Last week on Tuesday June 19, OSHA held a joint safety stand-down with different construction organizations to focus on crane operations throughout Florida. All contractors were to stop work and hold safety meetings to raise awareness about crane and rigging safety requirements.
The stand-down was organized by the following organizations:
- The Florida Crane Safety Alliance which included representation by OSHA, the Associated Builders and Contractors’ Florida East Coast, Central Florida, Gulf Coast, First Coast and North Coast chapters.
- The Associated General Contractors of America South Florida’s East Coast and Greater Florida Chapters
- The Construction Association of South Florida
- The Florida Crane Owners’ Council Inc.
- The Florida Transportation Builders’ Association and Crane Tech LLC
The Florida Crane Alliance held a signing of construction employers, associations and crane companies to assume responsibility and commitment to workers’ safety which was followed by this stand-down. To view the flyer from the Florida Crane Alliance containing information on crane safety, visit http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/cranehoistsafety/index.html.
Other cooperative programs between OSHA and safety-forward groups including consulates, unions, trade and professional organizations, educational institutions and more are also available. Through its alliance program, OSHA works with these organizations who are strongly committed to worker safety and health and whose ultimately goal is to prevent as many workplace fatalities, injuries and illnesses. To view these programs, visit http://www.osha.gov/dcsp/compliance_assistance/index_programs.html.
For more information on the Florida Crane Safety Alliance, contact the following OSHA Compliance Assistance Specialists:
- Vergie Bain – Fort Lauderdale Area Office; 954-423-0382;
- Joan Spencer – Tampa Area Office; 813-626-1177
- Mark Davis – Jacksonville Area Office; 904-232-2895
While previously classified as a “probable” carcinogen, the World Health Organization’s (W.H.O.) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has finally confirmed that diesel exhaust is a carcinogen and that it is associated with an increased risk for lung cancer.
Considering that the last time diesel was put into discussion, in 1989 and now finally classified as a carcinogen, it’s a big deal for everyone who is in anyway exposed to it or anyone who’s workplace forces them to be in a environment wiith high diesel exhaust fumes.
A study done by researchers from the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France analyzed 12,300 miners for several decades starting in 1947. Discoveries concluded miners heavily exposed to diesel exhaust had a higher risk of dying from lung cancer. The U.S. however, still does not fully recognize it as a carcinogen, claiming that new engines are far less dangerous with exposure of fewer fumes.
“It’s on the same order of magnitude as passive smoking,” said Kurt Straif, director of the IARC department that evaluates cancer risks. “This could be another big push for countries to clean up exhaust from diesel engines.”
The mission of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is to coordinate and conduct research on the causes of human cancer and the mechanisms of carcinogenesis, and to develop scientific strategies for cancer control.
The Whistleblower Protection Advisory Committee or WPAC, the new committee that will work with the Secretary of Labor and the Assistant Secretary of Occupational Safety and Health is seeking nominations for its membership. The committee will focus on anything that relates to the fairness, efficiency, effectiveness, and transparency of OSHA’s whistleblower protection activities.
Once gathered, all twelve members are to have the following roles:
- Four management representatives who are employers or are from employer associations in industries covered by one or more of the whistleblower laws;
- Four labor representatives who are workers or from worker advocacy organizations in industries covered by one or more of the whistleblower laws;
- One member who represents the State Plan states; and
- Three public representatives from colleges, universities, non-partisan think tanks, and/or other entities, that have extensive knowledge and expertise on whistleblower statutes and issues.
Other non-voting members from other Federal Government agencies will also take part in the committee with jurisdiction over statues with whistleblower provisions.
To submit nominations, visit HERE.
For more information on the WPAC, visit HERE.
A study by the Transportation for America’s Dangerous by Design named the Metro Orlando area the deadliest for pedestrians in the country. On average, one pedestrian is killed every week.
Consequently, collaborative efforts between Bike Walk of Central Florida, local governments, law enforcement, and health groups including Orlando Health and the Winter Park Health Foundation have led the start of the “Best Foot Forward” safety campaign.
