PHMSA Proposes Updating Hazmat Rules to Better Balance Safety Standards and Regulatory Requirements
(In a move that could save the automotive industry nearly $900,000 a year in costs while maintaining safety standards, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) today issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that proposes to end the special permit requirement for several widely-used auto parts normally installed during the manufacturing process.
Automakers and suppliers would still have to comply with standing conventional regulations for packaging, marking and transporting the assembly components, which are still considered hazardous materials capable of posing some risk to health, safety and property.
“Safety is PHMSA’s chief priority, but when rules or regulations become outdated or unnecessary, we must explore updating them to keep the hazmat transportation process efficient and effective,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
PHMSA proposes to update the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR) so that a special permit would no longer be required for these items, which would reduce the regulatory burden and maintain the current level of safety. DOT issues special permits allowing a party to transport hazmat under unusual conditions not covered in the HMR while maintaining an equivalent level of safety.
Specifically, the NPRM states that auto manufacturers would no longer have to bear the burden of obtaining and maintaining an explosive (EX) number on hazmat shipping papers for air bag inflators, air bag modules, and seat-belt pretensioners (the part of the seatbelt that takes up the slack) prior to transporting them.
“EX” numbers denote approval to transport explosive items in accordance with the federal HMR, which governs transportation safety for such items. The activation devices in the airbag and seatbelt components are currently classified as explosives under the HMR.
“The president’s Regulatory Review Initiative calls precisely for this kind of action – reviewing existing rules for effectiveness, relieving the private sector of regulations where costs outweigh benefits, and encouraging feedback about these regulations from those most likely to be affected– the public,” said PHMSA administrator Cynthia Quarterman.
OSHA fines firearms manufacturer $170,000 for exposing workers to toxic substances and other hazards
OSHA fined a New York firearms manufacturing company for 35 alleged serious violations of workplace safety and health standards at its manufacturing plant. The firearms manufacturer faces a total of $170,000 in proposed penalties for a variety of mechanical, electrical and chemical hazards identified during inspections by OSHA’s Syracuse Area Office.
OSHA found violations involving a lack of personal protective equipment and worker exposure to toxic substances lead and cadmium. The inspection also identified:
- Numerous electrical hazards
- Numerous instances of unguarded moving machine parts
- Improper storage and transfer of flammable liquids
- A lack of procedures to lock out machines’ power sources to prevent their unintended startup during maintenance
- Unguarded openings and defective ladders
- Inadequate fire extinguisher training and availability
- Unlabeled containers of hazardous chemicals
- Several exit deficiencies including a locked exit door
- Obstructed exit routes, unmarked exits
- Non-functioning emergency and exit lighting
Editor’s Note: If you are doing a safety walk-through of your manufacturing facility and you see that you have any of these issues, please give us a call, and we will gladly come out and talk with you about how we can confidentially help you resolve these unsafe situations inexpensively and with minimal interruption to your production.
Cable manufacturer fined nearly $180,000 for exposing workers to electrical, chemical, mechanical, fire and exit hazards
OSHA cited a Connecticut cable manufacturer for 29 alleged violations of workplace safety standards. The cable manufacturer faces a total of $177,000 in proposed fines following safety and health inspections conducted by OSHA’s Hartford Area Office. OSHA inspectors found:
- Untrained employees working on live electrical equipment without adequate personal protective equipment
- Employees not using hazardous energy control procedures during maintenance of machinery;
- Ungrounded lamps and electrical receptacles
- Damaged and misused electrical equipment
- Unguarded moving machine parts
- Uninspected lifting slings; excessive buildup of combustible dust
- Spray painting with flammable paint within 20 feet of spark-producing equipment
- Excessive noise levels and the lack of controls to reduce noise levels
- Improper dispensing of flammable liquids
- Inadequate eyewash facilities for employees working with chemicals
- Unlabeled containers of hazardous chemicals
- Failure to conduct initial monitoring for hexavalent chromium
- Exit routes arranged so employees would have to travel toward high-hazard areas when exiting the plant in an emergency.
The company was also cited for one for instance of inadequate machine safeguarding. A similar hazard was cited by OSHA following a 2008 inspection of the plant.
OSHA fines a Texas, manufacturer more than $400,000 following severe injuries to three workers
OSHA fined the company $468,000 and cited them for six willful, nine serious and one otherthan- serious violation at the company’s facility in Texas, where three employees were seriously injured within a five-month period.
OSHA began its investigation in response to a complaint from one of the injured employees that workers faced unsafe conditions while operating cranes and slitter, rolling and thread machines; performing service and maintenance work; and stacking and loading pipes in the yard and on trucks.
In April, an employee was caught in an operating machine and injured and in May, a second employee was struck by a piece of steel and knocked into a 5-foot-10-inch concrete pit. In September, another employee was caught in machinery and injured. All three had to be flown to a local hospital due to the severity of their injuries.
The willful violations were cited for failing to repair a damaged under-hung crane, which lifts and lowers materials; failing to ensure the use of lockout/tagout procedures to control the energy sources of equipment; and failing to provide the required machine guarding on the pipe manufacturing line. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to employee safety and health.
OSHA issues new National Emphasis Program for chemical facilities
OSHA issued a new National Emphasis Program (NEP) for chemical facilities to protect workers from catastrophic releases of highly hazardous chemicals. The new NEP replaces OSHA’s 2009 pilot Chemical Emphasis Program which covered several OSHA regions around the country. The program establishes policies and procedures for inspecting workplaces that are covered by OSHA’s process safety management (PSM) standard. The program’s inspection process includes detailed questions designed to gather facts related to PSM requirements and verification that employers’ written and implemented PSM programs are consistent. The intent of the NEP is to conduct quick inspections at a large number of facilities that will be randomly selected from a list of worksites likely to have highly hazardous chemicals in quantities covered by the standard.
OSHA – Whistleblowers
OSHA orders trucking company to reinstate whistleblower and pay back wages and damages
OSHA ordered A Tennessee trucking company to reinstate a former employee and pay the individual $62,090 in compensatory and punitive damages plus more than two years of back wages, interest, benefits and reasonable attorney’s fees. The order follows OSHA’s determination that the company violated the employee’s rights under the whistleblower provisions of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act by terminating the employee for complaining about defective vehicles.
The employee had complained about trucks with mechanical failures on a number of occasions, but the problems recurred. He informed his employer that he would not drive trucks with such failures in the future. Soon after this, the driver found that his name had been removed from the driving schedule. He inquired about this development, and was informed that his employment was terminated. The employee then submitted a whistleblower complaint to OSHA.
OSHA files whistleblower lawsuit against medical clinic for firing employee who reported hazards
OSHA filed a lawsuit against a Colorado Medical Clinic, and its owner, on behalf of an employee who was terminated in violation of the whistleblower provisions of the OSH Act. The employee had complained about safety and health hazards to the clinic’s management staff before filing a formal complaint about the hazards with OSHA. The employee was later discharged and then filed a whistleblower complaint with OSHA. The agency’s Whistleblower Protection Program conducted an investigation and determined the former employee’s allegations had merit. After being notified of OSHA’s findings, the defendants refused to reinstate the employee to the same or a substantially equivalent position and to pay back wages or other employment benefits. Filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, OSHA’s complaint seeks to reinstate the employee, secure compensatory damages and lost back pay.
***OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program enforces the whistleblower provisions of the FRSA and 20 other statues protecting employees who report violations of various securities, trucking, airline, nuclear, pipeline, environmental, public transportation, workplace safety and health, consumer product safety, health care reform and financial reform laws. Under these laws enacted by Congress, employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise various protected concerns or provide protected information to the employer or to the government.
OSHA Actions – Grain Storage Facilities
OSHA settles litigation against grain bin operator following preventable suffocation deaths of two teen workers
The Department of Labor (DOL) has reached an agreement with an Illinois grain bin operator, resolving 25 citations issued by OSHA and child labor civil money penalties assessed by DOL’s Wage and Hour Division. The resolution follows the preventable deaths of two boys, 14 and 19 years old , at the company’s grain bin facility in July 2010. A 20-year-old worker also was seriously injured in the incident.
