Amputation of Worker's Arm by Unguarded Conveyor Leads to $49,000 OSHA Fine

June 12, 2003
The amputation of a worker's arm at a Milan, N.H. lumber mill could have been prevented if the material handling conveyor he was operating had been properly guarded, according to OSHA.

Paul Vallee Lumber Co., Inc. faces a $49,000 fine for an alleged willful violation of the Occupational Safety and Health Act following an OSHA inspection prompted by the April 7 accident. The inspection found that the employee's arm was severed when his shirt became caught between the unguarded drive chain and sprocket wheels of the operating conveyor and he was pulled into the machinery.

"The purpose of machine guarding is to prevent any part of an employee's body from coming in contact with moving machinery," said David May, OSHA's New Hampshire area director. "This case is a stark example of what can happen when this basic safeguard is ignored."

May explained that the amount of the fine reflects the citation's classification as willful, the most severe category of OSHA citation.

"Management knew of the hazard posed by this unguarded machinery, yet did nothing to correct it until after the accident," said May, who noted that OSHA had cited the company in June and October of last year for unguarded chains and sprockets on other machinery.

The company 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, or to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

OSHA Cites Lumber Company for Machine Guarding Hazards that Contributed to Worker Fatality

OSHA has cited Pate Lumber Company, Inc., of Carrollton, Ala., and proposed $43,400 in penalties for failing to protect workers from "caught and crush" hazards at the company's saw mill. A Pate employee died at the facility on Feb. 7, after feed rollers at a conveyor caught his clothing and pulled him into a tree bark removal machine.

The agency issued 15 serious citations, which included charges of: failure to guard saw blades, rotary knives, belts, pulleys, chains, sprockets and points where raw material enters a machine; failure to use lockout-tagout procedures that would have rendered the machinery inoperative; and failure to label control switches.

The company was also cited for exposing workers to falls and electrical hazards, two other leading causes of worker death and injury.

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

OSHA Proposes $198,450 Penalty For Confined Spaces Violations

A North Little Rock company's alleged failure to train employees and test and ventilate the air in a confined workspace have resulted in proposed penalties of $198,450 from the Little Rock area office of OSHA.

OSHA began its investigation of Bruce Oakley Inc. on Dec. 16, 2002, in response to a referral by the Arkansas Department of Labor. The company, which employs about 120 workers at its marine cargo handling facility in North Little Rock, was cited for three alleged willful, 15 serious and two other-than-serious violations.

"Although no one was injured at this worksite, many fatalities have occurred when untrained workers have entered confined spaces with unsafe atmospheric conditions," said Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao. "OSHA standards are clear. Workers must test the air to ensure it is safe before each and every time they enter a confined space."

The three alleged willful violations were for failing to test the atmosphere within a silo, bin, or tank prior to entry and properly train employees prior to their entry into a silo, bin or tank; failing to ensure that confined spaces were tested for oxygen content prior to entry and that employees were properly trained prior to entry in those spaces. A willful violation is defined as an intentional disregard of or plain indifference to the OSHA law and regulation requirements.

Some of the 15 alleged serious violations were for failing to ensure employees entering bins, silos or tanks were provided with and used body harnesses with lifelines; safety devices on industrial trucks were operative; moving winch parts were adequately guarded, appropriate stop controls were provided on winches; guardrails were provided for floor or wall openings; power supply to machines was locked and/or tagged out prior to servicing the machines and employees were provided and used appropriate eye protection and person flotation devices. A serious violation is one in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result.

The two other-than-serious violations were for failing to maintain a record of monthly inspections of cranes and failing to guard conveyors against adjacent danger zones. An other-than-serious violation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm.

Bruce Oakley Inc. has 15 working days from receipt of the citations to comply, 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.

OSHA Establishes Crane and Derrick Negotiated Rulemaking Committee

OSHA announced it is establishing a Crane and Derrick Negotiated Rulemaking Committee to develop a new, proposed construction safety standard for cranes and derricks.

The committee will function as a part of OSHA's rulemaking process to revise the existing standards for cranes and derricks in construction. Members of the committee will identify key issues, evaluate their importance, analyze the information necessary to resolve the issues, and work to reach a consensus on the coverage and the substance of a proposed rule. If the committee reaches a consensus on a proposed rule, the proposed regulatory text will be submitted to the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health and then be published for public comment.

The advisory committee may consist of up to 25 members and a facilitator who will chair the meetings in an impartial manner and assist the committee members in conducting discussions and negotiations. OSHA will be a member of the committee.

OSHA published a Federal Register notice in July 2002 requesting comments on establishing a cranes and derricks negotiated rulemaking committee. There was broad support for using negotiated rulemaking to update the standard and nearly all commenters supported the establishment of the negotiated rulemaking advisory committee.

Notice of the establishment of the Crane and Derrick Negotiated Rulemaking Advisory Committee appeared in the June 12, 2003 Federal Register.

USDOT Denies Proposed Pilot Program To Allow Younger Drivers in Trucks

The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) denied a petition of the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) that proposed a pilot program to allow drivers 18 to 20 years of age to drive trucks in interstate commerce under certain conditions. Under current federal regulations, such drivers must be at least 21 years of age.

