June 14, 2002

OSHA's Boise Area Office and the Idaho Consultation Program at Boise State University have published a Small Business Resource CD. The CD is interactive with the Internet and includes standards, directives, and publications available from BSU and the OSHA websites.

The CD also contains sample written programs to assist employers on compliance with OSHA standards such as the hazard communication, respiratory protection, personal protective equipment assessment, energy control (lockout/tagout), hearing conservation, fall protection, crane inspection, crane and hoist safety, bloodborne pathogen hazards, trenching and excavation safety, and an accident prevention program for the construction industry. A Workplace Safety and Health Management Plan is included to assist employers in developing effective safety and health programs.

For a free copy of the Small Business Resource CD call the Boise OSHA Area Office at 208-321-2960. (In Idaho only call 1-800-482-1370.)


OSHA is clarifying its policy on the prohibition of removing contaminated needles from blood tube holders in order to reduce the dangers of needlesticks for healthcare workers and others who handle medical sharps.

"Removing contaminated needles and reusing blood tube holders can expose workers to multiple hazards," said OSHA Administrator John Henshaw. "We want to make it very clear that this practice is prohibited in order to protect workers from being exposed to contaminated needles."

OSHA explains in a letter of interpretation that the bloodborne pathogens standard requires blood tube holders with needles attached to be immediately discarded into a sharps container after the device's safety feature is activated.

In the revised Bloodborne Pathogens compliance directive, the agency outlines its contaminated needle policy and explains that removing a needle from a used blood-drawing/phlebotomy device is rarely, if ever, required by a medical procedure. Because these devices involve the use of a double-ended needle, removing the needle exposes employees to additional risk, as does the increased manipulation of a contaminated device.

The Bloodborne Pathogens Standard also prohibits contaminated needles and other contaminated sharps from being bent, recapped, or removed, unless the employer demonstrates that no alternative is feasible or that such action is required by a specific medical or dental procedure.



Grocery stores and poultry processing will be the focus of the next two sets of industry-specific guidelines to reduce ergonomic-related injuries, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health John Henshaw announced Monday. Representatives from both industries will work with OSHA to develop the guidelines.

"The number of ergonomic-related injuries suffered by workers in the retail grocery store industry continues to rank near the top of the list," Henshaw explained. "While the rates in poultry processing aren't as high, workers still suffer from too many upper extremity disorders, such as tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome.

"Several stakeholders within the retail grocery and poultry processing industries have committed to working with us in developing the guidelines," Henshaw said. "Furthermore, many employers in both industries have already begun identifying and addressing ergonomic hazards. We applaud them for stepping forward and taking a proactive stance for their workers."

Draft guidelines for each of these industries are expected to be ready for public comment later this year. The guidelines will be made available for review on OSHA's website; a Federal Register notice will announce when the guidelines will be posted.

U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao announced April 18 that OSHA would work with representatives of the nursing home profession on the first set of ergonomic guidelines. That announcement set into motion the agency's comprehensive plan to reduce ergonomic injuries in the workplace which focuses on a combination of industry-targeted guidelines, tough enforcement measures, workplace outreach, advanced research and dedicated efforts to protect Hispanic and other immigrant workers.

Henshaw announced OSHA's plans to develop the two new sets of industry-specific ergonomic guidelines during his keynote address to the American Society of Safety Engineers' 2002 Professional Development Conference and Exposition in Nashville.


The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) has announced the proposed status of 26 safety recommendations made to industry and trade groups, including guidelines for explosives manufacturers and for oil and gas production facilities.

Donald Holmstrom, who leads CSB's recommendations program, submitted for the Board's consideration a series of actions or responses taken by industry and other affected groups in the wake of CSB investigations of serious chemical accidents since 1998.

Of the 26 responses to recommendations issued, ten were categorized as "closed- acceptable action," eight were listed as "open-acceptable response," and three were listed as "unacceptable response," including a recommendation to the Department of Defense regarding the safety of demilitarized explosives.

"The responses show that overall, industry and trade groups are responding well to our investigations and the recommendations that flow from them," said Holmstrom.

"Our mission is to save lives of workers and the public by preventing accidents. The recommendations program, which includes strong advocacy for action by recipients, is the key to keeping accidents from repeating themselves," Holmstrom added.


Staff proposed the following status designations to the Board (listed by accident):

  • Sierra Chemical Company explosives manufacturing incident, 4 dead, Sparks, NV, 1998: CSB staff noted that the Institute of Makers of Explosives (IME) has developed safety guidelines addressing the hazards of foreign objects in recycled materials used in explosives manufacturing. However, the Department of Defense, which sells the explosives after dismantling weapons, received an "unacceptable action" designation from staff by not accepting a recommendation to develop a program to assure that reclaimed explosive materials are free from foreign objects like nuts and bolts, which could result in inadvertent detonation during mixing operations.

