New OSHA Resources to Protect Workers from Falls

January 14, 2019
OSHA has developed a collection of compliance assistance resources to address falls in the workplace, the leading cause of worker fatality in the construction industry. OSHA's goal is to promote awareness about common fall hazards in construction, educate job creators and workers on fall prevention, and reduce the number of fall-related injuries and fatalities. These resources, which continue the goals of the Department's Office of Compliance Initiatives (OCI), encourage and facilitate compliance evaluations.
Falls can be prevented if employers plan ahead to ensure the job is done safely; provide the right equipment; and train workers to use the equipment safely. OSHA is working with industry stakeholders to provide informative compliance assistance resources.
  • The sixth annual National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction will be held May 6-10, 2019. The weeklong outreach event encourages employers and workers to pause during the workday to discuss fall hazards and how to prevent them.
  • A series of fall safety videos show how to prevent construction-related fall hazards from floor openings, skylights, fixed scaffolds, bridge decking, reroofing, and leading edge work.
  • OSHA's Fall Prevention Training Guide provides a lesson plan for employers including several Toolbox Talks.
  • Fact sheets on ladders and scaffolding provide guidance on the safe use of these types of equipment while performing construction activities.
  • A brief video, 5 Ways to Prevent Workplace Falls, encourages employers to develop a fall prevention plan, and to provide workers with fall protection and training.
OSHA's On-Site Consultation Program provides valuable services for job creators that are separate from enforcement. OSHA recently published an analysis demonstrating how the agency's On-Site Consultation Program contributes $1.3 billion to the national economy each year. Job creators who implement workplace improvements can reduce lost time due to injuries and illnesses, improve employee morale, increase productivity, and lower workers' compensation insurance premiums.
OCI – housed within the Department of Labor's Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy – fosters a compliance assistance culture within the Department designed to complement its ongoing enforcement efforts. This Office focuses on helping enforcement agencies more effectively use online resources to deliver information and compliance assistance. In August 2018, OCI launched and to provide information about workers' rights and the responsibilities of job creators toward their workers.
Free Amazon HD 10 Tablet with RCRA and DOT Training
Annual hazardous waste training is required for anyone who generates, accumulates, stores, transports, or treats hazardous waste. Learn how to manage your hazardous waste in accordance with the latest state and federal regulations.  Learn how to complete EPA’s new electronic hazardous waste manifest, and the more than 60 changes in EPA’s new Hazardous Waste Generator Improvements Rule.  Environmental Resource Center’s Hazardous Waste Training is available at nationwide locations, and via live webcasts.  If you plan to also attend DOT hazardous materials training, call 800-537-2372 to find out how can get your course materials on a new Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet at no extra charge.
Nurses Not Wearing PPE When Handling Chemotherapeutic Drugs
Female nurses who administer antineoplastic drugs – medications used to treat cancer – don’t always wear protective clothing, according to a new NIOSH study published online in the American Journal of Nursing, accompanied by a video abstract. This is one of the first studies to explore the use of antineoplastic drugs and personal protective equipment among non-pregnant and pregnant female nurses.
Nurses are exposed to antineoplastic drugs, or chemotherapeutic drugs, when they administer these drugs in pill or liquid form to patients who are battling all forms of cancer. The drugs, while working to kill rapidly dividing cancerous cells of a patient can also be harmful to the healthy dividing cells of the nurse, including the cells of a developing baby. Only a few studies have explored associations between occupational exposures to antineoplastic drugs and reproductive outcomes.
In order to explore this association further, survey data were collected from more than 40,000 nurses participating in the Nurses’ Health Study, a web-based survey of U.S and Canadian nurses that began enrollment in 2010. Non-pregnant nurses reported their use of gloves and gowns when handling or administering antineoplastic drugs within the past month, and pregnant nurses reported their use during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, a time during which the fetus is highly susceptible to exposure.
Despite long-standing recommendations for the safe handling of antineoplastic and other hazardous drugs, many nurses – including those who are pregnant – reported not wearing protective gloves and gowns, the minimum protective equipment recommended when administering these drugs.
Specifically, of the non-pregnant nurses and pregnant nurses who said they administered antineoplastic drugs during the study period:
  • Twelve percent of non-pregnant nurses and 9% of pregnant nurses indicated that they never wore gloves when administering antineoplastic drugs.
  • Forty-two percent of non-pregnant nurses and 38% of pregnant nurses reported never using a gown.
  • During the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, about one in 10 pregnant nurses did not always wear gloves and one in two did not always wear a protective gown when administering these drugs.
“NIOSH has worked extensively to protect workers who handle antineoplastic drugs, many of which are known or probable human carcinogens,” said Christina Lawson, Ph.D., epidemiologist and lead author of the study. “Many of these drugs can also damage a person’s fertility or harm a pregnancy, for example by causing a miscarriage or birth defects, so we wanted to look at the health of pregnant nurses for this study.”
