OSHA Schedules Second Set of Stakeholder Meetings on Hearing Conservation for Construction Workers

June 10, 2004

OSHA is inviting the public to participate in a second set of informal stakeholder meetings next month for discussions on reducing noise exposures and hearing loss of workers in the construction industry.

The meetings, scheduled for July 21-22, 2004 in Herndon, Va., are a continuation of OSHA's information gathering process that began with an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Aug. 5, 2002, that addressed the issue. At that time, OSHA asked for comments on whether the agency should add a requirement for a hearing conservation program to its construction noise standard similar to those requirements that cover general industry workers. The agency held stakeholder meetings in Chicago on March 24-25, 2004.

Agenda items to be discussed at the meetings include a task-based approach to implementing hearing conservation programs, including exposure assessment and the use of hearing protection devices to reduce worker exposure to noise in the construction industry. OSHA's current construction noise standards require employers to protect workers from hazardous noise and provide hearing protection devices to workers engaged in construction and renovation work when high noise levels are present.

The stakeholder meetings will be held July 21-22, 2004, at the Hyatt Dulles Hotel, 2300 Dulles Corner Boulevard, Herndon, Va., from 8:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. both days. The meetings are informal; therefore, formal and written testimony is not necessary. However, persons wishing to participate in one of the meetings must notify OSHA by July 6, 2004. Notifications, including name, affiliation, contact information and the session you plan to attend, can be made electronically, via facsimile, or mail.  You may submit your notice by facsimile by calling (202) 693-1678 or write to: Christie Garner, Directorate of Standards and Guidance, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, Room N-3718, 200 Constitution Ave., NW, Washington, D.C. 20210.


Grain and Milling Plant Cited For Repeated OSHA Violations

OSHA has cited ADM Milling Company in Lincoln, Nebraska for alleged serious and repeated violations of health and safety standards. Citations were issued for five alleged repeat and seven alleged serious violations, and carried a total proposed penalty of $124,000.

ADM Milling Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Archer Daniels Midland, has approximately 2,500 employees company-wide, with 142 employees at the Lincoln site. OSHA has inspected ADM Milling Company several times at various locations across the U.S. between 2001 and 2003, issuing citations for hazardous conditions similar to those found at the Lincoln facility.

Repeat citations were issued to the company in the current inspection for failure to guard ingoing nip points; failure to guard rotating shafts, pulleys, sprockets and chains; and the continued use of temporary cords instead of fixed wiring. OSHA issues a repeat citation when an employer is cited for a hazard for which it has been cited in the past.

The serious citations alleged inadequate guardrails; inadequate specific procedures for lockout/tagout and failure to perform annual inspections of these procedures; point of operation guarding; unguarded open sides or edges; unguarded projecting shaft ends; unguarded projecting shaft ends with keyways; belt guarding; and failure to ensure electrical equipment was safe for employee use.

Serious citations are issued when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from hazards about which the employer knew or should have known.

The firm has 15 working days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to either comply with them, to request and to participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director or to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Aluminum Foundry Penalized $104,000 for Serious, Willful Workplace Safety Violations

OSHA has issued citations and proposed penalties to Ormet Primary Aluminum Corp. of Hannibal, Ohio, for machine guarding and other workplace safety hazards.

The penalty and OSHA citations are based on an inspection initiated in December 2003 under the agency's targeted inspection program for workplaces with high injury or illness rates and after receiving a complaint involving the adjustment of electric production furnaces in the foundry.

As a result of that inspection, OSHA issued citations for 17 alleged serious violations and one alleged willful violation of federal workplace safety regulations. The willful citation was issued for failure to install guarding to protect workers from a sprocket wheel and chain, resulting in a willful citation. The 17 serious citations involved trip and fall hazards and energy control deficiencies, electrical hazards and protective equipment deficiencies, among others.

The business has had 82 previous OSHA inspections dating back to 1974, resulting in some 315 citations, many of which identified various machine-guarding issues.

The company has 15 working days from receipt of the citations to appeal before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

There's a Mouse in the House

Scientists at the National Institute of Environmental Health Science (NIEHS), one of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), have found that detectable levels of mouse allergen exist in the majority of U.S. homes. NIEHS researchers analyzed dust samples, asked questions, and examined homes in the first National Survey of Lead and Allergens in Housing, a survey of 831 homes. Allergen levels were studied and related to demographic factors and household characteristics.

