Toxic Chemicals Widespread in Household Dust

September 19, 2016

Household dust exposes people to a wide range of toxic chemicals from everyday products, according to a study led by researchers at Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH) at the George Washington University. The multi-institutional team conducted a first-of-a-kind meta-analysis, compiling data from dust samples collected throughout the United States to identify the top ten toxic chemicals commonly found in dust. They found that DEHP, a chemical belonging to a hazardous class called phthalates, was number one on that list. In addition, the researchers found that phthalates overall were found at the highest levels in dust followed by phenols and flame retardant chemicals.

“Our study is the first comprehensive analysis of consumer product chemicals found in household dust,” says lead author Ami Zota, ScD, assistant professor of environmental and occupational health at Milken Institute SPH. “The findings suggest that people, and especially children, are exposed on a daily basis to multiple chemicals in dust that are linked to serious health problems.”

Chemicals from consumer products are released into the air and get into dust, which can settle on household items or on the floor. People can inhale or ingest small particles of dust or even absorb them through the skin. Infants and young children are particularly at risk for exposure to the chemicals found in dust because they crawl, play on dusty floors, and put their hands in their mouths, the authors say.

Zota and colleagues pooled data from 26 peer-reviewed papers and one unpublished dataset that analyzed dust samples taken from homes in 14 states. They found 45 potentially toxic chemicals that are used in many consumer and household products such as vinyl flooring, personal care and cleaning products, building materials, and home furnishings. The meta-analysis combines information from smaller dust studies and thus offers solid conclusions with greater statistical power, the authors say.

The team found that:

  • Ten harmful chemicals are found in 90% of the dust samples across multiple studies, including a known cancer-causing agent called TDCIPP. This flame retardant is frequently found in furniture, baby products, and other household items.
  • Indoor dust consistently contains four classes of harmful chemicals in high amounts. Phthalates, substances that are used to make cosmetics, toys, vinyl flooring, and other products, were found in the highest concentration with a mean of 7,682 nanograms per gram of dust–an amount that was several orders of magnitude above the others. Phenols, chemicals used in cleaning products and other household items, were the number two highest chemical class followed by flame retardants and highly fluorinated chemicals used to make non-stick cookware.
  • Chemicals from dust are likely to get into young children’s bodies. A flame retardant added to couches, baby products, electronics, and other products, TCEP, had the highest estimated intake followed by four phthalates—DEP, DEHP, BBzP and DnBP. The intake numbers in this study probably underestimate the true exposure to such chemicals, which are also found in products on the drug store shelf and even in fast food the authors say.
  • Phthalates such as DEP, DEHP, DNBP, and DIBP, are not only found at the highest concentrations in dust but are associated with many serious health hazards. Phthalates are thought to interfere with hormones in the body and are linked to a wide range of health issues including declines in IQ and respiratory problems in children.
  • Highly fluorinated chemicals such as PFOA and PFOS are also high on the potential harm scale. These types of chemicals, which are found in cell phones, pizza boxes, and many non-stick, waterproof, and stain-resistant products have been linked to numerous health problems of the immune, digestive, developmental, and endocrine systems.
  • Small amounts can add up. Many of the chemicals in dust are linked to the same health hazards, such as cancer or developmental and reproductive toxicity, and may be acting together. Exposure to even small amounts of chemicals in combination can lead to an amplified health risk, especially for developing infants or young children, the authors say.

“The number and levels of toxic and untested chemicals that are likely in every one of our living rooms was shocking to me,” said co-author Veena Singla, PhD, staff scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Harmful chemicals used in everyday products and building materials result in widespread contamination of our homes—these dangerous chemicals should be replaced with safer alternatives,” Singla adds.

In the meantime, consumers who want to reduce their exposure to chemicals in household dust and the environment around them can take a few simple steps such as keeping dust levels low by using a strong vacuum with a HEPA filter; washing hands frequently; and avoiding personal care and household products that contain potentially dangerous chemicals.

“Consumers have the power to make healthier choices and protect themselves from harmful chemicals in everyday products,” says Robin Dodson, ScD, an environmental exposure scientist at Silent Spring Institute. “These things can make a real difference not only in their health but also in shifting the market toward safer products.”

