May 30, 2002

OSHA has entered into a pilot partnership with the Iron Workers International Union and NEA -- The Association of Union Constructors to enhance OSHA compliance officer training for the new steel erection standard, which took effect on January 18, 2002.

"OSHA is very pleased with this partnership, which will allow our compliance officers to receive the best training possible on the steel erection standard," said OSHA Administrator John Henshaw. "By collaborating with the NEA and the Iron Workers we are taking a major step in our efforts to reduce injuries and illnesses in this industry."

The partnership utilizes Iron Workers facilities that allow hands-on training to assist compliance officers to understand better how the standard applies to real workplace conditions. The agreement calls for additional training sessions around the country. The first training session was held May 20-24 at the Iron Workers training facility in Springfield, New Jersey. Thirty compliance officers from most of OSHA's regions attended the course, with instructors from the OSHA Directorate of Construction, the OSHA Training Institute, the Iron Workers, the NEA and association members, and members of the Associated Builders and Constructors.

OSHA's steel erection rule is the first OSHA safety standard developed under the Negotiated Rulemaking Act of 1990 and the Department of Labor's negotiated rulemaking policy. The Iron Workers and the NEA were active members of the Steel Erection Negotiated Rulemaking Advisory Committee (SENRAC), which was instrumental in the development of the new steel erection rule.

Future courses are being planned at other locations in different regions of the country.


Reactive chemical accidents pose a "significant problem" and the relevant federal accident prevention regulations have "serious gaps," according to preliminary report findings presented today by the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, the independent federal agency that has been investigating the subject for the past two years.

The regulations in question are promulgated by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

CSB's findings were based on an examination of 167 separate incidents that occurred since 1980 and caused 108 deaths. More than half the incidents involved chemicals not covered by the either the OSHA Process Safety Management (PSM) standard or the EPA Risk Management Program (RMP) rule.

CSB investigators noted that the PSM standard covers only a handful of reactive chemicals listed by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), ratings which investigators said were designed to help firefighters respond to spills and fires - not to safely manage process hazards. The investigation team concluded that most reactive chemicals and mixtures are left uncovered in OSHA's PSM standard.

Board Member Dr. Gerald Poje said the OSHA standard encompasses a number of good safety practices but that "applying this standard to a fixed set of listed chemicals has grave limitations...Those of us in positions of public responsibility have a duty to see that these accidents are prevented by every available means."

Reactive chemicals often appear benign but can undergo uncontrolled reactions when improperly processed or combined, resulting in explosions, fires, and toxic releases. Such accidents are not unique to the chemical manufacturing industry but occur in many other sectors where chemicals are stored, handled, and used. For example, reactive chemicals are the prime suspects in last month's explosion at a sign company in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City, which the CSB is investigating.

The CSB further found that despite the existence of much information on chemical reactivity in the scientific literature and elsewhere, industry is not utilizing the information sufficiently. According to lead investigator John Murphy, "In at least 90% of the accidents we analyzed, information on the hazards was obtainable from publicly available literature. However, federal workplace safety regulations contain few specifics on the need to review reactive hazard information."

In the aftermath of a 1995 fatal reactive accident in Lodi, NJ, several labor unions petitioned OSHA to toughen regulations on reactive chemicals, but recently OSHA dropped the issue from its annual regulatory agenda.

At the public hearing, the Board heard testimony from workers who were seriously injured in reactive chemical accidents, as well as representatives of labor, industry, and technical organizations. The Board will vote this summer on a set of safety recommendations, which could include requesting that OSHA and EPA improve their standards.


On the subject of choosing an industrial clinic, one reader shares her experience:

"When we were looking for a new Industrial Clinic to fit our Safety Culture we decided to interview a few of the local ones around us. We were looking for a clinic that our existing employees and our potential hires would find comfortable. We would drop by unannounced to check the atmosphere and appearance at different times during the day. We asked the doctors to come by and visit our facility so they could see our culture and job functions and to get a real buy in when it came to return to work issues and pre-employment physicals.

It has been a wonderful, successful partnership. We have an awesome clinic that communicates with us freely. They are familiar with our operations, our way of doing business and they appreciate it when we let them know ahead of time when our needs are increasing."

Thanks to Gail Ferranti of K&N Engineering, Inc. for this helpful hint.


