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DuraLabel's Weekly Safety News

Blog Author Angelique Sanders

Weekly safety news. Stay in touch with what is happening at OSHA as well as other workplace safety news. Includes a report on the significant OSHA citations announced the previous week. Plus we scan national and local (and world) publications for workplace safety news. This is your source for the latest safety news.


Monday, August 25, 2014

Last Week's Significant OSHA Citations

Last week's citations range from Hanford to a violation totaling nearly a million in fines -- it's been a whistleblower week!

OSHA defines a significant citation as one with more than $100,000 in proposed fines. An OSHA citation is a claim by OSHA that there has been a safety violation. It does not mean a violation has taken place, nor that the violation is as severe as claimed. The company has 15 days to contest OSHA claims. The following are the citations OSHA announced last week that have total fines of $100,000 or more.

OSHA orders Hanford nuclear facility contractor to reinstate worker fired for raising environmental safety concerns

Workers prepare tank used to remove toxic waste - Hanford, 2010
SEATTLE – A contractor for the U.S. Department of Energy's Hanford nuclear facility in Washington state has been ordered to reinstate an environmental specialist and pay more than $220,000 in back wages and other expenses after it fired the employee for voicing nuclear and environmental safety concerns, a violation of federal whistleblower provisions.

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration took the actions against Washington River Protection Solutions, of Richland, after the employee repeatedly reported nuclear and environmental safety and permit and record-keeping violations. When the employer advertised the vacant position, the employer refused to rehire the employee despite adequate qualifications and previous satisfactory performance reviews.


OSHA has ordered Washington River Protection to rehire the employee with the same pay and benefits that the employee would currently receive if not for the termination; pay the employee $185,949 in lost pay plus interest, $24,380 in compensatory damages, and $10,000 in exemplary damages and reasonable attorney's fees. Washington River Protection must post a "Your Rights Under the Energy Reorganization Act" poster; remove disciplinary information from the employee's personnel record; and provide whistleblower rights information to its employees.

The Hanford Site produced plutonium for nuclear weapons from 1943 until approximately 1987. The production processes left solid and liquid waste that posed a risk to the local environment. The Department of Energy entered into an agreement in 1989 to clean up the Hanford Site.



Related post >> Nuclear waste -- safe and unsafe storage and disposal


"For five months, doctors removed shards of glass and metal from his skin and he was scrubbed down and shaved every day. All the bath towels and water were considered nuclear waste. McCluskey received 600 shots of zinc DTPA, which helped his body excrete the radioactive americium. He lived for 11 more years, unable to work, suffering four heart attacks in four months as well as a number of other physical ailments, until dying of coronary artery disease."
Related post >> Three dozen Hanford workers mysteriously sickened

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OSHA Repeat Violator - Fall Hazards

Though not a major citation, this is an interesting case:

Roofing contractor cited for repeatedly exposing workers to dangerous fall hazards

Falls are the #1 cause of fatalities at construction sites
SAVOY, Illinois – Roofing contractor Juan Manuel Antonio-Martinez has been cited for three willful safety violations for exposing workers to fall hazards at two separate residential home sites. OSHA has proposed penalties of $85,800. This is the fifth time OSHA has cited the company for similar violations in the past three years. The company has not cooperated during previous inspections, nor has it paid any portion of the $110,880 in total penalties assessed from those inspections.
 

In inspections at two home sites, an OSHA compliance officer observed employees working on residential roofs without fall protection. Failing to provide required fall protection is one of the most frequently cited OSHA standards. OSHA regulations require the use of a recommended means of fall protection, such as guardrail systems, safety nets, warning-line systems or personal fall arrest systems. Antonio-Martinez was cited for one willful violation at each location for failure to provide fall protection.

A third willful violation was cited when the inspector observed workers exiting the roof via an extension ladder that only extended 1' above the upper landing surface of the roof. OSHA regulations require that ladders extend 3' over the landing for safe access.

The roofing contractor had been cited for similar violations in 2011, 2012 and 2013.


A breakdown of ANSI Z359 - Fall Protection Standard >> http://www.duralabel.com/articles/ansi-z359-fall-protection.php

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OSHA settles whistleblower complaint against Gaines Motor Lines Inc.

Complaint filed under the Surface Transportation Assistance Act

Gained contested OSHA charges factually flawed, based on hearsay
HICKORY, N.C. – The U.S. Department of Labor has entered into a settlement agreement with Gaines Motor Lines Inc., as well as individuals Tim Gaines and Rick Tompkins, to resolve findings made by OSHA alleging that four former truck drivers were terminated for participating in an inspection audit, in violation of the whistleblower protection provision of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act.
 

The whistleblower complaint alleged that four employees were terminated for participating in an inspection audit conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that identified log violations at the commercial motor carrier company's facility in Hickory. From Feb. 28 through March 1, 2012, the four employees were interviewed by the FMCSA. On March 8, following the audit and subsequent citations issued against Gaines Motor Lines, the workers suffered adverse retaliation by company officials, including termination, layoffs and removal of employee benefits.

The settlement requires the employer to pay the complainants a total of $262,500, which includes all back pay and interest, and compensatory damages. Additionally, the company will post the OSHA and whistleblower posters in the workplace and provide training regarding STAA protected rights to all workers.


Original fines over a million dollars, Gaines contests charges >> http://www.hickoryrecord.com/news/article_d181fc98-5627-11e3-b215-001a4bcf6878.html

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Asphalt Specialists ordered to pay nearly $1M in compensation

Also told to reinstate drivers terminated for raising safety concerns

Asphalt Specialists hit with nearly $1 million in fines
PONTIAC, Mich. – Asphalt Specialists Inc. has been found in violation of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration for wrongfully terminating a foreman and two truck drivers. They had raised safety concerns after being directed to violate U.S. Department of Transportation mandated hours of service for commercial truck drivers.

