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• Standard Number: 1926.52; 1926.21; 1926.353

January 6, 1992

Wayne Romsos
Director of Safety and Human Resources
Brown Minneapolis Tank
PO Box 64670
St. Paul, Minnesota 55164

RE: Letter on Welding and Noise

Dear Mr. Romsos,

Thank you for your letter regarding our request of a re-evaluation of your confined space and hearing conservation programs at your company which was received in our office on November 29, 1991. It is unfortunate that you did not receive the intended enclosure on confined space, but our records indicate that it was indeed forwarded. Nonetheless, I have attached a copy of the procedures generally accepted in the safety and health profession as minimum safe requirements for confined space entry.

After a thorough review of your response by our office, we disagree with your assessment of the feasibility of a hearing conservation program for construction operations. We have concluded that the hearing conservation program which you now have for employees exposed to high levels of noise is inadequate and does not meet the requirements of 29 CFR 1926.52(d)(1). In addition to the provision of hearing protection, a hearing conservation program requires a noise survey of the work environment, audiograms administered on a periodic basis and their evaluation, the training of workers on the effects of noise, the meaning of the audiograms, and the use, care, and benefits of the hearing protection provided. Furthermore, 29CFR 1926.21(b)(2) requires that employees be instructed "in the recognition and avoidance of unsafe conditions and the regulations applicable to his work environment to control or eliminate any hazards or other exposure to illness or injury," which includes the training as described above. Your program should be updated to bring it into compliance with OSHA Standards. Failure to do so, exposes your workers to hearing loss and your company to a noncompliance status in regards to OSHA regulations.

In order to confirm your contention that your employees are protected from the hazards of toxic metal fumes such as chromium and nickel, recent (within past year) air sampling data is needed of workers welding inside tanks. If performed on employees who are representative of typical exposures, the data would verify the level of air contamination inside the tanks. Entry into confined spaces such as tanks exposes workers to serious hazards from poor quality atmospheres, lack of safe egress, lack of rescue procedures, equipment or personnel, lack of communication between inside workers and outside personnel, and more. This was recognized by 29CFR 1926.21(b)(6) and 1926.353(b) (copies of which are also enclosed) and is further defined by the general requirements in the attached document. It is critical that this be recognized and acted upon by all industry, but especially by someone in your particular business. Failure to act in a responsible fashion in this case simply because OSHA has not promulgated more specific regulations risks the lives of workers and exposes your company to potential serious citations in the future.

Please provide this office with a written response describing the action you have taken on this matter within ten (10) days. A copy of this letter, as well your response and the previous correspondence is being forwarded to our Regional Office for distribution throughout the United States as well as the Minneapolis Area OSHA office.

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to call our office at 513-841-4132. Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health and your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,



William M. Murphy
Area Director




November 27, 1991

Mr. William M. Murphy
Area Director
U.S. Department of Labor
Occupational Safety & Health Administration
36 Triangle Park Drive
Cincinnati, OH 45246

Dear Mr. Murphy:

Your office evidently has a great concern for hearing conservation programs and ensuring clean air for our workers. In your original correspondence to us (September 17, 1991) you referred to some documents that were allegedly enclosed, but were not. In my response letter (October 4, 1991) I asked for those documents to be sent to us if what we were doing was considered insufficient. Now in your most recent letter (October 29, 1991) you have again stated that our program is not acceptable and still have not included them in your correspondence.

In regards to a hearing conservation program, your letter refers to C.F.R. 1926.52(d)(1) which, when I read my copy dated July 1, 1991, it does not state that audiograms must be given. We do agree that our employees typically could be exposed to excessive noise levels compared to table D-2 just below the paragraph that you mentioned in the regulations. As was mentioned previously ear plugs were being worn by a number of our people which indicates to me that someone is doing something right. The foreman had to requisition and distribute them or you would not have seen any being worn. Our program is in place and working just as the other construction companies in our type of business, which many times has a very transitory type of work force. Many times the individual workers will come and go, in addition to moving the entire crew from one part of the country to another. This obviously does not lend itself to audiograms that could be administered to a captive group. Please review our efforts and I believe that you will agree with what we have in place.

