MEAT PACKING COMPANY FINED FOR EXPOSING WORKERS TO HAZARDOUS CHEMICALS, DANGEROUS WORKING CONDITIONS

October 10, 2002

Failure to protect workers from hazardous chemicals and provide personal protective equipment against falls and fires will cost Sam Kane Beef Processors Inc. in Corpus Christi, Texas, $60,525 in proposed penalties for citations issued by OSHA.

Sam Kane Beef Processors, a meat packing business, is headquartered in Corpus Christi and employs about 700 workers. The violations cited were a result of two OSHA inspections, a safety inspection that began April 1 and a health inspection that began April 30.

The company was cited with 17 alleged serious violations including failing to implement elements of the Process Safety Management Standards for Highly Hazardous Chemicals, failing to implement lock out/tag out procedures to stop and secure the energy source, failing to provide employees with personal protective equipment and failing to protect employees from exposure to corrosive materials. The proposed safety penalties totaled $40,275.

Additionally, the company was cited with nine alleged serious health violations for exposing employees to a high level of noise, failing to follow bloodborne pathogens standards and failing to properly fit test employees with respirators.

The Process Safety Management Standard must be followed by facilities that utilize certain thresholds of hazardous chemicals. It requires the training of workers and an analysis of potential hazards and how to correct them.


LEAD HAZARDS AT JOB SITE BRING $65,500 IN OSHA PENALTIES

Failing to protect workers from the health hazards associated with lead may cost BMW Construction, Inc., $65,500 in OSHA penalties, according to citations issued by OSHA.

In late June, two BMW employees were hospitalized with flu-like symptoms. County health officials alerted the Tampa OSHA office after test showed the workers had high blood-lead levels.

On July 1, OSHA began an inspection of BMW Construction at a Tampa battery manufacturing facility. Twelve BMW employees were working at the facility replacing and welding a screw-conveyor used to move lead oxide.

"This company has worked in lead areas before. They knew the hazards workers faced, but did nothing to protect them from lead exposure," said Les Grove, OSHA's Tampa area director.

Lithia, Fla.-based BMW Construction, Inc., received two willful citations with proposed penalties totaling $55,000 for failing to train employees about the hazards associated with lead exposure and failing to provide workers with adequate respiratory protection.

OSHA also issued six serious citations with proposed penalties totaling $10,500 for failing to: conduct an initial assessment to determine expected lead exposure levels, implement a program to reduce those levels, monitor employees for blood-lead levels, and assure that employees showered before leaving the work site.

The agency issues a willful citation when the alleged violation is committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the OSHA Act and regulations. A serious citation is issued when 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.

The company has 15 workdays to contest the OSHA citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.


U.S. LABOR DEPARTMENT TO PROVIDE TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE TO CHINA ON LABOR LAW, WORKER RIGHTS AND MINE SAFETY

U. S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao released two grants this week totaling $6.4 million to help worker protection and mine safety and health in China.

Deputy Secretary of Labor Cameron Findlay said, "The Administration is committed to improving workers rights globally, and we look forward to working with our partners in China to enhance the rule of law and improve compliance with internationally recognized workers' rights and labor standards." Findlay serves as the Department of Labor's appointee to the joint Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC).

Through a competitive grant application and review process, the department awarded a four-year, $4.1 million grant to a consortium of Worldwide Strategies, Inc., the Asia Foundation, and the National Committee on United States-China Relations. The consortium will conduct a series of education, training and technical assistance activities to strengthen the Chinese government's capacity to develop laws and regulations to implement internationally recognized workers rights, promote greater awareness of labor law among Chinese workers and employers, strengthen industrial relations, and improve legal aid services to women and migrant workers. The department also awarded a four-year, $2.3 million grant to the National Safety Council to improve safety and health conditions in Chinese coal mines, which have one of the highest accident rates in the world.

Key members of Congress expressed their support for the projects. U.S. Representative Doug Bereuter (R-Neb.), chairman of the House Subcommittees on International Monetary Policy and Trade and co-chair of the CECC, emphasized, "The Commission welcomes the news that the Department of Labor has launched a forward-looking program that will go far toward implementing the technical cooperation provisions on labor rights that the 106th Congress passed in the PNTR legislation."

These two grants are funded and managed through the International Cooperation Program of the department's Bureau of International Labor Affairs.


MSHA LAUNCHES WINTER ALERT AND FOCUS ON SAFE WORK CAMPAIGN

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) is reminding miners and mine operators of the increased hazards that colder weather creates at both surface and underground mines. MSHA's Winter Alert campaign, which runs annually from October through March, emphasizes increased vigilance and adherence to safety principles during winter.

"The risk of underground coal mine explosions increases this time of year, as do hazards associated with ice and snow that collect at surface facilities and prep plants," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health Dave D. Lauriski. "We must all be mindful of the seasonal changes that can affect our work environments."

