|May 1, 2014 · Volume 13, Issue 9|
|A twice monthly e-news product with information about workplace safety and health.|
In an official proclamation, President Barack Obama declared April 28, 2014, to be Workers' Memorial Day. The President called upon all Americans to participate in ceremonies and activities in memory of those killed or injured due to unsafe working conditions.
"We must never accept that injury, illness, or death is the cost of doing business. Workers are the backbone of our economy, and no one's prosperity should come at the expense of their safety. Today, let us celebrate our workers by upholding their basic right to clock out and return home at the end of each shift,” said President Barack Obama.
“America is built on the promise of opportunity... Yet each year, workplace illness and injury threaten that promise for millions of Americans, and even more tragically, thousands die on the job,” President Obama continued. “This is unacceptable. On Workers Memorial Day, we honor those we have lost, and in their memory, affirm everyone's right to a safe workplace."
Read more in the Presidential Proclamation.
On April 28, 2014 Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels hosted a Workers Memorial Day observance at the U.S. Department of Labor headquarters to honor workers who have been killed, injured and sickened on the job. Michaels was joined by Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez and Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health Joseph Main in renewing the Department’s commitment to fighting for the safety and health of workers across the nation.
“We’re here today because no one should have to sacrifice their life for their livelihood,” said Secretary of Labor Tom Perez. “A nation built on the dignity of work must provide safe working conditions for its people.”
In a panel discussion following the remarks, Michaels invited Director of Safety and Health at the AFL-CIO Peg Seminario and Sean Barrett, a terrazzo worker and silica victim from Massachusetts, to discuss the need for better worker protections from toxic substances and hazardous chemicals in the workplace.
“We must do more to ensure that workplaces are safe and healthful,” said Michaels. “In the very near future, we will be calling on employers, unions, workers, safety and health professionals and researchers to engage in a national conversation on how to better protect workers from serious chemical hazards on the job.”
The ceremony ended with a moment of silence as attendees gathered in a memorial garden that serves to honor America's fallen workers.
April 28 also marked the 43rd anniversary of OSHA and the dramatic improvements in workplace safety and health over OSHA's first four decades. In Workers' Memorial Day events around the country, OSHA is honoring the memories of those killed, disabled, injured or made sick by their jobs. To view pictures and learn more about local Workers' Memorial Day ceremonies in states across the country, visit OSHA's Workers' Memorial Day page.
On April 29, 2014, Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels testified before the Senate Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety. In his testimony, Michaels proposed a number of improvements to the whistleblower provisions (section 11(c)) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. Section 11(c) prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for exercising their rights under the OSHA law. More than half of the anti-retaliation complaints that the agency receives every year are 11(c) complaints. Although the newest of OSHA’s 21 statutes extend increased protection to whistleblowers, the original 11(c) statute remains outdated and weak.
“To give section 11(c) the teeth it needs to be as effective as newer whistleblower statutes, it must be updated to establish improved procedures for filing, investigating, and resolving whistleblower complaints — to afford employees the same protections that are found in these more recent anti-retaliation statutes,” Michaels told the committee.
For more details, see Dr. Michaels’ testimony.
Republic Steel has agreed to settle alleged health and safety violations at the company's facilities in Lorain, Canton and Massillon, Ohio, as well as Blasdell, N.Y. Under the comprehensive settlement, the company will address more than 100 safety and health violations found during a series of inspections conducted in the fall of 2013. In addition to correcting all cited hazards, Republic Steel will implement numerous safeguards to prevent future injuries. The agreement also resolves contested citations from two previous inspections in 2013.
"By agreeing to the terms of this settlement, Republic Steel has demonstrated a commitment to change its culture, invest in its employees, and work with OSHA and the United Steelworkers to make significant changes at its facilities that will improve the safety and health of its workers," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez.
In addition to abating the cited hazards, Republic Steel has agreed to several additional measures to improve compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 and better protect its employees. Republic Steel will hire additional safety and health staff; conduct internal safety and health inspections with representatives of the United Steelworkers; establish and implement a comprehensive safety and health management program to identify and correct hazardous working conditions; hire third-party auditors to assure that hazards are identified and improvements are made; and meet quarterly with OSHA staff to assure implementation of this agreement.
