2009 Budget Request for OSHA Increases Federal Enforcement and Compliance Assistance Efforts

February 11, 2008

Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Edwin G. Foulke Jr. announced that President Bush has requested $501.7 million for OSHA in fiscal year (FY) 2009. The request represents a boost of nearly $15.7 million over FY 2008.

Foulke states that the increase will support agency efforts to improve workplace safety and health through compliance assistance and enforcement of occupational safety and health regulations and standards. “We are proposing to increase resources by more than $11.3 million to support enforcement programs, and $5.2 million to provide compliance assistance to employers and employees, especially small businesses,” said Foulke. “The president’s proposed budget provides us the resources we need to continue making a positive impact on workplace safety and health. This budget reinforces our balanced approach to employee safety and health—an approach that works.”

Since 2001, OSHA has implemented a balanced approach consisting of aggressive enforcement, cooperative programs, outreach, education, and compliance assistance, which has yielded the lowest workplace fatality and injury and illness rates on record. During this same period, the overall fatality rate has dropped by 9%, and it has fallen by 22% among Hispanic employees.

OSHA has plans to conduct 37,700 workplace inspections throughout FY 2009 and will continue to focus its resources on the most serious hazards and dangerous workplaces, and on industries with high rates of injuries and illnesses. OSHA’s Enhanced Enforcement Program focuses on employers who ignore their safety and health obligations, while the agency’s Local and National Emphasis Programs focus on specific industries or safety and health issues.

The president’s FY 2009 proposed budget will enable OSHA to continue making progress in its efforts to keep driving workplace injuries, illnesses, and loss of life toward zero. Results indicate that OSHA’s strategies are working. Fatality and injury-and-illness rates have continued to decline to record lows. The injury and illness incidence rate of 4.4 per 100 employees for calendar year (CY) 2006 was the lowest ever recorded. Workplace fatality rates hit an all-time low in CY 2006 with 3.9 fatalities per 100,000 employees.

During FY 2009, OSHA will continue its focus on workplace safety and health through an overall balanced approach that includes:

  • Strong, fair, and effective enforcement
  • Outreach, education, and compliance assistance
  • Cooperative and voluntary programs

Highlights of OSHA’s proposed FY 2009 budget are listed below.

Proposed FY 2009 Budget (Dollars in Millions)


FY 2008

FY 2009


Safety and Health Standards




Federal Enforcement




State Programs




Technical Support




Federal Compliance Assistance




State Consultation Grants




Training Grants




Safety and Health Statistics




Executive Direction and Administration




Total, OSHA Budget Authority




Full-Time Equivalents




Six Die in Sugar Refinery Explosion Near Savannah, Ga.

Six bodies have been found in the rubble of a sugar refinery that exploded and burned during the night of February 7. A spokesperson for Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah said 33 injured people were brought there from the plant explosion Thursday night. Of those, 7 were treated and released and 19 were flown to a burn center in Augusta, Ga.  Two workers remain missing, as of today.

Savannah-Chatham Police Chief Michael Berkow said rescue efforts had shifted from a rescue to a recovery operation because the building was too unstable for firefighters to enter. Officials had not determined what caused the explosion Thursday night but said they suspect sugar dust, which can be volatile.

The fire had been extinguished in the area where the explosion happened, but structural damage was keeping firefighters out. Ninety-five to 100 people were believed to be working in the area.

The plant is owned by Imperial Sugar and is known in Savannah as the Dixie Crystals plant. “A far as we know, it was a sugar dust explosion,” Imperial Sugar CEO John Sheptor said. Authorities have confirmed that the explosion occurred in a storage silo where refined sugar is stored until it is packaged.

Sugar dust is combustible, according to OSHA. Static electricity, sparks from metal tools, or a cigarette can ignite explosions. Sugar dust is suspected of sparking a nonfatal explosion last summer at a factory in Scottsbluff, Neb., and one that killed a worker in Omaha, Neb., in 1996.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board is sending an investigative team to the plant.

Imperial Sugar, based in Sugar Land, Texas, acquired Savannah Foods & Industries, the producer of Dixie Crystals, in 1997. The acquisition doubled the size of the company, making it the largest processor and refiner of sugar in the United States, according to the company’s website. Imperial markets some of the country’s leading consumer brands, such as Imperial, Dixie Crystals, and Holly, as well as supplying sugar and sweetener products to industrial food manufacturers.

