|September 30, 2013 · Volume 12, Issue 19|
An eight-member jury in U.S. district court determined that Renaissance Arts and Education Inc., doing business as Manatee School for the Arts in Palmetto, Fla., and its principal, Dr. Bill Jones, violated whistleblower protection provisions of Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act when the charter school fired a worker for reporting concerns regarding electrical hazards in the school's theater. The jury ordered the school and Dr. Jones to pay the worker $175,000 in back pay and damages.
The Department of Labor has also filed a complaint in a Pennsylvania federal district court against McKees Rocks Industrial Enterprises — a company that provides intermodal trans-loading and storage services for steel products, scrap, dry bulk and other commodities — for firing a worker who reported safety concerns to OSHA. The complaint seeks reinstatement and compensatory damages on behalf of the whistleblower.
Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act prohibits employers from discharging or in any manner retaliating or discriminating against any worker for exercising their rights under the Act. These rights include filing an OSHA complaint, participating in an inspection, raising a safety and health issue with the employer or the government, or any other right afforded by the OSHA law. Of the whistleblower complaints that OSHA receives every year, 11c complaints comprise the majority. For more information on 11c and the 21 other whistleblower statutes under OSHA’s jurisdiction, visit www.whistleblowers.gov.
A newly published study of a large population of Chinese tin and pottery workers has found that exposure to airborne silica dust is associated with a significant increase in the risk of developing lung cancer. The study, printed in the American Journal of Epidemiology, measured cumulative silica exposure in a group of more than 30,000 workers over a 44-year period. These findings, which confirm that silica is a human carcinogen, are consistent with the preliminary risk assessment in OSHA's new proposed rule to protect workers from occupational exposure to crystalline silica, and have important implications for public health. Read more about the AJOE study here.
OSHA invites and strongly encourages the public to participate in the process of developing a final silica rule through written comments and participation in public hearings. To read the notice of proposed rulemaking, visit Occupational Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica. Additional information on the proposed rule, including five fact sheets, and procedures for submitting written comments and participating in public hearings is available at www.osha.gov/silica.
In two separate cases, OSHA has issued citations to construction contractors for exposing workers to fatal fall hazards. Twin Pines Construction Inc., an Everett, Mass.-based wood framing contractor faces $336,200 in proposed fines for violations at worksites in Plymouth and Reading, Mass. The Plymouth inspection was initiated March 15 after a worker suffered broken ribs and leg injuries when an unbraced wooden roof truss system collapsed around him at a worksite. The Reading inspection was opened the same day after OSHA received a complaint about possible safety hazards at a jobsite. OSHA found that employees were exposed to falls, struck-by and impalement hazards. Read the news release for more information.
In addition, OSHA has proposed $272,720 in fines against four New York contractors for safety hazards identified during the construction of a midtown Manhattan hotel. Mamaroneck-based Flintlock Construction Services LLC, the general contractor on the project, received the largest penalties of $249,920 for violating OSHA's fall protection and scaffolding standards after exposing workers to potentially fatal falls of up to 26 feet while on scaffolding. V&P Altitude Corp. in Brooklyn, SMK Associates in Astoria and Maspeth Steel Fabricators in Maspeth also received citations and fines for violations including lack of fall protection and scaffolding, electrical and personal protective equipment violations. See the news release for more details and complete citations.
OSHA has cited Precision Surveillance Corp., Bigge Crane and Rigging Co., Siemens Power Generation Inc. and Entergy Operations Inc. for 30 safety violations after one Precision Surveillance worker was fatally injured when a crane collapsed at the Arkansas Nuclear One Power Plant in March. Eight other workers were hurt. Precision Surveillance Corp., in East Chicago, Ind., is being cited for one serious violation for failing to provide an effective communication system to alert the operator or signalman through an emergency stop signal. Bigge Crane and Rigging Co. in San Leandro, Calif., Siemens Power Generation Inc. in Orlando, Fla., and Entergy Operations Inc. in Russellville are being cited for failing to comply with crane-related hazards. Proposed penalties for all violations total $175,000. To learn more about the details of the case and read the citations, view the press release.
Nebraska Cold Storage Inc. has been cited by OSHA for 14 safety violations and fined $132,800 for exposing workers to anhydrous ammonia at its Hastings facility. The storage and shipping services company has also been placed in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program. OSHA conducted an inspection in March under the agency’s high-hazard local emphasis program and was expanded to include all items within the agency's national emphasis program for process safety management for covered chemical facilities. Violations included failing to develop and implement written, safe operating and mechanical integrity procedures and measures to take for physical contact or airborne exposure to anhydrous ammonia, correct deficiencies in equipment and document responses to 2010 compliance audit findings. Read the news release for a complete list of citations.
