|November 15, 2012 · Volume 11, Issue 24|
|A twice monthly e-news product with information about workplace safety and health.|
In this issue
OSHA is urging workers and members of the public engaged in Hurricane Sandy cleanup and recovery efforts in New York and New Jersey to be aware of the hazards they might encounter and the steps they should take to protect themselves. To provide assistance and information, OSHA has published a comprehensive new Hurricane Sandy cleanup and recovery webpage, with resources on the common hazards associated with hurricane recovery work, including fact sheets, concise QuickCards, frequently asked questions, and safety and health guides. The page is also available in Spanish. A number of fact sheets and QuickCards on hurricane-related hazards have also been translated into Portuguese.
Hazards of recovery work may include downed electrical wires, carbon monoxide and electrical hazards from portable generators, fall and "struck-by" hazards from tree trimming or working at heights, being caught in unprotected excavations or confined spaces, burns, lacerations, musculoskeletal injuries, being struck by traffic or heavy equipment, toxic chemical exposure and drowning from being caught in moving water or while removing water from flooded structures.
"Storm recovery workers are working around the clock to clean up areas impacted by the storm," said Robert Kulick, OSHA's New York regional administrator. "We want to make sure that workers and employers are aware of the hazards involved in cleanup work and take the necessary precautions to prevent serious injuries." OSHA field staff members are providing safety assistance, technical support, and information and training to those involved in the recovery efforts. As of Nov. 14, OSHA Regional and Area Office staffs in storm-affected areas have reached more than 35,000 at-risk workers through targeted outreach, safety and health briefings, health risk assessments and coordination of donated personal protective equipment.
If you need to contact OSHA, please call the toll-free hotline 1-800-321-OSHA. The U.S. Department of Labor also maintains a Hurricane Recovery Assistance webpage with additional recovery information.
In 2008, a New York worker was trampled to death while a mob of shoppers rushed through the doors of a large store at the opening of a "Black Friday" sale. OSHA is encouraging retail employers to take precautions to prevent this type of tragedy during major sales events this holiday season. This year, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels has sent a letter to the CEOs of major retail employers urging them to follow common-sense crowd control measures to prevent worker injuries. OSHA has prepared a set of guidelines to help retail employers and store owners avoid injuries during the holiday shopping season, or other events where large crowds may gather. See OSHA's Crowd Management Safety Guidelines Fact Sheet for more information. Crowd management planning should begin in advance of events that are likely to draw large crowds, and crowd management, pre-event setup, and emergency situation management should be part of that plan.
Crowd management plans should include: trained security personnel or police officers on-site, barricades or rope lines for pedestrians provided well in advance of customers arriving at the store, barricades so the customers’ line does not begin at the immediate entrance of the store, emergency procedures in place that address potential dangers, and security personnel or customer service representatives available to explain approach and entrance procedures to the arriving public.
See the news release for more information.
Last week, a federal jury in Chattanooga convicted the former safety manager of Stone & Webster Construction on eight counts of major fraud for falsifying safety records at three Tennessee Valley Authority nuclear power plants in order to collect more than $2.5 million in safety bonuses.
The jury found that the bonuses were paid for meeting certain performance goals, including one tied to worker safety, which was determined by workplace injury rates as well as the total number of injuries at each of the three nuclear facilities. When workers' injuries—which included broken bones, torn ligaments, hernias, lacerations, and shoulder, back, and knee injuries—jeopardized the bonuses, the safety manager fraudulently misclassified them as nonrecordable, non-lost-time, and non-work-related incidents. OSHA cited the company in 2007, made a referral to the Department of Justice, and provided key witness testimony in the DOJ case.
An investigation by OSHA found that Northern Illinois Flight Center violated the whistleblower protection provisions of the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century, known as AIR21, by illegally terminating an employee. The whistleblower, a pilot from Illinois, was dismissed after contacting the Federal Aviation Administration to discuss violations of the pilot certification process. As a result, OSHA has ordered the company to immediately reinstate the employee and pay more than $500,000 in back wages, benefits and damages.
