Posts Tagged ‘OSHA’

OSHA establishes plan to keep workers safe from COVID-19

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) today announced an interim enforcement response plan for the coronavirus pandemic. The response plan provides instructions and guidance to OSHA area offices and compliance safety and health officers (CSHOs) for handling coronavirus-related complaints, referrals and severe illness reports.

During the coronavirus outbreak, OSHA area offices will utilize their inspection resources to fulfill mission essential functions and protect workers exposed to the disease. The response plan contains interim procedures that allow flexibility and discretion for field offices to maximize OSHA’s impact in securing safe workplaces in this evolving environment.

“OSHA is committed to protecting the health and safety of America’s workers during this challenging time in our nation’s history,” Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Loren Sweatt said. “Today’s guidance outlines commonsense procedures for investigating complaints related to the coronavirus, while also ensuring the safety of workers, employers and inspectors.”

The response plan outlines procedures for addressing reports of workplace hazards related to the coronavirus. Fatalities and imminent danger exposures related to the coronavirus will be prioritized for on-site inspections. The response plan contains procedures and sample documentation for CSHOs to use during coronavirus-related inspections. Workers requesting inspections, complaining of coronavirus exposure or reporting illnesses may be protected under one or more whistleblower statutes and will be informed of their protections from retaliation.

This memorandum will take effect immediately and remain in effect until further notice. It is intended to be time-limited to the current public health crisis. Check OSHA’s webpage at www.osha.gov/coronavirus frequently for updates.

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 help 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 www.osha.gov.

The mission of the Department of Labor is to foster, promote and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment and assure work-related benefits and rights.

DOL warns employers against retaliation for workers who report unsafe conditions during pandemic

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is reminding employers that it is illegal to retaliate against workers because they report unsafe and unhealthful working conditions during the coronavirus pandemic. Acts of retaliation can include terminations, demotions, denials of overtime or promotion or reductions in pay or hours.

“Employees have the right to safe and healthy workplaces,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Loren Sweatt. “Any worker who believes that their employer is retaliating against them for reporting unsafe working conditions should contact OSHA immediately.”

Workers have the right to file a whistleblower complaint online with OSHA (or 1-800-321-OSHA) if they believe their employer has retaliated against them for exercising their rights under the whistleblower protection laws enforced by the agency.

OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program webpage provides valuable resources on worker rights, including fact sheets on whistleblower protections for employees in various industries and frequently asked questions.

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of more than 20 whistleblower statutes protecting employees from retaliation for reporting violations of various workplace safety and health, airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, motor vehicle safety, healthcare reform, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime, securities and tax laws. For more information on whistleblower protections, visit OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Programs webpage.

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 help 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 www.osha.gov.

The mission of the Department of Labor is to foster, promote and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.

OSHA wants to hear about your experiences with its Whistleblower Protection Program

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has announced that there will be a public meeting to solicit comments on its Whistleblower Protection Program from 1 – 4 p.m. EST May 14, 2019.

OSHA invites employers, employees of businesses affecting interstate commerce and all interested parties, including business owners, employees, associations, whistleblower advocacy groups, labor groups and attornies to the meeting.

In particular, OSHA wants to know how it can provide better customer service to whistleblowers and what kind of assistance OSHA can provide to better explain existing whistleblower laws.

Interested parties who plan to attend, speak or call in, should register by the close of business on April 30, 2019. Participants may speak and hand out written materials, but there will be no opportunity to give an electronic presentation. Registration on the day of the meeting will be permitted on a space-available basis beginning at noon. The meetings will be held in room S-3215A-C at the U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20210.

Click here to read the public notice and submit electronic comments. Electronic comments must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. on May 7.

Click here to register to attend.

OSHA publishes FAQ on silica

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has posted new frequently asked questions (FAQs) on the agency’s standard for respirable crystalline silica in general industry.

OSHA developed the FAQs in consultation with industry and union stakeholders to provide guidance to employers and employees on the standard’s requirements, such as exposure assessments, regulated areas, methods of compliance and communicating silica hazards to employees. The questions and answers are organized by topic and include an introductory paragraph that provides background information about the regulatory requirements.

Visit OSHA’s silica standard for general industry webpage for more information and resources on complying with the standard.

Silica dust, when inhaled, affects the lungs and can be a contributor to the development of lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease in workers. It is of potential concern to rail workers as the dust created from the passage of trains over track ballast containing silica could become airborne and be inhaled.

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 help 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 www.osha.gov.

OSHA’s guide to working in cold weather

Winter weather presents hazards including slippery roads/surfaces, strong winds and environmental cold. Employers must prevent illnesses, injuries, or fatalities, by controlling these hazards in workplaces impacted by winter weather.

OSHA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are working together on a public education effort aimed at improving the way people prepare for and respond to severe weather.

Cold stress

It is important for employers to know the wind chill temperature so that they can gauge workers’ exposure risk better and plan how to safely do the work. It is also important to monitor workers’ physical condition during tasks, especially new workers who may not be used to working in the cold, or workers returning after spending some time away from work.

The NOAA Weather Radio is a nationwide network of radio stations broadcasting continuous weather information from the nearest NWS office. It will give information when wind chill conditions reach critical thresholds. A Wind Chill Warning is issued when wind chill temperatures are life-threatening. A Wind Chill Advisory is issued when wind chill temperatures are potentially hazardous.

Who is affected by environmental cold?

Environmental cold can affect any worker exposed to cold air temperatures and puts workers at risk of cold stress. As wind speed increases, it causes the air temperature to feel even colder, increasing the risk of cold stress to exposed workers, especially those working outdoors, such as recreational workers, snow cleanup crews, construction workers, police officers and firefighters. Other workers who may be affected by exposure to environmental cold conditions include those in transit, baggage handlers, water transportation, landscaping services, and support activities for oil and gas operations.

Risk factors for cold stress include:

  • Wetness/dampness, dressing improperly and exhaustion
  • Predisposing health conditions such as hypertension, hypothyroidism and diabetes
  • Poor physical conditioning

What is cold stress?

What constitutes cold stress and its effects can vary across different areas of the country. In regions that are not used to winter weather, near freezing temperatures are considered factors for “cold stress.” Increased wind speed also causes heat to leave the body more rapidly (wind chill effect). Wetness or dampness, even from body sweat, also facilitates heat loss from the body. Cold stress occurs by driving down the skin temperature, and eventually the internal body temperature. When the body is unable to warm itself, serious cold-related illnesses and injuries may occur, and permanent tissue damage and death may result. Types of cold stress include: trench foot, frostbite and hypothermia.

