OSHA to Update Personal Protective Equipment Standards

May 21, 2007

OSHA is proposing to revise the personal protective equipment (PPE) sections of its general industry, shipyard employment, longshoring, and marine terminals standards regarding the use of eye and face protective devices, and head and foot protection.

"PPE must be strong enough to protect employees from the hazards they face in the workplace. It also must be constructed and tested in accordance with sound and accepted principles that will ensure the safety of employees," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Edwin G. Foulke, Jr.

These proposed revisions are a continuation of OSHA's effort to update references to specific consensus and industry standards located throughout the agency's standards. The proposed revisions replace the existing references to specific, out-of-date consensus standards with performance language that requires PPE to be constructed in accordance with good design standards. The proposed revisions include appendices that may be used to identify good design standards.

OSHA is also proposing to delete paragraphs in its ventilation standard as well as its welding, cutting, and brazing standard that currently reference outdated PPE consensus standards. In proposing to delete these paragraphs, OSHA is continuing the process of consolidating all PPE requirements in Subpart I, and intends for all safety equipment to comply with the performance language design provisions in revised Subpart I of the general industry standards.

You can submit comments on the proposed rule by July 16, 2007 electronically at http://www.regulations.gov, or by sending three copies to the OSHA Docket Office, Room N-2625, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Ave., N.W., Washington, DC, 20210; telephone 202-693-2350; or by fax to 202-693-1648. Comments must include the agency name and the Docket Number for this rulemaking, Docket No. OSHA-2007-0044.

OSHA’s Targeted Inspection Plan for 2007


"Over the past nine years, OSHA has used a site-specific targeting inspection program based on injury and illness data," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Edwin G. Foulke Jr. "This approach allows us to focus our enforcement efforts on those workplaces with the highest numbers of injuries and illnesses."

This year's program (SST-07) stems from the agency's Data Initiative for 2006, which surveyed approximately 80,000 employers to obtain their injury and illness numbers for 2005. The program will initially cover worksites on the primary list that reported 11 or more injuries or illnesses resulting in days away from work, restricted work activity, or job transfer for every 100 full-time employees (known as the DART rate).

The primary list will also include sites based on a Days Away from Work Injury and Illness (DAFWII) rate of 9.0 or higher. Employers not on the primary list who reported DART rates of between 7.0 and 11.0, or DAFWII rates of between 4.0 and 9.0, will be placed on a secondary list for possible inspection. The national incident DART rate in 2005 for private industry was 2.4, while the national incident DAFWII rate was 1.4.

OSHA will inspect nursing homes and personal care facilities, but only the highest 50 percent of rated establishments will be included on the primary list. Inspections will focus primarily on ergonomic hazards relating to resident handling; exposure to blood and other potentially infectious materials; exposure to tuberculosis; and slips, trips, and falls.

The agency will also randomly select and inspect approximately 100 workplaces (with 100 or more employees) nationwide that reported low injury and illness rates for the purpose of reviewing the actual degree of compliance with OSHA requirements. These establishments are selected from those industries with DART and DAFWII rates that are higher than the national rate.

Finally, the agency will include on the primary list some establishments that did not respond to the 2006 data survey.

Hexavalent Chromium in Drinking Water Causes Cancer in Lab Animals

Researchers announced last week that there is strong evidence a chemical referred to as hexavalent chromium, or chromium 6, causes cancer in laboratory animals when it is consumed in drinking water. The two-year study conducted by the National Toxicology Program (NTP) shows that animals given hexavalent chromium developed malignant tumors.

“Previous studies have shown that hexavalent chromium causes lung cancer in humans in certain occupational settings as a result of inhalation exposure,” said Michelle Hooth, Ph.D., NTP study scientist for the technical report. “We now know that it can also cause cancer in animals when administered orally.”

The study findings were announced at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) after the NTP Board of Scientific Counselors Technical Reports Review Subcommittee completed its independent peer review of the sodium dichromate dihydrate research report. Sodium dichromate dihydrate is an inorganic compound containing hexavalent chromium that was used in the NTP studies. The NTP is located at the NIEHS, part of the National Institutes of Health.

