|July 16, 2012 · Volume 11, Issue 16|
|A twice monthly e-news product with information about workplace safety and health.|
In this issue
OSHA and BP Products North America Inc. have resolved 409 of the 439 citations issued by the agency in October 2009 for willful violations of OSHA's process safety management standard at BP's refinery in Texas City, Texas. Under the agreement, BP will pay $13,027,000 in penalties, and already has abated or will abate all existing violations by the end of 2012.
"Protecting workers and saving lives is the ultimate goal of this agreement," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "For the workers at BP's Texas City refinery, this settlement will help establish a culture of safety. The workers who help keep our nation's oil and gas industries running deserve to go to work each day without fear of losing their lives."
In September 2005, OSHA cited BP for a then-record $21 million as a result of the explosion at its Texas City refinery that killed 15 workers in March of that year. Upon issuance of the citations, the parties entered into an agreement that required BP to identify and correct deficiencies. In a 2009 follow-up investigation to evaluate BP's performance under the 2005 agreement, OSHA found that although the company had made improvements to the plant, the company had failed to correct a number of hazards, which led OSHA to issue 270 failure- to-abate notices. In a settlement agreement in August, 2010, the company paid $50.6 million to resolve those notices.
Also in 2009, OSHA cited BP for an additional 439 new violations of the agency's PSM standard; including failing to follow industry-accepted engineering practices for pressure relief safety systems. Those citations carried total proposed penalties of $30.7 million.
The new agreement resolves nearly all of the additional PSM violations. "Make no mistake, the scope of this agreement should send a clear signal that OSHA is committed to ensuring that BP takes seriously the safety and health of America's most important natural resource – its workers," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels.
OSHA and the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Railroad Administration have announced the signing of a memorandum of agreement to facilitate coordination and cooperation with enforcement of the whistleblower provision of the Federal Railroad Safety Act. The Act protects employees from retaliation when they report safety violations to the government or report work-related personal injuries or illnesses.
"The safety of railroad employees depends on workers' ability to report injuries, incidents, and hazards without fear of retaliation," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels. "OSHA welcomes the opportunity to work with FRA to protect these rights and make our nation’s railroads a safer place to work." Whistleblower complaints in the railroad industry have been on the rise in recent years. Between 2007 and 2012, OSHA received more than 900 whistleblower complaints under the FRSA. Almost 63 percent involved an allegation that a worker was retaliated against for reporting an on-the-job injury.
The memorandum establishes procedures for OSHA and FRA to follow for whistleblower complaints involving railroad employees. Under the agreement FRA will refer railroad employees who complain of alleged discrimination to OSHA. Joseph Szabo, Administrator of the FRA, calls the agreement "a watershed moment for both railroads and labor alike." For more information, read the press release.
The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, also known as the MAP-21 Act, was signed into law by President Obama on Friday, July 6. The law authorizes funding for a series of highway, mass transit and other transportation programs. Its whistleblower provision prohibits retaliation by motor vehicle manufacturers, part suppliers, and dealerships against employees for providing information to the employer or the U.S. Department of Transportation about motor vehicle defects, noncompliance, or violations of the notification or reporting requirements enforced by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or for engaging in related protected activities as set forth in the provision.
The Act delegates enforcement of the provision to the Secretary of Labor, and OSHA is responsible for administering the department's whistleblower laws unless otherwise provided. The provision became effective upon the President's signature and the Office of Whistleblower Protection Program may begin accepting MAP-21 complaints immediately. To learn more about the statutes that OSHA administers to protect whistleblowers from retaliation, please visit whistleblowers.gov.
With a commitment to protecting its workers, customers and communities from combustible dust, grain engulfment, falls from heights and other hazards associated with the grain handling industry, Skyland Grain LLC contacted OSHA's On-site Consultation Program in 2005 for help strengthening the company’s safety and health program and employee training at its facilities in Kansas. In 2009, Skyland Grain LLC requested assistance from OSHA's On-site Consultation Program for its facilities Walsh and Buckeye, Colo. OSHA's On-Site Consultation Program offers free and confidential advice to small and medium-sized businesses to help them identify and correct hazards and improve their injury and illness prevention programs, with a priority given to high-hazard worksites. Consultants from state agencies or universities work with employers to identify workplace hazards, provide advice on compliance with OSHA standards, and assist in the establishment of injury and illness prevention programs.
Following the recommendations of Colorado's consultants, Skyland Grain LLC improved worker training on the lockout/tagout procedures that were in place for sweep augers, in addition to many other programs. Consultants also assisted Skyland Grain LLC with improving conditions at the facility by addressing fall protection, entry conditions, atmospheric conditions in confined spaces, and identifying electrical issues that the company added to its self-inspection lists. When air monitoring found worker overexposure to dust during grain bin clean-outs, Skyland Grain, LLC responded by implementing a respiratory protection program. The company also purchased emergency escape respirators for use during loading and transporting of anhydrous ammonia.
