|May 4, 2015 · Volume 14, Issue 9|
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration today issued a final rule to increase protections for construction workers in confined spaces. People working in confined spaces (such as manholes, crawl spaces, and tanks) face life-threatening hazards including toxic substances, electrocutions, explosions and asphyxiation.
Last year, two workers were asphyxiated while repairing leaks in a manhole, the second when he went down to save the first – which is not uncommon in cases of asphyxiation in confined spaces.
"In the construction industry, entering confined spaces is often necessary, but fatalities like these don't have to happen," said Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. "This new rule will significantly improve the safety of construction workers who enter confined spaces. In fact, we estimate that it will prevent about 780 serious injuries every year."
The rule will provide construction workers with protections similar to those manufacturing and general industry workers have had for more than two decades, with some differences tailored to the construction industry. These include requirements to ensure that multiple employers share vital safety information and to continuously monitor hazards – a safety option made possible by technological advances after the manufacturing and general industry standards were created.
To help ensure that workers have a voice in their workplaces and the protection they deserve, on April 28 OSHA unveiled a new version of its "Job Safety and Health – It's The Law!" poster. The poster informs workers of their rights, and employers of their responsibilities.
"This poster emphasizes a very important principle when it comes to prevention – that every worker has a voice," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. "Workers need to know their rights and be able to use their rights, without fear of retaliation, when they believe that their safety or health is at risk."
The newly designed poster informs workers of their right to request an OSHA inspection of their workplaces, receive information and training on job hazards, report a work-related injury or illness, and raise safety and health concerns with their employer or OSHA without being retaliated against. The poster also informs employers of their legal obligation to provide a safe workplace. In addition, it has been updated to include the new reporting obligations for employers, who must now report every fatality and every hospitalization, amputation and loss of an eye.
OSHA's "It's the Law" poster is free and can be downloaded online. Employers must display the poster in a conspicuous place where workers can see it. Previous versions of the poster do not need to be replaced. For more information, see the news release.
On April 28, OSHA hosted a Workers' Memorial Day observance at U.S. Department of Labor headquarters to honor workers who have been killed, injured and sickened on the job. The day also marked the 44th anniversary of OSHA and the dramatic improvements in workplace safety and health over the agency's first four decades.
Remarks renewing the department's commitment to fighting for the safety and health of workers across the nation were given by Deputy Labor Secretary Chris Lu, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health Joseph Main, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Jordan Barab, AFL-CIO Safety and Health Director Peg Seminario, Director of the Office of Workers' Compensation Programs Leonard Howie III, and Kathy Pierce. Kathy Pierce is the mother of a communications tower worker, Chad Weller, who died on the job last year at the age of 21. The ceremony ended with a moment of silence as attendees gathered in a memorial garden that serves to honor America's fallen workers.
Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels spent the day with employers, workers and worker advocates in Cleveland, Ohio, to discuss the effects workplace injuries and illnesses have not just on workers, but on workers' families and society as a whole. Dr. Michaels participated in events throughout the day, including throwing the first pitch at a Cleveland Indians baseball game in honor of workers who have been killed or injured on the job.
To learn more about local ceremonies in states across the country, visit OSHA's Workers' Memorial Day page.
Read the blog by Assistant Secretary Michaels and Assistant Secretary Main.
Employers and workers all across over the nation and internationally are ready to make history by reaching more than 3 million workers during the two-week 2015 National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction. From May 4-15, millions of participants will pause during their workday to focus on preventing fatalities from falls through talks, demonstrations and trainings.
Check out the National Safety Stand-Down webpage for details on events across the country; instructions on how to conduct a stand-down and receive a certificate of participation; and free resources in English and Spanish. Videos to promote participation in the Stand-Down, including one with a message from Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, are also available on OSHA's website.
The national stand-down is part of OSHA's fourth annual Fall Prevention Campaign, launched in partnership with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, National Occupational Research Agenda, and CPWR, the Center for Construction Research and Training. For more information, see the news release.
Three workers removing thermal pipe insulation from a vacant residence in Harrisburg, Pa., were exposed to asbestos. An OSHA inspection found that First Capital Insulation Inc. failed to protect employees from this serious respiratory illness hazard. The company was cited for seven willful violations and faces $490,000 in proposed fines.
"Asbestos exposure can cause chronic lung disease and cancer," said Kevin Kilp, director of OSHA's area office in Harrisburg. "With the right safeguards, employees can be protected from these deadly hazards. We found employees removing insulation containing asbestos without first wetting the material, which reduces the danger of exposure. A little water could have made all the difference and the company knew this," Kilp said.
