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Occupational Safety Blog

By Fred Rine, CEO of FDRsafety and former long-time Managing Director of Safety and Health at FedEx, Jim Stanley, President of FDRsafety and former No. 2 at OSHA headquarters and Mike Taubitz, Senior Advisor to FDRsafety and former Global Safety Director for General Motors.

Archive for the ‘OSHA’ Category

Comment period begins for OSHA proposal on silica

September 16th, 2013 posted by Jim Stanley

Jim Stanley

OSHA has now entered the 90-day countdown period to receive comments on its proposed 755-page rule on exposure to respirable crystalline silica in general industry, construction, and shipyards.

A coalition of construction trade groups has already let it be known that they are opposed.

“We need practical, science-based solutions that protect workers in all facets of construction,” said Rick Judson, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a builder and developer from Charlotte, N.C. “Unfortunately, OSHA’s initial announcement about this proposed rule indicates we aren’t there yet.”

The proposed Permissible Exposure Limit of 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air as an eight-hour time weighted average is half of the current standard for quartz, the most common form of crystalline silica, in general industry. It is considerably below the limits for crystalline silica now applied to construction and shipyards;

The proposed standard also includes requirements for exposure assessment, preferred exposure control methods, respiratory protection, medical surveillance, hazard communication, and recordkeeping.


SVEP not living up to its billing

September 11th, 2013 posted by Jim Stanley

Jim Stanley

One of OSHA’s key enforcement initiatives is the Severe Violators Enforcement Program, which the agency says identifies employers who are indifferent to workplace health and safety and subjects them to enhanced settlements and follow-up inspections.

But how effective is this program, really?

OSHA’s white paper on the subject, published earlier this year, said the program was “off to a strong start” in its first 18 months. Besides imposing extra penalties on “indifferent” employers and subjecting them to follow-up inspections, SVEP is effectively “targeting high-emphasis hazards (and) facilitating inspections across multiple worksites,” according to the white paper.

But Eric Conn, who leads the OSHA practice at the Epstein Becker Green law firm, has written an article for the Washington Legal Foundation that offers a much different assessment.

“Despite OSHA’s claims … careful scrutiny of the data available regarding the SVEP casts doubt on the program’s effectiveness and reveals several glaring problems with how the SVEP is being administered. Most notably, the Severe Violator Enforcement Program:

“1. Disproportionately targets small employers with enforcement rather than compliance assistance;

“2. Provokes more than four times as many legal challenges to the underlying citations as compared to the average OSHA enforcement action;

“3. Encounters significant obstacles in the execution of follow-up inspections of SVEP – qualified employers; and

“4. Finds virtually no systemic safety issues when follow-up and related facility inspections are conducted (i.e., the program is not capturing recalcitrant employers).”

The SVEP is just one more example of an enforcement program gone off the tracks. OSHA should take Conn’s critique seriously.

Good News, Bad News: OSHA and the Global Harmonization System

August 22nd, 2013 posted by Jim Stanley

Jim Stanley

Our guest blogger is Joe Wolfsberger, a senior advisor at FDRsafety and an expert in occupational health/industrial hygiene.

OSHA has published the final rule on the Global Harmonization System that applies to producers, distributors and users of chemicals.  This revision to the existing Hazard Communication Standard has implications that are both positive and negative.  Let’s take a look at the good news / bad news and how it will affect you and your operations.

The good news

For companies with a global presence, the promise of universal regulations is seen as welcome relief from the multitude of regulations that they must deal with around the world.  While a single set of EHS regulations that apply for all countries is still only a distant future hope, steps are being taken to harmonize the chemical hazard information requirements across much of the globe.

In an effort to support this, OSHA on March 26, 2012, published the final rule for its Global Harmonization System regulations.  A summary of the regulation can be found here. As with any new regulation there will required changes to the way companies comply. Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) will become Safety Data Sheets (SDS) requiring 16 specific sections ensuring consistency with other countries’ regulations, and labels must include a signal word, pictogram, hazard statement and precautionary statements for each hazard class and category.  All of this is designed to enhance worker comprehension of hazards and eliminate confusion.

