|October 15, 2014 · Volume 13, Issue 20|
|A twice monthly e-news product with information about workplace safety and health.|
In an unprecedented event Oct. 14, the Department of Labor and the Federal Communications Commission joined leaders in the telecommunications industry, including major carrier AT&T, to discuss new and continuing efforts to prevent worker fatalities on cell towers.
"The fatality rate in this industry is extraordinarily high - tower workers are more than 10 times as likely to be killed on the job than construction workers," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. "But these deaths are preventable."
U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez and FCC Chairman Thomas E. Wheeler also announced a new working group that will collaborate in the development and implementation of recommended safety practices for the growing telecommunications industry.
"The cellphones in our pockets can't come at the cost of a worker's life," said Secretary Perez. "We know we can't solve this problem alone though, and that's why I am so glad to be joined in partnership on this issue with the FCC and major carriers like AT&T. It's a perfect example of federal agencies and industry breaking down barriers and identifying common goals to save workers' lives."
For more information about the new working group, view a recording of the event and read the news release. To learn more about worker safety in the telecommunications industry, visit OSHA's Communication Towers Web page.
OSHA is launching a national dialogue with stakeholders on ways to prevent work-related illness caused by exposure to hazardous substances. The first stage of this dialogue is a request for information on the management of hazardous chemical exposures in the workplace and strategies for updating permissible exposure limits.
"Many of our chemical exposure standards are dangerously out of date and do not adequately protect workers," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. "While we will continue to work on issuing and updating our workplace exposure limits, we are asking public health experts, chemical manufacturers, employers, unions and others committed to preventing workplace illnesses to help us identify new approaches to address chemical hazards."
OSHA's PELs, which are regulatory limits on the amount or concentration of a substance in the air, are intended to protect workers against the adverse health effects of exposure to hazardous substances. Ninety-five percent of OSHA's current limits, which cover fewer than 500 chemicals, have not been updated since their adoption in 1971. The agency's current PELs cover only a small fraction of the tens of thousands of chemicals in commerce, many of which are suspected of being harmful.
The comment period will close on April 8, 2015. In the coming months, OSHA will announce additional ways for the public to participate in the conversation. For more information, see the news release and visit OSHA's Web page on preventing occupational illnesses through safer chemical management.
To assist workers and employers, OSHA has launched a new Ebola Web page that provides information about the disease and how to protect workers. It includes sections on the disease itself, hazard recognition, medical information, standards for protecting workers, control and prevention, and additional resources. The page provides protection information for health care workers; airline and other travel industry personnel; mortuary and death care workers; laboratory workers; border, customs and quarantine workers; emergency responders; and workers in other critical sectors. It also links to the CDC and NIOSH Web pages on Ebola.
The Web page also includes a new OSHA fact sheet on protecting workers (not in healthcare or laboratories) involved in cleaning and decontamination of surfaces that may be contaminated with Ebola virus.
A Somerville, N.J., custom-order cabinetry company was cited by OSHA for exposing workers to safety and health hazards, including methylene chloride. OSHA inspected Choice Cabinetry LLC and cited the company for 15 violations and proposed penalties of $136,290.
"Methylene chloride is a carcinogen, so it's vital that employers like Choice Cabinetry take all necessary steps to protect workers when there is exposure," said Patricia Jones, director of OSHA's Avenel Area Office. "All workers have the right to a safe and healthy work environment, and OSHA will hold each employer accountable when this legal obligation is not met."
OSHA initiated the inspection as part of its Site-Specific Targeting Program for industries with high injury and illness rates. Custom Cabinetry was cited for not having a hazard communication program, failing to install alarms to warn of inadequate ventilation, failing to provide personal protective equipment and eyewash facilities, and exposing workers to damaging noise levels. For more information, read the news release.
OSHA cited Ohio manufacturer Haverhill Chemicals LLC following the death of a worker who was fatally injured when sprayed with a chemical mixture while clearing a blockage on the drain line to a reactor. Many of the more than 20 safety violations cited involve OSHA’s Process Safety Management Standards, which contain requirements for managing highly hazardous chemicals used in the workplace. OSHA proposed fines of $195,000 and placed the company in the agency’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
"Haverhill Chemicals has a responsibility to ensure the safety of its workers by ensuring equipment used to carry highly hazardous chemicals is properly installed and maintained," said Nick Walters, OSHA's regional director in Chicago. "A long-term employee, preparing to retire and spend more time with his loved ones, lost his life in a preventable tragedy. A worker who dedicated his life to a job should never lose that life to that job."
The employer failed to ensure misaligned pipes and joints were repaired properly and adequate safety shields were installed before placing the reactor back in service. Haverhill Chemical also failed to develop procedures for normal and emergency shutdown of the reactor and train workers to install equipment properly. For more information, read the news release.
GP Roofing & Construction LLC and Archer Exteriors Inc. were cited for 12 safety violations for exposing workers to falls and other hazards at three work sites in the Panama City, Fla., area. Archer Exteriors subcontracted with GP Roofing & Construction to install shingles at the three job sites. OSHA initiated the inspections as part of its Regional Emphasis Program on Falls in Construction. Proposed penalties total $355,300.
"The employer knowingly continues to put workers' lives at risk of serious injury or death by not ensuring proper safety measures are implemented to protect employees from dangerous falls at all work sites," said Brian Sturtecky, OSHA's area director in Jacksonville. "Although safety harnesses and ropes were available at the Panama City site, management decided not to use the fall protection because they didn't have tie-down brackets."
OSHA's inspection found that GP Roofing & Construction willfully failed to provide workers performing roofing work with fall protection systems, exposing them to falls between 9 and 11 feet.
