Manufacturer's Failure Correct Safety Hazards Leads to Additional $109,500 in OSHA Fines

August 14, 2003

A Poughkeepsie, N.Y. manufacturer's ongoing failure to protect employees against safety hazards has resulted in an additional $109,500 in fines from OSHA.

"It is unacceptable that an employer would renege on its obligation to correct safety hazards. The Department will not hesitate to take significant action in such cases. Protecting worker safety and health must be a priority for employers," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao.

Superior Walls of the Hudson Valley manufactures precast concrete foundation panels. OSHA originally cited the company in September 2002, for ten serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. The company subsequently paid a fine of $5,460 and agreed to correct all cited hazards.

However, an OSHA followup inspection begun in February 2003 found that the company had failed to do so in two areas: it failed to develop and document a machine-specific program to prevent the accidental startup of machinery and equipment during maintenance and failed to properly guard a radial arm saw to prevent employee contact with its blade. As a result, Superior Walls of the Hudson Valley faces an additional $108,000 in fines

The latest inspection also found unmarked and improperly labeled circuit breakers, an electrical safety hazard for which a serious citation was issued and a $900 fine proposed. The company was also issued an other than serious citation for failing to properly maintain illness and injury logs for 2002 and 2003. A $600 fine is proposed for that alleged violation.

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 that 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.

Failure to Maintain Safety Devices, Procedures Leads to $136,350 Fine for Employer

A Watertown, Wis. company is facing $136,350 in fines proposed by OSHA following a February 2003 accident in which an employee suffered the amputation of his lower left arm while reaching into potentially activated machinery to retrieve a piece of scrap metal.

An OSHA investigation into the accident revealed that Fisher Barton, Inc., a company that manufactures lawn mower blades and other heat-treated stampings and metals, failed to properly repair a hot trimming press used in a steel forge to trim hot metal after a safety device designed to prevent accidental energizing of the trimming press was broken and removed in the spring of 2002. The safety device was never replaced. OSHA also charged the company with failing to provide adequate training in lockout/tagout procedures, a lack of machine guarding, and failure to maintain forge shop equipment in a safe operating condition as well as not locking out, stopping or blocking the operation of the hot trimming press during servicing or maintenance.

"Fisher Barton, Inc., was fully aware of this terrible hazard, but failed to take appropriate steps to protect workers," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao. "OSHA's first commitment is to protect workers from such tragedies. We stand ready to assist employers of all sizes to make their workplace safe, but we will fully enforce standards when employers take a careless approach to workplace safety and health."

A division of Accurate Specialties, Inc., Waukesha, Wis., Fisher Barton employees 165 workers at the Watertown facility where the accident occurred. Fisher Barton has two plants in Watertown and one in Fountain Inn, South Carolina. Two earlier inspections of the Watertown plants in 1995 and 1993 resulted in violations uncovered by OSHA for machine guarding, lack of personal protective equipment, and lockout/tagout issues.

According to OSHA Area Director Kimberly Stille, Madison, the company has 15 working days from receipt of the citations to appeal before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

FMCSA Issues Rule to Improve For-Hire Small Bus and Van Safety

On August 11, 2003, FMCSA announced requirements to improve the safe operation of commercial nine- to 15-passenger vans and small buses in interstate commerce.

Under the new rule, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) will apply to all businesses operating commercial motor vehicles (CMV) designed or used to transport between nine and 15 passengers (including the driver) in interstate commerce for "direct compensation" when the vehicle is operated beyond a 75-air-mile radius from the location where the driver normally works. Affected motor carriers must comply with the requirements of this rule by Nov. 10, 2003.

Drivers of these vehicles will be required to meet the same physical qualifications and hours-of-service rules as motor coach drivers, except they will not be required by the FMCSA to have a commercial driver's license (CDL) or be tested for controlled substances and alcohol. FMCSA has no authority to establish and enforce the CDL and controlled substances and
alcohol testing rules relating to commercial van operations.

Businesses operating these vehicles will be subject to compliance reviews and the same safety fitness procedures and standards used to evaluate other interstate motor carriers. Carriers that receive an "unsatisfactory" safety rating will be prohibited from operating CMVs to transport passengers in interstate commerce. The vehicles will be required to meet the same safety requirements as motor coaches.

The final rule responds to Congressional and public safety concerns about what are commonly referred to as long-haul, for-hire van operations throughout the United States, including vans and buses operated by foreign-based motor carriers into and out of the United States. This rule is required under the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999.

The agency estimates that this rulemaking will affect approximately 1,850 for-hire passenger motor carriers who are currently required to have operating authority. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has twice issued cautionary warnings to users of 15-passenger vans because of an increased rollover risk in these vehicles under certain conditions. The safety agency also unveiled a consumer flyer for users of 15-passenger vans.

NHTSA research has shown that 15-passenger vans have a rollover risk that increases dramatically as the number of occupants increases from fewer than five to more than 10. In fact, 15-passenger vans (with 10 or more occupants) had a rollover rate in single vehicle crashes that is nearly three times the rate of those that were lightly loaded. That is why the USDOT recommends that trained, experienced drivers operate 15-passenger vans, and that all occupants wear seat belts at all times.


FMCSA Proposes New Training Requirements For Longer Combination Vehicle Operators, Driver-Instructors

The U.S. Department of Transportation's (USDOT) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has proposed new training requirements for operators of longer combination vehicles (LCV) who wish to obtain an LCV Driver-Training Certificate. The safety agency also proposed new requirements for instructors who train LCV drivers.

An LCV is any combination of a truck-tractor and two or more trailers or semi-trailers that have a gross vehicle weight rating greater than 80,000 pounds and operate in interstate commerce. Twin trailers, also known as western doubles, would not be subject to this proposed rule.

