|January 15, 2013 · Volume 12, Issue 2|
|A twice monthly e-news product with information about workplace safety and health.|
In this issue
The U.S. Department of Labor has announced the winners of its Worker Safety and Health App Challenge. Prizes totaling $30,000 are going to four entrants who submitted tools that best demonstrate for young workers the importance of recognizing and preventing workplace safety and health hazards and their right to a safe workplace.
The Safety in the Workplace Innovator Award ($15,000 grand prize) went to Working Safely Is No Accident, a website developed by the University of Tennessee Construction Industry Research and Policy Center and the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering. The website offers workers, primarily young workers, conveniently accessible information on common workplace hazards and workers' rights to a safe workplace.
The Safety and Health Data Award ($6,000) went to the United Steelworkers union for its USW Chemical Safety app, allowing users to search Material Safety Data Sheets for workplace-related information on exposure limits, health hazards, controls, personal protective equipment, handling and storing hazardous substances, and emergency procedures for hazardous substances in the workplace.
The Workers' Rights Award ($6,000) went to the No Jack – Young Workers' Safety Campaign website developed by the Montana State Fund (the state's largest workers' compensation insurer). The website targets young workers to educate them and their employers about workers' rights to a safe and healthful workplace.
The People's Choice Award ($3,000) went to Sidharth Garg for his Ergonomics iOS App that offers ergonomic equipment setup advice in an office setting to prevent musculoskeletal injuries. The app offers workplace-specific stretching exercises and programmable reminders to help time breaks.
Fort Worth, Texas-based BNSF Railway Co. has signed an accord with OSHA, announcing BNSF's voluntary revision of several personnel policies that OSHA said violated the whistleblower provisions of the Federal Railroad Safety Act and dissuaded workers from reporting on-the-job injuries. Section 20109 of the Act protects railroad workers from retaliation for, among other things, reporting suspected violations of federal laws and regulations related to railroad safety and security, hazardous safety or security conditions, and on-the-job injuries.
"Ensuring that employees can report injuries or illnesses without fear of retaliation is crucial to protecting worker safety and health," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. "If employees do not feel free to report injuries or illnesses, the employer's entire workforce is put at risk because employers do not learn of and correct dangerous conditions that have resulted in injuries." For more information, see the news release.
Members of the new Whistleblower Protection Advisory Committee will hold their first meeting Jan. 29 at the Labor Department's Frances Perkins Building in Washington, D.C. The WPAC was created to advise and consult with the secretary of labor and the assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health on ways to improve the fairness, efficiency, effectiveness and transparency of OSHA’s whistleblower protection programs.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 and 21 other statutes protecting employees who report reasonably perceive violations of various workplace regulations. More in information is available at www.whistleblowers.gov.
The 12 voting and three ad-hoc members of the WPAC were chosen to represent the interests of labor, management and the public. They will serve two-year terms and meet at least twice a year.
For more information, read the Federal Register notice.
The Office of Management and Budget has published the Fall 2012 unified agenda. The agenda lists regulatory actions now in development and under consideration by each federal agency, providing information about each rule and its stage of development. OSHA's updated agenda includes projected timelines for several safety and health standards. For more information, view the DOL Fall 2012 Agency Rule List from Reginfo.gov.
OSHA has launched a new webpage directed specifically to clinicians. Physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, paramedics and other health care professionals often encounter work-related health and safety issues as they care for their patients. The Clinicians’ webpage provides information, resources and links to help clinicians navigate OSHA's website and provide care for workers. Topics on the webpage include evaluating occupational exposures, OSHA requirements for recordkeeping and medical records, and setting up a safe outpatient office.
OSHA continues to monitor safety conditions for workers involved in the cleanup of Hurricane Sandy. Since the hurricane hit the East Coast two months ago, OSHA has conducted more than 4,400 briefings and other outreach activities, reaching nearly 61,000 workers and employers performing recovery work in Sandy-impacted areas.
OSHA staff is monitoring cleanup sites daily in New York and New Jersey to ensure that workers are protected from exposure to dangerous levels of environmental hazards such as carbon monoxide, asbestos and silica. The data and analysis are posted on OSHA’s Sandy sampling website. For more information, see the news release.
