FALL FROM UNGUARDED PLATFORM LEADS TO $126,000 FINE

May 16, 2001

OSHA cited C.H. Resources, 5300 Frontier Road, Niagara Falls New York, and proposed penalties of $126,000 against the firm for two alleged willful violations of OSHA standards. The company has until May 25 to contest the citations. The action results from an investigation following an accident on November 16 in which an employee was seriously injured when he fell about 16 feet from an unguarded platform, according to OSHA area director David Boyce. The firm, a subsidiary of Central Hudson Gas and Electric Corporation, operates a coal-fired electrical co-generation facility employing about 1,200 workers.

OSHA alleges that the company willfully violated OSHAÆs fall protection standard by failing to provide fall protection on a platform higher than six feet and failing to provide a ladder or the equivalent, which is required whenever there is a break in elevation greater than 19 inches. Each willful violation carries a proposed penalty of $63,000.

A willful violation is defined by OSHA as one committed with an intentional disregard for, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the OSHA act and regulations.

"OSHA is committed to stringent enforcement in those workplaces where employers willfully violate OSHA standards," Boyce said. "It is important for employers to know that in cases such as this, we will take aggressive enforcement action so that others are put on notice that disregard for employee safety and health is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated."


HIGHLIGHTS OF OSHAÆS BLOODBORNE PATHOGENS STANDARD

On November 6, 2000, Congress passed the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act directing OSHA to revise its bloodborne pathogens standard to describe in greater detail its requirement for employers to identify and make use of effective and safer medical devices. That revision was published on Jan. 18, 2001, and became effective April 18, 2001.

The revision specifies the types of engineering controls -- such as safer medical devices -- in the healthcare setting. It also adds two requirements for employers, but it does not add any new requirements to protect workers from sharps injuries.


Two new definitions are included in the revision, while one existing term is amended:

  • Sharps with Engineered Sharps Injury Protections includes non-needle sharps or needle devices used for withdrawing fluids or administering medications or other fluids that contain built-in safety features, or mechanisms that effectively reduce the risk of an exposure incident.
  • Needleless Systems are devices that do not use needles for the collection or withdrawal of body fluids, or for the administration of medication or fluids.
  • Engineering Controls include all control measures that isolate or remove a bloodborne pathogen hazard from the workplace. The revision now specifies that self-sheathing needles and "safer medical devices, such as sharps with engineered sharps injury protections and needleless systems" constitute an effective engineering control, and must be used where feasible.

Employers must review their exposure control plans annually to reflect changes in technology that will help eliminate or reduce exposure to bloodborne pathogens. That review must include documentation of the employerÆs consideration and implementation of appropriate commercially available and effective safer devices.

Employers must solicit input from non-managerial health care workers regarding the identification, evaluation and selection of effective engineering controls, including safer medical devices. Examples of employees include those in different departments of the facility (e.g., geriatric, pediatric, nuclear medicine, etc.).

Employers with 11 or more employees who are required to keep records by current recordkeeping standards, must maintain a sharps injury log. The log must be maintained in a way to ensure employee privacy and will contain, at minimum, the following information:

  • type and brand of device involved in the incident, if known;
  • location of the incident; and
  • description of the incident.



OSHA ANNOUNCES OUTREACH EFFORT ON NEEDLESTICK PREVENTION

OSHA is reaching out to educate employers, health care workers and the general public on OSHAÆs revision to the bloodborne pathogens standard. The revision will help reduce needlestick injuries among healthcare workers and others who handle medical sharps.

Prevention is the best medicine, said Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao. The more emphasis we place up front on education and prevention, the better able we are to protect workers. By revising this standard, OSHA is giving employers a stronger tool to help reduce serious injuries and illnesses caused by needles and sharps. OSHAÆs education effort includes a collection of written materials designed to explain specific aspects of the standard. Materials are available on OSHAÆs web site at http://www.osha.gov. During the outreach period, OSHA will not enforce the new provisions of the standard that require employers to maintain a sharps injury log and involve non-managerial employees in selecting safer medical devices. Enforcement of these new provisions will begin on July 17, 2001. Meanwhile, enforcement will continue for requirements that employers select safer needle devices as they become available (these have been required since the bloodborne pathogens standard was effective in 1992).

Safe needles protect workers from deadly injuries, said R. Davis Layne, Acting OSHA Administrator. All of us want our nationÆs healthcare system to be as safe as possible. This rule and our accompanying education effort are a positive step in that direction.

The agency is extending its partnership efforts with other agencies, associations and labor organizations. Publications and curriculum recommendations will be used to help educate employers and workers in health care settings. For example, OSHA is drawing upon its existing partnerships with public sector and professional organizations in this effort. OSHA is also making available a presentation package through its education centers - education and other nonprofit organizations that offer training courses for the private and public sectors.

OSHA revised the bloodborne pathogens standard as mandated by the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act. Passed unanimously by Congress and signed into law on Nov. 6, 2000, the Act directed specific revisions to the standard, including clarifying the requirement for employers to select safer needle devices as they become available and involving employees in identifying and choosing the devices.

The revised standard also requires employers with 11 or more employees to maintain a log of injuries from contaminated sharps. A number of industries classified as low-hazard-retail, service, finance, insurance and real estate sectors are exempt from most requirements of recordkeeping; those same industries are exempt from maintaining a sharps injury log. The revised bloodborne pathogens standard was effective Apr. 18, 2001. OSHA is currently updating the compliance directive -- last revised in November 1999 -- which guides OSHAÆs compliance officers in enforcing the standard.

States and territories that operate their own OSHA-approved state programs must adopt the revisions to the federal bloodborne pathogens standard, or a more stringent amendment to their existing standards by Oct. 18, 2001. Although the original adoption date for state plan states was July 17, 2001 (six months from the date the standard was originally published in the Federal Register), an additional three months was added which coincides with the federal governmentÆs education effort.


