Who is responsible for safety at work?

posted Apr 29, 2013, 8:18 AM by Webadmin Safepark Consultancy   [ updated Apr 29, 2013, 12:33 PM ]
The answer of course is very simple. The company performing the work is responsible for safety at work. Period.

However, after reading the first finalized investigation report this year from the CSB I have started wondering if this is also the viewpoint of the CSB. I am thinking of the final investigation report about the explosion and fire at Donaldson Enterprises, Inc. (DEI) on Hawaii published in January. From the description of the event and the procedures employed by DEI it is clear, that no one at DEI had any expertise in the handling of seized fireworks, such as those DEI were attempting to destroy under a subcontract with the Treasury in USA.

firework cake
The fireworks seized on Hawaii consisted of so-called cakes - in Denmark they are called firework batteries, and are sold to the general public in the week prior to the New Years celebrations on December 31st, when people greet the new year by a country wide fireworks display during the first half hour after midnight. In Denmark these cakes are sold in either cardboard boxes - like those seized on Hawaii - or wooden boxes, as shown on this picture.

Here in Denmark the Danish Working Environment Act is a framework act, which lays down the general objectives and requirements in relation to the working environment. The act aims at preventing accidents and diseases at the workplace and at protecting children and young persons on the labor market through special rules. WEA guidelines give specific direction in many areas, e.g. crane operators. The guidelines are not binding on companies, but the authorities will take no further action if the guidelines have been followed. After the explosion and fire at Seest near Kolding (that event should properly have been referenced in the report) the Danish Working Environment Authority have had increased focus on places manufacturing and/or handling fireworks, and unused firework has to be handled as dangerous waste. In Denmark the unused fireworks is destroyed by NORD on Fuen, but especially dangerous firework is handled by the DoD's  EOD. The question has as far as I know never come up, but my guess is that seized firework would be handled by the DoD's EOD.

The CSB investigation report on the explosion and fire at DEI contain 12 recommendations. However, strangely enough none are directed to Donaldson Enterprises, Inc. who ultimately was responsible for the safe disposal of the seized firework. I think that in line with the Baker Report after the BP Texas City event, that at least the CSB should recommend to the board of Donaldson Enterprises, Inc. that the company ensure they have the necessary expertise to handle the contracts into which they enter. Clearly DEI did not have that in the area of fireworks disposal. Sadly enough it appear that the company who lost the bid to DEI did have the necessary expertise.

In CSB's investigation report about the explosion and fire on Hawaii it is never directly stated, that a subcontractor with insufficient knowledge was selected. However, 9 of the 12 recommendations aim to improve the contractor selection process for fireworks disposal. I somehow feel this would be additional work on any subcontractor, and hence increase cost on all disposal subcontracts. In my view a much simpler approach would be to let the subcontractor selection for disposal of dangerous goods, such as firework, be handled by an office in the DoD which has the necessary expertise. This would also be in line with another CSB investigation on recycling of ammunition. As always I am attempting to keep things as simple as possible.