OEHS NEWS ; GOVERNMENT NEWS ; INDUSTRY NEWS
OSHA Issues Largest-ever Fine to BP
OSHA undertook an historic enforcement action on Oct. 30, assessing more than $87 million dollars in fines to BP Products
North America for the company’s failure to comply with a 2005
settlement agreement with the agency. That agreement stemmed
from OSHA enforcement actions following a March 2005 explosion at a BP refinery in Texas City, Texas, that killed 15 people
and injured 170.
The fine followed a six-month OSHA
inspection intended to determine
whether BP was complying with the
settlement agreement. According to
OSHA, the inspection found 270 violations associated with failure to abate
hazards that led to the 2005 explosion.
The agency also uncovered 439 new
“BP was given four years to correct
the safety issues identified pursuant to
the settlement agreement, yet OSHA
has found hundreds of violations of the agreement and hundreds of new violations. BP still has a great deal of work to do
to assure the safety and health of the employees who work at
this refinery,” said acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA
BP immediately announced that it would contest OSHA’s action. The company maintains that it has complied with the
2005 settlement agreement and has brought the matter before
the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission
(OSHRC). As of early November, the OSHRC had not yet rendered a decision on the matter.
“We are disappointed that OSHA took this action in advance
of the full consideration of the Review Commission,” said Texas
City Refinery Manager Keith Casey. “We continue to believe we
are in full compliance with the Settlement Agreement, and we
look forward to demonstrating that before the Review Commis-
sion. While we strongly disagree with OSHA’s conclusions, we
will continue to work with the agency to resolve our differences.”
The previous largest fine for workplace safety violations, is-
sued in 2005, was $21 million, also against BP.
Obama Declares H1N1 a National Emergency as Vaccine
President Obama declared H1N1 a national emergence on Oct. 24.
The declaration allows hospitals and local governments to set
up alternate sites for treatment if they experience a surge of
Government officials estimated that as of late October, H1N1
was responsible for more than 1,000 deaths in the U.S. By early
November the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
reported that H1N1 was widespread in 48 states, a level that
equals the peak of the typical winter flu season.
The New York Times reported that
some hospitals in Texas and Tennessee
had set up tents in their parking lots to
screen patients with flu-like symptoms,
but government officials said that, to
their knowledge, no hospitals had been
overwhelmed by patients.
Obama’s declaration came as many
jurisdictions were forced to delay
planned distribution of the H1N1 vaccine because production of the vaccine
had proceeded more slowly than
planned. Initially, an estimated 120 million doses of the vaccine were expected, but CDC said that it expected only 28 million doses by the end of October.
CDC Revises H1N1 Guidance for Health Care Workers
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued revised H1N1 guidance for health care
workers on Oct. 14. The revisions focus on
implementing controls intended to prevent
flu transmission, such as minimizing outpatient visits for people with mild flu-like
illness and denying entry to sick visitors.
CDC continues to recommend fit-tested
N95 respirators for health care workers. The
revised guidance, available from
shortages of N95 respirators and advises
employers to consider using powered air purifying respirators or
elastometric half-mask and full facepiece respirators.
OSHA Issues Advance
Notice of Proposed Rule-
making on Combustible
OSHA published an advance
notice of proposed rulemaking
(ANPR) for a combustible dust
standard in the Oct. 21 edition
of the Federal Register. In an-
nouncing the ANPR, Acting