The meta-analysis, “Consumer product chemicals in indoor dust: a quantitative meta-analysis of U.S. studies,” was published September 14 in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. In addition to Zota, Dodson, and Singla the team included Susanna Mitro and Angelo Elmi at Milken Institute SPH as well as scientists from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the University of California, San Francisco. Funding for the study was provided by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The study, a fact sheet, and additional materials are available here: https://www.nrdc.org/resources/not-just-dirt-toxic-chemicals-indoor-dust.

Raleigh HAZWOPER Refresher, RCRA/DOT Update, and OSHA Training

Register for Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) 8-Hour Refresher Training in Cary, NC, on September 27 and ensure you are ready to respond. Attend RCRA Hazardous Waste and DOT Hazardous Materials Update and Refresher Training in Cary, NC, on September 28 and update your DOT and RCRA training in one day. Learn how to comply with OSHA General Industry Standards at the OSHA 10-Hour Compliance Course on September 29–30. To register for these courses, click here or call 800-537-2372.

San Antonio RCRA and DOT Training

Register for Hazardous Waste Management in Texas and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in San Antonio, TX, on September 27–29 and save $100. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.

Los Angeles Hazardous Waste, DOT, and IATA Training

Register for Hazardous Waste Management in California and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in Los Angeles, CA, on October 11–13 and save $100. Get the training you need to ship dangerous goods by air at Transportation of Dangerous Goods: Compliance with IATA Regulations on October 14. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.

How to Implement OSHA’s Globally Harmonized Hazard Communication Standard (GHS)

OSHA has issued a final rule revising its Hazard Communication Standard, aligning it with the United Nations’ globally harmonized system (GHS) for the classification and labeling of hazardous chemicals. This means that virtually every product label, safety data sheet (formerly called “material safety data sheet” or MSDS), and written hazard communication plan must be revised to meet the new standard. Worker training must be updated so that workers can recognize and understand the symbols and pictograms on the new labels as well as the new hazard statements and precautions on safety data sheets.

Environmental Resource Center is offering live online training for you to learn how the new rule differs from current requirements, how to implement the changes, and when the changes must be implemented. Bring your questions to the upcoming webcasts on How to Implement OSHA’s Globally Harmonized Hazard Communication Standard (GHS) on November 15.

Perfluorooctanoic Acid and Perfluorooctane Sulfonate to be Listed as Reproductive Hazards

California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) announced that it intends to list perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) as known to the state to cause reproductive toxicity under the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986. This action is being proposed under the authoritative bodies listing mechanism.

Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) each meet the criteria for listing as known to the state to cause reproductive toxicity under Proposition 65, based on findings of the EPA, as outlined below.

In 2016, EPA released the documents: Drinking Water Health Advisory (HA) for Perfluorooctanoic Acid and Health Effects Support Document for Perfluorooctanoic Acid. In the former document, EPA developed a lifetime drinking water HA for PFOA based on a reference dose (RfD) derived from a developmental toxicity study in mice in which developmental toxicity was manifested as reduced ossification in proximal phalanges and accelerated puberty in males. Both documents contain conclusions about the developmental toxicity of PFOA, referencing studies in which developmental toxicity results entirely or predominantly from prenatal exposure to the chemical.

Section 25306(d)(1) provides three separate criteria, of which at least one must be met in order for the chemical to be formally identified. These reports and documents meet two of the formal identification criteria in Section 25306(d)(1) because PFOA “is the subject of a report which is published by the authoritative body and which concludes that the chemical causes…reproductive toxicity,” and because PFOA “has otherwise been identified as causing … reproductive toxicity by the authoritative body in a document that indicates that such identification is a final action.” The latter criterion is met by the development by US EPA of a lifetime drinking water HA for PFOA based on a reference dose (RfD) derived from developmental toxicity in mice. Further, Section 25306(d)(2) provides six additional criteria, of which at least one must be met in order for the chemical to be formally identified. In this case three criteria are met because the report or document has been “published by the authoritative body in a publication, such as, but not limited to, the federal register…” and “reviewed by an advisory committee in a public meeting, if a public meeting is required” (US EPA, 2016a); and “made subject to public review and comment prior to its issuance.”

