OSHA Quick Takes – December 15, 2011




In this issue

OSHA continues to cite beauty salons and manufacturers for formaldehyde exposure from some hair smoothing products

OSHA launches new hair salon Web page

OSHA’s new Hair Salons: Facts about Formaldehyde in Hair Smoothing Products Web page provides information to salon owners and workers on formaldehyde in hair smoothing products, the requirements that salon owners and other employers need to meet under the formaldehyde and hazard communications standards when using hair smoothing products, and what OSHA investigations have found.

Formaldehyde Levels Measured in Salons

Formaldehyde Levels in Hair Salons

OSHA has tested the air during hair smoothing treatments at various salons nationwide. In three salons, OSHA found that measured levels of formaldehyde exceeded the short-term exposure limit (STEL) of 2 parts per million (ppm).

OSHA is continuing its efforts to protect workers from the dangers of formaldehyde exposure. In November, OSHA issued citations and fines to two salons for failing to implement precautions to protect workers from exposure to formaldehyde when using certain hair-smoothing products. Formaldehyde can irritate the eyes and nose; can cause allergic reactions of the skin, eyes and lungs; and is a cancer hazard. Salon owners who decide to use products that may contain or release formaldehyde must follow the requirements of OSHA’s formaldehyde and hazard communication standards to keep workers safe.

OSHA continues to respond to complaints and referrals of formaldehyde exposure in salons, beauty schools and manufacturing facilities. To date in calendar year 2011, federal OSHA has issued citations to 23 salon owners and beauty schools in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Florida, Illinois, New York, New Jersey and Ohio, with fines ranging up to $17,500 for failing to protect workers from overexposure and potential exposure to formaldehyde. OSHA also has issued citations to three manufacturers and two Florida-based distributors of hair products containing formaldehyde for failing to protect their own workers from possible formaldehyde exposure as well as to communicate the hazards of formaldehyde exposure to salons, stylists and consumers.

OSHA already has conducted significant outreach to salons, beauty schools and manufacturers to alert them about the hazards of hair smoothing products and the requirements of OSHA’s standards. In late September, OSHA issued a second hazard alert to hair salon owners and workers about potential formaldehyde exposure from working with certain hair smoothing and straightening products. This alert, which revised the initial alert issued last spring, was prompted by the results of additional agency inspections, a warning letter issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and factually incorrect information recently sent to salons by Brazilian Blowout, a company that manufactures hair products.

MSHA cites corporate culture as root cause of Upper Big Branch Mine disaster

The Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has imposed a $10,825,368 fine, the largest in agency history, following its investigation into the April 2010 explosion at the Upper Big Branch-South Mine, which was operated by Performance Coal Co. (PCC), a subsidiary of Massey Energy Co. The investigation followed an explosion that killed 29 miners and injured two – the worst U.S. coal mining disaster in 40 years. A report concludes that Massey’s corporate culture was the root cause of the tragedy. MSHA has issued Massey and PCC 369 citations and orders, including for an unprecedented 21 flagrant violations, which carry the most serious civil penalties available under the law.

MSHA’s presentation of findings follows a non-prosecution agreement — which includes nearly $210 million for remedial safety measures at all the company’s mines, a trust fund for improvements in mine safety and health, payment of outstanding civil penalties for all former Massey mines and restitution payments for the victims’ families — that resolves criminal liability for the company but does not provide protection against criminal prosecution of any individuals. Read the news release for more information.

OSHA's It's the Law Poster OSHA improves It’s the Law” poster Web page to make it more accessible

OSHA has revised its Web page on the OSHA Job Safety and Health: It’s the Law poster (OSHA poster), to make it easier to use. Employers are required to display this free poster prominently in their workplaces. The revised Web page provides instructions on how employers can get free copies, and links to information about other Department of Labor posters. The OSHA poster, which informs workers of their rights under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, is available in English, Spanish, and Polish (online only). Call 1-800-321-OSHA or 202-693-1999 to order the poster or visit OSHA’s Publications page.

OSHA settles litigation against grain bin operator following preventable suffocation deaths of two teen workers

The Department of Labor (DOL) has reached an agreement with Haasbach LLC in Mount Carroll, Ill., resolving 25 citations issued by OSHA and child labor civil money penalties assessed by DOL’s Wage and Hour Division. The resolution follows the preventable deaths of Wyatt Whitebread, 14, and Alex Pacas, 19, at the company’s Mt. Carroll grain bin facility in July 2010. A 20-year-old worker also was seriously injured in the incident.

“This tragedy has had a profound effect on the community of Mt. Carroll and the grain industry nationwide,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels. “We hope that the deaths of these two young men send a profound and unmistakable message throughout the grain industry that loss of life can and must be prevented.”

