OSHA Posts Fatality Logs Online

September 21st, 2015

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Wednesday unveiled a new Web site that lists fatality and catastrophe reports by companies across the nation.

The federal agency keeps logs of all of the reported worker fatalities and work place incidents that result in the injury of more than three workers. It keeps weekly lists of the incidents along with short synopses of how the injuries or deaths occurred.

The OSHA fatality log website has full logs that are updated each week.

The online database gives companies an incentive to take steps to avoid such accidents, and gives safety directors access to information that identifies common hazards around the country, according to the OSHA announcement.

3M 8000 Respirator Recall From Cal OSHA

September 1st, 2015

News report about the recall of 3M 8000 respirators made reference to the “8000 series respirator.” That term has triggered a deluge of questions to Cal/OSHA about whether other 3M respirators are affected by the recall, which was ordered when health-care employers reported an unacceptably high failure rate during fit tests.

Only the 8000 series are affected on the State Respirator Recall. For instance, Craig Brown, senior industrial hygienist for the VHA Center for Engineering & Occupational Safety and Health in Pittsburgh, Pa., notes that there are several sub-series of the 3M 8000 N95 respirators with different face molds, such as 8210, 8211, 8511, 8612, 8670 and more. These are not affected by the recall.

The only respirators that have been recalled are the model 8000, says DOSH Senior Safety Engineer Deborah Gold. “Other 8000 series N95 respirators are not affected by the alert,” she says.

OSHA Hires 130 New Workplace Inspectors

July 16th, 2015

OSHA Steps Up the Pace with new hiring plans.

The federal agency has announced a number of regulatory priorities, including a request to hire 130 more OSHA inspectors. With states increasing their enforcement activities as well, HR leaders should ensure documentation and safety procedures are up to date. A safety audit could help locate deficiencies, experts say.

This year will be no time for slacking on the workplace-safety front, as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration continues an enforcement policy that’s far more activist than during the Bush administration.

The Obama administration is seeking an additional $50 million from Congress to finance the hiring of 130 additional OSHA inspectors. Meanwhile, the agency has announced a number of regulatory priorities that include initiatives to protect workers from exposure to airborne diseases such as severe acute respiratory syndrome, updated regulations for crane and derrick safety, and updated rules for protecting workers from exposure to crystalline silica dust.

OSHA also plans to develop a comprehensive standard that addresses combustible dust, which was responsible for a 2008 explosion at an Imperial Sugar refinery in Georgia that killed 14 workers.

Some of the initiatives, particularly the proposed combustible-dust standard, are opposed by industry groups. Organizations such as the National Association of Manufacturers contend that a combustible-dust standard is unnecessary because existing OSHA regulations are sufficient.

Ashley Brightwell, a labor and employment attorney at Alston & Bird in Atlanta who closely follows OSHA, says the Obama administration wants OSHA to become more aggressive.

“There was a perception that a lot of employers didn’t take OSHA seriously in terms of enforcement and standard-setting,” she says. “OSHA came under a lot of criticism that it was too lenient.”

The agency’s recent actions may already be changing that perception, including the record-setting $87 million fine it levied against BP last October for what it said was the company’s failure to correct hazards that led to an explosion at its Texas City, Texas, refinery killing 15 employees.

Among other activities, OSHA is also putting together a special training program for its compliance officers to focus on employers that report low injury rates in high-injury rate industries and is re-evaluating its policies, concerned that current fines and penalties are too low, says Brightwell.

Labor groups such as the AFL-CIO have long complained that the punishments levied against employers for safety violations are insufficient. Bills have been introduced in the U.S. House and Senate that would amend the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (the law that created OSHA) to substantially increase the penalties for violations.

OSHA is also becoming increasingly reluctant to bargain with employers over the violations, she says.

“In the past, employers have often been successful in getting ‘willful violations’ downgraded to ‘unclassified,’ which makes the settlement much more palatable for the employer,” says Brightwell, because fines are usually reduced and criminal charges are not filed.
“But OSHA has gone on record as saying that from now on, unclassified violations will be granted much less frequently than in the past,” she says.

Greg Dale, a partner at Baker & Daniels in Indianapolis, says state safety agencies are also stepping up their enforcement activities due, at least in part, to federal pressure.

“There’s been quite an increase in compliance enforcement and less focus on cooperative programs between safety agencies and employers,” he says.

Considering that stepped-up enforcement by OSHA and its state counterparts will be a fact of life for the foreseeable future, Dale advises HR leaders to ensure their organizations’ safety and training records are updated regularly. HR leaders should also require periodic reviews of safety processes as well as safety audits.

“Having a mock OSHA inspection, in which an outside safety consultant comes in and reviews their operations, will ensure companies get an independent viewpoint on their safety processes,” he says.

Brightwell agrees that HR would be wise to prepare for stepped-up OSHA inspections.

In addition, HR should ensure that key employees understand the importance of updating required documentation and know who to call should an OSHA inspector have additional questions.

“Make sure your employees are prepared for when those compliance officers walk through the door,” she says. “Lots of employers don’t think about OSHA until they’re actually there.”

OSHA Public Hearing on New Hazcom Workplace Rule

July 7th, 2015

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration will hold three informal public hearings to accept comments and testimony on the proposed rule to align the agency’s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) with the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS).

The first hearing will begin in the auditorium of the U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20210. Additional hearings are scheduled in Pittsburgh and April 13 in Los Angeles. OSHA will provide the location for the Pittsburgh and Los Angeles hearings in a future notice.

