|November 15, 2011 · Volume 10, Issue 22|
|In this issue
Data released Nov. 9 by the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics showed an increase in the injury and illness rates among members of certain health care professions. Data on nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses requiring days away from work in 2010 showed a six percent increase from the previous year in the incidence rate for health care support workers-almost 2 1/2 times the rate for all private and public sector workers. The rate among nursing aides, orderlies and attendants rose seven percent. Additionally, the rate of musculoskeletal disorder cases with days away from work for nursing aides, orderlies and attendants increased 10 percent.
"It is unacceptable that the workers who have dedicated their lives to caring for our loved ones when they are sick are the very same workers who face the highest risk of work-related injury and illness," said OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels. "The rates of injuries and illnesses among hospital and health care workers underscore OSHA's concern about the safety and health of these workers," he said. In response, OSHA will launch, in the next few months, a National Emphasis Program on Nursing Home and Residential Care Facilities. See Michaels' full statement for more information.
OSHA is again encouraging major retail employers to take precautions to prevent worker injuries during Black Friday and other major sales events during the holiday season. In 2008, a worker was trampled to death while a mob of shoppers rushed through the doors of a large store to take advantage of an after-Thanksgiving Day Black Friday sales event. The store was not using the kind of crowd management measures recommended in OSHA's fact sheet, which provides employers with recommended elements for crowd management plans. Plans should include having trained security personnel or police officers on-site, setting up barricades or rope lines for pedestrians and crowd control well in advance of customers arriving at the store, and having security personnel or customer service representatives explain approach and entrance procedures to the arriving public. See the news release for more information.
Most of the videos are two-to-four minutes in length, and all but one are animated. Each video is available in English and Spanish for Web viewing. All video scripts will be available online soon. See the news release for more information.
OSHA initiated its national Heat Illness Prevention Campaign to educate workers and their employers about the hazards of working outdoors in the heat. Online and in print resources include educational materials, a curriculum for workplace training, worksite and community posters, 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 also created a smartphone heat safety tool app (available for Android and iPhone operating systems) that allows users to calculate their worksite heat index and provides descriptions of the corresponding protective measures necessary to prevent heat-related illnesses.
OSHA is requesting public comment on the interim final rule published in the Nov. 3 Federal Register to revise regulations governing whistleblower protections for workers who report violations of any provision of federal law relating to fraud against shareholders. OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Program investigates worker complaints filed under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX), which protects employees of publicly traded companies and their subsidiaries, and of certain other employers, from retaliation for reporting mail fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud, securities fraud and violations of SEC rules or regulations. OSHA's interim final rule addresses amendments to the whistleblower protection provisions of SOX by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, which, among other changes, expand the number of employers covered and double the statute of limitations for filing a complaint. The revised rules also improve the complaint process by allowing workers to file SOX complaints orally and in any language, and enhance the sharing of information between parties throughout the investigation. Comments on the interim final rule may be submitted online, by phone or by fax by the Jan. 3, 2012 deadline. See the news release for more information.
Michaels also voiced his support for the national Injury and Illness Prevention Program standard that OSHA is preparing to propose. Thirty-four states already require or encourage employers to implement programs similar to those envisioned under the proposal OSHA is developing, he told the conference attendees. He said, "injury and illness prevention programs protect workers and improve the bottom line."
OSHA hosted an informal stakeholder meeting Nov. 3 about occupational hearing loss prevention. OSHA heard from 30 participants at the meeting, which was also attended by approximately 40 observers. The purpose of OSHA's public meeting was to gather information from stakeholders on best practices for worker hearing conservation programs, personal protective equipment and feasible workplace engineering controls. Participants also provided examples of companies that operate effective noise control programs and key elements of their programs. Notes from the meeting will be posted to the OSHA Web site in the near future. OSHA held this meeting as part of its commitment to work with stakeholders on approaches for preventing occupational hearing loss. Visit OSHA's Occupational Noise Exposure Web page for background on health effects of noise exposure, warning signs of hearing loss and examples of workplace engineering controls.
The Federal Advisory Council on Occupational Safety and Health will meet Dec. 1 at Department of Labor headquarters in Washington, D.C., to advise OSHA on matters relating to the occupational safety and health of federal employees. FACOSH provides advice on how to reduce and keep to a minimum the number of injuries and illnesses in the federal workforce and how to encourage each federal executive branch department and agency to establish and maintain effective occupational safety and health programs. The tentative agenda for the FACOSH meeting includes a report on the analysis of Permissible Exposure Limits applicable to Federal agencies; training recommendations; and an end-of-year report on the President's Protecting Our Workers and Ensuring Reemployment (POWER) Initiative. See the notice in the Nov. 16 Federal Register for more information.
OSHA fined All-Feed Processing & Packaging Inc. $758,450 and cited the company for 23 safety and health violations at its pet food production and packaging facility in Galva, Ill. OSHA cited All-Feed for willful violations of OSHA's air contaminant, respiratory protection and hearing conservation standards. The company's failure to provide appropriate fire and explosion protection in locations where concentrations of combustible dust existed was cited under OSHA's "general duty" clause, which requires employers to provide workplaces "free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to [their] employees."
OSHA issued willful citations after All-Feed required employees to work in areas where they were exposed to total dust in excess of permissible limits, and failed to protect multiple dust collection units from fire and explosion hazards. Other willful citations were issued to the company for failing to administer a continuing and effective hearing conservation program for employees exposed to excessive noise; and allowing the use of liquid propane-powered industrial trucks in atmospheres where combustible dust may be ignited. See the news release for more information.
OSHA fined Bridgford Foods Corp. $422,600 and cited the company for 27 safety and health violations at its food manufacturing facility in Dallas. The violations include failing to establish and maintain a hearing conservation program for workers exposed to noise hazards beyond the permissible exposure limit, and failing to establish a lockout/tagout program for energy sources to protect workers from machines starting up unexpectedly. OSHA has placed Bridgford in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP), which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law. Initiated in June 2010, the program focuses on recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations. See the news release for more information.
Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis recently approved recommendations made by the Federal Advisory Council on Occupational Safety and Health (FACOSH) that will improve the training of federal government employees responsible for the development and maintenance of effective federal agency worker safety and health programs. The recommendations made to OSHA include identifying necessary training and experience for the advancement of federal safety and health officers, developing consistent safety and health management training requirements across the federal government, and working with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to help the GSA identify core skills and appropriate training for personnel responsible for the design, function, operation and maintenance of federal buildings.
OSHA's On-site Consultation Program offers free and confidential advice to small and medium-sized businesses in all states across the country, with priority given to high-hazard worksites. In FY 2010, responding to requests from small employers looking to create or improve their safety and health management systems, OSHA's On-site Consultation Program conducted over 30,000 visits to small business worksites covering over 1.5 million workers across the nation.
On-site Consultation services are separate from enforcement and do not result in penalties or citations. Consultants from state agencies or universities work with employers to identify workplace hazards, provide advice on compliance with OSHA standards, and assist in establishing safety and health management systems.
Wyoming OSHA will hold a public hearing Dec. 2 to welcome stakeholders' comments on proposed rule amendments* that would revise the agency's Occupational Health and Safety Rules and Regulations for Oil and Gas Well Drilling standards. Wyoming OSHA is proposing this rulemaking action to improve, streamline and update existing oil and drilling standards after the agency and representatives of the oil and gas industry identified several requirements for better employee protection — including personal protective equipment, improved emergency communications, fall rescue plans and documented training. Coal Bed Methane drilling practices were added, prompted by industry suggestions. Wyoming OSHA believes that improving these standards will help employers to better understand their obligations and promote safety and health for their employees.