OSHA to Delay Enforcing Crystalline Silica Standard

April 10, 2017

OSHA announced a delay in enforcement of the crystalline silica standard that applies to the construction industry to conduct additional outreach and provide educational materials and guidance for employers.

The agency has determined that additional guidance is necessary due to the unique nature of the requirements in the construction standard. Originally scheduled to begin June 23, 2017, enforcement will now begin September 23, 2017. Respirable silica dust can penetrate deep into the lungs causing a number of health problems including silicosis and lung cancer, as well as kidney disease.

OSHA expects employers in the construction industry to continue to take steps either to come into compliance with the new permissible exposure limit, or to implement specific dust controls for certain operations as provided in Table 1 of the standard. Construction employers should also continue to prepare to implement the standard's other requirements, including exposure assessment, medical surveillance, and employee training.

Online Support Tools Support Emergency Response Decisions

The National Library of Medicine (NLM) has decision support tools for emergency responders to help identify chemicals in mass casualty incidents and, once identified, to provide treatment support. Be prepared ahead of time for a chemical spill or toxic chemical attack; familiarize yourself with these tools and incorporate them into drills. These tools are available online and as apps to download on smart devices.

New CAMEO Chemicals Mobile App

The joint NOAA-EPA hazardous chemicals database is now available as a mobile app. Named CAMEO Chemicals, the database has information on thousands of chemicals and hazardous substances, including response recommendations and predictions about explosions, toxic fumes, and other hazards. Firefighters and emergency planners around the world use CAMEO Chemicals to help them prepare for and respond to emergencies.

CAMEO Chemicals was already available as a desktop program, website, and mobile-friendly website. You can download the new app to view key chemical and response information on smartphones and tablets. Once downloaded, you can look up chemicals and predict reactivity without an Internet connection—making it a valuable tool for emergency responders on the go. With an Internet connection, you can access even more resources, like the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards and International Chemical Safety Cards.

The app is packed with features, including:

  • Search by name, Chemical Abstracts Service number, or United Nations/North American number to find chemicals of interest in the database of thousands of hazardous substances
  • Find physical properties, health hazards, air and water hazards, recommendations for firefighting, first aid, and spill response, and regulatory information
  • Predict potential hazards that could arise if chemicals were to mix
  • Quickly access additional resources like the U.S. Coast Guard Chemical Hazards Response Information System manual, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Pocket Guide, and International Chemical Safety Cards
  • Find response information from the Emergency Response Guidebook and shipping information from the Hazardous Materials Table. Emergency Response Guidebook PDFs are available in English, Spanish, and French
  • Save and share information with colleagues

The mobile app is part of the CAMEO® software suite, a set of programs offered at no cost by NOAA's Office of Response and Restoration and EPA's Office of Emergency Management. This suite of programs was designed to assist emergency planners and responders to anticipate and respond to chemical spills.

You can download the new CAMEO Chemicals app in the Apple App store or Google Play Store.

NIOSH Topic Page on Proposed Occupational Exposure Banding Process

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) posted a new topic page on occupational exposure banding in conjunction with the public release of the draft NIOSH Current Intelligence Bulletin: Guidance for the Evaluation of Chemical Hazards and the Federal Register notice requesting public comments on the draft document. This topic page provides useful resources and information about the proposed occupational exposure banding process.

New Skilled Trades Law in Michigan Streamlines Licensing, Protects Consumers

Regulations for five skilled trade industries have been consolidated to create one uniform code under the new Skilled Trades Regulation Act (STRA). Gov. Rick Snyder signed the legislation that provides streamlined and consistent application, testing, and renewal processes for skilled trades licensees, and uniform enforcement provisions at the highest safety standards to protect consumers. LARA’s Bureau of Construction Codes (BCC) is responsible for administering the new Act.

“The new Skilled Trades law complements efforts toward attracting and retaining a strong skilled trades workforce, along with protecting consumers by helping ensure projects are done by licensed workers,” said BCC Director Keith Lambert. “With thousands of skilled trade jobs currently unfilled in Michigan, the uniform standards set by STRA are intended to remove barriers for Michiganders to start a career in the skilled trades industry.”

