A twice monthly e-news product with information about workplace safety and health.
New educational resources released to better protect workers from exposures to hazardous chemicals
Transitioning to Safer Chemicals: A Toolkit for Employers and Workers
Each year, tens of thousands of American workers are made sick or die from occupational exposures to hazardous chemicals. While many chemicals are suspected of being harmful, OSHA's exposure standards are out-of-date and inadequately protective for the small number of chemicals that are regulated in the workplace. To help keep workers safe, OSHA has launched two new Web resources.
The first resource is a step-by-step toolkit to identify safer chemicals that can be used in place of more hazardous ones. The Transitioning to Safer Chemicals toolkit provides employers and workers with information, methods, tools, and guidance on using informed substitution in the workplace.
OSHA has also created another new Web resource: the Annotated Permissible Exposure Limits, or annotated PELs tables, which will enable employers to voluntarily adopt newer, more protective workplace exposure limits. Since OSHA's adoption of the majority of its PELs more than 40 years ago, new scientific data, industrial experience and developments in technology clearly indicate that in many instances these mandatory limits are not sufficiently protective of workers? health.
"From steel mills to hospitals, from construction sites to nail salons, hazardous chemical exposure is a serious concern for countless employers and workers in many, many industries, in every part of this nation," said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. "With these new resources, OSHA is making sure that all business owners have access to information on safer exposure limits and safer alternatives to help protect their workers and their bottom lines." To learn more, read the press release and Dr. Michaels' new post on the DOL blog.
Comment period on proposed silica rule extended to provide additional time for public input
OSHA encourages the public to submit comments on its proposed silica rule.
Comments on OSHA's proposed silica rule may be submitted by mail, fax or regulations.gov.
In response to requests, OSHA has extended the public comment period for an additional 47 days on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Occupational Exposure to Crystalline Silica. To allow stakeholders additional time to comment on the proposed rule and supporting analyses, the deadline to submit written comments and testimony is being extended to Jan. 27, 2014. OSHA is also extending the deadline to submit notices of intention to appear at its informal public hearings to Dec. 12, 2013.
"We strongly encourage the public to assist in the process of developing a final rule by submitting written comments and participating in public hearings," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. "We especially hope to hear from employers, workers and public health professionals who have experience in successfully protecting workers from silica-related diseases. We are extending the comment period to ensure we hear from all stakeholders who wish to participate." Read the press release to learn more about the extended deadlines and visit www.osha.gov/silica for more information about how to participate.
West, Texas, fertilizer company cited following deadly ammonium nitrate explosion
OSHA has cited Adair Grain Inc. dba West Fertilizer Co. with 24 serious safety violations at its West facility for exposing workers to fire/explosion hazards of ammonium nitrate and liquid burns and inhalation hazards from anhydrous ammonia storage and servicing. Proposed penalties total $118,300. For additional information about the violations and penalties, read the citations (*PDF).
"The tragic loss of 15 lives, including 13 first responders underscores the need for employers that store and handle hazardous substances like ammonium nitrate to ensure the safety of those materials ? not just for workers at the facility, but for the lives and safety of emergency responders and entire communities," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. "Employers are responsible for knowing the hazards that exist in their facilities and working with the surrounding community to ensure the safety of first responders."
Following the tragic events in West, Texas, President Obama signed an executive order directing federal agencies to work with stakeholders to improve chemical safety and security through agency programs, private sector initiatives, federal guidance, standards and regulations. To learn more, read the executive order.
Wyoming OSHA cites Sinclair Refinery for $707,000 in proposed fines for 22 violations
The OSHA division within the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services cited the Sinclair Wyoming Refining Company with $707,000 in fines for 22 violations found at the company's Sinclair, Wyoming refinery operation. The violations are the result of a May 2013 inspection which stemmed from an employee complaint and several gas releases that Sinclair voluntarily reported to DWS OSHA.
Conditions found during the inspection include: Insufficient or no processes and no corrective action available or taken for a documented history of hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide releases; inadequate or no training provided for operating procedures for processes and hazards associated with the operation of the facility; and an emergency eyewash safety shower out of service despite three previous sets of citations for this violation. Additional details and descriptions of the citations can be viewed in the press release.
Temporary worker deaths serve as powerful reminder of the need for equal protection
Water. Rest. Shade. Heat Illness Prevention.
In a new op-ed in the Houston Chronicle, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels explains how recent reports of temporary worker deaths prompted OSHA to launch a national initiative on protecting temporary workers. He recounts the story of Michael White, an untrained temporary worker who died after suffering heat stroke on his third day working at Republic Services Inc., a waste management company in Houston. Following OSHA's investigation into White's death, the agency cited not only Republic Services but also its temporary labor provider, Recana Solutions. View the citations and additional details in the press release.
"Staffing agencies and their client employers who host temporary workers share the legal obligation to provide workplaces free of recognized hazards," writes Dr. Michaels. "This includes providing required safety training in a language and vocabulary workers can understand. Cutting corners on safety can result in both tragedy and stiff federal penalties."
In a separate enforcement case, OSHA recently cited B R Flowers & Co. Inc. and Tidewater Staffing Inc. of Norfolk, Va. after a temporary worker died from excessive heat while cleaning up debris on the deck of the USS Nitze. Learn more details of the citations in the press release.
RAND study finds U.S. workplace fatality rate three times higher than U.K.
American Journal of Industrial Medicine
Workers in the United States were killed on the job at three times the rate of their peers in the United Kingdom in 2010, according to a study published online Sept. 30 in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine. Authors John Mendeloff and Laura Staetsky also found that U.S. construction workers' fatality rate was four times the U.K. rate in 2010 ? a difference that has grown substantially since the 1990s. Read the abstract for additional details about the study findings.
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