The other area of concern in your letter asks about our welders being exposed to lead and other heavy metals such as nickel, chrome, and cadmium. Through the years we have had air samples taken, that I feel are representative of what our carbon steel welders may typically be exposed to. No excessive exposure has been indicated and if the welding is done in an outside environment the likelihood of a problem existing is minimal. I do not deny that these components may be generated but if there is a reasonable effort to avoid the plume of smoke at all, then the levels of exposure at the breathing zone would be virtually eliminated.

As was stated before, we have taken steps to monitor and vent the space. The Steel Plate Fabricators Association, of which we are a member, has addressed this issue during our meetings, as we discuss many topics. We will comply with what is required through OSHA or ANSI standards that are specific to our work. However, when some standard have not been released yet it is difficult to try to comply with the speculation of what may be. When the Federal OSHA Confined Space standard comes out, which as I understand it is scheduled for about 4-5 months from now, we will do what is necessary for compliance. Until that time we feel that we are providing the level of protection for our employees as our industry is expected to do.

We will do specific training in both the areas that have been addressed here. Our weekly "tool box" discussions will specifically cover the items that you have called to our attention. I am confident that you will accept what we have done, are doing, and will do to be in compliance.

Yours truly,
BROWN-MINNEAPOLIS TANK


Wayne Romsos
Director of Corporate Safety and Human Resources




October 29, 1991

Wayne Romsos
Director of Safety and Human Resources
Brown Minneapolis Tank
PO Box 64670
St. Paul, Minnesota 55164

RE: Letter on Welding and Noise

Dear Mr. Romsos,

Thank you for your letter regarding your evaluation of conditions that exist in your workplace which was received in our office on October 7, 1991.

After a thorough review of your response by our office, we have concluded that the hearing conservation program which you now have for employees exposed to high levels of noise is inadequate and does not meet the requirements of 29 CFR 1926.52(d)(1). In addition to the provision of hearing protection, a hearing conservation program requires a noise survey of the work environment, audiograms administered on a periodic basis and their evaluation, the training of workers on the effects of noise, the meaning of the audiograms, and the use, care, and benefits of the hearing protection provided. Your program should be updated to bring it into compliance with OSHA Standards.

In addition, in order to assure that your employees are protected from the hazards of toxic metal fumes such as chromium and nickel, air sampling data is needed of workers welding inside tanks. If performed on employees who are representative of typical exposures, the data would verify the level of air contamination inside the tanks.

Please provide this office with a written response describing the action you have taken on this matter within thirty days. If you are unable to meet the requirements of this letter, an inspection of your establishment may be scheduled to determine if the potential hazards are violations of OSHA regulations.

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to call our office at 513-841-4132. Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health and your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,



William H. Murphy
Area Director




October 4, 1991

Mr. William M. Murphy
Area Director
U.S. Department of Labor
Occupational Safety & Health Administration
36 Triangle Park Drive
Cincinnati, OH 45246

Dear Mr. Murphy:

Your concern for our employees is well received. As a company that has been concerned about the safety of its employees for many years, we welcome comments that point out areas that we should further investigate.

Your letter dated September 17, 1991 addressed to our President, was referred to me for response, discussed two areas of concern, a hearing conservation program and a confined space entry program. Also in your letter you stated that "a copy of the OSHA Standard for noise in construction is enclosed" as well as, the "Minimum Requirements for Confined Space Entry" which I assume is a pamphlet or booklet, but neither publication was enclosed. If it is necessary to develop more than what we will be sending you, then please send us those documents that you've referred to.

In you correspondence you indicated that ear plugs were being worn by our employees. If we had no policy or program in place you would not have seen anyone using them. In our foreman's manual we have a section on Hearing Protection which states that "ear plugs or muff type noise suppressors must be used at all times. . .is identified as producing excessive noise". During the construction of our tanks, we are aware that there will be times when the noise levels will exceed the 90 dBA and therefore have provided each job with ear plugs. If the foreman on this job has not done any training in this area, we can certainly have that done. At this point we do not give annual audiograms to our field crews and I don't believe that other tank builders in our business do either. If there still is a problem with our program, please send the document and we will do whatever is necessary.

