OSHA Targets Recordkeeping


Last month, at the annual convention of the American Society of Safety Engineers, Acting Assistant Secretary of OSHA, Jordan Barab said, “OSHA’s pending recordkeeping National Emphasis Program will scrutinize companies in high-risk industries that post strikingly low accident and injury rates. OSHA inspectors will look not only at a company’s records but also its safety policies,” he said. “In particular, agency inspectors will look for companies that discourage their employees from reporting workplace accidents.”

This new National Emphasis Program (NEP) has been adopted in a new directive that became affective on July 20. Now would be a good time to ensure that all of your OSHA-required records are complete and up-to-date.

David Michaels Nominated to Head OSHA

The White House announced that President Obama has selected David Michaels for the position of Assistant Secretary for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Department of Labor.

David Michaels, PhD, MPH, is an epidemiologist and is currently Research Professor at the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services. Dr. Michaels has conducted numerous studies of the health effects of occupational exposure to toxic chemicals, including asbestos, metals and solvents, and has written extensively on science and regulatory policy.

From 1998 to 2001, Dr. Michaels served as Assistant Secretary of Energy for Environment, Safety, and Health, responsible for protecting the health and safety of workers, neighboring communities and the environment surrounding the nation’s nuclear weapons facilities. In that position, he was the chief architect of the historic initiative to compensate nuclear weapons workers who developed occupational illnesses as a result of exposure to radiation, beryllium, and other hazards. He is the author of, Doubt is their Product, How Industry’s Assault on Science Threatens Your Health.

In 2006, Dr. Michaels received the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Award for his work on behalf of nuclear weapons workers and for his advocacy for scientific integrity. He is the recipient of the 2009 John P. McGovern Science and Society Award given by Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society.

Dr. David Michaels’s nomination is subject to Senate confirmation.

OSHA Announces National Emphasis Program Targeting Workplaces Subject to the Process Safety Management Standard

Facilities that could potentially release highly hazardous chemicals resulting in toxic fire or explosion hazards are also the focus of a National Emphasis Program (NEP) developed by OSHA. The program establishes policies and procedures for inspecting workplaces that are covered by OSHA’s Process Safety Management (PSM) standard (29 CFR 1910.119).

The Chemical NEP, a one-year pilot program, outlines a new approach for compliance officers who conduct site inspections. The program’s inspection process includes asking detailed questions designed to gather facts related to PSM requirements and verifying that employers’ written and implemented PSM programs are consistent. The intent of the NEP is to conduct quick inspections at a large number of facilities that will be randomly selected from a list of worksites likely to have highly hazardous chemicals in quantities covered by the PSM standard.

“Several catastrophic incidents have been caused by failure to comply with the requirements of the PSM standard,” said acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, Jordan Barab. “This situation has resulted in loss of workers’ lives. This national emphasis program allows OSHA inspectors to verify that employers are complying with the requirements of the PSM standard.”

During its first year, the Chemical NEP will be piloted in several regions around the country, using programmed inspections. Programmed inspections are planned and do not result from an accident, complaint, or referral. In regions not covered by the pilot, the Chemical NEP will be used to inspect workplaces reporting PSM-related complaints, referrals, accidents, or catastrophes, that is, unprogrammed inspections.

OSHA Cites Refinery More than $110,000 for Process Safety Management Violations

OSHA has cited Calcasieu Refining Co. with alleged serious and other-than-serious violations of federal health and safety regulations following an inspection at the company’s facility in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Proposed penalties total $110,600.

“OSHA’s Process Safety Management standard contains specific requirements that are essential to the safety and health of workers in the petroleum refining industry,” said Dorinda Folse, OSHA’s area director in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. “It is essential that employers follow the standard in order to protect employees from injuries and accidents.”

OSHA’s Baton Rouge Area Office began its investigation January 27, as part of OSHA’s national emphasis program (NEP) for petroleum refineries. The investigation resulted in 27 serious and five other-than-serious violations. Serious violations include failing to provide process safety information for pressure vessels, sufficiently develop a written mechanical integrity program, conduct regularly scheduled inspections, designate hazardous classified locations, conduct compliance audits, and maintain an audible alarm system.

