What’s on OSHA’s Agenda

May 08, 2006


OSHA publishes its regulatory agenda, which identifies pending changes in the regulations, every six months. The following are among the proposals in the current agenda, which was published on April 24:


Hazard Communication Standard: OSHA is considering modifying its HCS to make it consistent with the GHS. This would involve changing the criteria for classifying health and physical hazards, adopting standardized labeling requirements, and requiring a standardized order of information for safety data sheets.


Occupational Exposure to Crystalline Silica: The current PEL for construction and maritime (derived from ACGIH's 1962 Threshold Limit Value) is based on particle counting technology, which is considered obsolete. NIOSH and ACGIH recommend a 50ug/m3 exposure limit for respirable crystalline silica.


Occupational Exposure to Beryllium: OSHA published a Request for Information to solicit information pertinent to occupational exposure to beryllium including: current exposures to beryllium; the relationship between exposure to beryllium and the development of adverse health effects; exposure assessment and monitoring methods; exposure control methods; and medical surveillance. The Agency conducted field surveys of selected work sites to assess current exposures and control methods being used to reduce employee exposures to beryllium. OSHA is using this information to develop a proposed rule addressing occupational exposure to beryllium.


Cranes and Derricks: 20 CFR 1926 Subpart N hazards associated with various types of hoisting equipment used at construction sites.. The existing rule, which dates back to 1971, is based in part on industry consensus standards from 1958, 1968, and 1969. There have been considerable technological changes since those consensus standards were developed. Industry consensus standards for derricks and for crawler, truck and locomotive cranes were updated as recently as 1995. OSHA determined that the existing rule needs to be revised.


Emergency Response and Preparedness: Emergency responder health and safety is currently regulated primarily under the following standards: the fire brigade standard (29 CFR 1910.156); hazardous waste operations and emergency response (29 CFR 1910.120); the respiratory protection standard (29 CFR 1910.134); the permit-required confined space standard (29 CFR 1910.146); and the bloodborne pathogens standard (29 CFR 1910.1030). Some of these standards were promulgated decades ago and none were designed as comprehensive emergency response standards. They do not address the full range of hazards or concerns currently facing emergency responders, nor do they reflect major changes in performance specifications for protective clothing and equipment. Current OSHA standards also do not reflect all the major developments in safety and health practices that have already been accepted by the emergency response community and incorporated into National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and American National Standards Institute consensus standards. OSHA will be collecting information to evaluate what action the agency should take.


Other Standards: Several other standards are addressed in the current agenda, including confined spaces, electric power transmission, explosives, hearing conservation, and rollover protective structures. 



North American Safety and Health Week


OSHA, the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), and the Canadian Society of Safety Engineering (CSSE), kicked off North American Occupational Safety and Health Week (NAOSH) which aims to increase public awareness on the importance of workplace safety for young workers. The event-which ran April 30 through May 6-supports OSHA's Alliance with ASSE to advance a culture of prevention while sharing best practices and technical knowledge.

"This is the perfect opportunity to focus on our efforts to help our most vulnerable workers – young people – many of whom will begin their first jobs this spring or summer," said Edwin G. Foulke, Jr., Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA. "Together, we will address ways to provide youth, their parents and their employers with the tools they need to protect our next generation of workers."

"Most young people entering the workplace are not as sensitive to risks associated with the job as they should be," ASSE President Jack Dobson, Jr., CSP, said. "It is vitally important that we get this information out and into the hands of the folks that need it, such as young workers. Employers should also help new workers understand risks associated with the job and their responsibilities in minimizing or eliminating these risks while performing their jobs."

Held each May, NAOSH Week is a joint venture among the United States, Canada and Mexico that raises awareness of occupational safety, health and environmental programs among employers, employees and the public. The goal is to focus the attention of employers, employees, and all partners in occupational safety, health and the environment on the importance of preventing injury and illness in the workplace; to increase the understanding of the benefits of investment in occupational safety and health; and to encourage new health, safety and environmental activities.

