In this issue
OSHA has kicked off a national outreach initiative to educate workers and their employers about the hazards of working outdoors in the heat and steps needed to prevent heat-related illnesses. OSHA’s 2012 Heat Illness Prevention Campaign builds on last year’s successful summer campaign as well as CAL/OSHA’s successful initiative in 2010. Nationwide last summer, OSHA participated in 500 national and local conferences, training sessions, and media events, and distributed more than 180,000 heat hazard materials in English and Spanish.
For outdoor workers, ‘water, rest and shade’ are three words that can make the difference between life and death,” Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis said. “If employers take reasonable precautions, and look out for their workers, we can beat the heat.”
Each year, thousands of outdoor workers experience serious illnesses such as heat exhaustion. For 2010, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 4,190 workers suffered from heat illness and 40 died from heat stroke and related causes on the job. Although outdoor workers in a variety of industries are susceptible to heat illness, those in construction and agriculture are the most vulnerable.
For information and resources on heat illness, visit OSHA’s Heat Illness Prevention page. To order quantities of OSHA’s heat illness educational materials in English or Spanish, call OSHA’s Office of Communications at (202) 693-1999 or email Meilinger.Francis2@dol.gov. More details are also available in the press release (y en Español).
As part of OSHA’s Fall Prevention Campaign to prevent deadly falls in the construction industry, OSHA is working closely with NIOSH, the National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) program and scores of stakeholders to get resources out to employers and workers – especially vulnerable workers with limited English proficiency.
To raise awareness of the hazards of the construction industry, the NORA program has developed interactive maps which illustrate construction workers killed on the job, including in fatal falls. If you are aware of a construction worksite fatality that has occurred since January 2012, you can email NORA at firstname.lastname@example.org with the date, location, cause of the fatality, and your contact information.
In addition, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health is working to inform construction employers, workers and other stakeholders about numbers and causes of fatal falls in the state (PDF*). In Massachusetts over the last five years, 44 construction workers fell to their deaths.
Across the U.S. in 2010, more than 10,000 construction workers were injured as a result of falling while working from heights, and another 255 workers were killed. For more information, visit OSHA’s new Fall Prevention page.
OSHA also has new educational materials available. A new poster and factsheet—offered in both English and Spanish—provide employers and workers with life-saving information about working safely from ladders, scaffolds and roofs. To get copies of OSHA’s new Fall Prevention poster or fact sheet in English or in Spanish, please call 202-693-1999 or visit OSHA’s Publications page to order online.
On April 30, NIOSH researchers presented preliminary data (PDF*) which suggest that gas and oil workers may be exposed to dangerously high levels of respirable crystalline silica while performing hydraulic fracturing operations. The researchers found that nearly half (47%) of the workers sampled were exposed to levels of silica above OSHA’s permissible exposure limits with almost 80% of those sampled exposed above NIOSH’s recommended exposure limits.
The findings were reported by Eric Esswein during a meeting of the Institute of Medicine on The Health Impact Assessment of New Energy Sources: Shale Gas Extraction. The researchers identified seven primary dust generation points, which include refilling/hot loading and release from top hatches, T-belt operations, and the “dragon’s tail.” Esswein also discussed possible means of prevention through design.
Inhalation of respirable crystalline silica particles has long been known to cause silicosis, a disabling and sometimes fatal lung disease. For more information, visit OSHA’s Safety and Health Topics page on Crystalline Silica.
On May 9, Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels addressed participants at the 28th Annual Governor’s Safety and Health Conference and Exposition in Louisville, Kentucky. Dr. Michaels spoke about OSHA’s Workers’ Memorial Day events in honor of fallen workers, and discussed recent OSHA initiatives to protect workers from hazardous chemicals, falls in construction, and heat illness. He also invited those in attendance to join OSHA in making the Fall Prevention in Construction and Heat Illness Prevention campaigns a success.
The Governor’s Safety and Health Conference features courses, keynote speakers, and concurrent workshops focused on state-of-the-art techniques, current issues, and trends in workplace safety and health. For more information, visit the Kentucky Conference Web site.
To make the process of applying for a variance more transparent and straightforward, OSHA has posted new application forms and checklists to its Variances page. A variance is a regulatory action that permits an employer to deviate from the requirements of an OSHA standard under specified conditions. OSHA may grant a variance to employers who can prove their alternative method, condition, practice, operation, or process provides workers as safe or healthful a workplace as the applicable OSHA standard requires.
In accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act, OSHA has worked with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to create these new materials, which significantly reduce the burden of preparing a complete and appropriate application. For more information and to access the new materials, visit OSHA’s page on How to apply for a variance.
The Department of Labor has reached a settlement with DeMoulas Super Markets Inc. in which the Tewksbury grocery chain has agreed to correct all hazards and take substantive steps to enhance safety and health measures for employees at all of the chain’s more than 60 Market Basket stores in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
“This enterprisewide settlement is significant because DeMoulas has agreed not only to correct the hazards cited during OSHA’s inspections but also to enact effective and ongoing systemic changes that will benefit all its employees,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels.
These changes will include a full-time safety and health director, written safety and health programs, and formal safety and health training for all workers, in addition to a number of other improvements. The company has also paid $400,000 in fines. The settlement resolves litigation that followed citations carrying $589,200 in OSHA fines in October 2011 after OSHA’s inspections identified widespread fall and laceration hazards at the stores. For more information see the press release.
OSHA has ordered Brush Creek-based Mark Alvis Inc., a commercial motor carrier, to reinstate a former employee and pay him more than $180,000 in back pay, interest, and compensatory and punitive damages.
