|March 2, 2015 · Volume 14, Issue 5|
OSHA is urging employers and workers who remove snow from rooftops and other building structures to be aware of the hazards and safeguards associated with this work. Several recent incidents of workers falling through skylights, one resulting in a fatality, emphasize the need for employers to evaluate the hazards of snow removal tasks and plan how to do the work safely.
A surface that is weighed down by snow may be at risk of collapsing, so it must be inspected by a competent person to determine if it is structurally safe for workers to access it. Snow-covered rooftops can hide hazards such as skylights that workers can fall through. Electrical hazards may also exist from overhead power lines or snow removal equipment.
Employers can protect workers from these hazardous work conditions by using snow removal methods that do not involve workers going on roofs, when and where possible. Employers should determine the right type of equipment to use, such as ladders or aerial lifts, and personal protective equipment including personal fall arrest systems and non-slip safety boots, as well as ensure that workers are trained on how to properly use them. For more information, see OSHA's Hazard Alert: Falls and Other Hazards to Workers Removing Snow from Rooftops and Other Elevated Surfaces (PDF) and Winter Weather Web page.
As of Jan. 1, 2015, employers covered by federal OSHA are now required to report work-related fatalities within 8 hours and work-related in-patient hospitalizations, amputations and losses of an eye within 24 hours of finding out about the incident.
Previously, employers were required to report all workplace fatalities and when three or more workers were hospitalized in the same incident. The updated reporting requirements have a life-saving purpose: they will enable employers and workers to prevent future injuries by identifying and eliminating the most serious workplace hazards.
Employers currently have two options for reporting these severe incidents to OSHA. They can call their nearest area office during normal business hours or they can call the 24-hour OSHA hotline at 1-800-321-OSHA (1-800-321-6742). For more information and resources, visit OSHA's Web page on the updated reporting requirements and watch OSHA's new YouTube video, where Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, explains the new reporting requirements.
*Employers under federal OSHA's jurisdiction were required to begin reporting by January 1, 2015. Establishments in a state with a state-run OSHA program should contact their state plan for the implementation date.
A U.S. District Court has upheld OSHA's 2008 finding that the United States Postal Service violated worker protections under the OSH Act by retaliating against one of its safety specialists for assisting a co-worker on a health and safety concern and for filing his own whistleblower complaints alleging retaliation and harassment. The court found that the employee is entitled to $229,228 in damages.
Soon after helping his coworker report unhealthful workplace conditions, the safety specialist found himself in an increasingly hostile work environment. In a matter of months, he was transferred to another office, forced to work in an unheated storage room, demoted, restricted on his movements, publicly humiliated and subjected to four openly antagonistic interviews as part of workplace investigations. He was also issued a disciplinary letter and refused a promotion. In April 2008, he filed his first whistleblower complaint with OSHA in Seattle. Several more complaints would follow as hostilities increased.
In addition to providing damages, the court ruling also requires the Postal Service to promote the employee to the same pay rate he would have now, had he not been denied a promotion. The judge also enjoined the Seattle-area Postal Service from discriminating against employees who complain to or cooperate with OSHA, and from failing to take action against managers who interfere with employees exercising their rights under the OSH Act. See the news release for more information.
OSHA has cited Basic Marine Inc. for five repeated, three willful and 10 serious safety violations after an inspection found workers were exposed to amputation hazards while operating press brakes capable of cutting large metal pieces of up to 450 tons. This was the third inspection in the past six years for the Escanaba, Mich., shipyard and boat fabricating facility. OSHA found similar hazards at the facility where a worker’s arm was amputated in 2008. Proposed penalties total $242,940.
"Basic Marine continues to create an environment where employees are blamed if they're injured by dangerous machinery and fosters a culture within the company where safety precautions are considered unnecessary," said Larry Johnson, area director of OSHA's Lansing Area Office. "Even when workers are harmed, the company is reluctant to re-evaluate their safety and health programs to stop them, and that's wholly unacceptable."
Violations include exposing workers to struck-by hazards, machine hazards and falls and trips from unguarded manholes and unprotected edges, and failure to provide specific written procedures and training for employees on how to prevent unintentional operation of machinery during maintenance such as applying locking devices and turning equipment off. OSHA also found repeated violations of respiratory protection standards including failing to require employees to wear air-line respirators. For more information, read the news release.
OSHA cited A&D Wood Products with four willful, four repeated and 19 serious safety and health violations after an inspection found the company exposed workers to explosion hazards from large amounts of combustible wood dust and failed to protect workers from dangerous machine operating parts. The Elida, Ohio, wood pallet manufacturer faces $133,540 in proposed penalties.
"A & D Wood Products is operating a manufacturing shop that exposes workers to very real hazards on a daily basis creating an environment that forces workers to make a choice between their lives and their livelihood every day," said Kim Nelson, OSHA's area director in Toledo. "With 27 violations, it's clear the company's priority is not the safety and health of its workforce."
Additional violations include failing to install effective machine safeguards and provide eye protection, exposing workers to amputation and other injury hazards because lockout devices were not used and equipment was not turned off to prevent unintentional startup during maintenance, electrical safety violations, unsafe practices related to forklift operations and failing to provide hearing protection and audiometric testing. A&D Wood Products has been placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program for routinely exposing workers to amputation, combustible dust and other dangerous hazards. For more information, see the news release.
A 35-year-old worker for Beattie Farmers Union Cooperative lost all the toes on his left foot after he became entangled in an auger that was inadvertently turned on while he was cleaning out a grain storage bin. OSHA investigated the incident and cited the Waterville, Kan., company for one willful, one repeated and three serious safety and health violations. Proposed penalties total $65,900.
