Safety Problems Noted in OSHA Letter

The National Solid Wastes Management Association (NSWMA), Washington, D.C., is working with 200 of its members who received letters from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Washington, D.C., stating that they have hazardous working conditions based on job injury rates.

OSHA sent letters to more than 13,000 workplaces, urging employers to eliminate injury hazards. NSWMA obtained a list of waste hauling facilities that received a letter and contacted NSWMA members. To the members he spoke with, David Biderman, general counsel for the NSWMA, discussed workplace safety records and what is being done to decrease injuries.

"One of the benefits of association membership is that NSWMA acts as a company's eyes and ears in Washington," Biderman says. "We can let members know about enforcement actions, regulations and legislation that will affect their bottom line."

OSHA targeted companies by using 1998 employer-reported data from a survey of 80,000 worksites. Each worksite had eight or more injuries and illnesses, which resulted in lost workdays for every 100 full-time workers, according to the report.

This year, as many as 4,200 of the 13,000 identified sites may be targeted for a comprehensive health and safety inspection, according to OSHA. With the national lost workday and illness rate at 3 per 100 workers, those companies with an injury rate greater than 14 per 100 full-time workers are more likely to be OSHA inspected.

However, OSHA's 1998 data may not represent current workplace conditions, Biderman explains. "In some cases, the 1998 data does not reflect current work conditions at targeted facilities. I spoke to one member who said that his company's safety record had improved substantially since 1998, and, in fact, they had just undergone an OSHA inspection and received a clean bill of health."

Despite arguments, targeted companies still must pay attention to OSHA's warnings. And fortunately, OSHA provides helpful resources to address safety issues. A list of common industry violations and a contact person for companies to call for further information is in OSHA's warning letter. Employers with fewer than 250 workers can receive OSHA onsite consultation, which is administered by separate state agencies, according to OSHA.

To complement OSHA's resources, NSWMA will help its members as well.

"The presence of several hundred solid waste facilities on OSHA's list demonstrates that the industry needs to continue ... improving worker safety," Biderman explains. Also, companies that didn't receive OSHA's letter still should work to meet current safety requirements, Biderman adds.

For further information, call Biderman at (800) 424-2869, or e-mail him at davidb@envasns To see OSHA's list, companies can visit