|May 15, 2014 · Volume 13, Issue 10|
|A twice monthly e-news product with information about workplace safety and health.|
OSHA is soliciting applications under the Susan Harwood Training Grant Program through two separate and distinct announcements. A total of $7 million is available for nonprofit organizations, including community and faith-based organizations, employer associations, labor unions, joint labor/management associations and colleges and universities.
"These grants play an important role in ensuring worker safety and health. By providing training to employees on their rights, and employers on their responsibilities, the Susan Harwood grants are making sure that workplace safety is the number one priority on any jobsite," said Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez.
The Susan Harwood Training Grant Program supports in-person, hands-on training and educational programs and materials development for workers and employers in small businesses; industries with high injury, illness and fatality rates; workers who are underserved, limited English proficiency and temporary workers. For more information, read the press release.
OSHA Applications for Capacity Building grants must be submitted by Thursday, June 26, 2014 and Targeted Topic grants must be submitted by Monday, June 30, 2014. More information on the grant program, including a webinar that outlines the application process, is available on OSHA's Susan Harwood Training Program Web page. Questions from the public should be directed to Heather Wanderski or Jim Barnes at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 847-759-7700.
The U.S. Department of Labor has filed a lawsuit against Southwestern Bell Telephone Co. on behalf of four employees who received disciplinary action and unsatisfactory performance appraisals for reporting workplace injuries that occurred in Missouri and Kansas in 2011 and 2012. The company alleged that each employee violated a corporate workplace safety standard; however, OSHA's investigation found that the company’s actions were a result of workers reporting their injuries.
"It is against the law for employers to discipline employees for reporting injuries," said Marcia Drumm, acting regional administrator for OSHA in Kansas City, Mo. "Southwestern Bell must understand that, by discouraging workers from reporting injuries, it increases the likelihood of more injured workers in the future. The department will do everything in its power to prevent this type of retaliation."
Read the news release for additional details. OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of 22 statutes protecting employees who report violations of laws in various industries. For more information, visit www.whistleblowers.gov.
The U.S. Department of Labor has sued Donald Pottern, doing business as Crown Furniture, of West Springfield, Mass., for firing a worker who filed a safety complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The worker contacted OSHA on May 9, 2011, alleging safety and health hazards in the basement of Crown Furniture including the presence of asbestos, mold and rodents. On May 11, Pottern discharged the employee after questioning him as to why he filed the complaint. The worker then filed a discrimination complaint with OSHA, which investigated and found merit to the complaint.
"Employees have a right to file a complaint with OSHA without fear of discharge or other forms of retaliation from their employer," said Robert Hooper, OSHA's acting regional administrator for New England. "Such retaliation can coerce workers into silence, preventing them from reporting or raising concerns about conditions that could injure, sicken or even kill them."
The lawsuit seeks a judgment affirming that Pottern discharged the worker in retaliation for filing an OSHA complaint, payment of more than $20,000 in lost wages plus interest to the worker, payment of compensatory and/or punitive damages as appropriate and posting of a non-discrimination notice at the workplace. See the news release for more information.
After a worker's leg was entangled in an auger at American Plant Food Corp in November 2013, OSHA conducted an inspection of the fertilizer blending company’s Bartlett facility. Following the investigation, OSHA issued willful and serious citations to the employer for failing to protect workers from moving machine parts during service or maintenance. Proposed penalties total $181,000.
"This worker's debilitating injury was preventable had the employer used certain safeguards," said Casey Perkins, OSHA's area director in Austin. "As an established company in this industry with long-term management in place, American Plant Food Corp. should not allow such dangerous workplace practices."
OSHA cited the employer with willful violations for failing to ensure workers were protected from coming into contact with the auger during servicing and maintenance. The company was also cited for nine serious safety violations, including failing to protect workers with machine guards, lockout/tagout procedures, and access to first aid medical treatment. For more details and to read the citations, view the press release.
A follow-up inspection by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration at San Cast Inc. found workers still exposed to amputation and fall hazards at the Coshocton, Ohio, casting and foundry facility. The facility was previously cited after a worker suffered a leg amputation in June 2013. OSHA has issued 17 additional violations, carrying proposed penalties of $155,900 as a result of the November 2013 inspection.
"San Cast continues to demonstrate a complete disregard for the health and safety of its workers by failing to correct known hazards," said Deborah Zubaty, OSHA's area director in Columbus. "These hazards expose workers to potential lacerations and amputation injuries daily. No one should be risking injury on a job because their employer consistently fails to follow safety practices."
OSHA cited repeat violations for failing to protect employees from the ingoing nip points of belts, pulleys, chains and sprockets. San Cast also was cited for failing to protect employees from fall hazards associated with an unguarded platform. OSHA was cited the company for these violations in both March and September 2013. San Cast also was cited for 11serious safety violations involving lack of lockout/tagout procedures, exposing workers to struck-by hazards and failing to maintain an overhead trolley system. The company also failed to inspect cranes and hoists regularly, and broken crane wires were discovered. For more information, view the citations and read the press release.
On June 2-6, OSHA will host a National Safety Stand-Down for Fall Prevention in Construction to raise awareness about the hazards of falls – the leading cause of death in the construction industry. During this week, employers and workers are asked to voluntarily stop work to discuss fall prevention, including topics such as safe work on roofs, ladders and scaffolds.
