OSHA Quick Takes – October 1, 2010

In This Issue

OSHA calls for corrective action to state-run occupational safety and health programs to keep workers safe

OSHA announced Sept. 28 the conclusion of its special evaluation of state-run occupational safety and health programs under the agency’s jurisdiction. The Enhanced Federal Annual Monitoring and Evaluation reports provide detailed findings and recommendations on the operations of state-run OSHA programs in 25 states and territories. The enhanced review was initiated after a 2009 special OSHA report on Nevada’s program, prompted by numerous construction-related fatalities in Las Vegas, identified serious operational deficiencies in that state.

“Our goal is to identify problems in state-run programs before they result in serious injuries or fatalities,” said OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels. “While we found many positives in the state programs, we also found deficiencies including concerns about identification of hazards, proper classification of violations, proposed penalty levels, and failure to follow up on violations to ensure that workplace safety and health problems are corrected.”

Reports for each of the 25 states are now available on OSHA’s Web site. States will have 30 days to provide a formal response, including a detailed corrective action plan for addressing findings and recommendations. Each state’s formal response will be public information and available online as soon as it is received. See the news release for more information on the reports, including examples of states that have adopted standards and procedures exceeding federal OSHA’s requirements. See the State OSH Plans page of OSHA’s Web site for more information on these programs.

Solis announces OSHA and Department of Transportation partnership to combat distracted driving

OSHA and the U.S. Department of Transportation are joining forces to combat distracted driving. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis announced this partnership, which will focus on prohibiting texting while driving, at a Sept. 21 DOT summit.

“It is imperative that employers eliminate financial and other incentives that encourage workers to text while driving,” Solis said in a news release. “It is well-recognized that texting while driving dramatically increases the risk of a motor vehicle injury or fatality.”

Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of worker fatalities. OSHA is launching a multi-pronged initiative to help prevent further avoidable injuries and deaths. The initiative will include an employer education campaign launched during “Drive Safely Work Week,” Oct. 4-8. During this week, OSHA will publish a Web page that will include a video message and an open letter to employers from OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels. Michaels will call on employers to prevent occupationally related distracted driving, with a special focus on prohibiting texting while driving.

OSHA is also partnering with key organizations to help reach out to employers, especially small business employers, to combat distracted driving and prohibit texting while driving. In addition, OSHA is placing a special emphasis on reaching out to young workers, collaborating with other Labor Department agencies as well as stakeholders and alliance partners. When OSHA receives a credible complaint that an employer requires texting while driving or organizes work so that texting is a practical necessity, the agency will investigate and where necessary issue citations and penalties to end this practice.

Go to the OSHA homepage Oct. 4 to visit OSHA’s new distracted driving Web page.

Michaels promises improvements in OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program

OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels issued a statement Sept. 16 responding to a U.S. Government Accountability Office report on OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program.

“With our available resources, OSHA is working hard to ensure that whistleblowers are protected from retaliation,” Michaels said. “We are in the process of a top-to-bottom review of OSHA’s whistleblower protection program. The objective is to identify any weaknesses and inefficiencies in the program and improve the way we conduct this very important activity. In addition, we have hired additional personnel in the past year in an effort to more efficiently process cases.”

“OSHA has already begun taking action on items recommended in the GAO report,” Michaels said, “such as requiring all investigators and their supervisors to complete mandatory investigator training over the next 18 months, setting strategic goals and performance measures for the whistleblower program, and providing new equipment to field staff.”

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of 19 laws protecting employees who report violations of various securities, trucking, airline, nuclear, pipeline, environmental, railroad, public transportation, workplace safety and health, consumer product safety, health care reform, and financial reform laws. Detailed information on worker whistleblower rights, including fact sheets, is available online at www.whistleblowers.gov.

Michaels speaks at international occupational health and safety conference

OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels led the U.S. delegation in a Joint Conference on Health and Safety at Work with delegates from the European Union. The international group of labor representatives, employers, scientists and safety and health specialists met at the Sept. 22 conference in Boston to develop strategies to improve conditions for workers on both sides of the Atlantic. Michaels emphasized the importance of the conference in his opening keynote speech:

“We are eager to exchange ideas with the distinguished E.U. delegation and to work together closely to achieve vital results. I mean vital literally, because while we discuss issues within the walls of these conference rooms, out there, in the working world, lives are at stake, and we must never lose sight of the responsibility we have to give a voice to every working man and woman.”