Study researchers can only hypothesize why some nurses in the study didn’t handle antineoplastic drugs safely. Previous research suggests that reasons may include prioritizing care for patients over their own personal health, lack of concern or awareness by either employee or employer of the toxicity of these drugs, and availability or opportunity to wear protective gloves and gowns.
“These data underscore the need for continued education and training to ensure that both employers and nurses—pregnant and non-pregnant—are fully aware of such hazards and of the recommended precautionary measures,” says Lawson.
The study was the result of a collaboration between NIOSH researchers, and investigators from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Harvard Medical School, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts.
Lab Safety: 10 Years Later
On December 29, 2008, staff scientist Sheri Sangji was working on a chemical synthesis in a lab at the University of California, Los Angeles, when one of the reagents ignited. Sangji’s clothes caught fire, causing injuries that led to her death on January 16, 2009, at age 23. Now, a decade later, chemists discuss ongoing efforts to improve academic lab safety in Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society.
Sangji’s tragic death inspired some chemists to improve academic lab safety to prevent similar accidents at their own institutions and elsewhere, writes Executive Editor Jyllian Kemsley. These efforts include incorporating safety into chemistry education, improving training, and creating a lab safety culture through the development of new resources and improved communication. However, some worry that although progress has been made, the efforts haven’t gone far enough, as evidenced by several other unfortunate lab accidents in recent years.
Some universities have developed standard operating procedures to describe the safe handling and storage of various chemicals. Others are considering courses on how to work with hazardous chemicals. One institution, Stony Brook University, celebrates an annual Chemistry Safety Day with training and demonstrations. On an individual level, Sangji’s death has caused some researchers and students to reflect on how such an accident could happen to them and has prompted them to have more routine safety discussions with each other.
Updated Washington State Recordkeeping and Reporting Requirements
Due to federal OSHA’s changes to 29 CFR 1904, the Washington State DOSH is adopting the same or similar language in chapter 296-27 WAC, Recording and reporting. Once the new rule is effective, it will require certain employers (depending on size and industry type) to annually submit electronic injury and illness records to OSHA that they are already required to keep under the recordkeeping regulations.
To ensure the completeness and accuracy of injury and illness data collected by employers and reported to OSHA, when the rule is effective it will also:
  • Require employers to establish reasonable procedures for employees to report occupational injuries and illness 
  • Require employers to inform employees of their right to report work-related injuries and illnesses free from retaliation; 
  • Incorporate the existing statutory prohibition on retaliating against employees for reporting work-related injuries or illnesses.
On January 30, 2019 at 9:30 am, at the Labor and Industries headquarters building in Tumwater, a stakeholder meeting will be held to discuss the upcoming rulemaking for chapter 296-27 WAC Recordkeeping and reporting. See below for meeting information and a link to the draft language that will be discussed.
If you cannot make it in person, you can call  in to 866-715-6499 and enter passcode 1897720443 followed by the # sign, to participate by phone.
The live meeting will be held at:
Department of Labor and Industries
Room S117
7273 Linderson Way SW
Tumwater, WA 98501
Scare Tactics Used to Sell Labor Law Posters
Every year the N.C. Department of Labor receives complaints of poster companies that use scare tactics to sell labor law posters. NCDOL says threats of being fined are bogus and should be ignored.
“Poster companies have been known to charge more than $150 for the posters,” Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry said. “I want the business community to know that the labor law posters are available from NCDOL free of charge.”
Recently, NCDOL obtained letters from poster companies, which include false information that employers will be fined as much as $17,000 by NCDOL for displaying out-of-date posters. The N.C. Department of Labor will not fine businesses that have the old posters displayed. NCDOL inspectors carry the newest posters in their vehicles and will offer them free to employers who have out-of-date posters.
“We would never fine an employer unless the employer just blatantly refused to put the posters up,” Commissioner Berry said. “I don’t know of any employer who has refused to take a free set of posters from one of our inspectors.”
The labor law posters are required under North Carolina law. The posters carry information on the state’s Wage and Hour Act and what are commonly referred to as “OSHA” regulations, or the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
In 2017, labor law posters provided by the N.C. Department of Labor were updated to include the required information pertaining to the N.C. Employee Fair Classification Act, which took effect Dec. 31, 2017.
Businesses that need to order new posters can visit NCDOL’s website or call 1-800-NC-LABOR (1-800-625-2267).
Contractor Cited Following Crane Collapse at New York City Construction Worksite
OSHA has cited Western Waterproofing Co. Inc. – doing business as Western Specialty Contractors – for exposing employees to serious injuries at a New York City construction worksite. The St. Louis, Missouri-based contractor faces $155,204 in proposed penalties.
