The Risk Management Tool Box Blog

International Code Council Launches New Fire Code

Graham Marshall - Thursday, March 06, 2014

Following the death's of six workers at the Kleen Energy Power Generation Facility in Middletown (Connecticut, USA), the International Code Council (ICC) has revised the International Fire Code (IFC) and International Fuel Gas Code (IFGC) to prohibit the unsafe practice of "gas blows"; in which flammable gas is blown under high-pressure down newly-constructed or repaired piping in an effort to clean and remove debris from the pipes prior to start-up.

The process of "gas-blowing" is inherently unsafe.

At the Kleen Energy facility, the high pressure gas blow was used to clean pipes prior to the start up of generator turbines; but the gas found an ignition source; and the six workers were killed in the subsequent huge explosion.

Alternative non-flammable gases are safe to use in "gas blowing" scenario's, including compressed air, so there is no need to use flammable gases.

Over 40 Countries, including the USA subscribe to the ICC codes.

Fire Prevention in Winery Industry

Graham Marshall - Sunday, April 14, 2013

An explosion and fire at a winery in NSW in January 2008 resulted in the death of two persons and serious burns to another person. 

The causes of the incident are still being investigated, but initial investigations indicate that welding work was being done at the time in the vicinity of a building where ethanol and other flammable liquids were stored. 

Ethanol is a highly flammable liquid and is a Class 3 Packing Group II dangerous good.

In NSW, the OHS Regulation 2001 requires employers to manage health and safety risks at the workplace in consultation with workers. 

A thorough risk assessment should be conducted as soon as possible for manufacturing processes (including temporary storage during processing) and storage involving flammable liquids, including the likely ignition sources such as welding, grinding and other hot work, which could cause flammable vapour to ignite. 

It is important that the risk assessment is reviewed immediately when the type, quantity and usage of dangerous goods on site change and that safety procedures are modified and communicated to workers. 

For example, the seasonal use of ethanol for the fortification of wine will need to be included in the risk assessment.

In order to minimize the risk of fire and explosion at any winery, a risk management plan should be developed to ensure that:

•   Flammable liquids are stored in compliant containers and facilities according to AS 1940:2004;

•   Flammable liquids storage areas are clearly marked with warnings and signs;

•   Adequate natural cross flow ventilation is maintained in buildings that process/store of flammable liquids;

•   Hot work and smoking restriction zones are clearly identified, sign posted and strictly enforced;

•   Hot work is done according to AS1674.1:1997 which lists comprehensive fire and explosion precautions;

•   Flammable or toxic materials have been properly removed before work is carried out on an empty vessel;

•   All decanting of flammable liquids is carried out in a well ventilated area;

•   Transferring of flammable liquids from storage to the point of use is carried out to avoid spillage;

•   The area around storage and processing is kept free of materials that burn;

•   Fire safety equipment is provided and maintained;

•   Workers are instructed and trained in the storage and handling of dangerous goods, the emergency plan and the use of safety equipment.

Further information regarding the prevention of fire and explosion can be found in:

•   Occupational Health and Safety Regulation 2001;

•   AS 1940:2004 – the storage and handling of flammable and combustible liquids;

•   AS/NZS 2430.3.3:2004 – Classification of hazardous areas;

•   AS 1674.1:1997 – Safety in welding and allied processes – Fire precautions.

Further information is also available from the WorkCover Assistance Service on 13 10 50.

Dangers with Use of Disc Cutting Saws

Graham Marshall - Saturday, April 06, 2013

The dangers associated with the use of disc-type cutting saws is highlighted in the APPEA safety alert shown below.

The critical issue of visually inspecting the cutting saw prior to start-up is illustrated; as is the need to report and "tag-out" any faulty equipment so that it cannot put other workers at risk.

Included here is a link to a JSA on the use of disc-tools.

Simple Steps to Prevent Noise-induced Hearing Loss

Graham Marshall - Saturday, March 16, 2013

Hearing loss due to exposure to industrial noise is the number one disability in the World; which is sad since it is so easily prevented.

Noise-induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) occurs when sounds which are greater than 85-decibels (dB) damage the delicate, sensitive structures within the human ear.

Common causes of NIHL result from exposure to noise from chainsaws, hammer-drills, bull-dozers, powered lawn-mowers, motorbikes, diesel trucks, and factory machinery.

The Keys to preventing NIHL include:

+   Remain aware of noise as a hazard and take measures to protect yourself from high noise (above 85 dB);

+   If possible, remove or relocate noisy equipment from the working zone;

+   Limit the period of exposure to noise above 85 dB; and

+   If you must work in a noisy environment, always wear appropriate hearing protective devices, including earplugs, ear-muffs or noise-cancelling head-phones.

