OSHA issues citations

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited four New Jersey contractors working on a 20-story building in Jersey City, N.J., for exposing workers to fall hazards. The citations were issued following a December 2011 inspection during which inspectors observed employees working on the fourth floor without personal fall protection or fall-protection systems. Altura Concrete Inc., Hasbrouck Heights, N.J.; Nathil Corp., Hasbrouck Heights; White Diamonds Properties LLC, Jersey City; and Blade Contracting Inc., Jersey City, face total proposed fines of $463,350.

Altura Concrete and Nathil directed 75 employees on-site. The companies have been cited for five willful violations—including four instance-by-instance violations—for failing to protect workers from fall hazards created by open sides and edges on the fourth, sixth, seventh, eighth, 10th and 13th floors, as well as from fall hazards created by misusing self-supporting stepladders. The citations carry $315,000 in penalties.

The companies also have received citations for nine serious violations, including failing to provide personal protective equipment; provide a cap for an acetylene tank in storage; store cylinders in an upright position; separate oxygen and acetylene tanks; provide fall protection for workers installing ribs; provide protection from protruding rebar; maintain shoring and reshoring plans on-site; provide railings on stairs; protect workers from fall hazards created by open holes; secure the cover over a floor hole and mark the floor hole cover. The citations carry $40,500 in penalties.

White Diamonds Properties has been issued citations for two willful violations involving failing to protect workers from fall hazards, as well as citations for five serious violations related to improper storage of compressed gas cylinders, unprotected rebar and failing to have drawings for shoring and reshoring on-site. The citations carry $95,400 in penalties.

Blade Contracting has been cited with three serious violations for failing to protect workers from fall hazards, improper scaffold use and not inspecting scaffold components for defects. The citations carry $11,550 in penalties.

The companies have 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with the OSHA area director, or contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Henry Co. is acquired by investor group

Henry Co., El Segundo, Calif., has been acquired by an investor group led by private equity firm Graham Partners and other co-investors, including private equity firm OceanBridge Partners, members of current management and Henry's former owners.

Henry supplies roof coatings and cements, air and vapor barriers, underlayments, waterproofing products, spray polyurethane foam, green roof systems, and other building and do-it-yourself products. The company also supplies wax and asphalt emulsions for various OEM applications.

Graham Partners and co-investors acquired Henry from private equity firm AEA Investors and other minority shareholders.

Brian Strauss will remain Henry's president and chief executive officer, and the existing senior management team will continue to lead the company.

IRS encourages taxpayers to backup tax records

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has encouraged individual and business taxpayers to safeguard themselves against natural disasters by creating a backup set of records, documenting valuables, updating emergency plans and checking on fiduciary bonds.

Taxpayers should keep a set of backup records in a safe place and stored away from the original set. If the original records are provided only in paper format, they can be scanned into an electronic format. Electronic forms can be downloaded to a backup storage device, such as an external hard drive, or copied to a CD or DVD.

Taxpayers should photograph or videotape the contents of their homes, especially higher-value items. The IRS' disaster loss workbook, Publication 584, can help taxpayers compile a room-by-room list of belongings. A photographic record can help provide the market value of items for insurance and casualty loss claims.

Emergency plans should be reviewed annually. When employers hire new employees or when a company or organization changes functions, plans should be updated accordingly and employees should be informed of the changes.

Employers who use payroll service providers should ask the provider whether it has a fiduciary bond in place. The bond could protect the employer in the event of default by the payroll service provider.

More information is available at www.irs.gov.

Safety experts discuss cell phone policy

In June, legal and safety experts told Bloomberg BNA—a leading source of legal, regulatory and business information for professionals—adopting a detailed cell phone policy can help protect employers from liability should an employee cause an accident by using an electronic communications device while driving. However, the experts also said such policies do not provide organizations with absolute legal protection especially if employees are not properly trained and held accountable for violations.

Also in June, Ray LaHood, secretary for the Department of Transportation (DOT), released "Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving," which offers a strategy to address what DOT describes as "the growing and dangerous practice of using handheld cell phones behind the wheel."

According to DOT, in 2010, at least 3,092 people were killed in distraction-related crashes, and an estimated 416,000 drivers and passengers were injured in crashes that involved a distracted driver.

Grace Horoupian, a partner at Fisher & Phillips, Irvine, Calif., says no law explicitly holds employers liable for moving violations committed by employees who use cell phones or other devices while driving. However, under the "respondeat superior" doctrine, employers have been held liable for their employees' wrongful conduct if a court or jury finds the conduct arose out of the regular course of the employee's employment duties.

Susan W. Kline, a partner with Faegre Baker Daniels, Indianapolis, says apps now are available that can disable electronic communications devices in a moving vehicle. Kline says a thorough policy will address what is allowed while driving an employer-provided or funded vehicle, what is allowed while using a company-provided or funded cell phone or other device at any time, and what is allowed while conducting company business even in a personal vehicle while using a personally owned cell phone or other device.

NIOSH to develop worker protection measures

A team at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is developing worker protection measures that would be part of LEED,® according to Matt Gillen, a deputy director in the NIOSH Office of Construction Safety and Health.

Gillen told American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Expo attendees NIOSH's National Occupational Research Agenda has identified specific areas within LEED that could contain language to enhance worker safety.

LEED includes third-party verification that a building has been "designed and built using strategies aimed at improving performance across all the metrics that matter most," including energy savings, water efficiency, carbon dioxide emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality and stewardship of natural resources. However, LEED does not include any requirements for worker safety and health, creating an opportunity for the council to develop recommendations for safety and health measures specific to green buildings. The areas identified by NIOSH include provisions on indoor air quality and safe access and fall protection on vegetative roofs.

Although the Green Building Council is drafting an updated code, the 2009 version will be available for the next three years.


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