January 29, 2001

As mandated by the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act, OSHA has revised its bloodborne pathogens standard to clarify the need for employers to select safer needle devices as they become available and to involve employees in identifying and choosing the devices. The updated standard also requires employers to maintain a log of injuries from contaminated sharps.

According to the Needlestick Act, in March 2000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that selecting safer medical devices could prevent 62 to 88 percent of sharps injuries in hospital settings.

The revised OSHA bloodborne pathogen standard specifically mandates consideration of safer needle devices as part of the re-evaluation of appropriate engineering controls during the annual review of the employer's exposure control plan. It calls for employers to solicit frontline employee input in choosing safer devices. New provisions require employers to establish a log to track needlesticks rather than only recording those cuts or sticks that actually lead to illness and to maintain the privacy of employees who have suffered these injuries.

Passed unanimously by Congress and signed by President Clinton on Nov. 6, 2000, the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act mandated specific revisions of OSHA's bloodborne pathogens standard within six months. The legislation exempted OSHA from certain standard rulemaking requirements so that the changes could be adopted quickly.

The revised bloodborne pathogens standard was published in the Jan. 18, 2001 Federal Register. The updated rules become effective April 18, 2001. For more information, visit OSHA's web site at http://www.osha-slc.gov/needlesticks/index.html.


OSHA has cited Shiptech America, LLC, and proposed penalties totaling $31,150 following a fatal accident at a North Charleston shipyard.

According to Les Grove, OSHA's Columbia, S.C., area director, a Shiptech America employee was electrocuted while troubleshooting an electrical problem in a ship's portal crane. "This employer failed to ensure that all live equipment parts to which the worker could be exposed were de-energized," said Grove. "If safety-related work practices had been in place to protect the employee from electrical hazards, this tragedy could have been prevented."

OSHA's inspection of the company, which maintains and repairs all equipment at the Detyens Shipyard, resulted in citations for nine serious violations of safety standards, most of which dealt with electrical hazards. The serious violations included:

  • failure to de-energize live parts before employees worked on them;
  • not requiring and providing personal protective equipment for employees exposed to potential electrical hazards;
  • failing to train employees about electrical safety work practices and proper protective equipment;
  • live electrical wires allowed to protrude from uncovered receptacles;
  • not providing standard railing on the open side of a stair platform, and
  • no emergency eyewash station in the battery charging room.

Shiptech America employs about 45 workers at the North Charleston shipyard. The company has 15 working days to contest OSHA's citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.


OSHA has cited Hunts Point Recycling Corporation, Bronx, New York, and proposed penalties of $94,880 against the firm for one alleged willful violation, eleven alleged repeat violations, nine alleged serious violations, and one alleged other-than-serious violation of OSHA standards. The company has until February 15 to contest the citations.

According to OSHA area director Philip Peist, the action results from an investigation conducted from July 25, 2000 through January 18, 2001 following a complaint about a lack of personal protective equipment at the company, which operates a garbage transfer station and recycling center.

OSHA alleges that the company willfully violated OSHA's protective equipment standard by failing to ensure that employees use appropriate eye protection. The alleged willful violation carries a proposed penalty of $36,000.

The firm was also cited for eleven alleged repeat violations, carrying a proposed penalty of $42,880, including:

  • failure to prevent employees from walking/working on moving conveyor belts;
  • failure to develop specific lockout-tagout procedures and appropriate training to prevent the accidental start-up of machines being serviced or maintained;
  • failure to have a hearing conservation program and ensure that employees wear hearing protection;
  • failure to ensure that employees wear hand protection;
  • failure to supply lavatories with soap and towels;
  • failure to guard stairways and open-sided floors.

A repeat violation is one for which an employer has been previously cited for the same or a substantially similar condition and the citation has become a final order of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The company was previously cited for these conditions in April, 1998.

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

  • failure to provide handrails on stairs;
  • failure to provide exit signs and maintain unobstructed access to exits;
  • failure to conduct noise monitoring;
  • failure to ensure that employees driving front-end loaders use seat belts;
  • failure to provide a fixed stair for safe access onto work platform;
  • failure to maintain a metal ladder in good condition;
  • failure to replace an electric cable with exposed bare conductors;
  • failure to provide an adjustable tongue guard for an abrasive wheel.

The alleged serious violations carry a total proposed penalty of $16,000.

OSHA also cited the firm for failure to re-train workers on lift truck safety when a new model of fork-lift vehicle was put into use, an alleged other-than-serious violation.

A serious violation is defined as a condition which exists where there is a substantial possibility that death or serious physical harm can result. An other-than-serious violation is a hazardous condition that would probably not cause death or serious physical harm but would have a direct and immediate relationship to the safety and health of employees.


In an agreement signed last Friday, OSHA and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) pledged to continue their joint efforts to improve safety and health standards for workers around the world.

