Oregon OSHA Health and Safety


December 2015

Short takes

IH recruitment - five job openings with Oregon OSHA

Violation penalty increases likely for state OSHA plans

OSHA proposes updates to its Safety and Health Program Management Guidelines

Eliminating limied access in a confined space


IH recruitment – five job openings with Oregon OSHA

Spotting an opportunity to bolster her skills and serve the public, Brandi Davis left the private sector in 2002 to join Oregon OSHA as a health compliance officer.

At the time, Davis figured the new job would be a relatively short stint, maybe five years. She would broaden her skills and then hop back to the private side.

Fast-forward to today. It would be an understatement to say Davis is looking forward to staying put with Oregon OSHA. The senior health compliance officer now has 13 years with an agency dedicated to improving workplace safety and health for all workers in Oregon. And she continues to grow her skill set.

“When you are in a private industry, you become a master at one trade,” Davis said. “When you work for Oregon OSHA, you become a master at several trades.”

Davis is one of up to 28 health compliance officers for Oregon OSHA, a division of the state’s largest business regulatory and consumer protection agency: the Department of Consumer and Business Services. The division conducts about 900 health inspections annually and about 3,300 safety inspections per year involving employers in the private and public sectors.

The division’s health compliance officers are devoted to carrying out the art and science of industrial hygiene. Combining elements of engineering, chemistry, physics, and other disciplines, it’s a multifaceted world in which they evaluate, prevent, and control workplace stresses and hazards to help workers and their families lead healthy lives.

With five job openings on its health compliance staff, Oregon OSHA is looking for applicants who are committed to protecting the health and safety of people in the workplace and the community. Job responsibilities include handling health evaluations and investigations; taking enforcement action in a broad range of workplaces; overseeing technical training; and assisting employers and employees in reducing environmental threats and pressures in the workplace.

Opportunities for continuous learning are many. Likewise, the chance to conduct a variety of positive work to boost worker health and well-being are abundant. Just ask Chris Ottoson, statewide manager for health enforcement and emergency preparedness for Oregon OSHA. He has more than 30 years of experience in industrial hygiene. “We get to practice our profession in the broadest terms with the greatest impact,” he said.

Brian Hauck will tell you about it. The health compliance officer has been with Oregon OSHA for 18 years. Working for the agency, he said, gives him latitude to tackle problems, access to a stateof-the-art chemistry lab and room to learn as much as possible.

“I really enjoy the variety,” he said, noting that complacency is not an option at the agency.

By contrast, Hauck said, the private sector comes with limitations.

Brian Hauck testimonial about working at Oregon OSHA

“When you’re working for one specific company, you only learn a couple industry processes,” he said.

And protecting people is no abstract notion, as evidenced by one recent problem Hauck fixed. During a visit to a small foundry, Hauck discovered that employees weren’t wearing respirators as they sharpened and welded raw material into bronze statues.

He convinced the employer to do the right thing. The employees now wear respirators.

“Had we not gone in there, they would have been exposed – day after day, year after year – all of this metal in their lungs,” Hauck said.

For Davis, the job is rewarding on multiple levels. The diversity of the work takes her everywhere from a food manufacturer’s facility one day to a company’s sawmill the next and to a dental office the day after that. She works flexible hours. Mentors and experts in a range of fields and industries are just down the hall where she works.

“You’re working in an environment where you have such a depth of experts that are all around you,” Davis said.

Ultimately, though, it all comes down to focusing on the short- and long-term health and livelihoods of people and communities.

“We get to have an impact with employers to protect employees every day,” Davis said.

For more information about the five job openings on Oregon OSHA’s health-compliance staff, please visit www.oregon.gov/dcbs/jobs/Pages/jobs.aspx.

For more information about Oregon OSHA, go to osha.oregon.gov.

Here are direct links to the job announcements, open until

December 18, 2015:

Industrial Hygienist 2 – Eugene

Industrial Hygienist 2 – Tigard

Industrial Hygienist 3 – Bend

Did you know?

Oregon OSHA to propose changes to construction fall-protection requirements

Oregon OSHA is proposing to change the construction industry’s 10-foot fallprotection requirement to six feet and to revoke the use of slide guards as a primary fall-protection system. The proposal aims to address federal OSHA’s concern that the current requirements are not as effective as its requirements. more...

Violation penalty increases likely for state OSHA plans

On Nov. 2, President Barack Obama signed into law a budget bill (H.R. 1314) requiring OSHA to increase its maximum penalties by Aug. 1, 2016. President Barack Obama

A one-time “catch-up” increase could see OSHA’s maximum fines increase about 82 percent, which is the rise of the Consumer Price Index since the year OSHA penalties were last boosted in 1990. Starting in 2017, maximum penalties would keep pace with inflation.

