OSHA Publishes Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for New Respirator Fit-Testing Protocol

January 07, 2008

 The agency is accepting public comments until Feb. 25, 2008.

"This proposed rule will add a new fit-test method that has a shorter exercise duration than the current methods," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Edwin G. Foulke Jr. "This method will give employers additional flexibility in selecting procedures for conducting fit-testing."

The proposed rule would add the ABQLFT as an alternative to the four existing OSHA-approved qualitative fit-test protocols. The ABQLFT protocol currently listed in the existing OSHA-approved Bitrex fit-test protocol in the Respiratory Protection standard would shorten the duration for each of the seven fit-test exercises from one minute to 15 seconds.

The proposed protocol would apply to employers in general industry, shipyard employment, and the construction industry.

OSHA Fines Two Construction Contractors a Combined $324,000 Following Asbestos Exposure Inspection

OSHA has cited Balfour Beatty Construction LLC, a general construction contractor based in the United Kingdom, and C.F. Jordan LP, a general and utility construction contractor based in El Paso, Texas, with 12 safety violations for asbestos exposure at a military housing construction site at the federal White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

OSHA began an inspection July 21 after receiving a referral from the New Mexico Environment Department alleging employees were removing underground concrete pipe containing asbestos from a military housing site without using appropriate protective clothing or a protective enclosure to contain the airborne asbestos.

"The inspection revealed that the two companies failed to take appropriate action to protect their employees," said Rich Tapio, OSHA's area director in Lubbock, Texas. "Employers must remain committed to keeping the workplace safe and healthful at all times."

OSHA has cited Balfour Beatty Construction for three alleged willful and two alleged serious violations, proposing $179,000 in fines. The willful violations are for failing to assure that C.F. Jordan, the subcontractor, was in compliance with OSHA's asbestos standards; to conduct an assessment of asbestos operations; and to have a competent person oversee work involving asbestos. The serious violations include failing to label asbestos-containing materials and to store excavated asbestos in closed, covered containers.

OSHA has cited C.F. Jordan with $145,000 in proposed fines for two alleged willful and five alleged serious violations of its asbestos standards. The willful violations are for failing to conduct an assessment of asbestos operations and to provide protective clothing to employees handling asbestos. The serious violations include failing to establish a restricted area where asbestos operations would be conducted; failing to conduct air monitoring for asbestos; allowing prohibited work practices; failing to train employees handling asbestos; and failing to provide a competent person to properly supervise the work area.

A willful violation is one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health. A serious violation exists when there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result and the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.

OSHA Reports Successful Enforcement Year in FY 2007

OSHA recently released its annual enforcement statistics, confirming that the agency's enforcement programs are producing positive results for the benefit of American workers.

In fiscal year (FY) 2007, OSHA conducted 39,324 total inspections, a 4.3% increase over its stated goal of 37,700. Total violations of OSHA's standards and regulations were 88,846, a 6% increase from FY 2006. The agency cited 67,176 serious violations, a 9% increase from the previous year and a more than 12% increase over the past four years. The number of cited repeat violations also rose from 2,551 in FY 2006 to 2,714 in FY 2007.

"The fact that OSHA surpassed its inspection goal for FY 2007 proves our enforcement commitment remains strong," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Edwin G. Foulke Jr. "The significant increase in citations for serious and repeat violations documents OSHA's focus on identifying and eliminating severe hazards in the workplace."

Fatality, injury, and illness rates have continued to decline to record lows. The injury and illness incidence rate of 4.4 per 100 employees for calendar year (CY) 2006 was the lowest that the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has ever recorded. Workplace fatality rates hit an all-time low in CY 2006 with 3.9 fatalities per 100,000 employees.

OSHA's results show that a strong, fair, and effective enforcement program, along with outreach to employees and employers and partnerships and cooperative programs, add value to the workplace for both employers and employees by reducing injuries, illnesses, and fatalities.

OSHA Cites Contractors for Workplace Hazards on Lowes Home Improvement Center Construction Site

OSHA has cited five Whitehall, Pa., contractors working on the Lowes home improvement center construction site at 2650 Macarthur Road for a variety of workplace safety and health violations, assessing a total of $142,600 in fines.

OSHA initiated an investigation on July 5, 2007, in response to an employee complaint. As a result of the investigation, T&T Masonry, which was engaged in both steel erection and masonry work with 32 employees at the job site, was cited for 7 repeat violations and 18 serious violations. The company was fined $129,000 for improper use of scaffolds and inadequate fall protection.

DeLeon Enterprises, a roofing contractor with eight employees on site, was cited for six serious violations and fined $9,600 for inadequate training for employees and failure to provide ground fault protection in electrical circuits. NMB Construction, LLC, providing exterior finishing work with five employees on site, was cited for three serious violations and fined $1,125 for failure to provide ground-fault protection in electrical circuits and improper use of scaffolds. Professional Site Management Inc., a utility installation and site preparation contractor with 17 employees at the job site, was cited for one serious violation. The company was fined $2,500 for failure to provide adequate protection to employees in an excavation. In addition, P.C. Unlimited Inc., a framing contractor with four employees at the site, was cited for one serious violation and fined $375 for failure to provide ground-fault protection on electrical circuits.

"Each of these hazards added to the likelihood of a potential accident," says Jean Kulp, director of the Allentown OSHA Area Office. "With so many contractors involved in this construction project, it's important that each company eliminate the identified violations to make certain all employees stay safe and healthy while working on this job site."

