January 04, 2002

Phillips Petroleum Company has agreed to pay over $2 million in penalties for safety and health violations at its complex in Pasadena, Texas, as part of a settlement agreement announced by U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao. Additionally, Chevron Phillips Chemical Company, which now owns and operates the facility, will hire dedicated safety and health consultants to ensure compliance with OSHA's process safety management standards.

"This settlement cannot replace the life that was lost nor make up for the pain suffered by those injured in a catastrophic accident nearly two years ago," Chao said. "But, it does mean that Phillips and Chevron employees will be working in safer environments and it signals this administration's commitment to crack down on workplace safety violations."

The agreement settles citations issued against Phillips' Houston Chemical Complex in Pasadena in September 2000, following an explosion six months earlier that killed one worker and injured 69 others. Under the settlement agreement, Phillips Petroleum will pay a penalty of $2,169,500. Chevron Phillips has agreed to retain the services of both a process safety management training and operating procedures consultant. Each consultant will conduct comprehensive reviews of the training program and standard operating procedures at the K-Resin facility. The company has agreed to implement all feasible recommendations of the consultants by July 31, 2002.


OSHA announced that it will not conduct general schedule inspections on the new Steel Erection Standard until March 19, 2002. During this period, the agency will emphasize outreach and education to assist the industry in training employees on the new requirements.

"It is very important that we provide an opportunity for OSHA field personnel, employers and employees to become familiar with the requirements of the new steel erection standard," said OSHA Administrator John L. Henshaw. "For that reason, we will emphasize outreach and education for the first sixty days."

Although OSHA will not conduct general schedule inspections, the agency will inspect fatalities and complaints.

OSHA is preparing a comprehensive outreach and training initiative on safety standards for steel erection that begins with a three-day training session January 14-16 in Chicago. More than 300 participants, including stakeholders from the steel erection industry, OSHA compliance officers and consultative staff from each of the regional and area offices, and representatives from the state plan states are expected to attend the seminar. Additional training activities and educational materials will be developed.

The new standard addresses the hazards that have been identified as the major causes of injuries and fatalities in the steel erection industry. These include hazards associated with working under loads; hoisting, landing and placing decking; column stability; double connections; landing and placing steel joists, and falls to lower levels.


The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has added a new Spanish-language section to its web site to serve the nation's growing Spanish-speaking population.

The new section includes Spanish-language versions of several NIOSH workplace safety and health documents relevant to industries and occupations in which large numbers of Spanish-speaking workers are employed.

The section also describes in Spanish how workers and employers can contact NIOSH and access basic services, such as health hazard evaluations. The contents of the NIOSH En Espa±ol section will be expanded and updated on a regular basis.

"We know that many Spanish-speaking men and women are employed in jobs that involve tremendous physical demands and other factors that put them at increased risk of occupational injury and illness," said NIOSH Acting Director Kathleen M. Rest, Ph.D. "Through the new section on our web site, we are pleased to offer information specifically designed to meet the needs of these workers, their employers, and other job safety and health partners."

The number of Hispanic workers in the U.S. work force is expected to increase by more than one-third over the next decade. Last year, fatal work injuries among Hispanic workers rose sharply while declining for non-Hispanic workers. This increase was led by a 24 percent jump in fatal injuries in construction among Hispanics, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

NIOSH will work with Hispanic organizations, industry and labor groups, safety and health professionals, and other government agencies to help workers and employers become aware of the site. The Web site is one of several NIOSH initiatives for better identifying and addressing risks for job-related injuries and illnesses among Spanish-speaking workers.

For further information on NIOSH research, contact toll-free 1-800-35-NIOSH (1-800-356-4674).


Fatal injuries at mines in the United States declined last year to a historic new low, according to preliminary data released by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). The data indicate that 72 miners died in on-the-job accidents nationwide in 2001, the lowest figure on record and 13 fewer mine deaths than in calendar 2000.

"A good year would be zero fatalities, because even one death is unacceptable," said Dave D. Lauriski, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "We must keep working together to reduce mine accidents in 2002."

Lauriski last year challenged the mining industry to reduce fatal accidents by 15 percent each year. "Preliminary numbers indicate that the mining industry met that challenge in 2001," Lauriski said.

The nation's metal and nonmetal mining sector set a historic low record with 30 fatalities during 2001, compared with 47 in 2000. The previous metal and nonmetal low fatality record was 40, in 1994. The metal and nonmetal mining sector produces metals such as copper and gold, and nonmetallic minerals such as salt, stone, sand and gravel.

Lauriski said, "The metal and nonmetal mining industry has shown what can be done, with its safest year on record."

In the coal sector, mine fatalities increased by four to 42 in 2001. Thirteen miners died in an explosion last September at the Jim Walter Resources No. 5 mine in Brookwood, Ala. The accident remains under investigation.

"The Brookwood accident was heartbreaking because miners lost their lives in a heroic attempt to save the lives of others," Lauriski said. "We will determine the cause and share the information with everyone in the mining industry to help prevent future tragedies."


A new report by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) provides several recommendations to improve lighting on roads in the United States based on observations of practices in several European countries.

"Safety is our highest transportation priority," FHWA Administrator Mary Peters said. "This new report gives us several ways in which we can improve lighting on our nation's roads, which in turn can help to save lives and prevent injuries."

The report, "European Road Lighting Technologies," is the product of an April 2000 tour to Belgium, Finland, France, the Netherlands and Switzerland by a team that included representatives from the FHWA, as well as from state DOTs and the private sector. The team gathered information from European transportation ministries and lighting professionals about research and technology in highway and road lighting systems, tunnel illumination, sign lighting, and methods used to design roadway lighting systems.

In the report, the team developed recommendations for U.S. transportation agencies in areas such as visibility design technique, dynamic road lighting, pavement reflection factors, master lighting plans, and lighting techniques for roundabouts, crosswalks and pedestrian areas. In addition, the team provided recommendations on signs and on equipment quality level and maintenance.

Some of the information from the team could provide a basis to update the "International Guide for Roadway Lighting," which is produced by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). AASHTO provides guidelines for roadway design and safety, including the use of lighting.


Simpler, easier to follow requirements for tracking workplace injuries and illnesses are now in force for 1.4 million employers covered by OSHA's new recordkeeping rule.

"The new recordkeeping system is easier for employers to understand, better protects employee privacy in sensitive cases and will yield more accurate injury and illness data," said OSHA Administrator John L. Henshaw. "The new OSHA forms are smaller; they fit on legal size paper. We've also clarified and simplified the instructions for filling out the forms."

Last month, OSHA mailed forms to employers likely to be covered by the rule.  Employers can also access the web version of a satellite training broadcast the agency aired on Dec. 12, 2001. The OSHA website also includes frequently asked questions as well as a listing of recordkeeping coordinators and local OSHA offices if employers have further questions or need more information.

As employers switch from the old recordkeeping system to the new one, they will need to post their 2001 summary of injuries and illnesses during the month of February. Beginning in 2003, the annual summary is to be posted for three months-February, March and April.