The order follows OSHA’s determination that the company violated the worker’s rights under the whistleblower provisions of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act by terminating him for his refusal to drive while fatigued and ill or violate the hours-of-service requirements outlined in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. The order issued by OSHA also requires the trucking company to expunge any adverse references relating to the discharge from the complainant’s personnel records, and to post a notice for employees and provide a fact sheet to them with notification of their rights under the STAA. For more details, read the news release.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the STAA and of Section 11(c) of the OSH Act, as well as 19 other whistleblower statutes. Detailed information on workers’ whistleblower rights is available on OSHA’s Whistleblower page.
OSHA has cited River Falls, Wisconsin-based Gordy’s Pump Service with five safety – including two willful – violations as the result of an inspection conducted after a 19-year-old worker died when an unprotected trench collapsed at a Spring Valley job site on Nov. 3, 2011. The teenager had just finished locating an existing waterline in the 220 feet long, 6 feet deep and 2 feet wide trench using a hand-held shovel when a sidewall caved in. Proposed fines total $137,000. Due to the willful violations, OSHA has placed Gordy’s Pump Service in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which focuses on recalcitrant employers and mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law. For further details, see the news release.
In Rhode Island, OSHA has proposed fines totaling $117,740 against Newport-based Raymond J. Cawley Contracting Inc. for allowing cave-in and other hazards while workers were excavating at 28 W. Main Road in Middletown to replace a sewer line. OSHA’s inspection found workers in an unsafe 8-foot-deep trench who were working without means of safe egress, protective helmets, or adequate training. For more information about the willful, repeat, and serious citations, see the news release.
OSHA has also cited Perrysburg, Ohio-based Stillion Brothers Excavation Inc. with five safety – including two willful – violations for failing to protect workers from trench cave-ins at a job site in Columbus Grove. OSHA initiated an inspection on Dec. 15, 2011, under the agency’s National Emphasis Program on Trenching and Excavation. Six workers were installing 20-foot-long steel plates into a 12-foot-deep trench using a hydraulic excavator with a swivel hook that was not equipped with a safety latch. Proposed penalties total $72,820. Read the news release for additional information.
Detailed information on trenching and excavation hazards and related OSHA standards is available on OSHA’s Trenching and Excavation page.
In an industry where workers are at risk for hazards from amputation to combustible dust, Edwards Wood Products, Inc. (EWPI) of Marshville, NC decided to reach out to the North Carolina Department of Labor (NCDOL), Consultative Services Bureau, for help in strengthening its safety and health management system.
J. Lynn Greene, EWPI’s Human Resources and Safety Director, first contacted OSHA for help in 1995. Since then, OSHA’s On-site Consultation Program, which offers free and confidential advice to small and medium-sized businesses, has helped Greene to implement engineering and administrative controls to eliminate and reduce hazards. Some of EWPI’s improvements have included redesigning the dust collection system around the pole mill and making changes to the facility’s vibrating conveyer system. Since becoming the first small business in the wood industry to achieve SHARP status in North Carolina in 2003, EWPI has worked to continually improve its safety and health management system.
On April 20, Greene reported that savings from lower injuries, incidences, and frequency rates have enabled the company to purchase new equipment, improve the workplace environment, and hire more workers. “We could not have put 35 new people to work if we did not have a strong safety and health management system helping the bottom line profit and loss statements,” he said. More information about the company is available on OSHA’s Small Business Success Stories page.
OSHA’s “I have rights” poster for young workers is available for order. The poster is directed at workers aged 16-24 to provide information and educational resources about rights to a safe and healthful workplace under the OSH Act.
To request copies, call 202-693-1999 or visit OSHA’s Publications page to order online. Additional information for young workers, employers, parents and educators, can be found on OSHA’s Young Worker page.
On May 9, OSHA renewed its Alliance with the Laser Institute of America (LIA) to reduce and prevent worker exposure to laser beam and non-beam hazards in industrial, research and medical workplaces. The Alliance will also share information on laser regulations and standards, effects lasers have on the eyes and skin, laser control measures and laser safety program administration.
“Worker exposure to laser beams can result in eye and skin damage, and in more serious cases, blindness and skin cancer,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health David Michaels. “This renewed Alliance will help broaden outreach efforts to workers and employers and share critical education and information to reduce preventable injuries.”
For more information about the OSHA-LIA Alliance, see the news release. To learn more about laser hazards and laser safety, visit OSHA’s Safety and Health Topics pages on Laser Hazards, Laser/Electrosurgery Plume, and Radiation.
OSHA has updated its Workers’ Memorial Day page to include photographs and descriptions of memorial events from across the United States. In honor of Workers’ Memorial Day (April 28) OSHA’s National, Regional, and Area Offices co-sponsored and attended events to honor those workers who have died on the job, to acknowledge the grievous suffering experienced by families and communities, and to recommit ourselves to the fight for safe and healthful workplaces for all workers.
On May 7, Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels, along with Terrie Norris, President of the American Society of Safety Engineers and Jim Hopkins, Secretary of the Canadian Society of Safety Engineering marked the start of this year’s North American Occupational Safety and Health (NAOSH) Week.
The Assistant Secretary highlighted OSHA’s initiatives to prevent falls and heat injuries and the agency’s recent release of the hazard communication standard. This year’s NAOSH week theme, “Safety, What Every Business Needs,” was highlighted by the winners of ASSE’s 10th Annual “Safety-on-the-Job” poster contest in which children create illustrated posters with safety messages to their parents and other workers. Contest winners and runners up can be viewed here.
“These posters are vivid representations of an ideal work environment in the eyes of the next generation of workers.” said Dr. Michaels. Visit the NAOSH Week Web site for more information, or contact Morgan Seuberling at email@example.com.