Fix the pumps

Monday, March 26, 2007

The fire

This week's Gambit Weekly contains a lengthy article about the floodgate pumps. Mentioned for the first time is the fatal fire that occurred at MWI on March 23, 2006. This fire occurred about 2.5 weeks before pump testing commenced.on April 11, 2006.

On March 23, 2006, a fire erupted in a warehouse at 33 NW 2nd Street, Deerfield Beach, FL. It was reported on briefly by the local TV news (courtesy Lexis-Nexis AlaCarte):
"Global Broadcast Database - English - 3/24/2006 - 46 words Danger on the job for a welder in deerfield beach. The man working at pump [sic] when splashes cause insulation to catch fire. The welder suffered serious burns and taken to broward general medical center. He was transferred to jackson memorial hospital. Crews are now investigating...."

That man died on March 28th of second and third degree burns at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami. I have received his mother's permission to report upon these events.

33 NW 2nd St. is MWI's production and testing facility. It is the site of the "wet" testing mentioned in Maria Garzino's memo. As with any fatal accident, The Department of Labor's Occupational, Safety, and Health Administration (OSHA) investigated. Their inspection number was 309430627. As you can see, they eventually levied a fine of $6876.00 upon Industrial Diversified Services. Industrial Diversified Services was a subcontractor to MWI hired to install an overhead bridge crane in the testing facility. The crane was meant to lift pump units in and out of MWI's testing tank. The bridge crane (or its absence) is mentioned by the Corps QA inspector from Jacksonville in the April 18, 2006 report (page 46 of Ms. Garzino's memo):
"5. To date, the Contractor's subcontractor is still trying to set up the bridge crane for pump testing in their wet tank. They indicate that this will allow them to cut time out of the setup process. With the crane that is currently being used, the setup has takenapproximately 8-10 hours. If they can get the bridge crane installed, the contractor believes that it will cut setup time down to 4-6 hours."

The Florida State Fire Marshall also looked into the fire and, after a brief investigation, ruled the fire accidental. Material samples of the insulation were not taken by the fire marshall's office.

I received both the OSHA report and the fire marshall report through records requests. The OSHA report had a lot of duplicative information, so I culled it down to a manageable length. Should anyone want to see the pages I didn't scan in, they're welcome to ask me for them or get them from OSHA in Ft. Lauderdale. The OSHA report came exactly as you see it, with the redactions. The OSHA report is here.

The fire marshall report came unredacted, with witnesses names and addresses. I have removed those myself, out of respect for people who happened to see a horrible tragedy unfold before their eyes. Should you be interested in receiving the complete report, you can contact the fire marshall's office in Tallahassee and pay your $10, and they'll send it along. The fire marshall report is here.

I also received the pictures below with the OSHA investigation report. I have not altered the pictures except for adding dates.

The pictures show extensive fire damage to the entire building, including the steel to which the bridge crane would be attached.

As described in Ms. Garzino's memo, and the Quality Assurance inspectors' reports attached to the memo, testing began on April 11, about 2.5 weeks after the fire. For her account of April 19, 2006, almost a month after the fire, Ms. Garzino wrote the following:

"During the evening Drive Unit 8840 was set up to undergo an E/R test - the test facility is pitch dark - I have asked MWI if we can have 30 minutes to go to the drug store and buy flash lights as I was concerned that we could not see any of the plethora of machinery that was running around us, the obstacles on the ground, and the drive units themselves (see my pics of this condition) - I was especially concerned for the safety of the QA's as the Drive Units have been experiencing excessive hydraulic failures and injury from not being able to see the failure occur and get out of the way in time was a large concern for me - MWI informed us they were 30 + minutes from starting so all Corps personnel left to get flash lights."

Now it is clear why "all Corps personnel" had to get flash lights. The building was without lights and electrical power for many - if not all - "wet" tests conducted on the pump units and the drive units after dark for many weeks. One only has to read the memo and the attachments to see that there were such tests conducted nearly every night. All of this was confirmed by MWI's spokesperson, Mike Powers, in the Gambit article. Powers claims generators for lights were brought in later (assumedly after the timespan of Ms. Garzino's memo, which covers April, 2006. Of course, the testing was about 2/3rd's done by the time she handed in her memo, so we'd only be talking about around two more weeks before testing was finished.). However, even a single night without lighting should be unacceptable to any company that truly values its' employees' safety and the safety of federal employees working in its facility. That such a situation continued for weeks - apparently without any additional attention from the state fire marshall or OSHA - is scary. Finally, if this haphazard approach to testing is typical, what questions does it raise about the construction and assembly of the pumps?


  • Wow. The more you dig the scarier it gets!

    By Blogger spocko, at March 26, 2007 2:38 PM  

  • OSHA Regulatory Impact
    Here are some of the changes in industrial safety regulation brought about by OSHA:

    • Guards on all moving parts - By 1970, there were guards to prevent inadvertent contact with most moving parts that were accessible in the normal course of operation. With OSHA, use of guards was expanded to cover essentially all parts where contact is possible.
    • Permissible exposure levels (PEL) - Maximum concentrations of chemicals stipulated by law for chemicals and dusts. They cover only around 600 chemicals and most are based on research from the 1950's and 1960's
    • Personal protective equipment (PPE) - broader use of respirators, gloves, coveralls, and other protective equipment when handling hazardous chemicals; goggles, face shields, ear protection in typical industrial environments
    • Lockout/tagout - In the 1980s, requirements for locking out energy sources in an "off" condition when performing repairs or maintenance
    • Confined space - In the 1990s, specific requirements for air sampling and use of a "buddy system" when working inside tanks, manholes, pits, bins, and similar enclosed areas
    • Hazard Communication (HazCom) - Also known as the "Right to Know" standard, it was issued as 29CFR1910.1200 in November 25, 1983 (48 FR 53280, requires developing and communicating information on the hazards of chemical products used in the workplace.
    • Process Safety Management (PSM) - Issued in 1992 as 29CFR1910.119 in an attempt to reduce large scale industrial accidents. Although enforcement of the standard has been spotty, its principles have long been widely accepted by the petrochemical industry.
    • Bloodborne Pathogens (BBD)- In 1990, OSHA issued a standard designed to prevent health care (and other) workers from being exposed to bloodborne pathogens such as hepatitis B and HIV.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 29, 2007 11:11 PM  

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