"Almost 300 construction workers were killed in falls in 2012. Thousands more were seriously injured," said Secretary of Labor Tom Perez in a video statement. "Now is the time to focus on this vital safety issue. The economy is on the rebound, housing starts are on the rise, and the summer construction season is getting underway."
Participation in the stand-down for safety is open to all employers — including general industry. Large and small employers across the nation have committed to participate, including U.S. Air Force facilities nationwide. This year's stand-down expects to reach more than 25,000 employers and one million workers. To learn how you can join the June stand-down, visit www.osha.gov/StopFallsStandDown, or check out OSHA’s regional events page to access the latest information on stand-down events taking place across the country.
More than 160 safety and health professionals attended the 39th Annual On-site Consultation Training Conference on May 6 in Denver. Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels kicked off the three-day training by praising the work of the 52 on-site consultation projects across the country. The annual conference enables consultants to discuss issues most relevant to their work, including emerging hazards and key topics in safety and health.
OSHA's On-site Consultation Program offers a free and confidential service for small and medium-sized businesses. Consultants work with employers to identify workplace hazards, provide advice on compliance with OSHA standards and assist in establishing injury and illness prevention programs. On-site consultation services are separate from enforcement and do not result in penalties or citations. To learn more, visit OSHA’s On-site Consultation Web page.
The Temporary Worker workgroup of OSHA's National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health met May 9 in Washington, D.C., to continue discussing ways to better protect temporary workers. Topics included gaps in the protection of temporary workers, the difference between temporary workers and contract workers, and the joint responsibility of host employers and staffing agencies to ensure the safety of these workers. For more information, visit the NACOSH Web page.
OSHA's Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health met May 7 and 8 in Washington, D.C., where members and attendees discussed the proposed rulemaking on Beryllium: Alternatives for Construction; updates to OSHA's standard on eye and face protection in construction; and proposed amendments and corrections to OSHA's Cranes and Derricks standards. For more information on these topics, visit the ACCSH Web page.
Additionally, the agency's Whistleblower Protection Advisory Committee was re-established to advise and make recommendations to the secretary of labor and the assistant secretary for occupational safety and health on ways to improve the fairness, efficiency, effectiveness and transparency of OSHA's whistleblower protection activities. The charter will remain in effect for two years. For more information, view the press release.
When tornadoes hit Mayflower and Vilonia, Ark., during the last week of April, staff from OSHA's area office in Little Rock moved quickly to the towns’ command centers to help recovery workers, employers and the public understand the hazards they can encounter and necessary steps to stay safe. OSHA staff delivered disaster relief QuickCardsTM and fact sheets on topics such as heat stress and work zone safety in disaster recovery efforts.
OSHA maintains a comprehensive website on keeping disaster site workers safe during tornado and storm cleanup and recovery operations.
May is Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month – a celebration of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States. OSHA is engaging in more than a dozen outreach events across the country to ensure that vulnerable workers in the Asian American and Pacific Islander community receive the safety and health protections they need on the job. Local OSHA events include regional interagency working groups, summits, fairs, forums, worker trade meetings, training events, consular partnerships and alliances. To find out more about what is going on in your area, contact your area office or call 800-321-OSHA .
Since 2011, OSHA has increased its number of outreach activities to AAPI-specific communities by 50 percent, and is continuing to seek out new ways to reach the APPI community throughout the year.
Temporary workers, workplace violence and noise and hearing protection are just a few of the topics experts will cover at a June 26 daylong safety summit at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. OSHA’s Springfield, Mass. Area Office, the OSHA Training Institute at Keene State College in Keene, N.H. and the American Society of Safety Engineers are organizing the event in cooperation with the university. Regional and national experts, including Springfield Area Director Mary Hoye, will offer nearly a dozen presentations about protecting workers from occupational hazards. For more information and registration information, see the Connecticut Valley ASSE website at http://ctvalley.asse.org/.
As part of its continuing effort to improve working conditions for construction workers, OSHA has renewed its 2007 strategic partnership with the El Paso Chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America.
The partnership seeks to reduce worker injuries, illnesses and fatalities by focusing on the four most common hazards in construction — falls, struck-by, caught-in-between and electrocution hazards. For more information, see the news release.
Through its Strategic Partnership Program, OSHA works with employers, workers, professional and trade associations, labor organizations and other interested stakeholders to establish specific goals, strategies and performance measures to improve worker safety and health. For more information, visit OSHA’s Strategic Partnerships page.
OSHA and the National Oceanic and the Atmospheric Administration are working together for the fourth year to promote Hurricane Preparedness Week, May 25-31.
OSHA and NOAA encourage employers to stay aware of weather forecasts, train workers on workplace severe weather plans, and keep emergency supplies on hand, including a battery-operated weather radio. Employers must also ensure that workers involved in response and recovery are protected from potential safety and health hazards.
OSHA provides resources on workplace preparedness and response for severe weather emergencies including hurricanes, floods and tornadoes, among others. Follow all of the week’s activities on the National Hurricane Center’s Web page and visit OSHA's Hurricane Preparedness and Response page for more information on protecting workers from hurricane-related hazards.
New OSHA fact sheets are now available to help protect workers in marine terminals in work safety zones for on-dock container operations, while performing hot work in certain enclosed spaces, and while servicing rim wheels.
Also now available is a fact sheet in Spanish on Filing Whistleblower Complaints under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.