|August 15, 2011 · Volume 10, Issue 16|
|In this issue
Tempel Grain Elevators LLP pled guilty August 5 to violating OSHA regulations resulting in the death of 17-year-old Cody Rigsby, who suffocated after being engulfed in a grain bin in Haswell, Colo. The company was also sentenced to five years probation. Under a plea agreement with prosecutors, the company must pay Rigsby's family $500,000 for his 2009 death and must pay fines to OSHA. The company must also implement safety provisions that include providing safety training and refresher training to its employees, and developing a procedure that includes harnesses and lanyards or similar safety equipment in anticipation of bin entry at any of its grain elevators. If Tempel Grain violates any of the terms or conditions of probation they would be potentially liable for up to another $500,000 fine.
"This is a terrible tragedy that should never have happened," said OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels. "We are pleased to reach this agreement. Money won't bring back this young man's life, but we can make every effort to ensure that these terrible tragedies don't happen again. We will use any means--from tough enforcement to aggressive outreach efforts--to put this industry on notice that we will not tolerate risking workers lives in hazardous situations that are entirely preventable." For more information see the news release.
OSHA invites employers and workers to use its new Heat Safety Tool smartphone app, the first developed by OSHA. The app is designed for devices using an Android platform, and versions for BlackBerry and iPhone users will be released shortly. The app, which can be downloaded for free in English or Spanish, allows users to calculate their worksite heat index, determined by a combination of high temperature and humidity. Based on the heat index, the app displays a risk level to outdoor workers. With a simple click, the user can access reminders about the measures that should be taken at the indicated risk level to protect the user from heat-related illness. Users are prompted with reminders about drinking enough fluids, scheduling rest breaks, planning for and knowing what to do in an emergency, adjusting work operations, gradually building up the workload for new workers, training on heat illness signs and symptoms, and monitoring each other for signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses.
OSHA also issued a new Web-based tool, "Using the Heat Index: Employer Guidance," that instructs employers about using the heat index to calculate and address risks posed to workers.
Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis spread the word about OSHA's national Campaign to Prevent Heat Illness in Outdoor Workers during recent visits to New Mexico and Utah. The Secretary visited with agricultural workers in Albuquerque and participated in a training session on the dangers of working in extreme heat during an Aug. 10 visit to HELP-New Mexico, a community development organization that provides training and education for low-income families. The Secretary then unveiled OSHA's new Heat Safety smartphone app (see story above) during an Aug. 11 press event at OSHA's Salt Lake Technical Center in Salt Lake City. Solis was visiting the Technical Center to meet with OSHA staff, tour the agency's analytical laboratory facilities and see specialized field response equipment belonging to OSHA's Health Response Team.
OSHA further helped educate workers and their employers about the hazards of working outdoors in the heat during an Aug. 3 event that took place across Georgia. OSHA and the Georgia Branch of the Associated General Contractors joined 31 construction companies in the state on a day of record-setting heat to stop work and hold meetings with their workers on the steps needed to prevent heat-related illnesses. See the news release for more on this collaborative effort to protect outdoor workers from the hazards of heat exposure.
OSHA launched a new Safety and Health Topics page on Occupational Noise Exposure to provide resources to prevent noise-related hearing loss, which has been listed as one of the most prevalent occupational health concerns in the United States for more than 25 years. Approximately 30 million people in the United States are occupationally exposed to hazardous noise and thousands of workers every year suffer from preventable hearing loss due to high workplace noise levels. The new Web page provides information on the health effects of hazardous noise exposure and comprehensive information on controls to prevent hearing loss.
OSHA issued a Hazard Alert about the deadly dangers to workers of engulfment and suffocation while working inside grain storage bins. Grain bins are used to store bulk raw agricultural commodities such as corn, wheat and oats. Workers who enter bins can be engulfed and suffocated if they stand on moving or flowing grain, which can act like "quicksand" and pull a worker under; if they stand on or below "bridged" grain, which can collapse and bury workers; or if they try to loosen grain, which can cave in on workers. The Hazard Alert describes how workers may become engulfed in grain bins and lists the precautions that employers must take under OSHA's Grain Handling Facility standard to protect workers. These include disconnecting equipment that presents a danger; prohibiting workers from walking on the grain to make it flow; providing workers with personal protective and rescue equipment; and requiring an observer outside the bin who can perform rescue operations. A fact sheet and wallet-sized card on preventing grain bin suffocations are also available from OSHA's Publications Web page. (Illustration: John A. Kramer, Safety Measures in Handling Stored Grain, Kansas State University.)
