OSHA PROPOSES $416,000 IN PENALTIES FOR TRENCHING HAZARDS

July 06, 2001

OSHA cited a Sterling Heights, Michigan, construction company for alleged violations of workplace safety and health standards and proposed penalties totaling $416,000.

Ric-Man Construction Inc., an excavation contractor specializing in pipeline and tunneling work, was cited for 16 violations, six of which are categorized as willful. Employees were performing tunneling and deep excavation work installing concrete pipes for a water main project in Toledo, Ohio.

"Unfortunately, management knowingly and repeatedly exposed workers to potentially fatal trenching hazards," said Acting OSHA Administrator R. Davis Layne. "At the time of initial inspection employees were working without protection inside a 22-foot deep trench. Similarly hazardous working conditions were documented over the course of this investigation, often within plain view of foremen."

The citations are the result of an OSHA investigation which began February 1, 2001 in response to a complaint alleging that employees were working in trenches over twenty feet deep without cave-in protection.

OSHA cited the company for six alleged willful violations, with proposed penalties of $378,000, including four for failure to protect employees from trench cave-ins. Ten serious citations, with penalties totaling $38,000, were issued for various violations of standards including not providing safe access/egress from trenches, improper use of trench boxes, and neglecting to properly train employees in trenching hazards.

A willful violation is defined as one committed with an intentional disregard of or plain indifference to the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations. 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.

Ric-Man Construction, Inc. has 15 working days to contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.


OSHA PROPOSES $74,300 PENALTY FOR LACK OF FALL PROTECTION

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited SSI, Inc., in Fort Smith, Ark., for alleged safety and health violations with penalties totaling $74,300.

SSI is a general building contractor that employs about 80 workers, with corporate offices in Fort Smith.

The alleged violations were discovered during an OSHA investigation that began April 18, 2001 in response to a complaint concerning a fall at a construction site. The company was cited with one alleged willful, three alleged serious, and one alleged repeat violation.

The alleged willful violation was for failing to provide adequate fall protection for employees walking or working on walkways approximately 17 feet above the ground. The three alleged serious violations consisted of failing to provide adequate covers to protect employees from tripping on or stepping into open floor holes, failing to properly identify hole covers, and failing to adequately train employees in the hazards to which they may be exposed to while working at heights.

The alleged repeat violation consisted of failing to provide fall protection for employees working on open-sided floors approximately 17 feet above the ground . A repeat violation is one in which the employer was cited for a violation of the same or similar standard within the past three years.

SSI has 15 working days from receipt of the citations to comply with the citations, request an informal conference with the Little Rock area director, or contest the citations and penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.


REACTIVE CHEMICALS HAZARD INVESTIGATION CONTINUES; INPUT ENCOURAGED FROM CSB STAKEHOLDERS

Work is continuing at the Chemical Safety Board (CSB) on a comprehensive Hazard Investigation of reactive chemical hazards. The investigation is a direct result of the CSB investigation of the April 8, 1998 runaway reaction and subsequent fire at Morton International Chemicals in Paterson, New Jersey. Approximately 170 reactive chemical incidents over a twenty-year period are included in the investigation.

A reactive chemical incident is a sudden event involving an uncontrolled chemical reaction with abrupt and significant increases in temperature, pressure, and/or gas evolution that has the potential to or has caused serious harm to people, property or the environment.

The objectives of the reactive chemical hazard investigation are to:

  1. Determine the impact of reactive chemical incidents;
  2. Examine how industry, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) address reactive chemical hazards; and
  3. Analyze the appropriateness of and consider alternatives to industry and OSHA use of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reactivity rating system for reactive hazard management.

The hazard investigation will likely result in recommendations to promote the safe handling of reactive chemicals. The results of the hazard investigation will be presented in a public hearing in the late summer or early fall of 2001.

In conducting the hazard investigation, CSB is considering the needs, concerns, and suggestions of stakeholders in the safety of reactive chemicals. The investigation is examining both current and proposed guidance for managing reactive chemical hazards, including company best practices, industry wide guidance, and regulatory requirements.

