|April 2, 2015 · Volume 14, Issue 7|
In 2013, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported over 23,000 significant injuries due to assaults in the workplace. Over 70 percent were in the healthcare and social service settings. Healthcare and social service workers are almost four times as likely to be injured as a result of violence than the average private sector worker.
On April 2, 2015, OSHA kicked off National Workplace Violence Prevention month by releasing an update to its Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Healthcare and Social Service Workers (PDF).
OSHA’s updated violence prevention guidelines include industry best practices and incorporate the most effective way to reduce the risk of violence in a range of healthcare and social service settings.
“It is unacceptable that the people who dedicate their lives to caring for our loved ones often work in fear of being hurt or killed,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “Workplace violence is one of the most serious hazards facing healthcare workers in this country and this updated booklet will help employers and employees implement effective measures to reduce or eliminate workplace violence hazards.”
For more on the revised guidelines for healthcare and social services industries, see the news release. For more on how to prevent workplace violence in all settings, see OSHA’s workplace violence Web page and blog.
OSHA and its partners hope to reach 3 million workers during the 2015 National Safety Stand-Down to prevent falls in construction, and you can help! We encourage you to spread the word by re-tweeting and posting our message to reach workers across the nation through social media. Starting this month, the Department of Labor Twitter, Facebook page and blog will feature stand-down event information, important statistics, stories, and links to OSHA materials.
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. With your help we can make this year’s event even bigger and help save lives!
By visiting the 2015 Stand-Down page, you can learn about local events and download or order free fall prevention training materials in both English and Spanish, including the new 2015 Stand-Down poster (PDF).
Two workers were killed and another severely burned when a furnace erupted at the U.S. Steel Corp.'s Fairfield, Ala., facility. OSHA inspectors determined that the explosion was caused by opening and closing a high-pressure valve containing oxygen and hydrated lime. The workers were ordered to open and close the valve while the furnace was still operating. OSHA issued one willful and seven serious citations and proposed penalties totaling $107,900.
"Management knew that attempting to operate the valve while the furnace was still running placed workers at risk, yet they allowed them to do it because they didn't want the production line down for hours," said Ramona Morris, OSHA's area director in Birmingham. "This employer chose productivity over the safety of its workers, and two people died as a result of this decision."
The inspection found that the company failed to develop and use a procedure for controlling hazardous energy, and to train workers to recognize hazardous conditions with the oxygen system; were missing exit signs; and had an improperly installed exit gate. The agency has inspected the company 14 times since 2009 and issued citations for amputation hazards, unsafe crane operation, violations associated with flammable liquids and other hazards. U.S. Steel Corp. has been placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program for showing indifference to its OSH Act obligations. For more information, read the news release.
Behr Iron & Steel was issued five willful and nine serious safety violations after an OSHA inspection. The agency found workers were exposed to fall, confined spaces and dangerous amputation (PDF) hazards during maintenance and while processing scrap metal at the company’s facilities in Rockford and Peoria, Ill. Proposed penalties total $366,400.
“Behr Iron & Steel continues to fail its workers by not implementing required safety procedures at its facilities, despite repeated OSHA violations and serious injuries to workers,” said Nick Walters, regional administrator for OSHA in Chicago. “OSHA’s investigation found that safety training within the company remains inefficient and employees are exposed to amputation and other serious hazards when operating metal shredding equipment. Behr must make immediate health and safety program improvements. No worker should be subject to such conditions to earn a living.”
Violations included exposing workers to operating parts of dangerous machinery during service and maintenance; and failing to: use energy control procedures, use testing and monitoring (PDF) or ventilating equipment, evaluate the permit space condition prior to entry, complete a permit-required confined spaces entry permit, and train and require employees to use rescue and emergency equipment. For more information, read the news release.
Edsal Manufacturing Co. faces proposed penalties of $294,300 for exposing permanent and temporary workers to unguarded, dangerous machines with moving parts at its Chicago plant. In response to a complaint, OSHA inspected the facility and saw workers endangered by machine hazards. The company has repeatedly ignored these risks, having been found in violation of safety and health standards four times in the last five years. This current inspection resulted in the issuance of five repeated and 16 serious violations.
