|October 15, 2010 · Volume 9, Issue 20|
|A twice monthly e-news product with information about workplace safety and health|
In This Issue
OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels sent a letter Oct. 15 to all OSHA personnel outlining the progress being made in transforming the way the agency addresses workplace hazards and communicates with employers and workers. This letter also encourages input from stakeholders outside the agency on how to make OSHA stronger and more effective. These stakeholders include employers, workers, unions, public health professionals and scientists, federal and state agencies, trade associations, community and faith-based organizations, and educational institutions.
"Successfully transforming OSHA will require the efforts of more than just the staff at OSHA -- we will need the help of the entire occupational safety and health community," said Michaels. "We must all work together to prevent job-related injuries, illnesses and deaths."
This letter was an update to a July 19 document Michaels issued to OSHA staff, OSHA at Forty: New Challenges and New Directions. In that document, Michaels discussed the need to transform OSHA, focusing on nine key areas. These areas are stronger enforcement, ensuring workers have a voice, refocusing and strengthening compliance assistance programs, changing workplace culture, developing innovative approaches to addressing hazards, improving and modernizing workplace injury and illness tracking, strengthening OSHA's use of science, strengthening State OSHA Plans and keeping the public informed about OSHA activities.
Association of businesses in OSHA's Voluntary Protection Programs disapproves of employer incentives that discourage injury reporting
The Voluntary Protection Programs Participants' Association Inc. announced Oct. 11 that it supports OSHA's position that workplace safety and health incentive programs must not encourage underreporting of injuries and illnesses.
"Incentive programs are a useful and common means to motivate people and strive for improvement," said VPPPA Executive Director R. Davis Layne in a news release. "However, the association and its members disapprove of programs that discourage employees from reporting injuries because they want to receive a reward. Good incentive programs feature positive reinforcement for demonstrating safe work practices and taking active measures in hazard recognition, analysis and prevention."
VPPPA is a nonprofit organization made up of businesses that participate in OSHA's Voluntary Protection Programs. VPP recognizes employers and workers who have implemented exemplary workplace safety and health management systems. VPPPA released the statement on incentive programs after OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels addressed the 26th Annual National VPPPA Conference in August. In his remarks, Michaels shared information on OSHA's Recordkeeping National Emphasis Program.
"We have found that incentive programs based primarily on injury and illness numbers often have the effect of discouraging workers from reporting an injury or illness," Michaels said. "We cannot tolerate programs that provide this kind of negative reinforcement and this type of program would keep a company out of the VPP until the program or practice is corrected."
Washington state fines Tesoro more than $2 million after refinery explosion that killed seven worker
The Washington Department of Labor & Industries issued 44 citations and a $2.38 million fine to Tesoro Corporation for safety and health violations that contributed to the deadly explosion that killed seven workers at the company's Anacortes petroleum refinery. It is the worst industrial disaster in the 37 years that the state's Labor and Industries department has been enforcing the Washington Industrial Safety and Health Act. The fine is the largest in the history of the Labor & Industries agency.
"The loss of seven lives is a tragedy not just for their loved ones but for our entire state. What makes the loss of these lives all the more painful is that these deaths could have been prevented," said Washington Governor Chris Gregoire when the citations were issued. "I believe the action L&I is announcing today and the record fine they have assessed against Tesoro sends a clear message that these tragedies are not acceptable."
After a six-month investigation, Labor and Industries inspectors found that Tesoro disregarded a multitude of workplace safety regulations, continued to operate failing equipment for years, postponed maintenance, inadequately tested for potentially catastrophic damage and failed to adequately protect their workers from significant risk of injury and death. See the Washington Labor and Industries news release and press conference video for more examples of how Tesoro's indifference to worker safety led to this tragedy.
Washington is one of 22 states and territories operating their own occupational safety and health programs covering private and public sector workers. Five other states have safety and health programs that cover public workers only. 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.
The Department of Labor held an event at its Washington, D.C., headquarters Oct. 13 to roll out President Barack Obama's new initiative to protect federal workers from on-the-job injuries and illnesses. The Protecting Our Workers and Ensuring Reemployment Initiative follows two former government programs in place since the mid 1990s. The new government-wide POWER Initiative sets aggressive target goals to help ensure federal workers are provided with safe and healthful work environments, as well as the support they need after experiencing a serious work-related injury or illness.
Deputy Secretary of Labor Seth Harris addressed an audience of federal agency safety and health representatives in his opening remarks at the rollout event. "As leaders, federal agencies must show the strides they can make in reducing injuries, improving workplace safety and ensuring that those workers who are injured are provided the best opportunity to return to work as timely as possible."
