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August 1, 2011 · Volume 10, Issue 15
In this issue

OSHA announces measures to improve its Whistleblower Protection Program

In a continuing effort to improve the Whistleblower Protection Program, OSHA announced Aug. 1 that it is implementing additional measures to strengthen its Whistleblower Protection Program and releasing the report of its recent top-to-bottom review. OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of 21 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.

"The ability of workers to speak out and exercise their legal rights without fear of retaliation is crucial to many of the legal protections and safeguards that all Americans value," said OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels. "The new measures will significantly strengthen OSHA's enforcement of the 21 whistleblower laws that Congress charged OSHA with administering."

Significant changes in the Whistleblower Protection Program announced by OSHA cover areas including restructuring, training, program policy and internal systems. See the news release for more information.

OSHA holds stakeholder meetings to discuss occupational exposure to infectious diseases

OSHA held two informal stakeholder meetings July 29 in Washington, D.C., to solicit comments on a possible infectious disease standard to prevent exposure to infectious diseases in the workplace. OSHA heard from more than 60 participants representing hospitals, unions, public health organizations, government agencies, trade organizations and industry. At the meeting, OSHA discussed broad principles for a possible infectious disease standard that the agency is considering as one option to protect workers from infectious agents in the workplace. There was also discussion of the need for any OSHA response to be science-based and allow for flexibility in controlling occupational exposure to infectious diseases in a wide variety of work settings. Minutes from the meetings will be available in approximately two weeks at regulations.gov.

Secretary of Labor issues alert on protecting workers during heat waves sweeping the country
OSHA reaches out to spread the word about water, rest and shade

Water, rest and shade As record heat continued across the country, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis issued a heat alert July 20 on the dangers of working outdoors in extreme heat. "Employers must take the precautions needed to protect outdoor workers," said Secretary Solis. These precautions include: providing plenty of water at the job site; having scheduled rest breaks in shaded or air conditioned areas; and allowing new workers to gradually increase their workload. The Secretary has produced two public service announcement videos, one in English and one in Spanish, about OSHA's national Heat Illness Campaign.

Approximately 5,500 people watched Secretary Solis' public service message July 23 on the centerfield jumbotron at Prince George's Stadium in Bowie, Md., during a Bowie Baysox minor league baseball game. OSHA's Office of Communications staffed a Heat Illness Campaign exhibit in the stadium and distributed educational materials to spectators. Heat campaign publications and other online resources are available on OSHA's Web site. OSHA also partnered with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on weather service alerts to incorporate worker safety precautions when heat alerts are issued across the United States. In addition, NOAA is including pertinent worker safety information on its Heat Watch Web page.

Michaels advocates including worker protections in discussions on environmental sustainability

OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels participated by video feed in a July 25 conference on "Ensuring and Strengthening Public Health Linkages in a Sustainable World," advocating that planners include worker safety and health in efforts to sustain the earth's resources. Michaels addressed a group of about 40 public health professionals attending a Roundtable on Environmental Health Sciences, Research, and Medicine in Woods Hole, Mass., hosted by the Institute of Medicine. Michaels described how workers are exposed to hazards in jobs that provide earth-friendly, sustainable products and services, such as manufacturing, installing and repairing wind turbines; working in recycling plants; and constructing Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified green buildings. He also noted how hospitals and other health care facilities have adopted sustainability measures that provide safer and healthier conditions for their workers, including using safer cleaning chemicals, installing better ventilation and designing or remodeling facilities with materials that reduce slips and falls.

Construction advisory committee makes recommendations to OSHA on protecting construction worker safety and health

OSHA held a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health (ACCSH) July 27-28 at DOL headquarters in Washington, D.C. OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels briefed the committee on the hazards of working with respirable crystalline silica and the upcoming rulemaking to protect workers from silica exposure. He also encouraged employers and workers to implement Injury and Illness Prevention Programs. The ACCSH committee made recommendations to OSHA that included moving forward with rulemaking to improve safety when workers are installing reinforcing steel and using post-tensioning methods to build concrete structures, and amending the personal protective equipment (PPE) standards in construction to make it clear that PPE must fit the employee--an especially important issue for women in construction.

