Draft Ergonomics Guidelines For the Poultry Processing Industry Now Available for Comment

June 05, 2003

OSHA is inviting comment on the third set of industry-specific ergonomics guidelines -- Guidelines for Poultry Processing. The announcement of their availability appeared in the June 4, 2003 Federal Register. 

"These draft guidelines are similar to OSHA's 1990 Ergonomic Program Management Guidelines for Meatpacking Plants," said John L. Henshaw, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health. "Many of our stakeholders told us that the meatpacking guidelines have been successfully implemented in many poultry processing facilities. We expect that these new guidelines, developed specifically for the poultry processing industry, will bring even more useful and practical information to employers in the industry, and enable them to more efficiently address the specific factors that increase the risk of injury in their facilities."

The draft guidelines consist of an introduction and two main sections. The introduction provides an overview of injuries related to ergonomic factors in poultry processing and explains the role of ergonomics in reducing these injuries. The first section describes how to develop and implement a strategy for analyzing the workplace, implementing ergonomic solutions, training employees, addressing injury reports, and evaluating progress. The second section, the heart of the guidelines, describes examples of ergonomics solutions that may be used in the poultry processing industry, including recommendations on workstation design, tools, manual materials handling, and the selection of personal protective equipment. The draft guidelines conclude with a list of references and helpful resources.

The guidelines are intended to provide practical solutions for reducing ergonomic-related injuries in the poultry processing industry. They are based on a review of existing practices and programs, as well as available scientific information, and reflect comments made by poultry processing industry stakeholders. They are advisory in nature and informational in content, and do not create any new duties. They will not be used for enforcement purposes. OSHA is also working on guidelines for the shipyard industry, and will make drafts available for comment, as well.

Interested parties must submit written comments on the draft poultry processing ergonomics guidelines to the OSHA Docket Office by August 4, 2003. After the conclusion of the comment period, there will be a stakeholder meeting in the Washington, DC metropolitan area to discuss the draft guidelines. Individuals are required to submit their intent to participate in this one-day stakeholder meeting by August 4, 2003. Location and date will be announced at a later date. 

OSHA Publishes Interim Final Rule on Whistleblower Procedures under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002

OSHA will publish in the May 28, 2003 Federal Register an interim final rule establishing procedures for the handling of whistleblower complaints under the Corporate and Criminal Fraud Accountability Act of 2002, also known as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. OSHA is seeking comments from interested members of the public.

The law was enacted July 30, 2002, to protect employees in publicly traded companies and their contractors, subcontractors, or agents from retaliation for providing information that an employee believes is a violation of a Securities and Exchange Commission rule or other federal law relating to fraud against shareholders.

The rule establishes procedures for the expeditious handling of discrimination complaints made by employees, or by persons acting on their behalf. Included in the interim rule are procedures for submitting complaints under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, investigations, and issuance of findings and preliminary orders. A major part of the rule details litigation procedures and how one can object to the findings and request a hearing. The final section of the rule discusses miscellaneous provisions including withdrawals of complaints and settlements, plus judicial review and judicial enforcement.

Persons wishing to comment on the interim final rule should submit written comments no later than July 28, 2003 to: OSHA Docket Office, Docket C-09, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, Room N-2625, 200 Constitution Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20210. 

NIOSH Pursues Hand-Vibration Studies to Understand, Address Risks

As far back as 1911, scientists associated vibration from hand-held tools with the risk of pain, numbing, and blanching of the fingers, known as vibration white finger. Although limited progress has been made in reducing this risk over the years, many key aspects of the problem still are not well understood, hampering further efforts to identify worker populations at risk, and to design effective control measures.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is pursuing studies to help fill those critical gaps and point to ways for effectively reducing risks of hand-vibration disorders for employees who use jackhammers, chipping hammers, power drills, and other vibrating tools. Individually, the studies focus on particularly complex, challenging areas where new data will further advance the understanding and prevention of job-related hand-vibration disorders. Collectively, the studies constitute a balanced, interlocking program of strategic research.

The studies will give scientists better insight into the factors that link occupational exposures to vibration with given physiological outcomes: How is the energy from a vibrating handle transmitted into the hand and arm? What effects result? By combining this better understanding of physiological health effects with epidemiological data showing trends in the occurrence of cases, scientists will have greater ability to predict types of occupations, work activities, and work settings that may pose the greatest risk of hand-arm vibration disorders. Current projects at NIOSH include these:

  • Using advanced microscope technologies to determine if adverse effects from vibrating tools can be predicted from physical changes in the capillaries at the base of the fingernail cuticle, too small to see with the naked eye.
  • Developing a computer model of stress and strain on the fingertips from vibrating tool handles, as measured by the degree to which the soft tissues of the fingertips are compressed or displaced by the vibrating handle, as another potential way to flag early warning of adverse effects.
  • Assessing infrared thermal imaging of the hands as a potential method for identifying the presence and severity of hand-arm vibration syndrome, based on previous research showing that the temperature of the fingertips – after exposure to cold – returns to normal more slowly in a person with hand-arm vibration syndrome than in a person without that condition.
  • Designing a test method for simultaneously measuring the impact of a chipping hammer bit and the degree of vibration from the handle; the method would give scientists a way to determine if control measures effectively minimize vibration without diminishing the chipping hammer's performance.
  • Investigating the effectiveness of anti-vibration gloves through tests using an instrumented vibrating handle that simulates specific tools and vibration characteristics.

