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Automobile Safety Recalls

Oil Rig Explosions

Dangerous Drug Recalls

May 11, 2010

Toyota Likely Facing More Fines

U.S Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says more fines are possible for the Japanese automaker if further safety violations are uncovered. LaHood said Monday documents submitted by Toyota to the U.S. Government are still being reviewed and he won’t hesitate to impose more penalties if product defects are found.

LaHood spoke at Toyota’s headquarters in central Japan after meeting with the carmaker’s president, Akio Toyoda.

Toyota has recalled more than 8 million vehicles worldwide and paid a record $16.4 million U.S. government fine because of a four-month delay in telling authorities about defective gas pedals.

May 10, 2010

School Band’s CharterBus Accident Tire Blowout Nearly Takes  Deadly Turn

Sparks from a blown tire on a charter bus carrying band members from Pershing high school caused a fire that destroyed the bus and nearly killed the students and driver aboard.

In the bus accident no one was injured when the Coach USA bus caught fire after a tire blew out just outside Lake Charles, La., schoolofficials said. All 25 students and seven chaperones on board were ableto get out of the vehicle safely. Danny Fiorella, a school assistant principals who was on the bus, said he knew something was wrong when he heard a tire pop. He said he went into emergency mode when he realized the tire was on fire.

“I just wanted to get everyone of the bus,” he said. Fiorella then grabbed the fire extinguisher and handed it to a parent chaperone, who tried to put out the flames. Fiorella escorted the children to safety.

However, the wind on the bridge was too strong and the smoke too heavy for the fire extinguisher to work, Fiorella said. By the time the fire was extinguished, only a shell of the bus remained.

The students lost all their belongings, including band instruments, clothing and theme park souvenirs.

They even lost the first-place trophy they won in the completion. Luckily, band director Richard Smith had the grand prize trophy the students also won. It was on the other bus, the one carrying the girls.

May 7, 2010

Highway Safety Agency WantsMore Tire Recall Power

According to the Associated Press, the government’s highway safety agency is supporting a plan in Congress to give it more power to conduct auto recalls.

Following the massive Toyota recalls, the head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration told a House hearing Thursday that the agency supports draft legislation that would increase its powers. It would allow the government to order an immediate safety recall if it finds tire defects are “imminent hazard of death or serious injury.”

David Strickland says in prepared testimony that the changes would significantly increase the agency’s leverage in dealing with car companies.

Toyota’s recall of more than 8 million vehicles around the globe to fix faulty accelerator pedals and brake problems with Prius hybrids has prompted the first major changes to auto safety requirements since the Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. tire recalls in 2000.

Congress is pushing the auto industry to meet new safety standards and impose tougher penalties on car companies that fail to quickly report safety defects to the government. A House panel on Thursday is hearing from David Strickland, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, automakers and safety advocates to discuss the legislation under development.

A draft bill by the House Energy and Commerce Committee would eliminate the cap on civil penalties an automaker could face and empower the government to order an immediate safety recall if it finds an “imminent hazard of death or serious injury.”

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represents General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota and others, said in a preview of its testimony that it would support vehicle brake override standards that “will reassure consumers that they can count on their automobiles.”

May 6, 2010

Louisiana Crabbers Already Feeling Pinch

The oil spill , emanating from a ruptured well about 40 miles from the Louisiana coast, has brought the heart of the U.S. seafood industry to a standstill. Unable to work, fishermen are on edge, unsure how they will pay the bills this month, typically the most lucrative harvest time.President Barack Obama has said the oil giant BP, which leased the Deepwater Horizon and is responsible for cleaning up the mess, would reimburse lost wages. But idled fishermen say the pledge provides little comfort, considering it took nearly 20 years to conclude a legal saga over damages from the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska.

“Who has 20 years? These guys don’t have next week,” said Rusty Gaude, a biologist with the Louisiana Sea Grant College Program, similar to an agricultural extension service for coastal areas. “It’s good to hear the president’s words, but they’re not going to buy a ham sandwich or pay the note or fill the gas tank.”

BP has hired some fishermen as contractors to lay floating boom lines designed to block the oil from reaching the shoreline. But crabbers who live outside of St. Bernard Parish are not eligible for the jobs.

