August 05, 2002

Following an inspection by OSHA, an employer has specific rights and responsibilities. OSHA recently revised a publication that provides detailed information on what is expected of both the employer and OSHA after an inspection. The booklet covers such topics as types of violations, how an employer can contest citations, follow-up inspections, and posting requirements. The publication also includes information about programs available to employers to help develop effective safety and health programs.


A wide range of unsafe conditions at a custom tool, die, and machinery fabrication shop in Spooner, Wis., have resulted in citations for willful and serious violations of safety and health standards, following an inspection by OSHA.

According to OSHA Area Director Charles Burin in Eau Claire, OSHA began investigating workplace safety at T & T Tool Inc. in January. Proposed penalties announced total $164,000.

"Officials at the company are aware these safeguards are required and necessary both to comply with OSHA regulations, and more importantly, to protect workers," Burin said.

Three willful violations centered on non-compliance with lockout and tagout procedures that are designed to prevent machinery from accidental startups during repair and maintenance. OSHA alleged the company failed to develop specific procedures to protect workers who service and maintain CNC mills, a lathe, surface grinder, and a laser cutter; failed to conduct periodic inspections of procedures; and failed to train some employees authorized to perform lockout and tagout.

The company was also cited for 12 alleged serious violations for failing to protect employees from the hazard of being struck by a closing overhead door, failing to utilize locks and tags to protect workers from electrical circuits and accidental startup of machines, failing to train an employee who operated a forklift, failing to remove damaged synthetic web slings, failing to provide guards on machinery, and failing to ensure the safe operation of a radial arm saw and abrasive wheel grinder.

The serious violations included a failure to secure guards on mechanical power presses; failure to establish a die setting procedure; and failure to conduct periodic and weekly inspections of the power presses. OSHA also cited the firm for failing to reduce compressed air used for cleaning to less than 30 p.s.i.; failing to provide protection from welding rays; and failing to use and enclose electrical cords and equipment safely.

OSHA defines a willful violation as one in which the company acted with an intentional disregard for or plain indifference to the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and its regulations. A serious violation is one in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazardous condition and the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.

T & T Tool, Inc. has 15 working days to contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission or to request an informal conference with the area director.


Syntech Chemicals Inc., headquartered in Houston, has agreed to pay $106,000 in penalties for citations issued by OSHA for its failure to implement safety standards to protect its employees against hazardous chemicals.

The OSHA Houston south area office began its investigation Jan. 30 at the company's Houston facility where a fire occurred from over-pressurization in the steam jacket of an oil-containing reactor. Most of the company's process facility was destroyed. Fortunately, there were no fatalities or injuries.

The company was cited with 10 safety and health violations for failing to implement elements of the Process Safety Management of Highly Hazardous Chemicals. Syntech Chemicals produces chemical coatings and other specialty chemicals and employs about 12 workers.

In addition to agreeing to pay the penalties, Syntech Chemicals has engaged the services of an engineering firm and a safety management firm to help it develop and implement systems and procedures to protect its employees.

"It is encouraging to see a small chemical company like Syntech take the steps it needs to not only meet OSHA standards, but to make significant improvements in their overall safety and health program," said Raymond Skinner, area director of OSHA's Houston south area office.


Hunter Douglas Window Fashions Division, Broomfield, Colo. has been recognized by OSHA for excellence in their safety and health program during an award ceremony Friday, Aug. 2

The company's Window Fashions Division was awarded one of the highest levels that OSHA's Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) has to offer with their recognition as a VPP STAR site.

A STAR site meets all the safety and health program elements of OSHA's VPP. The program offers companies a unique opportunity to move beyond traditional safety programs by recognizing participants that successfully incorporate comprehensive safety and health programs into their total management systems. Only 850 companies nationwide participate in the VPP, four sites of which are currently in Colorado.

R. Davis Layne, Deputy Assistant Secretary for the U.S. Department of Labor's OSHA, presented a VPP flag and plaque to Hunter Douglas employees and management at the ceremony.

"The key to this company's VPP program is their commitment to ergonomics, which includes designing their own production equipment with ergonomic considerations, and to their training and educational programs," said Terry M. Terry, OSHA regional VPP manager in Denver.

"Their occupational health program ensures that first-aid kits and automated external defibrillators (AED) are maintained in each building. Top management has instilled a true safety culture that says safety is a value and the way everyone does business."

Requirements for the VPP include: a high degree of management support and employee involvement; a high-quality worksite analysis program; hazard prevention and control programs; and comprehensive safety and health training for all employees. Each of these elements must be effective, in place and in operation for at least one year before applying to join the program. A rigorous weeklong onsite OSHA evaluation verifies that the company has excelled in their safety and health program.

For additional information on the Hunter Douglas award presentation or the VPP program contact Terry Terry OSHA Region 8 VPP Manager at (303) 844-1600 (ext 317) in Denver.


