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January 17, 2012 · Volume 11, Issue 2
A twice monthly e-news product with information about workplace safety and health.
In this issue

OSHA publishes Injury and Illness Prevention Programs White Paper

OSHA has published a new Injury and Illness Prevention Programs White Paper on the agency's Web site. An injury and illness prevention program is a proactive process to help employers find and fix workplace hazards before workers are hurt. These programs are effective at reducing injuries, illnesses, and fatalities. Many workplaces have already adopted such approaches, for example as part of OSHA's cooperative programs. Not only do these employers experience dramatic decreases in workplace injuries, but they often report a transformed workplace culture that can lead to higher productivity and quality, reduced turnover, reduced costs, and greater employee satisfaction.

Thirty-four states and many nations around the world already require or encourage employers to implement such programs. The key elements common to all of these programs are management leadership, worker participation, hazard identification and assessment, hazard prevention and control, education and training, and program evaluation and improvement.

OSHA believes that adoption of injury and illness prevention programs based on simple, sound, proven principles will help millions of U.S. businesses improve their compliance with existing laws and regulations, decrease the incidence of workplace injuries and illnesses, reduce costs (including significant reductions in workers' compensation premiums) and enhance their overall business operations. Read more on OSHA's Injury and Illness Prevention Programs Web page.

OSHA has also initiated a Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) Panel Process on a draft Injury and Illness Prevention Program rule on January 6, 2012. The SBREFA Panel process is an opportunity, prior to publishing a proposed rule, for affected small entities (including small businesses, small local governments and small not-for-profit entities) to provide input on the impacts of a draft proposed rule--as well as alternatives that OSHA is considering--on small business and to suggest ways such impacts might be decreased, consistent with agency statutory goals. OSHA convened a SBREFA Panel, which consists of members from OSHA, the Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy, and the Office of Management and Budget's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (5 U.S.C. 609 (b)(3)). Visit the OSHA Web site for more information on the SBREFA process.

The high costs of falls in construction for employers

A new OSHA PowerPoint presentation shows the heavy financial cost resulting from falls in construction. OSHA analyzed workers’ compensation data for injuries resulting from falls from elevations suffered by roofers and carpenters. The data, which covers 2005-2007, comes from 38 states, which comprises approximately 1/3 of total workers’ compensation benefits.

OSHA's analysis of fall injuries for roofers and carpenters found that: falls from elevations by roofers cost an average of approximately $106,000 each; falls from elevations by carpenters cost an average of over $97,000 each. To find out more information, view the PowerPoint presentation of Workers' Compensation Costs of Falls in Construction posted on OSHA's Residential Fall Protection Web page.

OSHA orders Union Pacific Railroad Co. to reinstate and pay more than $300,000 to terminated whistleblower

OSHA ordered Omaha, Neb.-based Union Pacific Railroad Co. to immediately reinstate an employee in Idaho who was terminated after reporting a work-related injury. OSHA also has ordered the company to pay the employee more than $300,000 in back wages, compensatory damages, attorney's fees and punitive damages. The employee filed a whistleblower complaint with OSHA, alleging suspension without pay and then termination 23 days after notifying the company of an on-the-job injury. OSHA's investigation found reasonable cause to believe that the disciplinary charges and termination were not based on the complainant breaking a work rule but on the complainant reporting an injury to the railroad, which violates the whistleblower protection provisions of the Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA). In addition to reinstatement and monetary compensation, OSHA has ordered the railroad to refrain from retaliating against the employee for exercising rights guaranteed under the FRSA. See the news release for more information.

OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Program enforces the whistleblower provisions of the FRSA and 20 other statues protecting employees who report violations of various securities, trucking, airline, nuclear, pipeline, environmental, public transportation, workplace safety and health, consumer product safety, health care reform and financial reform laws. Under these laws enacted by Congress, employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise various protected concerns or provide protected information to the employer or to the government.

OSHA proposes more than $1 million in fines to Houston, Texas, employer for willful and serious violations

OSHA cited Piping Technology and Products Inc. for 13 willful and 17 serious violations for exposing workers to the risk of amputations and other serious injuries from dangerous machinery, as well as other hazards, at the company's Houston facility. Proposed penalties total $1,013,000.

Earlier this year a worker filed a complaint with OSHA alleging a lack of brakes on overhead cranes and unguarded presses at Piping Technology. In addition to substantiating the complaint items, OSHA's inspection found that employees were permitted to cut metal I-beams and pipes without the proper machine guarding, which exposed them to possible severe injuries. Additionally, OSHA inspectors found that the company had failed to guard seven band saws and to lock out all of the sources of hazardous energy to six pieces of equipment before service and maintenance.

OSHA placed Piping Technology in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law. Initiated in June 2010, the program focuses on employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations. See the news release for more information.

