OSHA to Offer Outreach Seminars on Electrical Safety and Portable Hand Tools in Upstate New York

August 28, 2003

Helping small Upstate New York employers ensure the safety of their employees working with electricity and portable hand tools 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 topics of electrical safety and portable hand tools, is being offered at six different locations during September as follows:

September 4, 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
September 11, 2003 9:00 - 11:00 a.m. Jamestown Community College, Jamestown, NY
  1:00 - 3:00 p.m. Jamestown Community College, Olean, NY
September 18, 2003 9:00 - 11:00 a.m. Genesee Community College, Batavia, NY
  1:00 - 3:00 p.m. SUNY Brockport MetroCenter, Rochester, NY

"Electric shocks and electrocutions are among the leading causes of on-the-job injuries and deaths. Quite often, powered portable hand tools or the manner in which they're used can contribute to electrical hazards," said Art Dube, OSHA's Buffalo area director. "Employers and workers need to know the basics when it comes to electrical safety and the proper use of portable hand tools. This seminar will explain how small business owners can effectively assess and address electrical and hand tool hazards."

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 September seminars, or to obtain more information, contact the Buffalo OSHA Area Office at 716-684-3891.

FMCSA Denies Petitions to Reconsider Hours-of-Service Final Rule

The U.S. Department of Transportation's (USDOT) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced it has denied eight petitions for reconsideration from organizations that want the hours-of-service final rule altered. Published on April 28, the new hours-of-service final rule addresses the issue of driver fatigue and sets standards for driving and off-duty time. The previous rules had been in effect with few changes for more than 60 years.

"The new hours-of-service rule strikes a balance between reasonableness, consistency, and enforceability, while improving safety and protecting all highway users," FMCSA Administrator Annette M. Sandberg said. "Recognizing that carriers, drivers, and law enforcement must prepare for the Jan. 4, 2004, compliance date, we have denied the petitions in sufficient time to allow these groups to meet the compliance deadline."

The petitions were in four categories: requests to allow off-duty time to extend the 14-hour on-duty limit; to exempt utility vehicles and workers from the hours-of-service regulations; for miscellaneous changes, such as changing the definition of commercial motor vehicles; and to allow early compliance with the new hours-of-service rules before the Jan. 4, 2004, effective date.

Pinnacle West Capital Corporation and its subsidiary Arizona Public Service Company; Southern California Edison Company; the Hours-of-Service Coalition, representing businesses with short-haul trucking operations; Edison Electric Institute; FOX News; National Propane Gas Association; Sabil Uplink Communications; and Wal-Mart filed petitions.

The FMCSA compared the relief sought by each petitioner to the core goals in the hours-of-service rulemaking: improved safety; greater opportunity for rest; movement toward the body's 24-hour clock; and practicality, uniformity, and enforceability of the rule. After careful consideration of the petitioners' arguments, the agency chose to deny each of the petitions.

The government estimates that the new hours-of-service rule will save up to 75 lives and prevent as many as 1,326 fatigue-related crashes annually. The rule reflects scientific driver fatigue studies, a careful evaluation of the more than 53,000 public comments on the proposed rule, and the intent of Congress to safeguard Americans on the nation's highways.

The rule is document number 23305 on page 465 of the table of contents. The letters to the petitioners are in this docket.

NIOSH Issues New, Expanded Bulletin on Preventing Teen Worker Deaths, Injuries

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has issued a new, expanded bulletin that reiterates NIOSH's call for assistance to protect teen workers from job-related death and injury. The bulletin provides updated statistics and other new information to help advance such efforts.

The bulletin updates a previous document published in 1995.

"The new school year is approaching, a particularly busy time for nearly 3 million young people who will balance their studies with part-time employment on weekends and evenings," NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D., noted. "The updated NIOSH bulletin is a reminder that serious and often fatal injuries among working teens are all too prevalent, and that all of us have vital roles in preventing those risks."

The new Alert contains several recent case studies that illustrate the range of industries and occupations in which teen workers have suffered occupational injuries, including incidents in which 1) a 17-year-old laborer was crushed when the forklift he was operating overturned, 2) a 16-year-old restaurant cashier was fatally shot in the head during a robbery attempt, 3) a 15-year-old was suffocated in a corn bin while working on his family's farm, and 4) a 17-year-old volunteer junior fire fighter died in a traffic crash while responding to a call.

The highest number of teen worker fatalities occur in agricultural work and the retail trades, according to recent data. Other areas of high risk include construction and work activities involving motor vehicles and mobile machinery. Although safety requirements and child labor laws prohibit or restrict teen employment in certain kinds of industries and occupations, young workers may yet face risks on the job because an employer or a young employee may not be aware of applicable laws and may not be aware that a hazard exists, because the young employee may lack experience, or because there is inadequate training or supervision.

The bulletin suggests several practical steps to help keep teen workers safe, including these:

  • Employers should assess potential hazards in their workplaces, make sure safe equipment is used, provide adequate training and supervision, and know and comply with safety standards and child labor laws.
  • Educators should ensure the safety of school-based work experience programs, include safety and health in the school curriculum, and know the child labor laws when signing work permits.
  • Parents should take an active role in their child's employment, know the child labor laws, be aware of young employees' rights, and share such information with other parents.
  • Young workers should know about and follow safe work practices, ask about training and hazards, and know their rights and relevant laws.

