New Safety and Health Issues Emerge as Work Changes

April 22, 2019
Changes in working practices, demographics, technology and the environment are creating new occupational safety and health (OSH) concerns, according to a new report from the International Labor Organization (ILO).
Growing challenges include psychosocial risks, work-related stress and non-communicable diseases, notably circulatory and respiratory diseases, and cancers.
The report, Safety and Health at the heart of the Future of Work: Building on 100 years of experience *, is being published ahead of the World Day for Safety and Health at Work , which is marked on April 28th. It reviews the ILO’s 100 years of work on OSH issues, and highlights emerging health and safety issues in the world of work. 
Currently, more than 374 million people are injured or made ill every year through work-related accidents. It is estimated that work days lost to OSH-related causes represent almost 4% of global GDP, in some countries as much as 6%, the Report says.  
“As well as more effective prevention for established risks, we are seeing profound changes in our places and ways of working. We need safety and health structures that reflect this, alongside a general culture of prevention that creates shared responsibility,” said Manal Azzi, ILO Technical Specialist on Occupational Safety and Health. 
“As well as the economic cost we must recognize the immeasurable human suffering such illnesses and accidents cause. These are all-the-more tragic because they are largely preventable."
Looking to the future, the report highlights four major transformative forces driving changes. It points out that all also offer opportunities for improvements.
  • First, technology, such as digitization, robotics, and nanotechology, can also affect psychosocial health and introduce new materials with unmeasured health hazards. Correctly applied it can also help reduce hazardous exposures, facilitate training and labor inspections.
  • Demographic shifts are important because young workers have significantly high occupational injury rates, while older workers need adaptive practices and equipment to work safely. Women – who are entering the workforce in increasing numbers – are more likely to have non-standard work arrangements and have a higher risk of musculoskeletal disorders.
  • Thirdly, development and climate change give rise to risks such as air pollution, heat stress, emerging diseases, shifting weather and temperature patterns that can bring job losses. Equally, new jobs will be created through sustainable development and the green economy.
  • Finally, changes in the organization of work can bring flexibility that allows more people to enter the labor force, but may also lead to psychosocial issues (for example, insecurity, compromised privacy and rest time, or inadequate OSH and social protections) and excessive work hours. Approximately 36% of the world’s workforce currently works excessive hours (more than 48 hours per week).
In the light of these challenges the study proposes six areas on which policy makers and other stakeholders should focus. These include more work on anticipating new and emerging OSH risks, adopting a more multidisciplinary approach and building stronger links to public health work. Better public understanding of OSH issues is also needed. Finally, international labour standards and national legislation need to be strengthened, something which will require stronger collaboration between Governments, workers and employers. 
By far the greatest proportion of current work-related deaths – 86% – come from disease. In the region of 6,500 people a day die from occupational diseases, compared to 1,000 from fatal occupational accidents. 
The greatest causes of mortality are circulatory diseases (31%), work-related cancers (26%) and respiratory diseases (17%).
“As well as the economic cost we must recognize the immeasurable human suffering such illnesses and accidents cause. These are all-the-more tragic because they are largely preventable,” said Azzi. “Serious consideration should also be given to the recommendation of the ILO’s Global Commission on the Future of Work , that occupational safety and health be recognized as a fundamental principle and right at work.”
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Temporary Worker Fatally Crushed
 Cal/OSHA has cited an agricultural employer and a farm labor contractor more than $100,000 combined in proposed penalties after a worker was fatally crushed by a bin dumper at a walnut processing and packing facility in Tehama County, CA.
On October 6, 2018, forklift operators at Crain Walnut Shelling in Los Molinos were filling bins with walnuts, which were then dumped into a hopper for processing. A temporary worker for Cal North Farm Labor, Inc. was instructed to clean the area around the equipment. The worker was under an 800-pound bin dumper when it emptied its load and automatically lowered to the ground, crushing him.
Cal/OSHA’s investigation determined the employer did not evaluate workplace hazards and the worker did not receive safety training from Crain Walnut Shelling or Fresno- based Cal North Farm Labor, Inc. before being assigned to clean concrete and machinery at the walnut processing facility.
“Working near large moving parts of equipment and machinery can be deadly,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum. “Employers must identify and evaluate workplace hazards and unsafe conditions and provide effective training to employees before they begin a new job assignment.”
Investigators found that Crain Walnut Shelling failed to ensure that the walnut bin dumper they designed included proper machine guards or lockout/tagout procedures to protect workers who maintain the machinery. Crain also failed to provide an extension tool for cleaning the area, which would have significantly minimized potential crushing hazards. Cal/OSHA identified four serious violations and issued four citations with proposed penalties totaling $67,500.
Citations were also issued to Cal North Farm Labor, Inc. for their failure to ensure that workers are trained on hazards related to cleaning and servicing around the bin dumper. Cal/OSHA issued two citations classified as serious with proposed penalties of $33,750.
Failure to develop and follow steps to de-energize or block the use of equipment, otherwise known as lockout/tagout procedures, before cleaning or working on machinery can result in serious or fatal workplace injuries. Cal/OSHA offers an eTool to help you comply with lockout/tagout regulations and develop an effective safety program.
A serious violation is cited when there is a realistic possibility that death or serious harm could result from the actual hazardous condition. Violations are classified as accident- related when the injury, illness or fatality is caused by the violation.
Food Manufacturer and Staffing Agency Fined for Worker Finger Amputations
Cal/OSHA has issued more than $300,000 in serious citations to two employers after a temporary worker lost two fingers cleaning machinery at a food manufacturing facility in Los Angeles.
