydroxide and occurs after anhydrous ammonia settles out after exposure to water. It is similar to the ammonia used in general home cleaning. This needs to be washed off with soap and water.
This information was secured from the ND Dept. Of Health, the University of MN, OSHA and the US Dept. of Health.
These violations can lead into major fines. The size of your company does not matter to OSHA. These facts and figures are on the OSHA.gov website.
Top Enforcement Cases Based on Total Issued Penalty
BP Products North America
BP Products North America
IMC Fertilizer/Angus Chemical
Samsung Guam, Inc.
Keystone Construction Maint.
Phillip 66/Fish Engineering
E. Smalls Painting
Decoster Egg Farms
BP North America, Inc.
Shell Oil Chemical Co.
So, do I have your attention now? I should, if not maybe you should rethink your safety program. Most safety programs are reactive, rather than proactive. Similar to the gun control debate going on currently in the U.S.A., law makers and others scream for more laws after an incident, rather than looking at we already have in place. It’s the old get rid of the perceived threat, rather than what caused it in the first place. It’s like taking the slingshot from the child, which you probably gave them, after they broke the window. What you should have done is given them the ground rules and taught them the safe way to use the slingshot in the first place.
Back to safety programs and how they really should work. Safety programs should be interactive with the employees and management. Employees should have the ability to influence safety and how affects them and the company. One way of that is a safety committee that has an impact on safety and maintaining a safe work environment. Do you encourage employees to be safe out of work? Employees are twice as likely to be injured at home as they are at the workplace. Do you “preach safety” or do you “live safety”? Safety must be not only for the employees, but for management and especially senior management. The safest companies follow a safety process rather than a safety program. Safety process has everyone being their own “safety manager” and responsible for their own safety, rather than a safety program where the safety manager directs the others in safety. Everyone, including office staff and sales should be involved in maintaining a safe working environment.
Office and sales people are just as likely to get hurt in a slip, trip and fall as the employee in the warehouse or out in the field. Employees in the office or sales can have ergonomic issues or strains from lifting improperly. As you can see there is more to safety than meets the eye.
Another integral part of safety is the reporting of near misses or incidents. Do you encourage employees to report near misses or dangerous situations? Can they do so without reprisal? Near misses should be examined as a way to eliminate hazards or hazardous predicaments that may turn into an incident or accident. Most accidents, but not all, are preventable. When investigating accidents, you should not try to determine fault, but what happened so any further similar situations can be prevented.
This article started as what the frequently cited standards and some of the heavier fines levied by OSHA. But what about other costs associated with safety? If your company is a 10% profit margin company, then an accident or incident of say $1000 is like a loss of $10,000 in sales. The immediate cost of an accident or incident may be visible, but what about the hidden costs?
Hidden costs of accidents include; time spent by management, HR and supervisors investigating and filling out paperwork on the accident, damage to equipment, damage to product, overtime to employees and additional stress to employees filling in for the injured employee, time loss by employees discussing what occurred instead of working, morale issues and even the hiring of a temporary or new employee to replace the injured employee, or even the retraining of an employee to fill in can cause a loss of production. The time that equipment is down for repairs and the associated costs of those repairs to damaged equipment or product. Hidden costs can run three to ten times the amount of the direct costs and it all comes out of the bottom line.
The one part we didn’t truly examine above is the morale of the employees at an “unsafe” workplace and what type of employee you are able to recruit to work there. That is something to consider when you are “doing what it takes to get the job done.” Employees whose morale drops are more likely to call in sick, get injured and leave the company. When you look at all the factors included in this article, fines become just one small part of the equations. The fines that can be levied are steep, but lawsuits and lawyers cost a lot more than just money. They can affect your reputation in the industry and in your community.
What is the real safety message your company is sending to the employees?
by ICC Compliance Center on April 3, 2013 at 9:34 am · in Uncategorized
“Signs, signs, everywhere there’s signs.
Blockin’ out the scenery; breaking my mind.
Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the signs?”
According to the words of “Signs” a song by the Five Man Electrical Band there are signs everywhere. Sometimes they are there for a good reason, such as to comply with a law, other times to voice opinions, and yet other times to advertise products or political agendas. In OSHA, and if you think that is a small town in Wisconsin you are in trouble, we find requirements under both Part 1910 and Part 1926 for regulatory signs.
For those of you not familiar with Part 1926, it deals with the Safety and Health Regulations for Construction. Signage is found in OSHA under Part 1926.200 and gets pretty specific about requirements. Topics include; Danger, Caution, Exit, Safety and Directional Signs. In addition to the signage regulations you also have warning and advisory tags and “Safety Motto” signs. Pretty soon you begin to have sensory overload for your brain to try and absorb. So let’s try to simplify things for you.
