Free Tools to Assess Your Company's Safety Climate

October 17, 2016

The New Safety Climate Assessment Tool (S-CAT) and the S-CAT Website are free tools available to any construction contractor or safety and health professional who wants tailored and actionable information to help improve the safety climate of every jobsite. Results can pinpoint areas of success and areas for future improvement. At a 30 minute webinar this week, presenters will describe how the S-CAT was developed and how safety and health professionals can use it to improve their jobsite safety climate.

The webinar takes place on October 19, 2016 at 2:00 pm ET.

Mobile RCRA and DOT Training

Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in Mobile, AL, on October 25–27 and save $100. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.

Atlanta RCRA and DOT Update, IATA, and SARA Training

Register for RCRA Hazardous Waste and DOT Hazardous Materials Update and Refresher Training in Atlanta, GA, on November 1 and get your RCRA and DOT refresher training in one day. Learn how to prepare dangerous goods for shipment by air at Transportation of Dangerous Goods: Compliance with IATA Regulations on November 2. The SARA Title III Workshop on November 3 will prepare you to comply with EPCRA requirements. To register for these courses, click here or call 800-537-2372.

San Diego Hazardous Waste and DOT Training

Register for Hazardous Waste Management in California and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in San Diego, CA, on November 1–3 and save $100. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.

How to Implement OSHA’s Globally Harmonized Hazard Communication Standard (GHS)

When OSHA aligned the Hazard Communication Standard with the United Nations’ globally harmonized system (GHS) for the classification and labeling of hazardous chemicals, the agency required virtually every product label, safety data sheet (formerly called “material safety data sheet” or MSDS), and written hazard communication plan to be revised to meet the new standard. Worker training must be updated so that workers can recognize and understand the symbols and pictograms on the new labels as well as the new hazard statements and precautions on safety data sheets.

Environmental Resource Center is offering live online training for you to learn how the new rule differs from current requirements, how to implement the changes, and when the changes must be implemented. Bring your questions to the upcoming webcasts on How to Implement OSHA’s Globally Harmonized Hazard Communication Standard (GHS) on November 15.

OSHA Issues Final Rule for Handling Retaliation Complaints Under the Affordable Care Act

OSHA has published a final rule that establishes procedures and time frames for handling whistleblower complaints under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA protects employees from retaliation for receiving Marketplace financial assistance when purchasing health insurance through an Exchange. It also protects employees from retaliation for raising concerns regarding conduct that they believe violates the consumer protections and health insurance reforms found in Title I of the ACA.

This rule also establishes procedures and time frames for hearings before Department of Labor administrative law judges in ACA retaliation cases; review of those decisions by the Department of Labor Administrative Review Board; and judicial review of final decisions.

"This rule reinforces OSHA's commitment to protect workers who raise concerns about potential violations of the consumer protections established by the Affordable Care Act or who purchase health insurance through an Exchange," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels.

In 2013, OSHA published an interim final rule and requested public comments. The final rule responds to the comments and updates the rule to clarify the protections for workers who receive financial assistance when they purchase health insurance through an Exchange.

OSHA's Affordable Care Act fact sheet provides more information regarding who is covered under the ACA's whistleblower protections, protected activity, types of retaliation, and the process for filing a complaint.

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and 21 other statutes. These provisions protect employees from retaliation for reporting violations of various laws by their employers and for engaging in related activities. Additional information is available on OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Programs webpage.

Omega Demolition Corp. Fined $152,433 After Worker Fatally Crushed by 40-Ton Beam

A federal investigation has determined that an overstressed 40-ton beam fell and caused the death of a 47-year-old laborer doing demolition of Chicago's Interstate 90 and Touhy Road overpass in April.

On October 3, 2016, OSHA cited the laborer's employer, Omega Demolition Corp., for one willful safety violation for overstressing the beam during demolition. The agency also cited the company for three serious and one other-than-serious health violations following its investigation of the early morning incident that also injured three other workers on April 5, 2016.

