OSHA Updates Outdated Regulations

April 17, 2006

OSHA, in reviewing its regulations, has found some errors, some incorrect references and some obsolete provisions.  The Agency believes that this action will increase employee protection and facilitate employer compliance by improving employer and employee understanding of the affected provisions.

The revisions do not affect the substantive requirements or coverage of the standards involved, modify or revoke existing rights and obligations, or establish new rights and obligations. Therefore, the Agency has determined that these revisions do not require notice-and-comment rulemaking. The rule does not change employers' compliance costs. Employers, for example, are not required to purchase new equipment or acquire additional skills or expertise. Accordingly, OSHA concludes that no economic or regulatory flexibility analysis of this rule is necessary and certifies that the rule will not have a significant impact on a substantial number of small entities. Because this final rule does not affect the substantive requirements of the standards, the Department of Labor has determined that delaying the effective date of the rule is unnecessary and good cause exists under 5 U.S.C. 553 (b)(3) to make this rule effective immediately upon publication in the Federal Register.

Company Managers Receive Lengthy Jail Terms and Over $1 Million Fines for Using False OSHA and EPA Training Certificates

A Virginia executive and two companies, ACS Environmental, Inc. (ACS) and Air Power Enterprises, Inc. (Air Power), were sentenced to a substantial jail term and fines for conspiracy to defraud the EPA, OSHA, and the Small Business Administration (SBA), the Justice Department announced on March 31.

James Schaubach, president of ACS and vice president of Air Power, was sentenced to 21 months in prison, to be followed by 3 years of supervised release, and fined $1.5 million. Both Air Power and ACS were sentenced to 5 years probation and Air Power was also fined $500,000. Nicanor Lotuaco, president of Air Power, was sentenced on Jan. 26, 2006 to five months in jail, followed by five months home detention and three years supervised release, and fined $1 million.

"By falsely certifying that workers had the appropriate credentials to work on asbestos and lead abatement projects, the defendants endangered the health and safety of their employees and the public," said Sue Ellen Wooldridge, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "Today's sentence sends a strong message that the Department will aggressively prosecute companies that intentionally and persistently violate our environmental laws and workplace standards."

"These contractors defrauded the government in order to get away with performing asbestos abatement work without the proper training qualifications," said Granta Y. Nakayama, EPA's Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "These sentences intend to send a clear message: we will pursue contractors who knowingly disregard environmental laws and jeopardize the health and welfare of workers and the public."

All defendants pleaded guilty on June 28, 2005 to buying false training certificates for their employees working in the asbestos, lead abatement, and hazardous waste industries and fraudulently obtaining 8(a) set-aside contracts for minority-owned companies by submitting false statements to the Small Business Administration (SBA).

ACS, located in Chesapeake, VA, and Air Power, located in Portsmouth, VA worked in the asbestos and lead abatement and hazardous waste removal industries as abatement and removal contractors. From 1999 through 2004, Air Power received $37 million in federal contracts, many of which were with the Department of Defense, under the SBA's 8(a) program for minority owned businesses. ACS and Air Power admitted to conspiring to make false statements in connection with the certificates and to submitting false statements to the SBA regarding the ownership of Air Power in order to participate in the agency's 8(a) set-aside program which enabled them to receive federal contracts as a minority-owned firm. Schaubach and Lotuaco, the president of Air Power, admitted to making false statements in connection with the false certificates and the SBA's 8(a) program.

ACS and Air Power admitted to buying these false certificates from F&M Environmental Technologies, Inc. a Virginia company, which pleaded guilty in February 2001 to selling hundreds of such false training certificates in Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia.

Schaubach and Lotuaco obtained many of the asbestos, lead, and hazardous waste jobs on which the employees with false certificates worked through the SBA's 8(a) program by misleading the SBA into believing that Air Power was owned and controlled by a minority, when in fact Schaubach, a non-minority, controlled the company and directed that environmental contracts be sub-contracted to ACS.

