July 19, 2002

Work-related deaths in Alaska declined by 49 percent overall from 1990 to 1999, with particular improvements reported in commercial fishing and helicopter logging, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a new report.

Collaborative efforts by industry, labor, government and safety professionals were instrumental in achieving this progress, said CDC officials.

However, further progress remains to be made, the report adds. For example, Alaska's collaborative partnerships need to be continued and broadened to reduce fatal injuries in commercial aviation, and to lower the number and rates of non-fatal injuries in construction and commercial fishing.

"Two steps were key for reducing work-related fatalities in Alaska in the 1990s," said Kathleen M Rest, Ph.D., M.P.A, Acting Director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the division of CDC responsible for the study, "First, we worked closely with our partners to design and implement new monitoring systems to see where occupational injuries and fatalities were occurring, and why they were occurring. Then, also in close collaboration, we developed and used practical measures to reduce those risks. This teamwork was essential for achieving the results noted in the new report."

The new report, "Surveillance and Prevention of Occupational Injuries in Alaska: A Decade of Progress, 1990-1999," includes these highlights:

  • Overall, the number of work-related deaths in Alaska declined from 82 deaths in 1990 to 42 fatalities in 1999.

  • Deaths in commercial fishing declined by 67 percent, from 34 on average for 1990-92, to 11 on average for 1997-99. This decline was due in part to the introduction of new safety rules under the Commercial Fishing Industry Vessel Safety Act, and to efforts by industry, labor and government to promote safe working practices under those rules. In large part, this success reflects a decline in fatalities from drowning and hypothermia associated with vessels capsizing. More remains to be done to prevent vessels from sinking and capsizing, and also to prevent non-fatal injuries that are more likely to involve slips, falls and injuries involving equipment on board the vessel.

  • Fatalities from helicopter crashes in logging declined from a total of nine deaths during1992-93 to one death during 1994-99. The report attributes the decline to interagency collaborative efforts that led to improvements in regulatory oversight, safety workshops for the industry, and development and dissemination of safety recommendations.

  • Occupational deaths from work-related airplane crashes showed a decline from 22 deaths on average for 1990-92, to 13 deaths on average for 1997-99. However, aviation remains the leading cause of death for Alaskan workers, and is now a major area of concentration for NIOSH and its partners.


For failing to protect employees from fall hazards on scaffolds, OSHA has cited Limon Masonry Inc., in Pharr, Texas, with eight alleged safety violations and penalties totaling $50,500.

Six alleged serious and two alleged repeat safety violations were found during an OSHA inspection that began Jan. 30. Limon Masonry Inc., a masonry contractor, employs about 12 workers.

The alleged serious violations include failing to protect employees on scaffolds from overhead hazards; failing to protect employees in hoisting areas from fall hazards; failing to guard against open floor holes and protruding steel and failing to provide respirators to control harmful dust from concrete saws.

The company was also cited with alleged repeat violations for failing to protect employees on scaffolds from fall hazards and failing to train employees who work on scaffolds from potential hazards.

A repeat violation is one in which the employer has been cited during the past three years for substantial similar infractions of the law.

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


Failure to protect contract workers from exposure to high concentrations of hydrogen sulfide gas at a Pennington, Ala., paper mill has resulted in citations being issued to the Fort James Operating Company, Inc., by OSHA. Proposed penalties total $91,000.

On Jan. 16, contract employees were replacing a pipe rack in the chemical wash area of the plant. As they worked, sulfuric acid and wastewater, released simultaneously into the sewer system, combined to form high levels of hydrogen sulfide gas which escaped through a manhole cover, killing two workers and injuring eight others.

The company received a willful citation with a proposed penalty of $70,000 for failing to protect workers by installing engineering devices to control the addition of chemicals into the sewer system and to prevent accidental releases.

OSHA also issued three serious citations with proposed penalties totaling $21,000 for failing to: tell contractors and their employees of the potential for hazardous chemicals in the area; provide chemical detection monitors; and install an alarm system to alert employees of a hazardous gas release.

OSHA issues a willful citation when the alleged violation is committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations.

The agency defines a serious violation as one in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result and that the employer knew or should have know of the hazards. The Fort James facility and parent company, Georgia-Pacific, facilities have been cited by OSHA in the past.

The company has 15 working days to contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.


OSHA announced its first step in updating its construction safety standards for cranes and derricks through the Negotiated Rulemaking Process.

"Changes in technology and work processes over the past 30 years call for new, revised crane and derrick safety requirements," said John Henshaw, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health.

OSHA expects that a range of issues will be considered, including work zone control, crane operations near power lines, qualifications of individuals who operate, maintain, repair and assemble cranes and derricks, and requirements for fail-safe operation, warnings and other safety-related devices and technologies.

With the publication of its intent to enter into negotiated rulemaking in the July16, 2002 Federal Register, OSHA outlined the basic procedures involved in forming a negotiated rulemaking advisory committee to develop a draft proposed rule, identified the stakeholders who may be affected, solicited nominations for committee members and asked for public comments regarding any aspect of the negotiated rulemaking process. Comments will be accepted for 60 days following the Federal Register notice.

The existing rule (29 CFR 1926.550) dates back to 1971, and was based in part on industry consensus standards from 1967 to 1969.


OSHA announced a new National Emphasis Program (NEP) to focus outreach efforts and inspections on specific hazards in nursing and personal care facilities with high injury and illness rates.

"Nursing and personal care facilities are a growing industry where hazards are known and effective controls are available," said OSHA Administrator John Henshaw. "The industry also ranks among the highest in terms of injuries and illnesses, with rates about 2 1/2 times that of all other general industries. By focusing on specific hazards associated with nursing and personal care facilities, we can help bring those rates down."

The program will focus outreach efforts and inspections primarily on hazards most prevalent in the facilities, including:

  • Ergonomics primarily related to resident handling;
  • Exposure to blood and other potentially infectious materials;
  • Exposure to tuberculosis; and
  • Slips, trips, and falls.

Resident handling, and slips, trips and falls account for the majority of injuries suffered by nursing home workers.

The National Emphasis Program will focus OSHA's resources on those nursing and personal care facilities that have 14 or more injuries or illnesses resulting in lost work days or restricted activity for every 100 full-time workers. OSHA is planning to inspect approximately 1,000 of these facilities under the new NEP. Last February, OSHA notified approximately 13,000 employers -- including 2,500 nursing and personal care facilities -- that their injury and illness rates were higher than average and suggested sources of help to lower them. OSHA will also address workplace violence in this industry through training and outreach.

Nearly 200 OSHA and Department of Labor staff, as well as others, received intensive training in nursing home hazards and issues prior to the announcement of the new NEP.

The nursing home industry is one of the industries earmarked for emphasis in OSHA's strategic plan. OSHA first implemented a seven-state initiative in 1996 to address injury and illness concerns in nursing homes and personal care facilities. That initiative was absorbed into the agency's site-specific targeting inspection program until this year.

About 9,000 of the approximate 33,000 nursing homes in the United States were asked to report their 2000 injury and illness data to OSHA last year.