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OSHA announces public meeting on whistleblower program

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Photo: mipan/iStock/Thinkstock

Washington — OSHA has scheduled a public meeting for May 12 to gather information on key issues facing its Whistleblower Protection Program.

According to a notice published in the March 13 Federal Register, the meeting is set for 1 p.m. Eastern at the agency’s headquarters in Washington.

To better understand how it can improve the program, OSHA is interested in input regarding:

  • How the agency can deliver better customer service.
  • The kind of assistance the agency can provide to help explain the whistleblower laws it enforces.
  • Where the agency’s outreach efforts should be targeted.

The deadline to register is April 28. Comments are due May 5.

OSHA enforces whistleblower protections under 23 statutes.

COVID-19 pandemic: CDC issues interim cleaning, disinfection recommendations after exposure

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Washington — In light of emerging data on the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released interim environmental cleaning and disinfection recommendations for community facilities with suspected or confirmed cases of the potentially deadly respiratory illness.

The guidelines – aimed at limiting the spread of the disease – are focused on community, non-health care facilities such as schools, institutions of higher education, offices, day care facilities, businesses, and community centers that “do, and do not, house persons overnight.”

SARS-CoV-2 – the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 – can be stable for several hours to even days on various surfaces, results of a study that involved CDC researchers and was published online March 17 in the New England Journal of Medicine show.

“Cleaning of visibly dirty surfaces, followed by disinfection, is the best practice measure for prevention of COVID-19 and other viral respiratory illnesses in community settings,” CDC states on its Cleaning and Disinfection for Community Facilities webpage, which the agency intends to update as more data is made available.

Cleaning should entail using a detergent or soap and water before disinfecting. Diluted household bleach solutions, solutions with at least 70% alcohol or other Environmental Protection Agency-registered household disinfectants are recommended.

CDC also provides information on how to clean soft or porous surfaces. In addition, personal protective equipment, such as disposable gloves and gowns, should be worn by cleaning staff, who are encouraged to wash their hands frequently.

Employers should provide education on COVID-19 to workers performing duties such as cleaning, laundry and garbage pickup.

“These guidelines are not meant for cleaning staff in health care facilities or repatriation sites, households, or for others for whom specific guidance already exists,” CDC states.

Safe + Sound Week set for Aug. 10-16

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Photo: OSHA

Washington — OSHA, NIOSH and a number of safety organizations – including the National Safety Council – are teaming up for the fourth annual Safe + Sound Week, scheduled for Aug. 10-16.

The nationwide initiative is aimed at promoting awareness and understanding of workplace safety and health programs. Participating agencies and organizations are encouraging employers to host events highlighting the importance of programs that focus on management leadership, worker participation, and finding and fixing workplace hazards.

“Successful safety and health programs can proactively identify and manage workplace hazards before they cause injury or illness, improving sustainability and the bottom line,” OSHA states.

“Participating in Safe + Sound Week can help get your program started, energize an existing one or provide a chance to recognize your safety successes.”

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, about 2.8 million nonfatal injuries and illnesses were reported among private-sector U.S. employees in 2018. Fatal workplace injuries totaled 5,250 in 2018 – the most since 2007.

OSHA postpones National Safety Stand-Down

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Photo: OSHA

Washington — OSHA has postponed the seventh annual National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The event – initially slated for May 4-8 – is expected to be rescheduled for this summer, the agency states in a March 27 press release.

Falls are the No. 1 cause of fatal workplace injuries among construction workers. OSHA “encourages employers to remain vigilant and to use all available resources to enhance worker safety.”

DOL requests nominations for OSHA advisory committee

Washington — The Department of Labor is looking to fill six seats on OSHA’s National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health.

The 12-member committee advises, consults with and makes recommendations to the secretaries of labor and health and human services on matters relating to workplace safety and health. All members are appointed by the secretary of labor to represent labor, management, safety and health professionals, and the public.

According to a notice published in the Feb. 26 Federal Register, half of the committee members’ two-year terms are set to expire July 31. Nominations for each represented group are being accepted, with two public representative seats needed to be filled.

Nomination deadline is April 27.

COVID-19 pandemic: CVSA postpones annual ‘Roadcheck’

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Photo: WendellandCarolyn/iStockphoto

Greenbelt, MD — In response to industry concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance has postponed its 33rd annual International Roadcheck – an enforcement and safety outreach event initially slated for May 5-7.

According to a March 25 press release, CVSA officials will monitor the pandemic and, “when it’s safe and reasonable to do so,” announce new dates for the event, during which inspectors throughout North America will examine braking systems, lights, tires and other commercial truck and bus components. In the meantime, enforcement personnel will continue to perform daily duties.

“As we urgently respond to this time-sensitive crisis, we must remain diligent and committed to ensuring that the commercial motor vehicles and drivers providing essential goods and services to our communities are following motor carrier safety regulations,” CVSA President John Samis said in the release. “Safety doesn’t take a break. It is always our top priority.

“International Roadcheck has run on schedule for the past 32 years, so its postponement was thoroughly and thoughtfully discussed before we made this decision, but it wasn’t a difficult decision to make. This experience is unprecedented in our modern society and we need to do all that we can to help stop the spread of this global pandemic.”