Now, the bad news

The changes being made to integrate GHS into the HazCom Standard will alter the way flammables are classified, making them no longer consistent with NFPA’s categories for flammables.

OSHA will no longer have a classification of combustible; all liquids with a flashpoint below 199.4oF (93oC) will be referred to as flammable. (Note: the Mine Safety and Health Administration has not changed their definitions)  OSHA will be changing from three classes with sub classes (Class I A, I B, I C, II, III A, & IIIB) to four categories (Category 1, 2, 3 & 4).  Classification will still be based on the flashpoint of the liquid but the ranges will be different.  There is not a one-to-one relationship between classes to categories as can be seen in the following chart.


Although OSHA has changed its classifications, many states and municipalities have adopted NFPA and International Fire Codes (IFC) as the basis for their local ordinances on flammable liquids.  Care must be taken to ensure that complying with the new OSHA regulation does not create a non-compliance situation with local ordinances.

As an additional note, although the implementation date for product manufacturers is June 1, 2015, and for distributors December 1, 2015, workers must receive training by December 1 of this year.  Training must include the new label elements and safety data sheet format in addition to the current training requirements.

For information on training requirements for GHS, see our earlier post. If you have any questions about the OSHA Final Rule on Hazard Communication, classification of flammable liquids, hazard assessments, OSHA Compliance Inspections or health and safety training, contact us at



3 myths about permit-required confined spaces standard

August 19th, 2013 posted by Jim Stanley

Jim Stanley

OSHA’s standard for permit-required confined spaces is complex, but surprisingly misconceptions have persisted about three fairly easy to understand aspects of the standard.

Curtis Chambers of the OSHA Training Blog zeroed in on these myths in a recent post. Here are the three he identified:

1) “This standard does not apply to me because I do not have any confined spaces at my facility.”

2) “This standard does not apply to me because I have no employees who will be entering a permit- required confined space.”

3) “I have no obligations under the OSHA confined space standard because I hire outside contractors to perform all work inside permit-required confined spaces at our facility.”

To learn more about these myths, read the OSHA Training Blog.

What OSHA needs to prove about an alleged violation

August 15th, 2013 posted by Jim Stanley

Jim Stanley

A recent appeals court decision provides an excellent reminder of information that all employers should be aware of when it comes to OSHA enforcement.

When OSHA cites a company for an alleged violation, the following four requirements must be met if the violation is to stand:

1) That the regulation applied to the circumstances at hand;

2) That the regulation was violated;

3) That an employee was exposed to the hazard that was created; and

4) That the employer “knowingly disregarded” the Act’s requirements. That means the employer either knew or, with the exercise of reasonable diligence, could have known, of the violation.

These tests must be met for every alleged violation contained in the larger OSHA citation.

While there is nothing new about these requirements – they are part of the OSH Act – it is easy sometimes to overlook critical basic principles amid a barrage of detailed additional information. With these principles firmly in mind, it will be easier for companies to know whether they have the basis to challenge a violation.


OSHA drops plan that would have hurt SHARP

August 9th, 2013 posted by Jim Stanley

Jim Stanley

There has been concern in recent years that OSHA’s support has waned for the Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program, known as SHARP, which rewards companies with strong safety programs.

But now, Inside OHSA Online reports, the agency is backing away from a plan that critics said would have gutted SHARP.|

According to Inside OSHA Online: “OSHA had proposed — and appeared close to issuing a final rule two years ago — to modify the regulations that provide exemptions for work site inspections if employers are in SHARP, particularly to make it easier for inspectors to go in if there are concerns about “critical” health or safety issues. The rule would also have reduced the deletion period for programmed inspections of SHARP sites. Supporters of the plan said it would help the agency confront pressing workplace concerns like combustible dust, even if the employer takes part in the recognition program.

