OSHA Southern Heat Safety Stand-Down

June 27th, 2016

OSHATo raise awareness about the dangers of heat illness and heat stroke among workers during a summer than can be brutally hot in many places, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), along with employers and trade associations will conducting a one-hour Safety Stand-Down at various construction sites and workplaces in eight Southern states all this week,starting today and running through July 1, 2016.

Workers in the states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee will voluntarily stop work for one hour at 7 a.m. EDT one day this week and engage in safety training that is specifically focused on their ability to recognize and prevent the symptoms of heat-related illnesses that are all too common when working in extremely hot weather.

Thousands of workers nationwide suffer from serious heat-related illnesses every year. Nationwide, in 2014, 2,630 workers suffered from heat illness while 18 died from heat stroke and related causes while they were on the job. And OSHA wants everyone to know that all of these illnesses are preventable. When OSHA looked into many of the heat-related deaths a few years ago, they found that most of the workers who died had been on the job for three or fewer days, which they note demonstrates a need for employers to allow new workers to become acclimated to the heat when starting or returning to work.

This week’s safety Stand-Down seeks to educate employers and workers alike, and OSHA hopes to encourage companies throughout the South to participate. Employers can register for the Stand-Down event at the Associated General Contractors of America Georgia branch’s website. They can also obtain an informational flyer and toolbox there, which are available in English and Spanish.

OSHA Taking Fall Safety Seriously

June 24th, 2016

Fall ArrestThis is yet another sign that fall protection should be taken more seriously by employers. Earlier this month, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited Texas steel contractor W.S. Steel Erection LLC  for a total of two repeat and six serious violation citations for violating regulations related to fall protection. As a result of these violations, the company faces nearly $176,000 in fines.

This isn’t the first time OSHA has taken a close look at W.S. Steel when it comes to fall protection. In fact, they seem to be a habitual offender. Over the past five years, OSHA has investigated the company for problems related to fall protection, including one incident in 2011 that led to the death of a worker when he fell 17 feet from a roof. These latest citations were triggered when an OSHA investigator spotted two workers operating on a platform more than 10 feet high and several others working from an aerial life, all without any type of fall protection.

OSHA has been cracking down on employers who fail to protect their workers from falls for several years now. Like a great many other fall protection investigations, the investigation of W.S. Steel Erection came as part of OSHA’s Regional Emphasis Program on Falls in Construction. The agency decided to increase their focus on fall protection because violations of fall protection standards are almost always at the top of their list of violations. The company is also part of OSHA’s Severe Violators Enforcement Program (SVEP), which includes about 520 companies as of April 2016. It is notable that about 60% of which are businesses in the construction industry.

Companies like this had better take precautions soon, because OSHA fines are due to increase later this year, as much as 80%, the first increase since 1990. Not following the rules can create a major hit to the bottom line.

WorkSafeBC Blames Film Company for Injury

June 23rd, 2016

film crewAccording to WorkSafeBC,  a film production company failed in its mission to ensure the safety of all workers on the set of the 20th Century Fox  film, “Maze Runner: The Death Cure” in March, when an accident left actor Dylan O’Brien injured.

The incident they point to happened on March 17, 2016, after the production company made a change in an action scene in the film. After the changes were made, O’Brien was struck by one of the vehicles and injured. Immediately after the accident, O’Brien was transported to hospital in Vancouver and the film’s director, Wes Ball, shut down filming while he recovered. As of now, it is unclear if the filming has resumed.

In the Employer Incident Investigation Report filed with WorkSafeBC by Fox U.S. Productions 49 Inc., the company says the scene was rehearsed before the accident and a safety meeting was held. The report also described the scene as involving a trailing and leading vehicle, but that the scene had changed to something far more complex that increased the risk of injury.

While the company maintained that all precautions had been taken and that there had been plenty of rehearsal, it was then that O’Brien was hit by one of the vehicles and was seriously injured. The nature of the injuries was redacted from the report. WorkSafeBC wasn’t convinced of the company’s level of preparation and suggested that the preparations failed. As a result, they have ordered the company to prepare a notice-of-compliance report, due this week.

OSHA Cites Company for Fall Safety

June 22nd, 2016

scaffoldReich Installation Services Inc., a Wisconsin installer of warehouse distribution systems has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and faces more than $121,000 in proposed penalties stemming from an incident in which a 27-year-old worker fell from a scaffolding system to his death.

At the time of the accident last December, the worker, Leonardo De Jesus, and a co-worker were working on a scaffold at a Forest Park, Georgia, project when the rollers supporting the scaffold came off the rail. That caused the scaffold to fall about 40 feet to the ground. Even though both workers were equipped with fall protection, De Jesus ended up going off the rail and fell from a height of four stories to his death. The co-worker was rescued and only suffered minor injuries.

The OSHA investigation into the accident determined that the Pewaukee-based company failed in their duty to keep workers safe. Therefore, the agency issued two willful citations; one for failing to have a competent person inspect the scaffold’s rail for visible defects and another for exceeding the scaffold’s maximum intended load.

