|July 15, 2010 · Volume 9, Issue 14|
|A twice monthly newsletter with information about workplace safety and health.|
In This Issue
At the direction of Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, three Department of Labor leaders visited the Gulf states July 7-9 to meet with workers impacted by BP's Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
The delegation included Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training Jane Oates, Wage and Hour Division Deputy Administrator Nancy Leppink and Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs Director Patricia Shiu. OSHA staff accompanied these DOL officials as they met with local fishermen, community-based organizations, and state and local government officials in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi. See the news release for their visit itinerary.
The OSHA personnel who participated in this visit are part of a group of more than 146 professionals monitoring BP's actions to protect workers throughout the Gulf region. In the nearly three months since cleanup operations began, OSHA has made more than 1,800 site visits, covering the vessels of opportunity, beach cleanup, staging areas, decontamination, distribution, and deployment sites. OSHA has also made more than 1,000 exposure assessments in these areas. To date, no air sampling by OSHA has detected hazardous chemicals at levels of concern. Heat stress continues to be the number one health concern, with more than 450 incidents, many serious.
As a result of its continuous reassessment of changing conditions in the Gulf, OSHA recently increased training requirements for crews in BP's vessels of opportunity program. Now, these workers must receive eight hours of training, provided free by BP and its contractors, to ensure they are familiar with safety and health hazards of all cleanup operations they may be asked to perform.
Workers hired to be supervisors of the onshore and marine cleanups are required to receive a rigorous 40-hour training program under OSHA's Hazardous Waste Operation and Emergency Response Standard. OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels issued a July 7 statement expressing concern that some providers of the 40-hour HAZWOPER course for supervisors may not be meeting OSHA requirements.
For more about training, as well as other safety and health issues related to cleanup operations in the Gulf, visit OSHA's recently redesigned oil spill response Web page. The new layout makes it easier to find information on topics including chemical exposure, hazards, and workers' rights, as well as worker safety and health publications in English, Spanish and Vietnamese.
Assistant Secretary David Michaels told the House Committee on Education and Labor that OSHA needs greater enforcement power to provide workers with the safety and health protection they deserve. Michaels testified at a July 13 hearing on the Miner Safety and Health Act (H.R. 5663). This legislation provides critical amendments to the OSH Act that would increase OSHA's civil and criminal penalties, enhance whistleblower protections and victims' rights, and give OSHA the authority to require abatement of serious hazards even if and while the employer contests citations issued for them. This legislation would also expand the rights of workers and victims' families. Michaels told the committee what he learned from his experiences talking to children, spouses and parents of workers killed on the job. "The only thing they want; the only thing they ask you to do is pass laws that contain the best possible protections, that prevent any other workers -- whether mine workers, refinery workers, construction workers, or hospital workers -- from losing their lives, from leaving their loved ones behind."
Imperial Sugar agrees to pay more than $6 million and overhaul worker protections after fatal 2008 explosion
OSHA announced July 7 that it resolved litigation with Imperial Sugar Co. stemming from the February 2008 explosion at its Port Wentworth, Ga., plant and safety and health violations the agency subsequently discovered at the company's Gramercy, La., facility. The February 2008 explosion killed 14 workers and seriously injured dozens of others. In the agreement, Imperial Sugar will pay $4,050,000 in penalties for the 124 violations found at its Port Wentworth plant after the explosion, plus an additional $2 million for 97 violations found at its Gramercy plant. This agreement requires Imperial Sugar to make extensive changes to its safety practices, and it underscores the importance of rigorously addressing workplace safety and health hazards. See the news release for more information.
DOL files first enterprise-wide complaint to eliminate electrical hazards throughout U.S. Postal Service
In a July 6 complaint, the Department of Labor asked the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission to order the U.S. Postal Service to correct electrical violations at 350 facilities nationwide. This is the first time DOL has sought enterprise-wide relief to protect workers. The department took this step after OSHA inspectors discovered numerous, similar electrical work safety violations at USPS mail processing and distribution facilities across the country. These violations exposed workers to risk of injury from shock, including electrocution. See the news release for more information on DOL's effort to provide enterprise-wide protection from injury and death to the nation's postal workers.
OSHA's new dedicated Web address for its whistleblower protection program -- www.whistleblowers.gov -- provides workers with easily accessible information about how to "blow the whistle" on unlawful practices in the workplace. The Web page provides information about worker rights and provisions under each of the whistleblower statutes and regulations OSHA enforces, program fact sheets and information on how to file a retaliation complaint with OSHA. "OSHA doesn't work unless workers feel secure in exercising their rights," said Assistant Secretary David Michaels. "This Web page is part of OSHA's promise to stand by those workers who have the courage to come forward when they know their employer is cutting corners on safety and health." See the news release for more information.
Organizations can apply online for $2.75 million in new targeted topic safety and health training grants
OSHA is soliciting applications for $2.75 million in Susan Harwood Training Grants. These grants will help organizations provide training and education programs related to 28 targeted areas, including crane safety, combustible dust, maritime, oil and gas, fall hazards and health and safety hazards in construction. Applications must be completed by the Aug. 6 deadline. As announced in the last issue of QuickTakes, applicants must register online before beginning the application process. See the news release for further information about applying, and OSHA's Susan Harwood Training Grant Web page to learn more about the program and download training materials created by past recipients.
OSHA's proposed Standards Improvement Project-III will revise and remove requirements within several OSHA standards that are outdated, duplicative or inconsistent. This rulemaking will help keep OSHA standards up-to-date and will help employers better understand their legal obligations to protect worker safety and health. These recommendations follow two previously successful SIP phases in 1998 and 2005 and evolved through the agency's review of its standards, public comments and recommendations from the Office of Management and Budget. The public may submit comments on the SIP-III proposed rule online, by mail or by fax. See the news release for more information.
Third stakeholder meeting on injury and illness prevention program filled to capacity