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Each day an average of 2,000 workers in the United States suffers job-related eye injuries requiring medical treatment. That’s according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH),

Approximately three out of every five workers who experienced eye injuries were not wearing eye protection at the time of the accident or were not wearing the proper kind of eye protection for the task. That’s according to a survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The BLS also reported that in 2014 there were 23,730 eye injuries requiring time away from work that year, accounting for 6 percent of the total of all lost-time cases in both private industry and state and local government.

What we don’t need these statistics to tell us is that eye injuries can be life-changing. Their effects can range from simple eye strain to severe trauma that result in permanent damage or loss of vision. Blunt trauma can damage the eye directly or even the bones that surround it.

According to OSHA, thousands of workers are blinded each year from occupational injuries that could have been prevented through properly selected and fitted vision protection. Such personal protective equipment which must be worn by employees who are exposed to hazardous chemical splash, dust, and particulate matter.

OSHA Face Protection Standard 1910.133(a) (1) states that it is the responsibility of the employer to “ensure that each affected employee uses appropriate eye or face protection when exposed to eye or face hazards.” That includes making sure the PPE uses eye protection that provides side protection when there is a hazard from flying objects (OSHA Face Protection Standard 1910.133(a) (2). For those who wear prescription lenses, OSHA Face Protection Standard 1910.133(a)(3) requires that each affected employee “engaged in operations that involve eye hazards wears eye protection that incorporates the prescription in its design, or wears eye protection that can be worn over the prescription lenses without disturbing the proper position of the prescription lenses or the protective lenses.”

Common forms of PPE for the face and eyes safety glasses, goggles, face shields, and full face respirators. However, PPE selection depends upon the type of hazard, the circumstances of exposure, the type of other PPE to be used, and an individual’s vision needs.

OSHA standards recommend that a person should always wear properly fitted eye protective gear when:
-Doing work that may produce particles, slivers, or dust from materials like wood, metal, plastic, cement, and drywall;
-Hammering, sanding, grinding, or doing masonry work;
-Working with power tools;
-Working with chemicals, including common household chemicals like ammonia, oven cleaners, and bleach;
-Using a lawnmower, riding mower, or other motorized gardening devices like string trimmers;
-Working with wet or powdered cement;
-Welding (which requires extra protection like a welding mask or helmet from sparks and UV radiation);
-“Jumping” the battery of a motor vehicle;
-Being a bystander to any of the above situations.

OSHA notes that ensuring PPE fits an employee properly is essential to effectively protecting that person; this is particularly true with eye protection. Without a good fit, protective eyewear is likely to be uncomfortable, to slip, and possibly to be damaged or even discarded. Again, we don’t need statistics to tell us that the consequences of even brief lapses in protection can be severe.

OSHA's Eye and Face Protection eTool (available at https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/eyeandface/index.html) offers a basic hazard assessment table to help employers begin the process of selecting proper PPE. The table lists five types of vision hazard that might be encountered at work – impact, heat, chemicals, dust, and optical radiation — and offers examples and common tasks related to each.

One final note: OSHA urges employers not to rely on PPE devices alone to protect hazards. Instead, personal protective gear should be a part of a safety environment that includes engineering controls and robust safety practices.

 

The International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) recently released an updated version of its Personal Fall Protection Equipment Use and Selection Guide. The guide provides guidance for fall protection users and administrators in selecting, using, maintaining and inspecting fall protection equipment.

The document is prepared by manufacturers in the ISEA Fall Protection Group and describes the process of developing a corporate fall protection program, explains the components of fall protection systems, provides examples of how to select equipment for various types of work, and outlines steps for planning the use of fall protection systems. The guide also contains inspection and maintenance guidelines, definitions, a list of applicable OSHA regulations and U.S. and Canadian consensus standards, and links to ISEA companies and other sources of information.

Read entire article - https://safetyequipment.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/FPUserGuide2017.pdf

Tagged in: fall protection ISEA

The month of June comes packaged with a number of themes, and one of them, National Safety Month, aims to cuts down on the chances that of one of those others isn’t tragedy.

National Safety Month focuses on reducing leading causes of injury and fatality at work, on the road, in the home and in communities. This year, the month’s special focus areas are ergonomics, preventing falls, preventing fatigue, and preparing for active shooters.

Whether or not your organization chooses to participate in the weekly learning themes offered by the National Safety Council (available at http://www.nsc.org/act/events/Pages/national-safety-month.aspx), June is a good time to look for ways to improve safety at the workplace, whether the environment is indoors, outdoors or both.

At Workplace Safety & Health Company, we are committed to helping to make workplaces safer the whole year round. Our specialized consulting services are based upon the specific needs of each client, and we stand ready to assist with industrial hygiene, confined space hazard, and qualitative exposure assessments, job safety analyses, confined space evaluations, indoor air monitoring, vapor intrusion monitoring, lockout/tagout surveys or industrial noise monitoring and mapping. Our goal is to help our customers prevent injuries and illnesses and to promote profitability by means of robust health and safety management practices.

Some of the training courses we offer include:

-Complying with OSHA 30-hour/10-hour courses
-Lockout/Tagout
-HAZMAT/HAZWOPER
-Confined Space Entry and Rescue
-First Aid /CPR (to include AED and Bloodborne Pathogens)
-Asbestos Operations and Maintenance
-Incident Command
-Excavation Safety
-Fall Protection

Whatever your workplace safety concern, contact us – we’re here to help year round.

An estimated 553,000 lives have been saved since the passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. However, nearly 5,000 workers still die on the job each year from injuries, and another estimated 50,000 to 60,000 die from occupational illnesses.

Those figures are part of the most recent edition of Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect, a report produced by the AFL-CIO that compiles occupational injuries, illnesses and deaths for the most recent year complete U.S. statistics are available, in this case, 2015. The organization releases the report to coincide with Workers’ Memorial Day.

Read entire article - https://aflcio.org/reports/death-job-toll-neglect-2017

Tagged in: OSHA

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We all know how hot it starts to get this time of year, but we don’t always appreciate how quickly heat-related stress can lead to serious health problems. Heat is one of the leading weather-related killers in the United States. To help call attention to that fact, the National Weather Service sponsors Heat Safety Awareness Day on the last Friday of May just a few weeks ahead of the official beginning of summer.

Heat safety awareness has year-round place in workplace safety plans, but it is especially important during the summer months.

Heat stress related injuries are often the result of the body’s inability to cope with prolonged exposure to extreme heat. It is of particular concern during the summer months, especially for people who work in factories, in construction, or on farms.

People at increased risk of heat stress include those 65 years of age or older, those who are overweight, have heart disease or high blood pressure, or who take medications that can be affected by extreme heat.
Being aware of the health and safety risks posed by exposure to heat in the workplace is a year-round concern, even in workplaces where temperatures can be regulated. In addition to burns from accidental direct contact with steam or hot surfaces, heat can also indirectly lead to other injuries by causing sweaty palms, fogged eyewear, and dizziness.

Preventing heat stress in employees is as important an aspect of safety plan design as any other. Employers need to educate workers on what heat stress is, how it affects their health and safety, and how it can be prevented.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH) offers a number of resources on heat safety at work, from fact sheets and infographics to blog posts and planning documents available at https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/heatstress/.

It’s not just seat cushions that are impacted by long periods of sitting. You may have heard the phrase “sitting is the new smoking.” There is evidence to suggest that the comparison is a fitting one. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH), prolonged sitting is associated with a variety of negative health effects that include back and shoulder pain, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity, and chronic diseases. What’s more, people who sit for long periods of time as part of their job can still be at risk for these conditions even if they otherwise meet recommended levels of physical activity outside of work.

New guidance from NIOSH known as Total Worker Health® (THW) offers employers solutions to the problem of prolonged sitting on the job, protecting employees from workplace injuries while helping them to improve their overall health and well-being, both on and off the clock.

According to NIOSH, a sedentary job is one that involves predominately sitting, with occasional walking, standing, and lifting no more than 10 pounds. Examples include management and professional work, office and administrative support roles, as well as cashiers, data entry, and call center employees.

Some of the ways organizations can reduce sedentary include offering the flexibility to have standing or walking meetings, providing sit-stand work stations and encouraging flexible rest breaks.

Not surprisingly, cutting down on worker sedentary time also spells benefits for employers. Some of the direct benefits, NIOSH says, include reductions in health-related expenses and in absenteeism. Some of the indirect benefits may include improved worker morale, better recruitment and retention, and even reduced injury rates.

For organizations considering incorporating TWH into their existing health and safety programs, NIOSH offers the following guidance:
-Include senior management support and worker participation in all health initiatives.
-Involve workers and their representatives in designing and implementing procedures and practices to reduce sedentary work and promote physical activity.
-Ensure that any program meant to advance workplace well-being has the commitment of organizational leadership.
-Evaluate existing resources and current policies, programs, and practices to find what works to promote physical activity and future needs.
-Allow workers more control over their activities, workloads, and schedules, and allow them to set up their workstations to take physical activity breaks after long periods of sitting.
-Educate managers and supervisors on ways to reduce job stress faced by workers.
-Ensure privacy by adhering to the regulatory requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, etc. and train staff in privacy and confidentiality.
-Link existing worker safety and health programs to current programs in use in the workplace.
-Offer organizational support to encourage physical activity such as walking or biking to work or during breaks.
-Provide health information about the risks of sedentary work to employees.

The full document, “Using Total Worker Health® Concepts to Reduce the Health Risks from Sedentary Work,” is available at https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/wp-solutions/2017-131/.

Tagged in: NIOSH

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), OSHA and partners including ASSE and AIHA are encouraging employers to hold special activities during June 12-18 – Safe + Sound Week. The event is a nationwide effort to raise awareness and understanding of the value of safety and health programs in workplaces.

Read entire article - https://www.osha.gov/safeandsoundweek/

Tagged in: NIOSH

There are significant differences in short sleep duration – less than seven hours a night – among occupational groups. That’s according to a CDC study that is believed to be the first to evaluate short sleep duration in more than 90 detailed occupation groups and across multiple states.

Read entire article - https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/updates/upd-03-03-17.html

Updated OSHA regulations that went into effect in January 2017 stand to have a pervasive impact on all fall protection programs going forward.

