December 15, 2010 · Volume 9, Issue 24
QuickTakes QuickTakes
A twice monthly e-news product with information about workplace safety and health

In This Issue

OSHA extends comment period and announces stakeholder meeting on noise control interpretation

OSHA announced in the Dec. 14 Federal Register that the agency is extending by 90 days the official comment period on the proposed "Interpretation of OSHA's Provisions for Feasible Administrative or Engineering Controls of Occupational Noise." Interested parties are encouraged to submit comments online, by mail or by fax by the March 21, 2011, deadline.

Responding to continuing high levels of hearing loss among employees in the nation's workplaces, the notice proposed clarifying the term "feasible administrative or engineering controls" in OSHA's occupational noise exposure standards to make enforcement consistent with that of all other OSHA standards. The agency will also hold a stakeholder meeting before the end of the comment period to listen to the concerns of businesses and workers about the proposed noise interpretation. See the news release for more information.

"We are intending to hold this stakeholder meeting before the comment period ends and it will provide an opportunity for all interested parties to provide their comments to the agency. Our common objective is to ensure that workers do not lose their hearing without overly burdening employers," said OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels. "OSHA will take all stakeholder comments seriously and will fully consider impacts on business and workers before determining what final action, if any, we will take."

National safety advisory committee meeting scheduled for January
Will include newly appointed members

Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis enhanced her emphasis on worker safety and health by adding five new members to the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health. The new NACOSH appointees, who will serve two-year terms, bring to the committee years of experience and expertise in medicine, academia and safety program development:
Public representatives
Lida Orta-Anes, Ph.D., professor, University of Puerto Rico
Gary R. Rosenblum, M.S., C.I.H, A.R.M., risk manager, City of Palm Desert, Calif.
Management representative
James Johnson, senior director, Workplace Safety Initiatives for the National Safety Council
Safety representative
Rixio Medina, CSP, CPP, general partner of Rixio Medina & Associates L.P.
Health representative
William B. Bunn, III, M.S., J.D., M.P.H., vice president, Health, Safety, Security and Productivity for Navistar Inc.

The 12-member committee -- eight of whom are selected by the Secretary of Labor, four by the Secretary of Health and Human Services -- will meet Jan. 19 and 20, from 8:15 a.m.-4:15 p.m., at Department of Labor headquarters in Washington, D.C. The newly appointed members will join six current members. Check OSHA's Federal Register Web page for the notice that will be published Dec. 16 announcing the upcoming meeting.

Committee advises OSHA on construction worker safety and health

The Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health met Dec. 9-10 in Washington, D.C., to discuss recent OSHA activities and their impact on construction workers. In conjunction with the full committee meeting, ACCSH work groups, including the newly-established Injury and Illness Prevention Program work group, met Dec. 7-8. OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels addressed the committee during the meeting, which also included remarks from OSHA's Directorate of Construction, updates on Injury and Illness Prevention Program rulemaking and the Severe Violator Enforcement Program, and ACCSH work group reports. The other ACCSH work groups that met were Silica and Other Construction Health Hazards, Green Jobs, Diversity -- Women in Construction, Multilingual Issues, Nailguns, Training and Education and Prevention by Design. The committee's recommendations to OSHA will be published in the next issue of QuickTakes.

Company in Severe Violator Enforcement Program fined a total of $1.4 million in four months

OSHA fined U.S. Minerals LLC $669,000 and cited the company for willfully exposing its workers to multiple safety and health hazards at its facilities in Galveston, Texas and Coffeen, Ill. This brings the total amount in fines issued since August against this manufacturer of abrasive blasting and roofing materials to $1,404,000.

Inspectors cited the Galveston facility with 38 violations and issued $273,000 in fines after finding the company had exposed workers to possible injury and death from falls, explosions, fires and unsafe machinery. OSHA cited the Coffeen facility for willfully exposing workers to dangerously high levels of hazardous dust and not providing workers with adequate breathing protection and training. This case resulted in 28 violations and $396,000 in fines. The inspections were conducted under OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which focuses enforcement efforts on certain employers who defy or ignore their OSH Act obligations.