Modeled after the Occupational Code, the law creates uniformity in regulations for those working in electrical, plumbing, mechanical, boilers, and building officials and inspectors. These workers will now find it much easier to apply for or renew their licenses—especially those who hold multiple licenses. Previously these licenses were issued under separate laws. Individuals who currently hold a license, registration, or certification issued under the old laws before the effective date, will maintain their credential(s) until their next renewal date. Specific licensure requirements for individual trades have largely remained unchanged.

Increased consumer protection is built into the law by giving LARA greater authority over complaints of unlicensed activity and stipulates new penalties for unlicensed activity:

  • 1st violation is misdemeanor – fine of no more than $500 or/and imprisonment for no more than 90 days
  • 2nd violation is misdemeanor – fine of no more than $1,000 or/and imprisonment for no more than 1 year
  • 3rd violation is felony – fine of no more than $25,000 or/and imprisonment for no more than 5 years

Language in the law continues to support LARA’s commitment to recognizing military service and experience for licensure by eliminating barriers for military servicemen and women to become licensed. Skilled tradespeople returning from active duty in the Armed Forces will be provided a temporary exemption from the renewal license fee and continuing education requirements. For military veterans honorably discharged, LARA will continue to waive an initial skilled trade license or registration.

STRA is based on guidelines from the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Act and the state’s Public Health Code. It replaces the Electrical Administrative Act, the Forbes Mechanical Contractors Act, the Boiler Act, the Building Officials and Inspectors Registration Act, and the State Plumbing Act. LARA’s Bureau of Construction Codes and Office of Policy and Legislative Affairs worked closely with the state legislature on the passage of STRA.

CSB Investigators Deploying to Explosion at the Loy-Lange Box Company

A three-person investigative team from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) is deploying to the scene of an incident that killed three people and injured four others on Monday, April 3, at the Loy-Lange Box Company in Saint Louis, Missouri. Two of the fatalities were members of the public.

According to initial reports, the incident took place when a boiler exploded at the plant, where one worker was killed. The force of the explosion launched the boiler into the air where it flew approximately 500 feet before landing on a nearby laundry facility, killing two members of the public.

CSB Chairperson Vanessa Sutherland said, “The CSB’s mission is to investigate and issue recommendations that promote safety at industrial facilities as well as for nearby communities. As a result of Monday’s explosion, our team will be examining what if any safeguards were in place to protect the workers at the Loy-Lange Box Company, as well as for those in the adjoining building.”

The CSB is an independent federal agency whose mission is to drive chemical safety change through independent investigations to protect people and the environment. The agency’s board members are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. CSB investigations look into all aspects of chemical incidents, including physical causes such as equipment failure as well as inadequacies in regulations, industry standards, and safety management systems. The President’s budget proposes to eliminate the agency.

For more information, contact public@csb.gov.

OSHA Orders Wells Fargo to Reinstate Whistleblower, Fully Restore Lost Earnings in Banking Industry

OSHA has ordered Wells Fargo Bank N.A. to compensate and immediately reinstate a former bank manager who lost his job after reporting suspected fraudulent behavior to superiors and a bank ethics hotline.

The manager, who had previously received positive job performance appraisals, was abruptly dismissed from his position at a Wells Fargo branch in the Los Angeles area after he reported separate incidents of suspected bank, mail and wire fraud by two bankers under his supervision. He was told he had 90 days to find a new position at Wells Fargo, and when he was unsuccessful, he was terminated. He has been unable to find work in banking since his termination in 2010.

An OSHA investigation concluded that the former manager's whistleblower activity, which is protected under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, was at least a contributing factor in his termination. OSHA does not release names of whistleblower complainants.

In addition to reinstating the employee and clearing his personnel file, Wells Fargo has been ordered to fully compensate him for lost earnings during his time out of the banking industry. Back pay, compensatory damages, and attorneys' fees were together calculated at about $5.4 million. Wells Fargo also must post a notice informing all employees of their whistleblower protections under Sarbanes-Oxley, widely known as "SOX."

Wells Fargo can appeal the order before the department's Office of Administrative Law Judges, but such action does not stay the preliminary reinstatement order.

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of SOX and 21 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of airline, commercial motor vehicle, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime, and securities laws.

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