|January 16, 2014 · Volume 13, Issue 2|
|A twice monthly e-news product with information about workplace safety and health.|
On Jan. 15, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels hosted a press teleconference to launch a new educational Web resource with extensive materials to help hospitals prevent worker injuries, assess workplace safety needs, enhance safe patient handling programs and implement safety and health management systems.
"These new materials can help prevent hospital worker injuries and improve patient safety, while reducing costs," said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. "The heart of this material are the lessons from high performing hospitals who have implemented best practices to reduce workplace injuries while also improving patient safety."
Joining Dr. Michaels on the call were Dr. John Howard, director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health; Dr. Lucian Leape, chairman of the Lucian Leape Institute at the National Patient Safety Foundation; and Dr. Erin S. DuPree, chief medical officer and vice president of the Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare.
"By fostering research to identify injury risk factors and safety interventions, steps can be taken to save costs and enhance service to the patients," said Dr. Howard.
OSHA's new Worker Safety in Hospitals Web page provides detailed educational material about worker safety in hospitals, as well as easy to use products on implementing safety and health management systems. The website also contains information to help prevent the most common type of injuries in hospitals – injuries from manually lifting and moving patients. The guidance products include fact books, self-assessments, best practices guides. The website and materials are available at www.osha.gov/dsg/hospitals.
On Jan. 9-10, 2014, OSHA hosted an informal public meeting in Washington, D.C., attended by 26 stakeholders representing labor unions, industry, professional associations and others who provided the agency with information and testimony regarding the proposal to amend current recordkeeping regulations to add requirements for the electronic submission of injury and illness information employers are already required to keep under existing standards, Part 1904. The proposal does not add any new requirement to keep records; it only modifies an employer's obligation to transmit these records to OSHA. To further encourage public participation on the proposed rule, OSHA has extended the comment period 30 days.
"This is a proposal, not a final rule," stated Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. "We strongly encourage the public to assist us in the process of developing a final rule by submitting written comments and/or participating in this public meeting. We are eager to hear from the public."
Jan. 14, OSHA hosted a live Web chat to discuss the agency’s proposed rule on occupational exposure to respirable crystalline silica. During the Web chat, participants were able to ask questions, get clarification from OSHA on the proposed silica rule and learn how to participate in the regulatory process.
Over the two and half hour Web chat, OSHA staff answered over 80 questions on the proposed standards for general industry and maritime and for construction, reviewing OSHA’s underlying analysis of health risks, potential costs and benefits, and economic impacts and explaining how to submit comments to the rulemaking record. OSHA strongly encourages interested parties to submit their written comments and testimony at www.regulations.gov before the Monday, Jan. 27 deadline. Additional information on the proposed rule and how to participate in the rulemaking can be found at www.osha.gov/silica.
As part of executive order 13650, Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security, the Department of Labor is partnering with the Department of Homeland Security, Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agencies to host a series of public listening sessions and webinars to solicit comments and suggestions from stakeholders to reduce safety and security risks in the production and storage of potentially harmful chemicals. More than seven hundred individuals have attended the sessions, which have been held in Texas City, Texas, Washington, D.C., Springfield, Ill., Orlando, Fla., and Sacramento and Los Angeles, Calif. On Jan. 14, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels chaired a listening session in Washington, D.C.
"These listening sessions are an important step in an ongoing dialogue between agencies, communities and stakeholders about how we can help make chemical facilities and our hometowns safer places," Michaels said at the listening session. "One of our main goals in engaging stakeholders is to identify, develop, and put in place best practices. We strongly encourage you to provide us with comments on the options at this meeting and subsequent stakeholder meetings, and as written comments that can be submitted to the docket on the webpage."
OSHA put out a request for information seeking public comment on potential revisions to its Process Safety Management standard and related standards, as well as other policy options to prevent major chemical incidents. The public will have until March 10, 2014 to submit written comments. For more information, visit the Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security Web page.
The next listening session is scheduled for 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Jan. 24, 2014, at the Harris County Department of Education's Training and Conference Center, Room 502, 6300 Irvington Blvd., in Houston, Texas. To attend the public listening session or to make a comment or presentation, participants must register at www.govevents.com. For more information, see the Federal Register notice.
Training workers in a language and vocabulary they understand was the cornerstone of a recent "train the trainer" course offered by worker safety groups in New York and New Jersey funded by OSHA. Twenty-nine trainers completed OSHA 500 outreach training program courses designed to provide Spanish-language safety training to workers, primarily in construction. Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, on Jan. 9 joined staff from the United Steelworkers' Tony Mazzocchi Center for Health, Safety and Environmental Education, as well as from several worker centers in the New York metropolitan area for a graduation ceremony of certified Spanish-language trainers in New York City. "By empowering workers with knowledge about common hazards and their rights, we improve the health and well-being of the workers, and the whole community," said Dr. Michaels. The trainers will begin to offer the OSHA 10 hour construction safety course to Spanish-speaking workers.
On Dec. 11, Dr. Michaels addressed attendees of the National Worker Health and Safety Conference at the Maritime Institute in Linthicum Heights, Md. with an update on OSHA initiatives for enhancing the protection of temporary workers, strengthening whistleblower protections, and other topics. The conference workshops, many of which were conducted in Spanish and English, covered workers' rights under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, outreach to immigrant workers, workplace violence, and hazard communication.
