OSHA Establishes a New National Emphasis Program on Silica

February 04, 2008


"Exposure to silica threatens nearly two million American employees annually," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Edwin G. Foulke Jr. "Under this program, OSHA will work diligently to maximize the protection of employees and eliminate workplace exposures to silica-related hazards."

The NEP compliance directive builds on policies and procedures instituted in the 1996 Special Emphasis Program and includes an updated list of industries commonly known to have overexposures to silica; detailed information on potential hazards linked to silica and about current research regarding silica exposure hazards; guidance on calculating the Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs) for dust containing respirable crystalline silica in the construction and maritime industries; and guidance on conducting silica-related inspections.


Silicosis is a disabling, nonreversible and sometimes fatal lung disease caused by breathing in a large amount of crystalline silica.

Post Injury/Illness Summaries Beginning Feb. 1, 2008

Effective Feb. 1, 2008, employers must post a summary of the total number of job-related injuries and illnesses that occurred during 2007. Employers are required to post OSHA Form 300A (summary). The 2007 summary must be posted from February 1 to April 30.

"The OSHA 300 logs provide employers and employees a broad view of where injuries and illnesses are occurring at their worksites," stated Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Edwin G. Foulke, Jr. "Identifying and posting injury and illness information provides employers and employees with useful information to help ensure a more safe and healthful workplace."

The summary must include the total number of job-related injuries and illnesses that occurred in 2007 and were logged on the OSHA Form 300. To assist in calculating incidence rates, information about the annual average number of employees and total hours worked during the calendar year is also required. If a company recorded no injuries or illnesses in 2007, the employer must enter "zero" on the total line. The form must be signed and certified by a company executive. Form 300A should be displayed in a common area where notices to employees are usually posted.

Employers with 10 or fewer employees and employers in certain industries are normally exempt from federal OSHA injury and illness recordkeeping and posting requirements. A complete list of exempt industries in the retail, services, finance, insurance, and real estate sectors is posted on the OSHA website.

The Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics may still select exempted employers to participate in an annual statistical survey. All employers covered by OSHA need to comply with safety and health standards. All accidents that result in one or more fatalities or in the hospitalization of three or more employees must be reported verbally within eight hours to the nearest OSHA office.


Two New Whistleblower Fact Sheets Available

Employees in the environmental and aviation industries can benefit from two new OSHA Whistleblower Protection fact sheets. Individuals who report violations of environmental laws related to asbestos; air emissions; hazardous and solid waste cleanup and disposal; discharges of pollutants in U.S. waters; and control of toxic chemicals are protected from employer retaliation. Air carrier employees, contractors, and subcontractors are also protected from retaliation for reporting violations of federal laws associated with aviation safety. 

U.S. Postal Service’s Cape Cod Processing Center Steps Up to Become ‘Star’ in Elite Workplace Safety and Health Program

The U.S. Postal Service’s Cape Cod mail processing and distribution facility in Wareham, Mass., has achieved “star” status in OSHA’s prestigious Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP).

“Employees and management at the Cape Cod processing center are to be congratulated for stepping up to ’star’ level, the highest in the VPP,” said Marthe Kent, OSHA’s regional administrator for New England.

The Wareham facility, which employs 149 workers who process mail for Cape Cod and the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, entered the VPP as a “merit” site in June 2005. Its elevation to a “star” site came after an OSHA team’s on-site review, including interviews with employees and a complete tour of the worksite, found the facility’s safety and health programs consistent with the high quality expected of VPP participants.

“Working together, employees and management took a good safety and health program and made it better,” said Kent. “Their focus on identifying and addressing work-related hazards has resulted in injury and illness rates that are well below the industry average.”

The VPP recognizes worksites that are committed to effective employee protection beyond the requirements of OSHA standards and encourages cooperative relationships among labor, management, unions, and government. The Wareham facility is one of more than 1,920 worksites in 270 industries nationwide that have earned entry into the VPP.

Through the VPP, employers and employees have experienced significant decreases in fatalities, injuries, and illnesses; associated cost reductions including lowered workers’ compensation expenses; positive changes in company culture and attitudes toward safety and health; and average injury rates 50% lower than other employers in their respective industries.