In addition, OSHA cited Reich Installation Services for two serious violations for their failure, as an employer, to ensure that employees operating a swing-stage scaffold were adequately trained by a competent person to recognize hazards, as well as for their failure to ensure that the anchor points used for fall protection were capable of supporting at least 5,000 pounds.

According to a statement accompanying their report on the incident, OSHA stated, “Reich Installation’s disregard for the scaffold’s installation specifications and the lack of an inspection, after encountering problems, caused this preventable death. (The company’s) management was advised by a third party of proper scaffold methods and should not have put these workers at risk.”

Photo Radar in Cone Zones?

June 21st, 2016

caution-conesEveryone hates them on some level. You’re driving along, minding your own business, a few kilometres an hour over the speed limit. A few weeks later, you check your mailbox and get a $100 ticket for your excessive speed.

There are many detractors of the very concept of photo radar. You may even be one of those who finds them obtrusive, a perfect example of government overstepping its bounds. In many cases, while some drivers may be technically above the speed limit, they aren’t actually driving dangerously, but whereas a police officer has the discretion to take that into account, a camera cannot. The camera takes a photo, the photos are compiled by a private company and tickets are automatically sent to the owners of the vehicles.

However, while many people hate the very idea of photo radar on highways throughout Canada, there is currently a growing discussion regarding one use for photo radar that a great many more people find far more legitimate and acceptable, and that is as a way to enforce traffic laws when crews are doing road constructions. A growing number of jurisdictions, including Ontario, are seriously considering implementing photo radar as a way to better protect road workers from the danger inherent in their workplace. Safety agencies are eager to find some way to reduce the number of deadly accidents caused by speeding and, increasingly, distracted driving.

According to a number of recent studies, this is not a small problem. Most Canadian provinces have reported an increase in construction zone accidents in recent years, mostly caused by distracted drivers, who are too interested in their electronic gadgets to pay attention to the road. Several recent surveys demonstrate this to be a serious problem. For example, in one survey released last month by the Ontario Road Builders’ Association (ORBA), 28 per cent of drivers admitted that they sometimes fail to pay attention while driving. That means safety officials have to one up with a method to encourage drivers to pay attention and, increasingly, photo radar is being floated as a possible solution, along with larger fines.

What do you think of this idea? Should “Cone Zones” be equipped with photo radar, as a method for keeping road workers safe? Or is this just another intrusive method to keep everyone in line?

New Noise Regulations for Ontario

June 20th, 2016

New Noise RegulationsThe Ontario Ministry of Labour is reminding all employers that a new noise regulation that was approved last December, will take effect on July 1, 2016. The new regulation, which falls under the provincial Occupational Health and Safety Act as Ont. Reg. 381/15, has been designed to offer greater protection from hearing loss for more workers in more industries.

According to the Ministry of Labour, noise-induced hearing loss is “a leading cause of occupational disease for Ontario workers.” The new regulation applies to many more types of workplaces than the regulations they replace. In addition to industrial establishments, mines, and manufacturing plants, the new rules provide for specific noise protection requirements to many other workplaces, especially construction sites.

The new rules limit worker exposure to noise to a maximum average time-weighted exposure limit of 85 decibels for each eight-hour shift. They also require employers to either implement new measures or to enhance existing measures with a goal of reducing workers’ exposure to noise.  Employers will also have to consider engineering controls to reduce noise at its source or along the path of transmission wherever such a thing is possible, and when it’s not possible, they will have to schedule work activities to limit exposure. In addition, they’ll be required to provide personal hearing protection devices when necessary.

The Ministry’s current guidelines instruct employers with regard to how they can make a basic assessment of noise level exposure by listening to other’s speak. If someone has to shout at someone one metre away in order to be heard, it is likely the noise level is in excess of 85 decibels. However, even if workers are exposed to noise levels that are slightly below that level, employers should be aware that some noise control measures may still be required since maximum exposure levels are based on a worker’s cumulative exposure to noise throughout the work day.

Since the new regulations take effect July 1, it’s probably a good time for Ontario employers to consider having a notice level assessment done, to ensure that each workplace is in compliance with the new regulations.

OSHA Cracking Down on Asbestos Removal

June 17th, 2016

asbestosThe Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have both promised to crack down on instances in which workers involved in asbestos removal are doing so without proper protection. While asbestos is still not illegal in the United States, there are very strict regulations that must be followed. Asbestos poses a major risk to workers’ health, and recent investigations have revealed that an increasing number of contractors involved in  building, construction and demolition have been openly flouting the rules and violating asbestos abatement procedures.

OSHA has noted that the frequency of violations indicates that contractors are increasingly demonstrating a lack of concern for workers when it comes to the health consequences and serious diseases that can result from asbestos exposure. They have uncovered many violations related to proper asbestos abatement and a number of companies have been found guilty of violating OSHA workplace standards. Among the most common violations include contractors engaging in asbestos removal even though they are not properly licensed, failing to properly train and certify workers for proper asbestos removal, and failure to provide workers with proper clothing and respirators and failure to properly strip, bag, remove and dispose of materials containing asbestos.

