The Verdict - The Lombardi Law Firm Blog
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Bartow County, Georgia – The construction site in Bartow County off I-75 exit 296 experienced a trench collapse; then a worker fell 20 feet and was buried. Firefighters worked furiously to save the man’s life, but couldn’t get to him. The job was making way for a new sewer line. The incident was thirty feet down and forty feet under the roadway, where the man was trapped.
This isn’t rocket science, its dirt work. You follow the safety rules and no one gets hurt, you don’t and someone can die. It’s really that simple. So why are the rules for safety not followed when it involves trench work?
Follow the link to see the video with Stacy Elgin reporting for Fox 5 News.
While we are talking about tunnels and how easily they can collapse let me draw your attention to tunnels in the Middle East. While researching this story I ran across a truly fascinating story about underground tunnels as a way to survive. There is an entire commercial enterprise on digging, running goods through and in owning the underground tunneling system in the Palestinian territories.
“Since Israel imposed its siege on Gaza after Hamas won democratic legislative elections in January 2006, the number of Palestinians tied to some segment of the tunnel industry has grown in direct proportion to the increasing lack of availability of raw materials and basic necessities, including food, fuel and medicine. Palestinian sources estimate that some 6,000 people are employed as diggers in the hundreds of tunnels crisscrossing the Gaza-Egyptian border.
But tunnels are not the romantic passageways portrayed in Hollywood films about World War II or Vietnam. You can die simply upon entering one—as a result of the tunnel collapsing, of suffocation from the tear gas lobbed in by Egyptian authorities, or from electrocution caused by the willy-nilly wiring jerry-rigged to provide lighting and ventilation. You can die simply by getting lost in the maze, or from breathing in the unstable sand. If you’re lucky, your body will be found and given a proper burial.
Like the toll houses of a bygone era, Gaza’s tunnels are owned by individuals who collect fees for their use. One such owner is Abu Khaled, a father of seven. Although he doesn’t dare traverse the 30- to 45-foot tunnel himself for fear it might collapse, Abu Khaled is among a growing number of tunnel entrepreneurs in the Philadelphia corridor, Rafah’s no-man’s-land between Gaza and Egypt. Others involved in the industry include diggers, runners, smugglers and merchants.
Tunnel owners earn $300 for each 100 pounds of goods smuggled in. (Smuggling animals for Gaza’s zoo can net up to $3,000 each!) With this revenue Abu Khaled supports 20 workers: diggers who do the dirty work, and runners who transport the goods. “
Hard to believe this can be the way people are living in this world. What is harder to believe is that the United States spent $28 Million coming up with a tunnel detection system. We can’t get contractors to spend the money for renting tunnel wall supports but we can spend $28 Million on equipment to locate them in the Middle East.
“Under pressure from Washington, Egypt recently escalated its efforts to shut down the tunnels, destroying scores in the past months and fast-tracking the acquisition and implementation of a new $28 million U.S.-made tunnel detection system. Israeli sources confirm that U.S. experts are working with the Egyptians to find and expose the tunnels along the Philadelphia corridor.
Providing the means for Gaza’s businesses to remain operating is a most lucrative form of smuggling. One tunnel owner who just a few months ago could afford nothing and used donkey carts for transportation now has enough money to afford luxury jeeps and merchandise for his wife.
The tunnels are not only used to supply Gazans with food, clothing, medicine, fuel and spare parts, however. They also make it possible to reunite families who have become separated when their non-Palestinian spouses find themselves prevented from reaching their husbands, wives or children as a result of the Israeli-imposed border closures. In desperation, they pay handsomely to be smuggled in or out of Gaza. One smuggler admits to having received $1,000 to reunite a European wife with her Palestinian husband and children living in Gaza.”
Is it only me or do other people see a failure of logic and sound economic policy in all of this?
Back to trench safety in America. Look at this video clip about trench safety. It will help you understand the concept.
