|September 1, 2011 · Volume 10, Issue 17|
|In this issue
OSHA is providing technical assistance and outreach on worker safety and health issues to those areas hardest hit by both the flooding and downed trees and power lines caused by Hurricane Irene. As residents along the east coast of the United States and Puerto Rico recover from Irene's impact, OSHA is urging workers and members of the public engaged in hurricane cleanup activities to be aware of the hazards they might encounter and the steps they should take to protect themselves. OSHA's Hurricane Response and Recovery Web page provides information on precautions that workers and employers should take during hurricane clean up operations. The page contains fact sheets, concise "QuickCards," frequently asked questions, safety and health guides and additional information in English and Spanish.
OSHA also unveiled a new Floods Web page to assist workers and the public on how to make an evacuation plan, emergency supply kits, and flood watches and warnings. The page also provides guidance on the hazards when flooding occurs, such as areas to avoid when using a vehicle, and safety and health hazards such as downed electrical lines, mold and wild animals.
Preliminary results from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries show little change in the number of workplace fatalities in 2010 compared with 2009. Last year, 4,547 workers died from work-related injuries, down from a final count of 4,551 fatal work injuries in 2009.
"No worker should have to sacrifice his or her life to earn a living," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis in a statement. "An average of 12 workers die on the job every day, and that reality continues to drive the work of the Labor Department. When the Occupational Safety and Health Act was passed in 1970, the National Safety Council estimated that 14,000 workers died each year on the job. Now, with a workforce that has doubled in size, the annual number of fatalities has dropped significantly. But it's not enough. We cannot relent from our enforcement of laws that keep our nation's workers safe. One worker killed or injured on the job is one too many." Full details of the National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries are available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis signed declarations on August 29 in Washington, D.C. with the ambassadors of Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and El Salvador to protect the labor rights of migrant workers from those countries who are employed in the United States. Also attending the ceremony were the ambassadors of Mexico, Nicaragua and Guatemala, who previously signed agreements with the Labor Department. The event was held on the first day of Labor Rights Week, during which the Labor Department and a network of 50 Mexican consulates across the country work together to educate migrant workers and their employers. Under the declarations, the embassies and consulates of the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica and El Salvador will cooperate with the regional enforcement offices of OSHA and DOL's Wage and Hour Division to distribute information about U.S. health, safety and wage laws.
In conjunction with the declarations, OSHA Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels signed letters of agreement declaring that OSHA will continue efforts to improve workplace safety and health conditions as well as provide outreach and assistance to Spanish-speaking workers and employers. Nancy J. Leppink, acting administrator of DOL's Wage and Hour Division, also signed letters of agreement that focus on protecting the rights of migrant workers in low-wage industries such as hospitality and agriculture. See the news release in English or Spanish for more information.
OSHA ordered Union Pacific Railroad to pay $615,215 to three employees for violating their whistleblower rights. Separate investigations by OSHA's Kansas City and San Francisco offices determined that the railroad violated the whistleblower provisions of the Federal Railroad Safety Act by terminating two employees and suspending one in retaliation for reporting workplace safety concerns and a work related injury. "Workers have the right to report work-related injuries and safety concerns without fear of retaliation," said OSHA Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels. See the news release for more details.
OSHA also ordered Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Co. of Seattle to pay an employee more than $300,000 in damages after the employee was suspended for filing a complaint with OSHA. The employee alleged that she was suspended without pay for 30 days after notifying the company of a work-related injury. OSHA's investigation substantiated the allegation and found reasonable cause to believe that the railroad had retaliated against the worker in violation of the Federal Railroad Safety Act's whistleblower protection provisions. See the news release for more information.
U.S. District Court Judge John Gorman ordered All-Feed Processing & Packaging Inc. to allow OSHA to inspect its Alpha, Ill., facilities or face significant fines. After finding the company in contempt for failing to allow OSHA to inspect its pet food research and packaging facility in Galva, Ill., the judge imposed a daily fine of $500 that began on May 4. Following a January inspection, OSHA fined All-Feed $167,090 and cited the company for repeatedly failing to provide respirators and monitor workers' exposure to dust at the Galva facility. Those violations qualified the company for placement in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which focuses enforcement resources on employers with a history of safety violations that endanger workers by demonstrating indifference to their responsibilities under the law. See the news release for more information.