As recommended in CSB's Morton Chemical investigation report, OSHA and EPA are participating in CSB's hazard investigation. CSB is particularly interested in understanding both the regulatory requirements, and the other resources or guidance provided by these agencies. The primary regulations that apply in this case are OSHA's PSM (Process Safety Management) and EPA's RMP (Risk Management Program). The strengths and weaknesses of existing regulations will be evaluated in terms of the reactive chemical issue.

Individuals or organizations with relevant information to contribute to this study may contact the Reactive Chemical Hazards investigation team at reactives@csb.gov.


BRANCH OFFICE OPENED IN NEW ENGLAND

Environmental Resource Center is pleased to announce the opening of our branch office in Vermont. While we've been working in the area since our 1981, this is the first time we've had an office there. Staff in Vermont are available to provide environmental, safety, and DOT consulting, permit assistance, audits, and customized on-site training.

If you have any environmental or safety requirements in the New England area (or anywhere in the U.S.) and would like our expert assistance, call Amy Knight at our headquarters at 1-800-537-2372, ext. 234 or e-mail aknight@ercweb.com.


OSHA TO BEGIN COLLECTING 2000 OCCUPATIONAL INJURY AND ILLNESS DATA

As part of its annual collection of occupational injury and illness data, OSHA began distributing calendar year 2000 occupational injury and illness data collection forms (OSHA Form 196) this week to approximately 80,000 employers nationwide.

"This annual collection initiative improves OSHA's ability to identify and target our efforts on the more hazardous workplaces," said Acting OSHA Administrator R. Davis Layne. "The more effectively we utilize our resources, the more we can improve workplace safety and health for America's workers."

The 2000 data will allow OSHA to calculate occupational injury and illness rates by specific employer establishments. The information will be used to focus OSHA activities such as inspections, outreach, consultations, technical assistance, and target hazardous work sites under the Site Specific Targeting plan.

OSHA will also use the information to comply with the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA). Specifically, the Agency is using the data to determine if there is a reduction in injury and illness rates at establishments where OSHA has had an intervention.

Establishments that receive the OSHA Form 196 in the mail are required to provide average employment, hours worked, and a summary of the occupational injuries and illnesses that occurred in an establishment in 2000.

Employers should complete and return the forms or respond via the Internet within 30 days, even if there are no occupational injuries or illnesses recorded on their 2000 OSHA No. 200. Completed forms can be returned by mail or fax, or via the Internet, using a secure electronic version of the form. The electronic form can be accessed at http://www.osha.gov/form196/cy00.htm

The data collection initiative will include mail and telephone follow-up to ask clarifying questions concerning data submitted, and to attempt to obtain responses from non-responders. Non-respondents may be subject to OSHA enforcement actions.


OSHA RULE ON RECORD KEEPING FOR WORKPLACE INJURIES TO GO INTO EFFECT AS SCHEDULED

Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao announced that an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rule on record keeping would largely go into effect as scheduled on January 1, 2002.

"This rule is a big step forward in making workplaces safer for employees, which is our goal," Chao said. "It is written in plain language and simplifies the employer's decision-making process."

The final record keeping rule is the culmination of an effort that began in the 1980s to improve how the government tracks occupational injuries and illnesses. The rule increases employee involvement, creates simpler forms and gives employers more flexibility to use computers to meet OSHA regulatory requirements.

The Department will seek comment on two proposed modifications to the rule's record keeping requirements. First, the Department will propose that the criteria for recording work-related hearing loss not be implemented for one year pending further investigation into the level of hearing loss that should be recorded as a "significant" health condition. The Department had received comments pointing out that the medical community and State worker compensation systems do not support the current rule's hearing loss standard.

Second, the Department will propose to delay for one year the record keeping rule's definition of "musculoskeletal disorder" (MSD) and the requirement that employers check the MSD column on the OSHA Log. The Department has announced its intention to develop a comprehensive plan to address ergonomic hazards and has scheduled a series on ergonomics. The issues to be decided as a result of these forums include the appropriate definitions of the terms "ergonomic injury" and MSD.

Chao said, "Until a definition is agreed upon, the data collected will not help us target the injuries that need to be eliminated."

Information on OSHA's proposal to delay the effective date regarding hearing loss and MSD issues was published in the July 3, 2001 Federal Register (http://www.osha-slc.gov/FedReg_osha_data/FED20010703.html).