In November 2016, OSHA issued a final rule on Walking-Working Surfaces and Personal Fall Protection Systems (29 CFR 1910 Subparts D & I). The 500-plus page document sets compliance dates that go out as far as 2036, but many are much more pressing. In one example, workers exposed to fall hazards or who use fall protection equipment must receive training by May 2017.

Some of the key features of the new rule are discussed below.

Roof Work
A common concern with respect to roof work involves distance, specifically, what is considered to be a safe distance from the edge of an unprotected roof.

Although OSHA's previous position is that there is no safe distance, the new rule does provide some clarification on this point. The regulation states that work at less than 6 feet from the roof edge requires conventional means of protection (such as a guardrail, personal fall arrest systems, etc.). From a distance of 6-15 feet, the new rule allows for a designated area for infrequent or temporary work. These areas are defined in more detail in the rule’s commentary section.

Some of the new features clearly reflect an alignment with regulations on construction. One is that a warning line is required beginning at 6 feet from the edge.

Under the new rule, work at a distance greater than 15 feet from an unprotected edge does not require an employer to provide any fall protection – but only if the work is both infrequent and temporary. In this situation, the rule allows for an administrative control to be used in order to keep workers from being closer than 15 feet from an unprotected edge.

Guardrails, Ladders and Stairs
The new rule contains new information on common features such as guardrails, ladders and stairs.

One key feature of the new rule with respect to these devices is a number of additional approved types: They include alternating tread-type stairs, combination ladders and mobile ladder stand platforms. The rule also now includes specific requirements for spiral stairs and ship stairs. For falls of greater than 24 feet, the new rule requires the use of ladder safety systems. Enforcement of the requirements for new ladders is set to start in November 2018, and every ladder will be required to comply with this by 2036.

General industry regulations for guardrails are now aligned with construction rules and require a height of 42 inches (plus or minus 3 inches). Under the new rule, openings are required to be no larger than 19 inches. No longer allowed is the use of chains to close off access to openings or the use of a "parapet alternative" option that involved a shorter (30-inch) barrier, provided as it was of sufficient width (18 inches).

Competent and Qualified Persons
The new regulations address more than just hardware requirements, and one subset speaks more specifically than in the previous version to the roles of “Competent and Qualified” persons.

That includes distinct training and responsibilities for personnel who have those designations. There are specific references on the need for a Qualified Person for the following job functions:
-Worker training, which in the past was linked to the Competent Person
-Instances in which correction or repair involves structural integrity of a walking-working surface
-Inspection of knots in a lanyard or vertical lifeline
-Annual inspection of rope descent anchorages
-Anchorage certification

Workplace Assessments
One of the most significant features of the new rule is the need for fall hazard assessments. 29 CFR 1910.132(d) now requires workplace assessment. That means employers must ensure the following to be in compliance:
-Determine whether hazards are present and, if so, communicate that information to employees, select types of personal protective equipment for employees, and ensure its proper fit.
-Coordinate with other entities to assess hazards for multi-employer sites.
-Document the completion of assessments, including what workplaces were evaluated, who certifies that an evaluation was performed, and the date of the assessment.

Tagged in: OSHA workplace safety

Some researchers predict that more than two-thirds of U.S. adults aged 70 years or older will have “clinically meaningful” hearing loss by 2060.


That’s according to a study published In the March 2, 2017, edition of JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery. Researchers looked at national population projection estimates using current prevalence estimates of hearing loss to forecast the growing number of hearing loss cases. According to the study’s authors, adults aged 20 or older with hearing loss will increase from 44.11 million in 2020 to 73.50 million in 2060, with the greatest increase occurring in older adults.

Read entire article - http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamaotolaryngology/article-abstract/2606784

Tagged in: hearing loss

The use of branding to communicate an organization’s values to its customers and potential job candidates has become an important marketing tool, one that seems here to stay.

Yet, when we think of the many benefits that result from efforts to ensure a safe workplace, chances are that their ability to add value to an organization’s brand isn’t the first thing that springs to mind.

In a business climate in which having a recognizable brand on website and social media platforms has taken a strong hold, present employees are perhaps the foremost ambassadors of an organization’s brand with respect to safety culture.

In the previous installments of this series (Safety Culture, Safety is a Team Win), we discussed the importance of employee perceptions of a safety culture at work and how this can benefit everyone in the organization. The value of cultivating a team mentality in which everyone is enthused about the work the organization is doing and their role in it cannot be overstated.

Employees with a positive perception of safety culture not only deliver high quality products and services, their attentiveness to safety can manifest itself in fewer accidents and injuries. And team members showing their enthusiasm and support on social media both formally and informally can go a long way to sharing an organization’s safety message.

It’s also important to consider the potential impact apparent lapses in safety (or employees’ perceptions of them) can have when posted to social media and job boards.

A fundamental part of establishing and keeping a brand identity is by ensuring a sense of consistency of communications.

For instance, it may be possible to share a corporate mission with a core audience through various media, but the messages should be aligned to reflect a consistent personality, or voice.

Online media can be an effective tool for engaging readers and have them coming back for more. Those messages can include a mix of everything from testimonials to tips and hints. Just remember what has become a touchstone of social media: Always be of service. A typical recommendation is for education to outweigh self-promotion by a ratio of at least 3 to 1.

It’s important to view such communications as an ongoing conversation rather than as something to be set on auto-pilot and adjusted occasionally. The watchword here is “integrity.” Numerous studies, not to mention conventional wisdom, suggest that organizations that hold to their own values are likely to attract – and keep – like-minded employees.

Tagged in: safety culture

The EPA has proposed three new rules to create a new process of prioritizing and evaluating chemicals under the new Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

The new law requires the agency to evaluate chemicals grandfathered into that act. The recently proposed rules are aimed at helping the agency evaluate quickly those chemicals currently in the marketplace.

Read entire article - https://www.aiha.org/publications-and-resources/TheSynergist/Industry%20News/Pages/EPA-Proposes-Rules-for-Prioritizing,-Evaluating-Chemicals.aspx

Tagged in: chemicals EPA

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In this second installment in a three part series on safety culture in the workplace, we look at the concept of encouraging safe behaviors through employee engagement. Read Part One - Safety Culture: Who Is Getting Your Safety Message 

Safety is a Team Win

What message is your organization sending to employees about its commitment to safety?

Let’s begin with the familiar “days without an injury” statistic. The numbers speak for themselves. They may even be posted in the form of a sign for everyone at work to see. But they only tell part of the story.

We know workplace safety education and training programs positively affect employee safety. Yet, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2014 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, more than 13 people in the United States died each day as result of performing their jobs. The National Safety Council goes a step further by claiming that each of those deaths was preventable. So where do things go off track?

All the safety measures in the world are of little benefit if they are not followed. Motivating employees to use the safety protocols they've learned is therefore essential. That’s where engagement comes in. A standard dictionary definition of “engagement” is “an emotional involvement or commitment.”

The “Four Pillars of Safety,” a white paper from the Performance Improvement Council, offers a number of suggestions for recognizing employee contributions to safety and doing so in engaging ways. (“Engagement,” incidentally, is one of those four pillars, along with” recognition,” “communications” and “measurement.”)

One of those is to offer employee wellness programs. These can be as simple as encouraging employees to improve their health together and offering incentives and rewards for top achievers. Such programs have been a feature of the corporate landscape for over a decade, and according to a recent State of the Industry Survey conducted by Virgin Pulse, they are among the top priorities for responding employers in 2017. That survey, which gathered data from 600 human resources and benefits officers at global organizations, also found that those companies that invest in wellness and engagement can realize measurable improvements in business performance. Seventy-eight percent of respondents indicated employee well-being is a critical part of their business plans, while 74 percent of those with comprehensive wellness programs said their employee satisfaction has increased.

According to the NSC, employers who demonstrate that they care about the safety of their employees can see fewer injuries along with better morale, increased productivity and lower costs.

Now, back to the “days without an injury” sign. While signs and placards are good visual reminders, they tend to be passive, impersonal and monolithic. Most people tend to appreciate at least occasional face-to-face feedback and "tangible" rewards. According to the Performance Improvement Council, surveys that seek to determine why employees left a job consistently find "lack of recognition" and "compensation” as the top two reasons. Recognizing achievements and safe behaviors as they happen or soon after tells employees they are appreciated for being safe and for ensuring they keep a safe work environment.

And when all employees take ownership of their roles in safety at work, it becomes, as it should be, a team effort. Go team!

References:
1. Every Worker Deserves to Make it Home Safe from Work—Every Day, http://www.nsc.org/learn/pages/safety-at-work.aspx?var=mnd
2. Performance Improvement Council, “The Four Pillars of Safety,” white paper March 2014, http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.incentivemarketing.org/resource/resmgr/Docs/Pillar-of-Safety_Mar2014_wMb.pdf?hhSearchTerms=%22Four+and+Pillars+and+Safety+and+-+and+Performance+and+Improveme%22
3. State of the Industry Survey Report 2017, http://community.virginpulse.com/state-of-the-industry-2017-wc

A new survey from the CDC found that one in four U.S. adults who believe their hearing is good or excellent may have hearing damage. Much of this damage, according to the study, results from loud sounds that occur every day at home.

The study found that 20 percent of people who reported no job-related noise exposure had hearing damage in a pattern caused by noise. This damage appeared as early as the age of 20.

Read entire article - https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2017/p0207-hearing-loss.html

Tagged in: CDC hearing loss

According to the final data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in its Census of Fatal Occupational Injury data for fiscal 2015, of the 4,836 fatal workplace injuries that year, 136 were associated with confined spaces. While it represents less than three percent of the total, that number is significant because in most cases, such fatalities could be prevented.

According to OSHA, a confined space is an area that is large enough and configured such that an employee or person can bodily enter and perform some type of work; has limited or restricted means for entry or exit; and is not designed for continuous occupancy. Some examples of confined spaces include storage tanks, sewers, manholes, tunnels, ship voids, pipelines, silos, wells, pits and trenches. These also require a permit for entry. In the United States, any pit or trench with a depth equal to or greater than four feet is classified as a permit-required confined space.

Confined spaces, as the term suggests, might also act to harbor hazardous gases. For this reason, regulation number CFR 1910.146(c) subsection (d) states that "There may be no hazardous atmosphere within a space whenever an employee is inside the space." This is where atmospheric sampling is an invaluable tool.

