|April 15, 2015 · Volume 14, Issue 8|
Every year, nearly four million workers are injured or made sick at work, and more than four thousand die from preventable work-related injuries or illnesses. In a series of Workers' Memorial Day events on and around April 28, OSHA's national and regional offices will remember those who have been lost, disabled, injured, or sickened on the job. On this day we also, in their honor, renew our commitment to protecting the health and safety of every worker.
The 2015 National Safety Stand-Down is nearly here! From May 4 to 15 companies across the country will stop their work, provide focused talks on fall prevention, and re-commit themselves to on-the-job safety. A new promotional video is now available to encourage employers in various industries to participate. The video reminds viewers that falls are the leading cause of death in construction, having killed more than 3,500 workers over the last decade, but every fall can be prevented with the right equipment and training. Last year more than 1 million employers and workers across the country joined the effort, and this year OSHA and its partners hope to reach over 3 million people at over 20,000 stand-down events.
Learn how you can be a part of this international effort by visiting our 2015 Stand-Down page. Download or order free fall prevention training materials in both English and Spanish, including the new 2015 Stand-Down poster, find a list of local events, and also receive a certificate of participation signed by Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is requesting information from the public about worker safety hazards in communication tower construction and maintenance activities. The information will assist the agency in determining what measures to take to prevent worker injuries and fatalities.
Over the past 30 years, the growing demand for wireless and broadcast communications has spurred a dramatic increase in communication tower construction and maintenance. In order to erect or maintain communication towers, employee regularly climb anywhere from 100 to 2,000 feet. Communication tower workers face the risk of falls from great heights, structural collapses, electrical hazards, and hazards associated with inclement weather.
OSHA is requesting information from wireless carriers, tower workers, engineering and construction management firms, tower owners, and tower construction and maintenance companies about the causes of employee injuries and fatalities and for information about the best practices used by employers in the industry to address these hazards.
The deadline for submitting comments is June 15, 2015. Interested parties may submit comments and additional materials electronically at www.regulations.gov, the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Comments may also be mailed or faxed. See the Federal Register notice for details.
OSHA is now accepting 2015 applications for targeted-topic and capacity-building training grants under the Susan Harwood Training Grant Program. A total of $3.5 million is available for nonprofit organizations, including community and faith-based organizations, employer associations, labor unions, joint labor/management associations, Indian tribes, and colleges and universities.
The grants fund the creation of in-person, hands-on training and educational programs and the development of materials for workers and employers in small businesses; industries with high injury, illness and fatality rates; and vulnerable workers who are underserved, have limited English proficiency or are temporary workers.
Targeted topic training grants support quality training programs and educational materials that focus on identifying and preventing workplace hazards. Applicants must address the occupational safety and health hazards designated by OSHA in the grant announcement and may be eligible for one additional follow-on grant, based on satisfactory performance.
Capacity-building grants are available in both pilot and developmental form. Capacity-building pilot grants are intended to assist organizations in assessing their needs and formulating a capacity-building plan before launching a full-scale safety and health education program. Capacity-building developmental grants focus on improving and expanding an organization’s capacity to provide safety and health training, education and related assistance to target audiences.
For more information on grant opportunities, see the news release.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health just released a new report of a Health Hazard Evaluation conducted in a poultry processing plant in Maryland: Evaluation of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Other Musculoskeletal Disorders Among Employees at a Poultry Processing Plant. NIOSH found that over one third of the participants had evidence of carpal tunnel syndrome on the basis of their case definition and fully fifty nine percent of the jobs they evaluated had average levels of hand activity and force about the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists’ action limit. The report contains concrete recommendations for employers in the poultry processing industry to take to prevent these disorders—including job redesign and better processes to evaluate employee symptoms. For more information, visit OSHA's webpages on Poultry Processing and Ergonomics.
