On September 8, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced the awarding of approximately $1.9 million in grants to 14 nonprofits to fund education and training programs to help workers and employers recognize infectious disease hazards, including the coronavirus, and identify workplace safety measures.
In addition to its standard-setting and enforcement authority, OSHA also awards grants and forms alliances and partnerships to promote workplace safety and health.
The Susan Harwood Workplace Safety and Health Training on Infectious Diseases training grants are funded by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 and include grants for education on worker rights and employer responsibilities under the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
Grant recipients include the American Public Power Association, American Society of Safety Professionals Foundation, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, and Regents of the University of California at San Diego.
The Susan Harwood Workplace Safety and Health Training program is named for a late OSHA official who helped developed standards for asbestos, benzene, bloodborne pathogens, cotton dust, formaldehyde, and lead in construction.
OSHA announces warehouse training alliance
OSHA also announced a 2-year alliance to reduce and prevent exposure to workplace hazards faced by warehouse and storage workers in Pennsylvania. The alliance will provide employers in the warehouse and material logistics industries with guidance, information, and training resources to address hazards like contact with objects, falls from elevation, and overexertion.
Alliance participants include OSHA’s Allentown, Pennsylvania, area office; the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Wage and Hour Division district offices in Philadelphia and Wilkes-Barre; the Lehigh Career and Technical Institute in Schnecksville; and the Pennsylvania OSHA Consultation Program at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania in Indiana, Pennsylvania.
The DOL’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported in 2020 that the warehousing and storage industry’s injury rate is 4.8 per 100 workers, while the U.S. average for all private industries is 2.7 per 100. The BLS also reported 93 work-related fatalities nationally in the industry from 2017 to 2020.
OSHA also has an ongoing enforcement program in the warehouse industry. On August 3, OSHA’s Region 3 launched a warehouse regional emphasis program (REP) of outreach, inspection, and enforcement in Delaware, the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia focused on ergonomic risks, as well as forklift and heat hazards.
“With the rapid growth of e-commerce, the warehousing industry has expanded significantly. We look forward to partnering with our alliance members to provide information, resources, and training to reduce and prevent the hazardous conditions that warehousing and storage workers continuously face every day,” Jean Kulp, OSHA’s Allentown area director, said in an agency statement.
OSHA’s Region 3 regional administrator made similar statements when unveiling the agency’s REP: “With the rapid growth of e-commerce, the warehousing industry has significantly expanded. This emphasis program will address hazardous conditions these workers continuously face every day.”
OSHA calls on employers to combat construction worker suicides
During National Suicide Prevention Week, OSHA joined a task force of construction industry partners, educators, and labor unions to raise awareness of the work stresses seen as the causes of depression and the thoughts and acts of suicide among construction workers.
“Construction workers cope with unique causes of stress, such as uncertain seasonal work; remote work and job travel that keeps workers away from home and support systems; long, hard days and completion schedules; and the job-related risks of serious injuries,” Doug Parker, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, said in an agency statement.
Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh met with leading mental health advocacy groups, healthcare professional associations, and other stakeholders last week to discuss workers’ access to mental health services, treatment, and supportive workplaces.
“We recognize the many impacts that mental health conditions and substance use disorders have on U.S. workplaces,” Walsh said. “These concerns affect workplace safety and health, impede equitable job training, underscore the importance of family and medical leave, and highlight the need for employers to provide supportive workplaces.”