In this issue
OSHA and NIOSH, in consultation with stakeholders including industry and labor, have issued a hazard alert to ensure employers in hydraulic fracturing operations take appropriate steps to protect workers from silica exposure. The hazard alert follows a cooperative study by NIOSH and industry partners that identified overexposure to silica as a health hazard to workers conducting hydraulic fracturing operations.
Respirable silica is a hazard common to many industries and industrial processes, and large quantities of silica sand are used during hydraulic fracturing. Workers who breathe silica day after day are at greater risk of developing silicosis, a disease in which lung tissue reacts to trapped silica particles, causing inflammation and scarring, and reducing the lungs’ ability to take in oxygen. Silica also can cause lung cancer and has been linked to other diseases, such as tuberculosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and kidney and autoimmune disease.
“Hazardous exposures to silica can and must be prevented. It is important for employers and workers to understand the hazards associated with silica exposure in hydraulic fracturing operations and how to protect workers,” said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. “OSHA and NIOSH are committed to continuing to work with the industry and workers to find effective solutions to address these hazards.” Read the Hazard Alert and press release for more information.
On June 28, Deputy Assistant Secretary Jordan Barab testified before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce‘s Subcommittee on Workforce Protections about OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Programs.
“OSHA is very proud of VPP,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary Barab. “we believe it represents a necessary and effective way to recognize and reward companies that have implemented safety and health management systems, maintained injury and illness rates below the national average for their industries, and excel in worker protection.”
Following Barab’s remarks, David Levine discussed his landmark new study on the benefits of OSHA inspections to workers and businesses. To learn more, see details of Levine’s findings in a blog from Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA David Michaels and read the Deputy Assistant Secretary’s June 28 testimony in full.
To bring awareness to the recent rise in fatal accidents in the oil and gas industry, OSHA and the Mid-Continent Exploration & Production Safety Network (MCEPS) are sponsoring a safety stand-down from June 22 to July 20 to promote safety and health practices at oil and gas exploration and production sites throughout Oklahoma.
On June 21, David Bates, OSHA Area Director met with all Oklahoma Exploration and Production companies in a kick-off event to request their participation in the voluntary stand down. More than 500 representatives from oil and natural gas exploration, production, and contracting attended the half-day event, where training information and tools were provided to carry out the state-wide stand down activities.
“It is hoped that the stand-down will not only heighten awareness for workers in the oil and gas industry, but also identify and eliminate work-related hazards,” said John Hermanson, OSHA’s regional administrator in Dallas. The Stand Down will continue until July 20, 2012. Participating companies are encouraged to conduct worksite inspections and employee training during the month-long event. Additional information is available in the news release.
On June 19-20, OSHA convened a meeting of the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (NACOSH). Assistant Secretary for OSHA David Michaels addressed attendees, including three new and five re-appointed committee members on OSHA’s Fall Prevention in Construction and Heat Illness Prevention campaigns, as well as recent developments with OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program. Dr. Michaels’ full presentation(PDF*) is available on OSHA’s Speeches page.
NACOSH meetings are open to the public. The final agenda is available on OSHA’s NACOSH page. For more information about the meeting and the newly appointed and returning members, read the news release and see the Federal Register notice.
On June 20, Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA David Michaels spoke with more than 80 meteorologists and weather broadcasters about OSHA’s campaign to Prevent Heat Illness in Outdoor Workers. Secretary Solis, Dr. Michaels, and Acting Deputy Director of the National Weather Service Steven Cooper also discussed the populations most at risk, the importance of acclimatization, and the value of using the buddy system to look out for heat illness warning signs in coworkers. Read more about the heat call in Dr. Michaels’ most recent post on the DOL blog.
In addition, OSHA is posting more than 100 “Water. Rest. Shade.” billboards across four states to educate employers and workers about the hazards of working outdoors in hot weather. The billboards will appear in Arkansas, Florida, Texas, and Illinois – the four states with the highest number of occupational heat-related fatalities in 2010. They direct viewers, in both English and Spanish, to visit OSHA’s heat illness web page for bilingual educational materials, a downloadable smart phone app, workplace training, and other information on how to prevent heat illness and what to do in an emergency. The billboards, provided by Lamar Outdoor Advertising, will be in place for eight weeks, running from mid-June through August.
