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5/18/2009

What’s on OSHA’s Agenda?

Safety


OSHA has released its most recent regulatory agenda. In the agenda, OSHA is announcing new or modified exposure standards for crystalline silica, beryllium, methylene chloride, diacetyl, hexavalent chromium, and combustible dust. The status on a number of other standards was also announced, including hearing conservation, explosives, power presses, bloodborne pathogens, emergency preparedness, and personnel protective equipment. A complete list of the OSHA agenda items can be found near the end of this issue.

High Amounts of Lead Found in Children’s and Religious Jewelry

The California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) held a press conference to announce the discovery of jewelry containing high levels of lead that exceed California’s regulatory limits. Some of the jewelry had labels claiming to be lead free and a large portion of it was imported from China.

“Lead is a toxic metal which does not belong in jewelry, particularly not in children’s jewelry. Exposure to lead can cause serious health effects ranging from behavioral effects to death. Lead-containing jewelry poses a particular concern because children are prone to placing jewelry in their mouths, which can result in lead absorption at dangerous levels,” noted DTSC Acting Director Maziar Movassaghi. “As the parent of a young child, I know how difficult it is to prevent young children from constantly putting things in their mouths. The fact that items are mislabeled as lead free is extremely disturbing.”

DTSC officials displayed samples of the lead-tainted jewelry and demonstrated how they determined the jewelry exceeded the amount of lead allowed under state law.

DTSC discovered the jewelry in six locations (mainly distributor/importer warehouses) in southern California. An analysis by the DTSC Environmental Chemistry Lab found that children’s wooden angel pendant necklaces contained 736,000 parts per million (ppm) lead (nearly 74% lead). Another example is an adult turquoise stone pendant necklace that contained 710,000 ppm of lead. The jewelry containing high lead concentrations included items with religious images, such as medallions and crosses, which some people tend to kiss while praying.

On September 22, 2006, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed California’s Lead-Containing Jewelry Law (Assembly Bill 1681). It went into effect on September 1, 2007. The law limits the amount of lead in children’s jewelry to either 200 ppm (0.02%) or 660 ppm (0.06%) depending on the component used. The law has since been extended to limit lead in adult and body-piercing jewelry, as well as to include watches and detachable clothing and shoe ornaments.

Movassaghi added, “Under Governor Schwarzenegger’s leadership and commitment to public health, DTSC has been closely monitoring the amount of lead in jewelry sold in the state.”

Current law allows for authorized representatives to inspect factories, warehouses, or any establishment where jewelry is manufactured, packed, held or sold in order to enforce Lead-Containing Jewelry regulations.

DTSC is urging consumers to return any of these items to the place of purchase. Consumer lead-testing kits are also available and are sold in most hardware stores. DTSC discovered more than 30 lead-tainted jewelry items at the locations below. DTSC discovered them as a direct result of its ongoing efforts, which begin in 2007, to regulate jewelry. DTSC investigators are working with distributors to have them voluntarily remove the products from the shelves. The distributors have agreed in order to prevent further distribution.

Kentucky Labor Cabinet Warns: Workers Must have Proper Safety Equipment for Roof-tops and Other Elevated Locations

As the spring weather warms, more and more homeowners and business owners are contracting with individuals and repair companies to fix roof damage caused by severe winter and early spring weather. With construction season heating up, the use of elevated working structures is increasing as well. With that comes the increased likelihood that many contractors and workers may not be following safety guidelines when working high above the ground.

Kentucky Labor Cabinet Secretary J.R. Gray said the Kentucky Occupational Safety and Health (KyOSH) division is receiving numerous reports each day of workers atop homes and buildings without proper roof fall protection or safe elevated work platforms. That, he said, violates state regulations and is very dangerous.

“We are getting multiple calls everyday from passersby telling us there are workers on a roof without any fall protection whatsoever,” said Gray. “And, with the increased number of remodeling and construction projects now underway, improper use of scaffolds and ladders has become a problem as well. That is unacceptable and our KyOSH compliance investigators will take action to make sure those workers are properly protected.”

