|September 15, 2010 · Volume 9, Issue 18|
|A twice monthly newsletter with information about workplace safety and health.|
In This Issue
OSHA recently awarded $8 million in Susan Harwood Safety and Health Capacity Building Training Grants to 45 organizations, including nonprofit and community/faith-based groups, employer associations, labor unions, joint labor/management associations, colleges and universities. The grantees will provide safety and health programs that educate workers and employers in industries with high injury and fatality rates. The primary focus is on hard to reach and vulnerable populations, such as workers with limited English proficiency and low literacy rates, young workers and small business employers. These grants fund longer term programs that build safety and health competency within organizations. See the news release for more information on the latest grant recipients.
The Susan Harwood Training Grant Program helps to provide workers in high-risk industries with training about job hazards and their rights. This program also provides employers with crucial information about unsafe working conditions, mitigation strategies and their responsibilities to protect workers from on the job injuries, illnesses and deaths. OSHA's Web site offers worker safety training materials created by past Susan Harwood Grant winners that are tailored to meet the needs of specific training audiences and are available in a variety of formats in both English and Spanish.
OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels sent a warning letter to natural gas power plant operators to prevent potential tragedies, such as the Feb. 7 gas explosion at the Kleen Energy plant in Middletown, Conn. Six workers were killed and 50 others were injured by the blast. OSHA fined the responsible construction contractors $16.6 million.
The Aug. 27 letter reminds employers at gas power plant facilities of their responsibility for eliminating or controlling hazards that may kill or injure their workers. It warns that the practice of using natural gas blows to clean piping systems is inherently dangerous. OSHA strongly recommends the use of non-flammable, non-explosive alternative media when it is necessary to use gas to clean piping. Employers involved in building or renovating gas powered electrical generation plants who elect to use a gas blow procedure despite OSHA's recommendation must evaluate and address all potential hazards and take effective action to eliminate worker exposure to those hazards. Such actions include venting the natural gas vertically and above all structures, eliminating all ignition sources, removing all non-essential workers from the site, and monitoring potentially hazardous atmospheres during and after completion of the blows. The Kleen Energy tragedy could have been easily avoided if the employers there had used common sense, adhered to OSHA standards and industry-accepted safety procedures, and followed internal safety rules.
OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels honored both living and fallen workers at the former site of the World Trade Center during a Sept. 2 "Rebuilding Through Unity" event. He recognized construction workers, employers, labor leaders, insurance representatives and OSHA staff for their commitment to worker safety and health at Ground Zero in his remarks.
"We are in awe of what happened here nine years ago, and we hold great reverence for the lost lives that consecrated this ground," Michaels said. "Now, on this site, workers are building a monument to those lives, a symbol of American resilience, and a testament to human engineering. I also hope that this building will stand as a towering monument to worker safety."
Michaels stressed the importance of labor and management cooperating to ensure that worker safety and health is the number one priority. He asked that they work together, discuss safety, identify hazards, come up with solutions and track progress. "This site needs no more tragedy, no more wounded workers, and no more grieving families."
Earlier that week a partnership between unions, management and OSHA provided two days of comprehensive training on the Steel Erection Standard. This training helps ensure that everyone at the Ground Zero construction site understands the rules and how to best stay healthy and safe on the job. "In this spirit of cooperation and assistance, let us set a goal of zero worker deaths and zero serious injuries," Michaels said.
OSHA fined Whitesell Corp. $3,071,500 and cited the company with 72 safety and health violations for exposing workers to amputation hazards and other problems at its manufacturing plants in Tuscumbia and Muscle Shoals, Ala.
After learning that a worker's hand had been amputated, OSHA began an inspection of the Tuscumbia plant in March. Serious hazards observed during that initial visit caused OSHA to expand the inspection to include the entire facility. Three weeks later, OSHA expanded the inspection a second time to add the Muscle Shoals plant because of the probability that similar hazards existed there.
Inspectors found that the company willfully disregarded the safety and health of workers at the two facilities. Whitesell was cited for deliberately bypassing a safety feature on its hydraulic forging presses and exposing workers to forging presses that were not secured from being unintentionally activated. Violations also included failing to provide engineering or administrative controls that minimize worker exposure to high noise levels. In addition, the company failed to test workers exposed to noise hazards for possible hearing loss. OSHA also issued citations for dozens of hazards that the company should have known could kill or cause serious physical harm to its workers. See the news release for more information on Whitesell's defiant indifference to its responsibility to protect the safety and health of its workers.
