Don’t Be Another Viral Video…Have Inspections!

June is National Safety Month so we’re highlighting another safety area you and those in your facility should be mindful of. Most EHS professionals have seen videos of catastrophic mobile crane and construction crane failures.  While not as visually impressive, the results of bridge/jib crane or sling failures can be just as damaging. You probably don’t have time to verify all of the OSHA inspection items for cranes and slings during an area tour.  However, there are a few items which can be visually checked quickly and easily, and most workers can be trained to perform these routine inspections of bridge/jib cranes and slings.  These visual assessments can help keep employees safe. While you are inspecting your facility make sure that your overhead/jib cranes inspections are addressing the following: The load rating of the overhead bridge/jib crane must be marked on both sides. The controls on the pendant or remote
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Listen Up: Protecting Your Workers from Hazardous Noise

Noise is one of, if not the most common workplace hazard. OSHA reports that at least 22 million workers are exposed to damaging noise at work each year. Not only can noise permanently damage an employee’s hearing, but it is generally very costly for employers to pay compensation claims for occupational hearing loss. For those reasons, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) mandates that employees exposed to a time-weighted average (TWA) of 85 decibels A-weighted (dBA) for an 8-hour shift shall be put into a hearing conservation program as lined out in 29 CFR §1910.95.  At W&M, we help employers evaluate their high noise exposure areas, monitor employee exposure, develop hearing conservation programs, and help with regulatory compliance. While in the field, we have noticed a common problem with noise monitoring activities conducted by employers. Many employers like to do their own noise monitoring, which is a viable option that
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Buyer, Be Calm: Effectively Navigating Contaminated Sites and Site Closures

What should you do when you find out your property is contaminated? Which Texas program and regulations apply to your site? First, you need to determine what type of operations are/were conducted at your site. Different programs need to be followed depending on the type of operations that have taken place. In Texas, most contaminated sites are subject to the technical regulations under the Texas Risk Reduction Program (TRRP) or the Petroleum Storage Tank (PST) rules. Second, you should determine which program is appropriate to seek regulatory approvals and closure. Programs regulated by TRRP include the Voluntary Cleanup Program (VCP), Innocent Owner/Occupant Program (IOP), Drycleaner Remediation Program (DCRP), and Corrective Action (CA), while PST rules and regulations apply to Leaking Petroleum Storage Tank (LPST) cases. For example, a filling station will need to be addressed under the PST Program, while a dry cleaner will need to be addressed under the
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Firestopping: A Balanced Approach to Fire Safety

While most think of prevention when they think of fire safety, what do you do when preventative measures haven’t succeeded, and a fire has started in your facility or building? While active fire protection systems such as smoke alarms, sprinkler systems, and fire extinguishers are all essential elements in fire safety, the passive fire protection system of firestopping is crucial in having a balanced fire safety system. Firestopping, as defined by the International Firestop Council (IFC), is “a process where certain materials are used to resist or stop the spread of flames and its by-products (such as smoke and toxic gases) through openings in rated walls, floors or floor/ceiling assemblies.” Fires are incredibly costly, causing property damage and increases in fire insurance premiums. While firestopping is termed a passive containment approach to fires, its implementation not only reduces these costs but saves lives. Firestopping establishes measures that contain fires to
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Hands On: Ownership and Expertise in Project Execution

Getting into the nuts and bolts, the commissioning, the daily grind, and the fault diagnostics of a remediation project requires a hands-on approach. Field staff must be inquisitive enough to investigate every abnormal tone and each unusual observation. If something just doesn’t seem right, they must be comfortable enough to ask the right questions, dial up the fuel, choke back on the oxygen intake, or tinker with the controls for optimal performance. In the process of investigation, they will drill down further and further, cataloging other questions for exploration, until the root cause is identified, tested, and corrected. Likely, this process is repeated at least a handful of times during each remediation project. This hands-on inquisitive approach applies to field technicians, staff scientists, project managers, and certainly subcontractors. If we aren’t asking the questions, then do we know what we’re leaving on the table? Reliable performance, lost efficiency, time &
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The Best Fit – Selecting Remediation Technology for Site-Specific Conditions and Client Goals

