Archive for the ‘News from OSHA’ Category

More Info on OSHA’s Crane Ruling

This article is reprinted with permission from the NRLA, meant to provide more information and context about the situation we posted about last week. 

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Update on OSHA Crane Rule May 8, 2018

This is a reminder that the OSHA crane rules are scheduled to go into effect on November 10, 2018. As of that date, OSHA will be enforcing their new rules concerning cranes and derricks and, at this time, NRLA does not expect any further delays in the implementation of this rule. This rule includes articulating or knuckle boom cranes.

Beginning November 10, 2018, certain activities will require the operator to be certified to perform those activities. The training for a certified crane operator is not quick, simple, or cheap. Most approved instructors charge more than $1,000 per person for the certification process as it requires a two-day class, passing a written test on general knowledge and on articulating boom cranes, and then passing a practical test where the operator must physically perform certain actions in an articulating boom crane to show their competency and knowledge of the rules. These classes also have limited capacity and availability due to the time required to conduct the practical tests.

NRLA is providing members with the following overview of the rules.

Background

The rule was passed in 2010 and was originally set to be enforced starting November 10, 2014. The rule was postponed until November 10, 2017 because there were not enough certified trainers to conduct the necessary training and certification required, and was once again postponed in August of 2017 until November 10, 2018. This is a federal rule and will apply to all states.

This is an extensive rule that deals with various equipment from boom trucks all the way up to tower cranes. As part of the rulemaking process, there were some exemptions made, including some for the delivery of building materials to construction sites. The rule defines certain situations as being considered facilitation of the construction process; therefore, they would fall under the crane standard and would require the operator of an articulating or knuckle boom crane (as well as other cranes) to be certified to conduct construction activities.

What is NOT covered by the rule

The following activities are considered purely a function of delivery of materials and do not fall under the crane standard; therefore, do NOT require a certified operator to perform these activities:

1. Placing or stacking material on the ground without arranging in a particular sequence for further hoisting;

2. Placing trusses or other prefabricated components onto the ground without arranging them in a particular sequence for further hoisting;

3. Placing precast concrete elements on the ground without arranging them in a particular sequence for further hoisting.

What is EXEMPTED from the rule

There are other activities that are considered part of the crane standard, but have an exemption from requiring a certified operator to perform these activities; however, please note that for these listed activities to be exempted, the following must ALL apply:

1. The articulating crane must be equipped with a fork or cradle assembly directly attached (not suspended from the boom by a load line) AND;

2. The articulating crane must be equipped with a properly functioning automatic overload prevention device.

If you meet those two qualifications, then the following activities ARE EXEMPTED from the crane rule, meaning you will not need a certified operator to perform the following activities:

1. Placing or stacking material on the ground without arranging in a particular sequence for further hoisting;

2. Placing or stacking material on an elevated area of a structure (such as a balcony, upper deck, or roof) prior to being unpacked/unloaded from pallets;

3. Placing trusses or other prefabricated components onto the ground without arranging them in a particular sequence for further hoisting;

4. Placing precast concrete elements onto the ground without arranging them in a particular sequence for further hoisting;

5. Transferring sheet goods onto a structure, so long as the articulating crane is not used to hold, support, or stabilize the material in a way that facilitates construction – such as holding the material in place while it is attached to the structure;

6. Transferring packaged goods onto a structure, so long as the articulating crane is not used to hold, support, or stabilize the material in a way that facilitates construction – such as holding the material in place while it is attached to the structure.

What is NOT EXEMPTED from the rule

OSHA has listed specific activities that are NOT EXEMPTED from the rule; therefore, they would always require the use of a certified operator to perform these activities. These activities require a certified operator in ALL circumstances, whether or not the articulating crane has a fork or cradle assembly and/or a properly functioning automatic overload prevention device. These activities include:

1. Arranging materials on the ground in a particular sequence for further hoisting;

2. Holding, supporting, or stabilizing material in a way that facilitates construction – such as holding the material in place while it is attached to the structure;

3. Transferring a prefabricated component onto a structure;

4. Transferring a structural steel member onto a structure;

5. Placing a HVAC unit in its location of final use.

When materials are unloaded/unpacked from the cradle

There has also been debate and questions as to when the exemption concerning delivery and hoisting ends and an activity triggers the crane standard, which would mean that a certified operator would be required to perform the activity. The most common question we have seen is the following scenario:

An articulating crane is equipped with a fork or cradle assembly and with a properly functioning automatic overload prevention device, but is delivering dimensional lumber, drywall, or, other building materials (including materials on palettes) to a structure through an opening in the structure, such as a window or door. If the items were simply placed on the ground or directly onto the structure itself, the exemption would apply with these parameters, but what happens when an employee, either of the delivery company, the contractor, or a subcontractor, helps unload/unpack the materials from the boom, such as pulling dimensional lumber or drywall off of the cradle and placing it directly onto the structure.

