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OSHA issues final rule on hazcom

The final rule aligning OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard (1910.1200) with the United Nations' Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals was released March 20.

Some major changes in the new rule include:

The major changes to the HCS:

  1. Labels must include a signal word, pictogram, hazard statement and precautionary statement
  2. The new format for MSDSs requires 16 specific sections
  3. The new standard requires workers be trained by Dec. 31, 2013 on the new labels and MSDS format, in addition to the current training requirements.

The final rule will be published in the March 26 Federal Register, and will go into effect 60 days later. The rule's requirements will go into effect in phases, beginning Dec. 1, 2013, with the requirement that employees must be trained on the new label elements and Safety Data Sheet formats.

OSHA memo warns of discriminating injury-reporting policies

A new memorandum provides guidance to agency field officers and whistleblower investigators on employer practices that discourage injury reporting by employees. It notes four potentially discriminating policies employers may have regarding an employee who reports an on-the-job injury:

  1. Taking disciplinary action regardless of the circumstances of the injury
  2. Disciplining an employee for violating an employer rule about the time or manner for reporting injuries and illnesses
  3. Disciplining an employee for an injury that resulted from the employee violating a safety rule
  4. Offering incentives to not report injuries; for example, offering prizes to employees who were not injured in the previous year

According to the memo, such policies could discourage reporting of injuries and could be considered unlawful discrimination.

Local emphasis program to protect workers "on Wisconsin dairy farms from common hazards"

OSHA has established a local emphasis program to protect workers from hazards found on Wisconsin dairy farms, such as those related to manure storage, lack of vehicle roll-over protection, machine guarding, confined spaces and animal handling. Under the new program, OSHA will conduct comprehensive safety and health inspections at dairy farms with more than 10 non-immediate family member employees and those that have had an active temporary labor camp within the last 12 months. Each inspection will include detailed questions to gather facts about common hazards related to horizontal bunker silos, control of hazardous energy, skid-steer and tractor operations, and hazard communication.

OSHA's whistleblower program now reports directly to Michaels

Elevating the priority status of whistleblower protection, The OSHA program tasked with protecting employees from retribution after reporting violations of workplace regulations will now report directly to agency administrator David Michaels.

New acetylene standard in effect

A direct final rule revising OSHA's Acetylene Standard (1910.102) went into effect March 5 following no "significant" objections to the changes, according to the agency. This incorporates requirements found in the most recent Compressed Gas Association consensus standard, CGA G-1-2009.

Recent fines and awards

US Labor Department's OSHA cites Massachusetts stone fabricator for repeat and serious violations - Connecticut

International Stone Inc. was cited for 11 alleged violations of workplace safety standards at its Ansonia marble and granite fabrication operation. Proposed penalties for the Woburn, Mass.-based company total $47,600. The inspection, opened in response to a complaint, found unguarded grinders, lack of eye, face and hand protection, unapproved electrical equipment and outlets used in wet locations, blocked access to circuit breakers, ungrounded, spliced and misused extension cords, worn out and illegible control buttons for a crane used to lift and move slabs of marble and granite, trip and fall hazards; obstructed exit access; and an unmarked exit door.

OSHA sues Manatee School for the Arts for violating whistleblower protection provisions - Florida

OSHA has sued Renaissance Arts and Education Inc., doing business as Manatee School for the Arts in Palmetto, to reinstate a former employee with full back wages and benefits. The lawsuit results from an investigation that found the privately-run charter school had unlawfully and intentionally terminated the worker's employment for voicing and reporting concerns regarding hazards in the school's two theaters - activities that are protected by the whistleblower protection provisions.

Contractor faces $167,580 in fines following fatal fall - New Hampshire

The MacMillin Co. Inc. was cited for alleged willful and serious violations of safety standards following the death of an employee at a Keene Middle School construction site and faces fines of $167,580. Violations include: scaffold had not been inspected for defects, the employees had not been adequately trained in the erection and inspection of scaffolding, and the employer did not determine the feasibility of or ensure the use of fall protection for employees during the scaffold erection.

$121,000 in fines to Dollar Tree Stores for repeat workplace safety hazards - New Jersey

OSHA opened an inspection in response to a complaint alleging blocked fire exits and the unsafe storage of items in stock at the Dollar Tree Store in Newark, NJ. Proposed penalties total $121,000. The same violations occurred at other locations owned by Dollar Tree Stores in New Jersey and New York and, therefore, qualified for the higher cost repeat violations.

Agro Farma, maker of popular Chobani line of Greek yogurts faces $178,000 in fines - New York

Agro Farma Inc., the manufacturer of Chobani Greek Yogurt, faces a total of $178,000 in proposed penalties for 34 alleged violations of workplace safety and health standards at its New Berlin facility following inspections prompted by a complaint. Agro Farma allegedly failed to install shielding on numerous moving machine parts, train workers in safety protocols for electrical equipment, and supply adequate personal protective equipment for employees working on live electrical equipment. Violations also included a lack of fall protection for employees working on top of milk trucks, failing to label confined spaces, and failing to address stairway and exit deficiencies.

Verizon NY Inc. cited for repeat and serious safety violations following utility worker's death in Brooklyn - New York

Verizon N.Y. Inc. was cited for 10 alleged violations of workplace safety standards following the electrocution death of an employee at a worksite in Brooklyn. An inspection by OSHA found that the employee and bucket were too close to the power line, the employee had not been adequately trained and lacked insulated gloves. OSHA cited three repeat violations for these conditions, as Verizon had been cited for similar hazards in 2007 following the death of a worker at a Providence, R.I., worksite. Verizon faces a total of $140,700 in fines.

OSHA's Site-Specific Targeting (SST) snares manufacturer for $174,600 - Ohio

OSHA has cited Hobart Brothers Co. of Troy, OH, a manufacturer of welding wire and ground power equipment for airplanes, for 55 safety and health violations.

Hobart was inspected under Site-Specific Targeting (SST) program, which focuses on employers with injury rates that are higher than their industry's national average because its 2008 injury rate was 5.9 per 100 workers, and its 2009 rate was 6.0. The national averages for its industry in those years were 3.9 and 3.6 respectively.

OSHA found 43 serious violations, including failure to isolate energy sources, provide lockout/tagout procedures for the energy sources of equipment, train workers on hazardous energy sources, guard floor holes, provide adequate railings, provide fall protection for workers required to be on top of equipment, sample noise levels, and provide annual audiograms.

Excavating & Grading company cited for failing to protect workers from trench collapse - Wisconsin

Union Grove-based Willkomm Excavating & Grading Inc. faces penalties of $60,500 from two willful violations for failing to protect workers from trench cave-ins at a jobsite in Greenfield. OSHA's inspection was initiated based on a complaint and was conducted under the agency's National Emphasis Program on Trenching and Excavation.

Manufacturer faces fines of $91,000 after worker suffers third-degree burns - Wisconsin

Yaskawa America Inc. was cited with six safety - including one willful - violations, after a worker suffered burns from an electrical shock at the company's Oak Creek manufacturing facility. Proposed penalties total $91,000. The Waukegan, Ill.-based company produces drives and motion control components for heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.

Grain cooperative faces fines for failing to protect workers from falls - Wisconsin

Landmark Services Cooperative, a Wisconsin grain cooperative, has been cited with one willful safety violation for failing to protect workers from falls while they were loading grain products into rail cars at its Evansville facility. Proposed fines total $70,000.

Detailed descriptions of the citations above and other OSHA citations can be found here.