California OSHA Review of Beryllium Permissible Exposure Limit

January 08, 2004

The State of California has its own process (separate from Federal OSHA) for reviewing substance specific permissible exposure limits (PELs). The review process for beryllium began in 2002. The current 8-hour PEL is 2 micrograms (0.002 milligrams) beryllium per cubic meter of air. The California proposed 8-hour PEL is 0.1 micrograms (0.0001 milligrams) beryllium per cubic meter of air (a 20 fold reduction).

The full text of the Initial Statement of Reasons can be found at http://www.dir.ca.gov/oshsb/airbornecontaminants0.html

The California proposed PEL for beryllium along with PELs for several other substances have been publicly noticed for consideration by the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board. The PELs have been noticed under Title 8: General Industry Safety Orders, Chapter 4, Subchapter 7, Article 107, Section 5155 Airborne Contaminants. The comment period on the proposed airborne contaminants rule will be extended to an unknown date beyond the Board's original request for written comments by December 12, 2003.




OSHA Withdraws Proposal on Occupational Exposure to Tuberculosis

OSHA announced it is extending the same level of respiratory protection to workers exposed to tuberculosis that is provided to workers throughout general industry. This results from OSHA's decision to withdraw its 1997 proposal on tuberculosis. Both announcements were published in the December 31, 2003 his .

"Since 1993, the number of tuberculosis cases in the United States has declined by more than 40 percent due, in large part, to the success of guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)," said OSHA Administrator John Henshaw. "This is especially true in high-risk workplaces such as hospitals where TB cases are diagnosed, treated and isolated. Given these positive results, it's appropriate to let CDC continue the successful work it is doing, and focus our resources on reducing workplace hazards that are not being addressed through other control efforts. In addition, based on our extensive review of the issues related to respiratory protection, workers exposed to tuberculosis should have the same protections as those exposed to other types of hazards in the workplace."

When the general industry respiratory protection standard was promulgated in 1998, OSHA announced that it would wait until the conclusion of the tuberculosis rulemaking to decide whether to apply that standard to workers exposed to tuberculosis or to include TB specific procedures in a tuberculosis rule. Those workers remained under a 1974 standard in the interim. Enforcement of the new requirements will be phased in to allow affected employers to come into compliance.

OSHA published a proposed standard on Oct. 17, 1997, to control occupational exposure to tuberculosis. It was estimated at that time that a standard would protect roughly 5.3 million workers in more than 100,000 hospitals, nursing homes, hospices, correctional facilities, homeless shelters, and other work settings with a significant risk of TB infection. Since the proposal, however, a number of factors have emerged that alleviate the necessity of developing a TB-specific regulation.

In addition to the decrease in the number of TB cases nationwide, OSHA has concluded that occupational risk is lower than originally reflected because of greater implementation of TB controls and greater compliance with CDC's guidelines; and a rule would not substantially reduce the spread of TB from undiagnosed sources.

With OSHA's withdrawal of the TB proposal, the agency will begin applying the general industry respiratory protection standard for protection against the disease. New requirements include updating the facility's respirator program, complying with amended medical evaluation requirements, annual fit testing of respirators, and some training and recordkeeping provisions.

"We recognize that continued vigilance is necessary. We will enforce the respiratory protection standard and other relevant requirements when employers fail to protect their workers against TB exposure," said Henshaw. "We will continue to promote TB control through cooperative relationships with affected parties, public health experts and other government agencies and also provide guidance to workplaces where the risk of the disease may be elevated, such as Federal prisons and immigration facilities."




New Trucking Hours-of-Service Rule Goes in to Effect

U.S. Department of Transportation officials released details of a plan to educate truck drivers about and to enforce a new hours-of-service rule. Starting Jan. 4, 2004, when the rule was implemented, state and federal officials expect to spend the first 60 days waging an aggressive education campaign and enforcing egregious violations.

