OSHA Quick Takes – August 1, 2012


In this issue

U.S. Department of Labor finds 2 companies in violation of Federal Railroad Safety Act for retaliating against whistleblowers

OSHA has ordered two railroad companies to pay three workers a total of $650,729.14 in back wages and damages for retaliating against them for reporting workplace injuries and safety concerns. The orders resulted from investigations conducted by the OSHA’s Chicago office, which were initiated upon receiving complaints from the employees.

“It is critically important that railroad employees in the Midwest and across the nation know that OSHA intends to defend the rights of workers who report injuries and safety concerns,” said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. “We will use the full force of the law to make sure that workers who are retaliated against for reporting health and safety concerns are made whole.”

OSHA conducted the investigations under the whistleblower provisions of the Federal Railroad Safety Act, as amended by the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007. Railroad carriers are subject to the FRSA, which protects employees who report violations of any federal law, rule or regulation relating to railroad safety or security, or who engage in other protected activities.

OSHA determined that Illinois Central Railroad violated the FRSA by retaliating against two employees in separate incidents for reporting workplace injuries.

The first employee, a conductor, was injured in August 2008 when he was knocked unconscious and sustained injuries to his shoulder, back and head while switching railcars in the Markham Yard. The second employee, a carman, reported an arm/shoulder injury that occurred in February 2008. While walking along a platform to inspect railcars in the poorly lit yard, the carman slipped on ice and tried to catch himself, which jolted his left arm and shoulder.

In the third incident, OSHA determined that Chicago Fort Wayne & Eastern Railroad violated the FRSA by terminating a conductor in retaliation for raising concerns about workplace safety while serving in his role as local chairman of the union and for reporting that a trainmaster had instructed him to operate a train in violation of certain Federal Railroad Administration rules in June 2009. Read the press release for more details.

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the FRSA and 21 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, maritime and securities laws. To learn more, visit OSHA’s Whistleblower page.

Federal OSHA and the Hawaii Department of Labor and Industrial Relations propose agreement to provide strengthened protections for Hawaii’s workers

Following three years of significant budgetary constraints and staffing challenges, Hawaii’s State Plan has requested federal OSHA assistance to ensure that workers are afforded adequate worker protection. Hawaii is one of 27 states and territories currently operating an occupational safety and health State Plan approved by federal OSHA.

A proposed agreement will allow federal OSHA to temporarily assume responsibility for enforcement in specific industries until the state is able to be “at least as effective” as federal OSHA. The State Plan will progressively resume authority over industries as it rebuilds capacity. This partnership will allow federal OSHA to commit the resources and staff necessary for Hawaii to meet its lawful responsibility to ensure safe and healthful working conditions. This agreement does not terminate Federal approval of the Hawaii State Plan and does not affect the legal authority of Hawaii to carry on enforcement activities under the State Plan. Federal OSHA has published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in the Federal Register to provide the public 35 days – through August 23 – to review and comment on the proposed change in status of Hawaii’s program. Once all comments are received from the NPRM and considered, federal OSHA expects to quickly publish a Final Rule and sign a revised Operational Status Agreement with Hawaii that allows federal OSHA and the Hawaii Occupational Safety and Health program to work cooperatively in the best interest of Hawaii’s workers.

State Plan states must set job safety and health standards that are “at least as effective as” federal standards and may promulgate stricter standards or ones covering hazards not addressed by federal standards. A state must conduct inspections to enforce its standards, cover both the private and public sectors, and operate occupational safety and health training and education programs. In addition, all states including Hawaii, and most territories provide free on-site consultation to help employers identify and correct workplace hazards.

OSHA delivers message of “Water. Rest. Shade.” in media old and new

OSHA’s nationwide outreach campaign to raise awareness among workers and employers about the hazards of working outdoors in hot weather continues through these sweltering summer months with outreach through traditional and new media. This week, OSHA took to the @USDOL Twitter feed and Facebook page to get the word out about our Spanish-language Heat app that calculates the heat index at a worksite, and, based on the heat index, displays a risk level to outdoor workers.

OSHA staff in the field are also bringing the message to their communities by appearing on radio and television and attending local events to protect outdoor workers. Isabel DeOliveira, Regional Compliance Assistant Specialist for the Philadelphia Region, spoke on the television program “Puerto Rican Panorama” and to Clear Channel Radio about the campaign.

Isabel DeOliveira, of OSHA’s Philadelphia Area Office.

On the other side of the country, Cal/OSHA, California’s State Plan, is reminding all employers to protect their outdoor workers from the risk of heat illness, especially with heat waves expected this week in the Central and Inland Valleys. To learn more about their efforts, read the CalOSHA news release.