According to OSHA, a hazardous atmosphere is an environment that could expose an employee to the risk of death or incapacitation, injury, or acute illness, or could keep the employee from rescuing him- or herself. That includes flammable gas, vapor or mist; airborne combustible dust; atmospheric oxygen above or below specified thresholds, or any other immediately dangerous atmospheric condition.

The practice of atmospheric testing in confined spaces to gauge potential hazards is hardly new – taking along a caged canary into a coal mine is perhaps the best known example from history.

A subcategory of confined spaces requires a permit in order for workers to operate inside them. Such permit-required confined spaces must have one or more specific characteristics: The first is that they contain hazardous gases. Others are that they contain a material that has the potential for engulfing an entrant, have an internal configuration that could lead to entrapment or asphyxiation, or contain any other recognized serious safety or health hazard. Hazardous gases are classified into three categories: toxic, asphyxiating and flammable or explosive. Confined spaces can present any combination of those atmospheric hazards.

Workplace Safety & Health Co. is equipped to review confined spaces in your facility, determine whether each meets the OSHA criteria for confined space, and if so, whether it should be permit-required.

With our experience in assessing thousands of confined spaces in a wide range of industries, Workplace Safety & Health Co. can help your organization reach a “best practice” level of compliance. Give us a call or visit our website today to learn more.

Tagged in: confined space

Nearly half of all adult asthma cases – 48 percent – might be related to work – and therefore could be preventable. That’s according to a study published in December in the CDC’s MMWR, which found that as many as 2.7 million U.S. workers might have asthma caused by or exacerbated by workplace conditions.

The study used data from the 2006–2007 adult Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) Asthma Call-back Survey (ACBS) to quantify potential occupationally-associated asthma cases and to identify the workers most at risk, by industry and state. Among the five occupations with the highest current asthma prevalence, office and administrative support was identified in 16 of the 21 states, health care practitioners and technical in 15 states, and sales and related in 13 states.

Read entire article - https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/wr/mm6547a1.htm?s_cid=mm6547a1_w

 

Tagged in: CDC MMWR

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In this 3-part series, we’ll look at the concept of safety culture in the workplace and how your organization can leverage its commitment to safety to attract and keep talent in a competitive market.

Who is Getting Your Safety Message?

Safety is a fundamental part of every culture and has been from at least the dawn of recorded history. It is no great stretch to posit that our continued existence as a species owes at least something to our ancestors’ knowledge on what to do and what to avoid in order to live a long life and to have been able transmit that information from generation to generation.

It’s only been in the past few decades, however, that the term “safety culture” has entered into the lexicon. According to OSHA, “Safety cultures consist of shared beliefs, practices, and attitudes that exist at an establishment. Culture is the atmosphere created by those beliefs, attitudes, etc., which shape our behavior.”

So far so good. Based on that definition, it’s clear that every organization has a safety culture. We know that cultivating a culture of safety is an ongoing, organic process, and not one that can always be readily quantified. After all, while we could spot check people’s knowledge of a particular process or job routine, how do we accurately measure their attitudes, beliefs and values with respect to safety?

Perhaps the better question to ask: Is our safety culture as effective as it could be?

A robust safety culture might be easier to define by considering clear-cut examples of what it isn’t.

When a safety practice is successful, such as when the selection of the proper personal protective equipment for a specific task is accompanied by training an employee on its proper use, the benefit is typically identified and appreciated within the organization. But it might not necessarily become known to the “outside world.”

Conversely, asking an employee to perform a task with inadequate safety equipment would likely be viewed by anyone inside or outside that organization as a reflection of a poor safety culture. And since a cultural universal is that bad news travels fast, we can all read about apparent lapses in safety on the job daily in the news media, opinions posted on social media and job boards from employees (and former employees), and even on OSHA’s official website.

What messages is your organization sending about its safety culture?

Tagged in: OSHA safety culture

Pneumoconiosis among coal workers, also commonly known as “black lung disease,” has resurfaced in the U.S. in “alarming” numbers, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

The disabling, often fatal occupational disease is caused by overexposure to respirable coal mine dust.

A report in a recent CDC MMWR bulletin describes a cluster of 60 cases of PMF identified in current and former coal miners at a single eastern Kentucky radiology practice from January 2015 through August 2016. This cluster was not found through the national surveillance program. That’s something the report’s authors say makes an argument for improved surveillance to promptly identify the early stages of the disease and halt its progression to PMF.

Read entire article - https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/wr/mm6549a1.htm?s_cid=mm6549a1_w

Tagged in: CDC NIOSH

Those words, issued as part of a statement by U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez on the results of the most recent Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, reflect a stark reality.

Accidents will happen, of course, but many factors that affect safety in the workplace are within our control.

When it recently released its Census of Fatal Occupational Injury data for fiscal 2015, the Bureau of Labor Statistics confirmed that 4,836 fatal workplace injuries occurred that year. Though up only slightly from the 4,821 fatal injuries reported in 2014, it was the highest number since 2008, when there were 5,214 fatal occupational injuries. Other sobering standouts were that there were 903 deaths among Latino workers – the most in any year since 2007, when there 937 fatalities. Road fatalities were up 9 percent from 2014.

Deaths listed as resulting from exposures to electricity dropped in 2015, but fatalities stemming from exposure to temperature extremes rose. Occupational deaths from nonmedical use of drugs or alcohol, unintentional overdose, went up 45 percent in 2015 to 165. There were 136 workers who died in incidents associated with confined spaces in 2015.

Falls to a lower level accounted for 81 percent of all fatal falls. Of the cases where the height of the fall was known, more than 40 percent happened at heights of 15 feet or lower. Fatal falls to a lower level accounted for nearly 40 percent of fatal work injuries in the private construction industry in 2015.

In the full statement on those data, Perez said that “These numbers underscore the urgent need for employers to provide a safe workplace for their employees as the law requires. We have a moral responsibility to make sure that workers who showed up to work today are still alive to punch the clock tomorrow. The fact is, we know how to prevent these deaths. The U.S. Department of Labor is – and will always be – committed to working with employers, workers, community organizations, unions and others to improve safety and health in our nation’s workplaces. This effort is essential to ensuring that no more workers are taken unnecessarily from their families."

It’s worth noting that BLS said the release is the first time that the CFOI has published a single annual release without revisions, adding this will be the only release for 2015 CFOI data. The agency said a similar schedule will be followed in subsequent years, meaning there will be no August or September preliminary releases.

A new report by the Centers for Disease Control recommends states and communities support cancer prevention, education, screening, quality of care, support for cancer survivors, and good health for all, as well as fund comprehensive tobacco prevention and control programs at levels the organization recommends.

In its Vital Signs publication for November, the CDC focused on cancers related to tobacco use. Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of cancer and cancer deaths, causing at least 12 types of cancer throughout the body, the report states.

Read entire article - http://www.cdc.gov/media/dpk/tobacco/cancer-and-tobacco/dpk-vs-cancer-and-tobacco.html

 

Tagged in: CDC

It’s time once again to look back at the year that was and, perhaps, gain perspective on the year ahead. And a handy tool for doing just that is the humble list.

During the final quarter of each year, the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration releases a preliminary list of the 10 most frequently cited safety and health violations for the fiscal year, compiled from nearly 32,000 inspections of workplaces by federal OSHA staff.

OSHA’s top 10 most cited OSHA violations of 2016 cover a broad range of workplace safety categories, from falls to chemicals and from personal protective equipment to fork trucks.

One way to look at the following list is to consider it as a starting point for addressing safety at work:
1. Fall protection (1926.501, 6,929 violations)
2. Hazard communication (1910.1200, 5,677 violations):
3. Scaffolding (1926.451, 3,906 violations):
4. Respiratory protection (1910.134, 3,585 violations)
5. Lockout/tagout (1910.147, 3,414 violations)
6. Powered industrial trucks, i.e. forklifts (1910.178, 2,800 violations):
7. Ladders (1926.1053, 2,639 violations
8. Machine guarding (1910.212, 2,451 violations)
9. Electrical wiring methods (1910.305, 1,940 violations):
10. Electrical general requirements (1910.303, 1,704 violations)

One of the more salient points about that list is that rankings change little from year to year.

According to OSHA, more than 4,500 workers die on the job each year, and approximately 3 million are injured. This, the agency wrote in a recent blog post, is “despite the fact that by law, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their workers. If all employers simply corrected the top 10 hazards, we are confident the number of deaths, amputations and hospitalizations would drastically decline.”

With that in mind, OSHA recently updated its Guidelines for Safety and Health Programs (available at https://www.osha.gov/shpguidelines/). The agency said the guidelines, first published three decades, now reflect changes that have taken place the economy, workplaces, and evolving safety and health issues. The new section on Recommended Practices is aimed at use in a variety of small and medium-sized business settings, the agency said.

Tagged in: OSHA workplace safety

A recent commentary published by NIOSH discusses the prevalence of the nail gun injury problem, ways to prevent it through trigger design, and failings of ANSI procedures for developing consensus standards.

According to the report, unintended nail discharge is the cause of two-thirds of workers compensation claims for nail gun injuries. From 2006 to 2011, approximately 14,000 worker and 11,000 consumer nail gun injuries per year required emergency medical treatment. Most of the injuries are puncture wounds to hands and fingers.

A sequential trigger was developed over 40 years ago in attempt to prevent such injuries by requiring the nail gun to be pressed against the surface that will receive the nail before the user can activate the trigger and release the nail. Not all nail guns ‘stick’ to this process, however.

According to NIOSH, ANSI’s inability to reach a consensus that requires all construction operations to use sequential triggers should be reformed.

Read entire article - http://blogs.cdc.gov/niosh-science-blog/2016/11/15/nail-gun2/

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OSHA announced in December it would give those interested an extra month to comment on several proposed revisions to its recordkeeping, general industry, maritime, and construction standards as part of its Standards Improvement Project. That new cut-off date – Jan. 4 – replaces the original deadline of Dec. 5. The agency stated in a press release that the proposed rule would streamline standards “that may be confusing, outdated or unnecessary.”

