OSHA Identifies 14,000 Workplaces with High Injury and Illness Rates

April 24, 2006

In a letter this month to those employers, OSHA explained that the notification was a proactive step to encourage employers to take steps now to reduce those rates and improve the safety and health environment in their workplaces.

"This identification process is meant to raise awareness that injuries and illnesses are high at these facilities," said OSHA Administrator Edwin G. Foulke, Jr. "Injuries and illnesses are costly to employers in both personal and financial terms. Our goal is to identify workplaces where injury and illness rates are high, and to offer assistance to employers so they can address the hazards and reduce occupational injuries and illnesses."

Establishments with the nation's high workplace injury and illness rates were identified by OSHA through employer-reported data from a 2005 survey of 80,000 worksites (the survey consisted of data from calendar year 2004). The workplaces identified had 6.0 or more injuries or illnesses resulting in days away from work, restricted work activity, or job transfer (DART) for every 100 full-time workers. The national average during 2004 was 2.5 DART instances for every 100 workers.

Employers receiving the letters were also provided copies of their injury and illness data, along with a list of the most frequently violated OSHA standards for their specific industry. The letter also offered the agency's assistance in helping turn the numbers around, suggesting, among other things, the use of free safety and health consultation services provided by OSHA through the states, state workers' compensation agencies, insurance carriers, or outside safety and health consultants.

An announcement of targeted inspections will be made later this year. Also, the sites listed are establishments in states covered by federal OSHA; the list does not include employers in the 21 states, and Puerto Rico, who operate OSHA-approved state plans covering the private sector.

OSHA's data collection initiative is conducted each year to provide the agency with a clearer picture of those establishments with higher than average injury and illness rates. Information obtained from the survey gives OSHA the opportunity to place inspection resources where they're needed most and also helps the agency plan outreach and compliance assistance programs where they will be most beneficial.

OSHA Seeks Information about Potential Objections to Public Release of Sampling Data

If your facility was subject to air sampling by OSHA from 1979 to June 1, 2005, the data could potentially be released to the public. On November 22, 2005, OSHA was sued in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to compel the disclosure of all air sampling data that OSHA collected nationwide during this time period.á 

ItÆs Safe to Go Postal

The U.S. Postal Service's Logistics and DistributionCenter in Rochester has earned entry into OSHAÆs prestigious Voluntary Protection Program (VPP). The VPP recognizes worksites which develop and implement effective employee protections beyond the requirements of OSHA standards.

"Our review found both management and workers committed to maintaining and improving the center's safety and health management programs, as well as an injury and illness rate well below the industry average," said Patricia K. Clark, OSHA's regional administrator, who presented a VPP flag in a ceremony. "The Rochester distribution center now has the opportunity to go further and seek 'Star' status, the highest VPP designation."

The Rochester center, which has 233 employees, transports and processes priority mail from and to northwestern New York. In achieving "Merit" status, it joins an elite corps of about 1,400 workplaces nationwide that have earned VPP recognition. The "Merit" designation comes after an OSHA team's thorough on-site review of the plant's application and its safety and health programs, interviews with employees and a complete tour of the worksite.

Among the areas of excellence noted during OSHA's review were the use of traffic lights and safe work practices to minimize loading dock hazards and the use of job rotation during work shifts to reduce potential ergonomic injuries.

OSHA's Voluntary Protection Programs recognize worksites where comprehensive safety and health programs have been incorporated successfully into their management systems. VPP companies achieve average injury rates 50 percent lower than other companies in their industry. The VPP programs are open to deserving employers in any industry.

Requirements for application to VPP include a high degree of management support and employee involvement; a high-quality worksite hazard analysis; prevention and control programs, and comprehensive safety and health training for all employees.

OSHA Renews Alliance with the Greater Peoria Contractors and Suppliers Association

OSHA and the Greater Peoria Contractors and Suppliers Association (GPCSA), Peoria, are extending their alliance for another three years to continue focusing on safety and health issues in the construction industry.

