OSHA Now Under the Leadership of Dr. David Michaels

December 14, 2009

Dr. David Michaels was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate and was sworn in as the Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA on December 9. Dr. Michaels is a distinguished scientist and has conducted epidemiologic studies examining the hazards facing printers, construction workers, bus drivers, and other groups of workers. Before coming to OSHA, Dr. Michaels was a professor and interim chair at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services’ Department of Environmental and Occupational Health.

Dr. Michaels is the author of Doubt is Their Product: How Industry's Assault on Science Threatens Your Health (Oxford University Press, 2008), and articles in Science, the Journal of the American Medical Association, Scientific American, and other scientific publications.

From 1998-2001, Dr. Michaels served as the Assistant Secretary of Energy for Environment, Safety and Health in the Department of Energy where he was responsible for protecting the health of workers, communities, and the environment around the nation’s nuclear weapons facilities. 

OSHA Releases Plans for the Next 12 Months

OSHA has released its Fall 2009 Regulatory Agenda which outlines the agency’s plans that have been recently completed or that will be addressed in the upcoming year. In the table which follows, you will see the title for each item on OSHA’s Fall 2009 Agenda, the RIN reference number for the action, and the stage of rulemaking that each action is currently in. The list appears in alphabetical order by Title name.

With the new centralized method of providing information at regulations.gov, there are now several steps you will need to go through to see more detailed information on any of the items outlined below. Then, you will need to select Department of Labor (DOL) from the list of agencies provided, click the Go button, and scroll through the DOL listings to the section of OSHA actions. From that point, you will be able to click on the RIN link to view more information about each specific OSHA action item.



Agenda Stage of Rulemaking

Abbreviated Bitrix Qualitative Fit-Testing Protocol


Completed Action

Abbreviated Portacount® Quantitative Fit-Testing Protocol


Final Rule

Airborne Infectious Diseases



Bloodborne Pathogens (610 Review)



Combustible Dust



Confined Spaces in Construction


Proposed Rule

Cooperative Agreements


Proposed Rule

Cranes and Derricks in Construction


Final Rule

Electric Power Transmission and Distribution; Electrical Protective Equipment


Final Rule

Emergency Response and Preparedness





Final Rule

General Working Conditions for Shipyard Employment


Final Rule

Hazard Communication


Proposed Rule

Hearing Conservation Program for Construction Workers


Long-term Action

Illinois State Plan for Public Employees Only—Initial State Plan Approval


Completed Action

Methylene Chloride



Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories Fee Schedule—Revised Approach


Proposed Rule

Occupational Exposure to Beryllium



Occupational Exposure to Crystalline Silica



Occupational Exposure to Diacetyl and Food Flavorings Containing Diacetyl



Occupational Exposure to Hexavalent Chromium; Final Rule Remand


Proposed Rule

Occupational Injury and Illness Recording and Reporting Requirements


Proposed Rule

Procedures for Handling Discrimination Complaints Under Federal Employee Protection Statutes


Final Rule

Procedures for Handling Employee Retaliation Complaints Under the National Transit Systems Security Act of 2007; Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982, as Amended; and Federal Rail Safety Act


Final Rule

Procedures for the Handling of Retaliation Complaints Under the Employee Protection Provisions of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) of 2008


Final Rule

Revision and Update of Standards for Power Presses


Long-term Action

Standards Improvement


Proposed Rule

Tree Care Operations



Updating OSHA Standards Based on National Consensus Standards


Completed Action

Walking Working Surfaces and Personal Fall Protection Systems (Slips, Trips, and Fall Prevention)


Proposed Rule

U.S. Department of Labor Unveils New ‘Open Government’ Efforts

The DOL has announced a broad array of efforts designed to improve the public’s accessibility to its agencies and ensure the department can function more effectively. The work is part of the Obama Administration’s continued commitment to improved accountability, transparency, and service to the American public.

“True progress is not something that happens to people. It happens because of them. And, it all begins with information that can be shared in a timely and effective manner,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “People deserve to know what their government is doing on their behalf, and what they can do to participate actively in that work. I am proud of the steps we are taking to make that possible, and I look forward to broadening our efforts further.”

Previously, only the DOL’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) posted worker fatality data on its Web site. Now, OSHA is also systematically publishing employer-specific information about occupational fatalities online and making these data available for easy download.  Employers with reported fatalities will have an incentive to take steps to improve safety and prevent future accidents. In addition, responsible employers will be able to use the database to identify dangerous conditions and take precautions.

Other agencies at the department are also making additional information available to the public.  It enlists entrepreneurs and technology firms, workforce professionals and the public to help identify the best online tools to enable America’s job seekers to quickly and easily connect with jobs.