For more information, see OSHA’s Cold Stress Safety and Health Guide.

Types of Cold Stress

Immersion/Trench Foot

Trench foot is a non-freezing injury of the feet caused by prolonged exposure to wet and cold conditions. It can occur in temperatures as high as 60°F if feet are constantly wet. Injury occurs because wet feet lose heat 25-times faster than dry feet.

What are they symptoms of trench foot?

Reddening skin, tingling, pain, swelling, leg cramps, numbness and blisters.

First Aid

  • Call 911 immediately in an emergency; otherwise seek medical assistance as soon as possible.
  • Remove wet shoes/boots and wet socks.
  • Dry the feet and avoid working on them.
  • Keep affected feet elevated and avoid walking. Get medical attention.

Frostbite

Frostbite is caused by the freezing of the skin and tissues. Frostbite can cause permanent damage to the body, and in severe cases can lead to amputation. The risk of frostbite is increased in people with reduced blood circulation and among people who are not dressed properly for extremely cold temperatures.

What are the symptoms of frostbite?

Reddened skin develops gray/white patches in the fingers, toes, nose, or ear lobes; tingling, aching, a loss of feeling, firm/hard, and blisters may occur in the affected areas.

First Aid

  • Follow the recommendations described below for hypothermia.
  • Protect the frostbitten area, e.g., by wrapping loosely in a dry cloth and protect the area from contact until medical help arrives.
  • DO NOT rub the affected area, because rubbing causes damage to the skin and tissue.
  • Do not apply snow or water. Do not break blisters.
  • DO NOT try to re-warm the frostbitten area before getting medical help, for example, do not use heating pads or place in warm water. If a frostbitten area is rewarmed and gets frozen again, more tissue damage will occur. It is safer for the frostbitten area to be rewarmed by medical professionals.
  • Give warm sweetened drinks if alert (no alcohol).

Hypothermia

Hypothermia occurs when the normal body temperature (98.6°F) drops to less than 95°F. Exposure to cold temperatures causes the body to lose heat faster than it can be produced. Prolonged exposure to cold will eventually use up the body’s stored energy. The result is hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature. Hypothermia is most likely at very cold temperatures, but it can occur even at cool temperatures (above 40°F) if a person becomes chilled from rain, sweat, or immersion in cold water.

What are the symptoms of hypothermia?

An important mild symptom of hypothermia is uncontrollable shivering, which should not be ignored. Although shivering indicates that the body is losing heat, it also helps the body to rewarm itself. Moderate to severe symptoms of hypothermia are loss of coordination, confusion, slurred speech, heart rate/breathing slow, unconsciousness and possibly death. Body temperature that is too low affects the brain, making the victim unable to think clearly or move well. This makes hypothermia particularly dangerous because a person may not know what is happening and won’t be able to do anything about it.

First Aid

  • Call 911 immediately in an emergency.
  • Move the worker to a warm, dry area.
  • Remove any wet clothing and replace with dry clothing. Wrap the entire body (including the head and neck) in layers of blankets; and with a vapor barrier (e.g. tarp, garbage bag) Do not cover the face.

If medical help is more than 30 minutes away:

  • Give warm sweetened drinks if alert (no alcohol), to help increase the body temperature. Never try to give a drink to an unconscious person.
  • Place warm bottles or hot packs in armpits, sides of chest, and groin. Call 911 for additional rewarming instructions.

Basic Life Support (when necessary)

Co-workers trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) may help a person suffering from hypothermia who has no pulse or is not breathing:

  • Call 911 for emergency medical assistance immediately.
  • Treat the worker as per instructions for hypothermia, but be very careful and do not try to give an unconscious person fluids.
  • Check him/her for signs of breathing and for a pulse. Check for 60 seconds.
  • If after 60 seconds the affected worker is not breathing and does not have a pulse, trained workers may start rescue breaths for 3 minutes.
  • Recheck for breathing and pulse, check for 60 seconds.
  • If the worker is still not breathing and has no pulse, continue rescue breathing.
  • Only start chest compressions per the direction of the 911 operator or emergency medical services*
  • Reassess patient’s physical status periodically.

*Chest compressions are recommended only if the patient will not receive medical care within 3 hours.

Wind Chill Temperature

Outdoor workers exposed to cold and windy conditions are at risk of cold stress, both air temperature and wind speed affect how cold they feel. “Wind chill” is the term used to describe the rate of heat loss from the human body, resulting from the combined effect of low air temperature, and wind speed. The wind chill temperature is a single value that takes both air temperature and wind speed into account. For example, when the air temperature is 40°F, and the wind speed is 35mph, the wind chill temperature is 28°F; this measurement is the actual effect of the environmental cold on the exposed skin.

National Weather Service (NWS) Wind Chill Calculator: With this tool, one may input the air temperature and wind speed, and it will calculate the wind chill temperature.

The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) developed the following Work/Warm-up Schedule for a 4-hour shift that takes both air temperature and wind speed into account to provide recommendations on scheduling work breaks and ceasing non-emergency work.

Dressing Properly for the Cold

Dressing properly is extremely important to preventing cold stress. When cold environments or temperatures cannot be avoided, the following would help protect workers from cold stress:

  • Wear at least three layers of loose-fitting clothing. Layering provides better insulation.
    • An inner layer of wool, silk or synthetic (polypropylene) to keep moisture away from the body. Thermal wear, wool, silk or polypropylene, inner layers of clothing that will hold more body heat than cotton.
    • A middle layer of wool or synthetic to provide insulation even when wet.
    • An outer wind and rain protection layer that allows some ventilation to prevent overheating.
  • Tight clothing reduces blood circulation. Warm blood needs to be circulated to the extremities. Insulated coat/jacket (water resistant if necessary)
  • Knit mask to cover face and mouth (if needed)
  • Hat that will cover your ears as well. A hat will help keep your whole body warmer. Hats reduce the amount of body heat that escapes from your head.
  • Insulated gloves (water resistant if necessary), to protect the hands
  • Insulated and waterproof boots to protect the feet

Safety tips for workers

  • Your employer should ensure that you know the symptoms of cold stress
  • Monitor your physical condition and that of your coworkers
  • Dress appropriately for the cold
  • Stay dry in the cold because moisture or dampness, e.g. from sweating, can increase the rate of heat loss from the body
  • Keep extra clothing (including underwear) handy in case you get wet and need to change
  • Drink warm sweetened fluids (no alcohol)
  • Use proper engineering controls, safe work practices, and personal protective equipment (PPE) provided by your employer

Winter driving

Although employers cannot control roadway conditions, they can promote safe driving behavior by ensuring workers recognize the hazards of winter weather driving, for example, driving on snow/ice covered roads; are properly trained for driving in winter weather conditions; and are licensed (as applicable) for the vehicles they operate. For information about driving safely during the winter, visit OSHA’s Safe Winter Driving page.

