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Industry News
Volume 24, No. 6

U.S. Foam recall ordered by federal court

Judge grants injunction to Chemguard based on misuse of UL identifier

A federal district judge granted an injunction in favor of Chemguard, Inc. of Mansfield, TX, against a Longview, TX-based foam manufacturer, ordering a recall of fire fighting foam using an Underwriters Laboratories' control number assigned to Chemguard.

United States District Court Judge Reid O'Connor of the Northern District of Texas entered the order in September granting Chemguard's request for an injunction with respect to U.S. Foam Technologies' (USF) use of Chemguard's UL identifier.

The Court directed U.S. Foam to issue a general recall to all customers "specifically identifying what product(s) may have been mislabeled as Chemguard product(s), directing them to avoid using mislabeled product, and to return that product to USF."

U.S. Foam must also place a notice in an industry wide publication to inform customers as to how those products can be identified and provide instructions on the return of the product.

Roger Bower, president of Chemguard, said that the company is pleased with the court's action and looks forward to "the correction of this problem with product on which firefighters across the country rely upon."

In issuing his ruling, Judge Connor noted that "many consumers require [UL certification] as part of their bid specifications." Connor noted that Chemguard learned on May 14, 2009, that U.S. Foam was selling fire fighting foam using Chemguard's UL identifier. He observed that "both Chemguard and USF agree this was improper."

He also noted that Chemguard purchased UL and military specification foam from USF and "According to Chemguard, USF's military specification foam did not perform as required by military specifications. . . . Other foam Chemguard purchased from USF revealed, according to Chemguard tests, that it did not perform according to UL or other relevant standards."

In issuing his ruling, Judge Connor stated: "USF admits it has falsely designated USF products with Chemguard's labels." After considering U.S. Foam's arguments, the Court concluded: "The Court is persuaded that USF's use of Chemguard labels have either actually deceived and confused potential customers, and a presumption exists that it has done so. Therefore, Chemguard has established a likelihood of success on the merits of its substantive claim based on USF's false use of Chemguard's labels."

The recall does not pertain to Chemguard-labeled products.

Nevada fire academy consults on new training center in India

With ongoing consulting assistance from the University of Nevada, Reno Fire Science Academy Worldwide, the Institute of Fire Safety and Disaster Management Studies (IFSDMS) in Gujarat, India, has broken ground on its new training facility, expected to provide professional instruction in fire fighting and disaster management for emergency responders in India and the region.

"The Fire Science Academy has assisted by sharing our knowledge and experience in the conceptual design and operation of an exceptional training facility that, in the case of IFSDMS, can serve the needs of India's communities," said Mitchell Baclawski, assistant director of the Fire Science Academy's Worldwide division. "We began a consultation partnership with IFSDMS in 2008 and have worked to promote the Indian institute's development of a hands-on emergency response training facility, which is designed to be as comprehensive as our own Academy in Nevada."

The Gujarat facility is being developed and built by Checkmate Services, which offers training and other emergency and risk management services to the petrochemical and petroleum industries as one of the largest safety and security providers in India.

Construction began in March 2009 at the institute, which was established in 1998 at Vaghodia, District Vadodara, Gujarat. Buildings for administration, education and hostel accommodations have been completed. Full-scale training props, key to the realistic hands-on training that will be offered at the facility, are also due to be built this year. A rescue tower prop and smoke chamber prop are under construction, and remaining training structures will be built after the end of India's monsoon season.

"Representatives from the Gujarat institute have also visited the Fire Science Academy in Carlin, Nev., to learn about how our Academy delivers the training and student experience it's known for," Baclawski said. "It's been an honor to host them in Nevada and to assist them on site in India with their efforts to develop a first-class facility of their own."

Inauguration of Gujurat's new facility is expected to be held in Oct. 2009. Invited dignitaries are set to include the Chief Minister of Gujarat as well as other industry, educational and government representatives from the region. "The Fire Science Academy looks forward to being in attendance, in support of IFSDMS and to discuss the University's affiliation and other matters of importance regarding the alliance between the two institutions," Baclawski said.

For more about emergency response training at the University of Nevada, Reno Fire Science Academy and its partnership with the Institute of Fire Safety and Disaster Management Studies (IFSDMS) in India, email fireacademy@unr.edu, call (775) 754-6003 or 1-866-914-0015, or visit http://www.fireacademy.unr.edu.

Feds release 2008 Pennsylvania oleum overflow report

The Chemical Safety Board (CSB) released a final report in October on the uncontrolled oleum release from Petrolia, PA, chemical plant which forced the evacuation of three surrounding towns in October 2008. CSB encouraged companies that handle hazardous chemicals to follow proper management-of-change procedures, monitor deviations from written operating procedures, and implement appropriate safeguards to mitigate human errors.

The accident that took place on Saturday, October 11, 2008, forced over two thousand residents of Petrolia, Bruin, and Fairview, to evacuate or to shelter-in-place for approximately eight hours. Oleum, also known as fuming sulfuric acid, was released when a tank transfer operation was left unattended during weekend operations and an oleum storage tank overflowed. The oleum formed a toxic sulfur trioxide gas, which mixed with moisture in the air to form a dense, corrosive, sulfuric acid cloud that threatened the neighboring towns.