OSHA and the Office of Workers' Compensation Programs are responsible for informing the President on the progress agencies are making in meeting the POWER Initiative goals, and ensuring that each federal agency is provided with guidance necessary to implement effective occupational safety and health and return-to-work programs. Federal workers should visit the POWER Initiative page for more information on this initiative and OSHA's Federal Agency Programs page to find answers to their occupational safety and health questions.
OSHA adjusted the targeting criteria for new inspections under its ongoing Recordkeeping National Emphasis Program. OSHA routinely evaluates NEPs and makes adjustments after they have run for nine months to a year. OSHA last did this on its Combustible Dust NEP. Before that, the agency made adjustments to its NEPs on lead and amputations. OSHA made adjustments Sept. 28 to the targeting criteria for the Recordkeeping NEP to focus on manufacturing, larger worksites and employers with higher injury rates than in the initial criteria. OSHA began the Recordkeeping NEP in October 2009. As of Oct. 1, 2010, OSHA has initiated 187 inspections under the NEP. Almost half of the inspections conducted so far have found recordkeeping violations. The NEP is scheduled to run through February 2012.
OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels has said clearly that accurate injury and illness logs are critically important and he is committed to "ensuring that OSHA recordkeeping requirements are met in the nation's workplaces and that injury and illness data reported by employers are accurate and not influenced by improper incentive or disincentive programs."
From October 2009 to September 2010, OSHA issued citations in 164 significant cases where penalties reached $100,000 or more. OSHA found conditions warranting use of its egregious citation policy in 20 of these inspections. In a so-called egregious case, an employer is cited on a per-instance basis under the same standard rather than grouping similar violations for penalty purposes. The result is a considerably higher penalty intended to serve as a deterrent. Egregious treatment is often used when an employer exhibits deliberately violative conduct or indifference to employee safety and health or the law. Many of these cases spring from inspections of tragic worker fatalities, worksite catastrophes (such as explosions or chemical releases) or worker injuries or illnesses. This number of significant and egregious cases is more than OSHA issued during any similar period in the last decade. Egregious cases during this period include the BP Products North America oil refinery in Texas City, Texas; the Kleen Energy power plant in Middletown, Conn.; and the Cooperative Plus grain handling facility in Burlington, Wis.
The increase in significant and egregious cases demonstrates OSHA's commitment to aggressively enforcing its standards when employers show indifference to protecting the safety, health and lives of their workers. The increase results from better inspection targeting, more follow-up inspections and the addition of more compliance officers. In addition, inspectors are issuing a higher percentage of citations for violations that seriously endanger workers or show an employer's willful disregard for their safety. Also, many referrals to other facilities within the same company lead to more significant cases, such as the serious electrical and other hazards found at many U.S. Postal Service facilities across the country.
OSHA fined Sims Metal Management Ltd. $188,500 for violating 13 workplace health and safety standards at its Jersey City, N.J., metal recycling 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 ensuring workers were using properly fitted respirators, not determining if workers were exposed to unhealthy levels of airborne lead and not ensuring that all surfaces were kept free of accumulated lead. The company also endangered workers by overexposing them to lead, failing to fully implement a respiratory protection program and not providing a clean change room, lunchroom facility and separate storage facilities for work clothes. See the news release for more information on these and other health and safety violations committed at the metal recycling facility.
OSHA has given more than $3 million in fines to companies during the last two months for willfully exposing workers to lead hazards. In addition to Sims Metal Management, other companies include Gaby Iron and Metal Co. ($135,850), Kief Industries Inc. ($550,400) and E.N. Range ($2,135,000).
OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels shared the Obama Administration's vision for government agencies that coordinate efforts to benefit people at the National Safety Council's 2010 Congress & Expo. Michaels was joined in the Oct. 5 keynote address by National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health Director John Howard. Michaels told the audience of about 10,000 safety and health professionals and industrial hygienists that OSHA and NIOSH believe the key to worker safety and health is focusing on prevention and shifting the burden of worker protection to employers. Michaels also explained how OSHA is achieving the Administration's goal of a more transparent and responsive government by using the Internet and social networking technology. These tools allow OSHA to provide information about the agency's activities and invite workers, employers and the public to provide their perspective on worker safety and health concerns. He gave the example of OSHA's recent online Web forum to seek stakeholder input in identifying hazardous chemicals for which OSHA should develop exposure reduction strategies. Michaels encouraged workers, employers, safety associations and trade organizations to share their ideas with OSHA so the agency can pursue effective rulemaking and bring about a fundamental change in the safety culture of America's workplaces.
Tom Galassi, head of OSHA's Directorate of Enforcement Programs, also shared the top 10 most frequently cited standards with the Congress attendees. These are Scaffolding, Fall Protection, Hazard Communication, Respiratory Protection, Ladders, Lockout/Tagout, Electrical--Wiring Methods, Powered Industrial Trucks, Electrical--General Requirements and Machine Guarding.
