OSHA Issues New Combustible Dust Instruction

October 22, 2007

OSHA recently issued a new safety and health instruction that details OSHA policies and procedures for inspecting workplaces that handle combustible dusts and that may have the potential for a dust explosion.

"With this National Emphasis Program, we will focus our efforts on the fire and explosion hazards that may exist at facilities where combustible dusts accumulate," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Edwin G. Foulke Jr. "A combustible dust fire and/or explosion is a potential hazard to America's working men and women. This instruction will be a valuable resource for those who inspect industrial facilities in the United States."

Combustible dusts are often either organic or metal dusts that are finely ground into very small particles, fibers, chips, and/or flakes. These dusts can come from metal, wood, plastic, and organic materials such as grain, flour, sugar, paper, soap, and dried blood. Dusts can also come from textile materials. Some of the industries in which combustible dusts are particularly prevalent include agriculture, chemical, textile, forestry, and the furniture industry.

The instruction provides detailed information on OSHA's inspection scheduling, resource allocation, inspection resources, and procedures. This information is particularly useful in educating businesses on how to achieve compliance with OSHA requirements in advance of any inspection.


OSHA Forms Safety and Health Alliance With Wisconsin Home Builders

Reducing injuries and worksite hazards and enhancing safety and health for construction employees in five Wisconsin counties are the goals of a new alliance joining OSHA, the Metropolitan Builders Association (MBA), and the Wisconsin Occupational Safety and Health Consultation Program.

"OSHA and our alliance partners will work together to share best practices and to develop and implement safety and health training for construction employees," said George Yoksas, OSHA's area director in Milwaukee. "If we can provide employees with the knowledge and ability to anticipate, identify, and eliminate work-related hazards, we're going to accomplish a great deal toward eliminating injuries."

MBA is a not-for-profit trade association that represents more than 1,300 companies engaged in the construction, development, and remodeling of single and multifamily housing and light commercial property in Waukesha, Washington, Ozaukee, Jefferson, and Milwaukee counties. The alliance will encourage home builders to improve their safety and health programs and achieve compliance with OSHA standards to reduce injuries and illnesses within the industry.

OSHA health and safety 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. OSHA currently has more than 470 alliances throughout the nation with organizations committed to fostering safety and health in the workplace.

OSHA Renews Alliance With the National Safety Council

OSHA has renewed its alliance with the National Safety Council (NSC) to continue providing health and safety information to the construction and general industries. The alliance will specifically focus on encouraging motor vehicle safety and drug-free workplaces. It will also address first-aid training in the workplace, including Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and the use of Automated External Defibrillators.

"Increasing the health and well-being of employees in the construction and general industries has been the primary focus of our alliance with NSC," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Edwin G. Foulke Jr. "I am pleased this alliance will continue to promote workplace safety, while highlighting the importance of emergency first-aid training, vehicle safety education, and a drug-free work environment."

"The National Safety Council and OSHA have a long-standing relationship based on our organizations' missions to reduce occupational injuries," said Alan C. McMillan, president and CEO, National Safety Council. "Renewing this alliance further facilitates our mutual promotion of safety in the workplace while giving special attention to driving safety and drug-free workplaces, both significant occupational safety issues."

Over the past year, the alliance has reached more than 577,000 individuals on safety and health issues through events and interactive activities, such as the 2006 National Safety Congress and Expo, the 2007 National Safety Month, and OSHA's electronic assistance tools.

OSHA Proposes $48,000 in Penalties Against Big M Masonry

OSHA has proposed penalties of $48,000 against Anniston, Ala.-based Mario Rivera-Delgado, doing business as Big M Masonry, after inspectors found 10 safety violations at a Clay, Ala., worksite.

"OSHA is serious about safety, and we expect employers to take safety seriously as well," said Roberto Sanchez, OSHA's area director in Birmingham. "This employer has been fined by OSHA in the past for similar problems but continues to place his employees in danger by not correcting known safety violations."

The agency issued six repeat violations with penalties totaling $36,000 for allowing employers to work on a scaffold system that lacked guardrails, was not fully planked, did not have toeboards installed, and contained an area beneath it that was barricaded. Employees lacked safe access to the scaffold system, were not wearing protective headgear, and had not been trained to recognize hazards associated with scaffolds.

OSHA inspectors issued four serious violations with penalties of $12,000 for allowing employees to use a scaffold with platforms extended beyond the supports, that was not secure, and that was not erected under the supervision of a competent person. In addition, debris and loose bricks were found, creating a tripping hazard.

A repeat violation is defined as one for which an employer has been cited previously for a substantially similar condition when the citation has become a final order of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. 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.

Contractor Faces $57,000 in OSHA Fines for Cave-In Hazard at Braintree, Mass., Jobsite

Liddell Brothers Inc., a Halifax, Mass., contractor, faces $57,000 in proposed fines from OSHA for a cave-in hazard at a jobsite located on Route 3 northbound in Braintree.

The company was cited for six alleged willful and serious violations of safety standards following an OSHA inspection begun when an OSHA inspector driving by the jobsite observed an employee working in an apparently unprotected excavation.

The inspection found that the eight-foot deep excavation lacked any protective system to prevent a collapse of its sidewalls. OSHA standards require that all excavations five feet or deeper must be protected against cave-ins since their walls can collapse suddenly and with great force, crushing and burying employees beneath soil and debris.

As a result, OSHA issued Liddell Brothers a willful citation, carrying a $42,000 fine, for the lack of cave-in protection. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health.

OSHA also issued the company five serious citations, with $15,000 in fines, for accessing the excavation by having an employee ride in the bucket of an excavator, placing excavated materials too close to the edge of the excavation, undermined roadway and guardrail adjacent to the excavation, lack of head protection, and inadequately inspecting the excavation and adjacent area for cave-in hazards. 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.

"The potential for death or serious injury at this jobsite was real and present," said Brenda Gordon, OSHA's area director in Braintree. "While the employee was lucky that no collapse occurred, excavation safety must not, and can never, be a matter of luck or chance. Proper safeguards must be in place and in use at all times."

Excavation safety is an OSHA priority and agency inspectors who observe excavation hazards can and will stop and open inspections on the spot, as in this case. 

OSHA Cites Brooklyn, N.Y., Contractor Following Trench Collapse That Killed Employee

OSHA has cited Star Pak Contracting Inc. for alleged willful and serious violations of safety standards following the death of an employee in a May 4 trench collapse in Brooklyn’s Dyker Heights neighborhood. The Brooklyn-based contractor faces a total of $25,500 in proposed fines.

The employee died when the walls of an unprotected 10-foot deep trench located at 1037 72nd St. collapsed on him while he was working in the trench. OSHA’s inspection found that the fatal trench, as well an adjacent 7-foot deep trench, lacked any protection against possible cave-ins.

Both trenches also lacked ladders or other safe means of exiting. Employees did not wear head protection, and piles of excavated materials were placed at the edge of both trenches, potentially weakening their sidewalls.

“This accident is exactly the type (that) trenching safety requirements are designed to prevent,” said Richard Mendelson, OSHA’s area director in Manhattan. “This employer knew these safeguards were required but did not use them. Had they been in place and in use, this needless loss of life would not have occurred.”

As a result, Star Pak was issued one willful citation, with a $21,000 fine for the lack of cave-in protection, and three serious citations, carrying $4,500 in fines, for the other conditions. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health. 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.

OSHA Cites Fru-Con Construction After Fatality at Maumee River Bridge Project

OSHA has proposed $150,000 in fines against Fru-Con Construction Corp. following the company's most recent violations of federal safety regulations, which resulted in a fatal fall for one employee.

OSHA opened its latest inspection at the Maumee River Bridge construction project after learning that scaffolding had broken free from the bridge, causing a carpenter to fall approximately 80 feet to his death. OSHA subsequently issued two willful violations of federal workplace safety regulations, with the maximum total penalty of $140,000, and two serious citations with proposed penalties totaling $10,000.

The willful citations allege that the company failed to have a competent person inspect the scaffold each time it was moved and re-erected, and that it failed to ensure fall protection was used by employees when climbing over the parapet wall to gain access to the scaffold platform.

The serious citations allege that Fru-Con failed to construct the scaffold in accordance with the manufacturer's design and to properly train employees responsible for erecting, disassembling, and moving the scaffold.

Pointing out that construction projects hold the potential for being inherently dangerous places for employees, Jule Hovi, OSHA's area director in Toledo, said: "Injuries, illnesses, and fatalities can be prevented if employers follow federal safety and health guidelines. When employers ignore these standards and regulations, working men and women are needlessly put at risk. In this case, a man paid with his life."

