OSHA Accident Investigation | Explosion at CF Industries

A Nitrogen Hazard caused a major explosion at CF Industries in Louisiana.Two months after an explosion occurred in West, Texas at a fertilizer plant, another accident investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is underway after an explosion in Donaldsonville, Louisiana.  On Friday, June 14 2013, an explosion occurred at the CF Industries chemical plant killing one person and injuring seven. The company manufactures nitrogen and is the leading supplier of nitrogen in the world. A news release distributed by the company reported the explosion occurred in an area that was closed for maintenance.  Allegedly, workers pumped too much nitrogen in a vessel causing an immediate nitrogen hazard, and it to ruptured.  Coincidentally, a petrochemical plant exploded in Geismar, Louisiana on June 13th, a day before the CF Industries incident.  The Geismar explosion killed two people and injured 73.

In 2000, OSHA fined CF Industries after an explosion occurred in the ammonia section of the plant killing three workers and injuring eight. Nitrogen hazards are among the most common chemical hazards and the least inspected. Records indicate the Geismar plant had not been inspected in nearly twenty tears. OSHA came under scrutiny after the West, Texas explosion because the plant had not been inspected since 1985 for nitrogen hazard situation or any other safety protocols.  OSHA is currently conducting an investigation at the CF Industries plant in an effort to uncover the root cause of the explosion.  Additionally, CF Industries has hired a third party company to help determine the cause of the incident. According to news reports, Louisiana has experienced at least two other explosions in chemical facilities in the last two years.

Site managers should incorporate explosion safety tips in their workplace safety plan, and complete an 8-hour annual hazwoper refresher course. Safety precautions should be addressed before an emergency occurs. Workers should consider the following basic safety tips regarding explosions.

  • After an explosion occurs, everyone should move to a safe area.
  • Follow your fire safety plan especially information related to exiting the building.
  • As you exit the building, use a cloth to breathe, if possible (preferably a wet cloth).
  • First aid kits should be placed in various places around your work space for quick and easy access.  Inform all workers about the location of the kits.

OSHA Hazards: Dealing with Bees at Your Construction Site

A bee hazard at a construction site can pose health and safety risk to workers.There are many OSHA health hazards on construction sights, but a bee hazard is often overlooked and underestimated. Hazwoper training covers all types of OSHA safety and health hazards, though bees are probably one that doesn’t heed much attention. It’s important to identify a potential bee hazard before beginning site work.

A construction crew recently found out how painful a bee hazard can be, when six Los Angeles, California construction workers were  stung by a swarm of bees while working at a construction site. The incident occurred at a Wilshire Center apartment building undergoing renovations. Officials felt the incident was severe enough to close streets located near the apartment complex.

The bees were living inside the walls of the apartment building. A pre-site check out failed to find the bee hazard. Workers were opening the walls of the building when they struck a hive. One of the construction workers was stung more than 12 times.

A bee hazard can pose a significant safety risk to workers in the area. Bees can be easily disturbed. he result is a high quantity of the insects attacking the offending party in high numbers that can cause repeated stings. Those workers that are allergic to bee strings, can be overwhelmed so quickly that they go into anaphylactic shock. If not rushed to a hospital within a few minutes the worker can die. Even if a person isn’t particularly allergic, multiple bee stings can result in nausea, vomiting, dizziness and fainting.

Spring and summer are active seasons for honey bees. Honey bees are not aggressive and will not sting unless threatened. A honey bee colony consists of thousands of bees. Experts estimate it would take approximately 1100 honey bee stings to be fatal.

Construction workers should consider the following safety tips when working outdoors.

  • Before you start work, inspect the construction site for potential issues.
  • Bees are sensitive to odors. When working outdoors, do not wear perfumes or aftershave.
  • Pay close attention to the behavior of bees.  Many times they will warn you that you are too close to their hive by flying at your face or over your head.
  • Be alert. Watch for bees entering and exiting over such areas as a crack in a wall or above a door.
  • Attempt to cover yourself as much as possible especially the facial area, when running away from bees.
  • Contact a professional pest control or bee removal company to eliminate the hive.
  • During a bee attack seek shelter immediately
  • Stay away from bee hives. Do not disturb the hive.
  • If stung, workers should seek medical attention especially if dizzy or nauseated.

