OSHA Quick Takes – January 15, 2011

In this issue

OSHA acts to protect workers in residential construction

OSHA issued a new directive withdrawing a former one that allowed residential builders to bypass fall protection requirements. The directive being replaced, issued in 1995, initially was intended as a temporary policy and was the result of concerns about the feasibility of fall protection in residential building construction. However, according to data from the department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, there continues to be a high number of fall-related deaths in residential construction and industry experts now feel that feasibility is no longer an issue or concern. The National Association of Home Builders, the National Advisory Committee for Construction Safety and Health, and the Occupational Safety and Health State Plan Association all recommended rescinding the 1995 directive. To view the directive and for more information, visit OSHA’s Residential Fall Protection page.

Green Jobs: New online resource provides information on green job safety and health

Information on Green Job Hazards is now available on the OSHA Web site. Green jobs are being defined broadly as jobs that help to improve the environment, such as in the wind and solar energy, recycling and biofuels industries. However, green jobs are not necessarily safe jobs. Workers in the green industries may face hazards that are commonly known in workplaces — such as falls, confined spaces, electrical, fire, and other similar hazards. Additionally, workers may be exposed to new hazards which may not have been previously identified. For example, workers in the solar energy industry may be exposed to Cadmium Telluride, a known carcinogen, if adequate controls are not implemented. The information now available online is part of OSHA’s commitment to helping workers and employers ensure that green jobs are safe jobs.

Solis will re-establish advisory committee to protect maritime industry workers

Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis will re-establish the charter of OSHA’s Maritime Advisory Committee for Occupational Safety and Health. Established in 1995, the committee is composed of approximately 15 members who are industry professionals selected to represent the interests of the maritime community. The maritime industry has been selected for special attention because of high injury and illness rates and the specialized nature of some maritime occupations. See the news release for more information.

OSHA hosts Web chat on new Regulatory Agenda

OSHA hosted a live Web chat Jan. 5 so that members of the public and press could ask questions about the agency’s Fall 2010 Regulatory Agenda. The Labor Department’s entire regulatory plan was published in the Dec. 20, 2010, issue of the Federal Register. The agenda contains a statement of OSHA’s regulatory priorities and the regulatory actions OSHA wants to highlight as its most important and significant. More than 1,000 readers viewed the live Web chat with nearly 280 submitting questions. OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels and a panel of OSHA subject matter experts were able to provide more than 70 responses during the one-hour exchange. The entire Web chat can be read on the OSHA Web site.

Illinois contractors fined more than $470,000 for exposing trench workers to cave-in hazards

OSHA issued a total of $473,000 in fines against two Illinois contractors who willfully exposed workers to trenching and excavation hazards. Cited in separate incidents were Di Paolo Co. in Glenview and Gerardi Sewer & Water Co. in Norridge.

Di Paolo was cited with 10 violations and fined $113,000 for allowing workers at a site in Elgin to perform trenching and excavation work at depths of up to 12.5 feet without cave-in protection. OSHA standards require that all excavations five feet or deeper be protected against collapse. Gerardi was cited with 13 violations and fined $360,000 after four separate inspections conducted under OSHA’s Trenching and Excavation Special Emphasis Program found that the company failed to properly protect workers at several worksites from trench cave-ins. OSHA had previously issued a combined total of 48 citations to these two companies since 1982. The Gerardi case meets the criteria for OSHA’s Severe Violators Enforcement Program, which focuses enforcement efforts on certain employers who defy or ignore their OSH Act obligations.

Hazardous waste company fined more than $780,000 after processing plant explosion

OSHA cited the hazardous waste management processor, WRR Environmental Services Co., after an investigation stemming from a June 29, 2010, explosion and fire at the company’s Eau Claire, Wis., facility. OSHA issued 15 citations and fined the company $787,000 for failing to fully develop and implement a process safety management program at the facility to prevent potentially catastrophic chemical fires and explosions.

This case meets the criteria for OSHA’s Severe Violators Enforcement Program. See the news release for more information on WRR Environmental Services’ disregard for worker safety.

Two Missouri employers arrested for failing to correct life-threatening worker hazards

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis ordered the arrest of Brian Andre, former owner of Andre Tuckpointing and Brickwork, and Regina Shaw, owner of Andre Stone & Mason Work Inc., the successor company to Andre Tuckpointing and Brickwork, for repeatedly failing to comply with court sanctions enforcing OSHA citations. The two were taken into custody by authorities Dec. 28, 2010. The order for incarceration stems from Mr. Andre’s and Ms. Shaw’s failure to comply with sanctions ordered by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, following the court’s initial ruling of contempt against Andre and Shaw in January 2010.

