|March 1, 2012 · Volume 11, Issue 5|
|A twice monthly e-news product with information about workplace safety and health.|
In this issue
Moving forward with continuing efforts to strengthen employees' voices in the workplace, OSHA today announced a major restructuring of its Office of the Whistleblower Protection Program. The program will now report directly to the agency's Office of the Assistant Secretary instead of to its Directorate of Enforcement Programs. This move represents a significantly elevated priority status for whistleblower enforcement, which now will be overseen directly by Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, Dr. David Michaels.
In addition to the change at OSHA's national office, the agency has launched pilot projects to evaluate structural changes in 10 field regions that could further strengthen the whistleblower program. Read the news release for more details.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and 20 other statutes protecting workers who report alleged violations of various workplace, commercial motor vehicle, airline, nuclear, pipeline, environmental, railroad, public transportation, maritime, consumer product, health care reform, corporate securities, food safety and consumer financial reform regulations. Additional information is available at www.whistleblowers.gov.
OSHA has ordered Interline Logistics Group LLC to immediately reinstate a truck driver in Sauk Village, Ill., who was terminated after reporting safety concerns about the brakes on his truck and refusing to violate U.S. Department of Transportation regulations for allowable driving and rest hours.
OSHA also has ordered the company to pay the driver more than $190,000 in back wages, compensatory damages, attorney’s fees and punitive damages, and to refrain from retaliating against the employee for exercising rights guaranteed under the Surface Transportation Assistance Act’s (STAA) whistleblower provision. For more information, see the news release.
Detailed information on workers’ whistleblower rights, including fact sheets with information on how to file a complaint with OSHA, is available online at www.whistleblowers.gov.
In a Feb. 23 letter, the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) voiced its support for OSHA's new fall directive for residential construction. "This change," writes Terrie Norris, President of the ASSE, "promotes a consistent understanding of the risks and measures needed to protect workers no matter what kind of construction site they find themselves in." The ASSE also praised OSHA's nationwide outreach, particularly OSHA's work with small businesses, to assist employers in understanding and complying with the new directive.
OSHA's Web page has a wide variety of educational and training materials to assist employers with compliance. Multiple easy-to-read fact sheets, PowerPoint and slide presentations, as well as other educational materials are available on the Fall Protection in Residential Construction page.
Employers who are required to keep the OSHA Form 300 Injury and Illness log must post OSHA's Form 300A from Feb. 1 to April 30, 2012 in a common area wherever notices to workers are usually posted. The summary must list the total numbers of job-related injuries and illnesses that occurred in 2011. All establishment summaries must be certified by a company executive.
Copies of the OSHA Forms 300, 300A and 301 are available for download on the OSHA Recordkeeping Web page. See OSHA's Recordkeeping Handbook for more information on posting requirements for OSHA's Form 300A.
OSHA has cited Exel Inc. for nine, including six willful, workplace safety and health violations at the Eastern Distribution Center III, a facility in Palmyra, Pa., owned by the Hershey Co. and operated by Exel. Proposed penalties total $283,000. OSHA also has cited the SHS Group LP, doing business as SHS Staffing Solutions, for one violation with a proposed penalty of $5,000.
OSHA's inspection was conducted in response to a complaint filed by the National Guestworker Alliance on behalf of a group of foreign students who were performing summer jobs at the Palmyra facility under the U.S. Department of State's J-1 visa program. Under a contract with Exel, SHS Staffing Solutions hired the students to work at the Palmyra site repackaging Hershey candies for promotional displays. See the news release for more information.
In a new article, OSHA, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and Michigan's Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) program report on the hazards of using methylene chloride-based stripping products in bathtub refinishing.
Investigators have identified more than a dozen deaths in the last 12 years associated with the use of methylene chloride in bathtub refinishing. In November 2011, Michigan's FACE program issued a Hazard Alert (PDF*) encouraging employers to consider alternative methods of bathtub stripping.
Methylene chloride is a volatile solvent and cancer-causing chemical that is easily absorbed into the body through the lungs and skin. Short-term exposures to high levels can cause headaches, fatigue, dizziness and lack of coordination. Methylene chloride is metabolized in the body to carbon monoxide, which may lead to irregular heart rhythms, heart attacks and sudden death. If workers use methylene chloride-based products, OSHA's Methylene Chloride standard (29 CFR 1910.1052) requires employers to protect and train workers exposed to these hazards.
Publix Supermarkets Inc. has been cited by OSHA for 16 safety and health violations at a Jacksonville facility after receiving a complaint in September that a worker's hand was amputated while cleaning conveyor equipment. Proposed penalties total $182,000. Due to the repeat violations and the nature of the hazards, OSHA has placed Publix in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which focuses on recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations. Also in Florida, OSHA has proposed $56,000 in penalties against List Industries Inc. after an inspection of its Deerfield Beach manufacturing plant found amputation hazards that had been previously cited during OSHA inspections in 2007 and 2009.
