OSHA PLANS PROPOSED RULE ON HEXAVALENT CHROMIUM

December 12, 2002
OSHA has announced that it plans to go forward with proposed rulemaking on occupational exposure to hexavalent chromium.

OSHA published a request for information in the Federal Register on Aug. 22 asking for public comments relating to hexavalent chromium, most commonly used as a structural and anti-corrosive element in the production of stainless steel, iron and steel, and in electroplating, welding and painting. Exposures to the metal have been associated with lung cancer, other respiratory problems, and dermatoses.

OSHA's request for information included: health effects; risk assessment; methods of analyzing exposure levels; investigations into occupational exposures, control measures, and technological and economic impact feasibility; use of personal protective equipment and respirators; current employee training and medical screening programs; and environmental and small business impacts. The agency received 26 comments resulting from the request for information. The comments included more than 100 documents and attachments. The comment period ended Nov. 20.

OSHA's current general industry standard sets a permissible exposure limit for hexavalent chromium compounds at 100 micrograms per cubic meter as a ceiling concentration; the standard for construction is 100 micrograms per cubic meter as an 8-hour time-weighted average.




HEALTH AND SAFETY HAZARDS LEAD TO $144,200 IN OSHA FINES AGAINST BATTERY MAKER

A Pawcatuck, Conn., battery manufacturer failed to protect employees against a significant cross-section of workplace health and safety hazards, including toxic chemicals and unguarded moving machine parts, according to citations announced by OSHA. Proposed fines total more than $144,000.

Yardney Technical Products, Inc. was cited by OSHA for 61 alleged serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act at its manufacturing and research facility. The citations and fines follow inspections conducted in June and July.

Chief among the health hazards were excess airborne concentrations of cadmium, a toxic chemical used in battery manufacturing, and the lack of effective controls to reduce exposure levels. The company also allegedly failed to properly monitor exposures, regulate work areas with high cadmium levels, provide protective clothing and equipment and ensure proper decontamination procedures.

Other citations for alleged health violations were for excess concentrations of silver and inadequate means of controlling the levels to which workers were exposed to silver, and accumulations of lead on surfaces and incorrect means of removing them. Hazards were also found involving ladders, paint spray booths, and housekeeping.

Safety citations encompass numerous instances of unguarded or inadequately guarded machinery, such as mechanical power presses, woodworking and grinding machinery. Electrical hazards included exposed live electrical parts, and unguarded open sided work platforms and stairs constituted fall hazards. The company was also cited for failure to evaluate each forklift operator's performance.

A serious violation is one that could cause death or serious physical harm and the employer knew, or should have known, of the hazard. 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 relationship to the safety and health of employees.

Yardney Technical Products, Inc. has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to either elect to comply with them, to request and participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director, and/or to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.




OSHA SEEKING INFORMATION TO ADDRESS HEALTH EFFECTS OF OCCUPATIONAL EXPOSURE TO BERYLLIUM

OSHA is asking for comments and information from the public to help the agency determine the best way to address occupational exposures to beryllium.

Beryllium is a lightweight metal found in coal, oil, certain rock minerals, volcanic dust, and soil. It's used by the aerospace, nuclear, and manufacturing industries, and is found in dental appliances, golf clubs, non-sparking tools, and various electronic applications. The metal is also toxic and can cause lung cancer and skin disease.

"We know there's an association between adverse health effects and exposure to this metal," said OSHA Administrator John Henshaw. "We've published two hazard information bulletins on the topic just in the past three years. To determine the best future course of action to take, we need to obtain as much information as we can on the many complex issues related to health effects, current uses, and employee exposures to this metal. The best way to do that is to provide interested members of the public an opportunity to be heard on these issues."

OSHA's request for information covers numerous topics including employee exposure, health effects, risk assessment, exposure assessment and monitoring methods, control measures and technological feasibility, economic impacts, employee training, medical surveillance, and environmental and small business impacts.

Comments must be submitted by Feb. 24, 2003. To submit comments by regular mail, express delivery, hand delivery or messenger service, send three copies and attachments to the OSHA Docket Office, Docket No. H005C, Room N2625, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Ave., NW, Washington, D.C. 20210. You may also fax comments (10 pages or fewer) to OSHA's Docket Office at (202) 693-1648. Include the docket number in your comments. Finally, comments may be submitted electronically through the Internet at http://ecomments.osha.gov. Further information on submitting comments can be obtained by calling the Docket Office at (202) 693-2350.

