OSHA Seeks Input on Updating Chemical Exposure Standards

If you work with or manufacture potentially hazardous chemicals, OSHA wants to hear from you. OSHA has recently launched a national dialogue in an effort to increase the prevention of work-related illness caused by chemicals and hazardous substances. In a YouTube video introducing the initiative, Dr. David Michaels, the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, commented that “[m]any of our chemical exposure standards are dangerously out of date and do not adequately protect workers.” Dr. Michaels further stated that the process by which these standards are created or updated is “broken” and must be fixed. As part of this dialogue, OSHA has invited public health experts, employers, unions, and chemical manufacturers to provide feedback on updating “permissible exposure limits” or “PELs”. PELs are regulatory limits on the permissible ...
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Tower Talks: DOL, FCC, Telecommunications Industry Join Forces to Prevent Tower Worker Fatalities

In the words of U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez, “[t]he cell phones in our pockets can’t come at the cost of a worker’s life.” On October 14, 2014, the Department of Labor, Federal Communications Commission, and telecommunications industry leaders joined forces to discuss solutions to the surging trend of tragic deaths among cellular phone tower workers. With worker safety in mind, the trifecta established a group dedicated to implementing recommended safety practices after collaborating with entities such as the National Association of Tower Erectors, in an effort to combat tower tragedies. Statistics show that in 2014, to date, there have been 11 fatalities among cell phone tower workers. Given the small number of cell phone tower workers overall (10,000-15,000), cell phone tower workers are considered 10 times more likely to ...
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OSHA Citations on Fall Prevention and Exposure to Excessive Heat Affirmed on Appeal

Two recent court cases upheld citations that were issued for violations of OSHA’s fall protection standard and a willful citation for exposing workers to excessive heat. In September of 2011, OSHA inspectors in Cleveland, Ohio observed a worker performing roof repairs on a church’s steep-pitched roof without any fall protection. An inspection, in turn, resulted in the issuance of “serious” and “repeat” citations to the roofing company for violating OSHA’s fall prevention regulations. In an appeal to the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (“OSHRC”), the employer claimed that the worker was not his employee (and, instead, an independent contractor), but the review commission disagreed. Recently, the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the findings of the OSHRC and affirmed OSHA’s citations. In September of 2014, OSHRC Judge Peggy Ball affirmed a general duty clause citation that was issued by OSHA to the ...
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OSHA Announces New Rule for Reporting Severe Injuries

On September 11, 2014, OSHA announced a new final rule requiring employers to notify OSHA when an employee is killed on the job or suffers a work-related hospitalization, amputation or loss of an eye. The rule, which also updates the list of employers partially exempt from OSHA record-keeping requirements, goes into effect on January 1, 2015. Under the rule, employers will be required to notify OSHA of work-related fatalities within eight hours, and work-related in-patient hospitalizations, amputations or losses of an eye within 24 hours. To assist employers in fulfilling these requirements, OSHA is developing a Web Portal for employers to report incidents electronically, in addition to the traditional telephone reporting option. The new rule follows the preliminary results of the 2013 National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries which found that 4,405 ...
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Comment Period Extended on Proposed Rule to Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses

OSHA has announced that it will extend the comment period on the proposed rule to improve the tracking of workplace injuries and illnesses to Oct. 14, 2014. The proposal, published on Nov. 8, 2013, would amend OSHA’s recordkeeping regulation to add requirements for the electronic submission of injury and illness information that employers are already required to keep. OSHA is soliciting comments on whether to amend the proposed rule to: 1) require that employers inform their employees of their right to report injuries and illnesses; 2) more clearly communicate that any injury and illness reporting requirements established by the employer must be reasonable and not unduly burdensome; and 3) provide OSHA with additional means to prohibit employers from retaliating against employees for reporting injuries and illnesses. Individuals interested in submitting comments may ...
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Brooklyn Medical Facility Cited by OSHA for Inadequate Workplace Violence Safeguards

Employees of a Brooklyn medical facility were allegedly exposed to head, eye, face and groin injuries and intimidation and threats during routine interactions with patients and visitors. An inspection by OSHA reportedly found approximately 40 incidents of workplace violence between February 7 and April 12, 2014. These incidents involved employees who were threatened or physically and verbally assaulted by patients and visitors, or when breaking up altercations between patients. The most serious incident was an assault of a nurse, who sustained severe brain injuries when she was attacked while working. As a result of its alleged failure to adequately protect its employees against workplace violence, the medical center faces $78,000 in fines. “The hazard of violence against employees is well-recognized in the health care industry and known to this employer,” said Robert ...
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President Obama Signs Executive Order Requiring Prospective Federal Contractors to Disclose Labor Violations

President Obama recently signed an Executive Order mandating that companies seeking federal contracts must disclose all labor law violations from the previous three years in order to be eligible for such contracts. The Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order will govern new federal procurement contracts valued at more than $500,000 and provide information on companies’ compliance with federal labor laws for agencies. The Executive Order is expected to be implemented on new contracts in stages, on a prioritized basis, during 2016. The goal of the process created by the Executive Order is to help contractors come into compliance with workplace protections, not to deny contracts to contractors. Companies with labor law violations will be offered the opportunity to receive early guidance on whether those violations are potentially problematic and remedy any problems. Contracting ...
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OSHA Communicates New Instruction for Communication Tower Personnel Hoists

In 2013, the communications industry was confronted by an increasing number of fatalities involving worker falls from cell tower sites. Alarmingly, OSHA recorded fourteen fatalities, all of which were determined preventable — either a result of an employer’s failure to provide fall protection or an employee’s failure to use the equipment. In the wake of this statistic, on July 17, 2014, OSHA implemented a new directive governing all work activities on communication towers that involve the use of a hoist to lift personnel to or from their workstations. This new directive, CPL 02-01-056, entitled “Inspection Procedures for Accessing Communication Towers by Hoist,” cancels the former CPL 02-01-36 instruction, which pertained only to new communication tower erection, as opposed to including work on pre-existing towers. The new instruction dictates that, where an employer fails ...
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OSHA Helps Workers and Employers Beat the Heat with Smart Phone App and Other Resources

Every year, dozens of workers are killed by heat, and thousands more experience heat-related illnesses. With summer heat on the rise across the nation, workers and employers are turning to OSHA’s Heat Safety Tool for help staying safe in the heat. The App allows workers and supervisors to calculate the heat index for their worksite, and, based on the heat index, displays a risk level to outdoor workers. In addition, it provides reminders about protective measures that should be taken at that risk level to protect against heat-related illnesses. In all, more than 148,000 users have downloaded this life-saving app since its launch. In a July 7 article in The Washington Post, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels explained employers’ obligation to protect construction crews, road workers, ...
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OSHA Announces Interactive Training Webtool to Assist Small Businesses Identify Workplace Hazards

On June 22, 2014, OSHA announced a new interactive training tool to help small businesses effectively identify hazards in the workplace. According to the announcement, employers and workers can “virtually” explore how to identify common workplace hazards in the manufacturing and construction industries. Users of the new training tool will learn not only hazard identification skills but also about hazard abatement and control. Through the hazard identification tool, users reportedly learn to identify realistic, common hazards from the perspective of either a business owner or an employee, and how to address them with practical and effective solutions. The tool explains the key components of the hazard identification process, which includes information collection, observation of the workplace, investigation of incidents, employee participation and prioritizing hazards. OSHA developed the hazard identification training tool with its ...
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