OSHA Extends Comment Period for Recordkeeping Rule

OSHA is extending the deadline for submitting comments on the proposed rule that clarifies an employer’s continuing obligation to make and maintain an accurate record of each recordable injury and illness. The comment due date has been extended to Oct. 28, 2015.

OSHA issued this proposed rule in light of the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in AKM LLC v. Secretary of Labor (Volks)* to clarify its long-standing position that the duty to record an injury or illness continues for as long as the employer must keep records of the recordable injury or illness. The proposed amendments add no new compliance obligations; the proposal would not require employers to make records of any injuries or illnesses for which records are not already required.

The proposed rule was published in the July 29, 2015, issue of the Federal Register. Members of the public can submit written comments on the proposed rule at the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. See the Federal Register notice for submission details.


OSHA Awards $10.5M in Training Grants

OSHA has awarded $10.5 million in one-year federal safety and health training grants to 80 nonprofit organizations across the nation for education and training programs to help high-risk workers and their employers recognize serious workplace hazards, implement injury prevention measures and understand their rights and responsibilities.

The department’s Susan Harwood Training Grant Program funds grants to nonprofit organizations, including community/faith-based groups, employer associations, labor unions, joint labor/management associations, colleges, and universities. Target trainees include small-business employers and underserved vulnerable workers in high-hazard industries.

The fiscal year 2015 award categories are capacity-building developmental, capacity-building pilot, targeted topic training, and training and educational materials development.

“Susan Harwood training grants save lives,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. “The hands-on training supported by these grants helps assure that workers and employers have the tools and skills they need to identify hazards and prevent injuries.”

In its 2015 award, OSHA is awarding approximately $2.2 million in new, targeted topic training and training and educational materials development grants to 19 organizations to develop materials and programs addressing workplace hazards and prevention strategies. Both grant types require that recipients address occupational safety and health hazards designated by OSHA, including preventing construction hazards and hazardous chemical exposures.

In addition, fifteen organizations will receive approximately $2.3 million in new capacity-building developmental grants to provide occupational safety and health training, education, and related assistance to workers and employers in the targeted populations. Organizations selected to receive these grants are expected to create organizational capacity to provide safety and health training on an ongoing basis. Two of the 15 organizations received capacity-building pilot grants designed to assist organizations in assessing their needs and formulating a capacity-building plan before launching a full-scale safety and health education program.

OSHA also awarded approximately $3 million in follow-on grants to 20 capacity building developmental grantees and $3 million in follow-on grants to 26 targeted topic grantees that performed satisfactorily during fiscal year 2014. These grantees demonstrated their ability to provide occupational safety and health training, education, and related assistance to workers and employers in high-hazard industries, small-business employers, and vulnerable workers.

“The Susan Harwood Training Grant Program is an essential component of OSHA’s worker protection efforts. This program provides thousands of workers and small employers with hands-on training and education in some of the most dangerous industries,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels.

Since 1978, approximately 2.1 million workers have been trained through this program. The training grant program honors Susan Harwood, a former director of the Office of Risk Assessment in OSHA’s former Directorate of Health Standards, who passed away in 1996.

For more information about the FY 2015 Susan Harwood Training Grant Program recipients, click here and here.

More information on the Susan Harwood Training Grant Program is available here.

Public inquiries should be directed to Kimberly Mason at mason.kimberly@dol.gov or 847-759-7700.

American Trucking Associations Defends Industry’s Safety Record

The following is an op-ed column by American Trucking Associations President and CEO Bill Graves that was submitted to and rejected by The New York Times in response to the latest in a series of baseless and defamatory editorials, letters, and columns published by the paper. This particular column—already the subject of a correction—was written by a former ATA employee.

Despite Fear Mongering, the Trucking Industry Is Safe and Getting Safer

By Bill Graves
President and CEO
American Trucking Associations

It is unfortunate that the Times ran an opinion column [on August 21] titled “The Trucks are Killing Us,” without properly vetting the statements contained in it. Despite the author’s implied credentials, there are several falsehoods, both implied and intentional, in the text that deserve a response.

First, the author Mr. Abramson notes that “more people will be killed in traffic accidents involving large trucks this year than have died in all of the domestic commercial airline crashes over the past 45 years,” implying the trucking industry is responsible for all these deaths. This simply isn’t true.

