April 18, 2022
For the first time, OSHA has launched a National Emphasis Program
to protect millions of workers from heat illness and injuries. Through the program, OSHA will conduct heat-related workplace inspections before workers suffer completely preventable injuries, illnesses or, even worse, fatalities.
Secretary Marty Walsh recently joined Vice President Kamala Harris at the Sheet Metal Workers Local 19 Training Center in Philadelphia to announce the new enforcement program.
Heat illness affects thousands of indoor and outdoor workers each year and can tragically lead to death. Reducing workplace heat-related illnesses and injuries is a top priority for the Department of Labor, and this National Emphasis Program is a way to immediately improve enforcement and compliance efforts, while continuing long-term work to establish a heat illness prevention rule. These efforts are part of a larger, interagency Biden-Harris administration effort to protect workers and communities from extreme heat and rising temperatures resulting from climate change.
“Tragically, the three-year average of workplace deaths caused by heat has doubled since the early 1990s. These extreme heat hazards aren’t limited to outdoor occupations, the seasons or geography. From farm workers in California to construction workers in Texas and warehouse workers in Pennsylvania, heat illness – exacerbated by our climate’s rising temperatures – presents a growing hazard for millions of workers,” said Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh. “This enforcement program is another step towards our goal of a federal heat standard. Through this work, we’re also empowering workers with knowledge of their rights, especially the right to speak up about their safety without fear of retaliation. I’m grateful for the Vice President’s leadership on this issue, and for her demonstrated commitment to keeping workers safe on the job.”
As part of the program, OSHA will proactively initiate inspections in over 70 high-risk industries in indoor and outdoor work settings when the National Weather Service has issued a heat warning or advisory for a local area. On days when the heat index is 80ºF or higher, OSHA inspectors and compliance assistance specialists will engage in proactive outreach and technical assistance to help stakeholders keep workers safe on the job. Inspectors will look for and address heat hazards during inspections, regardless of whether the industry is targeted in the NEP.
“Our goal is to make it safe for workers in hot indoor and outdoor environments, so that they can return home safe and healthy at the end of each day,” said Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker. “Working together, we can ensure workers know their rights and employers meet their obligations in order to protect workers from the growing dangers of extreme heat.”
OSHA’s area offices will engage in outreach to unions, employers in target industries and other organizations committed to advancing protections for underserved workers. The agency’s On-Site Consultation Program
, a free and confidential health and safety consulting program for small- and medium-sized businesses, will assist employers in developing strategic approaches for addressing heat-related illnesses and injuries in workplaces.
Last fall, in the Biden-Harris administration’s first year in office, OSHA published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to initiate the rulemaking process towards a federal heat standard and is committed to using all tools at its disposal to reduce heat hazards through a combination of enforcement, outreach and compliance assistance.
As part of OSHA’s continued work to reduce workplace heat illnesses and fatalities, the agency will hold a public stakeholder meeting on May 3, 2022, to discuss OSHA’s ongoing activities to protect workers from heat-related hazards, including the Heat Illness Prevention Campaign
, compliance assistance activities and enforcement efforts. You can register for the event here
New Mexico Adopts Nationally Leading Oil and Gas Emissions Rule
After two and half years of collaborative public and stakeholder engagement, the Environmental Improvement Board (EIB) adopted new air quality rules that will eliminate hundreds of millions of pounds of harmful emissions annually from oil and gas operations in New Mexico. The new rule will improve air quality for New Mexicans by establishing innovative and actionable regulations to curb the formation of ground-level ozone.
“Today marks the fulfillment of a promise I made to New Mexicans – to create strong, enforceable regulations in the oil and gas sector that will result in cleaner, healthier air in our communities,” said Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. “This is a momentous step forward in achieving our goals of lowering emissions and improving air quality. New Mexicans can be proud of the fact that we are leading the nation by implementing rules that protect our families and their environment.”
The new rule will reduce harmful emissions of ozone precursor pollutants – volatile organic compounds and oxides of nitrogen – by approximately 260 million pounds annually, and will have the co-benefit of reducing methane emissions by over 851 million pounds annually. Starting this summer, compliance obligations for new and existing oil and gas operations in New Mexico counties with high ozone levels will begin to take effect. These counties are Chaves, Doña Ana, Eddy, Lea, Rio Arriba, Sandoval, San Juan, and Valencia counties.
The American Lung Association describes breathing ozone as a “sunburn to the lungs” that can cause breathing issues, asthma attacks, as well as respiratory and cardiovascular attacks. A secondary benefit of the rule is that it reduces greenhouse gases which contribute to climate change.
“This rule is an enormous win for communities impacted by unhealthy air quality caused by oil and gas operations,” said NMED Cabinet Secretary James Kenney. “Over the next few months, we will begin robust and innovative compliance assurance activities to ensure oil and gas operations are adhering to these new requirements.”