Grain company fined nearly $100,000 for exposing workers to unsafe conditions

OSHA issued LaBolt Farmers Grain Company, Inc. in LaBolt, S.D., 13 citations for exposing workers to unsafe conditions at its grain handling facility where a worker was caught in a moving bin sweep auger and suffered severe injuries to his leg and arm. Proposed penalties total $95,920. OSHA issued LaBolt four willful, six repeat and three serious citations. The willful citations address the alleged failure of the employer to develop and implement a written confined space program, ensure all equipment that presents a danger is neutralized, complete confined space and grain bin entry permits, and provide a competent person as an entrance observer. A willful violation is one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health. See the news release for more information.

OSHA has fined grain operators in Wisconsin, Illinois, Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota, Ohio and Nebraska following preventable fatalities and injuries. In addition to enforcement actions and training, Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels sent a notification letter in August 2010 and another in February 2011 to grain elevator operators warning them not to allow workers to enter grain storage facilities without proper equipment, precautions and training.

OSHA posts Summary Report of Stakeholder Meeting on Preventing Occupational Hearing Loss

OSHA held an informal stakeholder meeting Nov. 3, 2011, on preventing occupational hearing loss to provide a public forum and gather information on the best practices for noise reduction in the workplace. The meeting included discussions on personal protective equipment, hearing conservation programs and engineering controls. The purpose of the meeting was to elicit the views of employers, workers, and noise control and safety and health professionals about the hazards of occupational exposure to noise and how best to control them. OSHA held this stakeholder meeting as part of its commitment to work with stakeholders on approaches to prevent hearing loss. The meeting had 30 participants, representing industry, trade organizations, academia, unions, and government agencies, as well as consultants, attorneys, and other parties. All participants were given the opportunity to provide verbal comments at the meeting. A Summary of the stakeholder meeting is posted on OSHA's Web site.

OSHA Web page offers information to protect workers during winter storm response and recovery operations

Winter Storms | Photo: FEMA/Michael Rieger OSHA has created a Winter Weather Web page to provide information on protecting workers from hazards they may face during winter storm response and recovery operations. The Web page provides guidance on how employers and workers involved in cleanup and recovery operations can recognize snow storm-related hazards and the necessary steps that employers must take to keep workers safe while working in these conditions. The page includes guidance for workers clearing heavy snow in front of workplaces and from rooftops, workers encountering downed power lines or traveling on icy roads, and utility workers restoring power after winter storms. The new Winter Storms Web page includes links to guidance from OSHA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the American Red Cross, the National Weather Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Safety Council and other agencies and organizations. See the news release for more information.

OSHA directive continues targeted inspection program for protecting federal workers

OSHA recently updated its Federal Agency Targeting Inspection Program (FEDTARG) directive for fiscal year 2012. FEDTARG directs programmed inspections of federal agency establishments that experienced high numbers of lost time injuries during FY 2011. The directive outlines the procedures for carrying out programmed inspections at some of the most hazardous federal workplaces. Changes to this directive include provisions for reviewing alternate and supplementary standards for federal agencies, which are the equivalent of private sector variances from OSHA standards. Other changes include clarifications of how OSHA Area Directors determine the appropriate number and location of on-site inspections for establishments with multiple services or operations.

FEDTARG12 continues OSHA's nationwide inspection targeting program for federal worksites. OSHA's Office of Federal Agency Programs (FAP) provides leadership and guidance to the heads of federal agencies to assist them with their occupational safety and health responsibilities. See the news release for more information.

New evaluation of OSHA effectiveness: Enforcement inspections and safety consultation visits effective in reducing compensable workers' compensation claims rates

A recent study of 10 years of Washington Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) Division of Occupational Safety and Health (WA DOSH) enforcement inspections and safety consultation visits found that those interventions were effective in reducing compensable workers' compensation claims rates and lowering employer costs in the year following the visit. The issuance of DOSH citations for violations of standards, in particular, was shown to have a powerful effect on reducing compensable time-loss injuries. The focus of Washington State DOSH inspections is on hazards related to traumatic injuries that are covered by specific WA DOSH standards, such as unguarded machinery, lockout/tagout practices and fall hazards. At worksites where citations were issued, compensable claims rates for these types of injuries fell by more than triple the amount than at those having an enforcement visit without citation. The study was conducted by Washington L&I's Safety and Health Assessment and Research for Prevention (SHARP) program, and was reported at the recent NACOSH meeting. A summary of the study is available from Washington L&I's Web site.

ACCSH and NACOSH make recommendations to OSHA

The Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health (ACCSH) and the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (NACOSH) both met between Dec. 14-16 at Department of Labor headquarters in Washington, D.C., to advise OSHA on workplace safety and health issues.

