What are OSHA Administrator Foulke’s Four Big Issues?

June 19, 2006


In his prepared remarks for last week’s meeting of the American Society of Safety Engineers, Foulke listed his “big” issues:

1. Hexavalent chromium
2. Pandemic flu preparedness
3. Global harmonization of classification and labeling of chemicals
4. Permissible exposure limits





OSHA Fines Contractor for Cave-In Hazard

A lack of cave-in protection at a Keene, N.H. storm water catch basin installation site has resulted in a contractor being fined $40,200 by OSHA.

 The inspection found two employees working in a seven-foot deep excavation that lacked protection against a collapse of its sidewalls. Last August, OSHA cited and fined the company for a similar hazard at a Wolfeboro job site.

"This employer knows that all excavations five feet or deeper must be safeguarded against collapse yet failed to provide that required protection for this excavation," said Rosemarie Ohar, OSHA's New Hampshire area director. "This put the workers at risk of being crushed and buried beneath tons of soil if its unprotected sidewalls had caved in on them."

As a result, Perm-A-Drive was issued one willful citation and fined $35,000 for the lack of collapse protection. The company was also issued two serious citations, with $4,000 in fines, for no safe means of exiting the trench and an undermined sidewalk adjacent to the trench. A repeat citation, with a $1,200 fine, was issued for a steel chain sling that was not marked with its lifting capacity.

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. 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. A repeat citation is issued when an employer has previously been cited for a similar hazard and that citation has become final. 

OSHA Renews Alliance with American Society of Safety Engineers

The alliance was originally signed in December 2002 and renewed in June 2004.

"Our decision to enter into this formal agreement with ASSE in December 2002 has proven to be the right choice to produce results in our fight for workplace safety and health," said Foulke. "There is much more that we can achieve together. I look forward to the next two years of cooperation with this organization."

"ASSE is pleased to renew once more its alliance with OSHA," added Dobson. "The relationship that has steadily grown out of the alliance has resulted in greater participation of OSHA staff in safety and health professional activities, better communications between our members in the states and OSHA regional offices, more member involvement in OSHA's outreach to share knowledge about protecting workers, and greatly enhanced efforts to spread awareness of occupational safety and health through opportunities like NAOSH Week."

As a direct result of the alliance, local ASSE chapters are establishing alliances with local OSHA offices. For example, the ASSE's Granite State Chapter and Savannah Chapter formed local alliances last year with OSHA's Concord, N.H., and Atlanta and Savannah area offices, respectively. The alliance also resulted in a successful safety professionals' certification workshop at the ASSE conference last year, providing career development information for government employees in the safety, health and environmental fields.

While continuing to focus efforts on motor vehicle safety, ergonomic hazards, and musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), both organizations will address safety issues that affect non-English speakers and youth employees, and support the annual North American Occupational Safety and Health (NAOSH) Week.

New Look for OSHA Resource

 The guide was designed in a brochure format, rather than the standard magazine-style design, and provides a broad overview of OSHA and its operation. OSHA's mission, who is covered by OSHA, state programs, enforcement activities, standards setting, reporting requirements, cooperative programs, and whistleblower procedures are just some of the topics covered in the brochure.

Oregon OSHA cites Boise Cascade for Death of Worker

The Department of Consumer and Business Services, Occupational Safety and Health Division (Oregon OSHA) has cited Boise Cascade LLC for the death of a worker in the company’s wood products facility in Umatilla. The citation contains three alleged safety violations and assesses a proposed civil penalty of $142,500.



Gordon Cecil, 52, of Hermiston, was killed Dec. 16, 2005 while working in Boise Cascade’s Umatilla facility operating machines for converting waste wood into chips for use in a hog fuel burner. Cecil and a co-worker were using a piece of wood to poke at a clog in a chipping machine while the machine’s hood guard was raised. A safety interlock system on the machine did not allow use while the hood guard was raised; however, the employer had installed a bypass switch to permit operation of the chipping machine while the guard was raised or open. Shortly after hearing the clogged wood release inside the machine, Cecil ran away from the machine and was struck in the back of the head by a fragment of log ejected by the machine. He was pronounced dead at the scene.


Oregon OSHA began an investigation into the death. After nearly five months of employee interviews, research, and review of the employer’s safety and health management program, Oregon OSHA found that safety protocols designed to protect workers from serious injury had been bypassed with the knowledge of supervisors at the Umatilla facility.


Three violations of the Oregon Safe Employment Act were identified:

  • The employer did not supervise workers in safe operation of machinery at the facility. The investigation determined that workers had been instructed to raise the chipping machine’s hood guard, which was designed to protect workers from debris being ejected. Workers had been instructed to use a safety bypass switch on the machine to reduce production downtime when clearing wood jams in the machine. (Willful violation, $70,000 penalty.)
  • The employer did not take all reasonable means to require that employees did not displace safety guards on machines. A safety bypass switch was installed, defeating a manufacturer-installed safety interlock system to allow the chipper machine to operate when the hood guard was raised or open. The citation alleges that plant management encouraged the practice of unclogging the chipper while running with the hood guard open as the fastest method of removing a clog without delaying production. (Willful violation, $70,000 penalty.)
  • Lockout-tagout control procedures did not specifically instruct employees on a process for shutting down, securing, and isolating the chipping machine to protect employees from the equipment suddenly starting. (Serious violation, $2,500 penalty.)