OSHA Cites Hartley Construction for Willful Violations Following Worker Death

OSHA cited the Hartley Construction Co. of Gainesville, Ga., for one willful and two serious safety violations carrying $54,950 in proposed penalties following a fatality at a church construction site in Ellijay, Ga. in August 2007. OSHA issues a serious citation when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health.

“This needless death occurred because the contractor put speed ahead of safety,” said Gei-Thae Breezley, director of OSHA’s Atlanta-East Area Office.

OSHA has cited Hartley Construction for one willful safety violation, with a proposed penalty of $49,000, for not properly bracing the building’s roof trusses. The site superintendent knew the proper procedures but was focused on saving time. The fatality occurred when the trusses collapsed, causing one employee to fall to his death.

Citations for two serious citations, with proposed penalties totaling $5,950, also have been issued against the company for not providing fall protection to its employees and storing roof trusses on the ground, exposing the material to moisture that could compromise its structural integrity.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to contest them and the proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The site was inspected by staff from OSHA’s Atlanta-East Area Office.

OSHA Joins With Apple Health Care Inc. to Enhance Safeguards for Employees at 24 Care Facilities in Connecticut and Rhode Island

OSHA has formed an alliance with Avon, Conn.–based Apple Health Care Inc. and the Connecticut Department of Labor’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Conn-OSHA). The alliance will help the employees of Apple’s 24 nursing and personal care facilities in Connecticut and Rhode Island reduce their exposure to work hazards.

Under the alliance, OSHA and Apple Health Care will develop training and education programs that will increase Apple employees’ ability to identify and eliminate hazards associated with their duties and thereby prevent the occurrence of work-related injuries and illnesses. The training will cover musculoskeletal disorders, bloodborne pathogens, noise, and other topics identified through surveys.

“This alliance is an ambitious effort to equip employees with a most valuable and useful tool: the knowledge to better identify and prevent work-related hazards,” said C. William Freeman III, OSHA’s area director in Hartford. “It will provide employees, those most directly affected by occupational hazards, with the opportunity to help focus training to those situations and issues of greatest concern to them.”

As part of the alliance, OSHA and Apple Health Care also will share best practices and promote and encourage the participation of company facilities in OSHA’s cooperative programs, including the Voluntary Protection Programs and the Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program. OSHA’s area offices in Hartford; Bridgeport, Conn.; and Providence, R.I., are participating in the alliance.

The alliance agreement has been signed by OSHA Area Directors Freeman, Robert Kowalski (Bridgeport), and Patrick Griffin (Providence); Apple Health Care Vice President for Purchasing and Facilities Management Stuart T. Fisher; and Connecticut OSHA Director Richard Palo.

More information about OSHA alliances and cooperative programs in Connecticut and Rhode Island is available from the compliance assistance specialists in OSHA’s Hartford (860-240-3152), Bridgeport (203-579-5581), and Providence (401-528-4669) area offices.

OSHA safety and health alliances are part of U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao’s ongoing efforts to improve the health and safety of employees through cooperative partnerships with trade associations, labor organizations, employers, and government agencies. OSHA currently has more than 460 alliances throughout the nation with organizations committed to fostering safety and health in the workplace.

OSHA Upgrades Its Small Business Assistance Website


“OSHA continues to be at the forefront in developing and making resources and tools available to help employers provide a safe and healthful work environment,” said OSHA Assistant Secretary of Labor Edwin G. Foulke Jr. “The ‘Safety Pays’ eTool and the Spanish Language Safety link are examples of our commitment to better serve the needs of the small business community.”

The new format showcases focal points, new products, and links. The site provides a wide variety of safety and health tools, products, and information for small businesses.

The OSBA website features an updated “Safety Pays” eTool to help employers estimate the costs of occupational injuries and illnesses and the estimated impact on a company’s profitability. This Web-based application allows businesses to identify the direct and indirect costs of injuries and calculate the sales needed to make up for these losses. Advantages of the “Safety Pays” tool include no downloading; access to updated loss-injury figures; automatic results after entering data in the appropriate fields; and the option to create and print additional forms online.

