|2004 OSHSPA Report > State initiatives: changing the work environment|
|State initiatives: changing the work environment|
In an effort to better serve the growing number of limited- and non-English-speaking workers in California, Cal/OSHA has actively sought to overcome language barriers between the Cal/OSHA staff and the public it serves. Recent publications have been translated into multiple languages, depending on the type of industry addressed. Cal/OSHA has issued 31 Spanish publications, seven Chinese publications, five Korean publications, two Russian publications, eight Tagalog publications and seven Vietnamese publications.
Due to the largely Spanish-speaking agricultural workforce in California, Cal/OSHA enforcement strives to increase awareness of workers’ rights and employers’ responsibilities through an increase in bilingual educational and public relations efforts that target worker advocacy groups, employers and workers. The Cal/OSHA Enforcement Unit is working collaboratively with agricultural worker advocacy groups to increase compliance at agricultural worksites through education, outreach and referral inspections.
The Cal/OSHA Enforcement Unit has attended meetings with various advocacy groups, such as Lideres Campesinas, California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA), Agricultural Pesticide Coalition and Farmworkers’ Coalition. These meetings provide Cal/OSHA with additional opportunities to open pathways of communication among DOSH, worker advocates and the Hispanic agricultural community.
Cal/OSHA has significantly increased the number of in-house staff members who have been certified as bilingual. Employees fluent in Arabic, Cantonese, Korean, Mandarin, Punjabi, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese have met requirements needed to earn a salary augmentation for their bilingual ability.
Hand weeding regulation
California has adopted a historic regulation banning hand weeding in agriculture. Cal/OSHA banned "el cortito" ("the short one," a short-handled hoe), but determined it did not have the legal authority to force employers to use "available and reasonable" tools as an alternative to hand weeding. Under the new regulation, hand weeding, thinning or "hot-capping" in a stooped, kneeling or squatting position is no longer permitted if there is a "readily available, reasonable" alternative. Exemptions are provided for high-density crops spaced less than two inches apart, organic farms, seedlings and horticultural commodities.
Permissible exposure limits
Cal/OSHA has asked for stakeholder input about a proposal to add or reduce the permissible exposure limits (PELs) for 14 substances considered air contaminants. Cal/OSHA has scheduled an advisory meeting to discuss the PEL situation.
Personal protective equipment
The Cal/OSHA Standards Board approved revisions to "clearly indicate that the employer is responsible" for ensuring all personal protective equipment, whether provided by the employer or owned by the employee, complies with established standards and the equipment is stored in a safe, sanitary condition. The revision stems from an incident in which an employee used protective gloves that had been improperly stored and were contaminated with corrosive material. The employee, unaware of the contamination, sustained chemical burns to both hands.
California’s Repetitive Motion Injury (RMI) standard, which became effective July 3, 1997, was the first ergonomics standard adopted in the nation. The application of the standard is triggered when at least two employees at the employer’s worksite report RMIs that are: 1. diagnosed by a licensed physician; 2. caused predominantly by identical work activity; and 3. occurred within 12 months of each other.
Enforcement related to ergonomics
Cal/OSHA investigated AC Transit as a result of a complaint alleging repetitive motion injuries. Employees at this facility pulled moneyboxes from buses and emptied them into a wall safe. Each moneybox weighed 20 to 30 pounds. Employees emptied as many as 50 moneyboxes an hour and carried them as far as 50 feet to the wall safe.
Three new repetitive motion injuries were documented since the injuries that resulted in an earlier inspection with citations issued in 2001. Abatement of the 2001 citations was found to be inadequate upon reinspection. This conclusion was aided by comparing the Hayward facility to other facilities at which the identical job task is performed. Two citations totaled $108,000 for the repeat violations and lack of training.
Consultation and education efforts related to ergonomics
Cal/OSHA Consultation Service has worked with industry, labor, the medical community and others to develop best practices and programs for preventing repetitive motion injuries in specific industries. The consultation service has issued a number of publications based on best practices and programs actually adopted by employers in a particular industry for reducing musculoskeletal disorders.
Publications are developed with input from industry associations, employers, labor organizations and others. Ergonomics in action describes best practices for the food processing industry. The Back injury prevention guide gives examples for lifting patients and for other tasks in nursing homes. The Consultation Service has also issued ergonomic survival guides for workers on construction sites.
