“The Complexities Of Medical Marijuana In The Workplace” #Safety #RX

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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.

Conclusion

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

“Fall Protection – What’s Required Where?” – “Scissor Lifts”

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First, I want to start off with the “scissor lift” dilemma and confusion. If you talk to two different people, you’ll get two differing opinions. Here are my thoughts on this:

I have watched while the battle has raged over whether the use of personal fall arrest harnesses by scissor lift operators is appropriate. The rationale on each side of the issue; pro and con, is intelligent, compelling, and complete with opinions from well informed, knowledgeable people.

The core argument from the pro-harness side stems from the assertion that scissor lift operators are more or less subject to the same falling hazards as anyone else working at height, so why not wear a harness?

On the con-harness side of things, some of the many the arguments follow the logic that if a scissor lift operator who is tethered to the unit goes over the guardrail, the resulting force(s) exerted on the machine when his/her weight jerks to a stop at the end of the lanyard’s travel could be enough to cause the unit to topple, sending it and the operator down. In addition, so I’m told, as the unit plummets down with the operator in tow, the lanyard serves to worsen things by “slingshotting” the operator into the ground and possibly under the machine, resulting in even greater injury than if he/she were able to free fall or jump clear.

If that’s not enough, neither OSHA regulations or ANSI/SIA standards require the use of personal fall protection harnesses for operators of scissor lifts. In fact, in many cases manufacturers do not provide an anchor point to connect the snap hook of a lanyard to and, OSHA prohibits tying off to a guard rail as per 29CFR 1926.502(d)(23)); “Personal fall arrest systems shall not be attached to guardrail systems.”

Some other issues that I have heard from the con side have to do with things like how wearing a harness restricts the movement of the operator or that wearing a harness may actually lull the operator into a false sense of security. I could go on, but I won’t.

I am going to go on record here and state that I believe scissor lift operators should be required to wear a personal fall restraint system (PFRS) consisting of a full body harness and non-shock absorbing lanyard provided there is an approved anchor point to connect it to. (In fact, if you dig into the OSHA regulations, you’ll find that “If the scissor lift manufacturer provides tie off anchor points at the base of the guardrail system, and the manufacturer’s user instructions require them to be used, then you need to be tied off with a PFRS”.)

Allow me approach each point of the “con” argument and, for what it’s worth, chip in my two cents.

First of all, take note of the suggestion for using a fall restraint harness rather than a fall arrest harness. Fall arrest systems are designed to stop a fall in progress while fall restraint systems prevent a fall from occurring… big difference. No fall means no excessive force on the unit, therefore no tip-over. The operator stays on the platform and the lift stays upright. Granted, a fall restraint harness may restrict the operator’s motion depending on the type of anchor point and how much mobility is actually required, but this is a fair trade in exchange for preventing a fall and possible fatality.

As for the “slingshot” effect, well, the laws of physics do not support that theory. A few centuries ago, Galileo discovered something we know today as, the law of falling bodies. Without going into great detail here, it basically states that everything that falls accelerates toward the earth at a rate of 32 feet per second/per second, until reaching peak terminal velocity (top speed), which is about 120 mph. So, if a scissor lift tips over, the operator and the platform are going to travel toward the ground at approximately the same speed; there will be no “slingshot” effect and certainly no need to jump from the platform. In addition, an operator wearing a PFRS will not sustain further injury because of multiple impacts with the ground from bouncing after the initial impact with the ground.

On the topic of jumping clear of the unit, there are serious concerns about the practicality of that notion. Even a conditioned athlete that is prepared and ready for the unit to tip would have difficulty picking the right moment to leap clear. When an aerial lift goes over it typically happens unexpectedly and quickly. The average operator is unlikely to have the physical prowess or presence of mind to do the right thing at the right time and even if he/she did, they would still have the actual fall to the ground with which to contend.

That brings us to OSHA regulations which, after all, are the law and the law says you don’t have to wear a harness to operate a scissor lift. I am going to avoid getting wrapped up in reg’s here the same way I do when I train operators, suffice to say that we are not attempting to determine if we have to wear it, but whether we should. Allow me to share a bit of wisdom that I usually impart to operators when they get a bit carried away with the law, which is; when you operate aerial lift devices, the only law you need to concern yourself with is the law of gravity. Respect for occupational safety and health laws will affect your relationship with OSHA while respect for gravity will affect your relationship with the ground!

As far as harnesses giving operators a false sense of security, it shouldn’t. It should give them a real sense of security. It is a simple fact that an operator wearing a PFRS is less likely to be killed by falling from the platform, which in itself is reassuring. It is also a fact that more scissor lift operators are killed by falling from the platform than by tipping the unit over and besides, if the unit goes over for any reason, the effect on the operator will be ugly with or without a PFRS.