Organizations that will be actively supporting NAOSH week include the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses, Inc., (AAOHN), the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), Independent Electrical Contractors, Inc., American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA), and the Precision Metalforming Association (PMA).

Founded in 1911, the non-profit ASSE is committed to protecting people, property and the environment. It is the oldest and largest global professional safety organization with more than 30,000 occupational safety, health and environmental professional members.

OSHA Recognizes Hunter Douglas Window Fashions


OSHA recognized Hunter Douglas Window Fashions of Broomfield, Colo., for continued exemplary achievement in its workplace safety and health program at the company's plant.

Under its Voluntary Protection Program (VPP), OSHA presented the window blind manufacturing plant with its highest award, the VPP Star, for the second time.

"This VPP Star award recognizes Hunter Douglas's efforts to maintain a sustained level of high performance in its employee safety and health program," said Greg Baxter, OSHA regional administrator in Denver. "Receiving the award is a tremendous accomplishment by itself, but receiving it the second time illustrates this company's commitment to continual improvement and its dedication to excellence."

A VPP Star site maintains employee injury and illness rates below the national average for its industry and meets all the safety and health program elements for the VPP program, which far exceed minimum OSHA standards.

Brad Baptiste, OSHA VPP manager in Denver, presented the VPP award to plant representatives at the ceremony. Hunter Douglas's safety and health program has many aspects considered "best practices," he said. "The site has tremendous employee involvement systems, excellent pre-task planning procedures and an extremely thorough energy control program to protect employees."

VPP offers employers a unique opportunity to move beyond traditional safety programs by recognizing participants that successfully incorporate world-class, comprehensive safety and health management systems. The program is open to deserving employers in any industry.

Requirements for application to the VPP, which has approximately 1,450 sites in the country, include demonstrating a high degree of management support and employee involvement, a high-quality worksite hazard analysis, effective hazard prevention and control programs, and a comprehensive safety and health training program for all employees. Each of these elements must be effective and in operation for at least one year before applying to join the program.

For additional information on VPP in Region 8, contact Brad Baptiste, OSHA VPP manager, at (720) 264-6555 in Denver.



Northeast Environmental Solutions Cited for Worker Death


An Amherst, Mass., contractor faces $48,000 in fines from OSHA following the death of a worker at a Belchertown worksite. T.L.C. d/b/a Northeast Environmental Solutions was cited for one alleged willful and two alleged serious violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act following the Nov. 15, 2005, accident at 425 Warren Wright Rd.

A company employee was killed when he became caught in the rotating parts of a mulching machine while trying to clear a jam. OSHA's inspection found that employees were allowed to clear such jams while the machinery was operational instead of first shutting it down and isolating its power source.

"The hazard of clearing jams while the machinery was operating was clearly recognizable, yet the employer took no steps to ensure that the proper safeguards were in place and in use," said Mary Hoye, OSHA's area director for central and western Massachusetts. "This case provides the starkest example of what can happen when safe work practices are not followed."

As a result, OSHA issued the company a willful citation, with a proposed fine of $42,000, for failing to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards in that employees while clearing jams were exposed to being caught in the machine's rotating augers and agitators.

The company was also issued two serious citations, with $6,000 in proposed fines, for not instructing employees in the recognition and avoidance of unsafe conditions and for not using a safety bar to support a raised hydraulic door on the truck which contained the mulching machinery.

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.

Motorola Earns OSHA "Star" for Workplace Safety and Health


Motorola's Elma, N.Y., manufacturing plant has earned membership in OSHA’s prestigious "Star" Voluntary Protection Program (VPP).

"Our review of Motorola's safety and health management programs at this site found them consistent with the high quality expected of VPP participants," said Gordon DeLeys, OSHA's compliance assistance specialist for western New York, who presented a VPP flag at a ceremony held. "With illness and injury rates well below industry averages, this plant now joins an elite corps of 1,400 workplaces nationwide that have achieved VPP status."

The Elma plant manufactures various automotive electronic components. Its "Star" designation came after an OSHA team's thorough on-site review of its application and safety and health programs, interviews with employees and a complete tour of the worksite.

