|March 1, 2013 · Volume 12, Issue 5|
|A twice monthly e-news product with information about workplace safety and health.|
In this issue
Two new compliance assistance resources are available for employers to assist them in meeting the requirements of OSHA's revised Hazard Communication Standard. A new fact sheet discusses the training topics that employers must cover for the initial Dec. 1, 2013 deadline. By this date, employers must train workers on the new label elements and safety data sheet format. In addition, a new OSHA brief explains the new labeling elements, identifies what goes on a label, and describes what pictograms are and how to use them. The brief also provides manufacturers, importers, distributors and other employers with a step-by-step guide to create a label that meets the requirements of the revised standard. The deadline for adopting the new labels and pictograms is June 1, 2015.
OSHA's updated standard, which is aligned with the United Nations' Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals, provides a common and coherent approach to classifying chemicals and communicating hazard information on labels and safety data sheets. The revised standard is improving the quality and consistency of hazard information in the workplace, making it safer for workers by providing easily understandable information on appropriate handling and safe use of hazardous chemicals. Additional information and resources are available on OSHA's Hazard Communications page.
A new NIOSH-funded study on fatalities in the construction industry suggests roofers in residential construction are among those most likely to die in falls from roofs.
The study, "Fatal falls from roofs among U.S. construction workers," finds that "the odds of fatal falls from roofs were higher for roofing and residential construction than any other construction sector." Other groups with higher rates of fatal falls from roofs included workers younger than 20 years or older than 44 years, racial minorities, Hispanics, and immigrant workers. Workers in southern regions also had a higher rate of fatal falls compared to the construction industry as a whole. The authors emphasize the need for employer compliance with OSHA fall protection regulations and effective training in a language and vocabulary workers can understand. For more information about preventing fatal falls in construction, visit www.osha.gov/stopfalls/index.html. The study examined trends and patterns of fatal falls from roofs in the U.S. construction industry over an 18-year period (1992–2009), with detailed analysis for 2003–2009.
OSHA has cited Highway Technologies Inc. in Minneapolis for 10 safety – including six willful – violations after a worker died from injuries sustained while working with equipment that came into contact with overhead power lines on I-94 near Menomonie, Wis., on Sept. 17, 2012. Proposed penalties total $448,000.
"Highway Technologies failed to protect its workers from serious electrocution hazards," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. "Multiple instances of the same violation over a period of time clearly demonstrate a willful failure to comply with basic safety and health standards. Employers must take steps to eliminate hazards and provide a safe working environment."
Due to the nature of the hazards and the violations cited, Highway Technologies Inc. has been placed in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure future compliance with the law. For more information, read the press release.
Norfolk Southern Railway Co. has been ordered to pay $1,121,099 to three workers following an OSHA investigation, which found that the company violated the whistleblower provisions of the Federal Railroad Safety Act. Two investigations, conducted by OSHA staff in Chicago and Pittsburgh, found that three employees were wrongfully fired for reporting workplace injuries.
"The Labor Department continues to find serious whistleblower violations at Norfolk Southern, and we will be steadfast in our defense of a worker's right to a safe job – including his or her right to report injuries," said acting Secretary of Labor Seth D. Harris. "When workers can't report safety concerns on the job without fear of retaliation, worker safety and health suffer, which costs working families and businesses alike." For more information on this case, read the press release.
In a separate case, OSHA found that Union Pacific Railroad Co. in Pocatello, Idaho, also violated the whistleblower protection provisions of the FRSA and has ordered the railroad to pay more than $309,000 in back wages, benefits, damages and reasonable attorney's fees to a conductor after determining retaliation for reporting a co-worker's work-related injury. For more information, read the press release.
OSHA has issued a notice of unsafe and unhealthful working conditions to the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center after concluding its investigation into the death of Richard Din, a research associate at the center's research laboratory in April 2012. The notice consists of three serious violations for failing to protect laboratory workers researching Neisseria meningitidis, a bacterium that can cause meningitis.
The three serious violations include failure to require workers to use a safety enclosure when performing microbiological work with a viable bacteria culture; provide training on the signs and symptoms of illnesses as a result of employee exposure to a viable bacteria culture, such as meningitis; and provide available vaccines for workers potentially exposed to bacteria. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known. For more information, read the news release.
