OSHA proposes new rule to improve tracking of workplace injuries and illnesses
On Nov. 7, OSHA issued a proposed rule to improve workplace safety and health through improved tracking of workplace injuries and illnesses. The announcement follows the Bureau of Labor Statistics‘ release of its annual Occupational Injuries and Illnesses report, which estimates that three million workers were injured on the job in 2012.
“Three million injuries are three million too many,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “With the changes being proposed in this rule, employers, employees, the government and researchers will have better access to data that will encourage earlier abatement of hazards and result in improved programs to reduce workplace hazards and prevent injuries, illnesses and fatalities. The proposal does not add any new requirement to keep records; it only modifies an employer’s obligation to transmit these records to OSHA.”
The new proposal would require that establishments with more than 250 employees who are already required to keep records to electronically submit the records on a quarterly basis to OSHA. The agency is also proposing that establishments with 20 or more employees, in certain industries with high injury and illness rates, electronically submit their summary of work-related injuries and illnesses to OSHA once a year. For more information on the proposed rule, read the press release and visit the Improved Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses Rulemaking Web page.
The public will have 90 days, through Feb. 6, 2014, to submit written comments on the proposed rule. On Jan. 9, 2014, OSHA will hold a public meeting on the proposed rule in Washington, D.C. For information on how to participate, read the Federal Register notice.
Retail employers reminded to manage crowds, protect workers during Black Friday
In advance of Black Friday and upcoming sales events, OSHA reminds employers of the importance of taking precautions to prevent retail worker injuries this holiday season. Eager crowds can overwhelm retail management and employers, causing injuries and even deaths. This year will mark the fifth anniversary of the death of Jdimytai Damour, a 34-year-old Wal-Mart employee who was trampled as shoppers rushed through the retailer’s doors to take advantage of an after-Thanksgiving Day “Black Friday” sales event.
In letters issued this week to firefighter and fire marshals associations, retail trade organizations, and chief executive officers of large retail companies, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels explained that crowd control and proper planning are critical to preventing injuries and death.
Crowd management guidelines should include on-site, trained security personnel or police officers, barricades or rope lines for pedestrians that do not start right in front of the store’s entrance, no blocked or locked exit doors, and other emergency procedures in place to address potential dangers. Read the fact sheet for additional details.
On Oct. 28, the former president of Port Arthur Chemical and Environmental Services LLC was sentenced for occupational safety crimes that resulted in the death of an employee. Matthew Lawrence Bowman, 41, of Houston, pleaded guilty on May 9, 2013, to violating the Occupational Safety and Health Act and making a false statement. He was sentenced to serve 12 months in federal prison and ordered to pay fines in the amount of $5,000.
Bowman admitted to not properly protecting PACES employees from exposure to hydrogen sulfide, a poisonous gas resulting in the death of truck driver Joey Sutter on Dec. 18, 2008. In addition, Bowman admitted to directing employees to falsify transportation documents to conceal that the wastewater was coming from PACES after a disposal facility put a moratorium on all shipments from PACES after it received loads containing hydrogen sulfide. To learn more about the case, read the Department of Justice press release.
The first deadline in the implementation phase of OSHA’s updated Hazard Communication Standard is Dec. 1, 2013, only two weeks away. By this date employers must train workers on the standard’s new label elements and safety data sheet. Find information and resources, including QuickCards, a training fact sheet (PDF*), a list of frequently asked questions and a brief (PDF*) on labels and pictograms on OSHA’s Hazard Communications page.
OSHA has issued a total of 12 safety citations against Griffin Campbell, doing business as Campbell Construction, and Sean Benschop, doing business as S&R Contracting, following the June 5 building collapse that killed six people and injured 14 in Philadelphia, Pa. Campbell and Benschop were contracted to demolish a four-story building adjacent to a Salvation Army Thrift Store.
During OSHA’s investigation of the incident, inspectors found several violations of the agency’s demolition construction standards. On the three days leading up to the collapse, the three-story wall adjacent to the thrift store was not sufficiently supported. Campbell removed critical, structural supports from lower floors prior to the removal of the upper floors. He also failed to complete an engineering survey.
