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OSHA watch

First decision on recording musculoskeletal disorders

An administrative law judge with the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission recently issued the first decision addressing whether a musculoskeletal disorder must be recorded as work-related under the OSHA record-keeping standard revised in 2001. The judge upheld the OSHA citation issued to Peoria-based Caterpillar Logistics Services that the company had failed to record a work-related musculoskeletal illness, epicondylitis, on the company's OSHA 300 Log. Caterpillar contended that the employee's epicondylitis was not work-related. Administrative Law Judge Patrick Augustine noted that, in order to be recordable, "an employee's work activities do not have to be the cause, but rather a cause of injury or illness," and determined that the preponderance of evidence showed the employee's work activities were at least a contributing, if not the sole cause of the employee's epicondylitis.

OSHA releases app to monitor heat indexes and provide protective measures

OSHA has released a free application for mobile devices that will enable workers and supervisors to monitor the heat index at their work sites to help prevent heat-related illnesses.

The app, available in English and Spanish, combines heat index data from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration with the user's location to determine necessary protective measures. Based on the risk level of the heat index, the app provides users with information about precautions they can take such as drinking fluids, taking rest breaks and adjusting work operations. Users also can review the signs and symptoms of heat stroke, heat exhaustion and other heat-related illnesses, and learn about first aid steps to take in an emergency. Information for supervisors is also available through the app on how to gradually build up the workload for new workers as well as how to train employees on heat illness signs and symptoms. Additionally, users can contact OSHA directly through the app. The app is designed for devices using an Android platform, and versions for BlackBerry and iPhone users will be released shortly. To download it, visit

National Hearing Conservation Association (NHCA) offers guidelines for recording hearing loss

OSHA's record keeping regulation (29 CFR 1904.10), requires companies to report documented hearing loss in the form of qualifying Standard Threshold Shifts (STS), on the OSHA 300 Log. The National Hearing Conservation Association (NHCA) recently released guidelines (.PDF) to help employers. Under these guidelines, NHCA advises professional reviewers to take into consideration the following when determining occupational hearing loss for documentation on the OSHA 300 Log:

Whistle-Blower protections revised

An updated Whistleblower Investigations Manual, improved training and less delay in completing investigations are some of the improvements the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced Aug. 1, 2011, in response to criticisms leveled at its whistle-blower program.

Recent fines and awards

Metro North Commuter Railroad Co. to pay injured employee $141,000

OSHA found that the Metro North Commuter Railroad Co. discriminated against an employee by classifying his on-the-job injury as not work-related and denying him a promotion. OSHA has ordered the railroad, which provides commuter rail service in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey, to take corrective action by promoting the worker and paying him $125,000 in punitive damages, $5,000 in compensatory damages and $11,651 in legal and medical expenses. The railroad also must pay him the difference between his current rate of pay and that of the new position, plus interest, and correct its records to show his injury as work-related. Additionally, Metro North must post a notice to employees at all 120 of its stations of their protections under the Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA), as well as providing all employees with an FRSA fact sheet and information on reporting work-related injuries and illnesses.

OSHA cites Dick's Sporting Goods for safety hazards at Queensbury, NY

Dick's Sporting Goods was cited for six alleged violations of workplace safety standards after an OSHA inspection identified several hazards at the retailer's store at the Aviation Mall in Queensbury. The Pennsylvania-based retailer faces a total of $57,300 in proposed fines. OSHA inspectors found that workers at the Queensbury store were periodically required to enter a trash compactor that had not first been de-energized in order to remove cardboard blockages. Additionally, the store lacked the means and procedures for employees to enter and work safely in such a confined space, and training was not provided on the hazards and safeguards associated with work in a confined space. Finally, access to fire extinguishers was blocked and employees were not trained in how to use fire extinguishers in the event of a fire.

Monro Muffler Brake cited after worker injured in fire - MA

OSHA cited Monro Muffler Brake Inc. for 10 alleged violations of workplace safety standards after an employee was burned in a Feb. 2 fire at the company's Hyannis, MA location when a spark from an acetylene torch ignited an open container of gasoline. The Rochester, N.Y.-based automotive service company faces a total of $184,000 in proposed fines. OSHA found employees exposed to fire hazards from an open container of gasoline, combustibles allowed in the work area when the acetylene torch was being used, an unapproved light fixture in a hazardous location and a lack of training in fire extinguisher use for employees. An additional significant fire hazard stemmed from employees smoking in the auto service area where combustible fuels are drained, and where fuel system components that may leak combustible fuel are removed and replaced. OSHA also identified several other hazardous conditions at the Hyannis location, including inadequate lighting for work areas, lack of eye flushing facilities, exposed electrical openings, lack of eye protection and failure to inform all employees of the hazards of chemicals in their workplaces.