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) developed its STOP STICKS campaign to raise awareness about the risk of exposure to bloodborne pathogens such as HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C from needlesticks and other sharps-related injuries in the workplace. Sharps injuries are a significant injury and health hazard for health care workers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that about 385,000 sharps-related injuries occur annually among health care workers in hospitals. The STOP STICKS campaign's goal is to prepare and motivate health care workers to make the changes needed to reduce sharps injuries. OSHA's Safety and Health Topics page on Bloodborne Pathogens and Needlestick Prevention includes a link to NIOSH's STOP STICKS campaign site.
OSHA ordered Metro North Commuter Railroad Co. of New York to pay $141,651 to an employee the company discriminated against by classifying his on-the-job injury as not being work-related and denying him a promotion for which he had previously applied. The worker filed a complaint with OSHA under the Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA) after Metro North classified his injury as not work-related even though it occurred on the job, which forced him to pay out of pocket for injury-related medical expenses. OSHA's investigation determined that both the injury misclassification and the promotion denial constituted discrimination against the worker. See the news release for more details.
OSHA also ordered Norfolk Southern Railway Co. of Greensburg, N.C., to pay a former employee $122,199 after finding that the company violated the employee's rights under the whistleblower provisions of the FRSA. The employee was initially injured while removing a spike from the rail line. Fearing loss of employment, the worker did not report the injury until a re-injury occurred and, at the suggestion of management, the employee saw a doctor. After returning to work, the employee was suspended and later terminated for allegedly falsifying the injury. A complaint was submitted to OSHA which determined that not only were the employee's rights under the FRSA violated, the company also successfully intimidated other employees from reporting on-the-job injuries. See the news release for details.
Hyde Electric Corp. of Philadelphia, Pa., was ordered to pay $150,000 in lost wages and benefits to three employees after OSHA found the company in violation of the anti-retaliation provision of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. The company was contracted by the School District of Philadelphia to replace a high school fire alarm system. The workers filed a complaint with OSHA alleging they were laid off in retaliation for making a complaint with the company about an alleged occupational hazard. An OSHA investigation determined that the layoffs were in retaliation for engaging in protected activity under the OSH Act. See the news release for more information.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of 21 statutes protecting employees who report violations of workplace safety and health, various airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime and securities laws. Employees who believe they have been retaliated against for engaging in protected conduct may file a complaint requesting an investigation by OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Program.
California OSHA (Cal/OSHA) issued 11 citations totaling $371,250 to Baxter Healthcare Corporation, doing business as Baxter Bioscience, for deliberate and willful workplace safety violations that resulted in the death of one of their technicians and serious injury of two others. On January 21, a 33-year-old Baxter technician collapsed when he entered a seven-foot-deep, 6,000 liter tank containing nitrogen gas. Air in the tank had been displaced by the nitrogen gas resulting in an oxygen deficient atmosphere. OSHA regulations require employers to have special protective procedures in place prior to employees entering these types of confined spaces. In this case, the employer had not tested the atmosphere prior to entrance to insure there was sufficient oxygen, which led to the technician's death. Cal/OSHA's investigation further revealed that when the technician was discovered, a supervisor ordered two other employees to enter the tank and retrieve him, without testing the atmosphere of the tank or providing proper equipment and other safeguards necessary for a safe rescue. As a result, the two other employees were seriously injured. See the news release for more information.
OSHA cited Meadow Gold Dairies of Englewood, Colo., with 43 violations and subcontractor Tolin Mechanical of Denver with four violations following an inspection conducted under OSHA's Site-Specific Targeting for high hazard work sites, as well as its National Emphasis Program on facilities with hazardous chemicals. Meadow Gold was fined $300,300 for violations that included willfully exposing employees to a potential hazardous release of anhydrous ammonia due to a failure to implement a required mechanical integrity program. The company was also cited with a repeat violation for hazards associated with inadequate procedures for de-energizing equipment (lockout/tagout) prior to performing maintenance activity. Tolin Mechanical was fined $26,000 and cited for failing to properly train employees on emergency procedures and failing to ensure employees had adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). See the news release for more information.