In qualifying for "Star" status, the plant verified that it had implemented programs and procedures beyond the requirements of OSHA standards with extensive involvement by both management and workers. Its written safety and health management system effectively addresses worksite hazards by identifying and tracking them to ensure their correction and control. Its safety and health training programs ensure that employees and contractors understand occupational hazards and how to control them.

Among its areas of excellence are the extensive use of emergency stop controls, pressure sensing mats, light curtains and other safeguards to reduce machine guarding hazards, and frequent job rotation to reduce the potential for ergonomic injuries.


Worker Protection Partnership Formed for Sprint Center Project


Preventing fatalities and serious injuries at the Sprint Center construction project in downtown Kansas City is the goal of a cooperative partnership among OSHA, M. A. Mortenson Company (Mortenson), and The Builders' Association.

This partnership of labor, management, trade associations and OSHA will implement all facets of job safety, including self-directed compliance oversight, during the construction of this seven-level, 693,000 square foot sports complex.

"The partnership seeks to provide a safe and healthful work environment for employees involved in the construction project and to help prevent serious accidents and fatalities at the site," said Charles E. Adkins, certified industrial hygienist and regional administrator for OSHA in Kansas City. "These objectives will be accomplished through increased training, implementation of best work practices, enhanced safety and health programs, and compliance with applicable OSHA standards and regulations."

"Our involvement with the OSHA Strategic Partnership Program has provided an avenue for proactive involvement with agency representatives in our health and safety efforts," said M. A. Mortenson, Jr., president of M.A. Mortenson Company of Minneapolis, Minnesota. "Including OSHA as a partner is a logical extension of our company's value and commitment to jobsite safety as a core business process. We welcome OSHA and The Builders' Association to our safety team."

Phil Shoemaker, director of Safety and Health Services for The Builders' Association, added, "The OSHA Partnership Program has proven to be effective at enhancing the safety and health of construction workers, as evidenced through our experience with the Build Safe Partnership Program. Through this program, member companies have reduced significantly the number of fatalities, injuries and illnesses by sharing the best practices in safety and health management at construction sites."

Cave-In Results in OSHA Fines


A Wakefield, Mass., contractor faces $27,000 in fines from OSHA following a trench cave-in at a Hingham jobsite that injured a worker.

On Nov. 28, 2005, an employee of Nardone Inc. was installing a drainage pipe in a 13-foot deep trench when its unprotected sidewall collapsed, burying him up to his chest. The accident took place at Ridgewood Crossing, a residential housing development under construction in Hingham.

"While it's fortunate this worker was not killed, this incident illustrates the force and weight with which a trench's unprotected walls can collapse onto workers before they have a chance to react or escape," said Brenda Gordon, OSHA's area director for Boston and southeastern Massachusetts. "The hazard of working in an unprotected trench was clearly recognizable, yet nothing was done to prevent it. This accident should not have happened."

OSHA's inspection found that the trench wall was not shored, sloped at a shallow angle or otherwise protected against collapse. Piles of excavated soil were stored near the trench's edge and no ladder was present in the trench to provide safe entry and exit. In addition, employees were not trained to recognize trenching hazards and the trench was not inspected by a competent person, one with the knowledge to spot hazards and the authority to correct them.

As a result, Nardone Inc. was issued one willful citation and fined $21,000, for the lack of cave-in protection. The other conditions resulted in the issuance of four serious citations, with $6,000 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. 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.

OSHA standards require that all excavations five feet or deeper be protected against collapse. 

Northern Metal Fab Fined $178,500 for Several Safety Violations


OSHA has proposed $178,500 in fines against metal fabricator Northern Metal Fab Inc., following an inspection at the company's Baldwin, Wis., facility.

OSHA opened a complaint inspection at Northern Metal Fab after receiving information alleging the use of unsafe cranes and hazardous conditions in confined spaces and a paint spray booth. The federal workplace safety agency initiated a formal inspection in November 2005, resulting in citations for three alleged willful and 20 alleged serious violations of OSHA standards.