  • Sonat Exploration Company incident, 4 dead, Pitkin, LA, 1998: The American Petroleum Institute (API) received an "acceptable action" designation by the CSB staff for issuing, at the CSB's recommendation and for the first time, a comprehensive set of guidelines and practices for the safe start-up and operation of onshore oil and gas production facilities.

Other recommendations covered by the staff review stem from the following incidents: Union Carbide Co., Hahnville, LA, 1998; Morton International, Inc., Paterson, NJ, 1998; Tosco Avon Refinery (now Phillips Petroleum), Martinez, CA, 1999; Bethlehem Steel Corp., Chesterton, IN, 2001.

For further information contact Don Holmstrom at (202) 261-7600.


Four companies that took over the DeCoster Egg Farm's business in Turner, Maine, were cited by OSHA for safety and health violations. The companies are facing penalties totaling $344,810.

A total of twenty-seven alleged violations of OSHA's safety and health standards were delivered to Maine AG, LLC; Maine Contract Farming, LLC; PFS Loading Services, Inc.; and Turner Maintenance & Services, Inc. Maine Contract Farming, LLC was also cited for four alleged willful violations.

"I am committed to protecting workers and promoting safe workplaces. Companies need to make safety their number one priority," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao. "While these companies have made some strides in addressing previously cited hazards, it's important that they continue to work to protect their workers."

OSHA initiated inspections last December at the four facilities to determine compliance with previously cited hazards. As a result of those follow-up inspections, OSHA issued citations against the firms for unguarded equipment, defective eye wash stations, hazardous electrical equipment, uninspected fire extinguishers, exposed asbestos, unsafe roof structures, unsanitary shower facilities, fall hazards and unmarked floor jacks.

Four alleged willful violations were issued to Maine Contract Farming, LLC for exposing workers to the dangers of collapsing buildings. The egg farm, which contains multiple-barn complexes designed to house its chickens, has an extensive history of roof collapses caused by improperly installed roof trusses -- the most recent collapse in January 1999. The alleged willful violations carry a total penalty of $280,000.

The remainder of the citations issued included: five alleged serious violations with proposed penalties of $5,410; 12 alleged repeat violations carrying $59,400 in proposed penalties; and six other-than-serious violations with no assessed penalties.

"We're going to continue to work with these firms to ensure that their employees are protected," said OSHA Administrator John Henshaw. "But we will not hesitate to wield a strong enforcement arm when employers refuse to fix identified hazards while continually placing their workers in danger."

In July 1996, OSHA cited DeCoster Egg Farms for violations with penalties totaling $3.6 million. Ten months later, the Labor Department reached a settlement with DeCoster to correct the hazards. In the May 1997 settlement agreement, DeCoster agreed to pay $2 million, which it did, and to make significant improvements in safety and health over three years. An independent auditor later found DeCoster in substantial compliance at the 10-12 month point.

In September 1997, A. J. "Jack" DeCoster, sold or leased portions of DeCoster Egg Farm's operations to eight companies owned and operated by five former employees. The new companies service equipment, raise chickens, transport products and market eggs. DeCoster retained ownership of the farm's 3.5 million chickens as well as its real estate.


Exposing employees to unsafe silica dust and noise levels at two Atlanta-area facilities may cost Thomas Concrete of Georgia, Inc., $44,100 in proposed penalties.

Both inspections were conducted under the agency's program to reduce worker exposure to silica dust, a major cause of silicosis. OSHA's first inspection at the company's Lithonia plant began Dec. 11 and the second Dec. 12 at the Suwanee facility.

"There is no cure for this debilitating lung disease, but it is preventable," said Gei Thae Breezley, OSHA's Atlanta-East area director. "Each year over 2 million workers nationwide are exposed to airborne silica dust, and 250 workers die from silicosis."

The Lithonia concrete mixing and delivery plant received seven serious citations with proposed penalties totaling $23,850, according to citations the agency issued Mon., June 10. OSHA cited the company for failing to lower employee exposure to airborne silica by providing proper respirators, medical evaluations and engineering controls; exposing employees to unhealthy noise levels and electrical hazards; failing to evaluate confined space hazards and provide required protection before allowing workers to enter those areas.

The Suwanee facility was cited for five similar but not identical conditions with $20,250 in proposed penalties. OSHA defines a serious violation as one where there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result and that the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.

The company is cooperating with OSHA to control employee overexposure at these facilities and any of its other facilities where similar conditions may exist. In addition, each area office has a compliance assistant specialist --- separate and distinct from the enforcement program --- to aid employers in providing a safe and healthful workplace.

The company as 15 working days to contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.