January 18, 2001

The new rule on steel erection, developed in concert with industry and union groups, is expected to prevent 30 fatalities and 1,142 injuries annually and save employers nearly $40 million a year.

The steel erection rule is the first OSHA safety standard developed under the Negotiated Rulemaking Act of 1990 and the Department's Negotiated Rulemaking Policy. The rule was developed by members of the Steel Erection Negotiated Rulemaking Advisory Committee(SENRAC), representing employers and employees significantly affected by the standard.

"Every year, an average of 35 iron workers die during steel erection activities and 2,300 more suffer lost workday injuries," said OSHA Administrator Charles N. Jeffress. "This standard will help prevent many of those fatalities and injuries. I commend business and labor interests for working together to develop this standard."

The standard enhances protections provided to iron workers by addressing the hazards that have been identified as the major causes of injuries and fatalities in the steel erection industry. These are hazards associated with working under loads; hoisting, landing and placing decking; column stability; double connections; landing and placing steel joints; and falls to lower levels.

The final rule protects all workers engaged in steel erection activities. It does not cover electric transmission towers, communications towers, broadcast towers, water towers, or tanks.

SENRAC included representatives of the International Association of Bridge, Structural & Ornamental Iron Workers, United Steelworkers of America, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), International Union of Operating Engineers, AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department, National Erectors Association, the Associated General Contractors of America and the Associated Builders and Contractors.

SENRAC began negotiations on the revised steel erection standard in June of 1994 and presented OSHA with its consensus proposed rule in July of 1997. OSHA published a proposed final rule for public comment on August 13, 1998 and held public hearings from December 1-11, 1998. The final rule will become effective July 17, 2001.

OSHA's final steel erection standard was scheduled for publication in the January 18, 2001, issue of the Federal Register.


DOT's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced two rulemakings to improve the safe operation of small buses and vans that are designed or used commercially to transport between 9 and 15 occupants in interstate commerce. These rulemaking actions are intended to afford one level of safety for all passengers transported by for-hire motor carriers.

One of these actions, a final rule that becomes effective on Feb. 12, 2001, will enable the Department to collect data needed to assess the operational safety of all for-hire interstate motor carriers of passengers operating small buses and vans. FMCSA issued this rule in response to a provision in the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21).

The other is a notice of proposed rulemaking that would require certain operators of small buses and vans that transport passengers to destinations beyond a radius of 75 miles to comply with the regulations concerning driver qualifications, hours of service, vehicle equipment necessary for safe operation, and inspection, repair and maintenance of vehicles. This rulemaking action is mandated under the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999.

In the final rule, the FMCSA is requiring all for-hire interstate operators of small buses and vans to complete a motor carrier identification report (Form MCS-150) so that the agency can determine the number of these companies currently operating, the number of drivers employed, and vehicles operated. These companies will also be required to mark their vehicles with USDOT identification numbers assigned by the FMCSA and to maintain records concerning crashes involving their vehicles. This rule will enable the department to monitor the safety performance of interstate motor carriers of passengers that operate small buses and vans.

The notice of proposed rulemaking would require for-hire operators of small buses and vans to comply with most of the rules currently applicable to motor coach operators. Drivers of these vehicles would be required to meet the same physical qualifications and hours-of-service rules as motor coach drivers. These vehicles would be required to meet the same safety requirements as motor coaches.

FMCSA's analysis of accident data for 1996-1998 indicates that approximately 63 percent of 146 fatal accidents in which a van was actually transporting 9 or more occupants at the time of the crash involved drivers that may have traveled beyond a radius of 75 miles from their work-reporting location.

Although the agency does not have data to determine which vans were being used in interstate commerce, the agency believes the data are compelling and suggest the need for action to improve the safety of operation of these vehicles. The proposed rulemaking would apply to long-haul, for-hire interstate motor carriers of passengers operating in the United States, including Canadian and Mexican-based carriers.

The notice of proposed rulemaking and final rule are available to the public in the DOT Docket (Docket Numbers FMCSA-2000-7017, FMCSA-1999-5710, respectively.) Written comments on the notice of proposed rulemaking should be sent by April 11, 2001 to the USDOT Docket Facility, Attn: Docket No. FMCSA-2000-7017, Room PL?401, 400 Seventh Street, S.W., Washington, DC 20590?0001. The rule also is posted on the Internet and can be viewed after searching at http://dms.dot.gov/. Comments also may be submitted electronically at this site.


