Good Friday morning,

We’re getting fried here in the East (ISHN editorial offices are in Philadelphia) with weeks of 90 degree plus days. Things are hot:

…down in Washington with Congress debating OSHA and MSHA reforms;

…in the Gulf, though BP might have successfully capped the gusher;

…in the mining industry, where 40 workers thus far in 2010 have been killed on the job;

…in the U.S. Postal Service, which has been slammed by OSHA with hundreds of thousands of dollars in proposed fines for electrical safety hazards.

…last month’s combined global land and ocean surface temperature made it the warmest June on record and the warmest on record averaged for any April-June and January-June periods, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

In the spirit of the dog days, here is our “heat index” of hot topics:

“AFTER CRISES, COMPANIES CONTINUE TO PLACE PUBLIC AND WORKERS AT RISK”

That’s the headline of a report posted this week by the advocacy group OMB Watch.

“In the wake of high-profile regulatory failures, including the worst mine disaster in recent history, the companies responsible continue to run afoul of laws and regulations meant to protect public health and worker safety,” according to OMB Watch.

Companies behaving badly: Massey Energy, operator of mines where 31 of the 40 miners killed on the job in 2010 worked, according to the Labor Department and OMB Watch; Toyota Motor Corp., which earlier this month announced a recall of more than 138,000 Lexus vehicles for engine problems that can lead to stalling while the vehicle is in motion continues to experience public struggles after a major safety crisis aftering recalling millions of vehicles in 2009 and early 2010 after multiple crashes were linked to sudden, unintended acceleration, according to OMB Watch, and “perhaps the most high-profile of recent regulatory failures, the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster,” said OMB Watch. Oil rig workers still face risks due to muddled regulatory oversight, according to the group.

DEBATING OSHA’S NUMBER ONE PRIORITY

That would the injury and illness prevention program, or “I2P2” or “find and fix” as the sweeping standard has been dubbed.

Under this program employers would be responsible for developing their own program and process to locate and mitigate hazards in the workplace.

This week OSHA boss Dr. David Michaels told a House of Representatives committee:

“Essentially, through this common sense rule… we will be asking employers to find the safety and health hazards present in their facilities that might injure or kill workers and then fix those hazards. Workers, those who are most directly at risk, would participate in developing and implementing these workplace safety plans and evaluating their effectiveness in achieving compliance.”

A final standard mandating this program might be issued before the end of the Obama term in 2012. Remember the late rush to issue the ill-fated ergo rule in 2000 before the Clinton administration left town? If Obama wins a second term, the I2P2 rule might not come out until after 2012.

Still, the debate on this standard, which would overshadow the hazcom rule in its impact on employers and employees, is just now heating up.

One safety pro emails us: “I have been told that the Cal OSHA I2P2 standard is the highest cited standard each year in CA. I have not confirmed that but I am trying to. If I2P2 is somehow magically motivational for employers to do better in safety and health, why the high level of citations?”

Responds a reader in California:

“I’ve been implementing the IIPP requirement that has been in place in California for around 20 years. At the time of promulgation one side said it would be the greatest safety breakthrough in history. The other side said it was the most onerous regulation ever conceived. Over time it appears that neither is true. It is generic enough to assist in framing what needs to be done for a basic functioning safety program, so it must be a help in many workplaces who otherwise have no clue. On the other hand, it doesn’t really do all that much to push bad actors to do the right thing and is just another item on the list of citations for those employers.”

The safety pro was not assured, stating:

“This OSHA administration is on the same trajectory as was the Eula Bingham OSHA administration 1976 -1980. The outcome of that was: 1) Safety and health came to viewed by the public as negative not positive; 2) Safety and health professionals came to be viewed by the public as extensions of OSHA instead of professionals; 3) Safety and health professionals then became very wary and hostile towards OSHA.

“It took over 20 years to overcome much of this damage. Frankly I would rather not repeat that Bingham era. But we are headed there rapidly. I2P2 and all its downstream consequences will likely catalyze that happening.”