NFPA 1, Uniform Fire CodeÖ, and NFPA 1403, Live Fire Evolutions, Added to NFPA's Free Online Access Collection

NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) has added two consensus documents to its growing list of codes, standards and reference materials posted as a public service on NFPA's Web site.The new code is now available online in a read-only version, allowing users to review it in its entirety, at their leisure. NFPA 1, Uniform Fire Code prescribes minimum requirements to achieve safety from fire and explosion in any occupancy. 

NFPA 1403 provides internationally recognized safe practices for conducting firefighter training exercises that involve live fire in structures and in outside properties. 

"It has always been important for first responders to have the tools they need to do the job, but the job has gotten more challenging since September 11th and the resources have become scarcer," says NFPA President James M. Shannon. "It's troubling to NFPA that U.S. fire departments lack the training, personnel and equipment necessary to properly do their jobs. We're working with federal officials to turn that around. Meanwhile, offering on-demand access to key consensus codes and standards and other NFPA information is one way that we can help fire departments bridge their resource gaps."

 All NFPA codes, standards and recommended practices can also be purchased online in electronic or print format.

Accident, Safety, and Health Violations Bring OSHA Citations, $130,000 Penalty to NJ Company

Atlantic States Cast Iron Pipe Company, a subsidiary of McWane Industries, is being cited by OSHA for safety and health violations, including lockout/tagout procedures that ensure machines are not turned on by mistake. The Phillipsburg, N.J., company faces proposed penalties of $130,000 for a Dec. 7, 2002, accident in which an employee suffered an amputation of three fingers while helping another worker clean a cement mixer.

OSHA issued six repeat violations with a proposed penalty of $117,500, three serious violations with a penalty of $12,500, and three other-than serious violation that carry no penalty.

According to Robert Kulick, area director of the Avenel OSHA office, leading up to the Dec. 7, 2002, incident, the company did not conduct a periodic review of lockout/tagout procedures or verify that the procedures were being followed. Other repeat violations include uncovered floor holes, standards surrounding the safe operation of forklift trucks, and lack of training for employees exposed to silica and formaldehyde.

The serious safety violations address the company's failure to provide locks or other hardware to isolate energy sources, protect employees from welding rays, and splice flexible cords properly. The serious health violations were issued for lack of sanitary washing facility and hand towels, failure to provide and maintain required personal protective equipment, and wet floors that expose employees to slipping hazards.

Serious citations are defined as those where there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result and the employer or should have known of the hazard. Repeat citations are issued when the company has been cited previously for a substantially similar hazard.

OSHA said Atlantic States indicated a desire to improve the safety and health conditions of its facility and the agency hopes that progress will be made.

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

OSHA Proposes Revised Respiratory Protection Standards

OSHA published two proposed rules in the Friday, June 6, 2003 Federal Register to enhance worker protections from respiratory hazards on the job. OSHA is seeking comments until Sept. 4, 2003, on its proposals to amend the Respiratory Protection Standard to include a new fit testing procedure and incorporate new Assigned Protection Factors (APFs) for respiratory protection programs, that are expected to prevent approximately 4,000 injuries and illnesses and prevent about 900 deaths annually from cancer and other chronic diseases.

"It's critical that workers and employers select respirators that will protect users against over-exposures and adverse health effects," said OSHA Administrator John Henshaw. "These proposed additions will assist employers and employees in fit testing respirators and properly selecting respirators based on the conditions in their workplaces."

In a notice of proposed rulemaking OSHA proposes amending the existing Respiratory Protection Standard to incorporate Assigned Protection Factors (APFs) as part of a complete respiratory protection program to assist workers and employers in the proper selection of respirators. APFs are numbers that reflect the workplace level of respiratory protection that respirators are expected to provide to employees. The proposal contains OSHA's preliminary decisions on an APF Table, definitions for APFs and Maximum Use Concentrations, and amendments to replace the existing APF requirements in OSHA's substance-specific standards.

OSHA also is seeking comment on its proposal to approve a new testing protocol for its Respiratory Protection Standard. The proposed protocol is referred to as controlled negative pressure (CNP), which requires three different test exercises followed by two redonnings of the respirator. OSHA's current CNP protocol specifies eight test exercises, including one redonning of the respirator.

Three copies of written comments and attachments must be submitted to the OSHA Docket Office, Docket H-049C (APF) or H-049D (CNP), Room N-2625, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Ave., Washington, DC, 20210. Further information on submitting comments can be obtained by calling the Docket Office at (202) 693-2350.

OSHA plans to hold an informal public hearing on the APF proposal in Washington, DC in late summer or early fall of 2003. Interested parties who intend to present testimony at the hearing must notify OSHA of their intention to do so no later than Sept. 4. The meeting location and date will be announced following the comment period.