Congress Reaches Consensus on OSHA 2012 Budget

[tweetmeme]Congress has reached an agreement on fiscal year 2012 spending after passing seven continuing resolutions over the past few months.  The FY2012 budget agreement is in the form of an omnibus bill that rolled all of the remaining appropriations bills into one big bill.  After all the political fighting back and forth, Congress decided to reverse some of the Obama administrations priorities of the past couple of years.  Gone are the increasing budgets for enforcement and new field compliance officers, this budget is aimed at returning OSHA to offering more compliance assistance and investing in public/private partnerships.

OSHA’s 2012 Budget 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) budget will increase by a little more than $7 million in 2012, however the way that money is to be spent will change.  Compliance assistance programs received the largest increase in OSHA’s budget nearly $6.5 million more than the Obama administration had requested.   Most of the other budget increases requested by Obama were rejected by Congress, including an $8 million request for increased enforcement.

Say Goodbye to the idea of a MSD Column on the OSHA 300 Log

In one of the more interesting turn of events, Congress included an addendum to OSHA’s budget which states that “None of the funds made available may be used to continue the development of or to promulgate, administer, enforce, or otherwise implement the Occupational Injury and Illness Recording and Reporting Requirements – Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD) Column being developed by OSHA.”

MSHA Receives a Boost!

Also as expected the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) received a $12 million boost in their budget for increased coal enforcement, technical support and program administration.  The National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH) budget was severely slashed by Congress to the tune of $41 million decrease.  This is somewhat explained by the addition of funding from the “evaluation tap funding” which puts NIOSH’s reduction closer to $22 million.

A complete breakdown of how the 2012 budget may look is presented here:

December—Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month

[tweetmeme]December is Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month, and with the onset of the holidays and winter weather, it’s a good opportunity to remind employees about driving safely both on and off the job.

Why It Matters …

  •  More than 13,000 people died in work-related roadway accidents in the United States between 1992 and 2001.
  •  In 2002 alone, more than 17,000 people in the United States died in alcohol-related roadway accidents.
  •  Accidents involving drugs and alcohol will affect one in three Americans during their lifetime.

Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of work-related deaths.

Roadway accidents not only kill employees such as truck drivers, who spend all of their time on the road, but also employees who simply are using their own or a company vehicle for job-related purposes.  A National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) study of 3,000 work-related driving fatalities showed that a highway tragedy can happen to any
employee under any circumstances. The study found:

  •  Nearly half of all accidents involve something other than another motor vehicle—in fact, 14 percent of the workers killed were pedestrians.
  •  More than two-thirds of accidents occur among workers aged 25 to 54.
  •  85 percent of accidents occur during normal weather conditions.

Drinking, drugs, and driving are a fatal combination.  More than 40 percent of all traffic-related deaths in the United States involve alcohol, and drugs such as cocaine and marijuana are involved in approximately 20 percent of fatalities.  Most tragic of all, these accidents often involve children under the legal driving age who are passengers riding with drivers under the influence.   Only 20 percent of the children killed in alcohol-related accidents were wearing proper safety restraints (seat belts or car seats).

Remind employees to take safe driving seriously.

Fatal highway accidents can have a tragic impact on their own and their families’ lives.

  • Mandatory seat belt use for job-related driving—62 percent of the victims in the NIOSH study were NOT wearing any sort of restraints.
  • Everyone should always, at a minimum, check such basic items as tires, front and rear lights, wipers, and washer fluid before starting out.
  • Take it easy in bad weather such as snow and ice—it’s better to arrive late than not at all.

NIOSH and OSHA release “Nail Gun Safety: A Guide for Construction Contractors”

[tweetmeme]According to the newly released guidance on nail gun safety by NIOSH and OSHA; Nail gun injuries are so common that two out of five residential carpenter apprentices experienced a nail gun injury over a four-year period. The guidance document is primarily for residential home builders and construction contractors, subcontractors, and supervisors. According to the document; NIOSH and OSHA developed it to give construction employers the information they need to prevent nail gun injuries.

The guidance document covers nailers used for fastening wood, shingles, and siding materials, it also refers specifically to pneumatic tools but also applies to nail guns that use gas, electric, or hybrid power sources. It is a well constructed guide book that will provide some basic safety tips for use of nailers. It is my hope that someone actually reads it besides us safety professionals!

