Kerr, Hendershot  & Cannon, P.C. Osha Law Attorneys Osha Law Attorneys
Call Today
(713) 893-1668

Houston OSHA Law Blog

Why your work site needs a job safety analysis (JSA)

A job safety analysis (JSA) is a technique that helps supervisors,employees and safety professionals identify job hazards before they occur. If jobs at your work site pose hazards or potential safety hazards, they can benefit from a JSA. Having a JSA can prevent or reduce the risk of serious accidents in jobs that feature hazards or potential safety hazards.

Creating a JSA is a three-step process. Anyone who is involved in implementing a job or task should be involved in its creation. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends the following process:

How you can improve your business's fire safety training

The risk of a workplace fire is not something anyone can take lightly. Despite this, fire safety training is often thrown in during orientation for new employees. Your workplace fire safety program should not be relegated to one item on a long list of paperwork and orientation meetings. By boosting your safety training, you can prevent it from getting lost in the shuffle.

As a recent article in Occupational Health & Safety magazine points out, effective fire safety training is especially important for new employees because they can often be more easily influenced. Once an employee has settled into a position, it may harder to create new safety habits.

What's the best eye protection for employees?

Eyes are easily damaged, and not just from blows to the head. A trace of chemical or a speck of metal is all that's required for a serious eye injury and a visit from Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspectors.

Because of this danger, OSHA requires eye and face protection for workers whose eyes could be harmed by chemicals, dangerous liquids, molten metals, damaging light radiation or other hazards. Fortunately, safety glasses are one of the easiest protections you can provide for your employees.

New rules for reporting accidents start Jan. 1, 2015

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has specific rules for when employers must report severe injuries and deaths from work-related accidents. Starting in January, those rules will change.

Currently, employers must notify OSHA of work-related fatalities within eight hours. Employers must also report in-patient hospitalizations of three or more employees.

Protecting oil and gas workers from hand injuries and other hazards

The oil and gas industry is booming in Texas and throughout the U.S. According to Occupational Health & Safety Magazine, employment in this industry is up 60 percent since 2009. That means thousands more workers in oilfields, transportation and refineries, in jobs that are often far more dangerous than those found at a typical workplace. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found the fatality rate in the oil and gas industry to be almost eight times the national average.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) lists numerous hazards that oil and gas workers may face on a daily basis, including:

  • Falls
  • Explosions and fires
  • Vehicle accidents
  • Being struck by or caught in or between machinery or objects
  • Electrical hazards
  • High pressure lines and equipment

Frequently asked questions about confined spaces

Confined spaces are a common trouble spot for employers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has special regulations for some, but not all, types of confined spaces. Employers often have questions about how to ensure safety in confined spaces and follow OSHA's complex regulations. Below, we provide answers to some basic questions employers have about confined spaces.

What is a confined space?

A confined space is an area that is not designed for people, but is large enough for workers to enter. A confined space has limited or restricted entries and exits. Examples of confined spaces are:

  • Tanks
  • Vessels
  • Silos
  • Storage bins
  • Hoppers
  • Vaults
  • Pits
  • Manholes
  • Ductwork

This list is not exhaustive, however, and many other confined spaces could exist at a worksite.

Are your employees wearing personal protective equipment?

In South Texas, the average temperature in September is above 90 degrees. For many workers, the heat of summer and fall creates challenging work environments. The most obvious challenges are heat exhaustion and heat stroke that result from exposure to the sun. Employers should also watch for another potential danger to workers from the heat: a lack of personal protective equipment.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is mandated either by employers or by safety regulations to protect workers from hazards. It may involve head, ear or eye protection, hand protection, leg and foot protection, respiratory protection, or other equipment that protects workers from hazards.

What are the maximum fines for OSHA violations?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issues financial penalties for violations of its safety regulations. According to OSHA's field operations manual, the penalties are designed to encourage all employers to prevent and correct hazards immediately. It says that Congress intended penalty amounts to be "sufficient to serve as an effective deterrent to violations."

The maximum penalties for violations include:

  • Other-than-serious violations: The maximum penalty is $7,000. These are violations that would not cause death or serious harm.
  • Serious violations: The mandatory penalty is $7,000. These violations could cause death or serious physical harm. If convicted of a willful violation that results in death, the recipient could face a criminal conviction, up to $250,000 per individual and $500,000 per corporation as well as jail time.
  • Failure to abate a violation: The maximum penalty is $7,000 per day after the abatement period ends.
  • Willful or repeated violations: The maximum penalty is $70,000 for each violation after the abatement period ends.

Companies with OSHA violations face new scrutiny for federal contracts

The White House is targeting contractors with poor safety records. An executive order signed late last month is intended to create greater scrutiny of the safety records of companies that receive federal contracts. The order, signed July 31, will require that companies when seeking a federal contract must disclose labor law violations. That includes violations handled by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Such violations can already make it more difficult for a business to obtain government contracts. The new executive order affects contracts for goods and services - including construction - that exceed $500,000. In these cases, companies must disclose whether they have had any OSHA violations or violations of 14 other labor laws within the past three years.

Defending Against OSHA Whistleblower Claims

The number of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) whistleblower claims has increased substantially in the past few years. According to OSHA, there were 2,787 claims in 2012, compared with 1,934 claims in 2005. In addition, thousands of employees have brought claims under OSHA whistleblower protection laws, alleging that their employers retaliated against them for bringing forward safety concerns or participating in OSHA investigations.

Employers must be prepared for these claims, from handling internal complaints that could lead to federal whistleblower claims to responding appropriately to government inquiries.

Done correctly and with the right facts, it is possible to defend against OSHA whistleblower claims. In fact, the majority of claims in 2012 were dismissed (1,665 claims) or withdrawn (565 claims). Even if a claim is eventually dismissed, however, employers can still face harmful exposure caused by an OSHA whistleblower complaint.

What can your company do to protect itself when an employee makes a claim with OSHA?