OEHHA is requesting comments as to whether PFOA and PFOS meet the criteria set forth in the Proposition 65 regulations for authoritative bodies listings. In order to be considered, OEHHA must receive comments by 5:00 p.m. on October 17, 2016. Comments transmitted by e-mail should be addressed to P65Public.Comments@oehha.ca.gov with “NOIL – PFOA and PFOS” in the subject line.

OSHA Issues New Guidance on Settlement Approval in Whistleblower Cases

OSHA has published new guidelines for approving settlements between employers and employees in whistleblower cases to ensure that settlements do not contain terms that could be interpreted to restrict future whistleblowing. The guidelines, issued September 9, make clear that OSHA will not approve a whistleblower settlement agreement that contains provisions that may discourage whistleblowing without outright prohibiting it, such as:

  • Provisions that require employees to waive the right to receive a monetary award from a government-administered whistleblower award for providing information to a government agency about violations of the law
  • Provisions that require the employee to advise the employer before voluntarily communicating with the government or to affirm that the employee is not a whistleblower

OSHA also reserves the right not to approve settlements with liquidated damages provisions that it believes are excessive. The new guidance responds to a March 2015 petition for rulemaking from the Government Accountability Project.

Cooperative Producer’s Hayland Fined $411,540 After Worker Suffers Fatal Accident

As he cleared soybean debris a 41-year-old elevator superintendent suffocated when his lifeline tangled in an unguarded and rotating auger. A federal investigation into the worker’s death found multiple violations of federal safety standards for grain handling at the Cooperative Producers, Inc., Hayland facility in Prosser.

On September 9, 2016, OSHA cited CPI for three egregious willful and three serious violations following its investigation of the March 16, 2016, death. From 2011 to 2015, federal inspectors cited the Nebraska farmer-owned cooperative and joint venture CPI-Lansing, LLC, six times for violating grain-handling safety standards.

The agency has placed the company in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which focuses on recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat, or failure-to-abate violations. Under the program, OSHA may inspect any of the employer’s facilities if it has reasonable grounds to believe there are similar violations.

“The danger of entering a grain bin as an auger turns cannot be underestimated. By allowing employees to do so, CPI exposed workers to serious hazards such as being caught in the augers or engulfed in grain,” said Bonita Winingham, OSHA’s acting regional administrator in Kansas City. “OSHA’s grain-handling standards address the numerous serious and life-threatening hazards found in grain bins. CPI could have prevented this worker’s death if only it had adhered to common sense safety standards that protect workers in this hazardous industry.”

OSHA investigators determined three workers, including the elevator superintendent, had been standing over the unguarded auger using a pole in an attempt to dislodge soybean debris in a grain bin that contained more than 50,000 bushels of soybeans sloped 12 to 20 feet up its walls.

During its investigation, the agency found CPI failed to:

  • Disconnect a subfloor auger before allowing workers to enter
  • Test atmospheric conditions in grain bins before allowing workers to enter
  • Implement procedures to prevent sudden machine start-up or unintentional operation, a process known as lockout/tagout
  • Install adequate machine guarding to avoid contact with moving parts

OSHA has proposed penalties of $411,540.

Industrial Hygiene Trends Fall 2016

This issue of Trends, a publication of Gradient, focuses on industrial hygiene. The discipline of protecting worker health covers a wide variety of potential hazards. The first article looks at dermal exposure to chemicals and how this has joined inhalation exposure as a more broadly recognized concern. The second article features a discussion on the derivation of Occupational Exposure Limits (OELs) and how differences in policies and methodologies can contribute to a range of values for the same chemical. The third article looks at Geographic Information System (GIS) tools to enhance workplace exposure characterization.

Birdsboro Kosher Farms Corp. Fined $317,477 After Worker Suffers Amputation

On September 2, 2016, OSHA issued citations to Birdsboro Kosher Farms Corp., of Birdsboro, Pennsylvania, for two willful and eight serious safety and health violations.

