New Walking-Working Surfaces and Fall Protection Standards Go into Effect January 17

January 16, 2017

Falls from heights and on the same level (a working surface) are among the leading causes of serious work-related injuries and deaths. Last November, OSHA issued a final rule on Walking-Working Surfaces and Personal Fall Protection Systems to better protect workers in general industry from these hazards by updating and clarifying standards and adding training and inspection requirements, which goes into effect tomorrow (January 17, 2017). A fact sheet that describes the significant new requirements is available here. Also, see OSHA’s answers to frequently asked questions on the new rule.

The rule affects a wide range of workers, from painters to warehouse workers. It does not change construction or agricultural standards. The rule incorporates advances in technology, industry best practices, and national consensus standards to provide effective and cost-efficient worker protection. Specifically, it updates general industry standards addressing slip, trip, and fall hazards (subpart D), and adds requirements for personal fall protection systems (subpart I).

OSHA estimates that these changes will prevent 29 fatalities and 5,842 lost-workday injuries every year. The rule benefits employers by providing greater flexibility in choosing a fall protection system. For example, it eliminates the existing mandate to use guardrails as a primary fall protection method and allows employers to choose from accepted fall protection systems they believe will work best in a particular situation—an approach that has been successful in the construction industry since 1994. In addition, employers will be able to use non-conventional fall protection in certain situations, such as designated areas on low-slope roofs.

As much as possible, OSHA aligned fall protection requirements for general industry with those for construction, easing compliance for employers who perform both types of activities. For example, the final rule replaces the outdated general industry scaffold standards with a requirement that employers comply with OSHA's construction scaffold standards.

Most of the rule will go into effect on January 17, but some provisions have delayed effective dates, including:

  • Ensuring exposed workers are trained on fall hazards (6 months from the date of publication)
  • Ensuring workers who use equipment covered by the final rule are trained (6 months)
  • Inspecting and certifying permanent anchorages for rope descent systems (1 year)
  • Installing personal fall arrest or ladder safety systems on new fixed ladders over 24 feet and on replacement ladders/ladder sections, including fixed ladders on outdoor advertising structures (2 years)
  • Ensuring existing fixed ladders over 24 feet, including those on outdoor advertising structures, are equipped with a cage, well, personal fall arrest system, or ladder safety system (2 years)
  • Replacing cages and wells (used as fall protection) with ladder safety or personal fall arrest systems on all fixed ladders over 24 feet (20 years)

Atlanta RCRA, DOT, and SARA Training

Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in Atlanta, GA, on January 24–26. Ensure your facility is in compliance with EPCRA requirements at the SARA Title III Workshop on January 27. To take advantage of these offers, click here or call 800-537-2372.

Indianapolis RCRA, DOT, and IATA Training

Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in Indianapolis, IN, on January 31–February 2. If you ship dangerous goods by air, get your required training at Transportation of Dangerous Goods: Compliance with IATA Regulations on February 3. To take advantage of these offers, click here or call 800-537-2372.

Tampa RCRA and DOT Training

Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in Tampa, FL, on February 7–9 and save $100. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.

OSHA Issues Practices to Promote Workplace Anti-Retaliation

OSHA has issued Recommended Practices for Anti-Retaliation Programs to help employers create workplaces in which workers feel comfortable voicing their concerns without fear of retaliation. The recommendations are intended to apply to all public and private sector employers covered by the 22 whistleblower protection laws that OSHA enforces.

The recommendations are adaptable to most workplaces, and employers may adjust them for such variables as number of employees, the makeup of the workforce, and the type of work performed. The concepts can be used to create a new program or enhance an existing one.

The document outlines five key elements of an effective anti-retaliation program:

  • Management leadership, commitment, and accountability
  • System for listening to and resolving employees' safety and compliance concerns
  • System for receiving and responding to reports of retaliation
  • Anti-retaliation training for employees and managers
  • Program oversight

"These recommended practices will provide companies with the tools to create a robust anti-retaliation program," said Jordan Barab, acting assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. "In the long run, it's good for workers and good for business."

An initial draft of the Recommended Practices was posted for review and comment in the fall of 2016. The final document incorporates many of these comments, as described here.

These recommendations are advisory only and do not interpret or create any legal obligations, or alter existing obligations created by OSHA standards or regulations.

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of Section 11(c) of the OSH Act, and 21 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various securities laws, trucking, airline, nuclear power, pipeline, environmental, rail, maritime, health care, workplace safety and health regulations, and consumer product safety laws.

CM Truck Beds Fined $535K for 30 Violations

A complaint of unsafe working conditions led OSHA inspectors to discover the safety and health of employees at a well-known Oklahoma truck bed fabricator being placed at risk amid nearly two dozen safety and health violations.