This is the first time that the USDOT is establishing minimum training requirements for LCV drivers. The proposed federal requirements would mean that motor carriers must not allow drivers to operate a double or triple until they have the training specified in today's rulemaking, even though they have a state-issued commercial driver's license (CDL) with a double/triple trailer endorsement.

Because LCV double trailers and LCV triple trailers have different operating characteristics, the FMCSA has proposed separate training courses for each vehicle group. Customized training in each class would address the unique operational and handling characteristics of the particular LCV group. The proposed curriculum for the LCV training would consist of orientation, operation, safe operating practices, advanced operation, and nondriving activities, such as route and trip planning and checking on cargo and weight.

The double or triple trailer endorsement requires a minimal knowledge of coupling and uncoupling procedures, or connecting and disconnecting, and vehicle inspections unique to these LCVs.

To qualify for training, the proposed rule would require that a student-driver must, for at least six months before training, have a valid CDL with a double or triple trailer endorsement. The double or triple trailer endorsement ensures that the driver has a basic knowledge of coupling and uncoupling and inspection procedures for these vehicles.

Additional training qualification requirements include no convictions or suspensions in a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) or CDL disqualifying offenses and no at-fault accidents in a CMV. Those driving a double trailer would need evidence of Group A driving experience. Group A vehicles have a gross combination weight rating of 26,001 or more pounds, including a trailer with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,001 pounds or more. Those driving a triple trailer would need evidence of Group A tractor-trailer or twin-trailer experience.

Motor carriers may waive driver-training requirements if a driver certifies that during the last two years he or she had a valid Class A CDL with a double or triple endorsement; no convictions or suspensions in a CMV for CDL-disqualifying offenses; no CMV at-fault accidents; and evidence of regular and continuing employment and operation of an LCV group. Motor carriers must ensure that drivers meet these conditions before granting the waiver.

To qualify as an LCV driver-instructor, the proposal requires that an individual have successfully completed an LCV driver-training course for the group of LCV he or she intends to teach; have a valid Class A CDL with applicable endorsements; and have at least two years' driving experience for the type of LCV instruction he or she intends to provide.

Instructor requirements may be waived if a candidate met the conditions for a driver waiver of training requirements, and during the last two years has had experience operating the LCV group he or she intends to teach, and has experience teaching courses similar in content to the LCV curriculum.

Under the proposal, motor-carrier employers must:

  • allow only drivers with a certificate of completion for LCV training or a certificate waiver to operate an LCV;
  • allow drivers to operate only LCVs that they are authorized to drive by the driver-training certificate, CDL, and endorsements;
  • maintain a copy of the LCV driver-training certificate for each LCV driver;
  • use instructors who meet the qualification requirements to provide LCV training;
  • and maintain an LCV instructor qualification file for every instructor employed or under contract.

Written comments on this notice of proposed rulemaking should be sent by Oct. 11, 2003, to the USDOT Docket Facility, Attn: Docket No. FMCSA-97-2176, Room PL-401, 400 Seventh Street, S.W., Washington, DC 20590-0001; fax (202)

National Electrical Contractors Association Aligns with OSHA

The National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) and OSHA are joining forces to protect workers in the electrical contracting industry.

On August 12, 2003, NECA signed the Alliance that begins a collaborative effort with OSHA for preventing exposure to electrical and construction hazards, particularly those relating to inside electrical, power line, and video-data-voice systems.

"We are actively working with employers in this industry to reduce hazards and improve working conditions for thousands of electrical workers," said OSHA Administrator John Henshaw. "Through our Alliance with NECA, we can draw on their expertise and work together to improve even further the safety and health of the industry's workers."

"Safety in the workplace has always been a priority for us, so the NECA-OSHA Alliance is a natural fit," added John M. Grau, NECA Chief Executive Officer. "NECA has the educational and training channels in place to deliver the latest information about new programs and best practices to continue the long tradition of promoting worker safety and health."

OSHA and NECA will develop training for NECA chapters that focuses on safety and health hazards in the industry, as well as ways to reduce those hazards. Additionally, plans will be developed to cross-train OSHA personnel and industry safety and health professionals in best practices or effective approaches to worker safety and health.

NECA worksites' best practices will be shared with others in the industry through outreach by the Association and through OSHA- or NECA-developed training programs and materials. Every opportunity will be taken by both organizations to participate in forums, roundtable discussions, or stakeholder meetings on electrical contracting industry workplace safety and health challenges. OSHA will also speak, exhibit or appear at conferences or at other industry events, such as the NECA Exposition.

Finally, NECA and OSHA will develop and disseminate information through various media, including their respective websites, and will also encourage NECA members' participation in OSHA's cooperative programs such as compliance assistance and the Consultation Program.

NECA represents more than 70,000 electrical contracting firms employing more than 650,000 electrical workers. Founded in 1901, the Association works to promote higher standards, quality workmanship, and training for a skilled workforce in the electrical contracting industry.

Sample OSHA Safety Plans

The State of Connecticut has published customizable sample safety plans which can be downloaded from the Internet. Useful in any state, you can start with one of these plans and tailor it to meet your site's site-specific conditions:

"Inside the Green Line" Tells OSHA's Story of World Trade Center Cleanup


"The World Trade Center was a worksite like no one had ever seen or imagined," said John L. Henshaw, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health. "Workers poured their hearts and souls into their work, first looking for survivors and afterwards cleaning up that hallowed ground. Likewise, OSHA and its partners - the City of New York, labor unions, contractors, government officials - dedicated themselves to making sure that not one of those workers was injured or lost during that effort. I am proud to say we all succeeded."

OSHA also released several other publications that provide new or updated information to employers and workers about workplace safety and health.