CSB Chairman John Bresland said, "The managers of companies that handle highly hazardous substances, such as oleum, need to exercise special care that appropriate process safeguards are in place. In this accident, the CSB found that for many years, operators had been using an auxiliary pump power supply that lacked safety interlocks to prevent tank overfilling."

Located approximately 50 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, the? facility produces resorcinol, a chemical used for making tires and other products. The CSB report noted that three operators were involved in bulk liquid loading and unloading work from Monday to Friday. However, to maintain operations on a continuous, seven-day-per-week schedule, an operator would regularly perform work on weekends, transferring oleum from pressure vessels to storage tanks used to supply the resorcinol manufacturing process.

The CSB investigation determined that the normal power supply for the three oleum transfer pumps was equipped with a safety interlock, which would automatically shut off the flow of oleum when the receiving tank was full, preventing a dangerous overflow. However, the oleum storage building also had an auxiliary or "emergency" power supply that had been installed in the late 1970s.

It was originally intended as a temporary way to keep the pumps functioning during interruptions of the normal power supply but eventually the emergency power supply became a permanent fixture. Facility management never installed interlocks for the emergency power and written operating procedures did not address how or when the emergency power supply should be used.

The CSB found that to save time on weekends, operators typically ran two oleum transfer pumps simultaneously, using both the normal (interlocked) and emergency (non-interlocked) power supplies. Current managers and engineers stated they were unfamiliar with the practice. The practice had not been considered or described in process hazard analyses or operating procedures for the transfer operations.

On the day of the accident, an operator began transferring oleum at about 11:45 a.m. using two pumps and both power supplies. Although he shut down one of the pumps, he evidently did not shut down the other pump, which was connected to the non-interlocked emergency power supply, before departing the facility at 2:15 p.m. One of the storage tanks began overfilling with oleum; about an hour later acid mist began escaping from a vent, and by 4:30 p.m. the mist was flowing from the building. Facility personnel were unable to control the release, and both the facility and the surrounding towns were evacuated.

"By installing the emergency power supply without the same safety devices as the normal power supply, former facility managers traded safety for efficiency," said CSB Investigator Jeff Wanko, P.E., C.S.P., who led the investigation. "Facilities should evaluate changes, even those considered to be temporary, to determine their potential to cause an accident. That which is temporary can easily become permanent."

The CSB case study report identified four key safety lessons for companies: thoroughly evaluating temporary process changes, ensuring uniform safeguards for different modes of operation, monitoring deviations from operating procedures, and ensuring hazard analysis teams have complete information to perform their tasks.

The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating industrial chemical accidents. The agency?s board members are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. CSB investigations look into all aspects of chemical accidents, including physical causes such as equipment failure as well as inadequacies in regulations, industry standards, and safety management systems.

Feds issue record $87 million penalty

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced in October it is issuing $87,430,000 in proposed penalties to one of the world's largest energy companies for failure to correct potential hazards faced by employees. The fine is the largest in OSHA's history. The prior largest total penalty, $21 million, was issued in 2005, also against the same company.

Safety violations at a Texas City, TX, refinery resulted in a massive explosion -- with 15 deaths and 170 people injured - in March of 2005. The company entered into a settlement agreement with OSHA in September of that year, under which the company agreed to corrective actions to eliminate potential hazards similar to those that caused the 2005 tragedy. Today's announcement comes at the conclusion of a six-month inspection by OSHA, designed to evaluate the extent to which the company has complied with its obligations under the 2005 agreement and OSHA standards.

When the company signed the OSHA settlement from the March 2005 explosion, it agreed to take comprehensive action to protect employees, said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. Instead of living up to that commitment, the company has allowed hundreds of potential hazards to continue unabated," "Fifteen people lost their lives as a result of the 2005 tragedy, and 170 others were injured. An $87 million fine won't restore those lives, but we can't let this happen again. Workplace safety is more than a slogan. It's the law. The U.S. Department of Labor will not tolerate the preventable exposure of workers to hazardous conditions."

For noncompliance with the terms of the settlement agreement, the Texas City Refinery has been issued 270 "notifications of failure to abate" with fines totaling $56.7 million. Each notification represents a penalty of $7,000 times 30 days, the period that the conditions have remained unabated. OSHA also identified 439 new willful violations for failures to follow industry-accepted controls on the pressure relief safety systems and other process safety management violations with penalties totaling $30.7 million.

The company "was given four years to correct the safety issues identified pursuant to the settlement agreement, yet OSHA has found hundreds of violations of the agreement and hundreds of new violations. (The company) still has a great deal of work to do to assure the safety and health of the employees who work at this refinery," said acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Jordan Barab.

The Texas City Refinery is the third largest refinery in the United States with a refining capacity of 475,000 barrels of crude per day. It is located on a 1,200-acre facility in Texas City, southeast of Houston in Galveston County.

A willful violation exists where an employer has knowledge of a violation and demonstrates either an intentional disregard for the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act of 1970, or shows plain indifference to employee safety and health. A penalty of up to $70,000 may be assessed for each willful violation.

A notification of failure to abate can be issued if an employer fails to correct a cited condition and the citation is a final order of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. A penalty of up to $7,000 may be assessed for each day that the violation remains uncorrected.

Under the OSH Act, OSHA's role is to promote safe and healthful working conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, outreach and education.

 
 

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