OSHA initiated the inspections last fall in response to a serious injury after an employee fell through the roof of a building at the Lorain plant. OSHA expanded its inspections to all of Republic Steel's facilities under the Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
The U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration announced April 23 the release of a final rule to lower miners' exposure to respirable coal mine dust in all underground and surface coal mines. Prolonged exposure to this dust causes numerous lung diseases, collectively referred to as black lung, and can lead to permanent disability and death.
According to estimates from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, more than 76,000 miners have died since 1968 as the result of the disease, and evidence indicates that miners, including young miners, are continually being diagnosed.
"We are finally moving forward to overhaul an outdated program that has failed to adequately protect miners from breathing unhealthy levels of coal mine dust and achieving the intent of Congress to eliminate black lung disease," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health Joseph A. Main. For more information, see the news release.
The revised 2012 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries was released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on April 24. According to the BLS data, 4,628 people lost their lives on the job in 2012, up from the 4,383 fatalities reported in the August 2013 preliminary census results. Even with the increase, the final 2012 count is the second-lowest annual total recorded since BLS started conducting the national census in 1992. It also represents a slight decrease from the 2011 fatal injury rate for the United States. The final fatal work injury rate for 2012 (3.4 fatal injuries per 100,000 workers) is the lowest published by the program since the conversion to hours-based rates in 2006.
The CFOI compiles an annual account of all fatal work injuries by using diverse data sources to identify, verify and profile work-related fatalities. A summary of the revised 2012 fatal data is in the BLS news release, along with links to detailed information.
OSHA has cited Dixie Tank Co. in Jacksonville, Fla. with 23 safety and health violations for exposing workers, including three temporary workers, to numerous hazards, including the toxic chemical hexavalent chromium. Hexavalent chromium is known to cause cancer and targets the respiratory system, kidneys, liver, skin and eyes. The proposed penalties total $106,100.
“Employers must ensure that workers are protected from serious hazards to their health,” said Brian Sturtecky, OSHA’s area director in Jacksonville. “It is critically important that employers, such as Dixie Tank, take effective steps to monitor, identify and reduce exposure levels to safeguard their employees’ health.”
OSHA initiated an October 2013 inspection as part of the agency’s national emphasis program on amputations. The employer’s serious violations included failing to conduct initial monitoring of hexavalent chromium to determine the eight-hour exposure average, failing to provide medical surveillance for employees exposed to hexavalent chromium for more than 30 days and failing to provide appropriate respirators for workers. See the news release for additional information on the citations.
OSHA has cited Cenex Harvest States Inc. for 19 violations of workplace safety and health standards, including 14 serious, three repeat and two other-than-serious violations, at grain-handling facilities in Montana. The company faces $211,000 in proposed fines as a result of four inspections at Montana facilities in Cut Bank, Glendive, Denton and Valier.
“Grain dust can be dangerous – and is more explosive than coal dust. Exposing employees to excessive levels of this fugitive dust and failure to provide rescue equipment for workers entering confined spaces can cause death or permanent disability,” said Jeff Funke, OSHA’s area director in Billings.
Read the news release for more information about the citations.
OSHA has found Absolute Waste Removal in violation of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act for wrongfully terminating a truck driver for raising safety concerns during the reorganization of company routes. Headquartered in Clear Lake, Iowa, Absolute Waste Removal has been ordered to reinstate the driver to his former position with all pay, benefits and rights, in addition to paying back wages of $23,203, plus interest. OSHA also ordered the company to pay $50,000 in compensatory and $50,000 in punitive damages and reasonable attorney's fees.
"An employer does not have the right to retaliate against employees who report work-related injuries or safety concerns," said Marcia Drumm, acting regional administrator for OSHA in Kansas City, Mo. "OSHA is committed to protecting all workers from retaliation for exercising basic worker rights."
The driver was terminated from employment on Feb. 27, 2013, after raising repeated concerns to the company's owner about new procedures being implemented. The employee rightfully refused to operate a vehicle in an unsafe manner because such operation would violate American National Standards Institute and U.S. Department of Transportation regulations, potentially causing serious injury to the worker, co-workers or the public. Read the press release for additional details. OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the STAA and 21 other statutes. For more information, visit www.whistleblowers.gov/.
