|March 18, 2014 · Volume 13, Issue 6|
|A twice monthly e-news product with information about workplace safety and health.|
OSHA has begun holding public hearings for the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Occupational Exposure to Crystalline Silica. This marks the beginning of an intensive three weeks of public feedback on the proposal, with hearings scheduled through Friday, April 4, 2014.
"We look forward to receiving feedback from our stakeholders on our proposal, and we’re grateful for the continuing high level of public engagement throughout the rulemaking," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. "This is an open process and the input we receive will help us ensure that a final rule adequately protects workers, is feasible for employers, and is based on the best available evidence."
Members of the public may attend to listen to testimony from OSHA and other hearing participants. To view the hearing schedule and procedures, visit www.osha.gov/silica. To view the proposed rule, visit the Federal Register. Additional information, including the public hearings schedule and hearing procedures, as well as FAQs, fact sheets, is available at www.osha.gov/silica.
OSHA has released a new educational bulletin for staffing agencies and host employers on current requirements for recording injuries and illnesses of temporary workers. The new Recordkeeping Bulletin (PDF*), which is part of OSHA’s Temporary Worker Initiative, addresses how to identify which employer is responsible for recording these work-related injuries and illnesses on the OSHA 300 log.
"The Recordkeeping Bulletin is the first of many materials we are releasing and helps clarify which employers are responsible for reporting injuries and illnesses," said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. "These materials will provide valuable information for both host employers and staffing agencies on how they can work together to make sure their workers are properly trained and protected."
The temporary worker Recordkeeping Bulletin helps businesses determine which employer is responsible for recording work-related injuries and illness on the OSHA 300 log. For more information, read the news release and visit OSHA's temporary worker page.
OSHA is extending the public comment period on the request for information on potential revisions to its Process Safety Management standard and related standards for an additional 21 days to March 31, 2014. In response to requests for an extension, the deadline to submit written comments is being extended from March 10 to March 31 to allow stakeholders additional time to comment on the proposed rule and supporting analyses.
The RFI is in response to Executive Order 13650 (PDF*), which seeks to improve chemical facility safety and security, issued in the wake of the April 2013 West, Texas, tragedy that killed 15 in an ammonium nitrate explosion. OSHA is requesting comments on its Process Safety Management standard and potential changes to PSM enforcement policies, as well as input on potential updates to the agency’s Explosives and Blasting Agents, Flammable Liquids and Spray Finishing standards. For more information, read the press release.
On March 4, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of two former employees of privately held companies that provide advisory and management services to the Fidelity family of mutual funds, who claimed they faced retaliation after they reported allegations of fraud. The ruling asserts that the whistleblower provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act apply broadly to a public company's private contractors and subcontractors just as it protects employees of the public company served by the contractors and subcontractors.
"Whistleblower protections play a vital role in protecting the health, safety and financial wellbeing of all Americans," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health David Michaels. "We are pleased that the Supreme Court reaffirmed the right of employees of a public company’s contractors to expose fraud and securities rule violations without fear of retaliation. The Labor Department is committed to protecting these critical whistleblower rights for workers."
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and 21 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various airline, commercial motor vehicle, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime and securities laws. For more information, visit www.whistleblowers.gov.
OSHA has cited Schwan's Global Supply Chain Inc., which manufactures frozen foods sold under several brand names, including Red Baron pizza and Mrs. Smith's desserts, for 32 serious safety and health violations at its Atlanta facility. Two other companies providing maintenance and staffing services for Schwan's, including Cimco Refrigeration Inc. and Adecco USA Inc., were cited for 18 safety and health violations. Citations total $185,700 for Schwan’s, $58,500 for Adecco and $20,160 for Cimco.
"All workers, whether full-time or temporary, deserve the same commitment and access to a safe workplace. Schwan's, Cimco Refrigeration and Adecco are not providing that for their employees," said Bill Fulcher, director of OSHA's Atlanta-East Area Office. "OSHA standards are there to protect workers from predictable and preventable injuries and deaths. These standards were disregarded at the expense of worker safety."
OSHA’s inspection found that the employers failed to provide adequate training for employees, including temporary workers, to work safely with ammonia, a hazardous and corrosive chemical used in refrigeration. Schwan’s was also cited for exposing workers to serious fall, machine guarding, electrocution and noise hazards. Read the news release for more information on citations issued.
OSHA has cited Gaspar Inc., a boiler manufacturer in Canton, Ohio, with two willful violations after an investigation found the company was requiring employees to operate two press brakes and a horizontal boring machine where the machine guards had been removed. Proposed penalties total $112,000.
"It is unacceptable that Gaspar would expose workers to the hazards of unguarded machinery each day," said Howard Eberts, OSHA's area director in Cleveland. "The company was previously cited for these hazards. Then, it removed protections it had installed. These actions demonstrate a willful lack of concern for employee safety. Injuries involving machinery and equipment often result in death or permanent disability, and OSHA continues to focus on identifying and eliminating these types of hazards."
The employer was cited for willfully exposing workers to lacerations, caught-in and amputation hazards by removing protective machine guarding. OSHA inspected the company in 2011 and found the same violations. The company has been placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law. Read the news release for more information.
