|December 3, 2012 · Volume 11, Issue 25|
|A twice monthly e-news product with information about workplace safety and health.|
In this issue
Secretary Solis traveled to some of the hardest-hit neighborhoods of New York City with OSHA Deputy Assistant Secretary Jordan Barab on Thursday, Nov. 29, to meet with worker groups and others involved in rebuilding communities in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy and observe some of the recovery efforts that are currently underway. The massive response to the devastation has brought together government, worker advocates, unions, public and private employers, and community and faith-based organizations, and OSHA continues to conduct comprehensive monitoring and training to ensure that workers are protected from the serious health and safety hazards involved in the operations.
With workers still at risk of serious safety and health hazards, these efforts remain extremely urgent. OSHA is focused on high hazard operations such as debris removal, utility restoration, and clearing trees, conducting interventions that have reached more than 15,000 workers, with an emphasis on limited-English-proficiency and vulnerable workers. OSHA is distributing information on some of the most common safety and health hazards workers face, including (PDFs*) downed electrical wires, chain saws, chipper machines, portable generators, mold and falls.
All of these materials are collected at a single site: Keeping Workers Safe during Hurricane Sandy Cleanup and Recovery, which is also available in Spanish. Two new fact sheets have been recently added to the website and are being distributed to workers and employers: Keeping Workers Safe during Hurricane Sandy Cleanup and Recovery Fact Sheet (PDF, available in Spanish) and the Hurricane Sandy Cleanup PPE Matrix Fact Sheet. The site also includes OSHA's Hazard Exposure and Risk Assessment Matrix, which provides information on many of the tasks and operations associated with disaster response and recovery and the most common and significant hazards that response and recovery workers might encounter. The matrix is designed to help employers make decisions during their risk assessments that will protect their workers doing work in hurricane–impacted areas. To order fact sheets and other hurricane recovery safety and health publications, call OSHA's Office of Communications at 202-693-1999 or visit OSHA's Publications page.
Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels has announced Beth Slavet as the new director of the agency's Office of Whistleblower Protection Programs. Slavet is an experienced administrator and manager with more than 30 years of experience with the enforcement of federal whistleblower statutes. She is the former chairman of the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, where she also served as vice chairman and a member from 1995-2003. She has spent the last decade in private practice where she had a special focus on whistleblower protection. For more information, read the news release.
The submissions are in for the Department of Labor's Worker Safety and Health Challenge, and now it's your turn to help us select a winner. The challenge, which closed Nov. 30, sought tools that demonstrate the importance of recognizing and preventing workplace safety and health hazards and help young people understand their rights in the workplace. The People's Choice Award, a $3,000 prize, will be awarded to the submission that receives the most public support during the open public voting period. Just browse the entries at the challenge's Submissions Gallery between now and Jan. 4 and vote for the tool that you think does the best job of teaching young people about workplace safety and health. Then check back on Jan. 8 for the announcement of all the challenge winners.
The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Aviation Administration, working with OSHA, proposed a new policy for addressing flight attendant workplace safety. While the FAA's aviation safety regulations take precedence, the agency is proposing that OSHA be able to enforce certain occupational safety and health standards currently not covered by FAA oversight.
"The policy announced today with the FAA will not only enhance the health and safety of flight attendants by connecting them directly with OSHA but will, by extension, improve the flying experience of millions of airline passengers," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. Flight attendant workplace issues could include things such as exposure to noise and bloodborne pathogens and access to information on hazardous chemicals. The policy notice has been sent to the Federal Register and is currently available at www.faa.gov/about/initiatives/ashp/. The 30-day comment period begins when the policy notice is published. For more information, see the news release.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 70 workers died from backover incidents in 2011. A backover incident occurs when a backing vehicle strikes a worker who is standing, walking, or kneeling behind the vehicle. These incidents can be prevented. OSHA has published a new Preventing Backovers webpage that provides information about the hazards of backovers; solutions that can reduce the risk or frequency of these incidents; articles and resources; and references to existing regulations and letters of interpretation.
After an unexpected release of hazardous materials that led to the temporary shut-down of Dover Chemical Co. and an adjacent highway in Ohio in May, OSHA has cited the company for 47 health and safety violations. Although no injuries were reported as a result of the incident, OSHA opened an investigation focused on the agency's standards for process safety management, known as PSM, at facilities that use highly hazardous chemicals. Proposed fines total $545,000.
The release of materials resulted from a breach of a polyvinyl chloride piping system. Due to the nature of the hazards and four willful violations cited, Dover Chemical has been placed in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law. Willful violations include failing to correct deficiencies found in compliance audits, not resolving recommendations identified during a process hazard analysis, having operating procedures that do not include the consequences for deviation or the steps required to correct or avoid deviation from operating limits, and process safety information that does not detail the construction materials used for piping and piping system components. For more information, see the press release.
