February 18, 2017 By Jack Benton in Hearing Protection PPE, News, OSHA 300 Log, OSHA News, OSHA Record Retention, OSHA Training, PEL Exposure Limits, Personal Safety, PPE, Safety, Safety Management, Safety Manager Duties, Safety Meetings, Training, Workplace Hearing Conservation Program, Workplace Injuries, Workplace Safety Tags: Ear Protection, Hearing Testing, Noise Testing, Noise TWA
With the growing list of states legalizing marijuana, are workplace drug policies up in smoke? As the new year begins, Arkansas, Florida and North Dakota join the growing list of states that have legalized medical marijuana. Currently, 28 states* and Washington, D.C., have legalized marijuana use for certain medicinal purposes, and eight states** and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational purposes to some extent. The rules and regulations implementing these changes won’t be finalized and put into effect immediately – for instance, the Florida Department of Health has until July 3, 2017 to promulgate regulations for licensing and distribution and until October 3, 2017 to begin issuing medical marijuana identification cards. Even so, it’s best to analyze the impact of the changing marijuana landscape now and prepare for the future.
The 2016 Election and Marijuana Policy
To be clear, marijuana remains illegal under federal law. As recently as August 2016, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration restated that marijuana has no acceptable recreational or medicinal purpose, and should remain a Schedule I substance on the Controlled Substances Act. For perspective, heroin and ecstasy are also classified as Schedule I substances.
President-elect Donald J. Trump did not make marijuana policy a priority during his election campaign, and it’s uncertain how his administration will address this issue. On many other issues, Trump indicates a willingness to defer to states. But, certain of President-elect Trump’s picks, including Senator Jeff Sessions for Attorney General and Rep. Tom Price for Secretary of Department of Health and Human Services, suggest the new administration will be less tolerant of marijuana use. As Attorney General, Senator Sessions could renounce the Cole and Ogden Memos issued under the Obama administration, which, in part, state that the Department of Justice will not interfere with businesses and individuals operating legally under state cannabis laws, as long as organized crime and sales to minors are not implicated. Given Sessions’ comments as a U.S. Attorney in Alabama in the 1980s that he thought the KKK “were OK until I found out they smoked pot,” his criticism of FBI Director James Comey and Attorneys General Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch for not vigorously enforcing the federal prohibition, and his floor speech last year stating that marijuana “is already causing a disturbance in the states that have made it legal,” a change in federal enforcement may be in store.
Workplace Safety Remains a Priority
Employers continue to be required to provide employees with a safe workplace and should not compromise safety due to an employee’s use of any legal prescription medication, including medical marijuana. Under OSHA regulations, employers can continue to have drug-free workplace policies, and should prohibit the use of or being under the influence of controlled substances while at work. An article in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine from May 2015 noted that there is a “likely statistical association between illicit drug use (including marijuana) and workplace accidents.” Additionally, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that marijuana’s effects on attention, memory, and learning can last for days, or even weeks, after use. Companies with employees who work in the public sector, such as in transportation, or employees who work in safety-sensitive positions, or operate heavy machinery, should be especially cautious of safety concerns.
Can an employer continue to enforce a zero-tolerance drug policy with regards to pre-employment screening and random drug testing?
Particularly in the three states where medical marijuana is newly legal (Florida, Arkansas, and North Dakota), employers are left wondering what to do about pre-employment screening and random drug testing.
Employers in states that explicitly say employers have no duty to accommodate medical marijuana users can probably rely on such language when screening or discharging applicants or employees for marijuana-positive drug tests results. In Florida, for example, Amendment 2 provides that the law shall not “require any accommodation of any on-site medical use of marijuana” in any place of employment. This presumably means that in Florida, an employer may prohibit an employee from using and/or being under the influence of medical marijuana at the workplace. Similarly, in 2015, in Coats v. Dish Network, LLC, the Supreme Court of Colorado affirmed the termination of employment of an employee who tested positive for marijuana despite having used the drug off-duty for a medicinal purpose, because such use violated federal law and the employer’s drug policy.
