April 26, 2001

Shipbuilders safety and health in Houston will be enhanced by a landmark partnership between OSHA and the Shipbuilders Council of American (SCA), Houston Area. The objective of the agreement is to prevent serious accidents within the shipbuilding industry through increased training and enhanced safety and health programs.

The SCA is the national trade association representing the shipyard industry that builds, repairs and services all types of military and commercial vessels. SCA represents 50 shipyard companies that own and operate over 120 shipyards in 23 states. Seven members are in the greater Houston area and they operate 20 shipyards.

OSHCON will provide assistance in safety and health program enhancement to eligible employers who request it. OSHA will conduct inspections to verify that the employer's performance under the agreement will focus on eliminating amputations, falls, electrical hazards, confined spaces hazards, lead and silica over-exposures, and other sources of injuries.

Establishing partnerships with the private sector to improve safety and health is one of OSHA's major goals. While participation in the partnership is voluntary, OSHA anticipates that employers will experience a decrease in workplace accidents and illnesses and a decrease in worker compensation costs.

"The partnership will help OSHA to achieve its strategic goal of reducing injuries and illnesses in the shipbuilding industry," said Ray Skinner, OSHA area director in Houston. "Additionally, the partnership should provide a higher level of employee safety and health training."

For more information, contact the OSHA South office at (281) 286-0583, OSHA North office at (281) 591-2438 or the Shipbuilders Council of America at (703) 351-6734.


The U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has begun a nationwide effort to raise awareness of safety hazards among U.S. miners. During the "National Miner Safety Awareness Campaign," MSHA personnel will visit more than 1600 mining operations nationwide over the next several weeks to raise awareness of accident causes and to help prevent accidents in the future.

"We want to share information on causes of accidents and how best to avoid them with the mining community and we want to deliver that message directly to workers and mine operators at the mine sites," said Robert A. Elam, acting assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "Our personnel will tailor information to mine sites in their areas so that miners and mine operators know how the safety advice applies to their own work site."

MSHA engineers, training specialists and enforcement personnel are visiting surface and underground mines in California, Florida, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Texas, West Virginia, Kentucky and Wyoming among other states as part of this initiative. In addition to the mine visits, agency personnel will make presentations at public seminars, safety conferences and labor union meetings around the country.

"Our aim is to prevent accidents by drawing attention to potential safety problems before they cause an injury or a death," said Elam.

Accident remedies and safety tips developed after examination of recent mine accidents are being shared with miners and mine operators in an effort to reduce the frequency of accidents nationwide. Accident remedies include low-cost engineering solutions to common hazards in the mining workplace that can be quickly put in place by the mine operator to eliminate the hazard that caused past accidents. Safety tips are the lessons learned from previous accidents, which are being shared with miners to improve everyday work practices and avoid hazards.

MSHA will display ideas that are contributed on its website.

MSHA initiated the program partly in response to an increase in fatal coal mining accidents last year. There were 38 coal mining fatalities nationwide last year compared with 34 during calendar year 1999 and a record-low of 29 in 1998. There were 48 metal and nonmetal deaths in 2000 compared with 55 in 1999 and a record low of 40 in 1994.

As of April 2001, there had been seven coal mining fatalities compared with nine at the same time last year. Metal and nonmetal has recorded 10 fatalities this year compared with 13 at the same time during 2000.


HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson has announced the formal establishment of a new Patient Safety Task Force within the Department of Health and Human Services that will coordinate a joint effort among several department agencies to improve existing systems to collect data on patient safety. The Secretary charged the task force with working closely with the states and private sector in this effort.

The federal agencies leading this effort include the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA).

The goal of this Task Force is to identify the data that health care providers, states, and others need to collect to improve patient safety. To start this process, the task force will release a contract request to develop a detailed plan on how to integrate the existing reporting systems in a way that minimizes burden, provides those who must submit reports an opportunity to learn, and improves the safety of health care services.

