A new fact sheet from OSHA seeks to help shipyard employers evaluate their fire and rescue services. The fact sheet states that welding, grinding and other hot work performed near cargo, fuels, building materials and debris can cause small fires that may grow out of control quickly. It also points out that fire-resistant materials can burn readily in oxygen-enriched atmospheres.
“Often, these fire-producing activities occur in enclosed or confined spaces where combustible gases and toxic fumes can build up to unsafe levels or deplete oxygen,” the fact sheet notes. “This makes it more difficult for workers to escape and be rescued. An effective rescue and response plan is essential for saving workers’ lives in shipyards where fires are a common hazard.”
OSHA recommends that facilities prepare for emergencies by:
- Developing a written fire safety plan that includes fire, rescue, and emergency response policies, and updating it each year.
- Training workers on all parts of the safety plan, including hazard controls, health rules, and emergency procedures. Workers “designated to fight fires must be trained on the fire safety plan’s written operating procedures on a quarterly basis,” according to the fact sheet. That training must include semi-annual drills and live response exercises.
- Establishing an onsite rescue team or collaborating with offsite first responders, such as local emergency medical services. Offsite responders must be able to get to the worksite within five minutes after being notified of an injury or illness.
- Instructing workers assigned to rescue teams on the procedures and practices for their roles, and on the use and care of proper personal protective equipment. OSHA recommends similar preparations for offsite teams, including familiarity with hazards they may encounter and the layout of the work facility.
- Developing an incident management network or system for a safe and well-ordered fire response.
The fact sheet also includes checklists for a fire safety plan; a fire, rescue and emergency response; and fire response medical requirements.
Should OSHA Replace EPA to Access Chemical Safety in the Workplace?
An industry group has argued that the US EPA should avoid issuing orders to mitigate workplace risks associated with new chemicals. Instead, it says, it should turn over that regulatory responsibility to OSHA.
The TSCA New Chemicals Coalition (NCC), a group of companies represented by the law firm Bergeson & Campbell, hopes to build on a provision in the new TSCA requiring the EPA to "consult" with OSHA before imposing workplace conditions.
In a letter and position statement, published as comments on the EPA's new chemical evaluation policy, the NCC argues the agency "should disfavour" issuing consent orders that mandate workplace-specific measures.
Once Osha is informed of the concern, the NCC says the EPA should "no longer engage but instead rely on the employers’ responsibilities mandated by OSHA, as well as OSHA’s established expertise and robust existing regulatory programme, to ensure worker protection."
The EPA's duty to protect workers applies "to the extent necessary to protect against an unreasonable risk," the coalition argues. "When this duty is juxtaposed with the mandatory consultation requirement, it is clear that EPA is required to evaluate the adequacy of the existing OSHA regulatory scheme and to adopt additional restrictions or prohibitions only when needed to protect against unreasonable risks not otherwise addressed.
In a blog post Richard Denison, lead senior scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), wrote that this represents a fresh attempt to replace TSCA's "no unreasonable risk" standard with the "vastly more lenient standard [of] no significant risk of material harm" applied by OSHA. He said this is something industry had argued for unsuccessfully in the TSCA reform debate.
"The chemical industry is apparently not content with bullying EPA to move away from carrying out its statutory duty to issue orders to mitigate potential risks arising from reasonably foreseen conditions of use of new chemicals," Dr. Denison said. "It’s now trying to extend that victory and compel EPA to abandon issuing orders even where EPA finds a company’s intended conditions of use may present unreasonable risks to workers."
Congress not only did not intend to remove the EPA’s overlapping jurisdiction on workplace chemical exposure, Dr. Denison said, but the TSCA amendments strengthened it by explicitly identifying workers as a "potentially exposed or susceptible subpopulation" due special protection.
A requirement to consult "does not mean merely to inform someone else and then wash one’s hands of the matter," he said.
