February 8, 2016

Improved safety is the goal of OSHA program for Nebraska manufacturers

osha_logo[1]The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has launched an education and enforcement action focused on high-hazard manufacturing facilities in Nebraska, Kansas, and Missouri.

Jeff Funke, area administrator with OSHA’s Omaha office, says the effort is all about preventing injuries.

“Incidents are preventable, if the right steps are taken,” Funke says. “There are many avenues for employers to protect their employees.”

One option is the Nebraska On-site Safety and Health Consultation Program.

“That is a free service,” Funke says. “They will do the same type of inspection that the enforcement side of OSHA will do, make them aware of their hazards, give them advice on how to correct this.”

Funke says the enforcement phase will begin after a 90-day outreach period with employers. He says violators will be cited and likely face fines, so everyone at a manufacturing site should get involved.

“The employee that raises the concern is actually doing the employer a favor and the cost of injury is much higher than the corrective action, so we all need to work together – employers, employees, and also the regulatory agencies,” Funke says.

Funke says inspections focused on manufacturing facilities will begin this spring and run through September.

More information about the Nebraska On-site Safety and Health Consultation Program is available at (402) 471-4717. The area OSHA office can be reached at (402) 553-0171.


NPPD to sell $300M in bonds

NPPD LogoNebraska’s largest public power utility plans to issue bonds later this month.

The Nebraska Public Power District is going to issue about $300-million of fixed-rate, tax-exempt bonds beginning January 26th.

The proceeds from the bonds will be used to repay some of utility’s existing bonds and to pay financing costs.

The bonds will be sold to retail and institutional investors.

NPPD officials say the bonds will be repaid over a 25-year period.


OSHA faults Nebraska company in fatal roofing death

osha_logo[1]Federal safety inspectors have determined a Nebraska company failed to provide required fall protection which led to the death of a newly hired employee.

39-year-old Jason Oenbring of Tecumseh fell 21 feet to his death while installing metal roofting sheets on a commercial building in Raymond for Custom Contracting of Lincoln in October. Oenbring had been on the job for two weeks.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends Custom Contracting be fined $36,000.

According to OSHA, Custom Contracting failed to provide protection that could have save Oenbring’s life. OSHA cited Custom Contracting for six serious safety violations after its investigation of the fatal accident.

Falls are a leading cause of death for construction workers.

“Fatal incidents like these are entirely preventable. They have tragic consequences for the victims, their families, and their communities,” said Jeff Funke, OSHA’s area director in Omaha, said in a written statement released by OSHA. “Construction industry employers must protect workers from falls which continue to be the leading cause of worker’s death in the construction industry.”

Federal investigators determined Oenbring stepped into an opening after a metal roofing sheet was removed and fell. OSHA says Custom Contracting failed to provide safety nets or harnesses.

The agency also found the company failed to train workers to:

Recognize fall hazards.
Render first aid.
Operate powered industrial vehicles.


Rural towns nudged to seek help to land development dollars

cirdRural communities across Nebraska are being encouraged to apply for funds to host community design workshops.

Cynthia Nikitin is program director of the Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design, which is putting out a request for proposals.

“To apply and to be brave and bold and take a step forward,” Nikitin says. “Applying for federal funding is scary and difficult if you’ve never done it before, so we are there to hold people’s hands and help them along. It’s a program that’s set up to help people succeed.”

She adds, it’s not just the federal funding they can offer.

“We are one of the only federal programs that provides not just funding but technical assistance in terms of helping people prepare workshops, figuring out content, identifying speakers and resource team members they need, connecting them with federal and regional and state and county leaders,” Nikitin says. “We’re a bridge.”

The workshops are intended to bring together local leaders from non-profits, community organizations and government agencies to develop action-based solutions to a community’s pressing development challenges. Nikitin says the institute can be a stepping stone.

“A number of people have actually done this and then gone after Our Town grants, NEA grants or Art Place grants,” she says. “They come up with ideas and concept designs, architectural drawings, trail maps, they come up with something they can continue to work on and then go after additional funding for implementation.”

The deadline for submitting a proposal is Tuesday. Successful applicants will receive a $10,000 stipend in addition to professional design expertise and technical assistance valued at $35,000. CIRD is funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, and the U.S Department of Agriculture.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton



Iowa company to expand into Omaha

Van Meter IncAn employee-owned company in Iowa is expanding to the Chicago and Omaha markets.

Van Meter, Incorporated is based in Cedar Rapids and it distributes 800 different brands of electrical and mechanical products to contractors as well as industrial and commercial clients.

It operates out of 14 locations in Iowa and has just completed its purchase of Bright Electrical Supply in Chicago.

Van Meter executives say they plan to open a branch in Omaha before the end of March to serve customers in Nebraska. 

In mid-December, Van Meter also gained a 25% ownership stake in a Canadian company. That company, which is based in Ontario, makes systems that monitor electricity consumption in homes and businesses.