Hexavalent chromium compounds are often used in electroplating, leather tanning, and textile manufacturing and have been found in some drinking water sources. Male and female rats and mice were given four different doses of sodium dichromate dihydrate in their drinking water ranging from 14.3 mg/l to 516 mg/l for two years.

The lowest doses given to the animals in the study were ten times higher than what humans could consume from the most highly contaminated water sources identified in California. The researchers report finding significant increases in tumors at sites where tumors are rarely seen in laboratory animals. Male and female rats had malignant tumors in the oral cavity. The studies conducted in mice found increases in the number of benign and malignant tumors in the small intestine, which increased with dose in both males and females.

“We found that hexavalent chromium is absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract,” said Hooth. “After it is orally administered, it is taken up by the cells in many tissues and organs.”

Hexavalent chromium has been brought to the public’s attention in many ways, most notably in the movie “Erin Brockovich.” Eleven members from the California Congressional Delegation sent a letter to the NTP Director requesting the NTP conduct the studies. Nominations for studying this compound also came from the California Environmental Protection Agency and the California Department of Health Services. The NTP began work on this compound after gaining input from the public and a panel of scientific experts about the study design.

The two-year study is one of several studies that NTP has completed on this chemical. 

OSHA Cites Seafood Processor Following Carbon Monoxide Death at Leonard's Wharf

OSHA has cited Carlos Seafood Inc., a New Bedford, Mass., seafood processor, for allegedly failing to protect its employees against carbon monoxide and confined space hazards.

The enforcement action follows an OSHA inspection prompted by the November 2006 death of an employee who was fatally overcome by carbon monoxide fumes while using a gasoline-powered pressure washer to clean the inside of a water tank in a fishing boat docked at Leonard's Wharf in New Bedford.

OSHA found that the deceased and two other employees were exposed to excess levels of carbon monoxide while working in the tank and that the company failed to implement controls to reduce those exposure levels.

The company also lacked procedures and equipment for employees to work safely in confined spaces, did not train employees on working in confined spaces, and did not identify and post danger signs for the tank and other confined spaces in the workplace. There also was no program in place covering employees' proper training and use of respirators.

"Working in confined spaces is extremely hazardous, which makes it imperative that all required safeguards be effectively in place and in use before employees enter one of these potentially deadly work areas," said Robert Hooper, OSHA's acting area director for southeastern Massachusetts. "These requirements are thorough and stringent because their purpose is to prevent accidents like this one from happening in the first place."

As a result of its inspection, OSHA issued Carlos Seafood Inc.11 serious citations carrying $46,900 in proposed penalties.

OSHA Proposes $49,500 in Penalties against Florida Lumber Co.

OSHA has proposed penalties of $49,500 against Florida Lumber Co. for 28 serious safety and three serious health violations found at its Miami retail lumber yard. Inspectors visited the facility in March as part of OSHA's site-specific targeting program, which targets the nation's most hazardous workplaces for inspection based on their histories of having high numbers of injury and illness cases.

OSHA proposed penalties totaling $44,250 for numerous safety hazards including operating equipment without safety guards, operating overhead cranes with hooks lacking safety latches, using defective forklift trucks, allowing emergency exit routes and fire extinguishers to be obstructed, having unsecured compressed gas cylinders, and not marking electrical panels. The company had been previously cited for a serious safety violation in 1988 after an employee was fatally injured at the site.

"Our inspection of the company showed that the employer put its 90 employees, as well as their customers, at risk by following unsafe practices," said Darlene Fossum, OSHA's area director in Fort Lauderdale. "It is important that companies pursue safety proactively and not wait for OSHA inspectors to discover problems."

OSHA also found three serious health violations resulting in $5,250 in proposed penalties. These violations included a lack of a hearing conservation program, noise monitoring not being conducted and audiometric testing not being provided to employees.

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