At a Dec. 17 forum in Wall Township, N.J., OSHA joined other agencies and organizations to discuss worker safety and ways to assist residents, business owners, unions, volunteers and advocacy groups. Robert Kulick, OSHA’s New York regional administrator, reminded attendees that employers are responsible for assessing their workplaces for hazards, training their workers, and providing their workers with all necessary controls ? such as personal protective equipment.
Guidance, fact sheets and other information are on OSHA's Hurricane Sandy webpage.
The Department of Labor’s Administrative Review Board has upheld OSHA's finding that the Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corporation of New York and New Jersey violated the rights of an employee when it disciplined the worker for exercising her rights under the Federal Railroad Safety Act. The employee was injured when a chair she sat on broke, causing her to fall. When she reported the injury, the railroad charged her with having caused the accident by failing to "inspect the chair" before sitting in it. The worker then filed a complaint with OSHA, which found in 2010 that the company had violated the whistleblower provisions of the FRSA.
OSHA ordered PATH to pay $1,000 in punitive damages and to take corrective actions, which included expunging disciplinary actions and references to them from various records as well as compensating the worker for attorneys' fees.
PATH filed an appeal before DOL’s Office of Administrative Law Judges, which upheld OSHA's findings in the case. PATH then filed another appeal before the Administrative Review Board. The ARB’s December 2012 decision upheld the OALJ decision.
The MacMillin Co., a Keene, N.H.-based contractor, has reached a settlement with OSHA to correct all cited hazards and pay a $100,000 fine in connection with the September 2011 death of a worker who fell 27 feet on the Keene Middle School construction site. OSHA cited the company for failing to inspect a scaffold for defects, adequately train workers in scaffold erection and inspection, and determine the feasibility of or ensure the use of fall protection for workers during the scaffold erection. The company initially contested its citations, but now has agreed to settle the case. In addition to correcting cited conditions and paying the fine, the company will now provide the same level of training to its temporary workers as it does to its permanent staff, and sponsor presentations on fall protection training for those erecting and dismantling scaffolding. See the news release for more information.
After a truck driver was killed and another worker seriously injured, OSHA cited Lunda Construction Inc. in Black River Falls and Choice Construction Cos. Inc. in Menomonee Falls, Wis., with 10 safety citations. The July 5 incident occurred when a crane collapsed at a bridge construction site on U.S. Route 41 near Oshkosh. The truck driver died when he was struck by the boom of a crane that overturned while bridge girders were being erected with multiple cranes, and a crane operator was seriously injured when he was thrown from the cab as the crane fell. See the news release for more information.
OSHA has cited Rochester, N.Y.-based A.M. Stern Inc. for alleged willful, repeat and serious violations of workplace safety standards while workers installed a roof in the town of Fairport. The roofing contractor faces a total of $159,250 in fines for exposing workers to falls of 15 to 30 feet while working at the unprotected edges of a building's roof. OSHA inspectors determined that the designated on-site safety monitor was not positioned close enough to workers in unprotected sections to warn them about the fall hazards. OSHA also issued the contractor five serious citations, including failure to provide medical evaluations and training for workers required to wear respirators, allowing an untrained worker to operate a forklift, and not providing workers with information and training on hazardous chemicals.
See the news release for more information.
OSHA and the Mine Safety and Health Administration are warning workers and their employers about hazardous exposure to diesel engine exhaust. Diesel engine exhaust, which contains a mixture of gases and small particles including diesel particulate matter, can create a health hazard when not properly controlled. The agencies have issued a hazard alert about workers' exposure to these materials. Diesel engines provide power to a variety of vehicles, heavy equipment and other machinery used in industries such as mining, transportation, construction, agriculture and maritime operations. The health effects of short-term exposure can be headache, dizziness, and irritation of the eye, nose and throat severe enough to distract or disable workers, while long-term exposure can increase the risk of cancer. The hazard alert offers information for employers and workers on engineering controls to mitigate exposure, as well as the OSHA and MSHA enforcement standards for a variety of industries. For more information, see the Hazard Alert.
OSHA has issued its annual inspection plan under the Site-Specific Targeting 2012 (PDF*) program to direct enforcement resources to workplaces where the highest rates of injuries and illnesses occur. The SST program is one of OSHA’s main programmed inspection plans for high-hazard, non-construction workplaces that have 20 or more workers. The SST plan is based on data collected from a survey of 80,000 establishments in high-hazard industries.
