OSHA has proposed $2.78 million in penalties against Ohio-based Cintas Corp. following an inspection into the March 2007 employee death at the Cintas laundry facility in Tulsa, Okla. The employee was killed when he fell into an operating industrial dryer while clearing a jam of wet laundry on a conveyor that carries the laundry from the washer into the dryer.
Cintas is the largest uniform supplier in North America, with more than 400 facilities employing more than 34,000 people. The facility in Tulsa has 160 employees.
"Plant management at the Cintas Tulsa laundry facility ignored safety and health rules that could have prevented the death of this employee," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Edwin G. Foulke Jr.
Forty-two willful, instance-by-instance citations allege violations of the OSHA lockout/tagout standard for the failures to shut down and to lock out power to the equipment before clearing jams, and to train four employees responsible to clear jams that lockout/tagout applies and how to perform the operations. One repeat citation alleges the failure to protect employees from being struck or pinned by the conveyor. Three serious citations allege the failures to protect employees from falls, to have a qualified person inspect the lockout/tagout procedures and to certify the procedures as required.
In a separate case, OSHA issued five repeat and two serious citations with penalties totaling $117,500 for violations of the lockout/tagout and machine guarding standards found at the Cintas Columbus, Ohio, facility. OSHA also has opened investigations in Arkansas and Alabama. Washington, an OSHA State Plan state, has issued four citations with proposed fines totaling $13,650, alleging violations for similar hazards at the Yakima Cintas facility.
A willful violation is one committed with intentional disregard of the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act or plain indifference to employee safety or health. A serious violation is one that could cause death or serious physical harm to employees, and the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.
OSHA Cites Company for Continued Workplace Safety and Health Hazards
OSHA has proposed $166,400 in fines against Shane Felter Industries Inc. for multiple alleged workplace safety and health violations. The Uniontown, Pa., company, which fabricates and paints steel beams used in bridge and road construction, has 62 employees.
OSHA initially selected Shane Felter for inspection after reviewing the company's occupational injury and illness data. The inspection later was expanded to follow up on previously cited hazards that had not been abated.
OSHA has issued one willful citation, with a proposed penalty of $56,000, alleging that the company did not repair or replace defective parts to ensure the safe operation of seven overhead cranes.
Sixteen repeat violations, with proposed penalties of $67,200, were issued due to violations involving crane operators, forklift operations, hazardous materials, obstructed exits, an inadequate hearing conservation program, and inadequate personal protective equipment.
Twenty-five serious violations, with proposed penalties of $40,800, were issued for a variety of hazards, including a deficient lockout/tagout program, which is intended to prevent inadvertent machine start-ups; use of damaged equipment; exposed live electrical parts; lack of explosion-proof equipment; and use of open flames or spark-producing equipment near flammable liquids.
Four other-than-serious violations with proposed penalties of $2,400 also were issued.
"Shane Felter Industries' refusal to remove hazards ultimately threatens the safety and health of its employees," said Robert Szymanski, director of OSHA's area office in Pittsburgh. "It is imperative that this employer correct these violations to prevent a potential tragedy."
OSHA Cites Contractor with $146,000 in Proposed Penalties for Eight Safety Violations
OSHA has proposed $146,000 in penalties against A.E. New Jr. Inc. of Gulf Breeze, Fla., for eight safety violations found at a school construction site in Milton, Fla.
The company was cited for three willful safety violations with penalties totaling $132,000. OSHA determined that competently trained employees saw violations that jeopardized safety but did not take corrective action. The violations included employees working on an improperly erected scaffold, employees working from a makeshift platform, and employees using a forklift to lift them to the building's roof without using required fall protection equipment.
OSHA inspectors cited the company for four serious safety violations with proposed penalties of $10,000. These violations included allowing employees to work on a roof edge without fall protection, using a pallet on a forklift as a platform for employees, having employees access the scaffold in an unsafe manner, and allowing debris to accumulate around the worksite.
A $4,000 repeat safety violation was proposed for allowing employees to work near overhead brick laying operations without wearing hard hats. The company was cited for this same violation in 2004.