You can find it at:

New NIOSH fact sheet on CBRN respirators available

[tweetmeme]The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recently released a fact sheet to support the voluntary approval program for Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) respirators. The fact sheet, “What’s so special about CBRN self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA)?” explains the requirements of Title 42 CFR Part 84, for NIOSH-issued certifications of approval for SCBA.

The fact sheet details standards and test procedures that have significant impact on the selection, use, and maintenance procedures of CBRN SCBA as compared to other NIOSH-approved SCBA respirators. NIOSH says that in order to properly care for and effectively use a CBRN SCBA, one must understand the standards and test procedures for the equipment.

Tests described in the fact sheet include chemical agent permeation and penetration tests and laboratory respiratory protection level (LRPL) tests.

In addition, NIOSH provides information on how to determine if a SCBA is NIOSH-approved for the CBRN protection level and shows users what to look for on an approval label.

The fact sheet also includes requirements for retrofitting a field deployed SCBA to CBRN protection level. Read more at


OSHA Spared Congress Cost Cutting Axe…For Now!

[tweetmeme]Last Saturday, Congress agreed to again extend federal spending by passing a short-term continuing resolution – allowing the federal government to continue operating for one additional week while details were worked out on a federal budget for the remaining six months in the FY11 federal budget.  On Tuesday, Congress began providing details on the remainder of the FY11 budget – both spending limits and cuts that would take place.

The bill provides OSHA with last year’s funding level of $558.6 million. The original proposal would have cut $99 million or 18 percent from the agency’s budget. However, while OSHA was spared from major cuts, agency will take a cut of $1.2 million because of the “across the board” 2 percent cut in federal spending. According Aaron Trippler, Government Affairs Director for AIHA, there has also been word from several OSHA insiders that the 2012 budget will encompass huge cuts, perhaps taking the agency back to 2006 spending levels.

Other Agencies according AIHA Happenings on the Hill Report:


The Environmental Protection Agency is facing a huge cut of $1.6 billion, or 16 percent. Added to that is the 2% rescission will be in addition to this.


The bill provides MSHA with $363.8 million, an increase of $6.5 million over last year.  MSHA may also hit with the 2% across the board reduction.


NIOSH will take a $49 million hit for the reminder of this fiscal year.  There was some concern that this $49 million would come from the ERC and the AFF program funds.  However, sources say most of the $49 million in cuts are World Trade Center related and will not impact ERC or AFF funding.  NIOSH is also expected to face the across the board 2% cut in spending.

MSHA Proposes New Rule for Respirable Coal Dust Exposure

[tweetmeme]The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has proposed a rule to lower miners’ exposure to respirable coat dust in all underground and surface coal mines. The action is the latest in MSHA’s End Black Lung—Act Now campaign. The proposal combines prior steps addressing lowering dust exposure, single sample, plan verification, and the use of continuous personal dust monitors.  It would also implement recommendations contained in the 1995 NIOSH report and other reports.

The NIOSH report can be accessed electronically at, and the dust advisory committee report can be accessed at

The rule would lower the existing concentration limits from 2 milligrams of dust per cubic meter of air, or 2 mg/m(3), to 1 mg/m(3) over a 24-month phase-in period. Among other provisions, it would:

  • Require the use of continuous personal dust monitors.
  • Provide for use of a single, full-shift sample to determine compliance.
  • Address extended work shifts.
  • Redefine normal production shifts.
  • Expand medical surveillance.

MSHA points to recent NIOSH data indicating that cases of black lung are increasing among the nation’s coal miners, even younger miners. Over the past decade more than 10,000 miners have died from black lung. The federal government has paid out more than $44 billion in compensation for miners totally disabled by the condition since 1970.

A fact sheet on the proposal is posted on the MSHA website,

NIOSH seeking comments on Asbestos Roadmap: April 16, 2010 deadline

[tweetmeme] The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) requests comment on the draft Current Intelligence Bulletin (CIB) “Asbestos Fibers and Other Elongate Mineral Particles: State of the Science and Roadmap for Research Version 4”, NIOSH Docket Number NIOSH 099-C.

