Cranes and derricks in railroad roadway work: OSHA clarifies final rule; lists exemptions

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Photo: Washington State Dept. of Transportation

Washington — OSHA is providing specific exemptions and clarifications for railroad roadway work in its Cranes and Derricks in Construction Standard.

According to a final rule published in the Sept. 15 Federal Register, the exemptions and clarifications are intended to “recognize the unique equipment and circumstances in railroad roadway work,” as well as reflect the preemption of OSHA requirements by Federal Railroad Administration regulations, including those for the safe operation of railroad roadway maintenance machines that have cranes or other hoisting devices.

Some of the exemptions apply to flash-butt welding trucks, the use of rail stops and rail clamps, dragging a load sideways, out-of-level work, and boom-hoist limiting devices for hydraulic cylinder-equipped booms. Operator training and certification will follow FRA regulations, OSHA states in a Sept. 14 press release.

This rulemaking culminates a 10-year period that began when the Association of American Railroads and a number of individual railroads filed a petition challenging the Cranes and Derricks in Construction Standard – published in August 2010.

OSHA published a notice of proposed rulemaking in July 2018 after reaching a settlement agreement with those organizations. Nearly a year later, FRA informed OSHA that it intended to preempt many of the requirements in the NPRM.

OSHA states in the rule that “Although any exemption from OSHA requirements resulting from the preemption of OSHA statutory authority by FRA would apply whether or not the OSHA regulations include any specific exemptions, OSHA believes it is still appropriate to amend the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) to include the explicit exemptions for RMMs in the OSHA crane standard. Having the exemptions specified in the OSHA crane standard will provide additional clarity for employers in the railroad industry, including contractors, who may be unfamiliar with the legal implications of FRA’s action.”

The rule is scheduled to go into effect Nov. 16.


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As pandemic continues, don’t lose sight of common worker safety hazards, experts caution

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Photo: Terraxplorer/iStockphoto

Silver Spring, MD — As the United States approaches six months of adjusting to the COVID-19 pandemic, employers and employees mustn’t overlook longtime safety hazards such as falls and electricity.

That was the message from Rodd Weber, a Las Vegas-based corporate safety director at The PENTA Building Group, during an Aug. 13 roundtable webinar hosted by CPWR – The Center for Construction Research and Training.

“I’m not saying to back off of that [attention to COVID-19],” Weber said, “but I would just caution everyone to don’t become so focused on COVID that you lose sight of the fact that we have plenty of other hazards that could literally kill somebody at any given time on a jobsite … much quicker than COVID ever will. And probably, we need to be paying attention a lot more to some of those things. And there certainly has been a distraction this year on some of those issues.

“So, I would just encourage everyone not to take it easy on the COVID stuff, but don’t lose focus of our … hazards that are out there with regard to safety.”

In a July 16 CPWR webinar on contact tracing basics and applications in construction, Travis Parsons, associate director of occupational safety and health for the Laborers’ Health and Safety Fund of North America, also spoke about how the complexities of the pandemic have helped create distraction.

“Us in the construction industry all know that there’s a lot of uncertainty going on right now,” Parsons said. “We have a lot of workers that never stopped working – essential workforce. We have a lot of workers now that are returning to work. We have differences depending on your geography, what state you’re in and what the protocols are, so there’s a lot of uncertainty.”


McCraren Compliance sees the solution in our people. We are developing each person into a safety leader by recognizing and valuing them as humans and teaching them to do the same with their co-workers. We are creating workplaces where we all watch out for each other.

Please contact us today at 888-758-4757 to learn how we can provide mine safety training and consulting for your business.

Workplace exposure to silica, beryllium may have links to sarcoidosis: study

Photo: safetyandhealthmagazine.
Nieuwegein, The Netherlands — On-the-job exposure to silica, beryllium and certain other metals may be linked to the inflammatory disease sarcoidosis, results of a recent study led by Dutch researchers suggest.

For people who have sarcoidosis, inflammatory cells collect and grow in parts of the body – typically the lungs and lymph nodes – and can potentially damage organs. The cause of the disease isn’t known, “but experts think it results from the body’s immune system responding to an unknown substance,” the Mayo Clinic states. No cure for the disease exists, but treatments are available. In certain instances, sarcoidosis clears up on its own.

For the study, the researchers assessed the potential exposures to silica, beryllium, aluminum and zirconium among 256 sarcoidosis patients and 73 control patients who had obstructive sleep apnea, using the results of a questionnaire on work history. Patients with OSA were used as controls because “there is no relationship between environmental triggers and development of OSA.”

Results show that the sarcoidosis patients had a higher percentage of workplace exposure to silica or the other metals – 32.4% (or 83 out of 256), compared with the control group’s 24.7%. After the researchers examined the immune system reactions to silica and the other metals in 33 sarcoidosis patients and 19 control patients using a lymphocyte proliferation test, more than 21% of the former group showed reactions to the materials compared with none of the latter group.

Immunoreactivity to silica and metals was only found in sarcoidosis patients, supporting the hypothesis that these antigens may be involved in the pathogenesis of a distinct subgroup of sarcoidosis patients. This indicates that when searching for causative agents in sarcoidosis patients, besides beryllium, also zirconium, aluminium and silica deserve clinical investigation.