OSHA issued numerous citations from June 2003 to Dec., 2010, to both the original company and its successor, for willful, repeat and serious violations related to fall hazards and scaffolding erection deficiencies, among other issues. See the news release for more information.

OSHA orders railroad to pay whistleblower more than $80,000 in punitive damages

OSHA ordered Metro North Commuter Railroad Co., which provides commuter rail service in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey, to take corrective action and pay $80,500 in punitive damages to a worker at the company’s New Haven, Conn., rail yard who was disciplined after filing a whistleblower complaint with OSHA. OSHA’s investigation, conducted under the whistleblower provisions of the Federal Railroad Safety Act, found merit to the complaint. OSHA ordered Metro North to expunge disciplinary actions and references to the worker from various records, reimburse the worker a total of $5,500 in attorney’s fees and pay him punitive damages in the amount of $75,000. See the news release for more on this case and www.whistleblowers.gov for information on OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program.

OSHA will continue requiring independent safety testing for electrical devices

OSHA announced that it will not abandon its system for ensuring that electrical products used in the workplace are safe. The European Union requested that OSHA explore the possibility of adopting its system, known as Supplier’s Declaration of Conformity. Under the EU system, manufacturers declare that their products meet safety requirements before placing these products on the market, thus requiring EU governments to operate a post-market surveillance system to verify whether products are safety compliant after they already are on the market.

Currently, OSHA requires employers to use electrical devices tested and certified by independent testing companies known as Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories. These companies conduct tests to determine whether products are safe before manufacturers or distributors place them on the market and employers use them in the workplace. See the news release for more information.

OSHA appoints new head of Construction Directorate

OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels appointed Jim Maddux as the new director of the agency’s Directorate of Construction, effective Dec. 20, 2010. Maddux most recently served in OSHA’s Directorate of Standards and Guidance as the Director of the Office of Physical Hazards and Acting Director of the Office of Engineering Safety. Maddux has held several leadership positions at OSHA, including Director of the Office of Maritime and Acting Deputy Director for the Directorate of Standards and Guidance.

“Jim has been a valuable member of the OSHA team for over 20 years,” said Michaels in a news release. “I congratulate him on his new position, and I am confident that he will be an effective leader in construction safety working to accomplish the agency’s mission of protecting America’s workers.”

Advisory committee offers recommendations to improve construction worker safety

The Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health met Dec. 9-10 in Washington, D.C., to discuss recent OSHA activities and their impact on construction workers. ACCSH advises the Secretary of Labor on developing standards and policies that affect the safety and health of construction workers. The committee is made up of 15 members representing employers, workers, state safety and health agencies and the public, as well as one member designated by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Recommendations made to OSHA by the committee at this meeting included using Susan Harwood Training Grants to provide additional training on residential fall protection in construction specific to the type of residential construction being performed, addressing construction issues within the scope of OSHA’s rule-making and guidance on Injury and Illness Prevention Programs and moving forward expeditiously with the rulemaking to protect workers from hazards related to silica exposure. The complete transcripts from the Dec. 9 and Dec. 10 ACCSH meetings are available at www.regulations.gov.

Pennsylvania woodworking company improves worker safety with help of On-site Consultation Program

Keystone Wood Specialties, Inc., a wood cabinet and millwork manufacturer located in Lancaster, Pa., took a proactive approach to protecting the well-being of its workers by contacting OSHA’s On-site Consultation Program to improve its safety and health management program. A consultant conducted a walkthrough of Keystone’s facility, explained OSHA regulations and worked with the company to identify and correct hazards. After reviewing Keystone’s written safety and health policies and answering questions about properly completing the OSHA 300 Recordkeeping log, the consultant recommended improvements to the company’s safety and health management program. Keystone improved its written safety and health program policy manual and established a safety and health bulletin board. The company also developed a safety calendar and began conducting monthly training sessions on safety and health issues related to the company’s operations. As a result of continued improvement, for the last nine years Keystone has been a member of the On-site Consultation Program’s Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program. See OSHA’s Web site for more information on this safety and health success story.


North Carolina’s OSH Division enters roadway construction safety partnership

The North Carolina Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Division is working to reduce roadside construction injuries, illnesses and fatalities through a partnership with Raleigh-Durham Roadbuilders, a joint venture between Archer Western Contractors and Granite Construction. The partnership brings together government and private industry to protect worker safety and health during the construction phase of the Western Wake Freeway section of the Triangle Expressway. At its peak, the project will involve as many as 34 subcontractors and between 300 and 400 workers. See the North Carolina Department of Labor’s November-December 2010 newsletter* for more information.

One thought on “OSHA Quick Takes – January 15, 2011

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