The FDA issued a proposed rule and a draft guidance document concerning food developed through biotechnology. The proposed rule, if finalized, would require food developers to notify FDA at least 120 days in advance of their intent to market a food or animal feed developed through biotechnology and to provide information to demonstrate that the product is as safe as its conventional counterpart. FDA is also proposing to increase the transparency of the agency's review process for such foods.

In a separate but related action, FDA is issuing a draft guidance document, which if finalized, would provide direction to manufacturers who wish to label their food products as being made with or without ingredients developed through biotechnology.

"These initiatives will further assure that all food products developed using the tools of modern biotechnology are known to the Food and Drug Administration, so that FDA can continue to examine these products before they reach the market" said Jane E. Henney, M.D., Commissioner of Food and Drugs. "These measures will permit the review process to be more transparent to the public, one of the primary issues voiced during FDA's public hearings on this issue."

Currently, developers of food and feed developed through biotechnology participate in a voluntary consultation program with FDA. To date, all such food and feed marketed in the U.S. have gone through the consultation program before they have entered the market.

Although this voluntary consultation process has worked well since its inception in 1994, a series of FDA-sponsored public meetings and subsequent written public comments indicated considerable public support for a mandatory and more transparent process. The proposed rule, would, if finalized make mandatory pre-market consultation for bioengineered foods and feeds. In addition, consistent with applicable disclosure rules, FDA intends to post information submitted by manufacturers, as well as FDA's responses, in the agency's electronic reading room. This information can be reached through FDA's web site at http://www.fda.gov/foi/electrr.htm. This proposed rule can be accessed at http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/oc/ohrms/index.cfm.

The draft guidance on labeling will assist manufacturers who wish to voluntarily label their foods as being made with or without the use of bioengineered ingredients. This guidance will aid manufacturers in ensuring that their labeling is truthful and not misleading. The FDA views the terms "derived through biotechnology" and "bioengineered" as acceptable. Examples of terms that are not acceptable are "GM free," "GMO," and "modified."

Written comments on the proposed rule to require premarket notification may be submitted by March 28, 2001 to Dockets Management Branch (HFA-305), Food and Drug Administration 5630 Fishers Lane, Rm. 1061, Rockville MD 20852.

Written comments on the information collection provisions of the proposed rule may be submitted by February 12, 2001 to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, OMB, New Executive Office Bldg., 724 17th St. NW, rm. 10235, Washington, DC 20503, Attn: Desk Officer for FDA.

A copy of the draft guidance on labeling bioengineered foods is available on the Internet at http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/guidance.html. It may also be requested by calling 202-205-4561, faxing a request to 202-205-4594, or writing to the Office of Nutritional Products, Labeling, and Dietary Supplements (HFS-800), Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Food and Drug Administration, 200 C St., SW, Washington, D.C. 20204 (enclose a self addressed label or include a fax number with the request).

To ensure adequate consideration, written comments on the labeling guidance should be submitted by March 13, 2001. However, comments on the guidance may be submitted at any time. Written comments concerning the collection of information provisions of the draft labeling guidance may be submitted by March 13, 2001. All comments on the draft guidance may be submitted to the Dockets Management Branch at the address above.


The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is announcing its advice to pregnant women and women of childbearing age who may become pregnant on the hazard of consuming certain kinds of fish that may contain high levels of methyl mercury. The FDA is advising these women not to eat shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish. As a matter of prudent public health advice, the FDA is also recommending that nursing mothers and young children not eat these fish as well.

Fish such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish contain high levels of a form of mercury called methyl mercury that may harm an unborn baby's developing nervous system. These long-lived, larger fish that feed on smaller fish accumulate the highest levels of methyl mercury and therefore pose the greatest risk to the unborn child. Mercury can occur naturally in the environment and it can be released into the air through industrial pollution and can get into both fresh and salt water.

The FDA advisory acknowledges that seafood can be an important part of a balanced diet for pregnant women and those of childbearing age who may become pregnant. FDA advises these women to select a variety of other kinds of fish -- including shellfish, canned fish, smaller ocean fish or farm-raised fish -- and that these women can safely eat 12 ounces per week of cooked fish. A typical serving size of fish is from 3 to 6 ounces.

The FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition will launch a comprehensive education program to reach pregnant women and women of childbearing age who may become pregnant and their health care providers concerning the hazard posed by methyl mercury to the unborn child. As one of its priorities for fiscal year 2001, the Center will also develop our overall public health strategy for future regulation of methyl mercury in commercial seafood.

EPA is also issuing advice on possible mercury contamination to women and children eating fish caught by family and friends (non-commercial fish). EPA particularly recommends that consumers check with their state or local health department for any additional advice on the safety of fish from nearby waters. Additional information is available on EPA's Web site at: http://www.epa.gov/ost/fish.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) offers a new guide to help small businesses locate services and resources for preventing job-related injuries and illnesses.

