OSHA Extends Comment Period on Draft Ergonomics Guidelines For Retail Grocery Stores

June 26, 2003
OSHA will announce in tomorrow's Federal Register a 45-day extension of the comment period on the agency's draft guidelines for preventing musculoskeletal disorders in the retail grocery store industry.

OSHA has received several requests from interested members of the public asking for additional time to comment on the draft guidelines first published May 9. Ergonomics for the Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders: Draft Guidelines for Retail Grocery Stores is now available for comment until Aug. 22, 2003.

This is the second in a series of industry-specific guidelines for the prevention of musculoskeletal disorders in the workplace. The guidelines are intended to provide practical solutions for reducing ergonomic-related injuries and illnesses in retail grocery stores. They do not address warehouses, convenience stores, or business operations that may be located within grocery stores, such as banks, post offices or coffee shops, although they may be useful to employers and workers in those workplaces.

OSHA has also scheduled a public stakeholder meeting on Sept. 18, 2003, to discuss the draft guidelines. The meeting will be held from 8:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. at the Washington Court Hotel, 525 New Jersey Avenue, NW, in Washington.

Persons wishing to comment on the draft retail grocery store ergonomics guidelines should submit three copies of those comments no later than Aug. 22, 2003 to: OSHA Docket Office, Docket GE2003-1, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, Room N-2625, 200 Constitution Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20210. Comments of 10 pages or fewer may be submitted via fax by calling (202) 693-1648. Finally, comments and information on ones intention to participate in the stakeholder meeting can also be sent electronically to http://ecomments.osha.gov.

Copies of the guidelines are available at http://www.osha.gov/ergonomics/guidelines/grocerysolutions/index.html and are also available by calling OSHA toll-free at (800) 321-OSHA (6742) or faxing a request to (202) 693-2498. Additional information on submitting comments will be available in the Federal Register notice or by calling the OSHA Docket Office at (202) 693-2350 (TTY (877) 889-5627).

On June 3, OSHA published Guidelines for Poultry Processing (available at http://www.osha.gov/ergonomics/guidelines/poultryprocessing/index.html), the third set in the series. Earlier this year, the agency announced that the shipyard industry would be the focus of the fourth set of industry-specific guidelines to reduce ergonomic-related injuries.


CSB Releases Safety Bulletin on Nitrogen Asphyxiation Hazards

Reporting that nitrogen asphyxiation has caused 80 fatalities in the U.S. over the last decade, the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) released a new safety bulletin that presents a series of good safety practices to prevent nitrogen-related incidents.

"While nitrogen makes up the majority of the air we breathe and is not toxic, people shouldn't assume it's benign," according to CSB Chairman Carolyn W. Merritt. "Nitrogen does not support life, and when nitrogen displaces the oxygen we breathe, it can prove very deadly. Since nitrogen is odorless and colorless, our senses provide no protection against nitrogen-enriched atmospheres. Good safety management practices are essential if we are to reduce the annual toll of nitrogen-related deaths and injuries."

In addition to the full safety bulletin, the CSB has developed a one-page safety brochure and a downloadable Powerpoint® presentation on nitrogen hazards. The safety brochure and slide presentation provide useful training information for workers who may be exposed to hazardous nitrogen atmospheres. Free copies of the bulletin (http://www.csb.gov/news/2003/SB-Nitrogen-6-11-03.pdf), brochure (http://www.csb.gov/news/2003/NitrogenTrifold.pdf), and presentation (http://www.csb.gov/news/2003/NitrogenAsphyxiationBulletinTrainingPresentation.ppt) are available from the agency website or by contacting the agency at (202) 261-7600.

Nitrogen is an inert gas, which means that it does not react with other chemicals under most normal circumstances. Nitrogen is often used in industrial settings to displace other gases that are toxic, corrosive, reactive, or present fire or explosion hazards, making processes safer. Using nitrogen to remove oxygen from process equipment decreases the chances of a fire or explosion, but it also can make the atmosphere in and around the equipment hazardous for humans to breathe.

As part of this project, the CSB reviewed a number of nitrogen asphyxiation incidents that have occurred in the past decade. Findings from this study included the following:

  • 85 incidents occurred in the past decade that resulted in an average of 8 deaths and 5 injuries each year;
  • Causes of the incidents included personnel not knowing they were entering an oxygen-depleted environment or not realizing that the environment had changed, and also mistaking nitrogen gas for breathing air;
  • Incidents occurred in a variety of settings including chemical plants, food processing and storage facilities, laboratories, and medical facilities;
  • Almost half the incidents and over 60% of the fatalities involved contractors, including construction workers;
  • A number of deaths were caused by personnel attempting rescue without proper training and equipment.

Several good practices are highlighted in the bulletin to address the causes of incidents. Also, a number of case studies are presented, including one that occurred in a nursing home that resulted in the death of four patients.