OSHA is reminding covered employers to post OSHA's Form 300A, which summarizes the total number of job-related injuries and illnesses that occurred during 2013 and were logged on OSHA's Form 300, Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses. The summary must be posted between Feb. 1 and April 30, 2014, and should be displayed in a common area where notices to employees are usually posted.
Employers with 10 or fewer employees and employers in certain industries are normally exempt from federal OSHA injury and illness recordkeeping and posting requirements. A complete list of exempt industries in the retail, services, finance, insurance and real estate sectors can be found at http://s.dol.gov/YP. The OSHA law prohibits employers from retaliating or discriminating against a worker for reporting an injury or illness.
OSHA is accepting nominations from individuals interested in serving on the Whistleblower Protection Advisory Committee. The agency seeks to fill 12 committee positions that will become vacant Jan. 1, 2015. OSHA is initiating staggered terms whereby six members will be appointed to one-year terms and six will be appointed to two-year terms. OSHA expects to fill one public, one State Occupational Safety and Health Plan, two management and two labor representatives to one-year terms. The agency also expects to fill two management, two labor and two public representatives to two-year terms. The committee will have three non-voting members selected by the secretary of labor who are government employees from other federal agencies that have jurisdiction over statutes with whistleblower provisions. Current committee members can be re-nominated. For more information, read the press release.
A University of California ergonomics team has designed an innovative concrete drill jig that is proving to be highly effective in limiting worker exposures to respirable crystalline silica, as well reducing fatigue and risk of musculoskeletal injuries. It also increases productivity – a bonus for McCarthy Building Company, Inc., which is using the jig in renovating an historic building in downtown San Francisco. The jig can drive multiple large hammer drills at different angles and heights, and is mounted on a base that allows it to move easily around a construction site. A vacuum collects dust generated by the drill bit.
When a laborer drilled into concrete using a pneumatic rock drill by hand, the team measured silica dust levels that were 14 times higher than the recommended exposure limit set by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. But with the jig and dust-capturing device, the exposure level is below the recommended exposure limit. The jig is one of many ways employers can limit worker exposures to silica. For more information on the project, visit the OSHA Website.
On Feb. 25-27, OSHA sponsored a free Pacific Coast Safety Fest in San Francisco, Calif., drawing more than 300 participants who met with representatives from professional organizations and exhibitors to learn about improvements in safety equipment and best practices to keep workers safe and healthy on the job. In partnership with Chabot-Las Positas Community College District and the General Services Administration, an OSHA Training Institute Education Center offered more than a dozen workplace safety and classes at the event.
On March 4-5, OSHA staff from Illinois, Ohio and Wisconsin area offices participated in the 24th Annual Construction Expo and Safety Day in Oakbrook Terrace, Ill. The conference, held by the Chicago Construction Safety Council and the Chicago chapter of the American Subcontractors Association, offered more than 25 sessions on a variety of construction industry safety and health topics. OSHA staff gave presentations covering subjects that included hazards related to excavation, heat exposure, cranes, falls in residential construction and isocyanates. The presentations provided valuable information on hazard identification and abatement for construction industry employers, workers and supervisors.
OSHA signed an alliance March 10 in Dallas, Texas with the Consul General of the Philippines to establish a collaborative relationship to develop training and education programs in general industry and construction for Philippine nationals employed throughout Texas. The alliance will also aim to increase access to education and training resources that promote workers' rights and employers' knowledge of their responsibilities.
On March 4, OSHA staff met with nearly two dozen staff members from El Salvador consulates in New York City, Long Island and New Jersey. Part of a continuing effort to reach out to hard-to-reach workers with limited English-language proficiency, the discussion centered on worker rights, employer responsibilities, whistleblower protection, temporary workers, hazard identification and prevention.
Through the Alliance Program, OSHA works with unions, consulates, trade and professional organizations, faith- and community-based organizations, businesses and educational institutions to prevent workplace fatalities, injuries and illnesses.
OSHA and the National Oceanic and the Atmospheric Administration are working together to promote Flood Safety Awareness Week, March 16-22.
OSHA and NOAA encourage employers to stay aware of weather forecasts, train workers on workplace severe weather plans, and keep emergency supplies, including a battery-operated weather radio, on hand to be better prepared for severe weather, including floods and flash floods. Employers must also ensure that workers involved in response and recovery are protected from potential safety and health hazards.
Follow all of the week’s activities on NOAA’s Web page and visit OSHA’s Flood Preparedness and Response page for more information on protecting workers from floods, including during flood response and recovery. OSHA also provides resources on workplace preparedness and response for severe weather emergencies including wildfires, tornadoes and winter weather, among others.
Two new OSHA resources, “Hazard Communication: Small Entity Compliance Guide for Employers That Use Hazardous Chemicals” (PDF*) and a new fact sheet, “Steps to an Effective Hazardous Communication Program for Employers That Use Hazardous Chemicals” (PDF*), offer employers clear steps to create an effective hazard communication program — including a sample program and a quick guide to hazard communication training.
Also available is a new OSHA Fact Sheet, “Do You Have Work-Related Asthma? A Guide for You and Your Doctor” (PDF*) which offers key questions to ask, quick facts, helpful resources for workers, and a guide for clinicians to diagnose work-related asthma.
See DOL's weekly electronic newsletter for more DOL news.
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