Emphasis placed on musculoskeletal disorders, bloodborne pathogens, workplace violence, tuberculosis, and slips/trips/falls

iStock_000009123775XSmallWASHINGTON — Targeting some of the most common causes of workplace injury and illness in the healthcare industry, OSHA announced the agency is expanding its use of enforcement resources in hospitals and nursing homes to focus on musculoskeletal disorders related to patient or resident handling, bloodborne pathogens, workplace violence, tuberculosis, and slips/trips/falls.

U.S. hospitals recorded nearly 58,000 work-related injuries and illnesses in 2013, amounting to 6.4 work-related injuries and illnesses for every 100 full-time employees, almost twice as high as the overall rate for private industry.

“Workers who take care of us when we are sick or hurt should not be at such high risk for injuries — that simply is not right. Workers in hospitals, nursing homes and long-term care facilities have work injury and illness rates that are among the highest in the country, and virtually all of these injuries and illnesses are preventable,” said Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health. “OSHA has provided employers with education, training and resource materials, and it’s time for hospitals and the health care industry to make the changes necessary to protect their workers.”

OSHA has advised its staff through a memorandum that all inspections of hospitals and nursing home facilities, including those prompted by complaints, referrals or severe injury reports, should include the review of potential hazards involving MSD related to patient handling; bloodborne pathogens; workplace violence; tuberculosis; and slips/trips/falls.

“The most recent statistics tell us that almost half of all reported injuries in the healthcare industry were attributed to overexertion and related tasks. Nurses and nursing assistants each accounted for a substantial share of this total,” added Dr. Michaels.  “There are feasible solutions for preventing these hazards and now is the time for employers to implement them.”

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Must reinstate injured conductor and pay $536K in damages

iStock_000016656836XSmallwhistlebower2SEATTLE – North America’s second-largest freight railroad, Burlington Northern Santa Fe LLC, must reinstate a train conductor and pay the man $536,063 in back pay, damages and attorney’s fees after a federal investigation found the rail operator retaliated against its employee after reporting a knee injury.

BNSF filed disciplinary charges against the conductor after he reported the injury, which occurred in November 2010 while enroute from Vancouver to Pasco. The employee filed a Federal Railroad Safety Act anti-discrimination complaint with OSHA in February 2011. Company officials fired him in August 2011 despite knowing that his injury report was protected by law.

After an investigation, OSHA investigators determined the railroad violated federal laws protecting whistleblowers and ordered the reinstatement and financial compensation.

“Disciplining an employee for reporting an injury is illegal,” said Ken Atha, regional administrator for OSHA’s Seattle office. “Those who do so face negative repercussions. Retaliatory actions can discourage other workers from speaking up, which may result in an unsafe work environment.”

In addition to paying punitive and compensatory damages, OSHA ordered BNSF to rehire the employee and expunge his record of all charges and disciplinary action. The company must also conduct training for supervisors and managers on employee whistleblower rights and post a notice to employees of their whistleblower rights.

Both the employee and the railroad have 30 days from receipt of OSHA’s findings to file objections and request a hearing before the department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges.

With 38,000 employees, BNSF operates more than 7,000 locomotives and 32,500 miles of track.

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the FRSA and 21 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, maritime and securities laws.

Under laws enacted by Congress, employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise various protected concerns or provide protected information to the employer or to the government. Employees who believe that they have been retaliated against for engaging in protected conduct may file a complaint with the secretary of labor for an investigation by OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program. Detailed employee rights information is available online at http://www.whistleblowers.gov.

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More than 100 workers injured each year in Kentucky due to heat-related illness

FRANKFORT, Kentucky – The Kentucky Labor Cabinet wants to remind all employers and employees that high temperatures and humidity can have devastating effects if workers do not take proper precautions and procedures.

“Hot weather can make for dangerous conditions both outdoors and inside,” said Labor Secretary Larry L. Roberts. “In many cases, precautions such as water, rest and shade can be the difference between life and death for workers.”

Heat exhaustion can become heat stroke, which the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports kills an average of 30 workers each year in the United States. Each year in Kentucky, an average of 106 workers suffer heat-related injuries that result in days away from work. Three workers have died from heat stroke in Kentucky in the past four years.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASymptoms of Heat-Related Illnesses

Labor-intensive activities in hot weather can raise body temperatures beyond the level that normally can be cooled by sweating. Heat illness can begin as heat rash or heat cramps, and quickly can become heat exhaustion and even heat stroke if simple prevention steps are not followed.