In fact, an apparent scaffold accident occurred in downtown Louisville recently, sending several people to the hospital. The incident is under investigation but points to the need for employers and employees to be careful when working on ladders, scaffolds, or on rooftops.

Since January I, 2008, approximately 248 fall protection and fall protection training violations have been cited in Kentucky. The total penalties for those violations have been in excess of $565,300, according to KyOSH. More importantly, there have been 9 fall fatalities and 30 instances of hospitalizations resulting from falls reported to KyOSH during that time.

KyOSH compliance director Susan Draper says inspectors can cite employers for willful and serious violations of statutes and regulations governing roof fall protection and use of elevated working platforms.

“Violating those laws and regulations can become costly to the employer,” said Draper. “Fines can be as much as $7,000 per serious violation and tens of thousands of dollars for willful serious violations. But the most important part of this is the danger to the workers. Without proper fall protection and training, even putting shingles on a one-story home can be deadly.”

California Air Resources Board Warns: Public Should Take Precautions to Reduce Exposure to Wildfire Smoke

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) is warning the public to be aware of the dangers from wildfire smoke and to take precautions to minimize exposure. Fire season is upon us and while the smoke from the southern California fires remains minimal, the expected lighter winds will reduce clearing of the air. Smoke from forest fires is a mix of very fine particles that can be dangerous depending on the amount of smoke and personal health.

Air quality and health officials are urging the public to stay informed about regional air pollution levels by watching the media or checking local air pollution officials’ webpages. When the air is unhealthy take the following precautions:

  • Stay indoors with windows and doors closed;
  • Run air-conditioners on the “re-circulate” setting, if available. A small percentage of newer homes have ventilation systems that actively bring in outdoor air. These should be turned off or set to a “re-circulate” mode;
  • Do not run swamp coolers or whole house fans;
  • Minimize or stop outdoor activities, especially exercise, during smoky conditions; and,
  • Those in a “high-risk health” group or those who cannot find adequate shelter from the smoke should move to an emergency shelter.

The California ARB goes on to recommend that if you must be outside in a smoky area, individuals should consider wearing a mask called a “particulate respirator.” These resemble common dust masks but are substantially more effective at removing the airborne small particles. Choose one with two straps that has NIOSH, and either N95 or P100 printed on it. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. For more information on N-95 or P100, go to the California Department of Public Health web page here. N-95 or P-100 respirators work best when sealed closely to the face. Beards defeat the needed seal.

The CA ARB also cautions: It is harder to breathe with these masks. If you have heart or lung disease, check with your doctor before using one.

The following recommendations are also advised:

  • If you must work, take frequent rests.
  • Do not use bandanas (wet or dry), paper masks, or tissues held over the mouth and nose. These are ineffective and will not protect your lungs from wildfire smoke.
  • The most effective way to reduce exposure and avoid the ill effects of smoke is to stay indoors. Eliminate outdoor activities while air quality is in the unhealthy range. Exposure and the ensuing health effects are dependent on the amount of time spent outside, level of exertion and air quality. Effects can be as mild as irritation of the eye, nose and throat, or headache; or as serious as triggered asthma episodes or added stress to weakened cardiovascular systems.
  • It is especially important for people with respiratory or heart disease to monitor their health. If their symptoms worsen, they should immediately consult with their health care providers. Individuals with moderate or severe heart or respiratory disease should consider alternatives and stay away from areas with high smoke concentrations. Such individuals should evaluate whether evacuation might actually cause greater exposure than staying home and using the precautions described above.
  • Children and older individuals should be especially careful.
  • Those with pre-existing heart and lung problems should consider curtailing activities at the AQI level of Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups.
  • Even healthy people may experience some symptoms in smoky conditions.
  • Additionally, pets can also be impacted by unhealthy air and should be brought indoors if possible.
  • Making the decision to cancel or reschedule active outdoor events is difficult, but when smoke levels reach unhealthy levels coupled with very high temperatures, the prudent decision is to your health and that of others.

Public officials may take the precautions of closing schools and businesses, canceling public events, and calling for evacuation. If you are evacuated, make sure to drive with the windows rolled up and the air conditioner set to re-circulate.