Employers should set and enforce driver safety policies. Employers should also implement an effective maintenance program for all vehicles and mechanized equipment that workers are required to operate. Crashes can be avoided. Learn more at the Motor Vehicle Safety (OSHA Safety and Health Topics Page) .

Employers should ensure properly trained workers inspect the following vehicle systems to determine if they are working properly:

  • Brakes: Brakes should provide even and balanced braking. Also check that brake fluid is at the proper level.
  • Cooling system: Ensure a proper mixture of 50/50 antifreeze and water in the cooling system at the proper level.
  • Electrical system: Check the ignition system and make sure that the battery is fully charged and that the connections are clean. Check that the alternator belt is in good condition with proper tension.
  • Engine: Inspect all engine systems.
  • Exhaust system: Check exhaust for leaks and that all clamps and hangers are snug.
  • Tires: Check for proper tread depth and no signs of damage or uneven wear. Check for proper tire inflation.
  • Oil: Check that oil is at proper level.
  • Visibility systems: Inspect all exterior lights, defrosters (windshield and rear window), and wipers. Install winter windshield wipers.

An emergency kit with the following items is recommended in vehicles:

  • Cell phone or two-way radio
  • Windshield ice scraper
  • Snow brush
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Shovel
  • Tow chain
  • Traction aids (bag of sand or cat litter)
  • Emergency flares
  • Jumper cables
  • Snacks
  • Water
  • Road maps
  • Blankets, change of clothes

Preventing slips on snow and ice

To prevent slips, trips, and falls, employers should clear snow and ice from walking surfaces, and spread deicer as quickly as possible after a winter storm. When walking on snow or ice is unavoidable workers should be trained to:

  • Wear footwear that has good traction and insulation (e.g. insulated and water-resistant boots or rubber over-shoes with good rubber treads)
  • Take short steps and walk at a slower pace to react quickly to changes in traction

Water. Rest. Shade.: Staying safe while working in the heat

OSHA’s campaign to keep workers safe in the heat

OSHA’s Heat Illness Prevention campaign, launched in 2011, educates employers and workers on the dangers of working in the heat. Through training sessions, outreach events, informational sessions, publications, social media messaging and media appearances, millions of workers and employers have learned how to protect workers from heat. OSHA’s safety message comes down to three key words: Water. Rest. Shade.

Dangers of working in the heat

Every year, dozens of workers die and thousands more become ill while working in extreme heat or humid conditions. More than 40 percent of heat-related worker deaths occur in the construction industry, but workers in every field are susceptible. There are a range of heat illnesses and they can affect anyone, regardless of age or physical condition.

Employer responsibility to protect workers

Under OSHA law, employers are responsible for providing workplaces free of known safety hazards. This includes protecting workers from extreme heat. An employer with workers exposed to high temperatures should establish a complete heat illness prevention program.

  • Provide workers with water, rest and shade.
  • Allow new or returning workers to gradually increase workloads and take more frequent breaks as they acclimatize, or build a tolerance for working in the heat.
  • Plan for emergencies and train workers on prevention.
  • Monitor workers for signs of illness.

Why is heat a hazard to workers?

When a person works in a hot environment, the body must get rid of excess heat to maintain a stable internal temperature. It does this mainly through circulating blood to the skin and through sweating.

When the air temperature is close to or warmer than normal body temperature, cooling of the body becomes more difficult. Blood circulated to the skin cannot lose its heat. Sweating then becomes the main way the body cools off. But sweating is effective only if the humidity level is low enough to allow evaporation, and if the fluids and salts that are lost are adequately replaced.

If the body cannot get rid of excess heat, it will store it. When this happens, the body’s core temperature rises and the heart rate increases. As the body continues to store heat, the person begins to lose concentration and has difficulty focusing on a task, may become irritable or sick, and often loses the desire to drink. The next stage is most often fainting and even death if the person is not cooled down.

Excessive exposure to heat can cause a range of heat-related illnesses, from heat rash and heat cramps to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat stroke can result in death and requires immediate medical attention.

Exposure to heat can also increase the risk of injuries because of sweaty palms, fogged-up safety glasses, dizziness and burns from hot surfaces or steam.

Who could be affected by heat?

Workers exposed to hot indoor environments or hot and humid conditions outdoors are at risk of heat-related illness, especially those doing heavy work tasks or using bulky or non-breathable protective clothing and equipment. Some workers might be at greater risk than others if they have not built up a tolerance to hot conditions, or if they have certain health conditions. The table below shows some environmental and job-specific factors that increase the risk of heat-related illness.

Factors that put workers at greater risk
Environmental
  • High temperature and humidity
  • Radiant heat sources
  • Contact with hot objects
  • Direct sun exposure (with no shade)
  • Limited air movement (no breeze, wind or ventilation)
Job-Specific
  • Physical exertion
  • Use of bulky or non-breathable protective clothing and equipment

Workers who are suddenly exposed to working in a hot environment face additional, but generally avoidable hazards to their safety and health. New workers and those returning from time away are especially vulnerable. That’s why it is important to prepare for the heat: educate workers about the dangers of heat, and acclimatize workers by gradually increasing the workload or providing more frequent breaks to help new workers and those returning to a job after time away build up a tolerance for hot conditions.

How do I know if it’s too hot?

  • The temperature rises
  • Humidity increases
  • The sun gets stronger
  • There is no air movement
  • No controls are in place to reduce the impacts of equipment that radiates heat
  • Protective clothing or gear is worn
  • Work is strenuous

The heat index, which takes both temperature and humidity into account, is a useful tool for outdoor workers and employers (see Using the Heat Index: A Guide for Employers).

