|April 2, 2012 · Volume 11, Issue 8|
|A twice monthly e-news product with information about workplace safety and health.|
In this issue
To better protect workers from hazardous chemicals, OSHA has revised its Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), aligning with the United Nations' global chemical labeling system (GHS).
The revised standard, once implemented, will prevent an estimated 43 deaths and result in an estimated $475.2 million in enhanced productivity for U.S. businesses each year.
OSHA has issued a Request for Information* (RFI) that seeks comments on how to prevent injuries and deaths from reinforcing concrete activities in construction, and from vehicles and mobile equipment backing into workers in construction, general industry, agriculture and the maritime industry. OSHA will use the comments received to learn more about how workers get injured and what solutions exist to prevent injury and death, including possible regulatory action.
Comments on this RFI must be submitted by June 27, 2012. Interested parties may submit comments at http://www.regulations.gov, the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Comments may also be submitted by mail or facsimile. See the news release and the Federal Register notice for details.
In a March 12 memo to OSHA Regional Administrators and whistleblower investigative staff, OSHA's Deputy Assistant Secretary Richard Fairfax addressed workplace policies and practices that can discourage workers from reporting injuries and could constitute unlawful discrimination and a violation of section 11(c) of the OSH Act, or other whistleblower protection statutes. Some of these policies and practies may also violate OSHA's recordkeeping regulations, particularly the requirement that ensures workers can report work-related injuries and illnesses.
Ensuring that workers can report injuries or illnesses without fear of retaliation is crucial to protecting worker safety and health. If workers do not feel free to report injuries or illnesses, an entire workforce is put at risk: Employers do not learn of and correct dangerous conditions that have resulted in injuries, and injured workers may not receive the proper medical attention or the workers' compensation benefits to which they are entitled. For more details read the memo and visit OSHA's Whistleblower page.
On March 16, Farmers Union Cooperative Supply pled guilty and was sentenced in federal court in Lincoln, Neb., for violations of the OSH Act that resulted in the asphyxiation death of Donald Stodola, a worker at the Stanton grain-handling facility and elevator.
OSHA found that the employer did not evaluate permit-required confined space conditions by testing the atmospheric conditions in the boot pit for oxygen and carbon dioxide levels prior to worker entry. In addition to OSHA's citations, the employer must pay a $100,000 fine and serve two years of probation, during which time the company will be required to comply with applicable OSHA regulations, comply with an administrative agreement, and allow OSHA representatives to enter into premises and inspect them. For more information, read the Department of Justice news release.
Suffocation is a leading cause of death in grain storage bins. 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.
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 investigations have determined that two railroads violated the whistleblower protections of the Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA): Metro-North Commuter Railroad Company and Union Pacific Railroad Company.
In the first case, OSHA determined that Metro-North Commuter Railroad Co. took retaliatory action against a New York worker at its Harmon Diesel Shop who reported a workplace injury. In this case, OSHA found that Metro-North interfered with the worker's medical treatment and forced him to work in violation of his physician's orders. OSHA ordered the employer to pay $10,000 in punitive damages to the worker and $8,830 in attorney's fees, and to expunge any adverse references relating to the employee's exercise of his FRSA rights from his personnel, safety and department files. Metro-North also must post a notice of worker rights under OSHA for employees in the Harmon Diesel Shop and on its internal website, and provide all diesel shop employees with information on employee protections for reporting work-related injuries. For more details, read the news release. In a second case against Metro-North, OSHA found that the railroad retaliated against a Connecticut worker for reporting a broken toe after a jack failed and a rail tie fell on his foot, ordering damages of $75,000. This case was later removed to the Federal District Court in Connecticut, where a federal jury awarded the worker more than $1 million in punitive damages.
In a case against Union Pacific Railroad Co., OSHA found that UP retaliated against a locomotive engineer at the Pocatello, Idaho, facility who had reported that he was too sick to continue working safely and needed medical attention. OSHA found that while traveling between Green River, Wyo., and Pocatello, the Union Pacific engineer reported a migraine headache, blurred vision, dizziness, vomiting and a bloody nose. His supervisor, a railroad official separately named in the complaint, used threats and intimidation to dissuade the engineer from seeking or gaining access to medical care during his shift. The Department of Labor has ordered Union Pacific and a railroad official to pay $20,000 in punitive damages, $3,500 in compensatory damages for emotional distress and $1,323 in attorney's fees to the employee. More information is available in the news release.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the FRSA and of Section 11(c) of the OSH Act, as well as 19 other whistleblower statutes. Detailed information on workers' whistleblower rights is available on OSHA's Whistleblower page.
Cal/OSHA has issued sixteen citations totaling $166,890 against Lamont-based composting facility Community Recycling and Resource Recovery. The citations were issued as the result of an investigation triggered by the Oct. 12, 2011 deaths of two brothers, Armando and Eladio Ramirez, aged 16 and 22. The young brothers died due to inhalation of hydrogen sulfide gas while cleaning an underground storm drain system at the recycling facility.
The two workers were clearing debris from an obstructed ten foot shaft of the storm drain system. After Amando lost consciousness from exposure to hydrogen sulfide gas, his brother Eladio attempted to rescue him, only to lose consciousness as well. Armando Ramirez was pronounced dead at the scene, while Eladio died at Kern Medical Center on November 14, 2011 after being taken off life support.
All sixteen citations issued to Community Recycling addressed the company's failure to have an adequate confined space program, including proper training, testing for atmospheric hazards, and rescue procedures. For more details, read the Cal/OSHA news release.
OSHA has cited poultry processor KD Acquisition I LLC, doing business as Coleman Natural Foods, with 11 safety violations. OSHA's Atlanta-East Area Office opened an inspection at the KD4 processing plant on Candler Road in Gainesville after receiving a complaint in September about safety hazards. Proposed penalties total $187,100.