Other-than-serious violations include failure to provide employees with information on developing mechanical integrity element requirements; obtain and evaluate all contractor’s safety information and programs before performing work in the #2 crude unit, and maintain the required records on contractor injuries and/or illnesses.

Calcasieu Refining Co., is an operating subsidiary of Houston, Texas-based Transworld Oil USA Inc., which specializes in refining gasoline, diesel, naphtha, mineral spirits, and jet fuel. The company employs about 93 workers at the Lake Charles facility.

New OSHA Document on Combustible Dust Hazards

Hazard Communication Guidance for Combustible Dusts, a new guidance document from OSHA is designed to assist chemical manufacturers and importers in recognizing the potential for dust explosions, identifying appropriate protective measures and the requirements for disseminating this information on material safety data sheets (MSDSs) and labels.

Combustible dusts are solids finely ground into fine particles, fibers, chips, chunks, or flakes that can cause a fire or explosion when suspended in air under certain conditions. Types of dusts include metal (aluminum and magnesium), wood, plastic or rubber, biosolids, coal, organic (e.g., flour, sugar, and paper, among others), and dusts from certain textiles.

The document addresses the combustible dust hazards in relation to the Hazard Communication Standard, which is designed to ensure that chemical hazards are evaluated and the information concerning them is transmitted to employers and workers.

“Recent events have shown the devastation of combustible dust explosions resulting in worker loss of life and injuries,” said acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, Jordan Barab. “This guidance document is a useful resource to prevent potentially catastrophic events.”

New Combustible Dust Safety Video from Chemical Safety Board

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) has released a new safety video depicting how accumulations of combustible dust at worksites can provide the fuel for devastating explosions that kill and maim workers, shut down plants, and harm local economies.

The new video is titled, “Combustible Dust: An Insidious Hazard,” and is available online at CSB’s website, and on YouTube. It can also be ordered free of charge on a new two-DVD set of all CSB safety videos by filling out the CSB’s online DVD request form.

“Combustible Dust” features all-new CSB computer animations which illustrate three major dust explosion accidents the CSB has investigated: West Pharmaceutical Services in Kinston, North Carolina; CTA Acoustics in Corbin, Kentucky; and Hayes Lemmerz International, in Huntington, Indiana.

For each accident, the animations show how explosive dust accumulated over years on plant equipment, pipes, floors, ducts, dust collectors, and other areas. The video shows how conditions develop needing only an ignition source to set off a primary explosion, which lofts the accumulated dust, leading to deadlier secondary explosions.

News footage and still photographs depict actual damage caused by these explosions, as well as other accidents including last year’s tragedy which killed 14 workers at the Imperial Sugar Company in Port Wentworth, Georgia.

“No company wants to see its facility blown up and destroyed and its employees killed,” CSB Chairman John Bresland says in the video. “But they just don’t understand what the hazard is, they don’t realize that they have a hazard here, until that one day when the explosion occurs, and it’s a terrible tragedy for them. And they look back and say, ‘If we’d only known.’”

The video points out that dust accumulations—and the resulting secondary dust explosions—can be readily prevented. National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards have long been available to general industry and, if followed, will prevent such accidents, as NFPA official, Amy Beasley Spencer, states in the video.

The video features comments by the CSB investigators who led each of the accident investigations, as well as Angela Blair, who led the CSB study resulting in a comprehensive CSB report on dust hazards in 2006. The report identified 281 fires and explosions that had occurred over the previous 25 years. “What is so frustrating about dust explosions is that they’re so preventable,” Ms. Blair said.

Combustible-dust expert, James Dahn, appears in the video to warn companies against complacency. “I mean we’ve been operating for 40 years and never had a problem,” Mr. Dahn states. “That kind of logic is one that can guarantee you will get into trouble.”

Laboratory footage in the video depicts how easily combustible dust ignites, as a small dust sample gathered by investigators in the rubble of a dust explosion site is lofted over a flame and creates an instant fireball.

Chairman Bresland said the CSB hopes the video will be viewed across general industry—in all facilities where combustible dust may be generated in the manufacturing process. “It is our hope,” the chairman said, “that company executives, safety managers, and labor groups will take 29 minutes to view this video and ask themselves, ‘Could this happen at our operation?’ and then take action to eliminate dust hazards from their facilities.”

