OSHA FINES MARTIN RESOURCES $110,488 FOR ALLEGED SAFETY VIOLATIONS

May 25, 2001

Martin Resources was cited for 34 alleged safety violations and proposed penalties totaling $110,488. The company produces ammonia sulfate and homogeneous fertilizer at a Plainview, TX plant that employs about 38 workers.

The alleged safety violations were discovered during an OSHA inspection that began Nov. 30, 2000. The company was cited for 32 serious and two other-than-serious violations.

Some of the 32 serious citations include failing to establish an audible employee alarm system, failing to label piping to show contents and flow direction, failing to provide refresher training every three years, lack of verification that employees had received and understood training, failing to implement the written procedure for mechanical integrity of process equipment and failing to correct/replace deficient process equipment like pressure and temperature gauges. The two other-than-serious violations were for improper respirator storage and inadequate protection of a spliced flexible cord. 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 or health of the employees.


OSHA CITES ACCESS TCA FOR WILLFUL, REPEAT & SERIOUS SAFETY VIOLATIONS FOLLOWING WORKER INJURY

OSHA has cited Access TCA, Inc., a Whitinsville, Mass., manufacturer of trade show exhibits, for alleged willful, repeat and serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act following an April 11 accident in which an employee suffered severe hand injuries while operating an unguarded table saw. OSHA has proposed penalties totaling $62,060.

"OSHA's inspection found that the required guard hood that protects operators from the saw's points of operation was not installed at the time of the accident, thus exposing the injured worker and any other operator to the dangers of lacerations and amputation," said Ronald E. Morin, OSHA area director for central and western Massachusetts, who noted that the inspection also found a second unguarded table saw in another section of the plant. In addition, Morin noted, the inspection also identified several other hazards involving respirators, ventilation, hazardous energy control, hazard communication and electrical equipment. Access TCA, Inc. had been cited by OSHA in March 2000 for substantially similar hazards at its Duluth, Georgia, plant.

"Left uncorrected, these various hazards exposed workers at this plant to the dangers of the unexpected startup of machinery, inadequate ventilation, inadequate respirator selection and exposure to flammable vapors, combustible residue, thinner, lacquer, plastic and wood dusts, paints, fast drying cement and carbon monoxide," said Morin.


OSHA FINES AMTOPP $140,000 FOR ALLEGED SAFETY VIOLATIONS

Amtopp Corp., in Lolita, Texas was cited for two alleged safety violations with proposed penalties totaling $140,000. The company manufactures plastic film and employs about 400 workers. OSHA discovered the alleged violations during an inspection that began Nov. 30, 2000, after receiving a formal complaint.

The company was cited with one willful and one repeat violation. The one willful violation was for failing to provide a standard railing on open-sided floors exposing employees to a fall hazard. In addition, the investigation found that the access platform to the inspection station had been altered by the employer and guardrails were not provided on all open sides. A willful violation is defined as one that is committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety & Health Act and regulations.

The repeat violation was for not providing machine guarding to protect operator and other employees from hazards created by the rotating parts, pinch points and points of operation. A repeat violation is defined as a violation of any standard, regulation, rule or order where, upon reinspection, a substantially similar violation is found.


WORKERS IN NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY ILLEGALLY DISCIPLINED FOR FILING SAFETY COMPLAINTS

Twenty-two workers in New York and New Jersey who reported workplace hazards and were discharged or otherwise penalized as a result reached settlements with their employers in fiscal year 2000 (Sept. 30, 1999 to Oct. 1, 2000), according to a report issued today by the U. S. Labor Department of Labor.

Under the terms of settlement agreements reached between employers and OSHA, the 22 workers received a total of $124,699 in back wages. Other remedies included reinstatement, informal negotiated settlements between the complainants and their employers, and the requirement that employers display posters on the rights of employees.

The companies were cited for violating OSHA regulations that prohibit discharging or otherwise discriminating against any employee because he or she has filed a complaint or reported unsafe working conditions. The damage amounts represent wages lost from the date of discharge until the date of settlement.

According to Patricia K. Clark, OSHA regional administrator, OSHA's emphasis was on timely help for the employee. "The great majority of these cases were resolved quickly -- many in less than a month. The intent of OSHA's whistleblower regulations is that workers must not be penalized for doing the right thing and speaking out about workplace safety hazards."

