OSHA QuickTakes – November 1, 2011

November 1, 2011 · Volume 10, Issue 21
OSHA at 40QuickTakes
A twice monthly e-news product with information about workplace safety and health.
In this issue

Bureau of Labor Statistic releases workplace injury and illness data for 2010

The Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) announced Oct. 20 that there were 3.1 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses among private industry employers in 2010–approximately 200,000 fewer incidents than there were in 2009. The rate of injuries and illnesses also dropped in 2010 from the previous year.

In a statement responding to BLS’s findings, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis said, "We are encouraged by the reported decline in incidence rates for workplace injuries and illnesses, which is reflective of the joint effort of government, business, unions and other organizations. Nevertheless, 3.1 million injuries and illnesses in the workplace are too high. Serious injuries and illnesses can knock a working family out of the middle class. Workers should not have to sacrifice their health and safety to earn a paycheck."

Decline in private sector workplace injuries and illnesses

Decline in private sector workplace injuries and illnesses

The efforts of OSHA and its partners in state and local governments to ensure the safety and health of America’s workers has played a major role in the more than 50 percent decline in private sector workplace injuries and illnesses

from 6.8 million in 1994 to 3.1 million in 2010.

OSHA publishes new and updated materials on worker safety and health

OSHA's Workers' RightsOSHA recently published new and updated educational brochures on a number of topics including workers’ rights, employers’ rights following an OSHA inspection, as well as how to protect workers from hazards in the construction, general and maritime industries. OSHA’s Workers’ Rights* booklet describes the rights to which workers are legally entitled under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. The booklet, Employer Rights and Responsibilities Following an OSHA Inspection*, reviews what happens after an inspection and is provided to employers during an OSHA inspection. The agency also recently published an updated Construction Industry Digest*, and a new Small Entity Compliance Guide for Respiratory Protection Standard*, Laboratory Safety Guidance*, a series of new QuickCards, and new publications to help protect construction, general industry and shipyard workers. Please call 1-800-321-OSHA or 202-693-1999 to order copies or visit OSHA’s Publications page to order them online.

Blog: Employers must neither require nor condone workers texting while driving

Distracted DrivingOSHA Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels sent a clear message in his Oct. 20 blog post that employers must neither require nor condone their workers sending or reading text or e-mail messages while driving. In 2009, distracted drivers contributed to more than 5,400 traffic fatalities, accounting for 16 percent of all traffic deaths that year. OSHA responded last year by partnering with the Department of Transportation (DOT) to launch an initiative to combat this deadly practice.

Michaels reminded employers in his blog post, "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. When OSHA receives a credible complaint that an employer requires texting while driving or organizes work so that texting is a practical necessity, we will investigate and where necessary issue citations and penalties to end this practice."

Chemical exposure related to bathtub refinishing results in 13 worker deaths

Federal OSHA has identified at least 13 worker deaths since 2000 related to bathtub refinishing with stripping agents containing methylene chloride. In the majority of the identified cases, the workers were working alone, in poorly ventilated bathrooms, with inadequate respiratory protection and little or no training on the hazards of the chemicals they were using. Michigan recently investigated one of these cases through its Fatality Assessment & Control Evaluation (FACE) program and issued a hazard alert* to inform employers and workers. The alert highlights the hazards of working with methylene chloride-based stripping agents, safe work practices when using them and alternative paint stripping chemicals and processes.

Methylene chloride is a volatile solvent and cancer-causing chemical that is easily absorbed into the body through the lungs and skin. Short-term exposures to high levels of methylene chloride can cause headaches, fatigue, dizziness and lack of coordination. The liver metabolizes methylene chloride to carbon monoxide, and elevated levels of carbon monoxide in the blood can cause heart attacks, irregular heart rhythms and sudden death. OSHA’s methylene chloride standard (29 CFR 1910.1052) requires employers to control occupational exposure to methylene chloride through the use of exposure monitoring, engineering and work practices, respiratory protection and medical surveillance. OSHA is collaborating with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to develop further guidance for employers and workers in the bathtub refinishing industry.

NIOSH predicts shortage of qualified occupational safety and health professionals

A survey by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) indicates that the national demand over the coming year and beyond for occupational safety and health services will significantly surpass the number of men and women with the necessary training, education and experience. Although employers plan to hire at least 25,000 occupational safety and health professionals over the next five years, only about 12,000 new graduates are expected to be available from the academic programs that provide the national pool of expertise.

