November 01, 2001

OSHA launched an extensive outreach effort to assist the 1.4 million employers required to meet the updated injury and illness recordkeeping rule, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2002.

"The new rule is more flexible and simpler to follow and represents a change from requirements that had been in place for 30 years. In our outreach efforts, we want to do everything we can to help employers and workers make the transition to the improved recordkeeping system" said OSHA Administrator John L. Henshaw.

This week Henshaw sent a letter to nearly 200 OSHA stakeholders, trade associations, professional societies and unions detailing OSHA outreach efforts including materials available on the web and training sessions planned across the country. In addition, the letter encourages all stakeholders to communicate with their members and help them understand the new rule. He noted the agency's plans to mail out new recordkeeping forms in early December to 1.4 million employers affected by the rule. Additional materials planned for the web include frequently asked questions, an interactive e-tool to guide employers, and a compliance directive to provide guidance to OSHA inspectors. Printed materials will also be available from OSHA's Publications Office at 202-693-1888.

OSHA plans a satellite training session on Nov. 29, 2001, on the new recordkeeping requirements. Stakeholders can participate through community colleges and similar locations to be announced locally. OSHA's website also lists regional recordkeeping coordinators who can respond to specific questions from employers and workers about the new rule and can train specific stakeholders at the local level. In addition, states operating their own job safety and health programs are developing their own equivalent recordkeeping rules and can respond to questions and provide training and materials.

The agency began work revising its recordkeeping requirements in the 1980's to improve data collection on occupational injuries and illnesses. Published Jan. 19, 2001, the updated rule gives employers more flexibility to use computers to meet OSHA regulatory requirements, increases employee involvement and provides simpler forms to track workplace injuries and illnesses.


Workers at Maine's Bath Iron Works have been exposed to a variety of crushing, impalement, electrical, laceration, amputation and other hazards, according to citations issued by OSHA. Following a six month investigation prompted by employee complaints, OSHA proposed $201,775 in fines against the shipbuilder for a total of 50 alleged violations.

"This case clearly illustrates the need for employers to carefully monitor their workplaces and identify potential safety or health hazards," said Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao. "Thorough safety audits are a vital and effective tool to ensure safe and healthful workplaces."

Fourteen of the citations, accounting for $165,00 in fines, were repeat violations. OSHA cited the shipyard for substantially similar violations in Sept.1999. They address such hazards as: impalement and puncture hazards from protruding insulation pins, studs and angle irons left uncovered after sandblasting; unguarded or inadequately guarded drill presses and bench grinders; cranes swinging loads over employees; blocked electrical panels and ungrounded electrical equipment; an unguarded deck opening; improper use of body belts as personal fall arrest systems; unmarked exit doors; thoroughfares obstructed by air hoses and ventilation lines; and inoperable air flow monitors in paint spray booths.

Eighteen citations were classified as serious, with $36,775 in fines. Hazards included an unstable section of a brick wall in the yard's machine shop; unsafe operation of forklift trucks; lack of an eyewash station for employees working with corrosive chemicals; unguarded or inadequately guarded saws; electric panel boxes with exposed live parts, and panels missing circuit breakers, knockouts, and outlet covers; cracked and damaged welding hoses and failure to use proper protective equipment during welding; tag lines not used to prevent crane loads from swinging; inadequate or unprotected lighting in the yard's sand blast building; inadequate wire ropes and chains used as a railing; and heavily corroded scaffold uprights.

The remaining 18 citations were other-than-serious and include deficiencies with ladders, exit and other signage, fire extinguishers, toeboards, lanyards, power cords, lead housekeeping and failure to evaluate respiratory hazards.

"The potential for tragedy is very real at this worksite," said OSHA Administrator John L. Henshaw. "The employer is aware of the standards that will protect workers from the numerous hazards we found during our inspection; yet, numerous repeat violations reveal that the company continues to disregard the rules. Bath Iron Works must be held accountable and their philosophy on worker safety must change."