In some states, the medical marijuana laws expressly prohibit employment discrimination against medical marijuana users. There may be a potential risk of a claim (such as for disability discrimination under a state equivalent of the federal ADA) in these states by individuals who use marijuana for a medical purpose and are subjected to adverse employment actions. Where state law requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for medical marijuana users, or makes it unlawful for an employer to take an adverse action against an applicant or employee based on medical marijuana use, employers there must be particularly cautious and may need to modify screening and testing policies in order to remain compliant with state law.
What about post-accident testing?
How do employers reconcile automatic drug-testing required by workers’ compensation laws with the new state laws legalizing medical marijuana? Can an employer still require employees to undergo post-accident testing?
Generally, federal law permits employers to test for drugs during accident investigations. In 2016, in a final rule and subsequent clarifying Memorandum, OSHA stated it does not prohibit employers from drug testing employees who report work-related injuries and illnesses as long as the employer has an objectively reasonable basis for conducting the testing, i.e., that the employer can show a reasonable basis for believing that drug use could have contributed to the reported injury or illness. OSHA prohibits the use of drug testing by employers as a form of discipline against employees who report workplace related injuries or illnesses.
The trend towards legalizing marijuana, at least for medical purposes, has continued at the state level. It remains to be seen how the courts and federal agencies will interpret and enforce the laws in 2017. The bottom line is that employers who have not yet determined how they will deal with workplace issues relating to marijuana should do soon.
* Medical: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.
** Recreational: California, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Colorado, Massachusetts, Nevada, and Maine
Source: JD Supra
Source: FairWarning.org – By Paul Feldman and Stuart Silverstein
Soon after beginning their cleanup of a fume-filled tanker car at an Omaha, Nebraska rail maintenance yard, Adrian LaPour and Dallas Foulk were dead.
An explosion that April 2015 afternoon trapped LaPour in a flash fire inside the car and hurled Foulk out the top to his death.
Six months later their employer, Nebraska Railcar Cleaning Services, was hammered by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration with seven citations for “egregious, willful” workplace violations, along with 26 other charges. The agency proposed fines of nearly $1 million. To top it off, OSHA announced that it was tossing the company into its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, or SVEP.
Six years into the severe violator program – arguably the broadest workplace safety initiative launched during the Obama administration – more than 500 businesses are on its list of bad actors. They include corporate giants such as DuPont and International Paper, each with tens of thousands of employees, as well as more than 300 construction firms, many with fewer than a dozen workers.
Just last week an auto parts maker in Alabama, Ajiin USA, was labeled a severe violator and hit with proposed fines of $2.5 million related to the June death of a 20-year old worker. Regina Allen Elsea, who was two weeks away from getting married, was crushed when a robotic machine she was doing maintenance on abruptly restarted. Ajiin, which supplies automakers Kia and Hyundai, said in a statement it will continue to cooperate with OSHA and that “safety has always been our guiding principle.”
Along with subjecting employers to a form of public shaming, the severe violator program helps OSHA work out settlements intended to force companies to clean up their job safety practices. The program, which replaced a George W. Bush administration initiative that an inspector general’s audit derided as ineffectual, also can result in extra inspections, sometimes at multiple sites, and force companies to hire new safety personnel. The effort, though, faces an uncertain future under the Trump administration.
The severe violator list represents an attempt to deal with an overwhelming regulatory challenge. With OSHA and its state counterparts relying on fewer than 1,850 inspectors to monitor about 8 million workplaces, it would take federal officials 145 years to inspect each job site once, union researchers estimate. The aim of the list is to let OSHA’s limited staff zero in on some of the worst offenders.
David Michaels, the assistant secretary of labor in charge of OSHA, said in an interview with FairWarning that “even if we doubled our inspectors, we would still be able to only get to a small portion of employers. And so we need tools like SVEP, which extend our capabilities and encourage more employers to do the right thing even without inspections.”
But the targeted nature of the program creates a Catch-22. The death of a worker is clearly the worst thing that can happen at a job site. Yet with about 4,800 workplace fatalities a year nationally, putting every company with a death on the severe violator list would overwhelm OSHA and defeat the goal of tougher enforcement for a subset of the worst offenders. For that reason, the death of a worker will put a company on the list only if the circumstances are particularly flagrant or reflect a pattern of reckless conduct. In 2015 only one out of every roughly 200 employers with an on-the-job fatality landed on the list.