OSHA secured a consent order and injunction requiring Sousa Contractors Inc. to comply with OSHA regulations at a West Windsor, N.J., construction site by providing fall protection equipment to employees working from heights of 6 feet or greater as well as proper scaffolding for employees who are installing roof trusses. OSHA cited the framing contractor in June for exposing employees to fall hazards and proposed $107,900 in penalties. Subsequently, inspectors repeatedly observed workers placed in imminent danger--one that could reasonably be expected to cause death or serious physical harm--while installing roof trusses approximately 35 feet above the ground without any fall protection.
The U.S. District Court order and injunction also include requirements that the company retain an experienced independent safety consultant for the duration of the work at the West Windsor site; have a foreman, manager or consultant who has completed OSHA's 30-hour construction safety course supervise work on all of the company's work sites; provide OSHA's 10-hour construction safety course to all employees; and notify OSHA of every construction project that is projected to take more than one week to complete. Sousa Contractors also is required to pay all outstanding penalties imposed by OSHA. See the news release for more information.
The Department of Labor has enhanced its online enforcement database to improve public access to DOL's enforcement actions. New features include map displays of inspection and violation data from OSHA and the Mine Safety and Health Administration as well as the ability to view individual inspection records and the enforcement history of a particular company or mine. "These improvements to our online enforcement database are part of our commitment to open, transparent enforcement," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. In addition to mapping capabilities, the updated site allows users to easily view important agency metrics; perform keyword searches; filter data by year, violations or penalties; and export search results or an entire data set into downloadable formats.
OSHA's narrated Residential Fall Protection slide presentation is the latest compliance assistance tool available to help the residential construction industry comply with the requirements of the agency's Fall Protection standard. The presentation describes safety methods for preventing injuries and deaths from falls, and explains techniques currently used by employers during various stages of construction. These techniques include the use of bracket scaffolds, anchors, safety net systems, safety harnesses and lines, and guardrails for activities such as installing roof trusses and sheathing, decking, reroofing and installing walls, among others. Falls are the leading cause of death for workers involved in residential construction. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2009 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries showed that 78 workers died from falls while constructing residential buildings. OSHA hopes the presentation will help employers protect their workers and reverse this deadly trend.
OSHA's area offices in Florida joined construction companies in a state-wide effort to educate construction workers about the serious dangers of heat illness when working outdoors. Companies stopped work on job sites around the state Aug. 15 to talk to their workers about preventing such illness. A Heat Illness Prevention Seminar, held Aug. 12, provided employers throughout South Florida with the resources and tools necessary to teach their employees about the importance of staying hydrated during the hot summer months, taking frequent and regular rest periods, and taking those breaks in shaded areas. See the slideshow on the OSHA Web site.
OSHA initiated its national Heat Illness Prevention Campaign to educate workers and their employers about the hazards of working outdoors in the heat. Online resources include educational materials, a curriculum for workplace training and print ads in color and black & white, all available in English and Spanish. Multiple copies of heat campaign publications can be ordered from OSHA's Web site. OSHA recently unveiled a smartphone heat safety tool app that allows users to calculate their worksite heat index and provides descriptions of the corresponding protective measures necessary to prevent heat related illnesses.
OSHA will hold a meeting Sept. 20-21 of the Maritime Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (MACOSH) at the Eastland Park Hotel in Portland, Maine. Work groups will meet Sept. 20 and the full committee will meet Sept. 21. The MACOSH agenda will include discussions on person in water (man overboard); cargo handling equipment; confined space ventilation; selection of welding shade protection; safe entry and cleaning practices in vessel sewage tanks; best practices in eye injury reduction; toxic materials; and injury and illness prevention programs. MACOSH meetings are open to the public. Individuals have until Sept. 14 to submit comments and requests to speak by mail, fax or online through the Federal eRulemaking Portal. See the notice in the Sept. 2 Federal Register for details.
OSHA issued a hazard alert, warning workers and employers of the dangers of using certain Eaton/Cutler-Hammer molded-case circuit breakers that were incorrectly rebuilt. A third-party rebuilder may have altered the circuit breakers--identified by model numbers E²K and E²KM--by using incorrect parts that can cause the breakers to malfunction.