"The collective expertise of this Association and OSHA can make a significant impact on the safety and health of construction workers," said John Newquist, OSHA area director in Peoria. "This Alliance gives us the tools to encourage employers and workers to commit to safe work practices and achieve positive gains toward reducing injuries, illnesses, and fatalities."

OSHA and GPSCA will continue to work together to encourage employers to increase employee access to safety and health information and training resources and to incorporate safety and health issues into the construction/constructability process. In addition, OSHA and GPSCA are distributing information through print and electronic media, including using their Web sites.

OSHA Cites Concrete Contractor after Fatal Accident

OSHA has cited Pumpco, a Ft. Myers-based concrete pumping contractor, and proposed penalties totaling $42,800, following the electrocution of a worker-trainee at a Cape Coral, Fla. construction site.

"There are well-established safety procedures for employees working near overhead electrical power lines," said Les Grove, OSHA's Tampa area director. "This tragic accident could have been prevented if the employer had ensured that power lines were de-energized or effectively guarded and insulated, and that employees did not come within the minimum approach distance."

OSHA's investigation revealed that, on Jan. 9, the driver of a company truck and a trainee were preparing to pump concrete for the foundation of a small office building. While the driver remained in the truck, the trainee began unfolding the boom which hit a 14,400-volt overhead power line and caught fire. The driver alerted the trainee, and both workers jumped clear of the truck. However, the trainee went back, apparently to move the boom away from the power lines, and was electrocuted when he touched the truck.

OSHA issued one repeat citation against the company, with a proposed penalty of $35,000, for allowing employees to work in the vicinity of overhead power lines without de-energizing or effectively guarding and insulating the power lines. The agency issues a repeat citation when a company has been cited previously for a similar violation.

The company also received two serious citations, with proposed penalties of $7,800, for failing to develop and implement a safety program and advise employees of overhead power line hazards.

Asbestos Hazards at Hamburg Roof Collapse Cleanup Site Bring $91,000 in OSHA Fines

OSHA has cited four western New York employers for allegedly failing to safeguard workers against asbestos hazards during cleanup and repair operations following a November roof collapse at the Leisureland bowling and restaurant complex in Hamburg, N.Y.

Cited were Clarence Wall & Ceiling Inc., a Clarence, N.Y., framing contractor, and Contour Erection & Siding Systems, an Eden, N.Y., structural steel contractor, both of which performed the repair and cleanup work; Cambio Sales Inc., of Hamburg, operator of the bowling lanes and restaurant; and A-Tehebi Corp., of Hamburg, owner of the property. The four employers face a combined total of $91,000 in proposed penalties.

"The surfacing materials for the roof's underside contained asbestos which was released into the air and throughout the worksite when the roof collapsed," said Arthur Dube, OSHA's area director for western New York. "This meant that the employers had a duty to protect their workers against asbestos exposure. However, none of the necessary protective measures were taken at this site."

OSHA's inspection found that Clarence and Contour did not determine the presence, location and quantity of asbestos before beginning work and then did not inform other employees on site about the asbestos. They also failed to conduct the work in a regulated area, establish a decontamination area, monitor employee exposures and use approved asbestos control methods. In addition, the companies failed to provide respirators and protective clothing, train employees, equip saws with HEPA filters, promptly and properly dispose of asbestos debris and contaminated clothing, and have the work overseen by a competent person. Clarence also failed to fit-test respirators and provide workers with medical evaluations to determine their fitness to wear respirators.

As a result, Clarence received 15 serious citations with $45,000 in proposed fines, while Contour received 14 serious citations with $42,000 in fines. A-Tehebi was fined $1,500 and issued two serious citations for not initially determining the presence, location and quantity of asbestos on the property and not identifying any asbestos-containing materials. Cambio was issued two serious citations and fined $2,500, for not determining the presence, location and quantity of asbestos in its work areas and not providing housekeepers with asbestos awareness training.