OSHA has cited TMT Inc. for four serious safety violations following an aggravated robbery that resulted in the death of an employee at the company's Whip In convenience store in Garland. OSHA's Dallas Area Office opened an investigation at the Garland store in May after an employee working at the checkout counter was seriously assaulted during a robbery and later died from second- and third-degree burns. OSHA also investigated the company's three other stores in Dallas and Mesquite, and found that workers at those locations were exposed to the same or similar workplace violence hazards. Each store was cited with violating OSHA's "general duty clause" for failing to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards likely to cause serious injury or death. Read the press release for details.
Workplace violence is any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation or other threatening and disruptive behavior that occurs at a work site. It ranges from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and even homicide. It can affect and involve employees, clients, customers and visitors. More information on workplace violence is available at OSHA's website at www.osha.gov/SLTC/workplaceviolence.
OSHA has cited Cargill Meat Solutions Corp. with three safety violations for failing to protect workers from unexpected start-up of machines at its Beardstown pork processing facility. Proposed penalties total $114,000. OSHA initiated an inspection upon receiving a complaint alleging hazards.
OSHA cited Cargill for one willful violation for exposing employees to hazardous energy when performing servicing and maintenance tasks because the energy control procedures did not outline specific procedural steps for shutting down and securing machinery, placing and removing lockout or tagout devices, and providing a specific means to verify that the equipment was isolated from all energy sources prior to work on the equipment. The company was also cited for one repeat violation for failing to train workers who operate equipment on procedures to properly control hazardous energy. A similar violation was cited in May 2009 at the company's Nebraska City, Neb., facility. See the press release for more information.
OSHA has cited Harrison Hoist Inc. of Grand Prairie with six serious safety violations following a tower crane collapse at the University of Texas at Dallas' Richardson campus that killed two workers. The workers were trying to remove the top portion of the crane's mast when it collapsed, causing them to fall more than 150 feet.
The violations include the company's failure to address the hazards associated with the effects of wind speed and weather on the equipment, ensure that procedures for disassembling the tower crane prevented the collapse of any part of the equipment, adequately support and stabilize all parts of the equipment, ensure that disassembly procedures positioned workers to minimize their exposure to unintended movement or collapse, ensure that disassembly procedures were developed by a qualified person, and train each competent person and each qualified person regarding the requirements of 29 Code of Federal Regulations 1926 Subpart CC "Cranes and Derricks in Construction" that are applicable to their respective roles. For details, read the news release. More information on crane safety is available at www.osha.gov/SLTC/cranehoistsafety/index.html.
On Thursday, Nov. 29, Dr. Michaels addressed the full committee of OSHA's Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health, highlighting current safety and health trends in the construction industry and recent OSHA initiatives, including OSHA's ongoing fall prevention campaign. In conjunction with the full committee meeting, ACCSH workgroups met Nov. 27-28 to discuss Health Hazards, Emerging Issues, Prevention through Design, Diversity/Multilingual/Women in Construction, Training and Outreach, Injury and Illness Prevention Programs, and Backing Operations. OSHA's Director of Construction Jim Maddux also provided an update to committee members on current regulatory initiatives.
The National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health also met in November. The committee meets twice annually to advise the secretaries of labor and health and human services on worker safety. During the two-day meeting, the committee's Effectiveness Measures Work Group furnished recommendations on measuring the efficacy of OSHA strategies, programs and actions and sent a report to the full committee membership. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Jordan Barab spoke on the meeting's second day, including agency initiatives and a new project with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services agreement intended to enhance patient and worker safety.
On Nov. 14, Chinese workplace safety and health officials hosted the First U.S.-China Workplace Safety and Health Dialogue in Beijing. The historic conference brought together officials from China’s State Administration of Work Safety to exchange ideas and information about protecting workers on both sides of the Pacific. Dr. Michaels presented an overview of workplace safety and health standards and compliance assistance in the United States. He spoke about the importance of understanding and shaping modern worker safety and health programs and their added benefits to trade and economic growth. Bill Perry of OSHA's Directorate of Standards and Guidance also presented; he addressed current OSHA strategies to reduce or eliminate toxic and hazardous substance hazards.
The dialogue was co-chaired by SAWS Vice Minister Sun Huashan and Mark Mittlehauser, Associate Deputy Undersecretary of Labor for the Bureau of International Labor Affairs. The conference celebrated ten years of previous cooperation on coal mine safety and health, with Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health Joseph Main delivering remarks. This year’s conference marked the beginning of efforts to move beyond mining and forge a way forward on collaborating to protect workers in other industries.
At an orientation for all Susan Harwood Training Grant recipients held in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 29, Dr. Michaels thanked representatives of the nonprofit organizations who have received grants to conduct worker safety and health training, adding "we're counting on you." Dr. Henry Payne, OSHA's Director of Training and Education, welcomed the grantees to the event and introduced Dr. Michaels, and Irasema Garza, Senior Counselor to the Secretary of Labor and Acting Assistant Secretary of Policy, paid a visit to greet the attendees. In the morning session of the orientation, representatives from four grantees shared success stories of delivering effective training to vulnerable workers. Later, the attendees attended breakout sessions on program, financial and monitoring requirements.
