Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez launches unprecedented partnership for safety: More than 1 million workers across the country expected to “Stand-Down” to prevent falls in construction
Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez and Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels today announced the kick-off for the national fall safety stand-down, reaching more than 1 million workers and bringing together tens of thousands of businesses across the country. Falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry. In 2012, 279 construction workers lost their lives in falls from heights and more than 8,800 construction workers were seriously injured by falls. From June 2 to 6, employers and workers are voluntarily stopping work to talk about saving lives and preventing fatal falls, reaching more workers, businesses and workplaces than ever before.
“This is an unprecedented effort with a record number of participants coming together for worker safety,” said Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. “The economy is on the rebound, housing starts are on the rise, and the summer construction season is getting underway. Now is the time to focus on this vital safety issue and make sure all construction workers get to come home at the end of every workday.”
“Our message is ‘safety pays and falls cost,’” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “We emphasize planning ahead, providing the right equipment—such as guard rails or safety harnesses, lines and anchors—and training all employees, three simple steps can save lives.”
During this week OSHA is partnering with the Associated General Contracts, the Associated Builders and Contractors, the National Association of Home Builders, the National Roofing Contractors Association, the Steel Erection Association, more than ten international unions including the Carpenters, the Laborers Union, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the Ironworkers Union, CPWR, community organizations, faith-based organizations and universities nationwide.
The national stand-down is part of OSHA’s third annual Fall Prevention Campaign, launched in partnership with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, National Occupational Research Agenda, and CPWR, the Center for Construction Research and Training. For more information on the national stand-down, read the press release and statements from Secretary Perez and Assistant Secretary Michaels, or visit OSHA’s National Safety Stand-Down page and read OSHA’s blog.
In hundreds of stand-down events happening across the country, employers and workers will pause their workday to talk about fall prevention in construction, and discuss topics like ladder safety, scaffolding safety and roofing work safety. Businesses, universities, faith-based groups, the U.S. Air Force and many others are joining together in record numbers for the week-long stand-down.
The University of Texas at Arlington is joining with OSHA’s Dallas staff and Balfour Beatty to kick off events across the state of Texas. In Palo Alto, Calif., Clark Construction will be hosting a stand-down at the Stanford University Medical Center with OSHA staff in the Oakland area. OSHA officials will join racecar driver Greg Biffle at the Daytona Speedway in Jacksonville, Fla., to do a fall protection harness demonstration and discuss fall safety with construction workers. In Nebraska, OSHA Omaha staff is teaming with the Heartland Workers Center to host a free fall prevention event for the public at the Our Lady of Guadalupe Church.
For a complete list of stand-downs open to the public, visit OSHA’s National Safety Fall-Down calendar of events.
OSHA announced May 22 the launch of its annual Campaign to Prevent Heat Illness in Outdoor Workers. For the fourth consecutive year, OSHA’s campaign aims to raise awareness and educate workers and employers about the serious hazards of working in hot weather and provide resources and guidance to address these hazards.
“Heat-related illnesses can be fatal, and employers are responsible for keeping workers safe,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. “Employers can take a few easy steps to save lives, including scheduling frequent water breaks, providing shade and allowing ample time to rest.”
In 2012, there were 31 heat-related worker deaths and 4,120 heat-related worker illnesses. Heat illness disproportionately affects those who have not built up a tolerance to heat, and it is especially important for employers to allow new and temporary workers time to acclimate. Workers at particular risk include those in outdoor industries, such as agriculture, construction, landscaping and transportation.
Visit OSHA’s heat campaign Web page for free educational materials in English and Spanish, as well as a free heat app for mobile devices. See the news release and the recent blog by Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels for more on OSHA’s heat illness campaign and resources.
Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway has been ordered to pay more than $526,000 in back wages and other damages to two workers following an investigation by OSHA. The agency found that the company, based in Fort Worth, Texas, violated the whistleblower provisions of the Federal Railroad Safety Act by terminating the employees in 2010 and 2011 for reporting injuries that occurred at the company’s Havre, Mont., terminal.
“An employer cannot retaliate against employees who report an injury,” said Gregory Baxter, OSHA’s regional administrator in Denver. “OSHA recognizes that employers can legitimately have, and apply, policies to require prompt injury reporting; however, that is not what happened here. When employers mask their retaliatory intent through application of a policy or rule, they violate the law.”
Burlington Northern has been ordered to pay back wages with interest, compensatory damages and attorney’s fees, while reinstating and expunging the two employees’ work records. Read the news release for additional details. OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of 22 statutes protecting employees who report violations of laws in various industries. For more information, visit www.whistleblowers.gov.
For the second time this year, OSHA has cited Pan-Oceanic Engineering Co. Inc. for exposing workers to trenching hazards at a job site at East 93rd Street and South Woodlawn Avenue in Chicago, Ill. OSHA cited the company for willful violations for again failing to protect workers from trench cave-ins while installing water and sewer lines. Proposed penalties total $147,000.
