A Source for Workplace Safety News and Notes - from

December 1, 2016

Winter Weather Brings Mine Safety Hazards - and Inspections

Mine safety signs and labels
The Mine Safety and Health Administration has issued its annual Winter Alert message, reminding mine operators and miners to pay special attention to seasonal changes that may affect both surface and underground work environments. A number of major U.S. mine disasters have occurred during the winter months, according to MSHA's posted data.

Inspection and Information Campaign Underway

The agency has initiated a campaign – which runs through March 2017 – to emphasize increased vigilance and adherence to safety principles during the colder months. 

Federal inspectors issued 130 citations and one safeguard during special impact inspections conducted at 10 coal mines and five metal and nonmetal mines in October 2016.

This year’s campaign theme, “Make Safety A Hole In One,” focuses on the prevention of coal mine explosions, stressing mine examinations, proper ventilation and rock dusting. It also addresses hazards specific to surface facilities and preparation plants.
Throughout the campaign, mine safety and health specialists will regularly visit mines around the country to heighten awareness to the changing conditions that take place during the winter months. Enforcement personnel will distribute materials that focus on “best practices” for performing miners’ jobs.

Cold Weather Increases Mine Risks

“The risk of underground coal mine explosions increases every winter, as do hazards associated with ice and snow that collect at surface facilities and preparation plants,” said Joseph A. Main, assistant secretary of labor for mine safety and health. “While mine safety has improved vastly over time, these types of explosions have occurred far too often. We must remain vigilant about the conditions that can set them off.”

When cold weather causes barometric pressure to drop, methane gas can migrate more easily into the mine atmosphere, increasing the risk of an explosion. Dry winter air means drier conditions underground, making it more likely for coal dust to suspend in the mine’s atmosphere and create the potential for an explosion. Limited visibility, slippery walkways, and freezing and thawing highwalls also contribute to possible mishaps during the winter months.

Good News from MSHA

Their Data at a Glance shows an all-time low in the number of deaths caused by mine-related injuries for Fiscal Year 2016, and that fatality and injury rates for this period represent the lowest rates ever recorded. It also shows that Calendar Year 2015 was the safest in U.S. mining history.


November 21, 2016

OSHA Issues Major Fines Totaling $3.2 Million in October

Federal OSHA investigators released information on 29 enforcement activities in October, with 16 of those cases carrying proposed fines of $100,000 or more. These major fines totaled nearly $3.2 million. Fall protection and machine guards were common citations. Here's some details on nine fines that topped $200,000. Many are still pending final decisions.

$359,878 for repeat fall hazards at a Florida framing contractor

OSHA inspectors observed employees of Panama City Framing unprotected from falls as they installed truss framing at a residence. OSHA cited two willful citations for the employer's failure to protect workers with a fall protection system when working at heights up to 22 feet, and for not having a roof access ladder for employees to access the roof trusses. Repeat violations included allowing workers to use powered nail guns without eye protection and failing to ensure employees were wearing head protection. The employer has been cited four times since 2012 for lack of fall, eye and head protection. Read more here.

$317,814 for repeat serious hazards at a Georgia textile and plastic recycler

Wearables: Workplace Safety Is Finally Within Reach

fire fighters in smokey building
When wearable tech starting making its debut, it was mostly viewed in the context of luxury. If you wanted to be hyper-connected to your email or were looking for a fancy way to track calories, a wearable device seemed like your answer. But as technology progresses, businesses have discovered plentiful opportunities to turn this concept into something that can be health altering — and even life saving. Here’s a look at some of the ways that wearables are improving workplace safety and minimizing risk for today’s workers.

Awareness for Increased Wellness

It probably comes as no surprise that the most well known wearables are from Apple, including the new Apple Sport Watch. But while this device is known for its elaborate extras, like the ambient light sensor and retina display, some of its best features are related to monitoring health. This lightweight, low-cost, durable watch offers a highly accurate heart rate sensor that can help users stay on top of their heart health. One user even detailed his story about recognizing a serious health problem while at work, thanks to the information he received from his Apple watch. Office jobs are usually not associated with health risks, but this is a good reminder that a wearable like this can help alert office workers to health conditions that may not be related to their jobs, but may still strike while on the job.