At the time of the accident, the workers were “walking down the corn” to make it flow while machinery used to convey the grain was running. All three became trapped in corn more than 30 feet deep, and Whitebread and Pacas suffocated.

OSHA cited Haasbach for 12 willful, 12 serious and one other-than-serious violation of the agency’s Grain Handling Facilities standard. Following the agreement reached in this case, the company must pay $200,000 in penalties. The agreement also maintains all of the willful violations as issued. (A willful violation is one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.) A separate investigation by the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division found that Haasbach violated the child labor provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by employing workers under age 18 to perform hazardous jobs that are prohibited by the FLSA. Under the agreement, Haasbach will pay $68,125, the full civil money penalty originally assessed as a result of those violations. Read the news release for more information.

OSHA inspector prevents potentially fatal fall

During a November inspection of an Illinois worksite as part of a Local Emphasis Program (LEP) on Falls*, OSHA Compliance Safety and Health Officer Tony Nozzi identified a roofing contractor’s employees and a building restoration employee working on a church roof without any fall protection. Before leaving the worksite, Nozzi made sure that all employees put on harnesses and lanyards and secured themselves with rope grabs before he left the worksite.

After Nozzi departed, an employee who worked for the building restoration company was assigned to power wash the steeple of the church. Shortly after the employee began his work, he slipped and slid down the church’s pitched roof. The life line became tight on the lanyard and he stopped right before the edge of the roof. His fall protection equipment prevented serious and potentially fatal injuries and the employee was then able to walk back up the roof towards the steeple and safely complete his work. See OSHA’s Residential Fall Protection page and Safety and Health Topics Page on Fall Protection for information on how to keep workers safe from fall hazards.

D.C. Circuit court upholds OSHA’s multi-employer citation policy

The D.C. Circuit upheld OSHA’s multi-employer citation policy, in a Dec. 14 decision against Summit Contractors Inc. OSHA cited the company for providing electrical equipment without ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) to its subcontractors in violation of section 1926.404(b)(1)(ii) of OSHA’s Electrical Wiring Design and Protection standard. OSHA’s multi-employer citation policy provides that an employer may under specified circumstances be cited for violations even if none of its own employees were exposed to the hazard. Summit contested the citation before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), who affirmed the citation, as did the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC), which affirmed the citation on the ground that Summit was a “controlling employer” (because of its authority over the site in general and the electrical equipment in particular) as well as a “creating employer” (because it obtained and supplied the noncompliant equipment). The D.C. Circuit ruled that OSHA was not required to promulgate through notice and comment rulemaking its multi-employer citation policy and could impose multi-employer liability through adjudication before the OSHRC. The Court also rejected Summit’s claim that multi-employer liability establishes a common law duty of care to subcontractor employees in violation of section 4(b)(4) of the OSH Act. Last, the Court found substantial evidence supported OSHRC’s determination that Summit had constructive knowledge of the violation. Summit required its subcontractors to use the non-compliant equipment but failed to take reasonable steps, such as specifying or inspecting for GFCIs, to ascertain compliance.

OSHA publishes Direct Final Rule on Acetylene Standard

OSHA published a revision to its Acetylene Standard in the December 5, 2011, Federal Register that replaces a reference to an outdated consensus standard with an updated reference that reflects current industry practices in the acetylene industry. The reference was originally updated in 2009 based on recommendations by the Compressed Gas Association and the U.S. Chemical Safety Board. The current update is a continuation of the project intended to make OSHA regulations reflect state-of-the-art technology and current industry practice. The Direct Final Rule will take effect March 5, 2012, unless OSHA receives significant adverse comments within 30 days of publication. In that case, the accompanying Notice of Proposed Rulemaking will allow OSHA to continue the rulemaking as a “Notice and Comment” rulemaking. Individuals must submit comments on the Direct Final Rule and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking by January 4, 2012.

OSHA fines Liberty, Texas, manufacturer Boomerang Tube more than $400,000 following severe injuries to three workers

OSHA fined Boomerang Tube LLC $468,000 and cited the company for six willful, nine serious and one other-than-serious violation at the company’s facility in Liberty, Texas, where three employees were seriously injured within a five-month period.

OSHA began its investigation in response to a complaint from one of the injured employees that workers faced unsafe conditions while operating cranes and slitter, rolling and thread machines; performing service and maintenance work; and stacking and loading pipes in the yard and on trucks. In April, an employee was caught in an operating machine and injured and in May, a second employee was struck by a piece of steel and knocked into a 5-foot-10-inch concrete pit. In September, another employee was caught in machinery and injured. All three had to be flown to a local hospital due to the severity of their injuries.

The willful violations were cited for failing to repair a damaged under-hung crane, which lifts and lowers materials; failing to ensure the use of lockout/tagout procedures to control the energy sources of equipment; and failing to provide the required machine guarding on the pipe manufacturing line. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to employee safety and health. Read the news release for more information.

OSHA cites Seminole, Okla., meat processing plant for exposing workers to falls, other workplace hazards

OSHA cited Sigma Processed Meats Inc. for 16 serious and three repeat violations following an inspection that found workers were exposed to fall and other hazards at the company’s processing plant in Seminole. Proposed penalties total $204,800. OSHA began its investigation at the plant after receiving a complaint. Inspectors found serious violations that included failing to provide guardrails as fall protection for employees working on elevated walking/working surfaces, failing to provide personal protective equipment such as goggles or face shields, failing to train employees on the use of hazardous chemicals, and failing to address hazards created by deficiencies in the company’s process safety management system for anhydrous ammonia. The company was also cited for repeat violations that included failing to develop and implement a lockout/tagout program for isolation of energy sources as well as failing to provide training for employees on the use of lockout/tagout devices. Read the news release for more information.

Waymar Construction Co. in Shelby, Ohio, cited for child labor and safety violations after 16-year-old injured on job site

The Department of Labor cited Waymar Construction LLC for child labor and safety violations after a 16-year-old worker suffered cranial trauma and fractures from falling off a scissor lift during roofing operations at a Sandusky, Ohio, job site. OSHA fined Waymar $20,020 and cited the company for failing to provide fall protection training and ensure workers were protected from fall hazards. DOL’s Wage and Hour Division assessed civil penalties of $30,350 against the company for allowing a minor to operate a hoisting device and perform roofing work in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act’s (FLSA) child labor provisions. Waymar was also found to be in violation of the overtime provisions of the FLSA, for paying workers “straight time” wages for hours worked over 40 in a week. Read the news release for more information.

OSHA issued a hazard alert earlier this year about the hazards of using portable, hydraulic-powered scissor lifts. Hazards associated with scissor lifts include using the equipment during high winds or bad weather; overloading the equipment with heavy objects; removing the guardrails during operation; and driving the lift while in an elevated position over uneven or unstable ground.

OSHA’s free On-site Consultation program helps small businesses improve workplace safety and health

Compliance with OSHA requirements is critical to protecting workers from occupational injuries and illnesses. To assist small businesses with compliance, OSHA’s On-site Consultation provides a free, confidential service for small businesses with fewer than 250 employees at a site (and no more than 500 employees nationwide). On-site consultation services are separate from enforcement and do not result in penalties or citations. In addition, OSHA has Compliance Assistance Specialists throughout the nation who can provide compliance assistance. To find the contact information for the OSHA Federal or State Program office nearest you, visit http://www.osha.gov/html/RAmap.html.

Study finds investing in occupational health “best practices” improves outcomes for injured workers

A new study of occupational health care in Washington State shows that improving medical care for injured workers can dramatically reduce lost work time. The study is published in the December 2011 issue of the American Public Health Association journal, Medical Care. Dr. Gary Franklin, medical director for the Washington Department of Labor & Industries (L&I), which enforces the state’s occupational safety and health standards, was one of the researchers involved in the study.

“Work-related disability is a major public health problem that’s largely overlooked in the U.S.,” Franklin said. “This study shows that using occupational health best practices when treating injured workers can have an important effect on their recovery.”

L&I’s community-based Centers of Occupational Health and Education (COHE) work with medical providers to encourage the best ways to treat injured workers. These “best practices” focus on the safe, healthy return of injured workers to full function and full employment. The study found that injured workers treated by health-care providers operating under COHE best practices had 19.7 percent fewer disability days than other injured workers receiving treatment, and a reduction in total disability and medical costs of $510 per claim. Workers suffering from back strain had a reduction in disability days of 29.5 percent. Read the news release for more information.

Oregon construction safety summit to be held in January

Oregon’s Occupational Safety and Health Division (Oregon OSHA) is one of several partners presenting the Mid-Oregon Construction Safety Summit at the Riverhouse Resort and Convention Center in Bend on Jan. 24, 2012. The conference, designed for residential and commercial construction workers, is themed “Bridging the Safety Gap.” Continuing education credits are pre-approved for the Construction Contractors Board, Building Codes Division (plumbers and electricians), and Landscape Contractors Board. Conference topics include fall protection, multi-employer worksite safety, electrical safe work practices, work zone safety, crane rule updates and ergonomics. Visit the conference Web site for more information or to register online.

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