June 30, 2002

A Rice Lake, Wis., firm's failure to ensure that workers locked out machinery from a power source which resulted in the partial amputation of a worker's hand last December has led to a fine of $121,450 by OSHA.

An employee of Birchwood Manufacturing Company Inc. and his supervisor were attempting to unclog a metering valve on a wood-grinding machine. The machine was not locked out from a power source prior to beginning the work and the valve unexpectedly rotated. The accident severed four fingers and most of the palm of the employee's right hand that were later re-attached. OSHA issued citations alleging willful, serious, and other-than-serious safety and health violations.

"Power equipment that has not been locked-out from an electrical source presents one of the most hazardous work environments for workers," said OSHA's Eau Claire, Wis., Area Director Charles Burin. "This tragedy could have been prevented if the firm had complied with OSHA's lock-out and tag-out requirements."

OSHA issued willful violations alleging that the firm did not have written machine-specific lockout procedures and that devices to isolate electrical energy were not used by authorized employees.

The alleged serious violations cited the firm for failing to perform adequate lockout periodic reviews, failing to train supervisors in lockout, and failing to retrain employees in lockout procedures when job duties changed. Other alleged serious cited the firm for failing to provide annual fire extinguisher training and failing to guard a chain and sprocket.

Birchwood Manufacturing Company Inc has 15 working days from the receipt of the citations to contest the citations and proposed penalties with the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission or to request an informal conference with the area director.


The Transportation Security Administration cautioned travelers about the dangers of traveling with fireworks in luggage over the Fourth of July weekend.

"The Fourth of July holiday weekend is a wonderful time of year to celebrate and fireworks can play a big part in American festivities," said Under Secretary of Transportation for Security John W. Magaw. "However, packing fireworks in your checked or carry-on baggage is dangerous business and illegal. Now that the United States is in a heightened state of security, it is more important than ever that passengers be aware of the regulations prohibiting fireworks on commercial passenger flights."

Passengers risk substantial fines and up to five years in prison by carrying fireworks in their bags or on their person on commercial passenger flights. Fireworks of all shapes and sizes, from sparklers and poppers to cherry bombs and rockets, are strictly prohibited because of the extreme danger they pose should they ignite during flight.

Any person carrying fireworks onto an aircraft or attempting to ship them illegally faces civil penalties of up to $27,500 per violation, or criminal prosecution that would carry criminal penalties of $250,000 or more and five years in prison. Falsely stating to the air carrier that there are no fireworks in your checked or carry-on baggage may be considered an aggravating factor that may result in compounded penalties.

Certain fireworks may be shipped as cargo on some airlines, but only if shipments are properly packaged, marked and declared under the hazardous material regulations of the Department of Transportation's Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA).


OSHA plans to issue a final rule on July 1, 2002, that revises the criteria for recording work-related hearing loss.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2003, employers will be required to record work-related hearing loss cases when an employee's hearing test shows a marked decrease in overall hearing. Employers can make adjustments for hearing loss caused by aging, seek the advice of a physician or licensed health care professional to determine if the loss is work-related, and perform additional hearing tests to verify the persistence of the hearing loss.

"Hearing loss can result in a serious disability and put employees at risk of being injured on the job," said OSHA Administrator John Henshaw. "This approach will help employers better protect their workers and help all of us improve our national injury and illness statistics and prevent future hearing loss among our nation's workers."

Under the new rule, the criteria will record 10-decibel shifts from the employee's initial hearing test when they also result in an overall hearing level of 25 decibels. The old criteria recorded 25-decibel shifts.



The failure of a U.S. Postal Service Houston branch to protect employees from unguarded machine parts and other safety violations has resulted in citations and proposed penalties of $149,000 from OSHA.

OSHA has cited the Franklin Street main branch facility in Houston with two alleged willful, two alleged serious and one alleged repeat violations resulting from an investigation that began Dec. 28, 2001.

The Labor Department has cited the Postal Service with alleged willful violations for failing to protect employees from the exposed parts of horizontal shafts, for failing to provide machine guarding from rotating parts and for failing to use machine guarding to protect employees from ingoing nip-points on a conveyor belt. A willful violation is committed with an intentional disregard of or plain indifference to the requirements of the OSHA Act and regulations.