How can heat-related illness be prevented?

Heat-related illnesses can be prevented. Important ways to reduce heat exposure and the risk of heat-related illness include engineering controls, such as air conditioning and ventilation, that make the work environment cooler, and work practices such as work/rest cycles, drinking water often, and providing an opportunity for workers to build up a level of tolerance to working in the heat. Employers should include these prevention steps in worksite training and plans. Also, it’s important to know and look out for the symptoms of heat-related illness in yourself and others during hot weather. Plan for an emergency and know what to do — acting quickly can save lives!

> Go to Prevention

Heat-related Illnesses and First Aid

Illustration of a man's head who seems to have a high body temperature

Heat stroke, the most serious form of heat-related illness, happens when the body becomes unable to regulate its core temperature. Sweating stops and the body can no longer rid itself of excess heat. Signs include confusion, loss of consciousness, and seizures. Heat stroke is a medical emergency that may result in death! Call 911 immediately.

Illustration of a man's head who sweating

Heat exhaustion is the body’s response to the loss of water and salt from heavy sweating. Signs include headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, irritability, thirst and heavy sweating.

Illustration of a leg which denotes cramping

Heat cramps are caused by the loss of body salts and fluid during sweating. Low salt levels in muscles cause painful cramps. Tired muscles—those used for performing the work—are usually the ones most affected by cramps. Cramps may occur during or after working hours.

Heat rash, also known as prickly heat, is skin irritation caused by sweat that does not evaporate from the skin. Heat rash is the most common problem in hot work environments.

For more information about heat-related illnesses:

OSHA schedules meeting to request comments on whistleblower issues

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has scheduled a meeting June 12, 2018, in Washington, D.C., to solicit comments and suggestions from stakeholders in the railroad and trucking industries on whistleblower issues within the jurisdiction of the agency.

OSHA seeks input on how the agency can better deliver whistleblower customer service, and what kind of assistance the agency can provide to help explain the whistleblower laws it enforces. This meeting will be the first in a series of meetings requesting public input on the whistleblower program.

The meeting is open to the public, and will be held from 1:00-3:00 p.m. ET in Room N-3437 A-B, at the U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20210. Individuals interested in participating or attending the meeting, either in-person or via telephone, must register by May 29, 2018. Click here to register. There is no fee to register. All materials may be submitted electronically at http://www.regulations.gov, which is the Federal eRulemaking Portal using OSHA Docket No. OSHA-2018-0005.

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of 22 statutes protecting employees who report violations of airline, commercial motor vehicle, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime and securities laws. More information is available at http://www.whistleblowers.gov. For information about OSHA, visit http://www.osha.gov.

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 www.osha.gov.

OSHA: Working in the cold and preparing for winter weather

Winter weather presents hazards including slippery roads/surfaces, strong winds and environmental cold. Employers must prevent illnesses, injuries or fatalities, by controlling these hazards in workplaces impacted by winter weather.

OSHA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are working together on a public education effort aimed at improving the way people prepare for and respond to severe weather. Here is some information provided by OSHA to help businesses and their workers prepare for winter weather, and to provide information about hazards that workers may face during and after winter storms.


Winter preparedness

Outdoor work requires proper preparation, especially in severe winter weather conditions. Although OSHA does not have a specific standard that covers working in cold environments, employers have a responsibility to provide workers with employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards, including winter weather related hazards, which are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to them (Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970). Employers should, therefore, train workers on the hazards of the job and safety measures to use, such as engineering controls and safe work practices, that will protect workers’ safety and health.

Employers should train workers

At a minimum, employers should train workers on:

  • Cold Stress:
    • How to recognize the symptoms of cold stress, prevent cold stress injuries and illnesses
    • The importance of self-monitoring and monitoring coworkers for symptoms
    • First aid and how to call for additional medical assistance in an emergency
    • How to select proper clothing for cold, wet and windy conditions
  • Other winter weather related hazards that workers may be exposed to, for example, slippery roads and surfaces, windy conditions and downed power lines
    • How to recognize these hazards
    • How workers will be protected: engineering controls, safe work practices and proper selection of equipment, including personal protective equipment

Employers should implement safe work practices

Safe work practices that employers can implement to protect workers from injuries, illnesses and fatalities include:

  • Providing workers with the proper tools and equipment to do their jobs
  • Developing work plans that identify potential hazards and the safety measures that will be used to protect workers
  • Scheduling maintenance and repair jobs for warmer months
  • Scheduling jobs that expose workers to the cold weather in the warmer part of the day
  • Avoiding exposure to extremely cold temperatures when possible
  • Limiting the amount of time spent outdoors on extremely cold days
  • Using relief workers to assign extra workers for long, demanding jobs
  • Providing warm areas for use during break periods
  • Providing warm liquids (no alcohol) to workers
  • Monitoring workers who are at risk of cold stress
  • Monitoring the weather conditions during a winter storm, having a reliable means of communicating with workers and being able to stop work or evacuate when necessary
  • Acclimatizing new workers and those returning after time away from work by gradually increasing their workload, and allowing more frequent breaks in warm areas, as they build up a tolerance for working in the cold environment
  • Having a means of communicating with workers, especially in remote areas
  • Knowing how the community warns the public about severe weather: outdoor sirens, radio and television
    • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) provides multiple ways to stay informed about winter storms. If you are notified of a winter storm watch, advisory or warning, follow instructions from your local authorities: NOAA Weather Radio

Employers should consider protective clothing that provides warmth

Employers must provide personal protective equipment (PPE), for example, fall protection, when required by OSHA standards to protect workers’ safety and health. However, in limited cases specified in the standard (29 CFR 1910.132), there are exceptions to the requirement for employers to provide PPE to workers. For instance, there is no OSHA requirement for employers to provide workers with ordinary clothing, skin creams or other items, used solely for protection from weather, such as winter coats, jackets, gloves, parkas, rubber boots, hats, raincoats, ordinary sunglasses and sunscreen (29 CFR 1910.132(h)(4)). Regardless of this, many employers provide their workers with winter weather gear such as winter coats/jackets and gloves.

Learn more about PPE requirements: Personal Protective Equipment (OSHA Safety and Health Topics Page).


