The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently published workplace fatality statistics for 2016 showing a 7-percent increase from 2015. Within this increase, workplace violence and other injuries by persons or animals increased 23 percent to become the second-most common fatal event in 2016. This increase represents an additional 163 cases to 866 in 2016. Workplace homicides increased by 83 cases to 500 in 2016, and workplace suicides increased by 62 to 291. This is the highest homicide figure since 2010. These statistics are a grim reminder that employers need to be proactive about workplace violence issues. In an earlier blog, we discussed OSHA guidance on workplace violence which can be accessed at: http://oshachronicle.com/2017/06/06/osha-and-workplace-violence
As much of the country is experiencing record low temperatures, it is a good reminder that failing to take appropriate measures to protect employees working in such environments and avoiding other hazards associated with the cold such as preventing slips on snow and ice could provide the basis for a general duty violation under OSHA. OSHA’s tagline for employers to prevent cold stress-related injuries and illnesses is “Plan, Equip, Train.” (more…)
It would not surprise most people to know that OSHA does not have a specific standard governing sexual harassment in the workplace. However, is there a link between sexual harassment and workplace safety and health issues? Yes. For example, sexual harassment could lead to increased stress for the victim which could manifest itself in a number of physical and mental ways. If the victim is employed in a safety-sensitive position, this might also compromise the employee’s ability to perform the job safely. Sexual harassment could make victims less likely to report legitimate safety issues or to report accidents particularly if the harasser is part of the reporting process. Of course, if sexual harassment includes actual or threatened physical conduct, we move into potential workplace violence issues.
Furthermore, although not a strict sexual harassment issue, OSHA has recognized that women in certain industries sometimes have unique safety and health issues. For example, OSHA has a webpage dedicated to women working in construction which can be accessed at https://www.osha.gov/doc/topics/women/index.html. In addition, an OSHA Advisory Committee published a Study and Recommendation (“Study”) in 1999 called, “Women in the Construction Workplace: Providing Equitable Safety and Health Protection.” A copy can be accessed at https://www.osha.gov/doc/accsh/haswicformal.html.
The Study is divided into seven areas where distinct safety and health issues for women have been identified in construction: workplace culture, sanitary facilities, personal protective equipment, ergonomics, reproductive hazards, health and safety training, and injury and illness data and research. The Study concludes with certain recommendations in each of these areas. Although the Study is now almost twenty years ago, it remains a good reminder that effective safety and health programs may need to consider gender depending on the work environment.
OSHA recently announced its top 10 most cited violations for fiscal year ending 2017. Although the order may change from year to year, it usually reflects the usual suspects of violations and this year’s list is no different. Because the top ten list is so consistent, it remains an excellent starting point for businesses that want to review safety practices and policies and may not be sure where to start. It can also serve as a helpful tool for safety committees to periodically review along with the OSHA logs. The top ten list appears below with some common examples of each violation. (more…)
OSHA defines a “near miss” as an incident in which no property was damaged and no personal injury was sustained, but where, given a slight shift in time or position, damage or injury easily could have occurred. Put simply, someone got lucky.
Because there was no damage, these near miss incidents are often ignored or not investigated as thoroughly as a recordable workplace injury or illness on the premise of “no harm, no foul.” However, by doing so, businesses fail to take advantage of a zero cost learning tool that might prevent a serious injury or illness from occurring in the not-so distant future. Indeed, experience has shown there is little question that most loss producing events were preceded by warnings or near miss incidents.
Take the real life example of a business that many years ago installed a number of small venting systems at its operations. A piece of one of the venting systems fell and almost hit an employee which almost certainly would have caused a serious injury and possibly death. The business determined that (essentially) a screw came loose causing the part to fall. It then checked the remaining venting systems and learned that other screws had starting becoming loose as well and was able to resolve the issue before anyone got hurt. (more…)
There are some OSHA lessons to be learned and things to think about from the recent Third Department case in Silvestri v. New York City Transit Authority, 2017 N.Y Slip Op 06123 (August 10, 2017). In Silvestri, the Third Department affirmed a decision by the Workers’ Compensation Board that the widow of a deceased employee working at the Transit Authority was entitled to benefits because there was substantial evidence that the decedent’s injuries and ensuing death were attributable to an accident that arose out of and in the course of his employment.
The problem was that there were no witnesses to the accident and the employee did not report it. Instead, he went home and told his wife that he had fallen off a ladder and into the “pit” at work. The decedent went to the hospital and was diagnosed with fractured ribs, was given painkillers and sent home. Three days later he went back to the hospital and was diagnosed with a ruptured spleen and a punctured lung and was admitted but died the next day following complications from “blunt impact injuries.”
The court found that testimony of a supervisor that he had witnessed the decedent holding his stomach and indicating that he was not feeling well the day after the accident combined with the declarations of the deceased employee to his wife concerning the accident presented sufficient evidence that the accident occurred in the course of employment. (more…)
As generally expected under a Republican administration, OSHA appears more focused on compliance and a collaborative working relationship with businesses. As part of this strategy, OSHA recently announced it will hold its second public meeting on August 28, 2017 to solicit suggestions for strengthening the Voluntary Protection Programs (VVP).
The agenda will target three broad categories which include 1) overall VVP process and flow; 2) corporate/long-term participant involvement; and 3) special government employee activities. The meeting will be held in the Great Hall B of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans from 1 to 4 p.m. A link to register follows https://reg.abcsignup.com/reg/event_page.aspx?ek=0019-0016-b6d21cbf3980471ea6e0bf2b391faacb
However, it is also worth noting that the numbers do not indicate any material slip in enforcement. OSHA inspections have remained relatively constant during the first six months of the Trump administration, as approximately 17,500 inspections occurred from January 20 to July 20, 2017, compared to approximately 16,500 inspections that happened during the same period in 2016. It will be interesting to see if the rate of inspections continues in the coming years and to watch for any significant policy shifts such as in the area of bathroom facilities for transgender workers, among others.
Cozen O’Connor member James Sullivan was confirmed by the full Senate yesterday to fill the last vacancy on the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (“OSHRC”). OSHRC, an independent federal agency providing administrative trial and appellate review, was created to decide contests of citations or penalties resulting from OSHA inspections. OSHRC functions as a two-tiered administrative court with established procedures for (1) conducting hearings, receiving evidence and rendering decisions by its Administrative Law Judges and (2) discretionary review of ALJ decisions.
Jim’s start date with OSHRC has not yet been determined. Jim will be very much missed but we wish him every success as he starts a new and exciting chapter in his professional career! Congratulations Jim!
As part of OSHA’s new electronic recordkeeping rule previously discussed in prior blogs, certain employers will be required to electronically submit required injury and illness data from their 2016 Form 300A. OSHA believes that from a human behavior and motivation perspective, making such information publically available will “nudge” employers to focus on safety and by improving the accuracy of the data employee retaliation concerns may be diminished.
OSHA has stated that the web portal is now scheduled to go live on August 1, 2017 and will be accessible here: https://www.osha.gov/injuryreporting/index.html
The webpage also includes information on reporting requirements, a list of frequently asked questions and a link to request assistance with a fillable form. (more…)