|June 15, 2015 · Volume 14, Issue 13|
For the fifth year, OSHA has partnered with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Weather Service to prevent heat-related deaths and illnesses.
Every year, dozens of workers die and thousands more become ill due to working in the heat. About one-third of heat-related worker deaths occur in the construction industry, but outdoor workers in every field – including agriculture, landscaping, transportation, and oil and gas operations - are susceptible to the dangers of heat.
In a June 10 call with meteorologists and weather reporters across the country, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels and the National Weather Service's Deputy Director Laura Furgione discussed the importance of protecting workers from dangers related to working in the heat.
As a result of a four year partnership between the National Weather Service and OSHA, important worker safety information is included in all NWS extreme heat alerts. Dr. Michaels asked the meteorologist to incorporate this worker safety message into their weather broadcasts. "We need your help in getting the word out that employers are responsible for providing workplaces that are safe from excessive heat. This means providing regular breaks for workers so they can cool down, and ensuring regular access to water so workers can stay hydrated."
"We have found that most work-related heat deaths occur in the first few days of working in the heat," said Michaels. "That's why it's important for employers to allow workers to gradually build tolerance to the heat. This is true for new, temporary, and even seasoned workers who have been away from the heat for a week or more, or at the beginning of a heat wave."
OSHA also worked with the National Weather Service to develop a smartphone heat safety app that allows users to calculate risk levels at a worksite and learn the protective measures needed to prevent heat illness. Almost 200,000 people have downloaded the app so far.
The app was updated this spring for Apple devices, with full screen color alerts, improved navigation and accessibility options. This improved version let you know instantly if you are in a high risk zone due to heat and humidity—and precautions that need to be taken to prevent heat-related illness.
Executive Order on Chemical Safety: Update
A working group of federal agencies has issued a fact sheet on progress made to improve the safety and security of chemical facilities in the United States.
The fact sheet updates last year’s report by the working group that was formed as a result of President Obama's Executive Order 13650 in August 2013. The Executive Order directed six government agencies to coordinate their efforts to prevent chemical plant disasters such as the April 17, 2013, West Fertilizer Co. explosion in Texas that killed 15 people and injured 160 others.
More information is available on OSHA's website.
The owner of a Pennsylvania roofing company was indicted by the U.S. Attorney's office in Philadelphia with making false statements, obstructing justice and willfully violating OSHA fall protection standards in connection with the fatal fall of an employee in June 2013. According to the indictment, the owner failed to provide fall protection equipment to his employees, and then gave false information to OSHA investigators. If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison, three years of supervised release, $1.5 million in fines, and a $510 special assessment. See the Department of Justice news release for more information.
Less than two years after agreeing to address safety violations in a settlement with OSHA, Case Farms Processing in Ohio was found to be exposing workers to the same dangerous machinery hazards. "This inspection demonstrates that the company has failed to meet the goals outlined in the 2013 agreement," said Deborah Zubaty, area director of OSHA's Columbus office. She called it "disheartening setback for worker safety" at the poultry plant. The company received one willful, four repeated and one other-than-serious violation with proposed penalties of $126,500. See the news release for more information.
A Pennsylvania construction company with a history of OSHA violations was cited for exposing employees to numerous scaffolding and electrocution hazards at two worksites. Inspections at both sites were prompted by imminent danger notifications just three weeks apart. OSHA cited the company for eight violations, including seven willful, with proposed penalties totaling $470,300. The company, DMAC Construction, and a previous company under the same owner’s control, had been placed in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program following citations in 2011 and 2013. See the news release for more information.
An OSHA inspection prompted by the crushing death of an employee at a Texas chemical manufacturing facility in Texas found 18 serious and nine other-than-serious violations, resulting in a proposed penalty of $63,000. "Venture Chemicals allowed workers to operate dangerous equipment without appropriate protective measures, and a worker died because of it," said Elizabeth Linda Routh, OSHA's area director in Lubbock. The investigation resulted in citations for build-up of combustible dust, electrical violations that could have started a fire, and creating the possibility of amputation or other serious injury by failing to include protective equipment, among others. Please see the news release for more information.
OSHA staff visited several sites in Texas to ensure that people engaged in cleanup and recovery operations after the recent floods remained safe and healthy. In the area of Wimberly, Texas, inspectors from OSHA's Austin Office consulted with volunteers of the American Red Cross and Salvation Army and gave recovery workers materials on chain saw safety, mold, decontamination procedures, heat stress, removing debris, poisonous snakes and filling, moving and placing sandbags.