A new addition to the site, the Spanish Language Safety link, contains useful Spanish-language compliance assistance resources and tools developed by OSHA’s State Consultation programs. The page provides small businesses with access to Spanish-language safety cards, booklets, and posters. Visitors may access this link from the Small Business Assistance webpage.

$76,500 Fine for Cave-in Hazard

An unprotected excavation and other hazards at a Hillsborough, N.H., jobsite have resulted in OSHA proposing $76,500 in fines against a Pembroke, N.H., contractor. East Coast Utilities was cited for alleged willful and serious violations of safety standards at a sewer line installation site located at the intersection of West Main and School Streets.

OSHA opened its inspection on July 23, 2007, after agency inspectors spotted an employee entering an apparent unprotected excavation. The inspection revealed that employees working in an excavation that ranged from 8 feet, 5 inches to 11 feet, 6 inches in depth lacked adequate protection against a potential collapse of its walls. OSHA standards require that all excavations 5 feet or deeper be protected against collapse.

As a result, OSHA issued the company one willful citation, with a proposed fine of $70,000, for the lack of cave-in protection.

“An unprotected excavation can collapse in moments, burying employees beneath tons of soil and debris before they have a chance to react or escape,” said Francis Pagliuca, OSHA’s acting area director in Concord. “The hazard is so severe that OSHA inspectors will stop and open an inspection on the spot whenever they observe an unprotected excavation, as happened in this case.”

Three serious citations, carrying an additional $6,500 in fines, were issued for other hazards identified during the inspection. These included an excavator and a section of concrete curbing located within 2 feet of the excavation’s edge; a ladder that did not extend at least 3 feet above the edge of the excavation; and a backhoe that lacked a backup alarm or a spotter to warn employees.

“Left uncorrected, these conditions expose employees to the hazards of engulfment, crushing, falls, and being struck by the backhoe,” said Pagliuca, who explained that a serious citation is issued when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.


East Coast Utilities has 15 business days from receipt of its citations to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The inspection was conducted by OSHA’s Concord Area Office.

OSHA Cites Utility Contractor for Two Repeat Safety Violations at Georgia Jobsite

OSHA has proposed $50,000 in penalties against Northern Pipeline Construction Co. for two repeat safety violations. A repeat citation is issued when an employer previously has been cited for a substantially similar hazard and that citation has become final. The violations occurred as the company was relocating gas main lines in Cumming, Ga., under contract to Atlanta Gas Light Resources as part of a Georgia Department of Transportation project.

OSHA inspectors found that the Fairburn, Ga., utility contractor was installing pipe through a trench that was 50 feet in length and 6 feet in depth without a means of employee egress and without having a protective system in place. OSHA cited the company in 2006 for similar violations that occurred while it was installing a tap in a trench that was 7 to 8 feet in depth.

“Trenching and excavating remains one of the most hazardous construction operations,” said Gei-Thae Breezley, director of OSHA’s Atlanta-East Area Office. “No employee should be exposed to the danger of trench collapse.”


Cranesville Block Faces $76,500 in OSHA Fines for Repeat and Serious Hazards

OSHA has cited Cranesville Block Co.’s Clark Division for 11 alleged serious and repeat violations of safety and health standards at its Syracuse concrete products manufacturing plant. The company faces a total of $76,500 in proposed fines following OSHA inspections prompted by an employee complaint.

“These citations address a cross-section of hazards associated with concrete products manufacturing, including some for which the company had been cited in the past,” said Christopher Adams, OSHA’s area director in Syracuse. “Left uncorrected, these conditions expose employees to the potential dangers of lacerations, crushing, amputation, suffocation, falls, hearing loss, and lung disease.”

OSHA issued Cranesville Block eight serious citations, with $26,500 in proposed fines, for employee overexposure to silica; failure to provide required confined space, respiratory protection, and hazard communication training to employees; lack of a hearing conservation program for employees exposed to high noise levels; missing railings on stairways; and failure to provide stop blocks for parked trucks.

