|October 1, 2012 · Volume 11, Issue 21|
|A twice monthly e-news product with information about workplace safety and health.|
In this issue:
The Bureau of Labor Statistics has released the preliminary results of its National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries. Findings show that the number of fatal work injuries in 2011 was slightly lower than final results from 2010. Last year, 4,609 workers died from work-related injuries, down from a final count of 4,690 in 2010. The rate of fatal work injury for U.S. workers in 2011 was 3.5 per 100,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers, as compared to a final rate of 3.6 per 100,000 for 2010. Final 2011 data from the CFOI program will be released in spring 2013.
Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis issued the following statement in response to the census: "Today's report shows a decline in the number of workplace fatalities. It's a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done. We will continue to collaborate with employers, workers, labor leaders, and safety and health professionals to ensure that every American who clocks in for a shift can make it home safe and sound at the end of the day. On average, 13 workers lose their lives each and every day, and that loss ripples throughout their communities. Children, parents, brothers, sisters and neighbors all bear an enormous burden when a loved one dies on the job."
In order to bridge a gap in training and staff capacity in the state, Hawaii's state occupational safety and health agency last week finalized an agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration to temporarily share oversight for worker safety and health in the state. The agreement, signed by Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie and OSHA Regional Administrator Ken Nishiyama Atha, outlines additional mandatory training opportunities for HIOSHA staff, temporary federal jurisdiction over some industries, and other elements aimed at returning the Hawaii state plan program to compliance with federal standards. This agreement follows a 2010 Federal Annual Monitoring and Evaluation report issued by OSHA that raised concerns over the state program.
New technologies have the promise of making our safety and health resources even more accessible for workers and employers. Developers, students and anyone else with a little tech savvy and creativity have the opportunity to enter the Workplace Safety and Health Challenge, an initiative to develop tools that demonstrate the importance of recognizing and preventing workplace safety and health hazards and helping young people understand their rights in the workplace. The deadline for submissions is November 30. Successful entries could take many different forms: interactive and informative games, social or professional networking sites, or data visualization tools that teach young people about safety and health hazards. Submissions may be designed for Internet browsers, smartphones, feature phones, social media platforms, or as native Windows or Macintosh applications.
A panel of judges that includes Secretary Solis, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, co-hosts of the popular Discovery Channel show "Myth Busters," will award $15,000 for the "Safety in the Workplace Innovator Award," $6,000 for the "Safety and Health Data Award," and $6,000 for the "Workers' Rights Award." There is also a "People's Choice Award" of $3,000 for the developer of the app that receives the most public votes on the website.
OSHA joined four other agencies with regulatory oversight of the oil and gas industry to convene an expert forum to explore the use and implementation of performance-based regulatory models in the industry on September 20-21 in Texas City, Texas. The "Expert Forum on the Use of Performance-based Regulatory Models in the U.S. Oil and Gas Industry" was attended by onshore and offshore oil and gas industry representatives, contractors, labor organizations, and Congressional representatives, along with OSHA, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), United States Coast Guard (USCG), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).
In his opening remarks, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels praised the spirit of collaboration that brought together these diverse stakeholders. "The all-too-frequent individual fatalities and serious injuries at oil and gas facilities should inspire and motivate us as we set out to develop innovative solutions to these challenges," he said.
All members of the public are encouraged to submit comments to the docket before the October 22, 2012, deadline by mail, fax, or electronically at www.regulations.gov, the Federal eRulemaking Portal. A full transcript of the meeting, including speaker presentations, will be available in the docket soon.
On September 27, Secretary Solis attended a safety and health training event with Vietnamese nail salon workers and local community leaders in Falls Church, Va. The event was hosted by OSHA Susan Harwood grantee Boat People SOS, a national organization that provides assistance to workers in the Vietnamese-American community, including training on workplace safety and workers' rights.
OSHA recently awarded approximately $10.7 million in grants to 72 nonprofit organizations, including BPSOS, through the Susan Harwood Training Grant Program. The focus of OSHA's Harwood grant program is to provide training and education for workers and employers on the recognition, avoidance, and prevention of safety and health hazards in their workplaces, and to inform workers of their rights and employers of their responsibilities under the OSH Act. Target audiences include small businesses, underserved, low-literacy, and workers in high-hazard industries. Since 1978, more than 1.8 million workers have been trained through this program.
In 2012, OSHA unveiled a webpage devoted to safety in nail salons and published a guide on chemical, ergonomic and biological hazards, "Stay Healthy and Safe While Giving Manicures and Pedicures: A Guide for Nail Salon Workers," available in both English and Vietnamese. To order free copies, call OSHA's Office of Communications at (202) 693-1999 or visit OSHA's Publications page online.
The Heat Fatalities Map is the latest interactive online tool available to raise awareness of the risks of heat illness to outdoor workers available at OSHA's heat illness prevention campaign. The map is a visual representation of heat-related fatalities in the U.S. between 2009 and 2012. It's a reminder that water, rest and shade are vital to providing a safe and healthful environment when working outdoors in the heat. For each fatality, basic information about the type of workplace, work task, and work conditions is provided if available. The map builds on the success of the OSHA Heat Safety Tool, a mobile smartphone application that provides heat safety information whenever and wherever you need it, which has been downloaded more than 54,000 times in English and Spanish.
You can read Dr. Michaels' reflections on the summer public awareness campaign in his latest blog post, "The End of a Long, Hot Summer." OSHA's heat illness prevention education materials are available year-round on OSHA's heat illness prevention campaign page. To order any of OSHA's materials, call OSHA's Office of Communications at (202) 693-1999 or visit OSHA's Publications page.
Secretary Solis has announced the appointment of four new members and re-appointment of two current members to the Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health. The committee members will serve two-year terms and represent the interests of the public, employers, employees and government. The 15-member committee meets at least twice a year. The four newly appointed and two re-appointed members will join the nine current members serving the remainder of their terms on the committee.
"We want good, safe jobs for American workers, and I am confident that these new members – representing the views of labor, management, government and the public – will use their expertise to provide valuable advice and recommendations toward our shared goal," Dr. Michaels said following the announcement. Read the news release for more information.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration will hold a meeting of the Federal Advisory Council on Occupational Safety and Health October 18, 2012, in Washington, D.C.
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.
FACOSH will meet from 1 – 4:30 p.m. in Room N-4437 A-D, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20210. The meeting is open to the public. Those interested in submitting comments or requests to speak can do so electronically at http://www.regulations.gov, the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Comments and requests to speak may also be submitted by mail or facsimile. See the Federal Register notice for details. Comments and requests to speak must be submitted by October 10, 2012.
The U.S. Department of Labor has reached a settlement agreement with Mohawk Industries Inc., a carpet manufacturer based in Calhoun, Ga., under which the company will increase fire protection at its four carpet pad facilities. The agreement resolves citations issued by OSHA in June 2011, for violations found at the company's manufacturing facility in Johnstown. Mohawk Industries employs more than 25,000 workers globally. In addition to Johnstown, Mohawk's "rebond" facilities are located in Commerce, Texas; Torrington, Conn.; and Tifton, Ga.
Following its investigation, OSHA cited the company with four serious violations involving dust, unguarded floors and electrical hazards. Two other-than-serious violations relate to inadequate hazard communications. The agreement amends the citation and requires the company to abate the alleged fire hazards found at the Johnstown facility. The company will develop procedures for and schedule the periodic cleanup and removal of polymer foam dust from any surfaces where it might accumulate, provide combustible dust training for all affected employees, conduct monthly inspections of the facilities' fire suppression sprinkler systems and provide training on emergency evacuation to employees. Read the press release for more information.
OSHA has cited two contractors with operations in New Jersey for violations that include failure to protect workers from fall hazards. Blade Contracting Inc., based in Staten Island, N.Y., was cited for seven safety – including one willful – violations at a Jersey City, N.J., worksite. The investigation was initiated after a worker with the masonry contractor was injured by falling from a sixth floor balcony while attempting to access a suspension scaffold. Proposed penalties total $136,290.
The willful violation reflects the use of makeshift devices on top of scaffolds to increase the level height for working and a failure to protect workers on scaffolds from fall hazards. Two repeat violations involve unprotected workers on scaffolds and a sixth floor balcony. The same violations were cited in 2007 and 2010. For details, read the press release.
In Kearny, N.J., an inspection led to OSHA citations for Continental Terminals Inc., based in Jersey City, with 18 alleged safety and health violations at the company's warehouse. OSHA initiated an inspection upon receiving a complaint. Proposed fines total $162,400, including $98,000 in penalties for two willful violations that involve permitting employees to ride on the forks of forklifts and a failure to provide fall protection on platforms. Read the press release for more information.
For information on protecting workers in construction from falls from ladders, scaffolds and roofs, visit OSHA's fall prevention campaign page.