Delegates focused on four areas in their discussions. They considered methods for raising awareness of existing solutions to occupational safety and health hazards, preserving safety and health expertise in workplaces and ensuring it is passed from generation to generation. Another area of discussion was determining which risk factors and measurements should be used to yield an accurate picture of workplace safety and health trends and developing performance indicators that will help prevent further workplace tragedies. Conference members also discussed ways of promoting effective and efficient workplace safety and health management systems and programs. The final focus area was on how to address various issues related to chemical hazards, including respiratory protection, effective worker training practices, and setting exposure limits, hazard assessments, appropriate controls, and labeling guidelines for mixtures of chemicals.

OSHA awards $2.75 million in targeted safety and health training grants

OSHA awarded $2.75 million in Susan Harwood Safety and Health Targeted Topic Training Grants to 16 organizations, including nonprofit and community/faith-based groups, employer associations, labor unions, joint labor/management associations, colleges and universities. The grantees will provide safety and health programs that educate workers and employers in industries with high injury and fatality rates. The primary focus is on hard to reach and vulnerable populations, such as workers with limited English proficiency and low literacy rates, young workers and small business employers. Targeted Topic Training Grants are one-year grants that support the development of quality occupational safety and health training materials and programs for workers and employers addressing workplace hazards and prevention strategies. See the news release for more information on the latest grant recipients. As announced in the last QuickTakes, OSHA also recently awarded 45 organizations with $8 million in Susan Harwood Capacity Building Grants.

The Susan Harwood Training Grant Program helps to provide workers in high-risk industries with training about job hazards and their rights. This program also provides employers with crucial information about unsafe working conditions, mitigation strategies and their responsibilities to protect workers from on the job injuries, illnesses and deaths. OSHA’s Web site offers worker safety training materials created by past Susan Harwood Grant winners that are tailored to meet the needs of specific training audiences and are available in a variety of formats in both English and Spanish.

OSHA targets high hazard worksites for inspection

OSHA issued its annual inspection plan under the Site-Specific Targeting 2010 program in August to help the agency direct enforcement resources to high-hazard workplaces where the highest rates of injuries and illnesses occur.

The SST program is OSHA’s main programmed inspection plan for non-construction workplaces that have 40 or more workers. Establishments are randomly selected for inspection from an initial list of 4,100 manufacturing, non-manufacturing, and nursing and personal care facilities. The plan focuses on several variables such as the number of injury and illness cases and number of days a worker has to stay away from work, or the number of workers who received job transfers or work restrictions due to injury or illness.

In addition to SST, OSHA implements both national and local emphasis inspection programs to target high-risk hazards and industries. OSHA currently has nationwide emphasis programs that intensify the focus on topics including amputations, lead, crystalline silica, shipbreaking, trenching/excavations, process safety management in petroleum refineries, hexavalent chromium, diacetyl, recordkeeping and combustible dust.

Frame manufacturer fined nearly $230,000 for combustible dust and other hazards

OSHA issued 34 violations to Art Horizons Inc. and fined the picture frame manufacturer $228,320 for endangering workers at its Batesville, Miss., facility. In March, OSHA initiated a follow-up to a 2008 inspection at the company, which then went by another name. In the latest inspection, compliance officers found that the company had willfully disregarded the safety and health of its workers by allowing dangerous amounts of combustible dust to accumulate in the workplace and failing to provide proper hearing protection. Inspectors also cited the company for violations including fall hazards, blocked exit routes, lack of an eyewash station, lack of machine guarding and inadequate emergency lighting. See the news release for more information.

Refinery fined more than $165,000 for violations that could have led to explosion

OSHA has fined Martin Operating Partnership LP $165,600 and issued the company 25 citations for safety and health violations at its Smackover, Ark., oil refinery. Inspectors found that the company willfully disregarded its responsibility to maintain process safety information for the design of various pressure vessels at the facility. This could have led to the release of a highly hazardous chemical resulting in a potential explosion causing multiple injuries and deaths among the 65 workers at the refinery. Inspectors also cited the company for serious violations of other process safety management requirements. The company also failed to provide workers with required respiratory protection and personal protective equipment and to ensure that workers entering confined spaces had a prompt means of rescue in the event of an emergency. See the news release for more information. The inspection was conducted as part of OSHA’s National Emphasis Program for Process Safety Management of Refineries.