Under federal and state law, individuals who intend to work on asbestos and lead abatement projects are required to take an extensive training course instructing them how to properly and safely remove asbestos, lead and hazardous waste without contaminating either themselves, co-workers, or members of the public. ACS and Air Power falsely certified that the workers had taken the required courses, passed the exams and were otherwise entitled to work on such projects. In fact, these companies simply paid F&M Environmental Technologies, Inc. to deliver the certificates for workers supposedly taking the course.

Schaubach and Lotuaco purchased these false certificates for ACS and Air Power employees and then used them to obtain contracts to conduct asbestos, lead, and hazardous waste abatement at schools, hospitals, and other public and governmental facilities. These employees did not have the proper training to conduct the abatement, although the falsified certificates were presented to state and federal agencies as proof of appropriate training.

Asbestos has been designated by the EPA and Congress in the Clean Air Act as a hazardous air pollutant. It causes a wide range of illnesses, including various forms of cancer and asbestosis, a usually fatal lung disease. The EPA has determined that there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos.

The guilty pleas are the result of a joint effort by the Environmental Crimes Section and OSHA to identify and prosecute the nation's most egregious environmental and workplace safety violators.

This case was investigated by special agents of the Defense Criminal Investigative Services; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Criminal Investigative Division of the U.S. EPA; Office of Inspector General, Small Business Administration; NASA Office of Inspector General; Army Criminal Investigations Division; Defense Contract Audit Office; and the Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation.

OSHA Cites Countertop Manufacturer Following Crushing Death

The death of a worker who was crushed by granite slabs at ASI/Massachusetts Stone Fabrication & Supply in Marlborough, Mass., has resulted in $55,300 in fines from OSHA. The company was cited for 15 alleged serious violations of workplace safety standards. OSHA issues serious citations when death or serious physical harm are likely to result from hazards about which the employer knew or should have known.

On Oct. 3, 2005, two workers were attempting to move a six-foot by 10-foot granite slab stored between several other granite slabs when the slabs fell on the workers, killing one and injuring the other. OSHA's inspection found that the company failed to provide a workplace free from recognized crushing hazards due to improper storage of the stone slabs and did not train the workers to properly handle and move the slabs.

"Proper training and storage are critical to protect workers because of the size and weight of these granite slabs," said Francis Pagliuca, OSHA's area director for Middlesex and Essex counties. "The lack of these and other safeguards at this workplace leave its workers exposed to death and serious injury from crushing, fire, electrical and other hazards."

Additional crushing hazards identified during the inspection stemmed from the company's failure to inspect cranes, hoisting devices and wire rope slings for defects, a missing safety latch on a load hook, unmarked load ratings for granite slab storage racks, and defective wire rope slings.

Other hazardous conditions at the workplace included obstructed and unmarked exits; no fire extinguisher training; fall and tripping hazards from an unguarded floor hole; fire and electrocution hazards from a severely frayed extension cord used to power a compressor; crane defects; an unguarded flywheel; and no complete and accurate assessment of workplace hazards to determine what personal protective equipment workers needed.

Fines M-D Building Products $177,000 for Alleged Safety and Health Violations

OSHA has cited Oklahoma City's M-D Building Products Inc. and proposed penalties totaling $177,000. The fines were assessed following two investigations at the company's headquarters on 4041 N. Santa Fe.

Citations for one willful, 17 serious and one other-than-serious safety violations were issued following inspection of an accident. The inspection began Oct. 7 after an employee's right arm was amputated when he caught his hand in a coil while inserting a strip of cardboard into a recoiling machine.

"Health and safety standards must be followed to protect employees from injuries and fatalities," said James Brown, OSHA's area director in Oklahoma City. "If the company had followed OSHA standards, it is possible this unfortunate accident could have been avoided."

The willful safety citation was issued because the company failed to ensure workers were using personal protective equipment. Serious safety violations include failure to: ensure lockout/tagout procedures were followed to prevent startup of machinery during repair or maintenance; provide necessary machine guarding; provide fire extinguishers, and protect workers from electrical hazards. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with intentional disregard of or plain indifference to the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. OSHA issues a serious citation when death or serious injury could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known. Penalties for safety violations totaled $132,000.