OSHA Revises eTool on Computer Workstations

Millions of people work with computers every day. There is no single "correct" posture or arrangement of components that will fit everyone.

NFPA's Research Foundation Examines How Quickly Smoke Incapacitates

A recent study by the Fire Protection Research Foundation of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has advanced an international effort to make certain that people can escape a burning building before being overcome by smoke. The work is part of a revolution in fire safety in which codes and standards are beginning to address how much smoke will incapacitate people, rather than how much will kill them.

"For most of the history of fire science and fire safety, our efforts have focused on how much smoke would kill a person," explained Rick Mulhaupt, Research Foundation president. "Now, we're recognizing that many people die in fires – not because smoke killed them on the spot – but because smoke or heat prevented them from getting out of the building."

In 2002, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), a network of the industrial-standards institutes of 147 countries, put forth a new standard calling for attention to the "sublethal" effects of smoke – when the heat, the thickness of smoke, and the toxic gases in smoke will block vision, make a person choke or tear up, or render a person unconscious. Because of this new ISO standard, these effects of smoke are supposed to be taken into account when regulating the size and placement of exits and the types of materials allowed in buildings.

But to meet the standard, one needs to know more about the smoke produced by burning various materials. That is where the Research Foundation comes in. Working with the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Research Foundation is laying the scientific groundwork needed to put the new standard into practice. The foundation recently completed the project's second phase of its International Study of the Sublethal Effects of Fire Smoke on Survivability and Health.

In the most recent phase of the study, the foundation's researchers performed three tests: they burned a sofa made of upholstered cushions on a steel frame, some particle board bookcases, and some household cable. In each case, the materials were burned in a room with a long adjacent corridor.

The researchers measured the toxic gases emitted by each item, and how quickly the gases filled the room and moved down the corridor. They determined when and where in the room and in the hallway people would have to stop because of the smoke or the heat.

Fire-test laboratories and manufacturers are expected to use this data to develop smaller-scale tests that can be done in a laboratory, so they won't need to set a room on fire every time they test a product.

Blocked, Locked Exits, Numerous Other Safety Hazards Lead to $186,500 in OSHA Fines for Manhattan Supermarkets

A New York grocery chain's failure to safeguard workers against a variety of hazards at eight of its Manhattan stores has resulted in $186,500 in fines from OSHA.

Namdor, Inc., doing business as Gristede's Food, Inc., has been cited for a total of 73 alleged serious and other violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act following a series of inspections prompted by a Feb. 19 accident at the chain's 205 East 96th St. store in which an employee's arm was severed in an unguarded cardboard baler.

OSHA found that the baler at the East 96th St. location lacked any machine guarding to prevent employees from coming in contact with its moving parts and that all eight stores lacked an energy control program to prevent the accidental startup of machinery during maintenance.

Other cited hazards included blocked exit access at all eight stores, locked exit doors at five stores, missing exit signs at seven stores, electrical and machine guarding hazards at five stores, failure to post and certify occupational illness and injury logs at six stores, insufficient clearance for fire sprinklers at five stores and two instances where walk-in freezers lacked a means by which employees could open the door from the inside.

OSHA defines a serious violation as a condition that exists where there is a substantial possibility that death or serious physical harm can result. An other-than-serious violation is a condition that would probably not cause death or serious physical harm but would have a direct and immediate relationship to the safety and health of employees.

The company has three weeks from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to either elect to comply with them, to request and participate in an informal conference with the OSHA area director, or to contest them before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Mineta Announces Record-Level Safety Belt Use

U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta announced that safety belt use in the United States has reached 79 percent – the highest level in the nation’s history.

Every region of the country registered increases in belt use since 2002, according to a new survey by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The nationwide survey was conducted after the massive "Click It or Ticket" mobilization in May, the largest-ever nationwide law enforcement effort to increase safety belt use.

Both Secretary Mineta and NHTSA Administrator Jeffrey Runge, M.D. credited the hard work of the state highway safety offices, state and local law enforcement agencies, advocacy groups and public/private sector partners, including the Air Bag & Seat Belt Safety Campaign for the increase in belt use.

The May enforcement mobilization was, for the first time, supplemented by an almost $25 million state and national media campaign. More than 12,000 law enforcement agencies in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico conducted safety belt checkpoints and other special law enforcement activities as part of the campaign.

According to NHTSA estimates, the increase in belt use this year will translate into more than 1,000 lives saved each year the gains are sustained. In addition, the costs to society are reduced by at least $3.2 billion.

Restraint use estimates are based on the National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS), conducted annually by NHTSA. The previous survey in June 2002 found nationwide belt use at 75 percent. The scientific survey is based on observations at 2,000 sites nationwide.

Additional key findings of the latest NOPUS survey include the following:

  • States with primary safety belt laws averaged 83 percent belt usage while states with secondary laws averaged 75 percent. Twenty states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have primary belt laws.
  • Pickup truck occupants registered the lowest usage rate – 69 percent – among passenger vehicles.
  • Occupants of sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and vans registered the highest use rate – 83 percent.
  • Usage is lowest in the Northeast (74 percent) followed by the Midwest at 75 percent. Belt use is highest in the West (84 percent) and South (80 percent).

NHTSA has been gathering NOPUS statistics on restraint use since 1994. The latest numbers were derived from a survey conducted during a 20-day period in June 2003.

The margin of error for the survey on the national estimates of restraint use is plus or minus 1.2 percentage points.