OSHA, FEMA SPONSOR SUMMIT ON PERSONNEL SAFETY ISSUES DURING FEDERAL DISASTER RESPONSE

January 02, 2003
The Federal agencies charged with protecting workers, and building and supporting the nation's emergency management system jointly sponsored a daylong summit to address issues affecting federal workers responsible for responding to incidents involving weapons of mass destruction.

The meeting, co-sponsored by OSHA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), focused primarily on personal protective equipment (PPE)-related issues for federal workers involved in emergency responses resulting from terrorist acts and/or weapons of mass destruction.

"Each of the organizations that responded to the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, brought with them their best efforts," said OSHA Administrator John Henhaw. "But we all found critical areas that needed improvement, including improved personal protective equipment technology training and ready access to PPE equipment to name a few. This summit helped clarify some policy and technical issues related to PPE and helped us move toward a greater level of preparedness for the future."

Henshaw also said the objectives and outcome of the Summit were tied to OSHA's Homeland Security role in providing safety and health preparedness assistance and guidance in concert with other federal agencies.

Three panels of representatives from federal and state agencies and associations discussed various PPE-related issues including certification of respiratory protection, interoperability of respiratory protection equipment, training and fit-testing requirements, and guidance for PPE selection. Briefings and follow-on discussions also focused on certification procedures and standards to address the range of PPE necessary for different levels of government responders.

One particular issue discussed centered on whether individual agencies should continue to be responsible for the selection and use of PPE by their own employees, or move to a coordinated effort through a single federal agency. Other topics included recent advances in PPE development, and availability of PPE training models that could be standardized and provided to government personnel.

In addition to OSHA and FEMA, other agencies scheduled to attend the summit were: the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Navy Environmental Health Center, the U.S. Army Soldier and Biological Chemical Command, the International Association of Fire Fighters, the National Fire Protection Association, Science Applications International Corporation, the National Clearinghouse for Worker Safety and Health Training, and the Rhode Island State Emergency Management Agency.




NEW LAW INCREASES EMPLOYER PENALTIES FOR NOT REPORTING ACCIDENTS TO CAL/OSHA

Any employer who fails to report a fatal injury or the serious injury or illness of an employee to Cal/OSHA within eight hours of its occurrence now faces a minimum penalty of $5,000.

Provisions of Assembly Bill (AB) 2837, which include the substantial increase in penalties for employers who don't report -- up from $500 -- took effect Jan. 1, 2003 and are being implemented by the California Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA).

"We need to investigate all serious accidents and fatalities to ensure employers are maintaining safe work sites," said Vicky Heza, Cal/OSHA's chief of enforcement. "That's why reporting them is so important."

A serious injury or illness is defined as amputation of a member of the body, disfigurement, or in-patient hospitalization for more than 24 hours for other than observation.

Employers must report the name and location of the injured person, the nature of the injury or illness, a description of the accident including its time and date, the employer's name, address and telephone number and other relevant information to the nearest Cal/OSHA office by phone or fax within eight hours.

"Approximately 550 citations are issued each year to employers for failure to report accidents," said Heza. "This new law is designed to dramatically reduce this number and bring about a greater lever of compliance."

AB 2837 also provides that an employer, officer, management official, or supervisor who knowingly fails to report a death to Cal/OSHA or knowingly induces another to do so is guilty of a misdemeanor and will face a penalty of up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $15,000, or both. If the violator is a corporation or a limited liability company, the fine could be up to $150,000.




OSHA LAUNCHES TEEN SAFETY AND HEALTH SITE

Keeping America's working teens safe and healthy while on the job is the goal of a new web site unveiled by OSHA. The Teen Workers safety and health page is part of the agency's contribution to the Department of Labor's new initiative on young workers and is now OSHA's premier site for teen worker safety and health information.

"Every year 70 teenagers die from work-related injuries and 77,000 more are injured seriously enough to require emergency medical treatment-and that's just not acceptable," said OSHA Administrator John Henshaw. "This site is one more way to provide our young workers with the knowledge they deserve so they can have safe and positive work experiences."

The teen safety and health site educates young workers, parents, employers and educators on workplace safety. The site offers educational resources such as fact sheets on workplace rights and responsibilities, hazards on the job, ways to prevent injuries, work hours, job restrictions, and more. It also links to states that have special web sites or initiatives designed for young workers.

The new teen safety and health site can be accessed from the Department of Labor's Youth Rules! web site, or through the OSHA web site A-Z index under "Youth."

OSHA is working on new ways to increase job safety and health awareness among teens and is preparing additional outreach and education materials designed to prevent young workers from being injured on the job.




OSHA CITES PAPER COMPANY FOR EXPOSING EMPLOYEES TO SAFETY HAZARDS

A Watertown, N.Y. company exposed workers to serious hazards, including some that led to an explosion that killed one employee and injured five others in June, according to citations issued by OSHA. OSHA is citing Knowlton Specialty Papers, Inc. for numerous alleged violations of safety standards and is proposing a total fine of $89,250.

According to Diane Brayden, area director in Syracuse for OSHA, her office investigated the fatal accident, which occurred at the company's plant around midnight on June 11. The explosion resulted from six dryer cans on a paper coating machine being over-pressurized with steam.

