Following a review of the requirements put in place in 2016 regarding the “Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses” regulation, OSHA took direct action to correct an error that was made with regard to implementing the final rule.
OSHA determined that Section 18(c)(7) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and relevant OSHA regulations pertaining to State Plans, require all affected employers to submit injury and illness data in the Injury Tracking Application (ITA) online portal, even if the employer is covered by a State Plan that has not completed adoption of their own state rule.
OSHA immediately notified State Plans and informed them that for Calendar Year 2017 all employers covered by State Plans will be expected to comply. An employer covered by a State Plan that has not completed adoption of a state rule must provide Form 300A data for Calendar Year 2017. Employers are required to submit their data by July 1, 2018. There will be no retroactive requirement for employers covered by State Plans that have not adopted a state rule to submit data for Calendar Year 2016.
A notice has been posted on the ITA website and related OSHA webpages informing stakeholders of the corrective action.
Beryllium Standard Final Rule Revised
OSHA issued a direct final rule (DFR) clarifying aspects of the beryllium standard for general industry as it applies to processes, operations, or areas where workers may be exposed to materials containing less than 0.1% beryllium by weight.
The DFR clarifies the definitions of Beryllium Work Area, emergency, dermal contact, and beryllium contamination. It also clarifies provisions for disposal and recycling, and provisions that the Agency intends to apply only where skin can be exposed to materials containing at least 0.1% beryllium by weight.
The direct final rule will become effective on July 4, 2018, unless the Agency receives significant adverse comments by June 4, 2018.
Virtual Reality Could Help Prepare First Responders for Emergencies
Virtual reality produces entertaining video games. But it’s also a serious training and testing tool. Pilots test their skill with flight simulators, and the military can practice by playing war games, for example.
Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) now aim to make virtual reality simulations more of a reality for first responders, enabling firefighters, law enforcement officers, and others to learn and practice how to best operate and communicate in emergencies.
NIST staff are developing virtual environments featuring scenarios such as firefighting in hotels. The goal is to spur industry to come up with user interfaces—visual indicators, sounds, voice commands—that are better, cheaper, proven effective and brought to market faster than otherwise would be possible.
Such interfaces could be embedded in firefighters’ masks or smart glasses worn by emergency medical technicians, for example. A visual display might show the temperature or audio might warn that oxygen is low in a backpack tank. The idea is to present helpful data in an intuitive and nonintrusive manner.
“There is currently no method like ours to test and measure user interfaces for first responders,” NIST project leader Scott Ledgerwood said. “We want to enable development, testing and rapid prototyping of these interfaces in a safe, controlled and repeatable environment.”
“Virtual reality is still in its infancy, and while there’s been some fantastic advances in training simulation, no one that we know has really looked at it from the testing and development perspective,” Ledgerwood added. “We’re creating this test bed because we don’t believe anyone else has the focus or capabilities to test user interfaces for first responders.”
Developing any new product for first responders requires complex and resource-intensive testing. Testing interfaces in real emergencies could expose first responders to high risk. Virtual reality offers a safer venue and can help ensure that innovations have a positive impact.
The NIST project uses commercial headsets and controllers, but NIST staff develop the content. So far, the software programs feature firefighting scenarios in a hotel, a mountain home, and an office environment. Users can choose their locations within the scenario and operate a controller to simulate a fire hose.
NIST had to hire unusual expertise for this project: Jack Lewis, who recently got an academic degree in video game design and is now using his creative skills to write software programs for public service purposes.
“I thought it sounded like a cool job,” Lewis said. “Not everyone gets a chance like this to make a difference.”
NIST staff are currently showcasing the concept and basic technology at events such as the recent Consumer Electronics Show.
In the near future, NIST staff plan to develop methods and criteria for evaluating interfaces to ensure that the test bed provides valuable data to its customers. NIST staff also plan to create additional virtual scenarios for a broad range of first responders and a variety of headsets and graphic engines. The environment and scenarios may also be extended through NIST grants. Virtual reality is also a topic of some NIST prize challenges.
Soon, companies will be able to visit NIST to test their experimental interfaces or even replicate the entire test bed.
“The goal is to make this virtual environment in such a way that anyone who has access to a headset could download our scenarios and use them at their own locations,” Ledgerwood said.
OSHA Sponsors National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls
OSHA is holding its annual National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls May 7-11. The event encourages companies and workers to pause during the workday for topical discussions, safety demonstrations, and training in hazard recognition and fall prevention.
The lack of proper fall protection is the most frequently cited OSHA violation. Stand-downs provide employers and workers the opportunity to talk about hazards, protective methods, and the company’s safety policies, goals, and expectations.
To guide nationwide and international efforts, the agency’s Stand-Down webpage offers information on conducting a successful event, and educational resources in English and Spanish. Employers are encouraged to provide feedback after their events, and to obtain a personalized certificate of participation.