Workers who are at higher risks of asbestos exposure have a greater chance of developing asbestos-related diseases such as asbestos pleural disease, asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. All of these illnesses can result in large medical bills, hospitalization and long-term chronic care. That is why OSHA will be cracking down on employers who don’t follow the rules and protect their workers.

Ontario Contractor Fined for Worker Fall

June 16th, 2016

Screen shot 2011-08-30 at 6.24.47 PM (2)A Hamilton, Ontario-based home builder, Multi-Area Developments Inc., pleaded guilty this past week and received a fine of $55,000 for an incident in which a construction worker was injured when he fell through an opening and was injured.

The opening was on the ground floor of a building as part of a 94-home project called Summit Park. The accident happened on August 13, 2013, while a worker who had been hired by a subcontractor and another worker were doing framing work, installing sheeting on the ground-level floor joists. Several sheets had already been installed, with an opening needed to accommodate a staircase that had not yet been installed. The worker fell into the opening and landed in the basement, which was about nine feet below the sheeting. The worker was injured in the fall.

The Ontario Ministry of Labour conducted an inspection and found that neither of the workers who were putting the sheeting in place was wearing fall protection, which meant they were exposed to falling into the basement. In addition, there were no guardrails in place to protect the workers from the opening. Both of these issues were in violation of Section 26.1 of Ontario’s Construction Projects Regulation, which states that a worker who is exposed to falling through an opening in a work surface must be adequately protected by a guardrail system or by a method of fall protection.

Last Tuesday, Multi-Area Developments Inc. pleaded guilty to the violation and they were subsequently fined $55,000 by Justice of the Peace Mitchell H. Baker in Hamilton court. In addition, the court imposed a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act. That means they are down a total of $68,750 simply because they didn’t take basic precautions. Guardrails or fall protection are a necessity to protect workers under OHS. Not following the rules can cost your company.

Trucking Company to Appeal OSHA Ruling

June 15th, 2016

transporttruckNFI Industries has decided to appeal a ruling made by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that brought them a $276,870 penalty. The ruling was made in relation to their illegal firing of a truck driver in 2012.

Last week, OSHA ordered the company to reinstate the driver, who they claim was fired because he refused to complete a run as instructed because doing so would have ended up violating federal hours-of-service regulations, which were implemented to keep other drivers on the road safe. Immediately after he returned to Massachusetts, the driver was fired by NFI for “insubordination,” after which the driver filed a whistleblower complaint, with OSHA finding merit in the complaint.

The $276,870 penalty included payment of $126,870 in back pay and interest covering the period from August 17, 2012, when he was wrongly fired until June 7, 2016, when the decision was made, as well as $150,000 in compensatory and punitive damages. The back pay and interest will continue to accrue up to the day NFI makes an offer of reinstatement.

In response to this decision, NFI, which is based Cherry Hill, New Jersey, on Friday said it would file a formal objection with the U.S. to “correct the facts on which the preliminary findings were made.”

This is part of a push by OSHA and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), to give greater scrutiny to trucking companies with regard to their management of drivers, to enforce a rule against driver coercion that took effect earlier this year. That new rule gives federal agencies more power to fight back when trucking companies try to cut corners and force drivers to drive more than is safe. Back in 2014, OSHA and the FMCSA agreed to increase their cooperation and to exchange information, so as to better protect workers from retaliation against whistleblowers, which is expressly forbidden under the Surface Transportation Assistance Act.

Roads Audit May Lead to Improved Monitoring

June 14th, 2016

snowplow1Winter road maintenance in Ontario’s Niagara region has been closely scrutinized for the third time in the last few years and the results could lead to major changes in winter road maintenance services going forward.

Subjected to its third value-for-money audit since 2015, the area’s operations from 2012 through 2014 were examined to make sure taxpayers were getting the most value for their money. The audit committee took a very close look at operations such as snow plowing and road maintenance and ended up making 13 recommendations.

The committee felt that better management was required with regard to the winter control budget and they suggested that alternative service delivery models be at least considered. They also suggested that better monitoring of labour levels and performance indicators was needed, regardless of the types of winter conditions municipalities faced. They carefully chose the time period for the audit because they included mild, average and severe winter conditions.

They also looked closely at the winter road maintenance operations in various communities and compared their contracting models, so as to spot potential inefficiencies or to highlight best practices and more efficient methods for getting the best results. Because of that scrutiny, they recommended more effective performance measurements. They also recommended that standards reporting be improved significantly, since it was virtually impossible to make an accurate comparison among communities with data that was highly inconsistent.

To make that happen, they have already recommended new reporting methods to make the process easier. They launched a pilot project in January, in which they tracked winter storms and determined how long it took to get the regional roads back to bare pavement, with a target of six hours. While that target wasn’t met, they did move closer to that as the winter went on.

It is hoped that, by standardizing data collection, the Niagara region officials will have a much more useful database that will inform them as to how well contractors are doing by the time current maintenance contracts expire in 2018. That will give them the criteria they need to set up a way to evaluate various service models, and to be able to evaluate  contractors more accurately, to make sure they are meeting basic maintenance standards.