OSHA initiated an inspection on April 2, 2016, after receiving a report that a worker suffered a thumb amputation while operating a mixing machine at Birdsboro Kosher Farms. At that time, the agency also initiated follow-ups to previous OSHA inspections conducted in 2013, 2014, and 2015 to ensure the workplace was free of the previously cited workplace hazards. In its inspection, OSHA found a deficient system for protecting workers from the hazards associated with the unexpected start-up of machinery and issued the willful citations.

The serious violations included uncovered floor holes, a deficient hearing conservation program, inadequate egress signage, the company’s failure to secure compressed gas cylinders, a failure to provide sanitary personal protective equipment or specialty foot protection at no cost to employees, and failure to post permit-required confined space signs.

“Birdsboro Kosher Farms is leaving its employees vulnerable to a variety of safety and health hazards that can cause serious injuries,” said Timothy Braun, acting OSHA area director in Harrisburg. “It is critical that the company take appropriate steps to ensure worker protection at its facility. Anything less is unacceptable.”

Proposed penalties total $317,477

HP Pelzer Automotive Systems, Sizemore Fined $704,610 for Exposing Workers to Amputation, Electrocution Hazards

Federal safety inspectors often find that permanent and temporary employees in the auto parts industry face common workplace dangers such as falls, amputations and electrocution hazards—a trend U.S. Department of Labor OSHA inspectors found continues at a Thomson manufacturer of BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Fiat-Chrysler, Subaru, and General Motors parts.

Acting on a complaint and as part of the agency’s Regional Emphasis Program on Safety Hazards in the Auto Parts Industry, OSHA initiated another, new inspection at HP Pelzer Automotive Systems Inc. in March 2016 and cited the company and a staffing agency it employs with 24 safety violations. Sizemore, Inc., the staffing agency, had approximately 300 temporary employees assigned to HP Pelzer at the time of the inspection. In May 2016, the Augusta-based agency terminated its contract for reasons including safety concerns for its employees.

HP Pelzer and Sizemore face a total of $704,610 in penalties.

“Employers must ensure they provide safe and healthy working conditions—at all times—and not just during or immediately following an OSHA onsite inspection,” said William Fulcher, OSHA’s area director in the Atlanta-East Office. “This is the third inspection of the HP Pelzer plant where OSHA has identified numerous hazards, many repeated, related to unsafe working conditions. Employees, whether permanent or temporary, should not have to be concerned whether they will get sick, injured or killed while providing for their families. It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure a safe and healthful workplace.”

OSHA issued 12 repeated citations to HP Pelzer for its failure to:

  • Develop, implement and utilize written procedures to prevent machinery from starting-up during maintenance or servicing
  • Conduct periodic inspections of the energy control procedures at least annually
  • Train employees performing work on hazardous energy sources
  • Protect employees from thermal skin burns due to contact with hot metallic surfaces
  • Ensure the repair or replacement of electrical equipment for safe operational condition
  • Protect workers from laceration and amputation hazards due to unguarded machine parts

The agency also cited HP Pelzer for eight serious violations for exposing workers to fall hazards, not providing electrical protective equipment and failing to train workers about electrical hazards related to their activities.

OSHA issued four serious citations to Sizemore for exposing workers to fall hazards, not providing training on hazardous energy sources, exposing employees to amputation, laceration, and electrical live parts.

HP Pelzer Automotive Systems meets the listed criteria for inclusion in OSHA’s Severe Violators Enforcement Program, which focuses on recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations. Under the program, the agency may inspect any of the employer’s facilities if it has reasonable grounds to believe there are similar violations.

Alliance Ground International Repeatedly Exposed Workers to Forklift, Electrical Hazards

For the third time in less than three years, federal workplace safety investigators have found O’Hare International Airport forklift operators employed by a major cargo-handling company exposed to struck-by and electrical hazards. The workers transport goods from international airline carriers such as Amerijet, Delta, Finnair, Transaero, and Virgin.

On September 8, 2016, OSHA cited Alliance Ground International for two willful, one repeated violation, five serious violations, and one other-than-serious violation of powered industrial vehicle and electrical safety standards. OSHA has proposed penalties of $338,881. The agency found violations of these hazards at Alliance’s Chicago facility in September of 2014 and its Schiller Park facility in December of 2013.

