OSHA Quick Takes – August 2, 2010

In This Issue

Historic new cranes and derricks rule will help save construction workers’ lives

OSHA’s new standard addressing the use of cranes and derricks in construction replaces a decades-old version. The rule published July 28 will affect approximately 267,000 construction, crane rental and crane certification establishments with about 4.8 million workers.

“The significant number of fatalities associated with the use of cranes in construction led the Labor Department to undertake this rulemaking. After years of extensive research, consultation and negotiation with industry experts, this long overdue rule will address the leading causes of fatalities related to cranes and derricks, including electrocution, boom collapse and overturning,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis in a news release.

The previous rule, which dated back to 1971, was based on 40-year-old standards. Stakeholders from the construction industry recognized the need to update the safety requirements, methods and practices for cranes and derricks and to incorporate technological advances to provide improved protection for those who work on and around cranes and derricks.

“The rule addresses critically important provisions for crane operator certification and crane inspection, set-up and disassembly. Compliance with the rule will prevent needless worker injuries and death, and provide protection for the public and property owners,” said OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels.

OSHA held a stakeholder Web chat on the new cranes and derricks rule July 28. More than 1,000 members of the public submitted close to 600 questions. A replay of the Web chat is available at www.dol.gov/dol/chat/chat-osha-20100728.htm.

OSHA is developing additional compliance assistance materials and outreach efforts, which will be made available starting next month.

OSHA remains in the Gulf protecting cleanup workers after oil stops flowing
New online resources provide information to help prevent worksite injuries and illnesses

Although BP’s offshore oil well remains capped in the Gulf of Mexico, OSHA continues to monitor the safety and health of workers who resumed oil spill cleanup operations after a temporary evacuation while Tropical Storm Bonnie passed through the Gulf.

Since cleanup operations began in April, OSHA has made more than 2,500 site visits covering the vessels of opportunity, beach cleanup, staging areas, decontamination, distribution and deployment sites. Heat stress continues to be the number one health concern, with more than 700 incidents so far, some very serious. BP’s heat stress plan sets out specific work/rest requirements based on the heat and relative humidity, and whether workers are wearing protective clothing and equipment, which can increase the risk of heat stress.

Another concern has been worker exposure to oil and other chemicals used in cleanup operations. OSHA has made more than 2,000 exposure assessments in areas of offshore and onshore cleanup activities. No air sampling by OSHA has detected hazardous chemicals at levels of concern. OSHA issued a statement July 19 responding to misleading and inaccurate stories in the media overstating the risk of cleanup worker exposure to a particular chemical in an oil dispersant. To further inform workers and the public of possible chemical hazards related to the oil spill cleanup, OSHA recently posted Material Data Safety Sheets for a variety of substances including crude oil, cleaning products, dispersants and pesticides.

New Job-Specific Safety and Health Sheets are available online to provide information on the hazards associated with specific cleanup tasks and required personal protective equipment and training. OSHA also recently posted revised training requirements online to show people seeking oil spill cleanup work the training BP is responsible for providing them.

Visit OSHA’s oil spill response Web page for more information on OSHA activities related to the oil spill cleanup as well as worker safety and health publications in English, Spanish and Vietnamese.

Solis urges passage of miner safety bill

Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis issued a statement July 21 on the House Education and Labor Committee’s passage of the Robert C. Byrd Miner Safety and Health Act of 2010 (H.R. 5663). The bill, named after the late U.S. senator known for his commitment to mine worker safety, includes critical amendments to the OSH Act that would increase OSHA’s civil and criminal penalties and enhance whistleblower protections and victims’ rights.

“There is a tremendous need for swift action on this legislation. I can think of no better way to honor the memory of Senator Robert C. Byrd and all of those workers who have died tragically on the job than to quickly pass this legislation,” Solis said.

As reported in the last QuickTakes, OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels testified July 13 before the Education and Labor Committee in support of the Miner Safety and Health Act.

Barab tells contractors how OSHA is modernizing practices to improve worker safety

Jordan Barab, OSHA deputy assistant secretary, told members of the Associated General Contractors of America how OSHA is modernizing its practices for the 21st century to more effectively protect worker safety and health. In his remarks at a July 14 Safety and Health Conference, Barab described OSHA’s recent efforts to address particular hazards and a high fatality rate in the construction industry. He related how the agency sent additional inspectors to Texas to confront the state’s high rate of construction worker deaths. OSHA conducted almost 700 construction inspections throughout Texas during this initiative, issuing more than 1,000 violations resulting in $1.6 million in fines. Barab also discussed OSHA’s pilot program to work with building inspectors in 11 cities across the country to reduce worker deaths on construction sites–particularly deaths caused by falls, electrocution, and being caught between or struck by objects. Under this program, building inspectors will notify OSHA when they observe unsafe conditions, so OSHA can send a compliance officer to inspect that workplace. “Through this program we will extend OSHA’s eyes and ears where they are needed most to save lives in the construction industry,” Barab said.

