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OSHA watch

Proposed rule to protect workers exposed to crystalline silica

OSHA has proposed a rule aimed at curbing lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease in America's workers. The proposal seeks to lower worker exposure to crystalline silica. After publication of the proposal, the public will have 90 days to submit written comments, followed by public hearing. Additional information on the proposed rule, including a video, procedures for submitting comments and the public hearings can be found at

Noise hazards in New England targeted

OSHA has launched a Regional Emphasis Program (REP) on noise hazards targeting select New England manufacturing and food production facilities.

The REP will specifically target stone, plastic, and metal manufacturing and fabrication workplaces, as well as meat, dairy and bakery production facilities.

Proposed rule on SHARP inspections withdrawn

A proposed rule that would have revised the circumstances in which OSHA can conduct an enforcement inspection of worksites enrolled in the agency's On-site Consultation Program has been withdrawn. OSHA cited stakeholder concerns that the changes would discourage employer participation in the Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program.

New resources available: firefighters and combustible dust, dangers to physicians, of exposure to cadmium, fall prevention training guide and musculoskeletal disorders

Recently published OSHA educational resources include a new QuickCard on precautions for firefighters to prevent combustible dust explosions and a new OSHA brief for physicians on the dangers of worker exposure to cadmium.

A new OSHA Fall Prevention Training Guide with "tool box talks" is now available at to educate workers on how to stay safe while working on roofs, scaffolding and ladders. OSHA also recently updated its page on musculoskeletal disorders in the workplace.

Federal court ruling win for employers in case involving supervisor misconduct and OSHA violations

An employer may not be held liable for a violation based solely on a supervisor's knowledge of his own misconduct, the U.S. Court of Appeal for the Eleventh Circuit in Atlanta has ruled in a case of first impression for the circuit. (ComTran Group v. U.S. Dept of Labor)

A supervisor was having difficulty finding an underground utility conduit and continued to dig deeper into a trench. An OSHA inspector, who drove by, issued two serious citations to ComTran for failure to avoid a potential cave-in hazard with fines totaling $9,800. The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission ruled a supervisor's knowledge of a violation was imputable to the company and on appeal an administrative judge agreed, but reduced the fine to $5,000.

ComTran appealed to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court, which had not weighed in on this issue, although other circuit courts had. When a supervisor knows or should have known about another employee's OSHA violation, that knowledge is the same as the company knowing. The supervisor is the eyes and ears of the company.

When the wrongdoer is the supervisor, however, several circuit courts have held that liability may be imposed on the employer only when the supervisor's actions are reasonably foreseeable for example, with a showing of lax safety standards. If the conduct is an isolated incident of unforeseeable or idiosyncratic behavior, the employer will not be held liable.

This case is a positive development for employers in the Eleventh Circuit (covering Alabama, Florida and Georgia). Other circuit courts have made similar rulings:

The Sixth Circuit (covering Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee), however, has ruled to the contrary. It remains to be seen whether the U.S. Supreme Court will resolve this split in the circuit courts.

Recent fines and awards

Health care facility faces fines of $58,800 - Connecticut

Hebrew Home and Hospital Inc. was cited for 14 serious violations of workplace safety standards carrying proposed penalties of $58,800. The West Hartford health care facility was inspected under OSHA's national emphasis program for nursing and residential care facilities. OSHA found that the employer failed to conduct a hazard analysis, provide eye and face protection and provide readily accessible emergency eyewash stations for employees working with corrosive chemicals.

TSA cited for worker hazards at Boston Logan Airport - Massachusetts

Following an inspection at Boston's Logan International Airport, OSHA issued 14 notices of unsafe or unhealthful working conditions to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The inspection was as part of OSHA's Federal Agency Targeting Inspection Program. TSA employees at Logan were exposed to finger crushing and amputation hazards from unguarded nip points on baggage conveyors in inspection rooms where TSA employees work; electrical hazards from misused electrical equipment at checkpoints and inspection rooms; and fire-related hazards from unsecured fire extinguishers where TSA employees work as well as improper storage of flammable material.

Manufacturer fined for repeat and serious health violations - New York

Solve Composites LLC, a maker of Fiberglas-reinforced plastic panels, was cited for recurring and new violations of workplace safety and health standards at its Plattsburgh, NY manufacturing plant. Proposed penalties total $69,244. The inspection was made to verify correction of hazards cited during a 2010 inspection.

Women's apparel chain cited for several violations - New York

Pretty Girl Inc., the Brooklyn-based women's apparel chain, has been cited for exit access, electrical, sanitary and housekeeping hazards at its 441 Knickerbocker Ave. store in Brooklyn. It faces $43,890 in proposed fines.

Republic Steel fined $1.1 million for failing to protect workers from falls, other safety violations - Ohio

OSHA has cited Republic Steel for 24 safety violations carrying fines of $1,138,500. The Canton, Ohio-based steel manufacturing plant was inspected after OSHA received a formal complaint from the United Steelworkers Union alleging inadequate fall protection and other unsafe practices exposing workers to various hazards in the plant's melt shop. During the inspection, OSHA discovered that two workers had been seriously injured in falls at the site. The company has a history of failing to address fall hazards and will remain in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law.

Pipefitting manufacturer fined $48,000 for safety and health hazards - Pennsylvania

Pipefitting manufacturer, Flowline, was cited with 12 alleged serious safety and health violations at the company's New Castle facility. The inspection was prompted by a complaint and resulted in $48,000 in proposed penalties, many related to personal protective equipment.

Lead Abatement Company fined for exposing workers to lead hazards - Pennsylvania

N.E.J. Abatement Group Inc. was cited for six serious violations involving lead hazards at a Pittsburgh work site. The inspection was prompted by a referral from the Pennsylvania Department of Health, and conducted by OSHA under its National Emphasis Program on Lead. Proposed penalties total $16,800.

Metal finishing company faces fines of $46,000 - Wisconsin

Badger Metal Finishing Inc. has been cited for 17 safety violations at its St. Francis metal finishing facility. The inspection was prompted by a complaint that workers were not evacuated during a natural gas leak. Proposed penalties total $46,200.

Echo Lake Foods fined $150,000 for 27 safety violations, including process safety management - Wisconsin

Echo Lake Foods Inc. has been cited for 27 safety violations carrying fines of $150,000. Multiple violations of OSHA's process safety management standards for facilities that use highly hazardous chemicals were found at the company's Burlington and Franksville frozen food production plants. The inspection resulted from complaints received alleging hazards with the ammonia refrigeration systems at those facilities.

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