The George R. Brown Convention Center opened in downtown Houston in 1987. It boasts 1.8 million square feet of space, with more than 500,000 square feet dedicated to its exhibit halls.

OSHA Lead Investigators Highlight 'Most Interesting' Cases

A significant machine guarding case and an imminent hazard notice issued to a plating company were highlighted.

HOUSTON -- OSHA personnel are involved in a few sessions at this year's National Safety Congress & Expo at the downtown George R. Brown Convention Center here, including one titled "OSHA's 'Most Interesting': Four Cases Presented By the Lead Investigator" on Oct. 22.

Two that stood out were a machine guarding case at a plant that produced aerosol cans filled with products nearly every American is familiar with, and fall hazards at a plating facility where investigators discovered the company's employees had been injured many times over a period of years by falling into acid tanks, with no change made in the operation despite the injuries.

The aerosol plant had lines that sent cans at high speed into machines that injected propellant at 90 psi into the cans. Workers in that room of the plant had to open doors in the machines and pull out cans that were misaligned or to clean off residue after a can exploded in a machine, as happened 10-15 times a day, said Edward Grzybowski, MS, MBA, an OSHA compliance safety and health officer who investigated after an employee was seriously hurt. There was no lockout program and no LOTO equipment in use, 68 percent of the workers were temporary workers from a staffing company, and most workers spoke Spanish as their primary language, yet all of the facility's signs were in English, Grzybowski said. He said the worker was hurt when he reached into a machine to pull out a misaligned can, and his hand was hit by the part of the machine that injected the propellant -- a mixture of butane and propane. The company did not call 911, and eventually the worker did, but he was transported in a private vehicle to a hospital. He survived but is permanently disabled.

Grzybowski said both the host employer and the staffing company were cited. He said key lessons are that training is a joint responsibility between host and staffing agency, and when an employee is exposed to the point of operation of a machine, lockout/tagout -- not alternative methods -- is required.

Janelle Madzia, also an OSHA compliance officer, described the setup at a plating company that OSHA inspected following a contractor's tip. Interviews showed that workers had been seriously hurt repeatedly over the years from falling into acid tanks while trying to free jams, she said, and OSHA investigators found from reviewing 300 logs and company records that the employer had repeatedly investigated after injuries, concluded engineering controls weren't feasible, and made no changes in its operations.

Following the inspection, the employer installed effective fall protection, revised its training, reconstructed some of its equipment so workers would not have to perch on top of tanks to clear jams, and improved their PPE by installing a PPE vending machine, she said. "When you find a hazard present, correct it," she told the audience. "If you see a pattern in your OSHA 300 logs, you need to find a way to keep these things from happening."

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