OSHA Related News for April

D.C. Circuit Court upholds OSHA’s position in SeaWorld case. Real estate development and management company fined more than $2.3 million for knowingly exposing workers to asbestos and lead at NY work site. Railway ordered to pay $352,000 in back wages, compensatory damages, and punitive damages for terminating injured conductor who reported workplace injury. Final rule published to improve workplace safety and health for workers performing electric power generation, transmission and distribution work. OSHA urges employers to prevent texting while driving and refers employers to its distracted driving page. Covered employers are required to post OSHA 300A injury/illness summaries by April 30th.
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Exploring the Limits of OSHA’s Inspection Authority: A Precursor to Exercising Your Rights

If an OSHA inspector, known as a compliance safety and health officer (CSHO), arrives at your door, presents his or her credentials, and asks for you to consent to an inspection of your workplace, what do you do? If you consent, what should you expect to happen next? And if you refuse to consent, then what? Obviously it would be wishful thinking to conclude that the CSHO would simply leave, bid you good day and never come back. These rather elementary questions are among the many questions you will need to answer before, during, and after an OSHA inspection. In order to answer these questions in the face of an OSHA inspection in an informed, prudent manner, it is critical to have an understanding of the limits of OSHA’s inspection authority ...
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OSHA Announces National Stand-Down for Fall Prevention

OSHA has announced a national safety stand-down from June 2 to June 6, 2014 to raise awareness about the hazards of falls, which account for the highest number of deaths in the construction industry. In order to conduct a safety stand-down, a construction company should stop working at a specific designated time and provide a focused toolbox talk on a safety topic such as ladder safety, fall protection equipment, or scaffolds safety. The purpose of the meeting is to provide information to workers about hazards, protective methods, and the company’s safety policies, goals, and expectations. “Falls account for more than a third of all deaths in this industry,” said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. “We’re working with employers, workers, industry groups, state OSH plans, and civic and faith-based ...
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OSHA Tasked by Congress to Protect Whistleblowers

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has been tasked by Congress to enforce the whistleblower provisions of 22 different statutes. These laws protect workers in many industries throughout the country from retaliation when they report unsafe working conditions, fraud or something that would endanger the public. The Department of Labor is reporting that since 2009 the number of new whistleblower cases has grown by 37 percent. The Federal government has responded to this increase by providing additional resources in the fiscal 2015 budget. With these funds, OSHA plans on hiring additional whistleblower investigators, and other employees who will handle OSHA’s training, statistical analysis, IT development and auditing functions. Reporting injuries is a protected activity and a basic worker right under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. OSHA believes ...
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OSHA to Pay Special Attention to Accidents Involving Communication Tower Workers

A recent communications tower collapse in West Virginia resulted in the deaths of two tower workers, as well as a firefighter who died while responding to the incident. These deaths are part of a sharp rise in fatalities in this industry. In fact, more communication tower workers were killed in 2013 than in the previous two years combined. According to Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels, OSHA is very concerned about the sharp rise in deaths and is going to increase its enforcement in the industry. Dr. Michaels recently spoke at the 2014 National Association of Tower Erectors conference and indicated that workers in the communications tower industry face a risk of fatal injury that is perhaps 25 to 30 times higher than the risk for the average American worker. According to ...
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Six Practical Tips for Minimizing OSHA Liability

As many employers know, OSHA penalties can be costly. Some employers, however, never even receive an OSHA citation. Why is this? Is it luck? Or is it because the employer implemented well-thought and planned systems and strategies specifically designed to promote the health and safety of its workers? In my recent article in Industry Week, I assert that it is likely the later – and provide six practical tips and strategies that employers in virtually any industry may implement. These strategies include: perform a self-assessment; create and implement an effective safety and health program; be prepared for an inspection; know your rights and the process; evaluate potential defenses; and take advantage of OSHA programs. A complete copy of the article, “Minimizing OSHA Liability Through (More Than) an Ounce of Prevention,” can be found here.
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Labor Department Sues Ohio Bell for Suspending Workers Who Reported Workplace Injuries

OSHA has accused the Ohio Bell Telephone Company (“Ohio Bell”), which operates as AT&T, of suspending workers for reporting their various workplace injuries, including in two instances related to ladder accidents. “It is against the law for employers to discipline or suspend employees for reporting injuries,” said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. “AT&T must understand that by discouraging workers from reporting injuries, it increases the likelihood of more workers being injured in the future.” The lawsuit, brought by the U.S. Department of Labor, alleges that in 13 separate incidents from 2011 to 2013, Ohio Bell employees were disciplined and given one- to three-day unpaid suspensions for reporting their injuries. Ohio Bell claimed that each employee violated a corporate workplace safety standard; however, OSHA’s investigation found that the suspensions were a result ...
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OSHA Injury and Illness Recordkeeping and Reporting Requirements

Under the OSHA record keeping regulation, covered employers are required to prepare and maintain records of serious occupational injuries and illnesses. Such events must be recorded on the OSHA 300 Log. This type of information is important for employers, workers and OSHA in evaluating the safety of a workplace, understanding industry hazards, and implementing worker protections to reduce and eliminate hazards. What Employers are Required to Report: All employers covered by the Act must orally report to OSHA the death of any employee from a work-related incident or the in-patient hospitalization of three or more employees as a result of a work-related incident within eight (8) hours. When Employers are Required to Prepare and Maintain Records:  Employers with more than ten (10) employees and whose establishments are not classified as ...
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OSHA Releases New Resources to Protect Hospital Workers and Enhance Patient Safety

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently launched a new educational Web resource which has extensive materials to help hospitals prevent worker injuries, assess workplace safety needs, enhance safe patient handling programs, and implement safety and health management systems.  The materials include fact books, self-assessments and best practice guides.  The website’s materials on safe patient handling are designed to address the most common type of injuries hospital workers face, and hospitals can use these resources to protect their workers, improve patient safety and reduce costs. Among the many serious hazards that hospitals workers face are exposure to chemicals and hazardous drugs, exposure to infectious diseases and needlesticks, lifting and moving patients, and workplace violence.  According to Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and ...
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U.S. Department of Labor Announces Rule Change That Will Decrease Burden on Employer’s Utilizing Mechanical Power Presses

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently announced a rule change which updates and streamlines the standards for the use of mechanical power presses which punch, form or assemble metal or other materials. Workers can be exposed to hand, finger or arm injuries if parts of a press are worn, damaged or not operating properly. The new rule will eliminate a requirement for employers to document mandatory weekly inspections of these presses while clarifying the responsibility of employers to perform and document any maintenance or repairs necessary to protect the safety of the workers who operate them. The DOL found that removing the weekly inspection and test certification requirements will reduce 613,000 hours of unnecessary paperwork burden on employers. The final rule will be effective February 18, 2014, unless OSHA receives a significant ...
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