Organizations supporting and participating in the event include the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health; Center for Construction Research and Training; National Occupational Research Agenda; OSHA-approved State Plans; state consultation programs; American Society of Safety Engineers; National Safety Council; National Construction Safety Executives; U.S. Air Force; and the OSHA Training Institute Education Centers, among many more.
Stand Down activities include:
- Drills and practices
- Toolbox talks
- Lunchtime presentations
- Webinars and video presentations
- Equipment inspections
- Trainings and demonstrations
- 2018 posters and other resources available at OSHA’s official National Safety Stand-Down web site
- Infographics, videos and fall prevention research and resources available at NIOSH’s site
- Free 2018 hard hat stickers and other resources available at CPWR’s site
- If you are still looking for ways to participate, view CPWR’s 5-day plan here
To learn more about preventing falls in construction, click here.
OSHA Meeting on Whistleblower Issues in the Railroad and Trucking Industries June 12th
OSHA has scheduled a meeting June 12, 2018, in Washington, D.C., to solicit comments and suggestions from stakeholders in the railroad and trucking industries on whistleblower issues within the jurisdiction of the agency.
OSHA seeks input on how the Agency can better deliver whistleblower customer service, and what kind of assistance the Agency can provide to help explain the whistleblower laws it enforces. This meeting will be the first in a series of meetings requesting public input on the whistleblower program.
The meeting is open to the public, and will be held from 1:00-3:00 p.m. ET in Room N-3437 A-B, at the US Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20210. Individuals interested in participating or attending the meeting, either in-person or via telephone, must register by May 29, 2018. There is no fee to register. All materials may be submitted electronically through the Federal eRulemaking Portal using OSHA Docket No. OSHA-2018-0005.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of 22 statutes protecting employees who report violations of airline, commercial motor vehicle, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime, and securities laws.
U-Haul Facility Fined $108,095 for Exposing Employees to Asbestos and Silica
OSHA has cited U-Haul Company of New York & Vermont, doing business as U-Haul Moving & Storage at Larkin District, for exposing its employees to asbestos and silica hazards while performing renovation work at its 665 Perry St. storage facility in Buffalo. The company faces $108,095 in proposed fines.
OSHA inspectors found that the U-Haul dealer did not monitor the work area to determine if asbestos and crystalline silica were present, and failed to provide employees with respiratory protection, protective clothing, and training on asbestos and silica hazards; properly dispose of asbestos-containing materials; have a competent person oversee renovation work; and provide a decontamination room.
“Employers must monitor the work area for the presence of these highly hazardous substances, and put in place effective controls to protect employees from exposure,” said Michael Scime, OSHA Buffalo Area Office Director.
$200,000 Penalty Proposed for Fall Violations in Florida
OSHA has cited Desouza Framing, Inc., for exposing employees to dangerous falls at two northwest Florida worksites. The Jacksonville-based residential framing contractor faces proposed penalties of $199,178.
OSHA inspected a worksite in Jacksonville in October 2017 after observing the company’s employees performing roofing activities at heights up to 11 feet without fall protection. The Agency conducted a second inspection two months later at a jobsite in St. Johns where inspectors saw employees working at heights of up to 22 feet without fall protection. OSHA cited the employer for two willful citations for failing to ensure the use of fall protection. The inspections were part of the Agency’s Regional Emphasis Program for Falls in Construction.
"Employers are required to provide employees with fall protection when they work at heights of six feet or higher," said Brian Sturtecky, OSHA Jacksonville Area Office Director. "Desouza Framing Inc. is putting workers at risk of serious injury by failing to comply with the Agency’s fall protection standards."
Premier Behavioral Health Solutions Cited for Exposing Employees to Workplace Violence
OSHA has cited Premier Behavioral Health Solutions of Florida Inc. and UHS of Delaware Inc., the operators of Bradenton-based Suncoast Behavioral Health Center, for failing to protect employees from violence in the workplace. Proposed penalties total $71,137.
OSHA responded to a complaint that employees were not adequately protected from violent mental health patients. OSHA cited Premier Behavioral Health Solutions of Florida Inc. and UHS of Delaware Inc., subsidiaries of Universal Health Services Inc., for failing to institute controls to prevent patients from verbal and physical threats of assault, including punches, kicks, and bites; and from using objects as weapons. Another UHS subsidiary was cited in 2016 for a deficient workplace violence program.
“This citation reflects a failure to effectively address numerous incidents over the past two years resulting in serious injuries to employees of the facility,” said Les Grove, OSHA Tampa Area Office Director.
$221,343 in Penalties Proposed for New Jersey Roofing Company
OSHA has cited roofing contractor John Prevete Framing, LLC, for exposing employees to safety hazards while performing residential demolition work at a Passaic County, New Jersey, site. OSHA proposed $221,343 in penalties.