OSHA had inspected the Maumee River Crossing Project seven previous times since 2002, resulting in 13 citations, including four egregious willful citations issued in 2004 after Fru-Con failed to follow manufacturer specifications when operating a self-launching gantry crane. The crane collapsed, fatally injuring four iron workers and hospitalizing four others.

Sampling Strategies Manual Meeting Set for November

NIOSH is soliciting input from stakeholders on their needs for information and guidance to be included in a revision of the “Occupational Exposure Sampling Strategies Manual” (OESSM).  The meeting will be held November 8–9, at the Washington Court Hotel in Washington, D.C. The meeting is an excellent opportunity for you to provide input on the update and help shape the future of occupational exposure assessment. There is no cost to attend but pre-registration is required. 

NIOSH Recommends Measures to Prevent Electrocutions, Electric Shocks Involving Metal Ladders and Power Lines

Practical recommendations for preventing job-related electrocution or electrical shock from unintended contact of metal ladders with power lines in outdoor work are made by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in a new publication, Workplace Solutions: Preventing Worker Deaths and Injuries from Contacting Overhead Power Lines with Metal Ladders.

From 1992–2005, at least 154 workers died of work-related electrocution that occurred while working around overhead power lines and using metal ladders. Available data showed that Hispanic workers appeared to be at higher risk of a fatal injury than other worker populations. While Hispanic workers comprised only 11% of the workforce during this period, they accounted for 36 deaths, 23% of the overall total.

Work-related deaths and injuries involving metal ladders and power lines are preventable. 

The new Workplace Solutions provides employers with recommendations for controlling hazards when they are setting up the worksite and when work is being performed. It also lays out steps for workers to take to help reduce their risk of electrocution when performing their job. In addition to these recommendations, the document also outlines suggestions for general contractors and ladder manufacturers as well.

“We are always working on new ways to extend our research into applications in the workplace, and this publication highlights our efforts to address the issue from both the employer and the worker perspective,” said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D. “This new publication is an important tool for eliminating the hazards faced by outdoor workers, especially Hispanic workers who are a growing segment of the service sector workforce.”

In addition to recommendations for making the worksite safer, the document also highlights the need for additional steps to protect Hispanic workers, who appear to be at greater risk of fatal injury according to the data. This includes performing worksite surveys, implementing hazard controls, and identifying additional safety measures for workers whose primary language is not English.

Underwriters Laboratories Develops Certification Requirements for E85 Dispensers

Underwriters Laboratories (UL), North America’s leading safety testing and certification organization, announced the establishment of safety requirements for E85 fuel-dispensing equipment and is now accepting submittals for certification investigations.

The establishment of safety requirements follows the completion of UL’s comprehensive research program to investigate potential safety concerns associated with dispensing highly concentrated ethanol-blended fuels. The research included extensive gathering of technical data, field studies of existing E85 installations in the United States and Brazil, analysis of material compatibility for dispenser components, and a cosponsored technical forum with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) that brought together 32 national experts from automobile and petroleum companies, ethanol producers, dispenser and component manufacturers, industry associations, government agencies, and university researchers.

“UL's research into the safety aspects of the equipment used to dispense high percentage ethanol-blended fuels was a significant undertaking that required the participation of government agencies such as Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as well as technical experts in biofuels and material compatibility from around the world,” said Gus Schaefer, UL’s Public Safety Officer. “We took the need for E85 dispenser requirements very seriously due to the unique characteristics of ethanol-blended fuels and believe the potential issues we identified through our thorough process will help promote the efficient, effective delivery of E85 as safely as possible.”

UL’s research indicated that although certain materials found in commercially available dispensers can be expected to perform acceptably when exposed to motor vehicle fuels blended with high concentrations of ethanol, some materials experienced significant deterioration during research tests. The new safety requirements address these material compatibility findings.

Working closely with the DOE, UL’s scientific research program was designed to advance public knowledge about the long-term effects of highly concentrated ethanol on the components of E85 dispensers and the subsequent effects on fire safety. One element of the research program included a long-term conditioning test. Test results were used to assist UL in determining the necessary protocols for evaluating potential degradation of dispenser materials from exposure to E85.

