|November 16, 2015 · Volume 14, Issue 23|
OSHA is seeking public comment on an updated version of its voluntary Safety and Health Program Management Guidelines, first published in 1989. The guidelines are intended to help employers establish safety and health plans at their workplaces. Key principles include finding and fixing hazards before they cause injury or illness, and making sure that workers have a voice in safety and health. The updated guidelines, which include illustrations, tools and resources, should be particularly helpful to small- and medium-sized businesses. The guidelines also address ways in which multiple employers at the same worksite can coordinate efforts to make sure all workers are protected equally. Public comments will be accepted until Feb. 15. For more information, see the news release.
As the holiday season approaches, OSHA is encouraging retail employers to implement safety measures to prevent workplace injuries during major sales events, including Black Friday. The agency is reminding employers about the potential hazards involved with managing large crowds at retail stores during the holiday season, when sales events attract a higher number of shoppers. Retailers are encouraged to use the safety guidelines outlined in the fact sheet Crowd Management Safety Guidelines for Retailers.
OSHA inspectors found serious safety lapses at two Ohio steel manufacturing plants, where workers were exposed to falls, amputations, electrical hazards and other dangers. Both plants, operated by TimkenSteel, have a long history of OSHA violations. The most recent inspection was prompted after a crane's safety latch failed, dropping 1,000 pounds of equipment on a worker and causing severe foot and leg injuries. "This worker is lucky to be alive," said Howard Eberts, OSHA area director in Cleveland. The two inspections resulted in 21 violations, including 10 serious, 9 repeated and 1 willful. Proposed fines total $393,500 and the company has been placed in the agency's Severe Violator Enforcement Program. For more information, read the news release.
OSHA cited Design Plastering Inc. and Design Plastering West LLC, of Phoenix, for eight egregious willful and four serious violations after 44-year-old employee Jorge Carrion Torres fell to his death from a third-story balcony. Federal safety and health officials have proposed fines totaling $407,400 for the citations. Torres, who had been on the job for one month, was applying stucco to the balcony walls when he fell. His employer had not installed scaffolding and had not provided Torres or his co-workers with personal fall protection. Previously, the state OSHA in Arizona had cited Design Plastering seven times for allowing fall-related hazards.
"This senseless loss of a man's life is the result of this employer's failure to comply with clear OSHA safety requirements despite the fact that it had been previously cited for the same violations," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels.
For more information, see the news release.
On Nov. 10, the U.S. Department of Justice charged Fastrack Erectors, located in Pacific, Mo., with violating an OSHA regulation and causing the death of 22-year-old employee Eric Roach. On July 25, 2014, the apprentice ironworker fell more than 30 feet to his death while standing on a 9-inch-wide steel girder on a building under construction in Kansas City. On the job for just a few weeks, Roach had not been provided fall protection by his employer. A U.S. attorney will present evidence of the Department of Justice charge to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine Fastrack's guilt or innocence. For more information, see the DOJ news release.
In January of this year, OSHA proposed penalties of $511,000 for violations found during its inspection following the fatality.
An OSHA inspection prompted by a complaint found that workers at IPM Foods in Beloit, Wis., were exposed to numerous safety hazards, including the possible start-up of machinery during service and maintenance. Inspectors also found that IPM failed to: provide electrical protective equipment; train workers on machine safety and chemicals used in the workplace; and evaluate workplaces for confined space hazards. The company was cited for 14 safety violations, with proposed penalties of $103,600. Read the news brief for more information.
The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Detroit-based general contractor DMC Consultants Inc. for exposing workers to asbestos at a residential construction site in Ypsilanti, Mich. Proposed penalties are $265,200. For a list of individual citations and penalties, see the MIOSHA news release.
The Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued $97,440 in citations against Bay Area Athletic Club in Coos Bay, Ore., after inspectors observed workers without fall protection on trusses about 20 feet above a racquetball court. The club also failed to maintain a workplace injury and illness log and did not establish a safety committee.
Please visit the enforcement news releases page for more on OSHA enforcement activity.
