Safety Retaliation Cases Settled

West Springfield furniture retailer must pay former employee $12,500

OSHA has entered into an agreement with McKees Rocks Industrial Enterprises Inc. and James T. Lind, company president, resolving a lawsuit alleging a worker was wrongfully terminated for filing an OSHA complaint. OSHA inspected the Pennsylvania industrial park and terminal facility after the worker raised safety concerns. Following OSHA’s inspection, the worker was initially reassigned duties but later fired.

OSHA found the company violated Section 11(c) of the OSH Act when it fired the worker in retaliation for his safety complaint. The judgment provides the worker $100,000 in damages and the removal of all disciplinary action.

OSHA has also reached a settlement with Donald Pottern, doing business as Crown Furniture, after the agency found merit to a worker’s complaint that he had been fired by his employer two days after he filed a complaint with OSHA alleging safety and health hazards at the store.

Pottern will pay a former employee $12,500 and take other corrective action to resolve an anti-discrimination lawsuit filed against the West Springfield, Mass., furniture retailer by the U.S. Department of Labor after an OSHA investigation. To ensure payment, Pottern has provided the department with a security interest in a car that he owns, so that the department may lawfully secure possession and sell it to satisfy unpaid portions of the judgment, if necessary. Pottern must also expunge the former employee’s personnel record and provide a written, neutral job reference for him, if requested.

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OSHA’s Severe Violator List Expands

Ten Connecticut companies included

The most recent issue of OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP) shows an increase to 423 companies being listed as violators. (See full list.) In 2010, OSHA instituted the Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP) to more effectively focus enforcement efforts on recalcitrant employers who demonstrate indifference to the health and safety of their employees through willful, repeated, or failure-to-abate violations of the OSH Act. The program replaced the Enhanced Enforcement Program (EEP), an earlier program that the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) found to be an inefficient and ineffective means of identifying and addressing the most severe violators.

On the July list, construction companies continue to dominate making up 61% (257) of the cited companies. Unsurprisingly, the latest BLS data shows more deaths in this industry than any other. In stemming fatalities and other serious injuries, the program allows OSHA to increase its oversight of assigned employers. Companies can be removed from the list for the following reasons:

  1. A period of three years from the date of the final disposition of the SVEP inspection citation items including: failure to contest, settlement agreement, Review Commission final order, or court of appeals decision.
  2. All affirmed violations have been abated, all final penalties have been paid, and the employer has abided by and completed all settlement provisions and has not received any additional serious citations related to the hazards identified in the SVEP inspection at the initial establishment or at any related establishments.

In the event an employer fails to adhere to the terms and provisions of the agreement, the employer will remain in the program for an additional three years and will then be reevaluated.

 

 

 

Small Businesses Less Likely to Offer Health Promotion Programs

But when implemented, programs can improve worker health

Employees at small businesses are less likely to have access to work-site wellness programs, according to a research review in the June Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, official publication of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM).

But smaller companies that can overcome the barriers and implement wellness programs can realize achieve meaningful improvements in employee health, report Kira McCoy, BA, of Hampshire College, Amherst, Mass., and colleagues.

They write, “Preventative health initiatives and disease management receive less attention in small business, yet are equally important for clinical implications of working American’s health.”

The researchers analyzed the findings of 19 studies of work-site wellness programs in small business. A 2008 study suggested that less than 5% of small work-sites offered comprehensive wellness programs, compared to nearly one-fourth of larger businesses. More than half of the U.S. workforce is employed by small companies with less than 500 employees.

Costs were identified as a key barrier to starting wellness programs in small business—not only direct program costs but also indirect costs such as time and staff. Smaller companies are also less likely to offer health insurance, and thus don’t have the financial incentive of lowering employee insurance premiums by improving employee health. There may also be issues related to employee privacy and perceived “meddling” in workers’ private lives at smaller companies.

But the few studies that have evaluated wellness programs at smaller companies have shown reported improvements in employee health. Those studies reported improvements in outcomes including diet, physical activity, and emotional health.