OSHA issues a repeat citation when an employer has been previously cited for a substantially similar violation, and that citation and its penalty have become final. A serious violation is issued when there is substantial probability that death or serious injury could occur from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

Modern Dispersions South Faces More Than $71,000 in Penalties After OSHA Inspection

OSHA has levied 12 safety violations with $71,750 in proposed penalties against Modern Dispersions South Inc.’s Fitzgerald, Ga., manufacturing facility.

In June of this year, four of the company’s 130 employees were hospitalized after a fire occurred while employees attempted to unclog a machine of carbon black powder and polyethylene pellets.

OSHA inspectors issued one willful safety violation with a $49,000 proposed penalty for the company’s failure to use lockout/tagout control procedures when employees attempted to clear jammed machines. A willful violation is one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health.

“Management must put the safety of people first and ahead of its need to maintain production schedules,” said John J. Deifer, OSHA’s area director in Savannah.

The company also was cited for 10 serious violations with $19,250 in proposed penalties and one other-than-serious violation with a proposed penalty of $3,500. The other-than-serious violation was for the employer’s failure to notify OSHA within eight hours of the in-patient hospitalization of three or more employees. 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. An other-than-serious violation is a hazardous condition that would probably not cause death or serious physical harm but would have a direct and immediate relationship to the safety and health of employees.

OSHA and Altec Industries Inc. Renew Alliance

OSHA recently renewed its alliance with Altec Industries Inc. to provide safety and health guidance for employees, including non- or limited English-speaking employees, on the safe operation of cranes, digger derricks, insulated and non-insulated aerial devices, including tree care devices, as well as guidance on industry hazards such as falls and electrocutions.

"Employees in the utility and construction industries face serious hazards daily," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Edwin G. Foulke Jr. "The collective expertise of OSHA and Altec will further our efforts to reduce injuries, illnesses, and fatalities throughout the industry, while encouraging employers and employees to commit to safer work practices.

Through the alliance, originally signed on Nov. 22, 2005, OSHA regional and area staff have participated in the "Safe Operation of Insulated Aerial Devices Training." OSHA also provided input in the development of safety tip sheets that address operator training requirements, general safety topics for aerial devices, and safety tips to prevent electrocutions. In addition, Altec representatives continue to serve on the editorial boards for OSHA’s Safety and Health Topics pages related to Crane, Derrick and Hoist Safety; Electrical Power Generation, Transmission, and Distribution Industry; and Tree Care Industry. 

Altec Chief Executive Officer Lee Styslinger III said, "The importance of safety is job number one. We are committed to supporting and enhancing safety in everything we do to ensure, through our alliance with OSHA, we leverage our combined ability to enhance safety."

OSHA and SkillsUSA Renew Alliance

OSHA renewed its alliance with SkillsUSA to continue providing career and technical educators and their students with resources that will protect the safety and health of young employees.

"These young people are America's future workforce," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Edwin G. Foulke Jr. "Early education to understand safety and health issues will enable the next generation to develop and practice safe work habits. I am pleased to continue this important alliance with SkillsUSA as we extend our efforts to protect young employees nationwide."

Through the OSHA and SkillsUSA Alliance, OSHA representatives participated in the National Leadership and Skills Conference where Foulke gave a presentation entitled, "OSHA Update and the OSHA and SkillsUSA Alliance." SkillsUSA students, teachers, and safety and health professionals attended the OSHA-sponsored 2006 and 2007 Teen Summer Job Safety Campaign kick-off, a multi-year project that increases awareness about workplace hazards and provides information to young employees and their parents on how to avoid those hazards. In addition, representatives of SkillsUSA and other alliance program participants supported the 2006 and 2007 North American Occupational Safety and Health (NAOSH) Week, which focused on the importance of preventing injuries and illnesses in the workplace.

"Renewal of the SkillsUSA/OSHA Alliance will help us continue the excellent work to raise youth awareness of occupational health and safety," said Timothy W. Lawrence, executive director, SkillsUSA. "The alliance has helped youth all across the nation be more mindful of the issues that will impact their well-being as they rise to be part of America's 21st Century workforce. We are thrilled with the joint activities and awareness programs carried out thus far through the alliance and look forward to a productive partnership in the coming years."

SkillsUSA is a national organization comprised of students, teachers, and industry representatives working cooperatively to ensure that America has a skilled workforce. More than 279,000 students and instructors join SkillsUSA each year. Since 1965, the organization has assisted more than 8.8 million members.

OSHA Cites Tower Erection and Maintenance Company Following Fatality

OSHA has proposed $56,900 in penalties against Berryhill Tower Services of Comfort, Texas, for four violations of federal safety rules.

In July, an employee was fatally struck by a tower component during construction of a communications tower in Pinola, Miss. OSHA inspectors issued one willful violation with a $49,000 penalty against the company for allowing materials to be raised using improper rigging equipment.

"This company's primary business is working on these sorts of towers, but they knowingly used equipment that the manufacturer never intended for rigging purposes," said Clyde Payne, director of OSHA's Jackson Area Office.

The company was also cited for two serious violations with a proposed penalty of $6,400 for failing to adequately train its employees in handling rigging equipment and failing to train employees in the recognition and prevention of fall hazards. An "other-than-serious" violation with a $1,500 penalty was proposed against the company for not notifying the nearest OSHA office within the required eight hours of the employee's death.

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