“Simply securing these portable fuel containers with clamps provided by the manufacture will prevent workers from being exposed to containers jarring loose, slipping or rotating and potentially striking workers who transport goods around the clock at one the nation’s busiest airports,” said Angeline Loftus, area director of OSHA’s Chicago North office in Des Plaines. “Airport terminals are inherently dangerous working environments, and Alliance Ground International needs to re-evaluate its forklift operating procedures to ensure they are protecting workers on the job.”

Acting on a complaint and as part of the agency’s Regional Emphasis Program on Powered Industrial Vehicles, a March investigation by federal inspectors also found Alliance Ground International failed to:

  • Remove damaged forklifts from service
  • Inspect forklifts on a shift-by-shift basis
  • Use manufacturer recommended parts when repairing forklifts
  • Maintain fully charged fire extinguishers
  • Inspect fire extinguishers monthly
  • Maintain electrical equipment to prevent employer exposure to open panels and exposed wiring

A-Brite Plating Fined $256,545 After Worker Suffers Third Degree Acid Burns

Just weeks after a machine operator suffered third-degree chemical burns to his left foot after falling into an acid-etching tank heated to more than 170 degrees, federal inspectors posted an imminent danger notice at A-Brite Plating when they found workers climbing atop the same acid tanks at the Cleveland auto parts plating facility.

OSHA inspectors posted the danger notice April 1, 2016, when they arrived to initiate an inspection after learning of the worker’s March 14, 2016, injury. A-Brite Plating failed to report the injury, as required.

As a result of its inspection, OSHA cited the company for one willful and eight serious safety and health violations on September 9, 2016. A-Brite faces proposed penalties of $256,545.

Investigators found the 40-year-old machine operator was clearing a jam from a conveyor arm above the tank when he fell. They found he had no protection to prevent a fall, nor adequate personal protective equipment to protect him from chemical burns. His injuries have required extensive skin grafts to his left foot.

“Allowing workers to continue climbing on top of acid tanks after knowing an employee suffered a third-degree chemical burn when he fell into a tank is unconscionable,” said Howard Eberts, area director of OSHA’s Cleveland office. “During our investigation OSHA found the company was well aware of the dangers of falling into the tank because at least seven employees had fallen while clearing machine jams in the past five years. This life-altering injury was preventable by following basic safety procedures A-Brite needs to take immediate action to protect workers in its facility by re-evaluating its safety and health programs to ensure they are providing training, procedures and protective equipment to protect workers on the job.”

OSHA’s inspection found A-Brite also failed to:

  • Develop a confined space program, despite requiring workers to climb into tanks to clean them on a routine basis
  • Implement machine safety procedures to protect workers from operating parts during service and maintenance

View the current safety and health citations.

A-Brite Plating is a division of Ontario, Canada-based Plasma Group, which employs about 3,800 workers at 20 global locations.

Chris Sawdo Construction Willfully Exposed Workers to Dangerous Falls

OSHA issued citations to Chris Sawdo Construction, LLC, of St Johns, Florida, on September 09, 2016.

OSHA conducted two separate inspections of Chris Sawdo Construction job sites at Samara Lakes in St. Augustine and the Durbin Crossing subdivision in St. Johns. Inspectors observed employees installing roofing sheathing without fall protection and initiated the inspections under the agency’s Regional Emphasis Program on Falls in Construction.

OSHA issued the company two willful, one repeated, and one serious safety violation. The willful citations are related to the employer’s failure to protect workers with a fall protection system when working from heights up to 20 feet. The repeated violation involves not properly extending a roof access ladder above the landing surface. The agency also cited Sawdo with a serious citation for failing to set-up a roof access ladder with the proper angle.

OSHA has cited the employer previously six times since 2004 for willful, repeat, and serious violations for a lack of fall protection and ladder safety.

Proposed penalties total $199,107.

“Chris Sawdo Construction continues to willfully ignore OSHA’s fall protection standards, despite an extensive OSHA history, being suspended as a subcontractor by homebuilders and being in the residential construction industry for 20 years,” said Brian Sturtecky, OSHA’s area director in Jacksonville. “The employer must take immediate action to eliminate putting workers at risk of serious injury or death.”