Wind Chill temperature

Outdoor workers exposed to cold and windy conditions are at risk of cold stress, both air temperature and wind speed affect how cold they feel. Wind Chill is the term used to describe the rate of heat loss from the human body, resulting from the combined effect of low air temperature and wind speed. The Wind Chill temperature is a single value that takes both air temperature and wind speed into account. For example, when the air temperature is 40°F, and the wind speed is 35 mph, the wind chill temperature is 28°F; this measurement is the actual effect of the environmental cold on the exposed skin.

National Weather Service (NWS) Wind Chill Calculator: With this tool, one may input the air temperature and wind speed, and it will calculate the wind chill temperature.

The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) developed the following Work/Warm-up Schedule for a 4-hour shift takes both air temperature and wind speed into account, to provide recommendations on scheduling work breaks and ceasing non-emergency work.



Cold Stress

Cold Stress can be prevented

It is important for employers to know the wind chill temperature so that they can gauge workers’ exposure risk better and plan how to safely do the work. It is also important to monitor workers’ physical condition during tasks, especially new workers who may not be used to working in the cold, or workers returning after spending some time away from work.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio is a nationwide network of radio stations broadcasting continuous weather information from the nearest NWS office. It will give information when wind chill conditions reach critical thresholds. A Wind Chill Warning is issued when wind chill temperatures are life threatening. A Wind Chill Advisory is issued when wind chill temperatures are potentially hazardous.

Who is affected by environmental cold?

Environmental cold can affect any worker exposed to cold air temperatures and puts workers at risk of cold stress. As wind speed increases, it causes the cold air temperature to feel even colder, increasing the risk of cold stress to exposed workers, especially those working outdoors, such as recreational workers, snow cleanup crews, construction workers, police officers and firefighters. Other workers who may be affected by exposure to environmental cold conditions include those in transit, baggage handlers, water transportation, landscaping services and support activities for oil and gas operations.

Risk factors for cold stress include:

  • Wetness/dampness, dressing improperly and exhaustion
  • Predisposing health conditions such as hypertension, hypothyroidism and diabetes
  • Poor physical conditioning

What is cold stress?

What constitutes cold stress and its effects can vary across different areas of the country. In regions that are not used to winter weather, near freezing temperatures are considered factors for “cold stress.” Increased wind speed also causes heat to leave the body more rapidly (wind chill effect). Wetness or dampness, even from body sweat, also facilitates heat loss from the body. Cold stress occurs by driving down the skin temperature, and eventually the internal body temperature. When the body is unable to warm itself, serious cold-related illnesses and injuries may occur, and permanent tissue damage and death may result. Types of cold stress include: trench foot, frostbite and hypothermia.

For more information, see OSHA’s Cold Stress Safety and Health Guide.

How can cold stress be prevented?

Although OSHA does not have a specific standard that covers working in cold environments, under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) of 1970, employers have a duty to protect workers from recognized hazards, including cold stress hazards, that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm in the workplace.

  • Employers should train workers. Training should include:
    • How to recognize the environmental and workplace conditions that can lead to cold stress.
    • The symptoms of cold stress, how to prevent cold stress and what to do to help those who are affected.
    • How to select proper clothing for cold, wet and windy conditions.
  • Employers should:
    • Monitor workers physical condition.
    • Schedule frequent short breaks in warm, dry areas to allow the body to warm up.
    • Schedule work during the warmest part of the day.
    • Use the buddy system (work in pairs).
    • Provide warm, sweet beverages. Avoid drinks with alcohol.
    • Provide engineering controls such as radiant heaters.

Types of Cold Stress

Immersion/Trench Foot

Trench foot is a non-freezing injury of the feet caused by prolonged exposure to wet and cold conditions. It can occur in temperatures as high as 60°F if feet are constantly wet. Injury occurs because wet feet lose heat 25 times faster than dry feet.

What are they symptoms of trench foot?

Reddening skin, tingling, pain, swelling, leg cramps, numbness and blisters.

First Aid

  • Call 911 immediately in an emergency; otherwise seek medical assistance as soon as possible.
  • Remove wet shoes/boots and wet socks.
  • Dry the feet and avoid working on them.
  • Keep affected feet elevated and avoid walking. Get medical attention.

Frostbite

Frostbite is caused by the freezing of the skin and tissues. Frostbite can cause permanent damage to the body, and in severe cases can lead to amputation. The risk of frostbite is increased in people with reduced blood circulation and among people who are not dressed properly for extremely cold temperatures.

What are the symptoms of frostbite?

Reddened skin develops gray/white patches in the fingers, toes, nose or ear lobes; tingling, aching, a loss of feeling, firm/hard blisters may occur in the affected areas.

First Aid

  • Follow the recommendations described below for hypothermia.
  • Protect the frostbitten area, e.g., by wrapping loosely in a dry cloth and protect the area from contact until medical help arrives.
  • DO NOT rub the affected area, because rubbing causes damage to the skin and tissue.
  • Do not apply snow or water. Do not break blisters.
  • DO NOT try to re-warm the frostbitten area before getting medical help, for example, do not use heating pads or place in warm water. If a frostbitten area is rewarmed and gets frozen again, more tissue damage will occur. It is safer for the frostbitten area to be rewarmed by medical professionals.
  • Give warm sweetened drinks if alert (no alcohol).

Hypothermia

Hypothermia occurs when the normal body temperature (98.6°F) drops to less than 95°F. Exposure to cold temperatures causes the body to lose heat faster than it can be produced. Prolonged exposure to cold will eventually use up the body’s stored energy. The result is hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature. Hypothermia is most likely at very cold temperatures, but it can occur even at cool temperatures (above 40°F) if a person becomes chilled from rain, sweat or immersion in cold water.

What are the symptoms of hypothermia?

An important mild symptom of hypothermia is uncontrollable shivering, which should not be ignored. Although shivering indicates that the body is losing heat, it also helps the body to rewarm itself. Moderate to severe symptoms of hypothermia are loss of coordination, confusion, slurred speech, heart rate/breathing slow, unconsciousness and possibly death. Body temperature that is too low affects the brain, making the victim unable to think clearly or move well. This makes hypothermia particularly dangerous because a person may not know what is happening and won’t be able to do anything about it.

