|August 1, 2014 · Volume 13, Issue 15|
|A twice monthly e-news product with information about workplace safety and health.|
OSHA has updated its Communication Tower directive (*PDF) regarding the use of hoist systems used to move workers to and from workstations on communication towers. This follows an alarming increase in preventable injuries and fatalities at communication tower work sites. More fatalities occurred in this industry in 2013 than in the previous two years combined. This disturbing trend appears to be continuing, with nine worker deaths occurring so far in 2014.
The directive outlines the proper use of hoist and other fall arrest systems, includes detailed information on how to hoist people safely and updates a 2002 enforcement policy, which only covered the hoisting of workers to workstations during new tower erection activities. The updated policy covers any work on a communication tower - including both maintenance and new construction - that involves the use of a hoist to lift workers from one elevated workstation to another. For more information, see the news release.
In addition, OSHA has issued a number of recent citations to companies who are endangering tower workers. Recently, OSHA cited Ohio-based Morlan Enterprises with willful and serious safety violations after its workers were expected to free climb a 195-foot tower without adequate fall protection. For more information, see the news release.
In a separate incident, OSHA cited a West Virginia cell tower company for safety hazards following a tower collapse in February that seriously injured two workers and claimed the lives of two employees and a volunteer firefighter. While making modifications to an existing cellular communication tower, the tower collapsed while the employees were removing diagonal bracing. S and S Communication Specialists was cited for two serious workplace violations for directing employees to remove diagonal structural members on communication towers without using temporary braces or supports, and for allowing employees to be tied off to bracing that was not capable of supporting at least 5,000 pounds. For more information, see the news release.
OSHA has issued a policy background memo to its field staff as part of its focus on preventing work-related injuries and illnesses among temporary workers. In the memo, the agency reminds OSHA field staff of the agency's long standing general enforcement policy regarding temporary workers.
"Too often in recent months, it has been OSHA's sad duty to investigate fatalities and injuries involving temporary workers who were not given the necessary safety and health protections required under the Act," wrote Thomas Galassi, director of OSHA's directorate of enforcement programs.
As joint employers, both the host employer and the staffing agency have responsibilities for protecting the safety and health of temporary workers. More information is available on OSHA's Protecting Temporary Workers Web page.
Fiberdome Inc. has agreed to limit employee exposure to styrene, pay a $2,000 penalty and accept a general duty clause citation under the Occupational Safety and Health Act alleging that an employee was exposed to styrene over the industry agreed-upon level. Styrene is a chemical used in the manufacture of plastics, rubber and resins, and can cause health effects such as headache, fatigue, confusion, difficulty concentrating, a feeling of intoxication and respiratory problems. OSHA initiated an inspection at the company's Lake Mills-based plant in September 2013 after receiving a referral of workers being ill.
"We are pleased that Fiberdome agreed to adopt the industry-recognized 50 ppm limit and believe that all responsible and safety conscious employers who use styrene should consider doing the same thing," said Kim Stille, OSHA Area Director in Madison. "OSHA believes that employers have the responsibility to further limit exposure to chemicals that can harm employees even if the level of such exposure is below OSHA permissible exposure limits."
Under the terms of the agreement, Fiberdome will abate the general duty citation by following the styrene industry's 1996 agreement to voluntarily adopt an employee exposure limit of 50 ppm over an 8-hour time-weighted average. Fiberdome also agreed that if it cannot achieve compliance with a voluntary exposure limit through engineering and/or administrative controls, it would implement an effective respiratory protection program, including the use of appropriate respirators. Read the news release for more information.
OSHA has issued 14 willful and repeat citations to Formed Fiber Technologies LLC after the company provided false documentation and made false representations claiming that previously cited hazards related to hydraulic presses had been corrected. OSHA initiated an inspection of the Sidney, Ohio, manufacturer as a follow-up to its Severe Violator Enforcement Program. Proposed fines total $816,500.
"Formed Fiber Technologies apparently decided that production was more important than ensuring its workers' safety," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. "They provided false abatement documentation to OSHA. They knew how hazardous these machines were without proper safeguards and also knew exactly how to fix those hazards. OSHA will not tolerate such blatant disregard for worker safety."
A follow-up inspection also found that employees had been exposed to unguarded machines and unsafe maintenance procedures and were not trained on how to properly stop machines before service and maintenance. Read the news release for more information.
An OSHA investigation found that the Jan. 20 structural collapse of International Nutrition Inc.'s Omaha facility was caused by overloading storage bins on the building's roof. The collapse at the livestock feed supplement manufacturer caused the death of two workers and injuries to nine others. As a result, OSHA cited the company with willful, repeat and other safety violations for failing to protect workers from structural collapse hazards and proposed penalties of $120,560.
"International Nutrition's decision to overload these bins directly led to the deaths of these two workers and the injuries sustained by nine other employees," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. "Families lost loved ones because International Nutrition did not follow the basic safety procedures that would have prevented this senseless loss of life."
The investigation determined that structural failure occurred after bins of limestone were loaded onto the roof. The extra weight caused the bins to collapse three floors into the center of the facility in about 30 seconds. Willful and repeat violations included failing to protect workers from hazards associated with overloading bin structures and using compressed air at greater than the recommended pressure. For more details, read the news release.