OSHA's investigation at BigTex Trailer Manufacturing Inc., which does business as CM Truck Beds, found 20 serious violations, one willful and three repeated violations—prompting the agency to propose $535,411 in fines.

"CM Truck Beds has created an environment where workers may be seriously injured or killed as the scope of these violations clearly shows," said David Bates, OSHA area director in Oklahoma City. "We will not allow this company to continue to disregard worker safety."

In its investigation, begun on July 13, 2016, federal safety and health inspectors found workers who performed spray painting and powder coating did not receive required medical evaluation and respirator fit tests. The agency also cited CM Truck Beds for repeated violations of failing to proof test chain slings and provide welding protection.

OSHA issued citations for a willful violation after inspectors found workers operated hydraulic press brakes without machine guards in place. In addition, they identified 20 serious violations that included failing to:

  • Ensure safe use of the spray booth and prevent overexposure
  • Safely cover floor holes, ensure exits are accessible and labeled properly
  • Properly store compressed gas tanks
  • Properly label chemicals
  • Have a hazardous energy control program in place, and to train workers in its procedures.
  • Ensure safe use of powered industrial trucks
  • Inspect and guard chain slings and sprockets as required
  • Ensure safety guards were in place on a portable grinder

Headquartered in Madill, OK, Big Tex's subsidiaries—CM Trailers and CM Truck Beds—employ about 500 workers in Oklahoma, with 120 of its employees at its newly constructed Kingston facility.

Fall Protection Can Prevent Tragedy
when Removing Snow on Rooftops, Elevated Surfaces

As residents cope with record snowfall and frigid temperatures, OSHA is encouraging workers and employers to be extra vigilant and aware of the dangerous hazards that exist when removing snow and ice, particularly from rooftops and other elevated surfaces.

"OSHA reminds workers, employers and the public in general to take precautions and to be aware that snow removal can be hazardous. Safety must be a number one priority," said David Kearns, OSHA's area director in Boise. "As people work to remove snow from roofs and other elevated surfaces, proper fall protection is essential. With these safeguards, falls are wholly preventable. Despite these warnings, falls remain the leading cause of serious injuries and deaths during snow removal."

OSHA urges all those involved in snow removal operations to download, make copies and distribute a brief OSHA guide that explains the particulars of snow removal operations and how to perform the job safely. The guide includes detailed tips and information on topics such as:

  • Preventing falls during snow removal
  • Removing snow without going on a roof
  • Evaluating load bearing on a roof or structure
  • Using the required fall protection
  • Using ladders safely

NSF International Introduces Certification for Light Fixtures Used in Controlled Environments

NSF International, a global public health organization, has launched a certification program for light fixtures intended for use in controlled environments. The new protocol, NSF P442: Controlled Environment Light Fixtures, offers clients the ability to demonstrate through a single certification that their light fixtures are constructed in a way that enables them to be used in controlled environments where low air pollutant levels, cleanability, durability, and structural integrity are critical. These environments may include pharmaceutical processing, biotech research, biosafety laboratories, surgical suites, clean room manufacturing, food processing, and horticulture.

Prior to the development of NSF P442, lighting manufacturers had to either generate their own test data or use multiple test organizations to obtain the data required to fully demonstrate the safety of their products. Certification to NSF P442: Controlled Environment Light Fixtures incorporates three different tests into one independent, third party certification, saving manufacturers time and money. The test elements include:

  • Testing required by the standard NSF/ANSI 2: Food Equipment, which establishes minimum sanitation requirements for the materials, design, and construction of light fixtures
  • Testing to determine an International Protection (IP) rating of 65 or higher, which demonstrates a high level of protection provided against the intrusion of dust and water
  • Unique pressure tests developed especially for NSF P442

“NSF International developed the protocol with industry input in response to an industry need for a single certification for light fixtures used in controlled environments,” said Maren Roush, Business Unit Manager, Biosafety Cabinetry Program, NSF International. “NSF P442: Controlled Environment Light Fixtures integrates a variety of tests that were previously used by lighting manufacturers to demonstrate the safety of their products for use in controlled environments. NSF International performs this single-step, independent certification to verify the design, construction and performance of light fixtures that are intended for use in controlled environments such as surgery suites, clean room manufacturing, biosafety labs and pharmaceutical processing.”

NSF International uses a consensus-based process in developing certifications and protocols that includes input from industry stakeholders and manufacturers.

In addition to certifying lighting for controlled environments, NSF International also offers a Biosafety Cabinet Field Certifier Accreditation Program and certifies to NSF/ANSI 49: Biosafety Cabinetry, which establishes requirements for the design, construction and performance of biosafety cabinets. The standard applies to Class II biosafety cabinets, which provide environmental and product protection for work and employees involved in procedures assigned to biosafety levels 1, 2, 3, and 4.