In the video, Mr. Bresland calls for action to prevent dust explosions, saying, “We need education. We need industry to understand what the hazards are. We need regulation. We need a comprehensive combustible dust regulation, and we need enforcement of the regulation.”

Tammy Miser, who lost her brother, Shawn Boone, in the dust explosion in Indiana, agreed: “The only way to keep my brother from dying in vain would be to make changes. And if there’s not a change made, well then you know it’s going to happen again.”

OSHA Focuses Inspection Program on Safety of Airport Traffic Control Tower Personnel

The safety of airport traffic control tower personnel is the focus of an inspection targeting program titled Federal Aviation Administration’s Airport Traffic Control Tower Monitoring Program, which monitors how workers clear a control tower in case of fire and other emergencies. The inspection targeting program, examines the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) air traffic control towers’ provision of safe means of egress, or exit, for workers at FAA-owned and operated towers.

The program requires the FAA to bring towers into compliance with the alternate standard for egress and fire safety. OSHA inspectors will inspect randomly selected towers to determine if the FAA is meeting this requirement. A description of OSHA’s alternate standard is available here.

Current guidance, based on the FAA’s alternate standard, allows for a single exit route where the building size, occupancy level, type of construction, and workplace arrangement is such that all workers would be able to evacuate safely during an emergency.

“This agency’s fundamental responsibility is to protect workers from unsafe workplaces,” said acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, Jordan Barab. “Those who work in airport traffic control towers risk their safety if exit routes are not in place in the event of a fire. OSHA recognizes the importance of this inspection program and is confident that monitoring compliance with this standard will result in fewer worker injuries and deaths.”

The standard also includes requirements such as incorporating fire detection and alarm systems, fire suppression equipment and emergency action plans. The standard currently covers 386 towers, of which 190 have been certified by the FAA as being in compliance.

Cal/OSHA Continues Enforcement During Times of High Heat

Cal/OSHA continues to focus on heat illness prevention through increased enforcement and education this year. Since the current heat wave began on July 11, Cal/OSHA has conducted 167 inspections of outdoor workplaces identifying over 200 violations while checking for compliance to the heat illness prevention regulations. Gaining compliance from employers is the goal to successfully reducing the number of illnesses and fatalities for all outdoor workers across the state.

“Our increased enforcement and outreach efforts demonstrate the commitment we have to ensuring the safety and health of California workers,” said Department of Industrial Relations Director John C. Duncan. “We are also working with industry, community, and labor groups to educate employers and the public so they understand how to comply with the nation’s first regulation to protect workers from heat-related illnesses and deaths.”

Cal/OSHA continues to conduct targeted enforcement efforts, especially during periods of high heat. This year so far a total of 1,702 inspections have been conducted to enforce compliance with heat illness prevention regulations and 472 violations of regulations have been documented with a total of $415,398 in penalties assessed.

This year, ten employers in the agricultural industry were ordered by Cal/OSHA to stop operations at outdoor worksites due to violations of the heat illness prevention standard that posed an imminent hazard for their employees. One employer had less than one gallon of water for a team of fifteen employees working in 116 degree heat in Coachella. All but one of the employers have corrected the hazards and are now back in operation, although they still faced citations with stiff penalties for violations of heat illness prevention regulations. Over $45,500 in penalties has been issued in connection with these actions.

“Our primary focus continues to be on enforcement of the heat illness prevention standard to ensure employer compliance,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Len Welsh. “Our enforcement and education efforts, which continue to exceed the output of prior years, are beginning to show results. While we are seeing significantly more compliance over previous years, for which we thank the industry groups for their leadership, we continue to find pockets of noncompliance, and we will meet that challenge head on.”

Outreach efforts on the subject have been greatly enhanced and expanded, thanks to participation and partnership with industry, labor, and community groups. This year a total of 934 heat illness prevention outreach activities have been conducted, including seminars, presentations, training sessions, and media interviews. Media features and interviews have also increased public awareness of this topic.