All coal mines contain methane, and when the barometric pressure drops during colder weather, methane can migrate more easily into the mine atmosphere, increasing the risk of an explosion. Furthermore, dry winter air results in drier conditions underground and this makes coal dust more likely to get suspended in the mine atmosphere, which also can contribute to an explosion. Limited visibility, slippery walkways and freezing and thawing highwalls also contribute to potential mishaps during the winter months.

This year's Winter Alert campaign features a series of posters. The "Highway to Safety" theme focuses on the prevention of coal mine explosions, stressing mine examinations, proper ventilation, rock dusting and mine evacuation. "Don't Let Winter Put You on Ice" addresses hazards specific to surface facilities and prep plants.

Throughout the Winter Alert campaign, mine safety and health specialists will regularly visit mines around the country to heighten awareness to the changing conditions that take place during the winter months. Managers and inspectors will distribute materials that focus on "best practices" for performing miners' jobs and provide compliance assistance in developing solutions to health and safety problems that crop up during the colder months.

A nationwide effort to raise awareness of safety hazards at metal and nonmetal mines begins at this same time in response to a recent rise in fatalities. MSHA personnel will visit metal and nonmetal mines to discuss fatal accidents and encourage mine operators and miners to focus on safe work procedures. They also will attend regional conferences, seminars and meetings to share information on hazard recognition.

MSHA personnel will partner with state mining agencies and national and local industry associations in both the Winter Alert and Focus on Safe Work outreach programs.


OSHA: íLISTOS PARA AYUDARLE!

A new Spanish language publication, OSHA: íListos para ayudarle! (OSHA: Ready to Help You!), is the newest piece in a growing number of programs and products intended to help Spanish-speaking employers and employees reduce injuries, illnesses, and death on the job.

"We continue to be troubled by the high fatality rate among Hispanic and Latino workers," said Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao. "That is why is our Hispanic Outreach Task Force is continuing to find more and better ways to reach Spanish speaking workers and employers with information that can help save their lives. We think we have made some progress in the construction industry, but we need to expand our efforts in other areas."

OSHA's new brochure, which explains the various services, programs and tools that agency offers, is part of a growing effort to reach Spanish speaking workers and employers. Other products include a Spanish language web site, http://www.osha.gov/as/opa/spanish/; new data collection efforts to pinpoint safety and health problems among non-English-speaking employees and employers; and a Spanish language options for OSHA's toll-free help line, 1-800-321-OSHA. The agency also offers training classes in Spanish in some parts of the country and works with community organizations to improve outreach efforts.

"The disproportionately high number of work-related deaths suffered by non-English -- speaking-including Hispanic -- workers is of grave concern to us. These workers are among the most vulnerable in America," said OSHA Administrator John L. Henshaw. "One of the major issues in improving safety of workers is communicating in a language they understand. Publications like our new one help us reach more employers and workers with our safety and health message."

OSHA established its Hispanic Outreach Task Force last year after the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a disturbing increase in the fatality rate among Hispanic workers. New data from BLS, released on Sept. 25, 2002, showed that the fatality rate for Hispanic workers increased by nine percent in 2001. But the higher numbers reflected deaths in the services and agriculture industries, rather than in construction as in prior years.

The new Spanish-language brochure can be downloaded at http://www.osha.gov/Publications/listos_ayudarle.pdf or call 1-800-321-OSHA for a printed copy.


OSHA, AMERICAN INDUSTRIAL HYGIENE ASSOCIATION FORM ALLIANCE

OSHA and the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) have established an Alliance to use their collective expertise to help prevent injuries and illnesses in the American workplace while sharing best practices and technical knowledge in many areas, including in the field of ergonomics, announced OSHA Administrator John L. Henshaw.

"OSHA and the AIHA have always enjoyed a fruitful, close working relationship," said Henshaw. "This Alliance will bring us even closer in an important partnership to help reduce ergonomic hazards in the workplace, as well as to expand our already close cooperation in the field of occupational safety and health."

Under the terms of this Alliance, OSHA and the AIHA will work together to provide AIHA members with information and guidance to help reduce and prevent employee exposure to ergonomic hazards, and to reach out to association members with specifics on developing, implementing and improving ergonomic programs.

The Alliance provides avenues for both organizations to work together on outreach and communication projects, including the development and dissemination of information at conferences, events and through their respective websites. AIHA members' worksites will be encouraged to participate in OSHA's cooperative programs, such as compliance assistance, the Voluntary Protection Program, the Consultation Program, and SHARP. AIHA members will also be afforded opportunities to mentor and assist OSHA personnel as they proceed with professional certifications.

OSHA and AIHA will also promote and share information on best practices with others in the occupational health and safety profession. Both organizations will participate in forums and roundtable discussions on ergonomic issues and also examples of hazard recognition strategies and analytical tools that support solutions to ergonomic hazards. Finally, OSHA and AIHA will assist association members with the development and delivery of training and education programs for reducing and eliminating ergonomic hazards in the workplace.

A team of OSHA and AIHA representatives will meet at least quarterly to develop an action plan, determine working procedures, and identify roles and responsibilities of participants.