Maritime advisory committee makes recommendations to OSHA on protecting the safety and health of shipyard workers

OSHA held a meeting of the Maritime Advisory Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (MACOSH) July 19-20 at the San Diego Marriott Del Mar. MACOSH's Longshoring Workgroup addressed issues related to retrieving someone who has fallen into the water at a marine terminal, personal protective equipment (PPE), combustible dust in marine terminals, and working safely around cargo handling equipment, and recommended that OSHA consider developing a model plan for the longshore industry that addresses Injury and Illness Prevention Programs. The Shipyard Workgroup discussed issues including fire watch safety, proper ventilation, sewage tank safe practices, welding safety, eye injury prevention and heat stress, and reviewed OSHA's maritime Safety and Health Injury Prevention Sheets (SHIPS).

Warning card on suffocation hazards in grain storage bins now available from OSHA

OSHA has produced a grain handling hazard card warning of the danger of being buried and suffocated when entering grain storage bins. The laminated wallet-sized card lists the OSHA-required precautions that must be taken whenever workers enter a grain storage bin. These include turning off and locking out augers and any other powered equipment in the bin, entering from a level at or above stored grain using a body harness with an anchored lifeline or boatswain chair, and testing the bin's air to ensure there is enough oxygen and no hazardous gas. The card may be ordered online.

Bakery cited for exposing workers to safety and health hazards twice in four months is fined nearly $200,000

OSHA cited Lone Star Bakery Inc. in China Grove, Texas, for the second time in four months for exposing workers to safety and health hazards, including failing to ensure that employees participate in a process safety management program, ensure piping and instrumentation diagrams are current and accurate, and use recognized and generally accepted engineering practices to protect tanks containing anhydrous ammonia. For the latest violations, the company faces 18 serious and three repeat violations and a fine of $199,600. See the news release for more information.

Company fined nearly $160,000 after worker is struck and killed by flying piece of machinery

OSHA cited Advantage Powder Coating in Defiance, Ohio, for 15 safety violations and fined the company $159,600 after a pedestal grinder operator was killed when the abrasive wheel on the grinder exploded and struck the operator on the head. Two willful violations were cited for a lack of properly adjusted safety guards and work rests on pedestal grinders. OSHA placed Advantage Powder Coating in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP), which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law. Advantage Powder Coating was placed in the program for receiving two willful violations covered under the agency's National Emphasis Program on Amputations. See the news release for more information.

Lumber mill fined more than $150,000 after worker is killed by mechanical saw

OSHA fined B&B Lumber Co. Inc. $152,100 and cited it for 35 alleged serious violations of workplace safety standards following the Feb. 7 death of a worker at the company's Jamesville, N.Y., sawmill. The worker, who was changing the blades on an edging saw, was killed when another employee inadvertently started the saw. OSHA's inspection found that the saw's power source had not been locked out, as required by OSHA's hazardous energy control, or "lockout/tagout," standard. That standard mandates that machines be shut down and their power sources locked out before employees perform maintenance. OSHA's inspection also identified several other hazardous conditions at the mill that exposed employees to the hazards of falls, electrocution, lacerations, amputation, being caught in moving machine parts and being unable to exit the workplace swiftly in the event of an emergency. See the news release for more information.

