OSHA initiates national emphasis program to protect workers from chemical and physical hazards in the primary metals industries
OSHA issued a new directive establishing a National Emphasis Program (NEP) for the Primary Metals Industries. The purpose of this NEP is to identify and reduce or eliminate worker exposures to harmful chemical and physical hazards in primary metals industries that extract and refine metals. Among these establishments are those that manufacture nails, insulated wires and cables, steel piping, and copper and aluminum products. Workers exposed to various substances found in these industries can suffer damage to the eyes, nose, throat and skin and can experience difficulty breathing and chest and joint pain. Overexposures can also lead to death.
The goals of the NEP include minimizing or eliminating exposure to chemical hazards and physical hazards such as noise and heat. See the news release for more information on this NEP. For more information on the hazards of various metals and solutions to control exposures, visit OSHA's Safety and Health Topics and Publications pages on Toxic Metals.
OSHA announces three-month enforcement phase-in for residential construction fall protection
OSHA announced June 9 a three-month enforcement phase-in period to allow residential construction employers to come into compliance with the agency's new directive to provide residential construction workers with fall protection. During the phase-in period June 16-September 15, if an employer is in full compliance with the old directive (STD 03-00-001), OSHA will not issue citations, but will instead issue a hazard alert letter informing the employer of the feasible methods that can be used to comply with OSHA's fall protection standard or implement a written fall protection plan. If the employer's practices do not meet the requirements set in the old directive, OSHA will issue appropriate citations. If an employer fails to implement the fall protection measures outlined in a hazard alert letter, and OSHA finds violations involving the same hazards during a subsequent inspection of one of the employer's workplaces, the Area Office will issue appropriate citations.
OSHA's Residential Fall Protection Web page has many guidance products, including a fall protection slide show, to help employers comply with the new directive. Employers are also encouraged to take full advantage of OSHA's On-site Consultation Program, which provides free compliance assistance services, or contact their local OSHA Area Office to speak with a Compliance Assistance Specialist. See the news release for more information.
The goal of this strategic partnership is to prevent occupational fatalities, injuries and illnesses at participating Ford Motor Co. and ACH locations in Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Missouri and New York. The safety agreement covers 25 Ford facilities and three ACH facilities. In the last decade, participating facilities reduced occupational injuries and illness by 74 percent and reduced the days workers must take off to recover from incidents by 88 percent. See the news release for more information.
Web page provides information to protect workers during and after tornados
OSHA has created a new Web page to help workers and employers prepare for a tornado and protect themselves after a tornado occurs. Tornado Preparedness and Response offers guidance on creating shelter-in-place and personnel accountability plans, developing supply kits and monitoring warning signs. Visitors to the page will also find information on precautions to take in the aftermath of a tornado, as well as OSHA QuickCards and Fact Sheets for the hazards most common in tornado-impacted areas.
What I Hate About OSHA by Jim White
Almost everywhere I go, people talk about how OSHA screws up their work, slows them down and makes life miserable. I rarely hear someone say, "Man, OSHA is really doing a great job." Here are seven of the most common complaints I hear when teaching safety classes.
1. They come onto my site and it's private property. I own this building and land, so I should be able to tell OSHA they can't come in. According to a 1973 Supreme Court ruling (Marshall v. Barlow's Inc.), you can do so, if you want. In that case, it was ruled that private property used as a business is subject to the same protection as any other private property. I wouldn't advise it, though. If the OSHA Field Safety Compliance Officer is not allowed access, he can then get a search warrant and have it served by U.S. marshals. That could ruin your day.
2. OSHA tells me I now have to pay for all my employees' PPE. What's that about? They have to buy their own tools, so they should pay for PPE, right? Not really. OSHA found that in many cases, employees purchased PPE that was ineffective or just incorrect. It's pretty sad when OSHA has to bring out a final rule telling employers they have to supply the PPE required for a job (11/15/2007). In 2008, 5,214 workers died on the job. Who was looking out for them?
