Ohio Firm Receives $163,000 in OSHA Fines

December 27, 2004

OSHA cited Plastech Exterior Systems Inc. of Bryan, OH, for several repeat and willful safety violations. The company, which manufactures and assembles plastic injection molds for the automotive industry, was fined $163,000 for the violations.

The citations were the result an investigation that began in July. These resulted from a 2002 inspection during which Plastech received 24 citations for safety violations. Some of those citations were later dismissed, but those left intact included serious violations similar to the latest citations

The agency cited Plastech for repeat violations of failing to protect electrical equipment from exposure to water and failing to institute proper machine lockout procedures. The company also received citations for willful violations regarding fall hazards, as well as serious violations for a lack of noise protection for workers, machine guards, and other protective equipment.

OSHA officials issued a statement indicating that the agency has been observing the firm due to high illness and injury rates. The facility employs 500 workers, and is owned by Plastech Engineered Products of Dearborn, MI.

Denver, Kansas City Regions Spotlight VPP Worksites

 Greg Baxter and Charles Adkins, regional administrators in Denver and Kansas City, respectively, said these companies should be commended for their "commitment to employee workplace safety and health" and that they each represent "excellence in effective safety and health management."

National Alliances Focus on Building Service Contractors, Utility Construction Industries

Advancement of safety and health for workers in the building service contracting industry is the focus of a Dec. 2 Alliance between OSHA and the Building Service Contractors Association International . Particular focus will be on reducing injuries and illnesses associated with musculoskeletal disorders, as well as exposure to hazardous materials. OSHA also formed an Alliance Dec. 6 with the National Utility Contractors Association , highlighting hazards associated with trenching and excavation, and confined spaces for workers in the utility construction industry.

OSHA Recordkeeping Initiative

 "This initiative will assure the accuracy and quality of injury and illness data," Henshaw said and, in addition to the handbook, will include updated frequently asked questions for the agency's website, more training for OSHA staff, and increased outreach on recordkeeping. OSHA plans to roll out the new initiative next month. Henshaw also discussed other agency initiatives, including trenching, hazard communication, reactive chemicals, Hispanic outreach, emergency preparedness, and motor vehicle safety.

BLS Reports Decline in Workplace Injury and Illness Rates

 The number translates to a rate of 5.0 cases per 100 full-time workers and a 7.1 percent decrease in the actual number of injuries and illnesses reported in 2002.  "These positive results show that our dual commitment to compliance assistance and enforcement is working."

Latest Additions to OSHAÆs Voluntary Protection Program

The following companies were recently approved recently for new or continued participation in OSHA's Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP):

Region II: Goodyear Chemical, Niagara Falls, NY (New Merit); Pactiv Canandaigua Technology Center, Canandaigua, NY (Cont. Star); Alcoa-KAMA, Avenel, NY (Cont. Star); Stepan Chemical, Fieldsboro, NJ (Cont. Star)

Region III: Allegheny Energy, Rivesville Power Station, Rivesville, WV (New Star); US Postal Service, Virginia Main Post Office, Danville, VA (New Star)

Region IV: Milliken & Co., Newton Plant, Hartwell, GA (Cont. Star)

Region VI: Potlatch Corp., Southern Unit, Warren, AR (Cont. Star)

Region VII: Effigy Mounds National Monument, National Park Service, Harpers Ferry, IA (New Star).

New Youth Employment Rules

 The new rules expand protections for youth working in restaurant cooking, roofing, and driving, among other changes.

"These rules are part of the department's ongoing effort to promote positive, safe work experiences for young workers," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao. "This follows upon our very successful YouthRules! public awareness campaign launched in May 2002 to educate teens, parents, educators, employers, and the public about federal and state laws regarding young workers."

The rules incorporate into the regulations the provisions of two statutory amendments to the Fair Labor Standards Act that deal with driving and the operation of compactors and balers by teenage employees. The first statutory change established criteria permitting 16 and 17-year-olds to load, but not operate or unload, certain waste-material baling and compacting equipment. The second statutory change delineated what limited on-the-job driving may be performed by qualified 17-year-olds.

Provisions are also included to modernize the youth employment provisions regarding what types of cooking 14- and 15-year olds are permitted to perform. The new rules now permit those minors to clean and maintain cooking devices in some situations.

The rules published today also expand the current prohibition against youth under age 18 working in roofing occupations to encompass all work on or about a roof, including work performed upon or in close proximity to a roof. Under the new provisions, youth may only perform such work if in an apprenticeship or student-learner program.

The department published the rules following the review of comments received in response to a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. The final rules address some of the recommendations made by NIOSH in a report to the department in May 2002.

The department has also revised existing compliance assistance materials to comport with these new rules.  Information may also be obtained by calling the department's toll-free help line at 1-866-4USWAGE (1-866-487-9243).

Indiana Firm Receives OSHA Citation Following Ohio Trench Fatality

Reynolds, Inc., of Orleans, IN, is facing $110,000 in proposed OSHA fines stemming from a fatal trenching accident in June 2004. An employee at a Mason, OH, worksite was struck by a bucket that became disengaged from a "quick coupling" device used to attach the bucket to excavating equipment. The agency issued an alleged willful violation for failure to adequately protect workers from cave-in hazards. OSHA also issued an alleged serious violation for failure to train workers properly regarding trenching hazards.