Three employees of Beverly-based Daryl J. Provencher, doing business as Provencher Home Improvement, fell 19 feet to the ground and were hospitalized as a result of injuries sustained when the scaffold platform on which they were standing broke. The incident occurred while the employees performed roofing work on a ladder-jack scaffold at an A.C. Castle Co., Inc. job site. An inspection by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that spruce plank used as the platform could not support the weight load imposed on it by the workers, was not graded for use in a scaffold, and was clearly marked on its invoice as not for scaffold use.
In addition to a number of significant safety violations, the investigation found that the operations of Danvers-based A.C. Castle Construction Co., Inc., were sufficiently integrated with Provencher's to render the two a single employer of the affected workers. These conditions resulted in OSHA citing A.C. Castle./Daryl J. Provencher, dba Provencher Home Improvement for three willful, one repeat and five serious violations with a total $294,500 in proposed fines.
"While the affected workers here were nominally employed by Provencher, A.C. Castle exercised a degree of control and oversight over Provencher's operations sufficient to render the two a single employer under the OSH Act, responsible as one entity for their employees' safety," said M. Patricia Smith, Solicitor of Labor. "We will hold business entities responsible as employers where the circumstances so warrant, even in the face of claims by some to the contrary."
For more information see the news release.
An OSHA inspection at Koser Iron Works found that workers were exposed to dangerous amputation hazards while fabricating metal products because safety mechanisms were not in place. The Barron, Wis., steel fabrication company was cited with two willful, four repeat and 12 serious safety violations and faces $102,180 in proposed fines.
"Workers pay the price when companies fail to follow safety standards," said Mark Hysell, OSHA's area director in Eau Claire. "Machine hazards are among the most frequently cited by OSHA. All manufacturers should examine their procedures to ensure they are in compliance. It takes seconds for a worker to be severely injured, but often a lifetime to recover."
OSHA also found that workers were exposed to explosion and fire hazards because the company failed to properly store flammable liquids. Additional violations include failure to: use energy control procedures to prevent unintentional startup; train workers on operating lift trucks; install a required ventilation system in the storage room; and provide personal protective equipment. Read the news release for more information and to view the citations.
OSHA cited Maxim Construction Group Corp. for 17 serious safety and health violations after an OSHA investigation found the company exposed workers to falls of more than 200 feet while restoring the concrete finish on high-rise apartment buildings. The fall hazards were due to scaffolding that was improperly assembled and secured to the building. Proposed penalties total $119,000.
"Maxim Construction endangered the lives of its employees as they worked high off the ground from scaffolds that weren't assembled correctly," said Condell Eastmond, director of OSHA's Fort Lauderdale Area Office. "This company needs to review its safety procedures and make immediate changes. We will continue to hold companies accountable and issue citations for safety violations that threaten workers’ safety and health."
The company also failed to develop a written respiratory protection program for workers exposed to silica while restoring concrete, and failed to implement a hearing conservation program for workers exposed to dangerous noise levels. For more information, read the news brief.
An OSHA inspection of American Spincast Inc. found the company in violation of 32 serious safety and 18 serious health standards. OSHA initiated the inspection as part of its Site-Specific Targeting program and under the agency's National Emphasis Program on Primary Metals. The Belton, Texas, foundry faces $165,200 in proposed penalties.
"These workers were needlessly exposed to hearing loss, falls and other dangers," said Casey Perkins, area director of OSHA’s Austin Area Office. "American Spincast failed to provide the minimal protective standards required by law. Employers need to implement programs for finding and fixing these hazards before workers become seriously injured or receive irreversible health effects."
Violations include failing to: provide guardrails, personal fall arrest systems and machine guarding; ensure flammable liquids were stored in tanks or closed containers, and arc welding cables were undamaged; and provide hazard communication training on methylene chloride and hexavalent chromium. Read the news brief for more information.
A New York City Transit Authority employee was illegally discriminated against for exercising his rights under the National Transit Systems Security Act. OSHA has ordered the NYCTA and supervisor Mark Ruggerio to pay the employee $52,500 in damages and take other corrective action.
