|August 1, 2011 · Volume 10, Issue 15|
|In this issue
In a continuing effort to improve the Whistleblower Protection Program, OSHA announced Aug. 1 that it is implementing additional measures to strengthen its Whistleblower Protection Program and releasing the report of its recent top-to-bottom review. OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of 21 statutes protecting employees who report violations of various workplace safety, airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime and securities laws.
"The ability of workers to speak out and exercise their legal rights without fear of retaliation is crucial to many of the legal protections and safeguards that all Americans value," said OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels. "The new measures will significantly strengthen OSHA's enforcement of the 21 whistleblower laws that Congress charged OSHA with administering."
Significant changes in the Whistleblower Protection Program announced by OSHA cover areas including restructuring, training, program policy and internal systems. See the news release for more information.
OSHA held two informal stakeholder meetings July 29 in
As record heat continued across the country, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis issued a heat alert July 20 on the dangers of working outdoors in extreme heat. "Employers must take the precautions needed to protect outdoor workers," said Secretary Solis. These precautions include: providing plenty of water at the job site; having scheduled rest breaks in shaded or air conditioned areas; and allowing new workers to gradually increase their workload. The Secretary has produced two public service announcement videos, one in English and one in Spanish, about OSHA's national Heat Illness Campaign.
Approximately 5,500 people watched Secretary Solis' public service message July 23 on the centerfield jumbotron at Prince George's Stadium in Bowie, Md., during a Bowie Baysox minor league baseball game. OSHA's Office of Communications staffed a Heat Illness Campaign exhibit in the stadium and distributed educational materials to spectators. Heat campaign publications and other online resources are available on OSHA's Web site. OSHA also partnered with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on weather service alerts to incorporate worker safety precautions when heat alerts are issued across the United States. In addition, NOAA is including pertinent worker safety information on its Heat Watch Web page.
OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels participated by video feed in a July 25 conference on "Ensuring and Strengthening Public Health Linkages in a Sustainable World," advocating that planners include worker safety and health in efforts to sustain the earth's resources. Michaels addressed a group of about 40 public health professionals attending a Roundtable on Environmental Health Sciences, Research, and Medicine in Woods Hole, Mass., hosted by the Institute of Medicine. Michaels described how workers are exposed to hazards in jobs that provide earth-friendly, sustainable products and services, such as manufacturing, installing and repairing wind turbines; working in recycling plants; and constructing Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified green buildings. He also noted how hospitals and other health care facilities have adopted sustainability measures that provide safer and healthier conditions for their workers, including using safer cleaning chemicals, installing better ventilation and designing or remodeling facilities with materials that reduce slips and falls.
OSHA held a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health (ACCSH) July 27-28 at DOL headquarters in Washington, D.C. OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels briefed the committee on the hazards of working with respirable crystalline silica and the upcoming rulemaking to protect workers from silica exposure. He also encouraged employers and workers to implement Injury and Illness Prevention Programs. The ACCSH committee made recommendations to OSHA that included moving forward with rulemaking to improve safety when workers are installing reinforcing steel and using post-tensioning methods to build concrete structures, and amending the personal protective equipment (PPE) standards in construction to make it clear that PPE must fit the employee--an especially important issue for women in construction.
OSHA held a meeting of the Maritime Advisory Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (MACOSH) July 19-20 at the San Diego Marriott Del Mar. MACOSH's Longshoring Workgroup addressed issues related to retrieving someone who has fallen into the water at a marine terminal, personal protective equipment (PPE), combustible dust in marine terminals, and working safely around cargo handling equipment, and recommended that OSHA consider developing a model plan for the longshore industry that addresses Injury and Illness Prevention Programs. The Shipyard Workgroup discussed issues including fire watch safety, proper ventilation, sewage tank safe practices, welding safety, eye injury prevention and heat stress, and reviewed OSHA's maritime Safety and Health Injury Prevention Sheets (SHIPS).
OSHA has produced a grain handling hazard card warning of the danger of being buried and suffocated when entering grain storage bins. The laminated wallet-sized card lists the OSHA-required precautions that must be taken whenever workers enter a grain storage bin. These include turning off and locking out augers and any other powered equipment in the bin, entering from a level at or above stored grain using a body harness with an anchored lifeline or boatswain chair, and testing the bin's air to ensure there is enough oxygen and no hazardous gas. The card may be ordered online.
OSHA cited Lone Star Bakery Inc. in China Grove, Texas, for the second time in four months for exposing workers to safety and health hazards, including failing to ensure that employees participate in a process safety management program, ensure piping and instrumentation diagrams are current and accurate, and use recognized and generally accepted engineering practices to protect tanks containing anhydrous ammonia. For the latest violations, the company faces 18 serious and three repeat violations and a fine of $199,600. See the news release for more information.
OSHA cited Advantage Powder Coating in Defiance, Ohio, for 15 safety violations and fined the company $159,600 after a pedestal grinder operator was killed when the abrasive wheel on the grinder exploded and struck the operator on the head. Two willful violations were cited for a lack of properly adjusted safety guards and work rests on pedestal grinders. OSHA placed Advantage Powder Coating in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP), which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law. Advantage Powder Coating was placed in the program for receiving two willful violations covered under the agency's National Emphasis Program on Amputations. See the news release for more information.
OSHA fined B&B Lumber Co. Inc. $152,100 and cited it for 35 alleged serious violations of workplace safety standards following the Feb. 7 death of a worker at the company's Jamesville, N.Y., sawmill. The worker, who was changing the blades on an edging saw, was killed when another employee inadvertently started the saw. OSHA's inspection found that the saw's power source had not been locked out, as required by OSHA's hazardous energy control, or "lockout/tagout," standard. That standard mandates that machines be shut down and their power sources locked out before employees perform maintenance. OSHA's inspection also identified several other hazardous conditions at the mill that exposed employees to the hazards of falls, electrocution, lacerations, amputation, being caught in moving machine parts and being unable to exit the workplace swiftly in the event of an emergency. See the news release for more information.
OSHA is co-sponsoring the first national conference on Eliminating Health and Safety Disparities at Work, Sept. 14-15 in Chicago. Other cosponsors include the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Institute on Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), as well as several clinical and research organizations. The conference will feature five White Papers: Work Organization; Workplace Injustice; Approaches to Education and Training; Health of the Low-Income Workforce; and Effects of Social, Economic, and Labor Policies. The goal is to bring together representatives from multiple disciplines and perspectives to understand the social, cultural and economic factors that create and perpetuate occupational health and safety disparities and to identify and share promising practices for eliminating disparities through innovative intervention programs. The conference also includes a Federal Panel on Environmental Justice Listening Session that will be held Sept. 15. Visit the conference Web site to register online.
The Sustainable Workplace Alliance is conducting free training classes, developed with funding from an OSHA Susan Harwood Targeted Topic Training Grant, about hazards involved in working with Spray Polyurethane Foam. This weather insulating and sealing agent contains isocyanates, potential human carcinogens that can cause work-related asthma. The three half-day training classes will provide in-depth information about the hazards involved in the use of Spray Polyurethane Foam and how to protect the health and safety of employees working with it. Each attendee will receive four PowerPoint presentations on CD, handouts and other valuable training-related tools--all available in English and Spanish. Classes will take place Aug. 15 in San Diego, Aug. 19 in Phoenix, and Aug. 23 in Denver. For more information or to register, visit the Sustainable Workplace Alliance Web site.