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, including PSAs in English and Spanish, visit OSHA’s Heat Illness Prevention page. To order quantities of OSHA’s heat illness educational materials, including worksite posters, community posters, and fact sheets in English or Spanish, call OSHA’s Office of Communications at (202) 693-1999.

Zaplanuj. Zaplanij. Przeszkól.: New educational resources available to prevent falls in construction

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. These falls are preventable with three simple steps: Plan. Provide. Train. OSHA is working with its partners at the National Institute for Occupational Safety (NIOSH) and Health and National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) to raise awareness among workers and employers about common fall hazards in construction, and how falls from ladders, scaffolds and roofs can be prevented and lives can be saved.

New to the fall prevention campaign site is a training resources page, with links to training materials produced by OSHA, state and local government agencies, trade associations, and worker representatives. Falls can be prevented when workers understand proper set-up and safe use of equipment, so they need training on the specific equipment they will use to complete the job. Employers must train workers in hazard recognition and in the care and safe use ladders, scaffolds, fall protection systems, and other equipment they’ll be using on the job.

OSHA’s fall protection fact sheet has now been translated into Polish (PDF*) and Russian (PDF*). The translated materials can be downloaded in PDF format from OSHA’s fall prevention education materials page. To order any of OSHA’s printed outreach materials, call OSHA’s Office of Communications at (202) 693-1999 or visit OSHA’s Publications page.

NEW: Fall protection fact sheet in Russian

OSHA publishes Final Rule on whistleblower retaliation complaints made under the Surface Transportation Assistance Act

OSHA has published a Final Rule on the “Procedures for the Handling of Retaliation Complaints Under the Surface Transportation Assistance Act.”

Effective July 27 the Final Rule, among other provisions, clarifies that persons may not retaliate against workers covered by the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA) for making oral or written complaints about violations of commercial motor vehicle safety or security regulations to government agencies, employers and others. The rule also ensures complainants have an opportunity to respond to the respondent’s submissions during OSHA’s investigation and receive copies of correspondence and evidence OSHA sends to respondents before ordering preliminary reinstatement. The rule incorporates suggestions made in comments received on the Interim Final Rule published in August 2010 and is consistent with the procedures established in the recently published final Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act whistleblower rule, to the extent permitted by statute.

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of 22 statutes protecting employees who report violations of various workplace safety, airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food, safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime and securities laws. To learn more, visit OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program page.

C.J.’s Seafood of Breaux Bridge, La., instructed to pay fines and back wages after U.S. Department of Labor investigations

The U.S. Department of Labor has issued findings from investigations of C.J.’s Seafood Inc. in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana. OSHA has cited C.J.’s Seafood with 11 serious and one other-than-serious safety violation for exposing workers to blocked exit, fire, electrical and chemical hazards. Additionally, the department’s Wage and Hour Division found that the company failed to pay minimum wage and overtime compensation to 73 workers as required by the Fair Labor Standards Act, and to comply with provisions of the H-2B temporary foreign worker visa program established under the Immigration and Nationality Act.

OSHA’s safety citations carry proposed penalties of $34,300. The Wage and Hour Division found that $76,608 is due to the 73 workers, and the company is liable for an additional $70,014 in liquidated damages. The division also has assessed $32,120 in civil money penalties under the FLSA for willful violations of the employer’s obligation to pay overtime and $35,000 in civil money penalties for willful violations of the H-2B program. For further details, read the news release.

OSHA cites Nebraska Prime Group in Hastings, Neb., for 11 violations after worker fatality at meat packing facility

OSHA has cited Hastings Acquisition LLC, which operates as Nebraska Prime Group, a meatpacking facility in Hastings, for 11 safety violations. OSHA opened an inspection after a worker had become caught in a machine and was asphyxiated on Jan. 18. The citations carry $195,000 in proposed fines.

The worker was asphyxiated when his clothing got caught in the drive roller of a hide belt. Two related willful violations involve improper machine guarding – which exposes employees to amputation and strangulation hazards – and not supplying sufficient number of lockout devices for all servicing and maintenance employees to secure the energy sources of mechanical equipment. Nine serious violations involve a failure to: train workers on protecting themselves from hazards associated with loose clothing around moving equipment; conduct periodic inspections of energy control procedures; properly train workers in energy control procedures; prevent unauthorized alterations to forklifts; maintain legible data-plates for forklifts; train and evaluate the competency of powered industrial truck operators; keep powered trucks that are in need of repair out of operation; regularly inspect forklifts; and correctly use electrical cords and cables.

For more information, read the press release or view the citations (PDF*).