The breakers were originally manufactured by Eaton/Cutler-Hammer as part of its E² mining series breakers. The circuit breakers may appear to be new or properly rebuilt, but the third party rebuilder changed them from the manufacturer's original design. The alert includes instructions for what employers should do if their worksites are using the affected breakers, such as having a qualified person shut off power to the breakers, following proper lockout/tagout procedures, removing this equipment from service and replacing it with one that a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL) has properly certified. See the news release for more information.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has issued a new standard to prevent tragedies like the 2010 explosion at the construction site of the Kleen Energy Systems LLC power plant in Middletown, Conn., that killed six workers and injured nearly 50 others. The 2012 edition of NFPA's Standard for Fire and Explosion Prevention During Cleaning and Purging of Flammable Gas Piping Systems applies to fire and explosion prevention during cleaning and purging activities for new and existing flammable gas piping found in electric-generating plant, industrial, institutional and commercial applications. Among other provisions, the standard prohibits the use of flammable gas for internal cleaning of piping systems and requires the development of written safety procedures.
OSHA issued $16.6 million in penalties for 364 workplace safety violations to 15 on-site contractors following the Kleen Energy power plant explosion. The blast occurred when flammable natural gas under high pressure was used to clean new fuel lines. The gas was vented into areas where it could not easily disperse, contacted an ignition source and exploded. Employers had allowed welding and other work to continue nearby at the time, creating an extremely dangerous situation.
OSHA fined contractor Affordable Engineering Services LLC $51,850 and cited the company for 12 serious safety and health violations related to exposing workers at Hill Air Force Base in Ogden, Utah to hazardous contaminants. OSHA inspected the base in January under its Federal Agency Targeting Inspection Program, which focuses on federal work sites with a high number of work-related injuries and illnesses. Affordable Engineering Services provides aircraft maintenance for the U.S. Air Force. The serious violations include exposing workers to air contaminants including hexavalent chromium, cadmium and methylene chloride; lack of engineering controls for air contaminants; lack of engineering controls for noise exposures; and inadequate medical surveillance for employees exposed to hexavalent chromium and cadmium. See the news release for more information.
In 2010, OSHA sent Gate Precast Company, of Kissimmee, Fla., a Site-Specific Targeting letter due to an elevated injury and illness incident rate at the company. The letter recommended that the company take advantage of the free consultative services offered as part of OSHA's On-site Consultation Program. After entering into a relationship with OSHA's On-site Consultation, the managers at Gate Precast wanted to take their safety and health program to a higher level at the Kissimmee plant. They wanted to greatly improve their knowledge regarding OSHA standards and standards interpretations; strengthen their safety and health programs, policies and procedures; and find ways to better communicate this information to their employees and associates. According to Gate Precast's safety manager, managers and their employees were eager to work with OSHA Consultation to accomplish this goal.
The company started by correcting all of the hazards identified and communicated by OSHA Consultation within the agreed-upon timeframe. Next, the company began to hold daily, instead of weekly, safety meetings. Everyone in the company--plant manager, vice president, steel shop/safety manager, supervisors, foremen/leads, and employees--became involved in the process of hazard recognition, communication and prevention. In 2011, one year after contacting OSHA On-site Consultation, the Gate Precast Company's Kissimmee Plant, and three other sister plants, have succeeded in achieving recognition in OSHA's Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP). See the online success story for more information.
The New York Department of Labor's Division of Safety and Health is cosponsoring the 5th annual Safe Patient Handling Conference October 18-19 at the Albany Marriott Hotel in Albany, NY. This conference will showcase proven practices to safely lift, reposition and transfer patients, residents or people being cared for in residential and community settings, using new and emerging technology. This year the agenda includes Resident Handling and Equipment Solutions which is part of a Safe Resident Handling Training program developed by the Western New York Council on Occupational Safety and Health and funded by a Susan Harwood grant. Visit the conference Web site to >register by October 7 or contact Carmela Sarcinelli at 716-847-7133 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Oregon's Occupational Safety and Health Division (Oregon OSHA) and the Central Oregon Safety and Health Association will hold their annual Central Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Conference Sept. 21-22 in Redmond. Oregon OSHA encourages workers and employers to attend the event to help improve safety and health performance. The conference will feature a number of new safety topics for first responders as well as topics including safe spray finishing, top elements of a good safety program and emergency preparedness. Visit Oregon OSHA's conference Web page for more information and to register online.
Washington state will hold its annual forklift rodeo at the 60th Annual Governor's Industrial Safety and Health Conference September 28-29. Fifteen professional forklift drivers will compete in this statewide event meant to encourage safety among forklift operators and raise awareness of the hazards associated with forklift use. The rodeo includes a written exam, pre-drive inspection and a skills demonstration on an obstacle course. Each year, tens of thousands of injuries related to forklifts, also known as powered industrial trucks (PITs), occur in U.S. workplaces.
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