|October 1, 2014 · Volume 13, Issue 19|
|A twice monthly e-news product with information about workplace safety and health.|
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OSHA has issued a final rule extending the deadline for crane operator certification requirements in the Cranes and Derricks in Construction final rule published Aug. 9, 2010 by three years, to Nov. 10, 2017. The rule also extends by three years the employer's responsibility to ensure that crane operators are competent to operate a crane safely. The final rule becomes effective Nov. 9, 2014.
During the three-year period, OSHA will address operator qualification requirements for the cranes standards including the role of operator certification. The final cranes and derricks rule required crane operators on construction sites to meet one of four qualification/certification options by Nov. 10, 2014. After publishing the final rule, a number of parties raised concerns about the standard's requirement to certify operators by type and capacity of crane and questioned whether crane operator certification was sufficient for determining whether an operator could operate their equipment safely on a construction site. For more information, see the news release.
Following the death of two workers from the collapse of a cell tower they were dismantling March 25, OSHA has cited Wireless Horizon Inc. for two willful and four serious safety violations. The tower technicians, ages 25 and 38, were using a load-lifting gin pole attached to the side of the tower with a wire rope sling. The sling failed, causing the gin pole to fall and bring the tower down with it. Both workers fell to the ground during the collapse. OSHA placed the St. Peters, Missouri-based company in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program following the incident and proposed penalties of $134,400.
"Two families have lost their loved ones in a preventable tragedy. No one should ever have to endure that loss. Inspecting and ensuring equipment is in good working order is a common-sense safety procedure that stop injuries and fatalities," said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. "OSHA expects tower owners and operators, such as Wireless Horizon, to protect their workers on job sites in this hazardous industry by increasing training and implementing all known safety precautions. Our nation's growing need for telecommunications should not cost workers their lives."
OSHA's investigation found that Wireless Horizon failed to inspect the wire rope slings prior to use and provide protection to the slings when rigged over sharp objects, failed to conduct an engineering survey and develop a rigging plan prior to beginning the demolition process, and did not provide the technicians a load chart for the gin pole in use or operator manuals. For more information, read the news release.
A 51-year-old worker was fatally injured when he became engulfed in flowing grain in a railcar load-out elevator at Prairie Ag Partners. The worker was killed when attempting to remove a jam from a chute while the auger was moving. OSHA cited the Lake Preston, S.D., company for multiple violations, many involving OSHA's grain handling, permit-required confined space and fall protection safety regulations. Proposed penalties total $120,120.
"A worker can be completely submerged in flowing grain within a matter of seconds. That is what happened in this case, and a worker paid with his life," said Eric Brooks, OSHA's area director in Bismarck. "If Prairie Ag Partners had followed basic safety standards, this tragic incident could have been prevented."
OSHA cited Prairie Ag for allowing employees inside the grain bin while the auger and conveyor systems were operating, failing to complete a confined space entry permit before allowing workers to enter grain bins, and failing to provide fall protection for workers around an unguarded floor opening. For more information, read the news release. For more information on protecting workers who must enter grain bins, see OSHA's Grain Handling Web page.
OSHA has cited Lansdowne, Pa., masonry contractor JJ Stucco and Stone Inc. for three willful and three repeat safety violations. The inspection was initiated in response to a referral by the Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections due to an imminent threat to worker health and safety at the site. The investigation found workers exposed to fall hazards while applying stucco to the exterior of a residential construction site. Proposed penalties total $235,700.
"This employer was placed in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program in 2011 after multiple instances of repeated, high-gravity violations," said Nicholas DeJesse, director of OSHA's Philadelphia Area Office. "By refusing to provide the proper fall protection, this company is putting workers' lives at risk. Falls are the leading cause of death in construction. Protecting workers from fall hazards must be a priority."
The employer failed to use scaffolding with adequate bracing to prevent tipping or collapse or to provide fall protection for employees working up to a height of 32 feet. Repeat violations were also cited for additional scaffolding hazards, lack of training on fall dangers and failure to develop and implement a hazard communication program. For more information, read the news release.