May 5, 2010

Texas Shrimpers’ Worries Run Deep

Texas shrimpers may not be in the line of fire for the oil spill yet, but many fishermen who make their living on the water say the chemicals being pumped into the Gulf to disperse the oil could affect them for years to come.  Chemical dispersants are being pumped into the Gulf a mile down near the seafloorby remote underwater vehicles.  These chemicals are supposed to help disperse the oil before it can reach the surface.

“With this chemical carrying it to the bottom, it’s a disaster you don’t see,” said John Williams, executive director of the Southern Shrimp Alliance. “I’m hugely concerned.”

According to an article today in the Houston Chroncile, shrimpers have a reason to be concerned. Roger Zimmerman is the director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s fisheries lab in Galveston.

“There is great reason for concern,” Zimmerman said. “What we are looking at is not onlythe oil, but the treatment applied.”

Oil suspended in thewater column or carried to the bottom by the dispersants could affect shrimp and other marine life, but it’s not clear what the effects will be, he said. “It’s certainly not a good thing,” Zimmerman said. “Deep water currents are carrying off the dispersed oil, but no one knows where, tomake any sort of speculation about where they are going or what they are doing is conjecture.”

Gary Graham, a marine fisheries specialist at Texas A&M Galveston’s Texas Sea GrantProgram, agreed with Zimmerman. “That is a viable concern, an extremelyviable concern,” he said.

As of Tuesday, BP had used about 167,500 gallons of dispersant, Coast Guard Petty Officer Erik Swanson said.

May 4, 2010

BP Struggles to Contain Oil

BP Oil spill
Reuters

Environmental News Service: In an attempt to control the Gulf oil spill , BP began drilling a new relief well half a mile from the site of the sunken Deepwater Horizon, hoping to intercept the oil flow and take pressure off the broken wellhead. But it could take up to three months to drill down to 18,000 feet and in the meantime half a million barrels of oil could have been released.

Meanwhile, BP will lower several large containers over the damaged wellhead and the two breaks in the pipe that once connected it with the sunken rig. The captured oil would then be piped to the surface and collected aboard a barge. The containers should be in place by next Sunday, but lowering them into place is tricky and there is no guarantee that they will work.

Today, nearly 3,000 people are responding to protect the shoreline and wildlife. About 200 vessels are responding on-site, including skimmers, tugs, barges, and recovery vessels to assist in containment and cleanup efforts in addition to dozens of aircraft, remotely operated submarines, and multiple mobile offshore drilling units.

Nine staging areas are now set up to protect shoreline in all potentially affected Gulf Coast states – five in Louisiana at Venice, Port Sulphur, Shell Beach, Slidell and Port Fourchon; two in Mississippi at Biloxi and Pascagoula; one in Alabama at Dauphin Island; and one at Pensacola, Florida.

More than 156,000 gallons of chemical dispersant have been deployed and an additional 230,000 gallons are available.

Hundreds of thousands of feet of containment boom have been deployed to contain the spill, and more than 500,000 feet is available, but rough seas have pushed some of the boom up on shore rendering it ineffective.

NOAA is restricting fishing for a minimum of 10 days in federal waters most affected by the BP oil spill, from Louisiana state waters at the mouth of the Mississippi River to waters off Florida’s Pensacola Bay.

May 3, 2010  CHICAGO – Anxious parents are preparing to call doctors Monday morning and scouring the Internet for information after an enormous drug defect recall of over-the-counter medications for infants and children that was announced Friday.

The recall affects all unexpired lots of liquid Tylenol, Motrin, Zyrtec and Benadryl formulated for youngsters – more than 43 products. Parents rely on the medications to ease their children’s aches and pains, fevers and allergy-associated runny noses and sneezes.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration advised families to stop using the products , noting some may contain “tiny particles” while others have too many active ingredients or inactive ingredients that don’t meet specifications. McNeil Consumer Healthcare, the manufacturer, and federal officials said the prospect of serious medical problems is “remote.”