Michaels tells steelworkers OSHA is committed to creating and enforcing standards that will save lives
OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels told the audience at a United Steelworkers Health, Safety and Environment Conference in Pittsburgh that OSHA is returning to basics to protect the safety and health of workers on the job. In his Oct. 6 speech to the approximately 1,000 USW members and more than 200 managers in attendance at the conference, Michaels said that OSHA has returned to the original intent of the Occupational Safety and Health Act to place a firm focus on standards and enforcement. He said OSHA is examining whether employers are merely concentrating on compliance, or taking steps to improve overall performance, reduce risk, and make prevention part of daily operations.
Michaels also stressed the need to expand OSHA's enforcement powers and penalty amounts through legislative reform such as the Protecting America's Workers Act and the Miner Safety and Health Act of 2010 now under consideration in Congress. Michaels told the audience about cases in Pennsylvania during the last three years in which OSHA investigated the burn fatalities of two USW workers at a plant in Clairton and discovered nearly 300 workers exposed to potentially life-threatening hazards at a foundry in Bridgeville. OSHA was only able to fine the first company $241,000 and the second one $88,500.
Michaels acknowledged that stronger enforcement and higher penalties "won't restore to grieving families all the workers who die on the job every year." But he said, "Citing bad employers and making those citations stick will send a clear message to employers that deaths on the job are not acceptable -- ever -- and that OSHA is making its presence felt where we are needed most."
The Federal Advisory Council on Occupational Safety and Health will meet Oct. 21 to determine priorities for preventing federal worker injuries and illnesses on the job. The meeting in Washington, D.C., will also consider Permissible Exposure Limits for hazardous chemicals in federal agencies, OSHA overseas coverage of federal civilian employees, motor vehicle safety for the federal workforce and safety and health outreach and training. FACOSH was established in 1971 to advise the secretary of labor on various issues related to safe and healthful work conditions for federal workers.
Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis recently appointed eight new members to FACOSH. The new members represent federal worker labor organizations and federal agency management.
William Dougan, National Federation of Federal Employees
Deborah Kleinberg, Seafarers International Union
Colleen Kelly, National Treasury Employees Union
William Kojola, AFL-CIO
William "Chico" McGill, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
Curtis Bowling, U.S. Department of Defense;
John Sepulveda, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; and
Thomas Yun, U.S. Department of State.
These appointees and eight others make up the 16 member advisory council. See the Federal Register notice for more information on the new council members and upcoming meeting. For information on past council meetings, visit OSHA's FACOSH page.
Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis is re-establishing 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 secretaries 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. ACCSH also provides a voice for stakeholders to express their concerns and suggestions for construction worker safety directly to OSHA's leadership. The committee's new charter will be signed Oct. 29 and will expire two years from that date. See the Federal Register notice for more information.
Velocys Inc. requested a visit from OSHA's On-site Consultation Program in May 2009 to ensure that a new piece of equipment installed at the company's Plain City, Ohio, energy research and development facility wouldn't present a noise hazard to workers. Two consultants from the On-site Consultation Program conducted a comprehensive safety and health survey of Velocys' facility that included a noise monitoring study of the new equipment. The study showed that the equipment was not producing excessive noise that could damage workers' hearing. The consultants also assisted Velocys with hazard identification and correction and reviewed the company's safety and health management system. They recommended modifications to Velocys' procedures for securing machines from unintentional activation and trained workers in the new procedures once the changes were made.
Based on their review of the facility's safety and health management system, the consultants recommended that Velocys apply for OSHA's On-site Consultation Program's Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program. SHARP recognizes small employers who operate an exemplary safety and health management system. During the application process, Velocys made a number of enhancements to further protect the safety and health of its workers. The company installed a fire alarm, smoke detectors, strobe lights, pull stations, and a remote carbon monoxide and lower explosion limit monitor to protect workers from entering a potentially hazardous atmosphere. Velocys also equipped its forklift with a seatbelt that must be latched for the vehicle to move. Improving the operation and safety of the facility led to Velocys receiving SHARP certification in December 2009. Visit OSHA's Web site to read more about this safety and health success story.
Additional compliance assistance resources for the cranes and derricks in construction final rule have been posted to the OSHA Web site. These resources include two facts sheets on Subpart CC of the rule, which addresses requirements for crane and derrick assembly and disassembly* and operator qualification and certification.* A PowerPoint presentation* providing an overview of Subpart CC is also available online. In addition, OSHA's Cranes and Derricks in Construction Final Rule page contains the complete text of the rule, an archived Web chat and answers to frequently asked questions.
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Editor: Richard De Angelis, OSHA Office of Communications, 202-693-1999
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