The DOL’s commitment to enhance participation also extends to the regulatory arena. On Monday, December 7, DOL rolled out its regulatory agenda entirely online. The Web page also contains links to resources and testimonials, and it even helps visitors submit comments to specific regulations.

“As a legislator, I always felt it was essential for people to take part in the processes of their government. As a regulator, I feel exactly the same way,” added Solis.

DOL has also launched an extremely successful weekly e-newsletter, which offers readers the latest details in everything from the department’s enforcement and compliance assistance to job openings at its various agencies. Not content with one-way communication, however, the department is also using social media tools to engage the public online—and tapping into the power of crowd sourcing. In fact, DOL’s presence on Facebook and Twitter is already helping to link knowledge communities together and speeding up the sharing of valuable information among the department, state workforce agencies, a variety of stakeholders and, most importantly, the American public.

CSB Issues Urgent Recommendations to CITGO Following Fire at Corpus Christi Refinery
 The CSB also called on CITGO to perform third-party audits to ensure the safety of its hydrogen fluoride units at its Corpus Christi, Texas, and Lemont, Illinois, refineries.

The CSB issues urgent recommendations before completion of final investigation reports in cases where CSB Board Members determine an imminent hazard may be present and has the potential to cause serious harm unless rectified in a short timeframe.

On the day of the accident last July, hydrocarbons and hydrogen fluoride were suddenly released from the refinery’s HF alkylation unit. The hydrocarbons ignited, leading to a fire that burned for several days. The fire critically injured one employee and another was treated for possible hydrogen fluoride exposure.

CSB investigators determined that a blockage of liquid caused by the sudden failure of a control valve led to violent shaking within the process recycle piping. The shaking broke threaded pipe connections resulting in the release of hydrocarbons. The cloud of hydrocarbons reached an adjacent unit and ignited. The ensuing fire caused multiple additional fires and the release of approximately 42,000 pounds of hydrogen fluoride from equipment and piping within the unit.

The refinery used a water spray system to absorb the released HF, but the CSB cited scientific literature to conclude that at least 4,000 pounds of HF likely escaped from the unit into the atmosphere and left the facility. Investigators determined that during the first day of response efforts CITGO nearly exhausted the stored water supply for the water mitigation system. Approximately eleven-and-a-half hours after the initial release, before the water supply was completely exhausted, the refinery began pumping salt water from the ship channel into the refinery fire water supply. Multiple failures occurred during the salt water transfer including ruptures of the barge-to-shore transfer hoses and water pump engine failures.

CSB Chairman John Bresland said, “It is imperative that refineries have the proper emergency response resources available to control a release of hazardous materials and protect against impact on the surrounding community.”

The CSB’s urgent recommendations call on CITGO to develop and initiate plans within thirty days to ensure an adequate water supply to the refinery’s HF mitigation system. The company should also report planned or completed actions to the Refinery Terminal Fire Company and the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) every thirty days until all planned activities are fully implemented.

Investigations Supervisor Robert Hall, P.E., said, “Our investigation closely examined emergency response actions related to this accident. Investigators found that the CITGO water mitigation system serves as the last line of defense to protect the community from an HF release. The CSB’s urgent recommendation aims to improve the reliability of CITGO’s Corpus Christi, Texas, HF water mitigation system.”

A second urgent recommendation called on CITGO to commission independent, third-party audits of the safety of its two HF alkylation units at refineries in Corpus Christi and Lemont, Illinois. The audits should compare safety practices at the alkylation units to those recommended by the American Petroleum Institute (API). Investigators said that CITGO had never conducted such an audit of the units, despite an existing industry recommendation for audits every three years.

The CSB also released video of the initial pipe failure, release, ignition, and fire as captured by two refinery surveillance cameras. Chairman Bresland noted, “The camera footage shows the release and spread of the flammable vapor cloud and the moment when the flammable vapor was ignited. It shows just how severe the release and fire were during this incident.”


This law, the American Communities’ Right to Public Information Act, states that national security classifications may not be used to conceal corporate errors, prevent embarrassment, or improperly delay the release of information to the public. An important part of this CSB investigation is to ensure all relevant information and visual materials regarding this accident are made available to the residents of Corpus Christi.”

CSB Investigative Team Dispatched to Investigate Fatal Explosion at NDK America Inc.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) deployed an investigation team to the site of an explosion that occurred December 7, 2009, at the NDK America Inc., plant, a manufacturer of quartz crystals in Belvidere, Illinois, approximately 60 miles northwest of Chicago.

