Wednesday, November 28, 2012

US DOL Worker Safety and Health Challenge

Roughly 18 million workers in the United States are 24 years old or younger and constitute almost 15% of the workforce. In 2009, 359 workers between the ages of 13 and 24 died from work-related injuries. In addition, there were over 800,000 non-fatal work-related injuries that required medical attention. The rate of emergency room treated occupational injuries is double for workers under the age of 25 in comparison to those 25 years and older. Workers, especially young workers, need to be aware of hazards they may face on their job and what they can do to protect themselves. Young workers are often unaware of their rights to raise workplace safety concerns.
Challenge Summary:
Your challenge is to use publicly available government information (i.e., DOL/OSHA data, NIOSH data, and other online government resources) to educate young workers on the safety and health risks in real work scenarios. Each submission should achieve both the following goals:
  • Provide tools that demonstrate the importance of knowing about workplace safety and health hazards:
    These features should include components that inform young workers about health and safety hazards in the workplace and the serious consequences of workplace injury. Information on safety and health from OSHA, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), NIOSH, State Worker’s Compensation data, and/or other government sources must be incorporated to create real world scenarios. Additional suggested features include tools that bring awareness to best management practices, such as engineering controls and personal protection equipment (PPE).
  • Provide tools to understand their rights in the workplace:
    The features should include components that help young workers become aware about their rights in the workplace and their employer’s responsibility to ensure their health and safety on the job. The content and type of application must be age appropriate, and should also feature mechanisms for users to interact or share with each other.
In addition, submissions should:
  • be creative, innovative, and easy to use;
  • provide access to important data and resources;
  • attract users with different skill sets and language preferences;
  • consider partnerships that will ensure sustainability of the app; and
  • Target the 13 to 24 age group, but may also cover a larger demographic as worker’s ages range from 13 to 65+.
Successful apps could take many different forms, such as: interactive and informative games, social or professional networks, or data visualization.
Submissions may be designed for internet browsers, smartphones, feature phones, social media platforms, or as native Windows or Macintosh applications.
Criteria:
Submissions should be creative and innovative, offering the public easy access to important data and resources that meet the stated goals of this challenge. Successful apps could take many different forms, such as: interactive and informative games, social or professional networks, or data visualization. Additionally, submissions should consider partnerships that will ensure sustainability of the app, and should also consider means to attract users with different skill sets and language preferences. See the "Judging Criteria" section for more information.
Prizes:
A total of four (4) prizes totaling no more than $30,000 will be awarded, including one (1) Grand Prize, two (2) Category Prizes, and one (1) People’s Choice Award prize. A single entry is eligible for winning more than one prize. The awards are described in the "Prizes" section. Prizes are subject to change.
Partners: U.S. Department of Education, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Employment & Training Administration (ETA), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Monday, November 12, 2012

OSHA Regulation Variances

Variance Program
A variance is a regulatory action that permits an employer to deviate from the requirements of an OSHA standard under specified conditions. A variance does not provide an outright exemption from a standard, except in cases involving national defense as described below. Sections 6 and 16 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act), and the implementing rules contained in the Code of Federal Regulations (29 CFR 1905 and 1904.38), authorized variances from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards.

An employer or class of employers may request a variance for any specific workplaces. Employers can request a variance for many reasons, including not being able to fully comply on time with a new safety or health standard because of a shortage of personnel, materials, or equipment. Employers may prefer to use methods, equipment, or facilities that they believe protect workers as well as, or better than, OSHA standards.

The Office of Technical Programs and Coordination Activities (OTPCA) in OSHA's Directorate of Technical Support and Emergency Management (DTSEM) receives and processes variance applications. OTPCA processes variance applications in close collaboration with other affected regional offices and directorates. OTPCA's goal is to ensure that employers' proposed alternatives for worker protection are as effective in providing worker protection as the standards from which the employers are seeking a variance. For questions about the variance process contact OSHA at VarianceProgram@dol.gov.
Types of Variances
  1. Permanent: Section 6(d) of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act of 1970 (29 U.S.C. 651 et seq.) authorizes permanent variances from Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards. An employer may apply for a permanent variance by following the regulatory requirements specified by 29 CFR 1905.11. An employer (or class or group of employers*) may request a permanent variance for a specific workplace(s). A permanent variance authorizes the employer(s) to use an alternative means to comply with the requirements of a standard when they can prove that their proposed methods, conditions, practices, operations, or processes provide workplaces that are at least as safe and healthful as the workplaces provided by the OSHA standards from which they are seeking the permanent variance. In the application, the employer must demonstrate, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the proposed alternative means of compliance provides its workers with safety and health protection that is equal to, or greater than, the protection afforded to them by compliance with the standard(s) from which they are seeking the variance. In addition, the employer must notify employees of the variance application, and of their right to participate in the variance process. Inability to afford the cost of complying with the standard is not a valid reason for requesting a permanent variance.