Danger signs are red and shall be used only where an immediate hazard exists. Caution signs are yellow and shall be used only to warn against potential hazards or to caution against unsafe practices. Exit signs are white with red lettering in a specific size and they may or may not be backlit. Safety instruction signs shall be white with green upper panel with white letters to convey the principal message. Directional signs (other than traffic signs) shall be white with a black panel and a white directional symbol. Traffic signs are another thing all together. They are regulated and have to comply with Part VI of the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices.
Accident prevention tags shall be used as a temporary means of warning employees of an existing hazard, such as defective tools, equipment, etc. They shall not be used in place of, or as a substitute for, accident prevention signs.
While OSHA does not require tags to be specific colors, they do provide a list of recommended colors based on the danger being addressed. Red tags indicate dangerous situations, while yellow tags are used to indicate that caution should be taken. Warning tags are orange, and indicate more general safety instructions or information. Biological hazard tags are fluorescent orange or reddish-orange, and should feature a bio-hazard symbol along with the written word.
Now add American National Standards Institute or ANSI standards into it and you can see why there is a whole industry that makes a living making, selling, distributing and erecting signs. Even here at ICC Compliance Center we make signs [link to: http://www.thecompliancecenter.com/signs/] , in order to better service our customers.
Under OSHA Part 1910 and in particular, OSHA Specifications for Accident Prevention Signs (1910.145) requires the use of safety signs to indicate and define specific hazards that, without identification, may lead to accidental injury to workers and/or the public or to property damage.
OSHA also regulates the safety of the actual sign design. Signs need to have rounded or blunt corners and cannot have sharp edges or projections. Red, black and white are the colors designated for danger signs. Caution signs have a yellow background, and the panel is black with yellow letters. Text used on the yellow background must be black. OSHA requires the wording of safety signs to indicate positive actions rather than negative, and to be concise and easy to read.
Neither OSHA nor DOT allow for the use of handmade signs, labels or placards for times when those items are required to comply with the law. The bottom line is that when you need regulatory signage; make sure that you choose a reputable vendor for your needs.
“Signs, signs, everywhere there’s signs.
Blockin’ out the scenery; breaking my mind.
Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the signs?”
by ICC Compliance Center on March 20, 2013 at 12:47 pm · in Uncategorized
According to the FMCSA or the DOT as we call it there are a number of ways that you could be considered a trucking company under interstate regulations. One definition of a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) is found under 49CFR 390.5 and states that a vehicle with a GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating tag found on the doorframe of most trucks) of over 10,001 pounds is a CMV. Other definitions are found elsewhere under the federal laws and when you add in each individual state requirement’s it gets to be confusing.
1. Do you have a vehicle with a GVWR of over 10,001 pounds? (49 CFR 390.5)
2. Do you have a single unit vehicle with a GVWR of over 26,001 pounds? (49 CFR 383.5)
3. Do you have a vehicle with a combination GVWR of over 26,001 pounds or greater? (49 CFR 382.107)
4. Do you have a three axle (two drive or tandems) with a GVWR of 26,001 pounds or greater?
5. Do you have a vehicle with a GVWR of over 57,000 pounds?
6. Do you have a vehicle originally designed to carry 16 or more passengers including the driver?
7. Do you have a vehicle which transports placardable amounts of Hazardous Materials?
8. Do you have a vehicle which requires a driver to have a CDL to operate it?
9. Do I transport Hazardous Materials that are not placardable?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then you have a commercial motor vehicle and are required to follow the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. The FMCSR’s contain regulations regarding, DOT drug testing, CDL or Commercial Drivers Licensing, driver qualifications and the DQ files, and vehicle maintenance files. There are other requirements such as Heavy Vehicle Use Tax, Fuel Tax reporting and specific vehicle licensing such as Pro Rate Plates or Commercial Zone Plates. Failure to comply with any regulation can result in heavy fines and even jail terms. Those fines can run into the $100’s of thousands of dollars and up to 10 years in some circumstances.
WHAT DO I DO NOW?
If you answered yes, you are required to have the standard forms and records in order to comply with DOT requirements. You must also file a MCS-150 with the FMCSA, at least every 2 years. You must also have a MCS-90 (Insurance) form which is current and readily available for inspection under 49 CFR Part 387.