A series of publications for very small businesses cover ergonomics issues for cosmetology, dry cleaning, retail and wholesale, child care providers, landscaping, auto repair, bars and restaurants, and health care. Many of these have been translated into more than one language.
Process safety management
One of the most potentially dangerous tasks at a refinery is "turnaround" – the shutdown of part of the plant for maintenance or repair. The turnaround can lead to serious accidents because of the frenetic pace to complete projects and get the refinery back on line.
An accident at Tosco refinery in 1999, which killed four workers and seriously injured a fifth, occurred during "turnaround." The division’s investigations found Tosco failed to shut down the naphtha piping operations prior to maintenance work. Naphtha flowed through the line onto hot surfaces of the adjoining tower, ignited and burst into a fireball after hitting hot equipment.
As a result of the Tosco accident, Cal/OSHA received funding for two process safety management (PSM) offices – in Northern and Southern California. The PSM offices are dedicated to doing inspections of refineries, chemical plants and explosives facilities. The PSM units work closely with refineries and other facilities, conducting up to four yearly inspections each. They also work with hazardous-materials units. Safe turnarounds as well as everyday operations depend on training of workers and employers, and well-developed emergency response and communications systems.
Cal/OSHA’s VPP approved the first refinery to certify as a Star site. Valero Wilmington Refinery, Wilmington, Calif., uses behavior-based safety to prevent accidents and turnaround safety teams to manage safety during shutdowns for maintenance. Valero’s Benicia, Calif., plant is also a VPP applicant and will probably be approved by the end of 2005.
Workplace violence prevention
California’s 1994 conference about workplace security, the first of its kind, was part of a drive to promote additional research and develop guidelines for preventing workplace violence. California issued Guidelines for security and safety of health care and community service workers, Cal/OSHA guidelines for workplace security and a model injury and illness prevention program for workplace security.
Although workplace violence is part of a larger societal problem, the employer is still required to provide a safe and healthful workplace. State regulations require employers to establish, implement and maintain an effective injury and illness prevention program (IIPP). The IIPP must include procedures for identifying and evaluating workplace hazards, including scheduled periodic inspections to identify unsafe conditions and work practices. Employers at risk for robbery or other types of violent assaults must include workplace security in their IIPP.
California legislation provides for a targeted inspection program and a targeted consultation program. These programs are supported fiscally by assessments on the subset of insured and self-insured California employers that have an EX-MOD of 1.25 or greater to a Targeted Inspection and Consultation Fund (TICF). Because employers with a high EX-MOD for workers’ compensation purposes are required to pay an assessment, they are given priority for consultations.
It has been found that a high EX-MOD rate does not distinguish between "claims" of injuries for workers’ compensation purposes and "occupational hazards" that represent violations of safety regulations. Therefore, the consultant reviews the record of on-the-job injuries and illnesses and workers’ compensation claims and makes recommendations in addition to conducting an on-site safety and health consultation. If traffic accidents are a predominant reason for the high EX-MOD rate, Consultation makes recommendations along the lines of providing driver training to workers.
Connecticut (CONN-OSHA) is developing a major outreach program to address the number one cause of workplace fatalities – motor-vehicle accidents. The program will be more than a defensive driving course, because it will also identify bad driving habits and provide solutions for resolving them. It will also focus on fleet safety and developing safe driving programs for municipalities and state agencies or those employers that provide multiple vehicles for their workforce. The program is expected to roll out in time for the summer vacation travel
The Kentucky Department of Labor has added a position in the Commissioner’s Office with responsibilities to provide outreach to the Hispanic-speaking employers and employees of the commonwealth.
Maryland prints its Safety and health protection on the job poster in English and Spanish. Maryland Occupational Safety and Health (MOSH) also publishes its Closing conference guide in Spanish; this booklet explains the employer’s rights following an inspection.
During fiscal-year 2004, Maryland developed a Seguridad en la construccion full-day seminar for Spanish-speaking employers and employees. The delivery of this program will begin during fiscal-year 2005. MOSH also began working on hosting a conference targeted to construction companies that use or hire Spanish-speaking subcontractors or workers. This conference is a direct response to concerns about a disproportionate number of deaths and injuries to non-English-speaking workers.
