Labor Rights Week 2015: Events across country to inform vulnerable workers of their rights under U.S. labor laws
Every year during Labor Rights Week, federal agencies, consulates and embassies as well as educational, labor, and community organizations join together to remind the nation's most vulnerable workers that everyone who works in the United States has the same workplace rights. This year, the week runs from Aug. 31 to Sept. 6 with events taking place all over the country.
Along with OSHA, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, National Labor Relations Board, and the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division are sending the message that no worker in this country should experience discrimination, wage theft or safety hazards in the workplace.
Planned events this week include the signing of a new alliance between OSHA and the Consulate of Mexico in Philadelphia, and renewals of alliances with several other consulates, including the Mexican Consulate in Austin, Texas. There are also multi-agency outreach events at mobile/remote consulates, free consultations from experts in labor law, and industry-specific events such as a poultry fair in Gainesville, Ga. Be sure to visit OSHA's Labor Rights Week webpage for a list of events in your area.
If you are participating in Labor Rights Week, OSHA has many resources to help you get out the safety message. Some of our most popular videos include Young Workers' Rights in English and Spanish, a special message for the Hispanic workforce, and a general Workers' Rights video in English and Spanish. The OSHA publications page provides printed resources in several languages and covers a variety of workplace hazards.
OSHA directive explains new process to assist early resolution of whistleblower complaints
OSHA has issued policies and procedures* for applying a new process for resolving whistleblower disputes. The new early resolution process is to be used as part of a regional Alternative Dispute Resolution program, which offers parties the opportunity to negotiate a settlement with the assistance of a neutral OSHA representative with expertise in whistleblower investigations. "OSHA receives several thousand whistleblower complaints for investigation each year," said 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." For more information, read the news release.
Meetings set for NACOSH subcommittee and work group
OSHA will host the inaugural meeting of the Emergency Response and Preparedness Subcommittee of the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health on Sept. 9, 2015, in Washington, D.C. The subcommittee was established to help NACOSH respond to OSHA's request for advice and recommendations for a proposed rule on emergency response and preparedness. Over the next 12 to 18 months, the subcommittee will develop recommendations and draft regulatory text for a proposed rule and submit them to NACOSH for consideration. For more information, read the news release.
Additionally, NACOSH's Temporary Workers Work Group is scheduled to meet Sept. 21, Oct. 16 and Nov. 20, also in Washington, D.C. The work group will continue discussion of workplace safety and health issues regarding temporary workers and develop recommendations for NACOSH's consideration. See the news release for details.
Upcoming Webinar addresses inspection procedures for Hazard Communication standard
OSHA and the Society for Chemical Hazard Communication are conducting a free webinar on inspection procedures for enforcing the Hazard Communication Standard. The Webinar will be held at 2 p.m. ET, Sept. 9. Lana Nieves and Sven Rundman from OSHA's Directorate of Enforcement Programs will discuss the Inspection Procedures for the Hazard Communication Standard* enforcement directive and the requirements for manufacturers and importers to develop compliant safety data sheets by June 1, 2015. Register for this free event here.
Arkansas safety and health conference to be held Sept. 17
The SHARP Association Arkansas Chapter will hold its 11th Annual Safety Conference, Safety - Do It for Life, Sept. 17, 2015, in Little Rock, Ark. The conference shares occupational safety and health best practices with companies in OSHA's Voluntary Protection Programs and Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program and others interested in enhancing their safety culture. The conference is intended for safety managers, owners and top management, human resource managers, and safety team members. Register here*.
OSHA participates in Penn State's Ag Progress Days
OSHA representatives participated in Penn State’s 2015 Ag Progress Days in Rock Springs, Penn., last month to educate the public about protecting the safety and health of workers performing agricultural operations. Nearly 500 exhibitors from 34 states and 4 provinces of Canada attended this event that showcased innovations in agriculture. It was the first year OSHA staffed a booth at the highly-regarded event. Representatives distributed agency agriculture resources such as fact sheets and QuickCards, and talked with farmers, their families and others engaged in the agriculture industry.
University of Wisconsin provides Spanish-language safety training to farmworkers with help of OSHA Harwood Grant
OSHA is focusing more attention to the agricultural industry in several states with its Local Dairy and Grain Emphasis Program. On August 18, staff from OSHA offices in Minnesota toured the University of Wisconsin-River Falls Mann Valley Farm to gain a better understanding of the hazards and abatement methods available for producers to prevent farmworkers from being injured or killed on the job. The University of Wisconsin farm established the Center of Dairy Farm Safety in 2011 with the help of a Susan Harwood training grant from OSHA. The center has worked with a number of organizations to train more than 700 Spanish-speaking workers at 54 farms in Wisconsin. Training material is also available in Chinese.
OSHA issues long-awaited proposal to protect workers from beryllium exposure; labor-industry collaboration is key
On August 7, OSHA issued a proposed rule to dramatically lower workplace exposure to beryllium, a widely used material that can cause devastating lung diseases. The long-sought proposal would reduce allowable exposure levels by 90 percent and add other protections. The proposal gained renewed momentum after the nation's primary beryllium product manufacturer, Materion, and the United Steelworkers, the union representing many of those who work with beryllium, approached OSHA in 2012 to suggest a stronger standard.
For Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, the development had special significance: In 1999, as assistant secretary of energy for environmental safety and health, he issued the final regulation lowering allowable worker exposure to beryllium in nuclear weapons facilities. "OSHA's new proposed rule is the beginning of the final chapter of our making peace with the past," he wrote in a DOL blog. "Once we finish, workers exposed to beryllium will be protected and we will save the lives and lungs of hundreds."
