New OSHA Field Operations Manual

January 12, 2009

The Field Operations Manual is the guiding document for OSHA’s Compliance Officers, whose mission is to assure the safety and health of America’s working men and women. The manual assists Compliance Officers in scheduling and conducting inspections, enforcing regulations, and encouraging continual improvement in workplace safety and health. The manual also guides Compliance Officers on how to inform employers about cooperative programs—such as On-Site Consultation, Strategic Partnerships, and the Voluntary Protection Program—to help them eliminate potential or existing hazards from the workplace.

“The new Field Operations Manual is a comprehensive resource of existing OSHA policy and procedural documents,” Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Thomas M. Stohler said. “It gives Compliance Officers important guidance in implementing OSHA’s balanced approach to workplace safety and health: enforcement, education and training, and cooperative programs. The Field Operations Manual will also be a resource for employees and employers, giving them a consolidated reference on how OSHA expects workplaces to be made safe and healthy. This is part of OSHA’s continuing commitment to make its standards and enforcement activities transparent and understandable to all parties.”

The Field Operations Manual, formerly called the Field Inspection Reference Manual, constitutes OSHA’s general enforcement policy and procedures for use by the field offices in conducting inspections, issuing citations, and proposing penalties.

OSHA Revises Its Voluntary Protection Programs by Formalizing Two New Ways to Participate

 Among the changes to the VPP, OSHA will now allow participation by companies with mobile workforces. The program changes are effective May 9.

The VPP, the agency’s recognition initiative for workplace safety and health excellence, will provide new options for construction contractors and other employers who may have employees at various locations. Other VPP changes for eligible organizations include a streamlined application process, outreach and mentoring, and on-site workplace evaluations.

“OSHA is proud to recognize the outstanding efforts of employers and employees who have achieved exemplary occupational safety and health,” Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Thomas M. Stohler said. “These program revisions will allow more companies to participate in the VPP, which has contributed to improved workplace safety. Since 2001, participation in the VPP has increased almost 200%. During that same period, there has been a 14% decrease in workplace fatalities. Establishing partnerships and encouraging continual process improvement are part of OSHA’s balanced approach to workplace safety and health.”

The VPP was established in 1982 to recognize employers and employees who focus on the prevention of injuries, illnesses, and fatalities through the implementation of effective safety and health management systems. Currently, there are 2,161 federal and state plan VPP participants.

Don't Slip: Winter Travel Tips

The recent cold snap has shown the need for people to be prepared when travelling in the winter. That's particularly true if you have to drive for work.

The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), Europe's largest professional health and safety body, has produced a few tips to help ensure your travel, whether it be commuting to or from work or for pleasure, remains safe despite the weather.

  1. Driving in severe winter conditions or commuting to work will involve increased risk. Decide first of all if your car journey is really necessary, particularly with technology offering working from home as a solution, or use public transport as an alternative to driving.
  2. If you are going to drive in poor winter conditions, make sure your vehicle is well maintained. Ensure that you have topped off the windshield washer fluid and that there is enough liquid to prevent it freezing. Check tire pressures, oil, coolant, and antifreeze levels and top off if necessary.
  3. Think about items that might be useful to have in the car in case of an emergency: a shovel, blanket, some water and food, boots, torch, de-icer and scraper, a couple of old newspapers (to help prevent tires from spinning), high-visibility clothing, mobile phone and map or satellite navigation to plan an alternative route.
  4. If the journey is essential, inform someone where you are going and what time you expect to arrive.
  5. It may be better to postpone an early morning journey a short time until the roads have been cleared or the sun has risen.
  6. Listen to news and weather reports on the radio prior to and during the journey.
  7. While driving, be aware of your surroundings so you can report your location should you become stranded.
  8. Drive according to the road conditions.
  9. In the event of being stranded, stay in your vehicle and keep the engine running—unless stuck in deep snow where there is a risk of buildup of carbon monoxide from exhaust fumes. Use a mobile phone to let someone know where you are stranded.
  10. Make your vehicle as visible as possible to emergency crew. You can do this by using lights or tying a brightly colored scarf to the antenna.

For businesses and other organizations, the winter weather brings additional hazards to buildings that must be managed. Slips and trips are the most common cause of winter work hazards in Europe, accounting for 39% of major injuries at work and more than a quarter of all injuries requiring three or more days off work.

All employers and businesses need to make sure that frequently used access paths, which get covered with frost or snow are cleared or salted to help prevent people from slipping.

MSA Issues User Advisory for Air Mask Audi-Larm Coupling Nut Tightness

 The User Advisory was issued in response to reports MSA received concerning the release of high-pressure air from the Audi-Larm coupling nut joint. The Audi-Larm coupling nut secures the Audi-Larm assembly to the cylinder valve. This joint employs an O-ring seal with a hand-tightened coupling nut. Some of the reports indicated that the O-ring extruded and the air loss occurred several minutes after the cylinder valve was opened and the air mask pressurized.