Per the most recent federal data available, upwards of two-thirds of all serious crashes involving large trucks are caused by the actions of someone other than the professional driver. Speeding, impaired driving, and other aggressive behaviors by non-commercial drivers cause far more truck crashes than do fatigue or other issues cited by the author. This is why ATA supports highway safety programs like America’s Road Team and Share the Road where our professional drivers educate the best ways for trucks and autos to interact on the roadways safely.

Second, Mr. Abramson says Congress has “eliminate[ed] the requirement that drivers take a two-day break each week.” This isn’t just an implied falsehood—it is simply and totally wrong. What Congress has done is almost exactly the opposite—it is allowing drivers to take more than one two-day break each week should they need or want to—and easing an onerous restriction that these breaks include two periods between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration admitted to  Congress it never studied the potential consequences of these changes, consequences we now know—thanks to an American Transportation Research Institute analysis—include increased daytime truck traffic and likely increases in crashes as a result of more congested highways during daylight hours.

Mr. Abramson also cites an oft-debunked canard about Congress’ change “allow[ing] truck drivers to work 82 hours a week, up from the current 70 hours over eight days.” FMCSA itself has said such an extreme work schedule would only be possible in “an imaginary world of perfect logistics.” In the real world the average driver works 52 hours in a week—a reasonable total when compared to the average American workweek in today’s modern economy.

The column also warns of the alleged dangers of allowing younger drivers to operate commercial vehicles across state lines. This ignores that at 18, a young man or woman can obtain a commercial driver’s license and drive a truck long distances within the borders of their state, the 300 miles from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia for example, but not a short interstate trip—like the three miles between Philadelphia to Camden, N.J.

The pilot program Congress is currently proposing would not only fix this illogical inconsistency and provide states the ability to restrict these younger drivers in many ways; it would take a huge step toward a graduated commercial licensing system—the same type of system that has long been heralded by safety minded organizations, including ATA.

Mr. Abramson also chastises the industry for opposing technologies like airbags, electronic stability control, and anti-lock brakes. Again, this is false. ATA has pushed for a review of truck crashworthiness standards and has supported mandates for both electronic stability control (finally enacted this June) and improved braking systems.

ATA has also been at the forefront of pushes to electronically limit truck speeds and better electronic monitoring of driver hours-of-service—a pair of regulations we hope will be issued soon.

This column also takes the position that trucks are disproportionally involved in crashes—which is patently false. NHTSA’s most recent Traffic Safety Facts report (dated July 2015) contains the facts:  9% of miles were driven by large trucks in 2013; large trucks accounted for 9% of all vehicles involved in fatal crashes and 3% of all vehicles involved in injury and property-damage-only crashes in 2013.  NHTSA’s data makes it clear: Trucks are underrepresented in crashes.

Improving safety is also at the core of ATA’s support for modest increases in trailer length for some trucks. With a simple increase in trailer size from 28 feet to 33 feet, studies have shown we can eliminate the 6.6 million trips to deliver the 69% of the American economy that trucks move, and that would reduce the number of truck miles traveled by 1.3 billion. Those trips not taken and miles not driven will result, based on crash rates, more than 900 crashes not had.

At the end of the day, there is no silver bullet, no magic gadget that will make roads entirely safe. But through education, by reducing crash risk through sound rules, safety technologies and tighter enforcement, we can continue the long-term improvements in truck and highway safety. Over the past decade, through the industry’s diligence and professionalism, as well as improvements in vehicle technology and enforcement, the number of truck-involved fatal crashes has fallen by a third.

This is good news that some choose to ignore, but it is also a call for all of us—the industry, government regulators and motorists to look at the true roots of crashes and not use the politics of fear to impose counterproductive “solutions.”

American Trucking Associations is the largest national trade association for the trucking industry. Through a federation of 50 affiliated state trucking associations and industry-related conferences and councils, ATA is the voice of the industry America depends on most to move our nation’s freight. Follow ATA on Twitter or on Facebook. Trucking Moves America Forward

Fifteen Million Reasons to Train Your Forklift Operator

Event planning firm Global Experience Specialists (GES) was recently hit with a $15.2 million jury award in the case of a former worker who was struck by a 58,000 pound forklift. The worker has had to undergo numerous surgeries, including the amputation of his left heel. OSHA has cited and settled with the company over numerous violations, including one serious and three willful violations, for a total of $94,000. The company was able to reduce that amount to $74,000.