Heat exhaustion has symptoms of headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, thirst or heavy sweating. Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, which includes symptoms of fainting, seizures and confusion. Often, it is difficult for workers to recognize that they are experiencing these symptoms, so it is important for co-workers to be aware of each other’s actions and behavior. Heat stroke requires immediate medical attention.

Water, Rest and Shade

Workers can take various measures to combat heat exhaustion and heat stroke. They should consume small amounts of water frequently. Drinking water every 15 minutes, even if not thirsty, is important.

Employers should allow workers frequent rest breaks, especially during the first day and initial week of work. Workers must be acclimatized, which requires a gradual increase in workload and routine rest periods while the body can build a stronger tolerance to hot conditions.

Shade is important to help workers cool down outdoors. Exposure to full sunshine can increase heat index values by up to 15 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Heat Index

The U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration developed the heat index system, which combines both air temperature and relative humidity into a single value that indicates how hot the weather will feel. The heat index can be used to help determine the risk of heat-related illness for workers.

Heat Index

Risk Level

Protective Measures

Less than 91°F Lower (Caution) Basic heat safety and planning
91°F to 103°F Moderate Implement precautions and heighten awareness
103°F to 115°F High Additional precautions to protect workers
Greater than 115°F Very High to Extreme Triggers even more aggressive protective measures

When the heat index is near 91 degrees, workers should be cautioned. When the heat index is between 91 and 103 degrees, the risk level is at the moderate stage, and employers should implement precautions and heighten awareness. At 103 to 115 degrees, the risk level is high, and additional precautions should be taken to ensure worker safety.  At greater than 115 degrees, the risk is very high to extreme, and more aggressive protective measures are required, such as rescheduling all non-essential outdoor work, setting up clear drinking and work/rest schedules and conducting physiological monitoring of employees.

The heat index value is how hot the weather feels. For example, the actual temperature could be 88 degrees, but at 85 percent relative humidity, the result would be 110 degrees on the heat index chart.

The Labor Cabinet offers free online training about heat stress and other topics at www.laborcabinetetrain.ky.gov.

The Labor Cabinet is working in conjunction with the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) campaign to raise awareness about heat-related illnesses. To learn more, visit www.labor.ky.gov, www.osha.gov or click here. An OSHA smartphone mobile app is available that calculates heat index for locations and provides guidance to prevent illness.

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ky_fiStarting January 1, 2016, Kentucky OSHA will adopt – with a few minor differences – Federal OSHA’s injury/illness reporting rule that went into effect January 1, 2015.  Sixty-three additional industries will now be required to keep work-related injury and illness logs (OSHA 300) if the employer employed more than ten (10) employees at any time during the previous calendar year.

Kentucky will adopt the “loss of an eye” reporting requirement and its time frame for reporting will be 72 hours vs. Federal OSHA’s 24 hour requirement. However, Kentucky will keep its definition of an “amputation” – an injury in which a portion of the body, including the bone, is removed.  Federal OSHA’s definition includes verbiage stating fingertip amputations with or without bone loss.

Kentucky’s current rule requires the in-patient hospitalization of three (3) or more employees to be reported within eight (8) hours.  The hospitalization of fewer than three (3) employees, as well as all amputations, shall be reported within 72 hours. Federal OSHA’s rule requires the reporting of all hospitalizations and amputations within 24 hours. Kentucky will retain its amputation and hospitalization reporting requirement as is written and will not adopt the Federal requirements.

Click here to learn more and read the letter from Secretary of Labor Larry Roberts updating employers on the new rule.

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confined _spaceOn May 4, 2015, OSHA added requirements for employee protection in confined spaces in the construction industry. The new subpart (29 CFR 1926 Subpart AA) will require a permit program. While the final rule is similar to the general industry confined spaces standard, it does address construction-specific hazards, improves enforceability, and includes technology advancements.

OSHA believes this final rule will reduce the average number of fatalities and injuries in confined spaces by 96%. (https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2015/05/04/2015-08843/confined-spaces-in-construction#addresses).  The final rule goes into effect on August 3, 2015.

There are five (5) key differences from the construction rule, and several areas where OSHA has clarified existing requirements. The five new requirements include:

  1. More detailed provisions requiring coordinated activities when there are multiple employers at the worksite. This will ensure hazards are not introduced into a confined space by workers performing tasks outside the space. An example would be a generator running near the entrance of a confined space causing a buildup of carbon monoxide within the space.
  2. Requiring a competent person to evaluate the work site and identify confined spaces, including permit spaces.
  3. Requiring continuous atmospheric monitoring whenever possible.
  4. Requiring continuous monitoring of engulfment hazards. For example, when workers are performing work in a storm sewer, a storm upstream from the workers could cause flash flooding. An electronic sensor or observer posted upstream from the work site could alert workers in the space at the first sign of the hazard, giving the workers time to evacuate the space safely.
  5. Allowing for the suspension, rather than cancellation, of a permit in the event of changes from the entry conditions listed on the permit or an unexpected event requiring evacuation of the space. The space must be returned to the entry conditions listed on the permit before re-entry.