The study was published online June 8 in the journal Respiratory Research.


McCraren Compliance assists employers in protecting their workers, starting with a comprehensive Work-site Analysis, Hazard Prevention, Controls, and Safety & Health Training.

Construction, agricultural workers at higher risk of knee osteoarthritis: study

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Photo: kali9/iStockphoto

Sydney — Workers in the construction and agriculture industries face an increased risk of knee osteoarthritis, in part because of the rigorous physical demands of the job, results of a recent study led by researchers at the University of Sydney suggest.

The researchers analyzed 71 studies with more than 950,000 participants to examine relationships between on-the-job exposure, knee osteoarthritis and total knee replacement. Findings show that, compared with occupations that involve low levels of physical activity, agricultural workers are up to 64% more likely to develop knee osteoarthritis, while builders and floor layers are up to 63% more likely to be affected by the condition.

Workers in these sectors who routinely engage in “heavy lifting, frequent climbing, prolonged kneeling, squatting and standing” are especially vulnerable, the researchers noted. Also at increased odds: metal workers, miners, cleaners and service workers.

Noting that knee osteoarthritis is “the most common joint disorder worldwide,” Xia Wang, lead study author and musculoskeletal researcher at the university’s Royal North Shore Hospital, said in a July 8 press release that “tailored preventive strategies need to be implemented early on to adapt the aging workforces in many countries that push for longer employment trajectories.”

The study was published online July 7 in the journal Arthritis Care and Research.

OSHA moves National Safety Stand-Down to September

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Photo: OSHA

Washington — OSHA has rescheduled the seventh annual National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction for Sept. 14-18.

The event initially was set for May 4-8, but was postponed March 27 over concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic. It now will coincide with Construction Safety Week, which also was recently rescheduled for Sept. 14-18.

Speaking during a July 2 webinar hosted by CPWR – The Center for Construction Research and Training, OSHA Directorate of Construction Director Scott Ketcham said the agency and its partners in the stand-down – NIOSH and CPWR – “are going to be working on getting information out to you as stakeholders on how to do a falls stand-down in a COVID environment” that includes physical distancing and other precautionary measures.

Falls are among the leading causes of fatal workplace injuries among construction workers. OSHA “encourages employers to remain vigilant and to use all available resources to enhance worker safety.” According to the agency, millions of construction workers have participated in the campaign since the stand-down began in 2014, with events having occurred in all 50 states and internationally.

U.S. Department of Labor Issues Guidance to Ensure Uniform Enforcement of Silica Standards

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently issued a compliance directive designed to ensure uniformity in inspection and enforcement procedures when addressing respirable crystalline silica exposures in general industry, maritime, and construction.

The new directive provides OSHA compliance safety and health officers with guidance on how to enforce the silica standards’ requirements, including:

  • Methods of compliance;
  • Table 1 tasks and specified exposure control methods;
  • Exposure assessments;
  • Housekeeping;
  • Respiratory protection;
  • Regulated areas;
  • Recordkeeping;
  • Employee information and training;
  • Medical surveillance; and
  • Communication of hazards.

The directive also provides clarity on major topics, such as alternative exposure control methods when a construction employer does not fully and properly implement Table 1, variability in sampling, multi-employer situations, and temporary workers.

OSHA began enforcing most provisions of the construction standard in September 2017, with enforcement of the requirements for sample analysis starting in June 2018. Enforcement of most of the general industry and maritime standards began in June 2018, with enforcement of some medical surveillance requirements commencing on June 23, 2020. On June 23, 2021, OSHA will begin enforcing requirements for engineering controls for hydraulic fracturing operations in the oil and gas industry.

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 help ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.

COVID-19 pandemic: UK manufacturing association issues guidance for scaffold tower users

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Photo: FooTToo/iStockphoto

London — In an effort to protect workers who use scaffold towers from exposure to COVID-19, the UK-based Prefabricated Access Suppliers’ and Manufacturers’ Association has published guidelines for employers and safety and health professionals.

The guidance notes that two workers normally would work in close proximity to erect a tower. However, workers should make “a conscious effort … to complete the task while remaining [6 feet] apart.” For instance, one worker can assemble the base section of a scaffold tower and install stabilizers before climbing onto the first platform. Then, another worker can assist with building the rest of structure from the ground.

“However, a more reliable method may be using one-person towers, which are specially designed to be built and dismantled by one individual working alone,” PASMA states.

Other recommendations:

  • Follow government health guidance.
  • Provide workers with handwashing facilities and alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Plan more frequent deep cleaning of facilities and scaffold components.
  • Encourage workers to practice safe physical distancing.
  • Communicate all safety measures to employees.
  • Review and assess your risk assessment plan, as well as how it might be impacted by COVID-19.
  • Review your rescue plan to determine how a worker who becomes ill or injured would be rescued.
  • Plan online scaffold training sessions for portions that can be taught remotely.
  • Make sure training facilities keep workers safe when conducting in-person courses.

