|March 16, 2015 · Volume 14, Issue 6|
A new report released by OSHA explores the substantial impact of workplace injuries and illnesses on income inequality Despite the decades-old legal requirement that employers provide workplaces free of serious hazards, every year, more than three million workers are seriously injured, and thousands more are killed on the job. The report states these injuries can force working families out of the middle class and into poverty, and prevents families of lower-wage workers from attaining greater economic opportunity. "For many, a workplace injury or illness means the end of the American dream, and the beginning of a nightmare," said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. "Employers must do more to prevent these injuries from happening in the first place and insure that when they do, workers receive the benefits to which they are entitled."
As of Jan. 1, 2015, employers covered by federal OSHA are now required to report work-related fatalities within 8 hours and work-related in-patient hospitalizations, amputations and losses of an eye within 24 hours of finding out about the incident.
Previously, employers were required to report all workplace fatalities and when three or more workers were hospitalized in the same incident. The updated reporting requirements have a life-saving purpose: they will enable employers and workers to prevent future injuries by identifying and eliminating the most serious workplace hazards.
Employers currently have two options for reporting these severe incidents to OSHA. They can call their nearest area office during normal business hours or they can call the 24-hour OSHA hotline at 1-800-321-OSHA (1-800-321-6742). For more information and resources, visit OSHA's Web page on the updated reporting requirements and watch OSHA's new YouTube video, where Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, explains the new reporting requirements.
*Employers under federal OSHA's jurisdiction were required to begin reporting by January 1, 2015. Establishments in a state with a state-run OSHA program should contact their state plan for the implementation date.
A Maine roofing contractor's continued refusal to obey a federal court order to correct safety hazards and pay more than $400,000 in fines could send him to jail. The U.S. Department of Labor has asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit in Boston to hold Stephen Lessard in civil contempt for defying a 2011 court order to correct violations cited by OSHA and pay $404,000 in fines and interest for the violations levied from 2000 to 2011.
"We have asked the court to subject Mr. Lessard to strong sanctions, including incarceration, if he continues to flout the law and the court’s earlier order," said Michael Felsen, the department's regional solicitor of labor for New England. "Seeking a contempt order, such as this, is a stringent and infrequent action, but one that is warranted in this case."
Despite all this, Lessard continues to break the law. In January, OSHA cited him for egregious willful, repeated and serious violations for fall-related hazards at another work site and fined him $287,000. OSHA's Stop Falls Web page includes information on fall protection standards. For more information, see the news release.
A federal court has ordered that Mike Neri Sewer and Water Contractor of Elk Grove Village, Ill., no longer engage in trenching, excavation, construction or related work after repeatedly exposing employees to trenching hazards.
"The court has sent a clear message that Mike Neri, like all businesses, has a legal and moral responsibility to protect workers on the job," said Nick Walters, regional administrator for OSHA in Chicago. "OSHA will pursue all avenues to ensure employers, such as Neri, who are recalcitrant and continue to violate safety standards, learn that the law will be upheld."
The department pursued coercive sanctions through the courts out of concern that Neri continued to violate OSHA trenching standards. After failing to comply with the court enforcement order, Neri was held in federal jail for 23 days. He was released on Dec. 24, 2014, after posting a $10,000 bond. The court order and agreement vacates this bond. For more information, see the news release.
A 58-year-old maintenance worker for Hussmann Corp. was killed after he was pinned between a motorized scrap metal table and a railing at the company's Bridgeton, Mo., facility. An OSHA investigation found that Hussmann failed to prevent the table from starting unintentionally. Hussmann was cited with three willful and 12 serious safety violations and proposed penalties of $272,250.
"This tragic loss could have been prevented," said Bill McDonald, OSHA's area director in St. Louis. "OSHA inspectors found workers at risk of life-threatening hazards because Hussmann Corp. failed to train its workforce to prevent unintentional operation of dangerous machinery. This company needs to fix safety procedure deficiencies, so no other family is forced to suffer."