Violations included allowing workers to improperly remove asbestos, and failing to ensure that employee respirators fit correctly, and failing to decontaminate employees and their clothing before leaving the work site. For more information, read the news release.
An OSHA investigation of a Houston-area Dollar Tree Store found piled boxes at dangerous heights and blocked exit routes. OSHA proposed $116,200 for two repeated and four serious violations. This is the most recent violation assessed against the national discount retailer, which has received more than 200 safety and health violations since 2009.
"It's too easy for workers to get crushed under haphazardly stacked boxes, or trapped when exits are blocked," said Mark Briggs, OSHA's area director in the Houston South office. "Hazards like these put worker safety in jeopardy, and failing to correct them is unacceptable."
The store was cited for failing to: clearly mark doorways along exit routes, place valve protection caps on compressed helium cylinders, train workers on fire extinguisher use, and provide clear access to the breaker box. For more information and to view the citations, read the news release.
Chicago Dryer Co. was cited with one willful and 20 serious safety and health violations after an OSHA inspection found that the company ignored safety requirements and exposed workers to amputations and struck-by hazards. The company used damaged crane slings to carry 3,000-pound cylinders and did not use proper safety mechanisms on dangerous machines with moving parts. Chicago Dryer faces $171,000 in proposed penalties.
"When a press brake lacks safety features, one slip and a worker can lose a hand," said Angeline Loftus, area director of OSHA's Chicago North Area Office in Des Plaines. "OSHA found multiple serious violations in this industrial setting. Chicago Dryer needs to address the use of damaged equipment immediately and lack of training that puts workers at risk for serious and potentially fatal injuries."
Additional violations include failing to remove damaged powered industrial vehicles from use; exposing workers to fall hazards because railings were not installed on open stairs and working surfaces; and failing to develop specific procedures for controlling unintentional machine operation during service and maintenance. For more information, read the news release.
Employees of A. Hyatt Ball Co. Inc. were exposed to potential fires, explosions, crushing hazards, chemical burns, and eye and face injuries, according to findings from an OSHA inspection of the Albany, N.Y., manufacturer. OSHA identified 48 violations of workplace safety and health standards and issued the company $105,200 in proposed penalties.
"Our inspection identified a disturbing number of violations," said Kim Castillon, OSHA's area director in Albany. The company “lacks basic safety and health programs to prevent fires, explosions or an uncontrolled release of highly hazardous chemicals, including formaldehyde, which has been linked to cancer and can cause allergic reactions to the skin, eyes and respiratory tract."
OSHA inspectors found combustible dust resin; flammable liquids improperly stored and transferred; locked and obstructed exit routes; and no audible fire alarm and fire-suppression system. All these violations increased the risk of employees being killed, injured or unable to escape from a fire or explosion. For more information, read the news release.
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, will implement ongoing safety enhancements in aerial acts to protect employees against injuries such as those sustained by its aerialists during a 2014 performance in Providence, R.I.
The measures are part of a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor concerning an OSHA citation issued to the circus in connection with the 2014 incident in which nine employees were badly hurt. They were performing an act called a "Hair Hang" when the carabiner used to support them failed and they fell more than 15 feet to the ground. Eight aerialists, along with a ninth employee who was struck by the falling workers, sustained serious injuries.
"We sought and achieved a settlement that will maximize safety for the circus' employees and minimize the possibility of future falls and injuries," said Michael Felsen, the department's regional solicitor of labor for New England. "It's incumbent upon the circus to follow through on its pledge with a thorough, effective, proactive and continuous safety program," Felsen said.
Under the settlement, the circus agrees that all its aerial acts will be reviewed by a registered professional engineer, a written checklist for equipment and hardware inspections will be provided for each act, and each circus unit will conduct an annual safety day that will address employee safety topics. For more information, see the news release.
An OSHA investigation has determined that management of the Union Pacific Railroad added insult to injury to a worker in Roseville, Calif., who was hurt on-the-job by retaliating against him for reporting his injury in February 2011.
Investigators established that Union Pacific action violated the Federal Railroad Safety Act. As a result, OSHA has ordered the railroad to pay the worker $100,000 in punitive and compensatory damages. For more information, see the news release.
This case follows a pattern of behavior by Union Pacific toward its injured employees. OSHA recently reported that the railroad has faced more than 200 whistleblower complaints nationwide since 2001. For more information, see the news release.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the FRSA and 21 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various industries. Detailed information about OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Program and employee whistleblower rights is available at www.whistleblowers.gov.