The proposed revisions are based on responses to a public Request for Information issued in 2012 and recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health, OSHA staff, and the Office of Management and Budget. They include the following:

1. Reporting job-related hearing loss — Codifies current enforcement policy and clarifies that a determination whether an employee's hearing loss is "work-related" must be made using specific, clear criteria, which are set out in OSHA regulations.
2. Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout) — Remove the term "unexpected" to reflect OSHA's original intent and eliminate confusion regarding applicability of the standard.
3. Chest X-Ray (CXR) Requirements — Removes the requirement for periodic CXR in the standards for inorganic arsenic, coke oven emissions, and acrylonitrile.
4. X-Ray Storage — Permits storage of x-rays in digital formats.
5. Lung-function testing — Updates the lung-function testing (spirometry) requirements for the cotton dust standard to make them consistent with current medical practices and technology.
6. Feral Cats — Deletes the term "feral cats" from the definition of vermin in the Shipyard Employment standard.
7. 911 Emergency Services at Worksites — Requires the posting of location information at worksites in areas that do not have Enhanced 911 (which automatically supplies the caller's location information to the dispatcher).
8. Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs) — Corrects and clarifies the construction PELs requirements to make this standard consistent with other OSHA PELs standards.
9. Process Safety Management of Highly Hazardous Chemicals — Replaces the entire thirty-one pages of regulatory text for the Process Safety Management of Highly Hazardous Chemicals (PSM) Standard for construction with a cross reference to the identical general industry standard.
10. Personal Protective Equipment — Requires employers to select PPE that properly fits each employee and clarifies the construction PPE requirements to make them consistent with general industry requirements.
11. Lanyard/lifeline Break Strength — Standardizes break-strength requirements for lanyards and lifelines throughout the construction and general industry standards.
12. Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) — Updates the provisions related to traffic signs and devices, flaggers, and barricades to align with current DOT requirements. (This removes the burden on construction employers.)
13. Load Limit Postings — Exempts single family dwellings from a requirement to post maximum safe-load limits for floors in buildings under construction, reducing a burden for residential builders.
14. Excavation Hazards — Clarifies that a hazard is presumed to exist when loose rock or soil and excavated material or equipment is beside a trench.
15. MSHA Underground Construction – Diesel Engines — Updates the regulatory language to cross-reference revised Mine Safety Health Administration's (MSHA) provisions.
16. Underground Construction — Replaces outdated decompression tables used to protect employees working in pressurized underground construction sites.
17. Rollover Protective Structures — Replaces the outdated construction standard with references to the appropriate consensus standards.
18. Regulation of coke oven emissions in construction — Removes the regulation of coke oven emissions provisions from the construction standards. (Any work during operation of coke ovens is general industry work, and the standard does not fit construction work.)
19. Collection of Social Security Numbers — Comprehensively removes from general industry, construction, and maritime standards all requirements to include an employee's social security number on exposure monitoring, medical surveillance, and other records in order to protect employee privacy and prevent identity fraud.

According to the agency, the proposed revisions would save employers an estimated $3.2 million per year.
Comments can be submitted electronically through the Federal eRulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov and then entering “OSHA-2012-0007-0031” in the search bar.

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OSHA has released a set of Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs to help employers establish a methodical approach to improving safety and health in their workplaces.

The new document updates OSHA's 1989 guidelines to reflect changes in the economy, in workplaces, and also evolving safety and health issues, according to the agency, which said the recommendations feature an easier-to-use format and should be particularly helpful to small- and medium-sized businesses.

Read entire article - https://www.osha.gov/shpguidelines/index.html

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Reports citing statistics compiled from the previous year can help inform our decisions on how to plan for the year ahead.

Surely one of the most sobering sets of statistics involve the damage caused by fires. In the United States last year, fires cost approximately $14.3 billion in property damage – an increase of 23.2 percent from 2014. That’s according to "Fire Loss in the United States in 2015", the most recent annual report released by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

The report compiles data on civilian fire deaths and injuries, property damage and intentionally set fires reported to the NFPA by public fire departments that responded to the 2015 National Fire Experience Survey.

Some of the other key findings:
-Over the last 15 years, the total number of fires that local municipal fire departments reported remains on a downward trend for a decrease of 21 percent. During that same period, however, the number of structure fires has remained relatively constant.
-There was a civilian fire death every 2 hours and 40 minutes and a civilian fire injury every 33.5 minutes in 2015. Residential fires caused 2,560, or 78 percent, of the civilian fire deaths.
-Public fire departments responded to 1,345,500 fires in 2015 – a 3.7 percent increase over the previous year. Of these, 501,500 fires involved structures, a slight increase of 1.5 percent.
-In terms of calls for service to fire departments, fires accounted for four percent of the 33,602,500 total. Eight percent of the calls were false alarms, while 64 percent of the calls were for aid such as EMS.

Estimates of civilian fire injuries are on the low side, the NFPA cautions, because many injuries are not reported to the responding fire service. This can occur at small fires to which fire departments don’t respond, or in situations in which when fire departments aren’t aware of injured people whom they didn’t take to medical facilities.

The report contains overall statistics from the NFPA survey of fire departments on fires, civilian deaths and injuries, and property damage in 2015. It also includes patterns by major property class, region and community size as well as information on types of fire department calls and false alarms. Fires that occur in areas of sparse population protected primarily by state and federal land management agencies are not likely to be included in the survey results.

The NFPA develops more than 300 codes and standards to minimize the possibility and effects of fire and other hazards. All NFPA codes and standards can be found at www.nfpa.org/freeaccess.

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A recently published white paper from National Safety Council’s Campbell Institute highlights the importance of workplace wellbeing as a key component in an employer's safety culture.

A section on incentives shows that institute participants continue to experiment and test incentive structures to find out what works best for their employees.

Read entire article - http://www.thecampbellinstitute.org/research

The rate of nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses in the U.S. dropped in 2015 by the greatest amount since 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That continues a downward trend that, with the exception of 2012, has happened over the past 13 years.

According to data released recently by the BLS, employers in private industry reported about 2.9 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses last year. That is a decline of about 48,000 from 2014, even though there was an increase in total hours worked. The rate of cases recorded in 2015 was 3.0 per 100 full-time workers – down from 3.2 the previous year. That makes it the lowest recorded case rate since at 2002, when OSHA recordkeeping requirements were modified. In 2003, the rate was 5.0. It fell below 4.0 for the first time in 2008 when the rate reached 3.9.The last time the rate dropped by more than 0.1 was in 2009, when it fell from 3.9 in 2008 to 3.6.

The decline in total recordable cases resulted largely by decreases in two categories: those involving days away from work and other recordable cases. The rate for cases of job transfer or restriction held steady.

Six of 19 private industry sectors reported a decline in injuries:
-mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction
-manufacturing
-transportation and warehousing
-finance and insurance
-health care and social assistance, and
-accommodation and food services.

Some other highlights from the report:
-The only sector in the report to show an increase was wholesale trade. The other dozen sectors stayed flat.
-Over half of the 2.9 million injuries involved days away from work, job restriction or transfer (DART).
-The injury rate was highest among mid-size companies (50-249 employees) and lowest among the smallest employers (fewer than 11 employees).
-About three of four injuries occurred in service industries.
-Of the 41 states for which state rates are available, rates declined in nine and remained steady in 32 and the District of Columbia.

Four states registered injury rates above a 4.0:
-Maine: 4.8
-Vermont: 4.6
-Washington: 4.4, and
-Montana: 4.3.

Two state showed rates below 2.0:
-Washington, DC: 1.6, and
-Louisiana: 1.9.

"We are encouraged to see the significant decline in worker injury and illness rates,” Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels said in a statement. “This is the result of the relentless efforts of employers, unions, worker advocates, occupational safety and health professionals, and federal and state government agencies ensuring that worker safety and health remains a top priority every day.

"Despite the decline, approximately 2.9 million private sector workers suffered nonfatal injuries and illnesses last year. That is still far too many. At OSHA, we will continue to do all that we can to continue driving the rate down."

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's workforce by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.

This is the first of three annual BLS workplace injury reports released in the fall. In November, BLS will release a report on nonfatal injuries with days away from work. In December, the agency will release its annual report on fatal injuries.

https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=NEWS_RELEASES&p_id=33360

Tagged in: OSHA

Smoking leaves a mark on the human genome in the form of DNA methylation, a process by which cells control gene activity. That’s according to research in the American Heart Association Journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Genetics.

The new findings suggest that DNA methylation could be an important sign that reveals an individual’s smoking history, and could provide researchers with potential targets for new therapies.

Read entire article - http://news.heart.org/smoking-leaves-historical-footprint-in-dna/

OSHA is looking to update 18 of its standards, part of an ongoing effort that began more than 20 years ago.

The changes, Standards Improvement Project-Phase IV, are part of a series begun in 1995 in response to a presidential executive order, “Improving Regulations and Regulatory Review.” That order aims to reduce regulatory burden while maintaining or enhancing employees’ safety and health.
OSHA announced that this latest phase will include revisions to its standards that may be confusing, outdated, or unnecessary in its recordkeeping, general industry, maritime, and construction standards. Previous changes were issued in 1998, 2005 and 2011.

"The changes we propose will modernize OSHA standards, help employers better understand their responsibilities, increase compliance, and reduce compliance costs," Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels said in a statement. "Most importantly, these revisions will improve the safety and health protections afforded to workers across all industries."

The agency's notice in the Oct. 4 Federal Register said these proposed revisions would save employers an estimated $3.2 million per year and are based on responses to a public Request for Information issued in 2012 along with recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health, OSHA's staff, and the Office of Management and Budget.

One revision, the removal of a single word, could have some bearing on the lockout/tagout standard. In addressing a federal court ruling, OSHA proposes to remove the word “unexpected” from the Control of Hazardous Energy standard (1910.147). That word currently appears in servicing and maintenance operations in the lockout/tagout section. Specifically, it applies to a situation “in which the unexpected energization or startup of the machines or equipment, or the release of stored energy could cause injury to the employees.”
OSHA said it intended “unexpected energization” to refer to any startup that happens before the employee servicing the equipment intended.

The Sixth Circuit, however, rejected OSHA’s interpretation of the standard, ruling that the lockout/tagout standard did not apply when a startup procedure provided a warning to a worker that machinery was about to start. In the case the court was asked to consider, workers were servicing machines that used a multi-step startup procedure that included time delays. The court said that startup using such procedures would not be unexpected.

But OSHA said it believes the court’s decision misconstrues the lockout/tagout standard by allowing employers to use warning and delay systems as an alternative to following the standards’ requirements. OSHA also points out that deleting “unexpected” from the standard would make it consistent with the lockout/tagout regulation that applies to shipyards, where the word does not appear in the same context.

OSHA notes that currently its inspectors apply 11 different factors to determine whether particular warning devices are adequate to comply with its standard.

