OHS Canada Magazine

Feature

Safety Rules Revised

National Safety Council Congress and Expo 2014 in San Diego


Several key changes to the record-keeping rule were the focus of the occupational keynote delivered by a panel at the 2014 National Safety Council Congress and Expo in San Diego on September 16.

Starting on January 1, 2015, employers in the United States will be required to notify the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of work-related fatalities within eight hours and work-related in-patient hospitalizations, amputations or losses of eyes within 24 hours. Previously, an employer had to report only work-related fatalities and in-patient hospitalizations involving three or more employees.

“We felt that really didn’t get us the information we needed and didn’t get us into contact with employers and workers who are being hurt. So we have changed that,” Dr. David Michaels, OSHA’s assistant secretary of labour and health, says alongside Dr. John Howard, director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and William Yoh, chairman of staffing-services firm Yoh.

Another change is the updated list of industries exempt from keeping injury and illness records due to relatively low occupational injury and illness rates. The previous list of exempt industries was based on the old Standard Industrial Classification system, while the new rule uses the North American Industry Classification System, which draws on updated injury and illness data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The new rule maintains the exemption for employers with 10 or fewer employees, regardless of their industry classifications.

For the first time, OSHA will also have discussions with employers when workers are injured. “We think that is a teachable moment,” says Dr. Michaels, who reiterates employers’ responsibilities to provide safe workplaces to all workers — permanent and temporary alike. “There are more than three million temporary workers right now in the United States,” Dr. Michaels adds. “We think just the focus on personal responsibility (A) isn’t useful and (B) isn’t the law.”

Dr. Howard cites statistics showing that temporary agency workers in the United States have higher claim rates for all injury types, a higher median time loss of 40 days versus 27 days and injury rates that are four to five times higher than in some industries.

One key challenge facing temporary workers is the dual-employer situation. The staffing agency is the primary employer, while the client or host employer at the worksite is the secondary employer. “We struggled with how to assign responsibilities to the primary employer and the secondary employer. It is still an issue,” Dr. Howard notes.
“From OSHA’s point of view, we look at this as a joint employment,” Dr. Michaels says. “They have a shared responsibility to make sure that worker is safe.”

Dr. Michaels thinks that host employers often do not demonstrate the same commitment to temporary workers as they do to permanent employees. “By using a temporary agency, you separate out the risk,” he suggests. “That separation is one of the reasons, I think, that we are not seeing the same sort of investment that we need to see.”

To address this problem, OSHA conducted outreach programs, met with group employers and signed an alliance agreement with the American Staffing Association in May to provide association members and others with information and access to training resources to help them protect temporary workers. Safety inspectors are also instructed to ask about the presence of temporary workers and the hazards to which they are exposed. As well, OSHA and NIOSH have developed recommended practices relating to temporary-worker safety.

“And [when] we see situations where temporary workers are put at risk or exposed to violations, we will cite whichever or both employers, as appropriate.”
Jean Lian is editor of  OHS CANADA.

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Top 10 Unveiled

For the second year in a row, fall-protection violations top the list of the 10 most frequently cited workplace-safety violations in the United States. “This data is a poignant reminder that there is still much room for improvement in making our workplaces safer,” National Safety Council president and chief executive officer Deborah Hersman says.

The top 10 violations for 2014 are as follows: fall protection (6,143); hazard communication (5,161); scaffolding (4,029); respiratory protection (3,223); lockout/tagout (2,704); powered industrial trucks (2,662); electrical — wiring methods (2,490); ladders (2,448); machine guarding (2,200); and electrical — general requirements (2,056).

Fall-protection citations relate to unprotected sides and edges, incorrect anchoring points and the failure to ensure that fall protection conforms to standards, reports Patrick Kapust, deputy director of OSHA’s directorate of enforcement programs. Roofing and framing contractors and new single-family housing constructors are the most frequently cited.