At the same time, it’s not certain that the program has effectively deterred recalcitrant employers, as OSHA lacks any comprehensive assessment of its performance. For evidence of the impact, OSHA officials point to settlements they have reached with companies on the list. “There hasn’t been a really good objective evaluation,” said MIT Professor Thomas A. Kochan, co-director of MIT’s Institute for Work and Employment Research.
One critic, John Newquist, (a LinkedIn connection of mine) and former OSHA official in Chicago, said his sense is that among employers, “There’s no fear of OSHA at all.”
Michaels, who will leave the agency by the January 20, 2017, presidential inauguration, expressed hope that the Trump administration won’t dismantle the severe violator effort or other enforcement initiatives. He said tough enforcement protects responsible employers because it “levels the playing field” between them and competitors who skimp on safety. Still, the anti-regulation views of Trump cabinet picks including Andrew Puzder, the president-elect’s choice for labor secretary, are raising expectations of cutbacks in workplace enforcement.
Nebraska Railcar –- currently the target, several sources say, of a Justice Department criminal investigation of last year’s explosion –- highlights how long it can take a wayward company to be put into the severe violator program. Jacob Mack, who worked for the company in 2013, says he told OSHA about brutal conditions long before the deadly blast. “Not a day goes by I don’t remember the hell there,” Mack said.
The company wasn’t listed until after the explosion even though it, as well as other businesses controlled by Nebraska Railcar’s majority owner, Steven Braithwaite, had repeatedly been cited by OSHA dating back to 2005. That includes a 2013 citation involving a fire risk from oil storage tanks. Nebraska Railcar stayed off the list, though, partly because its prior violations didn’t involve hazards the agency deemed high-priority, such as falls, amputations, cave-ins and exposure to toxic chemicals.
(Nebraska Railcar is contesting its current OSHA citations, as are other companies cited in this story that haven’t reached a settlement with the agency. Nebraska Railcar and most of the other companies have not responded to requests for comment.)
Case Farms, a leading poultry processor with plants in Ohio and North Carolina, finally landed on the list in 2015 after being cited for more than 350 violations over a 25-year period, according to OSHA. The case, which processes nearly 3 million chickens a week for fast food chains and supermarkets, last year was fined $861,500 for 55 violations, including amputation and fall hazards, at its Winesburg, Ohio, plant.
Sometimes disaster has struck even after companies were put in the program. One such case, in October, spurred a public outcry in Boston. Two laborers working for Atlantic Drain Service died after being trapped in a trench that was inundated by water, dirt, and debris after a pipe burst. Atlantic Drain had been on the severe violator list since 2012.
The October deaths “were entirely preventable,” The Boston Globe wrote in an editorial, “had city and state officials taken minimal steps to investigate the construction company before issuing permits.”
Whatever the shortcomings of the severe violator program, labor advocates say, the wide range of companies it snares -– and the number and gravity of their violations -– underscore its importance and the need to protect workers from callous bosses. OSHA’s other options are limited. The agency lacks the authority to shut down dangerous workplaces and its fines generally remain modest despite an increase that took effect in August.
“OSHA is one-eighth the size of the EPA, it has the lowest penalties of almost any government agency – but even though it is small, it is critical that enforcement is maintained,” said Deborah Berkowitz, the OSHA chief of staff from 2009 to 2013. The severe violator list, she conceded, is “not an end-all tool,” but an important tool.
An example OSHA officials point to is Ashley Furniture, the nation’s largest retailer of home furnishings. It was listed last year after being cited for 38 violations, 12 of them willful, and assessed $1.76 million in fines. Inspections showed more than 1,000 work-related injuries in less than four years at its plant in Arcadia, Wisconsin.
Over 100 of the injuries took place on similar woodworking machines, including a July 2014 incident in which a worker lost three fingers. In June, the privately held firm settled the case, agreeing to pay penalties of $1.75 million and to adopt safety measures in Arcadia and at three other plants in Wisconsin and Mississippi.