Michigan’s strategic plan includes musculoskeletal disorders as a focus for reducing injuries and illnesses by 20 percent. Without a standard, MIOSHA can rely on the general duty requirement to issue citations and penalties in the most extreme cases. Citations are issued when the state finds repetitive motion injuries of which the employer was aware and knew how to prevent, but did not make adequate, reasonable effort to prevent them.
Michigan OSHA conducts extensive outreach and education focused at improving ergonomic conditions. Since 1991, the Ergonomics Committee has encouraged proactive, voluntary compliance through training, consultation and recognition of positive efforts. The committee oversees an ergonomics awards program that recognizes voluntary ergonomic innovations and activities. Since the program began, 43 Ergonomic Innovation Awards and 11 Ergonomic Success Awards have been issued. During fiscal-year 2004, MIOSHA conducted 89 workshops and 147 consultations/interventions related to ergonomics.
In 2002, two MIOSHA standards commissions responsible for developing and adopting workplace safety and health standards approved establishing an advisory committee to begin the process of drafting a Michigan ergonomics standard. This advisory committee has responsibility for researching, drafting, obtaining public input and making recommendations to the commissions.
Michigan has completed work on a Violence in the workplace program. The heightened awareness of the population to workplace exposures due to terrorism, domestic violence and potentially out-of-control workers, along with many requests from employers for assistance, has led to the development of training seminars by the Consultation Education and Training (CET) Division.
A CET grant was awarded to the Center for Workplace Violence Prevention to develop a video/DVD, Workplace violence prevention: implementing your program. The video provides practical information and guidelines for employers to structure and implement a violence prevention program in their workplace. During fiscal-year 2004, two seminars about this topic were conducted.
In response to a fatality related to the spraying of truck-bed liners, Michigan OSHA (MIOSHA) conducted a campaign to warn companies of the toxic chemicals included in spray-on truck-bed liner products. MIOSHA mailed a bedliner alert to all companies using these products and conducted 73 site visits.
Asbestos awareness campaign
This initiative informed all construction companies they are required by law to provide asbestos awareness training for employees who may contact asbestos-containing materials. MIOSHA mailed information to 25,000 construction companies, informing them of the training requirements, and conducted 21 workshops.
Trenching and excavation campaign
MIOSHA launched an extensive awareness campaign to remind employers they are required to provide excavation protection and training. MIOSHA sent letters to 4,100 employers and 23 associations to encourage them to use all available resources, including MIOSHA outreach services, to provide required employee training. In response, 272 companies requested training for 2,098 employees.
Michigan prints its Safety and health protection on the job poster in English and Spanish. MIOSHA also publishes two brochures, Your rights and responsibilities under MIOSHA and the Michigan’s employee right to know, in Spanish. The MIOSHA video MIOSHA: Your workplace partner – on-site consultation program was dubbed into a Spanish version. The CET video loan library now includes 14 Spanish-speaking construction safety videos.
In fiscal-year 2004, MNOSHA established a 75/25 Program, a penalty reduction incentive program available to qualified employers that links workers’ compensation claim rates and MNOSHA compliance penalties. This program will allow an employer to obtain a 75 percent reduction in penalties, provided it reduces its workers’ compensation claims by 25 percent within a one-year period. This plan provides employers in Minnesota an economic incentive to reduce accidents and protect employees from harm. Participation in this program does not preclude an employer from using consultation services; in fact, it is encouraged. Employers selecting this option receive a 75 percent reduction in penalties assessed as a result of a compliance inspection, provided the citations issued were not willful, repeat or failure to abate citations. In addition, the compliance inspection could not be the result of a fatality, serious injury or catastrophe. Complete information about the program is online at www.doli.state.mn.us/mnosha.html.
Although it does not have a state ergonomics standard, Minnesota was one of the first states to examine and cite ergonomic problems in the workplace. The ergonomics team, which produced Guidelines for Resident Handling in Long-Term-Care facilities, conducts comprehensive inspections of selected facilities that include a thorough review of injury and illness records, a complete walkaround inspection and abatement recommendations.
Two ergonomics specialists in MNOSHA’s Workplace Safety Consultation unit continue to help employers resolve ergonomics-related hazards.
Workplace violence prevention
Minnesota’s Workplace Violence Prevention Program helps employers and their employees reduce the incidence of violence in their workplaces by providing on-site consultation, telephone assistance, education and training seminars, and a resource center. This program targets workplaces at high risk of violence: convenience stores, service stations, taxi and transit operations, restaurants and bars, motels, guard services, patient care facilities, schools, social services, residential care facilities and correctional institutions. The program is administered by the Workplace Safety Consultation (WSC) unit of MNOSHA.
