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Thursday, December 8, 2011

US Department of Labor continues to cite beauty salons and manufacturers for formaldehyde exposure from hair smoothing products

OSHA urges salon owners to implement protective measures
The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration is continuing its efforts to protect workers from the dangers of formaldehyde exposure.

In November, OSHA issued citations and fines to two salons for failing to implement precautions to protect workers from exposure to formaldehyde when using certain hair-smoothing products. Formaldehyde can irritate the eyes and nose; can cause allergic reactions of the skin, eyes and lungs; and is a cancer hazard. Salon owners who decide to use products that may contain or release formaldehyde must follow the requirements of OSHA's formaldehyde and hazard communication standards to keep workers safe.

"We want to make sure that salon owners are aware that if they use these products, they have to implement protective measures such as air monitoring and training," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels. "What is very troubling to the agency is that some of these products clearly expose workers to formaldehyde even when the label states they are ‘formaldehyde free.'"

OSHA continues to respond to complaints and referrals of formaldehyde exposure in salons, beauty schools and manufacturing facilities. To date in calendar year 2011, federal OSHA has issued citations to 23 salon owners and beauty schools in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Florida, Illinois, New York, New Jersey and Ohio, with fines ranging up to $17,500 for failing to protect workers from overexposure and potential exposure to formaldehyde.

Some of these violations include failing to communicate the hazards of exposure to formaldehyde, provide needed protective equipment and test air levels. The requirements of OSHA's formaldehyde standard can be viewed at http://s.dol.gov/KW. In three separate salons, OSHA's tests showed that workers were exposed to formaldehyde levels above the agency's 15-minute short-term exposure limit, which is 2.0 parts of formaldehyde per million parts of air. In one case, OSHA determined that a hair stylist was exposed to more than five times the allowable amount with an actual exposure reading of 10.12 ppm. In another instance, the exposure reading was 4.73 ppm.

OSHA also has issued citations to two Florida manufacturers and two Florida-based distributors of hair products containing formaldehyde for failing to protect their own workers from possible formaldehyde exposure as well as to communicate the hazards of formaldehyde exposure to salons, stylists and consumers. The violations of OSHA's formaldehyde and hazard communication standards include failing to list formaldehyde as a hazardous ingredient on the material safety data sheet, the hazard warning sheet provided to users such as salon owners and stylists; include proper hazard warnings on product labels; and list the health effects of formaldehyde exposure on the MSDS. Labels must include ingredient and health hazard warning information, and the MSDS must provide users with information on the chemicals in a product, the hazards to workers and how to use the product safely.

"The best way to control exposure to formaldehyde is to use products that do not contain formaldehyde. Salons should check the label or product information to make sure it does not list formaldehyde, formalin, methylene glycol or any of the other names for formaldehyde," said Michaels. "If salon owners decide to use products that contain or release formaldehyde, then they must follow a number of protective practices — including air monitoring, worker training and, if levels are over OSHA limits, good ventilation or respirators."

OSHA already has conducted significant outreach to salons, beauty schools and manufacturers to alert them about the hazards of hair smoothing products and the requirements of OSHA's standards. In late September, OSHA issued a second hazard alert to hair salon owners and workers about potential formaldehyde exposure from working with certain hair smoothing and straightening products, which can be viewed at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/formaldehyde/hazard_alert.html. This alert, which revised the initial alert issued last spring, was prompted by the results of additional agency inspections, a warning letter issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and factually incorrect information recently sent to salons by Brazilian Blowout, a company that manufactures hair products.

In response to the Aug. 24 letter sent by Brazilian Blowout to salon owners claiming that all OSHA air tests performed on the company's Brazilian Blowout Professional Acai Smoothing Solution yielded results below OSHA's standard for exposure, the agency sent a letter to the company refuting that assertion. OSHA's letter can be viewed at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/formaldehyde/brazilian_blowout_letter.pdf*.

For more information on formaldehyde exposure in salons, visit http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/hairsalons/index.html.