The education and enforcement plans have been designed to ensure long-term compliance and understanding of the safety rule. The new hours-of-service rule represents the first major rewrite of the hours-of-service regulations in more than 60 years. It synchronizes the commercial drivers’ work and rest schedule better with the body’s circadian rhythm to reduce fatigue and save lives.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) will ask states to write warnings instead of citations for all but flagrant violations. State officials are also being encouraged to use every stop in the first 60 days as an opportunity to educate drivers about the new rules. In addition, federal inspectors will coordinate education and enforcement efforts from regional offices across the country.

It is estimated that the new hours-of-service rule will save 75 lives, prevent 1,326 fatigue-related injuries, and prevent 6,900 property damage-only crashes annually, resulting in a cost savings to the American economy of $628 million a year.

The new regulations provide commercial truck drivers a work and rest schedule that is more in line with a person’s circadian rhythm and thus is expected to significantly reduce driver fatigue. For example, the new rules allow long haul drivers to drive 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty.

Similarly, truckers may not drive after being on duty for 60 hours in a seven-consecutive-day period or 70 hours in an eight-consecutive-day period. This on-duty cycle may be restarted only after a driver takes a “weekend” off, that is, at least 34 consecutive hours off duty.

The current rules allow 10 hours of driving within a 15-hour, on-duty period and requires only eight hours of off-duty time.

Detailed information about the rule is at http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov, and FMCSA has staffed a toll-free telephone line around the clock to answer drivers’ questions. The phone number is 1-800-598-5664.




OSHA Withdraws Glycol Ethers Rulemaking Record

A decline in both the production and use of ethylene glycol ethers and their acetates has prompted OSHA to terminate rulemaking, OSHA Administrator John Henshaw announced.

Said Henshaw: "The evidence that we've collected, including the comments we received after reopening the record last year, indicates there is little future potential exposure to the four glycol ethers because their use has largely been phased out. Based on that evidence, we've concluded that the rule is no longer appropriate and that we can focus our resources on regulatory efforts that will have a greater impact on workplace safety and health."

OSHA proposed in 1993 to reduce permissible exposure limits for two ethylene glycol ethers (2-Methoxyethanol (2-ME) and 2-Ethoxyethanol (2-EE), and their acetates (2-MEA, 2-EEA). The substances have been commonly used in the automobile refinishing industry, as well as in construction paints, surface coatings, printing inks, and the semiconductor industry. At the time, OSHA estimated that approximately 46,000 workers were potentially exposed to the ethers and the associated risks of adverse reproductive and developmental health effects.

The agency reopened the record in August 2002 seeking comment on how the substances were being used in the workplace, including their level of production, and the industries and processes in which they were used. It has been determined that a major decline in the production of the substances is apparent and that their use in several key industry sectors has been eliminated or is in the process of being phased out.

Additionally, it's been shown that the limited production of the substances are in "closed systems" where employees not only have little opportunity for exposure, but those exposure levels more than 10 years ago were already at or below the permissible exposure limit in the proposal.

The announcement was published in the December 31, 2003 Federal Register.




OSHA Cites Manufacturer Following Fatal Accident

OSHA has issued 11 serious citations to LeTourneau, Inc., for exposing workers to hazards following the investigation of a fatal accident that occurred July 28, 2003 at the company's Vicksburg facility. The citations carry proposed penalties totaling $42,500.

On the day of the accident, company employees were building a truss for an oil rig-housing unit. The housing unit was part of an offshore oil-drilling platform being built at the plant. A 10-foot-high truss supported the unit. As a crane lowered the truss, a chain sling slid to one side, causing it to strike one of several unsecured I-beams being used in the construction of the housing unit. In a domino effect, the struck I-beam toppled other I-beams, crushing the supervisor between the first two that fell.

"If this employer had taken the time to plan the work, analyze the possible hazards and prepare accordingly, this fatality could have been prevented," said Clyde Payne, OSHA's Jackson area director. "So-called 'struck-by' accidents are now the leading cause of worker deaths in the Southeast."

In fiscal year 2003 (Oct. 1, 2002 - Sept. 30, 2003) OSHA's southeastern region investigated 102 "struck-by" fatalities.

OSHA cited the company for failing to: conduct hazard assessments before beginning the lift; train employees in proper hook-up, anchoring and tie-off procedures; assure that loads were safely rigged before being hoisted; assure that employees used fall protection equipment at all times when working 50 feet above the ground; secure I-beams; and properly maintain a crane's remote control.

