|September 2, 2014 · Volume 13, Issue 17|
|A twice monthly e-news product with information about workplace safety and health.|
OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recently released Recommended Practices (PDF) for staffing agencies and host employers to better protect temporary workers from hazards on the job. The Recommended Practices publication highlights the joint responsibility of the staffing agency and host employer to ensure temporary workers are provided a safe work environment.
“An employer's commitment to the safety of temporary workers should not mirror these workers' temporary status,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. Michaels. “Whether temporary or permanent, all workers always have a right to a safe and healthy workplace. Staffing agencies and the host employers are joint employers of temporary workers and both are responsible for providing and maintaining safe working conditions.”
The new guidance recommends that staff agency/host employer contracts clearly define the temporary workers’ tasks and the safety and health responsibilities of each employer. Staffing agencies should maintain contact with temporary workers to verify that the host has fulfilled its responsibilities for a safe workplace. For more information, read Dr. Michaels’ prepared remarks, the news release and visit OSHA’s temporary workers page.
To increase awareness for workers about their rights and inform employers about their responsibilities to protect all workers, OSHA partnered with the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division and Bureau of International Labor Affairs, foreign embassies and consulates, and other federal, state, and local partners to host more than 60 educational events throughout the country during Labor Rights Week, Aug. 25-29.
Many of these events celebrated new or renewed agreements with foreign consulates to help ensure protections for vulnerable workers in the United States. Embassies and consulates offer safe, trusted places for workers to turn and learn about how to exercise their workplace rights.
Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels also blogged about last week’s outreach efforts and reminded all workers and employers that “if you work in the United States, you have the right to come home safe and healthy from your job at the end of every shift.”
Asphalt Specialists Inc. has been found in violation of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act after OSHA determined the Pontiac, Mich.-based company wrongfully terminated a foreman and two truck drivers. The workers raised safety concerns after they were directed to violate U.S. Department of Transportation mandated hours of service for commercial truck drivers. The company was ordered to pay $953,916 in total damages.
“It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against employees who report work-related safety concerns or violations of federal transportation regulations, which require drivers to have a minimum 10-hour rest period between shifts,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels. “OSHA is committed to protecting workers from retaliation for exercising basic worker rights.”
The foreman was terminated in June 2012 after complaining about exceeding hours of service when job assignments repeatedly failed to allow for the 10-hour rest period mandated by DOT. One driver was terminated in April 2013 after raising similar concerns about excessive work hours and for refusing to sign an affidavit denying that the worker was required to work in excess of the number of hours legally permitted. The second driver, terminated in July 2013, raised concerns about vehicle maintenance and excessive hours. OSHA ordered that the three employees be reinstated and receive back wages, compensatory and punitive damages. Read the news release for additional information.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of 22 statutes protecting employees who report violations of laws in various industries. For more information, visit www.whistleblowers.gov/.
OSHA has ordered a contractor for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Hanford nuclear facility in Washington state to reinstate an environmental specialist and pay more than $220,000 in back wages and other expenses. Washington River Protection Solutions, of Richland, fired the employee for voicing nuclear and environmental safety concerns, a violation of federal whistleblower provisions. The Hanford site produced plutonium for nuclear weapons from 1943 until approximately 1987. The production processes left solid and liquid waste that posed a risk to the local environment.
“The people most able to identify hazards are often the workers who are threatened by them,” said Galen Lemke, OSHA’s acting regional administrator. “Employees must never be punished for sounding an alarm when they see a problem that could injure, sicken or kill someone, or harm the environment.”
OSHA also ordered Washington River Protection to rehire the employee with the same pay and benefits that the employee would currently receive if not for the termination, post a “Your Rights Under the Energy Reorganization Act” poster, remove disciplinary information from the employee’s personnel record, and provide whistleblower rights information to its employees. Read the news release for more information.
Representatives from OSHA and the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division were among 25 exhibitors at a mobile Mexican Consulate Health Fair in Gainesville, Ga., from August 19 – 22. The four-day event was attended by more than 2,000 visitors, many of them workers in the poultry and construction industries. OSHA personnel provided information in English and Spanish on workplace safety, workers’ rights and how to file a complaint.
OSHA has an alliance with the Consulate General of Mexico in Atlanta, which provided consular identification cards and passports at the event. The health fair was a joint effort between OSHA’s Atlanta Area Offices, Emory University Rollins School of Public Health/Ventanilla de Salud Atlanta and Cielos Abiertos Christian Church.
“Buy Quiet” is a prevention initiative launched by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to help companies buy, rent or design quieter machines and tools for their workplaces. Each year millions of U.S. workers are exposed to noise loud enough to be hazardous to their health. For more information about occupational noise hazards and hearing conservation programs, visit OSHA’s safety and health topics page on noise.
The Center for Research Construction and Training – CPWR has launched a new resource for innovators in the safety and health field. The new guide, developed through a cooperative agreement with NIOSH, is targeted at academic researchers and others who have developed better or safer approaches to work in the construction industry. Download a free digital copy of the guide (PDF) or request a printed one from CPWR at firstname.lastname@example.org or 301-495-8544.
OSHA has renewed its Global Cold Chain Alliance to continue working together to protect workers from exposure to hazardous chemical releases from ammonia refrigeration systems. The alliance will also focus on improving the process safety management programs for these systems. Anhydrous ammonia is widely used as a refrigerant in many industrial facilities including meat, poultry and fish processing facilities, dairy and ice cream plants and cold storage warehouses. Ammonia is corrosive to the skin, eyes and lungs, and spills and releases of the chemical can also cause fires and explosions. For more information, see the news release and visit OSHA’s safety and health topics page on ammonia refrigeration.
The N95 respirator is important to the health and safety of workers in many different industries. This type of respirator forms a seal against the user’s face, preventing penetration around the edges, and the filter protects workers against at least 95 percent of airborne particles. In honor of N95 Respirator Day, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health will be holding an informational Twitter chat on Sept. 5, 2014, at 2 p.m. EDT to raise awareness about respirator safety and answer questions about different models and types of respirators. Follow and join the chat using the hashtag #N95Chat on Twitter.
To learn more about N95 respirators, visit NIOSH’s N95 Respirator Day page, and to learn more about respiratory protection on the job, visit OSHA’s safety and health topics page on respiratory protection.
OSHA’s Protecting Workers from the Effects of Heat Fact Sheet (PDF) has been updated with revised information for employers on measures they should take to prevent worker illnesses and death caused by heat stress.
OSHA has also developed Electrocution: Work Safely with Ladders Near Power Lines, a new training video for employers, as well as Electrocution: Work Safely with Cranes Near Power Lines, an updated video on preventing electrocutions while operating cranes. The videos, which are available in English and Spanish, show how quickly contact with overhead power lines can result in the electrocution of a worker. It also shows what employers can do to ensure the work is done more safely.
A new fact sheet for employers on Protecting Workers during a Pandemic (PDF).
OSHA provides news and commentary on workplace safety and health from its senior leadership and staff on the DOL blog. Read the latest posts by Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels on Labor Rights Week and Director of Technical Support and Emergency Management Mandy Edens on earthquake preparedness. DOL offers the option to receive blog updates by email.
Are you interested in a career with the Department of Labor? DOL has job opportunities throughout the country, including openings in OSHA.
See DOL's weekly electronic newsletter for more DOL news.
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