For small businesses in all states across the country, OSHA's On-site Consultation Program offers free and confidential advice for employers seeking help to identify and prevent job hazards or improve their safety and health management systems. In fiscal year 2010, the program provided free assistance to more than 30,000 small businesses covering more than 1.5 million workers across the nation. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov/dcsp/smallbusiness/consult.html.

"These consultation services are separate from enforcement and do not result in penalties or citations," said Michaels. "Consultants from state agencies or universities work with employers to identify workplace hazards, provide advice on compliance with OSHA standards, and assist in establishing safety and health management systems."

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.


Thursday, June 6, 2013

OSHA fines South River, NJ, masonry contractor nearly $91,000 for fall, scaffold hazard

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited South River-based Mr. Concrete Corp. with four repeat and five serious safety violations, including scaffold and fall hazards, found at a Maywood work site. OSHA's February inspection was initiated in response to imminent fall hazards observed by an OSHA compliance officer.

The repeat violations, with $69,300 in fines, involve exposure to fall hazards of approximately 20
feet while working from a scaffold lacking a fall protection system; workers on a scaffold more than 10 feet above a lower level while not protected from falling to that lower level; tubular welded frames and panels not properly braced; no limited access zone established during masonry wall construction; and lack of appropriate ladders, stair towers, walkways or access to scaffold platforms more than 2 feet above or below a point of access. The same violations were cited in 2010. A repeat violation is issued when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years.

The serious violations, with a $20,790 penalty, involve failing to guard the point of operation of a mortar mixer, ensure electrical equipment was properly grounded, ensure makeshift devices were not used to increase scaffold height, and to properly install toeboards on the scaffold edge. A serious citation is issued when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result and the employer knew, or should have known, of the hazard.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

OSHA cites Bloomfield NJ contractor for fall hazards - $89,110

Diana Cortez
OSHA Area Director
The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Allied Brothers Construction Inc. of Bloomfield, N.J., for alleged repeat and serious violations of workplace safety standards at a Montebello, N.Y., work site. The contractor faces a total of $89,100 in proposed fines. OSHA's Tarrytown Area Office opened an inspection of the residential construction site on Ryan Mansion Drive in February after receiving reports of fall hazards.

"What we found at this work site were hazards unacceptably similar to those cited during prior inspections at the employer's other sites," said Diana Cortez, OSHA's area director in Tarrytown. "It's clear that this employer must take effective action to enhance worker safety and eliminate such potentially deadly hazards at all of its work sites."

OSHA found employees exposed to falls of up to 13 feet while working without protection atop roofs, and while accessing and exiting roofs using ladders that did not extend at least 3 feet above the landing for proper stability. Allied Brothers Construction also allowed its employees to work without first receiving necessary training to recognize and avoid such hazards. Between 2007 and 2012, OSHA cited this company for similar hazards at work sites in New Milford, Oradell, Patterson, Rutherford and Upper Saddle River, N.J. As a result, OSHA issued has citations in the current case with $79,200 in proposed fines for four repeat violations. A repeat violation exists when an employer has been cited previously for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility within the last five years.

OSHA also has issued citations with $9,900 in fines for three serious violations involving an improperly rigged fall arrest system, an unguarded belt and pulley on a compressor, and the use of a defective ladder. 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.

In April, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis announced a campaign to provide employers and workers with lifesaving information and educational materials about working safely from ladders, scaffolds and roofs in an effort to prevent deadly falls in the construction industry. OSHA's fall prevention campaign was developed in partnership with the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health and NIOSH's National Occupational Research Agenda program. More detailed information on fall protection standards is available in English and Spanish at http://www.osha.gov/stopfalls.

"In 2010, there were more than 250 fall fatalities in construction in this country. Such deaths are preventable," said Robert Kulick, OSHA's regional administrator in New York. "There are three key steps to preventing falls: plan ahead to get the job done safely, provide the right equipment and train everyone to use the equipment safely. Failure to follow these steps can result in deadly or disabling injuries to workers."

Allied Brothers Construction Inc. has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with OSHA's area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

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Thursday, May 28, 2020

Chairwoman Adams Opening Statement at Workforce Protections Subcommittee Hearing on Protecting Workers from COVID-19

Subcommittee on Workforce Protections Chairwoman Alma Adams (NC-12) delivered the following opening statement at today’s hearing entitled, “Examining the Federal Government’s Actions to Protect Workers from COVID-19.”