A serious citation is issued when death or serious physical harm are likely to result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known. Each company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to request and participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director or to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The investigation was conducted by OSHA's Buffalo area office, telephone (716) 551-3053.

ASI Incorporated Earns OSHA "Star"

OSHA has recognized ASI Incorporated, Rapid City, S.D., for exemplary achievement in its workplace safety and health program. A ceremony April 18 recognized the facility for achieving the highest level in OSHA's Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) - the VPP Star.

"This award symbolizes the hard work and dedication of the ASI staff to develop, implement and maintain a sustained level of high performance in their employee safety and health program," said Greg Baxter, OSHA regional administrator in Denver. "Receiving the VPP Star award is a tremendous accomplishment illustrating this worksite's commitment to continual improvement and their dedication to excellence."

ASI, which employs approximately 300 people and serves as a consumer sales and call center for GE products and services, is the only site in Rapid City and one of only six sites in South Dakota to receive this prestigious recognition. The facility joins an elite corps of 1,400 worksites nationwide that have earned VPP status. The "Star" designation came after an OSHA team's thorough on-site review of ASI's application and safety and health programs, interviews with employees and a complete tour of the worksite. VPP Star sites maintain employee injury and illness rates below the national average for their industry and meet all the safety and health program elements for the VPP program, which far exceed minimum OSHA standards.

Brad Baptiste, OSHA VPP manager in Denver, presented the VPP award to plant representatives at the ceremony. "The ASI employee wellness program serves as a 'best practices' model for all industry, and the significant level of community involvement and leadership exhibited by the ASI team is exemplary," said Baptiste.

OSHA Fines Bus Assembly Plant $116,200

A wide range of safety hazards at a bus assembly plant has resulted in $116,200 in fines from OSHA. Orion Bus Industries Inc., which assembles and finishes passenger buses, has been cited for a total of 24 alleged willful, serious and other-than-serious violations of safety standards following an OSHA inspection begun Nov. 21, 2005, in response to an employee complaint.

OSHA's inspection found various fall hazards, a locked and blocked emergency exit, defective forklifts, uninspected chain slings, ungrounded electrical equipment, unsafe electrical work practices, unguarded saws and grinders, lack of bonding and grounding while transferring flammable liquids, and failure to record accidents in the plant's illness and injury log.

"Left uncorrected, these conditions expose employees to potential serious injury or death from falls, electrocution, crushing, lacerations, amputation, fire and being unable to exit the workplace swiftly in the event of an emergency," said Chris R. Adams, OSHA's area director for Central New York.

The largest fine, $63,000, was assessed for service bay pits that lacked grating or guarding to prevent employees from falling into them. This resulted in a citation for one willful violation which is one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations.

A total of $52,200 in fines was proposed for 20 serious citations addressing the exit access, electrical, fire, forklift and sling hazards as well as additional fall hazards from unguarded work areas. Finally, a $1,000 fine was proposed for three other-than-serious citations covering inadequate recordkeeping, an unsecured electrical receptacle and unlabeled containers of chemicals.

OSHA Cites Gencor Industries after Fatal Accident

OSHA has cited Gencor Industries for serious safety violations following a fatal accident at the company's Orlando facility. The agency is proposing penalties totaling $68,400.

OSHA's investigators determined that the accident occurred when an overhead hoisting hook and plate clamp, attached to a sheet of metal, failed and caused the unsupported metal to fall and pin an employee against a cylinder.

"This tragic event could have been prevented if the company had followed required safety rules and inspected the lifting equipment daily for signs of fatigue," said Les Grove, OSHA's Tampa area director.

OSHA cited the company for failing to: inspect slings and fastenings each day for damage and defects; keep employees clear of suspended loads; and assure that slings were securely attached to loads.

