February 13, 2003
Nueces Electric Cooperative Inc., headquartered in Robstown, Texas, has agreed to strengthen its safety and health program and pay $86,800 in penalties for citations issued by OSHA in the wake of an accident in August that resulted in an employee losing both arms.

OSHA's Corpus Christi area office began its investigation Aug.12, 2002, following the injury of a worker who received an electrical shock while installing a transformer from a lift bucket truck. The employee's arms were later amputated.

Nueces Electric Cooperative employs about 125 workers.

According to OSHA Corpus Christi Area Director John Giefer, the agency cited the cooperative with nine alleged safety violations including failure to assess workplace hazards, failure to implement an effective health and safety program, failure to ensure employees were adequately trained in working with power transmission lines, failure to enforce the use of personal protective equipment and failure to adequately protect employees from exposure to energized power lines that can result in electrocution.

In addition to correcting all the citation items, Nueces has begun an analysis of employee work tasks to identify routine hazards and ensure employees follow established safety guidelines for working around hazardous power lines.


Numerous safety infractions, including the barring of an emergency exit door, have resulted in $92,000 in proposed fines against Rite Aid of New York, Inc., located at 911 Morris Park Ave, Bronx, New York.

OSHA has cited the company, which operates a pharmacy/drugstore, for alleged willful, serious and repeat violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. The company has until Feb. 21, 2003, to contest the citations.

According to Diana Cortez, OSHA's Area Director in Tarrytown, N.Y., the action results from an investigation conducted from Aug. 1, 2002 through Jan. 28, 2003, in response to a complaint about blocked exits and fire extinguishers. In stressing the severity of the alleged violations, Cortez said, "Fire safety violations are always serious because of their potential to cost workers their lives."

As a result of OSHA's inspection, the company has been cited for one alleged willful violation of a federal safety and health standard, which carries a proposed penalty of $55,000. The alleged willful violation includes the employer's practice of keeping an emergency exit door fastened with a metal bar during working hours.

The company was also cited for five alleged serious violations carrying proposed penalties totaling $12,000. These included the employer's failure to: provide an unobstructed way of exit; provide unobstructed access to fire extinguishers; provide unobstructed access to electrical panels; maintain sufficiently wide access to exit; and provide training in fire extinguisher use to designated users.

Finally, the company was cited for two alleged repeat violations with proposed penalties totaling $25,000, including failure to post an exit sign where required and failure to provide annually required training on fire extinguishers.

A "willful" violation is defined by OSHA as one committed with an intentional disregard for, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations. A "serious" violation is cited for hazards that pose a substantial probability to cause death or serious physical harm. A "repeat" violation is issued when an employer was cited previously for a substantially similar condition and the citation has become a final order.


Serious injuries sustained by a foundry worker at Maynard Steel Casting Company, Milwaukee, could have been avoided by observing appropriate safety procedures involving the use of abrasive grinding machinery, according to OSHA, which has proposed a $127,750 fine.

Milwaukee Area Office Director for OSHA George Yoksas said the agency opened an inspection of the firm following the Aug. 6, 2002 accident that occurred when an abrasive wheel on a swing grinder exploded, propelling fragments and the wheel guard itself some fifty feet and striking the grinder operator. The worker was hospitalized in critical condition following the incident and has not yet fully recovered.

As a result of that investigation, OSHA has proposed willful and serious citations alleging improper or lack of equipment safety testing and maintenance, and issues involving machine guarding.

The company has 15 working days from receipt of the citations to appeal before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.


Despite years of experience in excavating for pipelines near overhead power lines, Dallas-based H.C. Price Co. failed to follow federal safety guidelines for protecting workers, according to citations issued by OSHA. Proposed penalties total $150,000.

OSHA Area Director Charles Shields, North Aurora, Ill., said that OSHA opened an investigation into work being performed by the company on Oct. 1 after receiving information that a worker was paralyzed after contacting a power line, and that one month later another worker received an electrical shock, both at locations on Derby Line Road near Genoa, Ill.

"This company has been inspected by OSHA for various accidents five times over the past decade, including a 1994 case in which four workers in Florida were hospitalized following a crane contacting overhead power lines," Shields said.

OSHA's investigation found that H.C. Price Co. employees were unloading materials for use on the Guardian Pipeline Project when the truck boom came in contact with a power line causing one worker to receive an electrical shock. The incident became the fifth known power line contact since the inception of the project in May 2002.

H.C. Price was fined specifically for crane and excavator operation too close to power lines, and for issues involving fall protection, training and maintaining effective accident prevention programs.

The Guardian Pipeline is a 142-mile natural gas pipeline from Joliet, Ill. to Ixonia, Wis.

The company has 15 days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to appeal before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.


More than $2.2 million in new funding is earmarked for outreach to Spanish and other non-English-speaking workers in President Bush's fiscal year 2004 budget for OSHA. This is the first time OSHA's budget will include additional funding for multilingual outreach. The President's total budget for OSHA in FY 2004 is $450 million - an increase of $13 million, or about three percent over the budget request for FY 2003.

Under the President's proposed budget, the agency will receive an additional $7.2 million for compliance assistance and outreach, including the new multilingual initiative. The new money will allow OSHA to expand its outreach to Spanish-speaking workers, whose fatality rates rose 11 percent in 2000 and 9 percent in 2001. Existing outreach efforts include a variety of Spanish-language programs, services and collaborative efforts at both national and local levels. With additional money the agency can expand these activities and add new ones.

Other new areas of compliance assistance include special outreach to the small business community and expansion of OSHA's voluntary and partnership programs.

Enforcement remains a high priority for OSHA, with an increase of $4.2 million for enforcement activities that will continue to target the workplaces and industries with the highest rates of injuries, illnesses and fatalities. OSHA has scheduled 37,700 inspections of workplaces this year, and is planning on the same number in FY 2004. The agency also looks to fund a health hazard survey to investigate chemicals associated with respiratory disease in the workplace.

Under the President's proposed budget, OSHA will also receive an additional $2 million for support of state plan partners; $2 million for evaluation projects; and $750,000 each for expanded health targeting and emergency preparedness programs.


It is posting requirement time. Beginning in 2003, employers with 11 or more employees need to post the new OSHA 300A Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses. The summary is based on the total number of job-related injuries and illnesses that occurred in 2002 and were logged on the OSHA 300 form. Companies with no injuries and illnesses in 2002 should post the form with zeros on the total line.

Summaries should remain posted from Feb. 1 to April 30, 2003, and be displayed in a common area.

The summary includes information on type of injury and illness, extent and outcome and alerts employees to possible hazards. Employment information regarding annual average number of employees and total hours worked during the calendar year is also required to assist in calculating incidence rates.

Employers with ten or fewer employees and employers in certain industry groups are normally exempt from federal OSHA injury and illness recordkeeping and posting requirements. A complete list of exempt industries in the retail, services, finance and real estate sectors is posted on OSHA's web site at: http://www.osha.gov/recordkeeping/ppt1/RK1exempttable.html.

Exempted employers may still be selected by the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics to participate in an annual statistical survey.

All employers covered by OSHA need to comply with safety and health standards and must report verbally within eight hours to the nearest OSHA office all accidents that result in one or more fatalities or in the hospitalization of three or more employees. Fatalities involving fatal heart attacks must also be reported to OSHA, but fatalities involving motor vehicle accidents (except in a construction work zone) or commercial or public transportation systems do not need to be reported to OSHA. After hours calls to report accidents can be made toll free by calling 1-800-321-OSHA.