Two California Companies Cited for Violating Heat Illness Standard

Two California farm labor contractors were cited by Cal/OSHA following investigations into the heat illness of two employees this past summer, one of which resulted in the first confirmed heat related death of 2011.

The Department of Industrial Relations’ (DIR) Division of Occupational Safety and Health issued citations to C. Clunn Consulting of Holtville and AgPrime Corp. of Los Banos for violating California’s heat illness prevention standard.

“These incidents, including a tragic death, highlight the need for employers at outdoor worksites to be diligent and monitor their workers for signs of heat illness,” said DIR Director Christine Baker. “We have conducted an extensive outreach and education campaign on heat illness prevention regulations over the last three years, which has included training for employers and supervisors. Employers should be aware of their responsibility.”

“Heat illness is totally preventable and should not occur if proper procedures are followed. We take any heat related incident seriously and enforce our standard to the fullest extent possible,” added Cal/OSHA Chief Ellen Widess. “When employers provide the basics of water, shade, rest breaks and training to identify the onset of heat illness, workers are better protected and lives are saved. Employers should know the signs and symptoms of heat illness, and have emergency response plans in place so that workers suffering from severe heat illness can quickly receive medical attention.”

In the first case, C. Clunn Consulting employee Romero Vasquez, age 47, collapsed in a cantaloupe field in Blythe on July 7 and later died after being airlifted to a hospital in Phoenix. Vasquez had been packaging cantaloupes, loading 40-pound boxes on a trailer and driving a tractor in 102-degree heat prior to his death. High humidity added greater risk to the worker.

The investigation revealed that C. Clunn Consulting did not provide employees or supervisors required training on how to identify and treat symptoms of heat illness. C. Clunn failed to enforce its own Heat Illness Prevention program which included having emergency medical procedures in place to safeguard employees in case of severe heat illness.

Citations issued to C. Clunn Consulting include willful, serious and general violations with a total penalty of $74,125.

A willful violation is issued when evidence shows the employer is aware that a hazardous condition exists and no reasonable effort is made to eliminate the hazard. A serious violation is cited when there is a realistic possibility that death or serious physical harm could result from the actual hazard created by the violation. A general violation is one in which an accident or illness may result but would probably not cause death or serious harm.

In the second case, a 16 year old farmworker employed by AgPrime Corp. was picking peppers with his guardians in a field southwest of Bakersfield on July 6, 2011, when he became ill with heat illness symptoms. The temperature in the field had reached 105 degrees that evening when the crew began work. The supervisor noted the worker’s illness, but did not seek medical assistance. The young farmworker later recovered from his illness.

Cal/OSHA’s investigation found that AgPrime did not provide adequate water, shade, rest breaks, or first aid kits at the worksite and did not train new employees or supervisors as required to identify and treat the symptoms of heat illness. Also, Ag Prime had no procedures to protect employees working in high heat conditions or summon emergency medical help if needed.

Citations issued to AgPrime Corp include six serious and one general violation with a total penalty of $61,425.

Cal/OSHA referred this case to the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) due to the age of the young affected farmworker and the circumstances that led to the injured worker and his guardians’ separation of employment from AgPrime. DLSE issued two citations of $500 each to AgPrime for child labor violations – one for failure to maintain a permit and the second for working outside of the permitted hours for a minor. The investigation further recovered wages totaling $500 for the 16 year old and his guardians. Subsequent wage claims and retaliation claims filed by the three were resolved by settlement, resulting in an additional payment of $400 to each claimant.

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Mining Deaths Approach Record Low

Recently released data from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration shows the number of mining deaths in 2011 were at the second lowest level since the organization began collecting data in 1910.

In 2011, 37 miners died in work-related accidents.

Of the 37 fatalities reported, 12 occurred at surface coal mines, 11 at surface metal/nonmetal mines, nine at underground coal mines and five at underground metal/nonmetal mines. Nine workers died in accidents involving machinery — six in coal mines and three in metal/nonmetal mines — making it the leading cause of fatal mining accidents.

Kentucky had the most mining deaths — eight — in 2011, followed by West Virginia with six and Ohio with three. All but one of those deaths occurred in coal mines. Several of the larger coal-producing states, including Alabama, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Utah, experienced zero mine fatalities last year.

