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Updated hazard alert on formaldehyde dangers to hair salon owners and workers after new agency findings and FDA warning letter

OSHA has issued a revised hazard alert to hair salon owners and workers about potential formaldehyde exposure from working with certain hair smoothing and straightening products. The revised alert was prompted by the results of agency investigations, a warning letter issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and factually incorrect information recently sent to salons by a company that manufactures hair products. OSHA's updated alert can be viewed at During recent investigations, OSHA's air tests showed formaldehyde at hazardous levels in salons using Brazilian Blowout Acai Professional Smoothing Solution and Brasil Cacau Cadiveu, resulting in citations for multiple violations.

2011 Site-Specific Targeting Program for high-hazard work places

In issuing its 2011 Site-Specific Targeting Program (SST) (.pdf), OSHA noted two changes. In 2010, only those establishments in the selected industries with 40 or more employees were subject to inspections under the SST plan; this year, that number has been reduced to 20 or more. An evaluation study measuring the program's impact on future compliance with OSHA standards has also been introduced for the 2011 program.

The SST program focuses on non-construction employers that are designated as highly hazardous based on their above-average work-related injury and illness rates.

Enforcement database updated

Designed to improve public access to and understanding of the department's enforcement actions, the Department of Labor has enhanced its online enforcement database. The updated website has a number of new features, including map displays of inspection and violation data from OSHA and the Mine Safety and Health Administration, as well as the ability to view individual inspection records and the enforcement history of a particular company or mine.

Hazard alert on the dangers to workers of incorrectly rebuilt circuit breakers

OSHA has issued a hazard alert, warning workers and employers of the dangers of using certain Eaton/Cutler-Hammer molded-case circuit breakers that were incorrectly rebuilt. The third-party rebuilder may have altered the circuit breakers - identified by model numbers E&K and E&KM - by using incorrect parts that can cause the breakers to malfunction.

The alert warns that the rebuilt circuit breakers may lack proper safety features such as grounding and fault protection to prevent electrical shock, burns and fires. Since the potential for worker injury from breaker failure exists, employers must remove this equipment from service and instructions are in the alert.

Procedures for investigating Workplace Violence

OSHA issued has issued a new directive to establish uniform procedures for field officers when they respond to incidents and complaints of workplace violence. It also includes guidelines for conducting inspections in industries it considers to be particularly vulnerable to workplace violence.

OSHA also launched a website on workplace violence prevention. It covers risk factors, provides guidance documents and explains how the General Duty Clause may be applied.

Workplace violence has ranked among the top four causes of workplace death during the past 15 years, according to an OSHA press release.

New guide helps construction employers and workers prevent nail gun injuries

OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) have developed new guidance, Nail Gun Safety - A Guide for Construction Contractors, to help construction employers and workers prevent work-related nail gun injuries.

OSHA, electrical group agree to exemption on cranes and derricks rule

OSHA recently reached a settlement agreement with the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) to exempt digger derricks used to install electric power transmission and distribution lines from OSHA's new cranes and derricks standard.

In October of last year, Washington-based EEI challenged OSHA in court, arguing for an exception for digger derricks and other equipment that electric utility companies use to set up power transmission lines.

Under the agreement, OSHA must begin a rulemaking to exempt all digger derrick operations covered by Subpart V. Within 60 days, OSHA has to issue a letter of interpretation to EEI clarifying voltage information exchange requirements and that utility companies do not have to de-energize power lines.

Updated Whistleblower Investigations Manual

The new edition of the manual contains updates to case handling procedures, information on the new laws enacted since the manual was last updated in 2003, and other information to guide OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Program, which addresses retaliation complaints under the 21 whistleblower statutes delegated to OSHA (see below for a full list of statutes). The updated manual is available at

Key changes to the manual include: