|July 1, 2015 · Volume 14, Issue 14|
Targeting some of the most common causes of workplace injury and illness in the healthcare industry, OSHA is expanding its use of enforcement resources in hospitals and nursing homes.
OSHA advised its staff through a memorandum that all inspections of hospitals and nursing home facilities, including those prompted by complaints, referrals or severe injury reports, should include the review of potential hazards involving musculoskeletal disorders related to patient handling; bloodborne pathogens; workplace violence; tuberculosis; and slips, trips and falls.
"Workers in hospitals, nursing homes and long-term care facilities have work injury and illness rates that are among the highest in the country, and virtually all of these injuries and illnesses are preventable," said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health.
OSHA's On-site Consultation Program offers free and confidential occupational safety and health advice to small and medium-sized businesses across the country, with priority given to high-hazard worksites.
The 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 injury and illness prevention programs.
In response to requests from employers seeking to reduce safety and health hazards at their workplaces, consultants visited about 27,000 worksites with more than 1.25 million workers in FY2014. For more information, see OSHA's Safety and Health Consultation Services brochure, available in English and Spanish.
More than 200,000 users have downloaded the OSHA Heat Safety Tool since its launch in 2011. This spring, OSHA released a new version of the app for Apple devices, with full-screen color alerts, improved navigation and accessibility options.
This improved version lets you know instantly if you are in a high-risk zone due to heat and humidity and precautions that need to be taken to prevent heat-related illness. The recently updated app gives users important safety information when and where they need it -- right on their mobile phones. Download this life-saving app today.
More information on preventing heat-related illness is available on OSHA's website, where you can find fact sheets, training manuals, community posters, and more in both English and Spanish.
With Independence Day celebrations quickly approaching, OSHA is encouraging the fireworks and pyrotechnics industry to protect workers from hazards while manufacturing, storing, transporting, displaying and selling fireworks for public events.
Last summer OSHA investigated Lone Star Management after one worker was killed and another critically injured in an explosion and fire at one of its fireworks storage facilities in Kansas. OSHA proposed $55,000 in fines after identifying nine serious violations, including failure to mark explosive storage containers with appropriate warnings and storing unauthorized materials.
OSHA has online resources with information on common hazards and solutions found in both areas of the industry, including downloadable safety posters for workplaces. Also available is a video that demonstrates best industry practices for retail sales and manufacturers based on National Fire Protection Association consensus standards.
Corizon Health Inc., which provides medical, dental and mental-health services to inmates at correctional facilities nationwide, will implement changes to reduce workplace violence hazards for employees at its locations.
In August 2014, OSHA cited Corizon for failing to develop and implement an effective program to prevent workplace violence for its employees at Rikers Island, New York. As part of a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor, Corizon will adopt comprehensive and specific abatement measures at its facilities.
"While Corizon is taking corrective action at Rikers Island, it will expand that effort and change its practices at hundreds of locations to enhance safety for countless employees," said Robert Kulick, OSHA's regional administrator in New York.
In consultation with employees and unions, each location will develop a workplace violence prevention policy; an incident reporting system; enhanced record-keeping procedures; a workplace violence hazard assessment and prevention program; employee training. The settlement also requires Corizon to appoint a senior official to oversee compliance with the settlement agreement and the Occupational Safety and Health Act; allow OSHA to conduct inspections to monitor compliance; and seek greater coordination with local departments of correction or similar agencies that work with Corizon facilities. For more information, see the news release.
North America's second-largest freight railroad, Burlington Northern Santa Fe LLC, must reinstate a train conductor and pay the worker $536,063 in back pay, damages and attorney's fees. A federal investigation found the rail operator retaliated against its employee after the worker reported a knee injury that occurred on the job in 2010. The employee filed a Federal Railroad Safety Act anti-discrimination complaint with OSHA and company officials fired the worker in August 2011 despite knowing that the injury report was protected by law.
In addition to paying punitive and compensatory damages, OSHA ordered BNSF to rehire the employee and expunge his record of all charges and disciplinary action. The company must also conduct training for supervisors and managers on employee whistleblower rights and post a notice to employees of their whistleblower rights. For more information, read the news release.
An OSHA inspection of a Delaware poultry plant found workers who cut chicken fat, bone and cartilage on production lines were exposed to numerous hazards and suffered musculoskeletal injuries as a result. Allen Harim Foods allowed workers to perform prolonged, repetitive and forceful tasks without controls in place to prevent injuries. The company was cited for nine serious violations including failing to: address musculoskeletal hazards, designate emergency exits properly, make lavatories available to employees and provide training on machinery that could unexpectedly start up during service and maintenance. Proposed penalties total $38,000. "Workers should not have to work in pain, especially when these injuries are preventable," said Erin Patterson, director of OSHA's Wilmington office. For more information, read the news release and citation.
A drilling company with a history of OSHA citations was cited and placed in the agency's Severe Violator Enforcement Program following an explosion that killed three men and injured two others in December 2014. The blast was likely caused by the use of an open-flame heater on the rig floor. The company had been cited for allowing the same hazardous condition on a rig less than two years later. "The company knew this was hazardous, but chose to ignore the hazard," said David Bates, OSHA's area director in Oklahoma City. The company received two willful, seven serious and one repeated OSHA violation, resulting in proposed penalties totaling $221,200. For more information, see the news release.
In a settlement with the U.S. Department of Labor, Marathon Staffing Services Inc. agreed to enhanced workplace safety and health protections for workers it places with other businesses. OSHA cited the Massachusetts staffing company in December 2014 for not providing hearing tests for its employees exposed to high noise levels. Under the agreement, Marathon will have a qualified safety and health professional review and update a checklist to address foreseeable safety and health concerns at client workplaces. Marathon will also provide comprehensive safety and health training for its account executives and sales representatives. "Other suppliers and employers of temporary workers can and should take heed and ensure that all employees - permanent, short-term or day laborer - work in an environment that enables them to come home each day safe and healthy," said Michael Felsen, the department's regional solicitor of labor for New England. For more information, read the news release.