Two recent court cases uphold agency findings and citations regarding violations of OSHA's fall protection standard and a willful citation issued for exposing workers to excessive heat.
In September of 2011, two Cleveland, Ohio compliance officers observed a worker performing roof repairs on a church’s steep-pitched roof without any fall protection. The compliance officers conducted an inspection and OSHA issued serious and repeat citations to Absolute Roofing & Construction, Inc for violating OSHA’s fall prevention regulations. In an appeal to the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, the employer claimed that the worker was not his employee but an independent contractor; the review commission disagreed. On Sept. 9, 2014, the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the findings of the OSHRC, affirming OSHA’s citations.
On Sept. 10, 2014, OSHRC judge Peggy Ball affirmed a general duty clause citation that OSHA issued to the United States Postal Service after the heat illness related death of a postal worker in July 2012. OSHA cited USPS for failing to address recognized hazards to employees working outside in excessive heat. In addition to sustaining the violation, Judge Ball agreed that the citation was properly characterized as willful and agreed with OSHA that the imposition of the full $70K penalty was appropriate. “This ruling underscores the need for employers to take proactive steps to keep workers safe in extreme heat,” said Barbara Theriot, OSHA's area director in Kansas City. "If the postal service had trained workers in recognizing the symptoms of heat stroke, and taken precautions to ensure workers had access to water, rest and shade, this unfortunate incident may have been avoided."
Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels addressed the National Safety Council's annual Congress & Expo in San Diego Sept. 16 with a clear message to employers.
Michaels emphasized the need for employers to design and engineer out hazards to help prevent injuries.
"You can't blame the worker," Dr. Michaels said during his keynote speech, stressing that it is the responsibility of employers to maintain a safe workplace. "Just focusing on personal responsibility isn't useful, and it isn't the law."
Dr. Michaels shared more details from the National Safety Council Congress in a recent blog post, highlighting that workplace injuries and fatalities cost our economy $198.2 billion a year.
Also at the NSC Congress, OSHA Deputy Director of Enforcement Programs Patrick Kapust announced the top 10 most frequently cited violations during fiscal year 2014. For the fourth consecutive year, OSHA’s Fall Protection Standard was the agency’s most frequently cited violation.
Last week, the state of California enacted legislation that changes employers’ responsibilities for finding and fixing workplace hazards that can harm employees. Under Assembly Bill 1634, an employer can receive a penalty reduction for fixing a hazard only if the cited hazard is shown to be actually fixed. The new law also now requires employers to fix the most serious hazards cited by California OSHA more promptly, and employers can delay correcting a cited hazard only during the first appeal. California operates its own state OSHA plan, and the new law applies only to California OSHA operations.
The final rule that will require employers to notify OSHA of all work-related hospitalizations, amputations or losses of an eye in addition to workplace fatalities has been published in the Federal Register. The rule, which also updates the list of employers partially exempt from OSHA record-keeping requirements, will go into effect Jan. 1, 2015, for workplaces under federal OSHA jurisdiction. For more information, visit www.osha.gov/recordkeeping2014/.
OSHA joined the National Education Center for Agricultural Safety's National Farm Safety and Health Week, held Sept. 21-27, to emphasize the importance of worker safety in the industry. The agriculture sector accounted for 479 deaths in 2013. With a fatality rate of 22.2 for every 100,000 full-time workers, agriculture recorded the highest fatality rate of any industry sector, according to the Bureau of Labor Statisics.
Farmworkers are at high risk for fatal and nonfatal injuries, work-related lung diseases, heat exposure, confined-space hazards, noise-induced hearing loss, struck-by and fall hazards, skin diseases and certain cancers associated with chemical use and prolonged sun exposure. For more information and resources on keeping workers safe in these high-hazard industries, see OSHA's webpages on Agricultural Operations and Grain Handling.
OSHA has scheduled a meeting of the Federal Advisory Council on Occupational Safety and Health Nov. 6, 2014, in Washington, D.C. The tentative agenda includes updates from FACOSH subcommittees and on recordkeeping rule changes affecting federal agencies, protecting workers from retaliation, and an update and future metrics on the Presidential POWER Initiative.
