Category Archives: Worker Safety

WA State Safety and Health Standards for Beryllium Updated

Chronic Beryllium Disease (CBD), sometimes called berylliosis, is an immunological lung disease caused by exposure to beryllium via inhalation of airborne beryllium or skin contact with beryllium-containing dust, fume, mist, or solutions. CBD can progress to a serious and life-threatening disease if left undiagnosed and beryllium exposure continues.

Washington State has completed rulemaking to to add Chapter 296-850 WAC Beryllium as a new chapter to Title 296 WAC of the Department of Labor and Industries. This action was taken in response to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) final rule on Beryllium in the General Labor, Construction and Maritime areas if industry.

The Department of Labor and Industries will have one Beryllium rule to include all industries listed, instead of separate rules for each industry as OSHA has done. This rule will limit worker exposure (Personal Exposure Limits, or PELs) to beryllium and beryllium compounds, which can cause the debilitating lung disease known as chronic beryllium disease (CBD) and lung cancer. This rule mirrors OSHAs final rule, with minor differences in the Definitions, Medical Removal, and Medical Surveillance sections that allow for implementation of the rule to be consistent with existing requirements in Title 51 RCW. The PEL tables in WAC 296-307-62625 and WAC 296-841-20025 were updated to reflect OSHAs reduced Beryllium PELs.

All obligations of this standard commence and become enforceable on December 12, 2018, except for the following compliance dates: Change rooms and showers required by WAC 296-850-145 must be provided by March 11, 2019; and Engineering controls required by WAC 296-850-130 Methods of Compliance must be implemented by March 10, 2020. The changes were adopted 8/21/2018 and will be effective on 12/12/2018.

Find more information about these rule changes on the Department of Labor and Industries website.

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Taco Bell Franchise Fined by WA State for Violating Teen Worker Laws

A Taco Bell franchise owner has been fined nearly $120,000 by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) for repeated violations of teen worker laws over several years at a half-dozen Western Washington restaurants.

This week, L&I sent a letter to the California-based Taco Bell of America LLC requesting representatives meet with the agency to discuss required changes in the company’s youth employment practices. The company owns some 60 restaurants in the state. 

It’s important to note these violations are connected specifically to Taco Bell of America LLC. There are other Taco Bell restaurants in Washington not connected to this company, or to the violations found.

“Teens are an important part of the workforce. We enforce these laws to prevent injuries and keep them safe on the job,” said David Johnson, L&I Employment Standards Program manager.

In all, six investigations over three years – based on complaints from employees and parents – have resulted in fines totaling $119,450.

Numerous violations found at Marysville, Auburn and other stores

L&I issued one citation in June of this year against a company restaurant at 17105 27th Ave. N.E. in Marysville, and one in March involving the Taco Bell at 710 Auburn Way S., in Auburn. Fines in these cases total $70,000. The company is appealing the Marysville citation.

At the Marysville location, L&I’s investigation covering January and February found 11 youth worked more than three hours without taking a rest break 59 times; nine minors worked more than four hours without a rest break on 20 occasions, and the restaurant failed to produce parent school authorization forms or proof of age of the workers. L&I found similar violations at the Auburn restaurant.

During the summer, many youth are working real jobs for the first time. “Teens often don’t know their workplace rights, so it’s up to managers to follow the laws and emphasize safety on the job,” Johnson said.

In 2017, 680 youth, age 17 and under, reported injuries on the job in Washington.

In 2015 and 2016, L&I conducted other investigations of Taco Bell of America LLC locations. Those investigations resulted in the company paying $49,450 in fines. Violations were found at stores located at 501 15th St. N.E., Auburn; 182 Trosper Road S.W., Tumwater; 1478 Dike Access Road, Woodland; and 21131 State Route 410 E., Bonney Lake.

L&I provided training for more than two dozen Taco Bell of America LLC restaurant managers and human resources staff members during those investigations.

It’s important to note these violations are connected specifically to Taco Bell of America LLC. There are other Taco Bell restaurants in Washington not connected to this company, or to the violations found.