Willful citations alleged that the company did not have procedures for summoning rescue and emergency services when employees entered permit-required confined spaces; failed to conduct frequent inspection of its cranes, and operated a 20-ton overhead crane with a broken sheave wheel. Serious violations addressed machine guarding deficiencies, lockout/tagout failures, electrical issues, confined space violations and other hazards.

"Any one of these violations has the potential to cause serious harm, even death, to workers," said OSHA Area Director Mark Hysell, Eau Claire, Wis. "Any work involving confined spaces requires the ability to summon emergency responders immediately should incidents occur. Employees painting in spray booths and operating overhead cranes and other industrial equipment are performing inherently dangerous work, and there are federal standards in place for their protection."

OSHA has conducted four inspections at Northern Metal Fab over the past eight years, issuing citations for violations of workplace safety and health regulations involving lockout/tagout, confined space, respiratory protection, and machine guarding in 1997. A 2001 inspection also revealed lockout/tagout issues. Lockout/tagout procedures are required to render machinery inoperable during maintenance and repair.

NIEHS Director Celebrates One Year Anniversary: Unveils New Strategic Plan for Environmental Health Sciences



One year into his role as the Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of the National Institutes of Health, David A. Schwartz, M.D., unveils a new strategic plan aimed at challenging and energizing the scientific community to use environmental health sciences to understand the causes of disease and to improve human health. The plan, "New Frontiers in Environmental Sciences and Human Health" fundamentally changes the way NIEHS approaches research. Traditionally, NIEHS has supported individual scientists whose work focused on either basic biological responses to environmental agents or environmental problems in public health. The new strategy emphasizes research focused on complex human disease, and calls for inter-disciplinary teams of scientists to investigate a broad spectrum of disease factors, including environmental agents, genetics, age, diet, and activity levels. Recent advances in technology make this emphasis on human health and new integrative approach possible.


"Given that almost every human disease can be caused, modified, or altered by environmental agents, the NIEHS is in a unique position to focus on the interplay between exposures and biological responses," said Dr. Schwartz. "This document builds on the strengths of the institute, but redefines our focus and maximizes our use of new technologies like gene mapping, high throughput toxicity screening and computer-aided imaging. This provides a framework for enhancing our ability to respond to new challenges in biomedical research and to have an even greater impact on human health."


Dr. Schwartz cites the Institute's work in the areas of genetic toxicity, inflammation, oxidative stress, as well as its contribution to improved public health as examples of its strengths.


The plan identifies seven major goals for NIEHS to achieve while also identifying some of the major challenges confronting the field. The concept of enhancing "integrative research" was identified as one of the major challenges. Another major challenge the Institute will address is ensuring that NIEHS research focuses on diseases known to have a strong environmental component.


The seven interrelated goals established in the new NIEHS Strategic Plan focus around four critical elements including basic research, human health and disease, global environmental health, and training. The goals are:

  • Expand the role of clinical research in environmental health sciences.
  • Use environmental toxicants to understand basic mechanisms in human biology.
  • Build integrated environmental health research programs to address the crosscutting problems in human biology and human disease.
  • Improve and expand community-linked research.
  • Develop sensitive markers of environmental exposure, early (pre-clinical) biological response, and genetic susceptibility.
  • Recruit and train the next generation of environmental health scientists.
  • Foster the development of partnerships between the NIEHS and other NIH institutes, national and international research agencies, academia, industry, and community organizations to improve human health.


Each of the broad goals includes examples of necessary steps for achievement. For example, to strengthen the institute's role in clinical research, NIEHS will encourage the training of more Ph.D.s and physicians to conduct and/or support this type of integrated research.


 It includes input from a national web survey, active participation of 90 individuals during a two-day Strategic Planning Forum in October, 2005, followed by discussions with members of the NIEHS Public Interest Liaison Group, numerous opportunities for public review and comment on draft documents, and much input from NIEHS staff and members of the NIEHS National Advisory Environmental Health Sciences Council (NAEHSC).


