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Houston OSHA Law Blog

Electrical power and safety rules: OSHA issues revision

Literally and figuratively, electricity has brought light to the modern world. Few of us would wish to live to a pre-electric world; it would certainly seem like the Dark Ages.

But electrical power carries with it various safety risks. In this post, we will discuss a rule recently released by federal regulators to update electrical safety protections in power plants and along power lines.

Texas recycler cited for serious safety violations

In many cases, when a company is cited for safety violations, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) publicly announces the company's name along with a list of alleged violations. This generally occurs before the company has a chance to officially respond to the citations or contest any proposed penalties. That was the case recently in Lubbock.

OSHA cited a recycling company for two dozen violations, 20 of which were said to be serious. OSHA regards a violation as serious if it poses a substantial risk of serious injury or death. Serious violations are categorized as such if OSHA deems that the employer should have known about the hazard.

OSHA safety training standards, part 2: hazardous substances

In the first part of this post, we began discussing the training standards required of employers by federal regulations.

As we noted, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set out guidelines for employers in order to protect the health and safety of their workers.

In this part of the post, let's look in more detail at some of the specific challenges that these safety guidelines are designed to address.

Training requirements and workplace safety, part 1: OSHA standards

Safety in the workplace requires a systematic commitment from all concerned.

To be sure, employers must do their part. But so must workers - not only employees, but contractors as well. And of course government has an important role to play in overseeing the entire safety-compliance process.

In this two-part post, we will discuss the basic framework for training requirements and guidelines set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Effective habit: being proactive about safety compliance

A generation ago, Stephen F. Covey’s book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” became a runaway bestseller. And those habits remain highly relevant for both individuals and organizations today.

One of the key habits, Covey contended, is to be proactive. Instead of merely being acted upon, it is usually better to take action in response to challenges.

In this post, we will discuss an example of proactive actions by one company doing business in the Houston area to protect worker safety and prevent OSHA violations.

Report shows OSHA falls short with oil and gas drilling safety

As many of our readers know, there are a lot of oil and gas drilling companies here in Texas that try very hard to make sure that their employees are in a safe working environment. They often do this by following OSHA regulations that are supposed to be designed to eliminate the risk of workplace injuries. But a recent investigation done by the Houston Chronicle discovered that these regulations might not be as up to date as people think.

Most people think that after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill occurred, government regulators adopted newer, safer regulations for all oil and gas drilling rigs. But according to reports, these new safety regulations were only for offshore rigs. This meant that many drilling sites here in Texas were still using out-of-date equipment that might not even be that safe. 

Court determines contractors not negligent for death on worksite

Handling workplace-injury cases can sometimes become a headache for any business owner. But dealing with a death on your premises is another story. Often times, this can lead to lengthy and intense investigations where people will try to prove that you were somehow negligent and partially responsible for that person’s death.

Our Houston readers can see this exemplified by a case that was recently ruled on in New York where the widower of a deceased woman tried to hold several contractors responsible for her death. While the widower insisted that the contractors were responsible for the fatal accident that killed his wife, a New York appeals court disagreed.

BNSF Railway Co. to increase worker safety by replacing rail cars

There are many things that have happened as a result of the boom in domestic drilling in the United States. But if there is one thing that readers of our blog were most concerned about it was the increase in the amount of rail shipments by railroad companies. It was certainly something Texas-based BNSF Railways Co. concerned itself with recently, especially after a number of rail-car derailments raised questions about rail-car and worker safety.

According to reports, many shipments of crude oil and other hazardous materials are done so by some 78,000 tank cars that are prone to splitting when involved in a derailment and other accident. Past accidents, such as a particularly deadly one in Quebec last year, have proven that the danger is not just to people near the accident site but to railroad workers as well. As BNSF indicated recently, the U.S. Department of Transportation has been slow to finalize new regulations for improved tank cars, which is a risk BNSF says it is unwilling to take.

OSHA sets up rules against retaliation for food safety complaints

Just about every business owner knows that it sometimes take a long time before certain laws and regulations go into effect. This is certainly the case with the Food and Drug Administration's Food Safety Modernization Act. Signed into law in 2011, it was possibly the first major steps towards taking a more preventative approach when it came to food safety instead of simply reacting to problems when they arose.

But as some of our readers might know because of their position within the food industry, the FDA seems to be taking its time when it comes to implementing laws and regulations associated with the FSMA, which may leave some industry players wondering when they will see the laws and when they will be enforced as well.

OSHA cites Gem Drilling Co. Inc. for 19 safety violations

As many of our readers know, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration takes safety complaints very seriously and often does a thorough investigation in order to make sure that employers are following the safety guidelines handed down by the agency. But as many of our Texas readers also know, with changing policies and a lack of communication, an employer may accidently violate these regulations without meaning to. In the end, this can cost them thousands of dollars in fines and a tarnished reputation in the eyes of OSHA as well.

This may have been the case for Stamford-based Gem Drilling Co. Inc. when investigators from OSHA’s El Paso office took a look at their Texas facility back in November of last year. According to the inspection report, which was released earlier this month, investigators uncovered what they claim were 19 safety violations. OSHA is now giving the company 15 business days to either remedy the alleged safety hazards or contest the citations and penalties currently before them.

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