August 09, 2001

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sent letters to 14,000 sites notifying them that their injury and illness rates exceed those of most workplaces and encouraging them to take steps to reduce hazards and protect their workers. Over the next four months, OSHA plans to inspect about 1,000 sites that experienced especially high injury and illness rates in 1999.

"The sites we are identifying are on notice that they need to improve," Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao said. "High injury and illness rates have a significant personal cost to employees and a financial cost to employers."

OSHA identified the sites with the highest lost workday injury and illness rates based on data reported by 80,000 employers surveyed by the agency last year. Those in the inspection pool of 14,000 had eight or more injuries and illnesses resulting in lost workdays for every 100 full-time workers. Nationwide, the average U.S. workplace had three instances for every 100 workers.

To prevent injuries and illnesses, OSHA is encouraging these employers to consider hiring an outside safety and health consultant, to talk with their insurance carriers, or to contact the workers' compensation agency in their states for advice. They have also provided contact information for the free safety and health consultation service funded by OSHA in each state for small employers. Each workplace receiving the letter also got a copy of its injury and illness data along with a list of the most frequently violated OSHA standards for its specific industry. The list does not designate those targeted for inspection. States that operate their own job safety and health programs also conduct inspections at high hazard workplaces, but may do so using a different targeting system


Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao announced that the United States Senate has confirmed John Henshaw as the new Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health.

Prior to his nomination, Henshaw served as director for environment, safety and health at Astaris LLC in St. Louis, a joint venture between Solutia Inc. and FMC. From 1997 to 2000 he served in a similar position with Solutia Inc. Henshaw has over 26 years experience in the safety and health profession in small to medium sized businesses. He has also served in the Air National Guard, working as a bioenvironmental engineer.

Henshaw is a member of the American Industrial Hygiene Association and the American Society of Safety Engineers and was president of the American Industrial Hygiene Association from 1990 to 1991. He graduated from Appalachian State University and received his M.P.H. from the University of Michigan School of Public Health in 1974.


Orange Shipbuilding, a subsidiary of Conrad Industries Inc., in Orange, Texas, has agreed to pay $149,850 in fines and abate violations found during an inspection by OSHA. The inspection, based on a complaint, began Feb. 2, 2001.

Orange Shipbuilding employs about 125 workers at its division in Orange. Its parent company, Conrad Industries Inc., is based in Morgan City, La., and employs about 300 employees nationwide.

Among the violations found by OSHA at the Orange, Texas, facility were failure to provide guardrails around large openings and stair rails on stairs; failure to perform a hazard assessment to determine appropriate personal protective equipment; failure to inspect hoisting or rigging equipment; failure to ensure that respirators were properly fitted to an employee's face; and failure to have employees medically evaluated prior to using the respirators. In addition employees were exposed to damaged electrical cords, live electrical parts, unguarded machinery and lights, tripping hazards and improperly stored flammable and combustible materials.

A violation was also issued for failing to record injuries and illnesses which were occurring at the facility on the OSHA 200 Log. Injuries and illnesses such as burns, fractures, lacerations resulting in sutures, chemical exposures and heat exhaustion are required to be recorded.

"In addition to paying the penalty, the company has agreed to correct all violations, hire a full-time safety and health professional and hire an outside auditor to audit their OSHA 200 logs for three years," said Ray Skinner, area director of the OSHA Houston south area office.


OSHA announced a national emphasis program to increase federal inspections of shipbreaking operations to reduce or eliminate workplace hazards in the industry.

"Shipbreaking is one of the most dangerous segments of the maritime industry," said R. Davis Layne, acting OSHA administrator. "The scrapping of obsolete vessels presents numerous challenges, and employers must take extra care to safeguard their workers. By focusing inspection efforts on these operations, we believe injuries can be reduced."

The program comes on the heels of a 1999 Memorandum of Agreement between OSHA and the Departments of Defense and Transportation, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that established numerous requirements and responsibilities designed to reduce work-related injuries, illnesses and environmental hazards during ship scrapping operations. OSHA's national emphasis program is one of those requirements. The program is also in line with the agency's five-year strategic plan to reduce injuries and illnesses in targeted areas, including the shipyard industry.

Shipbreaking, also known as ship scrapping and ship disposal, involves the breaking down of a vessel's structure, including the removal of all gear and equipment. Over the next five years, it is projected that the United States Navy will dispose of more than 60 warships. The Maritime Administration (MARAD) will scrap more than 50 large vessels, while the U.S. Coast Guard will break up more than 200 small- to mid-sized vessels (50-200 feet).

The national emphasis program calls for OSHA area offices to begin conducting targeted comprehensive inspections of known shipbreaking operations. Additionally, OSHA's regional administrators will ensure that annual programmed comprehensive inspections are conducted for every Navy and MARAD vessel undergoing shipbreaking operations.

The inspections will focus on common hazards or workplace activities likely to cause injury or illness among workers. Among those are: asbestos, PCB and lead exposure; hazard communication; confined spaces; hearing conservation; fire prevention, personal protective equipment, emergency response and first aid; cutting and welding; paint removal; powered industrial truck operations; oil/fuel removal and tank cleaning; cranes; scaffolding; and fall protection.

Along with supporting the interagency agreement, OSHA's national emphasis program develops a scheduling system for the inspection of Navy and MARAD shipbreaking operations and establishes coordination among federal agencies involved in the operations. Other agencies include the U.S. Navy, Defense Logistics Agency, Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service, MARAD, and EPA. The program also develops a national reporting system for all OSHA shipbreaking inspections.

The twenty-four states and two territories which operate their own OSHA programs are encouraged, but not required, to adopt a similar emphasis program. 


OSHA cited Terry's Electric, Inc., for alleged safety violations and proposed penalties totaling $77,000 following the investigation of a March 7 fatal accident in Plant City, Fla.

Company employees were using a truck to set a utility pole in the ground in order to install new street lights. When the pole came in contact with an overhead power line, 7,620 volts of electricity traveled through a service cable to the pole and electrocuted a worker.

Following an investigation of the accident, OSHA cited Terry's Electric Inc., for one alleged willful violation and proposed a $70,000 penalty for failing to properly train employees on how to maintain a 10-foot minimum working distance from energized overhead power lines and how to use proper protective equipment, such as rubber gloves, insulating barriers, or other protective devices.

"The employer was aware of the hazards and the safety requirements," said Les Grove, OSHA's acting area director, Tampa. "They addressed both in their written safety manual, but failed to instruct employees on how to recognize and avoid hazards."

OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the OSH Act and regulations.

The company was also cited for alleged serious safety violations with proposed penalties totaling $7,000 for failing to maintain a 10-foot minimum working distance from energized overhead power lines and for failing to ensure that employees wore proper safety equipment and were protected from energized circuits. A serious violation is one in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result and that the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.

Kissimmee, Fla.-based Terry's Electric Inc., has 15 working days to contest OSHA's citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.