“A high injury and illness rate is costly to employees and employers in both personal and financial terms,” Foulke said. “Our goal is to make them aware of their high injury and illness rates and to get them to focus on eliminating hazards in their workplace. To help them in this regard, OSHA offers free assistance programs to help employers better protect the safety and health of their employees.”
OSHA identified businesses with the nation’s highest rates of workplace injuries and illnesses through employer-reported data from a 2007 survey of 80,000 worksites (this survey collected injury and illness data from calendar year 2006). Workplaces receiving notifications had 5.4 or more injuries resulting in days away from work, restricted work activity, or job transfer (DART) for every 100 full-time employees. Nationally, the average U.S. workplace had 2.3 DART occurrences for every 100 employees.
Employers receiving the letters were also provided copies of their injury and illness data, along with a list of the most frequently cited OSHA standards for their specific industry. The letter also offered assistance in helping turn the numbers around by suggesting, among other things, the use of free OSHA safety and health consultation services provided through the states, state workers’ compensation agencies, insurance carriers, or outside safety and health consultants.
OSHA Posts New Combustible Dust Safety Guidance
“Fires and explosions resulting from combustible dust can pose a significant danger at the workplace,” said Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Edwin G. Foulke Jr. “This new safety and health topics page is part of a long-term, ongoing program in OSHA to address these hazards and assure safe and healthful working conditions.”
Certain combustible substances, when divided into a dust-like form and suspended in air, can become explosive. Industries that have combustible dust include food (e.g., candy, sugar, spice, starch, flour, and feed), grain, tobacco, plastics, wood, paper, pulp, rubber, furniture, textiles, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, dyes, coal, metals (e.g., aluminum, chromium, iron, magnesium, and zinc), and fossil fuel power generation. Combustible dust may have been a cause of a recent explosion at a Georgia sugar refinery plant. OSHA has in place many relevant standards to address combustible dust hazards—including requirements for hazard communication, housekeeping, emergency action plans, ventilation, and hazardous locations.
Work Place Violence: Robberies Do Result in Fatalities
In its Winter 2008, Quarter Newsletter, Connecticut OSHA addressed the topic of hazards for facilities that may experience robberies and the high risk to employees in these workplaces.
Homicides are consistently one of the top four causes of work-related fatalities. In 2004, a 25-year-old pizza shop manager working in Connecticut lost his life in a robbery. With six years experience with the pizza chain, the manager had started working at this location just six months earlier. The store’s security system required employees and customers to be buzzed in and out after dark. Two men, wearing bandanas across their faces, hid outside and waited for an opportunity to enter the store. At approximately 1 a.m., a delivery driver left and they barged in through the door. After robbing the store and the employees, they fled on foot. The manager chased them into the parking lot and fought with one of them. During the struggle, the manager was shot twice in the chest. He died two days later from his injuries.
While OSHA has no specific regulations for preventing occupational homicide, the OSHA General Duty Clause requires employers to provide a safe and healthful working environment. Employers in high-risk establishments and occupations need to make security a priority. Examples of high-risk workplaces include taxicab establishments, liquor stores, gas stations, detective/protective establishments, grocery stores, jewelry stores, hotels/ motels, and eating/drinking places. High-risk occupations are taxicab drivers/chauffeurs, law enforcement officers (police officers/sheriffs), hotel clerks, gas station workers, security guards, stock handlers/baggers, store owners/managers, and bartenders.
Connecticut OSHA listed the following safety precautions to prevent homicides and assaults:
- Calmly comply with the robber’s demands. Do not chase or try to apprehend the robber. Employees are more likely to be harmed if the robber is startled or surprised.
- Make high-risk areas visible to more people. Look for possible hiding places and add lighting, remove shrubbery, or otherwise change the area to make it less secure to robbers.
- Use drop safes to minimize cash on hand, carry small amounts of cash, and post signs stating that limited cash is on hand.
- Install, maintain, and use surveillance cameras, silent alarms, or individual panic buttons.
- Increase the number of staff on duty, or close the establishment during high-risk hours (late at night and early in the morning).
- Provide training in conflict resolution and nonviolent response.
- Provide bullet-proof barriers or enclosures.
