Topic: Industrial Hazards

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New NFPA resources for students in grades 6-12 about wildfire

With more than 8 million students in grades 6-12 living in at-risk communities National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and Young Minds Inspired (YMI) have teamed up to provide 3 no cost virtual field trip videos and accompanying lesson plans for teachers to help students better understand wildfires as well as empower them with the knowledge that they need to lessen that risk.  These videos and downloadable lesson plans meet Common Core requirements for English Language Arts, and can be used by educators (teachers and fire and life safety educators in fire departments) to help students learn more about wildfire and wildfire-related risks. The video series examines the aftermath of three major wildfires in the United States and short and long term impacts.  The purpose of the series is to help students understand why homes burn and learn what they can do to do to lessen their family's risk of loss due to a wildfire event. The first video from homeowners Peggy and Noble Kelly's perspective talks about what their experience was one year after the Okanogan County, Washington Fire and how they protected their home.  The next video features Wildland Urban Interface Specialist with Texas A&M, Kari Hines five years after the wildfire in Bastrop, Texas.  She informs students about how low-intensity wildfires are a part of the natural process, and steps people can take to mitigate or lessen their risk of loss to a wildfire.  The third features Kendall Bortisser, fire captain with CAL FIRE, ten years after the Cedar Fire in San Diego, California and Glenn Barley a Region Resource Manager for CAL FIRE in San Bernardino County. This story focusses on lessons learned after the Cedar Wildfire Event included the importance of homeowners maintaining the home ignition zone and damage a high-intensity wildfire event can cause to a watershed. The final video defines steps teens can take to reduce their family's risk of loss due to a wildfire event as well as the no-cost guide about potential community service projects available to youth as part of NFPA's TakeAction Initiative. Help students better understand wildfires and how wildfire events are a natural part of our ecosystem and empower them with knowledge to help their families become better prepared before an event occurs.  This science-based knowledge will help them understand how they can be a part of making their homes and communities safer during a wildfire event.
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Seven workers die in Confined Space Accident at Corona Brewery

Well, my confined space blog may have slowed down a bit in the past couple months due to other ongoing work, but unfortunately the confined space fatalities have not slowed down... In April, seven workers were killed in a tank that was undergoing maintenance and cleaning at a plant in Mexico City operated by Corona beermaker, Grupo Modelo.  It is believed that four victims were maintenance contractors and three victims were other Modelo employees.   There are few details available on the incident.  It is speculated that the deaths were due to “unspecified toxins” and that the three Modelo employees had entered the tank in an effort to rescue the other four contract employees.   Mexican authorities are reportedly investigating the incident.   Confined spaces are or should be clearly recognized in the beer industry.  The large numbers of tanks that are entered for maintenance and cleaning, combined with hazardous atmospheres including carbon dioxide produced during fermentation, inert atmospheres, and ammonia from refrigeration systems creates significant confined space entries and hazards.   These incidents do not just happen in foreign countries, and wine makers are also not off the hook when it comes to confined spaces.  A confined space death occurred just two years earlier at Napa California at Ancien wines when a worker was overcome by nitrogen and argon gases inside a tank.   Workers entering into tanks in the beer and wine industries should be intimately familiar with confined space entry procedures.  Even if contractors were always used to perform confined space entry work, it is unclear why Modelo employees would have entered the tank if they had been trained to recognize the confined space hazard.  The Modelo company has been in operation since 1925 and is the maker of the number 1 imported beer in the United States.  This confined space incident has the largest loss of life in one entry that I am aware of.  While it is not uncommon to lose 2-3 workers, this incident claimed the lives of 7 workers.  Confined space entry hazards continue to claim lives despite improved recognition of the hazards and despite regulations and guidelines available to prevent such incidents.   The National Fire Protection Association is developing a Best Practices document for confined space entry. This document will address gaps in existing standards and will be more prescriptive in describing things like how to test the atmosphere in and around confined spaces prior to entry.  The NFPA document is looking to go beyond the minimum standards and to provide those looking to develop a “gold star” confined space entry program with the information they need to do so.  Please email me at npearce@nfpa.org for further information and/or leave a comment below for discussion.  I look forward to hearing from you!
Fire damper

FAQ Friday, NFPA 80 - What is the inspection and testing frequency for fire dampers?