Construction Safety - Excavator trench servicing and backfilling
OSHA has plenty of information available on trench and excavation safety.
Trenching and Excavation – by OSHA
The primary hazard of trenching and excavation is employee injury from collapse. Soil analysis is important in order to determine appropriate sloping, benching, and shoring. Additional hazards include working with heavy machinery; manual handling of materials; working in proximity to traffic; electrical hazards from overhead and underground power-lines; and underground utilities, such as natural gas. The following references aid in recognizing and controlling some of the hazards associated with trenching and excavation.
Special Emphasis: Trenching and Excavation. OSHA Directive CPL 02-00-069 [CPL 2.69], (1985, September 19). Establishes a National Emphasis Program (NEP) for the programmed safety inspection of trenching and excavation operations.
Working Outdoors in Warm Climates. OSHA Fact Sheet, (2005, September), 26 KB PDF, 2 pages.
OSHA offers a pamphlet on trench and excavation safety. Here are the warnings.
Trench Safety - OSHA 3197-04N-04
• Do not enter an unprotected trench!
• Trench collapses cause dozens of fatalities and hundreds of injuries each year.
• Trenches 5 feet deep or greater require a protective system.
• Trenches 20 feet deep or greater require that the protective system be designed by a registered professional engineer.
Protective Systems for Trenches
• Sloping protects workers by cutting back the trench wall at an angle inclined away from the excavation.
• Shoring protects workers by installing aluminum hydraulic or other types of supports to prevent soil movement.
• Shielding protects workers by using trench boxes or other types of supports to prevent soil cave-ins.
Competent Person OSHA standards require that trenches be inspected daily and as conditions change by a competent person prior to worker entry to ensure elimination of excavation hazards.
• Inspect trenches at the start of each shift, following a rainstorm or after any other hazardous event.
• Test for low oxygen, hazardous fumes and toxic gases before entering a trench.
• Keep heavy equipment and excavation spoils at least two feet away from the trench edge.
• Provide stairways, ladders, ramps or other safe means of access in all trenches 4 feet or deeper.
Like I said it’s not rocket science. Construction workers, be smart, be safe and don’t risk your life for a boss and company that are too stupid and greedy to take the right safety measures. Know how to do the job the right way and if the boss or company asks you to do it wrong, call OSHA. If they fire you call a lawyer. Better to make the OSHA call then your wife calling the morgue.
The University of Iowa announced new rules prohibiting physicians from accepting free drug samples and handing them out to patients. Also doctors and other health care workers will be prohibited from accepting gifts and must disclose financial remuneration paid by private medical companies that can create a conflict of interest with reporting research results.
“At least 25 public and private academic medical centers now have “strong” conflict-of-interest policies, according to a Sept. 3 commentary in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, by David Rothman and Susan Chimonas of the Institute on Medicine as a Profession at Columbia University.
The institute’s searchable database for conflict-of-interest policies at medical centers and university hospitals, at http://www.imapny.org/coi_database/, shows the U of I’s proposed restrictions are stricter than some, but not the most severe.”
Des Moines Register, January 22, 2009 - U of I beefs up conflict of interest rules for doctors
And if you’re wondering how much a physician can be paid take a look at the Des Moines Register’s article on January 23, 2009, U of I to bar free drug samples, gifts.
“Last year, three U of I orthopedic surgeons were included on a list of doctors across the country who accepted money from the manufacturers of artificial hips and knees.
Dr. John Callaghan, a U of I surgeon, received $2.6 million in 2007 from DePuy Orthopaedics, a Johnson & Johnson company that makes replacement joints. Callaghan said the payments were above-board royalties for other doctors' use of joint replacement devices he helped develop. The U of I knew of the financial ties, but did not know how much Callaghan made in royalties because the university-wide conflict-of-interest policy does not require employees to report payment amounts.”