OSHA cites Idaho group home and adult day care operator for inadequate workplace violence safeguards at Pocatello facility

OSHA has cited South Park Inc., operating as Developmental Options in Pocatello, with one serious violation for failing to provide employees with adequate safeguards against workplace violence. OSHA opened an inspection of the group home and adult day care center in January following reports of increasing severity of attacks against workers. The citation carries a proposed penalty of $4,900.

OSHA cited the employer for exposing employees to repeated instances of violent behavior, aggressive physical contact and attacks by a patient in the residential habilitation program. OSHA also determined that the company failed to identify and abate existing and developing hazards associated with workplace violence. See the press release for more details.

Additional information on workplace violence is available on OSHA’s Workplace Violence page.

Hasbro’s Massachusetts-based manufacturing facility recognized as a leader in employee health and safety for second consecutive year

Hasbro, Inc.’s manufacturing facility based in East Longmeadow, Mass., has been named winner of OSHA’s Region I VPP Safety Award for the second consecutive year.

Hasbro’s site was once again recognized for the company’s “contributions, commitment, and leadership that have helped make OSHA Region I’s Voluntary Protection Programs possible . . . creating a safer, healthier work environment, together with its leadership in sharing with other companies its vast knowledge of best practices and impactful new techniques,” said Marthe Kent, OSHA’s Regional Administrator in Region I. “Hasbro is a very deserving recipient of the Region 1 VPP Safety Award.” Hasbro’s East Longmeadow site has been classified as an OSHA VPP Star site since 2002.

The Voluntary Protection Program recognizes employers and workers in the private industry and federal agencies who have implemented effective safety and health management systems and maintain injury and illness rates below national Bureau of Labor Statistics averages for their respective industries. In VPP, management, labor, and OSHA work cooperatively and proactively to prevent fatalities, injuries, and illnesses through a system focused on: hazard prevention and control; worksite analysis; training; and management commitment and worker involvement.

Protecting salon workers from on-the-job hazards: OSHA highlights salon safety at Asian American and Pacific Islander working group

The Interagency Working Group on Salon Worker Health and Safety convened this week to highlight its first-year progress. OSHA Chief of Staff Debbie Berkowitz was joined by representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency and Food and Drug Administration for a discussion of the hazards caused to hair and nail salon workers. OSHA reported on their efforts to protect hair salon workers from formaldehyde exposure in the production and application of hair smoothing treatments. In the past year, OSHA and state partners have conducted over 60 salon and manufacturers/distributors inspections based on complaints, published hazard alerts, and conducted Web-based education and outreach.

In 2012, OSHA unveiled a Web page devoted to safety in nail salons and published a guide to chemical, ergonomic and biological hazards, “Stay Healthy and Safe While Giving Manicures and Pedicures: A Guide for Nail Salon Workers,” (PDF*) available online in English and Vietnamese (PDF*). To order free copies, call OSHA’s Office of Communications at (202) 693-1999 or visit OSHA’s Publications page online.

OSHA reaches out to vulnerable workers in Little Rock and Tulsa with information on heat stress and other workplace hazards

At recent outreach events in Arkansas and Oklahoma, OSHA Compliance Assistance Specialists (CAS) provided workers with information in Spanish on heat stress and falls hazards. Each year, Latino workers are killed and suffer workplace injuries at higher rates than all other workers. In 2010, 707 Hispanic workers – more than 13 a week – were killed nationwide from work-related injuries.

At the June 24 St. Joseph’s Health Fair in Springdale, Ark. CAS Mary Walter of OSHA’s Little Rock Area Office distributed Heat Illness and Fall Protection posters in Spanish and in English, along with quick cards and other informational materials to the nearly 100 members of Springdale’s Latino community who attended. Several of the attendees said that they worked outdoors, were particularly interested in OSHA’s Heat Illness Prevention page. Elvira Aguirre, from the Mexican Consulate in Little Rock, also participated in the event. She brought heat stress and fall protection materials to the consulate to be distributed there.

On July 14, Jorge Delucca, CAS with the Oklahoma City Area Office, provided information about OSHA to 350 Mexican nationals who were obtaining passports and photo ID cards at the Mobile Mexican Consulate at the Catholic Charities facility in Tulsa. This was part of the Alliance between the Mexican Consulate at Little Rock and OSHA. Delucca explained OSHA’s mission to protect workers from injuries, illnesses and deaths caused by workplace hazards and provided a number of OSHA publications in Spanish.

For more information on OSHA’s efforts and resources to protect Spanish-speaking workers visit the agency’s Diverse Workforce Limited English Proficiency Outreach and OSHA en Español Web pages.