“Mining deaths are preventable,” said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. “The year that the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 passed, 273 miners died and, since that time, fatality numbers have steadily declined. In order to prevent mine deaths, operators must have in place effective safety and health management programs that are constantly evaluated, find-and-fix programs to identify and eliminate mine hazards, and training for all mining personnel.”

MSHA has undertaken a number of measures to prevent mining deaths: increased surveillance and strategic enforcement through impact inspections at mines with troubling compliance histories; enhanced pattern of violations actions; special initiatives such as “Rules to Live By,” which focuses attention on the most common causes of mining deaths; and outreach efforts such as “Safety Pro in a Box,” which provides guidance to the metal/nonmetal mining industry on best practices and compliance responsibilities.

“It takes the entire mining community to continue to reach new milestones in health and safety,” said Main. “While fewer miners are dying on the job, we can never alter our focus because, as we know, things can change in a moment. Miners need the reassurance that they will return home safe and healthy after each shift.”

To see data on mining fatalities by state visit http://www.msha.gov/stats/charts/Allstates.pdf.

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New Hours For Transportation Hours Loom

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently issued a regulatory proposal calling for the revision of hours-of-service (HOS) requirements for commercial truck drivers.

“A fatigued driver has no place behind the wheel of a large commercial truck,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “We are committed to an hours-of-service rule that will help create an environment where commercial truck drivers are rested, alert and focused on safety while on the job.”

The publication of the proposed rule coincides with the timeframe established in a court settlement requiring FMCSA to publish a final HOS rule by July 26, 2011.

The new HOS proposal would retain the “34-hour restart” provision allowing drivers to restart the clock on their weekly 60 or 70 hours by taking at least 34 consecutive hours off-duty. However, the restart period would need to include two consecutive off-duty periods from midnight to 6:00 a.m. Drivers would be allowed to use this restart only once during a seven-day period.

Additionally the proposal would require commercial truck drivers to complete all driving within a 14-hour workday, and to complete all on-duty work-related activities within 13 hours to allow for at least a one hour break. It also leaves open for comment whether drivers should be limited to 10 or 11 hours of daily driving time, although FMCSA currently favors a 10-hour limit.

“In January, we began this rulemaking process by hosting five public listening sessions with stakeholders across the country,” said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. “This proposed rule provides another opportunity for the public to weigh in on a safety issue that impacts everyone on our roadways.”

Driving hours are regulated by federal HOS rules, which are designed to prevent commercial vehicle-related crashes and fatalities by prescribing on-duty and rest periods for drivers.

Commercial truck drivers who violate this proposed rule would face civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense. Trucking companies that allow their drivers to violate the proposal’s driving limits would face penalties of up to $11,000 for each offense.

Other key provisions include the option of extending a driver’s daily shift to 16 hours twice a week to accommodate for issues such as loading and unloading at terminals or ports, and allowing drivers to count some time spent parked in their trucks toward off-duty hours.

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OSHA aims for safety with new tire charts

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently released revised tire servicing materials to address hazards in the industry and help workers safely perform maintenance on large vehicle tires.

The revised materials address OSHA’s Materials Handling and Storage standard that protects workers who service single-piece and multi-piece rim wheels. Following recent talks with representatives from tire, rubber, and wheel manufacturers, OSHA determined a need for new materials with updates from sources such as the Tire Industry Association.

The updated information, available in a portable manual or as three poster-sized charts, is easier to access and use. OSHA’s revised “Multi-piece Rim Matching Chart” provides an updated list of current and obsolete components, and the old “Demounting and Mounting Procedures for Truck/Bus Tires” chart is now expanded into two charts that deal individually with tubeless and tube-type tires.

“These updated materials will provide readily accessible information on how to prevent worker injuries and deaths from tire-servicing incidents,” said Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA. “The new format and easy access will simplify compliance with the standard by helping employers provide their workers with vital servicing information.”

The revised tire charts are available for download on OSHA’s Publications page.

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NIOSH does not want Employee Medical Records

Employers no longer need to transfer exposure and medical records to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

OSHA deleted the requirement to transfer records to the NIOSH for 17 specific standards, due to the high cost of gathering the information.

The revised substance specific standards are: Asbestos, Carcinogens, Vinyl Chloride, Inorganic Arsenic, Access to Employee Exposure, Lead, Coke Oven Emissions, Bloodborne Pathogens, Cotton Dust, Dibromo, Chlorpropane, Acrylonitrile, Ethylene-Oxide, Methylanadianiline, and Butadiene.

