Safety Headlines

February 28, 2005

AK Steel Corporation Butler Works Achieves OSHA Star

AK Steel Corporation Butler Works, Butler, Pa., has earned membership in OSHAÆs prestigious "Star" Voluntary Protection Program (VPP).

"AK Steel Corporation Butler Works has done an excellent job of safety and health management," said Philadelphia OSHA Regional Administrator Richard Soltan. "Their commitment sets a standard for other companies in their industry and should be commended."

The company produces specialty flat-rolled stainless and electrical steel used in the fabrication of transformers for power transmission. The Butler site employs 1,772 workers and is being recognized for having an injury and illness rate 96 percent below the industry average.

OSHA's Voluntary Protection Programs are designed for worksites with comprehensive, successful safety and health programs. They are open to workplaces in any industry and to companies with injury rates below their industry's national average. VPP is OSHA's premier program designed to promote effective employer safety and health management.

OSHA Requirements for Scissor Lifts

OSHA has released an interpretative letter that identifies the regulations that apply to scissor lifts. Because there is not a "scissor lift standard," the agency will apply regulations that apply to scaffolding as well as the material handling standard.

Free E-Tool Helps You Meet OSHA Noise Standard

Noise, or unwanted sound, is one of the most common health problems in American workplaces. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) estimates that 30 million workers in the U.S. are exposed to hazardous noise. Exposure to high levels of noise may cause hearing loss, create physical and psychological stress, reduce productivity, interfere with communication, and contribute to accidents and injuries by making it difficult to hear warning signals.

OSHA requires employers to determine if workers are exposed to excessive noise in the workplace. If so, the employers must implement feasible engineering or administrative controls to eliminate or reduce hazardous levels of noise. Where controls are not sufficient, employers must implement an effective hearing conservation program.


Other e-tool available from OSHA include:


OSHA Fines Contractor $60,000 for Silica Hazards

A Wilmington, Mass., contractor's failure to safeguard workers against potentially deadly silica hazards during brick repointing work at St. John's Preparatory School, Danvers, Mass., has resulted in $60,000 in proposed fines from the U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

"Strong enforcement is a key part of OSHA's efforts to reduce workplace injuries and illnesses," said Marthe Kent, OSHA's regional administrator in Boston. "The significant penalty of $60,000 proposed in this case demonstrates our commitment to protecting the health and safety of America's workers."

On Aug. 17, 2004, employees of NER Construction Management, Inc. were repointing Xavier Hall, a grinding operation that produced and engulfed them in clouds of silica-containing brick dust. OSHA standards require that effective engineering controls, such as wet cutting saws, vacuum grinders or other types of local exhaust ventilation first be used to reduce dust levels below permissible exposure limits. No controls were in place or in use at the time.

Though the exposed employees wore respirators, those devices alone were insufficient protection. The silica hazard was aggravated by the company's failure to medically evaluate all workers to determine if they could safely use respirators and by its failure to perform fit-testing to ensure that the respirators had a proper seal. Silica is a human lung carcinogen. Prolonged inhalation can lead to silicosis, a disabling and potentially fatal scarring of the lungs that reduces their ability to take in oxygen.

As a result of prior OSHA inspections, NER knew what safeguards were required, yet did not use them. Thus, OSHA has issued one willful citation to the company, with $55,000 in proposed penalties, for the lack of engineering controls and resulting silica overexposures and for not medically evaluating workers for their fitness to wear respirators. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations.

NER faces an additional $5,000 fine for a serious citation for not performing respirator fit testing. A serious violation is one where there is a substantial possibility that death or serious physical harm can result to an employee.