A number of countries, including the United States, and international organizations participated in developing the GHS to address inconsistencies in hazard classification and communications. The system provides a single, harmonized system to classify chemicals, labels and safety data sheets with the primary benefit of increasing the quality and consistency of information provided to workers, employers and chemical users.

Those interested in attending the hearings must provide a notice of intention to appear by the filing date. Notices may be submitted through the Federal eRulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov. Notices can also be submitted by regular mail to the OSHA Docket Office, Docket No. OSHA-H022K-2006-0062, U.S. Department of Labor, Room N-2625, 200 Constitution Ave., Washington, D.C. 20210. Submissions not exceeding 10 pages can be faxed to the OSHA Docket Office at 202-693-1648.

Technical inquiries should be directed to Maureen Ruskin, OSHA, Office of Chemical Hazards-Metals, 202-693-1950. Press inquiries should be directed to Jennifer Ashley, OSHA, Office of Communications, 202-693-1999.

Department of Labor Increases Budget To Fight Workplace Fraud

June 17th, 2015

DOL Budget Boosts Labor Funds to Combat Workplace Fraud

The Obama administration has proposed $14 billion to fund Labor Department divisions pertaining to work force development and safety, among other initiatives. Several Labor Department divisions, including the Employee Benefits Administration, Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Wage and Hour Division, among others, saw moderate increases to their fiscal unit budgets.

In an online chat Monday following the budget’s release, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said the department would seek to allocate $1.7 billion for worker protection programs—an increase of roughly $69 million—and also hire about 177 new inspectors and investigators.
“Today’s budget affirms this administration’s strong commitment to vigorous enforcement,” Ms. Solis said in a recorded video message. She added, “OSHA received over 100 inspectors in our federal budget, as well as an additional 25 requested last year. We are also moving 35 inspectors from compliance assistance activities to enforcement.”

From the Wall Street Journal.

OSHA Releases Workplace Injury and Illness Data

June 8th, 2015

Every year since 1996 the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has collected work-related injury and illness data from more than 80,000 employers. For the first time, the agency has made the data from 1996 to 2007 available in a searchable online database, allowing the public to look at establishment or industry-specific injury and illness data. The workplace injury and illness data is available online at OSHA.gov at as well as Data.gov.

OSHA uses the data to calculate injury and illness incidence rates to guide its strategic management plan and to focus its Site Specific Targeting (SST) Program, which the agency uses to target its inspections.

“Making injury and illness information available to the public is part of OSHA’s response to the administration’s commitment to make government more transparent to the American people,” said David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA. “This effort will improve the public’s accessibility to workplace safety and health data and ensure the Agency can function more effectively for American workers.”

Information available at the Data.gov and www.osha.gov websites includes an establishment’s name, address, industry, associated Total Case Rate (TCR), Days Away, Restricted, Transfer (DART) case rate, and the Days Away From Work (DAFWII) case rate. The data is specific to the establishments that provided OSHA with valid data through the 2008 data collection (collection of CY 2007 data). This database does not contain rates calculated by OSHA for establishments that submitted suspect or unreliable data.

Data.gov provides expanded public access to valuable workforce-related data generated by the Executive Branch of the federal government. Although the initial launch of Data.gov provides a limited portion of the rich variety of Federal datasets presently available, the public is invited to participate in shaping the future of Data.gov by suggesting additional datasets and site enhancements to provide seamless public access and use of federal data.

More information about the Department of Labor’s Open Government Web site is available at www.dol.gov/open where there are links to the latest data sets, ways to connect with Department staff, and information about providing public input that will make the Department’s site and its work more useful and engaging.

Cal/OSHA Reminds Employers to Post Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses

May 5th, 2014

The Department of Industrial Relations Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DIR/DOSH) reminds all California employees of their requirement to post at their place of business a list of job-related injuries and illnesses that occurred at the workplace during the last year. The list must be displayed from February 1 through April 30 for employee review.

The required Cal/OSHA Form 300A is available online at www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/.

Employers are required to use form 300A to report the number of injuries each year, even if no work-related injuries occurred. Read the rest of this entry »

Details About OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program

April 6th, 2014

OSHA announced a Severe Violator Enforcement Program today that will be in effect in 45 days and also said it is administratively raising the dollar value of its penalties, suggesting it would raise them higher still if it could.

“The current maximum penalty for a serious violation, one capable of causing death or serious physical harm, is only $7,000 and the maximum penalty for a willful violation is $70,000. The average penalty for a serious violation will increase from about $1,000 to an average $3,000 to $4,000,” OSHA’s news release stated. “Monetary penalties for violations of the OSHA Act have been increased only once in 40 years despite inflation. Read the rest of this entry »

Unethical Employers Hiding Workplace Injury Records To Avoid OSHA Fines

March 2nd, 2014

Dubious data clouds job safety gains

Executives at Smurfit-Stone Container Corp. were jubilant. The big packaging company, a self-proclaimed leader in workplace safety, had smashed its own record for lowest injury rates in its industry.

It was another milestone in Smurfit’s “incredible tradition of safety achievement,” said a February 2008 press release.

Yet the month before, Monterey County authorities filed criminal charges against two officials of a local Smurfit plant and a medical provider, accusing them of conspiring over several years to cover up injuries and discourage workers from filing workers compensation claims. The men pleaded not guilty, and the case is pending.
Read the rest of this entry »