An important factor in the jury’s decision was that GES had been cited twice before for failing to properly train and certify its forklift operators, which was the case in this incident. The jury awarded the worker $12.2 in compensatory damages and $3 million in punitive damages. The worker had originally sought $25 million, and GES countered with an offer of $3.2 million claiming the injury was partly his fault.

Click here to read the OSHA citation. Sign up here for CBIA’s Powered Industrial Truck Train-the-Trainer program on Nov. 13.

DOJ Increases Efforts to Criminally Prosecute Executives

“In the most basic ways, though, corporate misconduct isn’t all that different from everything else [the Department of Justice] investigates and prosecutes. Crime is crime.”

So stated Deputy U.S. Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates at a recent presentation at New York University School of Law. Yates used  the opportunity to announce a New Policy on Individual Liability in Matters of Corporate Wrongdoing. She emphasized that it is the Justice Department’s responsibility to pursue crime whether it occurs on the street corner or in the board room. Additionally, prosecution of these crimes should include the individuals responsible, not just the corporate entities.

The intent to discourage criminal behavior on the part of corporate executives was first discussed by former Attorney General Eric Holder. Current Attorney General Loretta Lynch has committed to this goal and instructed DOJ officials on to act on it.

Yates noted that the DOJ would not be deterred by the inherent difficulty in bringing sustainable charges against individuals in corporate cases. She said that the following six actions will become standard DOJ practice:

  • Flip Factors. Effective immediately, [DOJ] has revised its policy guidance to require that if a company wants any credit for cooperation, it must identify all individuals involved in the wrongdoing, regardless of their position, status, or seniority in the company and provide all relevant facts about their misconduct. It’s all or nothing.
  • The department has instructed its attorneys that, going forward, they are to focus on individuals from the start of an investigation, regardless of whether the investigation begins civilly or criminally.
  • The best way to ensure that criminal prosecutors don’t need to go back and build a new case after the civil attorneys finish their inquiry—or vice versa—is to make sure that everyone’s talking to each other from the very beginning. And so we are directing our civil and criminal attorneys to collaborate to the full extent permitted by law at all stages of the investigation.
  • Resolve cases with individuals before or at the same time that we resolve the matter against the corporation.
  • If DOJ attorneys decide it is necessary to resolve the corporate case first, they will only be permitted to do so once they have demonstrated a clear plan to their supervisors for resolving the related individual cases—promptly and before the statute of limitations expires. [Written approval by the supervisors of the prosecuting attorneys will be required, and such permission will be granted only after a stringent review process.]
  • We’re broadening the focus of our civil enforcement strategy to not just focus on the potential monetary recovery.

To read Yates’ full remarks and the complete policy, click here.

COPD in Construction Workers Linked to On-the-Job Exposures

A recent study* by the Center for Construction Research and Training and Duke University found that 18% of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease among construction workers is caused by on-the-job exposure to vapors, gases, dusts, and fumes such as asbestos, silica dusts, and welding fumes.

The disease progressively diminishes a person’s ability to breathe and is characterized by mucous-producing cough, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. It afflicts more than 13 million people in the U.S., and construction workers are at an increased risk.

Researchers compared the work history, smoking habits, and medical screening results of roughly 2,000 older construction workers with and without COPD between 1997 and 2013. Their findings indicate that, while smoking remains the main cause of COPD, workplace exposure to these hazards pose a more significant risk than previously thought, and employers should take appropriate actions to protect workers.

Fatal Work Injuries Up in State

Preliminary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show that occupational fatalities in Connecticut rose from 29 (revised) in 2013 to 33 in 2014.

Of those deaths:

  • 11 were transportation-related
  • Eight were the result of violence and other injuries inflicted by persons or animals (5)
  • Eight resulted from falls, slips, or trips
  • Three were due to exposure to harmful substances or environments
  • Two stemmed from contact with objects and equipment
  • One resulted from fire/explosion

Nationally, 4,679 fatal work injuries were recorded in 2014, an increase of 2%over the revised count of 4,585 fatal work injuries in 2013.

In 2014, fatal work injuries due to transportation incidents were slightly higher—1,891, up from 1,865 in 2013. Overall, transportation incidents accounted for 40% of fatal workplace injuries in 2014.