Minnesota Rules review and update
Minnesota-specific standards are reviewed annually by the Department of Labor and Industry; obsolete rules are recommended for repeal. In fiscal-year 2004, MNOSHA did a broad review to identify obsolete rules and rules that needed updating. Three rules were repealed: Minnesota Rules 5207.0010 Anchor Bolts; Minn. Rules 5207.0020 Bar, Floor, and Roof Joists; and Minn. Rules 5207.0250 Walking, Working Surfaces, subp. 5, Roofs; and, two were amended to clarify the definition of a confined space: Minn. Rules 5207.0300 and 5207.0301, Confined Spaces in Construction.
In fiscal-year 2004, MNOSHA reviewed the workflow of three internal processes. Priorities for further analysis were then determined as follows: citation lapse time in health, processing time for the support staff, and contested cases lapse time. The average citation issuance lapse time for health was reduced 5 percent, to 54 calendar-days. Support staff members were able to reduce the processing time from an average of 12 days to three days. And, the average lapse time from receipt of contest to first level decision was 135 days in fiscal-year 2004, a 12 percent reduction from the previous year, when 246 cases were settled in an average of 153 days. Lapse time regarding response to abatement verification, discrimination and information requests were not evaluated at this time.
Discrimination unit improvements
MNOSHA consulted two state-plan states, Washington and Michigan, to facilitate discussion and comparison of their approach and process with regard to discrimination. As a result, some of the processes at MNOSHA were streamlined and staffing changes were made near the end of fiscal-year 2004. A third investigator position was added, which reduced open-case time dramatically. MNOSHA also consulted legal advisors to determine requirements for legal sufficiency to ensure case files contained appropriate documentation.
Nevada’s Safety Consultation and Training Section expanded its ergonomics training to include a class about typical ergonomic risk factors found in businesses, besides the emphasis on ergonomic concerns with video display terminals. Bilingual outreach training to the Hispanic community has been provided, covering subjects in both construction and general industry. Nevada is also presenting a class for supervisors with non-English-speaking employees to address the state statutes requiring that employers train in a language and format the employees understand and identify the issues that can cause miscommunication.
Workers in New Jersey’s county long-term and personal care facilities experience rates of occupational injury and illness similar to public-sector workers who perform heavy labor jobs, such as refuse collection and utility work (NJ Department of Labor, 2001). The majority of these injuries and illnesses are musculoskeletal in nature and are associated with lifting, moving and transferring residents. New Jersey is encouraging all long-term and acute health care facilities to implement the OSHA Guidelines for nursing homes: ergonomics for the prevention of musculoskeletal disorders through the services of the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (NJDHSS) Public Employees Occupational Safety and Health (PEOSH) Consultation Project.
The NJDHSS Consultation Project is evaluating compliance with the occupational health standards that apply to long-term-care settings, including bloodborne pathogens, asbestos, hazard communication and respiratory protection. In addition, the NJDHSS Consultation Project is evaluating workplace tuberculosis (TB) prevention activities and workplace violence protection.
NJDHSS consultations at long-term-care facilities have revealed that assistance is required in the following areas:
In March 2003, NJDHSS PEOSH Program began a programmed inspection initiative of hazardous materials (HAZMAT) response teams throughout the state. NJDHSS conducted compliance inspections of 22 of the 45 public HAZMAT teams and will inspect all New Jersey HAZMAT teams. The inspection procedures focused on evaluating compliance with the Respiratory Protection Standard (29 CFR 1910.134) and the Hazardous Materials Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) Standard (29 CFR 1910.120).
Violations cited primarily consisted of failure to provide medical monitoring and failure to establish a written respiratory protection program that included a section to outline criteria used to select the type of respirator used at a particular event.
Workplace violence prevention
On Oct. 5, 2004, the New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board adopted regulations designed to improve workplace safety for convenience store employees. The regulations, which are the most comprehensive of their kind in the country, require convenience stores that are open between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. to either have two workers on duty or to limit public access to store clerks through the use of bullet-resistant glass. Additional required safety measures include surveillance cameras, panic alarms for employees, adequate lighting, unobstructed views of the cashier counter from outside the store, cash management procedures and training for employees.
Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that in 2003, workplace violence was the third leading cause of job-related deaths, accounting for 902 of the 5,575 fatalities that year, and was the second leading cause of fatalities among women. Even more dramatic is that 97.5 percent (39 of 40) of convenience store worker deaths were the result of assaults and violent acts.
The New Mexico Petroleum Marketers Association appealed the adoption of the regulations in the Court of Appeals. However, the regulations are in effect pending consideration of the case by the court.
Communication Tower Standard
The first Communication Tower Standard in the country has been approved in North Carolina. Most of the standard’s requirements became effective May 1, 2005. The standard requires 100 percent fall protection for tower work above six feet. Industry groups and other stakeholders helped in the development of the standard.
North Carolina has a number of safety and health documents in Spanish, including the Safety and health protection on the job poster and inspection forms that describe specific employee rights and responsibilities. The state also communicates a safety and health message to the Hispanic population through the availability of Spanish language videos with more than 50 Spanish titles. Safety and health videos in Spanish have also been developed for use on Spanish-speaking television outlets. Efforts have been made to increase the number of staff members who speak Spanish. This has been accomplished through hiring practices and training. Currently, the state has 19 employees who speak Spanish. Work has begun on creating a Web page in Spanish. Visitors to the Web site will be able to download training materials in Spanish. This will include course training modules, brochures and samples of written safety and health programs.
Oregon addresses the issue of workplace violence primarily through outreach and training. The OR-OSHA publication Violence in the workplace provides employers information about the causes of workplace violence, their responsibility to maintain a safe work environment, how to deal with potentially volatile situations and how to develop a violence prevention program. The online training course Developing your violence prevention program is another resource available from Oregon OSHA. The course offers guidelines and suggestions for customizing a workplace violence prevention program. Twenty-two educational titles about workplace violence are also available for loan to employers on video or CD-ROM.
The second annual Safety Break for Oregon was in 2004. The event was organized to help remind people of the need to focus on improving workplace safety to reduce the number of injuries and illnesses that occur each year in Oregon’s workplaces. Several thousand employees in worksites across the state took advantage of the opportunity to talk about the value of safety, celebrate their accomplishments and post the proclamation that Governor Ted Kulongoski issued recognizing the Safety Break for Oregon. Employers were able to take advantage of the public information and community promotion assistance offered on the Oregon OSHA Web site.
Oregon OSHA partnered with the Oregon State Association of Nurses and the Oregon Coalition for Healthcare Ergonomics to present an innovative Healthcare Ergonomics Conference in 2004. The purpose of the conference was to share real-world solutions to reducing injuries among health care providers and support service personnel. According to workers’ compensation data, more than 1,500 health care professionals in Oregon received serious on-the-job injuries in 2002, 68 percent of which were sprains, strains and muscle tears. Injury prevention is crucial to Oregon’s health care industry. Presenters from Canada, Australia and Denmark participated in the conference. The three-day event was attended by 198 participants.
Discrimination against workers reporting hazards
Puerto Rico completed the investigation of 19 discrimination cases. All the cases accomplished the established time frame. PR OSHA settled two cases at the agency level during fiscal-year 2004.
The Secretary of Labor signed an administrative order requiring the chief of every government agency to develop or improve a safety and health program for his or her agency. To help each government chief, PR OSHA provided information and training sessions to develop effective safety and health programs.
To address the steady increase of Hispanic worker deaths and accidents, the South Carolina Hispanic Worker Task Force was initiated. This group is made up of representatives from business, associations, South Carolina Occupational Safety and Health (SCOSH) and Hispanic groups throughout South Carolina. Several training sessions have been completed and many others are scheduled throughout the state. The training sessions have been well-attended by workers and employers; the goal is to see a decrease in Hispanic deaths or accidents on the job.
Tennessee OSHA has made significant improvements in the staff’s ability to communicate with non-English-speaking workers. A pool of interpreters is available throughout the state to travel with a compliance officer when on-site interpretation is needed. In addition, an interpretive service is available to the compliance officer by telephone in approximately 23 different languages. All compliance officers have been issued cellular phones.
Utah Occupational Safety and Health (UOSH) is a member of a lead task-force whose membership includes the Utah Division of Air Quality, Utah state and county health departments, and local county governments. Through participation in this task force, UOSH provides information and training about the regulatory requirements for worker exposure to lead during the removal of lead-based paint in housing.
