OSHA Small Business Outreach Seminars on Machine Guarding To Be Offered In October

September 18, 2003

Helping small Upstate New York employers ensure the safety of their employees using machinery is the goal of seminars being offered by the Buffalo office of OSHA in conjunction with area organizations and colleges.

The same seminar, on the topic of machine guarding, is being offered at six different locations during October as follows:

October 2, 2003 9:00 - 11:00 a.m. Erie Community College South Campus, Orchard Park, NY
  1:00 - 3:00 p.m. NCCC Corporate Training Center, Lockport, NY
October 9, 2003 9:00 - 11:00 a.m. Jamestown Community College, Jamestown, NY
  1:00 - 3:00 p.m. Jamestown Community College, Olean, NY
October 16, 2003 9:00 - 11:00 a.m. Genesee Community College, Batavia, NY
  1:00 - 3:00 p.m. SUNY Brockport MetroCenter, Rochester, NY

"Inadequate machine guarding can result in severe mangling or crushing injuries or even death. That's why OSHA routinely focuses on machine guarding during workplace inspections and prioritizes inspections involving mechanical power presses," said Art Dube, OSHA's Buffalo area director, who noted that crushing hazards are one of the four leading causes of workplace injuries and deaths in the United States. "Employers and workers need to know the basics when it comes to guarding moving machine parts against employee contact. This seminar will show small business owners how to identify workplace hazards and determine if they have adequate machine guarding."

The session is part of the OSHA Small Business Seminar Series covering a variety of topics that the federal agency will offer this year to assist small Upstate New York employers in complying with workplace safety and health standards.

To register for one of the October seminars, or to obtain more information, contact the Buffalo OSHA Area Office at 716-684-3891.

HHS Issues Report on the Impact of Poor Health on Businesses

US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tommy G. Thompson has released a new report highlighting the economic toll that preventable diseases take on businesses, workers and the nation.

The report was released as Secretary Thompson prepared to host a prevention roundtable discussion with more than a dozen executives from major U.S. corporations. The meeting allowed top government and business leaders to discuss the urgency of rising health care costs, an aging population and prevention priorities as well as to share strategies for the public and private sectors to better address these issues.

"The choices we make about diet, activity and tobacco affect not only our own lives, but also affect the economic health of our families, our businesses and even our nation as a whole," Secretary Thompson said. "More businesses need to recognize that poor health means lower productivity and higher health insurance costs. Smart business leaders increasingly are finding that it is the right decision to promote health education, physical activity and preventive benefits in the workplace."

The new HHS report summarizes key research findings about the prevalence and cost of chronic diseases where prevention and health management can make a difference -- including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and asthma. Individual choices that lead to overweight and obesity, lack of physical activity and smoking greatly increase the risk of these diseases.

The report highlights recent research showing the dramatic impact of chronic, preventable illnesses have on business' bottom line:

  • Obesity-related health problems cost U.S. businesses an estimated $13 billion in 1994, including about $8 billion in health insurance costs, $2.4 billion for sick leave, $1.8 billion for life insurance and nearly $1 billion for disability insurance.
  • Average health care expenditures for people with diabetes run about $13,243 per person, compared with $2,650 per person for people without diabetes. Even after the differences in age, sex, race and ethnicity are taken into account, people with diabetes had medical expenditures that were 2.4 times higher than comparable people without diabetes.
  • One economic analysis found that a health plan's annual costs for covering treatments to help people quit smoking ranged from 89 cents to $4.92 per smoker, while the annual costs of treating smoking-related illness ranged from $6 to $33 per smoker.

The report also notes that the majority of businesses with at least 50 employees offer some kind of health improvement program. The report cites specific examples of successful efforts at some major corporations. For instance:

  • Caterpillar offers a Healthy Balance Program aimed at motivating workers to make positive changes to reduce their health risks and improve their long-term health. The company projects long-term savings for this effort totaling $700 million by 2015.
  • Motorola offers wellness and work/life programs that reach 45,000 employees, family members and retirees across the country. The efforts include disease management programs, flu immunizations, cancer screenings and other health screenings, smoking-cessation programs and a 24-hour nurse telephone line. The company reports saving almost $4 for every $1 it invests in its wellness benefits.
  • Northeast Utilities offers a WellAware program to employees and their families to reduce lifestyle-related health risks. The program includes a health-risk assessment and targeted follow-up efforts, such as smoking-cessation counseling and rebates for purchasing smoking-cessation aids. During its first 24 months, the program reduced claims related to lifestyle and behavior choices by $1.4 million.

Secretary Thompson also has launched a new initiative within the department to encourage HHS employees to become more physically active in order to promote better health. To successfully complete the Secretary's Challenge, an employee must engage in moderate physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week, during a six-week period. The initiative's goal is to make physical activity an ongoing habit for employees and a regular part of HHS' workplace culture.


Revised eTool for Airline Baggage Handling Helps Workers Avoid Injury


The eTool has been revised to provide information to help reduce material handling hazards associated with passenger checked baggage and to reflect OSHA's and the airline industry's best practices for lifting and moving baggage. The updated format follows the flow of checked baggage as it moves through the airport, beginning with passenger check-in and ending with taking the baggage from the ramp into the cargo holds of aircraft.

Working together, OSHA and the airlines revised the terminology of the eTool to accurately reflect the aviation industry workplace. In addition, the eTool now lists possible solutions to potential hazards created by handling baggage in awkward positions and limited work spaces. The administrative work practice and engineering solutions are presented based on the ease of implementation and operational and economic feasibility.

Minnesota OSHA Penalty Language Changed Aug. 1, 2003

Previously, the law provided that a general duty citation could not exceed $7,000 for each violation.