For more complete national and state-by-state data, click here.

Supermarket Chain Acts to Prevent Musculoskeletal Injuries

OSHA urges others to follow suit

Before consumers get to choose products in the supermarket, workers in warehouses nationwide pack bulk quantities of merchandise onto wooden pallets and load them onto delivery trucks. The nature of this work puts the people who do it at risk for serious sprains, strains, and other musculoskeletal injuries. One supermarket chain, Maine-based Hannaford Supermarkets, has chosen to address the issue.

After inspections in 2013 and 2014, OSHA cited Hannaford for failing to keep its Schodack Landing, New York, and South Portland, Maine, distribution centers free from recognized hazards likely to cause musculoskeletal disorders, or MSDs. Hannaford initially contested its citations, but has now reached a settlement with the department in which the company agrees to institute ongoing and effective worker protection safeguards at both distribution centers.

“Many jobs in grocery and other warehouses require significant amounts of manual material handling. If employers do not take steps to address musculoskeletal hazards, workers will be hurt,” says Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “Hannaford is investing in preventing worker injuries. We urge other employers to follow its example. This action is good for workers and for a company’s bottom line.”

Under the settlement, Hannaford will do the following:

  • Engage a qualified ergonomist to assess both warehouses and prepare a report with recommendations addressing each of the hazards identified by OSHA
  • Have an employee-manager ergonomics committee at each facility participate in the process and make recommendations to the ergonomist and the company
  • Ensure that employees of contractors who perform similar work in the warehouses have access to the same protective measures as Hannaford employees
  • Request those contractors to implement the ergonomic work practices recommended by the ergonomist
  • Pay $9,750 in fines

The settlement can be viewed here.

To assist employers and workers in identifying and preventing MSDs and other injuries in grocery warehouses, OSHA has a free grocery warehousing eTool available on its website. In addition, OSHA has published an additional resource titled “Ergonomic Solutions for Retailers.

The original inspections were conducted by OSHA’s Albany, New York, and Augusta, Maine, offices. Attorneys Daniel Hennefeld and Ralph Minichiello of the department’s regional solicitors’ offices in New York City and Boston negotiated the settlement.

Beryllium: Permissible Exposure Level (PEL) Updated

First adjustment since 1948

The permissible exposure limit for beryllium a mineral used in 4,800 companies has been adjusted 2.0 micrograms per cubic meter (ug/m3) of air . The previous PEL  had not been updated since 1948. The new standard requires additional personal protective equipment, medical exams, medical surveillance, and training. OSHA estimates these new guidelines will save 100 lives annually.

Companies exposing their workers to  dangerous beryllium levels risk having their workers develop  lung cancer and Chronic Beryllium Disease (CBD) an incurable, debilitating and life-threatening disease caused by inhalation of airborne beryllium by individuals sensitized to beryllium.

Industries most often using beryllium include: aerospace, automotive, ceramic manufacturing, defense, dental labs, electronics, energy, medicine, nuclear energy, sporting goods, and telecommunication.

For an overview of OSHA’s recommendations  and the actions companies are now required to take please see their overview bulletin on this subject.

New Guidance for Enforcing the Revised Hazard Communication Standard

Standard to be fully implemented June 1, 2016

OSHA has issued instructions to compliance safety and health officers on how to ensure consistent enforcement of the revised Hazard Communication standard. This instruction outlines the revisions to the standard, such as the revised hazard classification of chemicals, standardizing label elements for containers of hazardous chemicals, and specifying the format and required content for safety data sheets. It explains how the revised standard is to be enforced during its transition period and after the standard is fully implemented on June 1, 2016.

OSHA revised the standard in March 2012 to align with the United Nations Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals. The revised standard improves the quality, consistency, and clarity of chemical hazard information that workers receive.

Under the standard, employers were required to train workers on the new label elements and safety data sheets by Dec. 1, 2013. Chemical manufacturers, importers, and distributors had to comply with revised safety data sheet requirements by June 1, 2015. Manufacturers and importers had to comply with new labeling provisions by June 1, 2015. Distributors have until Dec. 1, 2015, to comply with labeling provisions as long as they are not relabeling materials or creating safety data sheets, in which case they must comply with the June 1 deadline.

For additional information on the revised Hazard Communication Standard, click here.