Three repeat citations, carrying $50,000 in proposed fines, were issued for not establishing and implementing specific procedures for locking out machines’ power sources to prevent their startup during maintenance; not performing medical evaluations and fit-testing for employees using respirators; and failure to identify confined spaces in which employees would work. OSHA had cited Cranesville Block for substantially similar hazards in 2004 and 2005 at company plants in Amsterdam and Albany, N.Y.

OSHA Proposes $192,000 in Fines Against Manufacturer Following Amputation of Employee’s Hand

Mantrose-Haeuser Co. Inc., an Attleboro, Mass., manufacturer of industrial and pharmaceutical food coatings, faces $192,000 in proposed OSHA fines . The company was cited for a total of 29 alleged repeat, willful, and serious violations of safety and health standards at its 113 Olive St. plant following a July 17, 2007, incident in which an employee lost his hand when it became caught in an unguarded rotating valve of a dust collection hopper.

Because the plant was cited for a similar hazard in April 2005, this lack of machine guarding resulted in OSHA issuing the company a repeat citation with a proposed fine of $35,000. Two other repeat citations, carrying $25,000 in fines, were issued for unguarded work platforms and an emergency exit door that could not be opened.

OSHA’s inspection also found that the plant had not developed and implemented required procedures to shut down machines and lock out their power sources to prevent their unintended startup. This situation resulted in the issuance of one willful citation carrying a proposed fine of $70,000.

Additionally, 25 serious citations, with $62,000 in fines, were issued for hazards involving blocked, obstructed, and unmarked emergency exit doors and routes; lack of lockout/tagout devices and training; trip and fall hazards; fire extinguishers not being readily available; deficiencies in respirator training and fitting; confined space hazards; a defective powered pallet jack; unlabeled containers of chemicals; unapproved containers for flammable liquid; and lack of written procedures, training, and other elements of the plant’s process safety management program.

“The number of citations reflects the wide array of hazards found during our inspection as well as the employer’s knowledge of the lockout hazard and the recurrence of conditions cited during an earlier OSHA inspection,” said Brenda Gordon, OSHA’s area director in Braintree, Mass. “As demonstrated in this case, continued failure to adhere to safety and health standards exposes employees to serious injuries and potentially fatal fire, chemical, mechanical, fall, confined space, and machine guarding hazards.”

DHS Provides Nearly $34 Million to First Responders in Smaller Communities Nationwide

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced the award of $33.7 million to fund equipment and training for first responders across the nation as part of the fiscal year 2007 Commercial Equipment Direct Assistance Program (). Since the program’s inception in 2005, DHS has provided roughly 5,800 direct assistance awards worth more than $103 million for all hazards in smaller jurisdictions nationwide.

“Local police and emergency personnel are the first on the scene of any incident, and often the cause is not immediately known,” said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. “This direct funding equips first responders with technology and training to complement local resources, and helps communities develop tools and capabilities that they may not otherwise be able to afford.”

Eligibility for CEDAP is limited to law enforcement and other emergency responder agencies with specific financial and capability needs in five categories: personal protective equipment; thermal imaging, night vision, and video surveillance tools; chemical and biological detection tools; information technology and risk management tools; and interoperable communications equipment.

. Each state’s administrative agency has the opportunity to review applications submitted by first responder organizations within their state to ensure that equipment requests are consistent with their state homeland security strategy. 


Kentucky Sets Record for Mine Safety

The Kentucky Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet (EPPC) has announced that Kentucky coal mines have experienced the safest year in Kentucky’s mining history. The past year has been significant in mine safety for two reasons. For the first time, there were no mining fatalities in an underground mine. Secondly, the two surface mining fatalities that occurred in 2007 are the lowest number of fatalities on record.

Kentucky leads the nation in the number of coal mines and is the nation’s third largest producer of coal. Kentucky miners and their families have long paid the ultimate price for mining the black gold that has fueled America’s economy for over a century. Records back to 1890 indicate that the deadliest decade in mining was in the 1920s when 1,614 mining fatalities were recorded. Since that time, the number of fatalities has steadily decreased with each decade with 242 fatalities in the 1980s, 117 fatalities in the 1990s, and 61 fatalities since 2000.

