|December 1, 2011 · Volume 10, Issue 23|
|A twice monthly e-news product with information about workplace safety and health.|
|In this issue|
OSHA issued a new National Emphasis Program (NEP) for chemical facilities to protect workers from catastrophic releases of highly hazardous chemicals. The new NEP replaces OSHA's 2009 pilot Chemical Emphasis Program which covered several OSHA regions around the country. The program establishes policies and procedures for inspecting workplaces that are covered by OSHA's process safety management (PSM) standard. The program's inspection process includes detailed questions designed to gather facts related to PSM requirements and verification that employers' written and implemented PSM programs are consistent. The intent of the NEP is to conduct quick inspections at a large number of facilities that will be randomly selected from a list of worksites likely to have highly hazardous chemicals in quantities covered by the standard.
"Far too many workers are injured and killed in preventable incidents at chemical facilities around the country," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. "This program will enable OSHA inspectors to cover chemical facilities nationwide to ensure that all required measures are taken to protect workers." See the news release for more information.
An article in Modern Casting magazine details how eleven metalcasting facilities in the Ohio Valley Region improved worker safety as a result of a training program funded by an OSHA Susan Harwood Training Grant. Metalcasting operations rank among the 25 industries with the highest workplace injury rates. Most of these injuries are attributed to strains and sprains, which can be reduced through training and engineering and administrative controls. Workers at each of the small businesses participating in the training program attended half-day workshops to and managers attended a full-day program. During the training workers and managers learned how to identify risk factors including heavy loads and repetitive lifting, heat and noise, and factors specific to individual workers such as differences in employees' age and gender.
Follow up visits were conducted at each of the 11 metalcasting facilities from one to three months after the training to evaluate the effectiveness of the program. Overall, that the training improved worker's ergonomic knowledge by 24%. In addition, employers at every facility had implemented engineering or administrative controls, or both, to reduce employee's exposure to risk factors and thereby improve safety. These included installing an electric power lift, or lift and tilt tables that allow workers to adjust their workstations to ensure proper posture, and using pallets to raise workstation heights and eliminate the need for unnecessary bending. See OSHA's Web site for more information on OSHA's Susan Harwood Training Grant Program.
OSHA has revised its tire servicing materials to address current hazards in the industry and help workers safely perform maintenance on large vehicle tires. The materials address OSHA's Materials Handling and Storage standard that protects workers who service single-piece and multi-piece rim wheels. Following recent talks with representatives from tire, rubber, and wheel manufacturers, OSHA determined a need for new materials with updates from sources such as the Tire Industry Association. The updated information, available in a portable manual or as three poster-sized charts, is easier to access and use. OSHA's revised "Multi-piece Rim Matching Chart" provides an updated list of current and obsolete components and the old "Demounting and Mounting Procedures for Truck/Bus Tires" chart is now expanded into two charts that deal individually with tubeless and tube-type tires. The revised materials can be downloaded from OSHA's Publications page See the news release for more information.
OSHA ordered Knoxville-based Heartland Transportation Inc. to reinstate a former employee and pay the individual $62,090 in compensatory and punitive damages plus more than two years of back wages, interest, benefits and reasonable attorney's fees. The order follows OSHA's determination that the company violated the employee's rights under the whistleblower provisions of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act by terminating the employee for complaining about defective vehicles.
The employee had complained about trucks with mechanical failures on a number of occasions, but the problems recurred. He informed his employer that he would not drive trucks with such failures in the future. Soon after this, the driver found that his name had been removed from the driving schedule. He inquired about this development, and was informed that his employment was terminated. The employee then submitted a whistleblower complaint to OSHA. See the news release for more information.