At the time of the accident, the workers were “walking down the corn” to make it flow while machinery used to convey the grain was running. All three became trapped in corn more than 30 feet deep, and the two boys were suffocated.
OSHA cited the company for 12 willful, 12 serious and one other-than-serious violation of the agency’s Grain Handling Facilities standard. Following the agreement reached in this case, the company must pay $200,000 in penalties. The agreement also maintains all of the willful violations as issued.
***(A willful violation is one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.)
A separate investigation by the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division found that the company violated the child labor provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by employing workers under age 18 to perform hazardous jobs that are prohibited by the FLSA. Under the agreement, the company will pay $68,125, the full civil money penalty originally assessed as a result of those violations.
From Ohio.com – December 22, 2011
New Federal Pollution Rules Will Cost Ohio Power Companies Billions
Federal EPA limits may force FirstEnergy of Akron, AEP to close some coal fired plants By: Bob Downing, Beacon Journal Staff Writer
FirstEnergy of Akron has said that it is facing $2 billion to $3 billion in costs to comply with the new federal pollution rules. (Mercury & Air Toxics MACT [Maximum Achievable Control Technology]) They, and American Electric Power (Columbus-based) might shut down “old, small and dirty coal-fired power plants or be forced to install new, costly anti-pollution equipment to comply with new limits on mercury, heavy metals and air toxics.”
“The EPA estimated the new rules could raise electric bills for residential customers by $3 to $4 a month. But Ohio, with its deregulation rules, is different than many other states and utilities like FirstEnergy cannot directly recoup such costs from its customers here.”
American Electric Power said it will be necessary for them to spend $8 billion and close all or part of 11 coal-fired plants, thus eliminating 600 jobs.
Lisa Jackson, EPA Administrator, called the new rules “a giant victory for public health, especially the health of our children.” The new limits will reduce mercury emissions by 91%. Mercury can impair neurological development in fetuses, infants and young children.
There have, of course, have been mixed reactions to the new rules, with environmentalists praising them, and industry officials blasting them. “The National Association of Manufacturers called the new rules ‘one of the most costly regulations that will do more damage to our economy and job growth.’” According to the American Coalition for Clean Coal Energy’s figures, the measure will cost $130 billion, destroy 183,000 jobs per year and boost prices for energy by $170 billion.
The new rules affect some 1,100 coal-fired plants across the country, and 40% of these do not have advanced pollution controls; therefore, most will be required to add new anti-pollution equipment. Ohio ranked #2 in 2010 for mercury emissions (4,218 pounds) of which 2/3 were generated by utility power plants.
December 31, 2015 is the deadline for compliance; however, this may be extended for one year.
Storm Water Permits:
From Environmental Protection on line:
U.S. EPA Orders World’s Largest Metals & Electronics Recycler to Immediately Cease Illegal Discharge of Toxic Pollutants to San Francisco Bay
A California metals recycler has been ordered by the United States EPA to comply with federal Clean Water Act laws following inspections that found evidence “of unlawful discharges of PCBs, mercury, lead copper and zinc into San Francisco Bay.” The facility is one of the largest metal shredders in the area. Entire cars are shredded before exporting the metal overseas.
The EPA inspected the facility in March of 2011 to determine its compliance with their Industrial Storm Water Permit. Enforcement officers, during said inspection, found evidence at the facilities shipping and rail receiving areas that pollutants have been discharged into a direct tributary to San Francisco Bay. Another inspection took place in August 2011. At that time samples were taken of debris and soils in the areas flowing in to the Bay that resulted in finding elevated PCBs, mercury, lead, copper and zinc.
Receipt of the EPA’s order was acknowledged in December 2011. This order requires the company to submit a revised storm water pollution prevention plan. They must update monitoring and sampling within a month of the order and implement storm water pollution counter measures. They are also required to develop and submit a plan within 90 days to eliminate discharges to the tributary within a year. They must also sample storm water discharges monthly throughout winter and spring, as well as revise their storm water pollution prevention plan to update monitoring and sampling, and develop and implement, for all areas of activity, storm water pollution counter measures.