Frederica Perera, Dr.PH, Professor of Environmental Health Sciences and Director of the Colombia Center for Children's Environmental Health at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health and Gerald Wogan, Ph.D., Underwood Prescott Professor of Toxicology Emeritus and Professor at Chemistry Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Chairs of the Strategic Planning Forum last Fall in Chapel Hill, both expressed how pleased they were with the candid and thoughtful process the NIEHS used to engage so many voices in the process.


"The process used by NIEHS to develop this plan is the kind of interdisciplinary approach that we need to follow on a daily basis to do good science," said Perera. "By having toxicologists, molecular biologists, epidemiologists, environmental health scientists, and physicians talk to one another regularly and collaborate on cutting edge research, we will get the answers we need."


The NIEHS has already begun implementing some new programs to meet its goals and objectives. The establishment of the Outstanding New Environmental Scientist program, to be awarded to at least six recipients for the first time this year will help to bring talented new scientists to the field. The NIEHS is also planning to develop an outpatient clinical research unit at its facility in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.


Another major area identified as critical is the need to develop sensitive, quantitative markers to assess levels of environmental exposures at the individual level.

To ensure a more integrated approach to research, the NIEHS has developed an Office of Translational Research and has initiated several new opportunities in integrated research. NIEHS has recently announced the Director's Challenge for in-house scientists and a new research program called DISCOVER (Disease Investigation for Specialized Clinically Oriented Ventures in Environmental Research) for scientists outside NIEHS. Both the Director's Challenge and the DISCOVER program are designed to support teams of researchers focused on integrating environmental health research with patient-oriented and population-based studies.


Another goal articulated in the plan includes fostering the development of partnerships with other Institutes, agencies, academia, industry and community organizations.


"I am pleased to see that advocacy groups will continue to have a voice at the NIEHS," said Lisa M. Greenhill, Associate Executive Director for Diversity, Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, and a member of the NAEHSC. "Forming partnerships early on and sustaining those relationships with community members will enhance the design of many of the research projects NIEHS is undertaking."


"We see this plan as an evolving document that reflects the current collective thinking about the direction the field of environmental sciences needs to go," said Dr. Schwartz. "We will continue to have open and frank discussions with members of the public, researchers, community advocates, and practitioners as we set priorities and take advantage of new opportunities that may come our way."



Tennessee Proclaims May Safe Jobs for Youth


According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 200,000 adolescents are injured in the workplace every year and 70 are killed on the job. The Tennessee Division of Labor Standards investigates approximately 1,600 of these types of cases annually. That’s why Governor Bredesen has proclaimed May, Safe Jobs for Youth Month in Tennessee. The Tennessee departments of Labor and Workforce Development and Education are teaming up to reach students and employers across the state to prevent workplace injuries and deaths.


“It is critical that we provide teens and employers with the necessary materials to educate themselves about the child labor laws,” said Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen. “We expect to reach more than 2,000 employers and thousands of teenagers in high schools across the state with this campaign and help eliminate injuries and deaths of Tennessee teens in the workplace.

“During Safe Jobs for Youth Month and throughout the year employers and adolescent workers should always consider safety first,” said Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner James Neeley. “Employers are usually to blame for minors getting hurt on the job, and the fines can range from $150 to $1,000.”


Last year Labor and Workforce Development produced an award winning public affairs program taking viewers on a CSI-style ride into the case files of child labor investigations. The video will be distributed to high schools across the state by the Department of Education. The video is also available to community and business groups.


"Students across Tennessee will benefit from these educational materials on safety in the workplace," said Commissioner Lana Seivers. "Both students and their employers need the best possible information to enjoy a fruitful summer on the job."


Beginning this month, the TDLWD’s Employer Service Specialists will inform Tennessee’s employers of the child labor laws and the dangers that can harm adolescents at work. The specialists will distribute a fact sheet, a copy of the child labor law poster and show employers a 10-minute version of the child labor video during the Workforce Employer Outreach Meetings throughout the summer months.


To request a presentation from the division of Labor Standards or the free 30 minute award winning video on child labor laws please call (615) 532-1347.



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