OSHA's Proposal to Drop References to ANSI PPE Standards Challenged

August 06, 2007


ISEA said the agency’s May 17, 2007, proposal to change the way it recognizes product performance standards for personal protective equipment (PPE) could potentially reduce the level of protection for workers and make compliance with the rule more difficult for employers.

Current OSHA regulations require that eye and head protection devices meet product performance standards issued under the banner of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). ANSI standards are voluntary, but they are widely accepted in the United States and recognized by OSHA and numerous other regulatory agencies.

OSHA adopts specific product performance standards, and the standards may go through several revisions before OSHA is able to update its rules to incorporate the newer versions. Under the OSHA proposal, however, references to these standards would be replaced with a requirement that PPE meet “good design standards,” an approach that ISEA says offers no assurance of a minimum level of protection.

ISEA’s alternative would maintain the reference to the current version of the standard, and include a method by which OSHA could evaluate standards that offer equivalent protection and allow employers to use products meeting those standards.

This approach “maintains the level of performance of PPE that meets the consensus standard in the current regulation, so that worker protection is not compromised,” according to the ISEA submission. It gives employers the flexibility to select PPE that best meets their workers’ needs, based on hazard assessment. And it gives OSHA the flexibility to update references to consensus standards when they are revised, and add new product standards as they are issued without a lengthy and laborious regulatory process.

“We fully appreciate what OSHA is trying to do in this rulemaking,” said ISEA President Dan Shipp. “They aren’t able to keep up with revisions to the product standards they reference in their regulations, and they’re searching for a way to keep the rules current without having to go through a full rulemaking every few years for each standard.

“But to take those references out of the regulation, and replace them with the requirement that PPE comply with some vaguely defined good design standard shows a lack of understanding of the role of performance standards and their use in regulation.”

Without the reference to a specific standard in the regulatory text, OSHA would provide no baseline performance requirements for PPE, ISEA said.

“If the rule is published the way OSHA is proposing it, the ANSI standards would still be the baseline, and OSHA would include them in an appendix as examples of what makes a good design standard,” Shipp said. “But what happens in the future?”

The proposed requirements for a good design standard are that it incorporate safety, that it is recognized as providing an adequate level of protection, and that the standards-developing organization use an open process that considers the views of a broad constituency.

“There’s nothing in this proposal that says the standards recognized in the future have to be as protective as standards recognized today,” Shipp said. “That’s why we’re trying to convince OSHA not to take the reference to a specific standard out of the regulatory text.”

ISEA asked OSHA to convene an informal public hearing to discuss all the aspects of this proposed rule. ISEA, headquartered in Arlington, Va., is the trade association for personal protective equipment. Its member companies are world leaders in the design and manufacture of PPE used to protect people from hazardous environments in the workplace and at home.

OSHA Proposes $56,250 in Penalties Following Box Bailer Injury

Prichard, Ala.-based grocery store chain Autry Greer & Sons has received $56,250 in proposed penalties from OSHA for 25 serious and five other safety violations at three stores and the company's corporate headquarters.

“Employers must make a conscious effort to develop and implement a safety policy for all of their employees,” said Ken Atha, OSHA's area director in Mobile. “This emphasis is especially important for companies which regularly employ younger staff who lack experience and may be unable to recognize workplace dangers.”

OSHA initiated its investigation after a youth was seriously injured while operating a box bailer with an inoperable safety switch at the company's Dauphin Island Parkway store.

Inspectors found a number of serious violations including instances of locked and blocked exit doors, improperly maintained electrical equipment and junction boxes, lack of an emergency action plan and safety instructions, and the employer's failure to develop and communicate a hazard communication program and energy control plan.

The sites were inspected by staff from OSHA's Mobile office, 1141 Montlimar Drive, Suite 1006; telephone 251-441-6131.

$39,000 Fine for Failing to Correct Previously Cited Health and Safety Hazards

OSHA has proposed an additional $39,200 in fines against a North Attleboro, Mass., stone fabricator for allegedly failing to correct health and safety hazards cited in a previous OSHA inspection.

OSHA first cited Mountain Marble and Granite in February of this year for six serious violations of health and safety standards, and fined the company $5,200. OSHA's inspection was prompted by an October 2006 accident at the 45 Elm St. facility in which an employee's finger was crushed between two pieces of granite.

The company paid the original fine but did not provide OSHA with proof that the hazards had been corrected. This situation led to follow-up inspections in June during which OSHA found several hazards still outstanding. As a result, OSHA now has cited Mountain Marble and Granite for five instances of failing to abate previously cited hazards and proposed the additional fines.

The outstanding hazards encompass lack of respiratory protection and hazard communication programs for employees exposed to silica and other hazardous substances while grinding, cutting and polishing stone slabs; untrained forklift operators; a forklift that was improperly modified to lift stone slabs; and unguarded cutting wheels on a stone grinder.

“The ongoing failure to fix these hazards leaves employees continually exposed to potential lung disease, crushing hazards, lacerations and amputations,” said Robert Hooper, OSHA's acting area director for southeastern Massachusetts. “It should not take escalating fines and the potential for additional injuries and illnesses to prompt this employer to provide and maintain essential and legally required safeguards for its employees.”

OSHA Proposes $68,600 in Penalties when Worker Dies Pinned between Two Trucks

OSHA has proposed $68,600 in fines against Southeast Independent Delivery Services for two violations of federal workplace safety standards.

OSHA opened an investigation in February 2007 following the death of a fleet mechanic who was pinned between two trucks while performing maintenance on one of the vehicles at the company's worksite in Suwanee, Ga.