OSHA has cited Reliable Castings Corp. for 14 safety and health violations after an inspection found workers were exposed to struck-by, crushing and amputation hazards at the Sidney, Ohio, aluminum die castings manufacturing facility. Proposed penalties total $293,700.
"OSHA's inspectors found a facility with multiple hazards and where safety was continually compromised," said Kim Nelson, OSHA's area director in Toledo. "Reliable Castings Corporation has a responsibility to train its workers and to implement all required safety procedures."
Willful and repeat violations include failing to guard machines, to develop lockout procedures for servicing equipment, and to protect workers from exposure to molten aluminum hazards. Read the news release for more information and the list of citations.
OSHA has cited Tyson Foods Inc. for four safety violations after a worker’s hand was severed by an unguarded conveyor belt at the Hutchinson, Kan., prepared foods manufacturing plant. OSHA's investigation revealed that several untrained workers had been cleaning unguarded conveyor equipment that had not been locked out. Proposed fines total $147,000.
"Removing guards and failing to train workers in proper lockout procedures is inexcusable," said Judy Freeman, OSHA's area director in Wichita. "Tyson Foods failed to ensure safety procedures, demonstrating a lack of commitment to workplace safety and health and resulting in a tragic injury."
Included in the citations to the employer was a willful violation for failing to lockout equipment before having workers conduct maintenance and failing to train workers on lockout/tagout procedures. Read the news release for a list of citations and more information.
OSHA has ordered New Prime Inc. to pay a former employee more than $100,900 in back wages and damages after an investigation found the Springfield, Mo., motor carrier retaliated against the driver by blacklisting him in the commercial transport industry after he sought medical attention for a work-related injury. See the press release for more information.
In a separate case, OSHA ordered Oak Harbor Freight Lines Inc. to compensate a worker who refused to drive in violation of safety regulations. The agency also ordered the Auburn, Wash., trucking company to stop retaliating against workers who refuse to drive trucks while too ill or fatigued to safely operate vehicles at its facilities. Read the press release for more information.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of 22 statutes protecting employees who report violations of various airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health-care reform, nuclear, pipeline, worker safety, public transportation agency, maritime and securities laws.
A Connecticut Superior Court judge has thrown out a vexatious litigation lawsuit brought by a North Branford, Conn. trucking company against a driver and a mechanic who had worked for the company. The two former workers had registered complaints about a potentially unsafe truck with the North Branford Police Department and the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles.
Palumbo Trucking, Inc. alleged that the former employees had engaged in vexatious litigation by filing false complaints. In September 2013, OSHA found that the trucking company’s suit was baseless and that the former workers' actions were protected activity under the Surface Transportation Assistance Act. The STAA case is in litigation before a U.S. Department of Labor administrative law judge. In the recent Connecticut Superior Court ruling, the judge determined that the complaints to government agencies were not vexatious litigation because they were not lawsuits filed in court.
OSHA will hold a meeting of the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health Feb. 11-12, 2014, in Washington, D.C. The tentative agenda includes remarks from Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health and Dr. John Howard, director, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, a NACOSH Work Group report and consideration of work group recommendations and public comments.
NACOSH meetings are open to the public. Individuals may submit comments and requests to speak by mail, facsimile or online at www.regulations.gov, the Federal eRulemaking Portal. See the Federal Register notice for details.
A newly published review by Steenland and Ward printed in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians highlights three important developments for understanding health effects associated with silica exposure and preventing illness and death from workplace exposure to silica. First, recent studies in workers have shown increased lung cancer and lung-disease related deaths in silica-exposed workers. Secondly, the review highlights OSHA’s proposed rule on respirable crystalline silica, noting that lowering the Permissible Exposure Limit to the proposed level will reduce currently predicted silicosis and lung cancer deaths by one half. Third, the review notes that low-dose computed tomography scanning has been proven to be effective for lung cancer screening.
OSHA invites and strongly encourages the public to participate in the process of developing a final silica rule through written comments and participation in public hearings. The notice of proposed rulemaking is available in a Federal Register notice. Additional information on the proposed rule, including five fact sheets, and procedures for submitting written comments and participating in public hearings is available at www.osha.gov/silica.
Demolition workers face many hazards, and employers must ensure that all workers involved in a demolition project are fully aware of hazards and safety precautions before work begins and as it progresses.
Recently, a 25-year-old construction worker in Chicago was struck and killed by pieces of falling concrete while conducting renovations on a shopping mall. OSHA’s Chicago North Area Office is investigating the incident. This latest tragedy follows the June 5, 2013, collapse of a four-story building undergoing demolition in Philadelphia that killed six people and injured 14. OSHA found several violations of its construction demolition standards and issued citations to two demolition companies.
OSHA’s demolition standards include requirements for employers to conduct engineering surveys before demolition work begins, provide personal protective equipment and provide appropriate training in a language and vocabulary that workers can understand. More information can be found on OSHA’s Demolition page and in the Construction Safety and Health Outreach Program demolition resource.
On Dec. 19, OSHA renewed its national strategic partnership with employers, unions, contractors and professional associations