In Texas, OSHA has cited Mount Enterprise-based J.P. Spivey Supply for one willful and 13 serious safety and health violations after two workers had fingers amputated at the company's facility in Mount Enterprise. Proposed penalties total $57,200. OSHA has also cited Houston-based Amy Food Inc. with one willful, four serious and three other-than-serious citations for exposing workers to possible amputation hazards at the company's Houston facility. Proposed penalties total $77,100.
To learn more, see OSHA's amputations factsheet (PDF*) and guide to safeguarding equipment and protecting workers from amputations (PDF*).
Fritz Aluminum Services Inc. has been cited by OSHA with 37 violations for exposing workers to a variety of safety and health hazards, including combustible dust accumulations, at the company's Eustis, Fla., facility. OSHA opened an inspection in September after receiving a complaint. Proposed penalties total $139,800. Due to the repeat violations and the nature of the hazards, OSHA has placed Fritz Aluminum Services in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law. See the news release for more details.
In addition, OSHA has cited Franklin Lumber Co. in Bude, Miss., for 22 safety violations. OSHA initiated its inspection as part of the agency's National Emphasis Program to reduce workers' exposure to combustible dust hazards. Sixteen serious violations include management's failure to prevent accumulations of combustible dust; provide guardrails around equipment; remove defective industrial trucks from service; and provide proper machine guards. Proposed penalties total $103,356. See the news release for more information.
OSHA has also cited Milk Specialties Co. with three safety violations, including one willful violation for combustible dust hazards. OSHA opened an inspection following a report of a fire resulting from a dust explosion in a machine at the company's Fond du Lac, Wis., facility, which converts liquid whey products into dried whey protein concentrate powder. Proposed fines total $72,000. Details of the violations and a related U.S. District Court hearing are available in the news release.
Combustible dust explosions have killed scores of workers and injured hundreds over the past few decades. For more information, visit OSHA's Combustible Dust page.
Healthcare workers are frequently exposed to bloodborne pathogens and workplace violence. Together with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), OSHA is helping to educate employers and workers about these hazards and the best means of prevention.
A new NIOSH-supported study shows how the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act (NSPA) and OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens standard have significantly reduced needlesticks and bloodborne disease exposure for healthcare workers. OSHA's revised standard requires employers to provide safety-engineered devices to workers who are at risk for exposure to bloodborne pathogens, to include workers in the selection of these devices, to review exposure-control plans at least annually, and to maintain specific sharps-injury logs. For more information about bloodborne pathogens and needlestick prevention, visit OSHA's Safety and Health Topics page.
In addition, NIOSH has published a new resource (PDF*) to assist employers in preventing violence against home healthcare workers. Home healthcare workers face an unprotected and unpredictable environment and can be vulnerable to verbal abuse, stalking, threats of assault, and even homicide. The new factsheet offers strategies for workers and encourages employers to establish a zero-tolerance policy for violence and provide workers with violence-prevention training. OSHA has guidelines for preventing workplace violence for health care and social service workers. For more information, visit OSHA's Workplace Violence page
OSHA has cited Greenwood Village-based Pipeline Industries Inc. with seven safety violations for exposing workers to cave-in hazards at excavation work sites in Wheat Ridge and Colorado Springs, Colo. OSHA's Englewood Area Office opened an investigation following reports that workers were installing sewer pipes without adequate protection from possible cave-ins. Two serious violations include failing to maintain specific data for the shoring system in use, and to provide a safe means of access and egress from the trench. Proposed penalties total $180,180. See the news release for more information.
OSHA has also issued 10 serious citations against Jones General Contracting LLC, based in Woodbury, Ga., for violations found at a water line installation site in Jackson. OSHA began an inspection in October after receiving a complaint about safety conditions in trenches being dug to install pipes. Violations include failing to provide required safety equipment, failing to join trench boxes, and failing to train workers to recognize hazards. Proposed penalties total $40,200. More information about the violations is available in the news release.
Detailed information on trenching and excavation hazards and related OSHA standards is available on OSHA's Trenching and Excavation page.
OSHA has cited Anaheim, Calif.-based Bridgford Foods Corp. for six serious and two repeat safety violations at one of its food manufacturing facilities in Dallas. Proposed penalties total $174,500. OSHA's Dallas Area Office began an investigation as part of the agency's Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates follow-up inspections of recalcitrant employers that have endangered workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations.
