The hiring freeze has thawed at OSHA, with agency chief Joe Dear announcing plans to hire 110 people now that OSHA’s funding has stabilized for the rest of the 1996 fiscal year. The budget of $305 million -two percent below the '95 spending level- allows Dear to fill 83 field positions (including 70 inspectors) and 27 slots at national headquarters (including the now-vacant director of safety standards position). Dear has no immediate plans to replace John Moran, recently departed director of policy. Frank Frodyma and Greg Watchman are filling in.

New OSHA complaint investigation procedures should cut response time from an average 40 days to as little as five days, according to the agency. According to the directive for the new process, workers’ complaints will now either be investigated by fax and telephone, or will result in on-site inspections. Conditions that will warrant on-site investigations include: if the complaint alleges physical harm has occurred and that hazards still exist; if the complaint identifies a hazard covered by a national emphasis program; or if the firm has a history of egregious, willful or failure-to-abate citations within the last three years.

In the case of a telephone investigation, an employer will be expected to provide a written response which OSHA will provide to the complainant, whose identity may be withheld from the employer upon request. The new system is detailed in a compliance directive on the Internet at under "other OSHA documents." Copies are also available by calling 202-219-9266.

Some 73 million children hold jobs worldwide, according to the International Labor Organization, and that number accounts only for 10-14 year olds, not even younger children, or young female domestic workers. Most working children are employed in farming, facing hazards like harsh climates, sharp tools, heavy loads, toxic chemicals and farm machinery, the ILO says. Asian countries employ the most children, at 44.6 million. But Africa has the highest ratio of working 10-14-year olds: 26 percent.

In an effort to prevent work-related injuries to American adolescents this summer, NIOSH recently distributed health and safety recommendations to high schools, parents and employers. Sixty-seven youths died in the U.S. in 1994 from job-related injuries, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And another 64,000 youth and children were treated in emergency departments for work-related injuries in 1992. Employers should provide training that recognizes young workers’ inexperience and young people’s learning styles, judgment and behavior, NIOSH advises. For a copy of the NIOSH alert, "Preventing Deaths and Injuries of Adolescent Workers" (publication No. 95-125) call 800-35-NIOSH.

Diisocyanates can be deadly for 280,000 whose jobs present exposure risks. A NIOSH fact sheet recommends several measures for preventing exposure. Methods include substituting less hazardous materials, using closed systems and ventilation, wearing protective clothing and equipment, worker education, and medical monitoring. Copies of "NIOSH Alert: Preventing Asthma and Death from Diisocyanate Exposure" are available by calling 800-35-NIOSH.

A new plan for emergency response to oil and hazardous substance leaks was signed by the EPA, OSHA, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Research and Special Programs Administration Office, and the Department of the Interior’s Mineral Management Service last month. The interagency Integrated Contingency Plan gives responders one source for instructions on meeting federal regulatory emergency response requirements. Industry, labor, environmental groups and state agencies contributed to the plan, according to OSHA. The guidance is available online at in the "What’s New" section.

Updates to osha’s personal protective equipment requirements for shipyards reflect improvements in equipment since the original voluntary consensus standards were adopted in the early 1970s, according to the agency. The rule update, published in the Federal Register on May 24, covers eye, face, head, foot and hand protection; water flotation; body harnesses, lifelines and lanyards; and new provisions on selecting equipment, handling defective and damaged equipment, and training employees. The new standard will take effect August 22, 1996.

OSHA cites A Texas Brass maker for allegedly exposing workers to lead. Deficiencies in respiratory protection, hygiene measures, medical surveillance, and training in work areas where potential for lead exposure existed contributed to the conditions at Lone Star Brass Manufacturing, Inc., in Dallas, OSHA says. The agency imposed a $142,400 fine for alleged violations including failure to abate previously cited hazards and repeat violations.

Exposure limit implementing methods followed by 23 organizations in 15 countries including Japan, Canada, Germany, the U.K. and the Netherlands are presented in "An International Review of Procedures for Establishing Occupational Exposure Limits." The book, developed by the Chemical Manufacturers’ Association and co-published with the American Industrial Hygiene Association, also examines procedures that could be used for rulemaking in the U.S. Contact the AIHA to purchase the $55 book at 703-849-8888.

Will you be among the 15 percent of vacationers lugging along work on a laptop this summer? If so, consider these ergonomics pointers for laptop use from Steelcase, Inc., a Michigan office furniture maker: · Take frequent breaks to allow the body to relax. · Exercise the fingers by fanning them, or spreading them apart while keeping the wrists straight. · Avoid glare on the screen, or frequently rest eyes. · Roll shoulders up and down to reduce tension in the upper back and shoulders. · If you work with your head bent down, occasionally look straight out with your chin level or gently move your head side to side. · When using your laptop on an airplane, raise the arm support or put a pillow between the armrest and your elbow to avoid Ulnar nerve compression.