A second inspection begun Nov. 22 resulted in additional citations with penalties totaling $45,000 for 12 health violations -- 10 serious, one repeat and one other-than-serious. Among the violations were failure to: provide the required respiratory equipment, implement an emergency response plan and train workers in the proper use of hearing protection devices. The repeat health violation was issued for failing to monitor noise levels.

Bloomington , Ill. Construction Firm Fined $197,500 For Exposing Workers to Potential Trench Cave-In

OSHA has proposed $197,500 in fines against R.A. Cullinan and Son, Inc., Bloomington, Ill. following an inspection at an excavation site where workers were exposed to potentially deadly trench cave-ins.

OSHA issued citations for alleged serious and willful violations of federal workplace safety standards including willful citations for the lack of cave-in protection at two trenches located in the vicinity of Lee and Olive streets in Bloomington, and for placing backfill and other materials too close to the edge of a trench. A serious citation alleged that the company did not protect employees from being injured in the swing radius of a backhoe. OSHA opened an inspection in October 2005 after noticing an unprotected trench.

"Any one of these violations has the potential to cause serious harm, even death, to workers," said OSHA Area Director John Newquist, Peoria. "Trenching remains one of the most hazardous jobs in construction if proper safety procedures are not followed. When employers shirk their responsibility to keep the workplace safe, the results can be tragic for workers and their families."

 The company employs as many as 300 workers during the height of the construction season.

OSHA Fines Formosa Plastics Corp. $148,000 for Alleged Safety and Health Violations

A Point Comfort, Texas-based petrochemical company's alleged failure to protect employees from flash fire hazards has resulted in proposed penalties totaling $148,000 from OSHA.
OSHA cited Formosa Plastics Corp. with one willful and 13 serious violations following a fire and explosion at the company's Formosa Drive plant that resulted in 12 people being injured, four of whom were hospitalized with severe burns.

"OSHA has inspected Formosa Plastics numerous times for many of the same violations," said John Giefer, OSHA's area director in Corpus Christi. "If the company had followed OSHA standards, it is possible that the injuries sustained by these workers could have been avoided."

The willful citation was issued for failure to provide employees with flame resistant clothing for protection against flash fire hazards. A willful violation is one committed with intentional disregard of or plain indifference to the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

Alleged serious violations included failing to: safeguard employees from open manholes; repair stairways to avoid fall hazards; fireproof steel support structures; complete a process safety analysis to address ignition sources; follow safety practices regarding highly flammable liquids; protect employees from electrical hazards. A serious violation is one in which there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

Formosa Plastics Corp., which manufactures plastics, is headquartered in Livingston, N.J. The company employs about 4,500 workers nationwide, about 1,800 of whom work at the Point Comfort facility.

Coaching Workshop for On-the-Job Trainers

 This newsletter describes the benefits of formalized training versus informal or ôfollow Joeö training, and results from a one-day coaching workshop.

OSHA Kicks Off New Summer Job Safety Campaign for Teen Workers

Teen workers are the focus of a new campaign launched by Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Ed Foulke at a special event at EdisonAcademy in Alexandria, Va.

"Summer is peak time for teen employment," said Foulke, who was sworn in April 3 as the new OSHA assistant secretary. "We're launching this safety campaign now to help educate teens on workplace dangers and offer solid safety tips that will help them stay safe and healthy on the job."

The Teen Summer Job Safety Campaign, sponsored by OSHA, is a multi-year project to increase awareness about workplace hazards, and provide possible solutions to those hazards, for young workers and their parents. The campaign will focus on industries in which young people are likely to work during their high school and college years. The first year will target the landscaping industry. The kick-off event also highlighted the Department of Labor's YouthRules! Initiative to bring teens, parents, educators, employers, government, unions and advocacy groups together to ensure young workers have safe and rewarding work experiences.

The safety campaign stems from OSHA's ongoing efforts to design new ways to raise job safety and health awareness among teens. OSHA is launching the campaign from EdisonAcademy which is affiliated with SkillsUSA, a national organization of nearly 300,000 high school and college students and professional members enrolled in training programs in technical, skilled and service occupations. OSHA signed an alliance with that organization last October.

