OSHA Proposes More Penalties for Violations of PPE and Training Standards
OSHA announced in the Aug. 19 Federal Register that it is accepting public comments on a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and training standards. The proposal clarifies that when an OSHA standard requires an employer to provide PPE, such as respirators, or training to employees, the employer must do so for each employee subject to the requirement. Each employee not protected may be considered a separate violation for penalty purposes.
"We want employers to understand the importance of complying with OSHA’s PPE rule for each and every one of their employees," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Edwin G. Foulke Jr. "Without question, providing PPE for all employees will reduce costs, save money, and, most importantly, save lives."
The proposed rule affects OSHA’s general industry, construction, and maritime standards. In many cases, OSHA combines separate violations of a single requirement in a standard into a single penalty. However, under the instance-by-instance penalty policy, OSHA may propose a separate penalty for each specific violation where the employer demonstrates a flagrant disregard for safety and health.
The proposed rule makes clear that failure to provide appropriate PPE or training may result in per-instance penalties in appropriate cases. The proposed rule does not add new compliance obligations, nor are employers required to provide any new type of PPE or training. The amendments merely clarify that a separate penalty may be assessed for each employee not provided the required PPE or training.
The agency will accept public comments on the proposed rule until September 18. Interested parties may submit comments electronically at http://www.regulations.gov; by sending three copies to the OSHA Docket Office, U.S. Department of Labor, Room N-2625, 200 Constitution Avenue, NW, Room N-2625, Washington, D.C. 20210; or by fax at 202-693-1678, if the comments and attachments do not exceed 10 pages. Comments must include the Agency name and Docket Number for this rulemaking (Docket No. OSHA-2008-0031).
Regional Emphasis Program on Cranes in Construction
OSHA’s Region VI office in Dallas, Texas, has established a Regional Emphasis Program covering employees in the construction industry who perform crane operations. The program conducts safety inspections of workplaces in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and New Mexico that are under federal OSHA jurisdiction.
"This Regional Emphasis Program (REP) was established as an enforcement initiative for the inspection of cranes used in construction, with the goal of preventing serious and fatal injuries to employees working on and around cranes," said Regional Administrator Dean McDaniel. The REP will address various hazards associated with cranes, including but not limited to, being struck by objects, electrocution, crane tip-over, being caught in or between machinery, and falls. Past inspection evidence indicates these hazards are the leading causes of accidents where cranes are used in the construction industry."
The emphasis program is intended to supplement existing OSHA targeting programs, focusing additional resources as necessary to monitor jobsites, promote compliance, and promote awareness of safety and health hazards during construction activities involving cranes. OSHA will utilize a number of tools to address this issue, including enforcement, outreach, training, on-site consultation, partnerships, alliances, and the agency's Voluntary Protection Programs.
Under OSHA's construction crane standard, 29 C.F.R. 1926.550, there is a general requirement for employers to inspect construction cranes prior to each use, during use, and annually. OSHA also has specific standards that apply to different types of cranes. The OSHA standard requires that employers conduct tower crane inspections prescribed by the manufacturer.
For more information, contact OSHA area offices in the region: Austin, Texas, 512-374-0271; Baton Rouge, La., 225-298-5458; Corpus Christi, Texas, 361-888-3420; Dallas, Texas, 214-320-2400; Fort Worth, Texas, 817-428-2470; Houston North, Texas, 281-591-2438; Houston South, Texas, 281-286-0583; Little Rock, Ark., 501-224-1841; Lubbock, Texas, 806-472-7681; Oklahoma City, Okla., 405-278-9560. OSHA's Region VI also has two district offices: El Paso, Texas, 915-534-6251 and San Antonio, Texas, 210-472-5040.
CSB Investigating Causes of Fatal Rupture of Heat Exchanger at Goodyear Synthetic Rubber Facility in Houston
The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) announced that it is proceeding with an investigation of the causes of a recent accident at the Goodyear rubber manufacturing facility in southeast Houston, in which one employee was killed and approximately seven others were injured, including several contract workers who were exposed to hazardous anhydrous ammonia.
CSB investigators have now completed two week-long visits to the plant conducting interviews and gathering other evidence.
The accident occurred on June 11 during a maintenance operation on a heat exchanger, which used pressurized, liquid ammonia to cool chemicals that are later processed to make synthetic rubber. The rubber-making chemicals were pumped through steel tubes inside the heat exchanger, while ammonia flowed through a cylindrical steel shell that surrounded the tubes.
The day prior to the accident, the process was shut down for cleaning. During the shutdown, an isolation valve was closed between the heat exchanger and a pressure-relief device designed to protect the heat exchanger from possible over-pressure. On the morning of the accident, an operator used steam to clean out process piping; the steam also flowed through the heat exchanger tubes. The steam heated the liquid ammonia remaining in the exchanger shell, which caused the pressure to build. With the path to the pressure-relief device blocked, the heat exchanger ruptured catastrophically.
An operations supervisor, who was not involved in the maintenance work but was working in the area, was killed by the explosion. Her body, which was covered with explosion debris, was not discovered until several hours after the emergency had been declared over.
“This tragic accident is but the latest example of the destruction that can result from a lack of effective pressure-relief systems and practices,” said CSB Chairman John Bresland, who personally visited the accident site on June 12. “Companies should be vigilant to ensure that pressure-relief systems are adequate and are properly maintained and operated to continuously protect equipment from over-pressure.”