Firefighters and Emergency Responders

November 17, 2016

7 Million Employers Impacted by Final OSHA Rule Updating Walking-working Surfaces Standards

Fall Protection Required
OSHA today issued a final rule updating its general industry Walking-Working Surfaces standards specific to slip, trip and fall hazards. OSHA estimates the final standard will prevent 29 fatalities and more than 5,842 injuries annually. The rule becomes effective on Jan. 17, 2017, and will affect approximately 112 million workers at seven million worksites. 

The new rule includes a new section under the general industry Personal Protective Equipment standards that establishes employer requirements for using personal fall protection systems. It allows employers to select the fall protection system that works best for them, choosing from a range of accepted options including personal fall protection systems. 

New Workplace Safety Publications from OSHA

OSHA produces a variety of publications that address workplace health and safety topics. They include compliance guides, fact sheets, QuickCards and other formats designed to help employers better understand everything from aerial lifts and brownfield site cleanup to Zika and zip-line safety. 

Here's a list of OSHA publications added this year, with links to their pdf files:

More Resources:


November 9, 2016

BLS Reports Workplace Injuries and Illnesses Declined in 2015

Some 2.9 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses were reported by private industry employers in 2015, which occurred at a rate of 3.0 cases per 100 equivalent full-time workers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The 2015 rate continues a pattern of declines that, apart from 2012, occurred annually for the last 13 years.

Private industry employers reported nearly 48,000 fewer nonfatal injury and illness cases in 2015 compared to a year earlier, according to estimates from the Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (SOII). Because of this decline, combined with an increase in reported hours worked, the total recordable cases (TRC) incidence rate fell 0.2 cases per 100 full-time workers. The fall in the TRC rate was driven by a decline in the rate of cases involving days away from work (DAFW) and other recordable cases (ORC)—each falling 0.1 cases—as the rate for cases of job transfer or restriction only (DJTR) has remained at 0.7 cases since 2011.

Private Industry

Six of the 19 private industry sectors reported a decline in the rate of injuries and illnesses in 2015: mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction; manufacturing; transportation and warehousing; finance and insurance; health care and social assistance; and accommodation and food services. Manufacturing continued an 18-year trend as the only private industry sector in which the rate of DJTR cases exceeded the rate of

OSHA Delays Anti-retaliation Enforcement to December 1

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has agreed to further delay enforcement of the anti-retaliation provisions in its injury and illness tracking rule until Dec. 1, 2016. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas requested the delay to allow additional time to consider a motion challenging the new provisions.
The anti-retaliation provisions were originally scheduled to begin Aug. 10, 2016, but were previously delayed until Nov. 1 to allow time for outreach to the regulated community.

Under the rule, employers are required to inform workers of their right to report work-related injuries and illnesses without fear of retaliation; implement procedures for reporting injuries and illnesses that are reasonable and do not deter workers from reporting; and incorporate the existing statutory prohibition on retaliating against workers for reporting injuries and illnesses.

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

October 20, 2016

October 2016 Workplace Safety News & Notes

Here's a collection of safety-related news this month:

OSHA Top 10 Violations of 2016

OSHA has announced the preliminary Top 10 most-frequently-cited workplace safety violations for fiscal year 2016. If these look familiar, it's because all 10 were on the 2015 OSHA top 10 list, too. The preliminary Top 10 for FY 2016* are:
  1.   Fall Protection, 1926.501 (C) - 6,929
  2.   Hazard Communication, 1910.1200 - 5,677
  3.   Scaffolds, 1926.451 (C) - 3,906
  4.   Respiratory Protection, 1910.134 - 3,585
  5.   Lockout/Tagout, 1910.147 - 3,414
  6.   Powered Industrial Trucks, 1910.178 - 2,860
  7.   Ladders, 1926.1053 (C) - 2,639
  8.   Machine Guarding, 1910.212 - 2,451
  9.   Electrical Wiring, 1910.305 - 1,940
  10.   Electrical, General Requirements, 1910.303 - 1,704
*Preliminary figures as of Sept. 30, 2016.