OSHA has cited Watco Mechanical Services, Jordan General Contractors Inc. and JP Electric after a combustible dust flash fire claimed the lives of two workers at a Hockley work site. OSHA began its investigation Aug. 19, 2012, at the Watco Mechanical Services work site where workers were conducting blasting operations in the facility's tank and hopper building. Employees were cutting metal with a torch when a fire broke out, killing two workers employed by Magnolia, Texas-based Jordan General Contractors.
The three companies were cited a total of 22 violations, including failing to adequately control fugitive emissions of combustible dust; develop and implement a respiratory program; provide training on the hazards of working with combustible dust; and ensure cutting operations are halted in the presence of combustible dust. Proposed penalties for the three companies total $119,840. See the news release for more information.
OSHA has published an interim final rule in the Federal Register that governs whistleblower complaints filed under Section 1558 of the Affordable Care Act. The Affordable Care Act protect employees against retaliation by an employer for reporting alleged violations of Title I of the act or for receiving a tax credit or cost-sharing reduction as a result of participating in a Health Insurance Exchange or Marketplace.
If an employee reports a violation of one of these policies or requirements, the act's whistleblower provision prohibits employers from retaliating against the employee. A fact sheet about filing whistleblower complaints under the Affordable Care Act is available at www.OSHA.Gov/Publications/whistleblower/OSHAFS-3641.pdf. For more information, read the news release.
OSHA's new Hydrogen Sulfide Web page warns employers and workers of the dangerous health effects from breathing hydrogen sulfide and provides methods for controlling exposure to this toxic gas.
Hydrogen sulfide, or H2S, is a colorless and highly flammable gas produced in industries such as mining, oil and gas refining, and paper and pulp processing. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate H2S caused 60 worker deaths between 2001 and 2010. The effects on workers' health depend on how much of the gas workers breathe but symptoms can range from headaches, nausea and fatigue to respiratory tract irritation, unconsciousness and death. The Web page explains how training and the use of exhaust/ventilation systems and personal protective equipment can protect workers from harmful H2S exposure.
OSHA has published seven new educational resources to help employers control exposure to respirable crystalline silica at construction sites. The new fact sheets provide information for employers and for workers who operate handheld grinders, angle grinders, jackhammers, rotary hammers, stationary masonry saws, handheld masonry saws or vehicle-mounted drilling rigs.
Respirable silica dust is a common hazard at many construction sites. Workers who breathe high concentrations of silica day after day are at risk of developing silicosis, a progressive and potentially disabling lung disease. Exposure to silica dust also can increase the risk of lung cancer and has been linked to other diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and kidney and autoimmune diseases. For more information on the hazards of silica exposure in the construction industry, visit OSHA's Crystalline Silica Safety and Health Topics Page and read OSHA's educational publication on Controlling Silica Exposures in Construction.
OSHA's General Industry Digest and Construction Industry Digest summarize 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. The two digests contain summaries of OSHA standards that are frequently cited or cover particular hazardous situations in general industry and construction. The General Industry Digest includes updated information on revisions to General Industry standards since the digest was last published in 2001. A Spanish-language version of the Construction Industry Digest is also available.
OSHA will hold a special meeting of the Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health March 18, 2013, in Washington, D.C. ACCSH will consider a proposed rule to update OSHA's standard on accident prevention signs in construction based on updates to national consensus standards.
The meeting will be held from 1- 4 p.m. in Room N-3437 A-C, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Ave., N.W., Washington, DC 20210. Committee members outside of the Washington, D.C. area will participate over the phone. The meeting is open to the public. Comments and requests to speak must be submitted by March 8. See the Federal Register notice for submission details. ACCSH advises the secretary of labor and assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health on construction standards and policy matters. For more information, read the press release.
OSHA is reminding employers to post OSHA's Form 300A, which summarizes the total number of job-related injuries and illnesses that occurred during 2012 and were logged on OSHA Form 300, Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses. The summary must be posted between Feb. 1 and April 30, 2013, and should be displayed in a common area where notices to employees are usually posted.
Employers with 10 or fewer employees and employers in less hazardous industries are normally exempt from federal OSHA injury and illness recordkeeping and posting requirements. A complete list of exempt industries in the retail, services, finance, insurance and real estate sectors can be found at https://s.dol.gov/YP. Read the news release for more information on recordkeeping requirements.
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