Based on a June 23, 1016 OSHA Letter of Interpretation1 , because a worker has taken the step of unloading/unpacking the material, this activity does NOT fall under the exemption and would fall under the crane standard as it “facilitates the performance of a construction activity and are likely to be subjected to hazards typical to cranes and the roofs, upper decks, and balconies of the structures that are undergoing construction.”

Therefore, unless the delivery of the material can be done COMPLETELY without a worker, whether your employee or an employee of the contractor/subcontractor, physically unloading/unpacking the material once it is on the crane, the delivery requires the use of a certified operator to perform these activities

If there are any questions on this rule, please contact Jeff Keller, Director of Legislative & Regulatory Affairs, at 518-880-6376 or jkeller@nrla.org

 

OSHA’s Crane Ruling and the Certification Debate

Those in the U.S. construction industry should be aware that November 10, 2018 has been set as OSHA’s final deadline for employers to have their crane operators in compliance with their certifications.

And yet, there has been massive uncertainty about what those certification requirements should look like because OSHA has still not set a ruling about them, despite this process beginning in 2010 with the publication of the final cranes and derricks rule. According to an article published in Safety & Health, two major hurdles have delayed this rule: “The first was that the standard required certification for both the type of crane and its capacity…[but] two of the four accredited testing services were issuing certifications for ‘type’ of crane rather than ‘type and capacity.’” The other problem was that “ ‘certification’ did not mean a crane operator was competent or experienced enough to control a machine safely.”

However, a determination on what valid certifications truly are would help employers ensure that their crane operators actually have them. Further delays will only make that process all that much harder, which is why groups like the Associated General Contractors and the Coalition for Crane Operator Safety have been pushing Congress so that OSHA will finally move forward with this ruling.

If you’d like to personally contact your federal representatives in Congress to talk them about your concerns about why OSHA has not yet moved forward, you can start here to find out how to reach them.

 

Behr Iron & Steel Inc. Pleads Guilty to OSHA Violation Causing Death of Employee

A Rockford-based company pleaded guilty today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Iain D. Johnston to willfully violating Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations, resulting in the death of an employee at the company’s facility in South Beloit, Ill.

BEHR IRON & STEEL INC., a high volume ferrous and nonferrous scrap processor, admitted in a plea agreement that on March 10, 2014, the company failed to provide lockout/tagout protection and confined space protection as required under OSHA regulations for the company’s employees who were cleaning a shredder discharge pit.  The company admitted that those violations caused the death of an employee who got caught in a moving, unguarded conveyor belt.

The Company faces a maximum sentence of 5 years’ probation, a maximum fine of $500,000, and restitution to the victim employee in an amount determined by the Court.  Sentencing is scheduled for July 12, 2016, at 1:30 p.m.

The guilty plea was announced by Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; and Ken Nishiyama Atha, Regional Administrator of OSHA in Chicago.

“Justice cannot restore life to the victim whose body was crushed because Behr Iron and Steel failed to provide protection from dangerous machinery on the job,” said Mr. Atha.  “Safety training at the plant was woefully insufficient.  Behr must be held responsible by the courts for ignoring safety standards and failing in its obligation to protect its workers on the job.”

Behr’s South Beloit facility recycles metals contained in such things as automobiles and refrigerators.  According to the plea agreement, OSHA regulations require employers to adopt safety procedures to ensure that dangerous machines are properly shut off and unable to start up again prior to the completion of maintenance or servicing work.  The safety procedures include placing a lock on the power source of the machine and a tag on the lock warning that the machine cannot be operated until the warning is removed, and identifying the employee who has the key to the lock.  OSHA also promulgated regulations that address the need to protect employees from entering a confined space without safety precautions.

Metals shredded through a shredding machine in Behr’s South Beloit facility fall onto a conveyor belt located about ten feet underground in a shredder discharge pit, which was approximately six feet long and six feet wide.  The shredded materials were then moved by a conveyor belt out of the discharge pit and through a sorting process.  Some of the shredded metals fall onto the ground of the discharge pit near the conveyor belt.  One or two Behr employees working on the shredding machine were required to clean the discharge pit on a daily basis.  The employees shoveled shredded materials from the floor of the discharge pit onto the running conveyor belt.

On March 10, 2014, a Behr employee was cleaning the discharge pit when the employee’s arm was caught by the unguarded conveyor belt.  The employee was pulled into the machinery and killed.