The company also failed to train workers on safety procedures and use effective safeguards for moving parts on machinery. Inspectors also found hazards related to powered industrial trucks. For more information, see the news release.
Since 2013, 294 workers have been killed by falls: a deadly fact that one roofing contractor appears willing to ignore as it was found putting the safety of its employees at risk by U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health inspectors once again.
"Jasper Contractors has violated fall protection and safe ladder usage rules numerous times, yet we still find workers exposed to preventable danger," said Brian Sturtecky, OSHA's area director in Jacksonville. "We will continue to cite violations and issue penalties when employers fail in their responsibility to protect workers."
OSHA cited Jasper Contractors with willful, repeated and serious violations after inspectors witnessed workers on top of roofs without fall protection during two inspections last year. The company received seven citations for safety violations at job sites in Jacksonville and Green Cove Springs, Fla. Proposed penalties total $186,200. For more information, see the news release.
LeDonte McCruter, a 31-year-old day laborer from Birmingham, Ala., was killed when a 12-foot-deep trench collapsed and buried him alive. An OSHA inspection found that his employer, subcontractor Joshua Dailey, failed to provide cave-in protection to prevent the trench collapse and failed to notify OSHA of the fatality. OSHA issued one willful and two serious violations to Dailey and the general contractor, Otis Bates and Bates Construction. Proposed penalties total $53,800.
"Mr. McCruter's employers knew they were placing him in mortal danger by not using cave-in protection, yet they allowed him to work in the trench," said Ramona Morris, director of OSHA's Birmingham Area Office. "His family is grieving the death of a loved one because his employer willfully failed to protect him from this known hazard."
OSHA issued a serious citation against Bates Construction for not providing cave-in protection. The agency proposed that Dailey be placed in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program for demonstrating indifference to its OSH Act obligations to provide a safe and healthful workplace for employees. For more information, see the news release.
A receptionist at Salon Zoë was fired by her employer after making her co-workers aware of health hazards associated with products containing formaldehyde that were regularly used by stylists and haircutters. As a result, the U.S. Department of Labor is suing the Bronx, N.Y., salon and its owner, Kristina Veljovic, for discrimination and seeking redress and compensation for the worker.
"This firing was illegal and inexcusable," said Robert Kulick, regional administrator in New York for the Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration. "It's against the law to fire or otherwise retaliate against an employee for informing colleagues about possible health hazards in their place of employment. Such behavior not only intimidates workers, it also can deny them access to knowledge that will protect them against workplace hazards."
After experiencing respiratory distress she told her employer that she believed the salon's hair-straightening products, which contain formaldehyde, were causing her health problems. Two days after informing her fellow employees of the presence of formaldehyde in the salon's products and sharing copies of an OSHA fact sheet (PDF) with fellow workers, Veljovic terminated her employment. A physician confirmed that the worker's respiratory distress resulted from her formaldehyde exposure at work.
The department's lawsuit seeks payment of lost wages, compensatory, punitive and emotional distress damages, an offer of reinstatement with full benefits and seniority, removal of references to the matter from the worker’s employment records and an order prohibiting the defendants from illegally retaliating against employees in the future. For more information, see the news release.
A worker who raised concerns that a truck driver employed by Core-Mark International of Phoenix had exceeded the maximum number of driving hours must be reinstated immediately and paid more than $230,000 in back wages and compensatory damages. OSHA found that Core-Mark's owners violated the Surface Transportation Assistance Act's whistleblower provisions when they terminated the worker after he went outside his chain of command in 2011 to report that one of the company's drivers had exceeded maximum driving hours set by the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The worker was responsible for routing, dispatching and managing driver performance. For more information, read the news release.
In Idaho, the U.S. Department of Labor has filed suit against the Idaho Falls School District alleging that the dismissal of a worker violated the whistleblower provisions of the federal asbestos worker protection law. The complaint seeks the worker's reinstatement and back pay with interest and other damages of more than $300,000. The worker questioned whether the timeline of a construction project would allow enough time to follow regulations for asbestos removal and that accidental release of dangerous asbestos fibers might occur. For more details, read the news release.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions (PDF) of the OSH Act and 21 other statutes protecting employees who report various violations of law by their employers. Workers who believe that they have been retaliated against for exercising their rights may file a complaint OSHA. Detailed information on worker whistleblower rights and how to file a complaint is available on OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Programs Web page.