As adopted, the new rule is more protective of public health and the environment than current federal requirements – and enables New Mexico to lead the nation as a model in smart regulation. The new rule allows industry to use and develop cutting-edge technology, including the use of fuel cells which convert air emissions to electricity as opposed to the wasteful practice of flaring. The new rule is technology neutral to allow for innovation, like the use of satellites, air ships, drones, and fence-line monitoring to comply with leak detection provisions for equipment.
The new rule sets foundational requirements for all oil and gas operators to calculate emission rates and have those calculations certified by a qualified engineer, perform monthly checks for leaks and fix them within 15 days, and maintain records to demonstrate continuous compliance. Building upon the foundational requirements are strict standards for equipment and processes that emit larger quantities of pollution.
The new rule establishes emission reduction requirements for equipment including storage vessels, compressors, turbines, heaters, engines, dehydrators, pneumatic devices, produced water management units, and more. The new rule also establishes emission reduction requirements for processes such as well workovers, hydrocarbon liquid transfers, liquids unloading, pig launching and receiving, and more.
“Reducing ground-level ozone will reduce health impacts on the public, especially for vulnerable groups like the elderly and those with respiratory and other health issues,” said Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator Earthea Nance. “Congratulations to New Mexico for taking this important step to improve air quality and people’s lives.”
“The standards finalized today represent historic progress for the health and safety of communities across New Mexico. Gov. Lujan Grisham’s administration is showing the ambition needed to stop unchecked oil and gas pollution, increase energy security, protect public health and tackle the climate crisis,” said Jon Goldstein, Senior Director of Regulatory & Legislative Affairs of the Environmental Defense Fund. “NMED’s rules, which address outsized emissions from smaller, leak-prone wells and protect those living closest to development with more frequent inspections to find and fix leaks, offer a powerful example for the EPA to build on as it advances nationwide methane protections.”
The new rule was considered by the seven-member New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board. NMED anticipates the rule will go into effect in summer 2022.
The new rule works in conjunction with regulations adopted by the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department in 2021 to establish a comprehensive framework across agencies that significantly reduces emissions, protects New Mexico’s valuable natural resources, and holds polluters accountable. By providing both consistency and clarity for industry, the new regulations eliminate the potential for confusion or unintended regulatory loopholes that could undermine the protection of air quality in New Mexico.
"The Environment Department and the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department have been working together since early 2019 to develop complementary strategies to reduce waste and air pollution from New Mexico’s oil and gas industry. These strategies are designed to meet the state’s climate targets, improve air quality, and reduce methane waste by ensuring saleable resources are captured which increases royalties and revenues to the state,” said Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Cabinet Secretary Sarah Cottrell Propst. “The Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department supports the final rules adopted by the Environmental Improvement Board.”
To see recent videos of emissions from oil and gas operations that the rule will address in the San Juan Basin
and Permian Basin
, please visit the YouTube channel
. These videos document the ongoing emissions from oil and gas operations that contribute to the increase in ozone pollution in New Mexico.
Washington Metal Foundry Cited for Dozens of Health and Safety Violations
A metal foundry and casting company in Walla Walla faces a $93,600 fine for violating more than 40 health and safety regulations.
A Washington State Department of Labor & Industries
(L&I) inspection found Walla Walla Foundry, Inc. violated a range of rules from a general lack of planning and hazard assessment to specific and serious failures to provide required safety equipment or training to workers.
L&I also cited the company for failing to make sure power supply to dangerous equipment is turned off and locked so it cannot come back on, and for not supervising work in confined spaces. Energy or power control incidents happen when machinery unexpectedly or accidentally gets power and starts up because the power source isn’t shut off or “locked out.”
A confined space is one that is large enough and arranged so that a worker can fully enter it and work, has limited or restricted entry or exit, and is not designed for someone to be inside continuously. Businesses must keep workers safe in these confined spaces.
Violating safety requirements like these can have tragic results. In February, L&I cited a Sumas roofing materials manufacturer
for similar violations that resulted in the death of an employee.
In all, Walla Wall Foundry was cited for 29 serious and 13 general violations. The company has filed an appeal.
Release of Styrene Vapor Leads to Heavy Fine
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos recently announced the execution of two Orders on Consent with SHPP US, LLC, (known as "SABIC"), in Selkirk, including $322,400 in penalties and required facility improvements. These enforcement actions resolve violations after a September 2020 incident at the SABIC plastics manufacturing facility that released approximately 22,057 pounds of styrene vapor to the environment, threatening public health and safety.
"Today, DEC is holding SABIC accountable for creating a dangerous situation that threatened the health and safety of employees, emergency responders, and the surrounding community," Commissioner Seggos said, "These enforcement actions include a substantial penalty and require SABIC to improve its operations to protect the surrounding community and the environment from further violations and prevent future emergencies."