An additional serious citation was issued for failure to ensure that the bucket attached to excavating equipment would not become disengaged due to the absence of fail-safe coupling devices, secondary safety devices, or assurance of proper connection through compliance with all manufacturers' requirements for inspection and maintenance of the device.

A quick coupling device may be used to attach a bucket to the arm of excavating equipment. However, it must be thoroughly tested and inspected before it is put into use. The Mason worksite fatality occurred when the bucket of a hydraulic excavator became detached and fell into an excavation, striking an employee who was laying pipe.

The agency has noted an increase in such incidents. 

OSHA Offers Best Practices for Hospitals Receiving Victims of Mass Casualties

OSHA recently released information to help hospitals safeguard their employees while caring for patients injured in incidents involving chemical, biological, or radiological materials.

 It focuses on suggestions for appropriate training and suitable personal protective equipment for healthcare employees who may be exposed to hazardous substances wile treating victims of mass casualties. The document includes appendices with practical examples of decontamination procedures and medical monitoring for first receivers who respond to a mass casualty incident.

OSHA drew upon the best practices of hospitals of varying sizes and with differing risk levels to develop the guidance, as well as conducting an extensive literature search. The agency also placed a draft on its website during August 2004 and solicited additional stakeholder input.

The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) requires hospitals to develop plans to respond to both natural and manmade emergencies. Depending on their roles, some hospital employees also may be covered by OSHA's hazardous waste operations and emergency response standard. Following the guidance in the document will enable hospitals to fulfill these responsibilities.


Tips to Protect Workers in Cold Environments

Workers in construction, commercial fishing, maritime and agriculture are among those who need to take precautions.

Prolonged exposure to freezing or cold temperatures may cause serious health problems such as trench foot, frostbite and hypothermia. In extreme cases, including cold water immersion, exposure can lead to death. Danger signs include uncontrolled shivering, slurred speech, clumsy movements, fatigue and confused behavior. If these signs are observed, call for emergency help.

OSHA's Cold Stress Card provides a reference guide and recommendations to combat and prevent many illnesses and injuries. Tips include:

  • How to Protect Workers
  • Recognize the environmental and workplace conditions that may be dangerous.
  • Learn the signs and symptoms of cold-induced illnesses and injuries and what to do to help workers.
  • Train workers about cold-induced illnesses and injuries.
  • Encourage workers to wear proper clothing for cold, wet and windy conditions, including layers that can be adjusted to changing conditions.
  • Be sure workers in extreme conditions take a frequent short break in warm dry shelters to allow their bodies to warm up.
  • Try to schedule work for the warmest part of the day.
  • Avoid exhaustion or fatigue because energy is needed to keep muscles warm.
  • Use the buddy system - work in pairs so that one worker can recognize danger signs.
  • Drink warm, sweet beverages (sugar water, sports-type drinks) and avoid drinks with caffeine (coffee, tea, sodas or hot chocolate) or alcohol.
  • Eat warm, high-calorie foods such as hot pasta dishes.
  • Remember, workers face increased risks when they take certain medications, are in poor physical condition or suffer from illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension or cardiovascular disease

 The webpage covers safe winter driving, snow removal, cold weather gear, and offers other winter safety tips.

OSHA Administrator Resigns

OSHA Administrator John Henshaw announced his resignation, effective Dec. 31, 2004.  Kim Lazor, special assistant to the assistant secretary, will also assume a larger role in the agency's operations.

 Layne will retire from the government on Dec. 31, 2004 after 37 years of government service. Layne has accepted the position of Executive Director of the Voluntary Protection Programs Participants' Association . Henshaw appointed Steven F. Witt, current director of OSHA's Standards and Guidance Directorate, as acting deputy assistant secretary, and Dorothy Dougherty to assume Witt's duties. Dougherty is currently deputy director of Standards and Guidance.

Arkansas Utility Fined Following Fatal Explosion

OSHA has fined the North Arkansas Electric Cooperative following an August 2004 explosion at a substation that killed three workers in Aug. The company plans to contest the agencyÆs findings, which resulted in more than $14,000 in fines.

The OSHA citation listed three serious violations, alleging that the utility did not furnish a workplace that was free from recognized hazards that were likely to cause death or serious injury. The agency also alleged that the utility lagged in training, and that the power lines and electrical equipment to be worked on were not tested to ensure that they were de-energized. A representative for the company said that the company felt that employees were properly trained and were able to handle the work.

Illinois Public Utility Company Receives OSHA Citation Following Workplace Fatality

The Mt. Carmel Public Utility Company has been fined $66,500 by OSHA for violations of workplace safety standards. The citations follow an agency investigation into the July workplace accident in which one worker died and another received serious injuries.

OSHA issued several citations to the electricity and natural gas distributor for allowing a number of unsafe practices. The seven alleged serious violations included the company's failure to assess the workplace for job safety hazards, lack of protective equipment and clothing, failure to train or brief employees on each job, and failing to have employees follow appropriate energy control procedures during the repair of power lines.

The agency also cited the company for an alleged willful violation for permitting employees to work on distribution lines without the required electrical grounding.