EMPLOYEE FALL LEADS TO OVER $70,000 IN OSHA FINES FOR INDUSTRIAL LAUNDRY

February 27, 2003
A Nashua, N.H. industrial laundry's failure to protect workers against fall hazards has prompted $70,200 in proposed fines from OSHA.

Unifirst, Corp. was cited for alleged willful and serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act following an OSHA inspection initiated when an employee suffered serious injuries after falling 10 feet from an unguarded mezzanine on Sept. 3 of last year.

"There was a clear need for guardrails that would have prevented this accident from occurring, yet they were not installed," said David May, OSHA's New Hampshire area director. "It's imperative that employers identify and effectively address such hazards before workers are injured or killed."

As a result, OSHA has cited Unifirst for an alleged willful violation, the most severe category of OSHA citation, and proposed a fine of $63,000 for failing to guard the mezzanine against fall hazards. The size of the fine reflects the citation's classification as willful.

OSHA's inspection also identified a tripping hazard from a protruding toeboard on the mezzanine, uncovered or unguarded waste water treatment tanks, an unguarded press and pit, and no 'no exit' sign in the mezzanine area. These alleged violations have been classified as serious and fines of $7,200 are proposed for them.

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




METAL PRODUCTS MANUFACTURER FACES $102,600 IN OSHA FINES

Security Metal Products Corp. of Clinton, Okla., is facing multiple citations and proposed fines of $102,600 for alleged violations of workplace safety and health standards. The company, a metal fabricating corporation which manufactures custom door frames, is being cited with one alleged willful, five alleged serious, and four alleged repeat violations, with a total proposed penalty of $102,600.

The alleged willful violation is for lack of or inadequate guarding at the point of operation on press brakes. The company is also being cited for ergonomic issues related to material handling under the General Duty Clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. The alleged serious violations include failure to use lockout/tagout procedures; failure to guard mechanical power press flywheels; failure to protect against accidental activation of foot pedals; and failure to report mechanical power press point-of operation injuries.

A serious violation is one where there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, involving a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known. A willful violation is one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations. OSHA issues a repeat violation when an employer has been previously cited for a substantially similar hazard in the last three years and that citation has become final.

The inspection of Security Metal Products Corp. was conducted in August 2002, by OSHA's Oklahoma City Area Office as part of OSHA's Site Specific Targeting (SST) inspections for 2002. SST inspections are conducted at establishments with injury and illness rates much higher than the national average.

The company has 15 working days from the receipt of the citations to decide to comply, to request an informal conference with the OSHA area director, or to contest the citations and proposed penalties before the Independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.




NFPA CALLS FOR IMMEDIATE MEETING OF CODE WRITERS TO ADDRESS CONCERNS

The National Fire Protection Association this week called upon its Technical Committee on Assembly Occupancies to convene in Quincy, MA for an immediate review of the safety issues relevant in public assembly buildings. The meeting of the 30-person committee will be held as soon as possible.

At issue are several core components of a total system of building safety that have come to light following two deadly nightclub incidents. The first was in Chicago, in which 21 patrons were killed in a crowd crush on February 17th. The second incident occurred on February 20th when a fast-spreading fire in a West Warwick, RI nightclub killed 97 occupants.

"We must not waste any time in examining all the available information about public assembly occupancies in the wake of these building emergencies," said NFPA Executive Vice President Arthur E. Cote, P.E. "Although we still don't have all the facts about these terrible incidents, we know enough right now to warrant a serious review and scrutiny of the future direction of codes and standards, and their enforcement locally. We must learn from these tragedies, and the time to act is now."

NFPA is calling for a review of the following issues addressed or affected by NFPA codes:

  • The minimum thresholds for requiring automatic fire sprinkler protection
  • Allowable interior finish and decorations
  • Adequate egress
  • Exiting arrangements
  • Retroactive application of code requirements
  • Inspection and permitting

NFPA facilitates the development of more than 300 building, fire, electrical and life safety codes and standards under a consensus code-making process that is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). More than 6,500 volunteers serve on NFPA technical committees, writing NFPA model codes, standards, and recommended practices. NFPA is a private, nonprofit membership organization, and is not an enforcement authority. NFPA codes and standards are developed as minimum requirements and are voluntary, unless they are adopted by a jurisdiction and then enforced locally.