Bath Iron Works has 15 working days from receipt of its citations to elect to contest


As winter approaches, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) is once again warning coal miners and mine operators about the additional hazards that colder weather creates. MSHA's annual Winter Alert campaign emphasizes increased vigilance underground from October through March, when the nation's most devastating mine disasters historically have occurred.

"Precautions are necessary to prevent mine explosions in all seasons, but if possible, we need to be even more vigilant in winter," said Dave D. Lauriski, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health.

In the wake of last month's explosion that killed 13 men at the Jim Walter Resources No. 5 mine in Brookwood, Ala., Lauriski announced a "Stand Down for Safety" effort to raise hazard awareness at all mines across the country. The Winter Alert program, directed specifically at underground coal mines, has existed for more than 20 years. During Winter Alert, mine inspectors visit underground coal mines, talk with miners and supervisors, distribute educational materials on explosion prevention, and ask mine management, labor organizations, and state mine safety agencies to help reinforce the message.

Severe drops in barometric pressure may occur during colder weather, inducing methane to migrate into the mine atmosphere, which increases the risk of an explosion. Cold, dry winter air results in drier conditions underground, which makes coal dust more likely to get suspended in the mine atmosphere. This also can contribute to an explosion.

Over the past 20 years, U.S. coal mine explosions have claimed more than 100 lives; more than half of these accidents occurred during Winter Alert months.

MSHA also reminds underground coal miners and operators of the following:

  • Consistently follow the mine's approved ventilation plan.
  • Conduct thorough pre-shift, on-shift and weekly checks for methane and other hazards.
  • Keep potential ignition sources out of working areas.
  • Carefully maintain bleeder systems in worked-out areas to prevent methane buildup.
  • Complete rock dusting (application of powdered limestone) in all areas of the mine.
  • Never smoke or carry smoking materials into an underground mine.


The President recently signed a bill that will require changes in the issuance of drivers' licenses for the transportation of hazardous materials. Sec. 1012 of the "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA PATRIOT) Act of 2001" [Public Law 107-56, October 26, 2001] amends the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act.

The amendment prohibits states from issuing or renewing a license to operate a motor vehicle transporting a hazardous material in commerce unless the Department of Transportation (DOT) has first determined that the applicant does not pose a security risk warranting denial of the license. It also requires the Department of Justice to perform a background records check on anyone requesting a license (or renewal) to transport hazardous materials.

Section 1012 cannot be implemented without U.S DOT rulemaking. Until regulations to implement Sec. 1012 are in place, states should continue to renew old, and issue new, commercial driver's licenses under their usual procedures.


The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is making available a free CD-ROM of its recently-updated NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards. The electronic "pocket guide" includes the International Chemical Safety Cards, as well as information about chemical protective clothing and new OSHA and NIOSH measurement methods.

The CD-ROM (Publication No. 2001-145) includes databases such as:

  • Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health (IDLH) Concentrations.
  • The International Chemical Safety Cards (WHO/IPCS/ILO).
  • NIOSH Manual of Analytical Methods.
  • OSHA Sampling and Analytical Methods.
  • Recommendations for Chemical Protective Clothing.
  • Specific Medical Tests Published for OSHA Regulated Substances.
  • Toxicologic Review of Selected Chemicals.
  • 2000 Emergency Response Guidebook.
  • NIOSH Certified Equipment List (as of March 31, 2001).

For a free copy, call NIOSH's Publication Office at (800) 356-4674.


OSHA has cited Patterson-UTI Dnergy Inc., in Snyder, Texas, for exposing employees to fall hazards, electrical hazards and unguarded machinery. The oil and gas well drilling company, which employs about 6,000 workers in Snyder, was charged with 11 alleged serious safety violations, with proposed penalties of $44,500.

The alleged violations were discovered during an inspection that began May 9, 2001, on rig #131 at an oil well site on County Road 220 in Warden County. OSHA found that the company exposed employees to fall hazards from the right through open sided platforms. Additionally, there were improper machine guarding, electrical hazards on the rig and untrained operators.

A serious violation is one in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result and the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.

Patterson has 15 working days from receipt of the citations, to either comply, request an informal conference with the Corpus Christi OSHA area director, or contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.