Training conducted in partnership with a coalition of seventeen agricultural groups, including the California Farm Bureau and Nisei Farmers League, was expanded to train farm labor contractors, as well as their crew leaders and the growers who hire them. Over 4,000 have attended this training series since it was launched in March.

The Catholic Diocese has provided a supportive environment to reach out to many in our community. Educational materials on heat illness prevention have been distributed to the Diocese across the state. The Diocese of Fresno and Monterey have both held events to train key migrant leaders and volunteers in the agriculture community on educating workers about heat illness prevention. Cal/OSHA trainers have also held informational meetings and distributed heat illness educational pamphlets out to Spanish and Mixteco monolingual migrant workers directly.

Since 2008, the California Department of Education’s Migrant Education program has brought important heat illness prevention training to teachers and administrators statewide who have then educated students and their families about heat stress and their rights. This group continues to provide information to migrant families statewide.

Cal/OSHA has participated in over 2,300 outreach events, including health fairs and community events in key areas across the state, distributing materials and speaking directly with the public about this important subject since the regulation was first implemented in 2005.

Under Governor Schwarzenegger’s leadership, California became the first state in the nation to develop a safety and health regulation addressing heat illness in 2005. Cal/OSHA issued permanent heat illness prevention regulations to protect outdoor workers in 2006.

OSHA Proposes $147,600 in Fines Against M.S. Walker Inc., for Fire, Explosion, and Other Hazards

OSHA has cited M.S. Walker Inc., for 26 alleged willful, serious, and other-than-serious violations of safety and health standards at its Somerville, Massachusetts, facility. The blender and distributor of alcoholic beverages faces a total of $147,600 in proposed penalties.

“The most serious hazard found here was the lack of adequate ventilation for the plant’s rectifying room in which large quantities of flammable ethyl alcohol were blended,” said Paul Mangiafico, OSHA’s area director for Middlesex and Essex counties. “Inadequate ventilation can allow a buildup of flammable vapors, resulting in a fire or explosion.”

Other fire-related hazards identified during OSHA’s inspection included alcohol blending tanks that were improperly vented, uncovered, or improperly covered; improperly tested tanks and piping used to store or process flammable liquids; improper control of ignition sources; using open buckets to catch leaking ethanol; inadequate or unmarked exit routes; and an inadequate fire-suppression system.

Also identified during the inspection were a lack of procedures and employee training to prevent the startup of machinery during maintenance; respirator deficiencies, including the lack of a written respirator program; lack of an emergency response program and employee training for chemical spills; untrained forklift operators and uninspected forklifts; lack of hazard communication training; and various electrical hazards.

As a result, OSHA has issued M.S. Walker Inc., one willful citation, with a proposed fine of $63,000, for the inadequate ventilation, and 24 serious citations, with $83,700 in fines for the remaining items. The company also has been issued one other-than-serious citation with a $900 fine for not keeping separate OSHA illness-and-injury logs for each company workplace.

OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health. Serious citations are issued when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from hazards about which the employer knew or should have known. An other-than-serious violation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm.

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

OSHA Issues $85,360 in Proposed Penalties to Dehler Manufacturing for Workplace Health Violations

OSHA has cited Dehler Manufacturing Co. Inc. with 24 serious, four repeat, and six other-than-serious violations of federal workplace health standards and has proposed $85,360 in penalties.

OSHA opened its inspection in February after receiving a health hazard evaluation report from the National Institutes of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). The ensuing inspection revealed hazards cited as serious which are associated with hearing damage, lack of personal protective equipment, potential exposure to hazardous chemicals and the lack of a hazardous communication program.

Repeat violations addressed problems with the respirator program, lack of medical evaluation and fire extinguisher inspections. OSHA issues repeat violations when it finds a substantially similar violation of any standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facilities in federal enforcement states.

“Providing a healthful workplace is a challenge that all employers must be encouraged to meet,” said OSHA Area Director Diane M. Turek of the Chicago North OSHA office.

OSHA Cites Diamond Sawing and Coring LLC for Fall Hazard Violations Following Fatality

OSHA has cited Diamond Sawing and Coring LLC of Summerfield, Kansas, for alleged violations of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act. OSHA cited the company following an investigation into a fatal accident in Lincoln, Nebraska, where a worker fell from an elevated platform that was affixed to a skid steer loader to the concrete below. OSHA inspectors found two alleged serious violations of the OSH Act. The violations carry $13,300 in proposed penalties against the company.