Thursday, November 7, 2013

OSHA announces proposed new rule to improve tracking of workplace injuries and illnesses

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration today issued a proposed rule to improve workplace safety and health through improved tracking of workplace injuries and illnesses. The announcement follows the Bureau of Labor Statistics' release of its annual Occupational Injuries and Illnesses report, which estimates that three million workers were injured on the job in 2012.
"Three million injuries are three million too many," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. "With the changes being proposed in this rule, employers, employees, the government and researchers will have better access to data that will encourage earlier abatement of hazards and result in improved programs to reduce workplace hazards and prevent injuries, illnesses and fatalities. The proposal does not add any new requirement to keep records; it only modifies an employer's obligation to transmit these records to OSHA."
The public will have 90 days, through Feb. 6, 2014, to submit written comments on the proposed rule. On Jan. 9, 2014, OSHA will hold a public meeting on the proposed rule in Washington, D.C. A Federal Register notice announcing the public meeting will be published shortly.
The proposed rule was developed following a series of stakeholder meetings in 2010 to help OSHA gather information about electronic submission of establishment-specific injury and illness data. OSHA is proposing to amend its current recordkeeping regulations to add requirements for the electronic submission of injury and illness information employers are already required to keep under existing standards, Part 1904. The first proposed new requirement is for establishments with more than 250 employees (and who are already required to keep records) to electronically submit the records on a quarterly basis to OSHA.
OSHA is also proposing that establishments with 20 or more employees, in certain industries with high injury and illness rates, be required to submit electronically only their summary of work-related injuries and illnesses to OSHA once a year. Currently, many such firms report this information to OSHA under OSHA's Data Initiative.
OSHA plans to eventually post the data online, as encouraged by President Obama's Open Government Initiative. Timely, establishment-specific injury and illness data will help OSHA target its compliance assistance and enforcement resources more effectively by identifying workplaces where workers are at greater risk, and enable employers to compare their injury rates with others in the same industry. Additional information on the proposed rule can be found athttp://www.dol.gov/find/20131107/ and http://www.osha.gov/recordkeeping/proposed_data_form.html.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.

Friday, November 30, 2012

OSHA cites Mississippi Phosphates for 40 safety and health violations following 2 worker fatalities

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Mississippi Phosphates Corp. with 40 safety and health violations following the deaths of two workers in separate incidents at the company's Pascagoula facilities. The fatalities led to comprehensive inspections by OSHA.

On May 22, an operator attempting to start up a steam turbine in sulfuric acid plant No. 2 was struck by flying metal debris when the turbine housing ruptured due to apparent overpressurization. In a similar incident on June 1, an operator restarting a tripped steam turbine in sulfuric acid plant No. 3 also was killed by flying metal debris when the turbine housing ruptured due to overpressurization.

OSHA has cited the company for three serious safety violations related to the fatalities, including exposing workers to "struck-by" hazards by not protecting them against overpressurization, and failing to maintain and service equipment in accordance with the company's maintenance program to prevent overpressurization.

An additional 23 serious safety violations involve failing to test and inspect pressure relief devices throughout the facility, provide handrails on fixed stairways, guard floor holes that could cause workers to trip and fall, provide fixed stairs to access tank gauging, address engineering controls during a process hazard analysis, and guard belt roller nip points, horizontal shafts, rotating shafts and horizontal V-belts. The violations also include various electrical hazards such as exposing workers to shocks, missing panel knockouts, broken face plates, unguarded light bulbs and an open ground in an outlet circuit.

Ten serious health violations involve failing to conduct an initial process hazard analysis, update the process hazard analysis every five years, conduct compliance audits for process safety management and determine the presence of asbestos prior to working on equipment, as well as to label hazardous substances such as caustic soda, acid and petroleum products that are used throughout the facility. 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.

One repeat health violation has been cited for a lack of housekeeping. A repeat violation exists when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years. A similar violation was cited in May 2009.