“The Department of Energy has been pleased to facilitate an efficient, focused, diligent, and collaborative effort with Underwriters Laboratories, EPA, and stakeholders. We are pleased with the outcome that offers predictability in planning and growth of E85 as it becomes a nationwide fueling option. A safe and reliable biofuels infrastructure is essential toward meeting President Bush’s goal of displacing 20% of gasoline consumption within a decade by commercializing cost-effective biofuels nationwide,” said Andy Karsner, U.S. Department of Energy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. “UL's quick completion of test requirements will help expand the use of clean and abundant homegrown fuels to decrease our reliance on imported oil, increase our energy security, and benefit our environment.”

As part of ongoing research, UL is currently working with DOE, EPA, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory to conduct additional long-term, dynamic testing of materials to be used in E85 dispensers.

October 21–27 is Radon Action Week—Get Your Home Tested

Michigan Governor Jennifer M. Granholm has declared the week of October 21–27 to be Radon Action Week in Michigan and is encouraging all Michigan residents to learn more about this environmental hazard and test their homes during the upcoming heating season.

Radon is a tasteless, odorless, colorless, radioactive gas that occurs naturally in soil and rock. It normally travels up and out to the atmosphere where it is quickly diluted, but when trapped under a home's foundation, it can leak into the home through cracks and openings in the floor or walls, and exposure over time can increase one's risk of lung cancer.

Radon is believed to be the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States and the leading cause among nonsmokers. The EPA estimates that it results in more than 20,000 lung cancer cases each year, and a Michigan Public Health Institute report indicates that more than 600 of those may occur in Michigan alone.

Residential surveys estimate that more than one in eight Michigan homes would be expected to have a radon problem, and while some counties have a higher incidence than others, any home could have a problem. There are no warning signs or symptoms, so each home must be tested.

Testing is easy and inexpensive, and the Department of Environmental Quality is partnering with local health departments to ensure that radon test kits and literature are accessible to all Michigan residents. The kits generally cost $12 or less from county or city health departments, and the price includes postage and lab fees. Kits can also be found at some hardware stores or home improvement centers, but not all include postage and lab fees in the retail price, so consumers are urged to read the packaging before making their purchase.

Closed-house conditions are required for radon screening measurements, so homes are best tested during the cold weather heating season when doors and windows are normally kept closed. If testing indicates an elevated radon level greater than 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/l) of air, additional testing should be done to confirm the problem. If the radon level is confirmed to be high, then action should be taken to reduce radon levels.


NIOSH Offers High School Curriculum in Workplace Safety, Health

Working teens, 16 to 19 years old, are injured or killed on the job in disproportionately high numbers. As a rule, they receive little or no formal safety education and training, either in school or on the job. To fill this gap, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) offers a new high school curriculum, "Youth@Work: Talking Safety," designed especially for young workers.

The curriculum is available to schools at no charge from NIOSH. Materials include a course booklet, a PowerPoint teaching presentation and overheads for teachers, student handouts, and an informational video. The curriculum is customized for each state and Puerto Rico to reflect state-specific rules and regulations for preventing work-related injuries among young workers. 

"This curriculum meets an important need as the number of working youths in the (United States) continues to grow," said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D. "As an immediate benefit, as young people take summer jobs or part-time employment, it provides information that they, their mentors, and their employers can use now to stay safe. Over a much longer term, it provides the foundation for a lifetime of safe, productive work for the next generation of men and women who will keep our economy strong in decades to come."

The curriculum is the culmination of many years’ work by a consortium of partners dedicated to reducing occupational injuries and illnesses among youth. It builds on earlier curricula developed by the Labor Occupational Health Program (LOHP) at the University of California, Berkeley, and by the Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC) in Newton, Mass. Those earlier programs were produced under grants from NIOSH as well as from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents, the Maternal and Child Health Bureau in the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, and Liberty Mutual Insurance Company.

NIOSH and its partners developed the activities in the new curriculum in consultation with numerous teachers and staff from general high schools; school-to-work, work-experience, and vocational education programs; and the California WorkAbility program, which serves students with cognitive and learning disabilities.

The activities have been extensively pilot tested, used, and evaluated by numerous high school teachers, job trainers, and work coordinators around the country to teach youth important basic occupational safety and health skills.

Major topics under the curriculum include raising awareness of safety and health risks for young workers, recognizing workplace hazards, understanding options for controlling hazards, dealing with emergencies, understanding one’s rights and responsibilities as a working teen, and empowering the young worker to communicate with his or her employer about occupational safety and health.