The company has 15 working days to contest the OSHA citations and proposed penalties before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.




Food Processor Faces OSHA Citations, Penalties After Electrical Hazards Contribute to Death

OSHA has cited ConAgra Foods Refrigerated Foods Co., Inc., for failing to protect workers from electrical hazards following an investigation of a fatal accident that occurred July 8 at the company's Montgomery, Ala. processing plant. The agency is proposing penalties totaling $92,000.

On the day of the accident, company officials reportedly instructed employees to repair a malfunctioning overhead light fixture. The workers, unable to locate the correct circuit breaker because none were labeled, tried to trip the appropriate breaker by "short circuiting" the line, an unsafe work practice. The breaker did not trip and one worker received an electrical shock. A worker then cut a neutral wire in the electrical junction box, left it unprotected and informed a supervisor that repairs would be made the next morning.

Night-staff employees were not advised that a repair had been attempted, the condition of the wiring or the plan to complete the fixture installation the next morning.

Another repair was attempted during the night shift. Again, two employees each received an electrical shock when they tried at different times to identify the circuit by "shorting" the breaker. An electrician, who was one of the employees who received a shock, advised management officials of the difficulties involved in making the repairs and suggested waiting until the next day. He was, according to OSHA's investigation, instructed to fix the light at that time. Co-workers later found the electrician dead, with a pair of wire strippers in his hand, still in contact with the 277-volt electrical circuit.

OSHA issued one willful citation with a proposed penalty of $55,000 for allowing employees to work on energized electrical circuits without using safe electrical work practices.

The company received two serious citations with proposed penalties of $12,000 for exposing employees to electrical hazards by allowing unqualified employees to work on energized electrical circuits and by failing to provide employees with personal protective equipment.

The agency also issued one repeat citation to the company with a proposed penalty of $25,000 for failing to properly label circuit breakers at a switch panel box.

The company has 15 working days to contest the OSHA citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.




OSHA Issues Citations To Suburban Propane After October Explosion

An Oct. 30, 2003 explosion at a Coventry, R.I., liquid propane gas (LPG) supply depot could have been prevented if an employee who was evacuating an LPG tank had been properly trained and equipped, reports OSHA.

An employee of Suburban Propane LP was evacuating a 250-gallon LPG tank when he mistakenly opened a plug in the base of the tank, instead of opening the proper valve. This caused liquid propane to leak into the work area, where it ignited.

OSHA's inspection found that the worker had not been trained to identify the correct valve and was also using ferrous, instead of non-sparking, tools to perform the work. Both conditions exposed employees to the hazards of fire and explosion. OSHA's inspection found that in addition to the fire and explosion hazard, the only available exit gate from the work area was padlocked, requiring the employee to climb over a barbed wire fence to escape the fire.

"It's fortunate nobody was killed in this incident," said Kipp W. Hartmann, OSHA's Rhode Island area director. "This case illustrates why employers must effectively train workers and the importance of ensuring safe access to exits in the event of an emergency."

Other hazards identified by OSHA during its inspection include electrical conduits not sealed as required to prevent flammable vapors from igniting within the electrical system; six barrels of a flammable liquid stored in close proximity to LPG tanks; lack of a face shield for a worker; and unlabeled electrical panel boxes, disconnects and branch circuits.

OSHA cited Suburban Propane for seven alleged serious violations of safety standards and proposed a total of $17,250 in fines. OSHA defines a serious violation as one in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew, or should have known, of the hazard.

Suburban Propane has 15 business days from receipt of its latest citations and proposed penalties to either elect to comply with them, to request and participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director, or to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.




New Survey Shows Less than Half of Truckers Buckle Up

U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta announced a new national public-private partnership to combat low safety belt use among the nation’s 11 million truck drivers. The announcement was prompted by a new national study released by the Secretary that found only 48 percent of all commercial vehicle drivers wear safety belts.