The OSHA law was also ammended to say that "if there is no willful or repeated violation and the employer has fewer than 50 employees, the employer shall be assessed an initial fine of $5,000 and an additional fine of $5,000 for each of the following four years. The commissioner may elect to waive the $5,000 fine for any of the following four years if the employer received no citations in the preceding calendar year."

The law modification also provides that "if the business or enterprise employs fewer than 50 employees, this subdivision (part of the law) may not apply to the death of an employee who owns a controlling interest in the business or enterprise, except if the commissioner determines that a fine shall be assessed."

OSHA criminal penalties were increased from a maximum of $20,000 to a maximum of $70,000 for a first violation. For a subsequent violation, the fine was increased from a maximum of $35,000 to a maximum of $100,000.

New Indoor Environmental Quality Topic Page Offers Focused, Organized Guide to NIOSH Resources

A new topic page on the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s (NIOSH) web site provides a focused, organized guide to resources that will help employers, employees, building managers, and others to address concerns about work-related indoor environmental quality (IEQ).


Almost 70 percent of the U.S. work force – approximately 89 million persons – work in non-industrial, non-agricultural, indoor work settings or indoor environments. In the last 20 years, diseases and health complaints related to these indoor environments have received increasing attention. "Indoor environmental quality" refers to the interactions among many factors in indoor environments, including the quality of the air, presence of chemical pollutants and microbiological pollutants such as mold, physical conditions such as temperature and humidity, ergonomic factors, and stressors from social/psychological or work organizational factors.

The new topic page links to several NIOSH resources on the web that can help users develop strategic, practical approaches to establishing or maintaining good indoor environmental quality in their workplaces. The resources include:

  • The topic page also provides a link to NIOSH’s searchable health hazard evaluation database for access to additional reports.

The most common health complaints attributed by building occupants to their indoor environments are generally of nonspecific symptoms, such as eye, nose, throat, and skin irritation, headache, and fatigue. Specific causal exposures or known diseases usually cannot be linked to these complaints. Available evidence relates these acute symptoms to multiple factors in the indoor environment.

NIOSH investigators have found IEQ problems caused by ventilation system deficiencies, overcrowding, offgassing from materials in the office and mechanical equipment, tobacco smoke, excessive moisture, microbiological contamination such as mold, and outside air pollutants.

National Safety Council & ExxonMobil Establish International Award for Excellence in Safety, Health and the Environment

The National Safety Council (NSC) announced that it is establishing a global leadership award that will be presented annually to companies that demonstrate commendable leadership and excellence in safety, health and environmental performance. The new award is being underwritten by a 5-year, $1 million commitment from ExxonMobil, through its Foundation.

The award will recognize businesses that demonstrate the value they place on safety, health and environmental (SH&E) excellence and show how measurable achievement in SH&E performance is linked to productivity, profitability and other measures of business performance.

"SH&E excellence is a reflection of how companies value human life, their employees and their citizenship in the communities in which they live," said Alan McMillan, NSC President. "We believe that SH&E systems are not simply a necessary cost of doing business, but are a direct contributor to improved business performance. We plan to demonstrate this linkage to the world's business leaders by sharing the stories of the winners of this award."

"We want to use this award to educate the world's business leaders on how they may learn from the best and adopt leading-edge systems and practices that improve SH&E and overall business performance," McMillan said. "We are delighted to present this new global award, and we are grateful to ExxonMobil for co-developing the award and providing the funding that makes it possible."

"ExxonMobil leads the energy industry in safety performance and we believe a company's commitment to the highest standards of safety, health and environmental care contributes to and is indicative of superior performance in other aspects of its operations," said Lee Raymond, chairman of ExxonMobil. "It is because of this commitment that ExxonMobil established this global award with the National Safety Council, as an opportunity for companies worldwide to distinguish themselves among their peers and to serve as role models for others. We expect the award will identify best SH&E practices across the globe that all of industry can tap to drive improved performance. "

According to Raymond, last year ExxonMobil recorded the safest year in the company's history. In 2002, ExxonMobil invested $186 million in SH&E technology research and development, capital project support and technical applications. ExxonMobil's Operational Integrity Management System (OIMS) serves as the company's framework for meeting the highest standards of safety, health and environmental protection. OIMS is designed to drive all operational incidents as close to zero as possible and helps support ExxonMobil's "Nobody Gets Hurt" program.

Winners of the award will be selected by a panel of 40 reviewers. These reviewers, to be selected by a group of international safety and health organizations, will include internationally known experts and leaders in business, education, safety, health and environmental fields. They will represent all regions of the world and represent management, labor, academic and government perspectives. The review process will include comprehensive evaluations and site visits to finalist organizations.

The first winners of the award are planned to be announced in October 2004.

MSHA Issues Final Rule on Mine Emergency Actions

The new rule supercedes an emergency temporary standard (ETS) issued by MSHA in December 2002 in response to investigative findings surrounding the Sept. 23, 2001, explosion at Jim Walter Resources Mine #5 in Brookwood, Ala., that claimed the lives of 13 miners.

"Often during emergency situations, confusion, disorientation, and questions about what to do or how to proceed can inhibit and delay sound decision-making and leadership," said Dave D. Lauriski, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "This new rule establishes a single point of contact for miners underground to look to for guidance in the event of a mine emergency and it provides for better training of miners to prepare for such situations. This rule provides one more tool to help send more miners home safe at the end of every working day."

As with the ETS, the new rule requires operators of underground coal mines to designate, for each shift that miners work underground, a responsible person to take charge during a mine fire, explosion and gas or water inundation emergency. The new rule requires the responsible person to initiate and conduct an immediate evacuation of the mine when there is a mine emergency that presents an imminent danger to miners.

The new rule also broadens the existing requirements for a program of instruction for firefighting and evacuation to address fire, explosion, and gas or water inundation emergencies.