In all, the company received 28 serious citations, with proposed penalties totaling $68,400. Other alleged safety violations included: failing to provide employees with eye protection during cutting and welding operations and fall protection while working in aerial baskets and at heights 10 to14 foot above ground; exposing workers to amputations from unguarded machinery and electrocutions from damaged or improperly installed electrical equipment; and failing to implement lockout-tagout procedures to ensure that energized equipment was rendered inoperable during servicing and repair.

OSHA Renews Alliance with LakeCounty Contractors Association

OSHA and the Lake County Contractors Association (LCCA), Lake County, Ill., are extending their alliance for another two years to continue focusing on safety and health issues in the construction industry.

"The collective expertise of this association and OSHA can make a significant impact on the safety and health of construction workers," said Diane Turek, OSHA area director in Des Plaines, Ill. "This alliance gives us the tools to encourage employers and workers to commit to safe work practices and achieve positive gains toward reducing injuries, illnesses and fatalities."

OSHA and LCCA will continue to work together to encourage employers to increase employee access to safety and health information and training resources and to incorporate safety and health issues into the construction process. In addition, OSHA and LCCA are distributing information through print and electronic media, including using their Web sites.

CDC Highlights Research Success in National Symposium

More than 400 industry, worker, safety, and health leaders are meeting in Washington, D.C. to share research on future prevention initiatives of work-related injuries and illness and to celebrate the first decade of success of the National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA).

The Centers for Disease Control and PreventionÆs (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), in partnership with the National Safety Council, brought the experts together for the NORA Symposium 2006. The three-day symposium will launch the second decade of the national research agenda, and honor NORA partnerships that have made workplaces safer, healthier, and more secure.

ôSafe and healthy workplaces make our communities better and give our businesses a competitive edge in the international marketplace,ö CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding said. ôInnovative research is essential for maintaining that edge. And as today's symposium demonstrates, the nation's catalyst for this research is NORA.ö

The design of NORAÆs second decade is being developed by NIOSH and its partners. So far, NIOSH has held 12 town hall meetings across the United States that drew some 1,200 participants. The plan for the next 10 years will design partnerships around eight industry sector groups: agriculture, forestry and fishing; mining; construction; manufacturing; wholesale and retail trade; transportation, warehousing, utilities services, healthcare and social assistance. ôThese extraordinary partnerships serve as a model for other organizations and enable us to continue to meet the public health challenges of the workplace today and in the future,ö said NIOSH Director Dr. John Howard.

The first decade stimulated numerous successful research partnerships, including three collaborations that will be recognized with awards at the symposium:

Innovative Research Award for Worker Health and Safety
Researchers from WakeForestUniversity developed a resource safety manual to alert the growing Hispanic farm worker population, and their health-care providers, to the risk of ôgreen tobacco sicknessö û an acute poisoning from skin absorption of nicotine in handling uncured tobacco û and to offer precautions for reducing exposures.

Partnering Award for Worker Health and Safety
NORA research partners developed a full-service best practices program to reduce workerÆs compensation costs by 25 percent for employee slips, trips and falls in hospitals owned by BJC Health Care, a national hospital network. According to recent data, these injuries account for the largest proportion of lost-work-time injuries in healthcare, and are more prevalent in hospitals than in private industry. The researcherÆs findings lead to the development of employee safety training curriculum that has a focus on slip-resistant footwear and flooring.

Partnering Award for Worker Health and Safety
NORA researchers documented potential health risks from occupational exposures to potent drugs used in cancer treatment and developed recommendations for preventing such exposures. Although these drugs have benefits for patients when used in controlled conditions, occupational exposures have been associated with risks for potential reproductive and carcinogenic effects in healthcare employees. The recommendations involve interventions such as establishment of restricted work areas, prudent clean-up procedures and minimizing the risk of unintended exposure of other employees.

