OSHA's 1996 funding rollercoaster ride took another twist at press-time in mid-March: Congress had just voted to continue to bankroll the agency for another week. The idea is to give the Senate time to approve an omnibus budget bill that will fund agencies like OSHA and EPA for the remainder of the fiscal year. Specifically, the Senate bill would boost OSHA’s funding level to $289 million—a $25 million increase. (OSHA’s budget in fiscal year 1995 was $312.5 million.) The version of the bill already passed by the House would boost the agency’s funding by $16 million for the remainder of FY96. Whatever the sum to be settled on by a conference committee, it could be a good-news/bad-news scenario for OSHA: Most of the money will probably be earmarked for state OSHA programs. "That won't do Joe Dear any good," says one source close to OSHA.

OSHA introduced workplace violence prevention guidelines for health care and social service industries, where nearly two-thirds of all non-fatal assaults and the majority of fatal job-related assaults occur. The 16-page advisory, based on OSHA’s generic safety and health program management guidelines, instructs employers on: ensuring management commitment and employee involvement in a violence prevention program; establishing a written program for job safety and security; conducting a worksite analysis; preventing and controlling hazards; responding to incidents; training and educating the work force; and recordkeeping. OSHA’s document, "Guidelines for Workplace Violence Prevention Programs for Health Care and Social Service Workers" is available on the Internet at http://www.osha.gov under "What’s New." To obtain the document by mail send a self-addressed label to OSHA Publications, PO Box 37535, Washington, D.C. 20013-7535.

Revisions to OSHA’s grain handling standard take effect this month. The agency issued a final rule March 7 to ensure greater protection for workers in the country’s 24,000 grain elevators and mills. The revision prohibits "walking down" grain to make it flow within or out from a grain storage structure, which is how a Florida man suffocated in a corn storage accident in 1993. Workers will also be required to wear a harness with a lifeline or a boatswains’ chair for protection when walking or standing on grain that poses an engulfment hazard. The final rule, published in the Federal Register March 8, becomes effective April 8, 1996.

Troy, Ohio, Auto Parts Manufacturer Tube Products, Inc. has agreed to pay $750,000 in penalties to OSHA and to correct safety hazards and inadequate employee training following an investigation into worker complaints about job injuries suffered at the plant. OSHA proposed penalties against the firm totaling $1.2 million for, among other issues, alleged failure to properly guard pipe-fabrication equipment or to properly train employees in equipment operation. Tube Products also agreed to engage a qualified consultant to verify machine-guarding hazard abatement and assist with related issues.

A new coalition of occupational health and safety professional groups is urging legislators to revise sections of both House and Senate OSHA reform bills that exempt employers from routine inspections if their facility undergoes a third-party review. The coalition representing the American Society of Safety Engineers, the American Industrial Hygiene Association, the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses, the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine and the National Society of Professional Engineers, wants to mandate a method for instituting minimum training, educational and experience criteria for third-party workplace auditors. Legislation should allow OSHA-approved national private-sector organizations to credential these reviewers, the groups say.

OSHA cuts nearly 275 out of 3,000 pages of rules with a final rule published in the Federal Register March 7. The agency action is a response to congressional pressures and an effort to help fulfill the President’s promise to reduce regulatory paperwork. Among the strategies used to cut pages: ·
  • Combining the health standards for 13 carcinogenic chemicals into a single section; ·
  • Eliminating more than 100 pages in the health standard for cadmium as it applies to agriculture; ·
  • Consolidating into a single section lists of addresses of national standards organizations from general industry standards; ·
  • Removing listings of national standards that were used for sources for OSHA standards; ·
  • Eliminating regulatory text detailing test procedures and performance specifications directed at equipment manufacturers; ·
  • Revoking obsolete or redundant paragraphs dealing with state programs.

Undertaking its own regulatory relief effort, the EPA considers amending Clean Air Act compliance requirements by allowing facilities pursuing major modifications to begin some preconstruction activities—like laying foundations—before obtaining the required permit for a new emissions source. The change would address complaints by industries in parts of the country where the construction season is limited. These businesses say some construction activities must begin before a new source review permit can be obtained.