For the 2012 SST, OSHA’s Nursing and Personal Care Facilities National Emphasis Program will conduct programmed inspections of nursing and personal care establishments, unlike previous years when these inspections fell under the SST program.
In addition to the SST program, OSHA implements both national and local emphasis inspection programs to target high-risk hazards and industries. See the news release for more information.
After seeing a spike in workplace injuries, Chemung Advocacy, Resources and Care/Southern Tier Industries turned to OSHA for help to reduce injuries among its 210 workers. The company, based in Elmira, N.Y., provides support services for developmentally disabled children.
Chemung ARC/STI worked with the state's On-site Consultation Program in Binghamton to identify and correct hazards, and develop a workplace safety and health action plan. A year after asking OSHA for assistance, the company saw its injury and illness rates fall below the average rates for the vocational rehabilitation services industry. For more information, see the Chemung ARC/STI success story.
OSHA's On-site Consultation Program offers free and confidential advice to small and medium-sized businesses in all states across the country, with priority given to high-hazard worksites. As part of OSHA's On-site Consultation Program, highly qualified safety and health professionals from state agencies or universities work with employers to identify workplace hazards, provide advice on compliance with OSHA standards, and assist in establishing injury and illness prevention programs.
OSHA held its first of several informal stakeholder meetings Jan. 8 to provide employers, workers, safety professionals and equipment manufacturers with an opportunity to inform OSHA about how workers are injured and killed by vehicle backovers and what can be done to prevent these incidents.
Two dozen representatives from industry and worker groups attended the Jan. 8 meeting in Washington, D.C. The discussion focused on the effectiveness of technology, training, best practices and other methods to protect workers from harm.
OSHA will hold three more informal meetings Feb. 5 in Arlington, Texas. Those interested in participating must register electronically, by fax or mail. Details are in the Dec. 17, 2012 Federal Register notice. Following the conclusion of the meetings, OSHA will post a summary of comments on its website.
In 2011, 79 workers were killed on the job when backing vehicles or mobile equipment crushed them against an object or backed over them, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. More information on backover hazards, including a prevention video, is on OSHA's Preventing Backovers webpage.
In a new study about to be published, researchers investigating cases of Campylobacter infections among workers at a Virginia poultry-processing plant suggest ways to lessen the risk of infection. Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Virginia Department of Health conducted the study as part of a health hazard evaluation requested by plant management. The study will appear in the February issue of the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases. For more information, see the study.
Hispanic workers make up more than one-third of all construction workers in America, and falls are the leading cause of death in construction. In December, OSHA posted online a Spanish-language version of the agency’s fall prevention website, which provides numerous educational resources, including stickers, wallet cards, fact sheets and posters. These resources show how falls can be prevented and lives can be saved through three simple steps: Plan. Provide. Train. Visit the Spanish language page for fall prevention. To order any of OSHA's outreach materials, call OSHA's Office of Communications at (202) 693-1999 or visit OSHA's Publications page.
OSHA's Guide for Nail Salon Workers (PDF)*, now available in Korean (PDF*), provides information and support for nail salon workers to stay healthy and safe while giving manicures and pedicures. The guide describes possible hazards in nail salons and good work practices that should be used to protect nail salon workers from chemical hazards, muscle strains and diseases. To order free copies of the guide in Korean, Vietnamese, Spanish or English, call OSHA's Office of Communications at (202) 693-1999 or visit OSHA's Publications page online. For more information, see OSHA's Health Hazards in Nail Salons webpage.
OSHA's Winter Storms webpage provides information on protecting workers from hazards they may face during winter storm response and recovery operations. The webpage 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 Winter Storms webpage 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.
With an increasing number of severe flu cases this season across the United States, OSHA is urging employers to take precautions to protect workers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that at least 47 states are reporting widespread geographic influenza ? 10 times higher in some cities than this time last year.
OSHA's Seasonal Flu webpage offers information about how to reduce the spread of the flu in workplaces. It provides information on the basic precautions, such as frequent hand washings and covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue, that should be used by employers and workers in all workplaces.
OSHA also provides additional precautions that should be used by employers and workers in healthcare settings, such as strictly following infection control practices and using gloves, gowns, and other protective equipment to reduce exposures, and encouraging sick workers to stay home.
See DOL's weekly electronic newsletter for more DOL news.
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