OSHA enhances On-site Consultation Web page with new features and easier navigation

OSHA has redesigned its On-site Consultation Web page to enhance its usefulness to small and medium-sized businesses across the country seeking free and confidential advice on increasing workplace safety. The redesigned homepage answers frequently asked questions about the benefits of the On-site Consultation Program, which gives priority to high-hazard worksites, and explains the process for initiating a consultation visit and the consultant’s role in the process. An improved On-site Consultation directory gives users the ability to quickly find offices in their states to contact for further information about the program, or to request a visit. The page also provides answers to questions about the On-site Consultation Program’s Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program and offers Success Stories from small businesses that achieved safety and health excellence through the On-site Consultation Program and SHARP. A Quick Links box and Small Business Resources section present users with relevant information and OSHA resources for the small business community.

OSHA continues focusing enforcement efforts on plants processing hazardous chemicals

OSHA issued a directive July 8 extending its National Emphasis Program to inspect facilities processing large amounts of highly toxic or flammable chemicals and gases. Unexpected releases of these substances can cause devastating industrial disasters such as the 1991 explosion at a chemical plant in Louisiana that killed eight workers and injured 120 others. This resulted in OSHA fining the Angus Chemical Company and IMC Fertilizer Group $11.5 million, the third highest penalty in OSHA history. Inspections under this extended NEP, which was initiated last year, will ensure that chemical plants have process safety management programs in place to prevent similar tragedies (see OSHA’s citations against American Seafoods International below). OSHA has a separate NEP focusing on PSM programs for oil refineries.

New initiative focuses on preventing illnesses and injuries among federal workers

President Barak Obama issued a July 19 memorandum calling on all federal agencies to “improve workplace safety and health, reduce the financial burden of injury on taxpayers, and relieve unnecessary suffering by workers and their families.” The goals of the president’s four-year Protecting Our Workers and Ensuring Reemployment Initiative include setting aggressive performance targets for reducing occupational injuries and illnesses among federal workers and speeding the return to work of employees who do suffer serious job-related injuries or illnesses. OSHA’s Office of Federal Agency Programs is responsible for informing the president of progress meeting the POWER Initiative goals, and ensuring that each federal agency is provided with guidance necessary to implement an effective occupational safety and health program. Federal workers should visit OSHA’s FAP Web page to find answers to their occupational safety and health questions.

Seafood company fined $279,000 after exposing workers to risk of deadly ammonia leak

OSHA issued American Seafoods International LLC $279,000 in fines for willfully violating the law by exposing workers at its New Bedford, Mass., processing facility to the risk of a catastrophic and potentially deadly chemical release. OSHA inspectors found that the employer’s inadequate process safety management program did not provide workers with proper protection from the highly toxic ammonia used in the plant’s refrigeration system. See the news release for more information.

Ironworks fined more than $214,000 for exposing workers to burns, falls and other hazards

OSHA issued 29 citations against Kenton Iron Products LLC after finding it willfully and repeatedly violated the law by exposing workers to potentially fatal hazards. OSHA fined the Kenton, Ohio, iron casting facility $214,500 for violations that included failing to properly secure machinery from being unintentionally activated, improperly storing flammable chemicals and not providing workers with fall protection. See the news release for more information.

OSHA Alliance will improve workplace safety for Spanish-speaking construction workers in Austin, Texas
Revised Alliance Program will better provide information on worker safety and health

OSHA has formed an Alliance with two Austin-based non-profit organizations to enhance jobsite safety for Spanish-speaking construction workers. The two groups are the Workers Defense Project, an organization addressing workplace abuse faced by low-wage workers, and Construction Safety and Health Inc., a non-profit safety training and safety services center. Read the news release to learn more about this OSHA Alliance to provide workers multi-lingual training emphasizing workers’ rights to a safe and healthy workplace and awareness of hazardous working conditions in the construction industry. OSHA recently revised its criteria for Alliances to enable the agency to reach the most vulnerable workers and increase workers’ knowledge of their rights under the OSH Act.

OSHA’s New Jersey summit promotes Latino worker safety and health

Approximately 100 people attended the Northern New Jersey Action Summit for Latino/Immigrant Worker Safety and Health announced in the last issue of QuickTakes. The July 26 summit, at the Morris County Library in Whippany, N.J., was a follow-up to OSHA’s National Action Summit for Latino Worker Health & Safety held in April. The New Jersey summit, which was covered in the Morris Daily Record, emphasized the importance of providing workers with safety training in a language they can understand and encouraged workers to report workplace safety and health violations to OSHA.

Job openings

Are you interested in a career with the Department of Labor? The department has job opportunities throughout the country, such as openings in OSHA that include a Supervisory Safety & Occupational Health Specialist and a Regional Administrator in Seattle.

See DOL’s electronic newsletter for more DOL news.

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