Failure of Airport Employer to Correct Safety & Health Hazards Leads to Additional OSHA Fines

July 31, 2003

A Rochester, N.Y., employer's failure to correct previously cited workplace safety and health hazards has resulted in an additional $157,500 in fines from OSHA.

"Safety and health for workers is very important and cannot be ignored," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao. "When employers agree to correct safety and health hazards, then fail to follow through on their obligation, they will face significant fines and enforcement actions."

Piedmont Hawthorne Aviation, which manages ground service and maintenance operations at Greater Rochester International Airport, was originally cited by OSHA in Sept. 2002 for 14 violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, according to Art Dube, OSHA's Buffalo area director. The company subsequently paid a fine of $66,000 and agreed to correct all cited hazards. An OSHA followup inspection begun in Jan. 2003 found that the company had failed to correct hazards in four areas.

As a result, Piedmont Hawthorne faces an additional $150,000 in fines for failing to establish a program to prevent the accidental startup of machinery during maintenance, train and certify employees in the safe operation of powered industrial trucks, provide hazard communication training to employees who work with hazardous chemicals, and require the use of eye protection by employees.

The inspection also uncovered two additional hazards, failure to develop and implement both a confined space program and a respiratory protection program, for which two serious citations were issued and fines of $7,500 proposed.

A failure to abate condition exists when the employer has not corrected a violation for which a citation has been issued and the abatement date has passed. OSHA defines a serious violation as a condition which exists where there is a substantial possibility that death or serious physical harm can result.

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 Signs Landmark Partnership Agreement with Johnson & Johnson

OSHA has signed an agreement with Johnson & Johnson to help develop and identify best practices that will reduce ergonomics injuries in the workplace. The three-year partnership will provide OSHA with first-hand knowledge of Johnson & Johnson's successful ergonomics programs.

"We know that Johnson & Johnson recognizes the seriousness of musculoskeletal disorders in their workforce," said OSHA Administrator John Henshaw at the signing ceremony, July 22. "We're delighted that they want to work with us in a cooperative manner that ultimately will benefit thousands of America's workers. We look forward to the months ahead and the results that will be achieved through our new relationship."

"Our vision is to be the world leader in health and safety by creating an injury-free workplace," said Ather Williams, Jr., Johnson & Johnson Vice President for Worldwide Safety and Industrial Hygiene. "This partnership is an important step on this journey." Joining Henshaw and Williams at the signing ceremony were Joseph Van Houten, Johnson & Johnson's Global Champion for Ergonomics and Monica V. Matlis, Worldwide Manager, Ergonomics, Johnson & Johnson.

The partnership's foundation is built upon four goals: reduce the incidence and severity of musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) at the company's operating facilities; identify and communicate an effective process to develop and implement successful ergonomics programs; identify at minimum three Johnson & Johnson ergonomics best practices and related training in the company's pharmaceutical, medical devices and consumer goods divisions; and share the company's best practices in ergonomics with other facilities throughout the company, other industries, and the public.

Under the terms of the partnership, Johnson & Johnson will develop a written process to address ergonomics hazards in the workplace, covering management commitment and employee involvement, worksite analysis, hazard prevention and control, and training. OSHA will also work with the company to develop an ergonomics protocol for assessing compliance requirements, and for communicating best practices through various compliance assistance tools, training (Education Center courses) and other outreach programs (e.g., Consultation, etc.).

Various incentives for participating worksites are on the menu including maximum allowable penalty reductions for ergonomics and other violations that are abated in a timely manner, six month deferral in programmed inspections, and ergonomics technical assistance to assist and advise on specific issues.

A partnership management team from OSHA, Johnson & Johnson's operating companies, and labor unions will oversee and coordinate the partnership. That team will develop appropriate criteria to measure the partnership's progress. Some of those measures will include the number of company sites where best practices and ergonomics processes have been implemented, the number of MSD cases involving restricted work activity and days away from work, and the identification and documentation of nine best practices and related training materials.

OSHA Aligns with American Council of Independent Laboratories

OSHA and the American Council of Independent Laboratories (ACIL) have joined forces to enhance public safety through quality testing of much of the equipment and materials workers use every day.