OSHA's new booklet on Protecting Roofing Workers provides guidance for preventing falls from roofs, which accounted for nearly 1,200 fatalities between 2008 and 2012, or more than a third of all occupational fall deaths during that period. An updated Fall Protection in Construction publication is now available to help workers and employers better understand OSHA's Fall Protection in Construction standard requirements and the criteria for fall protection in construction workplaces.
OSHA also has a new resource to help employers conduct medical evaluations in workplace situations where respirators are required to protect employees from hazardous airborne contaminants. When respiratory protection is required, employers must have a respirator protection program as directed in OSHA's Respiratory Protection standard. The new Respirator Medical Evaluation Questionnaire Infosheet provides the mandatory minimum required medical questionnaire for this evaluation.
OSHA has entered into an alliance with the National Center for Transgender Equality to provide NCTE affiliates and others with information and resources to help foster safer and more healthful American workplaces.
"Through this alliance, we will jointly work with the NCTE to develop products and guidance materials to improve workplace safety and health for all workers," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels.
The Alliance will provide opportunities for OSHA to speak, exhibit, or appear at conferences, local meetings, or other events sponsored by the NCTE or allied organizations. Additionally, the alliance will focus on sharing information on OSHA initiatives, workers' rights and employer responsibilities and other safety and health information. NCTE will also review, promote and disseminate new guidance products. The alliance agreement will be for two years. For more information, see the news release.
OSHA and M.A. Mortenson Construction have signed a Strategic Partnership to provide safe and healthful work environments for employees involved in the construction of the Alamo Solar 5 project in Uvalde, Texas, 85 miles west of San Antonio. The construction project is anticipated to create about 350 jobs in San Antonio, and the company's partnership with OSHA is designed to protect these workers.
As part of the partnership, the construction company and OSHA will work together to establish a cooperative effort at the worksite to ensure the safety and health of all workers, and maintain an open line of communication between OSHA and contractors on the worksite. The provisions of the partnership require contractors to implement an effective safety and health program.
The Alamo Solar 5 project is one of eight solar energy sites scheduled for construction in the greater San Antonio area. When completed, the 900-acre solar energy site is expected to generate about 100 megawatts of renewable energy ? enough to power more than 36,000 households.
For more information, see the OSHA Strategic Partnership with M.A. Mortenson Construction and the construction company’s project webpage.
OSHA and the Consulate General of Mexico in New York have signed an Alliance to protect the rights of Mexican workers in the United States through training and education, outreach and communication, and by promoting a national dialogue on workplace safety and healthOSHA and Mexican Consulate of New York sign alliance to protect workers
The participants will establish a collaborative relationship to provide Mexican nationals in New York and New Jersey with education and training to help workers understand their rights and employers' responsibilities under the OSH Act. For more information, see the Alliance agreement in English or Spanish.
A daylong safety summit for employers and workers will be held June 23 at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. The education and training event will bring regional and national experts who will address workplace violence, noise and hearing protection, lead in construction, mobile cranes safety, electrical safety in construction, and ergonomic hazards, as well as recordkeeping requirements for employers and how to prepare for an OSHA inspection.
The summit is being organized by OSHA’s area office in Springfield, Mass., the OSHA Training Institute at Keene State College in Keene, N.H., and the American Society of Safety Engineers in cooperation with the university. Other sponsors include the Safety Council of Western New England and the state's OSHA On-site Consultation program. For more information and registration information, visit the Keene State website.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has issued a new bulletin recommending that all workplaces become tobacco-free, and that employers make tobacco cessation programs available to their workers. NIOSH's recommendations, which also encompass the use of new Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems — or e-cigarettes — are aimed at protecting workers from hazardous exposure to tobacco, including the effects of secondhand exposure to tobacco smoke and emissions from e-cigarettes. For more information, read the full bulletin issued by NIOSH.
In his March 4, 2015 blog, Dr. David Michaels explained how "the costs of workplace injuries are borne primarily by injured workers, their families, and taxpayer-supported components of the social safety net." For more information, see the report.
Check out the new Spanish-language 2015 National Safety Stand-Down video! The video encourages business owners and workers to participate in the international event this May 4 to 15. More than 3,500 workers were killed in falls over the last decade, many of them Spanish-speaking. The video is part of OSHA's continuing effort to encourage the participation of the nation's diverse workforce in safety training events.
OSHA provides news and commentary on workplace safety and health from its senior leadership, staff and guest contributors on the DOL blog. See our latest posts:
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