OSHA offices around the country are also responding to the summer heat with resources, information, and outreach, including radio interviews and new wallet cards. These new cards, which are small enough for workers and employers to carry in their wallets, include some heat illness symptoms to watch out for as well as a QR code that workers and employers can scan with any smartphone to access OSHA’s Heat page and online resources. Smartphone users with a camera phone can download a free QR reader from their app store and scan the image to open a web page in their phone’s browser. OSHA also encourages iPhone and Android users to download the OSHA Heat App, which just reached the benchmark of over 25,000 downloads. To order any of OSHA’s materials in English or Spanish, call OSHA’s Office of Communications at (202) 693-1999 or visit OSHA’s Publications page.
Falls from heights are the leading cause of death in the construction industry, but these deaths are preventable, and OSHA is working to educate workers and employers aboutPreventing Falls in Construction.
OSHA has posted new media resources on its Fall Prevention page, including camera-ready drop-in art for publications. The new resources are available in English and Spanish, and in color as well as black and white. OSHA encourages media to use them to help get the message out to workers and employers that safety pays and falls cost. OSHA has also created new wallet cards as an easy, portable way to spread this lifesaving message of plan, provide and train to the people who need it most. The cards include an illustration of safe work from a roof, as well as a QR code to direct readers to OSHA’s Fall Prevention page and educational resources. To order these or any of OSHA’s outreach materials, call OSHA’s Office of Communications at (202) 693-1999 or visit OSHA’s Publications page.
In addition, with the support of OSHA’s Susan Harwood Grant Program, the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America is offering a one-day training program on Fall Protection on July 10 in Washington, D.C. The course, which is free and open to the public, was developed in collaboration with OSHA and reflects OSHA standards and best practices. Topics will include fall protection statistics, OSHA standards, fall hazard identification, fall protection systems and equipment, and training requirements. To register, visit the AGC enrollment page.
OSHA has found that Norfolk Southern Railway Co. violated the whistleblower protection provisions of the Federal Railroad Safety Act and consequently has ordered the company to pay three whistleblowers $802,168.70 in damages, including $525,000 in punitive damages and attorneys’ fees.
Three concurrent investigations were completed by OSHA’s offices in Columbia, S.C., Nashville, Tenn., and Harrisburg, Pa. A laborer based in Greenville, S.C., was terminated on Aug. 14, 2009, after reporting an injury as a result of being hit by the company’s gang truck. In Louisville, Ky., an engineer at a Norfolk Southern facility was terminated on March 31, 2010, after reporting an injury as a result of tripping and falling in a locomotive restroom. Finally, on July 22, 2010, a railroad conductor based in Harrisburg, Pa., was terminated after reporting a head injury sustained when he blacked out and fell down steps while returning from the locomotive lavatory. The company, after an investigative hearing presided over by management officials, found the employee guilty of falsifying a report of a work-related injury, failing to promptly report the injury, and making false and conflicting statements. The day before the injury, the employee had been lauded for excellent performance, highlighted by no lost work time due to injuries in his 35-year career. OSHA found that the investigative hearing was flawed, and there was no evidence the employee intended to misrepresent his injury. Read the news release for more information.
“Firing workers for reporting an injury is not only illegal, it also endangers all workers. When workers are discouraged from reporting injuries, no investigation into the cause of an injury can occur,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “To prevent more injuries, railroad workers must be able to report an injury without fear of retaliation. The Labor Department will continue to protect all employees, including those in the railroad industry, from retaliation for exercising these basic worker rights. Employers found in violation will be held accountable.”
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the FRSA and 20 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various securities laws, trucking, airline, nuclear power, pipeline, environmental, rail, maritime, health care, workplace safety and health regulations, and consumer product safety laws. To learn more, visit OSHA’s Whistleblower page.