The bottom line here is that every situation, or in this case, each use of the scissor lift has to be looked at from a different approach, so good judgment and the use of best practices are imperative.

9-23-2016 – Here is a link to a Scissor Lift Manufacturers letter, requiring the use of Fall Protection while using their product. https://goo.gl/hi2mvw

“Why Lock-Out, Tag-Out IS Vitally Important” #LOTO #Safety

Caution: Somewhat Graphic Photo – Note: This Photo is the property of Jack Benton, and may not be used without written consent!

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Why LOTO is Vitally Important 

Note: The photo above is not intended for page views or shock value as I don’t believe that those methods truly teach you anything in and of themselves. I don’t know the particulars of the above accident, but I do know that the lack of a proper lock out – tag out (control of hazardous energy) policy and procedure contributed to the accident.

This is always on OSHA’s Top 10 Violations list on a yearly basis, typically coming in at number 2 each year in the total number of times cited. Please use the training information below to keep your employees safe and involved in this process at your workplace.

Remember to AUDIT your procedures more than once per year. LOTO can be a difficult procedure especially when your job or facility has large manufacturing equipment such as a multi-employee operated mile long paper mill versus many single employee operated machines.

Hopefully, the Temp Worker Without LOTO Training who lost his life on the first day of his new job and the LOTO Webinar below, as well as the other resources further down the page will help you to put together an appropriate LOTO policy and procedure for your company.

Ninety minutes into his first day on the first job of his life, Day Davis was called over to help at Palletizer No. 4 at the Bacardi bottling plant in Jacksonville, Fla. What happened next is an all-too-common story for temp workers working in blue-collar industries. Read the investigation: http://www.propublica.org/article/tem..

The Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout) Full Webinar 2016

What is hazardous energy?

Energy sources including electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, chemical, thermal, or other sources in machines and equipment can be hazardous to workers. During the servicing and maintenance of machines and equipment, the unexpected startup or release of stored energy can result in serious injury or death to workers.

What are the harmful effects of hazardous energy?

Workers servicing or maintaining machines or equipment may be seriously injured or killed if hazardous energy is not properly controlled. Injuries resulting from the failure to control hazardous energy during maintenance activities can be serious or fatal! Injuries may include electrocution, burns, crushing, cutting, lacerating, amputating, or fracturing body parts, and others.

  • A steam valve is automatically turned on burning workers who are repairing a downstream connection in the piping.
  • A jammed conveyor system suddenly releases, crushing a worker who is trying to clear the jam.
  • Internal wiring on a piece of factory equipment electrically shorts, shocking worker who is repairing the equipment.

Craft workers, electricians, machine operators, and laborers are among the 3 million workers who service equipment routinely and face the greatest risk of injury. Workers injured on the job from exposure to hazardous energy lose an average of 24 workdays for recuperation.

What can be done to control hazardous energy?

Failure to control hazardous energy accounts for nearly 10 percent of the serious accidents in many industries. Proper lockout/tagout (LOTO) practices and procedures safeguard workers from hazardous energy releases. OSHA’s Lockout/Tagout Fact Sheet* describes the practices and procedures necessary to disable machinery or equipment to prevent hazardous energy release. The OSHA standard for The Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout) (29 CFR 1910.147) for general industry outlines measures for controlling different types of hazardous energy. The LOTO standard establishes the employer’s responsibility to protect workers from hazardous energy. Employers are also required to train each worker to ensure that they know, understand, and are able to follow the applicable provisions of the hazardous energy control procedures:

  • Proper lockout/tagout (LOTO) practices and procedures safeguard workers from the release of hazardous energy. The OSHA standard for The Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout) (29 CFR 1910.147) for general industry, outlines specific action and procedures for addressing and controlling hazardous energy during servicing and maintenance of machines and equipment. Employers are also required to train each worker to ensure that they know, understand, and are able to follow the applicable provisions of the hazardous energy control procedures. Workers must be trained in the purpose and function of the energy control program and have the knowledge and skills required for the safe application, usage and removal of the energy control devices.
  • All employees who work in an area where energy control procedure(s) are utilized need to be instructed in the purpose and use of the energy control procedure(s), especially prohibition against attempting to restart or reenergize machines or other equipment that are locked or tagged out.
  • All employees who are authorized to lockout machines or equipment and perform the service and maintenance operations need to be trained in recognition of applicable hazardous energy sources in the workplace, the type and magnitude of energy found in the workplace, and the means and methods of isolating and/or controlling the energy.
  • Specific procedures and limitations relating to tagout systems where they are allowed.
  • Retraining of all employees to maintain proficiency or introduce new or changed control methods.