“This is a positive indication that the new mine safety laws, including Kentucky’s new drug testing program, are having the desired effect. Of equal importance is the focus that our coal industry and Kentucky miners have placed on safety and the heightened sense of awareness of every miner to work safely every day,” said Kentucky DNR Commissioner Susan Bush. “While this historic decrease in fatalities is very encouraging, we cannot let down our guard or lessen our efforts to ensure that every miner returns home safely every day. The goal remains zero fatalities.”

The Kentucky General Assembly passed major mine safety legislation in 2006 and 2007, and launched the first drug-testing program for miners in the nation. Since the new drug testing program went into effect in July 2006, 443 certified miners have been suspended.

Pet Turtles to Blame in Cases of Salmonella Infection

According to U.S. Health Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, small pet turtles were to blame for 103 cases of Salmonella infection in the second half of last year. These cases of Salmonella infection occurred mostly in young children, and health officials added that the true number of infections with the potentially fatal bacteria is undoubtedly much higher.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), no deaths have been reported, but the infections have led to the hospitalization of dozens of children.
Even with the sale of small turtles being banned in the United States in 1975, the number of these reptiles being purchased for children has been increasing. “This is a larger number of cases than we would usually see,” said Julie Harris, a CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer. “We haven’t documented such a large number of cases before associated with turtle exposure.”

The number of turtles owned by Americans has almost doubled in the last five years to more than 2 million, Harris said. This, despite the fact that “there is a ban on the sale of turtles that are under 4 inches in length,” she said.

The 103 cases that Harris and colleagues reported in the Jan. 25, 2008, issue of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report represent just a fraction of the total number of salmonella infections from pet turtles, she said. According to the report, cases were reported in all but 15 states, with most cases occurring in California, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Texas. Two of the infected children included a 13-year-old girl and a 15-year-old girl who became stricken after swimming in an unchlorinated in-ground pool owned by the family of the older girl. Two pet turtles, purchased at a South Carolina pet store and owned by the family of the older teen, were allowed to swim in the pool, the CDC reported.

Harris said many people aren’t aware of the risk of Salmonella infections from pet turtles. “Only 20% of these cases [in the report] said they were aware there was a connection between Salmonella infection and reptile exposure,” she said. Up to 90% of turtles carry Salmonella, Harris said. “This is a very serious infection, especially for small children.”

The infection is spread from contact with the turtles, but the contact doesn’t have to be direct, Harris said. “We have one case where a baby was bathed in a sink that turtle waste was disposed in,” she said. In some cases, the children put the turtle in their mouth. In other cases, children became sick from just living in the same house with a turtle or other infected family members. Salmonella can live on surfaces for weeks, Harris noted.

Adults can get sick from Salmonella, but children get much sicker and some can die. “Small children should not be allowed to come into contact with turtles, the outcome is too dangerous and the risk is too high,” she said. Gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea, caused by the bacteria, typically begin 12 to 36 hours after exposure and generally last for two to seven days.

According to the CDC, Salmonella infection remains a major public health problem in the United States. Each year, 1.4 million cases are reported, an estimated 15,000 people are hospitalized, and 400 Americans die. Reptiles and amphibians, including turtles, account for about 6% of all Salmonella cases and 11% of cases for those under 21.

One infectious-disease expert strongly advised parents not to buy these turtles as pets for their children. “This is a problem that has been with us for more than 40 years,” said Dr. Pascal James Imperato, the distinguished service professor and chair of the department of preventive medicine and community health and director of the master of public health program at the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center in New York City. “Children tend to handle these turtles a great deal,” Imperato said. “Their fingers come into contact with all the material on the turtle and in the water. Then there is finger-to-mouth contact, and they acquire the infection.”

Imperato said that to protect themselves, people who handle these turtles should wash their hands after touching the animals. But Salmonella-contaminated water can be splashed onto surfaces and cause the germ to spread. Also, most people aren’t likely to wash their hands thoroughly after they have handled a turtle or come into contact with contaminated objects or water, he said. “The best strategy is not to purchase these turtles,” Imperato said.

Safety News Links