Company-owned automobiles can be a big expense for an employer. The wise business owner will maintain a fleet of vehicles in tip-top shape and keep them operating effectively for as long as possible. It’s the older model cars and trucks on the job that are the subject of a recent safety alert which warns of the hazards of asbestos that might be hidden in some parts of these older vehicles.
A Delaware worker safety alert issued recently warned of the environmental dangers of working with older vehicles that may still contain asbestos in the brake or clutch systems. Asbestos is made of tiny, invisible particles that are so lightweight they become airborne and spread throughout a mechanic’s shop or other workplace. Inhalation of these parts is a grave danger to the mechanic and to anyone else who happens to be sharing the same workspace.
The industrial use of asbestos was discontinued years ago after the disastrous effects of exposure to it were documented. It was a commonly used material in the building and construction industries but, since it was banned, builders have quit using it and it was removed from most buildings that contained it. The automotive industry quit using it, too, once it was banned but older vehicles may still contain mechanical systems that have asbestos-containing parts.
The recent Delaware worker safety alert recommends handling the parts of the brake and clutch system on older model vehicles as if they do in fact contain asbestos. Employers using older model vehicles are charged with the responsibility of establishing asbestos-handling procedures. It is also the employer’s responsibility to train staff members and enforce the use of the asbestos safety procedures.
Even years after the asbestos ban, more than 10,000 Americans die every year due to illness caused by asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer are three crippling and deadly diseases related to asbestos exposure. Gastrointestinal cancers also contribute to the death rate from exposure to this dangerous substance.
In an effort to enhance Delaware highway worker safety, OSHA is joining forces with the Roadway Work Zone Safety and Health Partners Alliance. The two organizations will work to increase the public’s awareness of the need to exercise caution near highway worker safety zones.
Moreover, OSHA has designated the first week of April as National Work Zone Awareness Week. The campaign this year is entitled “Signs for Change.” This campaign will work to raise driver awareness of the need to be cautious and slow down around highway worker safety areas.
The number of injured highway construction workers each year totals 20,000. Of those, many die. The campaign hopes to prevent these terrible accidents.
As Edwin G. Foulke, Jr., Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, explains, “Employees who work in highway zones have one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States and these employees need not only OSHA’s support, but the support of everyone who gets behind the wheel on a daily basis.” According to Foulke, “There were nearly 1,100 work zone fatalities last year — that is a tragedy. I am hopeful that campaigns like this will help reduce those numbers.”
This year’s campaign was kicked off at an event held at a construction site in Alexandria, Virginia. The event took place on Interstate 495 on April 3.
Drivers need to obey the warning signs posted around highway worker safety zones. Specifically, drivers need to slow down and pay attention. Recently, a Center for Disease Control division, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, issued a report on this very topic.
The Director of the Center for Disease Control, Jeffrey P. Koplan, M.D., M.P.H., stated, “Every day, when orange traffic cones prompt us to slow down and drive carefully near work zones, we are reminded that highway and street construction is hard and potentially hazardous work. As we enter the busy spring construction season, NIOSH’s new document offers practical and comprehensive advice for reducing workers’ risk of injury.”
Many people may have questions about the changes in OSHA’s policies and how these changes will impact Delaware worker safety.
Why is OSHA concerned about Delaware worker safety?
OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, is concerned about the safety of workers in oil refineries, which includes Delaware workers. Their concern is a result of the investigation into the tragic BP oil refinery explosion in 2005.
What happened in the 2005 explosion?
A BP oil refinery in Texas City, Texas exploded in the spring of that year. Flames shot up into the sky, and trash fell on the neighboring communities. In the explosion, over 100 employees were injured, and tragically, 15 were killed.
Was this oil refinery large?
The Texas City oil refinery had 1,800 employees. Each day, this refinery processed 433,000 barrels of crude oil. Because of the explosion, the nation loss about 3% of the total crude oil processed. As a result of the loss of this production, the price of gasoline climbed in 2006.
Has BP taken steps to prevent a similar explosion from happening again?
An inspection conducted by OSHA in 2006 of a BP oil refinery in Ohio found violations that were the exact ones that caused the Texas City explosion. OSHA decided that BP had not learned from the Texas City experience that cost the lives of employees.
What has OSHA done to prevent similar accidents?
Safety in oil refineries is a point of focus for OSHA. The agency’s concern increased after the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) produced a report about the Texas City explosion. According to Assistant Secretary of Labor, Edwin G. Foulke Jr., “The refinery industry has been a major focus for OSHA, and the CSB report confirms we are on the right track. OSHA already has implemented two of the CSB’s three major recommendations and increased our inspections in the refining industry.”
Has OSHA completed many inspections?
Along with state partners, OSHA conducted over 100 inspections of oil refineries last year. In addition, in 2007 they have performed 50 more inspections.
For the inattentive worker, the explorer, the outdoor sports enthusiast, or the trespassing child, abandoned and active mines are a danger.
Delaware worker safety is threatened when workers in fields unrelated to mining are injured after falling into mine shafts. “Stay Out – Stay Alive” is a new public safety campaign to warn workers and others about the risks posed in trespassing on mining property.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration, known as MSHA, developed the program. Richard Stickler, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health, says there are about a half-million abandoned mines and another 14,000 active ones in the U.S. Many of them contain hidden hazards and, for those not trained to work in mines, “the outcome can be deadly.” That’s why, he says, workers, bikers, hikers, climbers, and swimmers are being urged to “Stay Out – Stay Alive.”
The dangers are varied and deadly. Tunnels may collapse. They may contain hazardous gases or poisonous snakes and insects. Shafts hidden by a cover of rotting or decayed boards may give way under a person’s weight, sending them falling hundreds of feet into the ground. Explosives are a common hazard. Such explosives, often blasting caps, may be set off by a light touch or disturbance.
Since 1999, tragic mine-related accidents have claimed the lives of more than 200 people. Some of them have been children and recreational users who trespass on mine land. Sometimes inattentive outdoor workers on another assignment may fall into a mineshaft or suffer other injuries on mine property.
The “Stay Out – Stay Alive” program is fighting these dangers by public service announcements warning people away from mistakenly trespassing on mine property. They also plan to send experts in mine safety and health into schools and youth organizations such as scouting groups to discuss with youngsters the dangers of playing in and around mines.
Attention all employers: make sure your Delaware USERRA posters are accurate and displayed! The final regulations under USERRA have been announced by the Department of Labor, so make certain you have all the new details. You might not have military workers in your midst, but the poster should be accurate and displayed nonetheless.
USERRA, or the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Act of 1994, was created to protect military members’ civilian job positions. The laws are clear, and USERRA was enacted to improve the enforcement of these laws. After serving the country, service members should have the right to get their jobs back.
The VETS, Veterans Employment and Training Service, handles all the initial claims of military workers returning to their civilian jobs. Most of the time, employers will simply rehire those returning from service. By law, soldiers are entitled to job protection for up to five years while in service. That way, if they have to leave for one year or three years, they can come home and still be able to work. Those disabled or injured while training or serving the country may be graced with an additional year or two of job protection. That means they may be allowed six or seven years away from their civilian jobs, and still be entitled to employment.
The VETS review the facts of the case and usually all goes well. Sometimes a resolution is not reached and they have to refer the claim. The Department of Justice would then take over the case and bring it to the appropriate District Court. Violations of USERRA that are proved will be compensated to the returning military worker. This process is not charged to the returning service member (court expenses are paid). If the worker decides to pursue the case on their own, it is possible they will be awarded the expense in addition to found damages.