The company is cooperating with the EPA to comply with the order’s requirements.
More “FRACKING” – Points to Ponder…
**Editor’s Note** Because the issue is so new and has yet to be resolved, we are going to offer for your consideration some excerpts from recent publications that we believe will represent some of the various points of view.
From Ohio.com – December 27, 2011
Ohio Sand Turns to Gold as Drilling Boom Comes to Buckeye State
Bob Downing, a Beacon Journal staff writer published an article released on December 26, 2011.
He said “Rob Sidley is sitting on a gold mine, thanks to Mother Nature.” The company owned by his family produces the special sand needed for drilling in Ohio’s deep layer of Utica shale. This is exactly what is needed for “fracking” (hydraulic fracturing process) that employs force to open cracks in the shale, freeing up natural gas, oil, and other lucrative products.
The key to his sand is quartz or silica. “Most sand is 60 to 70 percent quartz. Some river sand has zero. Sands with at least 95 percent silica are wanted for fracking and certified by the American Petroleum Institute, a trade group. Sidley’s sand has been tested at 99.7 percent silica. It is round and spherical, hard and strong. It is resistant to water and chemicals. It is a sand that flows almost like a liquid and can survive heavy pressures deep underground.
“It takes 6,000 to 8,000 tons to frack one well, depending on the size of the well, so Sidley has a valuable commodity as drillers begin to focus their attention on eastern Ohio.”
The fracking industry states the process has been used safety for decades. However, some people worry that the process could pollute our drinking water supply.
The overall sand industry is booming with Ohio in 2010 being #11 in the U.S. in overall sand production (15,000,000 tons), and the cost of sand has risen considerably. Sidley’s sand now sells for $60 to $80 per ton, up from $35 per ton in 2000 for fracking sand. Mr. Sidley has declined to tell how much fracking sand his company expects to produce; however, the company produces 400,000 to 500,000 tons of sand and gravel annually from its 1,800-acre operation that employs 150 employees.
From Ohio.com – December 30, 2011
Environmental Groups Express Concern about Wastes from Drilling Process
Bob Downing, a Beacon Journal staff writer published an article on this topic. Highlights of the article follow.
“Environmental groups concerned about possible hazards created through oil and gas exploration want state rules changed to keep low-level radioactive drilling wastes out of Ohio’s landfills and also want an increase in state oversight of such wastes.
“The Ohio Environmental Council, the Sierra Club, the Buckeye Forest Council and Citizens for Health Environment and Justice made their request to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources in a 10-page letter dated Dec. 23.
“No one knows how much radioactive waste from so-called drill cuttings — the rock and earth from below ground contaminated with often-toxic drilling lubricants — might be going into the state’s landfills.
“The issue is expected to get bigger as the Utica shale drilling boom grows in eastern Ohio. It could produce thousands of tons of the solid wastes.
“The ODNR, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the Ohio Department of Health all say the threat of radiation is minimal from drill cuttings from below-ground materials.”
David Lipp of the state health department stated “the material is mostly rock and dirt with very low levels of radiation.” He said it has been looked at, measured, and sampled and background radiation levels were found. “There is nothing of concern at all” he said.
“EPA spokesman Mike Settles said his office doesn’t see drill cuttings as an environmental concern — if they are handled the way they should be and if they are sent to a solid-waste landfill.”
From the Cleveland Plain Dealer article written by reporter James Ewinger – January 1, 2012
4.0 Earthquake Spurs Call for Fracking Probe
Tremors Rattle Youngstown Area
A 4.0 magnitude earthquake, the strongest of at least 11 earthquakes to shake an area in the vicinity of Youngstown in 2011, hit on Saturday afternoon, December 31st. It struck at approximately 3 p.m. and was centered in McDonald, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
“Within an hour of the quake, State Sen. Bob Hagan, Democrat of Youngstown, called for a statewide moratorium on injection wells used in fracking, a procedure in which pressured fluid is injected into a rock formation to harvest natural gas.”
