Near misses are a chance to learn and improve your safety measures. But this company neglected to heed the warning, and a worker’s life was lost as a result.
An employee of SCR Construction Co. Inc. in Richmond, TX, was torch cutting a flammable barrel. The barrel exploded, killing the worker.
OSHA was understandably furious – especially since a few weeks earlier, there was a shockingly similar incident involving an explosion.
“SCR Construction was aware of a near miss involving ignition and overpressurization of another drum just weeks before the fatal explosion, and did nothing to address it, which could have prevented this tragedy,” said Mark Briggs, director of OSHA’s Houston South Area Office.
The company was issued a willful violation for failing to thoroughly clean drums or barrels containing flammable substances before welding or cutting work to prevent worker exposure to ignition or toxic emissions.
It also received 12 serious violations, including failing to provide hand and eye protection; lockout and tagout energy sources; train and certify workers on powered industrial trucks; provide machine guarding; properly store and handle compressed gas; and provide hazard communication training.
Four other-than-serious violations included failing to provide an inhalation exposure assessment, respiratory protection, personal protective equipment hazard assessment and mark and inspect the alloy steel and synthetic web slings. These violations have a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm.
And it has landed itself in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program. That means it’ll be seeing a lot more of OSHA inspectors in the future. And safety inspectors issued the company a $131,670 fine for all the violations.
Take heed of warnings
No company should be happy to have a near-miss incident. It’s still a sign that something has gone wrong, regardless of whether or not it could’ve been worse.
But to gloss over a near miss as if nothing happened is foolish, and possibly could be deadly.
Make sure workers are informed any time there is a near miss at your facility. Treat it as seriously as you would an actual accident.
You may even want to treat accidents and fatalities at other facilities the same way as you would a near-miss at your own. Just because it didn’t happen to your organization doesn’t mean it couldn’t.