In addition, OSHA has added provisions to the new rule that clarifies existing requirements in the General Industry standard. These include:

  1. Requiring that employers who direct workers to enter a space without using a complete permit system prevent workers’ exposure to physical hazards through elimination of the hazard or isolation methods such as lockout/tagout.
  2. Requiring that employers who are relying on local emergency services for emergency services arrange for responders to give the employer advance notice if they will be unable to respond for a period of time (because they are responding to another emergency, attending department-wide training, etc.).
  3. Requiring employers to provide training in a language and vocabulary that the worker understands.

Finally, several terms have been added to the definitions for the construction rule, such as “entry employer” to describe the employer who directs workers to enter a space, and “entry rescue”, added to clarify the differences in the types of rescue employers can use.

“This rule will save lives of construction workers.  Unlike most general industry worksites, construction sites are continuously evolving, with the number and characteristics of confined spaces changing as work progresses.  This rule emphasizes training, continuous worksite evaluation and communication requirements to further protect workers’ safety and health.”

-Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, Dr. David Michaels

For additional information regarding 29CFR1926 Subpart AA, please see OSHA’s Frequently Asked Questions – Confined Spaces.

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Melissa_MedleyLouisville, KY – Dwayne Towles, President of Advanced Safety & Health, LLC, announces the addition of Melissa Medley as a safety consultant, further complementing the team of dedicated occupational health and safety professionals at Advanced Safety & Health. “She is an energetic safety professional with a proven track record of implementing and managing well-designed safety and health management programs, specifically in the areas of manufacturing and food production”, said Towles.

Melissa brings with her an array of knowledge and expertise, particularly in the areas of hazard assessment, safety training, worker compensation, job safety analysis, and regulatory compliance. She also has experience with root cause analysis for injuries and vehicular incidents as well as development of safety campaigns/incentives.

Melissa holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Safety Science from Indiana University Southeast in New Albany, Indiana.  She is a certified First Aid Responder as well as a Certified Hearing Conservationist.  Additionally, Melissa is past-president of ASSE – Louisville Chapter.

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Goes Into Effect Later This Month

iStock_000011051688XSmallThe Kentucky State Legislature recently passed House Bill 315 (HB315), increasing the height and age restrictions with regard to state’s current child safety seat and booster law. The Bill increases the upper end of the height range by seven inches. Children 57” tall (4’ 9”) or shorter and 8 years old or younger will be required to be strapped in a booster seat when riding in a motor vehicle. Current law requires children under the age of 7 and between 40 inches and 50 inches tall ride in booster seats.

Governor Steve Beshear discussed child safety and booster seats before the June 15th ceremonial signing of HB315. “Passage of this bill provides greater safety and protection to our most precious asset – our children,” Beshear said. “I commend the many advocate groups who have long-supported this legislation and both chambers for working together to enhance Kentucky’s booster seat law.” The new law goes into effect on June 24, 2015.

The Bill also allows that children younger than 8 years of age but taller than 57” would not have to ride in a booster seat.

Seatbelts are designed to be used by adults.  Booster seats, however, are designed to raise children up to better utilize the seatbelt.  The lap portion of the belt should fit low on their hips and touch the top of their thighs.  The shoulder portion should rest along their collar bone.  If a child is not restrained properly, serious injury could occur to their abdomen or neck.

To read more about child seat safety, please review the information sheet presented by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Office of Highway Safety.

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iStock_000023698673XSmallBOSTON – A Tewksbury company that supplies temporary employees to businesses has agreed to enhanced workplace safety and health protections for workers it places in all those businesses in a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor.

OSHA cited Marathon Staffing Services, Inc. for a serious violation in December 2014 for not providing hearing tests for its employees exposed to high noise levels while working on assignment at Concrete Systems, Inc. in Hudson, New Hampshire.

Under the terms of the agreement, Marathon will have a qualified safety and health professional review and update a checklist to address foreseeable safety and health concerns at client workplaces. The list will be used to conduct initial and periodic safety and health inspections or audits at client work sites to ensure working conditions meet OSHA standards.