"Occupational fatalities caused by falls remain a serious public health problem and one of the leading causes of traumatic occupational death," said James Borders, OSHA's area director in Jacksonville. "OSHA wants employers to correct harmful situations before employees are injured."
OSHA Fines San Antonio Lath & Plaster $141,600 for Violations
OSHA issued nine safety citations with $141,600 in proposed penalties to San Antonio Lath & Plaster in Houston for violations found at a Sugar Land, Tex., construction site after investigators observed employees working without appropriate fall protection.
The company was cited with one serious, seven repeat, and one other-than-serious violation. The serious violation alleges the improper use of extension cord sets. Seven repeat violations were for inadequately built and used scaffolding. The other-than-serious violation alleges inadequate examination of electrical equipment and the use of spliced flexible cords.
"Scaffold platforms were not fully decked, leaving gaps through which employees could fall," said Chuck Williams, OSHA's Houston South area office director. "An access ladder was not provided so that employees could safely access the upper levels of the scaffolding. Guardrails, used to prevent workers from falling off the scaffolding, were missing."
San Antonio Lath & Plaster has been cited 13 times by OSHA since 1999 for similar violations at construction sites in various cities.
OSHA Cites Ray-Carroll County Grain Growers in Carrollton, Mo., Following Double Fatality
OSHA has cited the Ray-Carroll County Grain Growers' grain storage and farm supply cooperative in Carrollton, Mo., for four alleged willful violations of federal health and safety law following a double fatality at the facility in February. The agency is proposing penalties totaling $189,000.
"Grain handling facilities have the potential to be extremely hazardous," said Charles E. Adkins, OSHA's regional administrator in Kansas City. "The two employees in this case were working on a grain pile to break up clots to assist grain flow through a ground-level grate when they were engulfed by the grain. Employers must remain committed to keeping the workplace safe and healthful to prevent these types of accidents."
The alleged willful violations are for failing to train employees to manage hazards associated with special tasks they are assigned; failing to provide a lifeline or alternative means for employees walking or standing on or in stored grain; failing to isolate all equipment presenting a danger to employees walking or standing on or in stored grain posing an engulfment hazard; and allowing an employee to be present in moving grain.
OSHA Proposes $253,500 in Penalties against Cumming, Ga., Poultry Processor
OSHA has proposed $253,500 in penalties against Koch Foods of Cumming, Ga., for 34 safety and health violations.
A joint safety and health inspection was conducted as part of OSHA's Site-Specific Targeting Program, which targets the nation's most hazardous workplaces for inspection based on their histories of having high numbers of injuries and illnesses.
"The large proposed penalty for the plant reflects management's continued failure to meet OSHA's standards for the safety and health of its employees," said Gei-Thae Breezley, director of the agency's Atlanta East Area Office. "When we inspected this plant in 2004, we found many of these same violations, and our current inspection showed that this plant has not made sufficient effort to correct them."
The facility was cited for 11 repeat safety and health violations resulting in penalties totaling $187,500. Among the violations were not providing guardrails, failing to keep exit routes free of objects, improperly maintaining electrical boxes, and not providing an emergency eye wash station for employees handling corrosive materials.
In addition, the plant was cited for 20 serious safety and health violations and three other violations with penalties totaling $66,000. These included employees operating a forklift without a seatbelt, failing to conduct regular inspections of forklifts, unguarded machinery that exposed employees to amputation hazards, and lack of effort to protect employees from noise exposure.
Study Links Metals to Alzheimer's and Other Neurodegenerative Diseases
A multi-institutional team of researchers led by Emory University has defined for the first time how metal ions bind to amyloid fibrils in the brain in a way that appears toxic to neurons. Amyloid fibrils are linked to the development of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob.
Although metal ions, most notably copper, can bind to amyloid in several specific ways, the researchers found that only one way appears toxic. Amyloids are typically hard, waxy deposits consisting primarily of protein found in body tissue. The findings appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Early Edition online during the week of Aug. 6-10 and in the Aug. 14 print edition.
Copper ions, atoms that have acquired an electric charge by gaining or losing one or more electrons, are found naturally in the brain, as are other ions such as zinc and iron. Increasing evidence now links these naturally occurring ions to amyloid assembly and to Alzheimer's disease, says David Lynn, Emory professor and chair of chemistry and principal investigator of the study.
