Wednesday, July 30, 2014

OSHA, FMCSA sign agreement strengthening protections for workers.

Trade News Release Banner Image

July 24, 2014
Contact: Office of Communications
Phone: 202-693-1999

OSHA, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration,
sign agreement strengthening protections for workers from coercion, retaliation

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration have signed a memorandum of understanding to strengthen the coordination and cooperation between the agencies regarding the anti-retaliation provision of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act. The memorandum allows for the exchange of safety, coercion and retaliation allegations, when received by one agency, that fall under the authority of the other.

The STAA protects drivers and other individuals working for commercial motor carriers from retaliation for reporting or engaging in activities related to certain commercial motor vehicle safety, health or security conditions. 

"Commercial vehicle drivers who report injuries, hazards and illegal work practices should not fear retaliation for speaking out about unsafe work conditions," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. "Through this agreement, we are sending a clear message that silencing workers who try to do the right thing is unacceptable for workers and also unsafe for the public."
"This strengthened partnership with OSHA extends our inter-agency collaboration specifically to include the sharing of reports of alleged coercion - companies forcing or intimidating truck or bus drivers to violate federal safety regulations," said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. "Pressuring drivers to stay behind the wheel beyond their hours-of-service limits, or to disregard other federal safety rules, seriously jeopardizes the safety of every traveler on our highways and roads. Commercial truck and bus companies that knowingly endanger the motoring public, or retaliate against whistleblowing employees, will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

OSHA and FMCSA each play a specialized role in protecting the safety of commercial drivers and of the motoring public. OSHA investigates employee complaints of retaliation by commercial truck and bus companies. FMCSA is responsible for regulating both industries and - along with its state law enforcement partners - ensuring company and driver compliance with federal safety regulations, including driver on-duty and driving time limits to prevent fatigue, commercial driver's licenses rules, medical qualifications, drug and alcohol testing, hazardous materials safety standards and others.

In the last nine years, OSHA has processed more than 2,800 cases under STAA. Recently, OSHA ordered an Iowa waste removal company to reinstate a driver and pay the employee more than $123,000 in compensation after the company terminated the driver for raising safety concerns over company routes that violated Department of Transportation regulations, potentially causing serious injury to the worker, co-workers or the public. Read the press release on that case for more information.

Under the MOU, FMCSA will refer employees who complain of retaliation to OSHA, and OSHA will provide FMCSA with copies of complaints filed and findings issued under STAA. The agencies will report to each other annually on information shared during the previous year. The MOU also provides that FMCSA will process OSHA requests for information from various FMCSA databases.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and 21 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various workplace, commercial motor vehicle, airline, nuclear, pipeline, environmental, railroad, public transportation, maritime, consumer product, motor vehicle safety, health care reform, corporate securities, food safety and consumer financial reform regulations. Additional information is available at http://www.whistleblowers.gov.

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. 

The public, commercial drivers, motor carriers and other industry members may file a safety, service or discrimination complaint against a household goods moving company, bus or truck company, including hazardous materials hauler or a cargo tank facility, by calling toll free 1-888-DOT-SAFT (1-888-368-7238) from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, Eastern Time. Complaints may also be submitted through FMCSA's National Consumer Complaint website at http://nccdb.fmcsa.dot.gov.

FMCSA was established as a separate administration within the U.S. Department of Transportation on Jan. 1, 2000, pursuant to the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999. Its primary mission is to reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities involving large trucks and buses.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

OSHA extends enforcement effort in Billings, Montana

Trade News Release Banner Image


Region 8 News Release: 14-1295-MON
July 22, 2014
Contact: Leo F. Kay
Phone: 415-625-2630
Email: Kay.Leo.F@dol.gov

OSHA extends enforcement effort in Billings, Montana, following hailstorm,
asks employers to protect roofing and construction workers against falls
Agency advises consumers to verify contractors' safety records

BILLINGS, Mont. – Following a major hailstorm on May 18 and a resulting increase in construction, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration is extending enforcement activity and asks for Billings-area employers, workers and consumers to protect roofing and construction workers against fall hazards. The Weekend Work Initiative aims to increase workplace surveillance of construction fall hazards and other dangers to prevent employee injuries and fatalities. Fall hazards are the leading cause of injuries and fatalities in the construction industry. 

Construction activity is at a peak because of the hailstorm. OSHA's Billings Area Office is extending its enforcement activities to include weekends, so that fall hazard inspections can be conducted during days of frequent construction. 

The historic storm pounded Yellowstone County with golf-ball-size hail and damaged approximately 80 percent of area roofs. For workers and homeowners, the consequences of the storm are not over. OSHA urges those engaged in storm-related roofing repair, exterior siding, exterior painting and rain gutter replacement in the Billings area to provide necessary fall safety protection. 

"Falls from roofs, ladders and scaffolds can be prevented by planning ahead, providing the right equipment for the job and by training everyone working on a project to use the equipment safely," said Jeff Funke, OSHA's area director in Billings. "Consumers should verify that fall protection will be used and request information on a contractor's safety record." 

In 2010, there were 264 fall fatalities nationwide out of 774 total fatalities in construction. The most recent fall fatality in Montana took place on April 9, 2014, when a 51-year-old roofer removing shingles from a residential home fell roughly 9 feet and suffered massive trauma.
To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or 
report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency's Billings Area Office at 406-247-7494.

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. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

OSHA's On-Site Consultation Program helps Wis. Company

Edstrom Industries Inc., a Wisconsin-based company that designs and manufactures automated animal water systems and related products, reached out to OSHA's free On-site Consultation Program for help improving workplace safety and health. Over several visits, consultants identified and helped Edstrom abate acid mist, air quality, chemical exposure, lead dust, machine guarding, noise, animal handling, electrical and other hazards.

Edstrom's dedication to protecting workers was rewarded in 2004, when it became the second company in Wisconsin to be accepted into OSHA's Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program. Acceptance into SHARP is an attainment of status that singles out the company among its business peers as a model for worksite safety and health. The company has continually maintained this standing, earning their fifth SHARP recertification in 2013. For more information, see the story on Erdstrom Industries' success.

On-site Consultation services are separate from enforcement and do not result in penalties or citations. Consultants from state agencies or universities work with small business employers to identify workplace hazards, provide advice on compliance with OSHA standards, and assist in establishing injury and illness prevention programs. To request a free consultation, visit OSHA's On-Site Consultation page or call 800-321-OSHA (6742) to find an office in your area.