"At Skyland Grain LLC, our commitment to safety starts in the board room," said David Cron, CEO of Skyland Grain LLC. "There's a high level of accountability here. Our goal is to send every employee home, every day, as healthy as they came to work that day. You’re never at a point where you can’t do a better job with safety. We are always looking to improve."
After working with consultants from Colorado's On-site Consultation Program, Skyland's Buckeye facility applied for and was accepted into the Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP), which recognizes small employers who operate an exemplary injury and illness prevention program. Skyland's Walsh facility has also applied for SHARP status, and Skyland has seven facilities nationwide already SHARP certified.
From June 28 through July 8, a severe heat wave blanketed much of the Midwest and East Coast of the United States. It is estimated that thousands of daily high-temperature records were broken over that span. These dangerously high temperatures prompted excessive heat warnings from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration throughout the nation. These warnings now include information that protects outdoor workers by describing the signs of heat illness and what to do if someone becomes ill.
OSHA and NOAA, along with an active community of stakeholders, are working in high gear to spread the message of "Water. Rest. Shade." during these heat waves and to make sure that the public has the most accurate information about the signs of heat illness. For example, it is important to note the primary signs and symptoms of heat stroke: confusion, irrational behavior, loss of coordination, loss of consciousness or convulsions – all associated with abnormally high body temperatures. Although heat stroke is usually associated with a lack of sweating and hot, dry skin, a significant percentage of individuals with heat stroke have moist skin and appear to be sweating, particularly in humid conditions. There is a widely held misperception that someone who is sweating cannot be having heat stroke. Heat exhaustion, if untreated, may quickly progress to life-threatening heat stroke. Body temperature can rise to 106 degrees or higher within 10-15 minutes. The signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion are headache, nausea, vertigo, weakness, thirst and giddiness.
OSHA's heat safety app for Android and iPhones is also helping to get this life-saving information out to workers who are most at-risk. During the week that the heat wave began, the app was downloaded nearly 6,500 times, and has now exceeded 30,000 downloads. Visit OSHA's Heat page to download the app and find other useful resources, including radio interviews, new wallet cards and public service announcements in both English and Spanish. To order any of OSHA's materials in English or Spanish, call OSHA's Office of Communications at (202) 693-1999 or visit OSHA's Publications page.
Falls are the leading cause of death in construction. In 2010, there were 264 fall fatalities out of 774 total fatalities in construction. These deaths are preventable. Help support OSHA's Fall Prevention campaign by reaching out to workers and employers in your community with the resources available at www.osha.gov/stopfalls. The newest of these resources is a "Safety Pays. Falls Cost" sticker that can be affixed to equipment on a worksite. To order these or any of OSHA's outreach materials, call OSHA's Office of Communications at (202) 693-1999 or visit OSHA's Publications page.
OSHA will continue to accept nominations for membership on the Whistleblower Protection Advisory Committee (WPAC) until July 27, 2012. This new committee will advise, consult with, and make recommendations to the Secretary of Labor and the Assistant Secretary of Occupational Safety and Health on matters relating to the improvement of the fairness, efficiency, effectiveness and transparency of OSHA's whistleblower protection activities.
OSHA has announced that nominations are being accepted for six new members to serve on the 16-member Federal Advisory Council on Occupational Safety and Health (FACOSH).
FACOSH advises the Secretary of Labor on matters relating to the occupational safety and health of federal employees. This includes providing assistance to the Secretary and OSHA in an effort to reduce and keep to a minimum the number and severity of injuries and illnesses in the federal workforce. FACOSH also encourages each federal executive branch department and agency to establish and maintain effective occupational safety and health programs.
Nominations will be accepted for three federal agency management representatives and three labor organization representatives. Members will serve terms not to exceed three years.
Nominations may be submitted electronically at www.regulations.gov, the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Submissions may also be sent by mail or facsimile. See the Federal Register notice for details. Nominations must be submitted by September 4, 2012.
OSHA has cited Simtek Inc. for alleged repeat and serious violations of workplace safety standards as well as failing to correct eight hazardous conditions cited during a 2011 OSHA inspection that was prompted by a worker injury. The Amityville metal fabrication shop faces a total of $138,765 in proposed fines based on the latest inspection for new, recurring and uncorrected hazards.
OSHA originally cited Simtek in June 2011 for 20 violations of workplace safety standards, including missing or incomplete energy control procedures and various electrical hazards. The proposed penalties from that inspection total $60,600. The agency initiated a follow-up inspection in January of this year to verify whether the cited hazards had been abated. Inspectors found that Simtek still had not developed and put into use energy control procedures to lock out machines' power sources to prevent them from starting up during maintenance, nor had the company provided training and tools to workers who perform the maintenance. It also had failed to correct several electrical hazards such as misused electrical equipment, unused electrical openings, uncovered electrical cabinets and electrical cords that were spliced and lacked strain relief. See the news release for more information.
