DOL updates its online enforcement database

The Department of Labor (DOL) updated its online enforcement database designed to improve public access to and understanding of the department's enforcement actions. The updated website includes map displays of inspection and violation data from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). Website users also can view individual inspection records and the enforcement history of a particular company or mine.

The updated website allows users to view important agency metrics; perform keyword searches; filter data by year, violations or penalties; and export search results or an entire data set into downloadable formats. A new labs feature allows users to create data visualizations and animations using several decades' worth of MSHA data.

DOL created the enforcement database, which can be accessed at ogesdw.dol.gov, to increase transparency, participation and collaboration as part of the administration's Open Government Initiative.

Formaldehyde and styrene listed in carcinogen report

Formaldehyde and styrene, two chemicals found in a number of building products, including some used in roofing, have been listed in a report by the Department of Health and Human Services discussing the effects of certain agents on cancer development in humans.

The 12th Report on Carcinogens (ROC), prepared by the National Toxicology Program, is a congressionally mandated, science-based, public health document that identifies chemical and biological agents representing cancer hazards. The ROC is not a regulatory document, and a listing in the ROC alone does not mean a substance will cause cancer.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), many factors combine to affect the likelihood that a person will develop cancer, including the amount and duration of exposure and an individual's susceptibility to a substance. The report categorizes substances in two ways: "known to be a human carcinogen" or "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen."

Formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable chemical that can be in liquid or gas form. It is widely used to make resins for various products used in construction, such as some oriented strand board and plywood. Formaldehyde also may be found in other construction materials. The highest worker exposures to formaldehyde result from environments where the liquid or gas is used or produced. Other worker exposures result from the release of formaldehyde, so called off-gassing, from a finished product, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Naturally, indoor concentrations of formaldehyde off-gassing from products may be higher than outdoor levels. Formaldehyde is listed in the report as a known human carcinogen.

Styrene is a colorless, flammable and highly volatile liquid. According to NIH, it is used to make polystyrene and resins found in various products including insulation and pipes, as well as in tobacco smoke. Styrene is listed as "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen."

Roofing contractors should be aware that no new regulations have resulted from formaldehyde or styrene being listed in the ROC. A specific Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulation exists for formaldehyde; the construction industry regulation can be found at 29 CFR 1926.1148, but it is based on the general industry regulation 29 CFR 1910.148. The regulation sets a permissible exposure limit and allows objective data to be used in lieu of exposure monitoring in appropriate circumstances.

Styrene is listed in 29 CFR 1926.55—Gases, vapors, fumes, dusts and mists, Appendix A, with a ceiling exposure limit rather than an eight-hour time-weighted average.

You should review Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) to determine the presence of formaldehyde or styrene in any products to which your workers may be exposed. MSDSs should contain information about appropriate work methods and personal protective equipment that can help minimize or eliminate worker exposure to the chemicals.

OSHA revises rigging equipment rules

A final rule recently published by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) received little attention but will alter the way employers use rigging equipment such as slings, shackles and hooks.

OSHA rules on rigging equipment in Subpart H of the construction industry regulations contained tables for determining safe working loads for various types of slings. However, the tables were based on a standard that became obsolete with publication of newer versions. Under the Standards Improvement Project, the agency acts to remove or revise confusing or outdated standards, and the rigging standard met those criteria.

The current standard referenced by OSHA is ANSI/ASME B30.9-2010, "Safety Standard for Cableways, Cranes, Derricks, Hoists, Hooks, Jacks and Slings," which contains current tables for rigging equipment's recommended safe working loads. The standard was published in 1971. However, in the revision that became effective July 8, OSHA altered the protocol for use of various slings, shackles and hooks from one based on reference to the standard's tables that were published in Subpart H to one that relies on manufacturer markings of load ratings on the particular piece of equipment. This change assigns several affirmative duties to employers with respect to all rigging equipment:

  • Never to exceed the load capacity marked by the manufacturer on the sling, shackle or hook
  • Never to use rigging equipment that does not have its load capacity marked on it
  • To immediately remove from service any equipment from which the manufacturer's markings have been detached or become illegible and return that equipment to service only when new labels are obtained and affixed
All load capacity tables previously published within Subpart H, 29 CFR 1926.251, have been removed except for Table H-2 relating to maximum allowable wear on chains and Table H-20 relating to number and spacing of u-bolt wire rope clips.

You are advised to check all slings, shackles and hooks to verify original manufacturer load-capacity markings are in place and remove from service any equipment not properly marked. Equipment may be returned to service once load-capacity markings have been replaced or restored.

FBI raids Solyndra

Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) raided Solyndra LLC's Fremont, Calif., headquarters Sept 8. The company is the target of a criminal investigation into whether its executives misled the government to secure more than $500 million in loan guarantees in 2009.The raids were conducted at the order of the Department of Energy's (DOE's) inspector general.

A week before the raid, Solyndra announced it was filing for bankruptcy and laying off 1,100 workers. The company also filed for bankruptcy protection Sept. 6 with liabilities of $783.8 million. The company had been searching for a buyer or investor to bail it out since February when an out-of-court restructuring reshuffled its debt load. Under the restructuring, DOE agreed that in the event of a default and liquidation, the government would be paid after private creditors provided a new $69 million loan.

The agencies involved in the raid would not provide details about the investigation. However, people close to the matter said it was assumed the search was related to the company's actions in securing federal loan guarantees. The loans are part of the $862 billion economic stimulus package passed by Congress in 2009 and have been the subject of a probe by the House Energy and Commerce Committee for months.

"The FBI raid further underscores that Solyndra was a bad bet from the beginning and put taxpayers at unnecessary risk," said Reps. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

House Republicans have questioned whether politics played a role in the company getting funding. One of the family funds of billionaire investor George Kaiser of Oklahoma, who helped raise money for President Barack Obama's presidential campaign, invested in Solyndra and lent it money.

Obama administration officials have said the $535 million loan guarantee also was sought by the Bush administration. They also said Solyndra increased sales revenue 2,000 percent during the past three years and that private investors put more than $1 billion into the company.

Stearns called on the White House to release all communications between the White House, Solyndra and its investors.

Legislation allows use of asphalt made from roofing shingles

In August, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) signed legislation to allow the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) to use asphalt made from recycled roofing shingles.

The legislation—House Bill 1326—also instructs IDOT to use recycled materials in its projects as much as possible, which Quinn's office says will save $8 million a year. IDOT will report the results of its efforts to the Illinois House and Senate transportation committees.

IRS provides tax relief to Hurricane Irene victims

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is providing tax relief to individual and business taxpayers affected by Hurricane Irene, which hit the U.S. East Coast in August.

The tax relief postpones certain tax filing and payment deadlines to Oct. 31. It includes corporations and businesses that previously obtained an extension to file their 2010 returns until Sept. 15 and individuals and businesses that received a similar extension until Oct. 17. It also includes the estimated tax payment for this year's third quarter.

More details, including the start date for relief in various locations and information about how to claim a disaster loss by amending a prior-year tax return, can be found in tax relief announcements for individual states at www.irs.gov.


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