In response to a tragic accident at an oil refinery, OSHA has implemented policy changes that should impact Arkansas worker safety. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, also known as OSHA, made these changes in response to an investigation of the oil refinery explosion.
An explosion ripped through a BP oil refinery in the spring of 2005. This refinery was located near Houston, and the images on television showed flames tearing through the sky and debris falling all around. This oil refinery employed 1,800 workers. Sadly, 100 of those workers were injured in the explosion. Even more tragically, 15 people died as a result of the explosion.
Following this horrible explosion, OSHA made the safety of oil refinery workers a priority. This commitment on the part of the agency became clearer following a hearing that was held recently. This hearing concerned a report created by the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, also known as CSB. This report was about the explosion at the Texas refinery.
OSHA is conducting inspections on all oil refineries that fall within its jurisdiction in an effort to improve worker safety. During an inspection of another oil refinery that BP owns and operates, OSHA discovered the same violations that lead to the explosion near Houston. The inspections are necessary because OSHA feels that oil companies won’t, of their own volition, take the necessary steps to protect workers.
To conduct these inspections, OSHA has added 160 trained workers so far. These inspectors are trained in conducting Process Safety Management (PSM) inspections. By the end of August, 2007, the number of inspectors trained in conducting PSM inspections will have grown to 280.
Along with state partners, OSHA completed 100 inspections of oil refineries in 2006. They have performed an additional 50 inspections so far in 2007. These inspections are important because they help protect workers. As the US Department of Labor discovered, BP learned nothing from the tragic death of workers near Houston. The inspections by OSHA should help.
An Arkansas worker safety article recently released focuses on the risks posed by the improper operation of forklifts.
According to federal and state OSHA standards, certain considerations have to be taken into account when forming a training program for forklift operators.
Also, any forklift operator who is involved in an accident or “near miss” is required to undergo retraining. If an operator is seen to operate a forklift in an unsafe manner, he or she also has to undergo a period of retraining.
Other considerations that have to be taken into account are hazards in the workplace, the operator’s prior knowledge and skill, the type of forklift being operated and the operator’s demonstrated skill.
Forklifts are also called Powered Industrial Trucks (PITs) or fork trucks, and there are around 1.5 million workers who operate them in the course of their jobs.
They are on the whole, simple to operate, but there are some risks that operators and employers need to be aware of. The most common is that the vehicle may become unstable due to an imbalanced load.
Adding attachments can change the load bearing capacity of a forklift, and this needs to be taken into consideration. The maintenance plates and operation manual should be changed to reflect this, each time a modification takes place.
Some of the attachments that are used to modify forklifts are:
These attachments are common in the manufacturing industry.
If a load is well within the forklifts load bearing capacity, it can still cause the vehicle to become unstable if it is carried too far forward. It is also important that any attachment is counted towards the total load to be carried.
When moving a load, it should be kept as low as possible. Do not add extra weight to the rear of the forklift to compensate, as it has the effect of moving the truck’s center of gravity towards the rear axel, which is an unstable pivot point.
If you are the handy person around the house and like to tinker around with the cars too, take caution. The OSHA warns that some older models of cars and trucks may contain asbestos in the brakes and clutches. Asbestos is a fading issue with regard to buildings, as it has been banned for years. We are still not completely rid of the harmful substance yet, however.
The Arkansas Worker Safety Alert urges that everyone allow professionals to handle the brakes and clutches that need repair. Employers of these facilities should make sure that all of their workers are well aware of the risks of asbestos exposure, and what precautions to take. There should be special written procedures available for all employees so that they can handle brakes and clutches properly. It is imperative that all the clutch and brake repairs be done as if they contain asbestos. Since the particles break down to extremely tiny pieces, it is almost impossible to see the asbestos. Mechanics shouldn’t take any chances.
High levels of asbestos exposure can have deadly results. Many diseases, such as lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis claim the lives of nearly 10,000 people annually. Since asbestos can become so miniscule, once it gets into the air it can be breathed in. Long term effects of enough asbestos exposure are awful, which is why the substance was banned. Unfortunately, news of its presence in these car parts shows that we aren’t in the clear just yet.
The federal OSHA urges all employees in related industries to handle all brakes and clutches as if they contained asbestos. It is every employer’s responsibility to provide instructions that will minimize asbestos exposure in their shop or garage. It only takes one poorly handled clutch or brake to expose the entire area to this hazardous material. Everyone, please do your part and help keep yourself and others around you healthy.
Arkansas W-2 forms can be sent through email, with the consent of the employee. A paper form must be provided if the employee does not consent, however. A consent form must be physically signed by the employee in order to have a W-2 form sent electronically. Another electronic option is to post the form on a website. In order to secure personal information, a username and password should be required for each employee to access only their information on the site. Remember, the employee must sign the agreement first. If they would rather have a hard copy, it is required that they receive one.
For the past few years, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has been enforcing the law regarding W-2 forms. The IRS website says that any employees who have not received their W-2 by February 15, 2007, should contact the IRS. The IRS will see to it that the employer provides the information to the employee.
The one thing that holds every employer from using the electronic system to provide all W-2 forms is the consent. Each employee must sign a form giving the employer permission to send the form via email or post it on a website. If a website is used, a password and login must be provided so that not just anyone can view the information.
Another benefit to the electronic distribution of Arkansas W-2 forms is the speed. When the form is sent to an email address or is posted on a website for access, it is instantly available. The only issue that could arise is a returned message for an invalid address, or a spam filter deleting the message. No system can ever be perfect, I suppose.
Anyone who does not wish for their information to be submitted to them electronically does not have to agree to have it sent that way. If a worker wants to have the form issued in paper form, they should get it that way.
Five million dollars in federal grant money is coming to the delta region of Arkansas according to a recent announcement by Emily DeRocco, Assistant Secretary for the US Department of Labor. This $5 million is part of the WIRED program announced in 2007. The program was initiated in 2005 to assist areas across the nation address the issues of poor employment outlook and sluggish economic growth.
Here’s the latest update on the Arkansas unemployment grant. The state continues to prepare a detailed plan for the wire grant, using the first half million dollars in funds. Once that plan is completed and approved, the US Dept. of Labor will release the balance of the five million dollars.
The Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development (WIRED) program awarded $195 million in federal grants during the first round of operation in 2005. These original grants were distributed to 13 regions cited by their state governors as areas where economic performance is stagnant and unemployment rates are high. The current round of grants is expected to exceed $65 million.
According to Secretary DeRocco, “Strong regional economies that are built on maximizing talent and innovation will be crucial to the nation’s success in the global economy.”
In its effort to maximize talent and boost innovation in the delta region of Arkansas, the US Department of Labor is awarding $5 million to be used to train and update skills of many workers in the region. The $5 million will be funded in two phases. The first phase of funds, $500,000, will be used for immediate training opportunities while the remaining $4.5 million will be funded once an implementation plan for the region has been established.
The WIRED program falls under the auspices of the Employment and Training Administration within the US Department of Labor. US Department of Labor Secretary Elaine Chao recently endorsed the program by stating, “Investing in area workforces through this collaborative approach will boost entire regions’ economic vitality.” Secretary Chao further states, “This regional economic development strategy transcends political boundaries to better leverage a region’s assets to help workers succeed in the 21st century worldwide economy.”