The pilot alleges that he was asked to falsify a pilot certification for a training flight he performed with another pilot. He maintained that all required elements were not completed during the training flight conducted Feb. 16, 2009, so he could not certify the form. He also alleges that, on March 23, Northern Illinois Flight Center supervisors attempted to coerce him into signing a backdated and incorrect form. During a subsequent conversation, the pilot informed his supervisors that he wanted to contact the FAA directly to get clarification on the issue, and between March 25 and 27, the pilot contacted the FAA Flight Standards District. The pilot was terminated April 7, with no reason stated. The investigation upheld the pilot's allegations and found that he would not have been terminated if he had not requested to meet with the FAA for the purpose of discussing the pilot certification process and forms.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the AIR21 and 21 other statutes. Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise various protected concerns or provide protected information to the employer or to the government. For more information, read the news release.
The U.S. Department of Labor has reached a settlement with The SHS Group, LP, the Council for Educational Travel-USA, and Exel Inc. that resolves federal minimum wage and overtime violations, and also resolves $143,000 in fines for safety and health violations found at an Exel-operated facility in Palmyra, Pa. The settlement also includes commitments by Exel to implement proactive procedures to help ensure future Fair Labor Standards Act and OSHA compliance at each of their over 300 facilities across the country.
Exel will implement a site-specific record-keeping policy, a noise abatement plan and a hearing conservation program at the Palmyra facility. Exel will also implement revised polices that address noise exposure at all Exel production facilities and record-keeping policies at all facilities nationwide. Additionally, Exel will revise its U.S. Corporate Wide Incentive Program to eliminate incentive payments based on the number of reported or recorded injuries and illnesses at a facility that may discourage reporting. This action is consistent with OSHA's current efforts to eliminate "bonus" plans that potentially incentivize nonreporting of injuries or illnesses.
"We are pleased that Exel has agreed to revamp its injury and illness record-keeping program and to change its incentive program," Dr. Michaels said. "When workers don't feel free to report injuries or illnesses, the employer's entire workforce is put at risk. Exel's actions will positively impact the safety and health of its workers." Read the news release for further details.
As part of a settlement with the U.S. Department of Labor, P. Gioioso & Sons Inc., a Hyde Park contractor with a long history of violating excavation safety standards, has agreed to pay a $200,000 fine for exposing its employees to cave-in hazards. The contractor also will significantly overhaul its safety practices to minimize trenching hazards and enhance worker safety.
P. Gioioso & Sons Inc., which primarily works on underground water and sewer mains, has been cited nine times since 2000 by OSHA for violations of trenching and excavation safety standards, most recently in 2011 at work sites in Cambridge and Framingham.
In addition to paying the fine, Gioioso will notify OSHA of all excavation jobs to be undertaken by the company in the next three years, and allow OSHA inspectors free access to enter and inspect the work sites without a warrant, as well as provide documents related to the work being performed at the sites. Gioioso also will develop and put into effect a comprehensive safety and health program that includes an annual audit by an independent, qualified safety and health consultant. Finally, the company will develop and implement a permit system for all of its excavations that will identify and evaluate the hazards of each operation prior to digging, and specify the means by which those hazards will be controlled. For more information, read the press release.
OSHA has published a final rule that broadens the current exemption for digger derricks used in the electric-utility industry. Digger derricks are pieces of equipment used to drill holes for utility poles. These digger derricks are commonly used by companies to place poles inside holes and attach transformers and other items to the poles.
The digger derricks exemption is part of the Cranes and Derricks final standard that was issued Aug. 9, 2010. After publication of this standard, OSHA received comments about the scope of the exemption. Upon review of these comments, OSHA decided to revise the current exemption for digger derricks to cover all digger-derrick use in the electric-utility industry.
The rule will become effective Feb. 7, 2013, unless OSHA receives significant adverse comment by Dec. 10. See the Federal Register notice for more details.
OSHA has published a notice confirming the effective date of the direct final rule for OSHA's head protection standards. This final rule updates the incorporation by reference of national consensus standards to include the latest edition of the consensus standard. It updates references in OSHA's standards to recognize the 2009 edition of the American National Standard for Industrial Head Protection, and deletes the 1986 edition of that national consensus standard because it is out of date. The final rule applies to the personal protective equipment provisions of its general industry, shipyard employment, longshoring, marine terminals, and construction standards that detail requirements for head protection. OSHA included the construction industry in this rulemaking to ensure consistency among the agency's standards.