The report on the survey, "National Assessment of the Occupational Safety and Health Workforce," attributes the shortage to declines in funding for degree programs in occupational safety and health; inadequate or limited financial aid and lack of knowledge about these degree programs; and the desire of employers to hire workers with added training in leadership and communication. Visit the NIOSH Web page to read the full report.

OSHA forms Alliance to help protect restaurant workers

OSHA recently formed an Alliance with the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC-United), a national restaurant workers organization with 7,500 members. The Alliance will help prevent worker exposures to musculoskeletal injuries, falls, cuts and burn hazards, and will address workplace safety and health issues of young workers and small businesses. See the news release for more information.

Through the Alliance Program, OSHA works with groups committed to worker safety and health to prevent workplace fatalities, injuries and illnesses. These groups include businesses, employer associations, unions, consulates, trade or professional organizations, and community based organizations,. OSHA and the groups work together to develop and share compliance assistance tools and resources, and educate workers and employers about their rights and responsibilities.

Supermarket chain fined nearly $600,000 after failing to ensure injured worker received proper medical attention

OSHA issued $589,200 in fines to DeMoulas Supermarket Inc., doing business as Market Basket, and cited the company for 30 alleged willful, repeat and serious violations of workplace safety standards at its stores in Rindge and Concord, N.H. The Tewksbury, Mass., grocery chain, which has stores in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, was fined chiefly for recurring fall and laceration hazards and also for improperly responding to a worker’s serious injury.

The inspection of the Market Basket store began after an employee sustained broken bones and head trauma on April 17 when he fell 11 feet to a concrete floor from an inadequately guarded storage mezzanine. Instead of calling for emergency help, store management lifted the injured worker from the floor, put him in a wheelchair and pushed him to the store’s receiving dock to wait for a relative to take him to the hospital. OSHA also found that employees were exposed to falls of over 11 feet while working on top of produce coolers, freezers and storage lofts that lacked adequate guardrails to prevent falls. Employees were also exposed to severe laceration hazards from knives due to the grocery chain’s failure to provide hand protection to employees in the produce, deli and bakery departments. See the news release for more information.

Grain handling company fined nearly $260,000 after worker is engulfed in grain bin

OSHA cited Corpus Christi Grain Co. in Corpus Christi, Texas, for 26 violations and fined the company $258,900 after a worker was engulfed while emptying grain from a storage bin. The employee was rescued due to the exceptional efforts of the Corpus Christi Fire Department. Inspectors found that the company willfully exposed workers to potentially fatal safety hazards by failing to provide personal protective equipment, such as a body harness and life line, to employees working with stored grain; failing to perform lockout/tagout procedures for the energy sources of equipment, such as augers and conveyors, while workers are inside the grain bins; and failing to have a competent attendant present with rescue equipment when workers enter grain storage bins. See the news release for more information.

OSHA citations and fines upheld against contractor for cave-in hazards

The independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission has upheld willful and serious citations and $137,200 in fines issued by OSHA to Sand Cut Properties LLC, a Danbury, Conn., contractor. OSHA cited Sand Cut Properties in November 2008 after inspectors at a Brookfield, Conn., worksite found an employee working in a collapsing 6- to 9-foot-deep excavation that lacked cave-in protection and had piles of excavated materials overhanging its edge as well as water seeping into its bottom. The company contested the willful violations and accompanying fines to the review commission in December 2008. In a Sept. 22 decision, Administrative Law Judge Dennis L. Phillips affirmed the citations and ordered Sand Cut Properties to pay $137,200 in fines. See the news release for more information.

OSHA appoints new chairman to its construction advisory committee

OSHA announced Oct. 25 that Erich J. (Pete) Stafford has been appointed as the new chair of the agency’s Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health (ACCSH). Stafford, who is a current member of the committee, replaces long-serving member Frank L. Migliaccio Jr. as the committee chair. Mr. Stafford has nearly 30 years experience in occupational safety and health in the construction industry. He presently serves as safety and health director for the AFL-CIO’s Building and Construction Trades Department, and executive director of the Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR). Gerald Ryan will fill Mr. Migliaccio’s vacant seat as one of the committee’s five employee representatives. Mr. Ryan is Director of Training, Health and Safety for the Operative Plasterers’ and Cement Masons’ International Association of the United States and Canada (OPCMIA).