"OSHA standards require employers to protect workers from known hazards," Brayden said. "This tragic accident could have been avoided if the proper equipment were in place and if proper procedures were followed."

The citations allege the company did not provide a pressure relief valve to discharge dangerous excess steam and did not maintain steam pressures to the dryer cans lower than their design pressure. They also allege the company did not establish a design requirement for the dryer cans.

Numerous other alleged serious violations included failure to inspect, maintain and replace defective parts on overhead hoists, lifting hooks and their controls; failure to provide handrails on stairs; and failure to provide fall protection for employees working on platforms and other elevated work surfaces and over dangerous equipment.

In addition, OSHA cited the company for not maintaining clear travel paths to an exit and exit signs. Nip points on paper machine rollers were allegedly unguarded, as were saws and fans, rotating shafts, pulleys and belts, and there were neither written procedures nor hardware to prevent machines from being powered-on while workers were servicing them. The company also allegedly failed to maintain and provide emergency lighting as well as personal protective equipment for employees when working with electrical hazards.

Also deemed serious violations were live electrical parts that were inadequately guarded, and underground storage tanks for flammable liquids that were inadequately vented. The company also allegedly failed to provide an inside storage room for flammable liquids with a raised sill to contain leaks and ventilation to exhaust flammable vapors. Fire extinguishers were not provided in flammable liquids storage areas, and the company did not prevent smoking around flammable liquids.

A serious citation is issued when death or serious physical harm are likely to result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

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




OSHA CITES PLANT FOR LACK OF HEARING PROTECTION

OSHA has cited Attalla, Ala.-based Choice Fabricators, Inc., for exposing employees to the risk of hearing loss and other serious safety and health hazards. The citations carry proposed penalties totaling $55,150.

Inspectors from OSHA's Birmingham area office began a health inspection at the plant on Aug. 12, and a safety inspection on Oct. 16, based on the facility's high lost workday injury and illness rate. Findings from the health inspection showed employees were exposed daily to noise levels that sometimes exceeded 100 decibels, well above the permissible limit of 85 decibels where hearing loss may occur.

"Prolonged exposure to excessive noise is one of the most pervasive occupational health hazards," said Roberto Sanchez, OSHA's Birmingham area director. "Company managers knew about the risks to employees, but they decided not to implement a hearing conservation program."

The company received one willful citation with a proposed penalty of $38,500 for failing to establish and maintain an audiometric testing program. A testing program monitors exposed workers' hearing abilities and provides an opportunity to educate them about protecting their hearing. OSHA issues a willful citation when the alleged violation is committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

The company also received eight serious citations with proposed penalties totaling $16,650. Alleged health violations include failing to provide adequate eye protection and emergency eye flushing facilities and proper medical evaluations for employees using respirators, failure to provide safety training and inadequate records maintenance.

Alleged safety violations include failing to remove easily ignitable material, such as weeds and long, dry grass from the area around liquid propane gas containers and failure to provide a fire extinguisher in the area. Other serious citations were for machine-guarding hazards and for failure to implement "lockout/tagout" procedures to make sure that machines do not start up when workers are doing maintenance or repairs on them.

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




LABOR SECRETARY CHAO ANNOUNCES NEW MEMBERSHIP OF OSHA ADVISORY COMMITTEE

U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao announced new membership of the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (NACOSH).

The committee, established under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, advises the Secretaries of Labor and Health and Human Services on occupational safety and health programs. Members of the 12-person advisory committee are chosen on the basis of their knowledge and experience in occupational safety and health.

"The federal government and the American people benefit tremendously from the knowledge and experience that committee members bring to the table," said Secretary Chao. "They share their unique talents and expertise on safety and health, and they help us ensure that we are doing everything possible to reduce injuries, illnesses and fatalities in the workplace."

To ensure continuity in the committee, members are appointed on a rotational basis with some serving for one-year terms and others for two-year terms.

The newly appointed members are:

Management Representative
Susan Eckerly, Vice President, Federal Public Policy, National Federation of Independent Businesses; two-year term

Public Representative
Peter DeLuca, Administrator, Oregon Department of Consumer & Business Services; two-year term

Labor Representatives
Richard Duffy, Assistant to the President, International Association of Firefighters; two-year term
Donald Carson, Center Director, Hazmat Program, International Union of Operating Engineers; two-year term

Safety Representative
James Stanley, Vice President, Safety and Health, AK Steel; two-year term

The reappointed members are:

Management Representative
Judith Freyman, JD, Director, Western Occupational Safety & Health Operations, Organization Resources Counselors; one-year term

Public Representative
Ron Hayes, Families in Grief Hold Together, (F.I.G.H.T.); one-year term

Safety Representative
Rixio Medina, CSP, Manager Corporate Health, Safety, and Security, CITGO Petroleum Corporation; one-year term

Four new members designated by the Secretary of Health and Human Services and appointed by the Secretary of Labor are:

Public Representatives
Letitia Davis, Sc.D, Director of Occupational Surveillance Program, Massachusetts Department of Public Health; one-year term
Vickie Wells, MS, CIH, CSP, Director, Occupational Safety & Health, San Francisco Department of Health; two-year term

Health Representatives
James Blessman, MD, MDH, Assistant Professor, Wayne State University; one-year term
Julia Faucett, RN, Professor of Nursing, University of California, San Francisco; two-year term