OSHA Inspections

OSHA Inspections are key to safety and health in the country.The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is responsible for safeguarding America’s workforce.  Created in 1971, the agency sets standards for companies to follow in order to ensure a safe and healthy work environment, free of hazards.  OSHA is not required to provide companies with prior notice before conducting an inspection.  Most OSHA inspections happen for a specific reason.  OSHA’s inspection priorities are as follows:

  • Imminent danger.
  • Catastrophes and Fatal Accidents.
  • Complaints and Referrals.
  • Programmed Inspections.
  • Follow-up Inspections.

OSHA is dedicated to promoting a safe work environment for all American workers. OSHA inspectors are committed to the agency’s mission of ensuring the safety and health of American workers by implementing and enforcing standards as well as providing training, outreach, and education.  Since OSHA’s inception, workplace fatalities have been reduced by 65 percent and occupational illnesses and injuries have declined by 62 percent.

Businesses should ALWAYS be prepared for an OSHA Inspections at any time.  Managers should be aware of current trends relative to their industry, local compliance issues and even other plant inspections.  Additionally, management is responsible for making certain their job sites are in compliance with OSHA standards.  Workers should be trained on OSHA standards and expectations. Everyone at the work site should be held accountable for safety and health related issues. According to data released by OSHA, the most common violations include:

  • Lockout/tagout
  • Personal protective equipment
  • Hazardous chemical information and training
  • First-aid and eyewash facilities
  • Walking-working surfaces
  • Respiratory protection
  • Electrical wiring
  • Powered industrial trucks
  • Machine guarding

Employers should consider the following basic tips when preparing for OSHA inspections.

  • Be prepared.
  • Know your rights.
  • Inquire about the reason for the inspection.
  • ANSWER only questions ASKED.
  • Interact with the OSHA representative during the entire inspection
  • Make sure your record-keeping is accurate and up to date.  Documentation may be requested.
  • Remain calm and professional throughout the process.





Heat Illness and Related Symptoms

Heat related illnesses can be fatal to workers if not identified and treated quickly.As summer approaches, temperatures reach dangerous levels.  Workers have to be proactive at preventing heat related illnesses.  Employers must educate workers on symptoms related to heat illness and ensure workers have the necessary tools and resources at the job site to be safe and healthy.

Heat illness can lead to death. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), thousands of workers become sick or die each year due to heat illness.  In 2011, OSHA initiated a Heat Illness Prevention Campaign to help workers and employers become aware of the hazards associated with working in hot weather.

While it’s normal to think of heat related illnesses as associated with the high temperatures in the summer months, the key factor is the ambient temperature in the work area. In enclosed spaces, where heat-generating tools are used, temperatures may easily rise to dangerous enough levels as to cause symptoms. Physical exertion also plays a pivotal role. Temperatures may not be as high as typically thought to cause illness, but if an increased physical exertion is present, this raises the overall body temperature.

According to Medline Plus and the Centers for Disease Control, most heat illnesses occur from staying in the heat too long.  Prolonged exposure to heat causes your body temperature to rise to dangerous levels. Heat related illnesses include heatstroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, and heat rash. Workers required to work outdoors should recognize the symptoms of these heat related illnesses.

  • Heatstroke- A potentially deadly illness in which body temperatures can rise above 106° F in minutes. Symptoms include dry skin, rapid strong pulse, and dizziness.
  • Heat exhaustion-An illness that occurs before heat stroke. Common symptoms include heavy sweating, rapid breathing, and a fast, weak pulse.
  • Heat cramps-Muscle pains or spasms that transpire during heavy exercise.
  • Heat rash- Skin irritation from excessive sweating.

Employers and workers can access educational and training materials related to heat illness at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) official website devoted to the topic, http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/index.html.

Tenneco Automotive Cited by OSHA For Hexavalent Chromium Hazards

Hexavalent chromium hazards found at Tenneco in Georgia.The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has fined Tenneco Automotive of Hartwell, Georgia $79,300. This fine is the result of a February inspection that uncovered 14 safety and health violations related to hexavalent chromium and other serious conditions.

Headquartered in Lake Forest, Illinois, Tenneco employs nearly 25,000 employees worldwide with 80 facilities around the world. Tenneco Automotive is a global transportation component manufacturer according to the company’s official website.

Some of the serious violations involved the following:

➢ Failure to protect employees from exposure to hexavalent chromium.

➢ Neglecting to ensure that employees working with and around the toxic chemical remove their contaminated clothing and shower before leaving the facility.

➢ Lack of free medical surveillance for employees showing symptoms related to hexavalent chromium.

➢ Evidence of trip and fall hazards.

➢ Inadequate respirator usage.

The other-than-serious violation included the following.

➢ Improper record keeping in the OSHA log.

➢ Allowing temporary electrical extension cord to be used as permanent wiring.

Hexavalent Chromium is produced in many common industrial processes and its exposure is deemed a health hazard and a carcinogen.Workers who are exposed to hexavalent chromium are at increased risk of developing lung cancer, asthma, or damage to the nasal epithelia and skin. Industrial uses of hexavalent chromium compounds include chromate pigments in dyes, paints, inks, and plastics; chromates added as anticorrosive agents to paints, primers, and other surface coatings; and chromic acid electroplated onto metal parts to provide a decorative or protective coating. Hexavalent chromium can also be formed when performing “hot work” such as welding on stainless steel or melting chromium metal. Adequate respirators must be provided to guard against exposure to the chemical.

William Fulcher of OSHA’s Atlanta-East office commented Tenneco should take proactive steps to eliminate these safety and health hazards. OSHA is committed to workplace safety.


Houston’s Anhueser-Busch Brewery Cited by OSHA

Confined Space Violations at Anhueser-Busch in Houston lead to OSHA fines.The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Anhueser-Busch Cos. LLC in Houston with five serious violations and one willful violation.  The fines total $88, 000.  The citation stemmed from a 2012 inspection where multiple violations of confined space protocol were uncovered.

Headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri, Anhueser-Busch has twelve breweries throughout the United States including Houston. The company was founded in 1852. Anheuser-Busch brews the world’s largest selling beers.

The willful violation involved failing to protect workers from being exposed to carbon dioxide and neglecting to identify respiratory hazards.

According to OSHA, the serious violations included:

  • Failing to verify that conditions in permit required confined spaces are acceptable throughout the duration of the entry.
  • Neglecting to ensure the entrant can communicate with the permit required confined space attendant as necessary.
  • Failure to make sure each attendant performs no other duty that might interfere with the attendant’s primary duty to monitor and protect the entrant of the permit required confined space.
  • Failing to evaluate a prospective rescuer’s ability to respond to a rescue summons in a timely manner.
  • Anhueser-Busch did not inform each team or rescue service of the hazards they may confront when called upon to perform a rescue at the site.

Confined spaces are dangerous working areas where movement is restricted. In such places, proper ventilation many times can become compromised, leading to suffocation. A confined space is also where situations are such that a rescue is difficult without established protocols in place.

OSHA uses the term “permit-required confined space” (permit space) to describe a confined space that has one or more of the following characteristics: contains or has the potential to contain a hazardous atmosphere; contains material that has the potential to engulf an entrant; has walls that converge inward or floors that slope downward and taper into a smaller area which could trap or asphyxiate an entrant; or contains any other recognized safety or health hazard, such as unguarded machinery, exposed live wires, or heat stress.

David Doucet, OSHA area director of Houston’s North office insisted employers must recognize the hazards that exist in the workplace and be proactive at developing the necessary safety and health policies to protect workers.

Fertilizer Plant Explosion: A West, Texas Tragedy

Ammonium Nitrate storage and protocols cam under investigation at the West Fertilizer CompanyOn Wednesday April 17,2013, the West Fertilizer Company in West, Texas exploded. Fifteen people were killed including an EMT, eight local volunteer firefighters, and a Dallas firefighter. Reports have revealed more than 200 people were injured. The explosion was linked to the improper handling and storage ammonium nitrate

Located in West, Texas, West Fertilizer Company supplies chemicals to farmers, including multiple kinds of fertilizer. The company was founded in 1962 and is owned by Adair Grain Inc. The owner is a lifelong resident of West, Texas. The company issued a statement stating they are working with investigators to uncover facts connected to the tragedy.

When the plant exploded, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) had not inspected the facility since 1985, a fact key to the overall investigation.  According to news reports, the company had 270 tons of ammonium nitrate on site. Ammonium nitrate is a common material in fertilizer, and it is highly flammable and dangerous. Federal law requires any business holding more than a ton of fertilizer grade ammonium nitrate to report their inventory to the Department of Homeland Security. Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano has reported the West Fertilizer Company failed to follow protocol.

West Fertilizer Company has been cited twice by federal agencies since 2006. In 2012, the Transportation Department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration fined West Fertilizer $5,250 for storing anhydrous ammonia in tanks lacking proper warning labels. The agency originally fined West Fertilizer Company $10,000 but reduced the fine after the company took corrective action. In 2006, the EPA fined company owners $2,300 to correct issues related to failing to file a risk management program plan on time.

The explosion caused millions of dollars in damage. Homes, public schools, and other property were severely damaged. Nearly two weeks later investigators are still searching for clues regarding the source of this tragic explosion.

Tornado TRUTHS and MYTHS

TornadoA tornado is a violent rotating column of air extending from a thunderstorm to the ground. Most tornadoes have wind speeds less than 110 miles per hour however; the most violent tornadoes are capable of wind speeds of up to 300 mph. They can destroy large buildings, uproot trees and hurl vehicles hundreds of yards. They are often referred to as twisters or cyclones.

TRUTH:  In an average year, in the United States there are 1,200 tornadoes causing 70 fatalities and 1,500 injuries nationwide.

More than 500 tornadoes typically occur in the central part of the United States (known as the Great Plains) every year and is why it is commonly known as “Tornado Alley”. Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas and Louisiana all make up Tornado Alley.

MYTH:  Areas near lakes, rivers, and mountains are safe from tornadoes.

TRUTH:  No place is safe from tornadoes.  A tornado near Yellowstone National Park left a path of destruction up and down a 10,000-foot mountain. 

MYTH:  The low pressure with a tornado causes buildings to explode as the tornado passes overhead.

TRUTH:  Violent winds and debris slamming into buildings cause most structural damage.

MYTH:  Windows should be opened before a tornado approaches to equalize pressure and minimize damage.

TRUTH:  Leave the windows alone. The most important action is to immediately go to a safe shelter.

In any emergency, always listen to the instructions given by local emergency management officials. Be alert to changing weather conditions, and look for approaching storms.  Look for the following danger signs:

  • Dark often greenish sky
  • Large hail
  • A large dark low-lying cloud, especially if it rotating
  • Loud roar, similar to a freight train
  • If you see approaching storms r any of the danger signs, be prepared to take shelter immediately.


MYTH:  If you are driving and a tornado is sighted, you should turn and drive at right angles to the storm.

TRUTH:  The best thing to do is to seek the best available shelter.  Many people are injured or killed when remaining in their vehicles.

MYTH:  People caught in the open should seek shelter under highway overpasses.

TRUTH:  Take shelter in a sturdy reinforced building if possible.  Overpasses, ditches, and culverts may provide limited protection for a tornado, but your risk will be greatly reduced by moving inside a strong building.

Tornadoes can happen at any time of the year and at any time of the day. In the southern states, peak tornado season is from March through May. Peak times for tornadoes in the northern states are during the summer. A few southern states have a second peak time for tornado outbreaks in the fall. Tornadoes are most likely to occur between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m.

