Noise Complaints Don’t Fall on Deaf Ears: OSHA Sets Out to End Workplace Noise Exposure and Related Hearing Loss

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Recently, OSHA, the Mine Safety and Health Administration and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health teamed up to compel inventors to develop a solution to workplace noise exposure and corollary hearing loss.  The trifecta endeavors to ameliorate the risk of hearing loss that 22 million workers face every year from workplace noise hazards. Employers are required to implement an effective hearing conservation program whenever worker noise exposure is equal to or greater than 85 dBA for an eight-hour exposure, or 90 dBA in the construction industry.  Noise controls are the first line of defense to preempt noise exposure and typically take one of three forms: (1) engineering controls; (2) administrative controls, and 3) hearing protection devices (HPDs).  Engineering controls involve modifying equipment or making changes to the noise ...
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Temporary Workers: Staffing Agencies Jointly Liable for OSHA Violations

77931833 Concerns employers may use temporary workers as a means to fill hazardous jobs and skirt compliance with OSHA regulations, has led to OSHA holding staffing agencies jointly responsible for safety violations when temporary workers are exposed to unsafe conditions. While the extent of staffing agency responsibilities are fact-specific—based upon the applicable regulations for the particular job and activity—what OSHA has made clear is that staffing agencies and employers are jointly responsible for ensuring OSHA compliance and that temporary workers have a safe place to work. OSHA has set up a section of their website specifically dealing with the protection of temporary workers. OSHA warns that all temporary staffing agencies and host employers should lay out each of their responsibilities clearly in their contacts with one another to ensure OSHA compliance. ...
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OSHA Penalty Increases About to Take Effect

Money in the hands of the people Near the end of 2015, the Department of Labor announced that OSHA would be making  numerous changes to its enforcement and policies for the year 2016 and beyond. Included amongst these changes is a dramatic increase in its monetary penalties for violations. OSHA’s penalties had previously remained unchanged since 1990. Pursuant to the federal budget signed into law on November 2, 2015, however, OSHA was authorized to increase its penalties by 78 percent. Additionally, OSHA will now continue to adjust its penalties for inflation on a yearly basis based upon the Consumer Price Index. These penalty increases are slated to take effect starting on August 1, 2016. After this date, any citations issued by OSHA will be governed by the new penalty structure, so long as the violation occurred after November 2, ...
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OSHA Enforcement Heats Up

iStock_000060649530_Medium OSHA officials have been busy as the weather heats up and spring turned to summer. On May 20, 2016, OSHA cited BC Stucco and Stone, a construction company in Darby, Pennsylvania, for one serious violation and three willful violations. The investigation dated back to November 25, 2015 when an OSHA compliance officer observed an employee working eighteen feet above ground on a scaffold without fall protection. The proposed penalties are $93,000. BS Stucco had also been previously cited on May 2, 2016 at their Philadelphia location. On May 31, 2016, OSHA issued citations to Evergreen Nursery in Statham, Georgia for eighteen serious safety violations. OSHA stated Evergreen exposed workers to electrical hazards, did not provide proper protective equipment, did not have a hazards communication program, and exposed workers to unguarded ...
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OSHA Adds Chapter on Fall Protection to its Technical Manual

466775177 The OSHA Technical Manual (OTM) provides information about workplace hazards and controls to OSHA’s Compliance Safety and Health Officers. The OTM is based upon currently available research, publications, OSHA Standards, and consensus standards. OSHA is adding a new chapter on fall protection to its OTM. Chapter 4, entitled “Fall Protection in Construction,” provides technical information about fall hazards and protection methods. The information is intended to help prepare OSHA compliance officers to conduct inspections and investigations. A review of Chapter 4 indicates that OSHA addresses fall hazards in two principal ways. First, OSHA stresses preventing workers from falling by using engineering controls (e.g., guardrails, hole covers, and warnings) or restraint systems. Second, Chapter 4 discusses preventing injury during and after a fall by using personal fall arrest systems (PFAS) or ...
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OSHA’s New Reporting Rule Dabbles With Behavioral Economics to Incentivize Workplace Safety

495672652 The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a new rule that applies behavioral economics to incentivize workplace safety. The new rule requires electronic submission of workplace injury and illness reports in order to better inform workers, employers and the general public about workplace hazards. OSHA representatives remark that such a policy can be analogized to restaurant grading based on sanitation whereby restaurants must comply with kitchen cleanliness guidelines or suffer public disclosure of violations. Similarly, employers must make workplace safety a priority or face disclosure of workplace injuries and illnesses reported on the soon-to-be publicly-available OSHA database. Policy-wise, OSHA opines that the public and electronic availability of this data will invoke behavioral economics to achieve change. That is, the rule will enable potential employees to identify ...
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A Whistleblower on OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program

Darrell Whitman is a former attorney and professor who became an Office of Whistleblower Protection Programs (OWPP) investigator in 2010. Whitman was a GS-12 Regional Investigator for OWPP, the U.S. Department of Labor, and OSHA. In 2011, Whitman and several other investigators began challenging abuses of power in OWPP’s Region 9 offices in San Francisco. They began voicing their concerns through internal union grievance procedures, and then began raising concerns to the OWPP Director and then Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez. The group accused officials including Regional Supervisory Investigator Joshua Paul of various allegations of misconduct. As they continued to air their grievances, the group alleges to have become targets of personal attacks. Ultimately, Whitman was terminated on May 5, 2015, and four of the five original whistleblowers have been ...
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OSHA Announces Sweeping Changes in Final Rule on Silica

iStock_000087387009_Large The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has released its final rule on occupational exposure to respirable crystalline silica. This is the first time OSHA has updated this rule since 1971. In updating the rule, OSHA has lowered the permissible exposure limit (PEL), as well as included requirements for exposure assessment, methods for controlling exposure, respiratory protection, medical surveillance, hazard communication, and recordkeeping. OSHA presents the rule as two standards, one for general industry and maritime and the other for construction. Both standards are scheduled to go into effect on June 23, 2016. Industries will then have one to five years to meet most requirements. A known human carcinogen, crystalline silica exists in sand, stone, soil, concrete and other materials. Workers exposed to silica inhale particles that cause diseases such ...
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Stepped-Up DOJ Enforcement Signals Intent to Increase Criminal Prosecution of Workplace Safety Violations

Companies who have in the past considered OSHA penalties as a mere cost of doing business and not a significant deterrent should rethink their position and revamp their compliance programs based on recent steps taken by the Department of Justice (DOJ) which heighten the risk of non-compliance. The potential for criminal enforcement of workplace safety violations under the Occupational Safety and Health Act has, in the past, not carried much of a deterrent effect because OSHA violations are classified as misdemeanors and were not frequently prosecuted.  Violations of federal environmental statutes, however, including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, can include felonies, prison sentences, and multimillion dollar penalties.  The DOJ has signaled its intent to more aggressively pursue criminal enforcement of ...
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OSHA Report Analyzes First Year of New Reporting Requirements

Claim form In late 2014, many employers learned about the new OSHA injury and illness reporting requirements that were to go into effect as of Jan. 1, 2015. Under the new requirements, employers were required to report all work-related fatalities within 8 hours, and all in-patient hospitalizations, amputations, and losses of an eye within 24 hours of finding out about the incident. (Under the old rule, employers had the same reporting requirement for fatalities, but were only required to report in-patient hospitalizations of three or more employees.) With the reporting requirements broadened to include all in-patient hospitalizations, it was naturally expected that more work-related injuries would be reported during 2015, the first year of the new rule. In a report released today by OSHA, entitled “Year One of OSHA’s Severe Injury Reporting Program: An ...
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