OSHA also issued a second notice withdrawing the notice of proposed rulemaking that accompanied this direct final rule. The notices will be published in the Federal Register on Friday, Nov. 16, 2012 at www.regulations.gov, the Federal eRulemaking Portal.
OSHA announced Nov. 9 that nominations are being accepted for eight new members to serve on the 15-member Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health. ACCSH, established under the Contract Work Hours and Safety Standards Act and the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, advises the Secretary of Labor and Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health on construction standards and policy matters.
Member nominations will be accepted until January 7, 2013, for those interested in serving two-year terms representing employee, employer, public and state safety and health agency representative groups. Individuals may submit nominations by mail, facsimile or electronically at www.regulations.gov, the Federal eRulemaking Portal. See the Federal Register notice for details.
OSHA has established a strategic partnership with Black & Veatch Construction Inc. to reduce workers' exposure to hazards and the likelihood of serious injuries at the Columbia Energy Center Air Quality Control Systems Project site in Pardeeville, Wis. The Wisconsin On-Site Occupational Safety and Health Consultation Program, which is operated by the state but funded by federal OSHA, is also participating in the partnership.
Black & Veatch Construction will implement a site-specific safety and health program. Approximately 600 workers are anticipated to be on-site at the peak of the project. Read the news release for more information.
Through its Strategic Partnership Program, OSHA develops alliances with employers, workers, professional and trade associations, labor organizations and other interested stakeholders to establish specific goals, strategies and performance measures to improve worker safety and health.
Frontline Hospital Workers and the Worker Safety/Patient Safety Relationship – a day-long workshop held in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 25 – highlighted the role that frontline healthcare workers (nursing assistants, environmental services workers, ward clerks, and others) play in assuring safety not only to the patients they care for, but to co-workers and staff in healthcare settings. Dr. Rosemary Sokas, MD, MOH, chair of the Department of Human Science at the School of Nursing & Health Studies at Georgetown University organized the event. Dr. Michaels delivered opening remarks
Workshop sessions focused on the intersection of worker safety and patient safety, and specific steps that healthcare institutions have used to implement a "culture of safety" in the workplace. Approximately 85 workshop attendees broke out into small groups to discuss specific issues such as violence in healthcare settings, infectious disease concerns, safe patient handling, slips and falls, injury and illness reporting, reporting adverse patient safety events, and creating a research agenda for effective safety interventions.
Dr. Michaels also addressed hazards in the healthcare industry via webcast at the OSHA Executive Seminar on Healthcare Worker Safety on Nov. 8 at the University of Texas at Arlington. A recording of this presentation is available at https://cpro-ced.uta.edu/p997a1hg5fo/. To learn more about hazards in the healthcare industry, visit OSHA's Healthcare Safety and Health Topics page.
OSHA's updated General Industry Digest – a booklet that summarizes General Industry safety and health standards to help employers, supervisors, workers, health and safety committee members, and safety and health personnel learn about OSHA standards in the workplace – is now available. The digest includes updated information on revisions to General Industry standards since the digest was last published in 2001.
Several other new and revised publications have also recently been published, including a Spanish-language version of the Construction Industry Digest (PDF*) and a revised brochure on Free Safety and Health Consultation Services (PDF*). To order these or many other outreach materials, call OSHA's Office of Communications at 202-693-1999 or visit OSHA's Publications page.
A recently published review by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health of hazards related to All-Terrain vehicle use shows that work-related injuries are on the rise. NIOSH estimates that 11 million of these vehicles were in use in 2010 (for both recreational and work-related purposes). Forty-one workers were killed using ATVs in the final year of the NIOSH study. OSHA has published a Safety and Health Information Bulletin on hazards of ATV use in the workplace that provides information on the operating conditions and specific activities that most often lead to ATV-related injuries and fatalities; the guidelines and training an employer can use to help protect employees; and the work practices that workers can follow to reduce the potential for ATV-related accidents. For additional information on ATV safety, see the NIOSH publication All-Terrain Vehicle Safety at Work (PDF*).
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