New Process for Resolving Whistleblower Complaints

Thousands of complaints filed every year

OSHA has issued policies and procedures* for applying a new process for resolving whistleblower disputes. The new process is an early resolution process that is to be used as part of a regional Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) program. The ADR program offers whistleblower parties the opportunity to negotiate a settlement with the assistance of a neutral, confidential OSHA representative who has subject-matter expertise in whistleblower investigations. The Administrative Dispute Resolution Act* requires that each federal agency “adopt a policy that addresses the use of alternative means of dispute resolution and case management.”

“OSHA receives several thousand whistleblower complaints for investigation each year,” says Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “The Alternative Dispute Resolution process can be a valuable alternative to the expensive and time consuming process of an investigation and litigation. It will provide whistleblower complainants and respondents the option of exploring voluntary resolution of their disputes outside of the traditional investigative process.”

OSHA piloted an ADR program in two of its regions from Oct. 2012 to Sept. 2013. The pilot proved that the early resolution ADR process is a successful method for helping parties to reach a mutual and voluntary outcome to their whistleblower cases. The pilot program demonstrated that having staff dedicated to facilitating settlement negotiations provides an efficient and effective service that is highly desired by complainants and respondents alike.

The success of the early resolution ADR process has resulted in the agency making it available to all of its regions. This directive does not prohibit OSHA whistleblower offices from offering complainants and respondents other alternative dispute resolution processes, such as third-party mediation.

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of 22 statutes protecting employees who report violations of various securities laws, trucking, airline, nuclear power, pipeline, environmental, rail, maritime, health care, workplace safety and health regulations, and consumer product safety laws.

For more information, click here.

New OSHA Webpage Shows High Penalty Enforcement Cases by State

Includes links to inspection details

OSHA has launched a new webpage highlighting enforcement cases, organized by state, that have initial penalties above $40,000. Cases are based on citations issued to employers beginning Jan. 1, 2015.

The page features an interactive U.S. map where visitors can click on a state and view a list of cases. It also offers an alternate view of all the cases by state in a table format. Lists provide links to inspection details for each case and are updated weekly.

For more information on enforcement data available on OSHA’s website, visit the Data and Statistics webpage.

OSHA to Target Industries with High Amputation Rates

Updated National Emphasis Program

On Aug. 17, OSHA issued an updated National Emphasis Program on Amputations. The NEP has been in existence since 2006 and is targeted to industries with high numbers and rates of amputations. In this updated NEP, OSHA is using current enforcement data and Bureau of Labor Statistics injury data to assist with site selection targeting, the same methodology used in the prior NEP.

Related: Company Fails to Report Injury after Second Worker’s Finger Amputated

According to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics data, manufacturing employers report that 2,000 workers suffered amputations in 2013. The rate of amputations in the manufacturing sector was more than twice as much (1.7 per 10,000 full-time employees) as that of all private industry (0.7). These serious injuries are preventable by following basic safety precautions.

The NEP includes a list of industries with high numbers and rates of amputations as reported to BLS.

“Workers injured from unguarded machinery and equipment can suffer permanent disability or lose their lives,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “This directive will help ensure that employers identify and eliminate serious workplace hazards and provide safe workplaces for all workers.”

OSHA’s inspections over the past 40 years indicate that employee exposures to unguarded or inadequately guarded machinery and equipment, along with related hazardous energy exposures during servicing and maintenance activities, occur in many workplaces.

This directive updates the 2006 NEP on Amputations and applies to general industry workplaces in which any machinery or equipment likely to cause amputations are present. Inspections will include an evaluation of employee exposures during operations such as: clearing jams; cleaning, oiling or greasing machines or machine pans; and locking out machinery to prevent accidental startup.

On Jan. 1, 2015, OSHA issued new requirements for reporting work-related fatalities and severe injuries. Employers must now report fatalities within eight hours of learning of the incident and any in-patient hospitalization, amputation or loss of an eye within 24 hours of learning of the incident. Employers can report an event by telephone to the nearest OSHA area office or to OSHA’s 24-hour hotline at 800-321-6742. Employers will soon be able to report events electronically through OSHA’s website.


Keeping Workers Safe Through Anthropometric Research

Results in machines, vehicles, and PPE that are a better fit for workers

By John Howard, M.D.
Director, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

Safety at work can depend on an effective or comfortable fit between the physical workplace or the tools of work, and the worker. A seatbelt becomes impractical if it can’t be latched securely or comfortably. The safety that firefighters’ gloves provide is compromised if the gloves are too big, hampering dexterity and movement in a hectic and physically risky situation. Whatever the example of fitting today’s workplace to the worker, one thing is certain—anthropometric research can help. Anthropometry is the science of defining human body dimensions and physical characteristics. NIOSH conducts anthropometric research to prevent work-related injuries and deaths by studying how work spaces and equipment fit today’s diverse worker population. This includes the fit of machines, vehicles, and personal protective equipment (PPE).

