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September 1, 2010 · Volume 9, Issue 17
A twice monthly newsletter with information about workplace safety and health.

In This Issue

Fatal occupational injuries decline during 2009

Preliminary results from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries released Aug. 19 show the lowest number of workplace fatalities since the CFOI program was first conducted in 1992. Last year's preliminary count of 4,340 workplace fatalities is down from the final count of 5,214 in 2008. Economic factors played a major role in this decrease. Total hours worked fell by 6 percent in 2009 following a 1 percent decline in 2008, and some industries that have historically accounted for a significant share of fatal work injuries, such as construction, experienced even larger declines in employment or hours worked.

Comparing preliminary figures from 2009 and 2008 shows that workplace fatalities among wage and salary workers declined by about 18 percent from last year, while fatal injuries among self-employed workers, who are not covered by OSHA, remained about the same. According to the BLS, the overall fatality rate was 3.3 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers. The fatality rate for Hispanic workers remained higher at 3.7 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers in 2009.

In response to the BLS findings, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis issued the following statement:

"A single worker hurt or killed on the job is one too many. While a decrease in the number of fatal work injuries is encouraging, we cannot--and will not--relent from our continued strong enforcement of workplace safety laws. As the economy regains strength and more people re-enter the workforce, the Department of Labor will remain vigilant to ensure America's workers are kept safe while they earn a paycheck. After all, as I've said before, no job is a good job unless it is also safe."

See the BLS news release for more information.

OSHA issues interim final rules and invites comments on whistleblower procedures

OSHA published three interim final rules in the Aug. 31 Federal Register that will help protect workers who voice safety, health and security concerns. The regulations, which establish procedures for handling worker retaliation complaints, allow filing by phone as well as in writing and filing in languages other than English. Additionally, the regulations cover workers filing complaints in the railroad, public transit, commercial motor carrier and consumer product industries, and create consistency among various OSHA complaint procedures. The interim final rules also establish procedures and time frames for handling complaints under the whistleblower sections of the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 and the Consumer Product Safety Act of 2008. See the news release for information on new whistleblower protection fact sheets and how to submit comments on these rules by the Nov. 1 deadline.

OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Program Web page at www.whistleblowers.gov provides information about worker rights and provisions under each of the whistleblower statutes and regulations OSHA enforces, program fact sheets and information on how to file a retaliation complaint with OSHA.

Shooting range cleanup company fined more than $2 million for overexposing workers to lead

OSHA fined E.N. Range in Miami, Fla., $2,135,000 after the employer failed to protect workers who clean gun ranges from serious overexposure to lead. OSHA inspectors found that E.N. Range had not provided workers proper protective equipment, changing rooms or showering facilities. Air samples taken by OSHA inspectors found that these workers were exposed to lead levels as high as 10 to 19 times the permissible exposure limit. The company also provided workers with non-FDA-approved treatments for lead exposure without required medical supervision, misleading employees--most of whom had limited knowledge of English--into believing they were receiving appropriate medical treatment. OSHA issued E.N. Range more than 50 citations for disregarding workers' health and safety, including 28 citations for multiple egregious violations that include failing to provide workers with properly fitted respirators and control measures to limit workers' exposure to lead, and failing to ensure that workers were given required medical evaluations or blood lead level tests. See the news release for more information.

Lead poisoning can cause many serious health issues including brain damage, paralysis, kidney disease, and even death. Long-term overexposure may result in severe damage to the nervous, urinary, reproductive and blood-forming systems. Visit OSHA's Lead Safety and Health Topics Page for more information.

Two more Cooperative Plus grain facilities fined more than $374,000 for multiple safety violations
Inspections conducted under Severe Violator Enforcement Program

OSHA fined Cooperative Plus Inc., a farmer-owned cooperative, $374,500 for exposing workers to hazards including engulfment and suffocation in grain storage bins at its Whitewater and Genoa City, Wis., sites. This action follows $721,000 in penalties issued last month after a worker was seriously injured from being engulfed by soybeans at the cooperative's Burlington, Wis., facility in February. Read the news release for more information on OSHA's most recent citations against Cooperative Plus for willfully disregarding the safety of its workers.

OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels recently sent letters to more than 3,000 grain storage companies warning them of their responsibility to comply with the Grain Handling Facility standard. OSHA also has a new grain storage bins fact sheet to explain how to avoid engulfment hazards.

The Cooperative Plus inspections were conducted under OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which focuses enforcement efforts on certain employers who defy or ignore their OSH Act obligations. SVEP establishes procedures and enforcement actions such as mandatory follow-up inspections and inspections of other worksites of the same company where similar hazards or deficiencies may be present.

SeaWorld fined $75,000 after killer whale fatally injures trainer

OSHA cited SeaWorld of Florida LLC for three safety violations following the Feb. 24 death of an animal trainer at the company's Orlando theme park who was grabbed and pulled into the water by a 22 foot long, six-ton killer whale. Video footage shows the killer whale repeatedly striking and thrashing the trainer, and pulling her under water even as she attempted to escape. The autopsy report describes the cause of death as drowning and traumatic injuries. The incident occurred during what SeaWorld describes as a "relationship session" between the trainer and whale, which was observed by park guests. The $75,000 penalty includes $70,000 for the willful disregard SeaWorld showed for the safety of its workers by failing to provide trainers with adequate protection when interacting with dangerous animals. SeaWorld was aware that the whale in this incident was also one of three killer whales involved in the 1991 death of an animal trainer at Sea Land of the Pacific in Vancouver. In addition, OSHA's investigation revealed an extensive history of unexpected and potentially dangerous encounters between killer whales and trainers at various SeaWorld facilities, including the one in Orlando. See the news release for more information.

Review Commission upholds OSHA's multi-employer citation policy

The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission has upheld OSHA's multi-employer citation policy in a reversal of a decision the Commission made during the previous administration. Under the policy, OSHA inspectors may cite employers on multi-employer worksites for violations that do not expose their own workers to occupational hazards. For example, a general contractor who controls the worksite may be responsible for violations created by a subcontractor whose workers are exposed to safety or health hazards. In reaching its Aug. 19 decision, the Commission agreed with an earlier decision by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, which had rejected the Commission's previous contrary view that employers are only legally responsible for protecting the safety and health of their own workers. The case under consideration involved Summit Contractors Inc., a general contractor constructing an apartment complex in Lebanon, Pa., in 2005. An OSHA compliance officer cited Summit for a safety violation after observing workers of a subcontractor using electrical equipment that lacked ground fault circuit interrupters and which had been brought onto the worksite by Summit.

Answers to frequently asked questions about new cranes and derricks rule available online

OSHA posted answers on its Web site to Frequently Asked Questions about its new rule addressing the use of cranes and derricks in construction. The FAQ provides information on subjects such as how the rule was developed; how it will improve worker safety on construction sites; whether it requires crane operators, riggers and signal persons to be qualified or certified; and how it affects states with their own OSHA-approved safety and health plans.

Michaels promises to ensure the integrity of OSHA's voluntary worker safety program

OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels addressed more than 25,000 members of the Voluntary Protection Programs Participants' Association at the organization's annual conference. During his Aug. 23 remarks, Michaels thanked participants in OSHA's Voluntary Protection Programs for their commitment to protecting the safety and health of their workers and "setting an example of excellence" for other businesses.

"America doesn't need more refinery explosions, trench cave-ins or factory fires," Michaels said. "We need more companies following the model of VPP, taking a leadership role, giving their workers a voice in their working conditions, and pursuing a culture of safety and health on the job every day of the year."

Michaels also expressed OSHA's commitment to ensuring the integrity of VPP while seeking alternative forms of non-governmental funding that will allow VPP to continue and grow.