More information on how to protect yourself is available here. For current information about local smoke conditions in California, find your local air quality management group here. For current and forecast particulate matter information (Air Quality Index, or AQI) click here. Finally, for a guide for public officials on wildfire smoke click here.

Contractors Fined $175,000 for Willful and Serious Injuries following Construction Collapse

OSHA has proposed $175,000 in penalties against W.G. Yates & Sons Construction and Spectrum Concrete Services following the November 2008 collapse of a wood shoring system at Jeff Anderson Regional Medical Center’s medical towers addition in Meridian, Mississippi.

Workers were pouring concrete for the second floor of the building when the floor collapsed, injuring eight employees of the two companies. W.G. Yates & Sons Construction Co. was the general contractor at the site and had contracted with Spectrum Concrete Services LLC to pour and finish the concrete.

OSHA is proposing two willful violations with penalties of $140,000 and five serious safety violations with $33,000 in penalties against W.G. Yates & Sons. The willful violations are for the company’s failure to adequately erect and brace framework to support loads and to adequately brace tiered shoring. The agency defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health.

The serious violations are for the company’s failure to train staff, provide drawings on site during the first two weeks of construction and vertically align tiered shores. In addition, shoring equipment had not been inspected prior to erection and the tiered shoring had not been inspected by an engineer.

Spectrum Concrete Services is being cited with three serious violations and $2,000 in fines for failure to provide a written hazard communication program, a safety and health program, and fall protection training.

“There is no justification for risking workers’ lives by ignoring the requirements in the design plans,” said Clyde Payne, director of OSHA’s Jackson Area Office.

Hess Corp. Fined Over $141,000 for Process Safety and Other Violations

OSHA has cited Hess Corp. for workplace safety and health violations with proposed fines totaling $141,500.

OSHA initiated the investigation as part of its National Emphasis Program focused on petroleum refinery process safety management. As a result of the investigation, the company has been issued 31 serious violations and one other-than-serious violation.

“OSHA’s process safety management regulations are designed to reduce or eliminate workplace hazards associated with the catastrophic release of highly hazardous chemicals,” said Patricia Jones, director of OSHA’s area office in Avenel, N.J. “If not corrected, these violations could compromise the safety and health of Hess employees.”

The serious violations include the company’s failure to properly document process safety information, conduct a proper process hazard analysis, evaluate contractor safety and health programs, properly train employees, conduct maintenance on critical instruments, update operating procedures, regularly conduct incident investigations, resolve incident investigation findings in a timely manner, properly install metal stairs, maintain ladders in a safe condition, support piping systems, and protect against physical damage and excessive stresses. OSHA issues a serious citation when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result and the employer knew, or should have known, of the hazard.

OSHA Cites Thomas G. Gallagher Inc. $71,000 after Workers are Overcome by Lack of Oxygen

OSHA has cited a Cambridge, Massachusetts, contractor for alleged willful and serious violations of safety and health standards after three of its employees were overcome by lack of oxygen on October 20, 2008, while cleaning underground steam pipes on the Boston College campus in Newton, Massachusetts. Thomas G. Gallagher Inc. faces a total of $71,000 in proposed fines.

OSHA’s inspection found that the contractor had not evaluated the oxygen levels in the steam vault in which the employees worked to determine if it would be safe to enter; had not provided a harness and rescue equipment; and had not trained the employees in confined space hazards and precautions nor in the protective and emergency equipment required for work in confined spaces.

As a result, OSHA has issued the company one willful citation with a proposed fine of $63,000. OSHA also has issued the company two serious citations, with $8,000 in fines, for not guarding and providing access stairs or a ladder for the manhole through which the employees entered the steam vault.

“While it is fortunate these employees were not killed, this case highlights the dangerous nature of confined space hazards,” said Paul Mangiafico, OSHA’s area director for Middlesex and Essex counties. “Oxygen-deficient or toxic atmospheres can swiftly sicken or kill both workers and their rescuers if they are not properly trained and equipped.”

OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health. OSHA issues serious citations when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from hazards about which the employer knew or should have known.