Some corporate defense lawyers say being labeled a “severe violator” is such a black eye that it strongly motivates companies to avoid trouble with OSHA. However, they criticize the program for lacking due process, because companies are labeled severe violators even as they appeal citations.
“You are dumped into SVEP essentially the day that the citations are issued and a citation is nothing more than an allegation,” said Eric J. Conn, a Washington, D.C.-based attorney who specializes in OSHA defense cases. “Having the federal agency that is responsible for safety and health branding that employer as a bad actor … absolutely has significant consequences to the employer’s business.”
In the meantime, corporate lawyers say, competitors or critics can take advantage of the situation. If residents near a listed site “don’t like your company, to begin with, this is more ammunition they can use to go to a zoning board to block permits for expansion,” said Adele Abrams, a Washington, D.C.-based attorney.
On-the-job deaths can keep companies in the program for years. DuPont was listed after four workers at its La Porte, Texas, chemical plant died of asphyxiation in 2014. The disaster occurred after a supply line released more than 20,000 pounds of deadly methyl mercaptan gas. The company, which manufactures pesticides at the Texas plant, was assessed $273,000 for eight OSHA violations. DuPont said it couldn’t comment because it is appealing its case.
AMF Bowling Centers, Inc. has been on the list since 2011, when a worker at its lanes in Addison, Texas, was fatally pulled into an automatic pin-setting machine while trying to clear a jam. OSHA had previously cited AMF in 2007 and 2008 for failing to provide proper machine guarding on pinsetters. The case was settled, with AMF agreeing to pay more than $90,000 in penalties.
Oil services giant Nabors Completion and Production Services Co. was listed following the death of welder Dustin Payne, a 28-year-old former Marine who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was killed in a 2014 explosion when vapors ignited inside a tank he was welding in North Dakota.
Houston-based Nabors, which boasts of operating the world’s largest land-based drilling rig fleet, was assessed $97,200 in fines and charged with a willful violation for not having thoroughly cleaned the tank of oil residue before sending Payne in.
“Dustin Payne and his fiancée should be discussing marriage and their future together. Instead, she is left stricken and trying to move forward without him,” Eric Brooks, OSHA’s area director in Bismarck, N.D., said in a news release.
International Paper Co. was added to the list last year after a 57-year-old mechanic was killed in a fire while replacing filter bags in machinery at its Ticonderoga, N.Y., plant. The bags contained combustible dust that ignited.
In assessing $211,000 in fines, OSHA said the company had failed to supply fire-resistant clothing or adequate training. The firm had previously been cited for failing to conduct annual inspections of ignitable equipment at company sites in Chicago and Newark, Ohio.
Although big companies draw the most widespread attention, the employers most commonly labeled severe violators are small construction firms with high emphasis hazards related to falls or excavation cave-ins. Yet small construction firms often elude the follow-up inspections that are supposed to be a key feature of the program.
A FairWarning analysis of the current list of 523 severe violators found that 167 had not been re-inspected, and almost all were construction firms. In many cases, the firms had shut down their worksites or went out of business before inspectors could return.
Eric Frumin, safety and health director of the union coalition Change to Win, said given the way the industry operates, OSHA can be “powerless to find and vigorously confront the worst actors.”
A trench collapse last year in New York that put a construction firm on the list also led to criminal charges. The cave-in collapse in lower Manhattan buried Carlos Moncayo, 22, under tons of dirt. His employer, Sky Materials Corp. of Maspeth, was fined $140,000 and listed for willfully failing to provide cave-in protection
Last month, Sky’s site foreman was convicted of criminally negligent homicide in the death of Moncayo, one of at least 18 New York City construction workers who died on the job in 2015. The project’s general contractor, Harco Construction LLC, was convicted of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide in June.
Deadly incidents also have brought rail tank car cleaning companies into the program. At Nebraska Railcar, the disaster came soon after the workers returned from a lunch break and started digging out thick residue from an oil tanker. The lone survivor among the three employees working on the tanker, Joe Coschka, 36, said he was just outside the car, lowering buckets of the blacktop like material into a 55-gallon drum.