Initially all drivers need to be qualified to operate the vehicle. This driver qualification file or DQ File includes a proper application, which includes three years of past driving experience, accidents, all traffic violations and work history. A background investigation of prior work history, driving record check, all drivers licenses held is performed within 30 days of being employed as a driver. A completed medical form and physical, which has been reviewed for deficiencies, and is renewed every two years. Sometimes the medical examiners certificate is only issued for 90 days, 180 days, 270 days or one year. Once the driver receives a short physical (less than 2 years), they then must renew their medical card annually. The drivers long form physical is required to be in the file before driving. If the driver’s physical or driver’s license expires, they must not be allowed to operate a CMV.
Annually you must have the driver fill out a certificate of violations, listing all violations including those in a non-commercial vehicle, and a review of his driving record from the state in which he/she is licensed.
All vehicles are required to have a vehicle maintenance file. This file includes the make, model, serial number or VIN, company ID, license plate number and tire size. This is a record of all maintenance performed on the vehicle. These records are kept as long as the vehicle is in the company’s possession and for one year afterwards. There is another part of the maintenance file and that is the Daily Vehicle Inspection Report file. The driver must perform a visual pre trip and a written post trip on each vehicle operated during their shift. These records are kept for 90 days in the office and a copy of the previous time the vehicle was operated in the truck. Tractors, trailers and chassis must also be inspected annually.
If you answered yes to questions 2 through 8, even more regulations apply to you. Those requirements are for DOT DRUG AND ALCOHOL TESTING and the very specific times to test for various causes. Including Pre-employment (for drugs), Post Accident, Reasonable Suspicion, Random and Return-To-Work required tests for substance abuse. These are extremely sensitive areas and must be complied with. The fines in this area are very stiff and are frequently given out for making simple mistakes. This area should be handled with the utmost discreteness and sensitivity in order to protect confidentiality and privacy. Anytime that the driver is required to have a CDL to operate a vehicle he is required to be drug tested, but if a vehicle is has a combination GVWR of over 26,001 with the power unit being under 26,001 pounds you must drug test but they are not required to have a CDL. The supervisors, including driver managers, dispatchers, and company officials must receive Drug and Alcohol Reasonable Suspicion training under 49 CFR 382.603.
If you answered yes to question 4, 5 or 6 you may be required to file Fuel Tax, Heavy Tax or have specialized license plates.
If you answered yes to questions 6 or 7, the driver needs to have an endorsement for that which they are transporting. This is an “additional license” on their CDL. This is like the motorcycle endorsement needed for operating a motorcycle on your driver’s license. The drivers with a Hazardous Materials endorsement will also be fingerprinted and a background investigation done on them. The Hazardous Materials endorsement is the only one that requires the driver to retest each time their driver’s license is renewed.
There are other requirements set forth by different jurisdictions, whether they be state, city or even county or parishes. These become even more confusing. If you have any questions please contact the designated company transportation safety specialist or consultant.
If you answered yes to #9, then you must also register as a Hazardous Materials Transporter. You must ensure your drivers are trained in Hazardous Materials if you transport any amount of it. If they transport placardable amounts of Hazardous Materials, you must ensure that they have a Hazardous Materials endorsement on their CDL. If you just receive or ship Hazardous Materials you must still be trained under 49 CFR 172.704 every 3 years. If you ship by air and have to comply with ICAO/IATA rules, the training is every 2 years.
We’ve turned our clocks backwards, started our holiday preparations, and maybe even bought new calendars for 2013. But there’s one other thing that should be on our minds for the New Year, at least for shippers in the United States. We must make sure that our shipping descriptions are in order.
In 2006, a Final Rule, Docket No. PHMSA–06–25476, known as HM-215I, was issued by the Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). The goal of this rule was to bring the US Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR) of Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations (49 CFR) into line with the current UN Recommendations for Transport of Dangerous Goods. One major change was that the shipping description order, as described in 49 CFR section 172.202(a), would be rearranged to reflect the international standard.
Originally, the shipping description order was prescribed as:
Shipping name, hazard class, identification number and packing group (if applicable)
However, HM-215I changed this order to:
Identification number, shipping name, hazard class, and packing group (if applicable)
PHMSA recognized that making this change would take some time, and granted a six-year transition period. After all, making this change would include retraining workers who prepare or read shipping papers, reprogramming computerized document systems, and rewriting standard operating procedures regarding shipping papers. However, the transition period is reaching its end. Starting on January 1, 2013, shipping papers must be in the “identification number first” order.
Note that this change should not affect Canadian shipments to the United States. Under Canada’s Transportation of Dangerous Goods Regulations (TDG), the shipping description may be given in either order – the shipping name first, or identification number first. Under the reciprocity provisions of 49 CFR sections 171.12 and 171.22, either order should be acceptable for a Canadian shipment into the United States.
If you have questions about how this change will affect your operations, please contact ICC The Compliance Center Inc. at 1-888-977-4834 (Canada) or 1-888-442-9628 (USA).