“When a machine lacks safety features, one slip and a worker can lose a hand,” said Kathy Webb, area director of OSHA's Calumet City office. “With stakes this high, Edsal Manufacturing must ensure the safety and health of its 1,200 employees. This company has shown, time and time again, it does not take worker safety seriously. That attitude needs to change.”
The company was also cited for failing to properly store pallets of paint, provide workers with training on hazardous chemicals, maintain fire extinguishers, inspect cranes periodically for safety issues, and provide welding screens and eye protection.
OSHA also cited KG Payroll & Staffing Services Corp., proposing penalties of $11,000 for failing to train workers on personal protective equipment and chemical hazards. The company provides temporary labor to the plant and is contractually required to provide training for any temporary workers it assigns. Temporary workers tend to be vulnerable because they often do the most hazardous jobs, lack proper training, and may experience language barriers. For more information, read the news release.
World Kitchen LLC, maker of brand-name dinnerware, was cited for 25 safety and health violations for exposing workers to a number of safety and health hazards. OSHA inspectors visited the plant after receiving employee complaints. The inspection revealed employees were exposed to crushing, amputation (PDF), electric shock, falls and hearing loss at the company’s Corning, N.Y., plant. OSHA proposed penalties of $108,000.
"Any of these conditions could have cost World Kitchen employees their lives or their livelihoods," said Christopher Adams, OSHA's area director in Syracuse. "It's imperative that World Kitchen take swift, comprehensive and effective action to eliminate these hazards and prevent them from happening again."
Plant workers also faced other hazards including eye and face injuries from working with corrosive chemicals without emergency eyewash stations, and burns and fire from improper use of flammable liquids. The company was also cited for a repeated violation for not recording all work-related injuries and illnesses in the OSHA 300 log. For more information, read the news release.
A locomotive freight engineer with the Union Pacific Railroad was disciplined after reporting injuries and receiving medical attention. OSHA investigators determined that the company violated the Federal Railroad Safety Act (PDF) at its North Platte, Neb., rail yard. Union Pacific was ordered to: pay the engineer $350,000 in punitive and compensatory damages and reasonable attorney’s fees, remove disciplinary information from employee’s personnel record, and provide whistleblower rights information to all its employees.
“It is disheartening that this employee, a loyal railroad worker for 35 years, faced disciplinary action because he sought needed medical attention for a work-related injury. Union Pacific's actions and the repeated complaints filed by their employees are indicative of a culture that doesn't show that same loyalty to their workers or concern for their safety,” said Marcia P. Drumm, OSHA’s regional administrator in Kansas City, Mo. “Whistleblower protections play an important role in keeping workplaces safe. It is not only illegal to discipline an employee for reporting an injury and seeking medical attention, it puts everyone at risk.”
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions (PDF) of FRSA 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 with OSHA. Detailed information on worker whistleblower rights and how to file a complaint is available on OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Programs Web page. For more information, see the news release.
Dehydration, dizziness, headaches and vomiting are just a few of the symptoms of nicotine poisoning, also known as "green tobacco sickness." Workers who plant, cultivate and harvest tobacco are particularly at risk. OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health released a recommended practices bulletin (PDF) with guidance on reducing the hazards for tobacco workers.
The bulletin identifies serious health hazards related to work in tobacco fields, and steps employers can take to protect the health of farm workers. It also identifies vulnerable workers, including children and adolescents, who may be more sensitive to chemical exposure and more likely to suffer from green tobacco sickness, and who may suffer more serious health consequences than adults. The bulletin is available in English (PDF) and Spanish (PDF).
"The best way to protect people from on-the-job hazards is to prevent those hazards in the first place, and this bulletin outlines commonsense steps to reduce nicotine exposure and prevent heat illness," said Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. "It's important that we continue to work with a wide array of stakeholders in order to find solutions that protect all workers."