The other area of concern is of the confined space entry. Our work, typically is new tank construction. Since there is a minimal exposure to our employees during new tank construction we basically test the environment before entry, monitor the space while we are working in the space, as well as, vent the space. I believe that you saw the air monitor equipment when you were at the work site and you stated that venting was going on also. Keeping in mind that you are looking at new construction here and if this had been repair of an existing tank where a petroleum product have been stored a much more stringent program would have been in place. The general contractor has worked with us on this site and we feel that we are providing safety measures that are typical for our industry.

If more information is needed or if the documents are important for us to have, please advise.

Yours truly,
BROWN-MINNEAPOLIS TANK


Wayne Romsos
Director, Corporate Safety and Human Resources




September 17, 1991

Brown Minneapolis Tank
2875 Highway 55
Egan, MN 55121
Attention: President

Dear Sir,

During a recent inspection of the Henkel Chemical construction project at 4900 Este Ave, Cincinnati, Oh. 45232, representatives of your company were encountered. The following problems were noticed:

1) High noise levels while grinding the inside of stainless steel and carbon steel tanks:

After observing this operation, the noise levels indicate potential exposures above 90 dBA, which exceeds the permissible level for Construction operations. Based on discussions with the representatives on site during the inspection, no hearing conservation program had not been implemented. The employees were observed wearing ear plugs, but they had not received proper training on the use of hearing protection. The employees had also not received an annual audiometric test. Since exposure could not be determined during the inspection, this letter has been sent to you regarding potential exposures and to hopefully prevent potential violations of OSHA standards. A copy of the OSHA standard for noise in construction is enclosed with this letter. A copy of the OSHA technical guidelines for establishing an effective hearing conservation program have also been enclosed. You are required to initiate an employee noise monitoring program to determine actual employee exposures. If the level exceeds 90 dBA, then a hearing conservation program is required in addition to requiring hearing protection to be worn.

2) Employees welding inside of stainless steel and carbon steel tanks potentially exposed to lead and other heavy metals such as nickel, chrome, and cadmium:

Employees were observed conducting welding operations inside of a carbon steel tank. The tank would be considered a confined space and airborne contamination levels could potentially result in airborne contamination above current OSHA standards. Although the tank was being ventilated by a suction hose, no determination had been done to ensure the ventilation was adequate to reduce airborne contaminate levels below current permissible exposure limits.

In order to avoid a citation of OSHA's General Duty Clause, section 5(a)(1), you are required to establish and maintain an effective confined space entry program, per the enclosed, "Minimum Requirements for Confined Space Entry".

At this time no formal inspection will be conducted regarding these items; however, you must submit to this office a written notice of your intended action within 15 days after receipt of this letter. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact our office.

Sincerely,



William M. Murphy
Area Director

MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS FOR CONFINED SPACE ENTRY

1. Require employees to obtain written authorization signed by at least one supervisor prior to confined space entry (confined space entry permit). The permit must indicate special precautions and time period for which it is valid.

2. Lockout, blocking or equivalent of all mechanical, electrical, liquid and gas systems relating to the confined space that may create a hazard during entry should these system be put in motion or otherwise activated.

3. Test the atmosphere prior to entry into the confined space and on a regular basis during occupancy for presence of sufficient oxygen (19.5%) and absence of hazardous levels of toxic or combustible gases (maximum 10% lower explosive limit). When toxic substances are present for which no equipment to test the atmosphere is available, the employee shall be permitted to enter the confined space only with the use of air supplied respiratory equipment and other appropriate personal protective equipment.

4. Establish a tag out system to mark the confined space unsafe for entry should tests indicate the space is unsafe for entry. Marking to remain in place until tests indicate entry is safe.

5. Mechanical ventilation of the confined space prior to entry and continued ventilation during entry to assure safe atmosphere.

6. Written emergency rescue procedures with a requirement that trained personnel are available and are stationed outside the confined space with proper equipment to provide for the rescue of persons entering the space. Such equipment must include safety harness and lifelines with provisions for hoisting employees from the confined space. If entry is required for rescue, the rescue employee must be equipped with approved air supplied respiratory equipment and other appropriate personal protective equipment.

7. The confined space entry procedures shall be written and the responsible employees shall be trained in all aspects of the procedures.


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