As the name implies, NFPA 80 provides requirements for more than just fire doors. The installation, inspection, testing, and maintenance of other opening protectives such as fire windows, glass block assemblies, fabric fire safety curtains and fire dampers are also included within the scope of NFPA 80. Three editions ago (2007), the requirements for the installation, inspection, testing, and maintenance of fire dampers were moved from NFPA 90A to NFPA 80.  One of the questions I get asked most often is with regards to the inspection and test frequency of fire dampers. Like all opening protectives, continued maintenance and inspection is critical and will help ensure that the doors, windows, shutters, dampers, etc.  will operate properly under fire conditions. First, an  operational test must be completed after the installation of the fire damper is complete. Then, each fire damper must be tested and inspected one year after the installation. After that one year mark, fire dampers must then be tested and inspected every four years except for hospitals which have a six year frequency. This begs a follow up question:  why the difference in the testing and inspection frequency between hospitals and other types of building uses? Most users expect provisions related to hospitals to be more restrictive than for other types of buildings. The healthcare industry presented the technical committee with significant evidence that a four-year inspection frequency for fire dampers in hospitals, in these buildings, is a hindrance. Hospitals are unique in that they have many building systems critical to the life safety and health of their occupants (patients). Personnel accessing fire dampers every four years would entail the risk of interfering with or potentially damaging the many systems (HVAC, medical gas systems, sprinkler piping, electrical systems) that are located near the fire dampers and above ceilings. The six-year frequency allows for a reasonable but safe length of time between inspections and also ensures the integrity of the hospital operations. Additional details regarding the inspection criteria and documentation can be found in Chapter 19 of NFPA 80.
Wind turbine

Wind turbines as confined spaces

Typically we think of climbing down into tanks, vaults or manholes for confined space entries.  Most would not think of wind turbines as having confined spaces.  Large enough to enter and perform work, restricted means of entry or egress and not designed for continuous human occupancy…. Wind turbines clearly have components that meet the definition of a confined space AND they have potential hazards.  With the push towards green energy, wind turbine installations are increasing rapidly.  In 2012 wind energy became the number one new energy source, with over 45,000 wind turbine installations currently in the U.S., according to AWEA (American Wind Energy Association).   Photos: www.OSHA.gov While green technology may be good for the environment, it is not without hazards to the workers who install and maintain the technology.   As OSHA indicates on their Green Job Hazards webpage, “Green jobs are not necessarily safe jobs”. Hazards for workers in wind turbines include falls, electrical, mechanical, fire, and confined space hazards. Both OSHA and AWEA have pointed out the need for confined space training of wind turbine workers.   Confined spaces exist during construction and after installation of the turbines.  There are four main components that may be considered confined spaces; the tower (vertical support), the nacelle (the housing that contains the electrical components) the hub (hub attaches to nacelle) and the blades (attach to hub).  During construction of the turbine workers may need to enter sections of the tower, nacelle, hub or blades to finish seams, grind, paint, etc.    When fully installed, workers need to climb up the tower to reach the narrow, restricted spaces of the nacelle, hub and blades for maintenance, inspection and repairs.  Electrical hazards have been the source of a number of fatalities and fires in wind turbines within the confined spaces.   An electrical incident or spark that occurs in the nacelle can quickly engulf a worker whose only way to exit the space is to descend a several hundred foot ladder or to climb on the roof of the nacelle. Some nacelles are made with polystyrene type foam which is extremely flammable and adds to the fire risk.  Nitrogen used in the accumulator, off-gassing of construction materials, poor ventilation and sources such as decomposing birds or rodents, can create a hazardous atmosphere.  And if something goes wrong inside a wind turbine, the challenges to rescue are significant.      The National Fire Protection Association is developing a Best Practices Document for confined space entry. This document will address gaps in existing standards and will be more prescriptive in describing things like how to identify potentially toxic atmospheres and select the proper gas monitor for entry and how to include the evaluation of adjacent spaces into your confined space entry program.    This is a document that is looking to go beyond the minimum standards and will provide those looking to develop a “gold star” confined space entry program with the information they need to do so.  Please email me at npearce@nfpa.org for further information and/or leave a comment below for discussion.  I look forward to hearing from you!
Operating room

Does NFPA 99 require smoke purge in operating rooms?

One question that I have received quite often since the publishing of the 2012 edition of NFPA 99, Health Care Facilities Code, is whether or not windowless anesthetizing locations still require smoke purge systems. The answer to this is that the 2012 edition does not require it. What had previously been in NFPA 99 and previously NFPA 56A was language that remained essentially the same for years and was in the 2005 edition as follows: “6.4.1.2 Supply and exhaust systems for windowless anesthetizing locations shall be arranged to automatically vent smoke and products of combustion. 6.4.1.3 Ventilating systems for anesthetizing locations shall be provided that automatically (1) prevent recirculation of smoke originating within the surgical suite and (2) prevent the circulation of smoke entering the system intake, without in either case interfering with the exhaust function of the system.” My research shows this requirement to have first appeared in NFPA 56A in the 1960 edition. The way it was presented and worded has been slightly altered throughout the years but the intent that the smoke and products of combustion be vented and that recirculation be prevented had remained. When NFPA 99 was reorganized for the 2012 edition the requirement was not incorporated in the new Chapter 9, Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning. In the current revision process the technical committee on Mechanical  Systems has proposed language that specifically states smoke purge is not required in windowless anesthetizing locations. The main substantiation for this is that the requirement is considered to be a relic as when it was first incorporated into an NFPA requirement the use of flammable anesthetics was common and therefore the fire hazards in these rooms was much higher.
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