The two alleged serious violations were for failing to maintain fixed ladders in a safe condition and failing to securely fasten machine guards to the frame of the machines. A serious violation is one that could cause death or serious physical harm to employees when the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.

A repeat violation was for failing to maintain sufficient safe clearance in aisles and passageways where mechanical equipment is used. A repeat violation is one in which the employer has been cited during the past three years for substantially similar infractions of the law.

The U.S. Postal Service has 15 working days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with the area director, or to contest the citations and penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review commission.


The District of Columbia, and the states of Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania and West Virginia are participating in this enforcement effort.

After several years of improvement, recent statistics indicate that alcohol-related crashes are on the rise. They cause an estimated 300,000 injuries and cost society over $45 billion each year. In 2000, 1,438 lives were lost in the region in crashes related to impaired driving.

When sobriety checkpoints were used intermittently throughout the mid-Atlantic region during the past 20 years, the number of alcohol-related crashes was reduced by as much as 20 percent. The Checkpoint Strikeforce blitz will build on previous statewide efforts to create a regional enforcement program aimed at deterring impaired driving and arresting offenders. Sobriety checkpoints will be supplemented with law enforcement saturation patrols and public awareness campaigns as part of the Checkpoint Strikeforce program.

Checkpoint Strikeforce is being conducted in conjunction with the July 4th holiday "You Drink & Drive. You Lose." National Mobilization. Since 1999, national mobilizations are conducted during July and December to highlight the dangers of impaired driving and to mobilize criminal justice and traffic safety partners in all 50 states to conduct sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols, all aimed at keeping Americans safe from this serious and deadly crime.


A Harwich, Mass., company's continued failure to protect its workers against serious occupational health hazards has resulted in $57,562.50 in additional fines from OSHA.

Cape Stone Works, Inc., a stone products manufacturer, was originally cited by OSHA in June 2001, for fifteen serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. In July, the company signed a settlement agreement with OSHA, agreeing to correct all the violations and pay a fine of $10,920. A subsequent OSHA inspection found that most of the 15 hazards had not been corrected. As a result, 13 failure-to-abate notices have been issued to the company.

"This employer was given ample time to put effective worker safeguards in place but did not do so," said Brenda Gordon, OSHA area director for Boston and Southeastern Massachusetts. "It's inexcusable that a company would compound its initial failure to protect workers by refusing to honor its commitment to fix these hazards."

The hazards include employee overexposure to respirable stone dust; several deficiencies involving the use and maintenance of respirators; unguarded work platforms; unguarded saw blades and grinders; electrical hazards; unsafe storage of oxygen and propane cylinders; no hearing conservation program for workers exposed to excess noise levels; no hazard communication program; excess air pressure in cleaning hoses; and no employee training in the safe operation of powered industrial trucks.

OSHA issues a failure to abate notice when an employer has agreed to correct cited hazards and the agreement has become final but a subsequent OSHA inspection finds that the hazards have not been corrected.

Cape Stone Works, Inc. has 15 business days from receipt of its failure to abate notifications 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.


OSHA is seeking public comments on a proposed one-year delay of the recordkeeping rule's definition of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), and whether to include MSDs and hearing loss columns on the OSHA Form 300 Log of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses.

Written comments on the agency's proposal to delay the recordkeeping rule's definition of "musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), and whether to include MSDs and hearing loss columns on recordkeeping forms, must be submitted by August 30, 2002, in triplicate to the Docket Office, Docket R-02B, Room N2625, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC, 20210, (202) 693-2350.

Because of security-related problems in receiving regular mail service in a timely manner, OSHA is requesting that comments be hand-delivered to the Docket Office, or sent by Express Mail or other overnight delivery service, electronic mail, or facsimile at (202) 693-1648.

The final rule on the criteria for recording work related hearing loss and the notice soliciting comment on the definition of MSDs and columns for MSDs and hearing loss is scheduled to appear in the July 1, 2002 Federal Register.