OSHA is seeking comment on a draft document intended to help employers develop their own programs to protect employees from retaliation when they raise concerns about workplace conditions or activities. Based on recommendations of the Whistleblower Protection Advisory Committee, the draft document contains sections on how to ensure leadership commitment, foster an anti-retaliation culture, respond to reports of retaliation, conduct anti-retaliation training, and monitor progress. Comments will be accepted until Jan. 19, 2016. OSHA will consider all comments when preparing the final document. For more information, see the news release.
OSHA issued a final rule, effective Nov. 9, establishing procedures and time frames for handling employee retaliation complaints under acts that cover employees at public transportation agencies and railroad carriers. The final rule responds to public comments submitted on an interim rule by improving the ability of employees and employers to access information on active cases and to participate in the investigation. OSHA's Whistleblower Protection for Public Transportation Agency Workers and Whistleblower Protection for Railroad Workers fact sheets explain who is covered and describes protected activity, types of retaliation and the process for filing a complaint. For more information, see the news release.
Six OSHA Whistleblower fact sheets are now available in Spanish. The fact sheets offer guidance in filing a complaint under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, Federal Water Pollution Control Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, Clean Air Act, Solid Waste Disposal Act, and the Toxic Substances Control Act (all available as ). They detail which workers are protected, what activity is protected, and the complaint process.
The Whistleblower Protection Advisory Committee met Nov. 10 at Department of Labor headquarters in Washington, D.C. In remarks to the group, Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels reported just-released numbers from fiscal year 2015: OSHA received 3,288 new complaints; completed 3,273 cases; awarded nearly $25 million to whistleblower complainants; and reinstated 75 workers through merit determinations and settlement agreements. The committee's Best Practices and Corporate Culture Work Group met separately on Nov. 9. WPAC was established to recommend ways to improve the fairness, efficiency, effectiveness and transparency of OSHA's whistleblower protection activities.
OSHA's whistleblower program protects workers under twenty-two federal statutes from retaliation when raising safety and health issues on the job or reporting violations of laws in various industries. For more information, visit the Whistleblower webpage in English or Spanish.
OSHA has renewed its alliance with the American Red Cross to help reduce workplace incidents and protect workers from hazardous exposures. Through the alliance, OSHA and the Red Cross will provide training and information on emergency preparedness, disease prevention and first aid. This agreement will remain in effect for five years. For more information, read the news release.
OSHA has renewed alliances with the OSHA Sustainable Workforce Alliance (formerly Georgia Youth Alliance) and the David L. Carrasco Job Corps Center in El Paso, Texas, to provide information and training resources to help protect the safety and health of young workers. Under each alliance, the organizations will collaborate to prevent exposure to construction and general industry hazards, and to promote a better understanding of worker rights and employer responsibilities.
Through its Alliance Program, OSHA works with groups committed to worker safety and health to prevent workplace fatalities, injuries and illnesses.
In OSHA's continued efforts to protect workers from industry-specific hazards, the agency has developed two new fact sheets for agriculture and maritime workers.
Most farmworker injuries and deaths involve tractors, including overturns, run-overs, sudden start-ups and unintended contact with tractor attachments or implements. A new OSHA fact sheet on tractor hazards shows employers how to protect their agricultural workers.
A new OSHA fact sheet on Hazards During the Repair and Maintenance of Refrigeration Systems on Vessels advises maritime industry employers how to protect workers who service these systems, which use hazardous chemicals including ammonia and Freon®.
In a new video, OSHA Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels emphasizes the shared responsibility of staffing firms and host employers to ensure the safety and health of temporary workers. Dr. Michaels is joined in the video by Stephen Dwyer, general counsel of the American Staffing Association, an OSHA Alliance partner. Dwyer stressed that staffing agencies should clearly communicate with host employers to make sure all parties understand their safety responsibilities. The video can be viewed on the U.S. Department of Labor's YouTube channel or OSHA’s webpage on Protecting Temporary Workers.
OSHA provides news and commentary on workplace safety and health from its senior leadership, staff and guest contributors on the DOL blog. See our latest posts: