Voluntary Protection Programs Activity

October 15, 2004

The following companies were approved last month for new or continued participation in OSHA's Voluntary Protection Programs : Region III: PPL Systems Facilities, Hazelton, PA (New Star); USPS, Pittsburgh Remote Encoding Center, East Pittsburg, PA (New Star) Region V: AmerGen Energy Co., LLC, Clinton, IL (New Star) Region VI: Honeywell International In., Aircraft Landing Systems, Houston, TX (Cont. Star) Region VII: Georgia Pacific, Kansas City Packaging, Kansas City, MO (New Star); and General Electric Rail Global Signaling, Grain Valley, MO (New Star).

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OSHA Probes Vermont Construction Accident

OSHA is investigating whether any standards were violated at a Vermont construction site, the location of a construction accident that killed one worker and sent another to the hospital.

Michael Benoit died from injuries suffered when a construction vehicle known as a boom truck tipped over. Benoit and co-worker Mathew Odice fell from the vehicleÆs basket more than 20 feet to the ground. Odice was listed in serious condition Friday, upgraded from critical on Thursday.

The two men were subcontractors working with the Quinn Company of Rutland, VT, on a series of condominiums in the area. A construction worker at the site suggested that loose ground below the topsoil may have caused one of the machine's four wheels to sink in, tipping the vehicle over.

The owner of the Quinn Company said he is urging all his employees and subcontractors at the site to cooperate fully in the investigation.

OSHA Cites Pella for Exposing Workers to Hazards

OSHA has issued citations and proposed penalties of $103,050 to Gunton Corporation, doing business as Pella Windows and Doors Co., of Norristown, Pa., for allegedly failing to protect workers from falls and other hazards.

OSHA initiated an inspection on April 1 in response to a complaint about safety and health hazards. The inspection resulted in one willful citation, with a proposed penalty of $63,000; 14 alleged serious citations, with a proposed penalty of $40,050; and one other citation.

The company, which assembles and distributes windows and doors and employs 160 workers, received the willful citation for not providing fall protection for employees working from elevated platforms.

Alleged serious violations included failure to provide a permanent exit route, lack of machine guarding, exposed live electrical parts, lack of personal protective equipment, lack of eye wash or other suitable flushing facility, using workspace for storage, and deficiencies in safeguards for employees working in a spray paint booth. The other citation was issued for using flexible cords as a substitute for permanent wiring.

Willful violations are those committed with an intentional disregard or plain indifference to the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. A serious citation is issued when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known. The company has 15 working days to contest the citations before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

OSHA Fines Pennsylvania Company Following Fatality

OSHA has fined a trench digging company $14,000 for a collapse that killed an Allegheny County, PA, man in July.

Marion Edward Peters, working for Kowal's Excavation and Trench Service, was in the 7-to 8-foot-deep trench when it collapsed. Contrary to federal law requiring trenches deeper than 5 feet to be shored, the trench was unsupported.

Peters was working with company owner Roger Kowal in the trench at the time of the collapse occurred. Rescue workers freed Kowal.

The fines cover the failure of Kowal and Peters to wear protective gear, failure to shore and inspect the trench, and improper placement of a ladder.

Drug-Free Workplace Alliance Agreement Signed

U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao signed an Alliance agreement with the leaders of four international labor unions recently in a cooperative effort to improve worker health and safety by encouraging alcohol- and drug-free workplaces and mines.

Secretary Chao signed the agreement at the Labor Department with representatives of the International Union of Operating Engineers, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental, and Reinforcing Iron Workers, and the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers.

OSHA, MSHA, and Working Partners for an Alcohol- and Drug-Free Workplace Program will work with the four international unions to provide union members and the construction industry with information, guidance and training resources that will communicate the benefits of drug-free workplace programs and better protect workers' health and safety. The organizations will focus especially on educating workers on safety hazards created by the abuse of alcohol and other drugs in workplaces and mines.

The groups will work cooperatively on a number of fronts to encourage drug-free workplaces:

  • Training and education efforts to develop programs regarding workplace substance abuse
  • Outreach and communications efforts through print and electronic media
  • Information-sharing efforts to communicate best practices among the organizations
  • Convening or participating in forums and roundtable discussions to raise the issues associated with the abuse of alcohol and other drugs to help forge innovative solutions

The 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health showed that 77 percent of the nation's adults who have alcohol or drug abuse or dependence problems are employed either full- or part-time. In addition, a 1998 Bureau of Labor Statistics analysis showed that as many as 20 percent of toxicology screens following workplace fatalities tested positive for drugs and/or alcohol.

OSHA Fines GM Powertrain $160,000 for Failing to Record Workplace Injuries and Illnesses

General Motors Powertrain Corp. has been cited for alleged willful, serious and other violations of health and safety standards at its Massena, NY plant. OSHA began its inspection on April 13 in response to an employee complaint. OSHA cited the facility for failure to record work-related hearing losses and other occupational injuries, as well as a variety of safety hazards

"Strong enforcement is a key part of this Administration's efforts to reduce workplace injuries and illnesses," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao. "The significant penalty of $160,000 in this case demonstrates our commitment to protecting the health and safety of American workers."

OSHA's inspection identified 98 instances where the company did not record on the OSHA 300 Log work-related noise-induced hearing losses and other injuries and illnesses suffered by employees at the plant. Accurate recordkeeping is essential for protecting workers since it provides the opportunity for timely identification and correction of conditions that can harm workers.

The Massena plant's failure to record work-related injuries led to the issuance of two willful citations, carrying $140,000 in fines. 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.