OSHA Issues Enforcement Procedures Directive for New Hexavalent Chromium Standards

OSHA has issued a new compliance directive for occupational exposure to hexavalent chromium (Cr(VI)). The Cr(VI) standards were originally published in the Feb. 28, 2006, Federal Register.

“This new directive provides guidance for enforcement of the final rule on hexavalent chromium standards,” stated Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Edwin G. Foulke Jr. “OSHA anticipates these efforts will reduce the risks of exposure to Cr(VI), thereby improving the safety and health of employees affected by this hazard.”

The standards became effective on May 30, 2006. Employers with 20 or more employees were given six months from the effective date to comply with most of the provisions. Employers with less than 20 employees were allowed 12 months from the effective date to come into compliance with most of the provisions. All employers were given four years from the effective date to install feasible engineering controls.

The Cr(VI) standards are applicable to general industry, construction, and shipyards . Highlights of the new Cr(VI) directive include procedures for reviewing an employer’s air sampling records to determine exposure levels; guidance on how employers can implement effective engineering and work practice controls to reduce and maintain exposure below approved permissible exposure limits; requirements for employers to provide hygiene areas to minimize employees’ exposure to Cr(VI); guidelines requiring employers to maintain exposure and medical surveillance records; and a requirement that CSHOs evaluate portland cement wherever it is being used.

The standards lower the permissible exposure limit for hexavalent chromium to 5 micrograms of Cr(VI) per cubic meter of air as an eight-hour time-weighted average. Hexavalent chromium compounds are regularly used in the chemical industry in pigments, metal plating, and chemical synthesis. Significant health effects associated with exposure to Cr(VI) are lung cancer, nasal septum ulcerations and perforations, skin ulcerations, and allergic and irritant contact dermatitis.

Scaffolding Hazards at Texas Worksite Bring $210,000 in Proposed OSHA Fines

Texas-based Metroplex Masonry Inc. is facing $210,000 in proposed OSHA penalties for failure to protect employees from safety hazards.

Metroplex Masonry was cited for four serious and seven repeat safety violations following an inspection that began Aug. 8, 2007, at the company’s worksite in North Richland Hills, Texas. The company, which provides masonry services, has about 100 employees, 40 of whom were working at the site at the time of the inspection.

A serious violation exists when there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew or should have known of the hazard. A repeat violation is issued when an employer has been cited previously for the same or a substantially similar violation that has become a final order.

“The OSHA inspection revealed that the company did not take appropriate action to protect its employees from serious injury,” said Dean McDaniel, OSHA’s regional administrator in Dallas. “Employers must remain committed to keeping the workplace safe and healthful at all times.”

The serious violations included failure to provide scaffold working platforms of sufficient width, failure to remove and replace damaged scaffold components, and failure to provide fall protection at the ends of scaffold platforms. The repeat violations were for failure to provide fall protection on balconies, to fully plant scaffold working platforms, to provide safe access to scaffold platforms, and to provide adequate protection from falling objects.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director in Fort Worth, Texas, or contest the citations and penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

OSHA Proposes $117,000 in Penalties for Workplace Safety Violations Against Steris Isomedix Services

OSHA has proposed $117,000 in fines against Steris Isomedix Services Inc., a medical devices sterilization company in Waukegan, Ill., for repeat and serious violations of federal workplace safety standards.

As a result of a safety and health inspection conducted in August 2007, OSHA issued Steris Isomedix Services citations for three repeat violations, with proposed penalties of $62,500 for failing to provide adequate protection, training, monitoring, and emergency plans regarding employee exposure to ethylene oxide (EtO), a dangerous, colorless gas used in the sterilization process.

OSHA also issued the company citations for 12 serious violations, with proposed penalties of $54,500, for its failure to address hazards associated with exposures to EtO; implement engineering controls to lower employee exposure to EtO levels exceeding OSHA’s permissible exposure limits; provide baseline medical examinations for employees prior to working with EtO; and address the absence of guardrails on platforms and scaffolding.

 “This company’s continued disregard for the welfare of its employees is inexcusable,” said Diane Turek, OSHA area director in Des Plaines, Ill. “This case demonstrates the importance of following appropriate occupational safety and health standards to reduce and prevent injuries, illnesses, and fatalities in the workplace.”

Steris Isomedix Services employs 37 people in Waukegan. It is a subsidiary of Steris Corp., headquartered in Ohio, which employs 5,000 people companywide. Previously, OSHA inspected the company five times between 1999 and 2006 at various locations.