Among the 17 other changes proposed in the latest round of revisions:
-Removing a requirement for employers to provide x-rays to screen for lung cancer for employees who face that exposure. Studies have found x-rays aren’t beneficial in the lung cancer screening process.
-Removing feral cats, under the shipyard regulations, from the category of “vermin” from which employees would have to be protected.
-Revising the minimum breaking-strength requirement for lifelines in the Safety belts, lifelines, and lanyards standard, § 1926.104(c), to 5,000 pounds. This change would bring that standard into conformity with the breaking-strength requirements in the fall protection systems criteria and practices (‘‘Fall Protection’’) standard at § 1926.502(d)(9). OSHA said it believes making identical specifications for the same equipment will avoid confusion and improve compliance.

Comments on the proposal must be submitted by Dec. 5, 2016.

OSHA and Health Canada announced recently the development of a 2016-2017 Workplace Chemical Work Plan to ensure future workplace chemical requirements are acceptable in both the United States and Canada without reducing safety.

According to a news release from OSHA, the plan involves activities to support developing materials to assist stakeholders with implementing the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling (GHS), coordinating opinions on issues that come from international discussions on GHS, and maintaining alignment between the U.S. and Canadian requirements for implementing the GHS when revisions are made.

Read entire article - https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=NEWS_RELEASES&p_id=33039

Tagged in: OSHA

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While it might cause us to shudder to think, winter is just around the corner. And the freezin’ season, of course, comes with its own set of challenges.

Driving in cold weather, carbon monoxide exposure from using generators inside, shoveling snow and clearing roofs, fires, and slips and falls are just some of the hazards posed by winter weather and our responses to it.

The OSHA’s online page about winter hazards, https://www.osha.gov/dts/weather/winter_weather/hazards_precautions.html includes guidance for driving, dealing with stranded vehicles, shoveling snow and using powered equipment such as snow blowers, preventing slips on snow and ice, working near or repairing downed or damaged power lines, and removing downed trees.

The Ready.gov webpage at https://www.ready.gov/winter-weather offers a number of tips and precautions to take before driving in winter weather conditions, especially if watches or warnings have been issued. Some of those include:
-Keeping the gas tank full to keep the fuel line from freezing.
-Letting someone know your destination, route, and when you expect to arrive.
-Keeping a cell phone or other emergency communication device with you.
-Packing your vehicle with an emergency kit that includes thermal blankets, extra winter clothes, a basic tool kit, (including a good knife and jumper cables), an ice scraper and shovel, flashlights or battery-powered lanterns with extra batteries, and high calorie, nonperishable food and water.
-Having a supply of material such as rock salt or sand for extra traction beneath tires.

When it comes to strenuous activities to do in the snow, few compare to shoveling the white stuff. Anyone shoveling snow may become exhausted, dehydrated, and/or experience back injuries, or heart attacks. With those possibilities in mind, a recommended practice before shoveling is to warm up first. That means scooping small amounts of snow at a time and pushing the snow rather than lifting it. "The use of proper lifting technique is necessary to avoid back and other injuries when shoveling snow: keep the back straight, lift with the legs and do not turn or twist the body," OSHA advises.

When removing snow from roofs and working at heights, OSHA recommends employers evaluate snow removal tasks for hazards. That includes planning how to do the work safely and how workers can be protected from hazardous work conditions, preferably by using snow removal methods that do not call for workers to venture out onto roofs. Employers should determine the right type of equipment and PPE (personal fall arrest systems, non-slip safety boots, etc.) for the job and make sure that workers are trained on how to use them properly.

To prevent slips and falls on snow and ice, employers should clear walking surfaces of snow and ice and spread deicer as soon as possible after a winter storm. Proper footwear is a must for walking on snow or ice. OSHA notes that a "pair of insulated and water resistant boots with good rubber treads is a must for walking during or after a winter storm. Keeping a pair of rubber over-shoes with good treads which fit over your street shoes is a good idea during the winter months. Take short steps and walk at a slower pace so you can react quickly to a change in traction, when walking on an icy or snow-covered walkway."

With the "Hear and Now – Noise Safety Challenge” the Labor Department and OSHA are inviting entrepreneurs to develop solutions for preventing workplace hearing loss.

OSHA said the dual goals of the challenge are to inspire creative ideas and raise business awareness of the market for workplace safety innovation.

According to OSHA, 22 million workers risk losing their hearing from workplace hazards every year, while hearing loss disability costs $242 million annually in worker's compensation.

Read entire article - https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=NEWS_RELEASES&p_id=32913

Tagged in: OSHA
OSHA recently asked employers and safety professionals to share their techniques for keeping workers safe from extreme heat. The agency stated it has since received many responses and was impressed with the innovative efforts to keep workers safe during extreme heat conditions.
 
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According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each day an average of about 2,000 workers in the United States suffer job-related eye injuries that require medical treatment.

October has been designated Eye Injury Prevention Month, but reviewing eye and face protection protocols with employees and ensuring they are not only using the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) for the job but that they know how to use it correctly is a sound practice any time of year.

Injuries to the eye in the workplace can take a number of forms from chemicals or particulate matter in the eye and cuts or scrapes to the cornea. Other common causes of eye injuries are splashes, steam burns, and exposure to ultraviolet or infrared radiation.

Common forms of PPE for the face and eyes safety glasses, goggles, face shields, and full face respirators. The PPE chosen depends upon the type of hazard, the circumstances of exposure, the type of other PPE to be used, and a person’s vision needs.

Under OSHA Face Protection Standard 1910.133(a) (1), it is the responsibility of the employer to “ensure that each affected employee uses appropriate eye or face protection when exposed to eye or face hazards.” That includes making sure the PPE uses eye protection that provides side protection when there is a hazard from flying objects (OSHA Face Protection Standard 1910.133(a) (2). For those who wear prescription lenses, OSHA Face Protection Standard 1910.133(a)(3) requires that an individual engaged in operations that involve eye hazards to wear “eye protection that incorporates the prescription in its design, or wears eye protection that can be worn over the prescription lenses without disturbing the proper position of the prescription lenses or the protective lenses.”

According to these standards, a person should always wear properly fitted eye protective gear when:

-Doing work that may produce particles, slivers, or dust from materials like wood, metal, plastic, cement, and drywall;

-Hammering, sanding, grinding, or doing masonry work;

-Working with power tools;

-Working with chemicals, including common household chemicals like ammonia, oven cleaners, and bleach;

-Using a lawnmower, riding mower, or other motorized gardening devices like string trimmers;

-Working with wet or powdered cement;

-Welding (which requires extra protection like a welding mask or helmet from sparks and UV radiation);

-“Jumping” the battery of a motor vehicle;

-Being a bystander to any of the above situations.

OSHA urges employers not to rely on PPE devices alone to protect against eye hazards. Keeping a watch on eye safety means personal protective gear should be one part of a safety environment that includes engineering controls and robust safety practices.

Tagged in: Eye Injury OSHA

The EPA has issued a final rule to limit exposure to formaldehyde, a carcinogen that is used as an adhesive in a broad range of wood products, including some furniture, flooring, cabinets, bookcases and building materials such as plywood and wood panels. Exposure to formaldehyde can cause adverse health effects including eye, nose and throat irritation, other respiratory symptoms and cancer. This is the first time the EPA has regulated formaldehyde - OSHA has a formaldehyde standard which is part of the federal government.

Read entire article - https://www.epa.gov/formaldehyde/formaldehyde-emission-standards-composite-wood-products-0

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October heralds the arrival of many things – the first full month of autumn, cooler weather, leaves changing color, football season in full swing – and Indoor Air Quality Awareness Month.

Perhaps it’s because of the very fact that it is so vital we overlook it, or (usually) so transparent that we can’t see it, but we don’t often stop to think about the air we breathe. Air quality is important for everyone at all times, and that includes the time we spend at work.

Perhaps you’ve heard of “sick building syndrome,” a term first used in the 1980s to refer to health issues linked to improperly designed and ventilated buildings. Although some buildings are now designed with indoor air quality as a consideration (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – LEED), there are many steps employers can take to cut down on the chances of air causing maladies at work regardless of how and when buildings were designed.

Studies conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency comparing the risks of environmental threats to public health show that indoor air pollution from sources such as secondhand smoke, radon, organic compounds, and biological pollutants are among the top five risks on a consistent basis.

In general, most indoor air quality problems in the workplace can be traced to six main sources: 

-Inadequate Ventilation – These problems involve lack of adequate fresh air and uneven distribution of fresh air within a structure.

-Humidity and Temperature – These concerns involve levels outside the normal range of human comfort.

-Inside Contamination – Possible sources of contamination include office equipment such as copy machines, office and cleaning supplies, and chemicals that are stored indoors. 

-Outside Contamination – As the name suggests, this includes contaminants brought into a work environment, such as by means of an improper air intake or changes in wind conditions (for example, motor vehicle exhaust gases drawn into a ventilation system).

-Microbial Contamination – This is typically associated with water leaks, water infiltration, increased humidity indoors, humidifiers, and contaminated ventilation ductwork – places that can harbor and encourage the growth of microbes.

-New Building Materials – Emissions from building materials that have just been installed (the familiar phenomenon of gasses emitted by new carpeting is one example). Such issues typically resolve over time, which can be often be lessened by increasing building ventilation.

At Workplace Safety & Health Co., our primary concern is to help our customers reduce injuries and illnesses while promoting their profitability through sound health and safety management practices. That includes helping to identify and manage risks posed by air quality. Whether your organization works indoors, outdoors, or both, our consultants can determine air quality exposures through monitoring, mapping, surveys and evaluations that include qualitative air contaminant hazard assessments, air monitoring, and quantitative air contaminant exposure assessment.

Ready to know more? Give us a call and start breathing easier.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued interim guidance for workers possibly exposed to Zika virus, such as outdoor workers/employers, healthcare and laboratory workers, mosquito control workers and business travelers. Some of the recommendations are listed below:

-(for employers) Provide insect repellants containing EPA-registered active ingredients and encourage their use, provide workers with clothing that covers exposed skin.

-Get rid of standing water (i.e. bottles) when possible to eliminate areas where mosquitoes can lay eggs, perform hand hygiene before and after contact with infectious material.

-Workers performing tasks related to mosquito control may need additional protection.