  2. Temporary: Section 6(b)6(A) of the OSH Act of 1970 (29 U.S.C. 651 et seq.) authorizes temporary variances from OSHA standards. Employers may apply for a temporary variance by following the regulatory requirements specified by 29 CFR 1905.10. An employer (or class or group of employers*) may request a temporary variance for a specific workplace(s). A temporary variance authorizes an employer short-term (i.e., limited time) relief from a standard when the employer cannot comply with newly published OSHA requirements by the date the standard becomes effective because they cannot complete the necessary construction or alteration of the facility in time, or when technical personnel, materials, or equipment are temporarily unavailable. (Note: The employer must submit the application for a temporary variance to OSHA prior to the effective date of the standard.) To be eligible for a temporary variance, an employer must implement an effective compliance program as quickly as possible. In the meantime, the employer must demonstrate to OSHA that it is taking all available steps to safeguard workers. Inability to afford the cost of complying with the standard is not a valid reason for requesting a temporary variance. In addition, the employer must notify employees of the variance application, and of their right to participate in the variance process.

  3. Experimental: Section 6(b)6(C) of the OSH Act of 1970 (29 U.S.C. 651 et seq.) authorizes experimental variances from OSHA standards. An employer (or class or group of employers*) may request an experimental variance for a specific workplace(s). An experimental variance authorizes the employer(s) to demonstrate or validate new or improved safety and health techniques when they can prove that their proposed experimental methods, conditions, practices, operations, or processes provide workplaces that are at least as safe and healthful as the workplaces provided by the OSHA standards from which they are seeking the experimental variance. In the application, the employer must describe in detail the proposed experimental design, and demonstrate how performing the experiment will provide workers with safety and health protection that is at least equal to the protection afforded by compliance with the standard(s). In addition, the employer must: obtain a written statement signed by each worker who agrees to participate in the proposed experiment that he/she does so knowingly, willingly, and voluntarily; and provide certification that the employer informed the volunteer workers of the plan of the proposed experiment, its attendant risk, and the right to terminate participation in the experiment.

  4. National Defense: Section 16 of the OSH Act of 1970 (29 U.S.C. 651 et seq.) authorizes national defense variances granting reasonable variations, tolerances, and exemptions from OSHA standards to avoid serious impairment of the national defense. If a national defense variance is in effect for more than six months, employers seeking the variance must notify their workers, and employees must be afforded an opportunity for a public hearing on the issues involved. An employer may apply for a national defense variance by following the regulatory requirements specified by 29 CFR 1905.12. Only Federal OSHA may grant national defense variances. An employer (or class or group of employers*) may request a national defense variance for a specific workplace(s). A national defense variance authorizes the employer(s) reasonable variations, tolerances, and exemptions from compliance with the requirements of a standard when they can show that the proposed variance is necessary and proper to avoid serious impairment to the national defense. In addition, the employer must notify employees of the variance application, and of their right to petition OSHA for a hearing.
*A class or group of employers (such as members of a trade alliance or association) may apply jointly for a variance provided an authorized representative for each employer signs the application and the application identifies each employer's affected facilities.
  1. Interim Order: When employers apply for a temporary or permanent variance, OSHA can, upon request, grant them an interim order allowing them to use the proposed alternative means of compliance while OSHA is reviewing their variance application. However, for permanent variances, OSHA will grant an interim order only after it determines that the interim order will protect workers at least as effectively as the standard from which the employer is seeking the variance. If OSHA grants the interim order on a temporary or permanent variance, employers must inform workers of the order using the same means of notification used to inform employees of the variance application.

  2. Recordkeeping Variance: This variance allows employers to use an alternative recordkeeping procedure to comply with OSHA's occupational injury and illness recordkeeping regulation at 29 CFR Part 1904 ("Recording and Reporting Occupational Injuries and Illnesses"). Alternate recordkeeping procedures must meet the purposes of the OSH Act, must not otherwise interfere with the administration of the OSH Act, and must provide the same information as the Part 1904 regulations provide. For details on the information required in the application for a recordkeeping variance, see 29 CFR 1904.38.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Emergency response and cleanup workers assisting in Hurricane Sandy

Protect emergency response and cleanup workers assisting in Hurricane Sandy recovery operations

As the disaster recovery response to Hurricane Sandy begins throughout much of the Eastern United States, OSHA's field staff is working diligently to provide assistance and support to those involved in the recovery effort. OSHA urges workers and members of the public engaged in cleanup activities to be aware of the hazards they might encounter and the necessary steps they should take to protect themselves.
OSHA maintains comprehensive websites on keeping disaster site workers safe during hurricane and storm cleanup and flood response operations. The hurricane page includes a response/recovery page features a link to OSHA’s Hurricane eMatrix, which features information on hazard exposures and risk assessments for hurricane response and recovery work. The flood preparedness and response page also includes a response/recovery page that provides useful details on the hazards to avoid when flooding has occurred. The sites also provide extensive resources on protecting recovery workers, including a Hurricane Sandy safety and health resource page from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. For more information, read OSHA's press release on the Hurricane Sandy response as follows:

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Region 1 News Release: 12-2174-BOS/BOS-2012-188
October 30, 2012
Contact: Andre J. Bowser
Phone: 617-565-2074
Email: bowser.andre.j@dol.gov
US Labor Department's OSHA urges recovery workers
and public to guard against hazards during Hurricane Sandy
BOSTON – As residents of New England, New York and New Jersey recover from the impact of Hurricane Sandy, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration urges workers and members of the public engaged in cleanup activities to be aware of the hazards they might encounter and the necessary steps they should take to protect themselves.

"Recovery work should not put you in the recovery room," said Marthe Kent, OSHA's New England regional administrator. "Storm recovery work involves a wide range of safety and health hazards, which can be minimized by knowledge, safe work practices and personal protective equipment. OSHA wants to make certain that no casualties result from cleanup operations."

Cleanup work can involve restoring electricity, communications, water and sewer services; demolition activities; removal of floodwater from structures; entry into flooded areas; cleaning up debris; tree trimming; structural, roadway, bridge, dam and levee repair; use of cranes, aerial lifts and other heavy equipment; hazardous waste operations; and emergency response activities.

Inherent hazards may include illness from exposure to contaminated water or food, exposure to the elements and heat stress, downed electrical wires, carbon monoxide and electrical hazards from portable generators, fall and "struck-by" hazards from tree trimming or working at heights, being caught in unprotected excavations or confined spaces, burns, lacerations, musculoskeletal injuries, being struck by traffic or heavy equipment, and drowning from being caught in moving water or while removing water from flooded structures.

Protective measures should involve evaluating the work area for all hazards; task-specific hazard exposure monitoring; utilizing engineering or work practice controls to mitigate hazards; using personal protective equipment; assuming all power lines are live; following proper hygiene procedures; using portable generators, saws, ladders, vehicles and other equipment correctly; and utilizing proper precautions for traffic work zones.

OSHA maintains a comprehensive website - http://www.osha.gov/dts/weather/hurricane/index.html - on keeping disaster site workers safe during hurricane and storm cleanup and recovery operations. It contains fact sheets, concise "quick cards," frequently asked questions, safety and health guides, and additional information in English and Spanish. Information on protecting oneself against heat stress while working outdoors is available in English at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/index.html and in Spanish at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/enespanol.html.

Additionally, a checklist of activities to be undertaken before, during and after a hurricane is available from the Federal Emergency Management Agency at http://www.ready.gov/hurricanes.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Identifying the workzone when the crane is near a power line.

The first scenario you describe is illustrated in the following drawing (Example 1) attached to your letter.
Example 1
EXAMPLE 1
A crane with a telescopic boom is positioned between a flatbed truck and a building. It will be used to lift a HVAC unit from the flatbed to the roof of the building. Power lines are located on the side of the flatbed opposite the crane. The employer has demarcated the work zone with three flags located in a straight line that cuts across the dotted circle with the crane at its center. The radius of the circle represents the extension of the boom at its maximum extension and at the minimum angle shown in the crane's load chart for the weight and shape of the load to be picked. However, a circle drawn at the maximum radius the boom could reach would have a larger radius. The three flags form a line (the demarcated boundary line) parallel to the power line that is located at a distance from the power line equal to the minimum clearance distance required by the standard.

Question 1: Assuming that the flags are clearly visible to the crane operator, would demarcating the work zone as shown in Example 1 achieve compliance with the standard?

Response 1: Yes, as long as (1) the crane operator is prohibited from operating the crane outside the line of flags used to demarcate the work zone, and (2) the flags are close enough to each other and extend far enough along the demarcated boundary line that the operator is able to use them to judge whether the equipment remains within the demarcated boundary line.

The work zone requirement is found in §1926.1408(a), which provides:
§1926.1408 Power line safety (up to 350 kV) - equipment operations.

(a) Hazard assessments and precautions inside the work zone. Before beginning equipment operations, the employer must:

(1) Identify the work zone by either:
(i) Demarcating boundaries (such as with flags, or a device such as a range limit device or range control warning device) and prohibiting the operator from operating the equipment past those boundaries, or
(ii) Defining the work zone as the area 360 degrees around the equipment, up to the equipment's maximum working radius.

(2) Determine if any part of the equipment, load line or load (including rigging and lifting accessories), if operated up to the equipment's maximum working radius in the work zone, could get closer than 20 feet to a power line. If so, the employer must meet the requirements in Option (1), Option (2), or Option (3) of this section ...
In Example 1, the employer has demarcated the work zone under the §1408(a)(1)(i) option. The flags form a straight line that is parallel to the power line and give the operator a visual indication of whether the equipment, including the load, remains the minimum clearance distance from the power line. This type of demarcation - a line of flags parallel to the power line and located at least the minimum clearance distance from the power line - is one type of demarcation that is adequate under the standard. However, the number of flags must be sufficient to enable the operator to determine visually that the equipment remains the minimum clearance distance from the power line. If the spacing between the flags is too large or if the flags do not extend far enough along the demarcated boundary line, the operator may not be able to make that determination accurately.

When the work zone is demarcated under §1408(a)(1)(i), the employer must then determine, pursuant to §1408(a)(2), whether any part of the equipment, load line or load (including rigging and lifting accessories), could get closer than the minimum clearance distance to a power line. As OSHA stated in the preamble to the rule, "[t]his determination must be made based upon the assumption that the crane would be operated up to its maximum working radius (or, if a demarcated boundary is used, the assessment must be made with the assumption that the crane would be operated up to that boundary)." 75 FR 47952 (Emphasis added). If the demarcated boundary line is located at least the minimum clearance distance from the power line, the operator understands that no part of the equipment or load may go past the demarcated boundary line of flags, and the operator is able to judge the position of the equipment with respect to the demarcated boundary line, §1408(a)(2) is satisfied and no further precautions are needed.
Example 1a
EXAMPLE 1a
Question 2: In Example 1a, the employer has demarcated the work zone by placing flags around the entire circle. Is it necessary to demarcate the work zone with flags around the entire circle, as shown in Example 1a?

Response 2: No. As discussed in Response 1, a line of flags parallel to the power line and at least the minimum clearance distance from the line will be sufficient as long as the operator understands that no part of the equipment or load may go past the line of flags and the operator is able to judge the position of the equipment with respect to the line of flags.

In the second scenario, the crane is between the flatbed and the power line. If the crane's boom is pointed in the direction of the power line at its maximum extension, it would be closer to the line than is permissible. Examples 2 and 2a show two possible arrangements of flags used to demarcate the work area.
Example 2
EXAMPLE 2
Example 2a
EXAMPLE 2a
Question 3: In Example 2, the operator is prohibited from swinging the boom past either of the two flags so that the boom, even at its maximum extension, remains in an arc that will keep it the minimum clearance distance from the power line. Is this sufficient to establish a work zone that will keep the crane at the minimum clearance distance, or are the additional flags shown in Example 2a also needed?

Response 3: The two flags shown in Example 2 are sufficient as long as the operator understands their purpose.

As stated in the preamble to the standard, one way a work zone can be defined is by demarcating boundaries "[t]o the left and right of the operator, to limit the lateral movement of the boom." 75 FR 47952. The two flags in Example 2 demarcate the work zone to the left and right of the operator and enable the operator to limit the lateral movement of the boom so that it stays the minimum clearance distance from the power line. As long as the operator understands that the boom must not be swung to the left of the flag on the building or to the right of the other flag, the minimum clearance distance will be maintained, and the additional flags shown in Example 2a are not needed.