Appeals court affirms OSHA citations on fall prevention and exposure to excessive heat
Two recent court cases uphold agency findings and citations regarding violations of OSHA's fall protection standard and a willful citation issued for exposing workers to excessive heat.
In September of 2011, two Cleveland, Ohio compliance officers observed a worker performing roof repairs on a church’s steep-pitched roof without any fall protection. The compliance officers conducted an inspection and OSHA issued serious and repeat citations to Absolute Roofing & Construction, Inc for violating OSHA’s fall prevention regulations. In an appeal to the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, the employer claimed that the worker was not his employee but an independent contractor; the review commission disagreed. On Sept. 9, 2014, the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the findings of the OSHRC, affirming OSHA’s citations.
On Sept. 10, 2014, OSHRC judge Peggy Ball affirmed a general duty clause citation that OSHA issued to the United States Postal Service after the heat illness related death of a postal worker in July 2012. OSHA cited USPS for failing to address recognized hazards to employees working outside in excessive heat. In addition to sustaining the violation, Judge Ball agreed that the citation was properly characterized as willful and agreed with OSHA that the imposition of the full $70K penalty was appropriate. “This ruling underscores the need for employers to take proactive steps to keep workers safe in extreme heat,” said Barbara Theriot, OSHA's area director in Kansas City. "If the postal service had trained workers in recognizing the symptoms of heat stroke, and taken precautions to ensure workers had access to water, rest and shade, this unfortunate incident may have been avoided."
OSHA extends compliance date for crane operator certification requirements
OSHA has issued a final rule extending the deadline for crane operator certification requirements in the Cranes and Derricks in Construction final rule published Aug. 9, 2010 by three years, to Nov. 10, 2017. The rule also extends by three years the employer's responsibility to ensure that crane operators are competent to operate a crane safely. The final rule becomes effective Nov. 9, 2014.
During the three-year period, OSHA will address operator qualification requirements for the cranes standards including the role of operator certification. The final cranes and derricks rule required crane operators on construction sites to meet one of four qualification/certification options by Nov. 10, 2014. After publishing the final rule, a number of parties raised concerns about the standard's requirement to certify operators by type and capacity of crane and questioned whether crane operator certification was sufficient for determining whether an operator could operate their equipment safely on a construction site. For more information, see the news release.
Assistant Secretary addresses National Safety Congress, says "Don't blame workers"
Assistant Secretary Michaels addresses conference attendees at the National Safety Council's annual Congress & Expo in San Diego on Sept. 16.
Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels addressed the National Safety Council's annual Congress & Expo in San Diego Sept. 16 with a clear message to employers.
Michaels emphasized the need for employers to design and engineer out hazards to help prevent injuries.
"You can't blame the worker," Dr. Michaels said during his keynote speech, stressing that it is the responsibility of employers to maintain a safe workplace. "Just focusing on personal responsibility isn't useful, and it isn't the law."
Dr. Michaels shared more details from the National Safety Council Congress in a recent blog post, highlighting that workplace injuries and fatalities cost our economy $198.2 billion a year.
Also at the NSC Congress, OSHA Deputy Director of Enforcement Programs Patrick Kapust announced the top 10 most frequently cited violations during fiscal year 2014. For the fourth consecutive year, OSHA’s Fall Protection Standard was the agency’s most frequently cited violation.
California law affects employer requirements for finding and fixing hazards
Last week, the state of California enacted legislation that changes employers’ responsibilities for finding and fixing workplace hazards that can harm employees. Under Assembly Bill 1634, an employer can receive a penalty reduction for fixing a hazard only if the cited hazard is shown to be actually fixed. The new law also now requires employers to fix the most serious hazards cited by California OSHA more promptly, and employers can delay correcting a cited hazard only during the first appeal. California operates its own state OSHA plan, and the new law applies only to California OSHA operations.
Rule expanding requirements to report severe injuries to OSHA, updated recordkeeping requirements published in the Federal Register
The final rule that will require employers to notify OSHA of all work-related hospitalizations, amputations or losses of an eye in addition to workplace fatalities has been published in the Federal Register. The rule, which also updates the list of employers partially exempt from OSHA record-keeping requirements, will go into effect Jan. 1, 2015, for workplaces under federal OSHA jurisdiction. For more information, visit www.osha.gov/recordkeeping2014.
November meeting scheduled for the Federal Advisory Council on Occupational Safety and Health
OSHA has scheduled a meeting of the Federal Advisory Council on Occupational Safety and Health Nov. 6, 2014, in Washington, D.C. The tentative agenda includes updates from FACOSH subcommittees and on recordkeeping rule changes affecting federal agencies, protecting workers from retaliation, and an update and future metrics on the Presidential POWER Initiative.
FACOSH advises the Secretary of Labor on all matters relating to the occupational safety and health of federal employees. This includes providing advice on how to reduce the number of injuries and illnesses in the federal workforce and how to encourage each federal executive branch department and agency to establish and maintain effective occupational safety and health programs.
The meeting is open to the public. The committee will meet from 1 – 4:30 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 6 in Rooms N-4437 A-D, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Ave., N.W., Washington, DC 20210. Comments and requests to speak must be submitted electronically at www.regulations.gov, by mail or facsimile before Oct. 31, 2014. See the Federal Register notice for details.
First multiagency listening session for Asian American and Pacific Islander workers
To improve workplace opportunities for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, representatives from the U.S. Department of Justice, the Department of Labor and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently met with workers from the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities in Houston.
Officials explained how the federal government protects workers’ rights, and workers discussed the difficulties they face in their jobs — including safety concerns, discrimination, harassment and wage and benefits issues. Interpreters were available in Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Nepalese and Fujianese to assist the area workers attending this listening session. Comments provided by the participants will be used by the government agencies to create strategic plans to protect workers’ rights. For more information about workers’ rights, visit www.osha.gov/workers.html.
New educational resources: Prevention of Musculoskeletal Injuries in Poultry Processing now in Spanish, fact sheet available on free video training tools
OSHA’s guide on Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders in Poultry Processing (PDF*) is now available in Spanish in PDF format as well as EPUB and MOBI formats to help employers protect workers from musculoskeletal disorders on the job.
Also available is a new OSHA fact sheet, “Resource Center Loan Program” (PDF*), which describes how to borrow free video training resources that help employers and workers identify hazards and take effective measures to prevent work-related injuries and illnesses. Over 750 titles on more than 100 safety and health topics are available.
To order quantities of these or any other OSHA materials, visit OSHA's Publications Web page or call the Office of Communications at (202) 693-1999.
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