OSHA has announced the addition of four new OSHA Training Institute (OTI) Education Centers and the renewal of 24 existing OTI Education Centers to meet the demand for and deliver life-saving training to our country's employers and workers. Current OTI Education Centers offer training courses on OSHA standards and occupational safety and health issues. The new OTI Education Centers, which are nonprofit organizations, will provide additional outlets for safety and health training to workers and employers throughout the country.
The OTI Education Centers program was created in 1992 to complement the OSHA Training Institute in Arlington Heights, Ill., which provides training and education to OSHA compliance officers. The OTI Education Centers provide training nationwide to private sector and federal personnel from agencies outside OSHA. The OTI Education Centers trained more than 40,000 people during the 2012 fiscal year, representing an all-time record for the program. For more information, read the press release.
A 22-count federal indictment was unsealed on September 26 in federal court in New Orleans, La., charging Connie M. Knight, 46, with impersonating a federal employee for the purpose of enticing people to pay her for fraudulent hazardous waste safety training. The indictment also charges Knight with possessing false federal identification documents, creating false federal identification documents, and transferring false federal identification documents to her employees.
In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, many fisheries were closed, causing many fishermen in the Gulf region to seek other sources of employment, including as oil spill cleanup personnel. According to the indictment, from August to December of 2010, it is estimated that Knight defrauded more than 1,000 individuals throughout Louisiana. The indictment alleges that Knight created and used fraudulent OSHA credentials, along with numerous false diplomas and certifications, to convince individuals that she was an authorized trainer and that they would be able to procure lucrative cleanup work if they attended and paid for her hazardous waste training courses. See the Department of Justice press release for more information.
Representatives of 15 construction industry Alliances met with OSHA in Washington, D.C., on September 27 to share ideas about ways forward on worker safety and health in the construction industry.
OSHA established the Alliance Program Construction Roundtable to bring construction-related Alliance Program participants together to discuss and share information on workplace safety and health. Roundtable participants develop and share construction-related compliance assistance tools and other resources for workers and employers. Roundtable members currently focus on three key issues: preventing falls in construction, preventing hearing injuries on the job caused by noise, and Prevention Through Design.
Dr. Michaels greeted the roundtable participants, provided his perspective on the recently released 2011 fatality data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, thanked participants for their support of OSHA's fall prevention campaign, and reviewed new OSHA information products related to the construction industry. "We're developing more and more outreach products to expand and deepen this campaign: fact sheets, scripted Tool Box talks, billboards in targeted communities around the U.S., and other training products that can help employers protect their workers," he said.
MI Metals Inc., a Fla. metals manufacturer, is now certified by OSHA's Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program, which recognizes small business employers who operate an exemplary injury and illness prevention program, after establishing an improved safety and health culture through OSHA's On-site Consultation Program. The Oldsmar-based company employs 257 workers nationwide and supplies aluminum products for customers primarily in the construction industry.
The OSHA On-site Consultation Program offers free, confidential services to small and medium-sized businesses and is available to employers in all U.S. states and territories. During their first visit to the MI Metals plant, consultants from USF Safety Florida identified an assortment of potential hazards, including fall hazards, electrical hazards, machine guarding hazards and chemical hazards. With the help of the consultants' assessment, management at MI Metals began to address and correct each hazard, primarily through engineering controls. By last year, when MI Metals was accepted into the SHARP program, its injury and illness rates had fallen well below the national average and its workers compensation premiums had also dropped significantly.
According to Mel Mitchell, safety director of JT Walker Industries Inc., the holding company for MI Metals, "Since beginning to work with the Consultation Program, we have seen a dramatic turnaround in every aspect of the safety program. Everyone in the company is now visibly involved." Read more about the MI Metals success story and other successes on the On-site Consultation Success Stories page. To request a free safety and health consultation or find an office in your area, visit OSHA's Consultation Program directory page or call 800-321-OSHA (6742).
OSHA has announced enhancements to its compliance variance webpage. To improve public access to, and understanding of, the variance approval process, the page will now list variance applications denied by OSHA, as well as those approved by OSHA. This newly available information illustrates which requirements employers have failed to meet when applying for a variance.
A variance is a regulatory action that permits an employer to deviate from the requirements of an OSHA standard under specified conditions. OSHA may grant a variance to employers who can prove their alternative method, condition, practice, operation, or process provides the employer's workers with a workplace as safe and healthful as required by the applicable OSHA standard. See the news release for more information.
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