Do any of these situations sound familiar to you? Gasoline floating on groundwater, vinyl chloride in saturated sands, hexavalent chromium leaching into a creek, perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) heading towards a drinking water well, trichlorethylene (TCE) dense non-aqueous phase liquid (DNAPL) in weathered bedrock. If so, you probably have been around a site with soil and/or groundwater contamination or you’ve picked a really unusual hobby.  If you are a responsible party, a stakeholder, or an environmental manager responsible for handling the regulatory aspects of a contaminated site, the goal is generally to reach the cleanup finish line (closure) with the best possible results for the least possible cost. Consider this analogy. We know three things about fingerprints. 1) They are found on fingers, 2) they are generally arranged on the surface of the fingertips, and 3) each fingerprint is different from all others in the fine detail.  Remediation can be viewed
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What’s Firestopping and why do we need it?

Firestopping? – Oh, that’s easy! Goop some red caulk at a joint or around that pipe and you are good to go! Right? Well, not anymore. Building code and fire inspection officials recently began strict enforcement of code requirements for firestopping inspections. The International Building Code (IBC) 2012, Section 1705.16 states that firestop inspections shall be included as part of the mandatory special inspections for high-risk facilities. Enforcement began in earnest when the local building code was adopted as 2012 IBC or newer, and now building owners, contractors, and designers are bumping into this requirement on more and more projects. So, what is fire stopping and why is it so special? Firestopping is a passive containment approach to resist the spread of smoke and fire in a building, it is defined by the International Firestop Council (IFC) as “a process where certain materials are used to resist or stop the
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Permit Required Confined Space Program Misconceptions

 Last month, we discussed common misconceptions about the Lockout/Tagout program. Many similar misconceptions exist about Permit-required Confined Space Programs and affect their implementation. The most common misconceptions are: My employees do not enter permit-required confined spaces; we use contractors, so I do not need a program. For permit-required confined spaces, the host employer performs the following items: Inform the contractor that the workplace contains permit spaces and that permit space entry is allowed only through compliance with a permit space program meeting the requirements of 1910.146. Apprise the contractor of the elements, identified hazards and any experience which makes the space a permit space. Apprise the contractor of any precautions or procedures that have been implemented for the protection of employees in or near permit spaces where contractor personnel will be working. Coordinate entry operations with the contractor. Debrief the contractor at the conclusion of the entry operations regarding
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Lockout/Tagout Program Misconceptions

As an EHS Consultant, I enjoy assisting companies with implementing lockout/tagout and confined space programs. Our clients understand the importance of a strong safety culture and the safety of their employees. They implement safety programs and training, and seek employee buy-in, to achieve the goal of a strong safety culture. They consider the risks employees may be exposed to and identify ways of mitigating those risks and develop their programs accordingly. I often perform audits and gap assessments of our clients’ current company programs and often find that I am addressing many of the same issues across multiple employers. Some of these issues are attributed to confusion on the applicability of the standard. Some common misconceptions are: I don’t need a program because we use contractors to complete maintenance activities and our employees do not perform lockout/tagout. In many cases, you may choose to eliminate lockout/tagout associated risks to your
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It’s Like Groundhog Day All Over Again!

 In honor of Groundhog Day this February, I’m going to describe a “normal” trip that I take on a semi-regular basis.  I received a call from a relatively small manufacturer that was having some environmental issues and received W&M’s name from a contractor that they use.  They asked if I’d come out to take a look.  I happily obliged. Most facilities I visit have many similarities and this facility wasn’t an exception.  On the grounds are a couple of big steel buildings, substantial amounts of concrete in the front, and the rear of the property is largely bare ground.  The steel buildings usually have a crane or two; there is equipment manufactured for oil and gas, shipyards, off-shore platforms, or pipeline facilities.  Some facilities make items for all of these types of industries while some only make items for a single industry. On a typical visit, the same thing happens:
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