Cityview Construction Corp. Fined $193,053 for Multiple Safety Violations

On August 19, 2016, OSHA issued Cityview Construction Corp., of Paterson, New Jersey, one willful violation, one other-than-serious violation, and 14 serious violations.

OSHA’s inspection began on February 22, 2016, after it received a complaint alleging that workers converting a multi-story commercial building to multi-dwelling residential units did not have fall protection equipment.

Inspectors found employees on the third floor exposed to fall hazards up to approximately 10 feet to a concrete floor below, resulting in the willful citation. They also cited serious violations for allowing unguarded machinery and other electrical, fall, and scaffolding hazards. The other-than-serious citation was due to recordkeeping violations.

“Falls remain the leading cause of death for construction workers, which makes Cityview Construction’s failure to protect its employees hard to believe,” said Kris Hoffman, director at OSHA’s Parsippany Area Office. “Proper safeguards in this case are truly a matter of life and death. This employer jeopardized the safety of its workers by violating basic OSHA standards. We cannot tolerate such actions and encourage the community to contact OSHA when they believe workers are being put at risk.”

Proposed penalties total $193,053.

Amish Exteriors Ignored Essential Fall Protection Standards

A Millersburg, Ohio, roofing contractor faces $94,064 in federal penalties after investigators observed nine employees atop a single-family Strasburg home without adequate fall protection systems in place.

OSHA cited Amish Exteriors, LLC, for two willful safety violations on September 8, 2016, after an inspection on August 10, 2016, found workers installing roofing materials at heights of more than 7 feet without required fall protection.

“Falls account for nearly 40 percent of all deaths in the construction industry. These deaths are preventable when employers comply with safety standards,” said Larry Johnson, OSHA’s area director in Columbus. “There is no excuse for putting workers at risk needlessly, and we are determined to help prevent workers from suffering unnecessary injuries or worse.”

Inspectors also found Amish Exteriors failed to protect workers using air-driven nail guns from eye injury.

Federal safety and health officials are determined to reduce the numbers of preventable, fall-related deaths in the construction industry. OSHA offers a Stop Falls online resource with detailed information in English and Spanish on fall protection standards. The page provides fact sheets, posters, and videos that illustrate various fall hazards and appropriate preventive measures. OSHA standards require that an effective form of fall protection be in use when workers perform construction activities 6 feet or more above the next lower level.

The ongoing Fall Prevention Campaign was developed in partnership with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and NIOSH’s National Occupational Research Agenda program. Begun in 2012, the campaign provides employers with lifesaving information and educational materials on how to prevent falls, provide the right equipment for workers and train employees to use gear properly.

Big Pines Ziplines Fined $85,000 When Lack of Emergency Brakes Led to Serious Rider Injuries

Cal/OSHA has cited Big Pines Ziplines $85,000 for serious and willful safety violations uncovered following an unreported rider accident that resulted in a major injury. Cal/OSHA investigators found that Big Pines let riders reach speeds of up to 55 mph on lines more than a quarter-mile long that had no effective emergency braking system. Cal/OSHA also learned that Big Pines continued to operate unsafe zip lines even after the division ordered them to stop.

On August 9, 2014, a member of the public suffered a broken leg while riding one of Big Pines’ zip lines in Wrightwood. Wrightwood Canopy Tour, LLC, doing business as Big Pines Ziplines, never reported the injury to Cal/OSHA, as is required by law. Cal/OSHA learned about the injury in February of this year when contacted by an attorney for the injured rider. Also in February, a second patron riding the zip lines suffered a broken leg.

When Cal/OSHA contacted the business, the owner acknowledged the first accident and told investigators the zip lines were shut down. However, Cal/OSHA subsequently learned that the lines were in fact open to the public and operating. In March, Cal/OSHA opened an investigation and found numerous safety and regulatory violations.

“When zip line owners operate without appropriate safeguards in place, they jeopardize the health and safety of their patrons and their workers,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum. “California law is clear about the requirements for zip line safety, and shortcuts are unacceptable.”