First Aid

  • Call 911 immediately in an emergency:
  • Move the worker to a warm, dry area.
  • Remove any wet clothing and replace with dry clothing. Wrap the entire body (including the head and neck) in layers of blankets; and with a vapor barrier (e.g. tarp, garbage bag) Do not cover the face.
  • If medical help is more than 30 minutes away:
    • Give warm sweetened drinks if alert (no alcohol), to help increase the body temperature. Never try to give a drink to an unconscious person.
    • Place warm bottles or hot packs in armpits, sides of chest and groin. Call 911 for additional rewarming instructions.

Basic Life Support (when necessary)

Co-workers trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) may help a person suffering from hypothermia that has no pulse or is not breathing:

  • Call 911 for emergency medical assistance immediately.
  • Treat the worker as per instructions for hypothermia, but be very careful and do not try to give an unconscious person fluids.
  • Check him/her for signs of breathing and for a pulse. Check for 60 seconds.
  • If after 60 seconds the affected worker is not breathing and does not have a pulse, trained workers may start rescue breaths for 3 minutes.
  • Recheck for breathing and pulse, check for 60 seconds.
  • If the worker is still not breathing and has no pulse, continue rescue breathing.
  • Only start chest compressions per the direction of the 911 operator or emergency medical services*
  • Reassess patient’s physical status periodically.

*Chest compression are recommended only if the patient will not receive medical care within three hours.


Winter driving

Although employers cannot control roadway conditions, they can promote safe driving behavior by ensuring workers: recognize the hazards of winter weather driving, for example, driving on snow/ice covered roads; are properly trained for driving in winter weather conditions; and are licensed (as applicable) for the vehicles they operate. For information about driving safely during the winter, visit OSHA’s Safe Winter Driving page.

Employers should set and enforce driver safety policies. Employers should also implement an effective maintenance program for all vehicles and mechanized equipment that workers are required to operate. Crashes can be avoided. Learn more at: Motor Vehicle Safety (OSHA Safety and Health Topic’s Page).

Employers should ensure properly trained workers’ inspect the following vehicle systems to determine if they are working properly:

  • Brakes: Brakes should provide even and balanced braking. Also check that brake fluid is at the proper level.
  • Cooling System: Ensure a proper mixture of 50/50 antifreeze and water in the cooling system at the proper level.
  • Electrical System: Check the ignition system and make sure that the battery is fully charged and that the connections are clean. Check that the alternator belt is in good condition with proper tension.
  • Engine: Inspect all engine systems.
  • Exhaust System: Check exhaust for leaks and that all clamps and hangers are snug.
  • Tires: Check for proper tread depth and no signs of damage or uneven wear. Check for proper tire inflation.
  • Oil: Check that oil is at proper level.
  • Visibility Systems: Inspect all exterior lights, defrosters (windshield and rear window), and wipers. Install winter windshield wipers.

An emergency kit with the following items is recommended in vehicles:

  • Cellphone or two-way radio
  • Windshield ice scraper
  • Snow brush
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Shovel
  • Tow chain
  • Traction aids (bag of sand or cat litter)
  • Emergency flares
  • Jumper cables
  • Snacks
  • Water
  • Road maps
  • Blankets, change of clothes

Practice cold weather driving!

  • During daylight, rehearse maneuver slowly on the ice or snow in an empty lot
  • Steer into a skid
  • Know what your brakes will do: stomp on antilock brakes, pump non-antilock brakes
  • Stopping distances are longer on watercovered ice and ice
  • Don’t idle for a long time with the windows up or in an enclosed space

Prevent crashes

  • Drugs and alcohol never mix with driving
  • Slow down and increase distances between cars
  • Keep your eyes open for pedestrians walking in the road
  • Avoid fatigue – Get plenty of rest before the trip, stop at least every three hours and rotate drivers if possible

Stranded in a vehicle

  • If you are stranded in a vehicle, stay in the vehicle. Call for emergency assistance if needed, response time may be slow in severe winter weather conditions. Notify your supervisor of your situation. Do not leave the vehicle to search for assistance unless help is visible within 100 yards. You may become disoriented and get lost in blowing and drifting snow. Display a trouble sign by raising the hood. Turn on the vehicle’s engine for about 10 minutes each hour and run the heat to keep warm. Also, turn on the vehicle’s dome light when the vehicle is running as an additional signal. Beware of carbon monoxide poisoning. Keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow and open a downwind window slightly for ventilation.
  • Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia. Do minor exercises to maintain good blood circulation in your body. Clap hands and move arms and legs occasionally. Try not to stay in one position for too long. Stay awake, you will be less vulnerable to cold-related health problems. Use blankets, newspapers, maps, and even the removable car mats for added insulation. Avoid overexertion since cold weather puts an added strain on the heart. Unaccustomed exercise such as shoveling snow or pushing a vehicle can bring on a heart attack or make other medical conditions worse.   

Shoveling snow

  • Shoveling snow can be a strenuous activity, particularly because cold weather can be tasking on the body. There is a potential for exhaustion, dehydration, back injuries or heart attacks. During snow removal, in addition to following the tips for avoiding cold stress, such as taking frequent breaks in warm areas, there are other precautions workers can take to avoid injuries. Workers should warm-up before the activity, scoop small amounts of snow at a time and where possible, push the snow instead of lifting it. The use of proper lifting technique is necessary to avoid back and other injuries when shoveling snow: keep the back straight, lift with the legs and do not turn or twist the body.

Using powered equipment like snow blowers

  • It is important to make sure that powered equipment, such as snow blowers are properly grounded to protect workers from electric shocks or electrocutions. When performing maintenance or cleaning, make sure the equipment is properly guarded and is disconnected from power sources.
  • Snow blowers commonly cause lacerations or amputations when operators attempt to clear jams with the equipment turned on. Never attempt to clear a jam by hand. First, turn the snow blower off and wait for all moving parts to stop, and then use a long stick to clear wet snow or debris from the machine. Keep your hands and feet away from moving parts. Refuel a snow blower prior to starting the machine; do not add fuel when the equipment is running or when the engine is hot.

