Following two investigations by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration in Chicago and Pittsburgh, Norfolk Southern Railway Co. was found to have violated the whistleblower provisions of the Federal Railroad Safety Act for wrongfully firing three employees who reported workplace injuries. OSHA has ordered the company to pay $1.1 million in damages for the violations. In addition, the company has been ordered to expunge the disciplinary records of the three whistleblowers. The company is also ordered to post a notice regarding employees’ whistleblower protection rights under the FRSA and to train workers on these rights.
One of the employees whose termination OSHA investigated was a crane operator based in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The employee reported… Continue reading
Texas Cities Lead the Way in National Construction Growth
According to a report released in January by the Associated General Contractors of America, two metro areas in Texas – Dallas and Houston – had the greatest growth in construction jobs in the nation during the month of December. Houston added the most new jobs with 17,600 new jobs which was a 10 percent increase over December 2011. The Dallas area was the second in the number of new construction jobs in the nation with 8,300 new jobs, which was an 8 percent increase for that area. For the entire state of Texas, construction jobs increased 6 percent with 35,600 new jobs added.
Out of 337 metropolitan areas nationwide, 139… Continue reading
On October 29, a crane 90 feet high above a construction site of what will be the tallest building in New York City when completed, broke from the strong winds of Hurricane Sandy. The crane dangled precariously, and with the high winds and the approaching storm there was no way to secure it. People were evacuated from nearby buildings as a precaution, in case the crane fell from the top of the building. Surrounding streets were closed, electricity turned off, and steam pipes that run under the streets turned off.
The seven block area around the building where Carnegie Hall is also located was evacuated to prevent any casualties in case the damaged crane fell during the storm. The… Continue reading
OSHA Designates October As Hearing Protection Month
The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is highlighting the importance of hearing loss prevention during the month of October, which is designated as Protect Your Hearing Month. NIOSH has enlisted a training mannequin named Nick to aid in teaching young people and their families about preventing noise-induced hearing loss, and they even provide instructions for building your own training mannequin.
People are exposed to hazardous noise both in the workplace and in their private lives. Many occupations involve working in noisy environments, and 33% of all people who are exposed to hazardous noise at work will develop noise-related hearing loss as a result of this exposure. A… Continue reading
The Whistleblower Protection Program from OSHA
The U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has responsibility for enforcement of twenty-one whistleblower statutes which protect employees who report violations of various workplace safety, airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime, and securities laws.
Any employee who has been retaliated against by their employer for any protected activity under the whistleblower statutes can file a compliant with OSHA. The law requires that complaints be filed within a certain number of days after the alleged retaliation. The amount of time allowed for filing complaints depends on which law covers a particular violation. Time allowances vary… Continue reading
Airline Ground Safety Panel and OSHA Join Hands Again in Alliance
The OSHA Alliance Program was implemented in 2004 to promote cooperative interaction between OSHA and trade and professional associations, companies, labor unions, educational institutions, and other government agencies. Its purpose is to share information and further discussion on safety and health issues to improve worker protections. The Alliances formed through the program are voluntary.
OSHA has announced that it has renewed its Alliance through this program with the Airline Ground Safety Panel. A joint industry and labor partnership consisting of 11 airline companies and three unions that employ and represent 350,000 workers, the Airline Ground Safety Panel accounts for about 85 percent of those employed in the airline… Continue reading
On October 2, 2012 the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced it is launching an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) pilot program that will help resolve disputes between complainants to OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program.
The pilot program will be implemented in the two regions headquartered in Chicago and San Francisco and will last for one year. The Chicago Regional Office is responsible for investigations of whistleblower complaints filed in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Ohio. The San Francisco Regional Office is responsible for investigations of whistleblower complaints filed in Arizona, California, Hawaii, and Nevada, as well as various Pacific Islands including the commonwealth of the Northern Marian Islands, Guam, and American Samoa.
OSHA enforces… Continue reading
Hearing Loss in the Workplace Linked to Ambient Noise
Current OSHA standards for noise levels in the workplace require that workers exposed to an average of 90 decibels, about as loud as truck traffic, for eight hours, wear hearing protection. When the volume increases by five decibels, according to OSHA’s measurements, the noise dose is doubled, so the permissible exposure time is cut in half. In other words, if the noise level reaches 95 decibels, the maximum exposure requiring hearing protection is four hours. Higher noise levels, even with hearing protection, are considered unacceptable and unsafe.
Though one might think that factories with heavy machinery would be the most common workplaces where high noise levels are found, but… Continue reading
Earlier this year, OSHA issued a memorandum on the subject of employer safety incentive and disincentive policies and practices. The memorandum addresses programs that some employers have instituted that discourage workers from reporting injuries using such methods as disciplining the employees when they report an injury. This practice violates 29 C.F.R. 1904.35(b)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which addresses work-related reporting of injuries and illnesses, and violates section 11c as well as other whistleblower statutes. The memorandum states that retaliating against a worker for reporting an injury or illness is illegal discrimination under section 11c. The Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA) prohibits this discrimination against employees in the railroad industry.
The entire workforce is put at… Continue reading
On August 17, 2012, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issues a direct final rule and notice of proposed rulemaking which applies the requirements of an August 2010 standard for cranes and derricks in construction to demolition work and underground construction.
This direct final rule corrects errors in the 2010 rulemaking and applies the same rules on cranes used in other construction sectors to those used in underground construction and demolition. The new wording of the rule makes the standards easier to understand and implement and applying the same standards for all sectors will make enforcement simpler and more efficient.
The direct final rule becomes effective on November 15, 2012 provided no significant adverse comment is received… Continue reading