OSHA has placed Simtek in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law. The program focuses on recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing certain willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations. Visit the OSHA Web site for more details on SVEP and the current citations (PDF) against Simtek.
OSHA has cited two Florida companies for trenching hazards. The agency opened an inspection after receiving a complaint in January that an excavation sidewall had collapsed and buried a worker, who sustained a broken hip and was hospitalized. The incident occurred while workers were installing two grease traps for a newly constructed Wal-Mart store on Ranch Lake Boulevard in Bradenton.
One company has been cited with one willful violation for failing to remove workers from an unprotected 12-foot-deep excavation when it has been identified as unsafe. Additionally, the company has been cited with one serious violation for failing to provide excavation safety training to employees who are required to work in excavations greater than 5 feet deep. The other company was cited for one willful violation involving failing to ensure that cave-in protection was provided. Proposed penalties to both companies total $124,600. See the news release for more information.
OSHA standards mandate that all excavations 5 feet or deeper be protected against collapse. Visit OSHA's Web site for detailed information on trenching and excavation hazards.
OSHA has published a Final Rule on the "Procedures for the Handling of Retaliation Complaints Under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act."
Effective July 10 the Final Rule, among other provisions, ensures complainants receive copies of correspondence and evidence OSHA sends to respondents before ordering preliminary reinstatement, and that complainants have an opportunity to respond to the respondent's submissions during OSHA's investigation. The Final Rule also allows complainants to inform OSHA of their district court complaint by providing OSHA a copy up to seven days after filing, and allows complainants 14 days, rather than 10 business days, to petition for review by the Administrative Review Board. The rule incorporates edits made in response to comments received on the Interim Final Rule published in August 2010 and is consistent with the procedures published in the Sarbanes-Oxley Interim Final Rule, to the extent permissible by statute.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of 22 statutes protecting employees who report violations of various workplace safety, airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food, safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime and securities laws. To learn more, visit OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Program page.
Assistant Secretary for OSHA Dr. David Michaels led the U.S. delegation to a Joint U.S.-E.U. Conference on Health and Safety at Work with delegates from the European Union, where he delivered a keynote address. An international group of labor representatives, employers, scientists and safety and health specialists attended the conference from July 11-13 in Brussels, Belgium, to develop strategies to improve conditions for workers on both sides of the Atlantic.
"These meetings provide us a valuable opportunity to collaborate, share ideas and, together, develop solutions to key occupational safety and health problems," Dr. Michaels said. Calling on the delegates to find areas of agreement, Michaels said, "In a time of multinational corporations and interconnected economies, global approaches to improving workplace safety and health are not only better for workers; they also reduce barriers to trade and promote economic growth."
Discussions centered around topics that present opportunities for increased cooperation, such as the green economy, nanotechnology, chemical hazards, prevention of catastrophic workplace events, and the use of recordkeeping and data collection to improve worker safety and health. To read the speech, visit OSHA's Speeches page.
OSHA has scheduled a three-day training event for federal agency staff responsible for keeping federal workers safe and healthy on the job. The July 31 – Aug. 2 event will help ensure federal workplaces have safety programs equivalent to those in the private sector.
The OSHA Training Institute (OTI) and OSHA's Office of Federal Agency Programs collaborated on developing a series of seminars that address ergonomics issues, hazard communication, the global harmonizing system, indoor air quality and workplace violence, among other topics.
Federal agencies reported 53 federal worker deaths in Fiscal Year 2010. Additionally, federal workers filed more than 30,000 workers' compensation claims for injuries that resulted in lost time. This training event is intended to help federal managers implement and manage their injury and illness prevention programs, which include finding and fixing workplace hazards.
Students must register by July 24, 2012. Registration forms, course descriptions and other details are available on OSHA's 2012 FEDWEEK page.
On August 13 from 1-2:30 PM EST, the Society of Chemical Hazard Communication (SCHC) will host a free webinar to present information on implementing OSHA's revised Hazard Communication Standard in the United States. OSHA staff will be on hand during the webinar to provide information and answer questions.
The webinar, developed as part of OSHA's alliance with SCHC, describes changes to the Hazard Communication Standard to align with the Globally Harmonized System (GHS). Topics will include changes expected in training, labeling, and safety data sheets and compliance aides available through SCHC. Questions will not be taken live, but presenters will receive questions about implementation and workplace impact submitted prior to the event and will incorporate as many topics as possible. To participate in the webinar, click here to register for the event by August 10.
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