Read entire article - http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/s0422-interim-guidance-zika.html

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As you likely know, new maximum fines from OSHA have been in effect since the beginning of August. They are:
-$12,741 for serious and other-than-serious violations, up from $7,000
-$124,709 for repeat or willful violations, up from $70,000, and
-$12,741 per day for failure-to-abate, up from $7,000.

That 78.2% leap was made to catch up with inflation since 1990, the last time OSHA maximum fines were increased. From now on, as part of the 2016 federal budget law, Federal OSHA can increase maximum fines each year based on inflation.

If you’ve been keeping up with OSHA news, this might all be review. But what might not be is how the agency determines exact fines. The four main factors are:
-The gravity of the violation;
-The size of the company;
-A good faith effort to comply, and
-A history of previous violations.

As the name suggests, gravity carries the most weight.

According to OSHA’s existing Field Operations Manual for inspectors (https://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/Directive_pdf/CPL_02-00-159.pdf) the gravity of each individual violation is determined before any other calculations are made, with high gravity violations holding the maximum amount for serious, repeat and willful violations. Moderate gravity carries penalties between 57% and 86% of the allowable maximum, while low gravity can have penalties of 43% to 57% of the maximum.

Fine reductions are possible – for example, a good-faith reduction of up to 25% is possible if a company has a written safety and health management system.

Not surprisingly, penalty reductions come with restrictions, too. Some of those are that:
-Repeat violations are reduced only for company size.
-Willful violations are reduced only for company size and history.
-High gravity serious violations are reduced only for company size and history.
- A good faith reduction is not available when a willful, repeat or failure-to-abate violation is issued.
-So-called quick fix reductions are not issued when there is a fatality or serious injury, and this type of reduction is not issued when blatant violations are easily corrected, such as simply activating a ventilation system that is already in place or by putting on a hard hat when it is readily at the work site.

Tagged in: OSHA

The Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration proposed a rule to improve workplace examinations, specifically in metal and nonmetal mines in the U.S.

Citing a March 2015 accident where a vehicle crashed into a pond and killed the driver, the administration said that an examination could have prevented the accident.

According to the news release, 60 percent of deaths in metal and nonmetal mines since 2010 were linked to frequent mining violations, known as “Rules to Live By.”

Read entire article - https://www.msha.gov/news-media/press-releases/2016/06/07/msha-proposes-rule-workplace-examinations-could-prevent

Tagged in: mine safety

National Preparedness Month— sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security each September since 2003 — encourages Americans to take steps to prepare for emergencies in their communities – whether they occur at home, at school, or at work.

Though much of the focus for National Preparedness Month is on being ready to deal with emergent situations at home, the observance also raises the issue of being prepared for emergencies on the job. Safety at work is a year round priority, so it’s important to regularly review your company’s safety plans and policies and keep them up to date.

FEMA lists the steps in developing a preparedness program at work as:
-Program Management
-Planning
-Implementation
-Testing and Exercises
-Program Improvement

The business preparedness section of the Ready.gov website (www.ready.gov) from the DHS and FEMA recommends that the planning process take an “all hazards” approach. As the term suggests, that means taking into account different types of threats and hazards and their likelihood of happening.

As part of the planning process, the website recommends developing strategies for prevention/deterrence and risk mitigation. This should include threats or hazards that can be classified as probable as well as hazards that could cause injury, property damage, business disruption or environmental impact.

Developing an all hazards preparedness plan includes identifying potential hazards, assessing vulnerabilities and considering potential impacts. A risk assessment identifies threats or hazards and opportunities for hazard prevention, deterrence, and risk mitigation. Of course, human injuries should be highest priority consideration in a risk assessment, but other assets could include everything from buildings and equipment to raw materials and finished products.

In conducting a risk assessment, the Ready.gov site recommends looking for vulnerabilities, or weaknesses, that would make an asset more susceptible to (and possibly contribute to the severity of) damage from a hazard. Such vulnerabilities could range from deficiencies in a building’s structural integrity to its security or protection system – having a working sprinkler system in place to limit damage in the event of a fire, for example.

More information on putting together emergency plans for the workplace is available at http://www.ready.gov/business.

NIOSH has helped a military facility develop a sampling strategy for aircraft hangars used to maintain, repair, and restore active and historic aircraft. The workers in the hangars use paint and paint removers on a variety of surfaces using low-pressure spray guns and rollers.

According to the NIOSH Health Hazard Evaluation report, this activity could cause polyurethanes, solvents, or metals to enter the atmosphere. Based on findings, the agency recommends the staff focus on areas of low airflow near exhaust fans in the hangars, as well as repairing and maintaining all fans connected to the ventilation system.

Read entire article - https://www.aiha.org/publications-and-resources/TheSynergist/Industry%20News/Pages/NIOSH-Evaluation-of-Aircraft-Hangars-Identifies-Sampling-Strategy.aspx

Tagged in: NIOSH

Research into more than 1.5 million workers’ comp claims over a period of five years provided data for a report on workplace injuries published recently by The Travelers Companies.

According to the Travelers Injury Impact Report, the most frequent causes of workplace injuries for the period from 2010 to 2014 were material handling (32 percent); slips, trips and falls (16 percent); being struck by or colliding with an object (10 percent); incidents involving tools (7 percent) and traumas occurring over time such as when a body part is injured by overuse or strain (4 percent).

All other causes accounted for the remaining 31 percent of workplace injuries.

Read entire article - 
http://investor.travelers.com/Cache/1500085614.PDF?O=PDF&T=&Y=&D=&FID=1500085614&iid=4055530

Posted by on in Lockout/Tagout Programs

Just about every industry has some kind of tight space that can be termed "confined" due to its size and/or shape, thereby hindering the work of anyone called upon to enter, work in, and leave it. For the purpose of rulemaking, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration refers to such an area as a "confined space."

Take a gander underneath that umbrella term, and it’s easy to see that confined spaces come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes and locations. They often present not just one but a combination of challenging conditions, such as limited movement, hazardous air and a risk of engulfment.

OSHA identifies more than 20 major sectors of industry and labor with various types of confined spaces. Such spaces include:
-Tanks
-Vessels
-Silos
-Storage bins
-Hoppers
-Vaults
-Pits
-Manholes
-Tunnels
-Equipment housings
-Ductwork
-Pipelines

Just because some confined spaces aren't necessarily designed for easy access doesn’t necessarily mean workers are not expected to enter them, periodically or routinely, in order to perform their jobs. Keeping a work site safe, in and around such conditions, means having correct and up-to-date information about each confined space.

Part of that process involves having a comprehensive plan to address the uncertainties of rescue in confined spaces. That means providing the proper training and equipment so personnel can perform the assigned rescue task for a safe and effective rescue.

A robust confined space safety program should focus on a central goal: protecting workers' safety and health. A written program should include the practices used to remove or control hazards and to ensure safe operations. In addition to preventative measures, the program should discuss air quality monitoring, exit and entry methods, and fall protection/rescue systems.

At Workplace Health & Safety Co., we can help with all those aspects and more. So if you find yourself with questions about confined spaces, reach out to us. We can help in a tight spot.

Tagged in: lockout OSHA tagout

A new survey from the National Safety Council (NSC) reveals many U.S. workers think their companies place productivity ahead of safety on the priorities list. The NSC surveyed 2,000 employees across the U.S. and found 33 percent believe their companies put production before safety. The percentage was higher among workers in high-risk industries.

Read entire article - http://www.nsc.org/Connect/NSCNewsReleases/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?ID=124

You have likely heard the rumblings for some time now, but a long-predicted increase in the maximum fine amount that can be imposed by OSHA became a reality this month.

OSHA's maximum penalties will see an increase of 78.2% as of Aug. 1. Any citations issued by OSHA after that date will be subject to the new penalties if the related violations occurred after Nov. 2, 2015.

Specifically, the new maximum amounts for OSHA fines will be:
-$12,471 for a serious violation, up from $7,000
-$124,709 for a repeat or willful violation, up from $70,000, and
-$12,471 per day for failure-to-abate, up from $7,000.

Although that might come as a shock, it’s worth considering that the last time the maximum fines were adjusted was in 1990. OSHA said it will continue to adjust its penalties for inflation each year going forward based on the Consumer Price Index.

OSHA isn’t acting alone. According to the agency, the increase is in response to legislation enacted by Congress last year that requires all federal agencies to adjust their civil penalties to account for inflation.

There is also a trickle-down effect: States with their own OSHA will have to enact penalty increases that are at least as much as federal OSHA. Some lag time is expected for increases to show in such state-plan states, however.

OSHA will continue to provide a reduction in fines for small companies. The reduction percentage will remain the same, however, so small businesses will also see higher OSHA fines.

Assistant Secretary of Labor David Michaels at the June conference of the of American Society of Safety Engineers noted that OSHA’s fines are still relatively small compared to those of other federal agencies. In a slide show during a presentation at the conference, Michaels referenced a money.com headline, “Amazon fined almost nothing for failing to report workplace injuries” that referred to a maximum $7,000 for an infraction.

 

Tagged in: OSHA

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has released a report that examines oven, furnace, and dryer explosions in recent years. NFPA 86, Standard for Ovens and Furnaces, provides standardized methods to minimize fire and explosion hazards of ovens and furnaces used for commercial and industrial processing of materials, and it includes requirements for proper explosion ventilation methods for new ovens and furnaces.

In an effort to review the NFPA 86 explosion ventilation requirements for the next revision cycle, the Technical Committee on Ovens and Furnaces sought information on real-world incidents where NFPA 86 ventilation requirements would be involved and gathered information about explosion incidents in which an oven, furnace, or dryer was involved. Survey respondents listed human error as the cause of the explosion more than any other cause. Failure of a safeguard, a safeguard not installed, unforeseen hazard, poor process design, and all of the above were other causes listed.

Read entire article - http://www.nfpa.org/codes-and-standards/document-information-pages?mode=code&code=86

Tagged in: NFPA

Hearing loss is the third most common chronic physical condition among the general adult population in the United States, affecting more people than diabetes or cancer. And occupational hearing loss, caused mainly by exposure to noise, is the most common work-related illness in the nation. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) estimates that 22 million workers in the U.S. are exposed to hazardous occupational noise. The good news is that occupational hearing loss can be prevented with hearing loss prevention strategies and technology.

We might expect workers in some types of industry to be at a higher risk than others for developing hearing loss. That is exactly what the recently published CDC Occupational Hearing Loss Surveillance Project found. The study, the first to estimate the prevalence of hearing loss by industry sector, focused on noise-exposed workers in the U.S. from 2003 to 2012.