82 percent of U.S. homes were found to have mouse allergens. The findings by Cohn et al. appear in the June 2004 issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

The survey was conducted using established sampling techniques to ensure that the surveyed homes were representative of U.S. homes. The homes were sampled from seventy-five randomly selected areas (generally counties or groups of counties) across the entire country. The 831 homes included all regions of the country (northeast, southeast, midwest, southwest, northwest), all housing types, and all settings (urban, suburban, rural).

The selection of homes was controlled to be a representative sample of U.S. homes. For statistics derived from the 831 homes, the contribution from each home was weighted as necessary to ensure that the statistics are representative of the U.S. population.

Dust samples used in the study were collected from kitchen and living room floors, upholstered furniture, beds, and bedroom floors. Kitchen floor concentrations exceed 1.6 micrograms of allergens per gram of dust in about one in five homes (22 percent). The amount of these allergy- triggering particles on the kitchen floor is high enough to be associated with allergies and asthma. Residents of high- rise apartments and mobile homes are at greatest risk, but the allergen is also present in all types of homes.

The NIEHS study, with collaborators at Constella Group, Inc. and the Harvard School of Public Health, characterized mouse allergen prevalence in a representative sample of U.S. homes and assessed risk factors for elevated concentrations. The odds of having elevated concentrations were increased when rodent or cockroach problems were reported.

Exposure to mouse allergen is a known cause of asthma in occupational settings. Until now, exposure to these allergens had not previously been studied in residential environments on a national scale. Clinicians should consider these risk factors when treating allergy and asthma patients.

NIEHS conducts and supports research to reduce the burden of human illness and dysfunction from environmental causes by understanding environmental factors, individual susceptibility and age and by discovering how these influences interrelate.

For further information on the study, contact Dr. Darryl Zeldin, NIEHS scientist, (919) 541-1169 or Dr. Rich Cohn, Constella Group, (919) 313-7700

NHTSA Repeats Rollover Warning to Users of 15-Passenger Vans

The U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today re-issued a warning to users of 15-passenger vans because of an increased rollover risk under certain conditions. Similar warnings were issued in 2001 and 2002.

The safety agency also unveiled an updated consumer hangtag for users of 15-passenger vans and released three related research reports. One of the reports is a detailed analysis of 15-passenger van crashes between 1990 and 2002.

The newly released NHTSA research reinforces the fact that 15-passenger vans have a rollover risk that increases dramatically as the number of occupants increases to full capacity. In fact, the likelihood of a rollover when a van is fully loaded is about five times greater than when the vehicle contains only a driver. While an increased likelihood of rollover is present for other types of fully loaded passenger vehicles, it is most pronounced for 15-passenger vans.

The new NHTSA analysis also showed that the risk of rollover increased significantly at speeds over 50 miles per hour and on curved roads.

NHTSA is re-issuing this advisory to specifically alert those who plan to use the vans this summer for group road trips.

"It is vitally important that users of 15-passenger vans be aware of these risks,” said NHTSA Administrator Jeffrey W. Runge, M.D. “It is critical that users follow safety precautions to significantly reduce those risks.”

Among the safety recommendations are the following:

  • It is important that 15-passenger vans be operated by trained, experienced drivers.
  • Insist that all occupants wear safety belts at all times. In fact, 76 percent of those who died in 15-passenger van rollovers nationwide in single vehicle crashes from 1990 to 2002 were not buckled up. An unrestrained 15-passenger van occupant involved in a single vehicle crash is about three times as likely to be killed as a restrained occupant.
  • If possible, have passengers and cargo forward of the rear axle and avoid placing any loads on the roof.
  • Check your tires: excessively worn or improperly inflated tires can lead to a loss-of-control situation and a rollover. At least once a month, check that the vans tires are properly inflated and the tread is not worn down.

According to NHTSA research, between 1990 and 2002, there were 1,576 15-passenger vans involved in fatal crashes. Of these, 349 were single vehicle rollover crashes.

In separate research reports involving 15-passenger vans, NHTSA also examined the effects of tire pressure on rollover resistance and assessed the viability of electronic stability control (ESC) systems. The study, using a 2003 Ford F-350 and a 2004 GMC Savana, found that ESC could have some safety benefits under certain conditions.

While federal law prohibits the sale of 15-passenger vans for the school-related transport of high school age and younger students, no such prohibition exists for vehicles to transport college students or other adult passengers.