OSHA inspectors also met with local emergency response officials near Luling, Texas. OSHA Compliance Assistance Specialist Jim Shelton gave a hurricane presentation at the Chinese Community Center in Houston and staffed a booth at the Hurricane Workshop at the city's Downtown Convention Center.
In Arkansas, OSHA's Compliance Assistance Specialist Mary Walter provided the state's Department of Emergency Management with materials on flood disaster clean-up safety, to be distributed to the 14 flood-effected counties within Southeast Arkansas.
OSHA urges everyone engaged in flood cleanup — employers, workers and the public — to avoid potential hazards and take steps to protect themselves. Before entering buildings or structures after a flood, an assessment of the potential hazards and exposure must be done so employers can ensure that workers, at a minimum, are provided with education on the hazards they face and how to protect themselves. In addition to dangers such as structural collapse and mold exposure, workplaces may have many other serious safety threats, including chemical exposure.
OSHA’s regional office in Dallas participated in a May 5 event organized by the Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division for a visiting European delegation. During the event, OSHA Labor Liaison Sandra Boudloche met with counselors from several European embassies currently stationed in Washington, D.C. Dignitaries travelled to Texas to learn about workplace issues specific to industries including commercial and residential construction, manufacturing where hexavalent chromium and isocyanates are present (spray finishing; welding, and dipping operations), oil and gas drilling operations, shipbreaking, and lumber production. The higher rate of fatalities among Hispanic workers was also discussed.
In addition to workplace issues, dignitaries gained an understanding of enforcement strategies at local levels, and issues regarding labor relations.
The European delegation included dignitaries from the embassies of Germany, France and Spain. Boudloche met with the counselors and gave a presentation that included a general overview of OSHA, a description of the agency's function and activities, inspection procedures, and enforcement strategies and programs.
OSHA is continuing its partnership with Health Canada to align United States and Canadian regulatory approaches to classifying hazardous workplace chemicals and communicating hazard information. The organizations will work together to reduce inconsistencies among hazard communication regulations and provide concise information to protect workers exposed to chemicals without reducing current protections.
The goal of the partnership is to implement a system using one label and one safety data sheet acceptable in both countries. OSHA and Health Canada signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2013 to promote ongoing collaboration on implementing the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals in their respective jurisdictions.
For more information, read the news release.
On June 1, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels attended the 31st International Congress on Occupational Health held in Gangnam-gu, Seoul.
More than 3,000 people from more than 120 countries attended to share research findings, discuss policies and compare experiences in supporting safe and healthy workplaces all across the world.
During his visit to Korea, Dr. Michaels met with representatives from the Korean Occupational Safety and Health Agency and the Korean Ministry of Employment and Labor. He also joined representatives from EU OSHA and Singapore OSHA in meeting with ten developing Asian countries. Michaels met with the Korea University of Technology and Education President Kim Kiyoung and spoke to students about the responsibility of scientists, the role of government in protecting public safety.
"Ensuring that workers have safe and healthy workplaces is a universal challenge, not confined to one country or one occupational sector,' said Michaels. "I firmly believe that collaboration across borders and oceans can help save lives, reduce injuries and make workplaces safer and healthier."
For more about Dr. Michaels' visit to Korea, see his recent blog.
OSHA has two new additions to its Fatal Facts series that describes cases where employers failed to identify and correct hazardous working conditions before they led to deaths at their worksites. One was created in response to an incident where two 14-year-old temporary workers were electrocuted, and other teenage workers received electrical shock injuries, when one worker touched an electrified irrigation structure in a corn field. The second is based on an incident involving a temporary worker in a marine cargo warehouse who fell to the bottom of a sugar hopper where he was engulfed by sugar and suffocated.
OSHA also released new fact sheets on the rights of workers to file whistleblower complaints under various statutes enforced by the agency. These include Environmental Protection Agency whistleblower protection provisions under the Solid Waste Disposal Act, Toxic Substances Control Act and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act. Another new fact sheet describes workers’ whistleblower rights under Section 11(c) of the OSH Act.
The National STEPS network, an OSHA Alliance partner, has issued a hazard alert to better protect workers conducting storage tank gauging, sampling and fluid transfer activities at oil and well sites. The alert was developed through OSHA’s alliance with the National Service Transmission, Exploration and Production Safety Network and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
The alert describes potential hazards and effects of exposure to hydrocarbon gases when storage tank hatches are opened. It outlines what employers must do to protect workers, including conducting exposure and hazard assessments, establishing safety procedures, and providing training. The hazard alert also outlines steps that workers can take to stay safe on the job, including wearing personal protective equipment, immediately reporting suspected health symptoms, and following their employer’s safe work practices.
For more information, visit OSHA's Oil and Gas Extraction Safety and Health Topics page.
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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