Steris Isomedix Services has 15 business days from receipt of its citations to request and participate in an informal conference with OSHA or to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Mine Safety Is Progressing With Development of Wireless Tracking Device for Miners

Two high-tech communication firms, Venture Design Services, Inc., and Helicomm, Inc., have joined forces to create a wireless tracking system for underground miners. Their product is the first of its kind to be approved by MSHA since the Sago, W.V., disaster. That 2006 event, which claimed the lives of 12 coal miners, was the impetus for the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act  and its requirements for wireless tracking systems.

Helicomm has been using CONSOL Energy’s Big Branch mine in Mingo County, W.V., to test the system. The Big Branch mine is not currently an active mine and it has been the demonstration site for the “MineTracer” system since June 2007. Helicomm’s Ken Hill says, “MSHA’s approval of MineTracer represents a quantum leap for safety systems in the coal industry. It is truly bringing 21st century technology into the mines.”

 “Since the Sago mine disaster, MSHA has received dozens of proposals from manufacturers and distributors of emergency communication and tracking systems,” said Assistant Secretary Richard Stickler. “This approved system provides a wireless means for mine operators to track miners underground both before and after an emergency event.”

The MINER Act, signed into law by President George W. Bush in June 2006, requires mine operators to have a written emergency preparedness and response plan. One component of the plan is post-accident tracking of coal miners who are underground at the time of the incident.

North Carolina Workplace Deaths Down 29% in 2007

The N.C. Department of Labor has reported that workplace fatalities in North Carolina dropped 29% in 2007, even as the size of the statewide work force continued to increase. In 2007, 46 people died from workplace accidents in the state, a four-year low during a period of economic growth in which North Carolina employers added 68,000 people to their payrolls over the previous year.

Allen McNeely, the director of the state labor department’s Occupational Safety and Health Division, attributes the decline in fatalities to state training programs. Last year, the labor department conducted four “construction blitzes” throughout the state. Inspectors made unannounced visits to construction sites to advise contractors and workers on faulty scaffolds and problems with safety harnesses and electrical cords.

Last year, labor inspectors visited 443 job sites, up from 320 sites the year before.

One of North Carolina’s outreach programs focuses on the Hispanic population, providing safety training in Spanish. On some construction sites, as many as 75% of laborers and other workers are Spanish-speaking immigrants, many of whom do not understand English instructions, rules, and signs.

Nearly half of the state’s workplace fatalities last year happened on construction sites, where 20 people lost their lives. That’s a slight decrease from 2006, when 22 employees lost their lives in construction accidents.

Manufacturing accidents claimed 12 lives last year, while 7 died in retail and wholesale trade. Transportation and forestry accidents took two lives each.

The leading cause of workplace death was getting crushed, with this type of accident claiming 18 lives in 2007. Falls had been the leading cause of workplace deaths until 2007, but, according to McNeely, the state labor department has been penalizing companies that don’t use harnesses and lanyards as required.

Study Finds That U.S. CPSC Takes Months to Notify Public of Dangerous, Defective Products

Despite a law requiring manufacturers to provide the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) with “immediate” notification of dangerous products, the agency typically waits nearly seven months after learning of dangerous, defective products before telling the public, revealed a Public Citizen study of CPSC settlements that have been published in the Federal Register.

The study, “Hazardous Waits: CPSC Lets Crucial Time Pass Before Warning Public About Dangerous Products,” covers 46 cases since 2002 in which the CPSC fined manufacturers for failing to adhere to the law requiring prompt reporting. In addition, companies fined for tardy reporting took an average of 993 days—2.7 years—between learning of a safety defect in their products and notifying the CPSC. Because the agency publishes information about only those settlement agreements in which penalties are imposed, details about other delays and recalls are not publicly available.

The Public Citizen study also revealed that the CPSC then took an average of 209 additional days before disclosing the information to the public—even though each case concerned a product defect so dangerous that the item was recalled. Under current law, the CPSC cannot disclose information about dangerous products without court approval or manufacturer agreement.

The products included coffee makers and vacuum cleaners prone to catching fire, treadmills that spontaneously accelerated to an Olympic miler’s pace, all-terrain vehicles with throttles that became stuck in the “go” position, bicycles with forks that could break under normal use, and infant swings that could cause strangulation and were implicated in the deaths of six infants.


OSHA Recognizes USPS in Nebraska for Safety and Health Excellence

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) post office in Hastings, Neb., has earned membership in OSHA’s prestigious Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) at the “star,” or highest, level.

