Friday, May 22, 2015

House Democrats To Bargain with GOP for MSHA Subpoena Authority

Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives want to give subpoena authority to MSHA and will
attempt to pass mine safety amendments as part of a bargain with Republicans currently in control of Congress. Mine safety reform legislation has been introduced in Congress numerous times since 2007, and all attempts so far have been unsuccessful.

Currently, MSHA must rely on subpoena authority during investigations used by some states unless it calls a public hearing. The subpoena provision entitled the “Robert C. Byrd Mine Safety Protection Act of 2015” would give MSHA independent subpoena authority for investigations and inspections without calling a hearing.

U.S. Representative Frederica Wilson (D-FL) said at an April 23 subcommittee hearing that she and Democrat Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA) had reintroduced sweeping reform legislation containing a provision that would allow MSHA to issue subpoenas to compel witness testimony and the production of documents during investigations and inspections.

Other provisions of the proposed legislation include increasing penalties for some violations, strengthening whistleblower protections and broadening the definition of what constitutes a “significant and substantial” violation.

Read more about this potential change at The National Law Review

Safety Lately 5/22/15

Safety Lately is a weekly podcast from ASSE, covering the latest news in OSH. This episode covers respiratory protection in hospitals, OSHA's new rights and responsibilities poster, and automated safety in cars.

You can hear the episode here

Like what you heard? Look for more podcasts at our multimedia page. You can also connect with ASSE on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Second WISE Retreat Taking Place At Safety 2015 in Dallas

ASSE’s Women in Safety Engineering (WISE) Common Interest Group will hold its second Personal Development Retreat: "WISE-up!" on June 6 in Dallas, TX, as part of Safety 2015. We spoke with Administrator Jennifer Zipeto and founding member Kelly Bernish to get a preview of what to expect from the daylong event.

The retreat will offer opportunities for WISE members to develop or refine their personal development. “We really felt like having a common theme through the retreat was helpful to build the agenda and this year we obviously wanted to go with something else that builds on things we learned from last year,” says Bernish.

Zipeto says that it is not a professional development retreat, instead a more personal one. “It is a networking opportunity and skill building,” she says. “Women have a different set of expectations for themselves as far as home and work. We have a very strong drive to be successful at work, but also we are the main caregiver at home a lot of the times. Not always. It is a balancing act, so we wanted to focus on personal growth and development.”

The retreat environment is unique for two reasons, says Zipeto. “It is the same group of people last year, we had 60 people and we’re looking at about 60 to 70 this year. That size group spending the whole day together gives us the opportunity to learn about each other as people and professionals,” she says. “The other thing is that it is all women. There is a commonality and the length of time together (with) the kinds of things we’re talking about. If you bare your soul a little bit with the people in the room that you are getting to know very well in a short period of time it allows for a great bonding experience and development.”

There is still time to register for this year’s retreat, and it is not just limited to women. Even though women were the only attendees last year, “WISE Guys” dropped in occasionally.

For prospective attendees, there are a few reasons to attend the retreat that may not be readily apparent after just reading the event description. “They will walk away with a greater self-awareness and some really great skills (as well as) thought-provoking exercises that will cause them afterward to think about where they are going in life in general, not just from a professional perspective,” says Bernish.

If you are attending the full Safety 2015 in Dallas go to the Safety 2015 website,  “Register Online” and choose Registration Step #7 and select “WISE Retreat". If you are not attending Safety 2015, but want to attend the "Wise Up!" retreat, register online as a stand-alone event here. You can also contact ASSE Customer Service.

Monday, May 18, 2015

NCAP Finds Self-Braking Cars Reduce Collisions by 38%

The widespread adoption of self-driving cars is still a decidedly futuristic concept, but automated vehicle safety functions on the market today are showing promise—with some caveats.

A recent report from Ars Technica notes that European road safety research organization European New Car Assesment Program concluded that having a car automatically slam on the brakes to avoid low-speed crashes leads to a 38% reduction in rear-end crashes. This statistic came from analyzing various autonomous emergency braking (AEB) cars, comparing them to cars without the technology in incidents during which the car either struck a car in front, or was being struck from behind.

Researchers note that widespread adoption of AEB technology is required to get the best results. Automatically applying the brakes requires following traffic to be alert enough to react and not cause a chain of crashes. AEB cars might also be more likely to be struck from behind, since the car has a quicker reaction time than a human driver.

Obama Administration Allows Shell to Drill in Arctic

The Obama administration recently gave conditional approval to allow Shell Gulf of Mexico Inc. to start drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic Ocean this summer. 

© Martin
It is a major victory for both Shell and the petroleum industry, which has looked for years to drill in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas. They are considered to hold vast reserves of oil and gas. In the event it obtains the remaining permits, Shell would be the only company drilling in the federal waters in the Arctic.

The decision from Department of the Interior is a blow to environmentalists, who have pressed the Obama administration to reject proposals for offshore Arctic drilling. They say that a drilling incident in Arctic waters could have far more devastating consequences than the deadly Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010, when an explosion killed 11 and sent millions of barrels of oil  into the water.

The move came just 4 months after the Obama administration opened a portion of the Atlantic coast to new offshore drilling. Department of the Interior's approval of the drilling was conditional on receiving approval of a series of remaining drilling permits for the project.

The administration had initially granted Shell a permit to begin offshore Arctic drilling in 2012. However, the company encountered numerous safety and operational problems as two of its oil rigs ran aground and had to be towed to safety. In 2013, the department said the company could not resume drilling until all safety issues were addressed. A review by the department concluded that Shell had failed in a wide range of basic operational tasks, like supervision of contractors that performed critical work. The report was harshly critical of Shell management, acknowledging that it was unprepared for the problems it encountered operating in the Arctic. Find additional information on the timeline related to Shell's plan on the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management website.