CDC, FDA, and HCFA presently operate a number of systems to collect information that helps to monitor health care safety; compliance with existing regulations on blood products, devices, drugs; and the safety of patients in Medicare-funded institutions. Secretary Thompson has charged the Task Force with studying how to implement a user-friendly Internet-based patient safety reporting format. This will enable faster cross-matching and electronic analysis of data, and more rapid responses to patient safety problems.

HHS' fiscal year 2002 budget proposal includes up $72 million, an increase of $15 million over fiscal year 2001, for efforts to improve patient safety and reduce adverse events.


OSHA cited Atlanta-based Turner Construction Co. on April 5 for serious safety violations and proposed penalties totaling $42,000 in connection with the death of a United Rentals employee at a demolition site.

As part of the demolition and remodeling of a downtown retail building, a construction crew removed an escalator, creating a floor opening. This unguarded opening was obscured by a tarp installed to control dust. On January 4, a United Rentals employee, on-site to repair equipment, fell 17 feet through the opening.

"Construction companies know that floor openings are a common hazard and falls are a leading cause of death in the industry," said Susan Johnston, OSHA's Atlanta-West area director. "This company should have had increased awareness because they were cited previously for this hazard at a New York construction site."

OSHA cited the company for one repeat violation with a proposed penalty of $35,000 for the unguarded floor hole. A serious citation drew additional penalties of $7,000 for failure to close off an undesignated access way to the hazardous location.

OSHA defines a repeat violation as one where an employer has been cited previously for a substantially similar condition and the citation has become a final order of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

A serious violation is defined as one in which there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result and that the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.

Turner Construction Co. employs approximately 4,200 workers and had five at this site. The company has 15 working days from receipt of OSHA's citations to contest them and the proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.


Innovative approaches to help workers and employers reduce the high number of injuries and fatalities occurring from fall hazards in the Colorado construction industry will be the focus of a free event in Edwards, Colo. on May 2 and Frisco, Colo. May 16.

The "Reducing Fall Hazards in the Construction Industry Conference" sponsored by the U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Colorado State University's Health and Safety Consultation Program, will be held at Berry Creek Middle School in Edwards Wednesday, May 2nd and at Summit Middle School in Frisco Wednesday, May 16th from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. each day.

In Colorado, more than 34 percent of all construction related fatalities are due to falls, and over 72 percent of all construction fall fatalities were suffered by employees of special trade contractors, such as roofers, carpenters, and masons.

Each conference will feature free classroom training sessions in both English and Spanish on fall hazard protection and scaffold safety. OSHA expects to have between 250 to 400 workers and employers attending over the two sessions.

Each of the sessions on fall hazard protection and scaffold safety will include a discussion on Safety Programs and Safety Pays, a review of OSHA fall protection standards, a presentation on practical applications and a panel question and answer session.

Seating for all conference sessions will be on a first-come, first-served basis with no pre-registration required.

The Fall Hazards Conference is part of a Local Initiative Program for Fall Hazards in the Construction Industry developed by the OSHA Denver area office that includes both innovative outreach and traditional enforcement strategies to help reduce the high number of injuries and fatalities due to falls.

The program was initiated two years ago in Denver County and is aimed at providing outreach training opportunities in the top five counties which have experienced the highest number of lost-time claims and fatalities for the entire area office jurisdiction.

Nationwide, construction workers have accounted for one out of every six fatal work injuries from 1992 through 1997. During that same period, the three leading causes of fall deaths among construction workers nationwide were falls from roofs, roof holes, roof edges (51 percent), scaffolds (17 percent), and ladders (17 percent). Special trade contractors such as roofers, carpenters and masons accounted for approximately 59 percent of all construction related fatalities.

For further information on the conferences contact the Colorado State Consultation Service at (970) 491-6151 or the OSHA Denver area office at (303) 844-5285 or 1-800-755-7090.