Even as technology improves, the electrocution hazards of the past can resurface and pose a danger to consumers. With satellite dishes, cable TV, cellular phones, and the Internet replacing traditional TV, radio, and CB systems, consumers may be taking out their ladders and taking down their old antennas. If proper precautions are not used, the result can be deadly. In recognition of National Electrical Safety Month, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is reminding consumers of the serious electrocution hazard when ladders or antennas touch high-voltage, overhead power lines.

CPSC data show that between 1990 and 1998, more than 300 people in the U.S. were electrocuted when an antenna or pole they were holding touched a high-voltage power line. During this same timeframe, CPSC is aware of nearly 150 electrocution deaths due to ladders coming into contact with an electrical line. Overall, CPSC estimates there are about 200 consumer product-related electrocution deaths each year, which is down from about 600 deaths per year in the 1970s.

In 1978, the Commission set a standard calling for the industry to properly label antennas with safety warnings about the risk from power lines. This was followed by a standard in 1982 requiring antennas for citizen's band communications to be insulated, thus reducing the risk of shock from contact with power lines. These standards helped to dramatically reduce the 186 deaths per year that occurred in the mid- 1970s from antenna electrocutions to 20 per year in the 1990s. Now, consumers are taking down older, uninsulated antennas, which could lead to more electrocutions.

When participating in outdoor, overhead activities, consumers should take the following precautions:

  • Keep all objects - including masts, poles, ladders, tools and toys - far away from power lines at all times.
  • If you are taking down or moving an antenna, be aware of new power lines that have been put up since the antenna was first installed.
  • Never assume that an overhead power line is electrically insulated; always assume that contact with any line can be lethal.
  • Never place a ladder anywhere near an electrical power line.
  • Position non-metal ladders (such as fiberglass) at a height and location that prevents the possibility of you or it contacting a power line.
  • Keep the distance from an antenna or pole to the power line at least 11/2 times the height of the antenna or pole.
  • Properly ground all masts in accordance with electrical codes.
  • Be aware that you can be electrocuted by touching a power line directly or by touching a conductive material (such as a metal ladder, antenna, pipe, kite) and, at the same time, the earth or any grounded item (such as metal siding or a downspout).
  • Keep away from all downed power lines. A power line that touches the ground can shock or kill you even if you do not touch it. The electrical current can travel through the ground and into your body.


In response to a mandate in the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability, and Documentation (TREAD) Act of 2000, the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued part one of a two-part final rule requiring tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMSs) that warn the driver when a tire is significantly under-inflated.

According to a NHTSA research survey, 27 percent of passenger cars on U.S. roadways are driven with one or more substantially under-inflated tires. In addition, the survey found that 33 percent of light trucks (including sport utility vehicles, vans and pickup trucks) are driven with one or more substantially under-inflated tires.

Operating a vehicle with substantially under-inflated tires can result in a tire failure, such as instances of tire separation and blowouts, with the potential for a loss of control of the vehicle. Under-inflated tires also shorten tire life and increase fuel consumption.

The new Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard applies to passenger cars, trucks, multipurpose passenger vehicles, and buses with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less, except those vehicles with dual wheels on an axle.

This document establishes two compliance options for the period between Nov. 1, 2003, and Oct. 31, 2006. These options are designed to allow vehicle manufacturers to use either of the two types of TPMS currently available -one of which measures the pressure in each tire, and another which uses a vehicle's antilock brake system hardware to sense tire pressure differences by monitoring the speed of tire revolution.

The second part of this final rule will be issued by March 1, 2005, and will establish performance requirements that will become effective on Nov. 1, 2006. In the meantime, the agency will leave the rulemaking docket open for the submission of new data and analyses concerning the performance of TPMSs, including both the systems in the field as well as systems under development. NHTSA urges those commenting to substantiate their comments with data and information to the maximum extent possible.

The agency also will conduct a study comparing the tire pressures of vehicles with no TPMS to the pressures of vehicles with the different systems. The study will give the agency additional information regarding the extent to which these vehicles have tire pressures closer to the vehicle manufacturer's recommended inflation pressure than vehicles without a TPMS, and also regarding the extent to which these vehicles have fewer significantly under-inflated tires. This will help NHTSA make a decision on the second part of the rule.