The employee and Mark Ruggerio, then the acting general superintendent at the Linden shop, participated in a safety inspection by the New York Public Employees Safety and Health Bureau on Aug. 9, 2012. When Ruggerio told PESH inspectors that a drill press they inquired about was not working, the employee stated that it was and turned the press on. Ruggerio threatened the employee with a loss of overtime work and continued his retaliatory behavior toward the employee even after PESH inspectors informed him that he needed to stop. The employee filed a timely whistleblower complaint with OSHA, which enforces the antidiscrimination provisions of NTSSA
In addition to paying punitive and compensatory damages, NYCTA must provide all Linden Yards managers with OSHA whistleblower training, provide all new hires with information on OSHA jurisdiction and post a notice to all employees of their whistleblower rights under NTSSA. For more information, see the news release.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of NTSSA and 21 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various industries. Detailed information about OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Program and employee whistleblower rights is available at www.whistleblowers.gov.
A U.S. District Court has ordered Massachusetts dentist Dr. N. Terry Fayad to pay $85,000 to a dental assistant who was illegally fired for filing a safety complaint with OSHA.
Concerned that she and her co-workers could be exposed to needle stick injuries and the risk of infection from bloodborne pathogens such as hepatitis and HIV, a dental assistant raised the issue with Fayad. When he dismissed her concern, she filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration. After an OSHA inspector visited on Nov. 23, 2010, Dr. Fayad fired her later that day.
A whistleblower investigation followed and in September, 2011, the Department of Labor sued Fayad in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts. The judge found that the employee's firing by Fayad shortly after OSHA began its inspection was retaliatory and a violation of section 11(c) of the OSH Act. The court ordered Fayad's practice to pay the worker $51,644.80 in back wages and ordered both Fayad and the practice to pay her $33,450.26 in compensatory damages.
For more information, see the news release.
April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month and an excellent time to review workplace transportation policies. Each year, more than 35,000 people are killed on America's roads and traffic collisions are the number one cause of workplace deaths.
In a recent guest post on DOL's blog, National Safety Council President and CEO Deborah Hersman explains the dangers associated with distracted driving and describes available tools, including a free cell phone policy kit, to help employers protect workers from these risks.
OSHA reminds employers that they have a responsibility to protect their workers by prohibiting texting while driving. It is a violation of the OSH Act for employers to require workers to text while driving, create incentives that encourage or condone it, or structure work so that texting while driving is a practical necessity for workers to carry out their job. For more information, including a Distracted Driving brochure, visit OSHA's Distracted Driving webpage.
On April 8, OSHA renewed its alliance with the Airline Ground Safety Panel to continue providing information and training resources to members, ground crew unions and contract firms, and workers for the next five years.
"OSHA and members of the airline industry have worked together in recent years to address safety issues among ground personnel," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. "The efforts of our continued alliance with AGSP will go a long way toward keeping workers across the country safe and healthy at the end of every workday."
The alliance will address worker injuries that occur during operation of ground support equipment; use of seat belts; new and emerging hazards; slips, trips and falls; ergonomic hazards; extreme temperatures; and understanding the rights and responsibilities of workers and employers under the OSH Act.
For more information on the alliance, see the news release.
Three new fact sheets are now available to explain workers' rights and procedures for filing whistleblower complaints ? under the Clean Air, Federal Water Pollution Control, and Safe Drinking Water Acts. The new fact sheets are available online. For more information, visit OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Programs webpage.
Check out the new Spanish-language Workers' Rights video! The video encourages employees throughout the country to remember their workplace rights to raise safety concerns in the workplace. It is part of OSHA's continuing effort to strengthen outreach to the Spanish-speaking public.
In his March 4, 2015 blog, Dr. David Michaels explained how "the costs of workplace injuries are borne primarily by injured workers, their families, and taxpayer-supported components of the social safety net." For more information, see the report.
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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