Fall prevention

Preventing slips on snow and ice

To prevent slips, trips and falls, employers should clear snow and ice from walking surfaces and spread deicer, as quickly as possible after a winter storm. When walking on snow or ice is unavoidable workers should be trained to:

  • Wear footwear that has good traction and insulation (e.g. insulated and water resistant boots or rubber over-shoes with good rubber treads)
  • Take short steps and walk at a slower pace to react quickly to changes in traction

Preventing falls when removing snow from elevated surfaces

OSHA’s Hazard Alert and winter weather webpages provide guidance to employers on how to prevent serious injuries and fatalities. Employers should consider options to avoid working on roofs or elevated heights, plan ahead for safe snow removal and must:

  • Provide required fall protection and training when working on the roof or elevated heights
  • Ensure ladders are used safely (e.g. clearing snow and ice from surfaces)
  • Use extreme caution when working near power lines
  • Prevent harmful exposure to cold temperatures and physical exertion

Safety Tips for Workers

  • Your employer should ensure that you know the symptoms of cold stress
  • Monitor your physical condition and that of your coworkers
  • Dress appropriately for the cold
  • Stay dry in the cold because moisture or dampness, e.g. from sweating, can increase the rate of heat loss from the body
  • Keep extra clothing (including underwear) handy in case you get wet and need to change
  • Drink warm sweetened fluids (no alcohol)
  • Use proper engineering controls, safe work practices and personal protective equipment (PPE) provided by your employer

Dressing Properly for the Cold

Dressing properly is extremely important to preventing cold stress. When cold environments or temperatures cannot be avoided, the following would help protect workers from cold stress:

  • Wear at least three layers of loose fitting clothing. Layering provides better insulation.
    • An inner layer of wool, silk or synthetic (polypropylene) to keep moisture away from the body. Thermal wear, wool, silk or polypropylene, inner layers of clothing that will hold more body heat than cotton.
    • A middle layer of wool or synthetic to provide insulation even when wet.
    • An outer wind and rain protection layer that allows some ventilation to prevent overheating.
  • Tight clothing reduces blood circulation. Warm blood needs to be circulated to the extremities. Insulated coat/jacket (water resistant if necessary)
  • Knit mask to cover face and mouth (if needed)
  • Hat that will cover your ears as well. A hat will help keep your whole body warmer. Hats reduce the amount of body heat that escapes from your head.
  • Insulated gloves (water resistant if necessary), to protect the hands
  • Insulated and waterproof boots to protect the feet

Know your winter weather terms

Blizzard Warning: Issued for sustained or gusty winds of 35 mph or more, and falling or blowing snow creating visibilities at or below 1/4 mile; these conditions should persist for at least three hours.

Wind Chill Advisory: Issued when wind chill temperatures are expected to be a significant inconvenience to life with prolonged exposure, and, if caution is not exercised, could lead to hazardous exposure.

Wind Chill Warning: Issued when wind chill temperatures are expected to be hazardous to life within several minutes of exposure.

Winter Storm Warning: Issued when hazardous winter weather in the form of heavy snow, blizzard conditions, heavy freezing rain or heavy sleet is imminent or occurring. Winter Storm Warnings are usually issued 12 to 24 hours before the event is expected to begin.

Winter Storm Watch: Alerts the public to the possibility of a blizzard, heavy snow, heavy freezing rain or heavy sleet. Winter Storm watches are usually issued 12 to 48 hours before the beginning of a winter storm.

Winter Weather Advisories: Issued for accumulations of snow, freezing rain, freezing drizzle and sleet which will cause significant inconveniences and, if caution is not exercised, could lead to life threatening situations.

(From: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA))

 

Rail Workers Hazardous Materials Training Program to hold classes

The Rail Workers Hazardous Materials Training Program is pleased to announce the following HazMat/Chemical Emergency Response Training Programs. This training addresses OSHA and DOT required training in addition to procedures, different levels of response and worker protection in a hazardous materials emergency or release, weapons of mass destruction awareness and the incident command system. The training also provides completion of the OSHA 10-Hour General Industry Outreach requirements. The programs are delivered using interactive classroom instruction, small group activities, hands-on drills and a simulated hazmat response in full safety gear.

The Rail Workers Hazardous Materials Training Program is funded to provide this training by a federal grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). This five-day hazmat training course will provide rail workers the essential knowledge, skills, and response actions in the case of an unintentional release. These tools will allow rail workers to protect themselves, their co-workers and their communities.

The funding provides the following student expenses: air travel, lodging and meals. In addition, an incentive of $175.00 per day is available to all training participants of these programs, except those who are able to secure regular pay through their employer, or are paid union officers.

The dates of the training class are as follows:

  • November 12-17, 2017
  • January 7-12, 2018
  • February 11-16, 2018
  • March 18-23, 2018

Training will be conducted at the Houston Fire Department’s Val Jahnke Training Facility, 8030 Braniff Street Houston, TX 77061.

Programs begin Sunday evenings* at 5:30 p.m. and conclude Fridays at 1:00 p.m. Students may be asked to travel on Saturdays to meet program start times or where substantial reductions in airfare warrant. When registering, please select dates in order of preference:

Click here for a printable information sheet.

Click here to register for classes.

For phone inquiries please call 202-624-6963, Monday through Friday, between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. EST.

Water. Rest. Shade. – OSHA’s campaign to keep workers safe in the heat

The Campaign

OSHA’s Heat Illness Prevention campaign, launched in 2011, educates employers and workers on the dangers of working in the heat. Through training sessions, outreach events, informational sessions, publications, social media messaging and media appearances, millions of workers and employers have learned how to protect workers from heat. OSHA’s safety message comes down to three key words: Water. Rest. Shade.

Dangers of Working in the Heat

Every year, dozens of workers die and thousands more become ill while working in extreme heat or humid conditions. More than 40 percent of heat-related worker deaths occur in the construction industry, but workers in every field are susceptible. There are a range of heat illnesses and they can affect anyone, regardless of age or physical condition.

Heat-related Illnesses and First Aid

Heat stroke, the most serious form of heat-related illness, happens when the body becomes unable to regulate its core temperature. Sweating stops and the body can no longer rid itself of excess heat.

Symptoms: Signs include confusion, loss of consciousness and seizures.

First Aid: Heat stroke is a medical emergency that may result in death! Call 911 immediately. While waiting for help place the worker in a shady and cool area; loosen clothing and remove outer clothing; fan air on the worker and place cold packs in armpits; wet the worker with cool water; provide fluids (preferably water) as soon as possible and stay with the worker until help arrives.

Heat exhaustion is the body’s response to loss of water and salt from heavy sweating.

Symptoms: Signs include headache, nausea or vomiting, dizziness, weakness, light headedness, irritability, thirst and heavy sweating.