According to Belvidere emergency responders, a member of the public located approximately 300 yards from the facility was fatally injured after being struck by debris thrown offsite by the explosion. Two individuals were reported to have sustained minor injuries and were treated onsite.

The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating industrial chemical accidents. The agency’s board members are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. CSB investigations look into all aspects of chemical accidents, including physical causes such as equipment failure as well as inadequacies in regulations, industry standards, and safety management systems.

OSHA Fines Four Contractors Nearly $160,000 after Scaffolding Collapse Kills Three

OSHA is proposing penalties against four contractors for alleged safety violations following a scaffolding accident that killed three workers at a construction site near downtown Austin, Texas.

“The supported scaffold from which employees were working collapsed, causing workers to fall more than 100 feet to their death,” said Eric Harbin, OSHA’s area director in Austin. “If scaffolding parts had been inspected and replaced or repaired as needed, it is possible that this tragic accident and loss of life could have been avoided.”

OSHA’s Austin Area Office began its investigation June 10 at the construction project on Rio Grande Street in Austin, following the death of three workers employed by Margate, Florida-based Capoera Construction LLC. Capoera Construction was cited with three serious violations including failing to develop and implement a safety and health program and failing to provide a competent person to inspect the scaffold prior to its use. The company was also cited with two repeat violations for failing to provide adequate fall protection systems and failing to adequately train workers to recognize scaffolding hazards. Proposed penalties total $36,400.

OSHA cited Mast Climber Manufacturing Inc., doing business as American Mast Climbers, the owner and installer of the scaffolding system, with a willful citation for not having scaffolds designed by a qualified person and constructing and loading the scaffold in accordance with that design. OSHA also cited the company with eight serious violations including failing to provide scaffolding capable of supporting four times the maximum intended load, failing to have a competent person inspect the scaffolding and its components, and failing to repair or remove damaged scaffold parts. Proposed penalties total $86,800.

Andres Construction Services LLC, the general contractor, and Greater Metroplex Interiors Inc., the prime contractor for the building exterior, each were cited with four serious violations for failing to have scaffolding and its components inspected by a competent person, failing to provide adequate fall protection systems on scaffolds, and failing to train employees on the use of scaffolding systems. Proposed penalties for Andres Construction Services total $14,000 and proposed penalties for Greater Metroplex Interiors total $22,400.

A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to employee safety and health; a serious violation is one that could cause death or physical harm that can result from a hazard an employer knew or should have known exists; and a repeat violation is issued when an employer previously was cited for the same or similar hazard within the last three years.

Austin and San Antonio employers and employees with questions about safety and health can call the agency’s Austin Area Office at 512-374-0271 or use OSHA’s hotline number, 800-321-6742, to report workplace accidents, fatalities, and imminent dangers.

OSHA Proposes $266,400 in Fines for Crespac Inc. Following Two Separate Incidents of Worker Amputation

Crespac Inc., in Tucker, Georgia, has been cited with 34 safety and health violations by OSHA with proposed penalties totaling $266,400.

“OSHA began its comprehensive safety and health inspection after learning of two separate incidents resulting in amputations within a 30-day period,” said Gei-Thae Breezley, director of OSHA’s Atlanta-East Area Office. “In both instances, management knew of deficiencies but acted with plain indifference by failing to correct the problems in a timely manner that could have prevented these amputations.”

The agency is citing the company with three willful, four repeat, 19 serious, and one other-than-serious safety violations, as well as five serious and two other-than-serious health violations. OSHA is proposing penalties of $249,200 for the safety violations and an additional $17,200 for the health violations.

The willful citations result from the company’s failure to ensure that all machines had proper safety guards, functional emergency stop cords and usable safety interlock switches installed on machinery.

The company is being cited for repeat violations related to having slippery and wet floors, lack of safety guards on machines, machines being operated with broken parts and employees being exposed to electrical shocks.

Serious violations include fall hazards, slipping and tripping hazards, entrapment hazards, failure to provide proper fire training and equipment, failure to properly train forklift operators, electrical hazards, noise hazards, exposure to hazardous chemicals and an insufficient respirator program for employees.

Other-than-serious violations relate to the company’s failure to conduct timely inspections of overhead cranes and related equipment and recordkeeping deficiencies in required OSHA incident logs.

OSHA Fines Solid Waste Transfer & Recycling Inc. $212,400 Following Site Inspection

OSHA has cited Solid Waste Transfer & Recycling Inc., for alleged safety and health violations. Proposed penalties total $212,400.

OSHA initiated an inspection on June 3 as part of its proactive program targeting companies in industries with high injury and illness rates. As a result, the company has been issued citations for four willful violations with a penalty of $198,000 and six serious violations with a penalty of $14,400.

