|August 17, 2015 · Volume 14, Issue 17|
On August 7, OSHA issued a proposed rule to dramatically lower workplace exposure to beryllium, a widely used material that can cause devastating lung diseases. The long-sought proposal would reduce allowable exposure levels by 90 percent and add other protections. The proposal gained renewed momentum after the nation's primary beryllium product manufacturer, Materion, and the United Steelworkers, the union representing many of those who work with beryllium, approached OSHA in 2012 to suggest a stronger standard.
For Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, the development had special significance: In 1999, as assistant secretary of energy for environmental safety and health, he issued the final regulation lowering allowable worker exposure to beryllium in nuclear weapons facilities. "OSHA's new proposed rule is the beginning of the final chapter of our making peace with the past," he wrote in a DOL blog. "Once we finish, workers exposed to beryllium will be protected and we will save the lives and lungs of hundreds."
OSHA estimates that every year the rule would prevent almost 100 deaths and 50 serious illnesses among the approximately 35,000 workers exposed to beryllium in occupations such as foundry and smelting operations, machining, and dental lab work.
Maine is the newest State Plan responsible for protecting the safety and health of state and local government employees. The new plan covers more than 81,000 employees of the state and its political subdivisions. It became effective Aug. 5.
States and territories may establish OSHA plans that cover only state and local government employees who are excluded from federal coverage. Once a State Plan is approved, OSHA funds up to 50 percent of the program’s costs. Maine is the sixth state or territory to establish such a plan.
"This is a major milestone for Maine public employees and the state's development of its occupational safety and health program," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. For more information, read the news release.
Employees removing floor tiles, insulation and other materials from a former elementary school were exposed to deadly asbestos fibers even though their employers knew of the dangers. OSHA found that Joseph Kehrer, Kehrer Brothers Construction and a Kehrer-affiliated company, D7 Roofing, which employed some of the workers, violated numerous OSHA health standards related to the dangers of asbestos. Many of the workers came to the U.S. to work for Kehrer under the provisions of the H-2B visa program.
"Kehrer Brothers Construction brought non-English speaking workers to the U.S. and knowingly exposed them to asbestos," said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. "This is outrageous, illegal behavior."
OSHA issued Kehrer Brothers and Joseph Kehrer $1,792,000 in penalties for willfully exposing at least eight workers to asbestos and placed the company in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program. OSHA also cited D7 Roofing $147,000 for not training the workers or informing them about the presence of asbestos-containing material and for failing to conduct inspections as required by law. For more information, see the news release.
For employees at a leading supplier of chicken to national fast food and supermarket brands, the dangers of amputation, electrocution and hazardous falls are all in a day's work, and part of their employer's long history of violating federal worker safety and health standards.
An OSHA investigation of an Ohio poultry processing facility operated by Case Farms Processing Inc. found that the company was aware of the dangers, but continued to expose workers to serious and potentially fatal injuries. Acting on a referral, OSHA cited the company on Aug. 13 for two willful, 20 repeat, 30 serious and three other-than-serious safety and health violations. OSHA assessed $861,500 in penalties and added the company to the agency's Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
"Case Farms is an outrageously dangerous place to work. In the past 25 years, Case Farms has been cited for more than 350 safety and health violations," said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and Health. "Despite committing to OSHA that it would eliminate serious hazards, Case Farms continues to endanger the safety and health of its workers. This simply must stop."
For more information, see the news release.
OSHA cited Transporter Maintenance and Inspection LLC in Port Allen, La., with 33 safety and health violations after an agency inspection found the trucking company failed to provide fall protection, and exposed workers to silica, electrical, fire and other hazards. "Management knew that workers could have fallen and suffered serious injuries," said Dorinda Folse, director for OSHA's Baton Rouge Area Office. "But they willfully chose not to outfit all the tanker trailers with guardrail systems or provide a personal fall arrest system for the workers." Proposed penalties total $156,800. For more information, read the news brief.
OSHA initiated an inspection of Jasper Contractors Inc. after receiving complaints of employees working on top of residential roofs without fall protection at a Jacksonville, Fla., jobsite. As a result, the contractor was issued willful citations for failing to ensure that workers wore eye and fall protection. OSHA proposed $140,000 in penalties. "Jasper’s management officials have been trained and know OSHA's standards for protecting workers while performing roofing activities," said Brian Sturtecky, OSHA's area director in Jacksonville. "We continue to find this employer ignoring safety regulations and putting its employees at risk of death." Jasper was inspected twice in 2014 and cited for similar violations. Read the news brief for more information.
Employees at a Cincinnati nursing care facility will benefit from improvements the company is making to its policies and procedures for transferring residents at Twin Towers, a provider of skilled nursing care services.
Under terms of a settlement agreement with OSHA, Twin Towers will retain a specialized safety consultant with ergonomics expertise to recommend improvements to its resident handling program that will include minimal lifting by caregivers; using safe handling technologies, such as mechanical lifts; repositioning aids; and training for workers.
The company will report to OSHA on improvements to its program within six months and pay a penalty of $18,200 to resolve OSHA citations issued in June. The agency issued citations after conducting an inspection based on a review of injury and illness logs for employees, which indicated a high rate of musculoskeletal injuries for caregivers. Twin Towers cooperated fully with OSHA's investigation.
