OSHA Quick Takes – June 1, 2010

In This Issue

OSHA in the Gulf Coast ensuring safety of oil spill cleanup workers

Between 15 and 20 OSHA compliance officers have been deployed along the Gulf Coast to monitor BP’s safety operations. They are auditing training sessions and are at staging areas to ensure that BP meets its obligations to protect all workers involved in the shoreline cleanup. When a problem is identified, OSHA staff bring it to the attention of BP representatives so that concerns can be addressed. OSHA also raises concerns through the Unified Command so that they are addressed across the entire response area. In addition, OSHA published worker safety educational materials in English, Spanish and Vietnamese and is distributing thousands of copies to workers involved with the oil spill cleanup along the Gulf Coast. The materials supplement OSHA-required training that workers must receive before taking part in the cleanup. Visit OSHA’s oil spill cleanup response Web page for more information. OSHA, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health are all working together to protect cleanup worker safety and health.

Company fined more than $1.6 million after worker suffocates in grain bin

OSHA has issued 23 citations against the South Dakota Wheat Growers Association for the total disregard it showed for its employees’ lives by allowing a worker to enter an unsafe silo where he was buried and suffocated beneath a mound of grain. OSHA fined the company $1,610,000 after inspectors concluded that the Dec. 2009 death at its McLaughlin, S.D., grain handling operation could have easily been prevented by implementing required safety precautions. The list of violations include: allowing workers to enter bins containing unstable mounds of grain; letting workers walk on top of clumped grain; failing to shut off and lock out equipment to prevent grain from moving through the bin while workers were inside; failing to equip workers inside grain-filled bins with protection from being buried or providing outside coworkers with the means to rescue those inside; and failing to properly train workers or have an emergency action plan in place before sending them into bins where hazardous conditions existed. “We know that safety precautions could have prevented this tragedy,” said OSHA Assistant Secretary of Labor David Michaels. “The dangers of grain bin entry are well known in the industry, yet the South Dakota Wheat Growers Association chose to ignore these hazards.” See the news release for more information and OSHA’s grain handling facilities standard for the safety protections employers are required to provide workers who enter grain storage bins.

Shipyard fined more than $1.3 million after explosion kills two workers

VT Halter Marine Inc., a shipbuilder, has been fined $1,322,000 following a November 2009 explosion and fire that killed two workers and seriously injured two others. The incident occurred in the inner bottom void of a tugboat that was being constructed at the company’s Escatawpa, Miss., facility. “VT Halter knowingly and willfully failed to protect the lives of its workers in a confined space even though it had the knowledge and equipment necessary to do so,” said Assistant Secretary Michaels. “We will not tolerate this type of blatant and egregious disregard for the health and safety of workers. Employers need to know there will be consequences.” Following its investigation, OSHA cited the company for 17 willful, 11 serious and eight other-than-serious violations. See the news release for more information and OSHA’s Shipyard Employment eTool and Safety and Health Topics page on shipbuilding and ship repair to learn about shipyard safety.

Factory fined more than $500,000 after explosion kills nearby motorist

OSHA has cited NDK Crystals Inc. in Belvedere, Ill., with fines of $510,000 after an explosion at the company’s crystal manufacturing building took the life of a truck driver parked at a nearby service station. Fortunately, no workers at this facility were killed, despite being exposed to a hazardous working environment. Following its investigation, OSHA cited the company for disregarding worker safety by continuing to operate seven high pressure containers used to produce quartz even though it knew the vessels were susceptible to explosion due to defective design and construction. Other violations include exposing workers to possible injury or death by failing to have an emergency evacuation program and not providing proper personal protective equipment and training. See the news release for more information.

New OSHA proposal to improve worker protection from injury and death on walking-working surfaces

OSHA has proposed a revision of the current Walking-Working Surfaces standard to require employers to provide their workers with fall protection devices such as self-retracting lanyards and ladder safety and rope descent systems. Trips, slips and falls are a leading cause of workplace injuries and death and the revisions to this standard will help prevent an estimated annual 20 workplace fatalities and more than 3,500 injuries serious enough to cause people to miss work. Current Walking-Working Surfaces regulations allow employers to provide outdated and dangerous fall protection equipment such as lanyards and body belts that can result in workers suffering greater injury from falls. OSHA is seeking public comment on the new proposal. See the news release for more information.