OSHA inspected the site on Oct. 2, 2017, based on a referral from the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development Administration. OSHA inspectors cited the Hewitt, New Jersey-based company for exposing workers to falls from using unsafe ladders; failing to provide required fall protection; exposing employees to asbestos; and failing to provide asbestos safety training. OSHA had previously cited the contractor in 2013, 2016, and 2017.
“Exposure to dangerous fall and asbestos hazards can be prevented if appropriate safety requirements are followed,” said Lisa Levy, Hasbrouck Heights OSHA Area Director. “This employer’s repeated disregard of OSHA standards continues to jeopardize the safety of workers.”
Worker Deaths in North Carolina on the Rise
As North Carolinians commemorated Workers’ Memorial Day and the tragic deaths of people on the job, new numbers on workplace fatalities and fewer safety inspectors show that working people are paying the ultimate price for lax enforcement of workplace health and safety laws.
In 2008, 161 people lost their lives on the job in North Carolina; by 2016, it was 174. Even more troubling, Tar Heel workers are dying at a greater rate than their national counterparts—in North Carolina, 3.7 workers for every 100,000 lost their lives on the job, compared to 3.6 out of 100,000 at the national level. North Carolina has the 24th highest rate of workplace fatalities in the country.
“These tragedies don’t just happen by themselves,” said Allan Freyer, Director of the NC Justice Center's Workers’ Rights Project. “They happen when we don’t enforce the law. And with 174 deaths on the job, it’s clear North Carolina can do better at enforcement. Lives depend on it.”
North Carolina’s ability to enforce health and safety protections has diminished significantly over the last decade. Occupational Safety & Health (OSH) inspectors are the front line of defense against unsafe workplaces and are essential to preventing deaths on the job. Unfortunately, North Carolina now has more workers and fewer inspectors than 10 years ago. Currently North Carolina has:
- Fewer inspectors. Over the past decade, the number of OSH inspectors has fallen from 114 in 2008 to 102.
- More workers per inspector. Each inspector is responsible for more workers than a decade ago, stretching them thinner and thinner. In 2008, there was 1 inspector for every 35,469 workers in North Carolina. Now, there is only 1 inspector for every 41,758 workers. This means fewer inspections, more unsafe workplaces, and more workplace fatalities.
- More workplaces per inspector. It’s the same story when looking at the number of inspectors available to examine workplaces. In 2008, there was 1 inspector for every 2,259 workplaces. Now there is just one inspector for every 2,636 workplaces.
- Too many businesses, not enough time. To inspect 2,636 business in the state, one employee would have to conduct seven inspections every day for 365 days a year in North Carolina. With coverage spread so thin, it’s no wonder workplace safety is slipping in our state.
“No one should ever have to choose between their safety and a paycheck. We can and we must do more to protect working people in this state,” said MaryBe MacMillan, President of the AFL-CIO of North Carolina. “Right now, it would take almost a century — 96 years — for inspectors to inspect every workplace in our state just once. The Department of Labor inspects elevators and amusement rides annually, but we can get to every worksite just once a century. That is unacceptable. We must do better.”
Alaska Regulations to Protect Public and Worker Safety Updated
The Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development has updated multiple regulations strengthening safety standards across a variety of industries. The new regulations were available for public comment before they were signed by Lieutenant Governor Byron Mallott, and they will go into effect May 9, 2018.
The department improved regulations related to the safe operation of amusement rides in Alaska. The department will issue a certificate of operation for an amusement ride once the operator has obtained an inspection showing the device is safe to open to the public. Operators will be required to inform the department where the rides will operate throughout the year. Safety standards for tramways were also updated, and regulations on reporting amusement ride and tramway accidents have been similarly improved. The regulation will also require specific information to be included in an amusement ride or tramway accident report to the department. The new regulations also:
- Update the state electrical standard to the 2017 edition of the National Electrical Code
- Update the state electrical utility standard to the 2017 edition of the National Electrical Safety Code
- Adopt a $50 fee to obtain a boiler/pressure vessel special inspector commission identification card
- Adopt a $100 fee for filing boiler tracer requests. Tracers allow the department to track alterations or welded repairs on boilers and unfired pressure vessels
- Rewrite the plumber journeyman, electrician journeyman, and power lineman journeyman certificates of fitness requirements for clarity
The department has implemented several other regulations in the past year to strengthen public and occupational safety and health. In November, several regulations went into effect:
- Federal OSHA standards were adopted for crystalline silica in general industry
- Federal OSHA standards were adopted for crystalline silica, confined space, and cranes and derricks in construction
- Electronic delivery of information is now permitted for the OSHA Review Board 2
- The state’s minimum plumbing code was updated to the 2015 Edition of the Uniform Plumbing Code
More information about the new regulations, including the filing certification, can be found on the State of Alaska online public notice system.
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