Behr admitted that there was no lock or operable emergency shut off switch in the discharge pit for the conveyor belt, and the conveyor belt did not have guards designed to protect employees.  Behr also admitted that employees in the discharge pit were not adequately trained to use the shredder or the conveyor belt, and that the company had not developed and implemented confined space protection for employees entering the discharge pit.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott R. Paccagnini.

Connecticut steel foundry fined more than $100K

Connecticut steel foundry fined more than $100K for exposing workers to multiple hazards and failing to provide protective equipment

Employees at Connecticut steel foundry exposed to electrical, chemical,
mechanical and fire hazards and lack of protective equipment
$104K in OSHA penalties proposed for PCC Structural-Groton

HARTFORD, Conn. – Employees at PCC Structurals-Groton faced the risk of chemical burns, fire, lacerations, amputations, electric shock and other injuries, inspections by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration have found.

“Our inspections identified a disturbing cross-section of hazards that could result in eye, face or body injuries, burns, or hearing loss for employees at the Groton location, as well as potential fires or explosions. It’s imperative for the health and well-being of its employees that PCC Structurals takes comprehensive, effective and ongoing corrective action to eliminate these hazards,” said Warren Simpson, OSHA’s area director in Hartford.

Located at 839 Poquonnock Road, the Groton facility is a steel-investment casting foundry that casts components for aerospace, energy, and commercial applications. Among the hazards identified during OSHA’s inspections:

  • Lack of hand, face and body protection for employees working on or near electrical equipment.
  • Exposed live electrical parts; misused electrical equipment and power cords; inadequate working space around electrical panelboards; and an ungrounded extension cord.
  • Unguarded points of operation of hydraulic presses.
  • Failure to inspect energy control procedures periodically to prevent the unintended startup of machinery during maintenance and cleaning.
  • No program to inspect chain alloy slings used to lift materials and equipment.
  • Lack of emergency eyewashes where employees worked with corrosive chemicals.
  • Inadequate safety glasses for employees working with chemicals.
  • Inadequately labeled containers of hazardous chemicals.
  • Flammable liquids not stored in closed containers; improper disposal of combustible waste.
  • Unsecured compressed gas cylinders.
  • Incompatible chemicals stored together in a cabinet.
  • Employees exposed to high noise levels not provided with a choice of hearing protection.

As a result of these conditions, OSHA cited the company for 20 serious violations of workplace safety and health standards on Feb. 19, 2016, with proposed penalties of $90,000. OSHA earlier cited the facility on Jan. 5 for two serious violations concerning inadequate fall protection equipment and an unprotected table saw. Fines of $14,000 were proposed for those violations.

The citations can be viewed here*, here* and here*.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Source

Labor Department Sues Employer for Firing Whistleblower

The Department of Labor is suing a company that allegedly fired a worker for reporting health and safety concerns.

 

whistle blower

The U.S. Department of Labor filed a lawsuit in federal court against a Niagara Falls-based contractor that allegedly fired an employee who reported health and safety concerns.

The suit, which was filed Feb. 19 with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York, alleges that Regional Environmental Demolition Inc. and its officials – Charles Van Epps and Enrico Liberale – fired a laborer who had expressed concerns about safety after OSHA contacted the employer about an anonymous complaint.

The demolition and asbestos abatement laborer had been working on an asbestos abatement project in Buffalo and noticed “soft spots” – deteriorated sections of floor. During the time he worked on the project (from April to June 2014), he reported on multiple occasions his concerns about the safety hazard to officials at the company.

The worker then was fired in June 2014 after OSHA contacted the company in response to an anonymous complaint it had received. The worker subsequently filed a whistleblower complaint to OSHA, which found merit in the claim.

“The Occupational Safety and Health Act gives us the authority to sue employers who retaliate against employees in safety and health matters. We will do so when the case warrants, as it does here,” said Jeffrey Rogoff, the regional solicitor of labor in New York.

In its lawsuit, the Department of Labor is looking for payment of lost wages and compensatory damages, interest, front pay, emotional and financial distress damages and punitive damages to the worker; and for the matter to be erased from his personnel record.

“Regional Environmental Demolition had no reason and no right to fire this worker for repeatedly reporting a safety hazard that could have seriously harmed him and his fellow workers. Firing or retaliating against workers who raise safety concerns is intimidation, plain and simple. If employees fear losing their jobs, hazards can go unreported and injuries can result,” said Robert Kulick, OSHA’s regional administrator in New York.

The lawsuit also calls for the court to make Regional Environmental Demolition post a notice to employees announcing that they will not discriminate against workers who raise health and safety concerns.