Workers who have been discriminated against for exercising their right to report unsafe conditions or other protections provided by the Occupational Safety and Health Act must contact an OSHA office within 30 days of the time they learn of an alleged discriminatory action taken against them. Truckers, mechanics, and others involved in interstate trucking have 180 days under provisions of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act.

If the complaint is timely and appears to have merit, OSHA investigates it, ordering reinstatement or other remedies if an investigation confirms the allegations. Under the Surface Transportation Assistance Act, either party can file an objection to OSHA's findings. The matter is then decided by an administrative law judge; a final order is issued by the Secretary of Labor.

The settlements reached in fiscal year 2000 are summarized at http://www.osha.gov/media/oshnews/may01/reg2-20010517.html.


OSHA INSPECTOR DRIVES BY CONSTRUCTION SITE, RESULTS IN $77,000 FINE

OSHA has proposed $77,000 in fines -- the maximum penalty allowed, against Green Mountain Steel Erectors, Inc., a Bennington, Vermont, steel erection contractor, for alleged willful and serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act at a Devens, Mass., jobsite.

The contractor was cited for a lack of fall protection for employees working in aerial lifts more than 25 feet above the ground. An inspection was initiated when an OSHA inspector driving by a construction site at Jackson and Givray Street in Devens observed employees working in aerial lifts without proper fall protection and opened an inspection on the spot, said Richard Fazzio, OSHA area director for Northeastern Massachusetts. "The inspection found employees, including supervisors, working without fall protection in three aerial lifts at heights in excess of 25 feet above the ground," said Fazzio. "In each case, employees had required body harnesses and safety lanyards available but either were not using them or were using them improperly. In addition, one employee was observed standing on the middle rail of a lift basket during steel erection procedures, in plain view of a foreman. These conditions exposed workers to potentially fatal falls."

Fazzio explained that falls are a leading cause of worker deaths in construction and that about 253 American workers died in construction related falls in 1999, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. "The best safety equipment in the world won't protect workers if it isn't used, and used properly," said Fazzio. "Even though this employer knew that OSHA standards require that employees working in aerial lifts have body belts and lanyards that are attached to the boom or basket and that employees do not stand on or work from the basket's side rails, these simple, clear, commonsense safeguards were disregarded."

Fazzio urged employers and employees in Northeastern Massachusetts with questions regarding workplace safety and health standards to contact the OSHA area office in Methuen at 617-565-8110. He said OSHA's toll-free, nationwide hotline -- 1-800-321-OSHA (1-800-321-6742) -- may be used to report workplace accidents or fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, especially if they occur outside of normal business hours.


TIPS TO PROTECT WORKERS IN HOT SUMMER WEATHER

Working in hot environments can be dangerous. In many industries, such as laundries, foundries, bakeries and construction projects, workers face conditions that make them especially vulnerable to safety and health hazards. Higher summer temperatures increase those risks.

The combination of heat, humidity and physical labor can lead to fatalities. In 1999, 34 workers died and 2,420 others experienced heat-related occupational injuries and illnesses serious enough to miss work.

Simple precautions, such as those listed on OSHA's Heat Stress Card, can prevent many heat-related deaths and injuries. Available in English and Spanish, this laminated fold-up card is free to employers to distribute to their workers. It offers a quick reference about heat-related injuries, including warning signs and prevention tips:


How to Protect Workers

  • Encourage workers to drink plenty of water - about 1 cup of cool water every 15 to 20 minutes, even if they are not thirsty - and to avoid alcohol, coffee, tea, and caffeinated soft drinks that dehydrate the body.
  • Help workers adjust to the heat by assigning a lighter workload and longer rest periods for the first 5 to 7 days of intense heat. This process needs to start all over again when a worker returns from vacation or absence from the job.
  • Encourage workers to wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. Workers should change their clothes if they get completely saturated.
  • Use general ventilation and spot cooling at points of high heat production. Good airflow increases evaporation and cooling of the skin.
  • Train first-aid workers to recognize and treat the signs of heat stress and be sure all workers know who has been trained to provide aid. Also train supervisors to detect early signs of heat-related illness and permit workers to interrupt their work if they become extremely uncomfortable.
  • Consider a worker's physical condition when determining fitness to work in hot environments. Obesity, lack of conditioning, pregnancy, and inadequate rest can increase susceptibility to heat stress.
  • Alternate work and rest periods, with rest periods in a cooler area. Shorter, more frequent work-rest cycles are best. Schedule heavy work for cooler times of the day and use appropriate protective clothing.
  • Monitor temperatures, humidity, and workers' responses to heat at least hourly.

