Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new information including the details of the OSHA citation and discussion of the citations with borough employees.”
The Kenai Peninsula Borough purchased access to an online system for chemical safety information after a fire station failed a safety inspection.
After an Aug. 26, 2014 Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspection showed deficiencies in the Bear Creek volunteer fire station, the borough faced a fine and a citation for insufficient Hazard Communication and for failing to install a railing on the edges of a raised platform. Alaska Occupational Safety and Health issued two fines — $700 for the railing, $525 for the Hazard Communication, for a total of $1,225.
The Material Safety Data Sheets that the borough is required to maintain, which describe the dangerous qualities of chemicals such as bleach, were incomplete, resulting in the Hazard Communication fine. Safety Director Brian Smith said the issue occurred because the fire department was still in transition between facilities after its relocation into a new building in May 2014.
No accidents had been reported at the Bear Creek Volunteer Fire Department facility because of the railing, according to OSHA data. Both the fines were deleted and the citations revoked in March 2015.
Hazard Communication is the most commonly cited issue for Alaska waste disposal issues, and the second more commonly cited in all inspections nationally after Fall Protection, according to OSHA. Violations can occur when information on a hazardous material is incomplete, missing or unclear. It has been a consistently highly-cited violation, according to Scott Ketcham, area director of the Anchorage Area Office of OSHA. The requirements have been revised several times to make it clearer to employees, and OSHA now requires pictograms and 16 specific sections of explanation on hazardous materials to make it easier for employees to understand the risk.
The department revised the standards most recently in 2012. Ketcham said the update is expected to communicate more effectively with workers of low literacy because of the pictograms and to save employers money from fewer accidents and resulting worker’s compensation and time off.
“Hazard Communication citations within OSHA have been consistently in the top 10 most commonly cited hazards issued nationwide for many years,” Ketcham said. “I have been in OSHA for almost 20 years and it has been in the top 10 every year I have been in OSHA.”
However, the citation inspired the borough to purchase an online system to increase the availability of the MSDS information. The borough authorized the purchase of a program called MSDSOnline in July for $9,624 in 2015 and $8,749 in both 2016 and 2017 to be implemented throughout the borough and the school district.
Borough employees and Kenai Peninsula Borough School District employees will be able to view the chemicals stored at each location and the related MSDS.The borough is currently working on constructing a compliance structure for the material recording before implementing the program, according to Smith. Once up and running, the program will eliminate paper and make communication easier from the central offices to the outer parts of the borough, he said.
“Because the borough is so geographically spread out, the program allows us from a central office to see every location,” Smith said.
Reach Elizabeth Earl at firstname.lastname@example.org.