“This was a preventable tragedy. Management had been aware of the need to take action since 2004 and had sufficient time to implement the necessary safety procedures but failed to do so,” said Gei-Thae Breezley, director of the agency's Atlanta East Area Office.

OSHA issued one willful violation with a proposed penalty of $63,000 for alleged failure to implement and train employees on a lockout/tagout program to be used when performing vehicle maintenance. Lockout/tagout practices and procedures are intended to safeguard employees from the unexpected energizing or startup of machinery and equipment, or the release of hazardous energy during service or maintenance activities.

OSHA also issued one serious violation with a proposed penalty of $5,600 for the company's failure to assure that employees used wheel chocks or applied the parking brake when working on vehicles.

Prior to this incident, the agency had issued safety violation citations to the company following a December 2006 vehicle collision in the yard which seriously injured one employee.

City Pays Nearly $100,000 in Damages and Back Wages to Whistleblower Following Investigation by OSHA

Following a whistleblower investigation by OSHA, the town of Cazenovia, N.Y., has paid nearly $100,000 in damages and back wages to an employee who was injured during a retaliatory work assignment and suffered other retaliatory actions after he raised concerns protected under federal environmental laws.

“Employees have a right to raise legitimate environmental and safety concerns without fear of retaliation, discrimination, harassment, or being put in harm's way,” said Patricia K. Clark, OSHA's regional administrator, whose New York office conducted the investigation.

After notifying the town and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation of possible violations of environmental laws by the town during 2006, the employee was subjected to harassment over several months and twice suspended in the fall. He filed a whistleblower complaint with OSHA on Dec. 1, 2006. On Dec. 6, he was assigned to cut trees during unsafe weather conditions and suffered a disabling injury while doing so.

OSHA's investigation found that the suspensions, harassment, and assignment to work under dangerous conditions were in retaliation for the environmental complaints. After being informed of OSHA's findings, the town agreed to take corrective measures.

The town paid the employee $99,000 in compensatory damages and $919.52 in back wages covering the two suspensions, and expunged the suspensions from the employee's personnel file. It also agreed to establish a clear policy prohibiting retaliation against employees for raising environmental or safety-related concerns, arrange for OSHA to train town management and employees on their respective responsibilities and rights under federal whistleblower laws, and post a notice of employees' whistleblower rights.

“It's important to note that the settlement goes beyond this one case,” said Clark. “The settlement establishes a mechanism to educate the town and its employees, and prevent this sort of retaliatory behavior in the future.”

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and 13 other statutes that protect employees who report workplace safety and health concerns or violations of various environmental, trucking, airline, nuclear power, pipeline, and securities laws.

OSHA Cites Denver Zoological Foundation for Alleged Safety Violation Following Fatal Accident

OSHA has cited the Denver Zoological Foundation Inc. for alleged unsafe working conditions following a fatal accident where an employee was mauled by a jaguar at the Denver Zoo in February.

A citation issued to the organization by OSHA's Denver area office alleges one serious violation of the Occupational Safety and Health Act for failure to provide appropriate protocols to prevent inadvertent contact with dangerous animals. The citation carries a proposed penalty of $3,500.

“This was a tragic incident, and we hope to work cooperatively with the Denver Zoological Foundation staff to assist them in enhancing their safety and health program,” said Herb Gibson, OSHA area director in Denver. “Safety and health programs are an important part of every organization, and they instill a safety culture that reduces the potential for accidents.”

A serious citation is issued when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

OSHA Proposes $60,000 in Penalties against Fort Pierce, Fla., Contractor for Trenching and Excavation Hazards

OSHA has cited W. Jackson & Sons Construction Co. of Fort Pierce, Fla., for two serious and two repeat safety violations following an inspection of the company's Sebastian, Fla., jobsite in March. The agency is proposing penalties totaling $60,000 against the underground utilities contractor.

“Excavation is one of the most hazardous construction operations due to the possibility of employee injury from soil collapse,” said Darlene Fossum, OSHA's area director in Fort Lauderdale. “Employers must remain committed to keeping the workplace safe.”

Inspectors found that the company failed to adequately protect employees from soil collapse in a trench more than five feet deep and did not provide a means of egress in a trench more than four feet deep. As OSHA previously had warned the company regarding both of these hazards, the agency proposed $50,000 in penalties for these repeat violations.

Employees at the site were observed working without protective helmets and were allowed to continue working in a trench not protected from cave-in, although a competently trained employee was on site. These two serious safety violations resulted in $10,000 in proposed penalties.

Clark Material Handling in Louisville receives Governor's Safety and Health Award

The 49 employees in the Louisville, Ky., distribution center of the Clark Material Handling Co. have earned a Governor’s Safety and Health Award for working more than 352,000 hours without a “lost-time” injury or illness.

Philip Anderson, commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Labor, presented the award to company officials during a ceremony at the Louisville facility.

The award is given to employers and employees who together have achieved a specified number of hours worked without a recordable injury or illness.

“Improving workplace safety is a primary goal of Governor Ernie Fletcher’s administration,” Anderson said. “The aim of every safety and health program is to see that Kentucky workers return safely home each day to their families. We cannot emphasize enough the importance of every employer and employee in the commonwealth making safety a priority for themselves and each other.”

The distribution center is a 180,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility that supplies aftermarket parts to 92 dealers in 224 locations in North America, Germany, Brazil, Korea, and Australia. Its staff includes full-time and temporary employees.

Clark Material Handling Co. is celebrating its 90th anniversary of manufacturing forklift trucks and other equipment. Clark invented the first material handling truck in 1917. The company has built over 1 million forklifts since 1924. Clark was founded in 1903 as a drill manufacturer.


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