Cal/OSHA Investigates Four Recent Tree Trimming Deaths, Announces Safety Campaign

Following four recent tree-trimming workplace fatalities, Cal/OSHA is reminding workers and employers in this high-risk industry to take precautions to avoid accidents.

Cal/OSHA is investigating the four deaths, which occurred over the last six weeks, and has launched a statewide safety awareness campaign for tree service companies, landscapers and other businesses.

The four tree-trimming deaths under investigation include:

  • A worker in Mariposa County who was struck by a branch on December 1
  • A worker in San Bernardino County who suffocated when dry palm fronds collapsed and trapped him on December 4
  • A worker in Los Angeles County who fell approximately 60 feet when the branch he was tethered to broke on January 6
  • A worker in Siskiyou County who was struck by the tree he was cutting to clear power lines on January 9

“Cal/OSHA’s safety awareness campaign aims to protect the lives of tree service workers,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum. “Employers in this high-risk industry need to be aware of, and take steps to minimize, the hazards to their workers. We will cite employers that are not in compliance with safety requirements.”

Cal/OSHA investigated nearly 70 accidents involving tree work, including trimming or removal services, in the two-year period between October 1, 2014 and September 30, 2016. Nearly three out of four of these accidents (74%) resulted in a worker hospitalization, and 12 of the accidents involved the death of a worker.

As part of the Tree Work Safety Emphasis Program, Cal/OSHA inspectors throughout the state who observe unsafe tree trimming or tree removal operations will investigate possible violations. Inspectors will also respond to reports of unsafe operations.

The major causes of tree trimming injuries and fatalities include falls, electrical shock, being struck by a tree branch, chainsaw lacerations, palm tree skirt collapses, and ladder accidents. For example, on December 30, 2015, a Wright Tree Service worker in Humboldt County accidently cut the lanyard used to secure himself to a tree and fell 54 feet to his death. The investigation revealed the employer failed to ensure the worker was using a required second point of attachment in his security system while he was operating a chain saw in a tree.

Cal/OSHA has resources available to help employees and employers prevent accidents like these, including a Tree Work Safety Guide, fact sheet, and checklist.

Kempf Construction Worker Seriously Injured in Trench Collapse

OSHA has cited a Sioux Falls excavating contractor for five serious safety violations after the agency's investigators found a 40-year-old equipment operator suffered severe injuries while working in a 16-foot-deep trench on October 28, 2016. A large amount of dirt fell into a trench box in which the man was working and collapsed upon him. The worker was installing sewer lines at a site in Brandon, South Dakota.

OSHA found Kempf Construction failed to:

  • Protect employees working in a trench
  • Failed to slope sides of trench in accordance with OSHA standards
  • Properly place a ladder used to access the trench box
  • Remove employees from the trench when hazardous conditions were apparent
  • Provide sanitary facilities on the job site

"Kempf Construction's failure to adhere to OSHA standards to protect workers in trenches has resulted in debilitating injuries to this man. They will likely affect him and his ability to make a living for the rest of his life. In 2016, more than two dozen workers were injured and at least 22 killed in trenches nationwide. Trench deaths have more than doubled since 2015. This is an alarming trend that must be halted," said Sheila Stanley, OSHA's area director in Sioux Falls. "Excavating companies need to re-examine their safety procedures to ensure they are taking all available precautions—including installing trench boxes, shoring, and other means to prevent unexpected shifts in the soil that can cause walls to collapse."

OSHA has a national emphasis program on trenching and excavations. Trenching standards require protective systems in trenches deeper than 5 feet, and soil and other materials kept at least two feet from the edge of trench.

Proposed penalties total $40,538.

The Landtek Group Fined $197,752 for Exposing Workers to Excavation Hazards

Acting on a complaint in June 2016, OSHA found employees of one of the area's largest general contractors working in an unprotected 10-foot deep excavation at a suburban New Jersey high school, in violation of federal safety and health laws. OSHA announced it has issued citations for nine violations—one willful and eight serious—to The Landtek Group, Inc., a New York-based general contractor that specializes in sports facility design and construction. The company faces $197,752 in fines as a result.

The citations—issued on December 20, 2016 —follow an OSHA inspection at Verona High School in Verona on June 22, 2016, where the agency found that Landtek allowed its workers to enter and work in an unprotected, 10-foot deep excavation that had no protective systems in place, as required. Landtek is the general contractor for site improvements at Verona High School, including the construction of new tennis courts and synthetic turf fields.

"Without needed protections in place, an excavation can quickly become a grave as thousands of pounds of soil collapse upon workers below ground. The Landtek Group must re-examine its safety procedures and take all available precautions—including installing shoring or other means—to prevent unexpected movement or collapses of the soil that can lead to disaster," said Kris Hoffman, director of OSHA's Parsippany Area Office.

The contractor was cited with a willful violation for exposing workers to cave-in hazards because the excavation lacked proper cave-in protection or safeguards.

