Occupational cancers kill 8,000 UK citizens each year

According to a recent report released by the United Kingdom's Health & Safety Executive (HSE) in London, occupational cancers kill approximately 8,000 Britons each year. The report also states that approximately 14,000 new cases of cancer due to hazardous substances found in the workplace are reported each year.

These are some staggering figures. And the report is only citing figures from the UK. Imagine adding to these figures the number of occupational cancer deaths and new cases of cancer from the rest of Europe and from North America, South America, Africa and Asia. The other hurtful part of this report is the fact these deaths and new cases are entirely preventable. It's a hard pill to swallow.

One of the big culprits is asbestos, which causes lung cancer and mesothelioma, another dangerous cancer that affects the lungs, heart, chest and abdomen.

Learn more about carcinogenic chemicals and occupational cancers here.

US Labor Department cites 2 Illinois grain elevator operators: fines total nearly $1.4 million

Citations to grain elevator operators are for willful safety, child labor violations following deaths of 3 workers, including 2 teens

The U.S. Department of Labor has fined Haasbach LLC in Mount Carroll, Ill. and Hillsdale Elevator Co. in Geneseo and Annawan, Ill., following the deaths of three workers, including two teenagers. The workers were killed when they suffocated after being engulfed by grain.

"The tragic deaths of three people could have been prevented had the grain bin owners and operators followed the occupational safety standards and child labor laws," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "It is unconscionable to allow a minor to work in any high-hazard area. Haasbach's and Hillsdale's disregard for the law and commonsense safety practices has led to devastation for three families."

At least 25 U.S. workers were killed in grain entrapments last year, and the numbers of entrapments are increasing, according to researchers at Purdue University. There were more grain entrapments in 2010 than in any year since they started collecting data on entrapments in 1978.

"Grain entrapments kill workers. All employers, especially those in high-hazard industries, must prevent workers from being hurt or killed as a result of recognized hazards," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. "There is absolutely no excuse for any worker to be killed in this type of incident."

The fines to both companies total $1,352,125. Haasbach was issued 24 citations from the department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration with a penalty of $555,000 following an investigation into the deaths of the two young workers, Wyatt Whitebread and Alex Pacas (ages 14 and 19 years old, respectively), at the company's grain elevator in Mount Carroll. A 20-year-old man also was seriously injured in the July 2010 incident when all three became entrapped in corn more than 30 feet deep. At the time of the incident, the workers were "walking down the corn" to make it flow while machinery used for evacuating the grain was running.

The department's Wage and Hour Division's separate investigation found that Haasbach violated the Fair Labor Standards Act's Child Labor standards for employing anyone less than 18 years of age to perform hazardous jobs prohibited by the act. As a result, the division issued Haasbach $68,125 in civil money penalties. More information on child labor rules and hazardous occupations can be found at http://www.dol.gov/elaws.

Hillsdale Elevator was issued 22 citations by OSHA following the death of a 49-year-old worker, Raymond Nowland, who was engulfed by corn in a storage bin at the company's facility in Geneseo. OSHA discovered additional violations during a later inspection of the company's Annawan facility. Consequently, OSHA issued the company $729,000 in fines.

Since 2009, OSHA has fined grain operators in Illinois, Colorado, South Dakota and Wisconsin following similar preventable fatalities and injuries. In addition to enforcement actions, OSHA sent a notification letter to grain elevator operators warning them not to allow workers to enter grain storage facilities without proper equipment, precautions and training. "OSHA will not tolerate non-compliance with the Grain Handling Facilities standard," said Michaels in the letter. "We will continue to use our enforcement authority to the fullest extent possible."

OSHA's Region V, which includes Illinois, Ohio and Wisconsin, initiated a Grain Safety Local Emphasis Program in August 2010, and has since conducted 61 inspections and issued 163 violations to grain operators/facilities. The violations cover hazards associated with grain engulfment, machine guarding, lockout/tagout of dangerous equipment to prevent accidental energization start-up, electricity, falls, employee training and combustible dust hazards.

These investigations also fall under the requirements of OSHA's Severe Violators Enforcement Program. Initiated in the spring of 2010, SVEP is intended to focus on recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violations in one or more of the following circumstances: a fatality or catastrophe, industry operations or processes that expose workers to severe occupational hazards, employee exposure to hazards related to the potential releases of highly hazardous chemicals and all per-instance citation (egregious) enforcement actions. For more information on SVEP, visit http://www.osha.gov/dep/svep-directive.pdf.

For a copy of the warning letter OSHA sent to grain elevator operators, visit http://www.osha.gov/asst-sec/Grain_letter.html.

The Haasbach and Hillsdale citations are available at http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/haasbach-hillsdale-citations.html.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of its OSHA citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA's area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

OSHA withdraws proposed interpretation on occupational noise

Agency examines other approaches to prevent work-related hearing loss

OSHA today announced that it is withdrawing its proposed interpretation titled "Interpretation of OSHA's Provisions for Feasible Administrative or Engineering Controls of Occupational Noise." The interpretation would have clarified the term "feasible administrative or engineering controls" as used in OSHA's noise standard. The proposed interpretation was published in the Federal Register on Oct. 19, 2010.

"Hearing loss caused by excessive noise levels remains a serious occupational health problem in this country," said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. "However, it is clear from the concerns raised about this proposal that addressing this problem requires much more public outreach and many more resources than we had originally anticipated. We are sensitive to the possible costs associated with improving worker protection and have decided to suspend work on this proposed modification while we study other approaches to abating workplace noise hazards."

Michaels met earlier this month with the offices of Sen. Olympia Snowe and Sen. Joseph Lieberman, members of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, in response to a letter from the senators. Sens. Snowe and Lieberman are also co-chairs of the Senate Task Force on Manufacturing.

Thousands of workers every year continue to suffer from preventable hearing loss due to high workplace noise levels. Since 2004, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported that nearly 125,000 workers have suffered significant, permanent hearing loss. In 2008 alone, BLS reported more than 22,000 hearing loss cases, and Michaels emphasized that OSHA remains committed to finding ways to reduce this toll.

As part of this effort, the agency will:
  • Conduct a thorough review of comments that have been submitted in response to the Federal Register notice and of any other information it receives on this issue.

  • Hold a stakeholder meeting on preventing occupational hearing loss to elicit the views of employers, workers, and noise control and public health professionals.

  • Consult with experts from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and the National Academy of Engineering.

  • Initiate a robust outreach and compliance assistance effort to provide enhanced technical information and guidance on the many inexpensive, effective engineering controls for dangerous noise levels.

For small businesses, OSHA's On-site Consultation Program offers free and confidential advice on health and safety solutions with priority given to high-hazard worksites. Through this program, small and medium-sized employers can obtain free advice on addressing noise hazards. On-site consultation services exist in every state, and they are independent from OSHA's enforcement efforts. On-site Consultation Program consultants, employed by state agencies or universities, work with employers to identify workplace hazards, provide advice on compliance with OSHA standards, and assist in establishing safety and health management systems.

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 assure 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.