Washington State’s Move Over Law Changes, Makes Work Zones Safer

On June 7, Washington State traffic laws changed to improve roadway work zone safety. The new law requires drivers to proceed with due caution, slow down, and, if safe, move over or change lanes when approaching any authorized construction or maintenance vehicle or worker in a designated roadway work zone. 

The new rules describe work zones to include adjacent road lanes 200 feet before and after stationary or slow-moving construction, maintenance, solid waste, or utility service vehicles that display flashing or rotating lights that meet state requirements for vehicle warning light systems. 

Fines range from $136 for failing to move over to $1,000 for reckless endangerment offenses. Penalties can also include jail sentences and driver’s license suspensions. The changes follow House Bill 2087, which passed with full legislative support to expand the previous “move over law” for first responders and emergency vehicles. 

Read more on the Keep Trucking Safe Blog

 

 

Serious Injuries at Two Worksites Lead to Fines and Citations for National Products, Inc.

A Seattle, WA company that manufactures electronics mounting systems and other products is facing more than $250,000 in fines for multiple serious and willful worker safety and health violations.

The state Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) recently cited National Products, Inc. after finding numerous violations during three separate inspections this year.

L&I opened one of the inspections after a worker was burned by molten aluminum, and another inspection followed amputation injuries at another National Products worksite. The inspections identified 26 total violations including multiple serious and willful violations collectively resulting in fines totaling $253,320.

“We’ve cited this employer before for several of these very serious hazards, but the company continues to put its workers at risk,” said Anne Soiza, L&I’s assistant director for the Division of Occupational Safety and Health.

The amputations, which involved several fingers of one worker, occurred in a facility where there were five trimming presses, each of which was in some sort of disrepair. Among other problems each machine had an emergency stop button that was either blocked, missing or in disrepair. Worn out and unaligned springs that made the operator visually line up levers were a contributing factor in the injury.

The burn injury happened at another National Products facility where workers were carrying molten aluminum from one machine to another in ladles slung over their backs, and they were not wearing proper personal protection equipment.

“Workplace injuries and illnesses are preventable, and many of these hazards are easy to control,” Soiza said. “L&I offers free tools and expertise to help Washington employers create safer workplaces so they can save lives and money. There’s just no excuse for continually putting workers at risk.”

Since National Products, Inc. has been cited in the past for similar situations, the company is now considered a severe violator — a designation that carries consequences, such as follow-up inspections at any of their facilities or sites that could have similar hazards.

The employer has 15 business days to appeal the citations.

Penalty money paid as a result of a citation is placed in the workers’ compensation supplemental pension fund, helping injured workers and families of those who have died on the job.

For a copy of the citations, please contact Public Affairs at 360-902-5413.

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Asbestos Removal Company Fined $229,700 for Exposing Workers and Public to Unsafe Conditions

An Edmonds, Washington based asbestos removal contractor has been cited by the Washington Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) for multiple willful safety violations for improper handling of asbestos. Along with the citations, the company faces fines totaling $229,700.

L&I has cited Above & Beyond Asbestos Removal in connection with two separate inspections. Along with citing and fining a company, L&I may also decertify an asbestos contractor for multiple willful violations. This company is under review. 

“This company has demonstrated a continuous indifference to Washington’s asbestos handling rules which protect workers and the public from harm,” said Anne Soiza, L&I’s assistant director for the Division of Occupational Safety and Health. “This fine delivers a clear message that asbestos is a deadly hazard and we won’t tolerate any company that doesn’t follow the rules to keep the public and workers safe.”

Asbestos is extremely hazardous and can cause potentially fatal diseases like asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer. Only a certified abatement contractor that follows the specific asbestos related safety and health rules may remove and dispose of asbestos-containing building materials. 

The two recent inspections of Above & Beyond each uncovered several similar violations. One worksite involved the emergency removal of boiler insulation in a Seattle apartment complex, and the other concerned the removal of asbestos popcorn ceiling material in a single-family residence.

In both cases, the workers did not use proper safety equipment, required air sampling was not performed, and asbestos-containing material was left exposed to the public and was improperly taken through public areas. Asbestos-containing dust can harm both workers and the public until it is eliminated.

