The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration can’t seem to say what it means. After the changes of previous years clarifying that employers
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration can’t seem to say what it means. After the changes of previous years clarifying that employers must pay for employees’ required personal protective equipment (PPE) and training, OSHA made another statement: In December 2008, the agency amended its standards to add language stipulating that the PPE and training requirements impose a compliance duty to each and every employee covered by the standards; thus, noncompliance may expose the employer to liability on a per-employee basis.
The amendments are detailed in new paragraphs added to the introductory sections of listed regulations, as well as changes to the language of some existing respirator and training requirements. Relevant to the concrete products industry are references to PPE in 29 CFR 1910.132(a), 1926.95(a); 29 CR 1910.266(d), 1910.152(h)) and employee training programs in 29 CFR 1910.147(c)(7), 1910.269(a)(2), 1926.1101(k)(9)). While concrete producers typically have a history of providing PPE at the employer’s expense, the changes likely are intended to reinforce and clarify terms of citation for OSHA enforcement purposes.
AGENCY TOUTS SUCCESSFUL YEAR
As evidence of its vigilance, OSHA released a statement indicating that it has logged 87,687 violations of standards and regulations for worker safety and health, including 67,052 violations cited as serious. The proportion of those violations classified as endangering employees is at the highest level on record, according to the OSHA website; and, the recent administration has made more criminal referrals for wrongdoing under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration Act, including 12 in FY 2008 alone, than any previous one. Additionally, in FY 2008, OSHA conducted almost 39,000 worksite inspections, surpassing the agency’s goal for the year by 2.4 percent. On average, 4,000 more workplace inspections were completed each year (38,515) between FY 2001-2008 during the Republican administration, as compared to the prior Democratic administration spanning FY 1993-2000 (34,508).
Although inspecting workplaces and issuing citations are a critical part of OSHA’s balanced approach to improving safety, the real test of success lies in saving lives and preventing injuries, notes acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Thomas Stohler. Accordingly, OSHA claims credit for accident rate reduction, as follows: Preliminary numbers for 2007 indicate that the workplace fatality rate has declined 14 percent since 2001; and, since 2002, the workplace injury and illness rate has dropped 21 percent. Both totals constituting all-time lows. This year’s inspection numbers also show that OSHA’s strategic approach Û targeting highest-hazard workplaces for aggressive enforcement, while implementing education, training, and cooperative programs to improve overall compliance Û can help achieve significant reductions in workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities.
Beyond an increase in inspections, OSHA did not offer an explanation for the apparent increase in violations. That higher number may have been triggered by any among a number of factors: less-compliant workforce and/or employers; OSHA’s greater efficiency in prosecution; a more ambitious inspection and citation process; or, influences of a changing economy.
Of interest will be the number of inspections and citations issued during 2009 under challenging economic conditions. Should the year’s economy support fewer employers, curtail production, and cause sluggish sales, will the number of inspections and citations also decline?
PROPOSED CRANE SAFETY RULE FACES PUBLIC HEARING
OSHA extended through late January the period for comments regarding its proposed crane safety rule revision, due to the length of the original Federal Register notice; the burdensome or comprehensive nature of the proposed rule; and, number of requests for public comment contained within the notice. The agency soon will schedule a public hearing.
The proposed rule was generated in the wake of highly publicized television coverage of fatal crane failures or incidents that occurred primarily in New York, creating embarrassment for safety regulators and generating a public outcry for regulatory reform. Through various studies, OSHA has determined that approximately 100 persons die per year (1990 was the worst).
Not surprisingly, the voluminous regulation as proposed would add a significant burden to the construction industry. Passage of the ruling would severely increase the complexity of compliance, as well as the time needed to complete all regulatory procedures, thus increasing the cost of job-site crane rentals. The proposed rule is so complex that its adoption would produce a new generation of safety specialists to ensure a crane company’s compliance.
The proposed rule is 29 CFR 1926 Cranes and Derricks in Construction [Docket ID-OSHA-2007-0066] RIN 1218-AC01. It can be reviewed at the OSHA website, specifically at www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=FEDERAL_REGISTER&p_id=21169.
Following are summary points of the proposed ruling that differ from current regulations:
Ground conditions are specified, and a formal review must be completed, i.e., identification of subterranean lines, cavities, pipes, and similar conditions. The operator must receive a report detailing the conditions from the controlling entity or employer.