In an article in the Fall 2013 issue of Elevating Safety, OSHA Director of Construction Jim Maddux discusses the high cost of fatal falls in construction, which are the leading cause of death in the industry. Worker injuries and deaths don’t just hurt families and communities, he explains, they also take a great toll on our economy. To prevent falls, employers need to plan ahead to get the job done safely, provide the right equipment, and train everyone to use their equipment safely. To order free educational and training resources, including OSHA's new bilingual ladder safety booklet, visit our Publications page or call the Office of Communications at (202) 693-1999.
The Hawaii Occupational Safety and Health Division is reassuming responsibility for regulating Hawaii's manufacturing industries, following improvements in Hawaii's workplace safety and health program. OSHA and HIOSH have shared regulatory responsibility for Hawaii since last September, per an agreement designed to jointly rebuild and strengthen the safety and health regulatory environment in the state.
"I am pleased to report substantial improvements in HIOSH's enforcement-related statistics in construction, as well as overall inspection activities for Hawaii," said Dorothy Dougherty, deputy assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. "Mahalo (Thank you) Governor Abercrombie, Director Takamine, and to the staff of HIOSH for your efforts and continued cooperation in making Hawaii a safe and health place to work." Read additional details in the press release.
OSHA has established two new alliances to protect oil and gas workers – with the Buckeye Service, Transmission, Exploration and Production Safety Network in Ohio and with the Association of Energy Service Companies in Dallas. The alliances will work to provide local employers and workers with guidance and training resources to address hazards associated with oil and gas operations.
OSHA also has renewed two alliances, with T&T Staff Management Inc. of El Paso, Texas, and with the National Council of La Raza to reach out to temporary, low-wage, limited English proficiency and other vulnerable workers in construction and general industries. Through the Alliance Program, OSHA works with groups committed to worker safety and health to prevent workplace injuries, illnesses and deaths.
Following the devastating flooding in Colorado, OSHA is continuing to provide informational resources for cleanup and recovery at Disaster Assistance and Recovery Centers along the Front Range. To learn about potential hazards and important protective measures, visit OSHA's Flood Response page (en Español). To reach local representatives for assistance, call the agency's Denver Area Office at 303-844-5285; Englewood Area Office at 303-843-4500; or OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742).
To increase emergency preparedness and resilience at the community level, OSHA also participated in the Sept. 5 National Preparedness Month kick-off event in Washington, D.C. At the event, staff answered questions and showcased OSHA’s emergency resources – including Web pages, publications and e-tools – to help employers meet their year-round responsibility to protect the safety and health of workers during disaster preparedness, response and recovery.
On Sept. 8, OSHA's Buffalo Area Office joined the 10th Annual Puerto Rican and Hispanic Day Parade in honor of Hispanic Heritage month. With more than 70 organizations and 2,000 participants in attendance, OSHA staff marched in the parade and distributed Spanish-language resources on young workers, heat illness, fall prevention and workers’ rights. For new OSHA information and resources in Spanish, visit www.osha.gov/espanol.
Workers under the age of 25 are twice as likely to be injured on the job as older workers and are often unaware of their workplace rights.
In Connecticut, federal and state-run OSHA joined a coalition that has launched a new website on the safety and health of young workers, which consolidates specific resources related to laws and regulations, training programs, educational materials, statistical data and local news and events associated with hiring young workers. Federal OSHA also has a Young Workers Web page with resources for young workers, employers, parents and educators.
In addition, Oregon OSHA's new video series uses humor and song to educate young workers about workplace hazards. The videos, available on YouTube, cover general awareness for teens about speaking up on the job, safe lifting, and ladder and restaurant safety. See the news release for more information.
OSHA has launched a new certificate program providing state and local government employees with occupational safety and health training. The program, Public Sector Safety & Health Fundamentals, will be administered by authorized OSHA Training Institute Education Centers as a proactive measure to protect public sector employees nationwide. Students can choose from topics such as occupational safety and health standards for the construction or general industries, safety and health management, accident investigation, fall hazard awareness and recordkeeping. To earn a certificate, participants must complete a minimum of seven courses and 68 contact hours. Students can use OSHA's Searchable Course Schedule to find training courses for the certificate program. See the news release for more information.
In a new OSHA blog, Peoria, Ill. Area Director Tom Bielema explains how quickly a worker in a silo or grain storage bin can become engulfed and trapped in flowing grain. The blog summarizes the hazards and offers resources to help employers keep workers safe.
Additional OSHA resources recently made available include new Web pages on workplace hazards faced by temporary workers and women in construction, a chemical industry advisory on the Safe Storage, Handling, and Management of Ammonium Nitrate, a Fatal Facts: Cotton Press fact sheet, a handy QuickCard on Precautions for Firefighters to Prevent Dust Explosions, and a brief for physicians on Medical Evaluation of Renal Effects of Cadmium Exposure.
Learn more about health insurance choices that will become available when key parts of the health care law take effect. Visit Healthcare.gov for information on a new way to buy health insurance for yourself, your family or your small business that offers more choice, more transparency, and more control over your health insurance options.
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