SMALL NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENT MAKER FINED $146,000

If OSHA cites your facility for noncompliance with any of its standards, itÆs a good idea to resolve issues immediately. Otherwise, the penalties can grow quite quickly. Moreover small companies are not immune, as you can see from the example below.

The OSHA recently cited Federal Laboratories Corporation, of Alden, New York for ten alleged failures to abate previously cited violations plus five new alleged serious violations of OSHA standards. The action results from a follow-up investigation initiated November 8 because OSHA never received any response to citations issued to the firm in June, 2000, according to OSHA area director David Boyce. The company produces powdered shark cartilage, caffeine, and other powdered nutrients and employs 12 workers.


OSHA issued the following failure-to-abate notices:

  • failure to provide standard guardrails on all open sides of a work platform;
  • failure to establish and maintain a respiratory protection program for employees exposed to dust in excess of the permissible exposure limit;
  • failure to provide medical evaluations to employees required to wear respirators;
  • failure to provide fit-testing or effective training to employees required to wear respirators;
  • failure to establish a lockout/tagout program to prevent the accidental startup of machines during servicing or repair;
  • failure to provide training to employees required to use portable fire extinguishers;
  • failure to provide training to employees who operate powered industrial trucks;
  • failure to develop a hazard communication program;
  • failure to provide information and training on the hazardous chemicals in their work areas.

A failure to abate is a notice of additional penalty issued against an employer who has failed to correct a violation that has become a final order of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The total proposed penalty for the alleged failures to abate is $141,000.


The alleged serious violations for which the employer was cited included:

  • failure to keep fire exits free of obstructions;
  • failure to select and require the use of appropriate hand protection when employeesÆ hands were exposed to thermal burns;
  • failure to mount, locate, and identify portable fire extinguishers;
  • failure to properly secure the propane tank to a forklift truck, and ensure that the forklift truck had a locating pin to properly position the propane tank on the vehicle.

A serious violation is defined as a condition which exists where there is a substantial possibility that death or serious physical harm can result. The alleged serious violations carry a total proposed penalty of $5,000.


OSHA FINES CROWN PRODUCTS $142,000 FOLLOWING ACCIDENT AT JACKSONVILLE PLANT

The agency began a comprehensive inspection of Crown Products Company, Inc. of Jacksonville, FL after a mechanical power press started up while an employee was trying to unjam it. The machine severed three of the employeeÆs fingers and crushed his arm, which was later amputated.

The agency fined Crown Products $70,000 for one willful violation for failing to fit the mechanical power press with a guard to protect workers from amputation hazards. A willful citation is issued in cases where OSHA finds an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations.

James Borders, OSHAÆs Jacksonville area director explained that a change in production required replacement of a press machine die to which a physical barrier guard had been bolted. This employer knew that the new, smaller die was unguarded, yet instructed employees to operate the press, said Borders. Taking the time to follow OSHA regulations by fitting the replacement part with a guard could have prevented this tragic accident.

Among nine serious violations cited by OSHA were numerous deficiencies in machine guarding and lack of lockout procedures to render machinery inoperable during maintenance and repair, both of which placed employees at risk of amputations. The company also had no regular power press safety inspection program and no weekly inspections of the mechanical condition of the presses. The serious citations -- defined as those in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result and that the employer knew, or should have known, of the hazard -- drew proposed penalties of $37,000. The remaining fines of $35,000 were proposed for three repeat violations. These addressed the absence of guards to prevent entry of hands or fingers into the point of operation of the presses and to prevent employee contact with rotating flywheels. The pulleys and drive belts on the band saw were also unguarded. The company was cited for similar violations after a May 1998 inspection of the Phillips Highway plant.

Crown Products Company, Inc., a sheet metal fabricator, employs approximately 251 workers, about 33 of whom are assigned to the New Kings Rd. plant where the incident occurred. The company has 15 working days to contest OSHAÆs citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.


OSHA FINES ROCKY MOUNTAIN STEEL $300,000 AND REQUIRES $150,000 IN IMPROVEMENTS

According to the United Steel Workers of America (USWA), OSHA has settled on a fine of $300,000 against a division of Oregon Steel Mills, Inc. (now doing business as Rocky Mountain Steel Mills (RMSM)), and is requiring RMSM to invest an additional $150,000 in safety enhancements to settle 1,078 instances of workplace health and safety violations at the Pueblo, Colorado steel mill. USWA said Rocky Mountain Steel Mills has agreed to the fine and safety enhancements to settle OSHAÆs complaints against them. According to the USWA, a rare, two-month comprehensive wall-to-wall inspection of the mill began in March 2000, following a second death in ten months at the mill. The USWA also cited that in August 2000, OSHA proposed a $487,000 fine for multiple serious and repeat safety violations. The $450,000 total expenditure agreed to by the RMSM is among the largest


USWA noted the following:

  • OSHA found that RMSM knew or should have known about 85 serious safety and health hazards that could result in death or serious physical harm.
  • OSHA also cited Rocky Mountain Steel Mills for 22 repeat violations. Repeat violations are those in which a standard which has been cited against RMSM within the last three years is again observed as violated.
  • In July 1999, RMSM received what was at that time the second-largest OSHA fine in Colorado history -- $400,000 --for violations of health and safety law at the Pueblo mill.

Since then, RMSM has been fined for further violations following the death of one worker and the double amputation of a second workerÆs arms.

Oregon Steel, which makes a number of steel products including rail for passenger, freight and commuter lines, a wide variety of pipe products, plate, rod and bar, is also the target of a nationwide boycott by the AFL-CIO.