The Susan Harwood Training Grant Program awards grants to nonprofit organizations on a competitive basis. The focus of the 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 underserved, low-literacy, and workers in high-hazard industries. Since 1978, over 1.8 million workers have been trained through this program.
After experiencing injury and illnesses rates that were higher than the national average, Farmway Cooperative, Inc. of Beloit, Kan., contacted the Kansas On-site Consultation Program, a division of the Kansas Department of Labor, to help the grain handling company implement an effective safety and health management system. During the initial On-site Consultation visit, the KDOL consultant identified hazards regarding fall protection, inadequate machine guarding and improper documentation within their written safety and health procedures. Farmway immediately took action to address these hazards by placing machine guards on equipment and correcting railing issues to prevent falls. Additionally, Farmway created a safety committee, which included management and employees, to review and discuss safety issues on a monthly basis.
After these changes were implemented, Farmway achieved a nearly 50 percent reduction in the number of injuries and illnesses at its 19 worksites, earning it recognition in OSHA's Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program, which recognizes small employers who operate an exemplary safety and health management system. "Working with KDOL consultants helped bring our company to the next level of safety awareness, which in turn changed our safety culture within Farmway," said David Edwards, Farmway's Safety Director this fall. "Our dollar value of workman's compensation has been reduced." To learn more, visit Farmway's Small Business Success Stories page.
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. As part of OSHA's On-site Consultation Program, highly qualified safety and health professionals from state agencies or universities work with employers to identify workplace hazards, provide advice on compliance with OSHA standards, and assist in establishing injury and illness prevention programs.
Investigations by OSHA and the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) have documented a history of fires and explosions at workplaces (oilfields, refineries, chemical plants, and other facilities) where an internal combustion engine was identified as or suspected to be the source of ignition. Internal combustion engines present an ignition hazard when used in facilities processing flammable liquids and gases. If flammable vapors or gases are released in these facilities, an internal combustion engine could ignite the flammable materials with catastrophic consequences. OSHA’s new Internal Combustion Engines as Ignition Sources Fact Sheet helps employers and workers understand the risks involved in the use of internal combustion engines, as well as some of the control strategies that should be used to prevent such catastrophic events.
On November 20, the Joint Commission released a new, free educational resource, "Improving Patient and Worker Safety: Opportunities for Synergy, Collaboration and Innovation." The purpose of this resource is to raise awareness and educate health care managers, employers and employees on the need for a healthcare culture focused on the safety of both patients and the workers who care for them.
The monograph contends that high rates of injuries and illnesses among health care workers serve as a warning that the health care environment as a whole must be transformed in order to improve safety. The monograph highlights examples of health care organization practices that address patient and worker safety simultaneously and the benefits and potential cost savings attained through collaboration between employee and patient safety departments. The monograph also identifies functional management systems and processes, strategies and tools that have been used to successfully integrate health and safety activities. For more information, read the monograph in full and visit OSHA's Safety and Health Topics page on Healthcare.
A new online resource from the Center for Construction Research and Training provides information and tools to help identify silica hazards, understand the health risk, and easily find equipment and methods to control the dust. The site also features a “Create a Plan” tool that generates job-specific silica control plans based on user responses to a series of questions about the tasks that will be performed and the materials that will be used. The new resource is available at www.silica-safe.org.
Common workplace operations involving cutting, sawing, drilling, and crushing of concrete, brick, block, rock, and stone products (such as in construction operations), and operations using sand products (such as in glass manufacturing, foundries, and sand blasting), can result in worker inhalation of small silica particles in the air. Inhalation of these particles has long been known to cause silicosis, a disabling and sometimes fatal lung disease. More information is available at OSHA’s Crystalline Silica Safety and Health Topics page.
Secretary Solis issued the following statement regarding the tragic Nov. 24 fire in Bangladesh:
"This past Saturday, Bangladesh suffered one of the worst industrial accidents in its history. A devastating fire swept through the Tazreen Fashion garment factory, killing more than 100 and injuring many more. I join U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh Dan Mozena in extending heartfelt condolences to the people of Bangladesh and the many families who lost their loved ones.
"Just over a century ago, in March 1911, the Triangle Shirtwaist factory in New York City burned to the ground, killing 146 people, mainly young women. That fire was our call to action. It galvanized support for stronger worker protections and institutions to enforce them, from workplace health and safety to workers' right to organize and bargain collectively.
"The Tazreen Fashion factory fire is a similar call to action for Bangladesh and also for the many international buyers supplied by the country's garment factories. Investigations should be conducted and the perpetrators punished, but things cannot then return to business as usual. I know that change is not easy. The U.S. Department of Labor stands ready to help, with technical assistance and expertise, to work with the government of Bangladesh to ensure that this horrific tragedy becomes a watershed moment for Bangladeshi workers' rights."
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