March 07, 2002

The Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) is conducting an intensive effort to reach coal miners, gold miners, quarry workers and other mining industry employees nationwide to personally provide information on mining hazards and ways to prevent accidents on the job.

MSHA's "Focus on Safe Work" initiative is sending hundreds of MSHA inspection personnel, engineers, and training specialists out to all coal and metal and nonmetal mining operations to speak with workers and supervisors about fatalities that have occurred this year. 

"We've visited nearly 7,000 mine sites and spoken with nearly 70,000 miners since February 4 of this year," said Dave Lauriski, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "Last year, fatalities dropped after the agency conducted a similar effort, 'Stand Down for Safety,' and we are hopeful that this reminder will help keep this year's increase from becoming a trend. We want every working miner to go home to his family safe and injury-free every day."

During visits to mine sites MSHA personnel are discussing the fatal accidents that have occurred this year and sharing "best practices" to help reduce such serious accidents at work sites. MSHA is focusing discussions on three primary causes of mining accidents-roof falls, electrocutions (due to failure to "lock out and tag out") and powered haulage. MSHA personnel are also customizing talks with miners to reflect on hazards typically encountered at their mine site.

So far this year17 mining fatalities have occurred in the U.S. compared with seven fatalities at the same time during 2001 and 11 fatal accidents during the same period in 2000. A record-low 72 miners were victims of fatal accidents on the job last year at U.S. mining operations.


A company's failure to protect workers from a variety of hazards, including safety-related errors at a Malad, Idaho, job site that resulted in a double fatality, has led to proposed citations and fines by OSHA against Multiple Concrete Enterprises, Inc., of Ogden, Utah.

OSHA issued citations to the company for alleged willful, serious and other-than-serious safety and health violations after the fatalities occurred last August. The company was issued $100,100 in proposed penalties for the alleged safety and health violations at the job site on Interstate 15 from Malad, Idaho, to the Utah state line.

The fatal accident occurred when a Multiple Concrete Enterprises, Inc., employee driving a company-owned truck with a trailer attached, drove on the freeway alongside the lane where employees were working and the trailer detached from the truck, running over or hitting several employees.

"Workers were exposed to a variety of serious hazards at the job site, ranging from working within two feet of high speed traffic to exposure to high levels of dust containing crystalline silica," said Ryan Kuehmichel, area director for the agency's Boise office, which conducted the investigation.

The willful citation noted that respirators were worn under conditions that impaired the sealing surface of the facepiece and the valve function.

The serious citation also included several alleged violations regarding respirators and other safety and health violations that may have contributed to the double fatality at the Idaho job site.

According to Kuehmichel, the company has 15 working days to contest the citations.


OSHA announced it is extending until May 24, 2002, the period for comments on the tuberculosis (TB) rulemaking record.

OSHA reopened the TB record on January 24 for 60 days to give interested persons the opportunity to review and comment on the agency's final risk assessment and the Institute of Medicine's (IOM) report "Tuberculosis in the Workplace." Also included in the record was an evaluation of the agency's draft risk assessment conducted by two experts in the fields of TB epidemiology and risk assessment.

Since the reopening, the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, the American Health Care Association, and the American Society for Microbiology, requested a 60-day extension of the deadline for submitting comments.

"Risk assessment, as well as the other issues addressed in the reopening of the record, are critical as we determine the next appropriate steps for OSHA," said OSHA Administrator John L. Henshaw. "By extending the comment period, organizations and individuals will have the appropriate amount of time to submit comments on this complex issue."

Persons wishing to comment should send two copies of comments, postmarked not later than May 24, 2002 to: Docket Office, Docket H-371, Room N-2625, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20210. Comments of 10 pages or fewer may be faxed to (202) 693-1648. (If faxed, the original and one copy of all comments must be sent to the Docket Office as soon as possible).Information such as studies and journal articles cannot be attached to electronic submissions and must be submitted in duplicate to the above mailing address. Attachments must clearly identify the respondent's electronic submission by name, date and subject.

The entire TB rulemaking record, including the peer reviewers' reports, OSHA's draft final risk assessment and the IOM report, is available for review and copying at OSHA's Docket Office -- (202) 693-2350. 

OSHA first published a proposed TB standard on Oct. 17, 1997 to control occupational exposure to tuberculosis. The agency preliminarily determined that the standard would help protect an estimated 5.3 million workers in more than 100,000 hospitals, nursing homes, hospices, correctional facilities, homeless shelters, and other work settings with a significant risk of TB infection.

The notice extending the comment period is published in the March 5, 2002, Federal Register.


OSHA and the Hispanic Contractors of America, Inc. (HCA) signed an agreement to promote safe and healthful working conditions for Hispanic construction workers through effective safety and health training and increased access to safety and health resources in Spanish.

"This alliance will greatly expand OSHA's reach in our effort to provide safety and health information and training to Spanish-speaking workers and employers," said OSHA Administrator John L. Henshaw. "We wanted to join with others who share our concern and are committed to reducing injuries and illnesses among Hispanic workers. I am delighted that HCA wants to work with us."

Under the alliance, HCA and OSHA will:

  • Identify existing safety and health resources available for Spanish speakers and stimulate the development of additional publications and audio-visual products.
  • Jointly disseminate safety and health information through conferences, events, community-based activities and electronic media.
  • Work with community and faith-based organizations and other leadership groups to build safety and health awareness within the Hispanic community.
  • Encourage bilingual individuals in construction to take OSHA's train-the-trainer class so they can teach the 10-hour and 30-hour construction safety and health outreach courses in Spanish.
  • Promote and encourage HCA members to participate in OSHA cooperative programs such as compliance assistance, consultation and mentoring.

OSHA and HCA are forming a joint steering committee to implement the alliance. The steering committee will draft procedures for the alliance and develop methods to track, analyze, evaluate and share information on the alliance's activities.


A Montana power company's failure to protect employees working in areas with potentially explosive accumulations of coal dust has led OSHA to issue citations and $181,000 in proposed penalties against the company. The citations were issued Feb. 28 by OSHA's Billings area office against PPL Montana LLC, Colstrip, following an investigation that began on August 29, 2001 after a coal dust explosion injured two PPL employees.

OSHA cited PPL Montana for two willful violations for knowingly rendering conveyor safety devices inoperable along with knowingly permitting employees to use unsuitable electrical tools in locations having a coal dust explosion hazard. Proposed penalties total $125,000 for the two alleged willful violations.

A total of $56,000 in penalties was proposed for eight alleged serious violations: lack of documentation of hazardous classified locations; excessive accumulations of explosive coal dust; failure to use temporary precautions when a fixed fire extinguishing system becomes inoperable; failure to properly train employees in safety related work practices; failure to affix lockout devices to each energy isolating device; failure to properly maintain interlocks and other safety devices; failure to identify emergency stop devices; and failure to safely control sources of ignition to prevent ignition of a combustible atmosphere.

"This accident and the unsafe conditions discovered during the inspection could have been avoided by adherence to recognized safe work practices and OSHA regulations," said David DiTommaso, OSHA area director in Billings.

Willful violations are those committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. A serious violation is one committed where there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.

PPL Montana has 15 working days from receipt of the citations to request an informal conference with the OSHA area director, or to contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.