At the conclusion of the ACCSH meeting, the committee's Backing Operations Work Group submitted its report on hazards related to backing up construction equipment and recommended that OSHA develop two Backing Operations Web pages that separately address hazards in construction and general industry and address operating equipment with an obstructed view in any direction of travel. Other ACCSH recommendations included additions to OSHA's next Standard Improvement Project and basic principles for developing an injury and illness prevention programs proposal to effectively address multi-employer construction workplaces.

NACOSH members recommended that OSHA keep the injury and illness prevention program proposed rule as the highest priority on the agency's Regulatory Agenda; enhance its efforts to issue the proposed silica rule so that the public hearing and comment period can commence and a final standard issued to protect workers from this serious workplace hazard; and support and fund, along with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and other appropriate parties, a symposium to present best practices of small, medium, and large workplaces on injury and illness prevention programs.

OSHA announces new online Outreach Training Program providers

OSHA Selected 10 OSHA authorized training providers to deliver 25 online courses as part of its Outreach Training Program. The OSHA Outreach Training Program teaches workers how to identify, prevent, and eliminate workplace hazards. The program also informs workers of their rights, employer responsibilities, and how to file a complaint. The courses are voluntary and are not required by OSHA, but they provide training that can help protect workers' safety and health and help employers reduce the high costs of worker injuries and illnesses. The organizations selected by OSHA to offer the online courses will provide a variety of 10- and 30-hour classes designed for Construction, Maritime and General Industry. Since OSHA began authorizing training providers to offer Web-based distance learning in 2001, the online Outreach Training Program has grown significantly. More than 135,000 workers were trained online in 2011? a five-fold increase from the number of online students trained in 2007. Access to courses and other information about the program are available from OSHA's Outreach Training Program Web page. Read the news release for more information.

Scrap metal processor improves workplace safety with help of OSHA's free On-site Consultation Service

As part of a commitment to protect its employees from workplace injuries, General Recycling LLC, a Flowood, Miss., scrap metal processor company, requested a free safety evaluation from OSHA's On-site Consultation Program to help the company expand its safety and health management system. Based on the information provided by the consultant during his visit to the plant, the company quickly corrected all identified safety and health hazards and improved elements of their safety and health management system.

Just over a year after the initial visit to the facility, the consultant returned to General Recycling to conduct a follow-up visit and observed that the company's employees and managers were working together to improve safety. As a result of General Recycling's strong safety and health program and record, the company was accepted into OSHA's Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP).

Indiana Safety & Health Expo and Conference to be held in March

National speakers and the most current safety and health industry information will be highlighted at the 2012 Indiana Safety and Health Conference, to be held March 12-14 at the Indianapolis Marriott East. The three-day event draws over 70 exhibitors and offers more than 50 courses with a variety of education tracks. These include construction safety; occupational health, industrial hygiene; worker's compensation and ergonomic safety; safety management practices; and safety fundamentals. Course information is designed to benefit safety managers/directors, industrial hygienists, contractors, plant managers, safety engineers, human resources managers, maintenance supervisors and other related personnel. See the conference Web site for more information and to register online.

Nebraska VPP Caucus shares best practices to promote continuous improvement in workplace safety and health

The Nebraska VPP Caucus, an informal organization of Nebraska's Voluntary Protection Programs sites, meets on a semi-annual basis to promote continuous improvement through the sharing of best practices. As an offshoot of these meetings, the Caucus initiated an outreach campaign that establishes each VPP site as the focal point for outreach programs in their respective communities. To date, the Caucus has held three meetings and plans to continue meeting semi-annually. Each day-long program is hosted by a participating VPP facility. Meetings consist of a discussion of emerging OSHA issues, strategic planning for community outreach, a presentation by the host facility and a "Best Practices" workshop.

The Caucus' community-based outreach efforts include the Omaha Area OSHA Office's "Getting to Zero" campaign focused on reducing fatalities in the state through education and awareness, and an emphasis on young worker safety through such methods as adopting community schools, offering 10-Hour OSHA Outreach training to students, or hosting plant tours for students. In addition, VPP participant organizations regularly mentor other businesses in their communities, with regard to implementing effective safety and health management systems.

Duke University Web page provides information to prevent worker injuries from nail guns

The mission of Duke University's Web site, Nail Gun Safety: The Facts, is to help prevent nail gun injuries, which hospitalize more construction workers than any other tool-related injury and are responsible for approximately 37,000 emergency room visits annually. Most nail gun injuries are puncture wounds to hands and fingers, but some accidents have caused far more serious injuries and even death. It's not just people who use nail guns who are at risk, but also people who work beside them. Information about nail gun use on the Web site is intended to provide some training tools to help reduce injuries, save lives, promote safe work practices and to inform regulators and other industry stakeholders who can make the safe use of nail guns an even greater priority. Last fall, OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) released the booklet, Nail Gun Safety - A Guide for Construction Contractors, to help construction employers and workers prevent work-related nail gun injuries.

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