First aid for heat exhaustion includes: have the worker sit or lie down in a cool, shady area; give the worker plenty of water or other cool beverages to drink; cool the worker with cold compresses or ice packs; if symptoms worsen or do not improve within 60 minutes, take the worker to a clinic or emergency room for evaluation; the worker should not return to work that day.

Heat cramps are caused by the loss of body salts and fluid during sweating. Low salt levels in muscles cause painful cramps. Tired muscles—those used for performing the work—are usually the ones most affected by cramps. Cramps may occur during or after working hours.

Symptoms include muscle spasms, pain usually in the abdomen, arms or legs

First aid for heat cramps include: have worker rest in a shady, cool area; worker should drink water or other cool beverages; wait a few hours before allowing the worker to return to strenuous work; have worker seek medical attention if cramps don’t go away.

Heat rash, also known as prickly heat, is skin irritation caused by sweat that does not evaporate from the skin. Heat rash is the most common problem in hot work environments.

Symptoms include clusters of red bumps on the skin, often appearing on the neck, upper chest and in folds of skin.

First aid includes keeping the worker in a cooler, less humid environment when possible and keeping the affected area dry.

Employer Responsibility to Protect Workers

Under OSHA law, employers are responsible for providing workplaces free of known safety hazards. This includes protecting workers from extreme heat. An employer with workers exposed to high temperatures should establish a complete heat illness prevention program.

  • Provide workers with water, rest and shade.
  • Allow new or returning workers to gradually increase workloads and take more frequent breaks as they acclimatize, or build a tolerance for working in the heat.
  • Plan for emergencies and train workers on prevention.
  • Monitor workers for signs of illness.

Resources

OSHA’s Occupational Exposure to Heat page explains what employers can do to keep workers safe and what workers need to know – including factors for heat illness, adapting to working in indoor and outdoor heat, protecting workers, recognizing symptoms and first aid training. Also look for heat illness educational and training materials on OSHA’s Publications page.

OSHA finds Amtrak in violation of Federal Railroad Safety Act

BOSTON – The National Railroad Passenger Corp., better known as Amtrak, retaliated against a supervisory special agent in its inspector general’s office when he raised concerns about railroad safety, fraud and abuse involving an Amtrak contractor and when he supported a fellow agent’s safety concerns during an internal investigation, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has found.

In early to mid-2010, the agent was investigating an Amtrak contractor that had been convicted in a New York state court for fraud in examining and testing concrete at building projects in the New York City area. This Amtrak contractor had performed testing on certain Amtrak tunnel projects. Strongly believing it was necessary for safety and security reasons, the agent raised safety concerns regarding work performed by this contractor on Amtrak projects.

Then, in October 2010, the agent gave Amtrak’s Dispute Resolution Office information and provided support for a fellow employee who had received a letter of reprimand after he raised safety concerns in a separate matter. The following month, the agent received his first-ever negative performance review. In March 2011, Amtrak notified him that – as a part of an overall reorganization – his position was being eliminated. In the course of the next few months, the agent applied for other positions, but was told that he lacked the required law enforcement training, despite a 40-year law enforcement career that included equivalent training. In June 2011, Amtrak notified the agent that he would be terminated due to his not being placed in a new position.

The terminated agent later filed a whistleblower complaint with OSHA. After concluding its investigation, the agency determined that the complainant engaged in protected Federal Railroad Safety Act activities when he raised concerns about safety issues related to work conducted by the Amtrak contractor and when he expressed his support of his fellow agent’s safety complaints. OSHA also found these protected activities contributed as factors in his termination by Amtrak.

“In this case, an employee was terminated for pursuing and reporting safety concerns. The employer’s retaliation is unacceptable and illegal. Federal law gives rail carrier employees the right to raise safety, health and security concerns with their supervisors without fear of retaliation. When retaliation occurs, it can have a chilling effect on employees and create a climate of silence where employees’ fear to speak up masks conditions that could impact their health and well-being, and that of their customers,” said Jeffrey Erskine, OSHA’s acting New England regional administrator.

OSHA has issued a notice of findings to Amtrak ordering it to take the following corrective actions:

  • Reinstate the employee to his former or a similar position with all rights, seniority and benefits he would have received had he not been discharged.
  • Pay him a total of $892,551, which is comprised of $723,332 in back wages plus $34,218 in interest; $100,000 in punitive damages; $35,000 in compensatory damages; plus reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.
  • Expunge from Amtrak’s records all references related to his discharge and exercise of his FRSA rights; make no adverse statements concerning his employment at Amtrak; and not retaliate or discriminate against him in any manner.
  • Post a notice to all railroad employees about their FRSA rights.

The employee and Amtrak each have 30 days from receipt of OSHA’s findings to file objections and request a hearing before the Labor Department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges.

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the FRSA and 21 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, worker safety, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime and securities laws.

Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise various protected concerns or provide protected information to the employer or to the government. Employees who believe that they have been retaliated against for engaging in protected conduct may file a complaint with the Secretary of Labor to request an investigation by OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program. Detailed information on employee whistleblower rights, including fact sheets, is available at http://www.whistleblowers.gov.

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 finds BNSF retaliated against worker, orders railroad to pay back wages

BNSF Railway to pay more than $147K in back wages, damages to former employee

DENVER – An investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has found that BNSF Railway Company violated federal law when it terminated a track inspector for insubordination after the employee reported railroad track defects to management.

OSHA has ordered BNSF to pay more than $147,000 in back wages and damages and take other corrective actions. Agency investigators determined the company retaliated against the former employee in violation of the Federal Railroad Safety Act. A Berkshire Hathaway company, BNSF is an international railroad operator headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas. It employs more than 42,000 employees.

“BNSF employees have the right to protect their safety and that of other employees and the public without fear of retaliation by their employer,” said Gregory Baxter, regional OSHA administrator in Denver. “Our investigation and our actions on this worker’s behalf underscores the agency’s commitment to take vigorous action to protect workers’ rights.”

The company and the former employee may file objections or request a hearing, within 30 days of receipt of the agency’s order, before the department’s Office of Administrative Law Judges.

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of the CPSIA and 21 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various airline, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health care reform, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime and securities laws.

Employees who believe that they have been retaliated against for engaging in protected conduct may file a complaint with the secretary of labor. More information is available online at http://www.whistleblowers.gov/index.html.