Marathon will also provide comprehensive safety and health training for its account executives and sales representatives. The company will develop, with each of its clients, written contracts specifying their respective responsibilities to develop safety and health programs applicable to each workplace where Marathon will supply temporary employees. These terms echo OSHA’s recommended practice that temporary staffing agencies and host employers define and implement their respective roles designed to ensure compliance with applicable OSHA standards.

“This is an example of what suppliers of temporary employees should be doing,” said Kim Stille, OSHA’s regional administrator for New England. “Both host employers and staffing agencies have critical roles in complying with workplace health and safety requirements. They share responsibility for ensuring worker safety and health. Each employer should consider hazards it can prevent and correct, and no employer – whether a temporary staffing agency or a client company – should ever send an employee into harm’s way.”

“This settlement ripples beyond this one case. It is designed to enhance safety and health for hundreds of Marathon employees at numerous work sites in several states. Other suppliers and employers of temporary workers can and should take heed and ensure that all employees – permanent, short-term or day laborer – work in an environment that enables them to come home each day safe and healthy,” said Michael Felsen, the department’s regional solicitor of labor for New England.

Marathon Staffing Services Inc. operates in several states and is part of a Marathon Staffing network of connected offices that collectively place more than 15,000 temporary workers annually.

In April 2013, OSHA announced an initiative to improve workplace safety and health for temporary workers, who are at increased risk of work-related injury and illness. The initiative includes outreach, training, and enforcement to ensure that temporary workers are protected in their workplaces. OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health have issued a “Recommended Practices” publication that focuses on ensuring that temporary workers receive the same training and protection that permanent employees receive.

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Workers exposed to falls, amputations, and electrical hazards

shipbuilding, ship repairContender Boats Inc., of Homestead, Florida, has been cited by OSHA following a December 2014 inspection as part of the agency’s Site Specific Targeting Program.  OSHA issued the employer ten (10) repeat, eleven (11) serious, and four (4) other-than-serious safety and health violations.

The repeat citations were issued for allowing forklifts with broken seats to be in operation; failing to perform frequent inspections of cranes to identify defects or excessive wear on operating components; exposing workers to a drill press that was not secured to the floor; using compressed air in excess of 30 pounds per square inch for cleaning; and exposing employees to several electrical hazards. OSHA cited the company for serious violations for not having safety guards on machinery; lack of stairway railings, which exposed workers to fall hazards; not implementing a hearing conservation program for employees performing boat building operations; and failing to train employees who use hazardous chemicals.

“Contender Boats must ensure worker safety is not an afterthought. There is no excuse for exposing employees to the serious hazards which could result in burns, hearing loss, amputation or even death,” said Condell Eastmond, OSHA’s area director in Ft. Lauderdale. “The company must take all the necessary steps to immediately correct the hazards and foster a safer work environment for all employees.”

Proposed penalties in the amount of $106,000 have been levied against the company, which manufactures sport fishing boats and employs approximately 160 workers.

The citations can be viewed at:  http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/ContenderBoatsInc_1014277_1018073.pdf

Posted in Caught Between/Struck By, Cranes, Electrical, Machine Safety, OSHA Inspections | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Potential 25-Year Prison Sentence, $1.5 Million in Fines

iStock_000017937891SmallIn a press release issued by United States Attorney Zane David Memeger of the Eastern District of Pennsylavania, James J. McCullagh, 60, of Meadowbrook, was charged by indictment in connection with the fatal fall of an employee, announced.  McCullagh, who owns James J. McCullagh Roofing, is charged with four counts of making false statements, one count of obstruction of justice, and one count of willfully violating an OSHA regulation causing death to an employee.

According to the indictment, McCullagh failed to provide fall protection equipment to his employees.  On June 21, 2013, one of McCullagh’s employees was killed after falling approximately 45 feet from a roof bracket scaffold while performing roofing work for McCullagh.  In connection with the OSHA investigation of the fatality, McCullagh attempted to cover up his failure to provide fall protection by falsely stating, on four occasions, that he had provided fall protection equipment, including safety harnesses, to his employees.  McCullagh told an OSHA Compliance Safety and Health Officer that his employees had been wearing safety harnesses tied off to an anchor point when he saw them earlier in the day prior to the fall.  The indictment alleges that McCullagh knew that he had not provided fall protection to his employees and none of his employees had safety harnesses or any other form of fall protection.  It is further alleged that McCullagh directed other employees to falsely state that they had fall protection, including safety harnesses, on the day of the fall.

If convicted, the defendant faces a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison, three years of supervised release, $1.5 million in fines, and a $510 special assessment.

The case was investigated by the United States Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Mary Kay Costello.

An Indictment is an accusation.  A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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