|October 17, 2011 · Volume 10, Issue 20|
|A twice monthly e-news product with information about workplace safety and health.|
|In this issue
OSHA will host an informal stakeholder meeting to solicit comments and suggestions on occupational hearing loss prevention. The purpose of OSHA's public meeting is to provide a forum and gather information from stakeholders on best practices for hearing conservation programs, personal protective equipment and feasible engineering controls. OSHA is holding this meeting as part of its commitment to work with stakeholders on approaches for preventing occupational hearing loss. The meeting will take place Nov. 3 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Department of Labor headquarters in Washington, D.C. Parties interested in attending must register online, by phone or by fax by the Oct. 27 deadline. See the Federal Register notice for more information on the meeting and visit OSHA's Occupational Noise Exposure Web page for background on health effects of noise exposure, warning signs of hearing loss and examples of workplace engineering controls.
"The primary purpose of OSHA's enforcement program is deterrence," OSHA Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels told congressional leaders at an Oct. 5 House of Representatives subcommittee hearing titled "Workplace Safety: Ensuring a Responsible Regulatory Environment." In his testimony, Michaels told lawmakers that "OSHA's enforcement program specifically targets the most dangerous workplaces and the most recalcitrant employers." Michaels testified about OSHA's common-sense standards and the importance of injury and illness prevention programs. He cited the positive feedback received by the agency from private companies on their use of those programs, and he discussed that OSHA standards have protected workers while industries have continued to flourish. "OSHA doesn't kill jobs," Michaels added. "It stops jobs from killing workers."
OSHA filed a settlement agreement with the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission between the agency and Cooperative Plus Inc., after the farmer-owned Wisconsin cooperative agreed to pay $550,000 in penalties, increase employee grain bin safety training and abate all safety issues at its grain handling facilities in Whitewater, Burlington, East Troy and Genoa City, Wis. As part of the settlement agreement, Cooperative Plus will provide site-specific training for all employees exposed to potential hazards identified by OSHA's grain handling, permit-required confined space and lockout standards. The cooperative also will schedule confined space and bin entry rescue drills semiannually, and provide 10 hours of training to newly hired and current employees whose duties expose them to potential hazards addressed by these standards. See the news release for more information.
OSHA's Seasonal Flu Web page includes information about how to reduce the spread of the flu in workplaces. It provides information on the basic precautions, such as frequent hand washings and covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue, that should be used by employers and workers in all workplaces as well as the additional precautions that should be used by employers and workers in healthcare settings, such as strictly following infection control practices and using gloves, gowns, surgical masks and other protective equipment to reduce exposures. Visitors to the employer and worker information Web pages can also test their knowledge about the flu through the interactive "Flu I.Q." quiz produced by the Department of Health and Human Services/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. OSHA's Seasonal Flu page also includes a link to additional information on planning for the possible outbreak of pandemic flu.
OSHA's new educational materials on laboratory safety provide information for laboratory managers on protecting their workers from exposure to chemical, biological and physical hazards. The new materials include the Laboratory Safety Guidance document, which describes how electrical, fire, explosions and falls, among other hazards, can be minimized or eliminated if employers use safety plans, worker training, engineering controls and personal protective equipment. New laboratory safety materials also include fact sheets that each focus on a specific hazard related to laboratory environments. Practices and precautions to protect laboratory personnel include safety guidance for using autoclaves, use of chemical fume hoods, labeling and transferring chemicals, and latex exposure. See the news release for more information. To order the Laboratory Safety Guidance, please call 1-800-321-OSHA or 202-693-1999.
OSHA's Respiratory Protection Web page includes hazard alerts and training materials. In addition, OSHA provides assistance to small businesses through the free On-site Consultation Service. Employers with fewer than 250 workers can call 1-800-321-OSHA to request this service, free of charge, to help identify and correct hazards, as well as improve comprehensive safety and health programs. Consultation services are separate from enforcement activities and do not result in penalties or citations.