“It is completely unacceptable that Pan-Oceanic Engineering continues to put workers at such great risk,” said Kathy Webb, OSHA’s area director in Calumet City. “Since 2003, this company has been cited multiple times for violations of trenching standards, which result in numerous fatalities and injuries every year. Pan-Oceanic Engineering’s repeat violations demonstrate a lack of commitment to the safety of its workers.”
OSHA opened the inspection under the National Emphasis Program for trenching and excavation. The company was issued two willful violations for failing to ensure workers were protected from cave-in hazards while working in a trench deeper than 5 feet and failing to support the street pavement above the trench from collapsing on the workers. See the news release for more information.
American Made Tires, an Elmira Heights, N.Y., tire retreader, failed to correct 12 hazards cited during a 2013 inspection. Because of that inaction, and the discovery of new and recurring hazards during a follow-up OSHA inspection, the company faces an additional $160,280 in proposed fines.
“The company’s inaction exposed employees to ongoing hazards of fire, falls, chemicals and to being caught in or crushed by unguarded or unexpectedly activated machinery,” said Christopher Adams, OSHA’s area director in Syracuse. “The sizable penalties proposed reflect the severity of these conditions and the employer’s failure to follow through on its obligation and commitment to correct hazards that never should have existed.”
OSHA’s follow-up inspection in November 2013 found violations including improperly constructed flammable adhesive spray booths, failure to implement lockout/tagout procedures and lack of machine guarding. Read the news release for more information.
The Office of Management and Budget has published the Spring 2014 unified agenda. The agenda lists regulatory actions now in development and under consideration by each federal agency, providing information about each rule and its stage of development. OSHA’s updated agenda includes projected timelines for several safety and health standards. For more information, view the DOL Spring 2014 Agency Rule List from www.reginfo.gov.
OSHA signed an alliance with the American Staffing Association May 21 to work together to further protect temporary employees from workplace hazards.
“We want to make sure that at the end of every work shift, all temporary workers in the United States are able to go home safely to their families,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “Through this alliance with the ASA, we will increase outreach to staffing agencies and host employers and provide information and education that is vital to protecting temporary workers.”
Through the alliance, OSHA and ASA will conduct outreach to workers about their rights, and work to educate staffing firms and their clients that all workers have the right to be safe, regardless of how long they have been on the job. The partners will work together to distribute OSHA guidance and additional information on the recognition and prevention of workplace hazards, and to further develop ways of communicating such information to staffing firms, host employers and temporary workers. See the news release and read about OSHA’s Alliance Program for more information.
On May 15, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels traveled to Houston to discuss workplace safety with stakeholders attending the International Association of Drilling Contractors’ annual onshore drilling conference. Michaels joined an industry panel to speak about OSHA’s extensive outreach to the oil and gas industry, which included numerous safety stand-downs, conferences and consultations through OSHA’s free on-site consultation program. Michaels also expressed concern about the increase in the number of fatalities in oil and gas production in 2013 and asked industry employers to make worker safety a priority.
Dr. Michaels also met with BP senior officials to encourage their continued support of the National Service, Transmission, Exploration & Production Safety Network; OSHA’s silica workgroup; and industry safety stand-downs. He also thanked BP leaders for the corporation’s efforts to protect workers, including cleanup workers, following the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion and oil spill in 2010.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health is requesting assistance from oil and gas stakeholders to better characterize the types and magnitude of risks for exposing workers to volatile chemicals during oil and gas extraction. NIOSH is also seeking recommendations for developing and implementing exposure controls.
A new blog on NIOSH’s website summarizes flowback operations, addresses related reports of recent worker deaths, and identifies preliminary recommendations to reduce the potential for hazardous exposures. NIOSH is focusing interest on this subject after learning about several worker deaths associated with flowback operations through media reports, OSHA officials and members of the academic community.
For safety and health resources and information about the oil and gas industry, visit OSHA’s Oil and Gas Extraction Web page.
“Deadly Dust,” an OSHA educational video on the hazards of silica exposure, won first place in the safety category in an international competition to find the best business communications videos.
OSHA’s nine-minute documentary-style video puts a face on the debilitating and fatal effects of silicosis through images of construction workers on the job. Interviews with doctors, OSHA officials, safety consultants, stone carvers and others provide additional information on the disease and safety measures to prevent it. Visit OSHA’s silica rulemaking Web page for more information and the Department of Labor’s YouTube channel to watch this and other videos on protecting the safety and health of America’s workers.
New and updated materials for OSHA’s Fall Prevention and Heat Illness campaigns are now available. OSHA’s Fall Prevention Training Guide includes lesson plans, or “toolbox talks” in English or Spanish to help employers protect workers from fall hazards on the job. Resources for OSHA’s 2014 campaign to prevent heat-related illnesses in outdoor workers include fact sheets, posters, wallet cards and a training guide.
To order quantities of these or any other OSHA materials, visit OSHA’s Publications Web page or call the Office of Communications at (202) 693-1999.