That’s a lot of money. Then again it seems Doctor Callahan earned it with his participation in developing the joint replacement. Or at least someone earned the right to the royalties. What I’ve always wondered is how State of Iowa employees are allowed to get paid a salary by the State of Iowa, use state equipment and laboratories to develop patentable products and then the employee get to keep the royalties. Why aren’t the royalties owed to the State of Iowa?
A construction worker on a site in Europe was electrocuted when he came into contact with a live wire/cable on which he was working. It killed him and the general contractor was fined 300,000 Euros. You might wonder why the fine?
Electrical workers on a construction site must follow an established set of rules for protecting each other. They are not supposed to be working on energized lines. The rules are known as the “lockout/tagout” procedure rules. (LOTO) The purpose of the rule is to protect workers from energized wires, cables and lines. What most people don’t understand is that workers can be a long ways away from the fuse box where energy to the plant wiring system is controlled. If a worker were to turn on the juice without notifying other workers who had turned it off, those other workers could be killed by electrocution. To prevent a worker who turns off the juice locks the fuse box and attaches his tag to the lock. This system if used properly will prevent electrocutions.
Now if another worker comes along and he too is going to work on the wiring system and needs it to be turned off, or de-energized, he will lock his lock with tag to the first electricians lockout-tagout. That way if the first worker comes back to the fuse box he will see the second electrician’s LOTO warning him that some other worker is working on the electrical system. Before the first electrician can turn the juice back on he first must locate the second LOTO electrician and get his approval.
It’s not unusual to have many LOTO’s on the fuse box. That protects everyone in line so they are not mistakenly electrocuted.
So why then is the General Contractor (the GC) in this case fined? In most construction contracts the GC is the ultimate authority that controls safety on the construction site. The GC has the right and responsibility to enforce safety practices. If workers are ignoring established safety practices it is the GC that must discipline the offender. In the case of busy job sites, it’s not unusual for the GC to look the other way in order to speed up the work. Deadlines looming can cause GC’s to ignore their duty to enforce safety rules. And when this happens it can be deadly.
On this job the GC was probably ignoring its duty to enforce the rules and the labor commission came down hard on them. Reputation does follow us.
With so many electrical workers in so many different jobs OSHA has a general rule for LOTO procedures. LOTO is so vitally important that schools exist that can teach the proper procedures that have to be followed.
There is even an online Hazmat OSHA LOTO Instructional Course. I’ll include the course curriculum outline below. Considering the benefits the $45.00 course fee is minimal. The photographs on this site clearly show what you should expect to see with LOTO at the fuse box.
Upon successful completion of this course the student shall have satisfied the requirements for training in accordance with 29 CFR 1910.147 and other similar state OSHA regulations and will demonstrate competency and have an understanding of:
1. Define what is meant by Lock Out Tag Out (LOTO or Lockout/Tagout) and when it is used.
2. Identify the importance of LOTO.
3. Understand the roles and responsibilities of those involved with LOTO including LOTO users, those who may come across LOTO, and employers.
4. Know the requirements of the LOTO regulations and where to find them in 29 CFR1910.147.
5. Know the different types of LOTO training and how they apply to the job.
6. List the three parts of a LOTO program including the development of a written program, the training of employees and how and when to implement the LOTO program.
7. Understand how and when LOTO “refresher” training is to be conducted.
8. Understand and define the different types of energy that might be encountered using LOTO. This includes potential energy, kinetic energy, electrical, hydraulic, pneumatic, and water/gas energy.
9. List the requirements of an Energy Control Program.
10. Know how and when to properly apply locks and other devises as part of a LOTO program.
11. Understand the advantages, disadvantages and limitations of locks and tags as part of a LOTO program.
12. Be able to list the steps of applying LOTO on the job. This includes proper notification, awareness of energy hazards, controlling the hazards (including blanking and bleeding off energy), applying LOTO, performing the work, removing equipment used and LOTO equipment, restarting the equipment and making proper notifications.
13. Understand considerations when working with outside contractors and LOTO.
For GC’s laminated posters explaining LOTO can be purchased for $25 to $30.00.