Although some anthropometric data have been published in recent years based on the body sizes and shapes of modern military personnel, most data available today were collected in the 1950s and 1970s from military personnel and the general population from that era. These decades-old data do not represent, on average and collectively, the sizes and body types of today’s workers, who are much more diverse in age, gender, and ethnicity. NIOSH research has shown workers have unique shapes and sizes for specific occupations. For instance, research revealed that truck drivers are heavier and wider than the average worker in the U.S. population, which has prompted many in the truck manufacturing industry to redesign truck cabs to support truck driver safety.

The differences in the body sizes and shapes of today’s workers when compared to previously available anthropometric data, as well as limited availability of proper fitting PPE, can contribute to worker injuries and fatalities. The anthropometric research we’re conducting will support worker safety and health by helping designers and manufacturers in:

  • Redesigning equipment and workspaces to better meet the needs of workers
  • Developing PPE that fits and works better
  • Making PPE more comfortable

Using anthropometric data to design machines, vehicles, and PPE that better fit today’s workers is an important part of Prevention through Design (PtD). An example of PtD is Dr. Ziqing Zhaung’s research on head-and-face anthropometry and 3D head models of industrial workers, which was incorporated into technical specifications of the International Organization for Standardization’s (ISO) standards for testing new respirator face pieces. Moreover, an article written by NIOSH’s Dr. Hongwei Hsiao, which has been among the most-read articles in Human Factors in the past few years, gives several other examples of how equipment and PPE can be redesigned to improve the safety and health of workers. Taken together, these research outputs have assisted in the development of better-fitting PPE for the workplace, with manufacturers reporting the use of NIOSH data in design efforts of everything from hard hats to fall protection harnesses.

Most of NIOSH’s research on workers’ physical measures takes place in the NIOSH Anthropometry Labs. The Morgantown and Pittsburgh labs were developed in 1995 and 2001 respectively, and they are two of only several in the world with advanced technologies for collecting highly accurate anthropometric data. Computer-generated human models are available for analysis through 3-dimensional digital scanning in the lab. Full-body, head, and foot scanners as well as a hand-held scanning device for stationary objects are available and can produce high resolution scans within seconds.

NIOSH also has a Mobile Anthropometry Lab equipped with a whole body, foot, hand, and head scanner, all inside a 30-foot long trailer. This lab on wheels allows researchers to reach workers across the nation. The Mobile Anthropometry Lab has traveled across the United States, making stops in Boise, Fort Worth, New Haven, Phoenix, Minneapolis, Richmond, and Tallahassee.

These two labs were instrumental in our most recent research. As you may recall from the February issue of eNews, I shared some of NIOSH’s 2015 priorities. One of those goals was to develop and publish a summary of truck driver and firefighter anthropometry data on the NIOSH website for use in equipment and workspace design. I am delighted to report that NIOSH has made significant progress toward achieving this goal.

NIOSH recently released a summary of results from the first-ever federal anthropometric study of U.S. truck drivers. This document can help truck manufacturers improve the ergonomic design of truck cabs to better fit the sizes and shapes of today’s drivers. A truck cab designed on up-to-date truck driver body size and shape data supports a safer work environment for its operator. NIOSH gave data from this research to several truck manufacturers, which are using it to redesign truck cabs.

As for firefighter anthropometric research, NIOSH’s most recent studies have assessed fire apparatus seat and seat belt designs, and the fit of  gloves used in structural firefighting to accommodate current firefighters. As a result, NIOSH has given apparatus manufacturers and standards committees recommendations for seatbelt length, seat width and spacing, and head supports. NIOSH has also proposed an improved sizing scheme for structural firefighting gloves. A summary of firefighter anthropometry data was published in Human Factors , and NIOSH expects to publish the detailed data on its website by the end of 2015.

With support from stakeholders and partners, NIOSH has finished collecting data on emergency medical services workers, and it is gearing up to collect data on law enforcement officers. We expect these study findings will help identify design improvements for work vehicles and PPE.

Our anthropometric research gives us significant opportunities to prevent injuries through the concept of Prevention through Design. This research also takes our findings and allows them to be applied to practical uses outside the Institute. Working with manufacturers, standards committees, trade associations, labor organizations, employers, and workers, our research can be adopted in the workplace, so that together we can help ensure workers’ safety and health in today’s places of employment

Precautions Can Improve Cold-Room Comfort

An overlooked area of work-related cold stress

Work in cold, damp conditions can be uncomfortable, even just for an hour or two. However, workers who prepare food for 8-hour shifts in refrigerated, 40°F food preparation and storage enclosures called cold rooms may feel extremely uncomfortable, have declining work performance, and be more likely to get hurt on the job.