“Campbell Construction and S&R Contracting sacrificed worker and public safety through the deliberate neglect of demolition fundamentals,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “This tragic accident could and should have been prevented.”
Proposed penalties total $313,000 against Campbell Construction and $84,000 against S&R Contracting. For additional details and to view the citations, read the press release.
OSHA has ordered Hickory, N.C.-based Gaines Motor Lines Inc., and individuals Tim Gaines and Rick Tompkins, to compensate four former truck drivers who were fired in violation of the whistleblower protection provision of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act. The parties were ordered to pay $1,070,123 in back wages, interest and damages. The complaint alleged that the four employees were terminated for participating in an inspection audit of the commercial motor carrier’s Hickory facility, conducted by DOT’S Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the STAA and 21 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various laws. See the press release for more information.
White Cedar Shingles Inc. has been cited for nine safety violations after a worker was fatally injured while servicing machinery that had not been locked out to prevent unexpected startup. Citations include two willful violations for failing to train workers in hazardous energy control procedures and failing to install lockout/tagout devices for maintenance and cleaning of machinery. Proposed fines total $156,240. Due to the nature and severity of violations, the company has been placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law. For more details and to view the citations, read the press release.
OSHA has cited Foss Manufacturing Co. LLC for 21 serious violations of workplace safety standards at its Hampton, N.H., plant. The nonwoven textiles manufacturer faces $115,000 in fines following an inspection in response to a worker’s complaint. OSHA’s Concord Area Office started the inspection on April 24. Violations cited include failing to protect a worker exposed to an arc flash where electrical equipment had not been de-energized prior to servicing, provide fall protection equipment, face shields and insulated gloves and identify confined workspace hazards and provide workers with adequate entry safeguards. Read the press release for a full list of citations.
The Department of Labor has reached a settlement agreement with Verizon New York Inc. that requires the telecommunications company to provide enhanced electrical safety training and other safeguards to its New York field technicians, and pay $147,000 in fines. In March 2012, OSHA issued citations in connection with the fatal September 2011 electrocution of a field technician in Brooklyn.
Under the agreement, Verizon New York agrees to provide an electrical safety training module for its field technician trainees at its line schools in New York, provide in-service training to current field technicians who install suspension strand, provide supplemental training to local and area managers, notify OSHA when training has been instituted, keep records of the training, and provide them to OSHA upon request. Read the press release for additional details.
On Nov. 14, in partnership with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the National Service, Transmission, Exploration & Production Safety Network, OSHA sponsored a National Stand Down to raise awareness and promote safety and health practices at U.S. oil and gas exploration and production sites. In dozens of kick-off events across the country, industry associations and educators gathered to discuss the recent rise in fatal accidents in the oil and gas industry and share resources and best practices.
“Too many workers are dying in the oil and gas drilling industry. Employers need to ensure that jobs are planned out, everyone has adequate training in all aspects of safety and workers need to be part of the planning,” said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health who spoke at the event. “We are telling employers that by identifying and eliminating hazards and training oil and gas workers to abate these hazards, you can save lives.” See the news release for more information.
Following yesterday’s stand down, participants can commit to voluntarily spend at least one hour, in 15 minute increments, with employees and contractors at their work sites to share important safety and health information through the end of January. Companies must register online at www.oshastanddown.org to participate and record results. Materials available through the website include videos, power point presentations, incident overviews, examples of inspection forms and links to recorded events.
OSHA is launching a local emphasis program in Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri for programmed health inspections of industries known to use hazardous chemicals that have reported the release of such chemicals to the Environmental Protection Agency. These chemicals include ammonia; hydrochloric and sulfuric acids; hydrogen fluoride; N-hexane; styrene and various metal compounds. Industries selected for inspection are based on data from EPA’s list of industry establishments that have released chemical quantities of 100,000 pounds or greater. The new LEP will help OSHA improve education for company management and strengthen protections for workers exposed to these chemicals. See the news release for more information.