FMCSA is denying the petition because it does not have sufficient information at this time to make a determination that the safety measures in the pilot program would achieve a level of safety at least equal to that provided by complying with the minimum 21-year age requirement operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV).

The pilot program proposed by TCA on Oct. 2, 2000, would screen candidate drivers, train them at approved truck-driving schools, and provide an apprenticeship with an approved motor carrier until age 21.

FMCSA said that denial of the TCA petition should not be construed as a rejection of the argument that screening, training, and mentoring could improve the safety performance of younger CMV drivers.

The agency received 1,634 comments in response to the proposal. More than 90 percent of the comments were opposed to the pilot program. The most common reason given by those opposed to the younger commercial driver pilot training program was that younger drivers do not have the level of maturity or the driving experience necessary to operate a CMV in interstate commerce.

Pilot programs are authorized under the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21). The Act provides the U.S. Secretary of Transportation authority to grant exemptions from the Federal Motor Carrier Regulations (FMCSRs) so that alternatives to regulations can be evaluated.

The TCA represents truckload carriers operating within North America that employ both company drivers and owner operators.

Labor Department Launches Hispanic Worker Protection Program

The U.S. Department of Labor in conjunction with the Mexican and Salvadorian Consulates in Dallas and other community, faith-based and governmental organizations has launched the Justice and Equality in the Workplace Program of Dallas. The program seeks to educate workers on their rights and responsibilities as well as provide an avenue for non-English speakers to report violations of laws enforced by OSHA, the Wage and Hour Division, and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance.

The partnership seeks to educate Hispanics and recent immigrant workers on their rights and responsibilities as well as encourage them to report violations of laws enforced by the Department of Labor and other federal agencies. The partnership also formalizes a shared commitment by the Labor Department and Consulates of Mexico and El Salvador to work together through information sharing and mutual support to promote justice, safety, and equality in the workplace.

A telephone line will be dedicated to receive inquiries from the public and channel those calls to the appropriate federal or state agency. OSHA, Wage and Hour Division, and OFCCP will conduct training sessions and provide assistance to the Mexican Consulate in Dallas with the tools necessary to refer complaints to appropriate DOL agencies.

The Houston Justice and Equality in the Workplace Program, which was created in July 2001, has already aided the Wage and Hour Division to recover over $1.3 million in back wages for 1,900 workers as the result of investigations initiated by referrals from the partnership. OSHA, with the help of the Justice and Equality in the Workplace Program, will disseminate health and safety information, compliance assistance information and enforcement of health and safety laws. Nearly 70% of all calls at the Houston program were referred to the Department of Labor.

Program participants include the U.S. Department of Labor, the EEOC, and the U. S. Department of Justice Community Relations Service, in collaboration with the Mexican Consulate of Dallas, the Consulate General of El Salvador in Dallas, the Catholic Charities of Dallas, Inc., The Dallas Concilio, the Hispanic Broadcasting Corporation, the Texas Workers' Compensation Commission, the Dallas Police Department Office of Community Affairs, Casa del Immigrant, and the League of United Latin American Citizens.

For more information call toll free 1-866-4-USA-DOL.

OSHA Announces Inspection Plan for 2003

OSHA announced this week the new site-specific targeting (SST) plan that will target approximately 3,200 high-hazard worksites for unannounced comprehensive safety and health inspections over the coming year.

"The purpose of our targeted inspection program is to more effectively allocate our inspection resources to those workplaces of highest safety and health risk," said OSHA Administrator John Henshaw. "This program gives us the opportunity to focus our enforcement where it will have the most benefit to workers and employers."

For five successive years, OSHA has used a site-specific targeting inspection program based on injury and illness data. This year's program stems from OSHA's Data Initiative for 2002, which surveyed approximately 95,000 employers to attain their injury and illness data for 2001. (The construction industry was included in the survey for the first time; however, it is not included in the SST.)

This year's program is effective June 16 and will initially cover about 3,200 individual worksites on the primary list that reported 14.0 or more injuries or illnesses resulting in lost work days or restricted activity for every 100 full-time workers (known as the LWDII rate). For the first time, sites will also be targeted based on a "Days Away from Work Injury and Illness" (DAFWII) rate of nine or higher (nine or more cases that involve days away from work per 100 full-time employees). Employers who reported LWDII rates of between 8.0 and 14.0, or DAFWII rates of between 4.0 and 9.0, will be placed on a secondary list for possible inspection. The average LWDII rate in 2001 for private industry in the nation was 2.8; the average DAFWII rate was 1.7.

Like last year, OSHA will not inspect nursing homes or personal care facilities under this program. Those inspections will continue to be covered under a separate National Emphasis Program that addresses specific hazards for the industry, including ergonomics (primarily back injuries from resident handling), bloodborne pathogens/tuberculosis, and slips, trips and falls.

Finally, the agency will again randomly select and inspect about 200 workplaces across the nation that reported low injury and illness rates for the purpose of reviewing the actual degree of compliance with OSHA requirements. These establishments are selected from those industries with above average LWDII and DAFWII rates.