For a copy of OSHA's Heat Stress Card in English or Spanish, fax your request to Publications at (202) 693-2498. You can also call (202) 698-1888 or write to: U.S. Department of Labor/OSHA, OSHA Publications, P.O. Box 37535 Washington, D.C. 20013-7535.

More information about heat and sun hazards can be found on OSHA's website, http://www.osha.gov and at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) http://www.cdc.gov and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) http://www.cdc.gov/niosh.


IF YOU HIRE TEENS FOR SUMMER JOBS, PAY ATTENTION TO THEIR SAFETY

Each year more than 3 million teens work at summer jobs. Despite most employers' efforts to provide a safe workplace, a sizable number of teens will risk being injured or killed on the job. According to OSHA, each year some 70 teens are killed while working and 210,000 are injured; 70,000 teens are injured seriously enough to require hospital emergency room treatment.

51 percent of teens with summer jobs work in the retail industry, and more than 50 percent of teen occupational injuries occur in the retail industry.

The Fair Labor Standards ActÆs child labor provisions are designed to protect minors by restricting the types of jobs and the number of hours they may work. The following is a list of non-farm jobs, as determined by the Secretary of Labor, that are out of bounds for teens below the age of 18. Limited exemptions are provided for apprentices and student-learners for some of these jobs.


Generally, they may not work at jobs that involve:

  • Manufacturing or storing explosives
  • Driving a motor vehicle and being an outside helper on a motor vehicle
  • Coal mining
  • Logging and saw milling
  • Power-driven woodworking machines
  • Exposure to radioactive substances and to ionizing radiations
  • Power-driven hoisting equipment
  • Power-driven metal-forming, punching, and shearing machines
  • Mining, other than coal mining
  • Meat packing or processing (including power-driven meat slicing machines)
  • Power-driven bakery machines
  • Power-driven paper-products machines
  • Manufacturing brick, tile, and related products
  • Power-driven circular saws, band saws, and guillotine shears
  • Wrecking, demolition, and ship-breaking operations
  • Roofing operations
  • Excavation operations

Youths 18 or older may perform any job, whether hazardous or not, for unlimited hours, in accordance with minimum wage and overtime requirements. Youths 16 and 17 years old may perform any non-hazardous job, for unlimited hours. Youths 14 and 15 years old may work outside school hours in various non-manufacturing, non-mining, non-hazardous jobs up to 3 hours on a school day, 18 hours in a school week, 8 hours on a non-school day, 40 hours on a non-school week.

Also, work must be performed between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., except from June 1 through Labor Day, when evening hours are extended to 9 p.m.


ARGON LEAK LEADS TO WORKER DEATHS

According to KCBS television in Los Angeles, two men died last week after being starved of oxygen and ingesting unknown quantities of nitrogen and argon gases at a Bydycote Hinderliter assembling plant. The workers were said to be welding inside a cylinder at when they passed out.

Fellow employees spotted the two men slumped over and unconscious, but by the time paramedics arrived, the victims were on the brink of death and couldn't be resuscitated, according to authorities. According to CBS 2 News, authorities weren't immediately sure how the victims had suffered such a high level of exposure to the argon gas, which can't be detected because it's odorless, colorless and tasteless. It was surmised that a compressor was left on during the welding operation, and the deadly gas was accidentally pumped into the 9-foot-deep cylinder.

Bodycote Hinderliter specializes in heat-treating aircraft and automotive parts for strengthening purposes.


GUIDANCE ON HOW TO APPEAL CITATIONS AVAILABLE FROM CAL OSHA

CaliforniaÆs Occupational Safety & Health Appeals Board announced this week the availability of a newly revised Appeal Information booklet and Appeal form to help employers who receive citations alleging health and safety violations.

The 2001 Appeal Information edition helps answer questions that employers, employees, attorneys, and the public may have about how OSHA matters are resolved within the State administrative judicial process. The guide includes a directory of Cal/OSHA offices throughout California. It includes a fill-in and printable appeal form http://www.dir.ca.gov/OSHAB/appealform.html.

The Appeal Information booklet and Appeal form are also available through from Cal OSHA at 2520 Venture Oaks Way, Sacramento, CA 95833, or by calling the Appeals Board's Sacramento office, (916) 274-5751, or faxing a request to (916) 274-5786.