FACOSH advises the Secretary of Labor on all matters relating to the occupational safety and health of federal employees. This includes providing advice on how to reduce the number of injuries and illnesses in the federal workforce and how to encourage each federal executive branch department and agency to establish and maintain effective occupational safety and health programs.
The meeting is open to the public. The committee will meet from 1 – 4:30 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 6 in Rooms N-4437 A-D, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Ave., N.W., Washington, DC 20210. Comments and requests to speak must be submitted electronically at www.regulations.gov, by mail or facsimile before Oct. 31, 2014. See the Federal Register notice for details.
To improve workplace opportunities for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, representatives from the U.S. Department of Justice, the Department of Labor and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently met with workers from the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities in Houston.
Officials explained how the federal government protects workers’ rights, and workers discussed the difficulties they face in their jobs — including safety concerns, discrimination, harassment and wage and benefits issues. Interpreters were available in Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Nepalese and Fujianese to assist the area workers attending this listening session. Comments provided by the participants will be used by the government agencies to create strategic plans to protect workers’ rights. For more information about workers’ rights, visit www.osha.gov/workers.html.
On Sept. 23, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels addressed the 7th China International Safety Forum in Beijing. In his remarks, he emphasized the value of involving workers in a dialogue to develop and implement safety and health management systems: common-sense programs that give employers a process to find and fix hazards in the workplace before someone gets hurt.
"OSHA is committed to providing leadership in the effort to improve safety of workers around the world," said Michaels. "We can all agree that our economies must succeed, but never at the cost of the safety or health of our workers."
Michaels explained that injury and illness prevention is not only good for the safety and health of workers, but also for the employer’s bottom line. The costs associated with workplace injuries and illnesses is substantial, costing the American economy as much as $198.2 billion in 2012 according to the National Safety Council. Safety and health management systems, which are used successfully around the world in enterprises of all sizes and in every industry, rely on management’s commitment to safety and workers who are empowered to participate. To learn more, visit OSHA’s page on injury and illness prevention.
Holder Construction Group LLC and OSHA have formed a strategic partnership to protect workers from construction hazards during the building of the 183,000-square-foot Oasis Data Center Project in Omaha. The partnership will focus on hazards that construction workers face daily on the job. Holder expects to employ 180 tradesmen during peak construction. As part of the agreement, all project contractors and subcontractors will be required to have specific written safety and health programs in place and attend meetings before major work begins. For more information, see the news release.
Workers constructing Philadelphia’s new Museum of the American Revolution will be safer due to a partnership launched Sept. 11 by OSHA and Intech Construction LLC. Intech will provide a dedicated safety manager at the construction site. The 118,000-square-foot construction project will include exhibition and gallery spaces, theaters, education spaces, administration offices, and a café. For more information, visit OSHA’s strategic partnership Web page.
OSHA’s guide on Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders in Poultry Processing is now available in Spanish in PDF format as well as EPUB and MOBI formats to help employers protect workers from musculoskeletal disorders on the job.
Also available is a new OSHA fact sheet, “Resource Center Loan Program, which describes how to borrow free video training resources that help employers and workers identify hazards and take effective measures to prevent work-related injuries and illnesses. Over 750 titles on more than 100 safety and health topics are available.
To order quantities of these or any other OSHA materials, visit OSHA's Publications Web page or call the Office of Communications at (202) 693-1999.
This month OSHA launched a new version of its home page at www.osha.gov. The page features a balance of graphics and text, making it easier to navigate. Drop down menus allow visitors to find information with one click. There is a “How To” section where users can get easy access to information in high demand such as OSHA’s FREE workplace poster and recordkeeping and reporting resources.
Users can stay abreast of OSHA’s hot topics and latest information by visiting the new home page. The page highlights OSHA’s major initiatives such as protecting temporary workers and preventing falls in construction. Visitors can follow OSHA by a real-time Twitter feed and the latest blogs posted on the page.
Visit OSHA’s new home page today!
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