McNeil did little to calm parents’ fears with a hotline (888-222-6036) that featured a verbal rendition of the company’s press release on Sunday. That release, including a list of all affected products and their lot numbers, is available at www.mcneilproductrecall.com. McNeil is a unit of Johnson & Johnson.

Still, some parents said they were impressed by the company’s prompt action. “If it’s something that’s being disclosed from the start, I think I should stick with them,” said Leonardo Valenca, visiting Chicago with his wife and twin 7-month daughters. “It’s different than the way Toyota handled (their recall).”

Families should feel comfortable using generic versions of the drugs, said Dr. Saul Weiner, an associate professor of pediatrics and internal medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago Medical Center.

The generic version of Tylenol is acetaminophen; for Motrin, ibuprofen; for Zyrtec, cetirizine; and for Benadryl, diphenhydramine.

It’s wiser to switch to a generic than to stop a medication for your child altogether, Weiner said.

By JUDITH GRAHAM and DUAA ELDEIB
CHICAGO TRIBUNE

April 30, 2010

Congress Scrutinizes BP For Cutting Corners on Worker Protection

BP is facing an ongoing federal probe over concerns that the oil giant cut safety corners in rushing theconstruction of the massive Atlantis offshore platform.  The platform is described as the deepest oil production platform in the world.

Allegations suggest the company rushed into production by skipping or skimping required engineering inspections, putting profits ahead of the need to protect workers from accidents and the environment from potentially catastrophic oil spills, according to allgations sent to regulators.

According to Lisa Olsen of the Houston Chronicle, BP, which calls itself the leader in deep-water offshore oil development in the Gulf of Mexico, began operations at the Atlantis platform in October 2007 at a site about 124 miles offshore in 7,000 feet of water and expanded production last year, according to government records and BP’s annual report.

The April 20 explosion on a Transocean drilling rig operated by BP in the Gulf of Mexico underscores the need for a review of operations at Atlantis, critics say, though the cause of the deadly rig explosion remains unknown and is under investigation by the Mineral Management Service andthe Coast Guard.

Daren Beaudo, a BP spokesman, insists the company designed and built the platform to meet “global industry engineering standards, including review and approval ofpro-ject design and construction procedures by professional engineers.”BP has “found no evidence to substantiate the organization’s claims with respect to Atlantis project documentation,” he added.

“The engineering documents for Atlantis have the appropriate approvals, and platform personnel have access to the information they need for the safe operation of the facility,” he said in a written statement.

In a Feb. 24 letter,19 U.S. representatives from Arizona, New Jersey, Mississippi, Florida,California, Massachusetts and other states all requested a formal investigation by the Minerals Management Service.

“The MMS has an obligation and a duty to ensure that natural resource extraction from public lands and the outer Continental Shelf is done with the utmost concern for the environment and the health and safety of workers and thepublic,” the letter says. “It is critical we get this right.”

Whistle-blower

The allegations stemfrom a whistle-blower who worked as a contractor for BP and later provided BP documents to a Washington nonprofit called Food and Water Watch.

A local safety expert and engineering consultant, Mike Sawyer, said he prepared an independent evaluation of BP’s Atlantis subsea database at the request of Food and Water Watch. Sawyer said he voluntarily reviewed the database listing of more than 7,000 design documents, reports and drawings from Atlantis and found they were “incomplete or unapproved” byengineers even after Atlantis began production.

Sawyer, who previously worked as both a paid consultant for plaintiffs in civil litigation related to the catastrophic BP 2005 refinery explosion at Texas City, said he fears the company is demonstrating the same attitudeto safety offshore — and willingness to circumvent safety practices — that experts and government investigators found in its refinery operations after 15 people were killed and scores seriously injured in 2005.

“This failure to adhere to established process safety practice has been cultural within BP,” Sawyer said. “We found this same type of issues with BP Texas City.”

The mineral service,which shares responsibility for investigating offshore platforms and drilling rigs with the Coast Guard, is conducting the current probe of BP Atlantis, according to a letter to congressional members from the service’s director, Elizabeth Birnbaum.

Beaudo of BP said the company would “cooperate fully” with the investigation of Atlantis.