Current safety guidelines in technical standards apply to below-freezing conditions or outdoor work, but not to cold rooms. For this reason, cold rooms are an overlooked area of work-related cold stress, and employers and workers are unlikely to have guidance tailored to their particular needs.

NIOSH researchers have recently published a report that includes information on how to help protect employees who work in the unique environment of a cold room. Responding to a request to evaluate work conditions in cold rooms at a food-catering company for airlines, NIOSH found several causes of employee discomfort:

  • Air drafts.
  • Unworn gloves because of concerns that bulky gear would hamper dexterity for tasks needing fine hand and finger movements.
  • Insufficient training about how to work safely in a cold room.

To address these issues, the researchers suggested that the employer at the food-catering company take the following steps, which also might apply to other cold-room employers:

  • Install equipment to reduce drafts and condensation.
  • Give employees glove liners to wear under required plastic gloves.
  • Encourage employees to change out of wet clothes.
  • Rotate employees between warmer and colder areas.
  • Install hand warmers, such as those that blow warm air, outside of cold rooms.
  • Minimize work requiring manual dexterity in cold rooms.

Researchers also suggested that the food-catering company train employees how to avoid cold stress, and urge them to report and seek prompt medical attention for any symptoms they experience.

To learn more about cold stress, visit NIOSH Workplace Safety & Health Topics: Cold Stress.

To read the health hazard evaluation, go to  Evaluation of Ergonomic Risk Factors, Thermal Exposures, and Job Stress at an Airline Catering Facility.

To read the full journal article, go to Recommendations to Improve Employee Thermal Comfort When Working in 40°F Refrigerated Cold Rooms

Baby’s on the Way–What About Your Respirator?

Eight million U.S. workers wear respirators on the job

Pregnant women may turn to maternity clothes for comfort but may wonder whether they need a new respirator in the workplace. Will their fit-tested facemasks still provide a tight seal if they gain weight during pregnancy? Results of a new NIOSH study, accepted for publication by the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene, suggest that the fit-tested model of respirator provided before pregnancy will continue to fit a pregnant worker as long as she follows medical guidelines for healthy weight gain during pregnancy. A larger study is warranted to validate the findings, the researchers said.

In the United States, more than 3 million industrial workers and nearly 5 million nursing staff wear respirators to protect themselves from airborne toxins. As part of a workplace safety and health program, respirators can help stop airborne toxins from reaching the lungs when ventilation and cleaning measures alone cannot remove all contaminants or if the cost of installing these measures is prohibitive.

Because respirators must fit properly to function and significant changes in body weight can affect fit, OSHA  requires annual fit testing. Whether pregnant women who wear respirators at work should undergo another fit testing was unclear prior to this study.

Researchers compared head and facial measurements and fit-test results of 15 voluntary participants in their second or third trimester of pregnancy to 15 voluntary, non-pregnant women similar in age, height, and weight. Besides measuring participants’ weight, height, and body-mass index, the researchers measured 13 head and facial dimensions that typically determine respirator fit. They then performed fit tests with N95 respirators, the most commonly used respirator in U.S. industry and healthcare. After comparing these detailed facial measurements and fit-test results between the two groups of participants, the researchers found no significant differences.

For more information, visit NIOSH Respirator Trusted-Source Information.

To read the unedited manuscript accepted for publication, go to: Effect of Pregnancy Upon Facial Anthropometrics and Respirator Fit Testing.

Company Fails to Report Injury After Second Worker’s Finger Amputated

Faces $83,200 in new penalties

A 56-year-old employee of furniture manufacturer Ashley Furniture Industries Inc. had his right ring finger amputated because the company has continued to ignore safety requirements to protect workers from moving machine parts. The company also failed to report the injury to OSHA as required.

After an OSHA inspection, the agency issued citations to the Arcadia Wisconsin-based company on July 21. The company was issued two willful violations for failing to protect workers from machinery operating parts and neglecting to report a hospitalization within 24 hours. OSHA cited two other-than-serious safety violations for failing to keep accurate injury records. Placed in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program earlier this year, Ashley faces proposed penalties of $83,200 as a result of the agency’s investigation of the March 11 injury.

A person outside the company reported the injury to OSHA nearly a month after the incident. Inspectors found the groover blade of a machine used to fabricate wooden drawers caused the amputation of the machine operator’s finger. A 49-year-old employee had a similar injury on the same type of machinery in January 2015, resulting in the willful violation.