The serious violations include failing to provide required machine guarding to prevent workers from coming into contact with rotating parts on drill presses, implement energy control procedures for machinery with more than one energy source, ensure that workers are trained on the use of energy control procedures, and prevent slip and "struck-by" hazards by ensuring walkways are kept clean and dry. The repeat violations involve failing to ensure lockout/tagout procedures of energy sources were performed by an authorized worker and that the authorized worker affixed a personal lock or tag to the group lockout device. See the news release for more information.
Health care workers face a number of serious safety and health hazards, and more workers are injured in this industry than in any other. Since first reaching out to OSHA's On-site Consultation Program fifteen years ago, Good Shepherd Nursing Home LC, has been working with OSHA to track, learn from, and reduce worker injuries and illnesses.
In 1997, after noticing a distressing increase in worker illness and injury rates, the West Virginia facility asked for OSHA’s help. As a result of the initial visit from OSHA’s On-site Consultation program, Good Shepherd reviewed their injury and illness trends, identified hazards, reconsidered their policies and procedures, and purchased mechanical lifting devices to protect their workers from lower back injuries. Donald Kirsch, Good Shepherd's Administrator stated, "With the help of OSHA and the West Virginia Safety On-site Consultation Service, our work related injuries dropped so much that between 1999 and 2010, Good Shepherd's workers' compensation rate declined, and workers' compensation insurance premiums have reduced by a total of $1,966,707."
Originally certified as a SHARP company in 2000, Good Shepherd has since been re-certificated five times. In addition to improving worker safety and health at the facility, Good Shepherd has also noticed less staff turnover and a more efficient, highly skilled, and competent workforce. More information about Good Shepherd is available on OSHA's Small Business Success Stories page.
Next week, March 4-16, is Agricultural Safety Awareness Week, and OSHA reminds grain elevator employers about the dangers of entering grain bins. OSHA has conducted much outreach to the industry, issuing a hazard alert and sending notification letters to thousands of grain elevator operators warning employers not to allow workers to enter grain storage facilities without proper equipment, precautions and training.
Suffocation is a leading cause of death in grain storage bins. Whenever possible, workers should stay out of grain bins. Those who must enter should never do so alone or without training. Whenever workers must enter bins, employers must ensure proper precautions, including permit use, lockout/tagout, body harnesses, lifelines, and communications between the worker and an observer stationed outside the grain bin. To learn more, view OSHA's additional materials on grain handling, including OSHA's fact sheet (PDF*), wallet card (PDF*), and Safety and Health Topics page.
Confined space hazards exist in numerous industries and employers are often unfamiliar with the risks to workers or do not follow proper safeguards. On Feb. 14, Cal-OSHA launched a collaborative campaign to bring awareness to confined space fatalities and address employers' requirements.
Together with the California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) and the Oakland Fire Department, Cal-OSHA is working to ensure that California employers do everything they can to prevent serious injury or death as a result of working in a confined space. More information is available in the news release (PDF)* and on Cal-OSHA's Confined Space Emphasis Program page.
Confined spaces include, but are not limited to underground vaults, tanks, storage bins, manholes, pits, silos, process vessels, and pipelines. OSHA's Confined Spaces page details industry-specific as well as general hazards and provides solutions and other resources for employers and workers.
On Feb. 28, OSHA and the Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division co-hosted a summit in Palisades Park for Asian workers in and around northern New Jersey. An OSHA representative delivered a Korean-language presentation to workers on their right to a safe and healthy workplace, which was recorded by several media outlets for broad distribution. Representatives fluent in Chinese, Hindi, and Tagalog were also available on site to answer questions, give interviews, and provide multilingual materials and information for workers in all kinds of industries. For more information about OSHA's outreach efforts to multilingual workers, please visit OSHA's Diverse Workforce Limited English Proficiency page.
In upcoming events around the country, OSHA will co-sponsor safety and health training opportunities and conferences for workers, employers, and the general public. To learn about events in your area, including upcoming safety days, please visit OSHA’s conference calendar..
As part of its alliance with OSHA, the American Supply Association will host a free webinar on Wednesday, March 14, at 2:00 pm EST. The webinar, "Industrial Steel Storage Racks – Minimizing Your Risk Over the Life Cycle" explains current standards and codes, employer and worker roles and responsibilities, and components of a safe and effective rack storage system.
To participate in the webinar, which will be co-sponsored by the Rack Manufacturers Institute (RMI), click here to enroll by March 13.
Descriptions of OSHA's active National and Special Emphasis Programs and Local and Regional Emphasis Programs are now available on OSHA's Web site. These emphasis programs are enforcement strategies designed and implemented at the national, regional, and area office levels. Emphasis programs, accompanied by considerable outreach, address hazards that pose a particular risk to workers in specific industries and jurisdictions. For more information, visit OSHA's Enforcement page.
See DOL's weekly electronic newsletter for more DOL news.
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