OSHA initiated an investigation of Canton Drop Forge in response to a complaint alleging workers were exposed to machines lacking safety guards in the company's Ohio die shop. Investigators cited the company for exposing workers to dangerous machinery by failing to install safety mechanisms. The company also lacked procedures to ensure equipment was turned off to prevent it from operating during service and maintenance. Proposed penalties totaled $77,000. Canton Drop Forge was cited for similar violations twice in both April and May of 2011. In April 2011, a worker was killed at the company when he was struck by a loader bucket at the facility. "Canton Drop Forge needs to make immediate improvements to its procedures to prevent workers from being exposed to dangerous machinery which can lead to amputations, cuts and other serious injuries," said Howard Eberts, OSHA's area director in Cleveland. For more information, read the news release.
A company providing construction services at the Ford Motor Co. plant in Kansas City, Missouri, was cited by OSHA following the death of a worker who was crushed by a conveyor carriage weighing nearly 4 tons.. KCI Inc., which was rebuilding the assembly line at the plant, received one willful safety violation under OSHA's general duty clause, with proposed penalties of $70,000. "This worker's death was preventable and a tragic loss for his family," said Barb Theriot, OSHA's area director in Kansas City. "KCI and Ford have a responsibility to inspect assembly lines and ensure that workers moving large parts are protected from crushing and struck-by hazards." In addition, Ford Motor Co. was cited for not inspecting the assembly line's construction, and received proposed penalties of $7,000 For more information, see the news release.
On June 12 Dalia Nichols, a compliance officer from OSHA's Wilmington, Del., Area Office, participated in a radio interview with El Zol 107.9 on OSHA's Heat Illness Prevention Campaign. The Spanish-language radio station serves the Latino community with more than 200,000 listeners in Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.
In addition to explaining how to stay safe in the heat, Nichols also spoke about worker rights, employer responsibilities, bilingual resources for employers and workers, and how to contact OSHA with questions or complaints. The program aired June 21.
Compliance Assistant Specialist Abraham Arzola from OSHA’s El Paso Area Office participated in the Permian Basin South Texas Exploration and Production Safety Network meeting held June 9 in Midland. There were more than 200 attendees at the meeting, where oil and gas safety and health professionals picked up OSHA QuickCards and other publications to share with workers at their job sites. OSHA's El Paso and Lubbock Area Offices both participate in the current Alliance with the Permian Basin STEPS Network to improve the safety and health of workers in the oil and gas industry.
At the June 18 meeting of the National Advisory Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, OSHA Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels described the detrimental costs of workplace injuries and illnesses. He referred to the OSHA report "Adding Inequality to Injury", noting that workplace injuries and illnesses "can force working families out of the middle class and into poverty." In his remarks, he also called for new tools to address "fissured workplaces," reviewed changes to safety and health recordkeeping and reporting requirements for employers, summarized a recent status report from the Chemical Facility Safety and Security Working Group, and addressed other current OSHA initiatives. For more information, read Dr. Michaels' remarks.
OSHA's public request for information about worker safety hazards in communication tower construction and maintenance activities, which closed on June 15, drew input from hundreds of stakeholders, including many communication tower workers. Comments included input about the causes of worker injuries and deaths, as well as best practices to address these hazards.
OSHA is conducting an in-depth analysis of the comments, but it is already clear that valuable information was submitted. Workers spoke of long, tiring days spent climbing towers in inclement weather, along with many other hazards they encounter on a daily basis. Tower company owners addressed the difficulties they face keeping their businesses economically viable in this challenging industry.
OSHA will carefully consider each of the comments, which, along with research and further communications with stakeholders, will help determine what actions the agency should take to address the hazards in this industry. For more, see the online docket and OSHA's Communication Towers webpage.
A new addition to OSHA's Fatal Facts series emphasizes employers' responsibilities to protect workers from confined space hazards while working in sewer line manholes. Fatal Facts describe cases where employers failed to identify and correct hazardous working conditions before they resulted in fatalities at their worksites. This Fatal Facts is based on a case where a construction worker suffocated after entering a manhole. It includes references to the new Confined Space in Construction Standard that takes effect on August 3, 2015.
Also available is OSHA's free Job Safety and Health: It's the Law! poster that informs workers of their rights under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. All covered employers are required to predominantly display the poster in their workplaces where workers can see it. The poster can be downloaded from OSHA's workplace poster Web page in English, Spanish, Polish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean and Nepali.
A new OSHA video promoting the rights of young workers to safe and healthful working conditions headlined the National Leadership and Skills Conference hosted by SkillsUSA in Louisville, Ky., last week. The annual conference on career and technical education attracts 16,000 students, teachers and business partners and features a national competition among students. Kicking off the conference’s student awards ceremony, OSHA's video featured young workers reminding their peers that they have a right to speak up and ask questions about safety on the job. For more information, watch the OSHA video and visit OSHA's Protecting Young Workers webpage.
A blog by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health discusses new data showing silicosis is continuing to cause or contribute to about 100 worker deaths a year. It also explains the emergence of new occupations and tasks, such as hydraulic fracturing of gas and oil wells, are placing workers at risk of exposure to silica.
Silicosis is a disabling, incurable and sometimes fatal lung disease caused by the inhalation of respirable crystalline silica particles.
Effective strategies for employers on preventing occupational exposure to hazardous silica are available on OSHA's Silica Safety and Health Topics webpage and NIOSH's website. OSHA issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Occupational Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica in September 2013. For more information, visit the rulemaking page.
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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