Prior to the revisions, OSHA regulations required the employer to transfer specific medical and exposure records to NIOSH for the following reasons: when an employer ceased to do business and left no successor, when the required period for retaining the records expired, or when the employer terminates a worker’s employment (including retirement or death).

OSHA first put the reporting standard in place because it believed requiring employers to transmit the information to NIOSH would create a valuable information data base.

However, after several years of existence OSHA representatives said they found obtaining the information was cost prohibitive and few researchers were taking advantage of the data.

In addition to the Access to Employee Exposure standard, OSHA also revised the standards for Commercial Diving Operations, eliminating the requirement that employers transfer diving medical records to NIOSH.

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Sun Cost Employers Millions

In the past decade Australian businesses paid almost $40 million in compensation to victims of skin cancer according to a report from the Cancer Council.

The report from the western Australian advocacy agency stated total payments for skin cancer claims doubled from $2 million in 2001-02 to $4 million in 2008-09. More than 1,300 workers claimed compensation for work-related injuries involving skin cancer between 2001 and 2009.

The average payout was $12,000, although a Sydney waterside worker was awarded $65,000 for permanent impairment, pain, suffering and costs in 2006, after his face and body were left permanently scarred by surgery for sun damage.

Too many employers remained ignorant of the fact ultraviolet radiation was an occupational health and safety issue, said the Cancer Council.

The findings, drawn from Safe Work Australia statistics, should sound alarm bells for employers, the council’s chairman of its cancer risk committee, Terry Slevin, said.

”The important message for employers is that all of the cost, stress and pain associated with these claims can be avoided,” he said. ”My advice to anyone who employs people to work outdoors is to develop and institute sun-protection policies and procedures as a priority, or be prepared to face the legal and financial consequences down the track.”

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MSHA puts 8 mines on notice for potential patterns of violations

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration today announced that eight mines around the country have received letters putting them on notice that each has a potential pattern of violations of mandatory health or safety standards under Section 104(e) of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977. The PPOV screening from which these letters resulted represents the second since MSHA established the current criteria and procedures in September 2010.

The eight mines that received letters are as follows:

Marfork Coal Co. Inc.’s Parker Peerless Mine in Raleigh County, W.Va.
Pay Car Mining Inc.’s No. 58 Mine in McDowell County, W.Va.
Pine Ridge Coal Co. LLC’s Big Mountain No. 16 in Boone County, W.Va. (previously received PPOV
notice in October 2009)
Rio Group Inc.’s Coalburg No. 2 Mine in Logan County, W.Va.
Nine Mile Mining Inc.’s No. 3 Mine in Wise County, Va.
Manalapan Mining Co. Inc.’s RB No. 12 in Harlan County, Ky.
Big Ridge Inc.’s Willow Lake Portal in Saline County, Ill. (previously received PPOV notice in November 2010)
Queenstake Resources U.S.A. Inc.’s Jerritt Canyon Mill in Elko, Nev.

“In April, MSHA briefed stakeholders on a new and transparent online tool that allows mine operators to regularly monitor their compliance and injury records under the PPOV initial screening criteria and make adjustments to improve health and safety accordingly,” said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. “Unfortunately, some operators either did not use this tool or did not respond with effective improvements.”

The Mine Act provides for enhanced enforcement at mines that exhibit a pattern of violations of significant and substantial – known as S&S – health or safety violations. MSHA regulations provide that the agency screen for PPOV mines at least once a year. Mines that receive PPOV notices have the opportunity to implement corrective action programs, and they must reduce their S&S rates to targets set by the agency. Mine operators that do not meet these targets are subject to a notice for a pattern of violations and closure orders for all S&S violations under Section 104(e). MSHA encourages mine operators to implement corrective action programs with long-term goals for reducing violations beyond the goals established by MSHA under the POV procedures.

In addition to the eight mines receiving PPOV notices, other mines are still under PPOV consideration. These include mines for which MSHA is verifying self-reported injury information to ensure that it is accurate and thereby confirm that the operators do not meet the PPOV screening criteria. Following the initial screening conducted in October 2010, MSHA issued PPOV notices at four additional mines after audits revealed those mines had not accurately reported injury data.

In February 2011, MSHA proposed a rule to revise the current pattern of violations regulations. The comment period closed Aug. 1.