The said campaign’s strategies include a combination of three different approaches in order to relieve the issue of unfortunate pedestrian-and-driver accidents: education to the public, engineering, and enforcement. If you live in Orlando, chances are you already have noticed how unsafe or incomplete sidewalks often are. The engineering efforts will focus on building sidewalks and roadways with safer designs or providing more lighting. On the enforcement level, drivers can expect tickets of $164 if caught failing to yield to a pedestrian on a crosswalk.
Bike Walk Central Florida expects the campaign to cost about $350,000 a year. A grant from the Florida Department of Transportation application is in process in hopes of aid for funding. Federal funds of 4 million dollars are already being put to use by adding more sidewalks in the city.
Not surprisingly, the next most dangerous metro areas in the country are also in Florida. Tampa-St. Petersburg, Jacksonville, and Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach followed after Orlando in that order. To view the entire list of rankings, visit http://t4america.org/resources/dangerousbydesign2011/states/worst-metros/.
OSHA’s Secretary of Labor, Hilda L Solis announced a meeting of the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Health and Safety to be held on June 19 and 20 in Washington. Three new members will be appointed, and 5 re-appointed. The members appointed hold a two-year term.
Some of the topics to be discussed are the newly implemented globally harmonized system, a presentation on OSHA’s fall prevention campaign, and NACOSH’s work group reports. On June 19, injury and illness prevention programs, along with record keeping will meet at 1:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. New effectiveness measures work group established to provide with NACOSH will be held at 3:30 p.m. EDT.To view the final agenda, visit http://www.osha.gov/dop/nacosh/nacosh.html.
Since 1970 when it was first established, NACOSH has 40 years of experience on advising the secretaries of labor and health and human services. They hold meetings twice year. After this meeting, the Advisory Committee will consist of a total of 12 members.
Since NACOSH’s meetings are public, anyone is welcomed to submit comments or requests. The entries have a 10-page limit and everything should be sent by June 11. There a several ways you can submit your comments and input:
- Visit www.regulations.gov
- Fax to OSHA Docket Office at 202-693-1648
- Mail to OSHA Docket Office, Docket No. OSHA-2012-0019, Room N-2625, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Ave. NW., Washington, D.C. 20210
To view additional information on the meeting, visit http://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=FEDERAL_REGISTER&p_id=22967.
A recent study by the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) released May 22 compares injury-related deaths from state to state in America. The document, The Facts Hurt: A State-By-State Injury Prevention Policy Report, shows Florida had the 18th highest rate with 66.8 per 100,000 people suffering injury fatalities costing total lifetime of $117.7 million in medical expenses.
Nationwide, injuries are the third leading cause of death and the leading cause for Americans ages 1-44. In addition, approximately 50 million Americans are medically treated for injuries every year and 2.8 hospitalized. This in turn, sums up to $406 billion in lifetime costs for both, medical care and lost productivity.
Needless to say, the report’s purpose and conclusion emphasizes the need for states to adopt additional research-based injury prevention policies. When properly implemented and enforced, we could see injury numbers decline due to prevention.
“There are proven, evidence-based strategies that can spare millions of Americans from injuries each year”, says Jeff Levi, PhD, Executive Director of TFAH. “This report focuses on specific, scientifically supported steps we can take to make it easier for Americans to keep themselves and their families safer.”
To view the report, visit http://healthyamericans.org/reports/injury12/. To view Florida’s results, visit http://healthyamericans.org/reports/injury12/release.php?stateid=FL.
From a Napa winemaker to a paint manufacturing employee in Fullerton, seven Californians died last year while working in a confined space – an uptick in a category of workplace fatalities that are readily preventable, experts said.
“We’ve learned enough over the years that there’s no reason that people should be dying in confined spaces,” said Michael Wilson, director of the Labor Occupational Health Program at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health.
Confined spaces are enclosed areas that are hard to get in and out of, and they can present health and safety risks, such as limited oxygen supply, toxic chemical fumes, or materials or machinery that could trap workers. These spaces, such as silos or tanks, are not meant for continual employee occupancy.