At the SABIC facility in September 2020, styrene vapor was released from a railcar through its pressure relief valve and manway into the atmosphere. Emergency responders, including the New York State Office of Emergency Management, State Police, State Office of Fire Prevention and Control, and local governmental agencies, responded to the facility, which required multiple road closures, a shelter-in-place order for the public within a mile radius, and a public evacuation order within one-half mile of the facility.
DEC's investigation of the incident revealed improper handling and storage of hazardous substances, improper maintenance and repair of the railcar, violations of air pollution regulations, and an unauthorized release of a hazardous substance. In addition, DEC's inspection found an additional 29 violations of the facility's Air Title V permit, unrelated to the styrene release.
The two Orders on Consent address all violations from the styrene release event, as well as the additional air permit violations. In addition to the penalties imposed and to help prevent future incidents, DEC's Orders on Consent require SABIC to undertake a comprehensive third-party audit of the facility's hazardous substance management and to develop recommendations for DEC staff review, and to develop new operating procedures and employee training protocols.
Maine Contractor Repeatedly Exposed Workers to Fall Hazards
A Maine roofing and siding contractor, solely owned, operated and controlled by Andrew Raymond Pollock, willfully exposed its employees to fall hazards at a Hampden residential construction site on multiple occasions during the same inspection by OSHA.
OSHA proposed a total of $501,376 in penalties for ARP Renovation, LLC/A.R.P. Roofing & Siding, LLC due to the companies’ refusal to provide fall protection and other safeguards for their employees. The Maine company, A.R.P. Roofing & Siding, LLC, operates as a single entity with Medford, New Jersey-based ARP Renovation, LLC, also solely owned, controlled, and operated by Pollock.
Responding to reports of workers being exposed to fall hazards while working on the roofs of buildings on Victoria Way, OSHA inspectors found at least five employees exposed to falls of 10 to 18 feet to the ground and pavement below. OSHA standards require that employers provide fall protection to employees engaged in residential construction activities 6 feet or more above a lower level.
OSHA repeatedly informed Pollock of the fall protection
requirement. After continually refusing to correct this hazard, OSHA took the rare step of posting an imminent danger
notice at the site. The agency cited the companies for three egregious willful violations for not providing guardrails, safety nets, personal fall arrest systems or other safeguards. The willful citations account for $435,081 of the total proposed penalties.
OSHA also cited the employer for five serious violations and one other-than-serious violation, carrying $66,295 in proposed penalties, for not:
- Providing employees with a training program about fall hazards.
- Ensuring ladder side-rails were extended three feet above the upper landing surface.
- Providing employees with a ladder safety training program.
- Ensuring employees wore head protection when working below roofing operations.
- Maintaining OSHA 300 illness and injury records.
“Every employee working without fall protection at the Hampden jobsite was exposed to potentially deadly or disabling falls, despite Mr. Pollock’s knowledge that this safeguard was required and necessary,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Galen Blanton in Boston. “How dangerous is working without fall protection? Falls are the leading cause of death in construction work in the U.S., the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. In 2020, falls accounted for more than one-third of all construction fatalities nationwide. These fatalities can be prevented if employers follow safety standards to protect their workers from known hazards.”
OSHA cited this employer for fall-related hazards at New Jersey worksites in 2014 and 2021.
Wisconsin Manufacturer Fined After Machine Seriously Injures Worker
An employee working at Crystal Finishing Systems, Inc.’s aluminum extrusion facility in Weston was hospitalized with serious injuries after being struck by a puller machine while trying to unjam a piece of aluminum.
The OSHA investigated the Dec. 21, 2021, incident and determined 6-foot chain-link safety guards were not affixed around the 8-inch extrusion press line to prevent workers from coming in contact with the puller. Additionally, the press line was not locked out to prevent unintentional machine movement during service and maintenance, and the employer failed to train workers on machine safety procedures.
“Machine guards are designed to protect workers from suffering serious injuries, but they are only effective when used properly,” said OSHA’s Area Director Robert Bonack in Appleton. “OSHA will hold this company and others accountable for failing to comply with safety and health regulations put in place to prevent worker injuries.”
Based in Weston, Crystal Finishing Systems also operates facilities in Mosinee and River Falls and employs about 800 Wisconsin workers.
US Department of Labor to Hold Virtual Meeting to Solicit Public Input on OSHA Whistleblower Program Improvements
OSHA will hold a virtual meeting May 18, 2022, to solicit public comments and suggestions on issues facing OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program.
This is the ninth in a series of meetings on how the agency can improve the whistleblower program, particularly concerning healthcare workers.
Open to the public, the meeting will be held from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. ET via telephone and virtually via Zoom. The agency will provide Spanish language translation during the meeting. Those interested in joining or participating in the meeting must register in English
by May 11, 2022. There is no fee to register.
OSHA is seeking comments on:
- How can OSHA deliver better whistleblower customer service?
- What kind of assistance can OSHA provide to help explain the agency’s whistleblower laws to employees and employers?
- What can OSHA do to ensure that healthcare workers are protected from retaliation for raising concerns related to COVID-19?
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