State workplace safety and health agencies will likely be expected to follow the lead of federal OSHA and increase maximum penalties for violations.

“I suspect OSHA will take the position that states’ penalty authority be at least equal to [federal OSHA’s],” Michael Wood, chairman of the Occupational Safety and Health State Plan Association and administrator for Oregon OSHA, told Bloomberg BNA Nov. 6.

So far, Wood said, federal OSHA hasn’t offered guidance to state plans on what the agency’s expectations are for the 28 jurisdictions.

The new law doesn’t mention state-administered occupational safety and health agencies. However, the expectation that the federal requirement for state plan rules be at least as effective as the rules of federal OSHA may result in the agency telling states to follow its lead.

The expectation that the federal requirement for state plan rules be at least as effective as the rules of federal OSHA may result in the agency telling states to follow its lead.

If OSHA increased maximum penalties by 82 percent, the top fine for a repeat or willful violation would rise to $127,438, up from $70,000, while the limit for serious fines would grow from the current $7,000 to $12,744.

Wood said he hopes OSHA will treat the state plans as partners and work with them on how the fine increases will be implemented instead of issuing directives without input from the programs.

OSHA is expected to publish an interim final rule by July 1, 2016, to meet the mandated Aug. 1 effective date.

Source: BNA Occupational Safety & Health Daily
(Nov. 12, 2015)

Did you know?

Data points

The top10 preventive health and wellness benefits offered by employers in 2015

1. Wellness resources and information

2. General wellness programs

3. On-site seasonal flu vaccinations

4. Wellness publications

5. 24-hour nurse line

6. CPR and first aid training

7. Health and lifestyle coaching

8. Smoking cessation program

9. Health screening programs

10. Health fairs

Source: Society for Human Resource Management

OSHA proposes updates to its Safety and Health Program Management Guidelines

Federal OSHA is proposing changes to its Safety and Health Program Management Guidelines – first published 26 years ago – and is asking you to comment on them.

OSHA’s proposed changes to the guidelines build on lessons the agency learned from its Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) and the Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP). The guidelines are also consistent with many national and international consensus standards.

The revised guidelines should be particularly helpful to owners of small- and medium-sized businesses. The document recognizes that finding and fixing hazards before they harm a worker is far more effective than fixing them after the worker is injured.

And for the first time, the guidelines address ways that employers at multi-employer sites can coordinate efforts to ensure that workers are protected.

The guidelines are advisory only and do not create any new legal obligations or alter existing obligations under OSHA standards or regulations.

The proposed changes to the guidelines include:

  • A “proactive approach” to finding and abating hazards
  • Recommendations suitable for all workplaces
  • Help specifically for small- and medium-sized business owners
  • Information addressing temporary workers
  • A greater focus on employee participation
  • Improved communication and coordination on multi-employer worksites

OSHA has made available a draft of the revised guidelines on its website, at www.osha.gov/shpmguidelines. The page also has a direct link to post comments, which will be accepted until Feb. 15.

Eliminating limited access in a confined space

Confined spaces are not uncommon in workplaces and Oregon OSHA’s consultants get many requests from employers to determine how they might be reconfigured. A confined space, by the way, is any space that is large enough to enter and perform work, not designed for continuous occupancy, and is difficult to enter and exit. Reconfiguring a confined space can make it safer for employees to enter; especially if the space has hazards that can be controlled.

Earlier this year, Senior Occupational Health Consultant Jeff Jackson received one such request from a steel foundry. The company wanted him to evaluate the entry to its confined space shake-out pit (a shake-out pit contains all the mechanical equipment necessary to remove the metal castings from the molds).

The shake-out pit met all of the criteria for a confined space, but the equipment was well guarded and could be locked out for maintenance work and there were no atmospheric hazards. It was a fixed ladder that made access to the space difficult.

Replacing the fixed ladder with a stairway would eliminate the confined space classification because the space would no longer be difficult to enter, but installing stairs required extensive concrete cutting and would be expensive. Then Jackson thought of another idea: “Why not put in ship’s stairs? They’re cheaper and easier to install,” he told the employer. He did some research and discovered that OSHA does not regard ship’s stairs as standard ladders, and there were no rules that prohibited their use in this case. Just to be sure, Jackson doublechecked with Oregon OSHA Technical Specialist Dave McLaughlin who said that as long as the ship’s stairs were not steeper than 70-degrees they could be used as a stairway, and the shake-out pit would not have to be classified as a confined space. However, it would still have to be considered a hazardous work location, and entry must be restricted only to employees who serviced the equipment.

Jackson also recommended laminating and posting specific energy control procedures at the entrance to the pit for locking out the equipment and for periodic audits of the energy control procedures.

Company officials later told Jackson that installing a ship’s ladder was 75 percent cheaper than the cost of installing a standard stairway, and it eliminated the “limited access” problem to the shake-out pit.

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