"The fact that this incident was preventable only compounds the tragedy," said Ken Nishiyama Atha, OSHA's regional administrator in Chicago. "Federal safety standards for demolition address specific procedures for preventing steel structures from being overstressed, a safety violation that directly contributed to the death of this worker."

OSHA inspectors determined the worker was standing in an aerial lift and torch cutting steel bracing between the two beams when one of the beams fell.

The agency also found Omega Demolition failed to follow OSHA standards for respiratory protection including training workers, fit testing them for the appropriate respirator, maintaining fit test records and ensuring respirators were used in compliance with its certification.

OSHA has proposed penalties of $152,433 to the Elgin, Illinois-based company and placed it in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which focuses on recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat, or failure-to-abate violations. Under the program, OSHA may inspect any of the employer's facilities or jobsites if it has reasonable grounds to believe there are similar violations.

View current health citations.

Prior to this inspection, OSHA had inspected Omega Demolition 14 times since 2004 and issued citations in eight of these inspections.

OSHA Urges Grain-Handling Industry To Be Vigilant

Five seconds is all it takes for flowing grain to engulf and trap a worker. In 60 seconds, the worker is submerged and is in serious danger of death by suffocation. More than half of all workers engulfed in grain die this way. Many others suffer permanent disability.

An "engulfment" often happens when "bridged" grain and vertical piles of stored grain collapse unexpectedly. Engulfments may occur when employees work on or near the pile or when bin augers whirl causing the grain to buckle and fall onto the worker. The density, weight, and unpredictable behavior of flowing grains make it nearly impossible for workers to rescue themselves without help.

Since January 2016, Nebraska and Kansas' grain-handling industry has had two fatalities and four preventable work-related incidents.

As Midwestern farmers reap this year's harvest, OSHA urges industry employers and workers to fully implement safety and health programs including procedures for controlling hazardous energy, safe bin entry and housekeeping to avoid additional tragedies. OSHA's Grain Handling Industry Local Emphasis Program focuses on the grain and feed industry's six major hazards: engulfment, falls, auger entanglement, "struck by," combustible dust explosions, and electrocution hazards.

"Far too many preventable incidents continue to occur in the grain-handling industry," said Kim Stille, OSHA's regional administrator in Kansas City. "Every employee working in the grain industry must be trained on grain-handling hazards and given the tools to ensure they do not enter a bin or silo without required safety equipment. They must also take all necessary precautions - this includes using lifelines, testing the atmosphere inside a bin and turning off and locking out all powered equipment to prevent restarting before entering grain storage structures."

In 2016, OSHA has opened investigations of the following grain industry fatalities and incidents:

  • March 16, 2016: A 42-year-old superintendent at Cooperative Producers, Inc.'s, Hayland grain-handling site in Prosser, Nebraska, suffered fatal injuries caused by an operating auger as he drew grain from a bin. OSHA cited the company on September 9, 2016, for three egregious willful and three serious violations and placed the company in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program. The company has contested those citations.
  • March 22, 2016: A 21-year-old worker found himself trapped in a soybean bin, but escaped serious injury at The Farmer's Cooperative Association in Conway Springs, Kansas. Rescue crews were able to remove the worker and he was treated and released at a local hospital. On June 2, 2016, OSHA cited the company for 13 serious violations. See citations here.
  • March 25, 2016: A 51-year- employee was trapped in a grain bin at McPherson County Feeders in Marquette, Kansas. Emergency crews were able to rescue him. OSHA cited the company for four serious violations on April 14, 2016. See citations here.
  • May 19, 2016: A 53-year-old male employee at Prinz Grain and Feed suffered severe injuries on May 18, 2016, as he worked in a grain bin in West Point, Nebraska. The maintenance worker was in a grain bin when a wall of corn product collapsed and engulfed him. He died of his injuries two days later.
  • September 1, 2016: A 59-year-old employee suffered severe injuries to his leg when the sweep auger inside a bin at Trotter Grain in Litchfield, Nebraska, caught his coveralls.
  • September 19, 2016: A 28-year-old employee of the Ellsworth Co-Op in Ellsworth, Kansas, had his left leg amputated when he stepped into an open auger well inside a grain bin while the auger was running.

