Weekly Safety News Roundup – 5/24/15

In news this week was some criticism of the OSHA fines in the DuPont, Texas deaths. It continues to show the antiquity of the OSHA fine structure. For small businesses, the fines can seem insurmountable while for large corporations the fines are are inconsequential. When it comes to risk from fines the EPA has far exceeded OSHA in terms of how they fines are conducted. The articles are interesting reads in regards to how the fines are perceived based on the perceived severity of the violations.

Article 1 & Article 2

When it comes to fines, there are many that feel that OSHA could do better to seek legislation to update and improve the overall structure of the way they calculate and present fines.

In some interesting news, OSHA found the owner of a company to be in criminal contempt for not allowing OSHA inspectors onsite after employee complaints. The OSHA officers had a judges order to be able to come onto the site and perform the inspection. The company still disallowed the inspection officers to enter the facility. OSHA then turned back to the courts to get a criminal contempt charge. It makes me wonder why the company did not allow the OSHA officers to enter the first time and especially when they came back with a judges order. That is quite audacious. Certainly by acting in that way, the company creates a high level of suspicion of what they are trying to cover up or avoid.

Safety News of the Week 5/9/15

Fortune published an article about the antiquated OSHA penalties and how that affects the safety of workers. This article begins by citing the low fine Wal-Mart received from the Black Friday trampling death from a few years ago. Certainly, the worker should have been protected. I still, though, have a much larger issues with that fatality. This was not only about occupational safety, but being a decent human being. I still cannot wrap my mind around how any one or group could trample someone to death to buy cheap electronics for Christmas. Well . . . back to the article. It does gives some interesting information about the laws that are trying to get put into place to give OSHA more teeth when it comes to fatalities. Overall, there are improvements that need to happen to update and create consistency in the OSHA fines system. Unfortunately, this literally takes an act of Congress.

On the flip side, another article from this week shows the progress that the OSH act for worker safety. It is a good read that shows that there has been significant effectiveness since the act was passed. I will certainly say I am happy for it, not only because it protects workers but because it created work for someone like me. Certainly, OSHA and the laws that they enforce has helped in creating a safety workplace. There is still much more that needs to be done to assure the safety of workers. There should be a sense of pride in those workplaces that have got on board with creating a safe working environment. Now it is time for keep pushing all industries for that level of compliance.

A federal judge not only upheld a willful violation, but increased the fine against the company. The construction company was cited due to a fatality from a crane that collapsed. The company continued to fight the citation only to come up against a judge that basically said enough is enough. It is a strong message sent to those that would follow suit that fighting a citation will not only cost you in legal costs but could even increase the penalty.

OSHA is considering how to address the health and safety of transgender workers. The initial focus appears to be on restroom access. According to the article,  “OSHA and National Center for Transgender Equality announced an alliance Monday to develop a bulletin of recommended best practices for restroom access for transgender workers.” Certainly, the additional focus from OSHA will help in bringing attention to these issues.

Weekly Safety News Roundup 5/2/15

A trenching death creates a hazard for the rescue crew. A trench fell in and the rescue was slowed because the rescue crews has to shore up the sides before they could begin the extrication. This definitely is a case where the trench was not properly protected before the worker entered. Trenching issues are very common. For some reason, there are still companies that treat trenching and excavation as “just digging a hole.” There is so much more to creating a safe environment for workers when it comes to this standard. There are many considerations that have to be made when performing the work such as rescue and soil content. These injuries are preventable through training, planning, and proper rule adherence.

Dollar Stores are under various OSHA investigation for not creating a safe workplace. According the the article, it seems to be a regular occurrence among Dollar Stores where exits and aisles are blocked. This creates an environment where is there was to be an emergency the workers may not have a safe way to exit the store. The interesting point of the story is that it cites management not walking the stores as a source of the trouble. This is an interesting dynamic when you think about the interactions that are going on with this scenario. The employees are unpacking boxes or stacking boxes in ways that are blocking exits. In essence, they are creating an issue that could be easily avoided by not stacking boxes in the front of the exits. There is a reason they are performing an action that could endanger their own life. It could be that they don’t have enough room for boxes, it could be they do not understand the importance of keeping a clear exit, it could be that the employees don’t have enough time to correct the issues. The idea that management walks not being effective could be a root cause, is plausible. The management should train the employees to know why not to block the exits. They should set and enforce the standards. They should also give the employees the time and resources to get the job done right.

OSHA finally issues a confined space rule for construction. This is a long time coming. General industry has had a fairly robust program in place, but there was no specific guidance for construction. It was time that construction has the same protection as industry.

SeaWorld is fighting their OSHA violation from the death of a whale trainer in 2010. OSHA (of course) does not have specific guidance on whale training safety, but they do have the ability to fine a company based on the general duty clause. In this case, OSHA stated that they felt SeaWorld did not provide adequate training for their staff in regards to the work they are performing and the safe guards that should be in place. This shows that just because there is not a regulation, there still has to be safety precautions in place to protect workers from occupational illness and injury.

An interactive map shows occupation fatalities by location. An interesting and sobering tool.

Bumble Bee Foods, Two Managers Charged in Death of Man Cooked With Tuna

I remember when this event happened.This was a significant learning opportunity for many organizations across the food industry.

I would like to know more about the evidence that charges the two men in the case. As the article says, prosecutions are rare.

Click here to see the statement from the company. According to their release, there were no willful OSHA violations committed in regards to the incident. It is interesting that that DA is now filing charges.

This strikes a very personal point for me. As a safety professional, I do feel a lot of responsibility and accountability. But, am I ultimately responsible for all aspects of safety? I am not sure that is humanly possible. Again though, time and evidence will tell the story.

US Food Safety

LOS ANGELES — Bumble Bee Foods and two managers were charged by Los Angeles prosecutors Monday with violating safety regulations in the death of a worker who was cooked in an industrial oven with tons of tuna.

Jose Melena was performing maintenance in a 35-foot-long oven at the company’s Santa Fe Springs plant before dawn Oct. 11, 2012, when a co-worker, who mistakenly believed Melena was in the bathroom, filled the pressure cooker with 12,000 pounds of canned tuna and it was turned on.

When a supervisor noticed Melena, 62, was missing, an announcement was made on the intercom and employees searched for him in the facility and parking lot, according to a report by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health. His body was found two hours later after the pressure cooker, which reached a temperature of 270 degrees, was turned off and opened.

The company, its plant…

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