On March 5, 2015, OSHA published a final rule finalizing procedures for handling whistleblower retaliation complaints filed under Section 806 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. The SOX Act protects workers who report fraudulent activities and violations of Securities Exchange Commission rules that can harm investors in publicly traded companies.
"Silencing workers who try to do the right thing is unacceptable," said Assistant Secretary of Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. "This final rule safeguards investors by protecting whistleblowers who shine a light on illegal or fraudulent conduct that otherwise may go uncorrected."
SOX prohibits publicly-traded companies, nationally recognized statistical ratings organizations, and other covered persons from retaliating against an employee who provides information about conduct that the employee reasonably believes violates federal mail, wire, bank or securities fraud statutes, SEC rules, or any provision of federal law relating to fraud against shareholders. For more information, see the news release.
Three million! That's how many workers OSHA and its partners hope to reach during the 2015 National Safety Stand-Down to prevent falls. From May 4-15, participants are asked to pause their workday and participate in safety training in fall prevention. Last year more than 1 million employers and workers across the country joined the effort, making it the largest occupational safety event ever hosted in the United States.
To learn how you can be a part of this international effort by visiting our 2015 Stand-Down page. You can download or order free fall prevention training materials in both English and Spanish, including the new 2015 Stand-Down poster (PDF), find a list of local events, and also receive a certificate of participation signed by Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez.
OSHA has formed a strategic partnership with Georgia Tech Research Institute, American Builders 2017 and the Associated General Contractors of Georgia to ensure the highest level of worker safety and health during the construction of the new SunTrust Park, Atlanta Braves Stadium, in Atlanta.
An estimated 6,000 workers will be covered during the construction of the 41,500-seat baseball stadium and mixed-use 60-acre development. The partnership focuses on reducing worker injuries and illnesses, increasing safety and health training, sharing best work practices and ensuring employers use safety and health management systems to find and fix hazards before workers can be harmed. The partnership will target silica exposure monitoring, ergonomics, 100 percent fall protection, electrical safety, heat illness prevention, and multi-language signage to ensure worker safety and health.
This is the first OSHA partnership with Associated General Contractors as a signatory.
A study published in the Feb. 3 Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology concludes that people may keep information about work-related asthma from their doctors out of concern for the impact it may have on their job and income. "Work-related asthma is underdiagnosed and under-recognized," said Dr. Jacek Mazurek, a researcher for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and lead author of the study. An estimated 11 million workers in a wide range of industries and occupations are exposed to at least one of the numerous agents known to be associated with occupational asthma. Occupational factors are associated with up to 15 percent of disabling asthma cases in the United States. For more information, read the article from Health Day News for Healthier Living.
OSHA has issued two new bulletins in the series of guidance documents developed under the agency's Temporary Worker Initiative. The initiative focuses on compliance with safety and health requirements when temporary workers are employed under the joint employment of a staffing agency and a host employer. One bulletin addresses how to identify who is responsible for providing these workers with required personal protective equipment and necessary training (PDF), while the other explains their whistleblower rights (PDF).
OSHA has updated the Web page on safety and health hazards in the Meat Packing Industry. The updated page offers information on protecting workers from the serious safety and health hazards in the meat packing industry. These hazards include exposure to high noise levels, dangerous equipment, slippery floors, musculoskeletal disorders (PDF), and hazardous chemicals. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports injury and illness rates for the meat packing industry are 2 ½ times the national average.
Three QuickCards for the maritime industry have been translated and are available on the Publications Web page. Servicing Rim Wheels, Hot Work Safety, and Fire Watch Safety describe safe work practices in shipyards, workers' rights and employer responsibilities.
OSHA provides news and commentary on workplace safety and health from its senior leadership, staff and guest contributors on the DOL blog. See our latest posts:
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