Following the tragic events in West, Texas, President Obama signed an executive order directing federal agencies to work with stakeholders to improve chemical safety and security through agency programs, private sector initiatives, federal guidance, standards and regulations. To learn more, read the executive order.
As part of the high-hazard metal stamping industry, Michigan-based Trans-Matic Manufacturing recognized the need to protect its workers and contacted OSHA’s free On-site Consultation Program for help developing a strong safety and health management system. With a proactive approach to worker safety, Trans-Matic has reduced its rates of OSHA recordable cases and injuries resulting in days away from work significantly below industry averages. The company also used OSHA’s online Safety Pays tool to save an estimated $172,000 a year in workers’ compensation costs. In April, OSHA accepted Trans-Matic into its Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program for developing a safety and health system that provides outstanding protection for its workers. See the story on Trans-Matic’s success for more information.
On-site Consultation services are separate from enforcement and do not result in penalties or citations. Consultants from state agencies or universities work with employers to identify workplace hazards, provide advice on compliance with OSHA standards, and assist in establishing injury and illness prevention programs. To request a free consultation, visit OSHA’s On-Site Consultation page or call 800-321-OSHA (6742) to find an office in your area.
Worker Arturo Soriano holds a sign that reads “I will return home alive and safe” at N.Y. training event.
On Nov. 3, OSHA cohosted the National Day Laborers Training event in Manhattan, N.Y. at the Borough of Manhattan Community College. More than 420 workers from New York and New Jersey attended the event, which included workshops on OSHA’s mission, workers’ rights, scaffolding, union voice and salary theft, as well as the OSHA 10-hour Construction Course.
Each worker who attended received an OSHA packet of literature and quick reference cards on hazard communication, personal protective equipment and industry-specific safety tips. Information was provided in both Spanish and English. OSHA looks forward to serving more vulnerable worker communities with similar training events throughout the country. To view pictures from the event, visit the photo gallery.
(From left) Renell Martinez, Ariel Penaranda, Teresa Harrison and Bill Fulcher sign OSHA Alliance with the Philippines Embassy on Nov. 1.
In Atlanta, OSHA signed a joint commitment to protect the rights of Filipino workers in a Letter of Agreement with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines. Signed on Nov. 1, the alliance aims to provide Filipino workers and employers in both Alabama and Georgia with information and guidance on workers’ rights and safety in their industries.
OSHA and the Philippine Consulate plan to work together to develop new training programs focusing on workplace hazards and understanding workers’ rights and responsibilities under the OSH Act. The participants also plan to share good practices and effective approaches with OSHA staff and with safety and health professionals, publicizing these results in educational materials, trainings and workshops. Through the Alliance Program, OSHA works with groups committed to worker safety and health to prevent workplace fatalities, injuries, and illnesses.
OSHA has scheduled a meeting of the Federal Advisory Council on Occupational Safety and Health for Dec. 5, 2013, in Washington, D.C. The agenda will include updates from FACOSH subcommittees, the status of the occupational exposure limits recommendations, recordkeeping rule changes affecting federal agencies, and whistleblower protection program best practices. OSHA is also currently accepting nominations to fill five vacancies on FACOSH. For more information on how to attend or participate in the upcoming meeting or to submit a nomination, read the press release.
OSHA has also scheduled a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health for Dec. 5-6, 2013, in Washington, D.C. The agenda includes remarks from Jordan Barab, deputy assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, updates from the Directorates of Construction and Standards and Guidance, a presentation on the draft proposed standard on occupational exposure to beryllium and a discussion on the OSHA 10- and 30-hour training courses. OSHA will also be accepting nominations for six new members to serve on ACCSH. For additional details, read the press release.
OSHA recently released a new fact sheet to help employers in the maritime industry (PDF*) comply with the agency’s revised hazard communication standard. Another new fact sheet explains the hazards of abrasive blasting materials (PDF*).