Two repeat violations include allowing untrained workers to assist with and perform conveyor belt adjustments, and operating the conveyor belt system without machine guards that would protect workers from rotating parts, flying chips and sparks. Similar violations were cited at the company's KD5 plant in Braselton in 2007. Details of the citations are available in the news release (y en Español).
OSHA has cited The MacMillin Co. Inc. for alleged willful and serious violations of safety standards following the death of a worker on Sept. 16 at a Keene Middle School construction site. Temporary employees working under the direction of the Keene-based contractor were erecting scaffolding when the plank upon which the victim was working snapped, resulting in a 27-foot fatal fall to the concrete floor below. An inspection by OSHA's Concord Area Office found that the scaffold had not been inspected for defects, the workers had not been adequately trained, and the employer did not determine the feasibility of or ensure the use of fall protection. The MacMillin Co. Inc. faces a total of $167,580 in proposed fines. For more details about the willful and serious violations, read the news release.
OSHA has also cited Neenah-based GTO Contractors LLC with six safety – willful, repeat and serious – violations for failing to protect workers from falls. OSHA began an inspection in September under a local emphasis program on fall protection after inspectors witnessed workers exposed to fall hazards at commercial roofing work sites in Janesville and Middleton. Proposed penalties total $121,660. Read the news release for more information.
Fatalities from falls are the number one cause of workplace death in construction. For more information and educational materials, visit OSHA's Construction Industry page.
OSHA has cited Union Grove-based Willkomm Excavating & Grading Inc. with two willful violations for failing to protect workers from trench cave-ins at a job site in Greenfield. Proposed penalties total $60,500.
OSHA's inspection was initiated Jan. 5 based on a complaint and was conducted under the agency's National Emphasis Program on Trenching and Excavation. Workers were connecting water lines to the city water mains in a trench more than 6 feet deep. The violations were failing to remove workers from a trench when a competent person found conditions that could result in a possible cave-in, and to provide required cave-in protection. More details are available in the news release.
OSHA standards mandate that all excavations 5 feet or deeper be protected against collapse. For detailed information on trenching and excavation hazards, visit OSHA’s Safety and Health Topics page.
To help employers understand and improve their injury and illness rates, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, Dr. David Michaels sent letters to approximately 14,900 workplaces with high rates of days away from work, restricted work or job transfer in 2010. For each 100 full-time workers, these employers had 2 or more injuries or illnesses that resulted in days away from work, restricted work or job transfer. The national average is 1.8.
Dr. Michael’s letter encourages employers to develop their own safety and health plans to better protect workers. An excellent way for employers with 250 or fewer workers to address safety and health is to ask for assistance from OSHA's Free On-Site Consultation Program. 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. On-site Consultation services are separate from enforcement and do not result in penalties or citations. Consultants from state agencies or universities work with employers to identify workplace hazards, provide advice on compliance with OSHA standards, and assist in establishing safety and health management systems. For more information, read the full letter here.
OSHA's Directorate of Training and Education (DTE) has been reaccredited by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET) to continue providing work-related injury and illness prevention training.
DTE, which includes the OSHA Training Institute, offers a wide selection of courses and programs to help workers and employers broaden their knowledge of how to recognize, avoid and prevent safety and health hazards in their workplaces. OSHA also offers training and educational materials to help businesses train their workers and comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Act. To achieve Authorized Provider accreditation, the OSHA Directorate of Training and Education completed a rigorous application process. To learn more about the reaccreditation, read the news release.
The Department of Labor has created an audio-enhanced website to commemorate the 101st anniversary of the deadly fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City. The fire killed 146 workers and was an early tipping point in the struggle to ensure basic health and safety precautions in the 20th century workplace.
With audio tracks narrated by Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis and other senior Labor Department officials, the website highlights 21 locations throughout the New York City metropolitan area that played a role in the March 25, 1911, fire. Users can read and hear about the events that led up to the fire, its victims and the aftermath. For more information, read the news release and visit the new webpage.
A renewed Alliance between the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) aims to promote best practices for reducing and preventing worker exposures to health and physical hazards. The Alliance will continue to address non-English or limited English-speaking workers, motor vehicle safety, and awareness of workplace safety and health for public sector employees.
During the new two-year agreement, the Alliance will continue to work with ASSE's Safety Professionals and the Latino Workforce group to translate Alliance-developed products for limited- and non-English speaking workers. For more details, read the news release.
Through the Alliance Program, OSHA works with groups committed to worker safety and health to prevent workplace fatalities, injuries and illnesses. For more information, visit OSHA's Alliance Program page.
To better protect workers who may be exposed to chemical contaminants, the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board has adopted lower permissible exposure limits (PELs) for carbon disulfide, hydrogen fluoride, sulfuric acid, and toluene.
California's OSHSB adopted the new PELs on January 19, and the changes went into effect on March 17. More information about exposure limits is available in the California Department of Industrial Relations' PEL and STEL table.
Finalist submissions to the Oregon Young Employee Safety "O(yes)" Coalition Public Service Announcement Video Contest are now available to screen on YouTube. The contest, which was co-sponsored by Oregon OSHA, aims to bring greater awareness to young people about occupational hazards.
Eleven videos from high schools across Oregon were selected as finalists in the contest. These videos can be viewed on the O(yes) "2012 Video Submissions" YouTube playlist. Contest winners will be unveiled on April 14.
OSHA has updated All about OSHA (PDF*), the Agency's comprehensive guide to OSHA's mission, coverage of workers, standards, enforcement, whistleblower protections, and more. Please call 1-800-321-OSHA to order copies or visit OSHA's Publications page to order online.
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.
See DOL's weekly electronic newsletter for more DOL news.
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