NATIONWIDE LAW ENFORCEMENT CRACKDOWN TAKES AIM AT UNBELTED TEENS AND YOUNG ADULTS DURING MEMORIAL DAY WEEK

May 23, 2002

The largest nationwide seat belt enforcement push ever will place special emphasis on protecting teens and young adults this Memorial Day week as new data show more than half of all teens who die in crashes are completely unrestrained. More than 11,200 law enforcement agencies in all 50 states and the District of Columbia will conduct child passenger safety, seat belt and drunk driving checkpoints and other special enforcement activities as part of the Operation ABC Mobilization.

According to the new data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Fatal Analysis Reporting Systems (FARS), 4,216 teens, ages 16-19, died and thousands more were injured in traffic crashes in 2000. Fatality rates for teens are twice that of older drivers and the risk of crashes for teens is four times that of older drivers.

The weeklong enforcement wave, which runs from May 20-27, will be supported by more than $10 million in federal funding for advertising efforts in states to ensure the buckle-up message reaches those least likely to obey the law and use seat belts including teens and young adults. The Congressionally mandated program expands a proven model of high visibility enforcement, which is credited with increasing belt use by 8-12 percent points on a state and regional basis. The high visibility enforcement push will be conducted under the slogan Click It or Ticket in 28 states and the District of Columbia.

High visibility enforcement relies on periods of intense enforcement of seat belt laws coupled with aggressive advertising and media outreach to let people know about the enforcement. For many non-seat belt users, and especially young people, the threat of a ticket has proven to be a greater inducement to buckle up than the threat of injury or death.

The Operation ABC Mobilization is conducted twice yearly by the Air Bag & Seat Belt Safety Campaign of the National Safety Council in conjunction with law enforcement agencies, NHTSA, NTSB and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

Law enforcement will also be on the lookout for drunk drivers. According to NHTSA, the alcohol involvement fatal crash rate for young drivers is about twice that of drivers over 21. An alarming 16,653 people died in alcohol-related crashes in 2000. In all 50 states, it is illegal to drink alcohol under the age of 21, and it is illegal to have any measurable amount of alcohol in the bloodstream while driving for people under the age of 21. Yet, in 2000, 2,339 people between the ages of 15-20 were killed in alcohol-related traffic crashes. In addition, law enforcement can attest that one of the best ways to catch drunk drivers is to enforce seat belt laws.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) reported recently that child fatalities from traffic crashes have declined by 20 percent since 1997, when the Mobilizations began. The DOT has credited the Mobilizations for significantly contributing to this decline and for dramatically increasing child restraint use.


HEALTH HAZARDS AT FEDERAL DETENTION FACILITY LEAD TO NEARLY $133,000 IN FINES FOR SECURITY GUARD FIRM

Workplace health hazards mainly involving the exposure of contract security guards to bloodborne and other potentially infectious materials have resulted in $132,750 in proposed fines against a Houston, Texas-based firm providing security staff to a federal detention facility in Batavia, N.Y.

OSHA has cited the Barbosa Group, Inc. of Houston for alleged serious and willful violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act at the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) Buffalo Federal Detention Facility in Batavia. The company has until May 24 to contest the citations.

According to Chris Adams, OSHA's acting area director for Buffalo, the action results from an inspection conducted Nov. 19, 2001 to May 2, 2002 as a result of a complaint regarding employee exposure to blood and other potentially infectious materials in the course of guards dealing with sometimes violent detainees.

The Barbosa Group was cited for the following alleged serious violations of OSHA's health standards:

  • failing to establish a written exposure control plan to eliminate or minimize employee exposure to blood and other potentially infectious materials;
  • failing to provide employees with training regarding procedures to follow in the case of an exposure incident, including the method of reporting the incident or the medical follow-up that would be made available.

The Barbosa Group also was cited for the following alleged willful violations of the OSHA standards:

  • failing to make the hepatitis B vaccination available to employees who had occupational exposure to blood or other potentially infectious materials;
  • failing to immediately make available a confidential medical evaluation or follow-up to an exposed employee following a report of an exposure incident.

A serious violation is defined as a condition where there is a substantial possibility that death or serious physical harm can result to an employee. 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.

The investigation was conducted by OSHA's Buffalo Area Office.


NIOSH REPORT ON RESPIRABLE CRYSTALLINE SILICA REVIEWS HEALTH EFFECTS DATA, DISCUSSES RESEARCH NEEDS

A new report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) examines the health risks and diseases associated with occupational exposure to respirable crystalline silica, discusses findings from recent epidemiological studies, and suggests areas for further research to help answer ongoing questions about the hazards of exposure.

"NIOSH Hazard Review: Health Effects of Occupational Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica," DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2002-129, was prepared with extensive technical input and review from occupational health specialists in industry, labor, the academic community, and other government agencies.

At least 1.7 million U.S. workers are exposed to respirable crystalline silica in a variety of industries and occupations, including construction, sandblasting, and mining, the NIOSH document reports. Silicosis, an irreversible but preventable disease, is the illness most closely associated with occupational exposure to the material, which also is known as silica dust. Recent data indicate that a risk of silicosis, over a working lifetime, may occur even at the current NIOSH recommended exposure limit. Some studies also have linked respirable crystalline silica with risks for lung cancer and some autoimmune diseases.