The bulletin follows a 1998 CSB investigation of a nitrogen asphyxiation incident that occurred in a temporary enclosure at the then-Union Carbide plant in Hahnville, Louisiana. Acting upon a recommendation from the CSB, OSHA issued a bulletin in 2002 on the use of temporary enclosures. Another CSB recommendation from that case -- that the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) study the feasibility of odorizing nitrogen - awaits further action.


Pit Charcoal Plant Cited For Violating Safety Standards Following Fatal Accident

An Ozark employer's failure to safely elevate workers on a forklift and properly train operators in the use of forklifts allegedly caused the death of one employee and has resulted in a $156,500 penalty from the Little Rock area office of OSHA.

Royal Oak Enterprises Inc. was cited with two alleged willful, five serious, one other-than-serious and one repeat violation following an OSHA inspection that began Dec. 16, 2002, following a fatality on Dec. 13 when an employee, elevated by a forklift, fell from and was subsequently crushed by the man basket he was in. The company, which employs about three workers at its Ozark, Ark. plant, manufactures pit charcoal. The corporation, headquartered in West Plains, Mo., employs about 600 workers nationwide.

The alleged willful violations were failure to secure the man basket to the forklift and transporting personnel in the elevated man basket. OSHA issues a willful citation for a violation committed with disregard of or plain indifference to the OSHA law and regulations.

The serious violations were for failure to ensure operators used seat belts when operating the forklift, not properly training forklift operators, improper storage of compressed gas cylinders and failure to develop and implement a proper hazard communication program. A serious violation is one in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a violation about which the employer know or should have known.

The other-than-serious violation was failing to properly identify attachments to the forklift. An other-than-serious violation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm.

The repeat violation was for failing to provide guardrails on the man basket within specifications stated in OSHA regulations. OSHA issues a repeat citation for a violation that is the same or similar to one for which the employer was cited within the three years prior to the current inspection.

Royal Oak Enterprises Inc. has 15 working days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with the Little Rock area director or contest the citations and penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and health Review Commission.


Drilling Rig Company Cited for Violating Safety Standards Following A Fatal Accident

A Rayne, La.-based company's failure to properly train and protect employees from a fatal crane collapse in Quitman, La., in March has resulted in eight citations for alleged safety and health violations from the Baton Rouge area office of OSHA. Proposed penalties total $68,625.

T.K. Stanley Inc., whose corporate headquarters are in Waynesboro, Miss., was cited with six alleged serious and two repeat violations following an OSHA inspection that began March 20. A moving crane boom carrying a 50-ton mud pump collapsed, due to the muddy, unstable ground, and hit and killed a nearby worker. When the accident occurred, the company, which employs about 500 workers nationwide, had about 12 employees working at the Quitman site to relocate an oil/gas well drilling rig to another site.

The alleged serious violations included failure to train crane operators on the type of cranes they would operate, failure to ensure the crane operator had the authority to stop and refuse to continue operations when loads or conditions were unsafe; failure to perform monthly preventative maintenance inspections of the crane and failure to provide a stable, uniformly level surface for operating a loaded, moving crane.

The alleged repeat violations were for failing to provide load-handling charts for the machine operators' use and for failing to conduct monthly running-rope inspections. OSHA cited T.K. Stanley for the same or similar violations in connection with an accident two years ago when an employee who was assisting a derrick truck operator was killed when the truck's main hoist cable pulled away and struck the worker.

The company has 15 working days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with the Baton Rouge area director, or to contest the citations and penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.


OSHA Fines Sewage Treatment Plant Contractor For Alleged Safety Violations

An explosion at a sewage treatment plant that injured two contractor employees might have been prevented if safety standards were followed for working in confined spaces that contain flammable gas, according to citations issued by OSHA.

OSHA's area office in Braintree, which investigated the Jan. 14 the accident, has fined Advanced Pipe Inspection, Inc. of Boston $45,500 for 13 alleged serious violations of standards. The company had been hired by the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority to clean clogged overflow pipes in the plant's sewage digesters.

OSHA's citations chiefly address deficiencies in the safeguards taken for working in overflow boxes that provide access to the pipes. The overflow boxes contained unsafe levels of flammable gas.

According to OSHA's citations, Advanced Pipe Inspection failed to identify and evaluate confined space and other hazards in the work area, did not develop and implement procedures for eliminating or controlling flammable gases, and did not adequately inform or train employees about these hazards.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to either elect to comply with them, to request and participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director, or to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.


OSHA Cites Modular Building Manufacturer for Exposing Employees To More Than 30 Safety and Health Hazards

OSHA has cited Triple A Modular Buildings, Inc., and proposed penalties totaling $45,250 for failing to protect workers from safety and health hazards observed at the Ellaville, Ga., facility during an OSHA inspection that began Jan. 16.