Also regarding the Clean Air Act: guides for developing risk management plans under the chemical-accident prevention provision are available from EPA. The guides include: ·
  • data elements and instructions ·
  • off-site consequence analysis guidance ·
  • draft generic guidance for ammonia refrigeration facilities. Call the EPCRA Hotline at 800-535-0202. The guides are also available through the Internet at http://www.epa.gov/swercepp.

Also from NIOSH, guides on respiratory protection are available for workers and managers. The 20-page NIOSH Guide to the Selection and Use of Particulate Respirators Certified under 42 CFR 84 aims to help employers and respirator program coordinators understand new federal regulations that update the way equipment manufacturers must certify air-purifying particulate respirators. Another booklet, Protect Yourself Against Tuberculosis—A Respiratory Protection Guide for Health Care Workers, is a quick reference guide in a question/answer format. Both booklets are available for free by calling 800-35-NIOSH.

Industries using the air contaminant styrene agree to comply voluntarily with permissible exposure limits set in 1989 by OSHA, and later vacated by court order. Under the 1989 levels being adopted, styrene concentrations in the workplace will not exceed 50 parts per million for an 8-hour time-weighted average. The new voluntary short-term exposure limit (for 15 minutes) will be 100 ppm. Current OSHA PELs for styrene, set in 1971, are 100 ppm TWA, a 200 ppm ceiling, and a 600 ppm 5-minute peak. The compliance program aims to protect 90,000 workers from the narcotic effects of styrene.

Rear-end collisions are the most frequent roadway work zone accident hazard in the nation, according to Liberty Mutual’s Research Center for Safety and Health. A nationwide analysis of 3,686 vehicular crashes at roadway construction sites showed rear-end collisions account for 41 percent of all accidents. Liberty Mutual recommends these methods to improve safety in work zones: ·
  • Increase the number of advance warnings to motorists. ·
  • Use language like "Work Zone—Be Prepared to Stop" instead of "Construction 500 Feet." ·
  • Make sure warning signs are maintained, cleaned and operating. ·
  • Place and adjust warnings to meet the needs of the driver who is unfamiliar with the area. ·
  • Check daily for signs of near misses such as skid marks, damaged control devices, or motorist complaints. Improve warnings at trouble spots.

The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine is accepting applications for its first annual Corporate Health Achievement Award, recognizing companies that have integrated "excellence and commitment into their employee health, safety and environment programs." U.S. and Canadian manufacturing companies employing 5,000+ workers will be eligible to enter. Contact Susanna Matthew at 804-977-3784.

Only EIGHT percent of small manufacturers will hire consultants this year to perform environmental assessments, according to a survey of 800 manufacturers with an average of 60 employees conducted by Industry Innovations, Inc. Only about four percent of respondents have plans to hire consultants to install or improve pollution control devices or to redesign products to reduce environmental impact. But that doesn’t mean small firms are opposed to using consultants: Of firms surveyed with less than 100 workers, 99 percent had hired a consultant at some time. Roughly 70 percent of firms with 100+ employees had hired a consultant in the past. the environmental guide to the internet is a reference book for locating environmental resources on the Internet, including 255 World Wide Web sites, published by Government Institutes. To order the $49 book, call 301-921-2355.

Companies that go beyond meeting deadlines and avoiding liabilities in environmental cleanup programs often achieve a business advantage over competitors, according to EHS professionals gathered for a colloquium on contaminated site cleanup. The event’s sponsor, international environmental consultant Arthur D. Little, says setting cleanup goals like returning properties to productive reuse, and using innovative technologies to achieve results at lower costs are among methods that give a competitive edge. Other methods industry leaders like Westinghouse, Occidental Chemical, and Upjohn Co. cite include: ·
  • Taking the lead with regulators; ·
  • Managing remediation as a business process; ·
  • And measuring and communicating corporate environmental performance.