Failing to protect workers from falls at two Alabama work sites -- Northport and Kimberly -- has resulted in citations from OSHA for two bridge construction contractors. Proposed penalties total $85,600.

The general contractor, Clark Construction, Inc., received $80,500 in proposed fines for 11 alleged serious and three alleged repeat violations observed during inspections conducted Jan. 24 and Feb. 14. Subcontractor WBH Construction Company, LLC was cited for three alleged serious violations with penalties totaling $5,100.

"Some workers on these sites were working from heights of up to 80 feet without proper protection," said Roberto Sanchez, OSHA's Birmingham area director. "Falls are the most common cause of injury and death on construction sites."

For the 11 serious citations, OSHA proposed penalties totaling $40,500. Many were directly related to the lack of fall protection, including personal protective equipment. Clark Construction also lacked rescue equipment and had inadequate ladders. In addition to fall protection violations, the company was cited for using unsafe and damaged cranes, lifting personnel improperly and failing to safeguard against injuries from unprotected reinforcing steel.

The three alleged repeat violations carried an additional $40,000 in proposed fines for failing to have water rescue equipment nearby, such as a rescue boat; failure to provide life jackets for employees working near or above water; and not providing fall protection for employees working 20 feet above ground. A repeat violation occurs when a company has been cited previously for the same or a similar violation, and the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission has upheld the citation.

The remaining $5,100 fine was assessed against WBH Construction for three serious violations of fall protection standards.

The companies have 15 working days to contest the citations and proposed penalties before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.


Working in hot environments can be dangerous, but taking simple precautions can prevent many heat-related deaths and injuries. Workers in industries such as laundries, foundries, bakeries and construction projects, face conditions that make them especially vulnerable to safety and health hazards. Higher summer temperatures increase those risks.

The combination of heat, humidity and physical labor can lead to fatalities. In 2000, 21 workers died and 2,554 others experienced heat-related occupational injuries and illnesses serious enough to miss work. Additional illnesses may be under-reported if workers and employers are not familiar with the warning signs.

The two most serious forms of heat related illnesses are heat exhaustion (primarily from dehydration) and heat stroke, which could be fatal. Signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke need immediate attention. Recognizing those signs -- dizziness, nausea, weakness, dry, pale skin or hot red skin, seizures, mood changes -- and taking quick action, can make a difference in preventing a fatality.

OSHA's Heat Stress Card lists tips and precautions that can prevent many heat-related deaths and injuries. Available in English and Spanish, this laminated fold-up card is free to employers to distribute to their workers. It offers a quick reference about heat-related injuries, including warning signs, symptoms and early treatment:

Tips to protect workers

  • Train all workers to recognize and treat the signs of heat stress. Be sure all workers know who has been trained to provide first aid. Also train supervisors to detect early signs of heat-related illness and permit workers to interrupt their work if they become extremely uncomfortable.

  • Consider a worker's physical condition when determining fitness to work in hot environments. Taking certain medications, lack of conditioning, obesity, pregnancy, and inadequate rest can increase susceptibility to heat stress.

  • Work in pairs - use the buddy system. They can keep an eye on each other.

  • Help workers adjust to the heat by assigning a lighter workload and longer rest periods for the first 5 to 7 days of intense heat. This process needs to start all over again when a worker returns from vacation or absence from the job.

  • Encourage workers to drink plenty of water -- about 1 cup of cool water every 15 to 20 minutes, even if they are not thirsty, and to avoid alcohol, coffee, tea, and caffeinated soft drinks that dehydrate the body.

  • Encourage workers to wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. Workers should change their clothes if they get completely saturated.

  • Use general ventilation and spot cooling at points of high heat production. Good airflow increases evaporation and cooling of the skin.

  • Alternate work and rest periods, with rest periods in a cooler area. Shorter, more frequent work-rest cycles are best. Schedule heavy work for cooler times of the day and use appropriate protective clothing.

  • Monitor temperatures, humidity, and workers' responses to heat at least hourly. For copies of the laminated card, available without charge, call OSHA Publications (202) 693-1888 or write to: U.S. Department of Labor/OSHA, OSHA Publications, P.O. Box 37535 Washington, D.C. 20013-7535.