Headquartered in Pontiac, the asphalt paving company was ordered to reinstate the three employees to their former positions with all pay, benefits and rights. The company was ordered to pay a total of $953,916 in damages: $243,916 in back wages to the drivers, $110,000 in compensatory damages and $600,000 in punitive damages.

"It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against employees who report work-related safety concerns or violations of federal transportation regulations, which require drivers to have a minimum 10-hour rest period between shifts," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels. "OSHA is committed to protecting workers from retaliation for exercising basic worker rights."

The foreman was terminated from employment on June 30, 2012. The foreman repeatedly raised concerns to the company's co-owner about exceeding hours of service when job assignments repeatedly failed to allow for the 10-hour rest period mandated by the Department of Transportation. At least twice, the foreman and the crew were expected to work more than 27 hours straight. The employee rightfully refused to operate a vehicle in an unsafe manner, which could potentially cause serious injury to the worker, co-workers or the public. OSHA has ordered the foreman to be reinstated and to receive back wages of $147,457, less any applicable employment taxes; $50,000 in compensatory damages and $200,000 in punitive damages.

The second truck driver was terminated from employment on April 26, 2013. The employee also raised concerns about the number of work hours required by the company and refused to sign an affidavit denying that the worker was required to work in excess of the number hours legally permitted. Asphalt Specialists sought the affidavit to use in their response to OSHA's investigation of the fired foreman's claims. OSHA has ordered this driver to be reinstated and to receive back wages of $44,379, less any applicable employment taxes; $30,000 in compensatory damages and $200,000 in punitive damages.

The third driver was terminated from employment on July 8, 2013, after raising concerns about vehicle maintenance and about the number of hours they were expected to drive. OSHA has ordered the driver to be reinstated and to receive back wages of $52,080, less any applicable employment taxes; $30,000 in compensatory damages and $200,000 in punitive damages.

posted by Angelique Sanders
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Explosion at Recycling Plant Kills Two

Bomb squad arrives at the scene
An explosion at the Totall Metal recycling plant killed two people and injured one this morning (8/25). The cause appears to be exploding mortar shells. Investigators have not been allowed near the bodies due to risk of another explosion. A bomb squad has arrived at the scene.

View video of this breaking news >> http://fox2now.com/2014/08/25/2-killed-following-plant-explosion-granite-city/

posted by Angelique Sanders
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Monday, August 18, 2014

Workplace Safety Lies: Two cases in which money won out

California giant PG&E was recently charged with lying to federal investigators during the investigation of a pipeline explosion that resulted in eight deaths and leveled a neighborhood. PG&E is accused of trying to mislead National Transportation Safety Board investigators, and keeping shoddy records, not keeping track of safety threats and failing to act on them. 

The charges could result in over $1 billion in fines. The power utility also faces $2.5 billion in civil fines from regulators such as the PUC.

Find out more
>> http://www.isssource.com/more-charges-for-pge-for-pipeline-blast

GM admits: We put dollars before consumer safety

Remember the faulty ignition switch that resulted in General Motors' recall of 1.6 million vehicles? The vehicle could suddenly lose power and cause the airbag to crash. GM linked 13 deaths to the defect. The CEO later appeared before Congress and apologized, later admitting that GM's safety culture prioritized dollars over consumer safety.

Apparently true to the CEO's promise for change, GM has improved its safety team and issued already 66 vehicle recalls this year, which affects a total of 29 million vehicles.

Now it has begun to accept claims for those impacting by the ignition issue. As of a week ago 135 claims had been filed, of which about half involved fatalities.

The U.S. Transportation Department has fined GM $35 million in safety violations for this issue.


Find out about the compensation fund >> http://www.cbsnews.com/news/gm-victim-fund-receives-65-death-claims

Find out more about GM's safety history
>> http://www.fairwarning.org/2014/07/reality-check-impact-general-motors-safety-scandal

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OSHA: Tracking workplace injuries

Comment period extended for proposed new rule

OSHA announced it will extend the comment period on the proposed rule to improve tracking of workplace injuries and illnesses to Oct. 14, 2014. The proposal, published on Nov. 8, 2013, would amend the agency's recordkeeping regulation to add requirements for the electronic submission of injury and illness information that employers are already required to keep.

During the public meeting held on the proposal, many participants expressed concern that the proposal may create motivation for employers to under-record injuries and illnesses, since each covered establishment's injury and illness data would become publicly available on OSHA's website. Participants also expressed concern that the proposal would lead to an increase in the number of employers who adopt practices that discourage employees from reporting recordable injuries and illnesses. OSHA is concerned that the accuracy of the data collected under the new proposal could be compromised if employers adopt these practices.
"OSHA wants to make sure that employers, employees and the public have access to the most accurate data about injuries and illnesses in their workplaces so that they can take the most appropriate steps to protect worker safety and health," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, Dr. David Michaels.

Therefore, OSHA is soliciting comments on whether to amend the proposed rule to: 
1) Require that employers inform their employees of their right to report injuries and illnesses
2) More clearly communicate the requirement that any injury and illness reporting requirements established by the employer be reasonable and not unduly burdensome
3) Provide OSHA an additional remedy to prohibit employers from taking adverse action against employees for reporting injuries and illnesses.

Individuals interested in submitting comments may do so electronically at http://www.regulations.gov, the federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Comments may also be submitted via mail or facsimile.

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