Two violations are classified as “willful,” the highest level of Oregon OSHA violation, and the third is classified as “serious.” The civil penalty for each alleged willful violation is set at the discretion of the Oregon OSHA administrator, to a maximum of $70,000 per violation, while the penalty for the serious violation is based on the likelihood and severity of potential injuries resulting from that hazard.

Labor Department Secures Back Wages for Two Workers that Reported Safety Concerns

Two employees of Cannon Industries Inc. in Rochester, N.Y., fired nearly three years ago for reporting health and safety concerns, will be paid $35,000 in back wages as the result of a consent judgment secured by the U.S. Department of Labor.

The employees were fired in August 2003 after they informed the company and OSHA of their concerns about the safety of certain machines and chemicals used in the workplace. The workers filed a complaint with OSHA alleging their terminations violated whistleblower provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

OSHA's investigation upheld the complaint and the agency attempted to secure from the company reinstatement of the workers and back wages. When the company refused, Labor Department attorneys filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York. That complaint resulted in a consent judgment signed on May 31 by U.S. District Judge David G. Larimer.

"This judgment upholds employees' rights to raise safety and health issues with their employer and OSHA without fear of retaliation or termination," said Patricia K. Clark, OSHA regional administrator in New York. "When protected activity results in discharge or discrimination, OSHA will seek legal remedies for workers."

Additionally, the judgment prohibits officials of Cannon Industries from discriminating against workers who report safety and health complaints, requires company officials to post a workplace notice informing employees of the consent judgment and orders company officials to remove any references to discharge or suspension from the personnel files of the two workers who were fired.

Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act protects workers' right to file a complaint with OSHA or bring safety and health issues to the attention of their employer. 

MACOSH Committee Re-established

The Maritime Advisory Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (MACOSH) was re-established earlier this month. MACOSH advises OSHA on issues relating to occupational safety and health for employers and employees involved in shipbuilding, shipbreaking, ship repair and longshoring in the maritime industries. The Committee's charter will be filed on June 20. 

Hispanic Family Health and Safety Fair Set for June 25 in Rochester N.Y

 The fair will offer Spanish-language training sessions to identify and correct hazards in construction and general industry workplaces. Health screenings and child-friendly activities are planned. For more information, contact Kitren VanStrander at (585) 475-7054, or Gordon DeLeys at (716) 551-3053 x244.

Lightning Safety Awareness Week

 Although most lightning victims are struck outdoors, lightning poses a threat to those indoors as well.

If you are outdoors and see darkening skies or hear thunder, seek a sturdy, enclosed shelter immediately, such as a building or hardtop automobile. "Don't wait for rain to start falling to seek shelter from the storm—by then it could be too late," says John Jensenius, lightning expert with the NOAA National Weather Service. "Lightning causalities frequently occur before the rain begins and soon after the rain ends. Wait at least 30 minutes after the last sound of thunder before returning outside."

If you are indoors during a thunderstorm, try not to use corded appliances and electronics, such as computers and phones, or plumbing. Electrical wiring and pipes can provide a path for lightning to enter an enclosed structure.

"Lightning is a cunning and powerful force of nature. It is important to realize there are no guaranteed safe shelters—rather, only ways to reduce your chances of becoming a victim," adds Jensenius.

Last year in the United States, lightning was reported to have killed at least 48 people. On average, lightning is responsible for 66 fatalities annually. Additionally, hundreds of people are injured by lightning.

"Lightning survivors are often left with debilitating health effects, such as permanent nerve damage or brain injury," says Mary Ann Cooper, professor at the University of Illinois's department of emergency medicine.

 Both organizations are among the NOAA partners providing public information about lightning safety. Leon is featured in a new children's coloring page that can be printed from NOAA's lightning safety Web site.

North Carolina Isues Disaster Recovery Guide

 The guide will help official and community-based agencies work effectively together to rebuild from any future disasters. The guide will be presented Tuesday at a meeting in Raleigh of the Disaster Recovery Team, a coalition of state and local officials who helped identify and compile the resources.

“Over the years North Carolina has learned many valuable lessons about disaster recovery,” said Governor Mike Easley. “This guide, which will be continually updated, will help make sure that, if a disaster strikes, communities have the most up-to-date information on where to turn for assistance.”

The 135-page guide will help government and community leaders identify the people, agencies and resources to manage and lead recovery efforts. It provides a comprehensive overview of the roles, responsibilities and assistance programs that have been available in the past, from agriculture to volunteers. It covers dozens of federal, regional and state agencies and scores of national, state and local programs with the contact information to help identify and tap appropriate resources.

“Few of us specialize in disaster recovery,” Easley said. “But when disaster strikes, we all must have the tools we need to work together for the public good. This guide will help state and local leaders move quickly to help their communities.”