“Industry quickly protested the rule-making when was unveiled three years ago, saying the changes would effectively gut the voluntary program by removing incentives to participate, and that it demonstrated a heavy-handed approach by OSHA toward voluntary programs. But a source tells Inside OSHA Online that a key factor in OSHA’s decision to abandon the rule was that several state consultation programs were also upset with the federal agency’s plan and had repeatedly lodged their complaints with OSHA officials.”



Sharing thoughts on OSHA’s approach: Guilty until proven innocent

August 8th, 2013 posted by Jim Stanley

Jim Stanley

A blog post I wrote for OH&S magazine’s website has received a number of comments, so I thought I would share the basics here, along with a link to the longer piece for those who would like to read more. The premise is this:

OSHA’s leadership has turned a basic American principle on its head. Many of the agency’s actions indicate its leaders are more comfortable with the idea that companies are guilty until they prove themselves innocent.

For example, at the area office level, OSHA is conducting fewer intensive reviews of inspectors’ case files and recommended violations to be sure the government’s burden of proof has been met.

As a result, in my opinion, OSHA’s credibility with employers is at its lowest point since the agency was founded. And, perhaps not surprisingly, in my opinion, the new approach has not improved worker safety, as can be confirmed by a look at the history of recordable rates for non-fatal injuries and illnesses in private industry. This rate showed annual declines every year from 1994 to 2009, when Dr. David Michaels arrived as Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA. Injury and illnesses rates were essentially flat in 2010 compared with 2009 and 2011 compared with 2010.

For more examples and thoughts, read the OH&S blog post here.

Training deadline approaching for Globally Harmonized System

July 26th, 2013 posted by Jim Stanley

Jim Stanley

Our guest blogger today is Jim Carnahan, a member of the FDRsafety team specializing in advising clients on compliance with new OSHA regulations on Globally Harmonized Systems.

December 1 is the first deadline under OSHA’s new Globally Harmonized System regulation, which requires that employees be trained on the new label elements for chemicals and the new Safety Data Sheet (SDSs) format. Full compliance with the other elements is to begin in 2015.

OSHA requires this training by December 1 because workplaces will soon begin to receive new labels and SDSs, in keeping with the new GHS regulation.

Employees will need to be trained on new GHS label elements that include:

  • Symbols (GHS Hazard Pictograms): Assigned to each hazard class and category. Conveys health, physical and environmental hazard information
  • Signal Words: “Danger” and “Warning” to emphasize hazards and also indicate the severity level of the hazard
  • Hazard Statement: A standard phrase assigned to a hazard class and category that describes the nature of the hazard(s) of a chemical, including where appropriate, the degree of the hazard.
  • Additional label requirements: Includes Precautionary Statements, Product Identifier, Supplier Identification and Supplemental Information.

Employees must also be trained on the new Safety Data Sheets. The SDSs are similar to the current MSDSs except the “M” (Material) has been dropped.

  • The information required on the SDS is relatively the same as the current MSDS, but the information in the SDS must be presented using specific headings in a specified sequence.
  • The GHS rules requires information to be listed under 16 specific headings.

Additional information on the new GHS regulation, including the training requirements:

  • OSHA Fact Sheet – “December 1, 2013 Training Requirements for the Revised Hazard Communication  Standard”
  • Questions and Answers regarding the new GHS regulation on the OSHA website

Please note that some manufacturers have already upgraded their chemical labeling and Safety Data Sheets and may be shipping these containers to your facility. Therefore, completing this training sooner would be beneficial to minimize any confusion your employees may have when they encounter these new labels or read the new SDSs.

If you have any additional questions, please contact  Jim Carnahan at

Responding to OSHA’s New National Emphasis Program for Isocyanates

July 19th, 2013 posted by Jim Stanley

Jim Stanley

Joe Wolfsberger, former vice president of EHS for Ingersoll Rand, is joining FDRsafety as a senior advisor focusing on occupational health/industrial hygiene and has written the following blog post on isocyanates.

