OSHA Rule Regarding Confined Spaces “Hooked” In Texas

Recently, the Texas Association of Builders (“TAB”) filed a petition in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals seeking a review of a newly finalized OSHA rule, which was aimed at reducing confined space risks in construction activities.  The TAB petition potentially hinders the rule’s implementation, delaying years’ worth of the rule’s development by the Bush and Obama Administrations. Specifically, the OSHA final rule conforms construction safety standards with OSHA’s existing confined space regulations for general industry, but contains additional provisions.  For example, the new rule contains an additional provision that requires parties to coordinate with local emergency responders before entering a confined space. Ultimately, TAB’s argument against the new confined space standard is grounded upon the idea that it is arbitrary, capricious and not supported by substantial evidence. Therefore, TAB ...
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Deadly Incident Shows Importance of Addressing OSHA Citations Regarding Process Safety Management

iStock_000009175390_XXXLarge OSHA recently investigated a DuPont facility after four workers were killed by the release of a lethal gas. OSHA cited DuPont for 11 safety violations and fined them $99,000. Nine of these violations were classified as “serious” (OSHA defines a serious violation as when the workplace hazard could cause an accident or illness that would most likely result in death or serious physical harm), while one was a repeat violation. A DuPont worker was overcome by the release of methyl mercaptan gas after she opened a drain on a methyl mercaptan vent line. Two co-workers rushed to her aid, but were unaware of the gas leak and were also overcome. None of these workers wore any respiratory protection. A fourth co-worker aware of the gas leak attempted a rescue, but was also overcome ...
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OSHA Releases Hospital Respiratory Protection Program Toolkit

Most people associate the name OSHA with safety standards for the protection of workers in construction and manufacturing settings. OSHA, however, is not so limited, as demonstrated by its recently released Hospital Respiratory Protection Program Toolkit, which is designed to help hospitals and other health care employers protect their staff from respiratory hazards. The toolkit was a joint effort of OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. It is an outgrowth of a California-specific guide issued in May 2012. The toolkit explains that it “creates no new legal obligations” but “was developed to assist hospitals in developing and implementing effective respiratory protection programs, with an emphasis on preventing the transmission of aerosol transmissible diseases (ATDs) to healthcare personnel.” The Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and ...
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OSHA Issues Final Rule to Increase Protections Afforded to Construction Workers in Confined Spaces

Working in confined spaces exposes construction workers to many hazards, including asphyxiation, explosions, electrocutions and toxic substances. Until recently OSHA had one provision in its construction standards setting forth a general training requirement when employees worked in confined spaces. This provision (29 CFR 1926.21(b)(6)) provided limited guidance, instructing employers to train employees as to the nature of the hazards involved, the necessary precautions to be taken and in the use of required protective emergency equipment. On May 1, 2015, OSHA announced a new “final rule” which provides a comprehensive standard that includes a permit program designed to protect employees from exposure to many hazards associated with work in confined spaces, including atmospheric and physical standards. The final rule is similar in content and organization to the general industry confined spaces ...
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OSHA Seeking Input On Communication Tower Construction and Maintenance Safety

OSHA has recently announced that it will be collecting information about the hazards faced by workers during the construction and maintenance of communication towers. With the rapid expansion of wireless communication over the past few decades, there has been an increasing demand for both constructing new communication towers and maintaining those already in service. These jobs can require workers to regularly climb as high as 2000 feet. Working at such great heights naturally presents the risk of not only falling, but also exposure to electrical hazards, structural collapse, and dangerous weather. In fact, fatalities resulting from work on communication towers in 2013 and 2014 was double what it was in 2011 and 2012. With OSHA’s Second Annual Stand Down for Fall Safety Initiative right around the corner, OSHA is reaching out to wireless carriers, tower ...
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OSHA Citation to General Contractor Underscores the Need for Proper Equipment and Safety and Health Programs

OSHA recently cited a Florida general contractor – retained to restore the concrete finish on high-rise apartment buildings – for 17 “serious” safety and health violations and proposed penalties of $119,000. (A “serious” violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.) The inspection was initiated after OSHA received complaints alleging fall hazards at two work sites. OSHA charges that the company exposed workers to falls of more than 200 feet in view of improperly assembled scaffolding that was also not properly secured to the building. The employer also allegedly failed to properly inspect the scaffolding prior to each use and further did not develop a written respiratory protection program for workers exposed to silica ...
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Upstream Oil, Gas Hazards Added to OSHA Severe Violator Program as “High-Emphasis Hazards”

According to a recently issued OSHA memorandum, over twenty years’ worth of statistics show that upstream oil and gas production operations are plagued by fatalities at a rate five to eight times greater than the national average. Based on these alarming statistics, OSHA implemented a new policy under its Severe Violator Enforcement Program (“SVEP”) captured by Instruction CPL 02-00-149 Section XI, which endeavors to curb industry fatalities. The memorandum concerning this new SVEP Section was quietly issued to field officials and attorneys at a recent Florida bar association meeting. Specifically, this SVEP Section provides that any time an OSHA non-fatality inspection of certain NAICS-categorized employers results in two or more willful violations, the matter will be considered a “severe violator enforcement” case. Employers categorized as “Oil and Gas Production Services, Drilling and Well ...
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OSHA Updates its Guidelines for Protecting Workers from Workplace Violence

Healthcare and social service workers face significant risks of job-related violence and it is OSHA’s stated mission to help employers address these serious hazards. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 23,000 significant injuries due to assault at work occurred in 2013. Notably, more than 70 percent of these assaults were in the healthcare and social service sectors. Workers in these areas are reportedly more than 4 times as likely to be injured due to violence in the workplace than the average private sector worker. In order to address the issue of workplace violence, OSHA recently released an update to its 2004 Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Healthcare and Social Service Workers. According to this document, a written program for workplace violence prevention, incorporated into an organization’s ...
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Roofing Contractor’s Failure to Respond to OSHA Citations Could Send Contractor to Jail

In December 2011, a Maine roofing contractor was directed by federal court order to correct violations associated with 11 different OSHA citations and to pay $404,000 in fines and interest that had been imposed previously over the period 2000 to 2011. The 11 citations related to 11 different work sites, and the contractor not only never responded to the initial citations but also never corrected the underlying safety conditions or paid the assessed fines after the citations had turned into final orders. Now, the contractor could wind up in jail. In view of the contractor’s prior pattern of disregard, the U.S. Department of Labor has asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit in Boston to hold the contractor in civil contempt. As stated by Michael Felsen, the department’s regional solicitor of labor for New England, “Seeking a contempt order, such as this, is a stringent and infrequent ...
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Updates and Studies: Top OSHA-Related News for the Week

The following are highlights of the OSHA-related news for the week: OSHA updates Web page on safety and health hazards in the Meat Packing Industry OSHA issues two new bulletins in the series of guidance documents developed under the agency’s Temporary Worker Initiative, relating to personal protective equipment and whistleblower rights New study shows workers may fear talking to doctor about job-related asthma; more information can be found here OSHA report explores the substantial impact of workplace injuries and illnesses on income inequality
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