"Safety and Health Resource Guide for Small Businesses," DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2000-148, is the first such compendium designed expressly for small businesses. It lists sources of free occupational health and safety information from government agencies, professional associations and other organizations. The listings include telephone numbers, fax numbers, web addresses, mailing addresses, and other details to help small businesses find information quickly and easily.

Access to practical, authoritative information is important for small businesses because they often lack the personal services of occupational safety and health professionals. Small businesses employ more than half of all U.S. workers, and are expected to continue increasing in number. The smallest businesses, those employing 10 or fewer workers, experience about one-third of all work-related deaths, even though they employ 15 percent of all workers in private industry.

"Safety and Health Resource Guide for Small Businesses" is available, along with other information from NIOSH, from toll-free 1-800-35-NIOSH (1-800-356-4674) and on the World Wide Web at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh.


OSHA has cited Interstate Brands Corporation of Biddeford, Maine, for alleged serious, repeat and other violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and has proposed penalties totaling $108,000 for those alleged violations.

According to C. William Freeman, OSHA area director for Maine, his office began an inspection of the company's facilities on September 8, 2000, in response to a formal complaint filed by the union representing the company's employees. The company produces bakery products such as bread, rolls, donuts and pies under the brand names of Nissen, Hostess, and Wonder.

Freeman noted that the inspection revealed a number of hazards in the plant, ranging from open-sided floors and unguarded floor holes, to unguarded machinery and serious deficiencies in the control of hazardous energy.

Consequently, the company is being cited for the following alleged workplace safety violations:

  • Fifteen alleged serious violations, carrying proposed penalties totaling $58,000 for: unguarded floor holes, open sided floors or platforms and runways, open sided runways or platforms above dangerous equipment also not guarded by standard railings, failure to develop specific procedures for shutting down, isolating and securing equipment to be locked out, failure to provide adequate training in the purpose, function and use of lock-out/tag-out procedures, and failure to certify employee training in these procedures, unguarded rotating parts on lathes, unguarded bandsaw blade, unguarded rotating horizontal and vertical shafts, shaft ends extended too far, unguarded couplings, unguarded chains and belt drives, horizontal mixer not equipped with a cover over the bowl at all times agitator was in motion, undersides of conveyors over aisle ways were not enclosed, employees exposed to live electrical parts and bulbs not protected from breakage.
  • Two alleged repeat violations, including proposed penalties totaling $50,000 for: failure to perform and certify periodic inspections of the hazardous energy control procedure, and failure to utilize a procedure affording employees with a level of protection equal to that provided by a personal lockout device when servicing of equipment was performed by a crew of workers. [The company was previously cited for similar violations in citations issued on March 16, 1998.]
  • Two alleged other-than-serious violations with no proposed penalties for: a brake not properly set on a powered industrial vehicle and a missing nameplate on an electric motor.

A serious violation is defined by OSHA as one in which there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew, or should have known, of the hazard. A repeat violation is defined as one where, upon reinspection, a substantially similar violation is found. An other-than-serious violation is a condition which would probably not cause death or serious physical harm, but would have a direct and immediate impact on the safety and health of employees.

OSHA is empowered by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 to issue standards and rules requiring employers to provide their employees with safe and healthful workplaces and jobsites, and to assure through workplace inspections that those standards are followed.

The company has 15 working 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, or contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.


FMCSA announced that Rush Trucking Corporation of Wayne, Mich., a for-hire motor carrier that primarily hauls general freight and auto parts, was fined $150,000 for multiple violations of the federal hours-of-service safety regulations.

The violations were discovered during an investigation conducted by FMCSA's Michigan division office.

During a June 2000 safety compliance review, Rush Trucking was cited for 285 counts of falsifying its records of duty status, including efforts to conceal violations of the 70-hour rule, which limits drivers to 70 hours of work/drive time within eight consecutive days, and violations of the 10-hour rule, which limits drivers to 10 hours maximum driving followed by 8 consecutive hours of rest. The company reportedly employs approximately 750 drivers and an equal number of trucks.

Drivers are required to comply with a federal hours-of-service regulation that stipulates they must maintain accurate logs of their driving and on-duty activities. Regulations permit drivers to be behind the wheel for 10 hours and then require rest for 8, and require that drivers not drive after being on duty for more than 70 hours in eight consecutive days.

Additional information about federal motor carrier safety regulations and the FMCSA's efforts to increase national motor carrier safety is on the Internet at http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov.