DOL in action

The following is from the January 28, 2010 DOL News Brief:

US Department of Labor Leading the Way in Open Government Efforts

DOL has exceeded the early benchmarks set forth in the Obama Administration’s Open Government Directive — releasing twice the required number of newly available datasets on last Friday and launching its own open government information page ( more than two weeks ahead of schedule. The datasets released last week include information from the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which will make it possible for anyone in the public to better track health and safety conditions in the American workplace. In addition to the information featured on, the Department also released additional data for the first time — including the Form 5500 annual report/returns for approximately 800,000 retirement, health and other employee benefit plans covering the plan years 1999 through 2008. The administration’s Open Government Directive established a new standard for government agencies, insisting that by specific dates they achieve key milestones in transparency, collaboration and participation.

Superior Super Warehouse to Pay for Child Labor Violations The Department’s Wage and Hour Division has ordered Super Center Concepts, doing business as Superior Super Warehouse, to pay $79,200 in penalties for violating child labor provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act. DOL investigators found a total of 40 hazardous occupational violations, including allowing minors to operate scrap paper balers, paper box compactors and power-driven hoisting apparatuses or forklifts.

MSHA Cracks Down on Kentucky Scofflaw Operators The Labor Department’s Mine Safety and Health Administration continues to crack down on mine operators that fail to pay their civil penalties. The most recent scofflaws sued by MSHA and the U.S. Attorney’s Office are three coal mines located in Knott County, Ky. These operators have wracked up nearly $665,000 in delinquent penalties. According to MSHA Assistant Secretary Joseph A. Main, “There is no excuse for mine operators to deliberately flout their obligations to pay civil penalties for safety and health violations. MSHA and the Department of Labor will not hesitate to hold scofflaw operators accountable.”

Cool Heads Under Fire Not all mining mishaps end on a tragic note. Take the fire that occurred at a Missouri lead-zinc mine last Thursday. Three miners working underground at Doe Run Co’s Vibernum #29 mine in Bunker were trapped when their escape route became blocked by a burning haulage truck. Cool heads prevailed, and the miners retreated to a designated refuge chamber stocked with water and compressed air. Meanwhile, mine rescue teams spent the next several hours attempting to locate the men. Ultimately, they were rescued and safely returned to the surface. “It was the type of outcome we all strive for in a mining emergency,” said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health.

OSHA Proposes Rule Change to MSD DOL’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) proposes to revise its Occupational Injury and Illness Recording and Reporting (recordkeeping) regulation by restoring a column on the OSHA Form 300 to better identify work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). The rule does not change existing requirements for when and under what circumstances employers must record musculoskeletal disorders on their injury and illness logs; it would require employers to place a check mark in a column for all MSDs they have recorded.

128 Violations = $683K in Proposed Fines for Mississippi Companies Three Mueller Industries Inc. subsidiaries in Fulton, Miss., were cited with 128 violations and fined $683,000 for exposing workers to a variety of safety and health hazards. In July 2009, the Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) began an investigation after a maintenance worker was killed, and two other workers were injured when naphtha, a flammable liquid of hydrocarbon mixtures, leaked from an electric pump and ignited.


OSHA Enforcement And Regulatory Changes Underway

OSHA intends to become more active in regulation promulgation and enforcement. Specifically, a pronouncement by President Obama’s new Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis, encapsulates the new focus: “As I have said since my first day on the job, …the U.S. Department of Labor is back in the enforcement business,” Solis said. “There will be no excuses for negligence…. And so long as I am the Secretary of Labor, the Department will go after anyone who negligently puts workers at risk.” To that end, the new administration has earmarked significant additional funds for the enforcement of current OSHA regulations, the implementation of new OSHA regulations, and the hiring of additional investigators to increase enforcement. In June 2009, a House panel approved a $13.2 billion fiscal year 2010 appropriations package to fund the Department of Labor (DOL), which would represent an increase of $846 million from FY 2009 spending levels. This budget includes funding for OSHA at $554.6 million, which is a $41.6 million increase over FY 2009, yet $9 million lower than the President’s request. In light of the above, OSHA has a number of initiatives going forward, including, but not limited to:

  • A special emphasis on oversight of construction projects funded by the recently enacted economic stimulus package, including safety issues involving fall protection, contractor liability and electrocution hazards. Stimulus-funded construction projects will be subject to random inspections, and OSHA inspectors would still have the authority to inspect construction sites if they observe any violations of OSHA rules.
  • Regulation of new “green” technologies involving solar and wind power.
  • A planned increase in the number of OSHA inspectors. Specifically, the fiscal year 2010 budget request was in part designed to fund the hiring of 130 new inspectors. OSHA intends to further supplement its inspectors with “partnerships with businesses and nongovernmental organizations.”
  • Addressing ergonomics “in some way, shape, or form.”
  • Reviewing OSHA’s penalty structure. Specifically, OSHA’s Acting Administrator, Jordan Barab, has remarked that “the average serious penalty is now below $1,000” and “that doesn’t provide much of a disincentive.”
  • Increasing the speed of the standard-setting process, which has been described by Barab as “way too slow.”
  • Significant revisions to the Voluntary Protection Program in light of a recent Government Accountability Office report that concluded that the agency failed to sufficiently oversee the program.
  • Making unannounced inspections of up to 4,500 of the “most dangerous workplaces” in the country. The inspections will be conducted under OSHA’s 2009 site-specific targeting program, which includes sites that had injury and illness rates considerably higher than the national average.
  • Continuing the enforcement of combustible dust standards. In June 2009, OSHA announced that it had issued a total of 667 citations against companies in several Southern states for alleged worker safety violations during inspections for unsafe hazardous dust conditions. The most frequently cited were for violations of housekeeping, hazard communication, personal protective equipment, and electrical standards, and the general duty clause. OSHA intends to begin regulatory action on combustible dust, with an advance notice of proposed rulemaking scheduled to be issued by August 2009.
  • Monitoring and supporting legislation in furtherance of OSHA’s goals. Specifically, the proposed “Protecting America’s Workers Act” (H.R. 2067) would give the agency the authority to press criminal charges against negligent employers. Further, the proposed “Nurse and Health Care Worker Protection Act” (H.R. 2381) would require OSHA to promulgate a standard mandating the use of mechanical lifts by health care workers when moving patients. This legislation would require health care facilities to develop safe patient handling and injury prevention plans, establish data systems to track injury trends, establish systems for reporting instances in which patient handling equipment is not used, train nurses on safe patient handling, allow nurses to refuse work, and require the Secretary of Labor to conduct audits.

Source: article by Richard Hackman

For more details See ….

New eTool from OSHA -Electric Power Generation Transmission and Distribution

There is a new eTool on OSHA’s Web site called Electric Power Generation, Transmission and Distribution.  The audience for this eTool is employers and qualified workers in workplaces associated with the generation, transmission  and distribution of electric power. These employers include electric utilities, power line maintenance contractors, contract line-clearance tree trimmers, independent power producers, industrial generators of electric power, and establishments that perform high-voltage electrical work (including contractors).   The eTool provides a detailed review of the technically complex requirements of OSHA’s Electric Power Generation, Transmission and Distribution standard (29 CFR §1910.269).  It informs employers of their obligations to develop the appropriate hazard prevention and control methodologies to prevent workplace injuries and illnesses and to implement the required safe work practices and worker training.  It also informs qualified workers engaged in the operation and maintenance of electric power generation, transmission and distribution installations of the steps their employers must implement to provide them with a safe and healthful workplace.  Workers in the electric power industry are potentially exposed to a variety of serious hazards, such as arc flashes, electric shock, falls, and thermal burn hazards.

Link to eTool:

VPP & SHARP: Highlighting the achievements

This letter was sent to Assistant Secretary Michaels from the Senate HELP Committee (signed by Ranking Member Enzi and several other Rs) just before Christmas regarding VPP/SHARP.  The letter congratulates Dr. Michaels on his confirmation, and highlights the achievements of the VPP and SHARP programs.  It goes on to express the Senators’ collective disappointment with the VPP-related comments and actions of the Deputy Assistant Secretary (Barab) while serving as Acting Assistant Secretary.  The letter ends by reminding Dr. Michaels of commitments he made about VPP preservation in his written QFR responses during the nomination/confirmation process.

OSHA’s proposed HazComm/GHS rule

Federal Register notice on the upcoming hearings on OSHA’s proposed HazComm/GHS rule

National Action Summit for Latino Worker Safety

Here is government information on the National Action Summit for Latino Worker Safety and Health) (April 14-15, 2010 in Houston, TX)

Spanish version

English version

“OSHA listens” info

Here is material for OSHA’s upcoming “OSHA Listens” session (February 10, 2010 in Washington, DC)