October 15, 2014 • Volume 13, Issue 20
OSHA launches a national dialogue on hazardous chemical exposures and permissible exposure limits in the workplace
OSHA is launching a national dialogue with stakeholders on ways to prevent work-related illness caused by exposure to hazardous substances. The first stage of this dialogue is a request for information on the management of hazardous chemical exposures in the workplace and strategies for updating permissible exposure limits.
"Many of our chemical exposure standards are dangerously out of date and do not adequately protect workers," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. "While we will continue to work on issuing and updating our workplace exposure limits, we are asking public health experts, chemical manufacturers, employers, unions and others committed to preventing workplace illnesses to help us identify new approaches to address chemical hazards."
OSHA's PELs, which are regulatory limits on the amount or concentration of a substance in the air, are intended to protect workers against the adverse health effects of exposure to hazardous substances. Ninety-five percent of OSHA's current limits, which cover fewer than 500 chemicals, have not been updated since their adoption in 1971. The agency's current PELs cover only a small fraction of the tens of thousands of chemicals in commerce, many of which are suspected of being harmful.
The comment period will close on April 8, 2015. In the coming months, OSHA will announce additional ways for the public to participate in the conversation. For more information, see the news release and visit OSHA's Web page on preventing occupational illnesses through safer chemical management.
New Web page on protecting workers from exposure to Ebola virus
The Ebola virus, pictured above in the image from a special type of microscope, is the agent that causes Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever.
To assist workers and employers, OSHA has launched a new Ebola Web page that provides information about the disease and how to protect workers. It includes sections on the disease itself, hazard recognition, medical information, standards for protecting workers, control and prevention, and additional resources. The page provides protection information for health care workers; airline and other travel industry personnel; mortuary and death care workers; laboratory workers; border, customs and quarantine workers; emergency responders; and workers in other critical sectors. It also links to the CDC and NIOSH Web pages on Ebola.
The Web page also includes a new OSHA fact sheet on protecting workers (not in healthcare or laboratories) involved in cleaning and decontamination of surfaces that may be contaminated with Ebola virus.
New Jersey company fined $136,290 for willfully exposing workers to cancer-causing chemical, other hazards
A Somerville, N.J., custom-order cabinetry company was cited by OSHA for exposing workers to safety and health hazards, including methylene chloride. OSHA inspected Choice Cabinetry LLC and cited the company for 15 violations and proposed penalties of $136,290.
"Methylene chloride is a carcinogen, so it's vital that employers like Choice Cabinetry take all necessary steps to protect workers when there is exposure," said Patricia Jones, director of OSHA's Avenel Area Office. "All workers have the right to a safe and healthy work environment, and OSHA will hold each employer accountable when this legal obligation is not met."
OSHA initiated the inspection as part of its Site-Specific Targeting Program for industries with high injury and illness rates. Custom Cabinetry was cited for not having a hazard communication program, failing to install alarms to warn of inadequate ventilation, failing to provide personal protective equipment and eyewash facilities, and exposing workers to damaging noise levels. For more information, read the news release.
Ohio manufacturer cited for 23 violations after worker dies while clearing reactor drain
OSHA cited Ohio manufacturer Haverhill Chemicals LLC following the death of a worker who was fatally injured when sprayed with a chemical mixture while clearing a blockage on the drain line to a reactor. Many of the more than 20 safety violations cited involve OSHA?s Process Safety Management Standards, which contain requirements for managing highly hazardous chemicals used in the workplace. OSHA proposed fines of $195,000 and placed the company in the agency?s Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
"Haverhill Chemicals has a responsibility to ensure the safety of its workers by ensuring equipment used to carry highly hazardous chemicals is properly installed and maintained," said Nick Walters, OSHA's regional director in Chicago. "A long-term employee, preparing to retire and spend more time with his loved ones, lost his life in a preventable tragedy. A worker who dedicated his life to a job should never lose that life to that job."
The employer failed to ensure misaligned pipes and joints were repaired properly and adequate safety shields were installed before placing the reactor back in service. Haverhill Chemical also failed to develop procedures for normal and emergency shutdown of the reactor and train workers to install equipment properly. For more information, read the news release.
Judge affirms citations issued to New York chicken processing plant for chemical, mechanical hazards
Citations issued to MB Consultants Ltd., doing business as Murray's Chickens, for health and safety violations were affirmed by an administrative law judge from the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, upholding an earlier decision by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The violations occurred at the company's South Fallsburg chicken processing plant.
"This is a critical decision that this employer and others in the industry should pay close attention to," said Robert Kulick, OSHA's regional administrator in New York. "Not informing production employees that the chemical hazards they worked with exposed them to potential illness, or that the absence of machine maintenance procedures left them vulnerable to lacerations, amputations or death, is unacceptable and will be enforced to the highest extent of the law."
OSHA cited the plant for failing to provide workers with information and training about the hazards of products containing peracetic acid and bleach, and failing to train workers servicing machines that could unexpectedly start up. MB Consultants contested the citations. The judge upheld the citations and penalties, noting in his decision that workers told the OSHA compliance officer that they had experienced respiratory ailment symptoms and rashes consistent with exposure symptoms described in the manufacturer?s safety data sheets for Perasafe and chlorine bleach.
The judge also found that that the company's machine maintenance procedures were overly general, lacking sufficient detail to provide employees with the steps to protect themselves from amputation and laceration hazards while servicing equipment. Moreover, production workers were not given basic training on how to avoid injuries when service and maintenance work was needed. Two employees were injured when attempting to clear jams on equipment without knowledge of proper procedures.
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