OSHA filed a lawsuit against the Brighton Medical Clinic in Brighton, Colo., and its owner, Dr. Luithuk Zimik, on behalf of an employee who was terminated in violation of the whistleblower provisions of the OSH Act. The employee had complained about safety and health hazards to the clinic's management staff before filing a formal complaint about the hazards with OSHA. The employee was later discharged and then filed a whistleblower complaint with OSHA. The agency's Whistleblower Protection Program conducted an investigation and determined the former employee's allegations had merit. After being notified of OSHA's findings, the defendants refused to reinstate the employee to the same or a substantially equivalent position and to pay back wages or other employment benefits. Filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, OSHA's complaint seeks to reinstate the employee, secure compensatory damages and lost back pay. See the news release for more information.
OSHA cited Loos & Co. Inc. for 29 alleged violations of workplace safety standards. The Pomfret cable manufacturer faces a total of $177,000 in proposed fines following safety and health inspections conducted by OSHA's Hartford Area Office. OSHA inspectors found untrained employees working on live electrical equipment without adequate personal protective equipment and not using hazardous energy control procedures during maintenance of machinery; ungrounded lamps and electrical receptacles; damaged and misused electrical equipment; unguarded moving machine parts; uninspected lifting slings; excessive buildup of combustible dust; spray painting with flammable paint within 20 feet of spark-producing equipment; excessive noise levels and the lack of controls to reduce noise levels; improper dispensing of flammable liquids; inadequate eyewash facilities for employees working with chemicals; unlabeled containers of hazardous chemicals; failure to conduct initial monitoring for hexavalent chromium; and exit routes arranged so employees would have to travel toward high-hazard areas when exiting the plant in an emergency. The company was also cited for one for inadequate machine safeguarding. A similar hazard was cited by OSHA following a 2008 inspection of the plant. See the news release for more information.
OSHA fined Remington Arms Co. Inc. cited Remington Arms Co. Inc. for 35 alleged serious violations of workplace safety and health standards at its Ilion, N.Y., manufacturing plant. The firearms manufacturer faces a total of $170,000 in proposed penalties for a variety of mechanical, electrical and chemical hazards identified during inspections by OSHA's Syracuse Area Office.
OSHA found violations involving a lack of personal protective equipment and worker exposure to toxic substances lead and cadmium. The inspection also identified numerous electrical hazards and instances of unguarded moving machine parts; improper storage and transfer of flammable liquids; a lack of procedures to lock out machines' power sources to prevent their unintended startup during maintenance; unguarded openings and defective ladders; inadequate fire extinguisher training and availability; unlabeled containers of hazardous chemicals; and several exit deficiencies including a locked exit door, obstructed exit routes, unmarked exits, and non-functioning emergency and exit lighting. See the news release for more information.
OSHA has scheduled a meeting of the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (NACOSH) Dec. 14-15, in Washington, D.C. NACOSH is a continuing advisory committee established under the OSH Act of 1970 that has advised the Secretaries of Labor, and Health and Human Services for nearly 40 years on worker safety and health issues.
The tentative agenda includes remarks from the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health and the Director for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health; Work Group reports; and discussions on electronic health records and prevention through design. A final agenda will be made available on the NACOSH website. Work Groups will meet on the morning of December 14 and report back to the full committee on the December 15. NIOSH officials will also make presentations to the committee on the afternoon of December 14. Official presentations from Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels and NIOSH will be made when the full committee meets on December 15. Individuals interested in submitting comments or requests to speak must do so by Dec. 7 online, by mail or by fax. See the Federal Register notice for details.
OSHA will also hold a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health (ACCSH) Dec. 13-16 in Washington, D.C. ACCSH, established under the Contract Work Hours and Safety Standards Act and the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, advises the Secretary of Labor and Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health on construction standards and policy matters.
The agenda includes an update on OSHA's construction enforcement and outreach efforts, rulemaking projects, a presentation from the Seattle Tunnel and Rail Team (START); ACCSH's consideration of, and recommendations on a direct final rule/proposed rule to update personal protective equipment standards on head protection for construction work and a proposed rule on Standards Improvement Project (SIP) IV; and a presentation from the Office Engineering Services on sewage treatment plant failure. The full committee will meet December 15-16. Work Groups will meet December 13-14. Comments and requests to speak may be submitted online, by mail or by fax. See the Federal Register notice for details. Comments and requests to speak must be submitted by Dec. 2.