The company has been placed in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program. Archer Exteriors, the general contractor, was cited for a repeat violation for allowing GP Roofing & Construction workers to install flashing at heights of 10 feet without fall protection systems. Other violations include allowing workers to use powered nail guns without eye and face protection and using extension ladders improperly. For more information, read the news release.
Citations issued to MB Consultants Ltd., doing business as Murray's Chickens, for health and safety violations were affirmed by an administrative law judge from the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, upholding an earlier decision by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The violations occurred at the company's South Fallsburg chicken processing plant.
"This is a critical decision that this employer and others in the industry should pay close attention to," said Robert Kulick, OSHA's regional administrator in New York. "Not informing production employees that the chemical hazards they worked with exposed them to potential illness, or that the absence of machine maintenance procedures left them vulnerable to lacerations, amputations or death, is unacceptable and will be enforced to the highest extent of the law."
OSHA cited the plant for failing to provide workers with information and training about the hazards of products containing peracetic acid and bleach, and failing to train workers servicing machines that could unexpectedly start up. MB Consultants contested the citations. The judge upheld the citations and penalties, noting in his decision that workers told the OSHA compliance officer that they had experienced respiratory ailment symptoms and rashes consistent with exposure symptoms described in the manufacturer’s safety data sheets for Perasafe and chlorine bleach.
The judge also found that that the company's machine maintenance procedures were overly general, lacking sufficient detail to provide employees with the steps to protect themselves from amputation and laceration hazards while servicing equipment. Moreover, production workers were not given basic training on how to avoid injuries when service and maintenance work was needed. Two employees were injured when attempting to clear jams on equipment without knowledge of proper procedures.
For more information, read the news release.
OSHA is seeking proposals to provide OSHA 10- and 30-hour Outreach Training Program courses online in the construction, general and maritime industries, and targeted training for young workers. The 10-hour class is intended for entry-level workers, while the 30-hour class is more appropriate for workers with some safety responsibility. Applications must be submitted in writing to OSHA by 4 p.m. CT on Dec. 12, 2014. For more information on submitting an application, visit the OSHA Outreach Training Program Web page.
The OSHA Outreach Training Program provides training for workers and employers on the recognition, avoidance, abatement and prevention of safety and health hazards in workplaces, and offers information on workers’ rights, employer responsibilities and how to file a complaint.
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A new fall prevention initiative to protect maritime workers has been developed by OSHA and the Puget Sound Shipbuilders Association, in conjunction with the Naval Sea Systems Command of the United States Navy and the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. The effort is a result of an alliance between OSHA and the PSSA to promote safer shipyards. The new maritime program mirrors OSHA's fall protection campaign for the construction industry, modified for the additional risks and different environmental factors of working over water. For more information about the maritime fall campaign, contact Dave Baker in OSHA's Bellevue, Wash., Area Office: 425-450-5480, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The initiative is a successful example of how OSHA’s Alliance Program can improve the health and safety of workers through cooperative efforts with trade associations, labor organizations, employers and government agencies. OSHA currently has more than 450 alliances throughout the nation with organizations committed to fostering safety and health in the workplace.
OSHA and the Association of Energy Service Companies recently renewed their alliance, pledging to continue their work on preventing struck-by and caught-between hazards, hand injuries, awareness of fire hazards, and exposure to air contaminants. In addition to oil well servicing contractors, AESC members include field crews, engineers, manufacturers, and oil and gas producers and operators — about 800 member companies who employ more than 500,000 workers. For more information, see the OSHA- AESC Alliance Web page.
A new Georgia Tech Web site offers online safety and health training resources to help protect young workers on the job. The site, created by the Georgia Tech Research Institute’s Center For Young Worker Safety and Health, is the product of four years of classroom training supported by Susan Harwood Training Grant funding. The new website and training portal offers seven online training modules, including industry- specific training in healthcare and cosmetology industries. Employers and educators will find PowerPoint slides for trainings, lesson plans, and other handouts, and students can print a certificate at the end of their online training.
As part of its outreach efforts during Hispanic Heritage Month, OSHA met with Hispanic workers at the New Labor Temporary Worker Conference in New Brunswick, N.J, many of whom worked for staffing agencies. OSHA staff informed workers of their rights and of the shared responsibility of staffing agencies and host employers to keep them safe at work.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the fatal injury rate for Hispanic workers is higher than the national rate for all U.S. workers. Preliminary data show that Hispanic workers suffered 18 percent of fatal work injuries in 2013. Hispanic worker injuries increased by 7 percent last year compared to 2012.
OSHA Tarrytown Area Director Diana Cortez recently blogged about her experiences conducting outreach to the Latino community. "In my own region of New York, we've built great relationships with the Latino community over the years," wrote Cortez. "All too often, these workers did not know that they had the right to safe and healthy working conditions."
For more information on OSHA's resources in Spanish, visit OSHA’s Spanish-Language Compliance Assistance Resources page.
OSHA and the Environmental Protection Agency will co-host the Worker Safety and Health Technical Conference Oct. 28-29 in Washington, D.C. Safety officers, first responders, occupational health professionals, disaster planners and other emergency management decision-makers are encouraged to attend. Attendees will learn how to help the U.S. National Response Team improve the health and safety of workers during response and recovery operations for oil and hazardous substances. For more information and to register, visit the conference website.
OSHA's Filing Whistleblower Complaints under the Consumer Financial Protection Act fact sheet is now available in Spanish. OSHA publications are available to download at no cost by visiting OSHA's publications page. To order publications, contact OSHA's Office of Communications at (202) 693-1999.
OSHA provides news and commentary on workplace safety and health from its senior leadership and staff on the DOL blog. Read the latest post by Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels on the cost of workplace injuries and fatalities to our economy. DOL offers the option to receive blog updates by email.
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