From the Desk of Chris Forbes - ES&H News and Alerts – This information is current as of 8.02.2004 Construction company fined $280,000 for deadly crane collapse A St. Louis-based construction company is facing proposed penalties of $280,000 following a crane collapse during the construction of a bridge in Toledo, Ohio. The incident resulted in four deaths, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced. The company was cited for four willful violations of federal workplace safety and health standards, including failure to comply with the manufacturer’s instructions for the safe operation of cranes. "This tragic accident could have and should have been prevented," said OSHA Administrator John Henshaw. "We must ensure that employers protect their workers from occupational hazards, so injury and illness rates continue to decline. The significant fines of $280,000 proposed in this case demonstrate the commitment of this Administration to protecting the health and safety of America's workers." OSHA’s investigation of the February 16 accident found that the company failed to follow the manufacturers’ specifications by failing to sufficiently anchor the crane to the concrete pier segments and pier caps. OSHA also found that the company failed to use any anchoring bars for the rear legs of the crane, and used an insufficient number of anchoring bars for the front legs. The company has 15 working days from receipt of the citations to appeal before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. Texas Workers' Comp Commission offers tips to prevent employee exposure to the West Nile Virus During the summer, when mosquitoes are the most active, the Texas Workers' Compensation Commission reminds employers and workers to take precautions when working outside. Workers at highest risk of exposure to the West Nile Virus are those working outdoors during times when mosquitoes are actively biting. Occupations at risk include farmers, foresters, landscapers, groundskeepers, painters, roofers, road pavers, construction workers, and other outdoor workers. Preventing mosquito bites reduces the risk of contracting the West Nile Virus, along with other diseases that mosquitoes can carry. Employers can protect their employees by establishing safe practices while working outdoors. When possible, do not schedule work at dawn and dusk to avoid having workers outdoors when mosquitoes are most active and biting. Eliminate as many sources of standing water as possible to eliminate mosquito-breeding areas. Change the water regularly in animal drinking troughs, ponds and other standing bodies of water. Turn over, cover, or remove equipment such as tarps, buckets, barrels, and wheel barrows that accumulate water. Discard tires, buckets, cans, and containers in the area. Place drain holes in containers that cannot be discarded. Clean out rain gutters and ditches to get rid of standing water. Fill in ruts and other areas that accumulate water. Recommendations for workers Outdoors workers can decrease their risk of West Nile Virus infection by reducing their contact with mosquitoes through the use of the personal protective measures. Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and socks when possible. Spray exposed skin with insect repellents. Read and follow label directions for repellent use. Use repellents at the lowest effective concentration. Use repellents containing DEET (N-N-diethyl-3-methylbenzamide or N,N-diethylmetatoluamide) at concentrations of 35 percent or less. Do not apply repellents to cuts, wounds, or irritated skin. When needed, reapply repellents according to label directions. Spray clothing with products containing DEET or premethrin, as mosquitoes may bite through thin clothing. Wash treated clothing before wearing it again. Do not apply repellents under clothing. Recent cases highlight EPA asbestos enforcement efforts Co-owners of a West Virginia company were recently sentenced for crimes arising from the illegal removal of asbestos. The defendants will each serve three years probation, the first six months in home detention. They were also ordered to pay $52,000 in restitution for medical monitoring of workers they illegally hired to remove and dispose of asbestos from a building between November 2000 and February 2001. At the plea hearing, an EPA Criminal Investigation Division (EPA/CID) Special Agent testified that the defendants hired and then exposed untrained workers to asbestos without protection during the removal and disposal of asbestos from the building. In another case, the owner of an industrial park in New York pled guilty to violating the Clean Air Act. The owner admitted to hiring workers to illegally handle asbestos from buildings which he owned at his industrial park. The defendant admitted that the workers illegally disposed of the asbestos by dumping it at various locations near the New York State/Massachusetts border. Illegal dumping of asbestos can cause asbestos fibers to become airborne, and inhaling asbestos fibers is a known cause of lung cancer, a lung disease known as “asbestosis,” and mesothelioma which is a cancer of the chest and abdominal cavities. At sentencing, the owner faces a maximum sentence of up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $250,000. Assessing workplace health and productivity subject of scientific journal supplement A special Supplement that reports significant advances in the field of health and productivity research to measure and evaluate the effects of disease on workplace productivity is included with the June issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (JOEM), official publication of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM). Topics include current models and methods for productivity measurement in health care research; lost productive work time (LPT) estimates; use of the World Health Organization’s Health and Work Performance Questionnaire (HPQ) to determine the indirect costs of illness; the association of medical conditions and presenteeism (time lost at work); loss of work productivity due to depression; and steps to ensure effective health and productivity management. The Supplement articles represent the most current step in the evolution of each author’s work and the most significant scientific advance regarding health and workplace productivity since publication of JOEM’s January 2001 special issue on “Health, Productivity, and Occupational Medicine.” ACOEM is an international medical society of more than 6,000 members. The College provides leadership to promote optimal health and safety of workers, workplaces, and environment by educating health professionals and the public; stimulating research; enhancing quality of practice; guiding public policy; and advancing the field of occupational and environmental medicine. ACOEM is head-quartered in Arlington Heights, Illinois.