The two inspections resulted in multiple willful and serious violations. A willful violation is one where L&I finds evidence of plain indifference or an intentional disregard to a hazard or rule. 

Above & Beyond has been cited in the past for similar violations and has been identified by L&I as a severe violator — a designation that carries consequences, such as follow-up inspections at any of their facilities or sites that could have similar hazards. 

The employer has 15 business days to appeal the citations. 

Penalty money paid as a result of a citation is placed in the workers’ compensation supplemental pension fund, helping injured workers and families of those who have died on the job. 

For a copy of the citations, please contact Public Affairs at 360-902-5413.

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Flight Attendants May Face Increased Risk for Many Cancers

Smithsonian Magazine reports that flight attendants are exposed to a number of possible or probable cancer-causing factors that may lead to an increased risk for many cancers.

SMITHSONIAN.COM 
JUNE 27, 2018
 
A new study has found that American flight attendants are more likely than the general population to develop several cancers, including breast cancer, melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer.

 
According to Alice Park of Time, the new report, published recently in the journal Environmental Health, is based on data collected by the Harvard Flight Attendant Health Study (FAHS), which was launched in 2007. The researchers behind the study sought to shed light on an understudied occupational group. Though flight attendants are frequently exposed to a number of possible or probable cancer-causing factors—like sleep disruptions, radiation, and pesticides and other chemicals in the cabin—the long-term effects of this exposure have not been well documented.
 
Between 2014 and 2015, researchers studied 5,300 flight attendants through surveys that were disseminated online, via mail and in person at airports. The surveys asked respondents about flight schedules and cancer diagnoses. The researchers then compared the responses to the health status of 2,729 non-flight attendant adults with similar socioeconomic backgrounds, using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which surveys around 5,000 Americans each year.

The comparison revealed higher rates of uterine, cervical, breast, gastrointestinal, thyroid and melanoma cancers among flight attendants. The disparity was especially pronounced with breast, melanoma and non-melanoma cancers. Flight attendants had more than double the risk of developing melanoma, and more than quadruple the risk of developing non-melanoma cancers. They were also 51 percent more likely to develop breast cancer than the general population.

To the researchers’ surprise, they found a higher risk of breast cancer in female flight attendants with three or more children; typically, a woman’s risk of breast cancer decreases as she has more children.

“This study is the first to show higher prevalences of all cancers studied, and significantly higher prevalences of non-melanoma skin cancer compared to a similarly matched U.S. sample population,” lead study author Eileen McNeely of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health tells Lisa Rapaport of ReutersMcNeely also notes that “[n]on-melanoma skin cancer among women increased with more years on the job, suggesting a work-related association.”

Read the rest of this story on Smithsonian.com

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Special Topic: Automation/Robot Fatality Narrative

Warehouse Worker Crushed by Forks of Laser Guided Vehicle

The Washington Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) Program* has published a new Fatality Narrative. The new narrative describes an incident where a warehouse worker was killed when he was crushed by the forks of a laser guided forklift. This Special Topic Fatality Narrative was published because the incident and the unique hazards associated with emerging automation are relevant to most industries. These reports describe work-related fatal incidents and list some requirements and recommendations that might have prevented the incident from occurring. We hope that they are used for formal or informal educational opportunities to help prevent similar incidents.

For your convenience, a slideshow version with more photos and details is also available. 

*The FACE Program is partially funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH grant# 5 U60 OH008487-11) and the Safety and Health Assessment and Research for Prevention (SHARP) Program at the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries. The contents of the Fatality Narratives are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of NIOSH.

Image credit: SICK Sensor Intelligence

WA State 2017 Work-Related Fatality Report Issued

In 2017, falls were the leading cause of traumatic work-related fatalities in Washington State. The highest number of workplace deaths occurred in construction. The WA Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation program (WA FACE) within SHARP tracks traumatic workplace fatalities in Washington, and has published its annual report for 2017.

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OSHA Cites a Florida Tower Contractor After Three Fatalities

OSHA cited a Florida communication tower contractor after three employees suffered fatal injuries at a Miami worksite.

MIAMI, FL – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Tower King II Inc. after three employees suffered fatal injuries while attempting to install a new antenna on a communications tower in Miami.