To do so, researchers compared the prevalence of hearing loss within nine U.S. industry sectors from more than 1.4 million worker audiograms. The audiograms came from workers who were exposed to high noise levels, defined as greater than 85 decibels on the A-scale.

The study found a prevalence of 13 percent hearing loss (from mild to complete) among the study population. In terms of the industry sectors studied, mining (17 percent), construction (16 percent), and manufacturing (14 percent) industries showed the highest prevalence of workers with any hearing impairment or moderate to severe hearing impairment. Within manufacturing sub-sectors that include wood product, apparel and machinery manufacturing, workers have occupational hearing loss risks as high as those in mining and construction. In comparison, the public safety sector, which includes police officers and firefighters, showed the lowest prevalence of workers with any hearing loss (7 percent).

Some of the results of the study supported commonplace assumptions about hearing loss in general: The severity of the loss increased with age and a greater percentage of males showed hearing impairment (14 percent) compared to females (7 percent). Another finding was that 2.5 healthy years were lost each year for every 1,000 noise-exposed U.S. workers due to hearing impairment (hearing loss that impacts day-to-day activities).

Another finding was that although occupational hearing loss has been well-established in the construction industry, present noise regulations do not require audiometric testing for construction workers. Without such testing, intervention could be delayed or simply might not happen.

In their conclusion, the authors wrote that early detection of hearing loss by yearly audiometric testing and intervention to prevent further loss – such as training – is critical. The study results support beginning rehabilitation for those at a mild level of hearing impairment to help employees’ quality of life.

According to OSHA, a personal exposure level exceeding 85 dBA requires enrollment of the exposed worker in a hearing conservation program. Companies have the responsibility to assess noise levels and determine whether adequate protections exist to maintain workers' health. Industrial hygienists are challenged to protect employees from noise exposure in all types of work environments, including variable conditions and newly commissioned facilities. In work environments that cannot be remediated to reduce levels below the OSHA action level, personal protective equipment (PPE) is required to protect employees.

Tagged in: hearing loss OSHA

OSHA encourages pre-rescue planning, communication, and effective coordination among employers and emergency service providers. In support of that goal, the agency recently published a fact sheet for employers on summoning rescue or emergency services in permit-required confined spaces. The Confined Spaces in Construction standard requires employers to develop and implement procedures for summoning rescuers for emergency situations.

The fact sheet contains information for employers on choosing off-site emergency responders by finding a service that has the required equipment, is able to respond quickly, and is capable of handling potential hazards. In addition, the emergency responders chosen must be provided with access to all permit-required confined spaces such as a project site plan, GPS coordinates, and access routes, gates, or landmarks. The document includes information such as checklist questions for emergency service providers to help with preparation.

Read entire article - https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3849.pdf

Tagged in: OSHA

A key aspect of employee safety involves training on how to limit heat exposure and how to identify signs of heat-related illness. We tend to think of heat-related illnesses as occurring most often in outdoor environments during the summer months, and with good reason. According to data compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2011, 4,420 workers were affected by heat-related illnesses and 61 workers died as a result of them. Even indoors, heat exposure from various sources can lead to illness, accidents and unsafe work conditions in general. Not surprisingly, like an increasing number of life situations, there’s an app for that. Make that several.

OSHA’s heat stress app (OSHA Heat Safety Tool) “allows workers and supervisors to calculate the heat index for their worksite.” That’s according to the agency’s website. When supplied with temperature and humidity information, the app makes a quick calculation to determine the heat index – a fairly realistic measure of what the environment actually feels like. The app goes a step further by offering specific precautions to take based on the calculated heat index. Useful as it may be in assessing a present situation, its value as a planning tool is limited.

Enter the Maximum Heat Index Forecasts page from the National Weather Service. While not a smartphone app, the page is easy to access from a variety of devices and provides the heat index forecast for the next five days.
The page starts off by showing the heat forecast three to seven days from the present date. By clicking on the small map in the left-most column for a given day, the user can view a larger, color-coded map filled with that date’s predicted maximum heat index values. It’s possible also to click on other cities in a given area to view a specific forecast presented in the form of a table. All this is great when you want to look ahead several days. In the short term – say, when you want to know about maximum index forecast for today or tomorrow – the NWS forecast webpage draws a blank.

The workaround? It’s possible to view an hour-by-hour heat index forecast from the local NWS forecast page.

Navigate to www.weather.gov and input your zip code or city. On the local forecast webpage, scroll down and click on the hourly weather forecast graph in the right column. Presto. There, in the top part of the graph, is the hourly heat index.
If all this seems very useful but a bit clunky, it also serves to point the way to the development of a streamlined app that can provide NWS heat index forecast information in real time. Web developers, take note.

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is urging state departments of transportation to make sure that railroad crossing warning systems interconnected to traffic lights function properly. The agency also urged states to add event recorders to traffic lights connected to railroad crossing systems so information obtained during inspections can be used to improve safety. Across the United States, there are nearly 5,000 railroad crossings interconnected with traffic lights. A state-by-state list of crossings connected to traffic lights is available at http://www.fra.dot.gov/eLib/Details/L17343.

Read entire article - http://www.fra.dot.gov/eLib/details/L17344#p1_z10_gD_lPR

The federal government’s final count of fatal occupational injuries for 2014 is in, and it shows that overall, numbers were up from the previous year, the first such increase since 2010.

According to the revisions to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, the overall fatal work injury rate in 2014 was 3.4 per 100,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers, up from the 3.3 per 100,000 in 2013.

That makes 4,821 the final number of fatal work injuries in 2014, up from the preliminary count of 4,679 released in September 2015 and the highest since 2008. From 2009 until 2014, the total number of worker deaths had been below 4,700 every year.

Other changes in the updates included the number of fatal injuries in the private mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction industries, which rose to 183, the highest they had been since 2007. Fatal work injuries in oil and gas extraction industries increased to 144 in 2014, which reached a new high in that category.

Some of the other changes included in the updates:
-Fatalities from falls, slips, and trips rose by 25 cases, increasing the final total to 818 cases.
-Fatal work injuries as a result of roadway incidents were higher by 82 cases (8 percent) from the preliminary total, increasing the final number of deaths in 2014 to 1,157 cases – a 5 percent increase from the final count in 2013.
-There were 1,691 fatal work injuries in 2014 among workers age 55 – an increase of 70 from the preliminary count. The 2014 figure represents the largest number ever recorded for this category of workers and is 8 percent larger than the next highest total.

The revisions and additions to the 2014 CFOI counts are the result of the identification of new cases and the revision of existing cases based on source documents received after preliminary results were released.

Although the number of fatal work injuries involving Hispanic or Latino workers rose to 804 after the revisions, the final total for 2014 was lower than that of the prior year (817). The number of non-Hispanic Black or African-American workers who were fatally injured on the job in 2014 went up 4 percent from the preliminary count (457) to a revised count of 475. The total for non-Hispanic white workers rose by 5 percent after the updates to 3,332.

According to the BLS, this will be the last year for the separate release of preliminary data, which usually occurred in August or September. Beginning with the 2015 reference year, final data from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) will be released in December – four months earlier than in previous years. The final (and only) release of 2015 CFOI data is scheduled for December 16, 2016. A similar schedule will be followed in subsequent years, the agency said.

Tagged in: worker fatality

OSHA recently issued a memorandum regarding revised interim enforcement procedures for reporting requirements under 29 CFR 1904.39, reporting fatalities, hospitalizations, amputations, and losses of an eye as a result of work-related incidents to OSHA.

The memorandum provides updated internal guidance and procedures for the Area Offices to enforce the reporting requirements. Among other items, the memo updates the procedures for the intake of reports from employers, data collection and sorting as well as entry of data in the OSHA Information System (OIS).

The revised enforcement procedures replace the December 2014 interim procedures.

Read entire article - https://www.osha.gov/dep/Enforcement_Procedures_for_1904.39-3-4-2016.pdf

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The official start of summer is in June, which also happens to be National Safety Month. Since summer is traditionally a time when most people are outdoors more often and for longer than at any other time of year, June is a great time to consider the health and safety concerns that accompany the season.

National Safety Month focuses on reducing the leading causes of injury and death at work, on the road, in the home, and in communities. This year, the month’s special focus areas are:
-Medication safety and prescription painkiller abuse
-Driving, biking, and working safely
-First aid and emergency preparedness
-Preventing slips, trips, and falls

At Workplace Safety & Health Company, we are committed to helping make workplaces safe year round. Our specialized consulting services are based upon the specific needs of each client, and we are equipped to assist with industrial hygiene, qualitative exposure assessments, job safety analyses, confined space evaluations, indoor air monitoring, vapor intrusion monitoring, lockout/tagout surveys, as well as industrial noise monitoring and mapping. We aim to help our customers prevent injuries and illnesses while promoting profitability through sound health and safety management practices.

Some of the training courses available from Workplace Safety & Health Co., Inc. include:
-Complying with OSHA (30-hour/10-hour courses)
-Lockout/Tagout
-HAZMAT / HAZWOPER
-Confined Space Entry and Rescue
-First Aid /CPR (to include AED and Bloodborne Pathogens)
-Asbestos Operations and Maintenance
-Incident Command
-Excavation Safety
-Fall Protection

Want to know more? Contact us – we’re always here to help.

Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels was optimistic about how employers who are covered under OSHA responded to the implementation of changes in OSHA’s injury and illness reporting and recordkeeping rule last year. According to the first-year report written by the OSHA chief, although some employers tried to hide them, most employers cooperated with OSHA to correct hazards.

Read entire article - https://www.osha.gov/injuryreport/2015.pdf

Tagged in: OSHA

NIOSH has updated its ladder safety app based on user feedback, according to a blog post from the agency. The app, introduced in 2013, had been downloaded more than 52,000 times by the end of 2015. According to the post, the app's appearance, content, and function have been improved, and it now includes stepladder safety and additional interactive tools.

Read entire article - http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/falls/mobileapp.html/?s_cid=3ni7d2blog2016

Tagged in: NIOSH workplace safety

A project to renovate a former psychiatric center in New York into a college was fraught with so many hazards that the Department of Labor referred to it as a “worksite of horrors” on its blog.