OSHA cited serious violations related to Landtek's failure to prevent employee exposures to fall, atmospheric, and explosion hazards. The company also failed to:

  • Have a competent person inspect the excavation
  • Have a written permit space program
  • Train employees on safely performing their job duties and the hazards associated with them
  • Coordinate rescue and emergency services for workers entering a sewer manhole
  • Provide mechanical retrieval equipment in case of an emergency

Redhawk Roofing Exposed Workers to Multiple Fall Hazards

OSHA cited Redhawk Roofing for four repeated safety violations. OSHA initiated an investigation after observing employees working at heights up to 23 feet while roofing a residential home in Winnetka without adequate fall protection.

The agency's October 2016 inspection found the company exposed workers to:

  • Fall hazards due to lack of adequate fall protection, improper rigging of fall protection systems, and allowing workers to carry loads up ladders
  • Eye injury while operating pneumatic nail guns and electric saws without eye protection

OSHA cited the company for these hazards previously in 2014 and 2015.

"Each year, hundreds of workers suffer severe injuries when they fall on the job," said Angeline Loftus, area director of OSHA's Chicago North Office in Des Plaines. "Redhawk Roofing needs to immediately review its safety procedures, and follow OSHA standards to protect workers on the job before disaster strikes."

Proposed penalties total $63,494.

Jasper Roofing Contractors, CEO Fired Whistleblower for Cooperating with OSHA Inspectors

The U.S. Department of Labor has filed a lawsuit against Jasper Roofing Contractors, Inc., and its owner/chief executive officer, Brian Wedding, for terminating their safety manager after he cooperated with a safety and health inspection by OSHA.

The suit results from an investigation by OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Program.

Filed on December 28, 2016, in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division, the lawsuit alleges that Jasper and Wedding discriminated against the safety manager by conducting retaliatory acts, ultimately resulting in termination, after he provided documentation to OSHA regarding the company's safety compliance and for attempting to improve the safety culture at the roofing company, a violation of Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

The suit seeks back wages, interest, compensatory and punitive damages as well as injunctive relief. Additionally, it seeks to have the employee's personnel records expunged with respect to the matters at issue in this case and to bar Jasper Roofing Contractors against future violations of the OSH Act. The department's Office of the Solicitor in Atlanta is litigating the case.

"Employees have the right to participate in an Occupational Safety and Health inspection without the fear of retaliation," said Kurt Petermeyer, OSHA's regional administrator in Atlanta. "OSHA will continue to hold companies accountable that violate the whistleblower provisions of the OSH Act."

Founded in 2004, the company has corporate offices in Kennesaw, Georgia as well as offices in Indiana, and multiple locations throughout Florida including Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa, Fort Myers, and Kissimmee. Its parent company, Wedding Holdings, also has subsidiaries in commercial real estate, food service and automotive industries.

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.

Masonry Contractor Continues to Expose Workers to Fall Hazards

Federal safety inspectors saw seven employees of a Park Ridge contractor performing masonry work on a Chicago building at heights up to 40 feet without adequate fall protection and have issued citations to the company. The company committed similar violations in 2011, 2012, 2014, and 2015.

OSHA issued Polo Masonry Builders, Inc., two repeated and eight serious safety and health violations after inspectors observed the workers on September 16, 2016, atop a four-story building. The company faces $77,606 in proposed penalties.

"No employee should ever be working at heights over 6 feet without adequate fall protection," said Angeline Loftus, OSHA's area director at its Chicago North office in Des Plaines. "Workers can easily be protected from falls by the use of harnesses and other fall protection devices. Employers must remember that falls are the leading cause of death among construction industry workers."

Inspectors also found the company exposed workers to:

  • Fall hazards through unprotected floor holes and wall openings, lack of stair rails, and from scaffold platforms that were not supported by outriggers and bracing
  • Impalement hazards from unprotected rebar
  • Unguarded belt and pulley drive of a mortar mixer
  • Chemical hazards by failing to provide hand and eye protection

View current citations safety and health citations.

Federal safety and health officials are determined to reduce preventable, fall-related deaths are the leading cause among construction industry workers. Falls account for nearly 40% of all deaths in the construction industry. OSHA offers a Stop Falls online resource with detailed information in English and Spanish on fall protection standards. The page provides fact sheets, posters and videos that illustrate various fall hazards and appropriate preventive measures. OSHA standards require that an effective form of fall protection be in use when workers perform construction activities 6 feet or more above the next lower level and 10 feet or more on scaffolding.

The ongoing Fall Prevention Campaign was developed in partnership with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and NIOSH's National Occupational Research Agenda program. Begun in 2012, the campaign provides employers with lifesaving information and educational materials on how to prevent falls, provide the right equipment for workers and train employees to use gear properly.

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