April 04, 2002

The National Safety Council's Air Bag & Seat Belt Safety Campaign applauded Washington Governor Gary Locke for signing HB 1460, a bill that allows police officers to ticket a driver solely for not wearing a seat belt. Washington becomes the 18th state, as well as the District of Columbia, to enact such a strong law.

"The state of Washington has a long, proud history as being a leader in highway safety," said Chuck Hurley, Executive Director of the Air Bag & Seat Belt Safety Campaign and Vice President of the National Safety Council's Transportation Safety Group. "With a strong commitment from law enforcement, this law can help redefine excellence in highway safety. Washington should be a model for other states to achieve high seat belt use.

"The difference between Washington's current belt use rates and high belt use rates can often be measured in teenagers. This law will increase seat belt use by teenagers and will thus reduce the number of teenagers that die in motor vehicle crashes in Washington," said Hurley.

Washington safety officials predict that as many as 36 lives will be saved in Washington alone as a result of primary seat belt this year alone. In 2000, 107 teens died in traffic crashes in Washington.

"Collisions are also costly to society," Governor Locke said, noting a recent Harborview Medical Center study that indicated 1,865 unbuckled crash victims had to be hospitalized for their injuries in 1999 when a seat belt would have prevented their hospitalization. According to the preliminary findings of the study, unbuckled Washington motorists count for $51 million per year in preventable hospital costs.

"In addition to these cost savings, we anticipate that Washington will receive an estimated $1.5 million per biennium in federal traffic safety grants due to increased safety belt use," Locke said.

A crash study by the University of California, Irvine, published in the journal Pediatrics found: "Driver restraint use was the strongest predictor of child restraint use. A restrained driver was three times more likely to restrain a child." Additionally, a national observational study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that when a driver is buckled, children are buckled 87 percent of the time. However, when a driver is unbuckled, children are restrained only 24 percent of the time.


The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has announced the release of its first interactive multimedia-training program. "Haul Road and Dump Site Berms" is a state-of-the-art DVD developed by MSHA to assist miners and mine operators in their safety training.

"The DVD program is just the first of hopefully many vehicles to help us meet the challenge of training miners well into the future," said Dave Lauriski, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. "Students can navigate through its segments as a class or in a self-paced mode. Its flexibility and interactive features help reinforce a positive and effective learning environment."

The DVD addresses specific hazards and preventive measures associated with surface haul road and dump site accidents and fatalities. Videos, still photos and discussion topics identify critical surface haulage safety information. Also included are best practices and safety tips, federal standards and policies, and a 10-question multiple-choice quiz to evaluate the program's effectiveness with each user. 

Between 1996 and 2000, surface haulage accidents accounted for more than one-quarter of all mine fatalities and nearly 40 percent of surface mine fatalities. Haulage trucks were involved in more than 35 percent of the accidents, and most deaths were linked to failure to maintain machinery in safe working order.

To order the "Haul Road and Dump Site Berms" DVD program or to request a catalog of other MSHA-approved training materials, contact the National Mine Health and Safety Academy at (304) 256-3257.


The third annual National Highway Work Zone Safety Week begins April 8, 2002, with an 11 a.m. kickoff event at a work zone site at the I-95/I-495 Interchange at Ritchie Marlboro Road in Prince George's County, Maryland.

Under the banner of "Roadways Keep America Moving -- Drive Safely in Work Zones," the event features the unveiling of a memorial wall in honor of those who lost their lives in highway work zones.

Deaths and injuries among highway workers and others in construction work zones on U.S. highways represent a growing problem, according to the Federal Highway Administration. In 2000, there were an estimated 1,093 fatalities in work zones.

To prevent crashes, motorists are urged to remain alert and pay careful attention, minimize distractions, avoid changing lanes, keep up with the traffic flow, turn on headlights, avoid tailgating and speeding, expect the unexpected, and be patient.

The Work Zone Safety Awareness Week Program began in December 1999 when a joint cooperative effort was formed to highlight the dangers that both workers and motorists face within highway work zones. Included in that effort is OSHA, the Federal Highway Administration, the American Traffic Safety Services Association, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the Association General Contractors, the American Road and Transportation Builders, and more than twenty other groups.


An explosion and fire at a New Haven, Conn., plastics manufacturer and its apparent failure to adequately address safety issues involving a hazardous chemical has resulted in proposed fines of more than $33,000 against the company.

OSHA has cited Saint Gobain Performance Plastics, Inc. for alleged repeat and serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act at its 407 Main Street plant.

OSHA began its inspection on Jan. 23, after the New Haven fire marshal notified the agency about an explosion and fire that occurred in the plant's coating department while employees were splicing together rolls of coated fiberglass cloth. The coating operation uses large amounts of toluene, a flammable and toxic chemical.

"Our inspection found that the company had no written procedures instructing workers on how to safely perform the splicing," said Robert W. Kowalski, OSHA area director in Bridgeport. "OSHA's process safety management standard requires that employers establish and use such procedures for any process that involves large quantities of toxic, flammable, reactive or explosive chemicals."

As a result OSHA has cited the company for an alleged repeat violation and proposed a fine of $17,500. A second repeat citation, with a $12,500 proposed fine, was issued for inadequate hazard analysis, because the company did not include sampling for toluene when assessing the need for respirators for employees working in the coating department.

A repeat citation is issued when a substantially similar violation has been cited during a previous OSHA inspection and that citation has become final. Citations had previously been issued at this location in May 1999, when the facility was operating under the name FURON.

The company also faces a $3,500 fine for an alleged serious violation for obstructed ventilation in one work area. A serious violation is defined by OSHA as one in which there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew, or should have known, of the hazard.

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.