A union safety director emails:

”Most of you have the luxury of working for companies that value H&S at some level or they wouldn't have hired you in the first place. However, the vast majority of companies I work with make H&S a function of an overworked HR director if it is anyone's function at all. Hospitals, a huge portion of the US economy employing millions of workers that face a wider range of chemical, biological, physical and radiological hazards than workers in most any other workplace, typically do not hire, and many still do not even know what an IH is or what they do.

“A H&S program standard would be a driver to get many employers (the ones that do not call you) to finally take H&S a little bit more seriously, and perhaps retain and maybe even hire their first IH or safety professional.”

Emails another longtime safety pro:

“It's obvious that OSHA has taken the initial steps toward promulgating an Occupational Safety and Health Management Systems Standard. You state that a result of issuing such a standard would be that a larger number of employers will take an interest in injury and illness prevention than is the case now. I believe that to be so. But, history informs us that promulgating a standard could take years.

“There is a way to attract the interest of many more employers to do a better job of safety management that could get done in a few months. In 1989, OSHA issued Safety and Health Program Management Guidelines. I implore you and your union colleagues to encourage OSHA to finish the work on the Guidelines and issue them. That would serve our country well.”

And finally this email from a safety vet: “A safety & health management standard is where OSHA should have started in 1970.”

“The focus must be on people: labor, first-line, middle, and high-level management-everyone must be in sync and be accountable. The focus must be on establishing the systems, structures and processes that make success possible. Viewed and managed this way, safety is like the other valued components of the organization, such as, productivity, cost, quality, customer service, citizenship, etc.”

“STOP OUTLAW COAL COMPANIES”

… blasts the AFL-CIO Now Blog email from yesterday afternoon, which goes on to say:

“Stanley “Goose” Stewart escaped the April 5 blast at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch mine that killed 29 of his fellow miners. Yesterday, he told a House hearing on tough new mine safety rules, ‘Something needs to be done to stop outlaw coal companies who blatantly disregard the laws’.”

CONFUSION AND COMPLIACE COSTS

The Coalition for Workplace Safety, an alliance of business associations, (Editor’s Note: Before the age of political correctness, this sort of group would have, in fact was in the early 1980s, more directly named “Stop OSHA,” but ah, those were simpler times), sounded off this week at a House of Representatives hearing on a bill to add teeth to MSHA and OSHA enforcement. The coalition said nothing about mines, but plenty about OSHA provisions tacked onto the bill.

“Instead of improving workplace safety,” the group stated, “this bill will only increase the adversarial nature of the relationship between Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and employers, and create more confusion leading to increased litigation and compliance costs. This bill contains no support or assistance for employers to help them implement better safety programs or understand better their obligations.”

Members of the coalition include:

American Bakers Association American Foundry Society American Iron and Steel Institute American Trucking Associations, Inc. Associated Builders and Contractors Associated General Contractors Council for Employment Law Equity Food Marketing Institute INDA, Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry Independent Electrical Contractors International Foodservice Distributors Association International Franchise Association IPC – Association Connecting Electronics Industries National Association of Home Builders National Association of Manufacturers National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors National Council of Textile Organizations National Electrical Contractors Association National Oilseed Processors Association National Roofing Contractors Association North American Die Casting Association Printing Industries of America Retail Industry Leaders Association Shipbuilders Council of America U.S. Chamber of Commerce

SUN SAFETY

EPA this week issued “Health Effects of Ultraviolet Radiation,” a fact sheet intended for older adults and their caregivers. The fact sheet describes how UV radiation plays a role in the development of age-related macular degeneration and skin cancer.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. More people were diagnosed with skin cancer in 2009 than with breast, prostate, lung, and colon cancer combined. One American dies every hour from skin cancer. Overexposure to UV radiation may suppress proper functioning of the body’s immune system and skin’s natural defenses. All people, regardless of skin color, are vulnerable to the effects of UV radiation.

Sun safety tips:

Do not burn—overexposure to the sun is the most preventable risk factor for skin cancer

Seek shade, especially between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. when UV radiation is most intense.

Wear wide-brimmed hats, protective clothing, and sunglasses that block 99-100 percent of UV radiation.

Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 15 on all exposed skin.

Check the UV Index.

Avoid sun tanning and tanning beds.