OSHA will hold an informal public hearing on May 19 to discuss the agency’s proposed rule to extend the compliance date for the crane operator certification requirement and the existing phase-in requirement that employers ensure that their operators are qualified to operate the equipment. The purpose of the hearing is to gather additional information related to whether OSHA should extend the requirement by three years or not at all.
On Feb. 10, 2014, OSHA issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposing to extend the deadline for operator certification by three years to Nov. 10, 2017, and to extend the existing employer duties for the same period. The comment period closed on March 12, 2014. The agency received several comments, one of which requested a hearing. The hearing will be held at 9:30 a.m., May 19, 2014, at the U.S. Department of Labor in Washington, D.C. Individuals who wish to testify must submit a notice of intention to appear by April 25. See the news release for additional information.
Falls are the leading cause of death for workers in the construction industry, and OSHA is reaching out to businesses across the country to take part in a national stand-down to stop falls from June 2-6. During this week, employers and workers are asked to voluntarily stop work to discuss fall prevention, including topics such as safe work on roofs, ladders and scaffolds.
New billboards advertising the stand down have been posted in many states around the country. For more information about the campaign and the June stand-down, read the press release, view the Secretary’s video and visit www.osha.gov/StopFallsStandDown/.
On April 1, staff from OSHA’s Little Rock Area Office and employees of the Arkansas Department of Labor Consultation Service attended an interactive fall prevention training session. The session was conducted by Chuck Wigger, Corporate Safety Director of Lamar Advertising Company, in conjunction with the national Lamar-OSHA alliance. The training session detailed Lamar’s safety and health program, safety improvements that have been implemented over the years and best practices.
“We Can Do This!” is a new seven-minute video developed by OSHA that explains how injury and illness prevention programs enhance workplace safety and health. An injury and illness prevention program is a systematic process that employers can use to find and fix workplace hazards before workers get hurt. Instituting these programs helps transform workplace culture and can lead to higher productivity, reduced turnover, reduced costs and greater worker satisfaction. To learn about the basic elements of these programs and how they have been implemented by many employers with dramatic results, visit OSHA’s Injury and Illness Prevention Program topics page and watch the video.
OSHA has formed an alliance with several Atlanta organizations to provide employers and workers in the construction industry with information, guidance and training to prevent overexposure to crystalline silica dust. The agreement was signed by OSHA, the Georgia Tech Research Institute's Occupational Safety and Health Division, Brasfield & Gorrie LLC, the Georgia Local Section of the American Industrial Hygiene Association and the Georgia Chapter of the American Society of Safety Engineers. Occupational exposure to crystalline silica often occurs in operations involving cutting, sawing, drilling and crushing of concrete. Inhalation of respirable crystalline silica particles has long been known to cause silicosis, a disabling, non-reversible and sometimes fatal lung disease.
Through its 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. The purpose of each alliance is to develop compliance assistance tools and resources and to educate workers and employers about their rights and responsibilities. See the news release for more information.
A memorandum of understanding between OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health was established on April 22. The MOU, signed by NIOSH Director Dr. John Howard and Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels, will enhance collaboration and streamline the development of occupational safety and health standards between the agencies.
NIOSH and OSHA have a longstanding relationship, in which the agencies work together regularly to ensure worker safety across the country.
The upcoming 16th Annual National Patient Safety Foundation’s Patient Safety Congress, May 14-16, in Orlando, Fla. will feature an educational track dedicated to workforce safety, the value of safety and health management systems, and sustaining a safety culture in the workplace. For descriptions of the Patient Safety Congress’ five sessions and other information about the meeting, see the detailed conference event list.
Preventing worker injuries not only helps workers, it also helps patients and saves resources for hospitals. OSHA’s Worker Safety in Hospitals resource page highlights the link between healthcare worker safety and patient safety.
Edison Electric Institute, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and OSHA will host a series of webinars on topics relating to recently published regulations on Electric Power Generation, Transmission, and Distribution and Electrical Protective Equipment.
There are a total of four webinars on the following subjects: Minimum Approach Distances, Fall Protection, Host Employer/Contractor and Arc Protection. These webinars are open to the general public. Click here to see an agenda and to register.
Are you interested in a career with the Department of Labor? DOL has job opportunities throughout the country, including openings in OSHA.
See DOL's weekly electronic newsletter for more DOL news.
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