Red-flagged

In a review of Mineral Management Service accident inspection and enforcement records, the Chronicle found that the service’s investigators red-flagged potential violations of government safety standards in five out of 20 accident investigations it completed at BP offshore operations since 2005, including rigs and platforms. But only one incident resulted so far in a fine, the records show.

Two accidents on board the Atlantis were investigated in July and August of 2009, but no violations were found. Both were minor incidents involving gas or oil leaks that caused minimal damage and no injuries, records show.

April 29, 2010

Gulf Oil Spill: BP CEO Starts The Blame Game

Kristen Korosec, BNET: BP CEO Tony Haward’s initial reaction to the TransoceanDeepwater Horizon oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico last week that killed 11 men was shock.  Then anger.  Then blame.

“How the hell could this happen?”  Were his exact words in a CNN interview that aired Wednesday.  Soon enough, Hayward did what any self-respecting CEO would do- attempted to lay blame on someone else:

“The responsibility for safety on the drilling rig is Transocean. It is their rig, their equipment, their people, their systems, their safety processes. We will deal with these issues in the fullness of time. today we’re focusing on the response. But as I’ve said, the systems’ processes on a drilling rig are the accountability of the drilling rig company”

Hayward isn’t totally throwing Transocean (RIG) under the bus here., as he’s technically correct. The $600 million oil rig is Transocean’s. BP was leasing it from the company for some $500,000 a day. Most of the people on the rig were Transocean people.

But Hayward knows that the public wants — and needs — answers. Lawmakers do, too. They want someone to hold accountable and Hayward can’t let BP become the primary target. BP isn’t going to get out of this unharmed, by any means. But Hayward will try to lessen the damage to BP in two ways: spend the estimated $6 million a day to make sure the oil leaking from its well doesn’t make it to shore; and push the “Transocean is accountable” line as often as possible.

The best case scenario for BP? When the public sees images of the clean-up effort, they think of BP — and when they see images of the rig explosion and the subsequent oil slick, they think of Transocean. Given BP’s ubiquity and Transocean’s relative public anonymity, though, that’s likely a pipe dream.

April 28, 2010

Automobile Safety News: Ford, Porsche, BMW, Volvo and Braun Announce Tire Recalls

Defects in several automobile models have prompted manufacturersincluding Ford, Porsche, BMW, Volvo
and Braun to recall affected carsand sport utility vehicles. The National Highway Traffic SafetyAdministration
(NHTSA) has been notified of the defects and recalls,according to information provided by the
New York Times on Friday,April 23, 2010.

Ford, Porsche, BMW, Volvo and Braun to recall affected cars and sport utility vehicles. The National
Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been notified of the defects and recalls,
according to information provided by the New York Times on Friday, April 23, 2010.

Ford recalled approximately 33,000 cars and SUVs due to safety issues concerning defective front
seats in 2010 Explorer, Explorer Sport Trac, Mercury Mountaineer, Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan
vehicles. The NHTSA was notified of hazards in which the manual recliner mechanism’s “gear plate
teeth” may have been constructed “out of dimensional specification”, which could cause the seats to
collapse backwards. As a result of the defect, the seats were not deemed to be up to par with federal
safety regulations for strength. No adverse incident or injuries have been reported in connection with
the problem.

Porsche also announced a safety recall of 2010 Panameras, in connection with a hazard in which “the
restraint function of the safety belts can no longer be guaranteed”. About 3,200 Porsche Panameras
are affected by the recall, issued with regard to a risk in which the vehicles seat belts could detach in
the event of an accident. The automobile manufacturer reportedly has a fix for the problem, with
repairs expected to take 15 minutes to perform. No injuries were reported.
Volvo recalled nearly 2,500 2010 XC90s for a defect that could cause a potential fuel leak.
BMW recalled approximately 735 2010 X5 Ms for an issue in which the vehicle’s side-marker lights
cannot light up due to the alleged fact that they were never connected to power cables.
Braun issued an automotive recall as well, in which 834 wheelchair-accessible Dodge Caravans and
Chrysler Town and Country “Entervan” minivans, years 2008 through 2010, were affected. Braun
reportedly informed the NHTSA that the “fuel filler pipe may rub against the left rear tire and cause a
leak”, subsequently prompting a fire hazard.