On October 2, 2018, the employee for Priority Workforce, Inc. was assigned to JSL Foods, Inc., a maker and distributer of noodles, pasta and baked goods. The worker was cleaning a dough rolling machine when his left hand was partially pulled into the moving rollers and two of his fingers were amputated.
Cal/OSHA’s investigation found the machine had not been adequately guarded to prevent fingers from entering pinch points, or de-energized and locked out to prevent movement while the worker was cleaning it. Neither employer had trained the worker to follow lockout/tagout procedures before cleaning the equipment. Lockout involves isolating a machine from its power source and using a device to prevent machinery from being restarted, while a tagout device on a machine shows it is prohibited to operate.
“Lockout/tagout procedures are required to protect employees who maintain powered equipment with moveable parts,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum. “Employers must ensure the procedures are in place and are followed.”
Cal/OSHA cited JSL Foods Inc. $276,435 in proposed penalties for seven violations, including one willful repeat serious violation and one willful repeat serious accident- related violation for failing to follow lockout/tagout procedures. JSL Foods, Inc. was cited twice in 2015 for the same violations.
Cal/OSHA also cited Tustin-based Priority Workforce Inc. $29,250 in proposed penalties for three serious violations for failure to establish, implement, and maintain an effective Injury and Illness Prevention Program, failure to ensure employees were effectively trained, and failure to ensure the machinery was adequately guarded.
Cal/OSHA offers an eTool to help employers understand lockout/tagout requirements and how to develop effective safety procedures.
Framing Contractor Fined for Exposing Employees to Fall Hazards
OSHA has cited framing contractor Navy Contractors, Inc. for willfully exposing employees to fall hazards at residential construction sites in Royersford, Collegeville, and Center Valley, Pennsylvania. The company faces $603,850 in penalties.
OSHA initiated inspections at the three jobsites after inspectors saw employees performing framing work without fall protection. OSHA cited the company for failing to provide fall protection equipment and training, improper use of ladders, deficiencies in walking/working surfaces, and inadequate fire protection.
At the Royersford site, Navy Contractors Inc. operated as a subcontractor under the supervision of a controlling general contractor, which was Blue Lion Ventures Inc. - doing business as Storm Guard of Ches-Mont Inc. in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. OSHA also cited the general contractor for failing to provide fall protection. OSHA previously inspected Navy Contractors Inc.'s worksites and determined in two of the inspections that the company willfully disregarded their obligation to provide fall protection.
"Knowingly and repeatedly ignoring fall protection requirements places workers at risk for serious or fatal injuries," said OSHA Allentown Area Director Jean Kulp. "All construction employers, regardless of their contracting status, are legally required to comply with regulations to protect workers' safety and health."
The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Commission.
Jury Awards Whistleblower $40,000 in Damages Following OSHA Investigation of Pennsylvania Foundry
After an OSHA investigation, a jury in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania has awarded $40,000 for lost wages, pain and suffering, and punitive damages to a former employee of Fairmount Foundry Inc. The employee claimed that the Hamburg, Pennsylvania, iron-casting company terminated him for reporting alleged safety and health hazards to OSHA.
The verdict follows a lawsuit filed by the Department in September 2017 in which an OSHA whistleblower investigation determined that Fairmount Foundry fired the complainant in retaliation for engaging in a protected activity under Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
"The jury recognized that every employee has a legally protected right to report safety hazards to OSHA without fear of termination," said Regional Philadelphia Solicitor Oscar L. Hampton III. "By compensating the complainant, and assessing an additional penalty against the company, the jury sent the message that such behavior will not be tolerated."
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of 22 statutes protecting employees who report violations of various airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, motor vehicle safety, healthcare reform, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime, and securities laws. For more information on whistleblower protections, visit OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Programs webpage.
Federal Jury Decides Pennsylvania Company Wrongfully Terminated Two Employees for Participating in OSHA Investigation
A jury in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania has found that Lloyd Industries Inc. – a manufacturing company based in Montgomeryville, Pennsylvania – and its owner William P. Lloyd unlawfully terminated two employees because of their involvement in a safety investigation conducted by OSHA.
An OSHA whistleblower investigation determined that Lloyd Industries Inc. and Lloyd unlawfully fired the two employees in retaliation for engaging in protected activities under Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act). The verdict follows a lawsuit filed by the Department in March 2016. The court will determine damages in the trial's second phase.
"The U.S. Department of Labor proved the employer unlawfully fired workers for participating in a safety inspection," said Regional Philadelphia Solicitor Oscar L. Hampton III. "The jury agreed that the timing of these terminations was no mere coincidence and supported the workers' legal right to a safe and healthy workplace."
Craftsman Lawn Mowers Recalled Due to Injury Hazard
This recall involves Craftsman M350 walk-behind, gas-powered lawn mowers with model 12ABR2BK793. The 23-inch, red lawn mowers have a black collecting bag in the rear. Craftsman is printed on the top of the bag, the engine and the upper handle. The model number and date of manufacture 01/2019 can be found on a label located on the rear discharge door.  
The recalled lawn mowers were manufactured in the US by MTD Products Inc of Cleveland, Ohio, and sold Lowe’s stores nationwide and online from January 2019 through February 2019 for about $400.
If you have one of these mowers, you should immediately stop using it and contact an authorized Craftsman Service Center to arrange for a free repair. MTD is contacting all known purchasers directly.
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