OSHA's Voluntary Protection Programs promote effective worksite-based safety and health. In VPP, management, workers and OSHA establish cooperative relationships at workplaces that have implemented a comprehensive safety and health management system.

Michaels warns employers to provide proper training certification to oil spill cleanup workers
OSHA continues monitoring working conditions in the Gulf

OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels issued a statement in response to numerous complaints from oil spill cleanup workers in the Gulf that employers are refusing to provide them with a certificate proving they have completed mandatory safety training. Workers hired to supervise onshore and marine cleanups are required to receive a rigorous 40-hour training program under OSHA's Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response standard. Some employers are withholding written certificates from workers who have successfully completed the HAZWOPER training, allegedly to prevent workers from leaving their employ.

Assistant Secretary Michaels warned employers, "OSHA is processing complaints related to the withholding of training certificates, and already has referred some matters to the Office of the Inspector General within the Department of Labor for examination as possible consumer fraud."

OSHA personnel remain in the Gulf to see that BP is providing cleanup workers with proper training as well as personal protective equipment required for each specific job. OSHA has made more than 3,500 site visits during the past four and a half months covering the vessels of opportunity, beach cleanup, staging areas, decontamination, distribution and deployment sites. OSHA has also made approximately 2,500 noise and chemical exposure assessments in areas of offshore and onshore cleanup activities.

In addition to chemical and noise exposure, hazards faced by cleanup workers include falls, drowning, fatigue, sharp objects, animal bites, and the number-one health concern--with more than 700 incidents--heat stress. OSHA also recently posted resources on its Web site for dealing with mental stress, which workers may experience while responding to this unprecedented natural disaster.

Visit OSHA's oil spill response Web page for more information on OSHA activities related to the oil spill cleanup and worker safety and health publications in English, Spanish and Vietnamese.

Maryland cites youth facility after teacher is murdered

Maryland Occupational Safety and Health cited the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services in connection with the Feb. 18 murder of a 65-year-old teacher by a 13-year-old resident at the Cheltenham Youth Facility in Cheltenham, Md. MOSH issued citations to the juvenile detention facility for failure to provide adequate security measures such as stationing an observer at meetings between teachers and residents, providing escorts for residents moving about the facility, conducting regular physical counts of all residents and ensuring that teachers and other staff logged in and out when arriving or leaving the facility. Although MOSH does not issue financial penalties to public agencies such as DJS, the state-run occupational safety and health program is required to communicate and train state workers on hazards and expected behavior, as well as have management enforce prescribed safety rules. See the MOSH news release for more information on this case.

Maryland is one of 22 states and territories operating their own occupational safety and health programs covering private and public sector workers. Five other states have safety and health programs that cover public workers only. A state plan must set job safety and health standards that are "at least as effective as" comparable federal OSHA standards. See the State OSH Plans page of OSHA's Web site for more information on these programs and their requirements.

Texas seminar will provide updates on OSHA activities

OSHA's Dallas Regional Office will be co-hosting an all day seminar to inform occupational health and safety professionals about OSHA's latest activities and initiatives. This year's annual Regulatory Update Seminar, organized in collaboration with the American Industrial Hygiene Association and American Society of Safety Engineers, will be held Sept. 17 at the University of Texas Arlington, Mavericks Activities Center Auditorium. Regional and Area Office OSHA speakers will be available to answer questions about OSHA emphasis programs, agency policy, and other related subjects. The event will run from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visit the seminar Web site to register online, or contact Susan Monroe at 972-850-4173 for additional information.

Job openings

Are you interested in a career with the Department of Labor? The department has job opportunities throughout the country, such as openings in OSHA that include an Occupational Safety and Health Investigator and a Medical Officer (Occupational Medicine).

See DOL's electronic newsletter for more DOL news.

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Editor: Richard De Angelis, OSHA Office of Communications, 202-693-1999
For more information on occupational safety and health, visit OSHA's Web site.

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