The willful violations address the company’s failure to have an adequate lockout procedure and a lack of machine guards.

The serious violations include blocked exits, inadequate energy control procedures, lack of training, failure to properly mark compressed gas cylinders and effectively close electrical box openings.

“Lockout procedures are designed to safeguard workers from the unexpected startup of machinery and equipment, or the release of hazardous energy during service or maintenance activities,” said Phil Peist, area director of OSHA’s office in Parsippany, New Jersey. “It is imperative that the company correct the identified hazards to protect the safety and health of its workers.”

“One means of helping ensure worker safety is for employers is to establish an effective safety and health management system through which they and their employees work together to proactively evaluate, identify and eliminate hazards before they result in injury or illness,” said Robert Kulick, OSHA’s regional administrator in New York.

NIOSH Joins with Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America, Inc., to Collaborate on Safety and Health Research

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has announced a memorandum of understanding with Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America Inc.’s (TEMA) Department of Environmental and Safety Engineering. The agreement pledges collaborative research between the federal research agency and the automaker “to improve the assessment, management, analysis, and control of workplace conditions related to the safety and health of employees.”

NIOSH and TEMA will “work cooperatively through the Partnership to identify research priorities, perform analysis on current workplace practices, develop intervention methods and facilitate communication and implementation of effective workplace injury prevention,” the agreement states.

NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D., and Kevin M. Butt, General Manager, Production Engineering-Environmental Safety Engineering for TEMA, met for a ceremonial signing of the agreement on December 4 at Toyota’s North American engineering and manufacturing headquarters in Erlanger, Kentucky.

“We are pleased to take this step with TEMA on collaborative research that will address some of today’s most prominent health and safety challenges,” Dr. Howard said. “Working together, we look forward to generating new science-based insights, practices, and interventions for preventing job-related injuries and illnesses, and for instilling safety as a basic operating principle of 21st Century business.”

“Toyota’s goal is to be the safest automobile manufacturer in North America and we are grateful for the opportunity to work with NIOSH,” Mr. Butt said. “Safety is a top priority for our 30,000 team members across the continent and we will benefit from NIOSH’s wealth of experience to help us continuously improve our safety and health processes while promoting best practices.”

Areas of research and analysis under the memorandum of understanding include but are not limited to:

  • The benefits of effective safety management system programs.
  • Effective ergonomic injury-prevention programs and strategies to address aging workforce trends, diverse workforce demographics, repetitive motion risk factors, and flexible manufacturing requirements.
  • Effective programs and strategies to address slips, trips, and falls; fleet safety; and traumatic injury prevention.
  • Exposure effects and controls of industrial hygiene risk factors.
  • The impact of positive safety culture elements and the benefits of comprehensive programs that extend to individual and community aspects.

NIOSH and TEMA agreed to designate representatives to develop a plan of action for addressing the goals, and to identify respective roles and responsibilities. For each specific research project developed as a result of the memorandum of understanding, NIOSH and TEMA will develop a project-level agreement that addresses various issues relevant to that specific area of research.

NIOSH is the federal agency that conducts research and makes recommendations to prevent work-related injuries, illnesses, and deaths. It was created under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 and is part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 


OSHA Recognizes Sherwin-Williams Co. in Coffeyville, Kansas, as VPP Merit Site

OSHA has designated Sherwin-Williams Co., in Coffeyville, Kansas, as a Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) merit site for meeting or exceeding workplace safety and health standards.

Sherwin-Williams, which employs 25 workers in Coffeyville, manufactures, packages, and distributes rust and smoke inhibitors, flame retardants and mineral oil de-foamers. The company earned VPP recognition following a comprehensive onsite evaluation by a team of OSHA safety and health experts.

“Sherwin-Williams in Coffeyville has shown it is deeply committed to providing a safe and healthful workplace,” said Charles E. Adkins, OSHA’s regional administrator in Kansas City, Missouri. “The company’s proactive approach toward safety is a model for others to follow.”

OSHA’s recognition programs include the VPP for employers and employees who have implemented exemplary workplace safety and health management systems. In the VPP, management, labor, and OSHA work cooperatively and proactively to prevent injuries, illnesses, and workplace hazards. As part of attaining VPP status, employers must demonstrate management commitment to the safety and health of their employees and actively involve employees in the safety and health management system.