Three other-than-serious safety violations are failing to mount a fire extinguisher so it is readily available, not labeling circuit breakers, and using flexible cords and equipment cables that do not have strain relief. An other-than-serious violation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm.

"Employers need to be proactive to ensure that all operating equipment is properly maintained and functional," said Clyde Payne, director of OSHA's Jackson Area Office. "Had this employer done so, these tragic events could have been prevented."
Mississippi Phosphates is a producer and marketer of diammonium phosphate, which is used as a fertilizer. The company's manufacturing facilities consist of two sulfuric acid plants, a phosphoric acid plant and diammonium phosphate granulation plant.
The citations for the serious and repeat violations carry total proposed penalties of $165,900. The citations for the other-than-serious violations do not carry monetary penalties. All citations can be viewed at
The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with the OSHA area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency's Jackson office at 601-965-4606.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Facing Unacceptable Hazards in the Workplace








TESTIMONY OF JORDAN BARAB DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON WORKFORCE PROTECTIONS THE COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION AND LABOR U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES APRIL 28, 2010



Chair Woolsey, Ranking Member McMorris Rodgers and Members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to testify today on the Protecting America’s Workers Act (PAWA) particularly on the issues of whistleblower protections and victim’s rights in OSHA’s enforcement process.



I recognize the significance of today’s hearing being held on both the 39th anniversary of the creation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Workers Memorial Day. Today is the day set aside to recognize workers killed, disabled, injured or sickened by their work – to honor the men and women who have died on the job and to rededicate ourselves to improving safety and health in every American workplace.



This commitment is especially needed now, as we commemorate this Workers Memorial Day not only to remember the 29 brave miners who lost their lives at the Upper Big Branch mine, the 7 refinery workers who were killed the week before at the Tesoro refinery in Washington, but also the 14 workers who die on the job every day in this country.



This hearing focuses on two areas that are crucial to reaching the goal set by the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) to assure safe and healthful working conditions for all working men and women in the United States: 1) ensuring that workers are safe from retaliation for exercising their health and safety rights; and 2) ensuring victims of workplace incidents and their family members have information and a meaningful role in OSHA enforcement activities.



Whistleblower Protections



Congress realized that OSHA inspectors would never be able to visit more than a small fraction of the nation’s workplaces. The OSH Act therefore relies heavily on workers to help identify hazards at their workplaces. The authors of the OSH Act also realized that employees are not likely to participate in safety and health activities if they fear that they will lose their jobs or otherwise be retaliated against. That is why Congress wrote Section 11(c) -- to protect employees from discrimination and retaliation when they report safety and health hazards or exercise other rights under the OSH Act. The OSH Act was one of the first safety and health laws to contain a provision for protecting whistleblowers.



Section 11(c) was innovative and forward looking in 1970, but 40 years later it is clearly antiquated and in dire need of substantial improvement. Achieving Secretary Solis’ goal of Good Jobs for Everyone includes strengthening workers’ voices in their workplaces. Without robust whistleblower protections, these voices may be silenced.



This Administration strongly supports the whistleblower provisions of the Protecting America’s Workers Act (PAWA), which expands the OSH Act’s anti-retaliation provisions, codifies a worker’s right to refuse to perform unsafe work, prohibits employer policies that discourage workers from reporting illnesses or injuries, prohibits employer retaliation against employees for reporting injuries or illnesses, and grants workers the right to further pursue their case if OSHA does not proceed in a timely fashion.



OSHA currently administers the whistleblower provisions of sixteen other statutes, protecting employees who report violations of various trucking, airline, nuclear power, pipeline, environmental, rail, consumer product, and securities laws. In the four decades since the OSH Act became law, Congress has enacted increasingly expansive whistleblower protections in these other laws, leaving section 11(c) of the OSH Act in significant ways the least protective of the 17 whistleblower statutes. It is time to bring OSHA’s protections up to the same level of these other laws.



Notable weaknesses in section 11(c) include: inadequate time for employees to file complaints; lack of an administrative forum for the adjudication of cases; lack of a statutory right of appeal; lack of a private right of action; and OSHA’s lack of authority to issue findings and preliminary orders, so that a complainant’s only chance to prevail is through the Department of Labor filing an action in U.S. District Court.



PAWA would strengthen section 11(c) by including the full range of procedures and remedies available under the more modern statutes and by codifying certain provisions, such as exemplary damages and the right to refuse work that could result in serious injury or illness, which have been available but not expressly authorized by current statute. There is no reason that workers speaking up about threats to their safety and health should enjoy less protection than workers speaking up about securities fraud or transportation hazards. PAWA would also make explicit that a worker may not be retaliated against for reporting injuries, illnesses or unsafe conditions to employers or to a safety and health committee. This protection is already implicit in the OSH Act, but PAWA would leave no doubt in employers’ or employees’ minds about this right.



PAWA is an improvement on OSHA’s current law in significant ways. It would increase the existing 30-day deadline for filing an 11(c) complaint to 180 days, bringing 11(c) more in line with some of the other whistleblower statutes. Over the years many complainants who might otherwise have had a strong case of retaliation have been denied protection simply because they did not file within the 30-day deadline. For example, we received an 11(c) complaint from a former textile employee who claimed to have been fired for reporting to management that he had become ill due to smoke exposure during the production process. The worker contacted OSHA to file an 11(c) complaint 62 days after he was fired, compelling OSHA to dismiss the case as untimely under existing law. Under PAWA, however, OSHA would be able to investigate the merits of cases such as this one. Increasing the filing deadline to 180 days would greatly increase the protections afforded by section 11(c).



PAWA’s adoption of the “contributing factor” test for determining when illegal retaliation has occurred would be another significant improvement in 11(c). This test, which examines the employer’s decision to take adverse action against the employee following whistleblower activity, is less stringent than the current “motivating factor” test to which OSHA is currently restricted. Adoption of the “contributing factor” test would make 11(c) consistent with other more recently enacted whistleblower statutes and would strengthen the whistleblower protections afforded to America’s workers.



The private right of action is another key element of whistleblower protections that is lacking in OSHA’s current 11(c) provision and is contained in PAWA. It is critically important that, if an employer fails to comply with an order providing relief, both DOL and the complainant should be able to file a civil action for enforcement of that order in a U.S. District Court. We strongly support this provision.



PAWA also allows complainants to move their case to another prescribed venue if the Department does not make prompt decisions or rulings. For example, PAWA would allow complainants to “kick out” from an OSHA investigation to a de novo Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) hearing if the Secretary has not issued a decision within 120 days from the case filing; “kick out” from an ALJ hearing to district court if an ALJ has not issued a decision within 90 days of the request for a hearing; or “kick out” from an Administrative Review Board (ARB) hearing to district court if the ARB has not issued a final order within 60 days of the request for an administrative appeal. “Kick-out” provisions have become a standard feature of whistleblower protection statutes, and OSHA believes it is appropriate for 11(c) complainants to have the same right.



The provision in PAWA allowing employees in states administering OSHA-approved plans to choose between Federal and State whistleblower investigations would likely result in a significant increase in the number of Federal complaints. All 22 states and territories that administer private sector plans are required to provide protections at least as effective as Federal OSHA’s. We have some reservations about this provision because we are not convinced it would add much protection to workers in those states and it would be a significant drain on OSHA and Solicitor resources. We would welcome further discussions on how to best ensure whistleblower protections in these states.



Finally, PAWA would codify a number of OSHA’s high standards for professionalism and transparency in conducting whistleblower investigations that are of critical importance to this Administration. For example, PAWA requires OSHA to interview complainants and to provide them with the respondent’s response and the evidence supporting the respondent’s position. PAWA affords complainants the opportunity to meet with OSHA and to rebut the employer’s statements or evidence. While we train our investigators on the critical importance of conducting thorough interviews with complainants and involving complainants in the rigorous testing of proffered employer defenses, we believe that requiring these investigative steps by statute would assist OSHA in its mission of providing robust protection to occupational safety and health whistleblowers.



These legislative changes in the whistleblower provisions are a long-overdue response to weaknesses that have become apparent over the past four decades. This legislation makes good on the promise to stand by those workers who have the courage to come forward when they know their employer is cutting corners on safety and health and guarantees that they do not have to sacrifice their jobs in order to do the right thing.



Not only do we support the provisions of PAWA intended to improve whistleblower protections, we would like to explore areas where we might want to go further.



I would propose amending the OSH Act to provide for assessment of civil penalties against employers who violate the whistleblower provisions. Currently, while an employer found to be discriminating against an employee must make the employee whole again, there is no provision for civil penalties against employers. The provisions are not in the current version of PAWA but similar provisions were included in the S-MINER Act that was passed by this Committee and the full House of Representatives in 2008. Under such a provision, any employer found to be in violation of Section 11(c) of the Act would be subject to civil penalties of not less than $10,000 and not more than $100,000 for each occurrence of a violation.



Additionally, as conclusion of these cases can often take many months, a provision should be made to reinstate the complainant pending outcome of the case. The Mine Safety and Health Act provides that in cases when the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) determines that an employee’s complaint was not frivolously brought, the Review Commission can order immediate reinstatement of the miner pending final order on the complaint. OSHA’s 11(c) complainants should have the same reinstatement rights.



Victims’ Rights



OSHA has long known that workers, and often their families, can serve as OSHA’s “eyes and ears,” identifying workplace hazards. Workers injured in workplace incidents and their friends and family often provide useful information to investigators, because employees frequently discuss work activities and co-workers with family members during non-work hours. We are dedicated to findings ways to involve workers and their families in OSHA’s enforcement investigations. Both Assistant Secretary Michaels and I make it a priority to set time aside to talk with victims’ families whenever we have the opportunity.



Last month, as part of an effort to reach out and hear from stakeholders on a variety of safety and health issues, we hosted “OSHA Listens.” As part of the event, we heard recommendations from the family members of workers killed on the job on how to enhance victims’ and families’ participation in the enforcement process.



I want to thank Tonya Ford whose uncle, Robert Fitch, was killed at Archer Daniels Midland on January 29, 2009, for coming to Washington today to testify and describe to us the tragic circumstances of Mr. Fitch’s death and the unnecessary problems she and her family faced getting information about what happened and what OSHA was doing. We appreciate the suggestions she has on how to improve our enforcement process and better involve victims and their families.



Katherine Rodriguez, whose father was killed at the BP Texas City Refinery on September 2, 2004, also spoke at OSHA Listens and made several recommendations to OSHA officials on how to enhance the rights of victims’ families. She said that before her father died in the hospital her family received information about the incident that might have been useful to OSHA investigators, noting that “fellow coworkers are more willing to talk to the family members than any investigator.”



Family members and co-workers are sincerely and understandably interested in learning how an incident occurred, finding out if anything could have been done to prevent it, and knowing what steps employers and employees will take in the future to ensure that someone else is not injured or killed in a similar situation.



It is OSHA’s policy to talk to families during the investigation process and inform them about our citation procedures and settlements. OSHA first contacts the family at the beginning of the inspection. All families get a letter from the Area Director discussing the process and advising that they will be kept informed. In some cases the families initially get a phone call. Families are then normally provided a copy of the citations when issued.



However, we have found that some of these policies have not always been implemented consistently and in a timely manner. It is also clear that a letter is not adequate. Therefore, we will be putting these policies into a directive and adding them to our Field Operations Manual. We will also be instructing the Area Directors to call the family to express condolences, advise that a letter is coming, and assure families we will be staying in contact.



In addition, we need to work on interacting with families following a tragedy. As might be expected, many OSHA inspectors understandably have trouble knowing how to interact with a person who has just lost a loved one in tragic circumstances. While brief training on this issue is provided to Compliance Officers at the Initial Compliance Course at the OSHA Training Institute, clearly more training is needed and will be developed. We will also develop webinars and webcasts for training of all compliance officers, team leaders, and Area Directors.



In general, OSHA is supportive of expanding interactions with families and victims. Therefore, the Agency is examining the issue of victims’ rights from the administrative level to seek ways to better ensure the rights of victims and their families to participate in OSHA’s enforcement efforts. OSHA supports many of the changes to the OSH Act embodied in PAWA for victims and their families.



