OSHA Issues Alert on the Dangers Associated with Cleanup and Recovery from Hurricanes

August 27, 2004

Appropriate safety measures during recovery and cleanup efforts following hurricanes are necessary to avoid injury and illnesses associated with these activities, OSHA recently noted.

The potential for fatal accidents involving electrocution from power lines, as well as serious injuries associated with tree trimming, have prompted the agency to remind employers, workers and the public to ensure that they observe appropriate safety and health precautions while performing cleanup and utility restoration operations. This includes coordinating with control centers responsible for power circuits so that workers do not enter areas where there are live wires.

Information on avoiding hazards and safely cleaning up after a hurricane is available from OSHA to help workers who are involved in recovery and restoration efforts. Three fact sheets-Cleanup Hazards, Food Cleanup, and Fungi-are available on OSHA's web site at www.osha.gov. A Safety and Health Information Bulletin on mold safety and remediation is also available.


Metals Plant Faces $55,500 in Proposed Fines

Ansonia Copper and Brass Inc. of Ansonia, CT, faces $55,500 in fines from OSHA for failing to safeguard workers against overexposure to cadmium, inadequate respirator use and maintenance, and unguarded moving machine parts at its metal casting and extrusion plant.

The company was cited for 26 alleged serious and other-than-serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act following OSHA inspections conducted between February and July. The inspections, prompted by employee complaints, found instances where employees were exposed to excess airborne concentrations of cadmium and the company failed to adequately address the overexposures. Cadmium, often used in metal processing, can enter the body through ingestion or inhalation. Long-term exposure can lead to kidney dysfunction or lung or prostate cancer. OSHA standards mandate steps employers must take to protect employees when they are exposed to cadmium.

OSHA's inspection found a failure to implement effective work practices and engineering controls to reduce cadmium exposure levels, inadequate cadmium exposure monitoring, an inadequate and outdated cadmium plan, unlabeled cadmium containers, training not provided to all affected employees, and a medically removed employee allowed to return to work without written doctor's permission. Respirator hazards included failing to ensure respirator use; not inspecting or maintaining all respirators in a sanitary condition; inadequate fit-testing; not training employees in respirator use, cleaning and storage; and failing to evaluate workplace conditions to ensure the respirator program was implemented and effective.

The inspection also identified 18 instances where employees were exposed to injuries from unguarded moving machine parts, and broken or flying coils. Other hazards included inadequate safeguards to prevent the accidental startup of machines during maintenance, incomplete and uncertified hazard analyses, inadequate employee training, blocked access to an electrical disconnect, and tripping hazards. Other-than-serious hazards included failing to record all workplace injuries and illnesses, an obscured exit sign, incomplete records and missing warning signs.

OSHA Unveils Safety and Health Topics Page for Residential Construction

 Created in alliance with the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), the page focuses on industry-specific safety and health information to help employers and workers establish and maintain safer worksites, according to OSHA.

The website features information about OSHA standards and the hazards present in residential construction. It also provides detailed information and links to related OSHA enforcement policies, such as directives and interpretation letters, various electronic assistance Tools, and training courses related to residential construction.

Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors National Association Aligns with OSHA

Workers in the sheet metal and air conditioning industries will benefit from an Alliance signed Aug. 16 between the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors National Association (SMACNA) and OSHA. This Alliance will address issues including motor vehicle safety, fall protection, and personal protective equipment (emphasizing cuts, and eye injuries).

Both organizations have agreed to develop information, guidance, and access to training resources on those issues, and will also provide expertise in communicating that information to member employers and their workers in the industry. OSHA and SMACNA will share information regarding the Association's best practices or effective approaches, and publicize the results through developed materials, training programs, workshops, seminars and lectures. The Alliance participants will pursue opportunities to speak, exhibit, or appear at conferences and events, including the annual SMACNA Convention and chapter meetings.

The Alliance also calls for working with other Alliance participants on specific issues and projects on sheet metal and air conditioning and the construction contracting industry's hazards. Additionally, SMACNA and OSHA will convene or participate in forums, roundtable discussions, or stakeholder meetings to help forge innovative solutions in the workplace.

Finally, SMACNA members will be provided information on the benefits of participating in OSHA's cooperative programs such as compliance assistance, partnerships, the Voluntary Protection Programs, Consultation Projects, and its Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program. This includes increasing access to safety and health information and available training resources for Spanish-speaking employees and small businesses.

OSHA Urges Federal Employees to Fasten Their Seat Belts

OSHA will hold a motor vehicle safety symposium to drive the message to the federal workforce that wearing seat belts while traveling on business delivers safe employees. Sponsored in partnership with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the event will take place during the National Safety Council Congress & Expo in New Orleans, Louisiana at 10:30 a.m. on September 14.

OSHA Administrator John Henshaw noted that a 1996 Executive Order requires federal employees to use seat belts while traveling on federal business. Now in its 92nd year, the National Safety Council Congress & Expo will host public and private workplace safety representatives. These experts will participate on two panels to discuss the benefits and impact of a motor vehicle safety program, as well as share best practices.