MSA’s investigation into these reports indicates that the coupling nut was not hand tight before use as it should have been. The User Advisory reinforces the importance of checking the coupling nut to ensure that it is hand tight when donning the air mask before each use. Also, users should be certain that the coupling nut is hand tight during air mask inspections and before performing any functional tests. It is important that users include these steps in the routine air mask use procedures.

January is National Radon Action Month

You can’t see, smell, or taste radon, even though it may be present at dangerous levels in some homes or businesses. Radon has been determined to be the leading cause of lung cancer deaths among the nation’s nonsmokers and it claims the lives of about 20,000 Americans each year. Radon exposure is preventable, so testing for radon and then taking steps to remediate areas where it is present at unsafe levels is the best way to protect people from this health threat.

Radon comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water. It is an invisible, tasteless, radioactive gas that can become trapped indoors. Radon is found all over the country and in any type of building including homes, offices, and schools.

While many health challenges are difficult and expensive to solve, testing for radon is fairly easy and inexpensive. You can buy a “do-it-yourself” radon test kit for $20 at a hardware store or retail outlet. Even if your home was tested for radon when you bought it, that may have been years ago. EPA recommends that homes be tested every five years, because foundations can shift over time.

If your test shows high levels of radon, confirm with another test and then address fixing the problem. A high radon level might be lowered with a straight-forward radon venting system installed by a contractor. Mitigation costs generally run from $1,000 to $2,500. In new homes, builders can easily and economically include radon-resistant features during construction, and home buyers should ask for these. EPA also recommends that home buyers ask their builder to test for radon before they move in.

EPA recommends taking steps to remedy the problem if your radon level is 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) or higher. Radon levels less than 4 pCi/L still pose a risk, and in many cases may be reduced. EPA estimates that 1 in 15 homes will have a radon level of 4 picocuries per liter of air or more. Based on the national radon map, all of the mid-Atlantic states—Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, D.C., and Delaware—have areas with elevated radon levels.


Pilot Retaliated Against For Reporting He Was too Sick to Fly

The U.S. Department of Labor has ordered American Airlines Inc. to reimburse a pilot who was retaliated against for reporting that he was too sick to fly. American Airlines rejected medical documentation that the pilot provided in accordance with American’s internal policy and later deducted sick pay that had already been paid from the pilot’s paycheck.

The pilot filed a complaint with OSHA alleging retaliation under the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century, the aviation industry whistleblower law known as AIR21. An investigation by OSHA’s New York Regional Office found merit to the pilot’s complaint. The airline was ordered to abate the violation by reimbursing the pilot for the sick time illegally recouped and to post whistleblower rights posters.

“A policy that forces pilots to make a choice between flying when they are too sick to do so and being retaliated against violates the law,” said Robert D. Kulick, regional administrator for OSHA’s New York region. “While OSHA is best known for ensuring the safety and health of employees, it is also the federal government’s main whistleblower protection agency.”

OSHA ordered that American Airlines reimburse the pilot for the sick time, interest, and any other benefits associated with the sick time. Either party in the case can file an appeal to the Labor Department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges.

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of AIR21 and 16 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various securities laws, trucking, airline, nuclear power, pipeline, environmental, rail, public transportation, workplace safety and health regulations, and consumer product safety laws. 

Lasko Products to Pay $500,000 Civil Penalty for Failure to Report Defective Fans

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has announced that Lasko Products Inc., of West Chester, Pa., has agreed to pay a $500,000 civil penalty. 

The defective box and floor fans were sold between 2000 and 2004.. CPSC alleged that Lasko failed to report to the government in a timely manner that fans sold by the firm could overheat, smoke, or catch fire, and pose fire and burn hazards to consumers.

Between November 2002 and September 2005, Lasko received about 42 reports of fans overheating, smoking, melting, or catching fire, which resulted in nine personal injuries and property damage. Lasko did not fully report the incidents to CPSC until September 2005.

Federal law requires firms to report to CPSC immediately (within 24 hours) after obtaining information reasonably supporting the conclusion that a product contains a defect that could create a substantial product hazard, creates an unreasonable risk of serious injury or death, or violates any consumer product safety rule, or any other rule, regulation, standard, or ban enforced by CPSC. In agreeing to settle the matter, Lasko denies that it knowingly violated the law.

Consumers who have the recalled fans may still receive a free fan cord adaptor, designed to shut off the fan motor if overheating occurs. 

In agreeing to settle the matter, Lasko denies that it knowingly violated the law.

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