OSHA's current general industry standard sets a permissible exposure limit for beryllium at two micrograms per cubic meter of air for an 8-hour time-weighted average or five micrograms per cubic meter of air not to exceed 30 minutes at a time. OSHA says employees should never be exposed to more than 25 micrograms of the metal, regardless of how short the exposure.




OSHA EXCEEDS INSPECTION TARGETS FOR FISCAL YEAR 2002

OSHA made good on its promise to deliver strong, fair and effective enforcement this past year by exceeding its inspection goals and increasing both the number of serious violations and the penalties assessed for them, U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao announced.

"One of my priorities has been and will continue to be strong, fair, effective enforcement, and these figures bear that out," said Chao. "Inspections of workplaces are up, and we are more effectively targeting where the hazards exist. We will continue to make improvements as we progress toward our bottom line - reducing injuries, illness and fatalities in the workplace."

The increased enforcement activity came during a year when the agency also dedicated unprecedented resources to ensuring the safety and health of workers at the World Trade Center site in New York. Over a ten-month period, more than 1,000 inspectors from state, consultation, and Federal OSHA offices around the country were sent to assist in the New York effort.

During fiscal year 2002, which ended on Sept. 30, 2002, the agency inspected 37,493 workplaces in the United States. That is 1,093 inspections more than the fiscal year target of 36,400 inspections. In addition, the average penalty for serious violations rose from $930 in FY-2001 to $977 in FY-2002, indicating that the violations OSHA found were more serious, with higher penalties attached. Serious violations of workplace safety and health laws accounted for 70% of all OSHA violations found. This figure, the highest ever, shows that the agency is directing its resources to the establishments most in need of enforcement action.

"No worker should be injured or killed on the job," said Assistant Secretary for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration John Henshaw. "While there are fewer workplace fatalities each year, we still have more to do. We will continue to work with employers and employees to drive down injury and fatality rates even lower. A safe and healthful workplace, free from recognized hazards, is the right of every worker in America."

The top five most frequently cited OSHA standards are also in the most hazardous industries and areas with the most potential for serious illness, injury or death: scaffolding, hazard communications, fall protection, respiratory protection, and lockout/tagout.




OSHA SEEKING COMMENTS TO PROPOSED STANDARD ON FIRE PROTECTION IN SHIPYARD EMPLOYMENT

OSHA has proposed safeguards designed to protect shipyard workers from fire hazards.

The proposal closely follows the recommendation of a Negotiated Rulemaking Advisory Committee with representatives from industry, trade associations, labor organizations, the International Association of Firefighters, the National Fire Protection Association, and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. Covering an estimated 98,000 shipyard workers at more than 700 establishments involved in shipbuilding, ship conversion, ship repairing or shipbreaking, the standard would also provide safety measures for workers in fire brigades and shipyard fire departments.

"The basic tasks of shipyard workers - welding, grinding, or cutting metal often in confined spaces - expose them to the risk of fire from many combustible sources," said OSHA Administrator John Henshaw. "And the very act of firefighting aboard vessels is considerably different from structural firefighting. A clear standard for fire protection on vessels will lead to better protection for workers."

That clarification was molded into a single proposed standard by combining relevant information from numerous sources, including OSHA's general industry standard on fire protection, U.S. Coast Guard standards, and guidelines developed by professional associations such as the National Fire Protection Association and the Marine Chemists' Association.

OSHA's proposal addresses fire safety plans, training, multi-employer worksites, hot work precautions, fire watches, fire response, employee evacuation, medical requirements for shipyard fire response, hazards of fixed extinguishing systems aboard vessels, land-side fire protection systems, and training. The proposal also includes a model fire safety plan.

Comments must be submitted by Mar. 10, 2003. To submit comments by regular mail, express delivery, hand delivery or messenger service, send three copies and attachments to the OSHA Docket Office, Docket No. S-051, Room N2625, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Ave., NW, Washington, D.C. 20210. You may also fax comments (10 pages or fewer) to OSHA's Docket Office at (202) 693-1648. Include the docket number in your comments. Finally, comments may be submitted electronically through the Internet at http://ecomments.osha.gov. Further information on submitting comments can be obtained by calling the Docket Office at (202) 693-2350.