Thinking Ahead–Letter from Chaille: Let’s Remove the Closed for Business Sign in Our Front Yard!
High taxes and government redtape makes America less business friendly. One recent example is the various ways that OSHA has applied the bandsaw standard to recycling operations through the years.
By Chaille M. Brindley, Publisher
Date Posted: 5/1/2011
Sorry to those of you who expect decent civil commentary in my letters. This time, it’s a rant. Currently, we are hiring a new part-time office person. And my inbox has been flooded under a sea of resumes and applications. That’s not odd. What stands out this time is the kind of people who are applying for a basic clerical position. I have had IT managers, people with engineering degrees from prestigious universities, former business owners, etc. That’s just how bad the job front is in Virginia, where it is supposed to be one of the better off states.
Why? There just aren’t enough jobs. And one of the big reasons is the number of major corporations that have moved vast parts of their operations overseas. Every time I read about another Johnson & Johnson recall that is blamed on wooden pallets I am reminded that the real problem is offshoring production and lax oversight of remote operations.
Cheap labor is one reason for this exodus of jobs. But a close second seems to be the tax and regulatory burden that federal and local governments place on American businesses. According to the Tax Foundation, the United States just took the top spot for highest corporate tax rate in the world among industrialized nations. Our 39.2% tax rate is much higher than the average of 20% among other global economic powers. Guess what China did in 2008? It lowered its rate to the 20% average. Between 2000 and 2010, nine countries cut their corporate tax rates by double-digit figures.
But I’m just getting started. Last year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced it was increasing its fines. Also, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has begun stepped up I-9 audits and inspections to identify illegal workers. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced and then delayed tougher regulations for wood biomass fueled boilers. And the list goes on and on when you start to look at all the ways government tries to make life tough for companies to do business here.
The National Federation of Independent Business recently reported that in FY2010 federal agencies unleashed 43 major new rules. The cost of implementing these rules, as estimated by the agencies themselves, was $28 billion, – the highest level since 1981.
One recent example of burdensome government redtape is the way that OSHA may apply standards differently across the country. The poster boy of this concern has been the pallet dismantler over the last ten years or so. This widely-used piece of equipment is back in the news after IFCO Systems, the nation’s largest pallet recyclers, was recently fined $50,000 for improper bandsaw guarding at its Henderson, Colo. facility.
OSHA inspectors cited IFCO with one repeat and five serious citations for improper machine guarding following an inspection. IFCO was selected as part of its targeted program, which means other pallet companies might soon get a visit from their friendly area OSHA inspector.
OSHA has raised bandsaw guarding as a concern with IFCO at other facilities going back to 2006. Even though OSHA does not endorse specific machines or guarding, IFCO has been working with OSHA to make sure that new guards will satisfy federal inspectors. IFCO was in the process of rolling out the new guards at its facilities when OSHA inspected the Colorado plant.
Mike Hachtman, senior vice president of sales and development at IFCO Systems, said, “IFCO has not experienced any injuries related to bandsaw pallet dismantler blades at the Henderson facility in over five years. IFCO has contested the OSHA findings at our Henderson, Colorado facility.”
He added that the machines in question were fitted with canopy guards that met the requirements at the time of manufacture.
The repeat citation, with a penalty of $50,000, was issued for failing to provide adequate machine guarding on a bandsaw. A repeat citation is issued when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years.
This OSHA citation should be of interest to other pallet recyclers because the expanded canopy guarding that IFCO has worked on with federal OSHA inspectors is different from the guarding that comes standard on most bandsaw dismantlers.
Experts familiar with the new canopy guarding insist it does not significantly affect production although some workers may be hesitant to change and view the additional guarding as intrusive. IFCO is currently using the new guards in many IFCO facilities around the country.
If OSHA starts requiring this type of guard, most pallet facilities would not be in compliance. OSHA seems particularly concerned about the exposed blade and the potential for employees to come in contact with the blade.
Bandsaw dismantlers are fairly unique to the pallet industry and have been a point of concern over the years for OSHA inspectors. The key point of concern is the exposed part of the blade that is not in regular use. The problem is that what constitutes the unused portion of the blade can change from pallet to pallet. And it is not efficient to adjust guards for each pallet. Other guards that enclose the work area too much can limit the effectiveness of the blade or make it hard for the operator to see what he is doing.
Bandsaw dismantler manufacturers have added a variety of safety features over the years including electric safety stops on the sides, devices that won’t allow the machine to run when the door is missing, pass-back bar guarding over the top of the blade, and lines
on the tables indicating the 12 inch no-hands zone.
IFCO insists it runs safe operations. The problem is that OSHA does not have specific guidelines for pallet dismantlers. According to what recyclers have said various OSHA inspectors have applied the general bandsaw standards in different ways depending on the situation. Sometimes pallet recyclers have had to make modifications to appease inspectors that have not been a concern in other states. Bandsaws are governed by OSHA rules 1910.213(i).
If OSHA starts requiring this new guarding, many thousands of machines will need to be retrofitted, and there is no proof that the new guarding will actually make workers safer.
Millions and millions of pallets are disassembled each year with only a small number of bandsaw incidents. These products generally are safe if you follow prudent safety guidelines. I believe the government needs to get a standard and stick to it in this case. And I don’t believe this function requires extreme blade guarding to be safe. This is just another way that our government is trying to “protect us” by putting us out of business or driving up costs.
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