OSHA has cited Tribe Mediterranean Foods, a subsidiary of Nestle SA, for 18 violations of workplace safety standards following the death of a worker at its Taunton production plant. OSHA’s South Boston Area Office opened an inspection on Dec. 16, 2011, after a contract employee who was cleaning and sanitizing a machine used in the hummus manufacturing process was caught, pulled into the machine and crushed to death between two rotating augers. OSHA’s investigation found that Tribe Mediterranean Foods had not trained the deceased worker and six other workers who cleaned plant machinery on hazardous energy control or “lockout/tagout” procedures.
“The employer knew it needed to train these workers so they could protect themselves against just this type of hazard but failed to do so. The result was a needless and avoidable loss of life,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “In this case, Tribe Mediterranean Foods’ knowledge and continuous disregard for an obvious and deadly hazard was so pronounced that we are issuing seven willful citations for lack of training, one for each untrained worker exposed to the hazard.”
OSHA has issued Tribe Mediterranean Foods citations for two additional willful violations, three repeat violations, and six serious violations. Tribe Mediterranean Foods faces a total of $702,300 in proposed fines. To learn more, read the news release.
OSHA has cited four New Jersey contractors working on a 20-story building in Jersey City for exposing workers to fall hazards following a December 2011 inspection. Altura Concrete Inc. and Nathil Corp., both of Hasbrouck Heights, and White Diamonds Properties LLC and Blade Contracting Inc., both of Jersey City, face total proposed fines of $463,350.
OSHA inspectors observed employees working on the fourth floor of a building without personal fall protection or fall protection systems. Altura Concrete Inc. and Nathil Corp. have been cited for five willful violations for failing to protect workers from fall hazards created by open sides and edges, and failing to protect workers from fall hazards created by the misuse of self-supporting stepladders. The companies also received citations for nine serious violations including failing to provide personal protective equipment. Also cited were general contractor White Diamonds Properties, issued two willful and five serious violations, and masonry contractor Blade Contracting, for three serious violations. For more details, read the news release.
Every year hundreds of construction workers are killed on the job in falls from heights. To learn more about how to prevent deadly falls in construction, visit www.osha.gov/stopfalls.
OSHA has issued a direct final rule and a notice of proposed rulemaking to revise the personal protective equipment (PPE) sections of its general industry, shipyard employment, longshoring, and marine terminals standards regarding requirements for head protection.
OSHA’s rulemaking actions will update references in its standards to recognize the 2009 edition of the American National Standard for Industrial Head Protection, and is deleting the 1986 edition of that national consensus standard because it is out of date. OSHA also is including the construction industry in this rulemaking to ensure consistency among the Agency’s standards.
The direct final rule will become effective on September 20, 2012 unless OSHA receives a significant adverse comment by July 23, 2012. If the agency receives significant adverse comments, the accompanying notice of proposed rulemaking will allow the agency to continue the notice-and-comment component of the rulemaking by withdrawing the direct final rule. Individuals may submit comments electronically at www.regulations.gov, the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Submissions may also be sent via facsimile or mail. See the Federal Register notice for details. Submissions must be submitted by July 23, 2012.
On June 16, OSHA collaborated with the Hispanic Contractors Association De Tejas (HCAT) and the American Sub-Contractors Association to hold a 10-hour marathon training session to promote safety and health for construction workers in the Greater Houston area.
Participants who successfully completed the course received an OSHA 10-Hour Construction Outreach Department of Labor completion card the same day. OSHA granted an exception to its training limit of 7.5 hour per day to allow this unique opportunity. HCAT has a regional Alliance with OSHA offices of Region VI, where they have trained more than 5,000 workers and saved millions for the construction industry.
During the marathon safety training event, HCAT trained 791 workers in both English and Spanish, setting a record for the most trained in a single session. OSHA compliance officer and trainer Mark A. Hernandez said, “It was a true privilege working with all the volunteers to make this training day a tremendous success.” The Spanish-language television network Univision was on hand to highlight the morning activities by interviewing some workers as well as Javier Arias, Executive Director for HCAT. The interviews aired that evening to approximately 30,000 viewers.
On June 19-20, more than 120 safety and health researchers and practitioners met at the Department of Labor to discuss the use of workers’ compensation data for occupational safety and health.
