The MSHA gets a new leader, the high cost of work-related cancer in Europe and a new NIOSH robotics/worker safety center were among the top stories featured on this week.


How a virtual fence could make dangerous work safer

High hazard industries could be a little less hazardous in the future, if researchers can find a way to thwart the biggest challenge to promising new technology: trees. The same kinds of collision-avoidance technologies used by self-driving cars could help logging and other workers monitor their surroundings through a mobile virtual fence, or geofence, according to NIOSH-funded research at the University of Idaho. Geofences could be used to maintain safe work areas in logging, for instance, by sending alerts of approaching hazards.


CSB to chem companies: Don’t think an Arkema-like catastrophe can’t happen to you

In the flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey in August, the water rose so rapidly at the Arkema chemical plant in Crosby, Texas site that the first combustion occurred less than 72 hours after flooding commenced. The backup generators at Arkema were elevated 2 feet off the ground, but the flooding exceeded 3 feet in the vicinity of the generators. In short, says the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB), the facility was not prepared for such heavy rainfall and such a rapid flood rate. When the floodwaters knocked out power to the plant’s refrigerators, leaving the organic peroxides and volatile chemicals stores at the plant at risk of heating up, Arkema employees moved the peroxides to refrigerated trailers. But the waters kept rising, forcing the evacuation of the workers and ultimately flooding the trailers. 


OSHA program helps Pa manufacturer reduce injuries

After an audit at a small Pennsylvania manufacturer revealed some safety complacency cropping up in day-to-day operations, the company reached out to OSHA’s On-Site Consultation Program for assistance. The result: McGregor Industries Inc. has been free of recordable injuries since September 2015, is working to find new ways of reducing injuries and has been able to secure better insurance for individual jobsites. Dunmore-based McGregor Industries Inc. fabricates, delivers, and installs light structural and metal products for buildings, artistic projects, and anything requiring the shaping and finishing of metal. 


Hospital disinfectant used to prevent infections may cause workers respiratory, eye symptoms

Hospital workers who used a disinfectant reported more incidents of work-related wheeze and watery eyes than those who did not use the product. Hospital workers who used a disinfectant reported more health symptoms than workers who did not use the product, reports a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) study published in the American Journal of Infection Control.


After multiple fatality accident, company cited for hazards

OSHA inspectors found numerous hazards at an auto auction facility, after an accident that claimed the lives of five people. The tragedy at Lynnway Auto Auction Inc. occurred on May 3, 2017, when five people died of their injuries after being struck by a sport utility vehicle. The agency issued 16 citations to the company for motor vehicle hazards, blocked exit routes, violations of the hazard communication standard, and recordkeeping deficiencies.


Zatezalo confirmed as MSHA chief

President Trump’s controversial choice to head up the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) was confirmed by the U.S. Senate today. The 522-46 vote to approve David Zatezalo was split along party lines. At issue: Zatezalo was chairman and CEO of Rhino Resources at a time when the company earned two “pattern of violations” notices from MSHA due to its safety violations.


A ProPublica story

A wide-open door for pesticide lobbyists at the Agriculture Department

A former lobbyist for the pesticide industry now leads the deregulatory team at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Visitor logs show old ties remain strong.

Danielle Ivory Robert Faturechi

At a private meeting in September, congressional aides asked Rebeckah Adcock, a top official at the Department of Agriculture, to reveal the identities of the people serving on the deregulation team she leads at the agency. Teams like Adcock’s, created under an executive order by President Trump, had been taking heat from Democratic lawmakers over their secrecy. What little was publicly known suggested that some of the groups’ members had deep ties to the industries being regulated.


“Amtrak’s safety culture is failing”

Harsh criticism from NTSB after fatal train derailment

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has determined that the April 3, 2016, derailment of Amtrak train 89 near Chester, Pennsylvania was caused by deficient safety management across many levels of Amtrak and the resultant lack of a clear, consistent and accepted vision for safety. A backhoe operator and a track supervisor were killed, and 39 people were injured when Amtrak train 89, traveling on the Northeast Corridor from Philadelphia to Washington on track 3, struck a backhoe at about 7:50 a.m.


The high cost of occupational cancers in Europe

Work-related cancers in member countries of the European Union (EU) annualy cost between €270 and €610 billion– or $318- $719 billion in U.S. dollars. That cost, which was tallied in a study released by the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) this week, represents 1.8% to 4.1% of the gross domestic product of the EU. The study was presented at the ‘Work and Cancer’ conference held in Brussels. 


A NIOSH Science Blog post

Flu virus generated in coughs and exhalations

William G. Lindsley PhD

It’s flu season. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) conducts research on protecting health care providers and other workers from infectious diseases including influenza. A significant portion of our research deals with understanding how the influenza virus is transmitted. Influenza is known to be transmitted through respiratory secretions containing the virus.


Man v. machine

NIOSH announces new robotics research center

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has established a new Center for Occupational Robotics Research (CORR) to provide scientific leadership to guide the development and use of occupational robots that enhance worker safety, health, and well-being. Although robots have been used in workplaces for decades, the use of robots that are designed to be used alongside human workers is increasing, as is the likelihood of robot-related deaths, according to NIOSH.


Mo. medical clinic workers potentially exposed to hazmat

OSHA has cited Anderson Foot and Ankle Clinic for potentially exposing employees to infectious materials, and for violations of the hazard communication standard. The agency proposed penalties totaling $93,074. OSHA inspectors cited the Rolla-based podiatry clinic for improperly handling medical waste, failing to review the exposure control plan annually, and failing to provide vaccines for employees exposed to bloodborne pathogens. The clinic also was cited for failing to update safety data sheets, and for lacking a list of hazardous chemicals used in the workplace. 


NTSB says feds failing to keep unsafe drivers off roads

A sleep-deprived driver operating a motorcoach during early morning hours on a California highway caused a crash that killed four of the 24 passengers, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said in a report released yesterday. “Here’s yet another fatal crash involving both a motorcoach carrier with a starkly evident history of safety problems and a severely fatigued driver,” said NTSB Chairman Robert L. Sumwalt.

A Confined Space blog post

The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead…

Today is the 42nd anniversary of the wreck of he Edumund Fitzgerald which sent 29 mariners to a watery grave and was immortalized by Gordon Lightfoot in what was probably the most famous song about a workplace disaster.  WXYZ in Detroit notes that “Of the more than 1000 ships in the graves under the icy waters of the Great Lakes, the Edmund Fitzgerald is still the largest to ever go down.” The 729-foot freighter was caught in storm carrying hurricane-strength winds on Nov. 10, 1975, and sank as it carried a load of iron ore across Lake Superior.  (H/T to Thurman Wenzl for the reminder.)


OSHA sets crane operator certification compliance date

OSHA) last week issued a final rule setting November 10, 2018, as the date for employers in the construction industries to comply with a requirement for crane operator certification. The final rule becomes effective November 9, 2017.


A FairWarning story

California throttles down pollution from small engines

Stuart Silverstein

New California rules aimed at curbing the surprising amount of pollution coming from leaf blowers, lawn mowers and other small gas-powered machines cleared a final hurdle Monday, and are set to take effect on Jan. 1. The requirements mark another step in the state’s long-running battle to reduce emissions from a category of small engines that have come to rival cars as a source of smog-forming pollution.