A recognition ceremony was held on February 8 at the Hastings facility. USPS Hastings employs 45 mail processors, dock employees, mail carriers, customer service representatives, and maintenance staff.

“USPS Hastings has exhibited excellence in safety and health management,” said Charles E. Adkins, OSHA’s regional administrator in Kansas City, Mo. “The facility’s outstanding efforts have included management commitment to safety and health, and employee involvement in safety and health programs.”

More than 1,900 worksites nationwide have earned entry into OSHA’s VPP. Requirements include a high degree of management support and employee involvement; a high-quality worksite hazard analysis; prevention and control programs; and comprehensive safety and health training for all employees. Each of these elements must be effective, in place, and in operation for at least one year before a company can apply to join the VPP.

OSHA Renews Its Alliance With the Washington Division of URS Corporation

OSHA and the Washington Division of URS Corporation recently renewed their alliance to encourage accident prevention, particularly in the areas of cranes and rigging, hearing protection, and ergonomics within the engineering and construction industries.

“Our alliance has accomplished great things in the past six years to educate employers and employees about hazard prevention in construction and engineering,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Edwin G. Foulke Jr. “With our combined expertise, we will continue developing guidance products and resources to improve the safety and health of the working men and women in these industries.”

Alliance representatives participated in several events including the American Society of Safety Engineers’ Professional Development Conference, SAFETY 2006; the Washington Group International Safety Workshop; and the 2006 Intermountain Northwest Safety Conference. Utilizing expertise from the Washington Group International, acquired by URS Corp. in November 2007, OSHA continues to update its Safety and Health Topics pages on Trenching and Excavation, Workplace Violence, and Safety and Health Programs. In addition, through the alliance, OSHA developed a case study describing how Washington Group International incorporated its design for safety processes into the construction of the Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Facility in eastern Idaho.

“We are very happy to renew our alliance agreement with OSHA,” stated Bradley D. Giles, the Washington Division’s corporate vice president for environmental safety and health. “Our company believes our organizations’ cooperative efforts help to improve safety for the construction industry workforce and further protects our employees and partners. Our association with OSHA over the last six years has been extremely productive in the health and safety arena.”

OSHA Forms Partnership to Protect Illinois Construction Employees

OSHA has joined R.C. Wegman Construction Co. and Leopardo Construction as partners in safely constructing a new police station and branch court facility in Aurora, Ill.

The partnership, also joined by a section of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, is an effort to protect the employees of all project participants and subcontractors during the two-year, $100-million construction project.

The goals of the partnership are to eliminate worksite hazards and achieve a high level of employee safety and health at the site. Participants will develop a contractor/government relationship that encourages contractors to improve their safety and health performance, pressing for the elimination of accidents, and recognizing contractors with exemplary programs.

“This agreement provides the tools to ensure that employers and employees commit to safe and healthful work practices,” said Kathy O’Connell, OSHA’s area director in Aurora. “Cooperation among labor, management, and OSHA is vital to ensure the safety and health of employees.”

OSHA’s Strategic Partnership Program is part of U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao’s ongoing efforts to improve the health and safety of employees through cooperative relationships with trade associations, labor organizations, employers, and employees. Since the program began in 1998, more than 1.2 million employees and more than 21,000 employers across the United States have participated with OSHA in 484 strategic partnerships.

OSHA Forms Alliance With Long Island College Hospital and SEIU Local 1199 to Enhance Safeguards for First Receivers

OSHA has formed an alliance with Long Island College Hospital (LICH) in Brooklyn, N.Y., and the Service Employees International Union Local 1199 to better protect LICH staff that work as first receivers of victims from mass casualty incidents involving hazardous substances or weapons of mass destruction.

“This important alliance will combine the benefits and insights of the hospital’s emergency preparedness and medical skills with OSHA’s safety and health expertise and the training and support offered by Local 1199,” said Louis Ricca Jr., OSHA’s acting regional administrator in New York.

The alliance will include safety and health training and education programs focusing on the use of personal protective equipment, respiratory protection, and patient decontamination. The training process will encompass drills, exercises, workshops, and delivery of OSHA’s Disaster Site Worker Course or similar material for first receivers.

Training methods will include the small group activity method and the peer educator model of employee training, as these can help promote teamwork and encourage effective discussion and improvement of workplace safeguards. The alliance also will seek to develop a pilot OSHA 10-hour training program targeted to the health care industry.

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