In 2015, the industry reported 22 grain-entrapment cases nationwide. Of those, 4% occurred in commercial grain facilities and 82% occurred on farms exempt from OSHA compliance. In 2010, 51 workers found themselves engulfed by grain stored in bins, and 26 died—the highest number on record—researchers at Indiana's Purdue University found. Purdue also reported that—of the more than 900 cases of grain engulfments reported since 1966—62% resulted in worker deaths.

In its effort to protect workers and educate the industry, OSHA has worked with leaders in the agri-business community to raise awareness of grain-handling hazards.

Most recently, Omaha Area Director Jeff Funke spoke at the National Grain and Feed Association and Assistant Area Director Darwin Craig spoke at the Nebraska Grain and Feed Association, both in August 2016.

"It is vital that we work with leaders, farmers and those employed in the grain and feed industry to increase awareness of hazards in the grain industry and discuss ways to protect workers on the job," Funke said. "In our presentation to the NGFA, we were able to reach about 5,000 employees on a national level. Through education, training and common sense safety procedures we can prevent workplace injuries and deaths in the grain industry."

In the last year, OSHA Wichita Area Office presented at the Kansas Grain and Feed Associations' Grain Handlers training program in Garden City and in Salina, presented information to the KFSA grain elevator owners and managers in Kansas City on the most frequently found hazards in the grain industry, and presented to the Grain Elevator Processing Society in Salina.

"Grain dust accumulation must be controlled to prevent a fuel source in bins from igniting in proximity to operating conveyors, augers and other equipment. OSHA grain handling standards address the numerous serious and life threatening hazards found in grain bins including grain dust explosions, engulfment and entrapment from flowing grain, falls and amputation hazards," said Judy Freeman, OSHA's area director in Wichita. "These common sense safety standards protect workers on the job in this hazardous industry."

To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742).

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Webinar: Preparing for Emergencies

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is hosting a webinar, “Preparing for Emergencies – National Health Security Preparedness Index: A Valuable Tool to Improve Preparedness,” Friday, October 21st, 11:00–Noon (ET). The event will examine how preparedness officials and others can use the National Health Security Preparedness Index (NHSPI) to improve our ability to prepare for, respond to, and recover from emergencies that pose threats to population health-such as hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and infectious diseases.

Webinar: Executive Order 13650 Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security

Please join the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the EPA, and the Department of Labor (DOL) for a webinar on Executive Order 13650: Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security (EO). This webinar will provide an update on action items since the June 6, 2014, release of "Executive Order 13650: Actions to Improve Chemical Facility Safety and Security: A Shared Commitment." For questions regarding the Executive Order or the Webinar, contact eo.chemical@hq.dhs.gov. The webinar takes place on October 24, 2016 at 10:00 a.m. ET.

OSHA Urges Storm Recovery Workers, Public to Be Vigilant, Aware of Hazards in Aftermath of Hurricane Matthew

Emergency workers, employers and the public at-large face potentially serious hazards as they begin to recover from Hurricane Matthew, and OSHA is urging vigilance during the cleanup.

"Recovery work should not send you to the hospital emergency room," said Kurt Petermeyer, OSHA's regional administrator for the Southeast. "A range of safety and health hazards exist following storms. You can minimize these dangers with knowledge, safe work practices and personal protective equipment. OSHA wants all working men and women—including volunteers—to stay safe once the storm has passed."

Storm cleanup may involve hazards related to restoring electricity, communications, and water and sewer services. Demolition activities such as debris cleanup; tree trimming; and structural, roadway and bridge repair; hazardous waste operations and emergency response activities present their own unique hazards. OSHA's website provides guidance to keep disaster-site workers safe in storm cleanup and recovery operations.