A confined space has limited or restricted means for entry or exit, is not designed for continuous employee occupancy, and can contain oxygen-deficient or toxic atmospheres. Detailed information about confined space hazards and safeguards is available on OSHA’s website.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director, or contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The inspection was conducted by OSHA’s Boston North Area Office in Andover.

Utility Company Fined Over $46,000 for Worksite Trenching Hazards

The alleged failure to protect its employees from potential trenching and excavation hazards has brought H & H Plumbing & Utilities Inc. $46,200 in proposed penalties from OSHA following an inspection at the company’s worksite in Edmond, Oklahoma.

“Failure to implement OSHA’s standards and regulations to prevent cave-ins will not be tolerated,” said David Bates, OSHA’s area director in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. “It is fortunate, in this case, that no one was injured.”

OSHA’s Oklahoma City Area Office began its investigation February 20 at the company’s worksite in Edmond. Employees were working inside a trench without adequate protection from cave-ins. At the time of the inspection, two workers were repairing a water line in a 7-foot deep trench which was not properly sloped.

The willful citation was issued for failing to provide a protective system for trench excavation 7-feet deep with vertical walls. Protective systems can include sloping and benching of the soil or various shoring methods with steel or timbers to prevent soil collapse. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

The serious citation was issued for failing to train employees on the hazards of possible trenching and cave-ins. A serious violation is one in which there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

H & H Plumbing, headquartered in Goldsby, Oklahoma, employs about 85 workers, six of whom were at the worksite at the time of the inspection.

World Hepatitis Day is May 19

World Hepatitis Day is observed globally each May 19th to raise awareness of chronic viral hepatitis, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is reminding us.

“World Hepatitis Day emphasizes the importance of testing for people who are at high risk, and is especially critical for those who have chronic viral hepatitis but who might not know they are infected,” said Jerry Gibson, M.D., director of DHEC’s Bureau of Disease Control. “Hepatitis C testing is offered routinely by DHEC clinics to people who qualify through a health department assessment of their risks for the hepatitis C virus (HCV).

“Hepatitis C is a disease of the liver caused by HCV,” Dr. Gibson said. “Those who are at increased risk for hepatitis C include anyone with a history of injecting drugs and those who have been on long-term kidney dialysis. People who received organ or blood donations prior to July 1992, as well as those who were born to a mother who was infected with HCV, are also at risk.”

According to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no vaccine to prevent HCV, as there is for hepatitis A and B. People with HCV infection need to be monitored by a physician so they can receive treatment if their disease progresses. Many who have progressive HCV can live full and healthy lives if they complete medical therapy to fight the virus; however, if left untreated, HCV can lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer, liver failure, and premature death.

Other facts about HCV:

  • HCV is spread when blood from an infected person enters the body of a person who is not infected.
  • HCV is not spread by casual contact.
  • HCV is not readily spread through sexual contact.
  • HCV is referred to as a “silent epidemic.”
  • Many people do not have symptoms for decades after they are first infected.
  • An estimated 50,000 to 70,000 South Carolinians are living with chronic HCV.
  • Many people living with HCV are co-infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

OSHA Launches Alliance with National Association of Women in Construction’s Chapter 96, to Promote Workplace Safety and Health

OSHA and the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC)—Chapter 96, have launched an alliance to promote workplace safety and health for all women in construction during a signing ceremony in Wilmington, Delaware.

Through the alliance, OSHA and NAWIC—Chapter 96 will provide the association’s members and others with information, guidance and access to training resources that will help protect employees’ safety and health, particularly by reducing and preventing exposure to construction hazards.

“This alliance aims to elevate awareness of safety and health hazards, particularly as these relate to construction site work activities,” said Domenick Salvatore, director of OSHA’s Wilmington Area Office.

OSHA and NAWIC—Chapter 96 will work together to establish a safety training committee that will be responsible for communicating the alliance’s goals, and providing training and updates on OSHA regulations on a quarterly basis.

In addition, NAWIC—Chapter 96 will enhance the promotion of construction safety and health education to area youth through its Annual Block Kids Program.