By the year 2010, 17.8 million youths aged 16–19 will work, up from 16 million in 2000, according to government forecasts. Young workers suffer a disproportionate share of injuries and fatalities, especially in the first year on the job. In 2006, 30 youths under the age of 18 died from work-related injuries. In 2003, an estimated 54,800 work-related injuries and illnesses among youth less than 18 years of age were treated in hospital emergency departments. Because only one-third of work-related injuries are seen in emergency departments, it is likely the actual number of such injuries among working youth is much higher, approximately 160,000 injuries and illnesses each year.

NIOSH is the federal agency that conducts research and makes recommendations for preventing work-related injuries, illnesses, and deaths. "Youth@Work: Talking Safety" is part of a strategic NIOSH program of scientific research, outreach, and partnering for safe and healthy work for adolescents. 

Kansas Firm Fined $100,000 for Failing to Report Fire Hazard With Air Compressors

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced today that TAP Enterprises Inc., of Springhill, Kan., has agreed to pay a $100,000 civil penalty for failing to report to the government in a timely manner about defective air compressors.

In October 2004, TAP first learned of an incident involving a fire caused by the Mini 2-Gallon Pancake air compressor, which resulted in $30,000 in property damage. By September 2005, TAP Enterprises had received another report of smoke coming out of the air compressor and a number of warranty claims. TAP, doing business as Cummins Industrial Tools, did not report any of these incidents to CPSC in a timely and thorough manner.



Three New Health Hazard Evaluation Reports Are Available From NIOSH Services Sector


Evaluation of tuberculosis risks. NIOSH responded to a request from managers at a municipal fire department because 12 firefighters had tested positive for latent tuberculosis infection in the previous two years. NIOSH reviewed medical and testing records, interviewed employees and health care providers, and collected blood samples for tuberculosis testing using traditional and new test methods. NIOSH found that the department employees were at low risk for tuberculosis and that the original test results were falsely positive. NIOSH recommended careful adherence to established guidelines for tuberculosis testing, if it is to continue. 

Manufacturing Sector

Evaluation of mortality patterns. NIOSH responded to a union request concerning cancer and other chronic diseases among former employees of a copper smelter. Working with university-based researchers, NIOSH carried out a study of mortality patterns among these workers. Death rates for the smelter workers were lower than expected for all causes of death and from most specific cancer and non-cancer causes. The data suggested possible associations between arsenic exposure and stroke and between cadmium exposure and bronchitis. The researchers concluded, however, that it is unlikely that arsenic exposure caused increased stroke risk or that cadmium exposure caused increased bronchitis disease risk in this group of workers. 

Evaluation of Exposure to Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOCs)

NIOSH received a management request because workers at a label distribution facility were reporting eye, nose, and throat irritation, which they associated with exposure to VOCs from printing ink solvents used in a neighboring facility. NIOSH collected air samples for VOCs at both facilities and talked to workers about their health concerns. The results showed several pathways for printing ink solvent vapors to enter the label facility. All measured exposures were below occupational exposure limits, although some chemical concentrations were above odor thresholds. NIOSH recommended engineering and maintenance improvements to address the problem. 


Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao Comments on 2006 Workplace Injury and Illness Rates

The rate of workplace injuries and illnesses in private industry declined in 2006 for the fourth consecutive year, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported today. Nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses reported by private industry employers declined from 4.6 cases per 100 workers in 2005 to 4.4 cases in 2006.

Among the goods-producing sector of private industry, manufacturing experienced especially significant lower rates of illnesses last year—dropping from 66.1 in 2005 to 57.7 per 10,000 workers in 2006.

"Workplace injuries and illnesses declined 3% in 2006 over the previous year against the backdrop that overall hours worked increased (2%)," said Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao. "The Department of Labor continues to focus on ensuring that workplace injury and illnesses rates continue to decline and that workers are healthy and safe on the job."

Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Edwin G. Foulke Jr. said, "The BLS report—showing the lowest rates since the Labor Department began collecting data in 1972—confirms that OSHA’s consistent emphasis on prevention is paying off with lower on-the-job injuries and illnesses. This report encourages us to continue our balanced strategy of fair and effective enforcement of standards, accident prevention education, and cooperative programs with labor and industry."

OSHA operates a vigorous enforcement program, conducting more than 38,000 inspections last year and exceeding its inspection goals in each of the last seven years. In fiscal year 2006, OSHA found nearly 84,000 violations of its standards and regulations.


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