"U.S. Minerals has severely jeopardized the health and safety of its workers by exposing them to extremely high levels of hazardous dust and other dangers," said OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels. "This is the fourth U.S. Minerals facility where very serious violations were cited in the past four months, clearly indicating these problems are widespread and systemic. This blatant disregard of workers' health and safety is not acceptable."

Hazards found by OSHA at other U.S. Mineral facilities resulted in fines during the last four months totaling $735,000. See the Nov. 9 news release for information on violations at the company's location in Harvey, La., and the Aug. 5 and Sept. 9 news releases for information on violations at its Baldwin, Ill., facility.

Tire company fined more than $213,000 for exposing workers to chemical, fire, explosion and fall hazards

OSHA cited Cooper Tire & Rubber Co., a manufacturer of automotive and truck tires, with 10 safety and health violations and fined the company $213,500 for failing to provide proper hazardous chemical protection to its workers, unnecessarily exposing them to fire and explosion hazards, and failing to provide required fall protection.

OSHA inspectors found that Cooper Tire willfully exposed workers at its Findlay, Ohio, facility to fire and explosion hazards by not providing fire suppression controls on processing equipment that contains explosive combustible dust, and failing to limit the accumulation of combustible dust on equipment and the building superstructure. Other violations found by inspectors included the company's failure to assure that flammable liquids were safely dispensed, provide proper eye and face protection to workers handling flammable liquids and protect workers from electrical shock hazards. In addition, OSHA issued two repeat violations to the company for not providing workers with required fall protection and chemical protective equipment when exposed to contact with flammable liquids. See the news release for more information.

Contractors fined more than $150,000 for exposing workers to trench cave-in hazards

OSHA issued a total of $154,700 in fines against three Massachusetts contractors for exposing workers to cave-in hazards at a Salem, N.H., worksite. Cited were Joseph P. Cardillo & Son Inc. of Wakefield, Majestic Mechanical Contractors Inc. of Tewksbury and Domenick Zanni Sons Inc. of Reading.

The cited companies had been contracted to install a grease trap and piping for a supermarket under construction. The OSHA inspection began in June when an agency official observed employees working in an unprotected 8-foot deep trench that also lacked a ladder or other safe means of exit.

All three companies were cited for exposing workers to cave-in and ladder hazards. Cardillo and Majestic were also cited for recordkeeping violations. Total fines for each company were $106,200 for Cardillo, $42,900 for Majestic and $5,600 for Zanni. See the news release for more information on the citations and the OSHA Web site for information on protecting workers from trenching and excavation hazards.

Michaels meets with foreign ambassadors to discuss the potential for protecting migrant worker rights

OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels joined Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis on Dec. 2 in Washington, D.C., in a meeting with ambassadors from Central American and Caribbean countries to discuss the potential for partnership agreements between their embassies and the Department of Labor on migrant worker rights. Michaels discussed worker safety and health issues with dignitaries from Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Nicaragua and Panama.

Michaels told the ambassadors, "The most vulnerable workers in the United States are immigrant workers -- your workers -- who are employed in the most dangerous jobs in this country, particularly construction. Sadly, because these workers are not always informed about workplace hazards and their rights to safe and healthful workplaces, they are being injured and killed on the job at significantly higher rates than other workers."

Michaels said that through OSHA's Alliance Program, the agency enjoys 11 Alliances to promote worker safety and health with consulates in Latin America -- 10 with Mexico and one with Guatemala. For example, OSHA's local office in Dallas has an Alliance with Mexico, Peru, El Salvador and Ecuador, and in the New York area, OSHA has an Alliance with Guatemala. There is also a Letter of Agreement signed by OSHA and Mexico that provides the framework for a cooperative effort to develop informational materials in a language and at a level that Mexican workers can understand; travel together to speak with workers in their workplaces about their rights; and collaborate with communities to hold events where OSHA provides vulnerable workers with important safety and health training. In addition, nearly 1,000 workers, employers, labor leaders, representatives from community and faith-based organizations, government, and Mexican consulates gathered for two days in April at the National Action Summit for Latino Worker Health and Safety in Houston, Texas to seek new, effective ways to improve workers' knowledge of their workplace rights and their ability to exercise those rights. Since then, as reported in the Dec. 1 QuickTakes, all OSHA regions have been hosting follow-up summits and educational conferences to provide vulnerable worker populations with education, training and assistance.

"OSHA is committed to defending the rights of all working men and women," Michaels said. "Regardless of their national origin, no worker should have to fear being injured or killed on the job to earn a living."

Michaels speaks at national conference about OSHA efforts to protect oil and gas industry workers

OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels addressed approximately 1,500 representatives of the oil and gas industry Nov. 30 at the 2010 Oil & Gas OSHA Safety Conference in Dallas, Texas. In his remarks, Michaels told the audience that from February to May of this year, 58 workers died in explosions, fires and collapses at refineries, coal mines, an oil drilling rig and a power plant construction site. He stressed the importance of addressing industry-wide failures to protect workers through rigorous Process Safety Management and comprehensive Injury and Illness Prevention Programs.

Michaels also stressed the importance of employers providing oil and gas industry workers with the proper personal protective gear to keep them safe on the job. He reminded the audience that OSHA's general industry standard for personal protective equipment requires employers to provide and ensure the use of flame-resistant clothing in oil and gas drilling, servicing, and production-related operations when workers are exposed to potential fire hazards. During the extraction process, thousands of workers are exposed to hydrocarbon vapors that can be ignited and cause flash fires. Earlier this year, two workers received 2nd- and 3rd-degree burns over 50 percent of their bodies from a flash fire triggered when gas vapors released from an open pit entered a running diesel engine. Of the two workers, the one wearing flame-resistant clothing survived, while the worker next to him who was not wearing FRC sustained severe burns and subsequently died from his injuries.

"This conference offers many solutions for safer and more healthful workplaces," Michaels said. "As we enter a new winter season of holidays, I urge you to make a New Year's resolution to do everything possible to ensure that all workers in the oil and gas industry have a safe and healthy 2011 -- and to carry this resolve into every year that follows."

Oregon OSHA issues caution alert to salons using hair-smoothing products

Oregon OSHA issued an alert to Oregon hair salons in October about the presence of formaldehyde in products used to smooth or straighten hair. Oregon OSHA tested more than 100 product samples from more than 50 Oregon salons. The sampling results* confirmed significant levels of formaldehyde in products labeled "formaldehyde free." For example, of the product samples tested by Oregon OSHA, 37 came from bottles of Brazilian Blowout Acai Professional Smoothing Solution, labeled "formaldehyde free." The formaldehyde content in that product averaged 8.68 percent.

Oregon OSHA also monitored the air in several salons to assess worker exposure levels to formaldehyde. "Although it's not clear whether the regulatory level of airborne exposure would be exceeded based on our results, it is clear that the levels are high enough to cause concern," said Michael Wood, Oregon OSHA administrator. "And it is certainly clear that the amount of formaldehyde in many of these products is high enough to trigger the requirements of OSHA's formaldehyde rules."

Formaldehyde is a sensitizing agent that can cause an immune system response upon initial exposure. It is also a suspected human carcinogen that is linked to nasal cancer and lung cancer. Acute exposure is highly irritating to the eyes, nose, and throat and can make you cough and wheeze. Subsequent exposure may cause severe allergic reactions of the skin, eyes and respiratory tract.

According to OSHA standards, employers using products containing formaldehyde must provide information and training to workers and they must conduct air monitoring to ensure that workers are not exposed to levels above the permissible limit.

See Oregon OSHA's news release* and hazard alert* for more information and guidance.

Job openings

Are you interested in a career with the Department of Labor? The department has job opportunities throughout the country, such as openings in OSHA for a Regional Administrator in Dallas, Texas, and a Supervisory Program Information Specialist in Washington, D.C.

Season's Greetings!

OSHA wishes you and yours happy holidays and a safe, healthful and prosperous new year. QuickTakes will not be published on Jan. 1, so please continue to visit the agency's Web site for news and updates. Look for your next issue of QuickTakes on Jan. 14, 2011.


See DOL's electronic newsletter for more DOL news.

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Editor: Richard De Angelis, OSHA Office of Communications, 202-693-1999
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