OSHA Critical Incident Stress Guidelines

March 07, 2005

Workers responding to emergency events and or disasters will see and experience events that will strain their ability to function. These events, which include having to witness or experience tragedy, death, serious injuries and threatening situations are called "Critical Incidents." The physical and psychological well-being of those experiencing this stress, as well as their future ability to function through a prolonged response, will depend upon how they manage this stress. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder differs from critical incident stress by lasting longer than four weeks after the event triggering the emotional, mental or physical response. Most instances of critical incident stress last between two days and four weeks. 

Chemical Spill Sends 18 to Hospital and $126,000 Penalty

OSHA has issued citations to Valmont Coatings-Oklahoma Galvanizing in Claremore, Okla., and proposed penalties totaling $126,000 for safety and health violations which sent 18 employees to the hospital.

Valmont Coatings-Oklahoma Galvanizing, a hot-dip galvanizing business, is owned by Valmont Industries Inc., headquartered in Omaha. Neb. The company employs more than 3000 workers; about 100 are located in Claremore. Following an inspection that began Aug. 31, OSHA cited the company for one alleged willful and eight alleged serious violations for exposing employees to sulfuric acid during a clean up spill from the rupture of a storage tank.

The alleged willful violation was issued for failing to provide personal protective equipment to employees who responded to the acid spill. A willful citation is issued by OSHA when an employer either knew that a condition constituted a violation or was aware that a hazardous condition existed and made no reasonable effort to correct it.

"If the employer would have taken the appropriate precautions to protect its employees, it is possible that this incident could have been avoided," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao. "This Administration is committed to using strong enforcement to protect the health and safety of America's workers. Fortunately, there was no loss of life."

The alleged serious citations included failing to ensure that the premises were free from hazardous conditions such as exposure to concentrated sulfuric acid or being struck-by debris caused by the leakage and/or rupture of a storage tank operating under pressure; failing to develop and implement an emergency response plan; failing to assure the senior emergency response official took charge of the situation at the site when the spill occurred; and failing to train employees in emergency response operations. OSHA defines a serious violation as one in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

Valmont Industries has had numerous inspections in past years, one of which resulted in proposed penalties of $20,000 when an employee died in Valley, Neb., after being crushed by a stamper machine in July 1996. Violations involved machine guarding and control of hazardous energy.

Lack of Fall Protection Leads to Fatal Accident and $63,300 Penalty

OSHA has cited Mosley Building Systems Inc. for exposing workers to fall hazards at a Robertsdale job site. The agency is proposing penalties totaling $63,300 following its investigation of a fatal accident in October.

"This tragic accident could have been prevented if workers had been properly trained and provided fall protection equipment," said Ken Atha, area director for OSHA's Mobile office.

OSHA's investigation found that, on Oct. 16, Mosley employees were repairing the roof of a building damaged by a recent hurricane when one worker stepped onto an area covered only by insulation and fell 20 feet to a concrete floor. OSHA issued one willful citation, with a proposed penalty of $49,000 for failing to provide fall protection for employees working on the roof.

The company also received four serious citations, with proposed penalties of $9,400, for failing to provide employees with fall protection training; failing to properly secure a forklift platform used to lift workers to the roof; failing to provide a guardrail on the metal platform used to transport workers to and from the roof; and using a platform that exceeded the manufacturer's safe size limit. The company also received a citation, with a proposed penalty of $4,900, for failing to report the fatality to OSHA within eight hours.

$80,500 Fine for Lead Hazards at Chester, Maine, Bridge Deleading Project

A lead abatement contractor's failure to protect employees removing lead paint from a steel bridge spanning the Penobscot River between Lincoln and Chester, Maine, has resulted in $80,500 in fines from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Monoko Inc., Tarpon Springs, Fla., was cited for a total of 15 alleged willful and serious violations of workplace health standards following an OSHA inspection begun Aug. 25, 2004.

The willful citations, which account for $55,000 of the total fines, concern the employer's failure to require lead-exposed employees to shower at the end of each shift, a situation exacerbated by the lack of working showers and the lack of water supply to the showers. Also cited as willful was the company's use of unapproved industrial hoses and fittings and spliced hoses for airline respirators.

The serious citations address employees' exposure to excess airborne concentrations of lead; no lead exposure monitoring; dirty respirators, stored in lead contaminated areas and not inspected daily; lead contaminated work surfaces, lockers, street clothes, eyewash and hand washing facilities; refusal to supply a required medical exam and blood lead analysis to an employee who had symptoms of lead poisoning; employees allowed to eat while wearing lead contaminated clothing; a vacuum lacking a HEPA filter; and failure to provide the workers, many of whom were non-English speaking, with training on lead hazards and safe work practices in a language they understood. A total of $25,500 in fines is proposed for these items.

Lead is a poison that can damage the central nervous system, kidney, cardiovascular, blood and reproductive systems if absorbed into the body in high enough doses. Absorption is often through inhalation.

"OSHA lead standards require employers to take steps to minimize exposure levels, practice effective industrial hygiene, ensure proper respirator use and effectively train employees in safe and healthful work practices," said Anthony Lemire, OSHA's acting area director for Maine. "The failure to comply with these standards at this jobsite is unacceptable."

OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations. A serious violation is a condition where there is a substantial possibility that death or serious physical harm can result to an employee.

Workshop on Chemical Reactivity Hazards Scheduled

 The workshop will be held April 15 in conjunction with the spring 2005 American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) national meeting. 

Maritime Advisory Committee Schedules March Meeting

The Maritime Advisory Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (MACOSH) has scheduled its next meeting in Washington, D.C., for March 31 beginning at 8:30 a.m. Notice of the meeting will be published in the March 2, 2005, Federal Register. Committee work groups (shipyard, longshoring, container safety, traffic safety, safety culture, and health) will meet from 9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., on March 30. Topics on the agenda include exposure monitoring information on beryllium and silica, shipyard practices on the control of hazardous energy (lockout/tagout), and analyses of accident causation data. MACOSH focuses on occupational safety and health issues for workers involved in shipbuilding, ship breaking, ship repair, and longshoring in the maritime industries.

New Emergency Preparedness Guides

OSHA has published several new emergency preparedness guides, which are available at the following links:


Toxic Industrial Chemicals Involved in Terrorist Events

Because of the potential for terrorist events, many have expressed concern about the possibility of a terrorist attack involving toxic industrial chemicals (TICs), or toxic industrial materials (TIMs). These agents can be highly toxic and are produced in large quantities. The following frequently asked questions will help workers understand what toxic industrial chemicals are and how they may affect their health and safety.

Kim Lazor Appointed OSHA Chief of Staff

Jonathan Snare, Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, announced last month the appointment of Kim Lazor as the agency's new Chief of Staff. Lazor has served for the past three years as a special assistant for the agency and has been key to expanding the agency's compliance assistance efforts and stakeholder outreach. As Chief of Staff, Lazor will serve as a senior member of OSHA's management team and work with Snare and others on agency policy, oversight and management.