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In a speech that called for a national dialogue with stakeholders on ways to prevent work-related illness caused by exposure to hazardous substances, OSHA Assistant Secretary of Labor Dr. David Michaels said the current chemical exposure standards set by the agency are “dangerously out of date and do not protect workers.”

The dialogue will center on OSHA’s PELs – the regulatory limits on the amount or concentration of a substance in the air – meant to protect workers against the adverse health effects of exposure to hazardous substances.

OSHA has said that 95 percent of its current PELs have not been updated since they were adopted in 1971. The agency’s current PELs cover fewer than 500 chemicals out of the tens of thousands used in commerce, many of which are suspected of being harmful.

Michaels said that the first step in the dialogue is the publication of a Request for Information in the Federal Register.

Read entire article - tps://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=SPEECHES&p_id=3313

As calendar year 2015 comes to a close and 2016 begins, it’s a good time to look back on what is working and where there is room for improvement in terms of safety at the workplace.

New data compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/osh.pdf) show mixed outcomes with respect to reducing the nation’s workplace injuries and illnesses as a whole. Though the overall numbers are down from 2013, there was little or no decrease in 2014 in what the BLS lists as more serious injury cases.

According to the BLS, the rate of nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses in 2014 was 3.2 cases per 100 equivalent full-time workers (measured as total recordable cases, or TRC). In 2013, the rate was 3.3. The rate has gone down each year of the last 12, with the exception of 2012, when it was unchanged.

The days away from work, the rate of job transfer or restriction cases that involve more serious injuries rate stayed the same at 1.7. Other recordable cases went down from 1.6 to 1.5.

Private industries that saw a reduction in TRC in 2014 were retail, health care and social assistance, and accommodation and food services.

The TRC was the highest (3.9) among mid-size private industry companies (those that employed 50 to 249 workers), and lowest (1.5) among small companies (defined as having fewer than 11 workers).

Most injuries (about 75%) happened in service industries, with 25% in good-producing industries. The latter accounted for 35.6% of all occupational illnesses in 2014.

Several industries showed TRC rates above the national average of 3.2. They were:
-State and local government: 5.0
-Education and health services: 4.2
-Manufacturing: 4.0
-Natural resources and mining: 3.8
-Construction: 3.6
-Trade, transportation and utilities: 3.6, and
-Leisure and hospitality: 3.6.

Among states for which statistics are available for 2014, TRC rate for private industry declined in 10 states and was mainly unchanged in 31 states and the District of Columbia compared to the previous year. The TRC rate was higher in 19 states than the national average, was lower in 14 states and the District of Columbia, and about the same as the national rate in 8 states

Tagged in: workplace safety

A regulation to change how companies report injury data to OSHA appears to be edging toward reality. The rule as proposed would also make companies’ injury data available on a publicly searchable website.

The proposal (https://www.osha.gov/recordkeeping/proposed_data_form.html ) was announced two years ago, but it wasn’t until early October that OSHA’s “Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses” draft final rule arrived at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

The National Law Review says this means “OSHA anticipates publication of this final rule very soon.” According to that publication, it could go into effect as soon as January 2016. Even if it doesn’t, putting it on the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA)’s desk increases the likelihood of the proposed rule taking effect before the close of 2016.

The rule would see several new electronic reporting requirements for companies:
-Establishments that are already required to keep injury and illness records and had 250 or more employees in the previous calendar year will have to electronically submit information from these records to OSHA on a quarterly basis.
-Establishments that are already required to keep injury and illness records and had 20 or more employees in the previous calendar year, and are in certain designated industries, will have to electronically submit the information from the OSHA annual summary Form 300A to OSHA.
-All employers who receive notification from OSHA will have to electronically submit specified information from their injury and illness records to OSHA.
The data OSHA collects that it intends to make public on its website may come from:
-All data fields from the OSHA Form 300A (Summary form)
-All data fields from the OSHA Form 300 (Log) with the exception of the employee’s name
-The data fields on the right side of the OSHA Form 301 (Incident report), such as the case number, date of injury or illness, time employee began work, time of event, what the employee was doing just before the incident occurred, what happened, what the injury or illness was, what object or substance directly harmed the employee, and the date of death if applicable.

Not surprisingly, there have been mixed reactions from industry and worker advocacy groups.
In its comments on the proposed rule, the National Association of Manufacturers has said that “without proper context, the raw data may result in unfair conclusions or judgments about a company or particular industry based on information that is not indicative of the actual safety record.”

Three weeks after the proposed rule was delivered to OIRA for review , another organization – the Corporate Research Project of Good Jobs First – had unveiled its own new website that identifies the biggest environmental/health/safety violators in the United States since 2010 (http://www.goodjobsfirst.org/violation-tracker). Its database includes penalties from EPA, OSHA and 11 other federal agencies that are involved with EHS issues.

Tagged in: OSHA

On Oct. 1, 2015, OSHA director James Maddux issued a memorandum extending the enforcement deadline for the confined spaces in construction standard for residential construction work. A temporary enforcement policy had been in effect for all employers covered by the standard through Oct. 2, 2015. OSHA is now further extending this temporary enforcement policy through Jan. 8, 2016, but only for employers engaged in residential construction work. This enforcement policy covers construction work on single-family homes, duplexes, and townhouses, not multi-unit apartment buildings.

Before Jan. 8, 2016, OSHA will not issue citations under the Confined Spaces in Construction standard to an employer engaged in residential construction work if the employer is making good faith efforts to comply with the standard, as long as the employer is in compliance with either the training requirements of the standard, found at 29 CFR 1926.1207, or the former training requirements found at 29 CFR 1926.21(b)(6)(i).

Read entire article - https://www.osha.gov/confinedspaces/tempenforcementpolicy_1015.html

Tagged in: confined space OSHA

OSHA has a new webpage (https://www.osha.gov/topcases/bystate.html) that lists the most expensive fines issued by the federal and state safety agencies.

The page lists enforcement cases with initial fines above $40,000. The page allows the user to click on each state and U.S. territory for a list of cases since Jan. 1, 2015. The data are from states that operate under federal OSHA as well as those that have their own state-run occupational safety agencies.

Details include:
-name and location of company
-union or non-union shop
-type of inspection (complaint, injury, programmed, follow-up, emphasis program, etc.)
-scope (partial or complete inspection)
-number and categorization of violations
-fine per violation and total fine
-the standard cited for each violation, and
-whether the violation has been abated

Read entire article: https://www.osha.gov/topcases/bystate.html

Tagged in: OSHA workplace safety

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