“Workers at Ashley Furniture cannot count on their company to do what’s right when it comes to safety. These workers are at risk because this company is intentionally and willfully disregarding OSHA standards and requirements,” said Mark Hysell, OSHA’s area director in Eau Claire.

In its inspections, OSHA found that Ashley failed to protect workers from dangerous machine operating parts when employees performed maintenance and during blade changes on woodworking machinery. Safety procedures require employers to prevent machines from unintentional operation during service and maintenance by using blocking and locking devices to prevent unexpected machine movement, a procedure known as lockout/tagout. This violation is among OSHA’s most frequently cited and often results in death or permanent disability.

Ashley Furniture has contested citations issued by OSHA in January 2015, which cited the company for 38 safety violations at the Arcadia location. Proposed penalties total $1,766,000. A hearing before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission will be scheduled. The agency issued the citations following an investigation that found that workers at the Arcadia plant had experienced more than 1,000 work-related injuries in the previous three-and-a-half-year period.

At that time, OSHA placed the company in the SVEP for failure to address safety hazards. As a result of the SVEP designation, inspections are currently open at Ashley’s facilities in California, Pennsylvania, Mississippi and North Carolina.

Forbes lists Ashley Furniture as the 117th largest private company in America with $3.85 billion in annual revenue as of October 2014. The worldwide distributor employs about 20,000 workers at 30 locations nationwide. The Arcadia plant is the largest employer in Trempealeau County.

The company has had 34 federal OSHA inspections and 23 state plan inspections since 1982. In its 33 previous inspections, OSHA issued citations for 96 serious, four repeated, and 38 other-than-serious violations. Four inspections were initiated as a result of finger amputations, including one in 2014 at the Arcadia plant.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Related: OSHA to Target Industries with High Amputation Rates

Did You Know

About these great apps for safety professionals?

The following apps and databases are designed to help safety professionals get just-in-time access to important information and more.


WISER is a system designed by the U.S. National Library of Medicine to assist first responders in hazardous material incidents. WISER provides a wide range of information on hazardous substances, including substance identification support, physical characteristics, human health information, and containment and suppression advice. Available for Android, iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.

IH Calculator Lite

Offered by the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), the IH Calculator is an interactive tool that performs occupational health and safety calculations to aid industrial hygienists. A tab is also included for simple conversions including distance, mass, temperature, and more.

NIOSH Ladder Safety App

The Ladder Safety App, aimed at improving extension ladder safety, features a multimodal indicator and a graphic-oriented guide for ladder selection, inspection, positioning, accessorizing, and safe use. Available for iPhone/iPad or Android mobile devices.

Ergonomics App

This app by Siddharth Garg won the People’s Choice Award for the Department of Labor Worker Safety and Health App Challenge. Ergonomics is a complete mobile workplace health solution that offers ergonomic equipment setup advice, a variety of workplace specific stretching exercises, and programmable reminders to help you time your breaks. For iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.

Chemical Compatibility Database

By Cole-Parmer. Find the right material/chemical compatibility for storage, transport and use. This app leverages years of research on chemical compatibility for plastics, metals, elastomers and ceramics. It contains more than 24,528 entries covering 584 chemicals and 42 materials. Available for your iPhone and iPad.

dB Volume Meter

This handy app provides a way to determine whether noise from heavy machinery is too loud. Although quite accurate, if it indicates a serious noise problem, you will need to get a professional Sound Pressure Level (SPL) meter.

Iota Lone Worker

This app is designed for lone workers in remote locations to help you ensure they are still there. It tracks movement and will send alarm if they are not moving. It has two modes of operation—interval timer mode and motion sensor. It was developed by South East Water and has been tested in remote locations.

Notable OSHA Activity

What are the feds up to now?

OSHA Official Says Don’t Blame the Worker

In a recent ‘state of safety’ address to the National Advisory Council on Occupational Safety and Health, Dr. David Michaels Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, emphasized the need for companies to take full responsibility for worker injuries and not simply blame  ‘careless’ workers. He pointed out that often the real cause of the injury is an unabated hazard the company failed to eliminate or take the necessary safety measures. Read the full text of his comments here.

OSHA Issues Proposed Rulemaking Clarifying the Ongoing Obligation to Make and Maintain Accurate Records of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses

OSHA has issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that clarifies an employer’s continuing obligation to make and maintain an accurate record of each recordable injury and illness throughout the five-year period during which the employer is required to keep the records.

“Accurate records are not simply paperwork, but have an important, in fact life-saving purpose,” says Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “They will enable employers, employees, researchers and the government to identify and eliminate the most serious workplace hazards—ones that have already caused injuries and illnesses to occur.”

OSHA is issuing 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 will be 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. Comments must be submitted by Sept. 27, 2015.

OSHA Directive Updates Inspection Procedures for Protecting Workers from Tuberculosis in Healthcare Settings

OSHA has updated instructions for conducting inspections and issuing citations related to worker exposures to tuberculosis in healthcare settings. This instruction incorporates guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, “Guidelines for Preventing the Transmission of Mycobacterium Tuberculosis in Health-Care Settings, 2005.” The revised directive does not create any additional enforcement burdens for employers; it simply updates the agency’s inspection procedures with the most currently available public health guidance.

This directive also covers additional workplaces regarded as healthcare settings such as sites where emergency medical services are provided and laboratories handling clinical specimens that may contain M. tuberculosis. Other changes include: the introduction of a newer screening method for analyzing blood for M. tuberculosis; classifying healthcare settings as low risk, medium risk, or potential ongoing transmission; and reducing the frequency of TB screenings for workers.

According to the CDC, nearly one-third of the world’s population is infected with TB, which kills almost 1.5 million people per year. In 2013, 9,582 TB cases were reported in the United States, and approximately 383 of those cases were among healthcare workers. Multidrug-resistant and extremely drug-resistant TB continue to pose serious threats to workers in healthcare settings. TB infection occurs when a susceptible person inhales droplets from an infected person who, for example, coughs, speaks or sneezes. It is the second most common cause of death from infectious disease in the world after HIV/AIDS.

More information on hazard recognition and solutions for reducing or eliminating the risks of contracting tuberculosis is available here.


Top Five Hurricane Prep Recommendations for Business

Atlantic season ramps up in September and October

The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) is urging home and business owners to prepare for the high winds, wind-driven rain, and flooding that may occur during the Atlantic hurricane season.

“While hurricane forecasts are predicting a below-average season, that just means fewer storms may make landfall this year. Residents need to remember it only takes one hurricane in your community to cause substantial destruction with long-lasting impact,” said Julie Rochman, president and CEO of IBHS. “As a case in point, Hurricane Andrew in 1992 was the first hurricane in a relatively quiet season, but it devastated south Florida.”

“Now is the time for property owners to review their personal and business emergency plans, stock on up needed supplies, and prepare their homes and businesses for a potential storm,” Rochman continued.

Top Five Hurricane Business Preparedness Recommendations

  1. Review your business continuity plan and update as needed, including employee contact information. If you do not have a business continuity plan, consider IBHS’ free, easy-to-use toolkit for small businesses, OFB-EZ (Open for Business-EZ).
  2. Remind employees of key elements of the plan, including designation of employees to monitor and alert you about severe weather, post-event communications procedures, and work/payroll procedures. Make sure all employees have a paper copy of the plan and participate in regular training exercises. Review emergency shutdown and startup procedures, such as electrical systems, with appropriate personnel.
  3. Inspect your buildings and complete any maintenance needed to ensure they can stand up to severe weather. Learn more about what to look for during inspections.
  4. Test all life safety equipment. If back-up power such as a diesel generator is to be used, test your system and establish proper contracts with fuel suppliers for emergency fuel deliveries.
  5. Re-inspect and replenish emergency supplies inventory, since emergency supplies are often used during the offseason for non-emergency situations.

Learn more about what to do before, during and after a tropical storm or hurricane to protect your business and employees in IBHS’ Business Emergency Preparedness Checklist.

Top Five Ways to Reduce Property Damage from Hurricanes

IBHS recommends the following top five steps for property owners to strengthen their buildings against the high winds, flooding, and wind-driven rains of hurricane season.

  1. Survey the outside area around your property and secure loose objects before a storm to reduce potential flying debris; trim trees and shrubs away from buildings, removing any weakened sections of trees.
  2. Protect all windows and doors from high wind and flying debris damage by installing shutters or roll-downs, or installing permanent fasteners to use with precut shutter panels on hand for quick installation when a hurricane threatens.
  3. If your home garage door or business roll-up door isn’t pressure-rated, have a bracing system installed to prevent wind from blowing in the door.
  4. Make sure to “get your roof right” by using ring-shank nails to double its strength, sealing the roof deck to keep water out, re-adhering loose shingles, and ensuring all vents and soffits are securely attached.  Learn more about how to strengthen your roof with this video.
  5. During renovation or construction, homeowners should have your house tied together with metal connectors, such as hurricane straps, to keep it from blowing apart during high winds. Learn more about creating a continuous load path by watching this animation video.

More information