FAILURE TO PROTECT WORKERS FROM SAFETY HAZARDS MAY COST FIRM $154,350

March 13, 2003
The failure to address the hazards of unguarded machinery in a timely manner and inadequate protection of employees exposed to the potential of unexpected energization of equipment at the Waupun, Wis. plant of Silgan Containers Corporation has resulted in a $154,350 fine assessed by OSHA.

OSHA opened an investigation into workplace safety and health conditions at the plant in September 2002, as a targeted inspection based on the company's lost-workday injury and illness rate of 14.7. OSHA inspectors found serious violations of federal regulations including machine guarding, electrical deficiencies, and an improperly guarded work platform. The agency also issued citations characterized as willful that allege the employer failed to have workers lockout equipment in an appropriate manner prior to servicing and maintenance, and for unguarded point-of-operations on mechanical power presses.

The Waupun plant employs over 90 workers in the manufacture of tin cans for the food processing industry. There are 5,000 employees company-wide at some 40 plants throughout the U.S.

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




ERGONOMICS GUIDELINES ANNOUNCED FOR THE NURSING HOME INDUSTRY

OSHA Administrator John Henshaw announced the first in a series of industry-specific guidelines for the prevention of musculoskeletal disorders in the workplace. OSHA's Guidelines for Nursing Homes focuses on practical recommendations for employers to reduce the number and severity of workplace injuries by using methods found to be successful in the nursing home environment.

The guidelines are divided into five sections: developing a process for protecting workers; identifying problems and implementing solutions for resident lifting and repositioning; identifying problems and implementing solutions for activities other than resident lifting and repositioning; training; and additional sources of information.

OSHA emphasizes that specific measures or guideline implementations may differ from site to site. Still, the agency recommends that all facilities minimize manual lifting of residents in all cases, and eliminate such lifting when feasible. Further, OSHA encourages employers to implement a basic ergonomic process that provides management support while involving workers, identifying problems and implementing solutions, addressing reports of injuries, providing training and evaluating ergonomics efforts.

OSHA announced last April the agency's strategy to reduce ergonomic injuries. The four-pronged approach includes guidelines, enforcement, research, and outreach and assistance. In addition to nursing homes, the agency is preparing industry-specific guidelines for the retail grocery store and poultry processing industries.

The guidelines are available on OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov/ergonomics/guidelines/nursinghome/index.html. Print copies will be available shortly. To order a copy, contact OSHA at (800) 321-OSHA.




SUSTAINED REDUCED SLEEP CAN HAVE SERIOUS CONSEQUENCES

In a study on the effects of sleep deprivation, investigators at the University of Pennsylvania found that subjects who slept four to six hours a night for fourteen consecutive nights showed significant deficits in cognitive performance equivalent to going without sleep for up to three days in a row. Yet these subjects reported feeling only slightly sleepy and were unaware of how impaired they were. The research article, "The Cumulative Cost of Additional Wakefulness: Dose-Response Effects on Neurobehavioral Functions and Sleep Physiology From Chronic Sleep Restriction and Total Sleep Deprivation," appears in the March issue of the journal 'SLEEP'.

According to Principal Investigator David Dinges, "This is the first systematic study to look at the prolonged cognitive effects of chronic sleep restriction lasting for more than a week. The results provide a clearer picture of possible dangers to people who typically are awake longer on a regular basis," he explained, "including members of the military, medical and surgical residents, and shift workers. Reduced cognitive abilities can occur even with a moderate reduction in sleep."

Cognitive performance deficits included reduced ability to pay attention and react to a stimulus, such as when driving, or monitoring at airports. Other deficits involved impairment of the ability to think quickly and not make mistakes, and a reduced ability to multi-task -- to hold thoughts in the brain in some order while doing something else.

Dr. Patricia A. Grady, Director of the National Institute of Nursing Research, NIH, which provided primary funding for the study, said, "These findings show that while young adults may believe they can adapt to less than a full night's sleep over time, chronic sleep deprivation may seriously affect their performance while they are awake, and they may not even realize it."

Investigators also found that to prevent neurobehavioral defects from accumulating, the average person needs 8.16 hours of sleep during a 24-hour day, although there were differences among individuals in their need for sleep.

The study included 48 healthy individuals aged 21 to 38 who were divided into four groups -- those who were allowed to sleep up to either 8, 6 or 4 hours per night during a 24-hour period for two weeks, and those who were deprived of sleep for three consecutive 24-hour periods. The experiments were conducted in a lab with constant monitoring. When awake, participants could watch movies, read, and interact with lab staff but could not have caffeine, alcohol, tobacco or medications.




OSHA OFFERS HEALTH HAZARD INFORMATION ON CRYSTALLINE SILICA

New OSHA health hazard information cards, “Crystalline Silica Exposure,” will help workers and employers understand more about how they can protect themselves against exposure to silica dust. Two separate cards, available in English and Spanish, provide a quick reference and recommendations for construction and general industries.

Silica exposure remains a serious threat to nearly two million U.S. workers. The most severe worker exposures can occur during abrasive blasting with sand. Other common exposures to silica dust can occur during the manufacturing of cement and brick; mixing or drilling concrete and mortar; and the manufacturing of china, ceramic and asphalt.

The new pocket-sized cards identify the symptoms of silicosis and the most common causes of occupational exposure. The cards also outline ways to protect against exposure to silica dust, including recommendations for appropriate use of respirators and personal protective equipment.

Crystalline silica is a basic component of soil, sand, granite, and many other materials. It is classified as a human lung carcinogen. Breathing silica dust can cause silicosis, a potentially disabling or fatal disease. Silicosis can also make exposed workers more susceptible to lung infections like tuberculosis.

OSHA's permissible exposure limit (PEL) limits the maximum amount of crystalline silica that a worker can be exposed to during an eight-hour work shift. OSHA also requires hazard communication training for workers exposed to crystalline silica and a respirator protection program.

The “Crystalline Silica Exposure” cards are free of charge and can also be downloaded from the publications page on OSHA's web site at http://www.osha.gov/pls/publications/pubindex.list.




LABOR SECRETARY ANNOUNCES PLANS TO ENHANCE ENFORCEMENT FOR EMPLOYERS WHO DEFY SAFETY AND HEALTH REGULATIONS

Employers who expose their workers to serious safety and health hazards and who continue to defy worker safety and health regulations, will be subject to an enhanced enforcement policy unveiled this week by Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao.

"The majority of employers in our country consider the health and safety of their workers a priority and strive to do their utmost to ensure their well being," said Chao. "Still, there are those who, despite OSHA's enforcement and outreach efforts, continually disregard their very basic obligations under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. This enhanced enforcement policy is meant for them."

OSHA's Enhanced Enforcement Policy will focus on those employers who have received "high gravity" citations. High gravity citations are issued when an employer's violations are considered to be at the highest level of severity.

The policy focuses on five specific areas that will be strengthened: (1) follow-up inspections; (2) programmed inspections; (3) public awareness; (4) settlements; and (5) federal court enforcement. This initiative impacts establishments that received OSHA citations with the highest severity of willful violations, multiple serious violations at the highest level of severity, repeat violations at the originating establishment, failure-to-abate notices, or a serious or willful violation associated with a fatality.

"No worker should be injured or killed on the job and no employer should ignore their responsibility to obey the law," said OSHA Administrator John Henshaw. "This policy will focus on the high gravity violators and will put more tenacity and teeth in our enforcement practices. Our goal is to assure compliance and a safe workplace for all workers."