Cal/OSHA to employers: It’s your duty to prevent heat illness

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Image: Missouri Department of Transportation/Flickr

Oakland, CA — Employers are responsible for protecting workers from heat illness, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health – also known as Cal/OSHA – reiterates in a recent reminder.

Since 2005, the state has had a heat illness prevention standard for all outdoor workers, including those in agriculture, construction and landscaping. Also protected under the standard are those who spend a significant amount of time working outdoors, such as security guards and groundskeepers, or in non-air-conditioned vehicles such as transportation and delivery drivers.

Under the standard, employers must:

  • Develop and implement an effective written heat illness prevention plan that includes emergency response procedures.
  • Provide instruction on heat illness prevention to all supervisors and employees.
  • Make available drinking water that is fresh, pure and suitably cool, and encourage workers to drink at least 1 quart per hour.
  • Make sure shade is available when temperatures exceed 80° F or when workers request it, and encourage rest breaks.

Employers also should consider heat illness mitigation strategies while implementing required measures designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including allowing appropriate time and space for workers to take breaks while maintaining physical distancing protocol. Further, employers should provide cloth facial coverings or allow workers to use their own.

“Employers should be aware that wearing face coverings can make it more difficult to breathe and harder for a worker to cool off, so additional breaks may be needed to prevent overheating,” Cal/OSHA says in a May 26 press release, adding that agricultural and other outdoor workers are not encouraged to wear surgical or respirator masks as facial coverings.

The agency has published a sample document employers can use to develop a heat illness prevention plan.

OSHA hosts webinar on preventing heat-related illnesses, injuries

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Photo: OSHA

Washington — To prevent illnesses and injuries related to environmental heat exposure, employers need to “think about preventing injuries and providing workers with the right equipment for the job,” a May 19 webinar hosted by OSHA advises.

“Millions of U.S. workers are exposed to heat in the workplace, and although heat-related illness is preventable, each year thousands of workers are getting sick from their exposure to heat, and … some cases are fatal,” Stephen Boyd, deputy regional administrator for OSHA Region 6, said during the presentation.

The agency notes that operations involving high air temperatures, radiant heat sources, high humidity, direct physical contact with hot objects and strenuous physical activity carry high potential for causing work-related heat stress. OSHA cites numerous industrial occupations and locations in which problems may occur. Among outdoor workers, examples include construction, refining, asbestos removal, hazardous waste site activities and emergency response operations – especially those requiring workers to wear semipermeable or permeable protective clothing.

Sites of potentially hazardous indoor operations include foundries, brick firing and ceramic plants, glass product facilities, rubber product factories, electrical utilities (particularly boiler rooms), bakeries, confectionaries, commercial kitchens, laundries, food canneries, chemical plants, mining sites, smelters, and steam tunnels.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, heat illnesses caused 49 worker deaths in 2018 – a 53.1% increase from the previous year. That same year, 3,950 workers experienced days away from work as a result of nonfatal injuries and illnesses from occupational heat exposure.

The webinar explores strategies for heat hazard recognition, as well as planning and supervision, engineering controls and work practices, training, and resources.

All new or returning workers should be acclimatized to environmental heat conditions by first working shorter shifts before building up to longer ones, OSHA recommends. Additionally, these workers should gradually increase their workloads while taking more frequent breaks at the start.

OSHA offers employer and worker resources for working in hot weather through its “Water. Rest. Shade.” Campaign.

“Water, rest, shade: These will mean the difference between life and death,” OSHA states during the webinar.

Agency tips to help prevent heat-related illnesses:

  • Drink water every 15 minutes.
  • Take rest breaks in the shade to cool down.
  • Wear a hat and light-colored clothing.
  • Monitor co-workers for symptoms of heat-related illnesses.

An effort to mitigate heat-related illnesses and fatalities include a Heat Safety Tool – a free mobile app designed in collaboration with NIOSH.

Trench Safety Stand Down set for June 15-19

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Fairfax, VA — The National Utility Contractors Association, with support from OSHA and the North American Excavation Shoring Association, is calling on employers involved in trench work to participate in the fifth annual Trench Safety Stand Down, scheduled for June 15-19.

The event is intended to raise awareness of the dangers of trenching and excavation, as well as promote the use of protective systems such as sloping, shoring and shielding. The OSHA standard for trenching and excavation (29 CFR 1926.650, Subpart P) requires protective systems for trenches that are 5 feet or deeper, unless the excavation occurs in stable rock.

As part of the event, NUCA, NAXSA and OSHA are offering free online tools, including posters, checklists, fact sheets and videos.

OSHA cautions that 1 cubic yard of soil can weigh as much as 3,000 pounds, and adds that trench collapses are “rarely survivable.” According to NUCA, citing data from OSHA, 17 workers died in trench incidents in 2018.

As a result of previously successful campaigns, NUCA has expanded upon the stand-down and declared June the inaugural Trench Safety Month, a May 20 organizational press release states.

“In this industry, the safety of our employees on the jobsite is our top priority,” NUCA CEO Doug Carlson said in the release. “Making this June ‘Trench Safety Month’ emphasizes the valuable training and experiences our members’ employees are gaining through the Trench Safety Stand Down week held annually in June throughout our industry.”