Both Cal/OSHA and San Bernardino Superior Court ordered Big Pines to temporarily cease operations until violations could be fixed. However, Cal/OSHA learned that Big Pines was not only operating zip lines, but also put workers in danger by compelling them to test unapproved safety features on the zip lines as seen in videos taken by Big Pines.

Cal/OSHA cited Big Pines Ziplines for four safety violations. These include one willful-serious and three that were willful-regulatory in nature. The willful-serious violation was for failing to have proper emergency brakes. Proper brakes stop riders from hitting the zip line cable, swinging violently, and slamming into padding at the end of a zip line at high speeds and suffering serious injury or even death. The willful- regulatory violations were for operating without a valid permit of compliance, failing to report a serious injury, and for reopening to the public without correcting safety violations noted in an Order Prohibiting Operation.

A serious violation is cited when there is a realistic possibility that death or serious harm could result from the actual hazardous condition. A willful violation is cited when evidence shows the owner, operator or employer committed an intentional and knowing violation, or is aware that a hazardous condition exists and makes no reasonable effort to eliminate the hazard. More information about the types of citations and penalties that they carry can be found in the User’s Guide to Cal/OSHA.

Cal/OSHA posted an advisory notice in 2014 explaining the requirements for owning and operating zip lines. These include safety inspections by professional engineers and the possession of a valid permit to operate, as well as specific requirements for patron harnesses, brake systems, and the use of trees as anchor points.

Cal/OSHA’s Amusement Ride and Tramway Unit is responsible for inspecting and issuing permits to operate temporary amusement rides, inspecting and approving the operation of permanent amusement rides, inspecting and issuing permits to operate passenger tramways, and inspecting permanent and temporary amusement rides and passenger tramways after receiving notification of an injury accident.

Pennsylvania Home for Youth in Crisis Failed to Protect Workers from Assaults

In the last several months, workers at a Reading, Pennsylvania, facility for children and youth in crisis became victims in at least 10 incidents of workplace violence, federal workplace safety and health inspectors have found.

In one incident, a worker suffered serious injuries after being kicked twice in the face, head, and neck by one of the facility’s residents.

Acting on an employee’s complaint, OSHA inspected The Children’s Home of Reading on March 7, 2016.

On September 7, 2016, the agency cited the Berks County educational and housing facility with one serious citation for not providing personal protective equipment to protect employees’ arms from bites. One additional serious citation was issued under the agency’s general duty clause for workplace violence, after OSHA’s investigation determined that several employees were assaulted in at least 10 incidents since February 2016.

“Employees have the right to a safe and healthful workplace, however, there are many documented reports in the past several years of employees being exposed to workplace violence at The Children’s Home of Reading,” said Timothy Braun, acting director of OSHA’s Harrisburg Area Office. “This facility must take immediate action and institute effective protective measures to ensure that no more workers get hurt.”

Founded in 1886, The Children’s Home of Reading was assessed proposed penalties totaling $23,160.

OSHA, Permian Basin STEPS Network Renew Alliance to Support Improved Safety Culture

The department and Permian Basin STEPS are renewing their 2008 alliance to address exposure to hazardous chemicals and increase safety culture in the oil and gas industry. OSHA and the STEPS network will continue to receive safety and health guidance, access training and meet monthly to share best practices. The renewed alliance has a three-year term.

“Since 2008, the Permian Basin Service, Transmission, Exploration and Production Safety Network has been an excellent partner of the agency, communicating safety and health information to their stakeholders in the oil and gas industry and supporting OSHA’s initiatives for workplace safety,” said Diego Alvarado Jr., OSHA’s Area Director in El Paso. “By recommitting to our collaborative efforts, we strengthen our ability to promote workplace safety and health and we have the ability to reach out to individuals working in the oil and gas industry.”

Through its Alliance Program, OSHA works with businesses, trade associations, unions, consulates, professional organizations, faith and community-based organizations, and educational institutions to prevent workplace fatalities, injuries, and illnesses. For more information on OSHA partnerships and alliances, please call OSHA’s toll-free hotline 800-321-OSHA (6742) or OSHA’s El Paso Area Office at 915-534-6251 or OSHA’s Lubbock Area Office at 806-472-7681.

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