OSHA’s Lockout/Tagout Fact Sheet* describes the practices and procedures necessary to disable machinery or equipment to prevent the release of hazardous energy.

The control of hazardous energy is also addressed in a number of other OSHA standards, including Marine Terminals (1917 Subpart C), Safety and Health Regulations for Longshoring (1918 Subpart G), Safety and Health Regulations for Construction; Electrical (1926 Subpart K), Concrete and Masonry Construction (1926 Subpart Q), Electric Power Transmission and Distribution (1926 Subpart V), and General Industry; Electrical (1910 Subpart S), Special Industries (1910 Subpart R), and Electric Power Generation, Transmission and Distribution (1910.269).

Highlights
  • Lockout-Tagout Interactive Training Program. OSHA eTool. Interactive tool to provide the user with an in-depth understanding of the LOTO standard, with three components: Tutorial, Hot Topics, and Case Studies.
  • Construction. OSHA eTool. Helps workers identify and control the hazards, including electrical hazards, that commonly cause the most serious construction injuries.
    • Electrical Incidents. Landing page for Electrical Incidents subpage of the Construction eTool, which identifies electrical hazards and recommends preventive measures.
  • Electric Power Generation, Transmission, and Distribution. OSHA eTool, (January, 2010). Assists workers in identifying and controlling workplace hazards.
Lockout/Tagout Concepts
Lockout/Tagout Program

Example elements of a lockout/tagout (LOTO) program are described in the OSHA standard for the control of hazardous energy (29 CFR 1910.147), along with these additional references.

Other Resources
Training
  • Lockout-Tagout Interactive Training Program. OSHA eTool. Interactive tool to provide the user with an in-depth understanding of the LOTO standard, with three components: Tutorial, Hot Topics, and Case Studies.
    • Case Studies. Presents a series of case studies for review, followed by related questions. Each of the case studies is based on descriptions of LOTO inspections derived from compliance interpretations, court decisions, Review Commission decisions, and inspection files.
  • Small Business Handbook (PDF). OSHA Publication 2209, (2005). Handbook is provided to owners, proprietors and managers of small businesses to assure the safety and health of workers.
  • Lockout/Tagout. National Ag Safety Database (NASD) Research Publications-11. Brief publication providing an overview of lockout/tagout, California laws and regulations, and training materials.
Additional Information
  • Fatality and Catastrophe Investigation Summaries. OSHA. Enables the user to search the text of Accident Investigation Summaries (OSHA-170 form) for words that may be contained in the text of the abstract or accident description.
  • Z244 Committee Information. American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE).
  • Safety Alert: Control of Hazardous Energy – Lockout/Tagout (LO/TO) Procedures in Shipyard Employment*. OSHA and Shipbuilders Council of America, National Shipbuilding Research Program, and American Shipbuilding Association Alliances (now the Shipbuilding Group Alliance) and the American Industrial Hygiene Association and American Society of Safety Engineers Alliances, (February 2009). Safety Alert Fact Sheet that provides information on how to protect employees from hazardous energy. Also available in Spanish*.
  • Safety Alert: Electrocution and Shock Hazards in Shipyard Employment*. OSHA and Shipbuilders Council of America, National Shipbuilding Research Program, and American Shipbuilding Association Alliances (now the Shipbuilding Group Alliance) and the American Industrial Hygiene Association and American Society of Safety Engineers Alliances, (February 2008). Safety Alert Fact Sheet that provides information on how to protect employees from electrocution and shock hazards. Also available in Spanish*.
Related Safety and Health Topics

“OSHA’s Wall Of Shame – With Limited Staff, Agency Targets “Severe Violators”

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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

“OSHA Respiratory Protection Standard To Add Two Additional Fit-Testing Protocols”

OSHA Trade ReleaseDOL Logo


U.S. Department of Labor
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
Office of Communications
Washington, D.C.
www.osha.gov
For Immediate Release

 

October 6, 2016
Contact: Office of Communications
Phone: 202-693-1999

OSHA proposes to amend respiratory protection standard to add
two additional fit-testing protocols

WASHINGTON – The Occupational Safety and Health Administration today issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to add two quantitative fit-testing protocols to the agency’s Respiratory Protection Standard. The protocols would apply to employers in the general, shipyard and construction industries.

Appendix A of the standard contains mandatory respirator fit-testing methods that employers must use to ensure their employees’ respirators fit properly and protect the wearer. The standard also allows individuals to submit new fit-test protocols for OSHA approval. TSI Incorporated submitted an application for new protocols for full-facepiece and half-mask elastomeric respirators, and filtering facepiece respirators.

