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September 15, 2015 · Volume 14, Issue 18

 

Top Story

Dr. Michaels travels to China to discuss global challenges in occupational safety and health

Building on more than a decade of cooperation and collaboration between the United States and China, OSHA Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels is in Beijing this week for a series of meetings with government officials, worker safety and health advocates, and industry representatives from both countries.

Yesterday, at a roundtable discussion on occupational safety and health in the supply chain, hosted by the China State Administration of Work Safety, he discussed the roles of government workers, employers, and non-governmental organizations in protecting workers through better understanding and collaboration. Today, September 15, he participated in an Occupational Health Symposium hosted by the National Center for International Cooperation in Work Safety and the American Industrial Hygiene Association. Throughout the visit, Assistant Secretary Michaels stressed the importance of instilling a culture of safety throughout a business' entire operation, including its supply chain, and the need to involve all the key players in a comprehensive safety and health management system.

"With supply chains and employment relationships that cross borders and oceans, worker safety is undoubtedly a global issue," said Assistant Secretary Michaels. "As such, it is imperative that each of us — every nation — does our part to promote safe workplaces in a collaborative and systemic way to effectively protect all of our workers."

China-US Occupational Health Symposia

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Enforcement

Temporary worker loses finger at Nebraska flooring manufacturer; employer fined $244K after trying to hide hazards

Nebraska

OSHA opened an investigation of MP Global Products LLC after a 65-year-old temporary worker suffered an amputation of one finger and serious damage to another when his left hand was caught in a machine. OSHA learned that the Norfolk, Neb., flooring materials company threatened to fire employees who complained about unsafe working conditions and attempted to hide from inspectors machines that lacked safety guards. "MP Global shut down an entire production line, turned the lights off and herded employees into the back room where they were instructed to remain during OSHA's inspection," said Jeff Funke, OSHA's area director in Omaha. "This was a willful attempt to prevent inspectors form discovering numerous machine safety violations in the plant. Knowingly requiring workers to operate unsafe machinery and threatening their jobs for reporting unsafe work practices are illegal and shameful activities," Funke said. The company was cited for 25 willful, serious and other-than-serious safety violations with proposed penalties of $244,000, and placed in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program. For more information, read the news release.


OSHA fines supermarket chain bakery in New York $188K after 2 workers are injured

New York

OSHA cited Wegmans Food Markets Inc. for recurring hazards at its bakery in Rochester, N.Y., after a sanitation crew member lost his fingertip while cleaning an operating conveyor and a mechanic was burned by steam while repairing a valve. An OSHA inspection identified hazardous conditions similar to those cited by the agency during a 2011 inspection of the store. OSHA cited Wegmans for three repeated and two serious violations. Total proposed fines are $188,200. "The company must take corrective action at all stores to ensure that hazards, such as these — and the injuries that result — are eliminated," said Michael Scime, OSHA's area director in Buffalo. For more information, see the news release.


Texas company fined $114K for failing to protect workers from chemical exposures

Texas

Baze Chemical Inc. was cited for 20 serious violations, most of which related to OSHA's standard for the management of processes using highly hazardous chemicals. The Odessa, Texas, company exposed workers to dangerous chemicals when it failed to conduct a hazard analysis prior to processing a batch of highly hazardous chemicals including flammable and highly reactive ethylene oxide. "It’s vital that Baze ensures safeguards are in place to protect the safety of workers at this facility," said Stephen Boyd, OSHA's area director in Dallas. The company was issued proposed penalties of $114,800. Read the news brief for more information.


OSHA cites two Texas construction contractors for exposing workers to excavation hazards on a multi-employer worksite

OSHA cited Hensel Phelps Construction and CVI Development for one willful violation each for failing to adequately protect workers at the new central library project excavation site in downtown Austin, Texas. CVI Development was also cited for failing to provide supports where material was excavated below a structure, and for not removing exposed workers from an excavation where the employer identified a hazardous condition. OSHA initiated the construction site inspection as part of its National Emphasis Program for Trenching and Excavations. "Multi-employer worksites have overlapping and shared responsibilities for protecting workers," said Casey Perkins, OSHA's area director in Austin. Hansel Phelps Construction was fined $70,000 and CVI Development was fined $18,000. For more information, see the news brief.

Please visit the enforcement news releases page for more on OSHA enforcement activity.

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A tree care worker dies every year from falls, electrocution, being struck by trees. www.osha.gov/treecare
Whistleblower Protection

Utah-based Legal Life Plans Inc. wrongfully fires worker for reporting securities fraud

Securities and Exchange Commission

Following an investigation of Legal Life Plans Inc. in Draper, Utah, OSHA found the company wrongfully fired a worker for reporting securities fraud. OSHA ordered the company to pay the former worker $119,556 in back wages, interest and attorney fees. Also, the company must purge all records referencing adverse actions against the worker and remove from the worker's file any derogatory references related to exercising his workplace rights.

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and 21 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of laws in various industries. For more information, read the news release and visit www.whistleblowers.gov.

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Occupational Science

One-fifth of chronic lung disease in construction workers linked to asbestos, silica and other on-the-job exposures

Center for Construction Research and Training

A recent study by the Center for Construction Research and Training and Duke University found that 18 percent of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease among construction workers is caused by on-the-job exposure to vapors, gases, dusts, and fumes such as asbestos, silica dusts, and welding fumes.

The disease progressively diminishes a person's ability to breathe and is characterized by mucous-producing cough, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. It afflicts more than 13 million people in the U.S., and construction workers are at an increased risk.

Researchers compared the work history, smoking habits, and medical screening results of roughly 2,000 older construction workers with and without COPD between 1997 and 2013. Their findings indicate that, while smoking remains the main cause of COPD, workplace exposure to these hazards pose a more significant risk than previously thought and employers should take appropriate actions to protect workers.

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Agricultural Safety

Online resources available for National Farm Safety & Health Week Sept. 20 - 26

National Farm Safety & Health Week 2015

A series of free webinars will be offered in observance of this year's National Farm Safety & Health Week, which takes place Sept. 20-26. The five webinars, scheduled for noon each weekday, will cover rural roadway safety, confined spaces, children's safety, health hazards and tractor safety. The events are being hosted by the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety located at the Peosta campus of Northeast Iowa Community College. Visit the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety website to register for the webinars and for more information and public service announcements related to farm safety. The center is also hosting an 'AgChat' on Twitter at @NECASAG on Tuesday, Sept. 22, from 7-9 p.m. For additional resources, visit OSHA's Agricultural Operations page.

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Educational Resources

OSHA revises publication to protect the safety of firefighters, other responders

Fire Service Features manual

To better protect emergency responders, OSHA has revised its manual, Fire Service Features of Buildings and Fire Protection Systems. The manual explains how fire service operations can be affected by different building features, and it offers guidance for design professionals, code officials, fire service representatives, building owners and other stakeholders. Updates to the manual include more photos; new chapters on water supply and building phases; and new sections on energy conservation, emergency power, and numbering rooms and floors. The manual's information can help responders during fires and other emergencies such as hazardous material releases, emergency medical care, non-fire rescues and terrorist incidents.

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Digital Media
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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:

 

  • All Workers Have Rights by OSHA Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels and Wage and Hour Division Administrator Dr. David Weil
  • New Safety Fine Map by OSHA writer-editor Kimberly Darby
  • A New Standard for Beryllium by Dr. David Michaels

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