U.S. Department of Labor Announces Assistance for California Wildfires Recovery

November 20, 2018

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Department of Labor today announced actions it is taking to assist Americans in California affected by devastating wildfires.

“The Department of Labor is actively engaged in Administration efforts to help those impacted by devastating wildfires in California,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta. “As Californians come together to help their friends, neighbors, and all individuals who have been affected recover, the Department of Labor is committed to supporting the American worker.”

U.S. Department of Labor actions taken in response to the California wildfires include the following:

The Employment and Training Administration (ETA) is prepared to provide Disaster Dislocated Worker Grants to help California assess workforce needs. The disbursement of funds will be determined as needs are assessed by state and local partners. ETA is assisting in administering Disaster Unemployment Assistance.
The Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) has released guidance for employee benefit plan participants and beneficiaries in the wake of the 2018 California wildfires.
The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) has temporarily suspended select federal contractor requirements, allowing businesses involved in wildfire relief the ability to prioritize recovery efforts.
The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) is responding to wildfires’ impact on mines, and stands ready to respond more generally with specialized equipment and personnel.
The Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) is working with its grantees to identify flexibility and additional funding needs for its programs. VETS will provide assistance to employers, members of the National Guard and Reserves, and members of the National Disaster Medical System and Urban Search and Rescue service who may be deployed in support of rescue and recovery operations.
The Wage and Hour Division (WHD) is prioritizing all calls in the affected areas to continue to provide uninterrupted service to workers and employers.
The Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS) issued a special enforcement advisory that would temporarily ease reporting and other regulatory burdens on labor organizations, labor relations consultants, and employers affected by the California wildfires.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is actively engaged with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, and other federal agencies. California enforces worker health and safety requirements in the state; OSHA stands ready to assist affected areas upon request.

U.S. Department of Labor Focuses on Worker Safety and Pay During Holiday Shopping Season

November 20, 2018

WASHINGTON, DC – As the holiday season approaches, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Wage and Hour Division (WHD) are reminding employers to protect worker safety and pay.

“Whether employees are stocking shelves, packing boxes, delivering products, or selling merchandise, they have the right to a safe workplace,” said Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Loren Sweatt. “Employers should focus on their responsibility to protect all employees during the busy holiday season.”

Retail employers should take precautions to keep workers safe while managing large crowds during sales events. Retailers are encouraged to address potential workplace safety hazards by following safety guidelines such as using trained security personnel and barricades or rope lines for pedestrians, and implementing crowd control measures and emergency procedures. OSHA offers many resources that provide information and guidance for protecting people employed in various aspects of the retail industry, including warehousing, tractor trailer drivers, forklift safety, and crowd management.

Temporary or seasonal employees hired to provide additional help have the right to a safe and healthful workplace, and to be paid for the work performed. As hiring spikes, employees not familiar with this sort of employment, and employers unaccustomed to hiring part-time and/or seasonal employees may not be fully aware of the rules that surround such work.

“Holiday season hiring brings great opportunity for both the American workforce and job creators,” said Acting Administrator for the Wage and Hour Division Bryan Jarrett. “The U.S. Department of Labor offers a wide variety of tools to ensure that workers are paid what they have legally earned and help employers understand their responsibilities.”

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. The Fair Labor Standards Act requires most workers to be paid at least the federal minimum wage, and overtime premium pay for hours worked over 40 in a workweek. For more information, visit www.dol.gov/whd .

U.S. Department of Labor Cites New Jersey Manufacturer

November 19, 2018

LAKEWOOD, NJ – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Mister Cookie Face LLC for machine safety hazards after an employee suffered an amputation at the Lakewood, New Jersey, facility. The company faces $103,476 in penalties.

A sanitation employee suffered a fingertip amputation and a fractured finger when the machine the worker attempted to unjam, activated. OSHA cited the company for failing to lockout machines to prevent unintentional startup during servicing, not ensuring employees used personal protective equipment, not providing an eyewash station where employees used corrosive chemicals, and for exposing employees to bloodborne pathogens hazards.

“This injury could have been avoided with worker training and the use of lockout/tagout procedures,” said OSHA Marlton Area Office Director Paula Dixon-Roderick. “Employers who implement an effective safety and health program can ensure that workplace hazards are identified and corrected to prevent worker injuries or fatalities.”

The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed 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.

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 https://www.osha.gov.

U.S. Department of Labor Continues to Provide Support in Areas Hardest Hit by Hurricane Michael; Returns to Normal Enforcement in Most of Florida and Georgia

November 19, 2018

ATLANTA, GA – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) continues to provide technical assistance and outreach in areas hit hardest by Hurricane Michael, and is returning to normal enforcement operations throughout most of Florida and Georgia.

In the storm’s aftermath, OSHA had ceased programmed-planned enforcement inspections in all impacted areas, and deployed safety and health professionals to assist employers and workers involved in recovery operations to eliminate serious hazards. To date, OSHA’s safety and health technical assistance has reached more than 2,400 workers, and on-site interventions have removed more than 600 workers from serious hazards. This work will continue in heavily impacted areas. OSHA continues to retain the right to perform enforcement inspections involving fatalities, catastrophic incidents, employee complaints, incidents involving life-altering injuries, and employers who repeatedly expose employees to serious hazards during cleanup and recovery activities.

OSHA will continue to suspend programmed-planned inspections and provide outreach and technical assistance to counties in Florida, including Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Liberty; and to counties in Georgia, including Decatur, Miller, and Seminole. Employers and employees working in these areas may call OSHA’s toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or visit the agency’s website to reach Florida or Georgia representatives who can provide on-site assistance.

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 http://www.osha.gov.

USDA investigating Maryland chicken plant for alleged animal abuse

A Maryland chicken-processing facility reportedly is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture after an animal rights group released video that appeared to depict workers mistreating birds. The National Employment Law Project says a plan to allow slaughterhouses to increase kill-line speeds could negatively affect worker safety. Washington Post [with video]

Wildfire smoke and N95 masks

The N95 mask, often sold at hardware stores and pharmacies, is one of seven particulate filtering facepiece respirators and the most common, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It filters out 95 percent of airborne particles to help protect lungs from damage. How should it be used, and how long does it last? Newsweek

Cape Cod landscaper seriously injured in wood chipper incident

A landscaper reportedly lost a leg after becoming trapped in a wood chipper at a Yarmouth, Massachusetts worksite on Friday, according to authorities. Fed-OSHA has been notified. The man’s injuries were described as life-threatening. Worcester Telegram

NIOSH releases report on Delaware firefighter deaths

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has released a long-awaited, 99-page report into the deaths of three Wilmington, Delaware firefighters related to a row-home fire in September 2016. Contributing factors, according to the report, include lack of scene assessment and size-up, inappropriate tactics for a below-grade fire, lack of a personnel accountability system, and ineffective fireground communications. WDEL (Wilmington, Del.)