Co-sponsored by OSHA, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the workshop provided an opportunity for participants to develop innovative ways of using workers’ compensation data to protect workers on the job. At present, this data is collected primarily for paying claims, managing costs, and targeting interventions. However, as attendees discussed at the workshop, this information can also be used to identify worker injury and illness risks, evaluate medical treatments and disabilities, develop priorities, focus resources, and evaluate program effectiveness. White papers presented at the workshop are now being finalized, and NIOSH plans to compile and disseminate them in a forthcoming joint publication. To learn more, view the workshop agenda here (PDF*).
As July 4 draws near, OSHA is reminding employers in the pyrotechnics industry about protecting workers from hazards associated with fireworks manufacturing, storage, transportation, display and retail sales. OSHA’s Pyrotechnics Safety and Health Topics Web page addresses common hazards and solutions to those hazards for the retail sales and display of fireworks. The page includes links to safety posters and pocket cards listing precautions employers should take in fireworks sales and display to help protect their workers and prevent workplace injuries and deaths. The site also includes a videodemonstrating best practices for retail sales and manufacturers based on National Fire Protection Association consensus standards.
Two OSHA employees were recognized in June for their outstanding efforts to protect the safety, health and rights of workers. Whistleblower Investigator Jennifer Nohl of OSHA’s Concord, Mass., Area Office received a Department of Labor Employee of the Year Award at a June 14 ceremony in Boston. Described as “the backbone of the Region I Whistleblower Protection Program,” Nohl has worked tirelessly to ensure that workers have a voice to secure safe and healthful workplaces. In addition to being a highly productive and highly motivated investigator, she has also played an important role in supporting the department’s goal of reaching out to underserved, limited English proficiency workers.
OSHA Industrial Hygienist Erin Cropsey of the agency’s Chicago Regional Office received a Federal Employee of the Year Award from the Chicago Federal Executive Board at a June 20 ceremony. The Federal Executive Boards (FEBs) were established by Presidential Directive in 1961 to foster communication, coordination and collaboration with federal, state, and local government agencies. In recognition of her contributions to an investigation of a recalcitrant employer who knowingly and repeatedly endangered workers, Cropsey received both the Region V OSHA Champion of the Year and the National OSHA Champion of the Year awards.
On June 10, OSHA’s Region III hosted an OSHA Hispanic Safety Summit in Seaford, Delaware. More than 100 workers attended this free event, including workers from the construction, poultry processing, agriculture, and landscaping industries. The summit featured a session on worker rights with a demonstration by OSHA staff and a session on preventing heat illnesses. There were also breakout sessions for poultry, landscaping, and construction workers that were provided in Spanish and included practical demonstrations. OSHA worked with a variety of groups on this summit, including the Delmarva Safety Association, the Philadelphia Area Project on Occupational Safety and Health, the Mexican Consulate in Philadelphia, the American Mushroom Institute, West Virginia University, and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division and Women’s Bureau. To learn more, read the news release and view the slide show.
In addition, on June 23, OSHA’s Region II co-sponsored a Summer of Safety Summit in New Brunswick to provide safety and health training to workers with limited English proficiency. OSHA teamed with New Labor, a New Jersey worker organization, to hold the summit, which was attended by workers from construction, warehouse and other industries. During the summit, workers were able to ask questions about specific hazards in their workplaces and were provided education about resources and solutions in a language they could understand.
OSHA’s On-site Consultation Program offers free and confidential advice to small and medium-sized businesses in all states across the country, with priority given to high-hazard worksites. Each year, responding to requests from small employers looking to create or improve their safety and health management programs, OSHA’s On-site Consultation Program conducts over 29,000 visits to small business worksites covering over 1.5 million workers across the nation.
On-site consultation services are separate from enforcement and do not result in penalties or citations. Consultants from state agencies or universities work with employers to identify workplace hazards, provide advice on compliance with OSHA standards, and assist in establishing safety and health management programs. For more information, to find the local On-site Consultation office in your state, or to request a brochure on Consultation Services, visit www.osha.gov/dcsp/smallbusiness/consult.html, or call 1-800-321-OSHA .