UL and ICC-ES Announce New Dual Evaluation and Certification Program for Building Products

Underwriters Laboratories (UL), the leading product safety testing organization, and ICC Evaluation Service, Inc® (ICC-ES?), the United States’ leader in evaluating building products for compliance with code, have announced a partnership that will provide the building materials industry with a Dual Evaluation and Certification Program for building products. Together, the highly regarded UL Mark and the trusted ICC-ES Mark will demonstrate to tens of thousands of regulators, building officials, architects, and insurers that the building products and systems they inspect, design, and insure are compliant with appropriate codes and product safety standards.

The Dual Evaluation and Certification Program simplifies the testing and evaluation process for manufacturers. They now have an easier way of conducting business. Through one point of contact for both UL and ICC-ES, manufacturers can conduct testing to UL safety standards, show code compliance via an ICC-ES Evaluation Report, and get simultaneous postings of compliant products in UL’s Online Certifications Directory and Code Correlation Database along with ICC-ES’s online directory of evaluation reports and e-Codes Premium.

“This partnership between UL and ICC-ES brings two industry leaders together to create a one-stop-shop for building materials testing and evaluation needs in the built environment,” says Chris Hasbrook, vice president and general manager, UL Global Building Materials and Life Safety & Security Industries. “The Dual Evaluation and Certification Program will provide manufacturers faster turnaround times and speed to market, while giving their customers two more reasons to trust the quality, safety and efficiency of their products.”

In addition to streamlining testing processes, UL has enhanced the usability of its product certification information. The ease of viewing code sections and manufacturer listings in one location makes it the only database of its kind in the industry.

“ICC’s 55,000 members now have access to the Dual Evaluation and Certification Program that will help them in their code-compliance decisions while saving time and money,” said Mark Johnson, president, ICC-ES. “This is just one of the many benefits of working with a trusted partner in safety like UL, and we continue to look for new opportunities to expand this partnership to better serve our customers and members.”

FDA Makes Interim Recommendations to Address Concern of Excess Radiation Exposure During CT Perfusion Imaging

As part of an ongoing investigation into cases of excess radiation during CT perfusion imaging of the brain, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has provided imaging facilities and practitioners with interim recommendations to help prevent additional problems.

The FDA issued an initial safety notification in October after learning of 206 patients who had been exposed to excess radiation at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles over an 18-month period.

Since then, the FDA, working with state and local health authorities, has identified at least 50 additional patients who were exposed to excess radiation of up to eight times the expected level during their CT perfusion scans. These cases so far involve more than one manufacturer of CT scanners. The FDA has also received reports of possible excess radiation from other states. Some of these patients reported hair loss or skin redness following their scans. High doses of radiation can cause cataracts and increase the risk of some forms of cancer.

On the basis of its investigation to date, the FDA is providing interim recommendations for imaging facilities, radiologists, and radiologic technologists to help prevent additional cases of excess exposure. These recommendations apply to all CT perfusion images, including brain and heart, because they use similar procedures and protocols.

These recommendations include:

  1. Facilities assess whether patients who underwent CT perfusion scans received excess radiation.
  2. Facilities review their radiation dosing protocols for all CT perfusion studies to ensure that the correct dosing is planned for each study.
  3. Facilities implement quality control procedures to ensure that dosing protocols are followed every time and the planned amount of radiation is administered.
  4. Radiologic technologists check the CT scanner display panel before performing a study to make sure the amount of radiation to be delivered is at the appropriate level for the individual patient.
  5. If more than one study is performed on a patient during one imaging session, practitioners should adjust the dose of radiation so it is appropriate for each study.

The FDA continues to work with manufacturers, professional organizations, and state and local public health authorities to investigate the scope and causes of these excess exposures.

The agency is also advising manufacturers to review their training for users, reassess information provided to health care facilities, and put into place new surveillance systems to identify problems quickly.

“The FDA is making progress in the investigation of this problem,” said Jeffrey Shuren, M.D., acting director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. “While we do not know yet the full scope of the concern, facilities should take reasonable steps to double-check their approach to CT perfusion studies and take special care with these imaging tests.”

CT or CAT scanning refers to computed tomography, a form of medical imaging that uses X-rays to produce 3-dimensional images to help physicians diagnose and treat medical conditions. CT perfusion scans evaluate blood flow in various organs such as the brain and the heart.

Patients should follow their doctor’s recommendations for receiving CT scans. Medically necessary CT scans, administered properly, can provide important health information to guide diagnosis and treatment. Patients who have undergone a CT perfusion scan and have questions regarding radiation exposure should speak with their doctor.

The FDA requires hospitals and other user facilities to report deaths and serious injuries associated with the use of medical devices. If an adverse event is identified, health care professionals should follow the reporting procedures at their facility. Report these directly to the device manufacturer or to MedWatch, the FDA’s voluntary reporting program. 

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