The Importance of Personal Protective Equipment: Deadly Dozen #12, Unsafe Act

Personal Protective Equipment is vital to all first responders.First responders, clean-up operations staff, as well as other workers face various challenges and risks at their work sites daily. It is critical workers and employers consider safety a top priority. Employers should ensure workers have access to all necessary resources to perform their jobs safely. An essential resource all workers should have access to is Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends using Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to reduce employee exposure to hazards. OSHA’s standards and regulations regarding PPE can be accessed at, http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/personalprotectiveequipment/. Failure to wear proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is one of construction’s deadly dozen. From time to time, this blog will focus on issues related to construction’s deadly dozen, unsafe acts and unsafe conditions.

Workers must realize their safety is ultimately their responsibility. Construction employees should always make certain their personal protection equipment is appropriate for their tasks. Workers should research, read, and react with inquiries regarding their concerns related to PPE. Common reasons employees tend not to wear PPE include:

➢ PPE is not comfortable.

➢ Appearance of equipment.

➢ Failure to realize the importance of PPE and its relation to job tasks.

➢ Not comfortable in weather; too hot

➢ Lack of training.

According to OSHA, employers have a responsibility to train workers on how to properly handle Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

➢ Use protective equipment properly,

➢ Be aware of when personal protective equipment is necessary,

➢ Know what kind of protective equipment is necessary,

➢ Understand the limitations of personal protective equipment in protecting workers from


➢ Train workers to put on, adjust, wear, and take off personal protective equipment, and

➢ Maintain protective equipment properly.

Common types of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) include the following items listed below according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

➢ Head protection –hard hats

➢ Foot protection –safety shoes

➢ Eye/face protection –safety glasses

➢ Hearing protection -ear plugs, muffs

➢ Hand protection -gloves

➢ Respiratory protection

➢ High-visibility clothing




Recognizing the Risks of Methyl Ethyl Ketone and Other Chemical Hazards at Your Site

Methyl ethyl ketone and other chemicals can cause illness or death for construction workers.Construction work is extremely diverse. The health and safety of workers is a constant challenge among employers. On a daily basis, construction workers may come in contact with various chemical hazards which can result in injury, illness, or death. At construction work sites, hazardous chemicals exist in forms such as dust, fumes, liquids, gas, and vapors. Primarily, chemicals enter the body via inhalation, ingestion, and absorption. Methyl ethyl ketone is one such compound that is especially dangerous.

Recently, a 53 year-old Missouri construction worker died when he was overcome by exposure to Methyl ethyl ketone. The worker was inside an 18-foot-deep manhole when he collapsed and died at the site. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited and fined the general contractor, KCI Construction as well as another Missouri company, Coatings Unlimited for this incident. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Methyl ethyl ketone (MEK) is a colorless liquid solvent with an acetone-like odor. It is volatile and potentially explosive. Its main uses are in the manufacture of a number of resins, waxes, and coatings, as well as a general industrial solvent for nitrocellulose coating, vinyl film, and smokeless powder manufacture. Over 500 million pounds of it are produced each year in the United States, and probably more than three million workers are exposed to it yearly. When in enclosed or confined spaces, workers risk being exposed to excessive amounts of solvent vapors. According to OSHA, solvents tend to cause the following symptoms:

• Irritated eyes, nose or throat.

• Makes you dizzy, high, sleepy, give you headaches, or cause you to pass out.

• Affects your judgment or coordination.

• Causes internal damage to your body.

• Dry out or irritate your skin.

Exposure to solvents or other chemicals in confined spaces can be deadly. In order to reduce the risk of exposure to chemical hazards at construction sites, OSHA advises employers to follow certain precautions.

• Conduct a risk assessment. Employers should consider all possible hazards that may confront workers while at the site. All possible hazards must be identified.

• If hazards are identified, employers should take the initiative to eliminate the hazard by altering the way the job is performed or consider using substitute materials.

• Employers have a responsibility to control the risks associated with hazardous chemicals at their construction site. If the hazard cannot be eliminated, employers should ventilate the work area, reduce the amount of hazardous chemical used, and isolate the hazardous process so that workers not involved with the work being performed are not affected.

Educate and train workers to recognize hazards chemicals and become familiar with strategies related to handling them safely.