Regularly revised and updated, NFPA model codes and standards have rapidly incorporated the lessons learned following significant fire losses throughout the 20th Century. While voluntary, they have served on many occasions to stimulate needed reforms nationwide.

NFPA has been a worldwide leader in providing fire, electrical, building, and life safety to the public since 1896. The mission of the international nonprofit organization is to reduce the worldwide burden of fire and other hazards on the quality of life by providing and advocating scientifically-based consensus codes and standards, research, training and education.




NATIONAL SAFETY COUNCIL PRESIDENT SAYS AMERICANS MUST DEVELOP A "CULTURE OF PREPAREDNESS"

The National Safety Council (NSC) called this week on all Americans to develop a "culture of preparedness" for emergencies. Tragic events like the stampede in a Chicago nightclub and the fire in Rhode Island, which together took more than 100 lives, can occur at any time. Alan C. McMillan, president of the National Safety Council, said, "The key for each of us is to ensure that we understand how to respond in such an emergency."

"Our nation is already on heightened alert for emergencies that might be caused by hostile acts," he said. "We must all ensure that we each know how to respond in the event of any kind of emergency. Anticipating emergencies and planning a response can greatly lessen the extent of injuries and deaths," he said.

McMillan said that this week's events are a grim reminder to all business owners and operators of public facilities that they must regularly review their emergency plans. Every business should ensure that emergency response procedures are properly communicated and that employees are trained to direct and lead visitors and customers to a safe evacuation.

"Preparedness must become part of our culture and part of every public gathering," he said. "For example, every facility where the public gathers -- including public facilities, businesses and entertainment venues -- should have a plan in place to properly direct its employees, visitors and customers how to respond to an emergency and evacuate the premises, if necessary.

"An even simpler example is that many companies and organizations open every business meeting with an announcement of where emergency exits are located and how participants will leave the building in an emergency," McMillan said. "Every business, school and meeting place in America should have such a procedure in place."

"This culture of preparedness is especially important to every family," McMillan added. "Every family and dwelling in America should have an emergency plan in place that is understood and practiced by every family member or resident to ensure safe evacuation should an emergency strike."

McMillan said, "Individuals should take responsibility for their own safety as much as possible. That means that upon entering any building an individual should take note of the location of all exits; plan how to make an exit before an emergency occurs; consider others and make sure everyone in your party knows how they will exit and where to meet afterward; and once out of danger, stay out. Do not go back into a disaster site. Wait for fire and rescue personnel who are trained for emergencies."

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) requires most facilities with more than 10 employees to have a written emergency plan; in smaller facilities, the plan can be communicated orally. Whatever the size or type of an organization, top management support and the involvement of all employees is essential.

An effective emergency evacuation plan should outline the basic preparedness steps needed to handle emergencies at businesses and public venues. Although emergency response plans cannot be all-inclusive, they should provide appropriate guidance on what to do in an emergency. For example, a sound emergency response plan should include:

  • Clear, written policies that designate a chain of command, listing names and job titles of the people (or departments) responsible for making decisions, monitoring response actions and recovering back to normal operations.
  • Names of those who are responsible for assessing the degree of risk to life and property and who should be notified for various types of emergencies.
  • Specific instructions for shutting down equipment and production processes and stopping business activities.
  • Facility evacuation procedures, including a designated meeting site outside the facility and a process to account for everyone in the building after an evacuation.
  • Procedures for employees who are responsible for shutting down critical operations before they evacuate the facility.
  • Specific training and practice schedules and equipment requirements for employees who are responsible for evacuation control, rescue operations, medical duties, hazardous responses, fire fighting and other responses specific to the site.
  • The preferred means of reporting fires and other emergencies.