A list of the various draft versions disseminated for public comment and/or scientific peer review is presented here.

February 2007Draft entitled Asbestos and Other Mineral Fibers: A Roadmap for Scientific Research was disseminated for public comment and scientific peer review.

June 2008Draft entitled Revised Draft NIOSH CURRENT INTELLIGENCE BULLETIN – Asbestos Fibers and Other Elongate Mineral Particles: State of the Science and Roadmap for Research was disseminated for public comment.

January 2009Draft entitled Revised Draft NIOSH CURRENT INTELLIGENCE BULLETIN – Asbestos Fibers and Other Elongated Mineral Particles: State of the Science and Roadmap for Research was submitted to the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council of the National Academies of Science for scientific review.The National Academies’ report can be found at:

January 2010 Draft entitled Draft NIOSH CURRENT INTELLIGENCE BULLETIN – Asbestos Fibers and Other Elongate Mineral Particles: State of the Science and Roadmap for Research – Version 4 is being disseminated for public comment.

Comments will be accepted until 5:00 p.m. EDT on April 16, 2010

NIOSH Director blames Safety Professionals for failures such as ‘Bay of Pigs’

[tweetmeme]In a ridiculous rant earlier this week Dr. John Howard showed once again why he was removed from his position as Director of NIOSH in 2008 (only to be reinstated by the current administration).  He contented that safety professionals need to overcome their “biases and complacency” to avoid decision-making failures and ensure workers stay safe.   Speaking Tuesday at the 20th Annual Construction Safety Conference & Exposition in Rosemont, IL, Howard cited historical events such as the failed 1961 Bay of Pigs operation to overthrow Fidel Castro and the 1986 loss of the Challenger Space Shuttle as examples of decision-making failures.   As though these failures were somehow the fault of the safety professionals charged with these projects, and not EXECUTIVE level failures!

He said such failures are due, in part, to individual biases (in safety professionals?) in which people can be overconfident and rely too heavily on data that confirms pre-existing beliefs while downplaying contrary information.  Decisions made at the group level, Howard asserted, often are inferior to those that may be made by the best-qualified individual in the group.  Although I do agree with this, it isn’t aligned with his previous assertion that fault lies with the safety professionals bias.  Dr. Howard is confused, if he thinks safety professionals aren’t being overruled daily throughout this country by executives who routinely minimize the safety element in favor of short term profits.  One need look no further than the Big Blue Crane collapse in Milwaukee or the 18 deaths that occurred along the Las Vegas Strip between 2006 and 2008.

 He said more disconfirming questions need to be asked.  As if safety professionals aren’t voicing enough concern, if we only yell louder management will hear us?  That’s like asking a tourist who doesn’t speak French to yell louder at the Hotel clerk in Paris who doesn’t speak English, in order to be better understood.  If Dr. Howard really wants to engage in a positive dialogue with companies regarding the increased need for safety, then he should start by encouraging his compatriots at OSHA to knock off the “new sheriff in town” rhetoric.  The alienation of top management and small businesses in this country in the past year by Federal OSHA and others has to stop if we truly want to increase safety and kick start this economy.

DOL/OSHA schedules conference on Latino worker safety and health

[tweetmeme]OSHA will convene a National Action Summit for Latino Worker Health and Safety, April 14-15, 2010 at the Hilton Americas Hotel in Houston.   The conference is co-sponsored by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).  The emphasis on engaging Latino workforce was announced back on Labor Day, by Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis.

According to an OSHA press release, “the conference will bring together workers and representatives from employer associations, labor unions, the faith community, community organizations, the medical community, safety and health professionals, educators, government officials, Consulates, the entertainment community and other non-traditional partners.”

Of course with construction deaths and injuries, among Latinos, significantly higher than in the general population, construction will be primary industry targeted.  The Department of Labor indicates that latino immigrant workers comprise almost one quarter of the construction industry workforce and suffer the highest rate of construction-related deaths. 

It should not be lost on anyone that the conference is scheduled to be held in Texas either.  Texas’ workplace fatality rates were three times higher, than that of the National average in 2009, and got the attention of Secretary Solis last Summer.  Solis sent a ‘posse’ of OSHA compliance officers into Texas to strengthen enforcement and showcase OSHA’s new tough stance on compliance within high risk industries.