The Alliance will increase awareness of OSHA's Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL) program. OSHA-recognized laboratories determine if equipment and products that are specified in the agency's regulations meet consensus-based safety standards and can be used safely in the workplace.

"I'm particularly pleased that ACIL wants to work with us and promote the NRTL program," OSHA Administrator John Henshaw said. "When a testing laboratory places its nationally-registered mark on the products they test, they're certifying the product meets OSHA-endorsed standards. Together, OSHA and ACIL can communicate just how important that program is."

"The OSHA Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory program is an indispensable component in ensuring the health and safety of employees in the workplace," added Jerry Weathers, ACIL Chair. "ACIL is pleased to work with OSHA to improve understanding of this program by all sectors and enhance its effectiveness."

Through the Alliance, OSHA and ACIL will educate and train stakeholders about the NRTL program. Fundamental to that education is a review of existing OSHA training programs to determine where information on the NRTL program can be incorporated into the curriculum.

ACIL and OSHA will develop and disseminate information through various media, including their respective websites, and will participate together in forums and speak or appear at various conferences or other events to raise awareness of the program. Additionally OSHA personnel will be cross-trained with industry safety and health professionals on the NRTL program and the products and equipment required to have a mark.

ACIL represents independent, commercial scientific and engineering firms. Its members are professional services firms engaged in testing, product certification, consulting, and research and development.

The NRTL Program recognizes mainly private sector organizations that provide product safety testing and certification services to manufacturers. The testing and certification are done to U.S. consensus-based product safety test standards. The standards are not developed or issued by OSHA, but are issued by U.S. standards organizations, such as the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). The range of products covered by the program is limited to those items for which OSHA safety standards require "certification" by a NRTL. The requirements mainly affect electrical products.

NHTSA Posts Report on Initiatives Addressing Safety Belt Use

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has released the third of four reports examining high priority safety concerns - safety belt use. It joins previous reports on vehicle compatibility and rollover mitigation. 

While the reports are final, the agency is offering the public the opportunity to comment on the agency's planned activities for each of the four documents. The comments will be considered for future agency efforts.

The docket numbers for each of the respective reports are Safety Belt Use, NHTSA-2003-14620 (now available); Vehicle Compatibility, NHTSA-2003-14623 (now available); Rollover Mitigation, NHTSA-2003-14622 (now available); and Impaired Driving, NHTSA-2003-14621.

Written comments may be submitted to the Docket Management System, U.S. Department of Transportation, PL 401, 400 Seventh Street, S.W., Washington, DC 20590-0001.  Click on "Help & Information" to obtain instructions for filing comments electronically. In every case, the comments should refer to the docket numbers.

MSHA Addresses Recent Trend in Mining Fatalities

The U. S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), on July 28, 2003, declared "National Coal Mine Safety Awareness Day" to raise the awareness level among coal miners and mine operators concerning hazards and the recent trend in mining fatalities nationwide. As part of the effort, MSHA officials began blanketing the nation's coal mines to speak directly to miners and operators about ways to create a more safe work environment.

"On the first-ever National Coal Mine Safety Awareness Day, we began to carry the important message of enhanced miner safety directly to working miners across the nation," said Dave D. Lauriski, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "The past two years have been the safest in history in terms of mining fatalities however the trend of recent fatalities in coal mining are of great concern to us. Our goal is to send every miner home safe and healthy after each shift."

In a recent 24-day period, seven coal miners were killed in accidents, bringing the total number of fatalities nationwide this year in coal mining to 21 as of July 25, compared with 16 at the same time last year. Four of those seven fatalities occurred in Kentucky. Also of concern to agency officials is the fact that three of the fatalities involved supervisors and three others involved employees doing maintenance work.

MSHA has dispatched over 600 enforcement personnel to the more than 1,500 active coal mines in the nation over the next two weeks to speak directly with miners, mine operators and contractors urging them to use safe work procedures and focus on potential hazards. Agency officials will tailor safety information based on the nature of work and conditions at each mining site.

In addition to the coal mine sweep, top MSHA officials will conduct a conference call with interested mine operators and other mining industry personnel concerning miner safety issues at their operations.