- Have police check on workers routinely.
OSHA Announces New Ergonomics Guidelines for Shipyards
"Shipyard work is considered one of the most hazardous occupations, with an injury rate more than twice that of construction and general industry," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Edwin G. Foulke Jr. "These guidelines will assist many shipyards in their continued efforts to address and implement ways to reduce work-related musculoskeletal disorders."
The guidelines emphasize various solutions that have been effectively implemented by shipyards across the country to decrease work-related musculoskeletal disorders. An "Implementing Solutions" section offers examples of ergonomic solutions that may be used to control exposure to ergonomics-related risk factors in shipyards.
OSHA will work with trade, labor, and professional organizations to assure that these guidelines and other effective practices are accessible and implemented where appropriate. OSHA’s free consultation service will be available to assist small businesses.
FAA Proposes $10.2 Million Civil Penalty Against Southwest Airlines
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has initiated an action to collect a $10.2 million civil penalty from Southwest Airlines for operating 46 airplanes without performing mandatory inspections for fuselage fatigue cracking. Subsequently, the airline found that 6 of the 46 airplanes had fatigue cracks.
“The FAA is taking action against Southwest Airlines for a failing to follow rules that are designed to protect passengers and crew,” said FAA Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety Nicholas A. Sabatini. “We expect the airline industry to fully comply with all FAA directives and take corrective action.”
From June 18, 2006, to March 14, 2007, the FAA alleges that Southwest Airlines operated 46 Boeing 737 airplanes on 59,791 flights, while failing to comply with a Sept. 8, 2004, FAA Airworthiness Directive (AD) that required repetitive inspections of certain fuselage areas to detect fatigue cracking.
The FAA alleges that after Southwest Airlines discovered that it had failed to accomplish the required repetitive inspections, between March 15 and March 23, 2007, it continued to operate those same 46 airplanes on an additional 1,451 flights. The amount of the civil penalty reflects the serious nature of those deliberate violations.
An AD is a legally enforceable rule issued by the FAA to correct an unsafe condition in an aviation product. In this case, the FAA’s AD mandated repetitive external detailed and eddy-current inspections at intervals of no more than 4,500 flight cycles to detect fatigue cracking in areas of the fuselage skin on some Boeing 737 models.
Southwest Airlines has 30 days from receipt of the FAA’s civil penalty letter to respond to the agency.
True Blue Environmental Faces More Than $95,000 in OSHA Fines
True Blue Environmental Services, a Wallingford, Conn., environmental remediation company, faces a total of $95,750 in proposed fines from OSHA for allegedly failing to protect employees against hazards at jobsites in Northampton, Mass., and Danbury, Conn.
The bulk of the hazards were at the former Northampton Manufactured Gas Plant in Northampton. OSHA found that True Blue supervisors and employees removing coal tar from contaminated soil at that location had neither received the required training nor been certified to safely perform their duties.
Additional hazards included: employees overexposed to benzene, a hazardous substance contained in the coal tar, and inadequate controls to reduce their exposure levels; no initial air monitoring to determine exposure levels; no detailed evaluation of the site to identify hazards and necessary protective measures; no on-site safety and health supervisor; respirator deficiencies; and failure to record all workplace injuries.
“OSHA’s safety and health requirements for hazardous waste cleanup are detailed and stringent because of the highly hazardous nature of this work,” said Mary Hoye, OSHA’s area director in Springfield. “It is imperative that employers provide and document proper and effective training to ensure that employees can perform their duties correctly and safely.”
Conditions at the Northampton site resulted in OSHA issuing three willful and six serious citations to True Blue. An additional willful citation was issued for the company’s failure to provide site-specific electric safety training to employees performing remediation work at an electrical substation in Danbury.
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.
The company 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 Springfield Area Office.