According to OSHA the conference will also target other high-risk industries that employ large numbers of Latino workers.  “Far too many Latino workers have needlessly lost their lives just trying to earn a living and it must stop,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA David Michaels. ” 

You can register online at beginning Wednesday, January 13.

Back Injuries can be costly and no evidence that back belts help

[tweetmeme]Back injuries can be extremely painful and long-lasting.  OSHA reports that “Back strain due to overexertion represents one of the largest segments of employee injuries in the American workplace.  Only the common cold accounts for more lost days of work.”  The National Safety Council has stated that overexertion is the cause of about 31% of all disabling work injuries, and the American Physical Therapy Association has indicated that back pain is the most common cause of loss of activity among adults under 45 and that more than 80% of workers suffer back pain at some time during their careers.

An unconditioned back can result in back pain. This usually occurs when someone who normally doesn’t use their back at work for physical labor becomes a “weekend warrior” and takes on a home project that requires a lot of lifting or other back strain.  This person will suffer pain because their unconditioned back is not used to the strain they placed on it

Tips to reduce the likelihood of back injuries:

  • Never lift heavy objects alone. Use a two-person approach, with one person directing the lift.
  • Move together, keeping the load level, and unload at the same time.
  • Do not attempt to readjust your grip or catch a falling load.  This sudden movement will likely result in some type of injury.
  • Always maintain good back posture.  Think about your back when standing, sitting, laying down, walking, working, etc.
  • Long objects, such as lumber, piping, or long boxes, should be carried over the shoulder, being careful the ends don’t hit persons or objects.
  • Bags and sacks should be lifted by grasping opposite ends and propelling your body upwards with your legs.  Let the load rest on your hip or your shoulder.
  • Use mechanical aids such as a forklift, dollie, or hand cart, when necessary

The use of back belts to reduce back injuries however has been a topic of repeated debate.  While many studies have concluded that back belts can help support the back and remind the wearer to maintain correct back posture, there are also drawbacks of regular back belt use.  Back belts are often not fitted and worn correctly, which means they are not providing the intended benefits.  A worker who relies on the support of a back belt may actually lose strength in the muscles that support the back because they are not used as much.  This can result in workers being injured when he/she stops wearing the back belt. 

Furthermore, many ergonomists feel that wearers of back support belts mistakenly are lead to believe that they can lift heavier loads when wearing the belt—the “Superman Syndrome”.  Several researchers have concluded that prolonged use of the belts actually cause dependency and reduction in the abdominal muscle strength and/or endurance.  Consequently, there is reason to believe that this dependency may actually increase the chances of back injury when the belt is not worn.  A few researchers have also indicated that the increased intra-abdominal pressure caused by using the belt can lead to increased systolic blood pressure impeding blood flow to the heart.

According to NIOSH Publication No. 94-127, “after a review of the scientific literature” NIOSH has concluded that, because of limitations of the studies that have analyzed workplace use of back belts, the results cannot be used to either support or refute the effectiveness of back belts in injury reduction.  Although back belts are being bought and sold under the premise that they reduce the risk of back injury, there is insufficient scientific evidence that they actually deliver what is promised.

NIOSH, therefore, does not recommend the use of back belts to prevent injuries among workers who have never been injured.  If you or your workers are wearing back belts as protective equipment against back injury, you should be aware of the lack of scientific evidence supporting their use.

University of California-Davis safety bulletin #29 for Supervisors suggests the following if your employee insists on wearing a back belt:

  • Evaluate the work area and method to see if changes can be made to reduce loads to the back.
  • Provide employees training in back injury prevention.
  • Have the employee discuss medical reasons for needing a back belt, with their occupational physician

If you decide to wear a back belt at work or at home, it is very important that you understand that:

  • You should always consult your health care provider before wearing a back belt if you are receiving medical care for back symptoms.
  • There is evidence of adverse health effects from wearing a tight back belt for prolonged periods.  Tighten the belt only for short periods.
  • Long-term use of a back belt may increase your risk of back injury when you stop wearing the belt.
  • You should always continue to use safe lifting techniques while wearing a back belt.