Conclusions and recommendations in the report, based on a comprehensive review of the current scientific literature, include these:

  • Available sampling and analytical methods are not accurate enough to quantify exposures below NIOSH's recommended exposure limit of 0.05 milligrams of respirable crystalline silica per cubic meter of air. As a result, scientists currently lack the tools to determine, with confidence, what levels of exposure below 0.05 mg/m3 may or may not pose a health risk. Until more precise methods are developed, NIOSH will continue to recommend an exposure limit of 0.05 mg/m3. To reduce risk, NIOSH recommends substituting less hazardous materials for crystalline silica when feasible, using appropriate respiratory protection when controls cannot keep exposures below the recommended limit at the source of exposure, and making medical examinations available to exposed workers.

  • Findings from numerous recent studies support NIOSH's longstanding policy that respirable crystalline silica should be considered a potential occupational carcinogen. Further research is needed to better understand the nature and extent of potential risk. For example, what levels of occupational exposure pose a risk for lung cancer in non-smokers? Among workers in occupations associated with exposure to respirable crystalline silica, why do workers with silicosis appear to have a higher risk for lung cancer than workers without silicosis?

  • In addition to research that would help answer current questions about potential disease risk (such as cellular and molecroar studies to better understand the processes that may lead to illness), research is needed on methods to reduce exposures in a variety of industries, to quantify exposures to low airborne concentrations of silica dust, and to effectively communicate to workers the risks of silica dust.

Copies of the NIOSH document are available from the toll-free NIOSH information number, 1-800-35-NIOSH (1-800-356-4674) and on-line at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/02-129A.html


HAZARD OF CHEMICAL REACTION "NOT RECOGNIZED" AT FORMER BP AMOCO

The molten plastic that was involved in last year's fatal accident at the former BP Amoco plant in Augusta, Ga., was known by company researchers to undergo a gas-producing reaction at high temperatures, but the resulting dangers to workers were not adequately recognized or controlled in the plant design or operating procedures, federal accident investigators said today.

Pressurized gas led to the deaths of three BP Amoco workers who were preparing to clean a plugged waste plastic vessel on the morning of March 13, 2001.

Those were among the conclusions released by the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB). CSB recommended that Solvay Advanced Polymers, formerly BP Amoco, develop procedures to identify and control such hazards, and that those procedures be shared with its workforce.

In addition to developing procedures to identify and control hazards from unintended chemical reactions, CSB recommended that Solvay's Augusta facility (former BP Amoco) conduct periodic management reviews of close call incidents.

In previous years, the report finds, large lumps of molten plastic had burst and hurtled considerable distances within the plant. Had these incidents been investigated, they may have shown that the molten material was continuing to react and decompose, creating gas and pressure, which CSB said caused the March 2001 fatal accident.

CSB also recommended that the facility revise their lockout-tagout program to make sure that equipment is proven safe prior to opening for maintenance. If verification of equipment depressuring cannot be assured, workers should consult higher levels of management to determine safe opening conditions before proceeding.

The second set of recommendations from the CSB investigation was made to Solvay Advanced Polymers, L.L.C. CSB recommends that Solvay revise the Material Safety Data Sheet for Amodel to warn of the hazards of accumulating large masses of molten polymer, as occurred at the BP Amoco plant last March, and communicate those changes to customers who may retain inventories of this product.

In addition, CSB recommended that reactive hazards be identified and evaluated during product research and development, and during new chemical process design, and that the hazards be reviewed with the workforce.

The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Board is a federal agency created by Congress to save the lives of workers and the public by determining root causes of chemical accidents and issuing safety recommendations. Its mission is to save lives by preventing future accidents. The CSB dispatches a team of investigators to the scene of a chemical accident to perform an initial investigation. The CSB may then decide to launch a full investigation. If a full investigation is conducted, CSB investigators work to determine the root causes of the accident. From the results of its investigations and studies, the CSB issues recommendations to agencies, organizations, companies and other organizations as appropriate. The CSB does not assess blame or levy fines.


OSHA PUBLISHES "TODO SOBRE LA OSHA" - SPANISH VERSION OF "ALL ABOUT OSHA"

A new Spanish language publication, "Todo Sobre La OSHA" -- "All About OSHA" -- will help Spanish-speaking employees understand more about safety and health in the workplace. The publication is a translation of "All About OSHA," a 61-page booklet that covers job safety, employers' duties and workers rights, and offers extensive information on how to make workplaces safer.

"We are concerned about the high rate of injuries and illnesses among Hispanic workers, and we are doing everything we can to reduce that trend," said John L. Henshaw, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health. "Outreach is an important part of our effort to reduce injuries and illnesses in the immigrant communities."

This Spanish version manual is part of OSHA's growing outreach to Spanish speaking workers -- including a recently launched Spanish language web site http://www.osha.gov/as/opa/spanish/, new data collection efforts to track non-English-speaking employees and employers, and Spanish language options for OSHA's 800 number (1-800-321-OSHA).

"Todo Sobre La OSHA (All About OSHA)" lists OSHA offices throughout the country, describes employer and employee responsibilities, legal rights, the inspection process, and provides guidance for consultations. The manual offers an overview of OSHA and its mission, and provides a list of resources for employers and workers.

"Most employers and workers want to do the right thing," said Henshaw. "Our job is to help them understand what needs to be done and why safety and health is important for their well being. By offering more resources in Spanish, we hope to encourage a wider use of our materials, leading to worker protection, fewer injuries and fewer fatalities."

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2000 the fatality rate for Hispanic employees climbed by more than 11 percent, while deaths for all other groups declined. As a result of this unacceptably high rate, in August 2001, OSHA established an ongoing task force to reach across language barriers to employers and workers. This task force is exploring ways to improve communications, and to offer Spanish speaking employers and workers access to a range of information that can help make their workplaces safer.

The new Spanish-language manual can be downloaded at http://www.osha.gov/Publications/osha3173.pdf and can also be ordered through OSHA's Publications department at (202) 693-1888.