A newly added section to OSHA's Shipyard Employment eTool provides information on marine hanging staging (MHS). This refers to the use of suspended scaffolding systems hung from overhead anchorages on ships, which are especially useful when workers are performing abrasive blasting and painting work in or on a vessel or vessel section. This new component of the OSHA maritime eTool supplements the already existing scaffolds section by providing information on the design, inspection, assembly, use, and dismantling of marine hanging staging in a manner that is safe for workers. The MHS eTool has been reviewed by subject matter experts in private industry, as well as members of OSHA's Maritime Advisory Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, to assist in developing a beneficial training tool for workers and employers alike. The MHS eTool replaces a 2005 educational document entitled Safe Work Practices for Marine Hanging Staging.
The Department of Labor reached a $150,000 settlement agreement with Houston-based Goodman Manufacturing Co. LP to resolve OSHA's findings that the company illegally terminated an employee for complaints about record-keeping practices, in violation of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. OSHA conducted its investigation after receiving a whistleblower complaint that Goodman failed to properly record employee injuries and illnesses on its OSHA 300 logs. Instead of addressing the concerns, OSHA found that the company decided to transfer the complainant to a much less desirable job. The complainant was then terminated by Goodman for refusing to be transferred. In the settlement agreement, the company agreed to pay $150,000 to the whistleblower and purge all references to the complainant's termination in its personnel files, modify the files to reflect a voluntary resignation and provide a neutral job reference upon request. See the news release for more information on the terms of the agreement. Employees who believe that they have been retaliated against for engaging in conduct protected under the 21 whistleblower statutes enforced by OSHA may file a complaint for an investigation by contacting OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Program.
OSHA fined Texas Barge & Boat Inc. $221,200 and cited the company for 40 violations following the death of two workers killed in a fire at the company's facility in Freeport, Texas. OSHA initiated its inspection following a report from the local sheriff's department that an explosion had occurred and two workers were unaccounted for. Nine employees were performing cutting operations and fire watch operations in a confined space, between the cargo hold and the bottom plate of a vessel, when the flash fire occurred. OSHA found that the company showed a willful disregard for the law's requirement or plain indifference to employee safety and health by failing to conduct air monitoring tests prior to employees entering the confined and enclosed spaces to perform oxygen and fuel gas cutting operations. See the news release for more information.
Marietta Industrial Enterprises Inc. was fined $186,300 and cited for 21 safety violations by OSHA after a worker was found dead inside the rotating drum assembly of a machine used to screen recyclables from other refuse at the Refuse Recycling facility operated by the company in Marietta, Ohio. OSHA found that the company showed a willfully failure to implement lockout/tagout procedures to prevent equipment from becoming unexpectedly energized and to train workers in lockout/tagout procedures. OSHA also cited the company for serious violations that included failing to provide machine guarding and adequate guardrails, failing to ensure that employees used electrical protective equipment, and failing to develop an exposure control plan for bloodborne pathogens. See the news release for more information.
Anthony Lewis of Brooklyn, N.Y., was sentenced Oct. 4 to seven to 21 years in prison for posing as a government inspector to extort tens of thousands of dollars from New York City building contractors. Lewis and another man created an organization, the Committee on Contract Compliance, to extort money from building contractors by threatening to report fake violations at job sites. Many of the contractors victimized were members of minority groups or were immigrants, primarily from Asia or the Middle East. Lewis, his partner, and other members of their organization visited construction job sites carrying clipboards and video cameras, and wearing hardhats bearing their organization's name, making it appear that they worked for a government agency. They threatened to report contractors to regulatory agencies unless the contractors paid them. Sixteen victims listed anonymously in the indictment made payoffs ranging from $300 to $10,000. If contractors refused to pay, reports of false violations and hazards were made to New York City agencies, including the Department of Buildings and the Police and Fire Departments, and federal agencies, such as OSHA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The Horsley Company of Salt Lake City, Utah, had injury and illness rates below the national average for its industry, but the material handling company wanted to do even better. Horsley learned that OSHA's On-site Consultation Program offers free and confidential advice to small and medium-sized businesses in all states across the country, with priority given to high-hazard worksites. Horsley contacted the On-site Consultation Program and arranged for its consultants to conduct an initial site visit. During the visit, OSHA Consultation identified several potential hazards. As a result of the site visit, hazards were immediately corrected and appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) was assigned whenever the hazard called for it. Since the OSHA Consultation site visit and follow-up discussions, Horsley has continued to effectively implement processes and procedures that promote workplace safety. In the fall of 2009, OSHA formally recognized the company for having an exemplary safety and health management system by accepting Horsley into the agency's Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP). See the online success story for more information.