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OSHA Watch

OSHA using willful penalties to shame employers

Speaking at the National Occupational Research Agenda Symposium 2011, assistant OSHA administrator Jordan Barab said OSHA is attempting to use the issuance of willful penalties to shame companies and, in turn, improve workplace safety.

He noted that many state and local municipalities have clauses in construction contracts stating that companies applying for a contract cannot have willful violations in their history and willful penalties, regardless of the size of the fine, have a significant effect on companies.

OSHA has increased its use of press releases to publicize when a company receives an agency citation.

OSHA warns of hazards associated with scissor lifts

On July 6, OSHA issued a hazard alert on the dangers of using portable hydraulic scissor lifts to film events and functions.

The alert follows the Indiana Department of Labor settlement with the University of Notre Dame regarding the October 2010 death of a 20-year-old student who was filming football practice atop a scissor lift when it was blown over by high winds. Indiana OSHA said the student worker reportedly lacked training and raised the lift more than 39 feet in winds exceeding 50 mph.

According to the alert, hazards include using a lift in bad weather or on unstable ground, overloading it with heavy objects, and removing guardrails during operation.

OSHA recommends employers establish safe work practices, set the brakes and stabilize the lift before use, maintain a 10-foot clearance from electrical power sources, and train workers on using the equipment.

New report on carcinogens may affect employers' Hazard Communication Programs

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently released the National Toxicology Program's (NTP) 12th Report on Carcinogens (RoC), one of the two cancer lists referenced in OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard (HCS). As a result, employers that manufacture, distribute, or use any of the eight chemicals with new or updated listings in the 12th RoC need to determine if the changes have any impact on their existing hazard communications programs.

The 12th RoC added two substances—formaldehyde and aristolochic acids—to its list of known human carcinogens, and six substances—captafol, cobalt-tungsten carbide (in powder or hard metal form), certain inhalable glass wool fibers, o-nitrotoluene, riddelliine (a botanical, not be confused with the drug Ritalin) and styrene—to its list of chemicals and biological agents that are reasonably anticipated to be human carcinogens. For chemicals like styrene and formaldehyde, which are already listed as carcinogens by the NTP or other organizations, the impact of the listings in the 12th RoC is likely to be minimal because many of the HCS requirements have already been triggered by the previous listings.

Chemicals listed in the RoC are considered carcinogens under OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard. Therefore, manufacturers and importers of a chemical or a product containing a chemical listed in the RoC must list the chemical on Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) if it is present at a concentration of 0.1% or greater when the product has not been tested as a whole, and they must include warning information about cancer in the MSDS. Chemicals listed on the RoC that are present at less than 0.1% must also be listed if they could be released from the product in concentrations that could present a health risk to workers. The MSDS must also indicate that the NTP lists the chemical as a carcinogen.

Employers that use chemicals with new or updated cancer listings in the RoC or products that contain these chemicals should review incoming MSDSs for new information and must train workers about any new chemical or product hazards. Employers must also look at how the chemical or product is used in their workplaces and make sure that the precautions and protective equipment they require are sufficient to protect workers from anticipated exposures.

Directive regarding commercial diving operations

OSHA recently revised a directive that provides guidance on OSHA procedures aimed at eliminating hazards and reducing worker injuries, illnesses and deaths during commercial diving operations.

Recent Fines

Tire company and two contractors fined more than $250,000 for exposing workers to combustible dust and other hazards

OSHA cited Cooper Tire and Rubber Co. and two of its maintenance contractors $254,900 and cited them with 25 safety violations at Cooper's Tupelo, Miss., plant, including exposing workers to hazards associated with combustible dust.

The fines included two willful violations to provide protection from fires and explosions in the plant's ductwork, particle size separators, dust collectors and conveyor systems, and failing to install equipment and use wiring methods that were approved specifically for hazardous locations.

OSHA proposes $354,000 in fines against recidivist Massachusetts contractor for cave-in hazards

A Hyde Park contractor, P. Gioioso & Sons Inc., with a long history of violating workplace safety standards faces a total of $354,000 in new proposed fines chiefly for exposing its employees to cave-in hazards at two work sites. While an OSHA inspector was inspecting a trench at one site a section of a wall collapsed while an employee was still in the trench. At a second inspection, OSHA found that the construction trenches lacked both vital protections to prevent cave-ins and any means for a worker to safely exit a trench (such as a ladder). The company, which is primarily engaged in the construction of underground water and sewer mains, was cited with four willful violations of federal regulations for its lack of safety equipment as well as serious and repeated violations.