McCoy and coauthors call for more into how best to disseminate effective health promotion programs to smaller companies. The availability of technical assistance and incentives for workplace wellness programs under the Affordable Care Act, “reinforces the urgent need for more high quality research that specifically addresses adoption, implementation, efficacy and sustainability of work-site wellness within small business settings.”

Click here to learn how your company can benefit from CBIA’s free Healthy Connections wellness program.

 

NIOSH Issues New Report on Prevention Through Design

Designing out hazards most effective way of ensuring safe workplaces

The national initiative on Prevention through Design (PtD), was launched in 2007 with the goal of designing out occupational hazards to protect workers. PtD encompasses all of the efforts to anticipate and design out hazards to workers in facilities, work methods and operations, processes, equipment, tools, products, new technologies, and the organization of work [Schulte et al. 2008].

Too often, workers (including those who perform maintenance tasks) have not been considered in the design process. The focus of PtD is on workers who execute the designs or have to work with the products of the design. The initiative has been developed to support designing out hazards, the most reliable and effective type of prevention. PtD can be practiced at all levels of the hierarchy of controls, but it is most effective as the means to eliminate hazards.

Full report 

 

 

 

Metro-North Found in Violation of Federal Law

Railroad ordered to pay damages and legal fees to seven employees

Metro-North has been cited by OSHA for disciplining workers who followed physicians instructions. OSHA’s investigations found that between 2011 and 2013, the employees with duty stations in New Haven or Stamford were issued written warnings under the railroad’s attendance policy when they each followed the orders of their physician to stay out of work. Five were carmen, one an electrician, and one a foreman.

Anti-Discrimination provisions of the Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA) prohibits railroad carriers from disciplining or threatening to discipline employees who follow a physician’s orders or treatment plan. Robert Hopper, the acting regional administrator for New England, indicated that Metro-North’s policy of making employees ignore a treating physician’s medical instructions or face discipline is unacceptable. While Metro-North says it has since changed this policy, this type of procedure, which endangers employees and the public and is illegal under the FRSA, should not exist.”

The employees filed complaints with OSHA, which found merit to the complaints, and ordered Metro-North to pay each employee $1,000 in compensatory damages and reasonable attorneys’ fees. The railroad must also expunge the written warnings from each employee’s personnel record and post a workplace notice informing employees of their FRSA anti-discrimination rights. Either party in these cases can file an appeal with the department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges.

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It Pays to Be an Industrial Hygienist in New England

Salaries rise nearly 11% since 2008

According to the 2013 American Industrial Hygiene Association salaries have gone up in general for hygienists. In fact, the average salary for an hygienist rose to $105,166 in 2013 from 94,947 in 2008. New England’s Hygienists had the highest average $115,742. This is a shift from the 2008 survey when the West South Central region had the highest earners.

The highest paid in the group were industrial hygienist consultants who averaged $135, 023. This is even higher than the average managerial salary of $120,276. Also reported is the impact of the manufacturing sector. Industry professionals in pharmaceuticals, energy, construction, and manufacturing earned salaries above the overall mean of $105,166

The survey, which was mailed to AIHA members and non-members and had a 24% response rate, includes overall salary data as well as salary information that considers such factors as industry, tenure, education, certification geography, number of people managed. and scope of primary responsibility.

More information 

ANSI Approves New Head Protection Standards

Revision enables extra protection in hot work environments

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI)  has approved ANSI/ISEA Z89.1-2014, American National Standard for Industrial Head Protection. The standards were submitted by the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) as an update to the 2009 rules and was approved by a consensus review panel of technical experts, unions, construction industry and other user groups, test labs, certification agencies, and government agencies.

Although the core performance requirements remain unchanged, key updates in this version incorporate an optional preconditioning at higher temperatures of 60°C ± 2°C (140°F ± 3.6°F). The revision enables additional protection in response to users who may work in especially hot environments.

Head protection devices that meet the applicable product performance criteria after having been exposed to these higher temperatures will bear a unique mark indicating such, to provide easy identification to the user. The markings for head protection that meet higher temperature performance requirements will be designated HT. In addition, the updates allow for flexibility and inclusion of emerging and state of the art manufacturing materials for higher temperature protection.