“This accident was preventable. Employers cannot allow employees to be exposed to fall hazards,” said Charles Adkins, OSHA’s regional administrator in Kansas City, Missouri. “It is imperative that employers eliminate hazards and provide a safe work environment to prevent accidents from occurring.”

The alleged serious violations stem from a lack of employee training and the employer altering equipment to accommodate personnel lifting without evaluating the equipment’s ability to support the alteration.

VPP Partnership Increases Safety Factors at Altus Air Force Base

OSHA and the U.S. Air Force formed an OSHA Strategic Partnership in August 2007 to provide an infrastructure for Department of Defense (DOD) Air Force installations to earn future VPP recognition. Nearly 20 Air Force bases are covered under this partnership, including Altus Air Force Base (AAFB) in Oklahoma. Prior to the partnership, AAFB was one of DoD’s top 10 hazardous worksites. According to the partnership’s evaluation, the base has lower injury and illness rates and fewer lost workdays resulting from employees working together with their managers in analyzing the worksite and preventing hazards.

OSHA Co-hosts Free Safety Seminar for Foundry Industry

OSHA’s Toledo, Ohio, Area Office and Ohio’s on-site consultation program will host a free occupational safety and health seminar, September 2-3, at the National City Bank Auditorium in Toledo for foundry and other molten metal industries. Participants will learn about the most common industry hazards and how to avoid them, establishing an industrial hygiene program, personal protective equipment best practices, and OSHA emphasis programs, among other topics. For more information and to register, contact 419-259-7542.

Safety Conference Coming to Redmond, Oregon

Employers and workers in Central Oregon can give their bottom line a boost by encouraging workplace safety and health education at the Central Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Conference. The event, which is focused on the theme, “Safety and Health Makes Sense—Investing Wisely in Today’s Economy,” is scheduled, September 16-17, 2009, at the Eagle Crest Resort in Redmond, Oregon.

Oregon’s Occupational Safety and Health Division (Oregon OSHA), a division of the Department of Consumer and Business Services, encourages workers and employers to attend this conference to help improve safety and health performance. Transforming the workplace safety culture can help organizations reduce injuries and accidents, and decrease workers’ compensation costs.

Some of the topics featured at this year’s conference include:

  • Safety committees and safety meetings
  • DOT hazmat certification
  • Incident and accident analysis
  • Exhibits showcasing the latest in safety and health products and services

Keynote speaker and consultant Gordon Graham will present two programs: “Beyond Safety Slogans: Change and Its Impact on Safety” and “Owning Safety: Safety and Accountability.”

“Many people think of safety in the workplace as a set of actions and behaviors, or a compilation of do’s and don’ts,” Graham said. “However, safety is really a result of our thinking patterns and the acting out of those thinking patterns. The way that we think controls the way we act. We teach organizations to recognize that when people think ‘safe’ they act ‘safe.’”

Registration for the event is $120. For more information about the conference or to register, call Oregon OSHA’s Conference Section, 503-378-3272 or 888-292-5247, then select option one, or visit the Conferences’ webpage at The conference is a joint effort of the Central Oregon Safety and Health Association and Oregon OSHA.

Safety News Links

Reviving OSHA: The New Administrator’s Big Challenge

One Fatality and Several Injuries in Explosion at Copper Tubing Plant in Northeast Mississippi

Explosion at Southeast Ohio Explosives Manufacturing Plant Leads to Multiple Injuries

Tulsa Ammonia Leak Prompts Evacuation

Be Trained! Your Guide to Oregon OSHA’s Safety and Health Training Requirements

Well-placed Defibrillators Could Save Many Lives

U.S. FDA Says Mercury Dental Fillings Not Harmful

Drugs Work Best When Swine Flu Found Early

Prioritize Pregnant Women to Get Swine Flu Shot, Experts Say

Safe Ozone Levels May Not Be Safe for Some

Organic May Not Mean Healthier

H1N1 Guidance for Employers and Employees and OSHA Guidance