Nationally, 79 percent of passenger vehicle drivers wear safety belts. In comparison, the low number of truck drivers buckling up has taken a severe toll. In 2002, of the 588 commercial drivers killed in crashes more than half were not wearing safety belts. Of the 171 drivers who were ejected from their trucks, almost 80 percent of them were not wearing safety belts.

Last year trucks moved over seven trillion dollars worth of clothes, food and everyday products across the nation’s highways, underscoring the need to reduce the impact of truck crashes.

“You cannot be fully in control of your truck unless you are wearing a safety belt,” said Ralph Hamilton, a commercial truck driver for Old Dominion Freight Line and a captain in “America’s Road Team.” America’s Road Team is a national public outreach program led by professional truck drivers who have superior driving skills, remarkable safety records, and a strong desire to spread the word about safety on the highway. The program is sponsored by the American Trucking Associations.

The new partnership will involve the Transportation Department, drivers, trucking companies, and law enforcement in the largest ever effort to combat dramatically low safety belt usage in the trucking community. The partnership will focus on educating truck drivers about the critical importance of wearing a safety belt. Partners will provide safety belt messages to 1,200 truck stops throughout the nation, produce and distribute printed educational material at association events and roadside inspection facilities, and sponsor additional research, as needed.

“Some commercial drivers tell us they do not want to buckle up because they think the size of their rigs will keep them safe,” Annette M. Sandberg, Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) said. “The grim reality is that when it comes to saving lives every one of us, especially truck drivers, needs to buckle up.”

In addition to the Transportation Department, the new partnership will include the American Trucking Associations, the Motor Freight Carriers Association, the National Private Truck Council, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.

FMCSA’s goal for the United States is to reduce the large truck fatality rate by 41 percent from 1996 to 2008. This reduction translates into a rate of 1.65 fatalities in truck crashes per 100 million miles of truck travel. For five consecutive years, large truck-related fatalities have decreased. This nationwide initiative will help continue that momentum.

Additional information about the report is available on the Internet at http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safetybelt.




Changes in Traffic Control Devices to Help Older Drivers, Pedestrians, Bicyclists, Workers

Fluorescent pink signs to alert drivers to traffic crashes, large print on road signs for older drivers, and “animated eyes” to caution pedestrians at intersections are among the improvements federal highway engineers are recommending states consider to make travel safer and easier. The recommendations are included in the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) update of a publication used nationally by state and local transportation agencies in designing and placing traffic signs and signals and pavement markings.

These new standards and guidance for traffic control devices, like highway signs and traffic signals, will increase safety and mobility for older drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists and construction workers, U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta said.

Enhancements in the 2003 edition of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) include increased letter size on street signs and turn-path pavement markings at intersections meant to help older drivers. For pedestrians, the new manual includes guidelines for “animated eyes,” electronic signs that mimic back-and-forth eye movements to serve as a reminder to look both ways before crossing a street; “countdown signals” that tell pedestrians the time remaining to cross a street safely; and crosswalk markings and “in-street” pedestrian signs that focus the eyes of the driver on crosswalk activity.

The revised manual also includes new provisions to help pedestrians with disabilities. For example, the use of barriers to assist in safe navigation of walkways and audible devices to communicate sign information will assist visually impaired individuals. To improve safety for bicyclists, the manual calls for new bicycle lane markings and symbols.

The new manual will help improve safety for highway construction workers by requiring high-visibility clothing and greater use of barricade devices. It allows fluorescent pink signs to alert drivers to traffic incidents, such as crash sites, closed exits and detours. It also provides for location and direction of travel reference signs that will be posted at shorter intervals than the current “mileposts,” such as every one-tenth mile. These signs will help drivers and emergency responders in reporting and locating sites of breakdowns, crashes, and other highway incidents, particularly in complex urban areas.

“While repairs and improvements are needed on our nation’s streets and highways to enhance safety and mobility, we also must find the right practices that can help to reduce the vulnerability of construction workers and prevent death or injury,” FHWA Administrator Mary E. Peters said.

The MUTCD assures consistency in traffic control devices so motorists know what to expect no matter where in the United States they travel. It is a part of FHWA’s continuing efforts to improve the safety and operational efficiency of the transportation system for all Americans.