December 15, 2003 • Volume 2, Issue 24
A bi-weekly e-news memo with information, updates, and results from OSHA about safety and health in America's workplaces.
Archive Notice - OSHA Archive
NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.


In This Issue
OSHA Defends Egregious Policy in Appeal of Review Commission Ruling
Fact Sheets on Inspection Process, Agency's Role Following Workplace Fatality Online
OSHA Revises VPP Benchmark Injury and Illness Rates
OSHA Extends Comment Period on Vertical Tandem Lifting of Containers
NRTL Program Aims for Product Safety in the Workplace
"Best of the Web" Honors Bestowed on OSHA
New York Region Silica Partnership Nominated for 2003 NORA Partnering Award
Safety First During Forklift Operations
Useful Tips for Workers in Cold Environments
Voluntary Protection Program Activity
Season's Greetings!


OSHA Defends Egregious Policy in Appeal of Review Commission Ruling
     OSHA Administrator John Henshaw said in a Dec. 8 statement that a recent ruling by the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC) was "wrong" and would impede the agency's ability to protect worker safety and health. OSHA is appealing the commission's ruling in the case of Houston contractor Eric Ho cited in September 1998 with willful workplace violations dealing with asbestos hazards. OSHA issued "instance-by-instance" citations and though the citations were upheld during Ho's initial challenge to OSHRC in 1999, a subsequent Commission decision this fall ruled he should be only liable for a single violation of the standards. The ruling also reduced proposed penalties by more than 80 percent.

Fact Sheets on Inspection Process, Agency's Role Following Workplace Fatality Online
     Two new fact sheets describing OSHA's inspection process, as well as its role in investigating occupational deaths were published recently. OSHA Inspections details inspection priorities and provides step-by-step details for on-site inspections. OSHA's Role When a Worker Dies on the Job highlights agency assistance available for families of workers killed on the job and also includes information on referring cases to the Justice Department for possible criminal prosecution.

OSHA Revises VPP Benchmark Injury and Illness Rates
    The Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) has been revised changing the way OSHA uses Bureau of Labor Statistics injury and illness rates to determine criteria for the "Star" program. OSHA implemented the changes Dec. 8 after receiving comments on the proposal originally published in July. To qualify for VPP "Star" status, applicants' and participants' occupational injury and illness rates must be below at least one of the three most recent years' rates for their particular industry. This change also applies to construction applicants' qualification for the Merit Program. No other initial application requirements are changed. VPP participation will also continue to require effective safety and health management systems at qualifying worksites.

OSHA Extends Comment Period on Vertical Tandem Lifting of Containers
     OSHA has extended until Feb. 13, 2004, the comment period on the agency's proposal to permit vertical tandem lifting (VTL) of two intermodal containers. The 60-day extension was granted in response to requests from various organizations. OSHA's proposed revision to the longshoring standard would permit VTLs of two containers with combined weight of the containers and cargo not exceeding 20 tons when certain safety conditions are present.

NRTL Program Aims for Product Safety in the Workplace
    A concise article on OSHA's Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL) program is now available on OSHA's website. Written by Bernard Pasquet of the agency's Technical Programs and Coordination Activities office, the feature gives a brief history of the program and its requirements, plus the types of products that are required to receive NRTL's safety mark. The article is a product of an Alliance signed in July with the American Council of Independent Laboratories. The NRTL Program recognizes mainly private sector organizations that provide product safety testing and certification services to manufacturers. The range of products covered by the program is limited to those items for which OSHA safety standards require "certification" by a NRTL.

"Best of the Web" Honors Bestowed on OSHA
     OSHA's website was recently listed by Business Insurance Magazine as one of the two best sites for safety and loss control services. "OSHA's website reflects and furthers the agency's mission of helping to ensure safe and healthful workplaces throughout the United States," the magazine said. The NIOSH website joined OSHA in the winners' circle. Business Insurance editors researched websites in 16 categories and identified sites in each they regarded as useful, helpful, interesting, informative and innovative.

New York Region Silica Partnership Nominated for 2003 NORA Partnering Award
    A strategic partnership signed in 1999 between OSHA's Parsippany, NJ, Area Office and several major highway construction contractors, contractor associations, labor organizations, and government agencies, was nominated for the 2003 National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) Partnering Award for Worker Health and Safety. The partnership, one of ten nominated this year for the award, is designed to control silica hazards in the heavy highway construction industry. NORA honors organizations that have joined in research partnerships to develop new practices, products, procedures, equipment or policies for protecting workers from job-related injuries, illnesses and fatalities. The 2003 award went to a research project aimed at reducing work-related back injuries among a group of nursing homes.

Safety First During Forklift Operations
     The Illinois On-Site Consultation Program recently added a new Forklift Safety Guide to their website to help employers address hazards associated with forklift operations. The manuals are offered in both English and Spanish. Additionally, an Administrator's Manual is available to provide employers information on training, along with written and practical tests. All materials are consistent with OSHA's regulations on powered industrial trucks.

Useful Tips for Workers in Cold Environments
     Cold weather is upon us, and OSHA is reminding employers and workers to heed some important precautions to stay safe this winter. The agency's Cold Stress Card is available online and provides a reference guide and recommendations to combat and prevent many cold-related injuries and illnesses. The card is available in English and Spanish. Workers in construction, agriculture, maritime, and commercial fishing are among those particularly vulnerable to the effects of cold weather.

Voluntary Protection Program Activity
    The following companies were approved last month for new or continued participation in OSHA's Voluntary Protection Program (VPP): The following companies were recently approved for new or continued participation in OSHA's Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP): American Ref-Fuel, Hempstead, NY (Cont. Star); International Paper, Shreveport Preprint & Coating, Shreveport, LA (Cont. Star); Westlake Polymers, LP, Sulphur, LA (Cont. Star); Monsanto Agriculture, Matthews, MO (Cont. Star); Lockheed Martin, Naval Electronics & Surveillance System-Surface Systems, Moorestown, NJ (Cont. Star); Huntsman Corp., Dayton Plant, Dayton, TX (New Merit); United Space Alliance, 600 Gemini Site, Houston, TX (Cont. Star); United Space Alliance @ NASA JSC, Houston, TX (Cont. Star); United Space Alliance, Flight Crew Equipment Extravehicular Activity Training Academy, Houston, TX (Cont. Star); United Space Alliance, Logistics Support Facility, Houston, TX (Cont. Star); United Space Alliance, Corporate Headquarters, Houston, TX (Cont. Star); GP Gypsum, Cuba, MO (Cont. Star); Lozier Corp., Omaha, NE (Cont. Star); Eaton Corp., Kearney, NE (Cont. Star); Convanta Energy, Inc., Haverhill, MA (New Star); High Steel Structures, Lancaster, PA (Cont. Star); East Penn Manufacturing Co., Inc., Lyons Station, PA (Cont. Star); General Electric Transportation, Systems, Erie, PA (Cont. Star); Equistar Chemicals, LP, Morris, IL (Cont. Star); Equistar Chemicals, Matagorda Operations, Bay City, TX (Cont. Star); and Zachry Construction @ Matagorda Plant, Bay City, TX (Cont. Star).

Season's Greetings!
     On behalf of all of us at OSHA, here's wishing you and yours a happy holiday and a safe, healthy and prosperous new year. See you on New Year's Day!

Editor: Bill Wright, OSHA Office of Communications, 202-693-1999