Chairman Bresland said the CSB investigation would likely focus on the company's practices for managing, inspecting, and maintaining relief systems; training operators; and accounting for workers during emergencies. A case study report is expected at the end of 2008.
The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating industrial chemical accidents. The agency's board members are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. CSB investigations look into all aspects of chemical accidents, including physical causes such as equipment failure as well as inadequacies in regulations, industry standards, and safety management systems.
CSB Seeks to Expand Investigative Capacity by Recruiting Chemical Incident Investigators in Denver
The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) has announced that it is seeking to recruit new chemical incident investigators to work in Denver, Colo., in an effort to establish the agency's first regional presence outside of Washington, D.C.
The agency has announced multiple vacancies for investigators in Denver, ranging from the GS-11 to GS-14 grade levels. The investigators are expected to form the core of a new investigative team based in Denver that will deploy to accident sites primarily in the Western and Midwestern United States. The team will be headed by CSB Supervisory Investigator Don Holmstrom, who led the board's investigation of the BP Texas City refinery explosion from 2005 to 2007, as well as numerous other significant investigations.
“Establishing a presence in the western states potentially will allow the CSB to recruit more effectively, to deploy investigators more quickly to accident sites, and to maintain important contacts with stakeholders throughout the country,” said CSB Chairman John Bresland. “Expanding into other locations will help us grow our capacity to investigate more of the serious chemical accidents that occur each year across the U.S.”
Applications for the vacant positions must be received by Sept. 4, 2008, to be considered. For specific information on the requirements for the positions and application procedures, please visit the Career Opportunities section at http://www.csb.gov or the federal government's employment site, http://www.usajobs.com.
American Air Specialists of Mississippi Fined for Willful and Serious Safety Violations
OSHA is proposing $65,450 in penalties against American Air Specialists of Mississippi for one willful and four serious safety violations of OSHA standards.
In March, three employees of the company died in Hattiesburg, Miss., when the west wall of an excavation for a new storm water drain line collapsed, trapping and burying the employees.
"Trenching and excavation work creates hazards to employees, but this tragedy could have been prevented by competent supervisors who would have recognized the hazard and installed a protective system, rather than ignoring the potential danger," said Clyde Payne, director of OSHA's Jackson Area Office.
The company is receiving one willful violation with a proposed penalty of $49,000 for allowing employees to work in an excavation without using a protective shoring system. Four serious safety violations carrying $16,450 in proposed penalties are being assessed for the failure of the company's accident program to cover excavation and trenching hazards, not providing employees with training in excavation hazards, not providing employees with a ladder or stairway to exit the trench, and for not assigning a competent person to inspect the trench.
Contractor Fined $48,000 for Safety Violations
OSHA is proposing $48,000 in penalties against James R. Payne Inc. for four safety violations, including one willful violation. OSHA staff initiated the inspection as part of a national emphasis program on reducing injuries and fatalities related to trenching and excavation in the construction industry.
When OSHA compliance staff visited the construction site on Girby Road in Mobile, they found a protective trench box sitting unused, while employees worked in a trench that contained water. The company's failure to utilize equipment designed to protect employees is resulting in a $44,000 proposed penalty for a willful violation of OSHA standards. The agency defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health.
The agency is proposing $4,000 in penalties for two serious violations by the company: allowing employees to work in a trench with accumulated water without taking the proper precautions and not initiating and maintaining a safety and health program.
An other-than-serious violation is being proposed for failing to properly maintain records at the jobsite.
"There is no excuse for endangering employees and ignoring OSHA standards by having the proper safety equipment at the worksite but not using it," said Clyde Payne, OSHA's acting area director in Mobile.
OSHA Fines Texas Linen Co. More Than $149,000 for Alleged Safety and Health Violations
OSHA has issued citations with proposed penalties totaling $149,100 to Texas Linen Co. Ltd. in Austin, Texas, for 1 willful, 43 alleged serious, and 1 other-than-serious safety violations.
"This company failed to protect its employees from workplace hazards, which could have caused illness and injuries," said Eric Harbin, OSHA's area director in Austin. "It is critical that employers follow OSHA's standards to provide a safe and healthful working environment. Fortunately, no one was injured in this case."
Following an inspection that began on February 21 at the company's worksite on Smith Road in Austin, OSHA issued a willful violation for not providing the Hepatitis B vaccination to employees within 10 days of being assigned to handle soiled healthcare linens. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health.
The 43 serious citations included failing to: correct electrical hazards; provide machine guarding for power transmission devices; protect employees from exposure to bloodborne pathogens while handling contaminated health care linens; and provide sanitary working conditions. A serious violation is one in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result when the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.
NIOSH Issues Alert on Mainstays Projects RSP2MS Respirator
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) issued an alert indicating that Allway Tools Inc., is importing and selling a particulate respirator, Mainstays Projects (RSP2MS), as a NIOSH-approved respirator. These respirators are being sold at Wal-Mart Stores.
The Mainstays Projects RSP2MS Particulate respirator is not certified and is not approved by NIOSH. The Mainstays Project (RSP2MS) respirator is individually packaged and the words Allway and the NIOSH N95 logo imprinted on the face of the respirator.
A NIOSH approval is issued to a respirator only after it has been evaluated in the laboratory and found to comply with all the requirements of 42 CFR 84, including a review of the manufacturer’s quality plan.
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