The section regarding assembly and disassembly has been strengthened to include a requirement for hazard assessment by the supervisor to address dangers associated with the operation and methods to protect employees from them. The itemized, detailed hazard assessment undoubtedly will require new forms for documentation. Additionally, a planning meeting is required among the assembly/disassembly supervisor (A/D supervisor), operator, assembly/disassembly crew, and other workers who will be in the assembly/disassembly area to review the location of power line(s) and steps that will be implemented to prevent encroachment/electrocution.
Preassembly and disassembly steps will require an extensive pre-job review for the crew.
An electrocution hazard assessment Û including documentation of exact power line voltages according to the power companies Û is required. Associated specific procedures are extensive.
Repair inspections, including daily, monthly, and annual evaluations, are longer and more specific.
Wire-rope inspections and selection criteria also are longer and more elaborate.
Greatly detailed qualifications and operational requirements are specified for the operator, signal person, maintenance and repair workers, and hoisting personnel.
Operational rules are highly specific and lengthy.
A central question is whether the proposed rule will pass, given the addition of burdensome regulatory requirements and, thus, increased crane-leasing costs during an economic downturn. The new president and Congress will face an interesting dilemma in addressing the proposed ruling.
AGG OPERATORS NOTE: FIRST MSHA ÎPATTERN OF VIOLATIONSÌ NOTICE
Vertically integrated concrete producers that mine their aggregates might do well to be on the alert: U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration issued its first ÎPattern of ViolationsÌ notices. While the rule has been on the books since 1978, a recent MSHA announcement indicates 43 citations were issued June 13, 2007. Prompting the citations were patterns exhibited by employers that the agency believed were exposing workers to potentially life-threatening injuries and illnesses. The hazards had not been addressed, despite opportunities to do so by implementing a written corrective plan. One employer received the notice after reportedly failing to significantly reduce its violation frequency rate during an evaluation period.
DOT ISSUES RULING, REPORT
The U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration finally issued its final rule, allowing operators to 1) drive 11 hours each day, expanding the previous 10-hour limit, and 2) restart their weekly on-duty clocks after 34 consecutive hours of rest. Struck down twice in federal appeals court, the rule was heavily opposed by both labor and citizens groups citing safety concerns.
Separately, following a three-year pilot program, DOT has concluded that U.S and Mexican motor carriers can safely conduct cross-border trucking operations. The agency reports:
More than 12,000 truck crossings into the U.S. occurred.
FMCSA identified no crash incidents. (Unclear is the scope of observation, i.e., just at the border or during delivery of products in Mexico and the U.S.)
FMCSA conducted over 1,400 vehicle safety inspections and found only 130 violations.
Over 7,000 driver safety inspections by FMCSA yielded less than 1 percent out-of-service violations.
The study provides support for North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) proponents and those seeking to ease border-crossing access for delivery of Mexican products into the U.S.
In its effort to further reduce job-site accidents, the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association (NRMCA) has introduced a Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Training Program, available as a CD-based PowerPoint presentation with instructor notes separated into a Îtrain-the-trainerÌ section and four 15-min. PPE modules for training ready-mixed concrete personnel. A sample PPE assessment and welding shade guide also is enclosed. Finally, a quiz for every section and a documentation form is included to help track personnel training.
The program aims to improve safety-related procedures at the plant level, says NRMCA Managing Director of Compliance David Ayers. Suitable PPE program instructors include, but are not limited to, a concrete producer’s safety, human resources, and plant manager personnel.
The personal protective equipment training course was designed with input from the NRMCA Operations, Environmental and Safety Committee to ensure that examples are industry-specific, providing practical applications while addressing our safety needs, says Steve Jones, NRMCA Safety Task Group chairman and Chandle Concrete director of Safety and Human Resources.
Adds NRMCA Senior Vice President of Operations and Compliance Gary Mullings, The accident rate in ready mixed concrete, while low compared to other industries, is still unacceptable÷Besides causing pain and suffering to the injured employee, accidents pose a significant financial strain on a company’s bottom line in the form of higher insurance premiums, lost and down equipment, injured employees, disgruntled customers, and distraction from the company’s mission to manufacture and deliver quality concrete safely every time.
The product listing on NRMCA’s web site can be accessed at http://my.nrmca.org/scriptcontent/BeWeb/Orders/ProductDetail.cfm?pc=2PPPE