OSHA Proposes Rule to Improve Standards

Load Limit __ lbs.Federal OSHA is proposing 18 changes to the agency's recordkeeping, general industry, maritime and construction standards as part of an effort to revise provisions that may be confusing, outdated or unnecessary. OSHA says the proposed changes will modernize OSHA standards, help employers better understand their responsibilities, increase compliance and reduce compliance costs. OSHA estimates the revisions would save employers $3.2 million per year. Revision areas range from lockout/tagout to PELs and load limit postings. Review the proposed changes.

Case Study Addresses Temp Worker Safety Issues

October 17, 2016

Grain Bin Safety Tips to Protect Workers

STOP shut off and lock out all moving equipment
It's harvest time, and that means more activity at grain bins and facilities across the country. Sadly, experienced workers have already lost their lives in grain bins incidents this year. Grain handling is a high hazard activity where workers can be exposed to numerous serious and life threatening hazards. These hazards include: fires and explosions from grain dust accumulation, suffocation from engulfment and entrapment in grain bins, falls from heights and crushing injuries and amputations from grain handling equipment.

"Far too many preventable incidents continue to occur in the grain-handling industry," said Kim Stille, OSHA's regional administrator in Kansas City. "Every employee working in the grain industry must be trained on grain-handling hazards and given the tools to ensure they do not enter a bin or silo without required safety equipment. They must also take all necessary precautions - this includes using lifelines, testing the atmosphere inside a bin and turning off and locking out all powered equipment to prevent restarting before entering grain storage structures."

The control of worker's exposure to hazards in grain handling facilities are addressed in the OSHA standard for grain handling facilities (29 CFR 1910.272), as well as in other general industry standards. These standards reduce the risk to workers by requiring that employers follow established, common sense safety practices when working in grain handling facilities. 

Here are some grain handling safety facts and tips from OSHA and the Grain Handling Safety Coalition to help keep workers safe.

OSHA Issues $4.7 Million of Major Fines in September 2016

Keep guards in place
Federal OSHA investigators issued $4.7 million in 23 major fines in September, up from $3.7 million in August. Fall protection, machine guarding and lockout/tagout citations were common, and Dollar General stores make the list once again. Here are some details of the top citations (over $100,000) reported in September, which may still be pending final decisions:

$704,000 and SVEP for fall, amputation, electrocution and other hazards at a Georgia auto parts plant
Acting on a complaint and as part of the Regional Emphasis Program on Safety Hazards in the Auto Parts Industry, OSHA inspected HP Pelzer Automotive Systems Inc. and cited the company and a staffing agency it employs with 24 safety violations. The staffing agency had approximately 300 temporary employees assigned at the time of the inspection. OSHA issued 12 repeat citations for failure to:
  • Develop, implement and utilize written procedures to prevent machinery from starting-up during maintenance or servicing.
  • Conduct periodic inspections of the energy control procedures at least annually.
  • Train employees performing work on hazardous energy sources.
  • Protect employees from thermal skin burns due to contact with hot metallic surfaces.
  • Ensure the repair or replacement of electrical equipment for safe operational condition.
  • Protect workers from laceration and amputation hazards due to unguarded machine parts.
Inspectors also cited eight serious violations for exposing workers to fall hazards, not providing electrical protective equipment and failing to train workers about electrical hazards related to their activities. Four serious citations were issued for exposing workers to fall hazards, not providing training on hazardous energy sources, exposing employees to amputation, laceration and electrical live parts. Citations for the two companies can be viewed here and here.