OSHA seeking applicants for new Susan Harwood worker safety outreach grants

OSHA is soliciting applications for $8 million in Susan Harwood Safety and Health Capacity Building Training Grants. Similar to the training grants OSHA has been awarding to nonprofit, community and faith-based organizations since 1978, these grants will fund longer-term safety and health training that can save workers’ lives. Past training grant winners have educated workers on work zone safety, amputation hazards, ergonomics, fall protection, roofing hazards, and workplace violence prevention. In addition to worker safety, programs created by recipients of these new grants will also focus on workers’ rights such as whistleblower protection. Grants will be awarded to organizations just beginning to plan a full-scale safety and health education program, as well as organizations seeking to expand and develop already established programs. Applicants must register online before beginning the application process, which must be completed by the July 2 deadline. See the news release for further information about applying, and OSHA’s Susan Harwood Training Grant Web page to learn more about the program and download training material created by past recipients.

National worker safety committee prepares to meet June 8, new members sought

The National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health will meet June 8, in Washington, D.C., to discuss initiatives for protecting the safety and health of America’s workers. The meeting’s agenda will include examining ways to enhance workers’ voices in the workplace, identifying emerging occupational hazards and providing updates on OSHA enforcement plans. See the Federal Register notice for more details. NACOSH advises the secretaries of labor and health and human services on worker safety issues such as Latino outreach, hazard communication, the whistleblower program, and overall occupational safety and health programs and policies. NACOSH is also seeking four new committee members to represent the interests of labor, management, safety and health professionals or the public. Membership nominations may be submitted online or by mail or fax no later than July 20. See the Federal Register notice for information.

OSHA and Mexican, Central and South American Consulates promote safety for Latino workers

OSHA and the Mexican Consulate in Chicago signed an Alliance May 11 to promote Latino worker safety in Illinois and Wisconsin. This is the latest of 11 active OSHA Alliances with Consulates in 10 U.S. cities representing Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Ecuador and Peru. OSHA and its Alliance Program participants collaborate to develop and provide training and education about safety and health and workers’ rights for Spanish-speaking workers who would not otherwise have ready access to this information. OSHA also trains consulate staff to recognize workplace safety issues brought to their attention by workers visiting the consulates and advise workers on how to contact OSHA for help. OSHA continues efforts to ensure all workers are aware of their rights under the Occupational Safety and Health Act and have a voice in the workplace. See the news release for more information on this latest Alliance and the OSHA en Espa?ol Web page for worker safety and health information in Spanish.

OTI Education Center partners to host Green Jobs forum

OSHA’s Training Institute Education Center, the Colorado Safety Alliance and Red Rocks Community College are hosting a forum on how workers transitioning to jobs in alternative energy industries can maintain a safe working environment. A panel of business owners in the renewable energy and energy efficiency industries will share their experiences in protecting worker safety and health. Green Jobs – Playing it Safe will be held in the Community Room at the Red Rocks Community College Lakewood Campus Monday, June 7, 8 a.m.-noon. Download the event flyer for more information, or contact George Flynn at flynn.george@dol.gov or 303-843-4500, ext. 132 to register.

OSHA launches newly redesigned Small Business Web page

The new Small Business page of OSHA’s Web site provides links to numerous OSHA resources and information designed specifically for smaller employers, including the free On-site Consultation Program, safety and health tools and publications, easy-to-follow guides for specific OSHA standards, and descriptions of benefits that small businesses receive from OSHA. The page also includes information on the Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP), which recognizes small employers who operate an exemplary safety and health management system.

Wichita power plant reaches Star status with worker safety

OSHA has recognized the management and 25 workers of Westar Energy-Murray Gill Energy Center in Wichita for achievement in the company’s safety and health program. The company has been recognized as a “Star” site, the highest level of recognition that OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Programs offer. The worksite earned VPP Star recognition following a comprehensive on-site evaluation by a team of OSHA safety and health experts. As part of attaining VPP status, employers must demonstrate management commitment to the safety and health of their workers, and actively involve them in the safety and health management system. Visit OSHA’s Web site to learn more about the Voluntary Protection Programs.

Hexavalent chromium rule sets new employer requirements for worker protection

OSHA’s final rule requiring employers to notify their workers of all hexavalent chromium exposures goes into effect June 15. The rule revises a provision in OSHA’s Hexavalent Chromium standard that required workers be notified only when they experienced exposures exceeding established safe limits. Workers exposed to this toxic chemical are at greater risk for lung cancer and damage to the nose, throat, eyes, skin and respiratory tract. Occupational exposures to hexavalent chromium can occur among workers handling pigments, spray paints and coatings. See the news release for more information and visit OSHA’s Safety and Health Topics page on hexavalent chromium to learn about protecting workers from exposure to this chemical.

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