MSHA’s online PPOV monitoring tool allows operators, miners and others to determine, based on the most recent data available, how a specific mine matches up with the initial screening criteria for a potential pattern of violations. The initial screening criteria are based on enforcement data refreshed monthly. To conduct the current screening, MSHA used data available as of Sept. 30, 2011, the most recent available.

In April, Bledsoe Coal Corp.’s Abner Branch Rider Mine in Leslie County, Ky., and The New West Virginia Mining Co.’s Apache Mine in McDowell County, W.Va., became the first mines in the history of the Mine Act to be subject to the full effect of POV enforcement action, and thus subject to 104(e) closure orders.

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Potable Water definition updated to include EPA standard

OSHA slightly updated its definition of potable water from referencing a non-existent Public Health Service code to one regulated by the EPA. Through it all, Potable water still means drinking water.

The official definition, your documentation should reflect: “Water that meets the standards for drinking purposes of the State or local authority having jurisdiction, or water that meets the standards prescribed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Primary Water Regulations (40 CFR 141).

This definition is in the following Standards: General Industry 1910.141(a)(2), Construction 1926.51(a)(6) and the Agriculture Field Sanitation 1928.110(b).

OSHA adopted the previous definition from a Public Health Service code that no longer exists. The new definition will update and eliminate an outdated provision, and promote consistency among OSHA standards.

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Inspections of Chemical Facilities to Increase

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued a new National Emphasis Program* (NEP) for chemical facilities to protect workers from catastrophic releases of highly hazardous chemicals.

“Far too many workers are injured and killed in preventable incidents at chemical facilities around the country,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “This program will enable OSHA inspectors to cover chemical facilities nationwide to ensure that all required measures are taken to protect workers.”

The new program replaces OSHA’s 2009 pilot Chemical Facility National Emphasis Program which covered several OSHA regions around the country. The program establishes policies and procedures for inspecting workplaces covered by OSHA’s process safety management (PSM) standard. The program’s inspection process includes detailed questions designed to gather facts related to PSM requirements and verification that employers’ written and implemented PSM programs are consistent. The intent of the NEP is to conduct focused inspections at facilities randomly selected from a list of worksites likely to have highly hazardous chemicals in quantities covered by the standard.

OSHA implemented a multi-year pilot NEP for PSM-covered facilities in July 2009 in an effort to reduce releases of highly hazardous chemicals.

“During our pilot Chemical NEP we found many of the same safety-related problems that were uncovered during our NEP for the refinery industry, which is also covered by the PSM standard,” said Michaels. “As a result, we are expanding the enforcement program to a national level to increase awareness of these dangers so that employers will more effectively prevent the release of highly hazardous chemicals.”

OSHA’s Safety and Health Topics Web page on Process Safety Management contains information on PSM for general industry and construction, guidance on how to develop a process hazard analysis, and OSHA requirements for preventing the release of hazardous chemicals.

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OSHA amends description of Blood Lead Levels that trigger removal from exposure

OSHA amended the description of trigger levels in the Lead standards for General Industry and Construction. 1910.1025 and 1926.62 that require the employer to initiate specific actions when employee exposures to airborne lead levels or blood-lead levels reach defined thresholds.

In various paragraphs of 1910.1025 (General Industry) and 1926.62 (Construction), revisions to the trigger level change the terms “exceeds” and “above” to “at or above”; and changing the term “at or below” to “below”.

The consistent use of these terms across OSHA’s various substance-specific standards will improve compliance and result in a clear understanding of these requirements.

Also, triggering exposure monitoring when airborne exposures are at or above the action level is consistent with the use of the action level in most other substance-specific standards to establish monitoring requirements.

For airborne exposure, the permissible exposure limit (PEL) and action of exposure monitoring. The blood-lead level serves as a trigger for protection and return to work after medical removal.

Employers must ensure that workers are protected from harmful lead exposure. This includes ensuring lead concentration in the air of the workplace is not greater than 50 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3) averaged over an eight-hour period.

If exposed to airborne lead at levels at or above 30 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3) for more than 30 days per year, employers must provide a medical surveillance program that includes blood testing for lead and medical examinations.

The employer shall remove an employee from work when the average of the last three blood tests (or the average of all tests over the previous six months, whichever is longer) indicates blood lead level at or above 50ug/100g of whole blood. The only exception is when the last blood sampling test indicates a blood lead level below 40 ug/100g of whole blood.

The employee can return to work when two consecutive blood tests indicate a blood lead level below 40 ug/100g of whole blood.

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