The department has collaborated also with state agencies, growers, farmers, manufacturers and others to increase education, training and protections for tobacco workers. For more information, see the news release.
The OSHA Education Center at The University of Texas at Arlington and OSHA Region VI co-sponsored an Ebola and Infectious Disease Symposium on March 12, 2015, to share best practices and lessons learned about the Ebola virus and other highly infectious diseases.
More than 350 participants from across the nation attended the event. The free symposium focused on educating those who may be at a higher risk of exposure to infectious diseases, including emergency service providers, healthcare practitioners, frontline workers, safety personnel, and those in the social service industry.
OSHA distributed its new Safe Handling, Treatment, Transport and Disposal of Ebola-Contaminated Waste fact sheet (PDF) at the event. The symposium featured presentations from OSHA regional and national office staff, Texas Department of State Health Services, the Dallas County Health and Human Services, and the Denton and Tarrant County Health Departments.
Symposium participants discussed how the Dallas/Fort Worth area would respond to patients with highly infectious diseases and reviewed relevant federal regulations such as the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens Standard.
OSHA has formed a partnership with Heritage University in Washington State to provide Native Americans in the region with business education that includes worker rights and employer responsibilities related to workplace safety and health. With this partnership, Washington State's Office of Rural and Farmworker Housing and its ADENTRO program will help Native American ranchers and farmers, along with others in rural, low-income households, become successful entrepreneurs.
OSHA reaches out to tribal communities in the Northwest to develop positive working relationships. The business education provided by ADENTRO will include discussions of OSHA regulations and safety and health requirements to help Native American entrepreneurs aspiring to establish businesses on tribal lands.
The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration has signed a formal partnership with the Christman Company, Daniels Building Co. and 42 subcontractors to enhance safety and health protection and eliminate worker injuries during construction of Michigan’s new State Emergency Operations Center.
The new center is scheduled for completion in December 2015. The $22 million project includes 37,000 square feet of renovations and will be used by the state of Michigan to coordinate emergency and disaster response with local, state and federal agencies. Over the course of construction, an estimated 200 workers will be protected through the partnership.
For more information about this partnership, see the news release.
An article in the 2015 issue of INReview, published by the Indiana Department of Labor, describes the importance of management commitment, employee involvement, and the need to focus beyond what is required by regulations to protect worker safety and health.
Indiana Assistant Commissioner of Labor Michelle Ellison manages the state’s On-site Consultation Program. Available nationwide, this program offers free and confidential safety and occupational health advice to small and medium-sized businesses, with priority given to high-hazard worksites. On-site consultation services are separate from enforcement and do not result in penalties or citations. Consultants from state agencies or universities work with employers to identify workplace hazards, provide advice on compliance with OSHA standards, and assist in establishing injury and illness prevention programs.
Read her article here.
OSHA is now accepting nominations for members to serve on the Whistleblower Protection Advisory Committee. The committee was established to advise and make recommendations to the secretary of labor and the assistant secretary for OSHA on ways to improve the fairness, efficiency, effectiveness and transparency of OSHA’s whistleblower protection activities. Six positions will become vacant Dec. 1, 2015, to serve on the 12-member committee for a two-year term. Nominations will be accepted from those interested in representing management (2), labor (2), the public (1), and State Occupational Safety and Health Plan states (1). Nominations may be submitted electronically at https://www.regulations.gov/, by mail or facsimile and must be submitted by May 18, 2015.
OSHA’s redesigned Whistleblower Protection Web page is now available in Spanish. It offers the latest information on statutes, filing a complaint, news and whistleblower fact sheets and is part of OSHA's continuing effort to strengthen outreach to the Spanish-speaking public.
Additionally, a fact sheet on Filing Whistleblower Complaints under the Seaman’s Protection Act (SPA) is now available in English (PDF) and Spanish (PDF). The publication explains which employees are covered, protected activities, and the complaint process for maritime workers.
To order these or other OSHA materials, visit OSHA's Publications page or call the Publications Office at (202) 693-1888.
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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