OSHA fined AFL Quality Inc., doing business as AFL Web Printing, $170,000 and cited the company for 26 safety and health violations following an inspection in response to an employee complaint about hazards at its Voorhees, N.J., facility. AFL was cited for willfully violating OSHA's machine guarding standard. The company was also cited for repeat violations for failing to use listed or labeled equipment, and failing to conduct a periodic inspection of lockout/tagout procedures for energy sources to safeguard workers from the unexpected startup of machinery during servicing or maintenance. Additional serious violations included failing to properly store gas containers; failing to provide employees with chemical-resistant gloves, safety goggles and face shields; and failing to remove damaged or defective items. See the news release for more information.
OSHA fined Enterprise Products Transportation Co. $160,000 and cited the company for 32 safety and health violations following a worker fatality at the facility's Freeport, Texas, tank wash operation. OSHA initiated an inspection after receiving a report that a worker had been found, unresponsive, inside a tank trailer that was being prepared to be washed. The employee was removed from the tank trailer by a coworker, but later died. Inspectors cited the company for serious violations for failing to provide the required respiratory protection in a confined space and for not ensuring that chemicals were safely stored. See the news release for more information.
OSHA's Enforcement Web page now contains a new section that lists all the Local Emphasis Programs (LEPs) currently active across the country. LEPs are enforcement strategies designed and implemented at the regional office and/or area office levels. These programs are intended to address hazards or industries that pose a particular risk to workers in the office's jurisdiction. These LEPs are often accompanied by outreach intended to make employers in the area aware of the program as well as the hazards that the programs are designed to reduce or eliminate. The new Web page lists more than 150 LEPs, divided by Region, with links to the directives establishing each one. See OSHA's Enforcement Web page for more information.
OSHA and the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) formed an Alliance Aug. 8 that focuses on preventing worker exposures to electrical, crane and fall hazards in the wind energy industry. During the two-year agreement, the Alliance participants intend to develop materials for workers that address wind energy maintenance and operations hazards. The participants will also hold forums to discuss these hazards that can expose workers to harm and raise awareness among workers and employers of OSHA's rulemaking and enforcement initiatives through sharing information on workplace safety and health standards. OSHA's Green Jobs Hazards Web page describes workplace hazards and worker safety and health information in the wind energy industry and other green industries--including solar, geothermal energy, recycling, and weather insulating/sealing. Through the Alliance Program, OSHA works with groups committed to worker safety and health to prevent workplace fatalities, injuries and illnesses. See the news release for more information.
The Haskell Company, a construction company with nationwide and international operations, contacted OSHA's On-site Consultation Program to visit its construction projects and review them for compliance with safety standards. The OSHA On-site Consultation Program is a free and confidential service that small and medium-sized businesses may use to improve their safety and health performance. As a result of Haskell's interaction with the On-site Consultation Program, the company enhanced its overall safety program through implementation of recommended improvements and reduced injuries and compliance citations corporate-wide. One of the specific benefits of Haskell's participation in OSHA's On-site Consultation Program was that the company developed better procedures for managing the safety and health performance of its subcontractors. These improvements included reviewing their subcontractors' overall safety and health program and training as well as the qualifications of competent persons on work sites. See the online success story for more information.
OSHA's photo contest celebrating the agency's 40th anniversary ended Aug. 12. Picture It! Safe Workplaces for Everyone challenged anyone with a passion for photography to capture an image of workplace safety and health and share it with OSHA. Samples of the more than 300 entries submitted since the contest launched in May can be viewed at Flickr.com. Entries will be judged by a panel that includes photography, workplace safety and communications experts from within and outside the Labor Department. The winning and finalist photos will be posted on the photo contest site in September.
The American Society of Safety Engineers' (ASSE) Women in Safety Engineering (WISE) Common Interest Group has honored OSHA Chief of Staff Debbie Berkowitz for making a difference in the safety, health and environmental field as part of the WISE ‘100 Women, Making a Difference in Safety' project. WISE recognized Berkowitz for her work at OSHA, where she "assists in making changes to benefit the health, safety and well-being of millions of workers across the United States." The ‘100 Women, Making a Difference in Safety' project honors women who, throughout history, have dedicated their careers to promoting innovation in safety, health and environmental issues. See the news release for more information.
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Editor: Richard De Angelis, OSHA Office of Communications, 202-693-1999.
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