OSHA issued 83 willful citations to Goodman Manufacturing Co. LP and fined the company $1,215,000 for failing to record and improperly recording work-related injuries and illnesses at its Houston air conditioning cooling facility. OSHA began its investigation March 2 in response to a complaint that the company was violating OSHA regulations. Despite being extremely knowledgeable about OSHA recordkeeping requirements, Goodman had willfully either not recorded or improperly recorded nearly three quarters of employee injuries and illnesses for more than two years before the investigation.
"OSHA takes these violations extremely seriously," said OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels in a news release. "OSHA needs accurate data to effectively target its inspections and resources, and to measure the impact of OSHA's actions on workplace safety. Employers and workers need to understand how important accurate data are to workplace safety and health."
Apart from this particular investigation, OSHA has implemented a National Emphasis Program on Recordkeeping to assess the accuracy of injuries and illnesses recorded by employers.
OSHA fined Kief Industries Inc. $550,400 for violating federal workplace safety and health standards at its Blandon, Pa., brass works facility. Inspectors found that the company knowingly exposed its workers to hazards from lead, which can cause brain damage, paralysis, kidney disease and even death. The company was cited for not taking air samples as required for workers overexposed to airborne lead and not providing the required annual training about lead-exposure hazards. Inspectors also found that the company willfully disregarded its responsibility to protect the health of its workers. It failed to provide required medical surveillance for lead-exposed workers and to make available the results of medical tests performed shortly after OSHA opened its inspection of the facility. In addition, the company had stopped providing hearing tests to workers overexposed to noise. See the news release for more information on these and other safety, health and recordkeeping violations committed at the brass works facility.
OSHA issued 35 citations to U.S. Minerals LLC and fined the company $466,400 for safety and health violations that include willfully exposing unprotected workers at its Baldwin, Ill., facility to dangerously high levels of hazardous dust. U.S. Minerals manufactures abrasive blasting and roofing materials from residue produced at coal-fired power plants. Inhaling the silica-containing dust produced at the facility can cause debilitating lung diseases with symptoms including chronic cough, difficulty breathing and shortness of breath. OSHA cited the company for violations that could have resulted in the death or serious harm of workers, such as failing to provide adequate personal protective equipment, eye protection and training on dust containing silica. As a result of this inspection, OSHA has opened inspections of additional U.S. Minerals facilities in Coffeen, Ill., Harvey, La., and Galveston, Texas. See the news release for more information on the hazards found at the Baldwin facility.
OSHA fined Phenix Lumber Co. $439,400 for willfully disregarding safety and health requirements that contributed to the death of one worker and the critical injury of a second at its Phenix City, Ala., facility. The incidents occurred while inspectors were conducting a follow-up safety and health inspection to verify that the company had corrected hazards for which it had previously been cited. Before OSHA could conclude its review, one worker was killed when his head was crushed between a motor being hoisted with a forklift and other equipment. Another worker who was performing maintenance on a sawmill machine that removes bark from logs was seriously injured after he fell approximately 10 feet, breaking his neck. OSHA issued 53 citations to the company for violations such as allowing a worker to stand under the elevated portion of a forklift and failing to provide guardrails and fall protection. The company also exposed workers to shock and electrocution hazards, possible injury from machines that could be unintentionally activated, and accumulations of ignitable or combustible dust. See the news release for more information.
OSHA published a notice in the Sept. 3 Federal Register proposing to revise regulations that govern the agency's On-site Consultation Program. The proposed changes will provide enhanced worker safety and greater flexibility for OSHA to allow sites to be inspected, even if those sites are normally exempt because of their status in OSHA's Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program. For example, SHARP sites could be included in industry-wide inspections carried out by OSHA in response to workplace incidents that generate widespread public concern about a hazard or substance, such as diacetyl or combustible dust. Another proposed change would allow inspectors to terminate an employer's on-site consultation visit and conduct an enforcement inspection when the agency receives allegations of potential workplace hazards or violations from state or local health departments, media, and other sources. OSHA is also proposing that employers who have achieved SHARP status receive an initial exemption from programmed inspections for one year with an extension of up to another year.
Individuals have until Nov. 2 to submit comments on the proposed rule online, or by mail, hand delivery or fax. See the Federal Register notice for more details on submitting comments.