3. Speaking of PPE, we never had that junk when I was in the field, and we did just fine. Did I just hear, "We've always done it that way?" Or maybe it was, "Real men don't need that crap." Think about this: Prior to 1970, there were about half as many workers in the United States as there are today, and there were 14,300 job-related deaths. Today, with a workforce more than twice as large, fewer than 5,000 workers are killed on the job in a year. Comparing relative rates (1970 vs 2008) there are about 82 percent fewer fatalities now than in 1970. That sounds pretty good, unless you consider that 5,214 workers were given capital punishment for the crime of going to work. Doesn't sound so good, does it? Maybe the good old days weren't so good.
4. OSHA writes citations that cost me money. How am I supposed to stay in business? Short answer: Maybe you shouldn't be in business if you can't protect your workers. Long answer: OSHA will reduce the fines for citations based on several factors:
||Number of employees
||No citations within five years
Be aware that OSHA is moving forward with the Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP), which affects the size of the fine for 23 different regulations involving fall hazards and other hazards identified by OSHA. The SVEP will allow OSHA to cite each violation, instead of grouping them. It also allows OSHA to reduce the size of any fine reductions it would normally give. Lastly on this topic, OSHA is raising the dollar amount for its citations. Serious violations will be subject to fines up to $12,000, and willful citations can be as high as $250,000! Now, that dog has some real teeth!
5. How am I supposed to understand this gibberish OSHA calls regulations? It's true that OSHA's regulations are written in "broad, regulatory, non-prescriptive language," as one of my OSHA buddies says. I do believe that is the definition Webster's gives for the word "vague." That being said, there are several resources to help. OSHA will come to your site, perform an audit, and not cite you for its findings. You will have to correct those problems within a certain abatement period, but now you will know exactly what needs to be done. They also can set you up with a larger company that will mentor you. If you are the bookish type, there are dozens of books dealing with OSHA regulations, not to mention training that is offered by outside providers. The NFPA 70E standard is an excellent source of information if you're trying to decipher the OSHA regulations. The regulations are somewhat vague, but 70E provides guidance on how to meet the OSHA electrical regulations.
6. Following OSHA regulations slows me down. They certainly will. Performing a task in a safe manner will always take more time than going at it unsafely. You have to plan and prepare, assemble what is needed, and then follow your plan -- that all takes time. In the electrical trade we had a saying: "There are old electricians and there are fast electricians, but there are no old, fast electricians." I think that covers the need for speed.
7. I don't have the time to study all those regulations or even the 70E. I'm trying to run my business. Time, they say, is of the essence. Isn't it worth some of your valuable time to learn how to protect your employees? Isn't it worth some of your employees' time to learn how to protect themselves? Item number 5 also would apply to this complaint, as the solutions would be similar. It amazes me how workers in this country (not all, but the majority) feel it is someone else's responsibility to keep them safe. Unfortunately, our society has moved to one that refuses to acknowledge responsibility for mis-actions. Everyone, give a big hand to our legal system, which has managed to twist logic to where we no longer have to admit we screwed up.
Safety is serious business. Lives and quality of life depend on a safe work environment, as well as safe work practices. The employer is responsible to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards (recognized being recognized by the industry and OSHA). This would include developing an Electrical Safety Program, procedures, policies to protect workers, and providing PPE. Workers must implement those, however. I recently heard of the workers at one facility going to their union (and the union supported them) to prevent the implementation of a company's ESP. I don't know all of the details, but it certainly sounds like wrong-headed thinking.
Think about this: Being killed is one thing. It's over and done with. Being maimed or crippled is an entirely different level. Now, for the rest of your life, every day, you have to deal with the consequences of the accident. One keynote speaker at the 2007 IEEE/IAS/Electrical Safety Workshop was an ex-lineman who had been severely injured in an accident. He said, "No matter how much money you get from the insurance company or the lawsuit, it doesn't make your life better. You take what's left of your life, and you make the most of it." He lost both of his legs and an arm. I'll just take his word for it, thank you.