The agency is accepting nominations to fill eight vacancies on the 15-member committee. Nominations will be accepted for representatives in the employee, employer, state safety and health agencies, and public categories. Nominations may be submitted online, by mail or by fax. Please see the Federal Register notice for details. Nominations must be submitted by January 23, 2012.
With a small business where workers risk both falls and dangerous chemical exposures, the owners of Tri-State Building Services LLC decided to call OSHA for help. The results, Tri-State improved their safety and health management programs through working with the New York State Department of Labor's (NYDOL) On-site Consultation Program. "It seemed like a no-brainer. Why not take advantage of the nation's top authority on safety?" said Dave and Jim Grady, co-owners of the upstate New York cleaning and property maintenance company.
Tri State contacted OSHA's free On-site Consultation Program, which provides small business workplaces with assistance in identifying and correcting workplace safety and health hazards, as well as guidance on improving their injury and illness prevention program. Thanks to OSHA's visit, Tri-State has made significant safety and health improvements, including purchasing and installing eye wash stations, properly labeling equipment and chemicals, and enhancing the company's safety manuals. The company has also increased efforts to communicate safety and health information to Spanish speaking workers and to provide training to all workers on topics including scaffolding, aerial lifts, window cleaning, and general construction. The results can be seen in their injury rates which are significantly lower than the industry averages.
"To maintain a safety and health environment, Tri-State has learned to train, re-train, and reinforce. The company examines their safety and health management program constantly by re-evaluating and modifying their overall existing program, searching for improvement," said Grady. "The On-site Consultation visits have helped the organization to enforce its safety and health expectations by encouraging Tri-State's employees to be safety conscious throughout the entire organization." See the online success story for more information.
Oregon OSHA took home a Spotlight Award, the highest award given by the Portland chapter of the Public Relations Society of America, for the agency's work on formaldehyde in hair straightening and smoothing products. Judges gave Oregon OSHA high marks for research and planning and remarked, "Excellent documentation of results," and "Great results and coverage."
Federal OSHA issued a hazard alert to warn hair salon owners and workers about potential formaldehyde exposure from working with certain hair smoothing and straightening products. The hazard alert notifies salons that if they use products that contain or release formaldehyde (like timonacic acid), they must follow the requirements in OSHA's formaldehyde standard. The alert also includes a list of other names for formaldehyde (e.g. methylene glycol, formalin, and methanal) and details about required information to be listed on product labels and material safety data sheets of products that contain or could release formaldehyde.
The U.S. Department of Transportation unveiled "OMG," a new public service announcement (PSA) to warn teenagers against the dangers of distracted driving. The PSA is available on the newly redesigned Distraction.gov website, along with new materials designed especially for young drivers. The new PSA is designed to reach teenagers using imagery that relates to popular shorthand text messages such as "L8R" for "later" or "LOL" for "laugh out loud." Two versions of the PSA will air. A version geared towards a teenage audience will run exclusively on 6,589 movie screens in 526 cinemas across the country. A more somber version will air on the 12,000 screens that top pumps at high traffic gas stations across the United States. To view the new ads click here.
The human toll is tragic," said OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels about the consequences of distracted driving. "The Department of Transportation reports that in 2009, more than 5,400 people died in crashes linked to distraction and thousands more were injured. Texting while driving has become such a prominent hazard that 30 states now ban text messaging for all drivers. It is an employer's responsibility and legal obligation to create and maintain a safe and healthful workplace, and that would include having a clear, unequivocal and enforced policy against the hazard of texting while driving." In an Oct. 20 blog post, Michaels said, "Companies are in violation of the Occupational Safety and Health Act if, by policy or practice, they require texting while driving, or create incentives that encourage or condone it, or they structure work so that texting is a practical necessity for workers to carry out their job." For more information, visit OSHA's Distracted Driving Web page.