Due to a large number of accidents resulting in serious injury to employees handling marble and granite slabs, Utah compliance assistance developed an informative pamphlet about safe handling and storage techniques for slabs. The pamphlet also addressed other recognized stone industry safety and health hazards, including methods of preventing of silicosis.
UOSH regularly provides outreach instruction to local universities with programs in industrial hygiene, ergonomics and safety engineering, and construction management. The presentations address information about UOSH and regulatory requirements.
The Virgin Islands Division of Occupational Safety and Health (VIDOSH) is working on revising the legislation governing its program to reflect its new public-sector-only status. VIDOSH is also upgrading its computers and developing an online complaint form.
After Washington adopted an ergonomics rule in May 2000, the state faced a number of attempts to have the standard overturned. In 2002, a business coalition mounted a legal challenge contending the Department of Labor and Industries exceeded its authority when adopting the rule, acted arbitrarily and did not properly follow rulemaking requirements. The case went to trial and Washington’s actions were affirmed by a Superior Court ruling. The case was appealed to and heard by the Washington State Supreme Court, but before a ruling was issued, industry groups launched another challenge through the state’s voter initiative process. The ergonomics rule was repealed by voters in Washington’s November 2003 general election.
The requirements of the prevention-based rule were designed to be triggered by specific hazards in the workplace, rather than occurrence of musculoskeletal disorder symptoms or injuries. In the absence of a rule, WISHA still faces the challenge of addressing work-related musculoskeletal disorders. These types of injuries (50,000 annually) account for one-third of injury claims and 40 percent of claims costs. Washington is continuing to work with businesses and employee groups to conduct comprehensive education and outreach efforts. Efforts are now focused on workshops, helpful materials and tools for employers, demonstration projects that can be adapted and used by other employers, and on-site consultation visits.
One of the tools available is an ergonomics ideas bank, a searchable collection of ideas for preventing workplace injuries. Many ideas were collected from companies with existing ergonomics programs and employers that participated in demonstration projects. The bank is online at www.lni.wa.gov/safety/topics/reducehazards/ergobank/default.asp and can be searched by risk factor or industry.
Washington developed safety and health standards for the late-night retail industry in 1990, and uses enforcement and consultation for hazard abatement and prevention. The Workplace Violence Awareness and Prevention workshop helps participants assess risk factors and develop preventive measures. A written guide about these topics and a sample prevention program were developed by WISHA with more than 30 representatives of labor, business and the academic community. WISHA’s video Is it worth your life?, with real-life scenarios, demonstrates what workers and employers can do to prevent injuries. The video is distributed to employer networks and associations.
Washington’s Safety and Health Assessment and Research for Prevention (SHARP) program at the Department of Labor and Industries has conducted several comprehensive studies of workplace violence. The most recent is based on federal and state data for 1995 through 2000. Homicide remained the fourth leading cause of workplace deaths in Washington, with 8 percent of all fatal workplace injuries and an average of 11 cases a year. There was a decrease in the number of homicides reported in the SHARP 1997 study.
Most incidents were consistent with known risk factors. Most workplace homicides were committed by persons unknown to the victims and most of the victims worked in retail trade, security services or transit. This is in striking contrast to the circumstances in which nonfatal workplace assaults occur, which were in a custodial or client-caregiver relationship such as health care or social services. While progress has been made in the health care and social services sectors, there is a troubling rising trend in police protection and some other public service sectors. In most cases, though, there are predictable and controllable risk factors that increase the likelihood of assault. Prevention strategies such as hazard assessment and de-escalation training can help address known risk factors.
Having a strong and effective program to investigate complaints of alleged workplace safety and health related discrimination is an essential component of a state occupational safety and health (OSH) program. Absent this incentive for employers to comply, a state’s ability to effectively enforce its safety and health regulations would be seriously impacted. A state-plan’s authorizing legislation must include a section prohibiting retaliation against any employee because that employee complained about safety or health issues or exercised any right provided by the OSH Act.
Washington’s discrimination investigations program is a nationwide leader with exemplary timeliness, merit and settled case rates. In 2004, WISHA completed 92 percent of 102 case investigations within the 90-day statutory time line. Forty-six percent of investigated cases resulted in merit findings, more than twice the average national rate. In addition, 98 percent of the merit cases were settled by WISHA, with more than $140,000 in settlement monies obtained for complainants. About 70 additional cases that did not meet the requirement of prima facie evidence to establish that a complaint has merit were screened and closed. "Prima facie" elements must include evidence of the following:
Washington provides a Spanish version of its WISHA Web site, including a description of services, answers to frequently asked questions and copies of Spanish language publications. The site is online at www.lni.wa.gov/spanish/safety/default.asp. In partnership with the construction industry, WISHA developed online videos for residential construction about siding, roofing and framing safety. All of these are available on the Web in both English and Spanish.
Cholinesterase is essential to the normal function of the nervous system. Without the normal protective levels, nerves in the body may be overstimulated to the point of exhaustion, leading to symptoms ranging from blurred vision and tremors to seizures, loss of consciousness and even death. Washington adopted cholinesterase monitoring rules that went into effect in February 2004, to protect agricultural pesticide handlers. The state conducted an extensive public outreach and training program in both Spanish and English. Tests of the level of free cholinesterase in workers’ blood can identify their overexposure to certain dangerous pesticides that suppress the body’s production of the enzyme. Washington has recommended such tests since 1993, and, in 2002, was required by a Supreme Court decision to initiate rulemaking for a mandatory cholinesterase monitoring program for agricultural pesticide handlers. WISHA worked with employer and employee advocates, as well as members of both houses of the Washington State Legislature.
During spring 2004, Washington conducted an extensive outreach and training program, including workshops, presentations, radio talk shows, fact sheets and news releases in Spanish and in English. Thousands of growers, workers, medical providers and others learned about the new rules, which require that employers:
In 2004, Washington launched a new emphasis program for road construction with two significant goals: to prevent fatalities and injuries caused by moving vehicles at jobsites and to protect workers from hearing loss caused by exposure to hazardous noise levels from heavy machinery. Seventeen workers have been killed since 1999 while doing construction or utility work on road projects. Six of those workers died when they were backed over by dump trucks, including two last year in King County. These deaths occurred despite the trucks being equipped with audible back-up alarms. Most of these deaths were preventable and WISHA is taking further steps to protect workers in this industry.
On May 5, 2004, Washington adopted an emergency rule requiring that in addition to a back-up alarm, dump-truck drivers must have either an observer signaling when it is safe to back up or a mechanical device such as a video camera that provides a full view of the area behind the truck. Following public hearings in September, the rules were permanently adopted Dec. 1, as part of Chapter 296-155 WAC, Safety Standards for Construction. WISHA also reorganized and rewrote the sections of the rule about signs, signaling and flagging, and the rules for motor-vehicle safety. One provision clarifies that seat belts must not only be properly installed, they must be used by all occupants of the vehicle.
Noise was selected as a focus area out of the desire to expand Washington’s cross-agency safety initiatives to a health emphasis program. One-third of the costs of all permanent job-related impairments are due to hearing loss ($43 million in 2001). The incident rate for road construction is 10 times higher than for all other risk classes and three times higher compared to the rest of the construction industry. Washington is using contacts with partners in state, county and city offices, the Department of Labor and Industries’ prevailing wage program and referrals from other agency programs to locate worksites.
In 2004, the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries developed and implemented a new model for delivering workplace injury prevention services throughout the state. The Prevention Services Initiative integrates the resources of the department’s WISHA program, Insurance Services and Field Services. Key elements include:
Wyoming uses its access to company-specific workers’ compensation data to determine the impact of an inspection or consultation visit on the company’s injuries. Workers’ compensation claims cover a much broader spectrum of workplace injuries and illnesses than those recorded on the OSHA Form 300. For measurement purposes, the 12-month period before the visit is compared to 12 months after. Three variables are measured in each company: the number of employees, the number of claims filed and the cost of the claims. Essentially, these three indicators measure injury and illness frequency and severity.
In the course of inspections and consultations, the inspector or consultant presents a cost/benefit analysis to the employer. In this analysis, the employer is shown its number of claims reported to Wyoming Workers’ Compensation, the body part injured, the cost of the claims and the amount of money held in reserve for future medical treatment of these claims. Lastly, the employer is shown current and past premium amounts, which are compared to the amount the employer would have paid if it had reported the average number of claims for its standard industrial classification (SIC) code. These two amounts are then compared to the lowest amount the employer would have paid with the least number of claims and/or the lowest claims cost.
Next Section: State innovations: technical advances»