OSHA has announced the rollout of a National Emphasis Program for isocyanates, a three-year program that will focus on outreach efforts and inspections in general, construction and maritime industries. If you are in an industrial sector that uses isocyanate compounds this means you may be more likely to undergo an inspection from OSHA.

The products derived from isocyanates are everywhere in our daily lives.  We sleep on them, insulate our houses with them, paint our walls and drive cars that contain them.  Isocyanates are used in many industries including automotive, foundries, construction materials, coatings and adhesives.

The dangers associated with exposure to isocyanates range from occupational asthma to irritation of the skin, eyes, nose and throat to cancer.  Deaths have been observed due to hypersensitivity pneumonitis and asthma attacks.  OSHA has had exposure limits for isocyanates for many years but now has instituted an  NEP to target inspections at locations using the chemical.

OSHA Visits

Inspections with begin with a review of the site’s chemical inventory and Safety Data Sheets (SDS) to identify areas of isocyanate usage.  If it is determined that isocyanates are present, exposure records and injury and illness information will be reviewed for indication of exposures.  The compliance officer may also interview employees with the potential for exposure and management.

The next step if a potential for exposure is identified is the completion of an exposure assessment to determine the level of risk.  Air and wipe samples may be taken and an evaluation of the effectiveness of controls, (engineering, administrative and Personal Protective Equipment) will be conducted.  If OSHA conducts monitoring, be sure to collect duplicate samples and have them analyzed by an American Industrial Hygiene Association accredited laboratory.  This will provide a reference to compare to OSHA’s results in case there is a discrepancy.

Isocyanates are covered by other parts of OSHA’s General Industry, Construction and Maritime Standards and a review of the Hazard Communication Program, training program, respiratory protection program and housekeeping efforts may also be included as part of the inspection.

Preparing for NEP

How do you prepare for the Isocyanate National Emphasis Program? First determine if you use any isocyanates in your operations by reviewing your chemical inventory.  The next step is to review your SDS’s to see if any the trade name chemicals are isocyanates or if any of your raw materials contain isocyanates.

If a potential for isocyanate exposure exists, an assessment should be conducted to include monitoring and a review of the effectiveness of controls.  Isocyanates are very volatile and sampling should be conducted by an industrial hygiene professional.  A review of pertinent records should also be conducted to include:

  • Hazard Communication Records
  • Training Records
  • PPE and Respiratory Protection Program Records
  • Operational Control Records related to handling of flammables and isocyanates

If you have any questions about the OSHA Isocyanate NEP or exposure assessments, contact Joe Wolfsberger at


No timeline to start I2P2, Michaels says

June 27th, 2013 posted by Jim Stanley

Jim Stanley

OSHA has implemented a number of programs over the last five years that have increased regulation and enforcement, but when it comes to the agency’s top priority, OSHA Administrator David Michaels is not providing a timeline.

That top priority is, of course, I2P2, or the Injury and Illness Prevention Program, which would require all businesses in OSHA’s jurisdiction to have a safety program. While that may sound good on the surface, the problem is that OSHA intends to lay down specific requirements that businesses would have to meet in these I2P2 programs. That is a bad idea, simply because business environments vary so much.

Michaels reiterated this week, in an appearance at Safety 2013 in Las Vegas, that I2P2 is his “highest priority,” according to an article in EHSToday.

“I know there are people who don’t trust OSHA, who think we’re part of this regulatory state and that regulations are the reason for the [financial] crash in 2008,” Michaels said. “There are people who believe we regulate too much.”

But Michaels contended that I2P2 could have wide-reaching impact without creating economic woes for employers.

However, when Michaels was pressed for a timetable for implementing I2P2, he said he was “hesitant to predict anything.” Negative reaction from businesses may be driving that hesitancy.