The existing standard contains mandatory testing methods to ensure that employees’ respirators fit properly and are protective. The standard also states that additional fit-test protocols may be submitted for OSHA approval. TSI Incorporated submitted an application for new protocols for full-facepiece and half-mask elastomeric respirators, and filtering facepiece respirators. The proposed protocols are variations of the existing OSHA-accepted PortaCount® protocol, but differ from it by the exercise sets, exercise duration, and sampling sequence.

The agency invites the public to comment on the accuracy and reliability of the proposed protocols, their effectiveness in detecting respirator leakage, and their usefulness in selecting respirators that will protect employees from airborne contaminants in the workplace. More specific issues for public comment are listed in the Federal Register notice.

Individuals may submit comments electronically at www.regulations.gov, the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Comments may also be submitted by mail or facsimile; see the Federal Register notice for details. The deadline for submitting comments is Dec. 6, 2016.

This proposed rulemaking would allow employers greater flexibility in choosing fit-testing methods for employees. The proposed rule would not require an employer to update or replace current fit-testing methods, as long as the fit-testing method(s) currently in use meet existing standards. The proposal also would not impose additional costs on any private- or public-sector entity.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.

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U.S. Department of Labor news materials are accessible at http://www.dol.gov. The department’s Reasonable Accommodation Resource Center converts departmental information and documents into alternative formats, which include Braille and large print. For alternative format requests, please contact the department at (202) 693-7828 (voice) or (800) 877-8339 (federal relay).

“Grain Bin Safety” – “Don’t Get Buried Alive….In An Instant”

Video From ABC TV Series “In An Instant”

Grain Bin Safety Week – 15 Tips to Keep You Safe

1.) Maintain grain quality (e.g. moisture, heat, etc)

2.) Never enter a bin without a “bin entry permit”

3.) Never enter a grain bin unless it is really truly necessary

4.) Never enter a grain bin alone – have an outside observer who can both see and hear you

5.) Most young teens do not have the experience, training or qualifications to help you.

6.) Time is of the essence – if you’re engulfed, it takes only 90 seconds for you to die

7.) The outside observer needs to have a sure quick method to contact emergency responders in an emergency

8.) Always lockout unloading equipment before entering (so they can’t be turned on by mistake)

9.) Always check oxygen (min 19.5%) and toxic/inflammable gas levels (phosphine CO2 dust etc) before entry

10.) Always, always use secure a lifeline (harness/rope/ladder) for everyone inside

11.) Ensure that there’s adequate lighting inside  People---Group-of-Firefighters Nationwide Agribusiness

12.) The lifesaving tip of last resort = cross your arms in front of your chest if you’re sinking – so that you can breathe

13.) Even during the most frantic times, never every risk your or anyone else’s life with a 5-minute shortcut

14.) Have a written plan for training and rescue

15.) The most important safety tip – train-and-practice often

Grain bin safety is such an important task that no one should take lightly. In addition to the tips above we want to share a fantastic contest with you that is going on now. Nominate your local fire department to win an invaluable grain bin rescue training and the rescue tube, brought to you by Nationwide Agribusiness.

Other great resources:

Learn more about our sponsor Nationwide Agribusiness on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p4zOjiKXz6o – and their website.

Download the “Safe Grain Bin Entry” PowerPoint Presentation Below!

Safe Grain Bin Entry

“How Would Nick Saban Handle An OSHA Inspection?”

nick-saban-alabama

Lessons for Employers from the Crimson Tide’s Championship Football Coach

September has arrived. That can only mean one thing: it’s time for college football!

Labor Day weekend offered several high-profile games for our viewing pleasure. Number-one ranked Alabama won one of those contests, with the Crimson Tide overwhelming Southern California by the score of 52-6. Alabama looked well-prepared and disciplined in its lopsided victory over a ranked opponent, showing once again why its coach Nick Saban is likely the best in college football.

Coach Saban’s unprecedented success – having won five career national championships, including four out of the last seven – is the result of his unparalleled work ethic and a commitment to excellence even the CEO of a Fortune 500 company would envy. Indeed, his processes transfer well to the corporate world and some companies attempt to mimic what Saban has developed at Alabama. His attention to detail could create a successful environment at any business.

Employers can learn from Saban’s methodical determination to succeed. His model provides employers an example on how to, among many other things, institute programs to handle adversity and challenges that arise in the workplace.