The company, a manufacturer of portable classrooms, trailers, mobile offices and modular buildings, received 29 citations for alleged serious violations of safety and health standards, with proposed penalties totaling $43,750 and four other-than-serious citations with proposed penalties of $1,500.

OSHA issued serious safety citations to the company for exposing employees to falls from modular buildings, amputations from unguarded machinery and electrocutions from exposed electrical parts. The agency also cited fire hazards in a paint room that had improper electrical wiring and accumulated combustible materials; and improperly stored compressed gases in the frame shop.

Additional serious citations were issued for failing to have a hazard communication program in place; not training workers in the proper use of chemicals; lack of training and certification for forklift operators; and not having a program for employees who must wear respirators that included training, medical evaluations and fit testing.

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


Leading Health and Fire Safety Advocates Urge Ban on Consumer Fireworks

Deaths, injuries and fires occur when untrained consumers and children light fireworks. That's why six prominent health and fire safety advocates are calling for a ban on consumer fireworks use as Independence Day celebrations get underway.

The group consists of American Academy of Ophthalmology, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Emergency Physicians, International Fire Marshals Association, National Association of State Fire Marshals, and the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association).

Fireworks can result in severe burns, scars and disfigurement that can last a lifetime. Even fireworks mistakenly thought to be safe, like sparklers (which can reach temperatures above 1000 degrees F) can burn users and bystanders.

In all, there were an estimated 9,500 injuries reported to hospital emergency departments in 2001, associated with legal and illegal fireworks, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Another 12 people died from injuries in fires started by fireworks in 1999, the latest year for which these figures are available, from NFPA.

About half of all fireworks injuries in 2001 occurred among those under age 15, with nearly two-thirds suffered by those under age 20. The highest injury rates were among teens, according to CPSC. Males accounted for three-fourths of fireworks injuries.

Nearly half of 2001 injuries were to the head (43.1%), and nearly half were to extremities (48.2%), primarily to the hand or finger (31.0% of total injuries). Injuries to the head were primarily to the eye (27.6%). Some of these latter injuries resulted in permanent blindness. (CPSC)

The majority of 2001 fireworks injuries were burns (58.9%). Contusions and lacerations were second (19.6%), and contusions, lacerations, and foreign bodies were the leading type of injury when the injury was to the eye.

In 2001, eight out of nine (88.5%) fireworks injuries treated in the hospital emergency department involved fireworks that federal regulations permit consumers to use. (CPSC)

In all, there were nearly 24,200 fires associated with fireworks use in 1999, according to NFPA statistics. Most of the fires were outdoor brush or refuse fires. These fires may have begun with outdoor use of fireworks. For example, when a device is launched outside and lands on a roof or other location, it can ignite combustibles before being retrieved. The cost of these fires was $17.2 million in property damage. Most of the loss occurred in fires with structures.

In a typical year, on the Independence Day holiday, fireworks cause more fires in the U.S. than all other causes of fire combined.

At present, only seven states ban all consumer fireworks. Such bans have been linked to significantly lower rates of fireworks-related injuries and fires.

The health and safety organizations recommend that families enjoy public displays of fireworks, conducted by trained professionals.


Fly Safe Independence Day, Leave Fireworks at Home

Leave fireworks behind if you are flying somewhere to celebrate Independence Day.

“People who thoughtlessly bring fireworks on board airplanes put themselves and fellow passengers at great risk,” said FAA Administrator Marion C. Blakey. “Because of the hazards involved, all fireworks, down to the smallest sparklers and poppers are strictly prohibited, and violators risk thousands of dollars in fines and a possible prison sentence if they bring them on flights.”

In the Southeast, where fireworks are sold widely, the FAA this month sent hazardous-materials agents out to fireworks retailers to distribute educational brochures and posters explaining the dangers of fireworks aboard aircraft. To reach an even wider audience during their visits, FAA agents also discussed the problem with local media. In the Southwest, agents held press conferences at airports in Houston, New Orleans and Dallas/Ft. Worth to communicate the same message. The agency estimates its “Fireworks Don’t Fly” community outreach effort has reached millions of people.

Friction can ignite even the smallest toy caps in the pressurized atmosphere of flight, potentially resulting in fires that could have devastating results. Because of this very real danger, domestic and international regulations prohibit the carriage of fireworks and firework novelty items in passengers’ checked or carry-on baggage, or on passengers’ persons. With many more bags being searched under tightened security, fireworks are more likely to be discovered. Violators of the hazardous-materials regulations are subject to civil penalties of up to $30,000 per violation and to criminal prosecutions of up to five years in prison along with fines of up to $250,000 for individuals and $500,000 for corporations.