The National Safety Council is a nongovernmental public service organization with 50 local chapters around the country and members representing 37,500 business and labor organizations, schools, public agencies and private groups.




OSHA MOVES FORWARD WITH NEW CRANE AND DERRICK SAFETY CONSTRUCTION STANDARD

OSHA will go forward with the negotiated rulemaking process to update its cranes and derricks standard in response to broad industry support for using that process to revise the standard, OSHA Administrator John Henshaw announced.

The agency is publishing a proposed list of members to serve on the Crane and Derrick Negotiated Rulemaking Advisory Committee. Through negotiation, the Committee will develop a proposed revision of the existing construction safety standards for the cranes and derricks. The public may submit comments on the proposed list of members.

"The negotiated rulemaking process is the most effective way to work with the parties that will be significantly affected by a final rule," said Henshaw. "We look forward to working with stakeholders on an updated standard that addresses changes in technology and work processes."

After evaluating comments on the proposed list of committee members, OSHA will then publish a final list, announce the establishment of the committee, and schedule the first committee meeting, which is expected in late spring.

OSHA published a notice of intent to establish a negotiated rulemaking committee in July 2002. In the announcement, the agency requested nominations for the committee and input on the appropriateness of using negotiated rulemaking to develop a crane and derrick proposed rule. The notice also outlined the negotiated rulemaking process and identified some anticipated issues for negotiation.

Notice of OSHA's proposed list of committee members is scheduled to appear in the February 27, 2003 Federal Register and on OSHA's web site under Federal Register Notices.

Written comments on the proposed committee may be submitted by March 31, 2003 to the OSHA Docket Office, Docket No. S-030, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Avenue, NW., Room N-2625, Washington, DC 20210. Comments 10 pages or fewer may be faxed to the OSHA Docket Office at telephone number (202) 693-1648. Comments may be submitted electronically through OSHA's Web site at http://ecomments.osha.gov/

OSHA IDENTIFIES WORKPLACES WITH HIGHEST INJURY AND ILLNESS RATES

OSHA is alerting 14,200 employers across the country that their injury and illness rates are higher than average and encouraging them to take steps to reduce hazards and protect their workers. This year marks the first time the construction industry was included in the notification.

"The purpose of the notification process is to alert employers that their injury and illness rates are above average," said OSHA Administrator John Henshaw, "and then offer assistance that will help reduce those rates. This process not only raises awareness among employers of their higher than average injury and illness rates, but it also affords them a golden opportunity to take steps to reduce those rates."

OSHA identified establishments with the nation's highest lost workday injury and illness rates based on data reported by 93,000 employers surveyed by the agency last year (that survey collected injury and illness data from calendar year 2001). This was the first year the data collection initiative included the construction industry (13,000 construction employers were surveyed). Workplaces receiving the alert letters had six or more injuries or illnesses resulting in lost workdays or restricted activity for every 100 full-time workers. Nationwide, the average U.S. workplace had just under three lost-time instances for every 100 workers.

Henshaw sent letters to all employers with high injury and illness rates, and provided copies of their injury and illness data, along with a list of the most frequently violated OSHA standard for their specific industry. While addressing his concerns for the high rates, Henshaw also offered the agency's help in turning those rates around, suggesting, among other things, the hiring of outside safety and health consultants, and using free safety and health consultation services provided by the agency through the states.

"The data collection initiative, which is conducted each year, gives us a clearer picture of those establishments with higher than normal injury and illness rates," said Henshaw. "Armed with this information, we'll not only be able to place our inspection resources where they're most needed, but we can also use the information to plan outreach and compliance assistance programs where they will benefit the most."

The 14,200 sites are listed alphabetically, by state, on OSHA's Web site at http://www.osha.gov/as/opa/foia/hot_9.html. The list does not designate those earmarked for programmed inspections. Also, the sites listed are those in states covered by federal OSHA; the list does not include employers in the 21 states and two territories that operate OSHA-approved state plans covering the private sector.