The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued a final rule that significantly strengthens the licensing and sanctioning requirements of the commercial driver's license (CDL) program for truck and bus drivers required to hold a CDL. The rule is effective Sept. 30, 2002.

This final rule, which implements provisions of the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999, combines two CDL rulemakings proposed in 2001.

With this final rule, FMCSA intends to make the CDL program more effective in preventing dangerous truck and bus drivers from continuing to drive. It strives to improve safety by improving the performance of drivers and removing unsafe drivers from the road.

Within three years after the rule's effective date, FMCSA will penalize states not in substantial compliance with licensing and sanctioning requirements of the CDL program by withholding Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP) money. MCSAP funds provide financial assistance to states through federal grants.

The new rule allows FMCSA to prohibit states that do not comply with this rule from issuing, renewing, transferring, or upgrading CDLs and from issuing hardship licenses to truck and bus drivers who lose their driving privileges. States that comply with FMCSA CDL requirements will be permitted to issue non-resident CDLs to drivers living in states that have lost that privilege.

As a result of this final rule, FMCSA may now disqualify commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers who have been convicted of traffic violations while operating a passenger vehicle that result in their license being canceled, revoked or suspended, or of committing drug and alcohol-related offenses while driving a passenger vehicle. It also adds the following two new disqualifying offenses: driving a CMV after a CDL was revoked, suspended or canceled for operating a CMV; and causing a fatality through the negligent or criminal operation of a CMV.

The regulation expands the list of serious traffic violations to include drivers who fail to obtain a CDL, driving a CMV without a CDL in the driver's possession, and operating a CMV without proper class of CMV being driven or type of cargo being transported. The regulation authorizes FMCSA's Chief Safety Officer to disqualify, on an emergency basis, CDL drivers who pose an imminent hazard, a condition that presents a likelihood of death, serious personal injury or substantial danger to the public.

The final rule requires that applicants obtaining, transferring, or renewing a CDL tell their state driver-licensing agency where they previously held motor vehicle licenses. This enables the issuing agency to obtain a candidate's complete driving record.

A new requirement in the rule creates a new endorsement. Applicants wanting to operate a school bus must pass knowledge and skills tests before receiving a CDL for that purpose. States with school bus licensing programs that currently meet or exceed FMCSA requirements may continue to test and license school bus drivers.

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Act (CMVSA) of 1986 established the CDL program and the Commercial Driver's License Information System (CDLIS) to serve as a clearinghouse and repository of CDL information and traffic-conviction data. The CMVSA also requires state personnel to ensure that drivers convicted of certain serious traffic violations are prohibited from operating a CMV.


On June 10, OSHA compliance officers from the El Paso District Office helped prevent potential tragedy at two communication towers in the area.

Elias Casillas and Jessica Martinez were dispatched to a tower construction site. Two Taylor Communications workers were exposed to falls of 80 feet without proper fall protection. After meeting with the employer, both workers were voluntarily removed until a fall protection system was installed.

Later that same day, Casillas and Martinez were dispatched to the site of a 100-foot tower in El Paso undergoing routine service and maintenance by federal agency workers. Both employees had two lanyards each, but no fall protection. The workers were asked by the compliance officers to descend from the tower until adequate fall protection could be installed. Mario Solano, Assistant Area Director for the El Paso office provided technical assistance on tower safety to the agency and helped them develop a better safety program for tower maintenance.


OSHA recently revised three fact sheets on selected topics:

  • Powered Platforms provides information to help employers prevent injuries to window washers and other building maintenance workers, and includes information on engineering requirements, fall protection, stabilization systems, emergency plans, and training. 
  • Formaldehyde identifies what employers and workers should know to prevent harmful exposures, and also highlights recordkeeping requirements. 

  • Ethylene Oxide addresses permissible exposure limits for workers and respirator use. 


OSHA is seeking comments until November 4, 2002 on whether the agency should add a requirement for a hearing conservation program to its construction noise standard similar to the requirements covering general industry workers. This could include providing hearing protection, hearing tests, and periodic noise exposure monitors, to workers exposed to high noise levels.

"Many construction activities involve high levels of noise that can cause hearing loss and create safety hazards," said OSHA Administrator John Henshaw. "While these difficulties occur in other occupational environments, they are of particular concern in the construction industry, where a variety of activities often occur simultaneously."

Every year as many as 750,000 U.S. construction workers are exposed to hazardous noise levels. Among these workers, regular hearing protection is only worn about 15-33 % of the time.

In an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR), OSHA is requesting input on whether the general industry requirements should be applied to construction work and, if so, how these requirements should be adapted for the construction industry.

OSHA's current construction noise standards require employers to protect workers from hazardous noise and provide hearing protection devices to workers engaged in construction and renovation work when high noise levels are present.

Written comments on the agency's consideration of a hearing conservation program for the construction industry must be submitted by November 4, 2002, in triplicate, to the Docket Office, Docket No. H-011G, Room N-2625, 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.

Notice of the proposal is scheduled for publication in the August 5, 2002 Federal Register.