NIST to Study Hazards of Portable Gasoline-Powered Generators
The same gasoline-powered portable generators that keep the lights burning, the freezer cold, and the house warm when a storm shuts off the electricity, can also kill you in minutes if you fail to follow safe practices. A single generator can emit several hundred times more poisonous carbon monoxide than a modern car’s exhaust. To help quantify the dangers of improperly used portable generators and evaluate possible technical solutions to the problem, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has enlisted the help of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
The CPSC recently mandated explicit labels warning consumers of the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning associated with operating a portable generator in or near a home. While observing that generators are useful in emergencies, the commission warns consumers not to use a generator inside homes, garages, crawlspaces, sheds, or similar areas, even when using fans or opening doors and windows for ventilation. Deadly levels of odorless and invisible carbon monoxide can quickly build up in those areas and can linger for hours, even after the generator has been shut off, according to the commission, which received reports that at least 65 people died from carbon monoxide poisoning associated with portable generators in 2006. It can even be deadly to use a generator outside if its exhaust stream is too close to a home’s open doors, windows, or air vents.
To learn more about the consequences of operating a gasoline-powered portable generator in the attached garage of a home, NIST researchers will collect data that quantifies carbon monoxide infiltration into a sensor-equipped house during different weather and house conditions. They will look at effects of variable outdoor temperatures and wind speeds, as well as different garage door positions and the influence of indoor HVAC systems. They then will attempt to duplicate experimental results with a model of the house created in CONTAM, NIST’s indoor air quality modeling software. A computer model, validated by test data, will allow NIST and CPSC staff to predict generator-related carbon monoxide concentrations and oxygen depletion rates that could be found in various types of homes under a broad range of conditions. Manufacturers, interested in technologies to modify gasoline-powered generators to address this hazard, should also find the emission information useful. NIST expects to report to CPSC on its study in the summer of 2009.
OSHA, Konover Construction, and CONN-OSHA Form Alliance to Enhance Construction Employee Health and Safety
The Hartford and Bridgeport, Conn., area OSHA offices have formed an alliance with Konover Construction Co. and CONN-OSHA to provide training and other resources to employees of the Farmington, Conn.-based construction contractor and its subcontractors in Connecticut.
Alliance partners will develop and deliver training courses for Konover Construction employees, subcontractors, and others. The training will include OSHA’s 10- and 30-hour construction safety courses, with emphasis on the industry’s four major hazards: falls, electrocution, being struck by objects or vehicles, and being caught in or between materials or equipment.
The alliance also will provide opportunities to share best practices and participate in conferences, safety and health seminars, and other events.
“This alliance is a chance to make a positive safety and health impact on construction sites throughout Connecticut,” said C. William Freeman III, OSHA’s area director in Hartford. “While construction is a high-hazard industry, effective employee training can mitigate its inherent dangers and reduce injuries and illnesses.”
“This joint effort will equip employees with the knowledge to help them identify and eliminate hazards before those lead to injury or illness,” said Robert Kowalski, OSHA’s area director in Bridgeport. “Training is a solid and ongoing investment, as employees will be able to take what they’ve learned with them to future jobs.”
The alliance was signed at the offices of Associated Building Contractors in Rocky Hill by OSHA’s Freeman and Kowalski, Konover Construction Safety Director Michael Capazzi, and CONN-OSHA Consultation Program Manager Kenneth Tucker. More information about OSHA alliances and partnerships in Connecticut are available from compliance assistance specialists in OSHA’s Hartford (860-240-3152) and Bridgeport (203-579-5581) offices.
Tiverton Power Earns ‘Star’ Renewal in OSHA’s Renowned Voluntary Protection Program
The Tiverton Power electric generation plant in Tiverton, R.I., has been recertified for an additional five-year membership at the “star,” or highest, level of the prestigious Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) established by OSHA.
The Tiverton plant, which has 18 employees, first achieved “Star” status in May 2005. Its renewal came after an OSHA team’s on-site review, which included 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.
“Employees and management at Tiverton Power are to be congratulated on their effective and ongoing commitment to workplace safety and health,” said Marthe Kent, OSHA’s regional administrator for New England. “In addition to a high-quality safety and health program that actively utilizes employee training, their joint efforts have resulted in no recordable injuries or illnesses at the plant in more than three years.”
Tiverton Power is one of more than 1,920 worksites in 270 industries nationwide that have earned entry into the VPP, including three others in Rhode Island: the Pawtucket Post Office; WJAR -TV 10, Cranston; and Modine Manufacturing, West Kingston.