ACCSH advises the Secretary of Labor and Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health on construction standards and policy matters. See the news release for more information.

New study shows increased cancer risk among nylon flock workers

A new study published in the current issue of the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health found an increased incidence of lung cancer among a group of nylon flock workers at a Rhode Island manufacturing facility. Nylon flock workers can develop a disease called flock worker’s lung caused by exposure to tiny particles that can be breathed into the lungs during the cutting of synthetic fibers like nylon. These small fibers (flock) are applied to adhesive coated fabric surfaces to produce a material commonly called microfiber which is used for apparel, upholstery, industrial filters, and cleaning products. The authors of the study found a threefold increase of lung cancer in the original study group of 162 flock workers. The authors’ recommendations for flock workers include notifying them of their increased risk of lung cancer, having them discuss any new respiratory symptoms with their physician, and considering them for early detection lung screening programs.

OSHA issues new guidelines for inspecting pyrotechnics facilities

OSHA has issued a new directive that provides guidance to the agency’s compliance officers on how to conduct safety and health inspections of pyrotechnics facilities. The directive, Compliance Policy for the Manufacture, Storage, Safe, Handling, Use and Display of Pyrotechnics*, clarifies under what situations OSHA may issue citations for pyrotechnics hazards that may cause worker injuries and deaths. This directive cancels the 1986 OSHA Instruction CPL 2.73 – Fireworks Manufacturer: Compliance Policy.

California OSHA offers new and revised safety and health resources

California OSHA (Cal/OSHA) has issued 11 new or updated publications from its Research and Education unit. The new publications include a "Guide for Working Safely with Supported Scaffolds*," while the updated items include topics such as setting up tailgate/toolbox safety meetings*, high voltage overhead lines*, confined space* and trenching* safety. These publications may be viewed and downloaded from the Publications page of the Cal/OSHA Web site. In addition, Cal/OSHA’s eTools Web page includes information on Record Keeping, Youth in Construction, Effective Workplace Training, and Heat Illness Prevention training materials in both English and Spanish.

Oregon to host pulp and paper industry safety conference

Oregon’s Occupational Safety and Health Division (Oregon OSHA) is one of several partners presenting the Western Pulp and Paper Workers Safety and Health Conference Nov. 29 – Dec. 2. Workers, contractors and employers in Oregon’s pulp and paper industry are invited to attend the four-day conference designed to showcase workplace safety and health ideas. Twenty-eight workshops and several roundtable discussions are scheduled to provide training on workplace issues that affect pulp, paper and converting employers and contractors. Other workshops will address safety committee effectiveness, mobile equipment safety and accident investigations. The conference will be held at the Jantzen Beach Red Lion Hotel in Portland. See the news release for more information and visit the conference Web site to register online.

Washington DOSH study shows inspections improve safety and save money

A study of 10 years of Washington Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) Division of Occupational Safety and Health (WA DOSH) enforcement inspections and safety consultation visits to employers found that those visits were linked to lower workers’ compensation claims and lower costs for employers. The study, conducted by the Washington Department of Labor and Industries’ Safety and Health Assessment and Research for Prevention (SHARP) program, excluded work-related musculoskeletal disorder (WMSD) claims for which there were no hazard-specific rules. The study found that:

  • WA DOSH enforcement and consultation activities significantly contributed to reduced worker compensation claims rates and costs in the year following the visit.
  • For the 10-year period studied, worker compensation savings for employers in the study was $3.9 million annually due to WA DOSH enforcement activities.

See the news release for more information.

OSHA celebrates 40 years of helping to ensure healthier workers, safer workplaces and a stronger America

Throughout 2011, OSHA is presenting a series of materials and activities to celebrate the agency’s 40th anniversary. Visit the OSHA at 40 Web page for resources including a short video using old and new footage to highlight key moments in the agency’s history, an interactive timeline and a commemoration of the 1911 Triangle shirtwaist factory fire. The page also links to an anniversary message from OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels as well as a video of his participation in a panel discussion on the nation’s progress in worker safety and health over the past forty years and the challenges that lie ahead.


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