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February 1, 2011 · Volume 10, Issue 3
In this issue
Two Illinois grain handling facilities fined more than $1.3 million after three workers are fatally engulfed in storage bins

OSHA fined two Illinois grain handling facilities $1,352,125 and cited the companies with 46 safety violations following the deaths of three workers, including two teenagers, who were killed when they were engulfed by grain and suffocated.

OSHA issued Haasbach LLC 24 citations with a penalty of $555,000 following the deaths of 14-year-old Wyatt Whitebread and 19-year-old Alex Pacas at the company's grain elevator in Mount Carroll. A 20-year-old man also was seriously injured in the incident when all three became entrapped in corn more than 30 feet deep.

OSHA cited Hillsdale Elevator Co. following the death of a 49-year-old worker, Raymond Nowland, who was engulfed by corn in a storage bin at the company's facility in Geneseo. The 22 citations and $729,000 fine include additional violations found during a later inspection of the company's Annawan facility.

All three deaths could have been prevented if the two companies had followed commonsense safety practices required by law. Violations found to have led to these tragedies included allowing workers to enter a grain storage container without a safety harness and line, and without first turning off and locking out the auger that moves grain out through the bottom.

These investigations fall under the requirements of OSHA's Severe Violators Enforcement Program. Visit OSHA's Web site to view the citations issued against Haasbach and Hillsdale. See the news release and fact sheet for more information on these cases.

At least 25 U.S. workers were killed in grain entrapments last year. According to researchers at Purdue University, there were 51 grain bin entrapments in 2010. This is more than in any year since they started collecting data on entrapments in 1978.

OSHA withdraws proposed interpretation on occupational noise and examines other approaches to prevent work-related hearing loss

OSHA announced Jan. 19 that it is withdrawing its proposed interpretation titled "Interpretation of OSHA's Provisions for Feasible Administrative or Engineering Controls of Occupational Noise." The interpretation would have clarified the term "feasible administrative or engineering controls" as used in OSHA's noise standard. The proposed interpretation was published in the Federal Register Oct. 19, 2010.

"Hearing loss caused by excessive noise levels remains a serious occupational health problem in this country," said OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels in a news release. "However, it is clear from the concerns raised about this proposal that addressing this problem requires much more public outreach and many more resources than we had originally anticipated. We are sensitive to the possible costs associated with improving worker protection and have decided to suspend work on this proposed modification while we study other approaches to abating workplace noise hazards."

These efforts include conducting a thorough review of submitted comments and any other information OSHA receives on this issue; holding a meeting on preventing occupational hearing loss open to employers, workers, and noise control and public health professionals; consulting with experts from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the National Academy of Engineering; and initiating a vigorous effort to provide enhanced technical information and guidance on the many inexpensive, effective engineering controls for dangerous noise levels.

Revised National Emphasis Program expands worker protection against exposure to harmful food flavorings

OSHA revised its National Emphasis Program on Microwave Popcorn Processing Plants to minimize or eliminate worker exposure to the hazards associated with microwave popcorn manufacturing. Diacetyl is a chemical used to add flavor and aroma to food and other products. Some workers who breathe diacetyl on the job have become disabled or have died from severe lung disease. Some microwave popcorn manufacturers are using diacetyl substitutes that have produced similar health effects as diacetyl, and therefore, may also cause harm to workers.

See the news release for more information on this revised National Emphasis Program. OSHA's Safety and Health Information Bulletin and companion Worker Alert recommend engineering and work practice controls for regulating diacetyl and diacetyl substitute exposures in the workplace.

OSHA temporarily withdraws proposed column for reporting work-related musculoskeletal disorders

OSHA announced Jan. 25 that it has temporarily withdrawn from review by the Office of Management and Budget its proposal to restore a column for work-related musculoskeletal disorders on employer injury and illness logs. OSHA has taken this action to seek greater input from small businesses on the impact of the proposal. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, MSDs accounted for 28 percent of all reported workplace injuries and illnesses requiring time away from work in 2009.

OSHA and the U.S. Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy will jointly hold a meeting to engage and listen to small businesses about the agency's proposal. See the news release for more information.

Lead processor fined more than $300,000 for deliberately failing to protect workers from lead exposure

OSHA cited Lead Enterprises Inc. in Miami, Fla., with 32 safety and health violations and fined the company $307,200 for knowingly exposing workers to lead and other health and safety hazards. Lead Enterprises is a lead recycling and manufacturing company that produces lead products, including fish tackle, lead diving weights and lead-lined walls used in medical radiology facilities. Lead exposure can cause many serious health issues including brain damage, kidney disease and harm to the reproductive system. See the news release for more information on Lead Enterprises' safety and health violations.

Michaels shares OSHA's 40-year history of worker protection with citizen advocacy group

OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels addressed the staff of Public Citizen Jan. 18 to commemorate the organization's 40th anniversary. As 2011 also marks the 40th anniversary of OSHA, Michaels shared with the citizen advocacy group the agency's history of protecting the safety and health of America's workers. Michaels explained in his speech that since OSHA opened its doors four decades ago, worker deaths have declined from approximately 14,000 in 1970 to 4,340 in 2009, while the U.S. workforce has doubled in size.