NORA was developed by NIOSH and a diverse group of partners in 1996 as a strategic plan for designing and conducting new collaborative research that would do the most to reduce occupational injuries, illnesses, and deaths over the next 10 years.

Washington Takes Steps to Prevent Work-Related Heat Stress

 Working outdoors in hot weather can put employees at risk for heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Heat exhaustion is a serious health problem and heat stroke can kill.

To address the issue in time for the hot summer months, L&I will i ssue an emergency rule modifying an existing rule on indoor temperature exposure so that by June 1, the rule is applicable to working outdoors.

Launch a coordinated hazard-awareness effort with business and labor organizations to educate employers and workers in the industries most affected by hot weather.

As part of regularly scheduled inspections and consultations in affected industries, ensure that heat-stress precautions are in place and effective.

Employers are expected to evaluate their workplaces and determine if their employees will be at risk from heat-related illness during temperature extremes and hot weather. Workplaces must have a safety plan in place to train employees on recognizing the symptoms and preventing heat-related illness.

Intense discussions on the need for an outdoor heat-stress rule began last year after an agriculture worker died from heat stroke, and L&I recognized that its temperature exposure rule did not apply to the outdoors.

ôWe all acknowledge that heat stress is a serious concern,ö said L&I Director Gary Weeks. ôThe department has worked extensively with both business and labor to address this serious hazard by balancing our enforcement and education efforts.ö

Steve Cant, assistant director for the Division of Occupational Safety and Health at L&I, said the agency spent several months looking at various approaches to protecting workers.

ôIt is important to have this rule change and education effort in place for this summer,ö said Cant. ôWe looked at the possibility of a new rule, but after fully reviewing our existing rules and all the input from business, labor and worker advocates, we concluded that the best approach was to ensure we have effective enforcement tools for worker protection at the least burden and expense to those we regulate.ö

In May, L&I will launch a comprehensive education-and-outreach campaign that will include hazard-awareness training and printed materials.

Tennessee Mine Rescue Team Participates in Mock Mine Disaster Drill

Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development (TDLWD) Commissioner James Neeley joined more than a dozen members of TennesseeÆs Mine Rescue Safety Team in a mock mine disaster drill held April 18-19, at the Richard City Mines in South Pittsburg. The division of mines in conjunction with Vulcan Materials has been planning the drill since November 2005. Other participants in the drill included the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Cave Cliff Rescue Team, Grandview EMS, Marion County EMA and HAZMAT Team, MarionCounty 9-1-1, South Pittsburg Fire Department, Jasper Fire Department, Irondale Fire Department, and the Kimball Fire Department.

The drill was a two day event and consisted of several rescues of individuals with various injuries such as smoke inhalation, burns and broken limbs. The rescue teams would have to locate the mock victims within the mine. Once they found the victim, the teams would determine their injuries and prepare them for safe evacuation. Once the mock victims were out of the mine they were turned over to local EMS crews for transport.

Commissioner James Neeley attended the event and commended all participants. ôAs the nation witnessed in West Virginia just a short time ago, the mining occupation can be deadly,ö said Commissioner Neeley. ôIt is vitally important that our mine rescue teams are trained as best they can be. Every minute and every second are crucial. TodayÆs drill shows our team along with the local rescue teams are prepared should a tragedy happen in a Tennessee mine.ö

The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce DevelopmentÆs Mines division is responsible for maintaining two mine rescue teams in a state of readiness for response to mine emergencies in underground mines in Tennessee. Each underground mine that participates in the mine rescue program provides two members for the team.

The division has mine safety instructors certified by the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration. The instructors are available to teach mine safety classes anywhere within the state. Mine safety training is required for all miners working in coal mines, crushed stone quarries, sand and gravel pits, and any other operations in the state. The safety instructors conduct new miner, annual refresher training, first aid/CPR, and other courses as requested by the industry.

The Division also collects mine license fees from all underground coal and metal mines and surface coal mines. Mine foreman examinations are held quarterly and those applicants successfully passing the exam are certified as a Tennessee mine foreman.