During the investigation, OSHA determined that a gin pole system – a device that attaches to a communications tower to hoist loads – failed, causing the employees to fall. Investigators determined that the employer failed to ensure the capacity of the rigging attachments were adequate to support the forces imposed from hoisting loads. The Texas-based tower contractor was issued one serious citation for exposing employees to fall and struck-by hazards. The company faces $12,934 in proposed penalties, the maximum allowed under law.

“This tragedy underscores the importance of having a qualified individual conduct an analysis before performing construction work on communication towers,” said Condell Eastmond, Fort Lauderdale OSHA Office Director.

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

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 http://www.osha.gov.

OSHA News Release: 03/27/2018   Release Number: 18-0414-ATL

For more information about this incident, see the Miami Herald’s article:

Three men died while working on a TV transmission tower for Channels 7 and 10 in Miami Gardens late Wednesday afternoon when the scaffolding used to reach the top of the tower collapsed.

Image credit: Tower King II logo, towerkingtwo.com.

 

BuzzFeed News: At Tesla’s Factory, Building The Car Of The Future Has Painful And Permanent Consequences For Some Workers

Tesla wants to change the world by selling eco-friendly electric vehicles to the masses. But some of the workers laboring to build that dream have been hurt along the way.
FREMONT, CALIFORNIA — Terrill Johnson was installing car trunks at Tesla’s factory in Fremont, California, when he heard the sound that would define his next few years, if not the rest of his life. “It was a big, loud pop,” he said. In one movement, Johnson had blown out his elbow and his shoulder. “Once the pop came, the pain came.”

That was September 2015. Johnson went on leave for his injury, but on workers’ compensation he earned considerably less than the roughly $1,700 he had earned every two weeks while on the job. Now, two surgeries and more than two years later, he’s still waiting for his workers’ compensation case to be resolved, and trying to make ends meet in one of the country’s most expensive metropolitan areas with just the earnings from his workers’ comp check plus Social Security disability payments from the state. He can’t work out or play sports, and when he walks around, he keeps his injured hand in his pocket because otherwise it swings around and causes him pain.

“I can’t even lift no more than 10 pounds with my left arm, and I’m left-handed,” he told BuzzFeed News. “It took a lot from me. The arm is not going to ever get back to where it was, never.” He said he doesn’t know how he’ll make a living in the five years before Social Security kicks in.

Tesla is the largest and highest-profile electric car company in the world. It’s a $57 billion business built on a message of innovation, ambition, and social good. Its cars, the Model 3, Model S, and Model X, retail for between $35,000 and $79,500, and confer on their buyers not just financial status, but also a certain eco-futurist sheen. Tesla’s founder, Elon Musk, is as famous for wanting to colonize Mars as he is for his ambitious production schedule and boundless idealism. Stenciled over the entrance to the company’s Fremont factory are these words: “Our mission: to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.”

But while Tesla may eventually reinvent the automobile, it hasn’t yet reinvented automobile manufacturing. Here in Fremont, at the only nonunion US-owned automotive plant in the country, the people who labored to build the future of transportation have done so by working long hours with lower-than-industry-average pay, according to workers, and higher-than-industry average risk of injury according to a prolabor nonprofit.

In the last year, amid a union drive and a string of negative allegations about its working conditions, Tesla has raised starting hourly rates by $2; today, it says, its production line workers are paid better than any other US autoworkers, and its injury rate is roughly equal to the national average.

But 15 people who worked in Tesla’s factory within the last five years describe it as a backbreaking job that placed workers under tremendous pressure to produce — a result of the company’s ambitious production targets — that they say led, in some cases, to lifelong injuries. Between 2012 and early 2017, 180 Tesla employees applied for compensation for partially or permanently disabling injuries, according to a database obtained via a public records request by BuzzFeed News from the California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR). In interviews, several of these injured employees described doing repetitive tasks with little opportunity to rotate positions — in violation of Tesla’s own stated policy, as well as industry norms. Most of these workers were making around $17 an hour before they were injured; several said they ended up losing their homes afterward, unable to pay their rent.

 
Read the full story and see all of the photos here.
 
Posted on February 4, 2018

 

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