Six serious citations, with $12,000 in proposed fines, were issued for a variety of safety hazards including an obstructed exit route, inadequate guarding of moving machine parts, no load rating for an elevated work platform, failure to assess the need for personal protective equipment for workers, lack of warning signs and a non-exit door not marked as such. A serious citation is issued when death or serious physical harm are likely to result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

An additional $8,000 in fines was proposed for two other citations concerning improper recording of injuries and illnesses on the OSHA 300 log of occupational illnesses and injuries.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to either elect 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 Proposes Hexavalent Chromium Pel Reduction

 The basis for this proposal is a preliminary determination that employees exposed to Cr(VI) at the current permissible exposure limit face a significant risk to their health. It is hoped that enacting the proposed standard will substantially reduce this risk.

According to information gathered for the rulemaking, employees exposed to Cr(VI) well below the current permissible exposure limit are at increased risk of developing lung cancer. Occupational exposures to Cr(VI) may also result in asthma, and damage to the nasal epithelia and skin.

OSHA is proposing an 8-hour time-weighted average permissible exposure limit of one microgram of Cr(VI) per cubic meter of air (1 mg/m3) for all Cr(VI) compounds. OSHA is also proposing other provisions for employee protection, including preferred methods for controlling exposure, respiratory protection, protective work clothing and equipment, hygiene areas and practices, medical surveillance, hazard communication, and recordkeeping. Finally, OSHA is proposing separate regulatory texts for general industry, construction, and shipyards to help tailor requirements to the specific circumstances of each of these sectors.

New Hampshire Contractor Cited For Cave-In Hazard

A contractor's alleged failure to supply cave-in protection at a Woodstock, NH, jobsite has resulted in $29,650 in proposed OSHA penalties. M.E. LaTulippe Construction Inc., of Ashland, NH, was cited for alleged willful and serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act following an OSHA inspection conducted at a sewer installation. OSHA initiated the inspection after receiving a report of an employee working in an unprotected excavation.

The inspection reportedly found an employee working in a trench that lacked protection against a collapse of its sidewalls. The trench measured approximately six to eight feet in depth. According to OSHA standards, excavations deeper than five feet are required to have shoring, sloping the soil at a shallow angle or by use of a protective trench box to guard against collapse. No protection was used at for the trench in question, despite the presence of a trench box on the jobsite.

A previous complaint concerning the absence of a trench box had been received against LaTulippe Construction; however, the company had informed OSHA that such protection was now in place. As a result of OSHAÆs investigation, a willful citation was issued against the company for lack of collapse protection; the citation carries a $28,000 fine.

Further violations resulted in three serious citations and $1,650 in additional fines. A serious violation is defined as a condition in which there is a substantial possibility that death or serious physical harm can result to an employee. These violations included the worker in the trench lacking head protection against falling debris; two excavators and a pile of excavated soil reportedly located within two feet of the trench's edge; and the absence of a ladder or other swift means of worker exit from the trench in case of emergency.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations to request and participate in an informal OSHA conference. Alternately, they may contest the citations before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

San Antonio District OSHA Office Opens

OSHA has opened a new district office in San Antonio, TX, to serve the Austin-San Antonio area. Previously, local employers and workers had to contact OSHA's Austin office to report workplace accidents and fatalities. The new district office as a result of San AntonioÆs recent ranking as the eighth largest city in the United States with more than 1.5 million residents.

OSHA has also been working with the Mexican Consulate's Office and various Hispanic worker advocacy groups to better address the needs of San Antonio's Hispanic population. OSHA's San Antonio district office is located at 800 Dolorosa St., Suite 203, and can be reached at 210-472-5040.

Neiman Marcus Receives OSHA Fine

An Austin, TX, Neiman Marcus store is the subject of $93,500 in proposed OSHA fines for allowing employees to work in a compacting machine while it was still running.

OSHA issued an alleged willful violation to Neiman Marcus Last Call for failing to enforce "lockout/tagout" procedures before employees entered the compacting machine. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with intentional disregard of or plain indifference to the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

The alleged serious violations include failing to provide written lockout procedures, failing to maintain the guarding feature on the compacting machine, failing to train employees to perform lockout procedures, and failing to protect employees from electrical hazards, such as not providing a cover on an electrical box. A serious violation is defined as one in which there is substantially probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

Neiman Marcus has 15 working days from the receipt of the citations to comply, or request and participate in an informal conference with OSHA's Austin area director. Alternately, the company may contest the citations and penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

OSHA Develops Video Highlighting Small Businesses

 Six companies share their stories and practical guidance about successful and effective safety and health management systems. John Henshaw, OSHA Administrator, and Hector Barreto, SBA's Administrator are featured in the production. The video is available for download from OSHA's website.

Bureau of Labor Statistics Releases 2003 Workplace Fatality Data

The rate of workplace fatalities last year remained at the same level as 2002-4.0 per 100,000, the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this month.  Henshaw also noted that fatalities among Hispanic workers dropped notably for the second straight year, following several years of increases.

OSHA, Builders Group to Promote Workplace Safety

Representatives of the Panhandle of Texas Chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America and OSHA recently signed a voluntary agreement aimed at promoting health and safety in the workplace.

This type of agreement has grown more common in recent years. According to Richard Tapio, area director with the Lubbock OSHA office, of the 66 federal area offices, about half have partnerships with local AGC chapters.

He also noted that all AGC chapters in the Lubbock - El Paso territory are now working under the same agreement. The agreement requires contractors to report injuries and violations to the Panhandle chapter.