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OSHA to issue ergonomics citations under General Duty Clause

In an April webcast, OSHA revealed that it plans to use the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s general duty clause to crack down on ergonomic violations.

“OSHA’s field staff will be looking for ergonomic hazards in their inspections, and we will be providing them with the support and backup they need to enforce under the general duty clause. In addition, we will be examining employer logs to see if MSDs are accurately reported,” Assistant Secretary of Labor David Michaels said during the webcast. Michaels stated that OSHA plans to “take a hard look” at employer policies that discourage injury reporting. Dorothy Dougherty, director of standards and guidance, noted that OSHA hopes to issue the rule on adding a musculoskeletal disorder column to the OSHA 300 Log in time to implement the new requirements on Jan. 1, 2011, when the next annual reporting cycle would begin.

OSHA orders UPS to compensate terminated driver for refusing to drive after raising safety concerns

OSHA has ordered United Parcel Service (UPS) to pay an Earth City, Mo., truck driver $111,008 in back wages, benefits, compensatory damages, punitive damages and attorney's fees following an investigation conducted under the whistleblower provisions of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act.

OSHA investigated the employee's allegation that UPS terminated his employment in retaliation for his refusal to drive after reporting that the lights on the trailer and tractor were not working. The investigation showed the driver had a reasonable apprehension of serious injury to himself and the public. Although the driver notified UPS management of the unsafe conditions, the employer continued to order the unsafe operation of the vehicle.

"It is vital that employees be able to raise safety concerns to their employers without fear of retaliation," said Charles E. Adkins, OSHA's regional administrator in Kansas City, whose office investigated the complaint. "This order reaffirms both the right of drivers to refuse to operate vehicles when they reasonably believe it is unsafe and OSHA's commitment to taking the necessary steps to protect that right."

As a result of the investigation, OSHA has ordered UPS to pay the employee $1,858 in back wages and interest, $483.04 in hotel and mileage expenses to attend a grievance hearing, $5,000 in compensatory damages, $100,000 in punitive damages and $3,667 in attorney's fees. The employer further has been ordered to remove all disciplinary action from the employee's personnel file due to the work refusal and to provide whistleblower rights information to its workers. Either party in the case can file an appeal with the Labor Department's Office of Administrative Law Judges.

Two most common hazard communication violations

The hazard communication standard is one of the top five most violated regulations each year. Most common violations are:

1. No written program
2. Managing and documenting training

Starting with an up-to-date written program and providing clear training documentation will help ensure hazcom compliance.