Flooded areas have unique cleanup challenges, including dam and levee repair, removal of floodwater from structures and repairing downed electrical wires in standing water. Workers and residents taking defensive action to protect structures or evacuate severely impacted areas may encounter hazards, such as rapidly rising streams and moving water. Resources on flood preparedness and response also are available on OSHA's website.

Only properly trained and adequately equipped workers should conduct cleanup activities.

Protective measures for workers engaged in cleanup efforts include the following:

  • Evaluate all work areas for hazards
  • Employ engineering or work practice controls to mitigate hazards
  • Use personal protective equipment
  • Assume all powerlines are live
  • Use portable generators, saws, ladders, vehicles, and other equipment properly
  • Heed safety precautions for traffic work zones

Individuals involved in recovery efforts may call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or visit the agency's website to reach local representatives who can provide on-site assistance.

Og Plumbing Repeatedly Exposed Workers to Dangerous Trench Collapses

Less than three weeks after being cited for exposing workers to unsafe trenches, federal investigators saw a Chicago plumbing contractor exposing the same four-man crew to trenching hazards as they worked on sewer and water utilities at two locations in Oak Park on consecutive days in March 2016.

For its wanton disregard for the safety of its workers, OSHA has placed Og Plumbing, LLC, in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

OSHA proposed penalties of $275,728 and issued one willful, three repeat, and one serious safety citations to the plumbing contractor for the violations found at the job sites. The SVEP program focuses on recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat, or failure-to-abate violations. Under the program, the agency may inspect any of the employer's facilities or job sites if it has reasonable grounds to believe there are similar violations.

"After being told by an investigator to protect workers against trench cave-in hazards, Og Plumbing returned to work the next day and again exposed the same crew to the potential threat of being buried by thousands of pounds of soil and work in an unprotected trench," said Angeline Loftus, OSHA's area director for its Chicago North Office in Des Plaines. "Each year, dozens of workers die and hundreds suffer injuries when soil unexpectedly shifts and trench walls collapse burying them in mere seconds."

"Og Plumbing needs to evaluate its job site procedures immediately to ensure they use required protective systems. These can be the difference between life and death."

OSHA's inspection found:

  • On March 28, 2016, a four-man crew on a job site in the 1036 Washington Blvd. in Oak Park was working in a five and one-half foot-deep trench without cave-in protection and a means to enter and exit the trench. In addition, inspectors found workers not wearing hard hats.
  • On March 29, 2016, inspectors found the same crew working in a six-and-one-half-foot deep trench at 1035 Randolph St. in Oak Park without cave-in protection and a means to enter and exit the trench. After the investigator left the site, employees were seen re-entering the unprotected trench. As the investigator approached the trench the second time, the employees scrambled out of the trench. Shortly after this, a large section of the trench wall collapsed into the area of the trench where the employees were working.
  • On March 10, 2016, OSHA inspectors observed a crew installing water lines in a trench about six-feet deep at 1632 N. Western Ave., in Chicago, without cave-in protection. OSHA issued penalties of $69,300 to the company on April 25, 2016, for one willful and one repeated safety violation following its inspection.

OSHA's trenching standards require protective systems on trenches deeper than 5 feet, and that soil and other materials remain at least two feet from the edge of trench.

Home Live Roofing Fined $101,121 for Exposing Workers to Falls

OSHA issued Home Live Roofing, LLC, of Marietta, Georgia, one willful, two repeat, and one serious safety violations on September 29, 2016.

After receiving a complaint related to falls hazards on the work site, OSHA began its inspection on August 25, 2016.

The roofing contractor failed to provide adequate fall protection while its employees worked approximately 18 feet above a lower level, resulting in the willful citation.

The repeat violations involved the company's failure to enforce the use of protective eyewear among workers who used pneumatic nail guns, and an improperly set extension ladder where the side rails did not extend at least 3 feet above the upper landing surface. Home Live Roofing was previously cited for similar hazards in 2013, 2014, 2015, and in 2016.