Company fined more than $135,000 for exposing workers to hazards including lead poisoning

OSHA fined Gaby Iron and Metal Co. $135,850 for violating 17 workplace health and safety standards at its Chicago Heights, Ill., metal recycling facility. Inspectors found that the company knowingly exposed its workers to hazards from lead, which can cause brain damage, paralysis, kidney disease and even death. The company was cited for failing to implement a respiratory protection program or provide a written lead compliance or training plan. The company also failed to monitor air for lead during periods of potentially increased exposure and allowed workers to be exposed to lead in excess of allowable limits. Inspectors cited the company for additional serious violations that included failing to evaluate employees’ exposure to arsenic or provide arsenic training, place lead-contaminated clothing in closed and labeled containers and provide a medical surveillance program for lead exposure. See the news release for more information on these and other health and safety violations committed at the metal recycling facility.

OSHA Alliance promotes shipbuilder safety

A recent Alliance between OSHA and the Shipbuilding Group will provide shipyard workers and employers with informational tools and access to training resources to help prevent worker injuries and illnesses. The Alliance will educate workers about their rights and address safety issues experienced by limited- and non-English speaking workers. It will also focus on protecting workers from being struck by objects and preventing slip, trip and fall hazards, as well as preventing musculoskeletal injuries. The Shipbuilding Group consists of the American Shipbuilding Association, National Shipbuilding Research Program and Shipbuilders Council of America. The group represents shipyards with more than 150,000 machinists, sheet metal workers, plumbers, pipefitters and others involved in building ships. This figure includes more than 90 percent of naval shipbuilding workers and a significant percentage of workers in commercial shipbuilding. See the news release for more information on this Alliance.

Through the Alliance Program, OSHA works with groups committed to worker safety and health to prevent workplace fatalities, injuries and illnesses. These groups include unions, consulates, trade or professional organizations, faith- and community-based organizations, businesses and educational institutions. OSHA and the groups work together to develop compliance assistance tools and resources, share information with workers and employers, and educate workers and employers about their rights and responsibilities. Alliance Program participants do not receive exemptions from OSHA programmed inspections.

Engineering company recognized for corporate-wide commitment to worker safety and health

OSHA approved Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. as a Voluntary Protection Programs Corporate participant in recognition of the company’s commitment to ensuring a safe environment for its more than 50,000 workers. Jacobs demonstrates a strong commitment to worker safety and health and VPP by establishing a standardized corporate-level safety and health management program, which is implemented organization-wide. Jacobs also has an internal screening process that evaluates the company’s facilities for safety and health performance. The company provides technical services to facilities in aerospace and defense, pharmaceutical, and oil and gas industries, among others. See the news release for more information.

OSHA VPP recognizes employers and workers who have implemented exemplary workplace safety and health management systems. In VPP, management, labor and OSHA work together to prevent injuries, illnesses and workplace hazards. To attain VPP status, employers must demonstrate management’s commitment to the safety and health of their workers and involve them in safety and health management systems.

Electronic engineering company achieves significant injury and illness reduction through OSHA’s free On-site Consultation Program

The Denver-based B&C Electronic Engineering Inc. began working with the Colorado On-site Consultation Program in 2006 after an unscheduled inspection from OSHA in response to a worker complaint. At the time, the small business’ rate of OSHA recordable safety or health incidents was more than three times the national industry average. Similarly, B&C’s rate of injuries and illnesses resulting in lost, restricted, or transferred days from work was significantly higher than the industry average.

The On-site Consultation Program helped the company address issues such as a lack of written hazard communication and evacuation plans. The consultant also worked with the company to develop a training manual for the proper handling and storage of lead-based paste used at the workplace and took samples to ensure no workers were being exposed to excessive lead levels. The consultant found no indication of unsafe worker exposure.

The company’s high number of recordable incidents and rate of injuries and illnesses impacting worker attendance or duties was an irregularity that B&C quickly addressed. After working with the consultant, B&C felt a greater level of awareness and understanding of the significance of an effective safety and health management program and began pursuing recognition in the On-site Consultation Program’s Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program. SHARP recognizes small employers who operate an exemplary safety and health management system. B&C was accepted into SHARP in September 2008.

Workplace safety and health subject of Pennsylvania governor’s conference

OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels will provide a keynote speech at the 84th Annual Pennsylvania Governor’s Occupational Safety and Health Conference. The conference takes place Oct. 18-19 at the Hershey Lodge and Convention Center. Workshops will offer information on subjects including rigging requirements in construction, airborne infectious diseases, driver-related safety training, ergonomics and combustible dust hazards. The 2010 Governor’s Award for Safety Excellence will be presented to employers who exemplify successful employer-worker joint safety programs. Visit the conference Web site for the complete agenda or to register online.

Job openings

Are you interested in a career with the Department of Labor? The department has job opportunities throughout the country, including openings in OSHA for Safety and Occupational Health Managers and a Civil Engineer (Structural).

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