OSHA co-sponsoring first national conference on Eliminating Health and Safety Disparities at Work

OSHA is co-sponsoring the first national conference on Eliminating Health and Safety Disparities at Work, Sept. 14-15 in Chicago. Other cosponsors include the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Institute on Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), as well as several clinical and research organizations. The conference will feature five White Papers: Work Organization; Workplace Injustice; Approaches to Education and Training; Health of the Low-Income Workforce; and Effects of Social, Economic, and Labor Policies. The goal is to bring together representatives from multiple disciplines and perspectives to understand the social, cultural and economic factors that create and perpetuate occupational health and safety disparities and to identify and share promising practices for eliminating disparities through innovative intervention programs. The conference also includes a Federal Panel on Environmental Justice Listening Session that will be held Sept. 15. Visit the conference Web site to register online.

Award-winning photojournalist encourages people to enter OSHA photo contest before Aug. 12 deadline

OSHA QuickTakes Photos - August 1, 2011 thumbnail
An Earl Dotter photograph depicts a Boston laborer displaying personal protection equipment.
Earl Dotter, an award-winning occupational photojournalist who has documented a wide range of workplace safety and health issues during his forty-year career, encouraged people to enter OSHA's photo contest in a post on the DOL blog site. Dotter, who is serving as a judge in the Picture It! Safe Workplaces for Everyone contest, said "I believe that a photograph is a valuable way to tell OSHA's story and thereby inspire others to action." The contest celebrating OSHA's 40th anniversary challenges anyone with a passion for photography to capture an image of workplace safety and health and share it with OSHA. See the contest Web site to enter before the Aug. 12 deadline. Sample entries can be viewed at Flickr.com.

Green Jobs: OSHA Harwood grantee offers free spray foam industry safety training

The Sustainable Workplace Alliance is conducting free training classes, developed with funding from an OSHA Susan Harwood Targeted Topic Training Grant, about hazards involved in working with Spray Polyurethane Foam. This weather insulating and sealing agent contains isocyanates, potential human carcinogens that can cause work-related asthma. The three half-day training classes will provide in-depth information about the hazards involved in the use of Spray Polyurethane Foam and how to protect the health and safety of employees working with it. Each attendee will receive four PowerPoint presentations on CD, handouts and other valuable training-related tools--all available in English and Spanish. Classes will take place Aug. 15 in San Diego, Aug. 19 in Phoenix, and Aug. 23 in Denver. For more information or to register, visit the Sustainable Workplace Alliance Web site.

State and non-profit organizations in Oregon and Kentucky provide scholarships to children of workers killed or injured on the job

Oregon OSHA honored seven Oregon students with a total of more than $6,000 in Workers' Memorial Scholarship awards for the 2011-2012 academic year during a July 28 ceremony at the Labor and Industries Building in Salem. The scholarship is open to any high school graduate, graduating high school senior, GED recipient, or current college undergraduate or graduate student who is a child or spouse of an Oregon worker who has been fatally injured or permanently disabled while on the job. Award recommendations are made by an advisory committee made up of members from business, organized labor and government. See the news release for more information.
Two non-profit organizations presented scholarships during Kentucky's 27th Annual Governor's Safety and Health Conference and Exposition held in May. The event was co-sponsored by the Kentucky Labor Cabinet and the Kentucky Safety and Health Network Inc. The charitable organization Kids Chance of Kentucky awarded $15,000 in scholarships to 10 children of Kentucky workers killed or seriously injured in work-related incidents. The Kentucky Safety and Health Network Foundation presented $40,000 in Scholastic Achievement for Education (SAFE) Awards to 12 university students pursuing degrees in the disciplines of occupational safety and health, industrial hygiene, and public health.

OSHA celebrates 40 years of helping to ensure healthier workers, safer workplaces and a stronger America

Throughout 2011, OSHA is presenting a series of materials and activities to celebrate the agency's 40th anniversary. Visit the OSHA at 40 Web page for resources including a short video using old and new footage to highlight key moments in the agency's history, an interactive timeline and a commemoration of the 1911 Triangle shirtwaist factory fire. The page also links to an anniversary message from OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels as well as a video of his participation in a panel discussion on the nation's progress in worker safety and health over the past forty years and the challenges that lie ahead.

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