EPA Moves to Gut Agricultural Worker Protection Standards
The EPA recently announced that it will revise crucial protections for more than two million farmworkers and pesticide applicators by the federal Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS) and the Certification of Pesticide Applicators (CPA) rule. The WPS establishes a minimum age of 18 for workers who mix, load, and apply pesticides; increases the frequency of worker safety training from once every five years to every year; improves the content and quality of worker safety trainings; and provides anti-retaliation protections and the right of a farmworker to request pesticide-application information via a designated representative.
The EPA also announced the reconsideration of the minimum age requirements established by the Certification of Pesticide Applicators (CPA) rule, which sets training and certification requirements for Restricted Use Pesticides (RUPs), the most toxic chemicals in the market. There are roughly half-a-million child farm workers in the United States.
The following statement is from Andrea Delgado, Earthjustice legislative director, Healthy Communities:
“Nearly two decades ago, EPA recognized that the outdated Agricultural Worker Protection Standard, or WPS, failed to protect farmworkers from pesticide exposure and poisoning. After hearing from the children, women, and men that grow and harvest our food, EPA revised the WPS to provide farmworkers with basic federal protections that workers in other industrial sectors already enjoy. The Certification of Pesticide Applicators rule affects pesticide applications in agricultural, commercial and residential settings, which affects us all.
“The workers who are most exposed to and apply a range of toxic pesticides deserve the strongest protections. Gutting the basic safeguards provided by these two rules will deny farmworkers the right to access pesticide information via a farmworker representative and put children at risk of pesticide misuse, injury, illness, and death. Whether it's in Congress or in the courtroom, we'll defend these crucial protections every step of the way.”
Dustcom Limited Inc. Fined for Trenching Hazards
OSHA recently cited Dustcom Limited, Inc., for failing to protect its employees from trench collapse hazards. The Garden City construction company faces proposed penalties of $130,552.
OSHA inspectors observed employees installing water lines in an unprotected trench. Following an investigation, OSHA cited the company for exposing employees to cave-in hazards; failing to appoint a competent person to ensure the use of cave-in protection; using a damaged ladder for entering and exiting a trench; and failing to place a soil pile at least 24 inches from the edge of the excavation.
“Excavations without cave-in protection are life threatening for the employees who work in them,” said OSHA Area Director Margo Westmoreland, in Savannah. “Employers must ensure that proper safeguards are in place to prevent putting workers at risk.”
The inspection was initiated as part of the Agency’s national emphasis program on trenching.
Fatal Fire Results in OSHA Penalties for Carl Cannon, Inc.
OSHA cited Carl Cannon, Inc., an automobile dealership, for serious safety violations after three employees died and two were injured at its Jasper facility.
OSHA initiated an investigation in response to a flash fire. Inspectors determined that the employees were using a flammable brake wash to scrub the service pit floor when the fire occurred. As a result, three employees were fatally injured, and a fourth was critically burned. A fifth employee was treated for smoke inhalation and released.
OSHA issued Carl Cannon Inc. one willful and two serious safety citations for failing to implement all elements of a chemical hazard communication program, improper storage of flammable liquids, and allowing unapproved electrical receptacles and equipment to be used in a hazardous area. Proposed penalties total $152,099.
“Failure to effectively implement a hazard communication program has tragically resulted in the loss of lives and serious injuries,” said OSHA Area Director Ramona Morris, in Birmingham. “Employers must ensure employees are trained and aware of the hazards associated with handling flammable chemicals.”
Airplane Cabin Noise Likely Poses No Threat
Despite some concerns from employees and labor groups, a federal government study finds that the noise in airplane cabins and cockpits likely does not exceed OSHA noise exposure limits. The Government Accounting Office (GAO) reviewed studies that measure noise in the cabin and in the cockpit. Though none of the studies found levels that clearly exceeded the OSHA standard, two studies found that noise over long periods in certain types of aircraft “may reach the more restrictive exposure limit published by NIOSH.”
GAO says OSHA and the Federal Aviation Administration have received few complaints from crewmembers related to aircraft noise levels. But labor groups had expressed concern, especially about the noise from older equipment. As part of the inquiry, GAO reviewed OSHA standards, NIOSH recommendations, and complaints; analyzed reports; and interviewed officials from FAA, OSHA, NIOSH, labor groups, and aircraft manufacturers.