OSHA currently has more than 470 safety and health alliances throughout the nation as part of the agency’s ongoing efforts to improve the safety and health of employees through cooperative partnerships with trade associations, labor organizations, employers and government agencies.

OSHA’s Spring 2009 Regulatory Agenda

Agenda Stage of Rulemaking

Title

RIN

Prerule Stage

Occupational Exposure to Crystalline Silica

1218-AB70

Prerule Stage

Occupational Exposure to Beryllium

1218-AB76

Prerule Stage

Methylene Chloride

1218-AC23

Prerule Stage

Occupational Exposure to Diacetyl and Food Flavorings Containing Diacetyl

1218-AC33

Prerule Stage

Tree Care Operations

1218-AC40

Prerule Stage

Combustible Dust

1218-AC41

Prerule Stage

Occupational Exposure to Hexavalent Chromium; Final Rule Remand

1218-AC43

Proposed Rule Stage

Confined Spaces in Construction

1218-AB47

Proposed Rule Stage

General Working Conditions for Shipyard Employment

1218-AB50

Proposed Rule Stage

Electric Power Transmission and Distribution; Electrical Protective Equipment

1218-AB67

Proposed Rule Stage

Walking Working Surfaces and Personal Fall Protection Systems (Slips, Trips, and Fall Prevention)

1218-AB80

Proposed Rule Stage

Cranes and Derricks in Construction

1218-AC01

Proposed Rule Stage

Updating OSHA Standards Based on National Consensus Standards

1218-AC08

Proposed Rule Stage

Hazard Communication

1218-AC20

Proposed Rule Stage

Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories Fee Schedule--Revised Approach

1218-AC27

Proposed Rule Stage

Abbreviated Portacount® Quantitative Fit-Testing Protocol

1218-AC39

Proposed Rule Stage

Illinois State Plan for Public Employees Only--Initial State Plan Approval

1218-AC44

Final Rule Stage

Procedures for Handling Discrimination Complaints Under Federal Employee Protection Statutes

1218-AC25

Final Rule Stage

Abbreviated Bitrix Qualitative Fit-Testing Protocol

1218-AC29

Final Rule Stage

Procedures for Handling Employee Retaliation Complaints Under the National Transit Systems Security Act of 2007; Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982, as Amended; and Federal Rail Safety Act

1218-AC36

Long-Term Actions

Hearing Conservation Program for Construction Workers

1218-AB89

Long-Term Actions

Explosives

1218-AC09

Long-Term Actions

Emergency Response and Preparedness

1218-AC17

Long-Term Actions

Standards Improvement

1218-AC19

Long-Term Actions

Revision and Update of Standards for Power Presses

1218-AC22

Long-Term Actions

Cooperative Agreements

1218-AC32

Long-Term Actions

Bloodborne Pathogens (610 Review)

1218-AC34

Completed Actions

Longshoring and Marine Terminals--Reopening of the Record (Vertical Tandem Lifts (VTLs))

1218-AA56

Completed Actions

Amendment of Standards To Clarify the Individualized Nature of Employer Duties To Provide PPE and Train Employees

1218-AC42

Safety News Links

Worker Safety and Health Guidance for H1N1 Flu

Advocates Say Time is Right to Reform Mining Law

Federal Register Notice: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health; Final Effect of Designation of a Class of Employees for Addition to the Special Exposure Cohort

May 20 is OSHA Hawaii Workshop

Oregon OSHA Welcomes Milgard Windows and Doors to SHARP

Oregon OSHA Welcomes Port of Portland to SHARP

New Oregon OSHA Fact Sheet: Ship’s Ladders and Alternating Tread Stairs

OSHA Designates Hendrickson Trailer Suspension Systems as VPP Star Site

Global Warming Biggest Health Threat of 21st Century, Experts Say

Formaldehyde Raises Risk of Deadly Cancers

Ladders, Swings, and More Can Cause Peril

Certain Foods May Thwart Age-Related Vision Loss

Researchers Uncover Genetic Clues to Blood Pressure

Stay Safe on the Water: National Safe Boating Week

Minnesota Recommends No Drugs Down the Drain