This year's campaign theme is "Landscaping -- Plant Your Feet on Safe Ground." OSHA developed a resource kit, or "tool box," designed to help prevent injuries on the job in landscaping. The kit includes materials from OSHA, the Wage and Hour Division, the Environmental Protection Agency and other organizations on potential industry hazards, including machinery, sun and heat, and pesticides, and ways to avoid them.

 That site, which educates young workers, parents, employers and educators on workplace safety, also offers educational resources such as fact sheets on workplace rights and responsibilities, hazards on the job, ways to prevent injuries, work hours, job restrictions and more. It also links to states that have special Web sites or initiatives designed for young workers.

The event also featured the signing of an alliance renewal with Professional Landcare Network (PLANET), which represents over 4,000 companies and employs more than 100,000 workers. PLANET's members provide landscape and horticultural services including sod and seeding, wetland management, tree and shrub care and irrigation. The alliance will continue to focus on providing industry workers with information and guidance to reduce injuries caused by strains resulting from manual material handling, amputations, motor vehicle crashes, and slips, trips and falls.

OSHA Fines Texas Contractor $77,000 for Fall Hazards at Billerica, Mass., Worksite

A Lewisville, Texas, framing contractor faces $77,000 in fines from OSHA for failing to supply fall protection for its workers at a Billerica, Mass., residential construction site.

Multi Building Inc. was cited for one alleged willful and two alleged serious violations of workplace safety standards following a Dec. 8 OSHA inspection of the construction project at Villas at Old Concord, 4 Riverhurst Road in Billerica.

"Employees were exposed to falls of eight to 12 feet from two work areas that lacked fall protection, such as guardrails or safety nets," said Francis Pagliuca, OSHA's area director for Middlesex and Essex counties. "This employer knew such safeguards were required, yet apparently chose not to supply them."

OSHA issued one willful citation against the company for lack of fall protection and proposed a fine of $70,000, the maximum allowed under law. A willful violation is one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations.

Two serious citations, carrying $7,000 in fines, were issued for lack of employee training in fall protection and ladder safety as well as additional fall hazards stemming from ladder defects and employees climbing wood framing to access the second floor level. A serious citation is issued when death or serious physical harm are likely to result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

Private Sector Partnerships Invited for NIOSH Permeation-Calculation Software, Power-TooláNoise Research

Opportunities were recently announced for new Cooperative Research and Development Agreements related to two NIOSH initiatives. A new NIOSH-developed computer software program is available for commercial licensing. The program, called a "Permeation Calculator," calculates all of the permeation parameters for analysis of permeation testing data related to chemical protective clothing. The parameters are essential for selecting proper protective clothing needed to prevent contact with potentially hazardous chemicals on the job.

The software allows the user to perform calculations in seconds, compared with several hours needed for the traditional method of calculating all of the parameters by hand. In addition, the software reduces the potential for calculation errors and provides users with consistent results. 

Manufacturers of electric and pneumatic power tools are being invited by NIOSH to enter into a CRADA with the Institute and other scientific partners to examine new ways to control noise from such devices. The initiative builds on previous research by NIOSH and academic partners, which demonstrated that noise emissions can be reduced significantly through noise control engineering, reducing the risk of work-related hearing loss. 
The Value of Safety and Health Initiatives to Businesses

NIOSH, the American Society of Safety Engineers, the National Safety Council (NSC), the World Health Organization and the Robert W. Campbell Award are collaborating with the editors of the Journal of Safety Research to issue a call for papers to promote studies which address the value of safety and health initiatives to businesses. The call is extended to papers that report the results of field research, empirical studies, evaluations, case studies or other research methods developed to identify evidence, demonstrate trends, and uncover other research showing the intrinsic value of investing in sound safety and health systems. 

Washington State Revises Laboratory Standard

The Washington Department of Labor and Industries has rewritten and reorganized for clarity and ease of use the safety standards for Hazardous Chemicals in Laboratories. 

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