Nursing facilities have among the highest rates of serious work-related injuries and musculoskeletal disorders, including those of the neck, upper extremities and lower back, which account for a significant portion of these injuries. Bureau of Labor Statistics' data for 2013 shows overexertion accounted for almost half of all reported injuries in the health care industry. For more information, read the news release.
Please visit the enforcement news releases page for more on OSHA enforcement activity.
Following a whistleblower investigation of Continental Alloys and Services Inc. in Spring, Texas, OSHA found the company wrongfully fired a worker after she complained to management about deficient injury records. The former employee reported several alleged instances where injuries were not reported.
OSHA is asking a judge to issue an injunction prohibiting the company from engaging in any further retaliation. It is also asking the judge to order the company to pay the worker back pay, reinstate the worker, and pay her any other damages she sustained as a result of the illegal termination.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the Occupational Safety & Health Act of 1970 and 21 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health-care reform, nuclear, pipeline, worker safety, public transportation agency, maritime and securities laws. For more information, read the news brief and visit www.whistleblowers.gov.
OSHA has issued an updated National Emphasis Program on Amputations. The NEP has been in existence since 2006 and is targeted to industries with high numbers and rates of amputations. As in the prior NEP, OSHA is using current enforcement data and Bureau of Labor Statistics injury data to assist with site selection targeting.
According to the most recent BLS data, 2,000 workers suffered amputations in 2013. The rate of amputations in the manufacturing sector was more than twice that of all private industry. These serious injuries are preventable by following basic safety precautions.
This updated directive applies to general industry workplaces in which any machinery or equipment likely to cause amputations are present. Inspections will include an evaluation of employee exposures during operations such as: clearing jams; cleaning, oiling or greasing machines or machine pans; and locking out machinery to prevent accidental start-up.
On Jan. 1, 2015, OSHA issued new requirements for reporting work-related fatalities and severe injuries. Employers must now report fatalities within eight hours of learning of the incident and any in-patient hospitalization, amputation or loss of an eye within 24 hours of learning of the incident. Employers can report an event by telephone to the nearest OSHA area office or to OSHA's 24-hour hotline at 800-321-6742. For more information, see the news release.
Managers at Shermco Industries, a participant in OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Program, created a culture of safety in the workplace through a series of initiatives that encouraged workers to find and fix potential hazards. Shermco implemented a program where employees could nominate coworkers who demonstrate exemplary safety practices to receive a special recognition. Employees earned reward points through actions such as reporting hazards and close calls; conducting safety audits or attending safety meetings. Management also identified ways for employees and managers to participate, including creating an employee-led safety team that focuses on non-production safety concerns. For more information, see Shermco Industries’ success story.
An Alliance between OSHA and Altec Industries has resulted in training for more than 900 federal OSHA and State Plan staff on best practices and safe operation of cranes, insulated and non-insulated aerial devices and digger derricks, minimum approach distances to energized sources, and the prevention of electrocutions. Altec also provided technical assistance and engineering resources during a fatality investigation in Wilmington, Delaware where a worker was electrocuted after his bucket lift contacted a power line. Working together through the Alliance Program OSHA and Altec will identify the root causes of the fatality and hopefully prevent similar tragic incidents.
Through its Alliance Program, OSHA works with unions, consulates, trade and professional organizations, faith and community-based organizations, businesses and educational institutions to prevent workplace fatalities, injuries and illnesses. The purpose of each alliance is to develop compliance assistance tools and resources and to educate workers and employers about their rights and responsibilities.
The 7th Annual Safe Patient Handling Conference sponsored by the NYS Department of Labor and the NYS Zero Lift Task Force will be held at the Saratoga Springs City Center on October 28-29. This conference is for healthcare workers, patient advocates, union representatives, safety and health professionals and anyone interested in maintaining a safe environment for the worker and patient. Learn from others who have established sustainable Safe Patient Handling Programs that have reduced worker injuries, decreased severity of injuries and provided a better outcomes for patients. In addition to hands-on equipment demonstrations led by clinical experts, this conference will have sessions presented by experienced healthcare leaders on developing SPH policies, designing programs, completing patient/resident assessments, establishing a committee etc. For more information visit the conference website.
OSHA's Spanish language home page has been updated to include a modern look and ease of use. Users can now easily choose from a drop-down menu that includes workers' rights, information for employers, and the best ways to contact a local OSHA office. The webpage includes an "In Focus" section that highlights the latest videos and campaigns in Spanish, including Young Workers and Heat Illness Prevention. There is also the latest OSHA news in Spanish, a Twitter feed following OSHA-related conversations, and various resources for workers.
You can visit the new website at www.osha.gov/spanish.
OSHA launched a new webpage highlighting enforcement cases, organized by state, that have initial penalties above $40,000. Cases are based on citations issued to employers beginning Jan. 1, 2015. The page features an interactive U.S. map where visitors can click on a state and view a list of cases. It also offers an alternate view of all the cases by state in a table format. Lists provide links to inspection details for each case and are updated weekly.
For more information on enforcement data available on OSHA’s website, visit the Data and Statistics webpage.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has developed a guidance to reduce workers' exposures to diacetyl through engineering controls, best work practices and techniques for monitoring worker exposures. These guidelines can be applied to reduce exposures to diacetyl substitutes as well, such as 2,3-pentanedione and other alpha-diketones.
NIOSH has also created a new webpage compiling all the agency's documents in languages other than English and Spanish. These include Chinese, French, Haitian Creole, Indonesian, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Turkish and Vietnamese.
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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