"Beattie knows how to protect its workers, but failed to do so, and because of their negligence, this worker lost all the toes on his left foot," said Judy Freeman, OSHA's area director in Wichita. "Workers in the grain handling industry are regularly exposed to danger—from engulfment to dangerous equipment to potential explosions from grain dust accumulation. Industry leaders must ensure their workers are trained on all necessary precautions to avoid these hazards."
The investigation found that the company failed to place locking devices on augers to prevent them from being turned on while workers were in the bin and exposed workers to caught-in and amputation hazards by failing to prevent the auger’s unexpected startup. Workers were also exposed to fall hazards and explosion hazards from grain dust accumulation. For more information, read the news release.
Former tree service owner John Wilkes plead guilty to charges of aggravated manslaughter of a child in a Florida court Feb. 6, for the 2013 death of a teenaged worker. Fourteen-year-old Blake Bryant fell more than 50 feet from a tree that Wilkes instructed him to climb and cut with a chainsaw, despite knowing that the teen was not a qualified arborist and lacked proper training to perform such work. OSHA cited Wilkes in October 2013 under the agency’s general duty clause for failing to maintain a workplace free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees. Wilkes was also cited for failing to provide workers using chainsaws with proper protective equipment, exposing them to serious cuts or an amputation hazard.
After his guilty plea, the court sentenced Wilkes to 15 years in prison, one year longer than the life of the teenaged worker who died because of his employer’s criminal negligence.
OSHA and its industry partners hope to reach workers and employers from many industries during the 2015 National Safety Stand-Down to prevent falls. From May 4-15 participants are asked to pause their workday and participate in safety training in fall prevention. Last year more than 1 million employers and workers across the country joined the effort, making it the largest occupational safety event ever hosted in the United States.
In preparation for this year's stand-down events, employers and workers are encouraged to visit the 2015 Stand-Down page where they can find free fall prevention training materials in both English and Spanish, including the new 2015 Stand-Down poster (PDF), a list of local events, and also receive a certificate of participation signed by Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez.
Representatives from OSHA, municipal service agencies and emergency responders will present information on protecting hospital workers and first responders from exposure to the Ebola virus at a free symposium on March 12 in Arlington, Texas. The Ebola and Infectious Disease Symposium will explain how Dallas/Fort Worth will respond to patients with infectious diseases, review existing federal regulations such as OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogen Standard, and demonstrate new CDC methods for healthcare workers' use of personal protective equipment. By preparing to respond to this highly contagious virus, hospital administrators can develop and put into practice new methods and uses of protective equipment, and better communicate and coordinate among members of the public, emergency service providers, healthcare practitioners, frontline workers, safety personnel, and social service management. Visit the symposium website for more information and to enroll.
A free three-hour seminar designed to help auto parts suppliers reduce workplace exposures to safety hazards will be held March 13 in Carrolton, Ga. Attendees will receive information about OSHA's Regional Emphasis Program for Safety Hazards in the Auto Parts Industry (PDF) and learn how to prevent serious injuries through improving lockout/tagout, machine guarding, and electrical safety procedures. Speakers will also explain how taking a proactive approach to safety management both prevents worker injuries and benefits business.
The seminar is being hosted by OSHA's On-site Consultation Program; the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership at Georgia Tech; the University of Georgia's Small Business Development Center; and Carroll Tomorrow, a countywide public-private economic development organization. Visit the event website for more information and to register online.
OSHA will hold a special meeting of the Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health March 31 - April 1, 2015, in Washington, D.C. The meeting will consider a draft proposal to revise OSHA’s crane operator qualification requirement in the Cranes and Derricks in Construction standard.
The tentative agenda also includes remarks from Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, OSHA’s presentation of the draft proposed standard, public comments to ACCSH, and the committee’s recommendation on the proposed rule. A draft of the proposed regulatory text and a summary of site visits are available on ACCSH’s Web page. ACCSH meetings are open to the public. Individuals may submit comments and requests to speak at www.regulations.gov, the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Submissions may also be sent by mail or facsimile. See the Federal Register notice and news release for details.
The National Safety Council launched the Journey to Safety Excellence campaign last year — a workplace advocacy initiative focusing on continuous improvement to help employers make workplaces safer by reducing injuries and illnesses, ultimately helping businesses save money. OSHA has partnered with the NSC to spread word about the Journey campaign.
In 2012, the NSC reported that workplace injuries and fatalities cost our economy $198.2 billion. The Journey to Safety Excellence provides an opportunity for employers to engage with, and benchmark themselves against other companies to learn best practices, and seek techniques to continuously advance safety within their own companies. Doing so can affect the bottom line since every avoided injury potentially saves $39,000 and every avoided fatality can save $1.42 million. Individuals interested in measuring safety in their workplaces can click here to join the Journey for free today.
An updated digest of Shipyard Industry Standards (PDF) is now available from OSHA. This new publication contains safety and health standards specific to the industry.
To order quantities of this or any other OSHA materials, visit OSHA's Publications Web page or call the Publications Office at (202) 693-1888.
OSHA's Directorate of Training and Education has updated its "Introduction to OSHA" training materials for the 10- and 30-hour Outreach Training Program classes. Trainers should review these revised materials prior to conducting any Outreach Training Program classes, and they should incorporate the revised module into classes as soon as possible, but no later than April 1, 2015. The updated training materials, featuring recent changes to the Recordkeeping Standard, are available on OSHA's Outreach Training Program Web page.
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