The VPP is open to deserving employers in any industry. 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 companies in their respective industries.
Canadian Firm Recalls Frozen Chicken Entres for Possible Listeria Contamination
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Consumer Protection Division has advised consumers that Inovata Foods, an Edmonton, Alberta, firm, is voluntarily recalling approximately 3,780 pounds of frozen chicken entres that may be contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes.
Listeriosis, a serious infection caused by eating food contaminated with the bacteria, primarily affects persons of advanced age, pregnant women, newborns, and adults with weakened immune systems.
The recalled product involves 12-ounce packages of “Discover Cuisine™ Red Curry Chicken & Jasmine Rice.” Each package bears the establishment number “Est. 302” inside the Canadian Food Inspection Agency mark of inspection as well as a “Best By” date of “12 18 08.”
The frozen chicken entres were distributed to Whole Foods stores in Colorado. No illnesses have been reported to date.
“Healthy people rarely contract listeriosis,” said Daniel Rifkin, Wholesale Food Program manager for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Consumer Protection Division. “However, listeriosis can cause high fever, severe headache, neck stiffness, and nausea for those who are affected. Listeriosis also can cause miscarriages and stillbirths, as well as serious and sometimes fatal infections in those with weakened immune systems.”
The problem was discovered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service sampling process.
Aunt Jemima Pancake & Waffle Mix Products Recalled for Possible Salmonella Contamination
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Consumer Protection Division has advised Colorado consumers that The Quaker Oats Co. is recalling a small amount of Aunt Jemima Original Pancake & Waffle Mix, which was sold at the Glendale Super Target store, due to the potential risk of salmonella contamination.
The products, sold in two-pound boxes with a “Best Before” date of Feb 08 09 H through Feb 16 09 H stamped on the top, contain the UPC code 30000 05040. According to a Target representative, 11 of the two-pound boxes were purchased. All other product was recovered and is being returned to the Quaker Oats Co.
Salmonella is a foodborne illness that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy individuals infected with salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. No illnesses have been reported to date.
“Individuals who have eaten the product and who are experiencing symptoms should contact their health care provider,” said Dan Rifkin with the department’s Consumer Protection Division.
Rifkin said there is very low risk of illness if the product is cooked thoroughly. “Follow the cooking directions on the box, and do not consume the product raw or undercooked. Salmonella bacteria is killed at a temperature of 160 F,” he said.
If consumers have purchased the recalled product, Rifkin said they should return it to the place of purchase for a full refund. For more information, the public may call Dan Rifkin at 303-692-3644.
Transportation Secretary Announces New Strategy to Improve Safety on Rural Roads
U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters has announced a new national strategy that will bring focus, including resources and new technology, to reducing deaths on the nation’s rural roads.
“We want to put the brakes on rural road fatalities,” Secretary Peters said. “This is a challenge that we have the experience, the ability, and the resources to address. We can make our rural roads safer, we can do it now, and we can do it without reinventing the wheel.”
The Department’s Rural Safety Initiative will help states and communities develop ways to eliminate the risks drivers face on America’s rural roads and highlight available solutions and resources. The new endeavor addresses five key goals: safer drivers, better roads, smarter roads, better-trained emergency responders, and improved outreach and partnerships. The Secretary said approximately $287 million in existing and new funding is available to support the effort.
Secretary Peters said she has asked the department’s Deputy Secretary, Admiral Thomas Barrett, to personally lead the comprehensive effort to help state and local leaders get solutions implemented in rural areas faster.
“Smarter, low-cost options are readily available and can be deployed quickly. By partnering with state and local leaders to integrate these safety strategies, we can change the trend and improve safety on our nation’s rural roads,” Barrett said.
Of the more than 3 million miles of rural roads in the country, almost 80% are owned and operated by local entities, which is why partnering with states and local governments is critical to the initiative. Peters indicated that the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) has already offered their support.
“State transportation officials have set a goal of reducing highway fatalities by half over the next two decades. Improving rural highway safety is critical to saving those lives. We are pleased that the U.S. DOT is focusing both attention and resources on this issue and we commend them for this initiative,” said Pete Rahn, AASHTO President.