The agreement was signed by OSHA Administrator Charles N. Jeffress and Mark Hurwitz, president and CEO, American National Standards Institute. ANSI promotes the use of U.S. standards internationally, advocates U.S. policy and technical positions in international and regional standards organizations, and encourages the adoption of international standards as national standards where these meet the needs of the user community. OSHA and ANSI have worked together under mutual agreements since 1976.

This cooperative agreement brings the technical resources and support of the two organizations together to promote safety and health standards based on openness, balanced interests, due process and consensus. It focuses on coordinating voluntary national consensus standards in the U.S. as well as supporting ANSI in its role in the international arena. ANSI will provide OSHA with proposed draft international safety and health standards from these organizations and OSHA will provide ANSI with comments on the proposed international standards. ANSI will then provide these comments to the Technical Advisory Group developing the U.S. position on these standards.

ANSI and OSHA agree to work with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) under the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act of 1996 and with the Secretary of Commerce under the Trade Agreements Act of 1979 to coordinate Federal activities in voluntary standards and to ensure adequate representation of U.S. interests in all relevant international standards organizations.


OSHA has issued a revised rule to improve the system employers use to track and record workplace injuries and illnesses.

OSHA's recordkeeping requirements, in place since 1971, were designed to help employers recognize workplace hazards and correct hazardous conditions by keeping track of work-related injuries and illnesses and their causes. The revised rule will produce better information about occupational injuries and illnesses while simplifying the overall recordkeeping system for employers. The rule will also better protect employees' privacy.

The final rule becomes effective on Jan. 1, 2002, and will affect approximately 1.3 million establishments. OSHA is publishing the rule now to give employers ample time to learn the new requirements and to revise computer systems they may be using for recordkeeping. (During this transition period, employers must adhere to requirements of the original rule).

Like the former rule, employers with 10 or fewer employees are exempt from most requirements of the new rule, as are a number of industries classified as low-hazard-retail, service, finance, insurance and real estate sectors. The new rule updates the list of exempted industries to reflect recent industry data. (All employers covered by the Occupational Safety and Health Act must continue to report any workplace incident resulting in a fatality or the hospitalization of three or more employees).

The revised rule includes a provision for recording needlestick and sharps injuries that is consistent with recently-passed legislation requiring OSHA to revise its bloodborne pathogens standard to address such injuries. This provision is expected to result in a significant increase in recordable cases annually.

The recordkeeping rule also conforms with OSHA's ergonomics standard published last November. It simplifies the manner in which employers record musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), replacing a cumbersome system in which MSDs were recorded using criteria different from those for other injuries or illnesses. The revised forms have a separate column for recording MSDs, which will improve the compilation of national data on these disorders.

One of the least understood concepts of recordkeeping has been restricted work; the new rule clarifies the definition of restricted work or light duty and makes it easier to record those cases. Work-related injuries are also better defined to ensure the recording only of appropriate cases while excluding cases clearly unrelated to work.

The revised rule also promotes improved employee awareness and involvement in the recordkeeping process, providing workers and their representatives access to the information on recordkeeping forms and increasing awareness of potential hazards in the workplace. Privacy concerns of employees have also been addressed; the former rule had no privacy protections covering the log used to record work-related injuries and illnesses.

Written in plain language using a question and answer format, the regulation for the first time uses checklists and flowcharts to provide easier interpretations of recordkeeping requirements. Finally, employers are given more flexibility in using computers and telecommunications technology to meet their recordkeeping requirements.

OSHA's recordkeeping requirements provide the source data for the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Injury and Illness Survey, the primary source of statistical information concerning workplace injuries and illnesses. BLS collects the data and publishes the statistics, while OSHA interprets and enforces the regulation.

The recordkeeping rule appeared in the Jan. 19, 2001 Federal Register. For detailed information on the final recordkeeping rule, view OSHA's web site at http://www.osha-slc.gov/recordkeeping/index.html.


Failure to properly document recordable injuries and illnesses over the past three years has resulted in a $536,000 proposed penalty for a Texas pipe manufacturer.

Saw Pipes USA, Inc. was cited for 67 alleged willful violations of the recordkeeping rule at its Baytown, Tex. facility. The citations and proposed penalties represent one of the largest cases of recordkeeping violations over the last decade.

OSHA began its inspection of the facility in July 2000. An initial inquiry revealed numerous problems with the company's injury and illness logs and resulted in a detailed probe of the company's recordkeeping procedures, including their OSHA logs between 1998-2000. Employers with more than 10 workers must maintain records of workplace injuries and illnesses to help track and improve management of safety and health hazards.

Based on that inspection, OSHA issued 66 alleged willful instance-by-instance violations for failure to record each work-related injury and illness. A total of $528,000 in proposed penalties was assessed. One additional willful violation, with a proposed penalty of $8,000, was issued for 16 instances where the employer failed to correctly record work-related injuries and illnesses.

Saw Pipes USA, Inc. employs 112 workers and manufacturers large carbon steel pipes, used mainly for oil and gas transmission.

A willful violation is defined as one committed with an intentional disregard of or plain indifference to the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations.

Saw Pipes USA, Inc. has 15 working days to contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.