Michaels said, "Far from impeding business growth in this nation, OSHA's standards, and the enforcement of those standards, set a level playing field for all businesses in this country so that employers who are investing in safety are not underbid by unscrupulous ones who are cutting corners on worker safety. OSHA is not working to kill jobs; we're here to stop jobs from killing workers."

OSHA finalizes procedures for investigating whistleblower complaints made under seven federal statutes

OSHA published in the Jan. 18 Federal Register its final rule establishing procedures for handling whistleblower complaints made under the Energy Reorganization Act and six environmental statutes. Among other provisions, the final rule states that whistleblower complaints under these statutes may be filed either orally or in writing. OSHA believes that this approach will improve access to the complaint-filing process for workers who may have difficulty submitting written complaints for a variety of reasons. These regulations also make it clear that if the complainant is unable to file the complaint in English, OSHA will accept the complaint in any language. See the Federal Register notice for more information and www.whistleblowers.gov to learn more about OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Program.

National advisory committee offers recommendations to improve worker safety

The National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health met at Department of Labor headquarters in Washington, D.C., Jan. 19-20 to make recommendations to DOL and the Department of Health and Human Services on improving occupational safety and health for America's workers. The 12-member committee, which meets at least two times a year, comprises members representing the interests of workers, employers, safety and health professionals and the public. OSHA's ability to protect workers from job-related injuries, illnesses and deaths is greatly enhanced by the knowledge and real-world experience NACOSH members share. At this meeting, OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Director John Howard listened to NACOSH members' comments and suggestions about injury and illness prevention programs, recordkeeping and efforts to keep workers safe during the Gulf of Mexico oil spill cleanup. For more information on the committee, visit OSHA's NACOSH page.

OSHA holds hearing on proposed rule to prevent worker fatalities and serious injuries from falls in general industry

OSHA held an informal public hearing in Washington, D.C., Jan. 18-21 on the proposed rule revising the Walking-Working Surfaces and Personal Protective Equipment standards to improve worker protection from slip, trip and fall hazards. Approximately 30 representatives of groups including trade associations, unions, safety and health organizations and businesses testified during the four days of hearings. The participants provided valuable feedback as well as important insight into their concerns over the proposed rule. OSHA will consider this testimony carefully in drafting its final rule, which will prevent annually an estimated 20 workplace fatalities and more than 3,700 injuries that are serious enough to result in lost work days. Those who filed notices of intent to appear at the hearing have until March 7 to submit further comments and information and reply to questions or provide data OSHA requested during the hearing. These parties also have until April 6 to file their final briefs or summations of testimony.

OSHA renews strategic partnership with power transmission and distribution trade associations to reduce worker injuries and deaths

OSHA renewed a Strategic Partnership Jan. 25 with the Electrical Transmission and Distribution Construction Contractors, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and other trade associations to reduce injuries, illnesses and deaths among electrical transmission and distribution industry workers, among other goals. Partnership goals also include establishing the causes of injuries, illnesses and deaths in this industry and recommending best practices to reduce these incidents; ensuring that industry workers are trained in using recommended best practices; and establishing a strategy to evaluate and ensure that the goals of the partnership are met. See the news release for more information.

Equipment manufacturer improves worker safety with help of On-site Consultation Program

Oliver Manufacturing Company Inc., a small business in Rocky Ford, Colo., that manufactures equipment used primarily for agricultural and industrial applications, contacted OSHA's On-site Consultation Program for assistance in improving its safety and health management program. Oliver was planning to relocate and the OSHA consultant made recommendations on air monitoring, material handling and configuring traffic flow to ensure that no new hazards would be created in the new building. Committed to the company's mission statement, which emphasizes, "Safety is Everyone's Responsibility," management and workers went into action implementing the consultant's recommendations and successfully streamlined their transport and material handling processes to create greater manufacturing efficiencies and improved workplace safety and health. After making significant improvements to its safety and health management program, Oliver became a member of the On-site Consultation Program's Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program. See OSHA's Web site for more information on this safety and health success story.

OSHA hosts regional Latino outreach and education conference on safety, health and workers' rights

OSHA is hosting a free regional Latino workforce outreach and education conference Feb. 1, in Oakland, Calif. The one-day event features informational booths, and health and safety workshops. It also provides materials, products and assistance from experts on employee rights and employer responsibilities. OSHA organized the conference in cooperation with its counterpart state agency, California OSHA, in part because Latino workers in the U.S. are killed on the job and suffer work-related injuries at higher rates than other workers. See the media advisory for more information.

Michigan OSHA sponsors 60th Annual Industrial Ventilation Conference

The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration will sponsor the national 60th Annual Industrial Ventilation Conference Feb. 7-10 in East Lansing, Mich. Industrial ventilation experts from across the U.S. and Canada will provide instruction and lectures on the design, construction, use and testing of ventilation systems, which are one of the most important engineering controls available for improving or maintaining the quality of the air in the occupational work environment. New this year, the Operations and Maintenance section reinforces material presented in seminar and classroom instruction with extensive hands-on lab sessions on a functioning model of an industrial ventilation system (limited to 20 participants). Additionally, Feb. 11 the conference offers workshops on troubleshooting and combustible dust. See the conference Web site to register.

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Editor: Richard De Angelis, OSHA Office of Communications, 202-693-1999.
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