However, Jim Zehringer, director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, said the quakes were probably related to the injection of brine wastewater into the ground in the proximity of a previously unknown fault line and not a direct result of fracking. He reported that four injection wells within a five-mile radius of a well in Youngstown would remain inactive while further scientific research is conducted.
Ewinger’s article also reported that state officials have said “There are 177 similar injection wells around the state, and the Youngstown-area well has been the only site with seismic activity.”
“Environmentalists and property owners who live near gas drilling wells have questioned the safety of fracking to the environment and public health. Federal regulators have declared the technology safe, however.”
From The Columbus Dispatch – February 9, 2012
DeWine Wants Tougher Laws on “Fracking”
Attorney General calls for bigger pollution fines, ‘full disclosure’ of chemicals used, more protection for landowners in lease deals
David Eggert and Spencer Hunt, co-authors, report that Attorney General Mike DeWine wants tougher penalties on polluters in the booming oil and gas industry. He would also like additional disclosure of the chemicals used in the drilling process (“fracking”).
DeWine stated that ‘Ohio’s environmental fines should be raised to at least $10,000 a day – higher than the current maximum of $2,500 to $20,000 per incident, depending on the violation. Pennsylvania and New York, as examples, levy per-day civil penalties, he said.
“Ohio’s clearly out of the mainstream in these penalties,” he told The Dispatch. “My recommendation to the General Assembly is that these laws be changed.”
DeWine also called for “full disclosure” of the chemicals put into the ground, and he feels that the Ohio’s consumer-protection law should protect landowners leasing their property to energy companies.
Others feel that DeWine is off base. Tom Stewart, Vice President of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association said the “state’s laws already are tough on driller and hold them accountable for pollution and other infractions.” His view is that DeWine’s staff fails to understand the status of the law.
Ohio is already making hydraulic-fracturing contractors file documents showing the chemicals used in their fracking fluids. The article further states that “however, a review of documents posted on the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ website shows that not every chemical is identified. Of the 84 fracturing products listed in November, 11 contained at least one ingredient that was kept secret by the companies as a “proprietary compound.” Stewart said “companies should be allowed to keep some fracking ingredients confidential to hold an edge over their competitors.”
Hazardous Waste Disposal:
From: Waste & Recycling News March 27, 2012
Ohio firm fined for hazardous waste
A manufacturing facility in Marietta, Ohio has agreed to pay a $75,000 fine and submit a hazardous waste cleanup plan, the state’s attorney general and EPA said.
The company was accused of releasing a hazardous chromium solution into the waste stream from its facility. The company came to an agreement with government officials.
“This consent order is a significant step in better protecting area residents and the environment through increased safeguards and a significant civil penalty,” Attorney General Mike DeWine said in a statement.
The consent order also requires that public notice be issued regarding the company’s hazardous waste closure plan to deal with the release, officials said.
Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA):
From the EPA website www.epa.gov on February 7, 2012
Dover Chemical Corporation in Ohio to Pay $1.4 Million for Unauthorized Production of Chemical Substances
“U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Justice announced that Dover Chemical Corporation has agreed to pay $1.4 million in civil penalties for the unauthorized manufacture of chemical substances at facilities in Dover, Ohio and Hammond, Ind. The settlement resolves violations of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) premanufacture notice obligations for its production of various chlorinated paraffins. Dover Chemical produces the vast majority of the chlorinated products sold in the United States. As part of the settlement, Dover Chemical has ceased manufacturing short-chain chlorinated paraffins, which have persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) characteristics. PBTs pose a number of health risks, particularly for children, including genetic impacts, effects on the nervous system, and cancer. Dover Chemical will also submit premanufacture notices to EPA for various medium-chain and long-chain chlorinated paraffin products.”
Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance assurance, said that this action reinforces the “need for chemical manufacturers to follow the law and protects Americans from chemicals that could be harmful to their health.”
“Chlorinated paraffins are a family of chemical substances with different properties depending on their carbon chain lengths and are generally identified as short, medium, or long-chain. Chlorinated paraffins are used as a component of lubricants and coolants in metal cutting and metal forming operations, as a secondary plasticizer and flame retardant in plastics, and as an additive in paints.”
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