OSHA estimates that every year the rule would prevent almost 100 deaths and 50 serious illnesses among the approximately 35,000 workers exposed to beryllium in occupations such as foundry and smelting operations, machining, and dental lab work.
Comments on the proposed rule may be submitted until Nov. 5, 2015, to www.regulations.gov. For more information see news release, statement and webpage on the proposed rule.
OSHA approves Maine as newest State Plan protecting government workers
Maine is the newest State Plan responsible for protecting the safety and health of state and local government employees. The new plan* covers more than 81,000 employees of the state and its political subdivisions. It became effective Aug. 5.
States and territories may establish OSHA plans that cover only state and local government employees who are excluded from federal coverage. Once a State Plan is approved, OSHA funds up to 50 percent of the program’s costs. Maine is the sixth state or territory to establish such a plan.
"This is a major milestone for Maine public employees and the state's development of its occupational safety and health program," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. For more information, read the news release.
Cincinnati nursing care facility to implement procedures to reduce workers' musculoskeletal injuries
Employees at a Cincinnati nursing care facility will benefit from improvements the company is making to its policies and procedures for transferring residents at Twin Towers, a provider of skilled nursing care services.
Under terms of a settlement agreement with OSHA, Twin Towers will retain a specialized safety consultant with ergonomics expertise to recommend improvements to its resident handling program that will include minimal lifting by caregivers; using safe handling technologies, such as mechanical lifts; repositioning aids; and training for workers.
The company will report to OSHA on improvements to its program within six months and pay a penalty of $18,200 to resolve OSHA citations issued in June. The agency issued citations after conducting an inspection based on a review of injury and illness logs for employees, which indicated a high rate of musculoskeletal injuries for caregivers. Twin Towers cooperated fully with OSHA's investigation.
Nursing facilities have among the highest rates of serious work-related injuries and musculoskeletal disorders, including those of the neck, upper extremities and lower back, which account for a significant portion of these injuries. Bureau of Labor Statistics' data for 2013 shows overexertion accounted for almost half of all reported injuries in the health care industry. For more information, read the news release.
Please visit the enforcement news releases page for more on OSHA enforcement activity.
OSHA updates National Emphasis Program on amputations
Press operation using two-hand controls to prevent amputation hazards.
OSHA has 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. As in the prior NEP, OSHA is using current enforcement data and Bureau of Labor Statistics injury data to assist with site selection targeting.
According to the most recent BLS data, 2,000 workers suffered amputations in 2013. The rate of amputations in the manufacturing sector was more than twice that of all private industry. These serious injuries are preventable by following basic safety precautions.
This updated directive 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 start-up.
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 nearestOSHA area office or to OSHA's 24-hour hotline at 800-321-6742. For more information, see the news release.
VPP participant promotes culture of safety by encouraging workers to identify and report hazards
Managers at Shermco Industries, a participant in OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Program, created a culture of safety in the workplace through a series of initiatives that encouraged workers to find and fix potential hazards. Shermco implemented a program where employees could nominate coworkers who demonstrate exemplary safety practices to receive a special recognition. Employees earned reward points through actions such as reporting hazards and close calls; conducting safety audits or attending safety meetings. Management also identified ways for employees and managers to participate, including creating an employee-led safety team that focuses on non-production safety concerns. For more information, see Shermco Industries’ success story.
Alliance participant provides best practices training and technical assistance to OSHA staff
An Alliance between OSHA and Altec Industries has resulted in training for more than 900 federal OSHA and State Plan staff on best practices and safe operation of cranes, insulated and non-insulated aerial devices and digger derricks, minimum approach distances to energized sources, and the prevention of electrocutions. Altec also provided technical assistance and engineering resources during a fatality investigation in Wilmington, Delaware where a worker was electrocuted after his bucket lift contacted a power line. Working together through the Alliance Program OSHA and Altec will identify the root causes of the fatality and hopefully prevent similar tragic incidents.
Through its Alliance Program, OSHA works with unions, consulates, trade and professional organizations, faith and community-based organizations, businesses and educational institutions to prevent workplace fatalities, injuries and illnesses. The purpose of each alliance is to develop compliance assistance tools and resources and to educate workers and employers about their rights and responsibilities.
New York state Safe Patient Handling Conference to be held October 28-29
The 7th Annual Safe Patient Handling Conference sponsored by the NYS Department of Labor and the NYS Zero Lift Task Force will be held at the Saratoga Springs City Center on October 28-29. This conference is for healthcare workers, patient advocates, union representatives, safety and health professionals and anyone interested in maintaining a safe environment for the worker and patient. Learn from others who have established sustainable Safe Patient Handling Programs that have reduced worker injuries, decreased severity of injuries and provided a better outcomes for patients. In addition to hands-on equipment demonstrations led by clinical experts, this conference will have sessions presented by experienced healthcare leaders on developing SPH policies, designing programs, completing patient/resident assessments, establishing a committee etc. For more information visit the conference website.
Updated Spanish home page
OSHA's Spanish language home page has been updated to include a modern look and ease of use. Users can now easily choose from a drop-down menu that includes workers' rights, information for employers, and the best ways to contact a local OSHA office. The webpage includes an "In Focus" section that highlights the latest videos and campaigns in Spanish, including Young Workers and Heat Illness Prevention. There is also the latest OSHA news in Spanish, a Twitter feed following OSHA-related conversations, and various resources for workers.
You can visit the new website at www.osha.gov/spanish.
OSHA launches new webpage on high penalty enforcement cases by state
OSHA 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.