An expanded national emergency declaration issued March 18 by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration grants temporary exemption from federal hours-of-service regulations to CMV drivers transporting items intended to assist with pandemic relief efforts.

Last year’s International Roadcheck resulted in more than 67,000 inspections and placed 17.9% of vehicles and 4.2% of drivers inspected out of service.

CVSA states in the release that other public enforcement initiatives set for this summer, including Operation Safe Driver Week (July 12-18) and Brake Safety Week (Aug. 23-29), remain as scheduled.

DOT Guidance on Compliance with DOT Drug and Alcohol Testing Regulations

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DOT Guidance on Compliance with Drug and Alcohol Testing Regulations [1]

March 23, 2020

 

This guidance document provides clarity to DOT-regulated employers, employees, and service agents on conducting DOT drug-and-alcohol testing given concerns about the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).  We, as a Nation, are facing an unprecedented public health emergency that is straining medical resources and altering aspects of American life, including the workplace. The Nation’s transportation industries, which are not immune to the impacts and disruptions resulting from the spread of COVID-19 in the United States, are playing a vital role in mitigating the effects of COVID-19.

DOT is committed to maintaining public safety while providing maximum flexibility to allow transportation industries to conduct their operations safely and efficiently during this period of national emergency. Read More»

MSHA says no Pattern of Violations notices needed in 2019

Arlington, VA — The Mine Safety and Health Administration did not identify any Pattern of Violations offenders among the nation’s 13,000-plus mines for the sixth consecutive screening period.

The most recent screening period began Feb. 1, 2019, and ended Jan. 31, MSHA states in a March 17 press release. The agency conducts screenings at least once annually.

The Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 authorizes MSHA to issue POV notices to operators who “demonstrate a disregard for the health and safety of miners through a pattern of significant and substantial violations.” Further, a January 2013 final rule allows MSHA to consider extenuating circumstances before issuing a POV notice and prompts operators to fix problems if they are approaching the threshold of a POV.

pair of online tools allows the agency to assist with compliance. POV monitoring notifies mine operators that they are approaching POV status and should take action to correct issues. The S&S rate calculator allows mine operators to track “significant and substantial” violations. According to the release, the rate of such violations fell to 20% in 2019 from 32% in 2011.

“Safety and health is what we care about most,” agency administrator David Zatezalo said in the release. “It’s what miners’ families care about, and we can see it’s what mine operators care about. We’ll issue [POV] notices when we need to, but it’s a good feeling to look at the screenings and see no mines meeting the criteria.”

COVID-19 pandemic: Expanded FMCSA emergency declaration includes hours-of-service exemptions

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Photo: WendellandCarolyn/iStockphoto

Washington — Commercial motor vehicle drivers transporting items intended to assist in COVID-19 pandemic relief efforts are temporarily exempt from federal hours-of-service regulations, under an expanded national emergency declaration issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on March 18.

The declaration augments an initial declaration issued March 13 and offers regulatory relief to drivers transporting:

  • Medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19
  • Supplies and equipment necessary for community safety, sanitation and prevention of community transmission of COVID-19, including masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap and disinfectants
  • Food, paper products and other groceries for emergency restocking of distribution centers or stores
  • Immediate precursor raw materials (e.g., paper, plastic or alcohol) that are required and to be used for the manufacture of essential items
  • Fuel
  • Equipment, supplies and people necessary to establish and manage temporary housing and quarantine
  • People designated by federal, state or local authorities for medical, isolation or quarantine purposes
  • People necessary to provide other medical or emergency services

“FMCSA is providing additional regulatory relief to our nation’s commercial drivers to get critically important medical supplies, food and household goods to Americans in need,” acting administrator Jim Mullen said in a March 18 press release. “The nation’s truck drivers are on the front lines of this effort and are critical to America’s supply chain. We will continue to support them and use our authority to protect the health and safety of the American people.”

FMCSA notes that direct assistance excludes routine commercial deliveries, “including mixed loads with a nominal quantity of emergency relief added to obtain the benefits of the emergency declaration.”

“Once the driver has returned to the terminal or the driver’s normal reporting location, the driver must be relieved of all duty and responsibilities and must receive a minimum of 10 hours off duty if transporting property, and eight hours if transporting passengers,” the declaration states.

The World Health Organization on March 11 declared COVID-19 a global pandemic

FMCSA CDL Waiver

Waiver in Response to the COVID-19 Emergency –
For States, CDL Holders, CLP Holders, and Interstate Drivers Operating

Commercial Motor Vehicles

March 24, 2020

AGENCY: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), DOT.

ACTION: Grant of waiver.

SUMMARY: FMCSA grants, until June 30, 2020, a waiver from certain regulations applicable to interstate and intrastate commercial driver’s license (CDL) and commercial learner’s permit (CLP) holders and to other interstate drivers operating commercial motor vehicles (CMVs). The Agency has initiated this action in response to the President’s declaration of a national emergency under 42 U.S.C. § 5191(b) related to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).

DATES: This waiver is effective March 20, 2020 and expires on June 30, 2020. Read More»