Coschka said the odor from inside the tanker was powerful, and that an air monitor was beeping. Even so, he said he assumed a supervisor who should have known better than him whether the air was a hazard, should have informed workers to evacuate the tank car immediately.
Soon Coschka heard a loud hiss, and then sparks started shooting out of the tanker. The next thing he remembers is dangling from the side of the car, still attached to his safety harness, with a fire raging inside. “And I knew Adrian was in there, and Dallas was looking pretty bad on the ground. I just knew I had to get out of there,” said Coschka. He managed to scramble to safety despite suffering back and shoulder injuries.
Coschka remains haunted by the disaster. Although he sometimes blames himself for not questioning the foreman who sent the workers into the tanker car, most of his anger is aimed at Braithwaite, the main owner of the business. He said he wishes the tougher OSHA actions had come sooner. Referring to the years of citations against Braithwaite’s companies, Coshka added: “It’s just sad because this guy dropped the ball so many times and he just keeps getting away with it.” Coschka had started at Nebraska Railcar only a month earlier.
Source: FairWarning.org – By Paul Feldman and Stuart Silverstein
Enforcement Cases with Initial Penalties Above $40,000
(Includes citations issued starting January 1, 2015. Cases are updated weekly. There is a posting delay to ensure the parties have been notified.)
Click on link to view States Map and Violations by State : https://www.osha.gov/topcases/bystate.html
NOTE: OSHA is currently migrating its legacy system. Cases prior to 2011 (Federal OSHA) and 2013 (OSHA State Plans) may be affected by this migration. Cases indicated without the .015 extension reflect the data as of 08/05/2016. The next updates for those cases will be reflected October, 2016. Should you need case status updates for those cases before October 2016, please contact your originating OSHA Office.
Is Your Company Ready for Public Access to Your Workplace Injuries and OSHA’s Oversight of Retaliation Protections?
Earlier this year the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) published a new rule that attempts to shame employers into lowering workplace injuries and gives OSHA much broader discretion to regulate retaliation by employers. The rule’s new requirements take effect in the coming months.
Changes to OSHA’s Recordkeeping Requirements Require Employers to Air Their Dirty Laundry
Beginning in 2017, OSHA will require certain employers to electronically submit portions of the workplace injury and illness data that they are currently required to keep to OSHA. Even worse, parts of these submissions, including the identity of the employer and the amount and types of injuries sustained by the employees, can be publically posted to the OSHA website. Under the current rule (at 29 CFR 1904), there was no requirement for automatic submissions to OSHA or for establishment-specific public disclosure, electronic or otherwise.
Employers who currently do not have any obligation to maintain records on workplace injuries can breathe easy—nothing has changed for them and there is nothing for them to report. Nor does the new rule change or add to an employer’s existing obligation to complete and retain injury and illness records. Specifically, under the new rule:
- establishments with 250 or more employees are required to electronically submit the injury and illness report for each case (Form 301), the compiled log of these cases (Form 300), and the workplace annual summary of work-related injuries and illnesses (Form 300A) on an annual basis;
- establishments with between 20 and 249 employees in certain industries are required to electronically submit information from their annual summary of injuries and illnesses (Form 300A) to OSHA on an annual basis (click here for the list of industries); and
- all establishments must electronically submit information from their recordkeeping forms upon written notification from OSHA.
Although the rule takes effect on January 1, 2017, compliance is phased. For establishments with 250 or more employees, only Form 300A (from 2016) must be submitted in the first year by July 1, 2017. In the following year, this group of establishments must submit all three of their 2017 forms (Form 300, 300A, and 301) by July 1, 2018. The smaller establishments with between 20 and 249 employees, which are only required to submit Form 300A, have a submission deadline of July 1, 2017 and July 1, 2018, respectively, for the first two years of compliance. Beginning in 2019, the submission deadline for all regulated establishments will be March 2, not July 1.
Instituting Stricter Anti-Retaliation Protocols, with Unfettered OSHA Oversight
The new rule also incorporates anti-retaliation provisions, enforcement of which has been delayed from November 1, 2016 to December 1, 2016 due to pending litigation in federal court that challenges the new provisions. See TEXO ABC/AGC Inc. v. Perez, No. 3:16-cv-01998-D (N.D. Tex.). This new rule contains three requirements. First, employers are required to inform their employees about their right to report workplace injuries and illnesses free from retaliation, as opposed to merely informing employees of the procedures for reporting workplace injuries and illnesses which was a requirement under the previous rule. Second, employers must adopt a reasonable procedure for reporting work-related injuries and illness that does not deter employees from reporting. Procedures may be deemed unreasonable under the new rule if they require, for example, immediate reporting without accounting for exceptions for injuries or illnesses that build up over time, or post-incident drug testing where there is no reasonable possibility that drug use contributed to the injury.
Finally, the rule incorporates the statutory prohibition (at 29 U.S.C. § 660) on employer retaliation against employees for reporting workplace injuries and illnesses. As OSHA directs in its commentary, this new provision provides OSHA an additional enforcement tool for ensuring accuracy of work-related injury and illness records. Under the old regime, OSHA had to rely on employees to file complaints on their own behalf before instituting action. Now, regardless of whether an employee has filed a complaint pursuant to the existing statutory directive, OSHA can take its own initiative to (a) issue citations to employers for retaliating against employees for reporting work-related injuries and illness and (b) require abatement of the violation (i.e., require the employer to eliminate the source of the retaliation and make whole the “retaliated-against” employee). Giving OSHA the total power to institute enforcement measures on its own accord takes any predictability out of the regulations and gives employers little leeway to develop its own workable and tailored protocols. Clearly, the outcome of the pending litigation over these anti-retaliation provisions will be something to look out for over the coming months.
OSHA is touting the rule as one which will “nudge” employers to take more safety precautions. OSHA believes the new rule will give employers the ability to compare their injury data with other businesses in their industry and provide researchers with access to data to further their research in workplace injury. Speculations aside, one thing is for certain—the new rule will create additional headaches for businesses dealing with workplace injuries. Businesses will now have to fear possible targeted investigation by OSHA if they have a higher injury rate and prepare for negative backlash from potential employees and potential investors.
Employers are encouraged to contact legal counsel to ensure their current compliance with OSHA and to put a plan in place to comply with the new rule.
On August 12, 2004, I was connecting large electrical generator in preparation for Hurricane Charlie. The meter I was using failed and blew carbon into the gear and created an electrical arc which resulted in an arc blast. The electrical equipment shown in the video is the actual equipment after the explosion when my co-workers were there trying to restore power and make temporary repairs. I ended up with full thickness, 3rd degree burns to both hands and arms along with 2nd and 3rd degree burns to my neck and face. I was in a coma for two months due to numerous complications from infections and medications.
During this time my family endured 4 hurricanes and the possibility of losing me. I am a husband, a father, a son and a brother, not just an electrician. It took almost two years of healing, surgeries and rehabilitation to only be able to return to work to an office job. I can’t use my hands and arms as well as I once could… BUT I’M ALIVE! There are those who have had similar accidents and fared much, much worse. I use my experiences to caution others.
All of this could have been avoided if I had been wearing my personal protection equipment (PPE), which I was fully trained to do and was in my work van. I would have probably only gone to the hospital for a checkup! I am asking you to protect yourself by following your safety procedures. Accidents at work not only affect you; think about the effects on your family, your friends, your finances, your company, your co-workers… your entire world.
Most of these injuries can be prevented by following the safety rules your company probably have in place. Most of these rules were put in place because of accidents like mine. Be safe, wear your PPE; not for fear of fines, penalties or getting fired. Be safe for yourself and for all the people close to you. I got a second chance… You might not!!! !!!
You can read a more in depth account of my accident on the “Full Story” page.
OSHA Arc Flash Safety Information
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
Employees must follow the requirements of the Arc Flash Hazard label by wearing the proper personal protective equipment (PPE), use of insulated tools and other safety related precautions. This includes not working on or near the circuit unless you are a “qualified” worker.
Is It Recordable? by Safety.BLR.com