OSHA enforces its noise requirements in aircraft cabins and FAA oversees safety, including noise exposure, in cockpits. As a result of the findings, GAO says it is not making recommendations for changes.
OSHA Honors Cianbro with Coveted Safety Recognition
OSHA named Cianbro one of just 57 companies across the country to be recognized under their Star Mobile Workforce Voluntary Protection Program for its commitment to workplace safety.
The Pittsfield company, which is Maine's largest construction company, is only of only eight heavy construction companies recognized by OSHA and the only Star Mobile Workforce firm recognized in OSHA's Region 1, which covers all of New England except Vermont.
VPP is the federal government's premier vehicle for recognizing companies that have developed exemplary safety and health programs.
The application process includes audits by OSHA inspectors, who visited Cianbro's corporate headquarters in December 2016 to ensure that the company's programs and policies effectively protect all team members. Later in the process, OSHA's inspection team visited two of Cianbro's job sites—the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge Replacement Project between Kittery and Portsmouth, N.H., and the Covestro Sprinkler Project in Sheffield, Mass. The purpose of the visits was to determine if and how the company's programs and policies are being implemented.
Once it completed the required steps, OSHA produced an evaluation report, which went to the Region 1 office for initial approval and then onward to Washington, D.C., for approval at the federal level.
The OSHA recognition was presented during a ceremony on Friday at Cianbro's new workforce development facility in Pittsfield. As a VPP firm, every Cianbro job site within Region 1 is considered to be a VPP site.
"Entire industries benefit as VPP sites evolve into models of excellence and influence practices industry-wide," OSHA states on its website.
In receiving the recognition on behalf of the company, Cianbro Chairman and CEO Pete Vigue recalled testifying before Congress in the 1980s and 1990s to ensure that construction workers tie off in elevated work situations in order to prevent injury and death from falls.
"Three times, I went to Congress and testified before the Labor Committee," said Vigue. "And the only people who were standing by my side to get the law changed to make it mandatory that people be tied off was OSHA. Three times, we were ridiculed by members of Congress, communicating to us that as an open-shop contractor, we were unskilled, and we should be able to protect ourselves in elevated positions without being tied off. Then, in 1997, tying off became law. And so, when these OSHA people speak, and this organization stands tall to do what is right on behalf of the people who work in our industry, it's important. And I want to applaud them. And I challenge them with continuing in this effort, making us better, making us healthier, and we'll be standing by their side on a go-forward basis, you can be assured of that."
Tim Irving, OSHA's Region 1 assistant regional administrator for cooperative state programs, affirmed Cianbro's leadership and its commitment to safety and wellness at Friday's ceremony.
"I know that Cianbro has been doing this for years and years," he said. "And I know that your subcontractors, your vendors, your suppliers, have benefited from your commitment to safety and health. What you have been doing does matter and it is affecting other organizations. So, feel good, and know that you are affecting other workplaces, not only in the State of Maine, but in the country."
State Certification Awarded to Lafayette Steel and Aluminum for Workplace Safety Excellence
Lafayette Steel and Aluminum, an Oscar Winski Company, located in Indianapolis, Ind., is now a certified participant in the Indiana Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (INSHARP) and joins other select Hoosier worksites in representing exemplary occupational safety and health. Lafayette Steel and Aluminum is in its 15th year of operation at its current location, with approximately 40 employees. The facility’s operations include processing, transportation, and warehousing of steel and aluminum products. The Indianapolis facility joins two other Oscar Winski Company operations in INSHARP certification—Blue Arrow Trucking and E-Scrap.
“Oscar Winski continues to be a role model for other Hoosier employers seeking workplace safety and health excellence,” said Commissioner of Labor Rick Ruble. “Congratulations to Lafayette Steel for your hard work and achievement.” The facility’s workplace safety and health programs have helped prevent incidents. The Total Recordable Case (TRC) Rate for the most recent OSHA-recordable year at Lafayette Steel was 1.9, which is less than half the national industry average of 4.6.
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