From the Executive Director’s Office: Fostering a Safe Workplace Free from Retaliation

Don ElswickThe Occupational Safety and Health Administration remains committed to protecting the rights of workers who raise safety and health concerns. Protecting workers means not only complying with regulations. Workers also have a legal right to raise safety and health concerns on the job without fear of retaliation. Workplace policies allowing workers to report unsafe, potentially dangerous and costly problems are a key element of a safety and health program. It is well-known that companies with effective safety and health programs actually find it helpful to encourage employees to report their concerns.

Unfortunately, not all establishments foster a cooperative environment where workers can express concerns about workplace practices. Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act protects employees who exercise their rights under the law. In the decades since the passage of the OSH Act, Congress has enacted several other statutes expanding whistleblower protection in other areas. These provisions protect employees from retaliation when they raise or report concerns regarding hazards or violations of various laws related to workplace safety and health, transportation, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health insurance reform, securities, and taxes.

It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee engaging in protected activities under these laws. Such activities may include requesting personal protective equipment, filing reports about possible violations of the law with the OSHA or other government agencies, raising concerns about workplace hazards or potential violations of the law to the employer, reporting a workplace injury or illness, or refusing to conduct tasks that would violate the law.

The agency has aggressively pursued whistleblower cases of retaliation and wrongful termination and has seen positive results. From Oct. 1, 2020 through Dec. 31, 2020, federal OSHA received 2,835 whistleblower complaints, of which the agency has processed 99 percent, or 2,823 complaints. The agency has recorded 657 whistleblower complaints for investigation and closed 2,164 cases administratively.

To prevent workplace retaliation, OSHA issued Recommended Practices for Anti-Retaliation Programs to help employers create an environment in which workers feel comfortable voicing their concerns without fear of retaliation. The recommendations are intended to apply to all public and private sector employers covered by the more than 20 whistleblower protection laws that OSHA enforces. The recommendations are adaptable to most workplaces, and employers may adjust them for such variables as number of employees, makeup of the workforce, and type of work performed. These concepts can be used to create a new program or enhance an existing one.

The document outlines five key elements of an effective anti-retaliation program:

  1. Management leadership, commitment, and accountability,
  2. System for listening to and resolving employees’ safety and compliance concerns,
  3. System for receiving and responding to reports of retaliation,
  4. Anti-retaliation training for employees and managers, and
  5. Program oversight.

A proactive anti-retaliation program should respond appropriately to employees’ compliance concerns (i.e., concerns about hazards or potential employer violations of one of the more than 20 laws enforced by OSHA), and address retaliation against employees who raise or report concerns.

To obtain more information on OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program or the laws under its jurisdiction, visit www.whistleblowers.gov or call (800) 321-6742 (OSHA).

UA SafeState Hosts Environmental Webinar Series

The University of Alabama SafeState (UA SafeState) is launching a new webinar series, “Accelerating Toward P2”. This series will highlight specific pollution prevention (P2) environmental strategies for the automotive industry – including original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), as well as automotive suppliers and vendors.

P2 is any practice that reduces, eliminates, or prevents pollution at its source. P2 approaches can result in increased efficiency in the use of raw materials, energy, water, or other resources, while also lowering business costs. This series will specifically focus on process waste identification and reduction, compressed air and energy consumption, developing environmental management systems and implementing ISO 14001 at a facility, and the identification of source reduction activities by examining chemical emissions.

Presenters include Ashley Chambers and Kalyn Tew from UA SafeState’s environmental programs team and Dr. David MacPhee with the University of Alabama’s Industrial Assessment Center.

Attendees must register to attend each webinar. See the list below for information regarding each webinar in the series.

April 1 – 11AM CST
Rev it Up – Identifying & Reducing Waste Streams
Register Here

April 8 – 11AM CST
Utilize High Standards – Implementing an ISO 14001
Register Here

April 15 – 11AM CST
Shift to Success – Chemical Emissions & SRA
Register Here

April 22 – 11AM CST
Compressed Air & Energy Efficiency Programs
Register Here

This webinar series is made possible thanks to an EPA Pollution Prevention grant.

For more information about UA SafeState’s P2 program, visit www.alabamasafestate.ua.edu/pollutionprevention or email ashley.chambers@ua.edu

Brasfield & Gorrie / OSHA / UA SafeState:  A Strategic Partnership for Workplace Safety at Grandview Physicians Plaza II office Building

On Feb. 17, 2021, general contractor Brasfield & Gorrie LLC, OSHA Region IV and UA SafeState signed a strategic partnership agreement for workplace safety at Grandview Physicians Plaza II Office Building in Birmingham, Alabama. The common objectives and goals of the partnership are to:

  1. Reduce injuries and illness.
  2. Increase safety and health training.
  3. Increase the number of employers with safety and health management systems.

This partnership is consistent with OSHA’s long-range efforts to develop a contractor/government partnership approach to safety management. The partnership will allow for better use of OSHA resources and innovation in safety management and it will serve more participants in the construction industry safety processes arena.

To facilitate the goal of reducing occupation-related fatalities and serious injuries within the construction industry, OSHA, UA SafeState and Brasfield & Gorrie will implement a partnership under the OSHA Strategic Partnership Program (OSPP). The project is the construction of a five-story core shell office tower and a two-story parking garage for development company Daniel Corporation. The project cost is $33,200,000. The 171,000-square-foot concrete structure will be constructed with precast and glass curtain wall exterior.

By combining their efforts, skills, knowledge and resources, OSHA, UA SafeState and Brasfield & Gorrie expect to reduce exposure to workplace hazards, decreasing the possibility of serious injuries and fatalities during the construction of this tower and two-story parking garage at the Grandview Physicians Plaza II Office Building.