 

Information on safe use of Oxygen

Graham Marshall - Sunday, February 10, 2013

The air we breathe contains about 21 per cent oxygen.

But even a very small increase in the oxygen level in the air -  to just 24 per cent - can create a dangerous situation.

At 24 per cent concentration of oxygen in air, it becomes easier to start a fire, which will then burn hotter and more fiercely than in normal air.

Under such circumstance, it may be almost impossible to put the fire out.

Oxygen is also a hazard because it is very reactive.

Pure oxygen, at high pressure - such as from a cylinder - can react violently with common materials, such as oil and grease. Other materials may catch fire spontaneously.

Nearly all materials, including textiles, rubber and even metals, will burn vigorously in oxygen.

A leaking valve or hose in a poorly ventilated room or confined space can quickly increase the oxygen concentration to a dangerous level.

In response to the hazard posed by excess levels of oxygen, the UK Health and Safety Executive (UK HSE) have developed a new guidance leaflet for use by anyone who uses oxygen gas in cylinders, in the workplace.

For a copy of the new leaflet, simply click here.

The leaflet describes the hazards from using oxygen and the precautions needed when using oxygen equipment.

If you are an employer, it provides information which will assist you in your risk assessment.

And remember, all employers are legally required to assess the risks in the workplace, and take all reasonably practicable precautions to ensure the safety of workers and members of the public.

This may include a careful examination of the risks from using oxygen in your risk assessment.

Do you have a good MOC process?

Graham Marshall - Friday, February 08, 2013

When introducing new machinery or ways of working, employers should ensure they fully consider the implications of the changes they're making.

It is only by using a thorough "management of change" (MOC) process that the hazards and risk involved with the change can be identified, assessed, and then managed using  appropriate control measures that reduce the risk to the ALARP level.

Any failure to properly assess the use of new equipment or new methods of work will typically increase the risk and often lead to a wholesale failure by the employer to fulfil their duties relating to safe systems of work, training, supervision and PPE requirements.

A recent example of the failure by an employer to use an adequate MOC process when introducing new technology is that of a glass-making company in Leeds (UK) that was prosecuted when a worker was injured using an high-pressure jet washer.  The jet washer had just been introduced to the work place.

The worker suffered a severe cut to his hand when the lance of the 1500-bar jet washer fell from his grip.

The court in Leeds were told that Allied Glass Containers Ltd bought the jet washer to clean dirt and oils where previously the cleaning had been done manually.

The court heard the firm had not provided the worker with adequate training, information or instruction, that he was given unsuitable PPE, and despite not having used the jet washer before, he was not adequately supervised.

Plastic sheeting used to protect other workers from the water jetting was also found to be inadequate to withstand the water pressure, and there was no warning signage informing workers of the danger of entering the water-jetting area.

In this case of a failure to use an appropriate MOC process, Allied Glass Containers was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay full costs of £2,623 after pleading guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Danger from overhead falling objects

Graham Marshall - Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The danger of "working below" - in situations where items can fall from height and strike workers has again been highlighted by the prosection in the UK of Steel manufacturer Tata Steel and a specialist contractor.

A fine totalling £320,000 has been handed down for safety failings after a worker was killed by a falling metal bar in the steelworks at Redcar.

Kristian Norris from Middlesbrough was working for Vesuvius UK Limited at the time of the fatal incident on 12 April 2008.

He was hit on the head by a  metal bar that fell approximately 30 feet from overhead.

Teesside Crown Court heard today that an investigation by the UK Health and Safety Executive (UK HSE) found that adequate precautions were not in place to control the risk of falling objects.

This was a failing on the part of both Vesuvius, and Tata Steel UK Limited, which then owned Teesside Cast Products where work was being undertaken.

Tragically, both company's were aware of the safety problems but both allowed the unsafe work to continue.

Vesuvius UK Limited and Tata Steel UK Limited both pleaded guilty to breaching regulation 10(1), of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

Vesuvius was fined £200,000 and ordered to pay costs of £24,020. Tata Steel UK Limited was fined £120,000 and ordered to pay costs of £24,020.

After sentencing, HSE Inspector Richard Bulmer, said:

"Kristian’s tragic death may have been prevented had Vesuvius UK Limited and Tata Steel UK Limited made simple and adequate provisions to protect employees working beneath work and lift platforms. The risks associated with work at height are well known, as are the necessary safeguards. Yet on this occasion the precautions taken to prevent people or objects from falling were wholly insufficient and sorely lacking."

 

UK Courts highlight the need for conveyor guarding

Graham Marshall - Sunday, January 20, 2013

The importance of appropriate guarding of moving and rotating parts on equipment has again been highlighted by the UK courts following a successful prosecution of a Deeside company.

Mainetti (UK) Ltd has been fined £60,000 and ordered to pay costs of £21,668 after a worker had her hair ripped out by a poorly guarded conveyor belt.