While little is known about the exact mechanisms governing the formation of amyloid fibrils, the study's results suggest that the exact way amyloid binds to copper ions affects the fibers' architecture, rate of propagation and their effect, if any, on surrounding neurons.
"Not all amyloid fibrils are toxic," says Lynn. "Amyloid is made of proteins, and proteins normally fold into beautiful structures. However, for whatever reason, some misfold and the resulting misfolded structures are also beautiful, but sticky. They stick to themselves and then propagate to form fibrils, but only some of the fibrils turn out to be toxic."
Those who suffer from Alzheimer's disease, for example, have an unusual amount of sticky amyloid fibrils in their brains. Over time, the fibrils accumulate instead of decomposing and increasingly interfere with the brain's structure and function. In contrast, normally folded proteins are cleared from the brain shortly after they are produced.
The scientists, collaborating throughout the United States and across Emory, focused on the smallest individual unit of amino acids that make up amyloid fibrils. By determining only an individual unit's physical and chemical properties when binding with metal, the researchers were able to determine the activity governing the assembly and toxicity of whole fibrils with respect to their effect on brain cells.
We showed that the activity of this minimal unit actually replicates the activity of the whole fibril on the neuronal cell. And it does so by binding the metal in a specific way," says Lynn. Forty years ago, scientists began exploring a possible link between overexposure to metals and Alzheimer's disease. Because some people with the disease had aluminum deposits in their brains, it was thought that there was a direct connection between aluminum exposure and Alzheimer's. However, after many years of study, no conclusive evidence links aluminum to neurodegenerative disease, which leaves researchers to focus on zinc, iron and copper.
The researchers also found that several distinct types of structures could be assembled from individual units of amino acids. "We found that we could build lots of different types of structures with an individual unit: fettuccine-shaped structures, tubes, vesicles, and so on, not just fibers. And this is remarkable," says Lynn.
"Our findings now lead us to ask what other types of structures these individual units can make, what exactly happens when the units bind to one another, and whether these individual units are important to neurodegenerative diseases or whether the entire fibril must be involved," says Lynn.
"Like many scientific findings, we know about amyloid because of the diseases it's associated with rather than because of its benefits," says Lynn. "However, researchers are also finding situations in which amyloid is beneficial, such as in long-term memory and synapse maintenance in the marine snail."
The study, which was conducted in collaboration with the University of Georgia and the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC), was supported by the Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health through a core grant to the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center and to SLAC. The team of researchers from Emory included Dr. Lynn, Jijun Dong, Anil Mehta, Seth Childers, and James Simons, Departments of Chemistry and Biology; Jeffrey Canfield and Kurt Warncke, Department of Physics; Bo Tian, and Zixu Mao, Department of Pharmacology; and Robert Scott, Department of Chemistry, University of Georgia and SLAC.
Brains Learn Better at Night
If you think that the idea of a morning person or an evening person is nonsense, then postgraduate student Martin Sale and his colleagues from the University of Adelaide (Australia) have news for you.
They have found that the time of day influences your brain's ability to learn - and the human brain learns more effectively in the evening. And by identifying at what point in the day the brain is best able to operate, rehabilitation therapy can be targeted to that time, when recovery is maximised.
"Our research has several future applications," Mr Sale says. "If the brains of stroke patients can be artificially stimulated to improve learning, they may be able to recover better and faster." The researchers used a magnetic coil over the head to stimulate nerve activity in the brain, and linked it to an electrical stimulus of the hand.
His study found that larger changes are induced when the experiments are performed in the evening, as compared with mornings. "Such time-of-day variations in function are not unusual. Organisms are adapted to the continual change in light and dark during a 24 hour period to avoid predators and to reproduce faster," he says.
"For example, the petals of many flowers only open during the day, while some organisms only reproduce at night. In humans, these rhythms are governed by a variety of hormones that control many bodily functions."
Of the 16 Fresh Scientists selected for 2007 from more than 80 nominations, four are from the University of Adelaide. The others are Edwina Sutton, Cadence Minge and Quinn Fitzgibbon.
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