September 27, 2002

Failing to keep construction equipment in proper working order, which contributed to the death of a highway construction worker, could cost two Mississippi companies nearly $55,000 in proposed penalties.

The Blain Companies, general contractor on a highway improvement project near the Bude/Meadville bypass, was fined $51,100 and subcontractor MAGCO, Inc., the deceased worker's employer, was fined $3,675.

On April 10, while engaged in widening and repaving Highway 84/98, a MAGCO employee hitched a ride on the side of a one-seat broom sweeper operated by a Blain employee. They rode eastward on a lane just cleared of asphalt while, traveling westward, a Blain employee drove a backhoe known to have defective brakes.

When the broom-sweep driver saw the on-coming backhoe he pulled onto the highway median and stopped. The backhoe operator, as he had done frequently since the defective equipment was put into service, tried to stop the equipment by putting the transmission into reverse and lowering the bucket to the ground. However, this time the machine lost power and the operator was unable to control the steering. The backhoe veered and hit the broom sweeper, causing the rider to fall off and under the backhoe.

"Company officials knew this backhoe had no braking system. They ignored their own safety procedures and OSHA regulations because they were in a hurry to make up lost time," said Clyde Payne, OSHA's Jackson area director.

The agency issued one willful citation with a proposed penalty of $49,000 to Mt. Olive-based Blain Companies, for failing to have a proper braking system on the backhoe, and three serious citations with proposed penalties of $2,100 for failing to equip the machine with a seatbelt, horn and reverse signal alarm.

Laurel-based MAGCO was cited for two serious violations with proposed penalties totaling $3,675 for permitting unauthorized employees to ride equipment and permitting employees to work in highway zones without reflective vests.

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


OSHA announced it is extending until Oct. 30, 2002, the period for public comments on its draft ergonomics guidelines for nursing homes.

OSHA is granting a 30-day extension in response to industry and labor requests for additional time to submit written comments on the agency's first set of industry-specific ergonomic guidelines -- Guidelines for Nursing Homes, that were announced on Aug. 30 in the Federal Register. The original deadline for comments was Sept. 30.

The guidelines are intended to provide practical solutions for reducing ergonomic-related injuries and illnesses in nursing homes. They will not be used for enforcement purposes. Draft guidelines are being developed for other industries and will also be available for comment.

Interested parties must submit written comments by Oct. 30. Written comments (10 pages or fewer) can be faxed to OSHA's Docket Office at (202) 693-1648 . Three copies of written comments and attachments must be submitted to the OSHA Docket Office, Docket No. GE2002-1, Room N-2625, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC, 20210. Individuals who wish to comment but who do not have Internet access can request a printed copy of the guidelines by calling OSHA toll-free at 1-800-321-OSHA.

OSHA will hold a one-day stakeholder meeting in the Washington, DC, area on Nov. 18, 2002. The meeting location will be announced following the comment period.

Further information on submitting comments can be obtained by calling the Docket Office at (202) 693-2350.

Notice of the extension appeared in the Sept. 27 issue of the Federal Register.


OSHA published a revised rule in Wednesday's Federal Register streamlining the process for state submission and federal approval of changes to state occupational safety and health plans, including legislation and standards. The revised regulation was developed through a joint federal/state plan process, which included discussions at meetings of the Occupational Safety and Health State Plan Association. OSHA published its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on November 6, 2001.

Reduced paperwork is one of the key features of this new regulation. OSHA would require states to submit written supplements only when the state change is different from the federal program. Other procedural changes include: streamlining the federal review and approval of plan supplements, and seeking public comment if a state plan change differs significantly from the comparable federal program component. Federal Register approval notices will be published only for different plan changes. The final rule revises 29 CFR Part 1953 by reorganizing the regulation to eliminate repetitive language as well as streamlining the process for changes

The regulatory change also includes an explicit statement of OSHA's longstanding statutory interpretation that states may modify their state plans by adopting and implementing new legislation, regulations, standards policies or procedures, under state law, prior to federal review and approval.

The regulation primarily affects internal OSHA operations and those of states with OSHA-approved plans. There are now twenty-six approved state plans. Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virgin Islands, Virginia, Vermont, Washington and Wyoming have plans covering private and public sector employment. Connecticut, New Jersey and New York have State plans covering only the public sector.

Notice of the revision was published in the Sept. 25, 2002 Federal Register.


The government of Nova Scotia, Canada, has developed a new website providing ergonomics information and resources to workplaces across the province. Even if you're not located in the province, you may find this information useful for addressing injuries and complaints affecting workers' muscles, tendons, joints, and other soft tissues of the body (often referred to as musculoskeletal injuries, repetitive strain injuries, or cumulative trauma).


U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao announced that OSHA has joined the Justice and Equality in the Workplace Program, designed to protect the rights and promote safety of Hispanic workers. This program based in Houston is the first of its kind.

"The Labor Department is committed to protecting the well being of the over 14.5 million Hispanic workers in our country," Chao said. "We want to help Hispanic workers climb the ladder of success and be an integral part of the American workforce."

The Justice and Equality in the Workplace Program, which was created in July 2001, has already aided the Wage and Hour administration recover over $700,000 in back wages. 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.

The Justice and Equality in the Workplace Program is a partnership program that includes the Wage and Hour Administration, the Consulates General of Mexico, Colombia, Guatemala and El Salvador, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund and the Office of the Mayor- Immigration and Refugee Affairs.