Kelly Nield, 25, was working on a conveyor when her scarf and hair became caught in the chain and sprocket drive of the belt as she bent over to remove accumulated clothes hangers.

She sustained serious throat injuries, lost a substantial part of her hair and fractured a finger in the incident on 11 April 2009 at Mainetti (UK) Ltd in Deeside Industrial Park.

Miss Nield needed a number of operations and was in hospital for three months.

The incident was investigated by the UK HSE which prosecuted the company for serious safety failings at Mold Crown Court.

Mainetti (UK) Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching three regulations under the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (1998) and one breach under Regulation 3 of the Management of Health at Safety at Work Regulations (1999).

Although Mainetti had fitted a guard to the conveyor, it did not fully enclose the dangerous moving parts.

And there was no emergency stop button on the conveyor.

The company's risk assessment also failed to identify the dangers of entanglement in conveyors, and the need to keep hair and loose clothing secure when near the machinery was poorly enforced.

HSE Inspector David Wynne, speaking after the hearing, said: "These horrific, life-changing injuries sustained by Ms Nield could easily have been avoided if the right safeguarding measures had been taken by Mainetti (UK) Ltd.  There are well-known risks associated with working with conveyor belts. It is vital, therefore, that the risks are fully assessed and guarding provided to prevent access to moving parts. Where appropriate, emergency stop controls should be installed in readily accessible places.  Employers must also ensure that workers are properly monitored, supervised and trained when working with this sort of equipment."

 

Confined Space Entry Standard

Graham Marshall - Thursday, December 27, 2012

The importance of organizations having a good Confined Space Entry Standard for employee use within confined spaces cannot be understated.

Confined spaces are either partially or completely enclosed working environments.

They are only meant for short-term worker occupancy.

And entering confined spaces is always "high-risk" because of many factors like space-design, previous storage history, and atmosphere.

When implementing an appropriate Confined Space Standard of control, the risk to workers who perform in confined spaces and the hazards and dangers they face can be substantially reduced to the ALARP level.

Employers can keep workers safe by reducing accidents and also save money when they present their workers with a planned and safe working environment.

The picture below gives four key characteristics of confined spaces and then goes on to provide clear explanation and illustration for safety.

• Lack of oxygen results in 50% of confined space worker fatalities.

• Four important steps when working in a confined space.

• One quarter of confined spaces have toxic air environments.

• A loss in just 5% oxygen in the air causes impaired judgement as well as problems breathing.

Employers who develop proper Confined Space Entry Standards and provide training and education to workers can reduce fatalities and accidents.

Identifying and controlling the hazards, and understanding what to do in an emergency are critical.

There is no reason why anyone needs to lose their life working in a confined space.



 

Control Pinch-point Risk

Graham Marshall - Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Pinch-point incidents are common across workshops, in the field, and in office environments. 

So workers should always take care, even if an environment seems safe and hazard-free.

Typical examples of pinch-point incidents include situations where people trap their fingers in door-jams, in desk draws, in car doors, or inside equipment.

Pinch-points are produced when either two moving parts come together (e.g., when rotating gear cogs turn) or when a single moving part comes in close proximity to something solid (e.g., when a moving door slams against a door frame).

In either case, it is the kinetic energy involved with the movement potential of the object in motion that causes harm when a person gets a body part in the way!  Ouch.

Pinch-points most usually impact onto fingers or hands, but any part of the body can be impacted.

This can be particularly dangerous wherever the space between the moving parts is just sufficient to allow a larger body part to be present when the moving parts come together.

The injury resulting from contact with kinetic energy in a pinch-point can be as minor as a small cut to as severe as having your head pulled off! 

So take care around all pinch points.

The common causes of pinch-point incidents include:

●  Putting a body part in the "line of fire" of the energy source;

●  Not paying attention to hand or finger placement;

●  Wearing loose clothing, long hair or jewelry which can be caught in rotating equipment;

●  Failure to use a machine's guard mechanism;

●  Poor hand placement when lifting or moving materials during manual handling;

●  Improper use of a tool; and

●  Failing to de-energize and isolate a machine before performing some kind of inspection or maintenance task.

Because of the risk associated with pinch-points, make sure you use the following controls to stay safe:

●  Always use the Think 6, Look 6 hazard management process to identify and control pinch points in every task;

●  Use handles when opening drawers;

●  Keep fingers out of "line of fire";

●  Verify that guards are in place and used on equipment that requires guarding;

●  For some jobs, ensure you're wearing gloves (of the correct type);

●  Identify pinch-point risks and the correct controls for these on your JSA;

●  Apply lock-out, tag-out procedure for energy isolation before working on the internals of any machine; and

●  Never remove equipment safety devices.


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