PAWA would place into law, for the first time, the right of a victim (injured employee or family member) to meet with OSHA regarding the investigation and to receive copies of the citation or resulting report at the same time as the employer at no cost. PAWA would also enable victims to be informed of any notice of contest and to make a statement before an agreement is made to withdraw or modify a citation.



However, we also want to ensure – and I think the families would also want to ensure – that the provisions of PAWA do not unduly slow down the inspection, enforcement and adjudication process, which only hurt victims and their families in the long run. We believe therefore that clarification is needed of the provisions allowing victims or their representatives to meet in person with OSHA before the agency decides whether to issue a citation, or the right to appear before parties conducting settlement negotiations. This could be logistically difficult for victims and OSHA’s regional and area offices, resulting in significant delays in the negotiations and ultimate citation. OSHA would be happy to work with the Committee to address this issue.




Madam Chair, I appreciate the opportunity to appear today to discuss PAWA and how it would improve whistleblower protections and victim’s rights. I believe stronger whistleblower protections and more substantial rights for victims and their families can lead to safer jobsites and ultimately, more men and women who go safely home to their families at the end of the day. I would be happy to answer your questions.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

OSHA proposes more than $460,000 in fines against Long Island, NY, contractor for repeat fall and scaffolding hazards

Painting & Decorating Inc., a Ronkonkoma painting and stucco contractor with a long history of fall protection and scaffold safety violations, now faces an additional $460,350 in fines from the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration following an inspection of a work site at 1900 Northern Blvd. in Manhasset.

"The sizable fines proposed reflect the ongoing failure and refusal by this employer to provide basic safeguards for its employees. Workers have repeatedly been exposed to deadly or disabling falls and crushing injuries," said Anthony Ciuffo, OSHA's Long Island area director. "In this case, workers were exposed to falls of more than 26 feet. Falls are the leading cause of death in construction work and can be prevented by adhering to basic, common sense and legally required safeguards."

OSHA's Long Island Area Office opened an inspection at the work site on March 31 under its local emphasis program aimed at preventing falls in the construction industry. The inspection identified numerous fall and scaffolding hazards, many of which were similar to those cited during previous OSHA inspections of five other Painting & Decorating work sites during the past several years.

The recurring hazards include not having the scaffold self-inspected for defects by a competent person during scaffold erection and before workers began to work on the scaffold. An inspection would have identified hazards such as missing cross bracing and planks; no safe means for workers to access the scaffold; lack of fall protection for the employees working on the scaffold; scaffold not restrained against tipping; lack of protective helmets; and no protection to prevent objects from falling onto workers from the scaffold.

These conditions resulted in the issuance of 10 repeat citations with $429,660 in fines. A repeat violation exists when an employer has been cited previously for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any of its facilities in federal enforcement states within the last five years. Between 2008 and 2010, OSHA cited the company for similar hazards at work sites in Kings Point, Great Neck and Forest Hills.

OSHA's inspectors also identified new hazards, including a lack of fall protection for workers erecting the scaffolding; scaffold erected on unsound footing; workers climbing the scaffold's cross bracing during erection; and lack of eye protection. These hazards resulted in the issuance of five serious citations with $30,690 in fines. 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.

The citations can be viewed at http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/PaintingDecorating909337_112713.pdf*.

"Employers can enhance safety in the workplace and prevent hazards from occurring by implementing an effective illness-and-injury prevention program where they work with employees to identify, address and eliminate hazards proactively," said Robert Kulick, OSHA's regional administrator in New York.

Due to the nature and severity of violations, Painting & Decorating Inc. has been placed in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which mandates targeted follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law. OSHA's SVEP focuses on recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations. Under the program, OSHA may inspect any of the employer's facilities if it has reasonable grounds to believe there are similar violations.

OSHA's fall prevention campaign provides employers and workers with lifesaving information and educational materials about working safely from ladders, scaffolds and roofs. It was developed in partnership with the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health and NIOSH's National Occupational Research Agenda program. More information on fall protection standards is available in English and Spanish at http://www.osha.gov/stopfalls.

Painting & Decorating Inc. has 15 business days from receipt of its latest citations and proposed 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.

To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency's Long Island Area Office at 516-334-3344.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.