Contractors on Kohl Department Store Project Fined $114,000 for Lack of Fall Protection, Other Hazards

OSHA cited eight contractors involved in the construction of a Kohl's Department Store in Beckley, W.Va., for lack of fall protection for workers and other safety and health violations. The proposed fines for the alleged violations total $114,625.

OSHA initiated an inspection in October 2005 in response to a complaint alleging a lack of fall protection at the work site. According to Stanley Elliott, area director of OSHA's Charleston Office, Easely & Rivers Inc., Morgantown, W.Va., was cited for one willful violation and one serious violation, with penalties of $68,600, for lack of fall protection from a roof, and failure to use a ladder to access a roof.

"Insufficient fall protection remains one of the leading causes of fatality and injury on construction sites," said Elliott. "Any time a worker is at a height of six feet or more, the worker is at risk and needs to be protected."

Steel Performance, Greensboro, N.C., was fined $22,000 for six serious violations and one other-than-serious violation for insufficient fall protection and improper storage of compressed gas cylinders; Holland Roofing of Nashville Inc., Florence, Ky., received a $10,000 penalty for two serious violations and two other-than-serious violations for lack of fall protection, unmarked roof hole covers and unsafe use of an extension cord; Kline Masonry, Scott Depot, W.Va., was cited for two repeat citations and fined $6,800 for lack of fall protection and failure to have a competent person identify and correct worksite hazards; Lincoln Construction, the general contractor on the site, headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, was cited for two serious violations with a penalty of $2,500 for lack of fall protection; Air Temp Heating & Cooling, Prosperity, W. Va., received a penalty of $4,350 for five serious violations and one other-than-serious violation for lack of fall protection from a roof, failure to use a ladder to access a roof and other violations; K&M Contracting Inc., Girard, Ohio, was cited and fined $375 for one serious violation for failure to have a competent person identify and correct hazards and failure to train employees on the proper use of a laser; Holderbaums Finishes LLC, Westerville, Ohio, was cited for one other-than-serious violation with no penalty for failure to maintain material safety data sheets.

Northern Marble & Granite Faces $112,250 in OSHA Fines for Unguarded Machinery and Other Hazards

Northern Marble & Granite Co. Inc., which manufactures stone countertops, faces $46,250 in OSHA fines following the Oct. 21, 2005, death of an employee who was crushed by a granite slab that fell on him after it was struck by a forklift. The company was cited for 29 alleged serious and two alleged other than serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. OSHA issues serious citations when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from hazards about which the employer knew or should have known.

"Our inspection found that the granite slabs were not stored in a safe manner, exposing employees to fatal crushing injuries," said Rosemarie Ohar, OSHA's New Hampshire area director. "The inspection also identified potential health hazards stemming from overexposure to silica dust and inadequate respiratory protection."

Ohar explained that silica dust can be generated by the grinding and cutting of various types of stone and inhaled by workers. Continued overexposure can result in silicosis, a disease in which scar tissue forms in the lungs and reduces their ability to extract oxygen from the air.

Employers are required to measure silica levels and, if they exceed permitted exposure limits, take steps to reduce exposure levels, train employees about silica and its hazards and provide respiratory protection. Those steps were not taken. In addition, workers were not fit-tested for respirators, trained in respirator selection and use or given medical evaluations to determine their ability to wear a respirator.

Other conditions cited during the inspection included inadequate employee forklift training; uninspected and improperly modified forklifts; no specific procedures and training for locking out machines' power sources before performing maintenance; unguarded saws and grinders; unmarked exits, and exposed electrical parts. The company was also cited for lack of personal protective equipment and training; steel lifting chains not marked with their lifting capacity; lack of a hearing conservation program; not surveying the workplace to identify hazardous confined spaces; no written hazard communication program, and failing to maintain an illness and injury log.