Between 2008 and 2010, there were two such deaths each year.
Last year’s deaths in part prompted the state Division of Occupational Safety and Health – commonly referred to as Cal/OSHA – to launch a special program in February to step up efforts on training and compliance with state and federal standards related to confined spaces.
Yesterday, the agency announced that it had issued 36 citations totaling $38,895 in penalties to American Reclamation, a Southern California waste and recycling company, for various health and safety violations, including failure to follow state standards for confined space entries. Cal/OSHA spokeswoman Erika Monterroza said there are other open investigations related to confined space incidents, including one involving a Dunnigan man who was partially buried in a grain silo this month.
Garrett Brown, a senior safety engineer and subject expert on the confined space program for Cal/OSHA, noted that “there are a lot of near misses” that employers are not required to report to the agency.
“Activity flies under the radar, and it affects a wide array of industries,” Brown said. “This is a hazard found in agriculture, manufacturing, construction, wineries, oil refineries – almost every area. It also affects big and small companies.”
Robert E. Downey, owner of Orangevale-based RED Safety Consulting, said employers are not always aware of the dangers related to confined spaces.
“Generally speaking for the employers with whom I work, confined space hazards are known and acted upon,” Downey wrote in an e-mail. “But my clients are general contractors and union employers. As for other employers, you can draw the conclusion that employers and employees are unfamiliar with the definition of confined space and thoroughly unfamiliar with the hazards of confined space.”
In an investigation [PDF] completed this month, Cal/OSHA fined Vista Paint, a Fullerton paint manufacturer, $159,040 for violations related to the November 2011 death of Roberto Ramirez Magdariaga. The employee was asked to clean one of the factory’s 3,000-gallon tanks with paint remover made primarily of methylene chloride, a chemical that can be toxic if inhaled.
Magdariaga soon passed out from the fumes in the tank. His co-worker, Gary De La Pena, tried to rescue Magdariaga, but he, too, was overcome by fumes. About half an hour later, a paint maker saw Magdariaga and De La Pena sitting and lying down in the tank and presumed they were taking a break and sleeping.
When another employee went to wake up Magdariaga and De La Pena, he discovered the men were unconscious. Magdariaga died of chemical asphyxiation, and De La Pena was hospitalized.
John Long, Vista’s director of corporate environmental health and safety, said, “We take this tragedy very seriously.”
“Vista manufacturing facilities have maintained a good safety record over the past 50 years, and we are working diligently with Cal/OSHA, outside safety consultants and internal staff in reviewing all processes and training procedures in order to enhance our employees’ safety,” Long said.
California Watch has previously reported on a case involving 16-year-old Armando Ramirez, who died from exposure to hydrogen sulfide gas while cleaning a storm drain gutter at the Community Recycling & Resource Recovery facility in Lamont, near Bakersfield. Ramirez’s 22-year-old brother also died from the fumes while trying to save him.
Downey, the safety consultant, said 60 percent of deaths in confined spaces “result from would-be rescuers entering to help a fallen buddy.”
In addition to a lack of awareness about the hazards in confined spaces, insufficient emergency rescue plans also are to blame for these deaths, UC Berkeley’s Wilson said. While state and federal standards require emergency rescue plans to be in place when employees are asked to enter confined spaces, it is unclear how they have been implemented.
In a recently published study, Wilson surveyed 30 Silicon Valley companies about their confined space policies. Only 19 percent of employers had their own on-site rescue teams for confined spaces, and 57 percent said they would call 911 if there was a confined space emergency.
However, based on information from eight California fire departments and 10 senior technical rescue officers from across the state, Wilson also found that firefighters typically arrive at an emergency within five to seven minutes of a 911 call, but it can take one to three hours for someone to be extricated from a confined space because these are “low-frequency, high-risk” operations in which crews avoid rushing into a dangerous situation.
“Fire departments respond quickly to confined space accidents … but on average do not enter the confined space to rescue until they are prepared, and that may take more than two hours,” Downey said.
Wilson said his research findings suggest that most California employers are out of compliance with the state’s confined space regulations.