Following Saban’s routine of working hard, staying focused, teaching discipline, and developing character could help any employer prepare for unexpected events like a workplace accident or visit by a government compliance agency, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Given what we know about the habits that led to his success as a football coach, here’s how Saban – if employed as a safety supervisor – might handle the difficult tasks of developing a culture of workplace safety and responding to an OSHA inspection:

Pre-Game Preparation- Before OSHA Arrives

1. Be Prepared. No coach prepares like Nick Saban. Saban rarely loses a game for which he had additional time to prepare. In fact, he has never lost a national championship game, which generally does not take place until several weeks after the end of the regular season. Safety Supervisor Saban would have his company extremely prepared for any government agency visit, including an OSHA inspection. He would take the proactive approach of creating robust safety programs, rigorous training techniques, and a culture of accountability.He would not wait until after OSHA arrived to take these steps.

2. Challenge the (Safety) Program. Coach Saban loves for his team to play top-notch opponents, especially early in the season. Stiff competition challenges his team and only makes it better. He currently employs 21 consultants – in addition to his coaching staff – to analyze the quality of his program at Alabama. Safety Supervisor Saban would have consultants from top safety companies and safety professionals from competitor companies review his safety program and give feedback on how to make it better. He would listen to and learn from these consultants in an effort to develop new techniques and continuously improve safety in his workplace.

First Half – The Opening Conference with OSHA

3. Take Charge and Speak for the (Safety) Team. Coach Saban prohibits his assistant coaches from speaking to the media on behalf of the program. If you have a question about the Alabama football team, you ask Coach Saban. If OSHA arrived for an inspection, Safety Supervisor Saban would instruct his employees not to speak to any OSHA representative until he arrived. OSHA could only meet with the head of the safety program prior to beginning its inspection. This would ensure proper, and knowledgeable communication is delivered on behalf of the company.

4. Know the (OSHA) Rules. Coach Saban understands the rules of college football. In fact, he often questions why other coaches aren’t following them, or why certain rules should be changed. He is a student of the game. Safety Supervisor Saban would know not only the OSHA safety regulations but the procedures OSHA must follow when conducting an inspection. He would understand, for instance, that regardless of the reason OSHA appears at your door, if you consent to the inspection without limiting the review to the stated reason OSHA is there (e.g., hazard alleged in a complaint), most arguments relating to the scope of the inspection are lost. Saban would know what OSHA can and cannot do, and require the agency to follow its procedures.

Second Half – OSHA’s Walk-Through and Interviews

5. (Make OSHA) Focus on the Task at Hand. Coach Saban refuses to allow certain team personnel to speak on the headsets worn by coaches during the game. He believes any additional conversation is unnecessary and a waste of time. He also requires his players to focus on each individual play and attempt to execute it without error. Saban generally prohibits players and coaches from discussing the score at any point during the game. He believes that if you take care of each play, the score will take care of itself. While walking through his facility with OSHA during an inspection, Saban would require OSHA to focus solely on the reason why it is there. If OSHA is there for a complaint on a press machine, OSHA would inspect the press machine- nothing else. There would be no discussion of any other matters.

6. Tell the Truth and Don’t Make Excuses. Coach Saban doesn’t like excuses. Win or lose; he generally gives the other team credit for their excellent play; he doesn’t blame the referees.He also requires his players, to be honest. Saban believes honesty is a crucial character trait. Safety Supervisor Saban would require his employees, to tell the truth, if interviewed by OSHA. If there is a safety issue, he would instruct them to not hide it or make excuses. Honesty is the only policy.

Post-Game – After the Penalties

7. Learn from Mistakes. Saban doesn’t always win. When he loses, however, he allows that experience to be an opportunity to learn. Rarely does Saban lose to the same team twice in one season, or more than one year in a row. If Safety Supervisor Saban received a citation, he may contest it if plausible defenses existed. More importantly, however, he would learn from the experience and rigorously reassess and evaluate his safety program with respect to the alleged hazard in order to improve.

8. Above All, Be Professional. Coach Saban is a professional. He generally refrains from yelling or swearing on the sidelines, and treats others with respect in both victory and defeat. Safety Supervisor Saban would understand that employers and OSHA are on the same page from a mission standpoint. They want to keep employees safe. Being abrasive or unprofessional is not the demeanor that will help accomplish this goal. Saban would realize the importance of remaining cordial throughout the inspection process.

Coach Saban’s success is the product of habits that could produce results on and off the football field. Employers can learn from accomplished leaders like him.

When determining how to improve your safety program, consider what has led to success for others, even if that success occurred outside your industry. Think outside the box. This innovation and critical evaluation will lead to results.

By Travis Vance of Fisher Phillips

“2016 Training Survey – How Much Does Your Organization Spend On Worker Safety Training?”

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