OSHA and NIOSH join together to inform employers and workers on safe work practices when using cleaning chemicals

Workers who clean buildings, schools, hospitals, hotels, restaurants, and factories use a variety of cleaning chemicals that can pose health risks. Health effects from chemicals in cleaning products can range from skin rashes and burns to eye, nose and throat irritation, to cough and asthma. Many employers are switching to green cleaning products because they are thought to be less hazardous to workers and the environment. The new OSHA-NIOSH Infosheet, “Protecting Workers Who Use Cleaning Chemicals,” (PDF*) provides employers with guidance on choosing safer cleaning products, safe work practices, worker training and better cleaning methods. The accompanying poster, “Protect Yourself: Cleaning Chemicals and Your Health,” (PDF*) informs workers of the hazards of cleaning chemicals, symptoms and employer responsibilities. In addition to English, the poster is available (in PDF* format) in Spanish, Chinese and Tagalog.

New searchable online course schedule makes it easy to find OSHA Training Institute Education Centers training opportunities

OSHA has added a new, user-friendly online searchable course schedule for OSHA Training Institute (OTI) Education Center courses. The new course schedule allows prospective students to search for OTI training courses by organization, course title, state or date range. The schedule also allows users to search courses that offer professional development opportunities including Continuing Education Units and Certification Maintenance points. A registration link for the courses is provided along with query results. Registration is conducted directly through the respective OTI Education Center.

The OTI Education Centers are a national network of nonprofit organizations authorized by OSHA to deliver occupational safety and health training to private sector workers, employers, supervisors, and managers. Training is offered through an open enrollment format and on a contract basis for organizations within OSHA’s jurisdiction. The OTI Education Centers offer courses and seminars on a variety of safety and health topics.

Protecting workers from mercury exposure in fluorescent bulbs: New educational resources available

OSHA has issued two new educational resources to help protect workers from mercury exposure. Fluorescent bulbs can release mercury and may expose workers when they are broken accidentally or crushed as part of the routine disposal or recycling process.

A new OSHA QuickCard (PDF*) alerts employers and workers to the hazards of mercury and provides information on how to properly clean up accidently broken fluorescent bulbs to minimize workers’ exposures to mercury. In addition, a new fact sheet (PDF*) explains how workers may be exposed, what kinds of engineering controls and personal protective equipment they need, and how to use these controls and equipment properly. To order these or any other of OSHA’s educational materials, visit OSHA’s Publications page.

Maritime Advisory Committee for Occupational Safety and Health meets in Seattle

The Maritime Advisory Committee for Occupational Safety and Health held the final meeting under its current charter in Seattle, Wash., from July 24 – 25, 2012. Longshoring and shipyard workgroups led off the two-day meeting with a series of discussions on Tuesday, July 24, followed by a meeting of the full committee on Wednesday, July 25.

Committee members visit a work site in Tacoma, Wash.

The meetings included visits to two maritime worksites in Tacoma, Wash., to observe log handling operations and to learn about how employers have incorporated requirements from the recently finalized Subpart F of the Maritime Standard at their facilities. As a result of the meeting, the committee recommended that OSHA create new guidance products on a range of maritime industry hazards, including hot work, log handling operations, confined space ventilation, and injury and illness prevention programs.

MACOSH provides recommendations and advice to the department of labor and OSHA on various policy issues pertaining to safe and healthful employment in maritime industries. The Secretary appoints new committee members to create a broad-based, balanced and diverse committee reflecting the shipyard and longshoring industries, representing employers, workers, safety and health professionals, government organizations, academia, and the public. To learn more about the Maritime Advisory Committee, visit OSHA’s MACOSH page.

National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (NACOSH); Request for Nominations

OSHA has announced that nominations are being accepted for four members to serve on the 12-member National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (NACOSH). NACOSH was established under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 to advise the Secretaries of Labor and Health and Human Services on matters relating to the administration of the Act.

Nominations will be accepted for one representative from each of the following categories: public; management; occupational safety; and occupational health. Members will serve a two-year term.

Nominations may be submitted electronically at www.regulations.gov, the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Submissions may also be sent by mail or facsimile. See the Federal Register notice and the press release for details. Nominations must be submitted by Sept. 10, 2012.

OSHA to participate in roundtable on confined space safety August 21

OSHA experts will participate in an August 21 Washington Roundtable on Confined Space Safety held by the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA). Sherman Williamson of OSHA’s Directorate of Enforcement Programs, along with other expert panelists will address questions posed by ISEA President Dan Shipp, addressing various safety challenges of confined space entry.

ISEA’s free roundtable event will be held from 1-3:30 p.m. at the Renaissance Arlington Capital View Hotel in the Crystal City area of Arlington, Va., near Washington Reagan National Airport. Additional event details and a link to a registration form (PDF*) may be found by visiting ISEA’s Web site. For more information about OSHA’s regulations and guidance related to confined spaces, visit OSHA’s Confined Spaces Safety and Health Topics page.


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