“We found really troubling practices among sophisticated Silicon Valley companies that have full-time health and safety staff,” Wilson said. “What this suggests is that across the state, the practices among small and medium-sized companies are probably much worse.”
As part of its new program on confined space safety, Cal/OSHA is providing additional training and consultation services to employers on this issue. As of February, all workplace inspections by the agency now include a review for confined spaces. If one is identified, inspectors look for potential violations.
There were 247 confirmed workplace-related deaths in California in 2011, according to a report [PDF] from Worksafe, an occupational health and safety advocacy organization.
This story can be viewed at http://californiawatch.org/dailyreport/workplace-fatalities-rise-confined-spaces-16276.
For more information on confined space safety training, visit http://www.safetylinks.net/index.php/training/safety-courses-for-all-industries/confined-space.
On May 17, OSHA announced the intent to establish a Whistleblower Protection Committee (WPAC) in efforts to improve the efficiency and results of whistleblowers’ protection and procedures nationwide.The committee will work directly with OSHA’s Secretary of Labor, Hilda L. Solis and Assistant Secretary of Labor, Dr. David Michaels. Its creation’s purpose will serve to sustain and encourage open dialog between stakeholders and experts, transparency, and accountability.
According to OSHA, all workers should have the confidence to speak out about fouled, illegal, or unethical situations they might encounter, such as “securities and financial fraud, adulterated foods, air and water pollution, or workplace safety hazards” without retaliation as the legal right was created for, says Michaels. “Establishing a federal advisory committee is another important effort to strengthen protections for whistleblowers.”
Customer service models, enhancements in investigative and enforcement process, training, and regulations governing OSHA investigations are some of the subjects the committee will advise on to OSHA.
The Occupational Safety and Health Act and 20 other statutes regarding workers’ rights are enforced by OSHA and enacted by Congress. To view information on employer whistleblower rights, visit www.whistleblowers.gov. To view the federal register notice of OSHA’s announcement, visit https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2012/05/17/2012-11982/whistleblower-protection-advisory-committee-wpac.
Working in the outdoor heat?
Every year, more than 30 workers have died of heat a heat stroke. Due to the rising number of deaths and concern, OSHA has launched a national awareness initiative to educate employers and workers of the dangers of hot outdoor work environments. Heat illness educational materials in both English and Spanish are now available for anyone’s workplace training. The page can be viewed at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/index.html. Other symptoms to look out for when working in hot temperatures are heat rashes and heat cramps, which can occur prior to a stroke.
“It is essential for workers and employers to take proactive steps to stay safe in extreme heat, and become aware of symptoms of heat exhaustion before they get worse,” says Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. “Agriculture workers; building, road and other construction workers; utility workers; baggage handlers; roofers; landscapers; and others who work outside are all at risk. Drinking plenty of water and taking frequent breaks in cool, shaded areas are incredibly important in the hot summer months.”
Even more convenient, you can use your smart phone to your advantage when working outdoors. A mobile app for Androids and iPhones is now available for workers and supervisors to monitor heat index at a work site. Risk levels and reminders on protective safety measures are available in it and it is available in Spanish and English. To download it, visit http://s.dol.gov/RI.
If you haven’t already, you can view Safety Links e-learning safety module on Heat Stress at http://www.safetylinks.net/index.php/blog/entry/safety-tip-heat-stress-in-work-environments.
As Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health says, “OSHA’s 1983 Hazard Communication Standard gave workers the right to now.”
Now more than ever, this statement applies to the newly aligned United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System with OSHA’s HazCom standard. Its merging will help facilitate American workers’ safety and make it easier for employers to compete in a globally.
This change includes establishing consistent labels and safety data sheets for all chemicals made in the U.S. and imported. They will also classify chemicals according to their health and physical hazards.
By September of this year, all states with OSHA-approved safety and health regulatory programs must add the GHS amendments to their HazCom programs. “This update will give them the right to understand as well”, says Michaels.
To inquire about consulting of OSHA’s HazCom and GHS, visit http://www.safetylinks.net/index.php/training/safety-courses-for-all-industries/hazcom.
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