The On-site Consultation Program offers employers free assistance in developing and implementing an effective safety and health management system, with priority given to small businesses in high-hazard industries. SHARP provides incentives and support to employers who implement and continuously improve effective safety and health management systems at their worksites. Last fiscal year OSHA's On-site Consultation Program conducted more than 30,000 visits to small businesses that employ 3.7 million workers.
OSHA has revised its Outreach Training Program Guidelines to require authorized trainers to limit courses to a maximum of 71⁄2 hours per day. This means that all 10-hour courses must be taught over a minimum of two days and 30-hour courses over a minimum of four days. Reducing the length of classroom instruction helps ensure that workers retain important information that may prevent injuries, illnesses and death.
Prior to this change, OSHA had no requirements for how long these classes should last each day. OSHA became concerned that students might miss some essential safety and health training if their attention were to fade while being required to sit through 10 hours of instruction in one day. Another concern was that training courses presented over compressed timeframes of one to three days were not meeting 10- and 30-hour program time requirements. This concern became evident after OSHA reviewed several fraud cases that involved issues with the length of training.
The Outreach Training Program provides workers with an overview of OSHA and training on how to identify, avoid and prevent workplace hazards. Students who successfully complete 10- and 30-hour courses in general, construction and maritime industries and disaster site response receive certification cards and can take an additional course to become authorized trainers.
OSHA is seeking nominations for individuals to serve on the Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health. The committee advises the Secretary of Labor on developing standards and policies that affect the safety and health of construction workers. ACCSH and OSHA's Assistant Secretary have consulted for nearly 40 years on construction safety issues such as women in construction, recordkeeping, crane safety, and safety and health resources for Latino construction workers.
OSHA seeks nominees with experience and expertise in construction-related safety and health issues. In support of the Department of Labor's commitment to equal opportunity in the workplace, the agency is also interested in women and individuals from diverse ethnic backgrounds to serve on the committee. Selected nominees will fill eight vacancies in employee, employer, public and state safety and health agency representative groups. Nominations may be submitted online, or by mail or fax by the Nov. 12 deadline. See the Federal Register notice for more information.
The New York Department of Labor's Division of Safety and Health is cosponsoring the 4th annual Safe Patient Handling Conference October 4-5 at the Holiday Inn Syracuse/Liverpool Airport Hotel in Syracuse, N.Y. This conference will give attendees 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. A pre-conference workshop on Workplace Safety through Safe Patient Handling and Ergonomics Programs will also be offered. Visit the conference Web site to register by the Sept. 17 deadline or contact Carmela Sarcinelli at 716-847-7133 or email@example.com for more information.
New York is one of five states operating their own occupational safety and health programs covering public workers only. There are 22 other states and territories that have safety and health programs that cover both public and private sector workers. A state plan must set job safety and health standards that are "at least as effective as" comparable federal OSHA standards. See the State OSH Plans page of OSHA's Web site for more information on these programs and their requirements.
Ideal Jacobs, a commercial printing company in Maplewood, N.J., began working with the New Jersey On-site Consultation Program in 2002 to improve its compliance efforts and create a safer and more efficient work site. The consultant identified and offered solutions to workplace hazards and provided workers with training in emergency preparation, personal protective equipment, hazard communication, machine safeguarding, and electrical standards. Using the consultant's recommendations, Ideal Jacobs improved its safety and health management system. As of last month, the company sustains a rate of zero recordable safety or health incidents and injuries or illnesses that cause lost days from work. Having been accepted into OSHA's Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program, Ideal Jacobs gave a presentation at an OSHA Small Business Forum to show how the On-site Consultation Program can help other businesses ensure that each of their workers makes it home safe and healthy at the end of every workday. See the OSHA Web site for more information on Ideal Jacobs' safety and health success story.
OSHA personnel remain in the Gulf to monitor conditions for workers still cleaning up the oil spill caused by the fatal explosion of BP's offshore drilling platform in April. OSHA has made more than 4,200 site visits to see that BP is providing cleanup workers with proper training and personal protective equipment required for each specific job and conducted more than 5,700 noise and chemical exposure assessments in areas of offshore and onshore cleanup activities. Visit OSHA's oil spill response Web page for more information on OSHA activities related to the oil spill cleanup and for worker safety and health publications in English, Spanish and Vietnamese.
Are you interested in a career with the Department of Labor? The department has job opportunities throughout the country, such as openings in OSHA for an Industrial Hygienist and a Supervisory Safety and Occupational Health Specialist.
See DOL's electronic newsletter for more DOL news.
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Editor: Richard De Angelis, OSHA Office of Communications, 202-693-1999
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