Double Trench Fatality Leads to 7-Figure Fine and Criminal Charges

May 24th, 2017

OSHA says the deaths of two employees in a tragic trench accident could have been prevented if a drain cleaning company had provided basic safeguards and training.

The Boston area contractor, which was cited and fined for similar hazards in 2007 and 2012, was recently cited for 18 alleged violations of OSHA standards, with proposed fines of $1.5 million. In February, a county grand jury indicted the company and its owner on two counts of manslaughter and other charges in connection with the deaths.

According to OSHA, the two workers died in October 2016 when the 12-foot-deep trench in which they were working collapsed. As a result, an adjacent fire hydrant supply line broke, filling the trench with water in a matter of seconds. Read the rest of this entry »

ISO 14001 – Is it Worth the Effort of Recertification

May 24th, 2017

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is the largest organization in the world that develops and publishes voluntary international standards. Its environmental management standard, ISO 14001, was first published in 1996. It underwent minor revisions in 2004. In 2015, ISO published the first major overhaul of ISO 14001 since its initial publication, and participating businesses have until 2018 to update their systems and recertify under the new standard.

Is ISO Still Relevant?

A lot has changed in the 2 decades since ISO 14001 was first published and even in the 12 years since its last update. The existing standard was not equipped to address many modern issues in environmental management, including global climate change, sustainability reporting, and life-cycle considerations in environmental impact management. The newly revised standard seeks to address these issues—but does it come too late? Is there any benefit for employers to obtain or maintain ISO 14001 certification? Read the rest of this entry »

OSHA Enforcement

March 2nd, 2017

OSHA has formed a partnership with the University of Alabama SafeState On-site Consultation Program and general contractor Brasfield & Gorrie LLC to protect approximately 200 workers during the construction of an office building in Birmingham for one of the nation’s largest healthcare services providers. Thepartnership’s goals during the year-long project include reducing injuries and illnesses, and increasing both safety and health training and the number employers with safety and health programs. Through the Strategic Partnership Program, OSHA works with employers, workers, professional or trade associations, labor organizations, and other interested stakeholders to eliminate serious hazards and enhance workplace safety and health practices. Read the rest of this entry »

New Antiretaliation Recommendations from OSHA

March 2nd, 2017

Even as OSHA faces ongoing legal action over its electronic recordkeeping and antiretaliation standard, the agency has issued recommended practices to help employers create an environment where employees feel comfortable speaking up.

The new OSHA publication, Recommended Practices for Anti-Retaliation

 Programs ( OSHA3905.pdf), applies not just to safety and health, but to all public and private sector workplaces covered by the 22 whistleblower protection laws enforced by OSHA. The agency says the recommendations are adaptable to most workplaces and can be adjusted for factors like size, type of workforce, and type of work performed. The concepts addressed can be used to create a new program or enhance an existing one. Read the rest of this entry »

IAQ Complaints: Survival Techniques for the Safety Professional

March 2nd, 2017

Sometimes you cannot find a solution that works. Admit it and keep trying to find answers, but know that some complaints you may never be able to solve.

Some indoor air complaints are real, many frivolous; they range from “bad smells” to serious medical conditions documented by personal physicians and medical test results weakly linked to the work environment. Whether new construction is involved or a historic building with antique ventilation (windows), chances are you will receive assorted requests and complaints to deal with professionally and with enthusiasm.

For the safety professional, it takes a lot of time, patience, carefully chosen words, and educating the employee workforce to sort out the real issues from the nuisance and “unhappy employee” issues. Read the rest of this entry »

Getting the Most Out of Your Spill-Prevention Plan

March 2nd, 2017

Creating a spill-prevention plan does more than just outline the methods for averting spills at a facility. It can help minimize other environmental, health and safety hazards and complement a variety of compliance strategies.

Like a multi-function knife, a well-prepared spill-prevention plan is a versatile tool that can be used for many purposes.

For example, EPA’s stormwater regulation and spill-prevention control and countermeasure regulation both have spill-prevention planning elements that can be served by a single well-designed spill-prevention plan.

On the safety side, managing chemicals and preventing spills can overlap with the facility’s hazard communication plan. And because spills are a risk factor for slips and falls, an effective spill-prevention plan can help reduce injuries and enhance the overall safety program. Read the rest of this entry »

Federal Railroad Administration Reminds Workers that OSHA Standards Apply to Them

March 2nd, 2017

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is not the only agency that makes rules protecting worker safety and health. Nuclear plants, for example, are subject to the rules of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC); airlines are subject to safety rules issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Railroads, too, have their own safety agency: the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). These agencies tend to issue rules covering issues specifically connected to their industry, leaving general safety and health regulation to OSHA. A problem sometimes arises when employers working in those industries don’t realize that they are subject not only to the specific industry regulations but also to OSHA rules.

In 2016, the FRA determined that it had just such a problem: Roadway workers were failing to comply with OSHA health and safety rules, and it was getting them killed. After an incident in April 2016 that resulted in the deaths of two Amtrak employees in Chester, Pennsylvania, the FRA took action to better protect roadway workers. Read the rest of this entry »

Civil Penalty Amounts Increased by OSHA

March 2nd, 2017

The U.S. Department of Labor published a final rule in the Federal Register that increases penalty amounts to adjust for inflation across its various agencies, including OSHA. The penalty increases are effective as of January 13, 2017.

This most recent increase follows a much larger increase of 78 percent, which took effect in August 2016. That jump represented the first time OSHA had increased its penalties since 1990. The new fines are just over 1 percent higher than the August 2016 levels.

The new penalty levels will apply to all violations occurring after November 2, 2015, with penalties assessed after January 13, 2017.

The following chart compares penalties in effect August 1, 2016, to the new penalties effective January 13, 2017: Read the rest of this entry »

New Final Rule Updates Walking-Working Surfaces Standards and Establishes Personal Fall Protection Requirements

December 28th, 2016

OSHA issued a final rule Nov. 17 updating its 44-year old general industry Walking-Working Surfaces standard to protect workers from slip, trip, and fall hazards. The rule also increases consistency in safety and health standards for people working in both general and construction industries. OSHA estimates the final rule will prevent more than 5,800 injuries a year. The rule takes effect Jan. 17, 2017.

“The final rule will increase workplace protection from those hazards, especially fall hazards, which are a leading cause of worker deaths and injuries,” said OSHA Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels. The rule’s most significant update is allowing employers to select the fall protection system that works best for them, choosing from a range of accepted options. For more information, read the news release.  Read the rest of this entry »

OSHA Enforcement

December 28th, 2016

Alabama auto parts supplier, staffing agencies face $2.5M in fines after robot fatally crushes young worker

Two weeks before what was to be her wedding day, 20-year-old Regina Allen Elsea was crushed to death in a robotic machine at a manufacturing facility that stamps metal parts for Hyundai and Kia vehicles in Cusseta, Ala.

Following OSHA’s investigation of Ajin USA, the agency issued citations for 23 willful, serious and other-than-serious violations, including 19 egregious willful violations. OSHA also cited two staffing agencies responsible for placing Elsea at the factory as a temporary worker – Alliance Total Solutions LLC and Joynus Staffing Corp. – for two serious safety violations each. Collectively, the three companies face $2,565,621 in penalties for the federal safety and health violations. Read the rest of this entry »