“ISEA’s Head Protection Group established the optional preconditioning at higher temperatures as a parallel to the previous optional cold preconditioning performance criteria,” noted Joann Kline, chairman of the ISEA Head Protection Group and safety products, standards, and regulations leader for Kimberly-Clark Professional. “Workers are exposed to myriad head hazards on any given day and we must be diligent in addressing various safety ranges in work environments to ensure user safety. ISEA’s next step is to encourage and assist OHSA’s recognition of this updated standard in its PPE regulations for head protection.”

The standard can be purchased from ISEA for $35 a copy; discounts are available on bulk orders. For additional information, contact Cristine Z. Fargo, ISEA director of member and technical services at cfargo@safetyequipment.org or click here.

The State of the National Initiative on Prevention Through Design

Designing out hazards is most effective means of protecting workers

The national initiative on Prevention through Design (PtD), was launched by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in 2007 with the goal of designing out occupational hazards to protect workers.

PtD encompasses all of the efforts to anticipate and design out hazards to workers in facilities, work methods and operations, processes, equipment, tools, products, new technologies, and the organization of work [Schulte, et al., 2008]. Too often, workers (including those who perform maintenance tasks) have not been considered in the design process. The focus of PtD is on workers who execute the designs or have to work with the products of the design.

The initiative has been developed to support designing out hazards, the most reliable and effective type of prevention. PtD can be practiced at all levels of the hierarchy of controls, but it is most effective as the means to eliminate hazards.

 

OSHA Update

Information collection requests submitted to OMB

On May 30, 2014 the Department of Labor (DOL) submitted two Information Collection Requests  sponsored by OSHA to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

In Accordance with the Paper Reduction Act (PRA), OSHA will submit revisions to the Notice of Alleged Safety and Health Hazards. This form is the primary though not exclusive means by which employees or their representatives can report to the DOL that violations of safety or health standard that threatens physical harm, or that an imminent danger exists. This request has been classified as a revision because the agency proposes to include a question about whether the respondent is a current or former employee of the employer.

The DOL will also submit to OMB on behalf of OSHA an Information Collection Request titled Recordkeeping and Reporting Occupational Injuries and Illnesses. This ICR also seeks to extend PRA authority for recordkeeping and reporting occupational injuries and illness information collection.

 


 

Connecticut Contractor Cited for Wall Collapse and Fall Hazards

Company faces possible $190,000 in fines

A Stamford-based contractor faces $196,000 in fines for two willful and 12 serious violations following an OSHA inspection. Cesar Mendoza, d.b.a. KI Management LLC, was cited by the agency following a November 2013 inspection at a Bridgeport worksite, which found that workers demolishing and rehabbing a building were exposed to potentially fatal crushing injuries and other hazards due to their employer’s failure to brace the building’s walls and adhere to basic, legally required safeguards.

“This employer’s disregard of basic demolition safety fundamentals is unacceptable. The seriousness of this hazard can be seen in the June 5, 2013, building collapse in Philadelphia that killed six people and injured 14,” said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. “While no collapse occurred in Bridgeport, the hazard was real, present, and entirely avoidable.”

“The removal of flooring from the second and thirds floors left an empty, unsupported shell that was vulnerable to collapse,” said Robert Kowalski, OSHA’s area director in Bridgeport. “Employees at this job site were also exposed to falls of up to 36 feet from unguarded wall openings and to health hazards from inadequate measures to protect them from exposure to lead at the worksite. Worker safety and health were blatantly ignored.”

OSHA cited Cesar Mendoza, d.b.a. KI Management, for two willful violations, with maximum allowable fines of $140,000 for the wall collapse and fall hazards. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.

A total of 12 serious violations, with $56,000 in fines, were cited for a variety of health and safety hazards. These included having workers dry sweep and shovel lead-containing waste materials and debris, as well as failing to supply workers with proper training, respiratory protection, protective clothing, and equipment. In addition, employees were provided inadequate demolition, fall and fire protection, and general safety training.

Other safety hazards included unmarked emergency exits, improper storage of oxygen and fuel gas cylinders, and electrical hazards. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known if an accident were to occur.

Cesar Mendoza, d.b.a. KI Management, has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety & Health Review Commission.

The citations can be viewed here and here.