Since January 2012, 34 North Dakota workers in the oil and gas and construction industries have died because of work-related injuries, accounting for 87 percent of all fatalities OSHA investigated in the state during that period. To address its ongoing concerns about worker safety in North Dakota's oil and gas and construction industries, OSHA launched an enforcement emphasis program last month that temporarily brings additional investigators from throughout the country to increase OSHA's field presence in the state.
OSHA has had a local emphasis program for the oil and gas industry for the last three years, which outlines hazards and allows for increased enforcement. The new, focused enforcement program includes chemical sampling of fracking and tank gauging operations to test for atmospheric hazards, violations found in recent inspections. OSHA's Oil and Gas Well Drilling eTool identifies common hazards and possible solutions to reduce incidents that could lead to injuries or fatalities. See the news release for more information on OSHA's efforts to protect North Dakota workers.
OSHA and the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration have signed a memorandum of understanding to strengthen the coordination and cooperation between the agencies regarding the anti-retaliation provision of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act. The memorandum allows for the exchange of safety, coercion and retaliation allegations, when received by one agency, that fall under the authority of the other.
The STAA protects drivers and other individuals working for commercial motor carriers from retaliation for reporting or engaging in activities related to certain commercial motor vehicle safety, health or security conditions. Under the agreement, the FMCSA will refer workers to OSHA when they have a complaint about retaliation, and OSHA will provide FMCSA copies of retaliation complaints and findings under the whistleblower provision of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act. For details on the MOU, read the news release.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of 22 statutes, including the STAA, which protect workers who report violations of laws in various industries. For more information, visit www.whistleblowers.gov.
In conjunction with Executive Order 13650 - Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security, the Environmental Protection Agency is publishing a Request for Information for its Risk Management Plan Rule in an effort to improve its standards and harmonize rulemaking efforts with OSHA.
The executive order was issued by President Obama on Aug. 1, 2013, in response to the devastating explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas. On Dec. 9, 2013, as part of the executive order, OSHA published a similar Request for Information on its Process Safety Management Standard. OSHA's RFI sought comments on 17 rulemaking and enforcement policy change options that would focus on improving chemical facility safety and security across the country.
EPA's Request for Information seeks comments on potential revisions aimed at modernizing the agency's regulations, guidance and policies as required under the executive order. The public comment period lasts for 90 days after publication.
OSHA will hold a meeting of the Maritime Advisory Committee for Occupational Safety and Health in Washington, D.C., August 19-20, 2014. Work groups will meet August 19 and the full committee will meet August 20.
The MACOSH agenda will include surface preparation and preservation in shipyards; shipboard refrigeration systems; pedestal crane safety on commercial fishing vessels; baggage handling in cruise terminal operations; a review of the International Maritime Organization's latest "Guidance on Providing Safe Working Conditions for Securing of Containers on Deck"; and log handling safety. MACOSH meetings are open to the public. Individuals may submit comments and requests to speak at www.regulations.gov, the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Submissions may also be sent by mail or facsimile. See the news release and Federal Register notice for details.
On Sept. 3-4, 2014, OSHA will hold a meeting of the Whistleblower Protection Advisory Committee in Washington, D.C. Work groups will meet Sept. 3 and the full committee will meet Sept. 3 and 4. The tentative agenda includes remarks from Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health; discussion of committee and work group reports; invited reports from other agencies or the public regarding whistleblower enforcement; and administrative business and public comments.
WPAC meetings are open to the public. Individuals may submit comments and requests to speak at www.regulations.gov, the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Submissions may also be sent by mail or facsimile. See the news release and Federal Register notice for details. Comments and requests to speak must be submitted by Aug. 20, 2014.
OSHA has formed a strategic partnership with Turner Construction Co., Fluor Corp., Foster Wheeler USA Corp.'s Process and Industrial Division, and the Georgia Tech Research Institute's Occupational Safety and Health Program. Representatives from the partnering institutions met July 15 to formalize the agreement that will ensure worker safety and health during construction of the Baxter International pharmaceutical plant in Covington, Ga. The partners will work together to reduce worker injuries and illnesses, increase safety and health training, share best work practices, and ensure that employers have appropriate safety and health management systems. This is the third partnership OSHA and Georgia Tech have formed this year to protect workers on campus projects. For more information, see the partnership agreement.
OSHA has launched a new emergency preparedness and response Web page to protect workers from earthquake hazards. Worksites in all 50 states, U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia are at risk for earthquakes that can cause injury, death and extensive damage to buildings and other infrastructure. OSHA encourages employers to stay aware of conditions that affect their workplaces, especially those at particular risk that are near fault lines or volcanoes. Employers should train workers on workplace evacuation and emergency action plans, and keep on hand emergency supplies such as battery-operated emergency radios and first aid kits. In the aftermath of disasters, employers must ensure that workers involved in response and recovery operations are protected from potential safety and health hazards. For more information, visit OSHA's Emergency Preparedness and Response page.
OSHA's updated Heat Stress QuickCardTM serves as a reminder to employers to acclimate workers to heat conditions. Employers should gradually increase workloads and allow more frequent breaks for workers who are new to the heat or those who have been away from work. The updated QuickCardTM also advises employers to modify work schedules and establish a complete heat illness prevention plan to protect their workers. OSHA's Heat Safety Tool, a mobile app that allows users to calculate the heat index, is also available for employers and workers.
OSHA provides news and commentary on workplace safety and health from its senior leadership and staff on the DOL blog. Read the latest post by Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels on protecting teens at work. DOL offers the option to receive blog updates by email.
See DOL's weekly electronic newsletter for more DOL news.
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