OSHA cited the serious violation because fuel storage was not equipped with a fire extinguisher.

"Over the past two and a half years, this employer was cited five times by OSHA offices in Georgia and Missouri for violations related to fall protection hazards. This includes citations received just four weeks ago that resulted in nearly $30,000 in penalties," said Jean Kulp, director of OSHA's Allentown Area Office. "Fall protection is a basic, yet critical employer-provided safeguard that protects workers from being injured or killed on the job, especially in the construction industry where falls are the leading cause of death."

Proposed penalties total $101,121.

Lear Corp. to Makes Significant Changes After Whistleblower Compliant

The U.S. Department of Labor recently announced that its lawsuit against Lear Corp., doing business as Renosol Seating, LLC, and three of its managers in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama has been resolved. The company manufactures foam seating for the automotive industry. The department and the company have filed a joint motion with the court setting forth the resolution and asking the court to dismiss the case in light of it.

Filed on March 4, 2016, the complaint followed an investigation by the department's OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Program in which OSHA determined that employees who reported hazards from chemical exposure at the company's Selma plant suffered multiple forms of retaliation in violation of Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

The joint motion explains that, as part of a comprehensive settlement with multiple parties, the company agreed to do the following, among other provisions:

  • Dismiss a lawsuit it had filed against an employee who had complained about health conditions at the plant, and whom the company had fired. Lear will also reinstate that employee to her former position. In the settlement, the company noted "it has made substantial upgrades at the Selma plant to the health and safety conditions in work facility spaces where employees are exposed to chemicals used in the foam-making process."
  • Purge the disciplinary actions from the personnel files of employees who had complained about the hazards
  • Compensate certain employees who had been suspended for the work time lost due to their suspensions
  • Post the OSHA Job Safety and Health poster and OSHA's Fact Sheet: "Your Rights as a Whistleblower" in a conspicuous location in the workplace. The company will also provide a copy of the whistleblower rights fact sheet to all newly hired employees at its Selma facility for a period of three years.
  • Allow OSHA to provide annual training regarding protected rights under the Occupational Safety and Health Act to all workers at the Selma plant for a period of three years

"Our hope is that this case sends a clear message to employers that OSHA will use any and all methods at our disposal to protect workers' right to raise safety complaints," said Kurt Petermeyer, OSHA's regional administrator in Atlanta. "Every worker should feel comfortable raising concerns about work place hazards to their employer without the fear of retaliation. We are confident that the resolution of this case will help to facilitate a strong safety culture within this facility."

"One of the department's highest priorities is to protect the voices of workers who speak up about hazards at their workplaces,” said Stanley E. Keen, regional solicitor in the department's Atlanta office which litigated the case. "We will move swiftly to address instances of retaliation, as we did here. In this case, we obtained the first preliminary injunction ever sought under OSHA's whistleblower provisions. The resolution of this case reflects significant improvements for employees at this employer's facility."

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the OSH Act and 21 other statutes, protecting employees who report violations of various securities, financial services, trucking, airline, nuclear power, pipeline, environmental, rail, maritime, health care, food safety, motor vehicle safety, workplace safety and health regulations, and consumer product safety laws.

Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise various protected concerns or provide protected information to the employer or to the government. Employees who believe that they have been retaliated against for engaging in protected conduct may file a complaint with the secretary of labor to request an investigation by OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Program. Detailed information on employee whistleblower rights, including fact sheets, is available online.

Secretary of Labor Renews Charter of National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health

Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez recently renewed the charter of the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health. The Federal Advisory Committee Act requires that all advisory committees renew their charters every two years. The new charter will expire two years from October 5, 2016, the charter filing date.

NACOSH advises, consults with and makes recommendations to the secretaries of labor and health and human services on matters relating to the administration of the Occupational Safety and Health Act including regulatory, research, compliance assistance and enforcement issues. NACOSH consists of 12 members representing workers, employers, safety and health professionals, states, and the public. NACOSH holds two to four meetings per year, which are open to the public.

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