An unsecured mini-crane overturned and fell four stories at an East 125th Street worksite on June 25, 2018. OSHA cited Western for not ensuring that the employee assigned to operate the crane was trained, evaluated, and determined competent to operate the equipment; for operating the crane in excess of its rated lifting capacity; and for not verifying that the load being lifted was within the crane's rated lifting capacity.
"This employer knowingly put workers at risk by failing to ensure that the crane was operated by a competent person," said Kay Gee, OSHA's Manhattan Area Office Director. "Effective training of employees, knowledge of equipment's limits, and correct operation of equipment are critical to preventing injuries."
Separately, the Manhattan District Attorney's Office has announced a Deferred Prosecution Agreement with Western and the indictment of the company's project manager and superintendent on criminal charges in connection with the incident.
Roofing Contractor Cited After Employee’s Fatal Fall at Missouri Jobsite
OSHA has cited Franklin County Construction LLC – based in New Haven, Missouri – after an employee suffered fatal fall injuries when a roof truss collapsed. The employee was part of a crew installing prefabricated roof trusses onto a commercial building under construction in Bowling Green, Missouri.
OSHA investigated the site on October 1, 2018, and cited the company for one repeat violation for failing to ensure anchorage points and five serious safety violations for failing to protect workers from structural collapse and fall hazards. The company faces proposed penalties of $56,910.
"Falls are the leading cause of death for construction workers but they can be prevented when required safety measures are taken," said St. Louis OSHA Area Director Bill McDonald. "It is vital that employers develop and implement safety procedures to ensure that employees are properly protected from collapse, and crews are trained in recognizing and evaluating fall and struck-by hazards."
The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Pennsylvania Excavation Company Cited for Exposing Employees to Trenching Hazards
OSHA has cited Spear Excavating LLC – based in Pennsburg, Pennsylvania – for exposing employees to trenching hazards at a worksite in Malvern, Pennsylvania. The company faces $106,057 in proposed penalties.
OSHA initiated an inspection on August 2, 2018, after receiving a complaint alleging the hazards. Inspectors determined that employees were working in an excavation that was accumulating water and did not have proper protection from cave-ins.
"Spear Excavating LLC willfully exposed its employees to cave-in hazards by putting production ahead of safety," said OSHA Philadelphia Area Office Director Theresa Downs. "Trench collapses and cave-ins continue to be among the greatest risks to construction workers' lives."
The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Solar Contractor Cited After Employee Fatality Electrocuted at Kansas Jobsite
OSHA has cited Maryland-based contractor Power Factor LLC for exposing workers to electrical hazards after an employee was fatally electrocuted while installing solar panels on a building in Fort Riley, Kansas.
Inspectors determined that the employee was hoisting a metal rail that came into contact with energized overhead power lines. OSHA cited Power Factor LLC for permitting employees to work in close proximity to electrical power circuits without de-energizing and grounding the circuits, or guarding the circuits using insulation or other means; and failing to maintain a safety program to conduct regular inspections of the jobsite, and train workers to recognize and avoid hazards. The company faces penalties of $39,836 for four serious violations.
"This tragedy could have been prevented if the employer had complied with electrical standards that require maintaining a safe distance from unprotected energized power lines, training employees, and providing personal protective equipment," said OSHA Wichita Area Director Ryan Hodge.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Utility Contractors Cited Following Fatal Explosion in Wisconsin
An investigation by OSHA into an explosion and fire in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, found that two utility contractors ­ – Bear Communications LLC of Lawrence, Kansas, and subcontractor V C Tech Inc. of Ypsilanti, Michigan­ – failed to establish the location of underground utilities prior to beginning excavation work.
An explosion and fire occurred in July 2018 when an underground gas line was struck by excavating equipment. A volunteer firefighter responding to the incident was fatally injured. OSHA inspectors determined that neither contractor contacted the underground utility owners or the local one-call system. Both companies were issued a serious safety violation, and face penalties of $12,934 each – the maximum penalty allowed.
“Excavators are required to train their employees on procedures for determining the location of underground utilities, and contact the utility company before opening an excavation” said Madison Office Area Director Chad Greenwood.
See citations issued to Bear Communications LLC here and V C Tech Inc. here.
Dallas Utilities Contractor Cited After Worker Suffers Fatal Gas Exposure
OSHA has cited RKM Utility Services Inc. for failing to protect workers from hydrogen sulfide after an employee died after exposure to dangerous levels of the gas while working in a trench in Dallas, Texas.
OSHA inspectors determined that the company exposed employees to a hazardous atmosphere, failed to train employees on the health hazards of hydrogen sulfide, and did not drain water from the trench. The company faces penalties of $422,006.
Hydrogen sulfide is flammable and toxic, particularly in confined spaces such as trenches and sewers. Employers are required to test the air to detect the presence of the gas, use exhaust systems to reduce hydrogen sulfide levels, train workers on hazards and control methods, and provide personal protective equipment if control methods used are not sufficient to reduce hydrogen sulfide levels.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of the safety and health citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
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