Health and Safety Resource

​August-September 2017

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Ross Island Bridge contractor cited for safety violations

Oregon OSHA has fined Abhe & Svoboda Inc. $189,000 for nine safety violations – two of them willful – that exposed employees to death or serious injury as they worked on a project to restore the Ross Island Bridge in Portland.

Oregon OSHA cited the violations as the result of an investigation of a Feb. 8, 2017, accident.

The accident happened underneath the bridge, where a suspended scaffolding system was installed. An employee was working on an upper deck, 37 feet above a lower platform. He fell through a ladder opening, landing on an employee who was working directly below on the lower platform. Both employees survived the accident, suffering multiple injuries.

Ross Island Bridge construction area
A worker who fell from an upper platform underneath the Ross Island Bridge was not protected by a fall protection system.

The employee who fell was not protected by a fall protection system, per Oregon OSHA’s rules. In fact, an estimated eight employees were exposed to this hazard when the accident occurred, according to the investigation.

The investigation also found:

  • The company failed to provide proper access to work areas, forcing employees to climb up or down the scaffolding and bridge structure, and to sidestep or step over holes ranging in size from three inches to 24 inches
  • The company failed to construct and install the scaffolding system according to the minimum bracing requirements, as outlined by professional specifications
  • Scaffolds and related components were not set up, dismantled, and moved under the direction of a competent person
  • Employees lacked rest platforms while climbing 37-foot ladders
  • The company failed to ensure that employees had a work platform that was at least 18 inches wide
  • Anchorages for fall protection equipment were not installed or used under the supervision of a competent person
  • Scaffolds were not inspected for visible defects before each work shift by a competent person
  • A makeshift device – a wooden step stool – was used on platforms to increase the working height of employees

Oregon OSHA cited two of the nine safety violations as willful: the failure to provide proper access to work areas, which forced employees to climb structures and step over holes, and the failure to follow bracing requirements for the scaffolding. Each willful violation carries the legal maximum penalty of $70,000.

Seven of the nine violations were cited as serious, each with the maximum penalty of $7,000.

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Workplace safety/health training grants available

Oregon OSHA is accepting grant applications for the development of innovative workplace safety and health training programs. Applications are due Friday, Oct. 6.

The agency encourages unique projects such as mobile apps, videos, or online educational games to engage workers.

The training grants will focus on programs that target a high-hazard Oregon industry, such as construction or agriculture, or a specific work process to reduce or eliminate hazards. Any employer, labor group, school affiliated with a labor group, or nonprofit organization may apply. Applicants may request up to $40,000 per grant project.

Employers are not allowed to use grants to pay for training for their employees. Materials are housed in the Oregon OSHA Resource Center and are available to the public for checkout from the library.

Some examples of past grant projects include:

  • Development of safe-lifting guidelines
  • Spanish-language flip charts designed to help prevent heat-related illness among forest workers
  • An educational program for nurses to prevent ergonomic-related injuries

The Oregon Legislature launched the Occupational Safety and Health Education and Training Grant Program in 1990. Award recommendations are made by Oregon OSHA’s Safe Employment Education and Training Advisory Committee, a group with members from business, labor, and government.

For more information, contact Teri Watson at 503-947-7406 or teri.a.watson@oregon.gov.

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Oregon OSHA consultant wins 2017 Blue Star Award

The Oregon SHARP Alliance presented Oregon OSHA consultant George Vorhauer with the organization's 2017 Blue Star Award at the Blue Mountain Safety and Health Conference on June 6.

George Vorhauer 

The Blue Star award recognizes Oregon individuals for their outstanding dedication to and impact on workplace safety and health in Oregon.

The annual award is presented at the SHARP Alliance's Blue Mountain Safety and Health Conference in June.

Vorhauer started with Oregon OSHA in 1989 as a compliance officer in the Portland area and worked for several years on Oregon OSHA's Fatality Investigation Team before becoming a consultant in northeast Oregon. He was the chairperson for the Governor's Occupational Safety and Health Conference in 1997 and past president of the American Society of Safety Engineers (Cascade Chapter).

As a safety consultant, Vorhauer spends much of his time teaching employers to think beyond basic hazard recognition and how to look for the underlying causes of hazards.

Vorhauer has also served as a SHARP team leader or team member for 10 eastern Oregon companies as they worked through the SHARP process, and assisted in 11 audits of companies that are participating in the Voluntary Protection Program.

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Preventing heat illness for workers in hot weather

As temperatures rise this – and every – summer, Oregon OSHA encourages employers and workers in construction, agriculture and other labor-intensive activities to learn the signs of heat illness and focus on prevention.

The call to address the hazards of working in high heat is part of a larger heat stress prevention program recently launched by Oregon OSHA. Under the program, the agency’s enforcement and consultation activities will include a review of employers’ plans to deal with heat exposure, especially from June 15 through Oct. 1 of each year.

The prevention program applies to both outdoor job sites and indoor workplaces where potential heat-related hazards may exist.

Exposure to heat can lead to headaches, cramps, dizziness, fatigue, nausea or vomiting, and even seizures or death. From 2011 to 2016, 36 people received benefits through Oregon’s workers’ compensation system for heat-related illnesses.

Here are some tips for preventing a heat-related illness:

  • Perform the heaviest, most labor-intensive work during the coolest part of the day.
  • Use the buddy system (work in pairs) to monitor the heat.
  • Drink plenty of cool water (one small cup every 15 to 20 minutes).
  • Wear light, loose-fitting, and breathable clothing (such as cotton).
  • Take frequent short breaks in cool, shaded areas – allow your body to cool down.
  • Avoid eating large meals before working in hot environments.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcoholic beverages (these make the body lose water and increase the risk of heat illnesses).

Employers can calculate the heat index for their worksite with the heat stress app for mobile phones. Oregon OSHA has a booklet available in both English and Spanish​ with tips for working in the heat.

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Stayton facility earns safety recognition

RedBuilt LLC in Stayton has received an award for completing its first year of involvement in the Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP).

SHARP, a program through Oregon OSHA’s consultation services, provides an incentive for Oregon employers to work with their employees to find and correct hazards, develop and implement effective safety and health programs, and continuously improve. The program aims to encourage employers to become self-sufficient in managing workplace safety and health issues. Currently, 26 employer locations in Oregon participate in SHARP. That’s in addition to about 152 employers that have graduated from the program. An employer graduates when it completes five years of SHARP.

With 120 employees at the Stayton facility, RedBuilt LLC is a leader in the design, manufacture, and support of proprietary engineered structural wood products for commercial applications. Headquartered in Boise, Idaho, RedBuilt operates four manufacturing plants and four design and sales offices in the United States.

The SHARP program helped the company generate new ways to improve safety awareness and helped confirm the company’s safety program is on the right track, according to Brian Cowan and Dan Rowell, the Stayton facility’s plant manager and safety manager, respectively.

Oregon employers that have been in business for more than one year are eligible to apply for SHARP, regardless of size or type of business, although the program is primarily designed to help small and mid-size businesses.

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Program offers workers path to retirement savings

The Oregon State Treasury is launching a new program, OregonSaves, offering workers a convenient way to save for retirement.

The program allows them to save a part of each paycheck through payroll deductions facilitated by their employer and to invest their savings in professionally managed investment options in a Roth individual retirement account.

The account is portable, allowing workers to take it with them from job to job.

Any business with employees that does not sponsor a qualified retirement plan will need to register to facilitate OregonSaves for its employees.

The registration process is designed to be simple in order to limit any burden on employers. Employers can choose to offer their own retirement plans to some or all of their employees instead of participating in the program.

The deadlines for employers to register are as follows:

  • An employer with 100 or more employees: Nov. 15, 2017
  • An employer with 50 to 99 employees: May 15, 2018
  • An employer with 20 to 49 employees: Dec. 15, 2018
  • An employer with 10 to 19 employees: May 15, 2019
  • An employer with five to nine employees: Nov. 15, 2019
  • An employer with four or fewer employees: May 15, 2020

The state will send a notice about the program to employers about six months before their registration deadline. The state will send another notice to employers one month before the deadline with instructions about how to register.

For more information, including answers to frequently asked questions, visit www.oregonsaves.com or call 844-661-1256.

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