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OSHA watch

Whistleblower claims are rising

Employee claims of retaliation have risen steadily on a year-to-year basis and recent government statistics suggest this is a continuing trend. OSHA completed a total of 2,769 cases in 2012, a significant increase from the 1,948 completions in 2011. This continues an upward trend going back several years.

Proposed exemption to Cranes and Derricks Standard proceeds as NPRM

OSHA has withdrawn a direct final rule on a change to its Cranes and Derricks in Construction Standard, opting instead to pursue a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM).

The rule change would broaden the exemption for digger-derrick operations in the standard. Because of a "significantly adverse" comment the agency received, OSHA announced it would withdraw the final rule in favor of the NPRM.

Hazard alert warns of methylene chloride dangers

OSHA and NIOSH recently issued a hazard alert (.pdf file) that warns bathroom refinishers of the dangers associated with methylene chloride. Workers can be exposed to methylene chloride - a colorless solvent - by inhaling it or absorbing it through their skin.

OSHA requires testing the air for methylene chloride and conducting periodic air monitoring at a certain level. Additionally, the alert recommends using a minimal amount of methylene chloride during bathroom refinishing projects; ensuring adequate ventilation; using long-handled tools to avoid leaning into bathtubs; and wearing appropriate personal protective equipment, such as respirators, gloves and eye protection.

Employers need to prevent CO exposure

Following an incident in which carbon monoxide levels in a New England warehouse made several workers ill, OSHA is stressing that employers need to take steps this winter to protect workers from dangerous and fatal levels of the toxic gas.

During the winter months, employers are more likely to use fuel-burning equipment and tools - such as gas generators or welding equipment - in indoor spaces that have been sealed to keep out cold temperatures and wind. Such tight seals may lack adequate ventilation to expel CO (.pdf file).

An effective ventilation system should be installed at worksites, OSHA advises, and employers should avoid using fuel-burning equipment in enclosed or partially enclosed spaces. Employers should use CO detectors in areas where CO exposure is a concern.

Spanish-language version of Winter Storms page

A Spanish-language summary of the hazards and necessary steps that employers must take to keep workers safe is now available on the Spanish-language version of the Winter Storms page.

New landscaping safety and health bulletin warns about hazards of operating unguarded stonecutters and splitters

A new Safety and Health Information Bulletin warns landscaping employers and workers of the hazards involved in using stone-cutting machines and explains methods to eliminate or reduce the risk of injury when operating these types of machines.

Recent fines and awards

Bacardi Bottling cited for death of untrained temporary worker on first day on the job - Florida

Bacardi Bottling Corp. faces 12 alleged safety violations following the death of a 21-year-old temporary worker his first day on the job. The employee was crushed to death by a palletizer machine at the Jacksonville facility.

Twelve total citations have been issued and proposed penalties for the willful and serious violations total $192,000.

Construction company and Dairy Queen franchisee sued for firing employees who reported workplace violence - Florida and Montana

In two separate cases, OSHA has filed a lawsuit against employers for terminating an employee who reported workplace violence, in violation of Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. In Florida, the lawsuit was filed against Duane Thomas Marine Construction LLC and owner Duane Thomas. In Montana, the Labor Department alleged that Helena-based Kbec Inc., a Dairy Queen franchisee, illegally terminated an employee for making complaints regarding workplace violence at the company's facility.

Rana Meal Solutions LLC for exposing workers to ammonia and other PSM violations - Illinois

Rana Meal Solutions LLC was cited with 12 safety violations following a complaint alleging workers were exposed to ammonia hazards at the Bartlett, Ill., plant, which was being retrofitted for use as a pasta production facility. Proposed fines total $54,000.

Asbestos Removal Company faces $83,000 in fines - New York

Lorice Enterprises LLC of Albany, N.Y., faces $83,300 in fines for nine violations of safety and health standards, including one willful violation, for improperly removing asbestos-containing roofing material at a worksite. The inspection was a result of a referral from the New York State Asbestos Control Bureau.

Soft drink company fined nearly $130,000 for noise and repeat workplace safety and health hazards - Pennsylvania

A-Treat Bottling Co. was cited with 16 safety and health violations, including 14 repeat, at its Allentown facility. The inspection, which was conducted as a follow-up from an earlier inspection resulted in proposed fines total $129,745.

Panthera Painting Inc. placed in Severe Violator Program - Pennsylvania

Panthera Painting Inc. was cited with 38 violations - including 14 willful and 11 repeat - found at several bridge work sites where workers were exposed to lead and other safety and health hazards while performing abrasive blasting and repainting projects. Proposed penalties total $459,844. Due to the willful and repeat violations, Panthera has been placed in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

Shindler Tire Recycling LLC cited for failing to abate safety violations - Wisconsin

Shindler Tire Recycling LLC in Milwaukee was cited with 12 safety violations after a November 2012 follow-up inspection found the employer failed to abate previous citations by developing a written hazard communication program and training workers on its requirements. Proposed fines total $53,856.

Grede Wisconsin faces $274,500 in fines for exposing workers to dangerous respirable dust and other hazards at iron foundry - Wisconsin

Grede Wisconsin Subsidiaries LLC was sited for 28 - including three repeat - health violations under the national and regional emphasis program on primary metal industries for exposing workers to crystalline silica dust and other hazards at the Browntown iron foundry following an August 2012 inspection. Proposed penalties total $274,500. The company was also placed in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

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