In attendance at this partnership signing event were Donald Elswick, executive director, UA SafeState; Matt Hollub, associate director, UA SafeState; Randy Easterling, safety program supervisor, UA SafeState; Ramona Morris, OSHA’s Birmingham area office director; and Joey Grimsley, Brasfield & Gorrie, field management team superintendent.

UA SafeState Announces New Safety and Health Certificate Recipients

Several dedicated safety and health professionals received Construction or General Industry Safety and Health Management Program Certificates this past quarter from UA SafeState’s OSHA Training Institute Education Center (OTI-EC).

In order to earn their certificates, recipients were required to complete nearly 100 hours of classroom training in at least six courses and demonstrate their expertise by examination. We commend them for this accomplishment and applaud their efforts to ensure the safety and well-being of co-workers on the job.

 

 

 

 

 

Lela Garrett

General Industry Certificate

Timothy Howell

Construction Industry Certificate

Anthony Mitchell

Construction Industry Certificate

Bennett Hinyub

General Industry Certificate

David Gatlin

Construction & General Certificate

Justin Walker General Industry

Justin Walker

General Industry Certificate

Brian Humphries General Industry

Brian Humphres

General Industry Certificate

Jason Williamson Construction

Jason Williamson

Construction Certificate

JoAnn Green

JoAnn Green

General Industry Certificate

Steven Blanton

Steven Blanton

General Industry Certificate

william dickinson general industry

William Dickinson

General Industry Certificate

Richard Caudill gi

Richard Caudill

General Industry Certificate

Brandley Sullivan Construction Safety Certificate

Bradley Sullivan

Construction Certificate

Jeff Grosso

Jeff Grosso

General Industry Certificate

If you would like more information on the Construction Safety and Health Management Certificate program or General Industry Safety and Health Management Certificate program, please go to OTI-EC Certificate Programs or call (205) 348-4585.

News from UA OSHA Training Institute Education Center

What a great year we had at the University of Alabama OSHA Training Institute Education Center! Our trainers conducted OSHA 10 and 30 hour classes for over 10,000 students having an impact on safety in the fields of Construction, General Industry and Maritime in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and other states throughout the country. So proud of our trainers and their passion to keep their employees safe on the job! Join us in 2021 and be a part of our ongoing initiative to keep safety on the forefront in our companies and communities. Let’s get everyone home in the same condition they left before heading to work.

Visit our website for our 2021 training schedule and information on the classes conducted through the UA OSHA Training Institute Education Center. http://uaosha.ccs.ua.edu

Update on EPA lower dust-lead hazard standards

A new final rule announced by EPA will revise the federal limits for lead in dust on floors and windowsills. The rule will lower the agency’s dust-lead hazard standards (DLHS) from 40 µg/ft² to 10 µg/ft²on floors and from 250 µg/ft² to 100 µg/ft² on windowsills.

The rule went into effect on January 6, 2020.

The current limits on lead in dust on floors and windowsills have been in place since 2001. At that time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identified a blood-lead level in children of 10 µg/dL as a level of concern. CDCs current guidance states that no safe blood-lead level in children has been identified and calls for public health measures to be initiated at a blood-lead level in children of 5 µg/dL. EPA cited this change in CDCs guidance as a factor in its decision to issue tighter standards.

While the final rule lowers EPAs dust-lead hazard standards, it does not change the agency’s clearance standards used to determine whether renovated homes are safe for re-occupancy. The clearance standards will remain 40 µg/ft² for floors, 250 µg/ft² for windowsills, and 400 µg/ft² for window troughs.

For more information see the Federal Register Vol. 84, No. 131, Tuesday, July 9, 2019, Rules and Regulations or visit EPAs website at EPA.gov

Environmental Classes Calendar for 2021

The Calendar for our Environmental Classes for the first quarter of 2020 has been released. You can view the calendar here: https://alabamasafestate.ua.edu/schedules/environmental_courses.php

If you would like for us to email you a brochure showing these course offerings with dates and fees please email Gregg Cubel at glcubel@ua.edu

If you have any questions about which class you may want to take you can email Gregg Cubel at glcubel@ua.edu or you can call us toll-free at (877) 50-TRAIN.

Welcome our new employees

Cynthia (Cindy) Glasgow joined UA SafeState’s as a Safety Consultant. She spent four years as an Occupational Health Nurse in the poultry industry. She has a bachelor’s degree in Occupational Safety and Health. She is married to Richie, who is an underground belt maintenance foreman with Warrior Met Coal, they have five adult children, five grandpups and three grandcats.

Kalyn Tew joined UA SafeState’s Environmental Services Team as an Environmental Analyst in June of 2020. She has a Master’s degree in Geology from the University of Alabama, and her previous work experience is in environmental consultation. Kalyn is currently engaged to Justin Payne, and they will be tying the knot in October of 2021. They have three pets together, two cats – Mitzi and Cheddar, and one dog – Sierra. Kalyn is hoping to begin a PhD in Geology in the Fall.

And saying goodbye to dear friends

Beth retirementBeth Widner retired October 2019 with 29 years of service for the Environmental Program. She was hired by John Sikes as a program assistant in 1990. Beth was a dedicated employee and worked very hard to make sure everything ran smoothly in her division. She and her husband, Denton look forward to a life together on their farm. We will truly miss Beth! But we wish her the best in her retirement!

 

 

Dr. William WeemsDr. William “Bill” Weems, CIH, CSP passed away on Tuesday, Dec 10, 2019. Dr. Weems incredible contributions and accomplishments as an OSH professional were legendary. At The University of Alabama, as Director Emeritus, UA SafeState, he was our leader and inspiration. We will truly miss your passion and dedication to the safety of all workers not only in Alabama but the world!