In visiting the work site in 2013, OSHA found that the workers and employees of 13 contractors were scraping lead paint off walls and handling asbestos debris without using safe removal methods, such as wetting and vacuuming. To top things off, none of the workers were wearing respirators, a fact that potentially exposed them to neurological damage from lead and to fatal lung disease from asbestos.

OSHA put a stop to the work and eventually cited the real estate development company in charge of the operation with 24 willful safety violations. The agency claims that without adequate safety measures, the company put workers at risk of long-term neurological and respiratory problems caused by unsafe lead and asbestos exposure.

The point of this post isn’t to single out a company for unsafe practices, but to illustrate the dangers of working in environments suspected of containing hazardous materials.

Let’s start with asbestos. Exposure to this naturally occurring mineral is a concern for anyone who works in construction and demolition, but it is also poses a constant health risk for those who work or live in buildings that contain the material.
While asbestos has long been valued for its durability and flame resistance, it wasn't until the industrial revolution that these properties were put to widespread use. At about the same time, asbestos became associated with a number of respiratory problems. Today, it is well-documented as a cause of a number of respiratory ailments and as a carcinogen.

Although the use of asbestos is now banned in some products by regulations such as the Toxic Substances Control Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Consumer Product Safety Act, many older commercial and residential buildings still harbor asbestos-containing materials. And because asbestos fibers of certain sizes cannot be exhaled, even short-term exposure to greater than naturally occurring levels of the material can lead to health problems.

Building and facility owners are required by law to assess asbestos hazards before beginning any renovation, maintenance or demolition work. A written report must be furnished to contractors and any others who work around any project that involves asbestos. This requirement applies to both newly installed and existing materials.

Product information on labels and safety data sheets should include information on asbestos content when it constitutes more than 0.1 percent of a material, since it is a known carcinogen. But just because there is no asbestos information on a label does not always mean that asbestos is not present. When handling products that may contain asbestos, it should be assumed that it is present unless the manufacturer or a testing laboratory has certified the material to be asbestos free.When in doubt, a thorough building survey with bulk material sampling and analysis by accredited personnel is the only way to prove that a presumed asbestos containing material (PACM) does not contain asbestos.

An accurate asbestos inventory is the foundation for managing a successful operations and maintenance (O&M) program. Site-specific asbestos abatement policies, periodic inspections and exposure monitoring are sound ways for building owners to control asbestos exposure risks to building occupants, residents and visitors.

Then there is lead. Today, we know that lead exposure can damage organs and the cardiovascular and central nervous systems. It also can be harmful in children’s development. But prior to the 1960s – and in some cases up until the late 1970s – the paint used in homes most often was lead based. The EPA established lead-based paint regulations in the 1990s after it was found that millions of children in the United States had been exposed to lead poisoning from paint peeling from walls.

The most common ways for lead to enter the body is through inhalation as a dust or fume or through accidental ingestion. Because it can circulate throughout the body and be deposited in organs and bodily tissues, lead is considered a cumulative and persistent toxic substance. Whether at home or in the workplace, remodeling or renovation projects such as sanding, cutting with saws or torches, and demolition work can yield hazardous lead chips and dust by disturbing lead-based paint, resulting in an unhealthy environment. OSHA’s Lead Standard for the construction industry, Title 29 Code of Federal Regulations 1926.62, addresses lead in a various forms, including metallic lead, all inorganic lead compounds, and organic lead soaps.

Workplace Safety & Health Co. Inc. can provide industry-standard testing for lead-based paint according to OSHA standards. Currently, there are two methods recognized by the EPA for testing paint: X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analysis and paint chip sampling with an analysis by an accredited laboratory. At Workplace Safety, we go another step by using AutoCAD® drawings and photographs to show the location and appearance of each surface coating we analyze. We are equipped to not only identify and evaluate hazards, but to develop corrective action plans that solve your health and safety challenges efficiently and economically.

So, before beginning that next renovation or construction project that you suspect might involve exposure to asbestos or lead, call us first and know for sure.

Tagged in: asbestos lead paint

OSHA already has an online reporting form and telephone number. But now a non-governmental organization says it will be creating an application that will allow employees to report their complaints. Workers Lab of Oakland, Calif., is partnering with SeeClickFix to create an app that will allow employees to report a variety of problems in the workplace. The app would suggest relevant agencies – those that deal with the type of complaint being reported.

Read entire article - http://www.buzzfeed.com/carolineodonovan/report-your-bad-employer-with-this-app#.crVOqYyL0

Posted by on in Uncategorized

With the wide temperature swings we’ve had here in the Midwest this spring, sometimes it can be hard to believe that summer and the heat-related health and safety concerns it brings is nearly here.

To draw attention to this fact, some states observe a Heat Safety Awareness or Heat Awareness Day each year in the mid- to late spring each year. Being aware of the health and safety risks posed by exposure to heat in the workplace is a year-round concern.

Heat stress related injuries are often the result of the body’s inability to cope with prolonged exposure to extreme heat. It is of particular concern during the hot summer months, particularly for people who work in factories, in construction, or in agriculture. In its materials – fact sheets, posters, quick cards, training guides, and wallet cards – OSHA makes it clear that workers at risk include anyone who is exposed to hot and humid conditions, especially anyone performing heavy work tasks and/or using bulky personal protective equipment. Those at greater risk of heat stress include people 65 years of age or older, those who are overweight, have heart disease or high blood pressure, or who take medications that can be affected by extreme heat.

Prevention of heat stress in employees is as important as any aspect of safety plan design. Employers need to train to workers to understand what heat stress is, how it affects their health and safety, and how it can be prevented. Heat can also indirectly lead to other injuries by causing sweaty palms and dizziness. With summer on our doorstep, now is a good time to review how your workplace safety plans address employee heat exposure through engineering controls and preventive work practices.

OSHA makes it clear that employers are responsible for providing workplaces that are safe from excessive heat. That can also include furnishing workers with water, rest and shade, as well as education about the symptoms of heat-related illnesses and their prevention. For example, being able to “take the heat” is a gradual process, and some workers might be at greater risk than others if they have not yet built up a tolerance to hot conditions. For those reasons, OSHA recommends allowing more frequent breaks for new workers or workers who have been away from the job for a week or more in order to acclimatize to conditions.

For its part, the agency is continuing its nationwide campaign to raise awareness and educate employers and workers on the hazards of working in the heat, along with steps to take in preventing heat-related illnesses and death. The message contained in the campaign’s slogan “Water, Rest, Shade” has already reached nearly 11 million people since it began in 2011, according to OSHA.

Worksite training and plans should also address the steps to take both to prevent heat illness and what to do in an emergency. Prompt, proper action really can save lives.

OSHA's main safety points for people who work in hot environments are:
•Drink water every 15 minutes, even if you're not thirsty.
•Rest in the shade to cool down.
•Wear a hat and light-colored clothing.
•Learn the signs of heat illness and what to do in an emergency.
•Keep an eye on fellow workers.

OSHA maintains a dedicated webpage, https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/heat_index/heat_app.html, that includes a heat safety tool app, a training guide and lesson plan, and other resources all aimed at keeping worker health and safety risks low when the mercury starts to head skyward.

Occupational exposure to heat can result in injuries, disease, reduced productivity, and fatality. To address this hazard, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has evaluated the scientific data on heat stress and hot environments and has updated its Criteria for a Recommended Standard: Occupational Exposure to Hot Environments document.

The document was last updated in 1986, and in recent years, including during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill response of 2010, questions were raised regarding the need for revision to reflect recent research and findings.
In addition, there is evidence that heat stress is an increasing problem for many workers, particularly those located in densely populated areas closer to the equator where temperatures are expected to rise in relation to the changing climate.

The revision includes:
-Additional information about the physiological changes that result from heat stress;
-Updated information from relevant studies, such as those on caffeine use;
-Evidence to redefine heat stroke and associated symptoms; and
-Updated information on physiological monitoring and personal protective equipment and clothing that can be used to control heat stress.

Tagged in: OSHA

Posted by on in Uncategorized

Air Quality Awareness Week, usually held the last week of April, is an annual opportunity to engage communities in conversations on air pollution and health. Why do we need a themed week to draw our attention to something so basic? Maybe it’s because it’s free, or maybe it’s because we usually can’t see it, but we often take our air for granted. Air quality obviously is important for everyone, everywhere, and that includes the air in a work environment.

One measure of air quality, the Air Quality Index (AQI), can be used to help plan activities outdoors. Finding the day’s AQI report is becoming increasingly easy. It’s available on the Web (http://www.airnow.gov), on many local television weather forecasts, and via free e-mail tools and apps (http://www.enviroflash.info and http://m.epa.gov/apps/airnow.html). After finding the forecast for a local area, checking the health recommendations can show how to reduce the amount of pollution breathed in.

At Workplace Safety & Health Co., our primary concern is to help our customers reduce injuries and illnesses while promoting their profitability through sound health and safety management practices – and that includes helping to identify and manage risks posed by air quality. Whether your employees’ work environment is indoors, outdoors, or both, our consultants can determine your business's air quality exposures through monitoring, mapping, surveys and evaluations that include qualitative air contaminant hazard assessments, air monitoring, and quantitative air contaminant exposure assessment. Give us a call and breathe easier.

Tagged in: air quality

A recently published study from NIOSH examined hearing difficulty and tinnitus in various industries, based on data from the 2007 National Health Interview Survey. This provided detailed, self-reported information on hearing difficulty, tinnitus, and exposures to occupational noise. Some other findings are that:
-Seven percent of U.S. workers never exposed to noise on the job had hearing difficulty, 5 percent had tinnitus, and 2 percent had both conditions. Among workers who had at some point in their working careers been exposed to occupational noise, the prevalence was 23 percent, 15 percent, and 9 percent, respectively.

-Workers in agriculture, forestry, and the fishing and hunting industry had a significantly higher risk of hearing difficulty, tinnitus, and their co-occurrence. Manufacturing workers also had significantly higher risks for tinnitus and the co-occurrence of tinnitus and hearing difficulty.

-Workers in life, physical and social science occupations, and personal care and service occupations had significantly higher risks for hearing difficulty. Workers in architecture and engineering occupations also had significantly higher risks for tinnitus.

-Workers in sales and related occupations had significantly lower risks for hearing difficulty, tinnitus and their co-occurrence.

The study is the first to report prevalence estimates for tinnitus by U.S. industry sector and occupation and provide these estimates side by side with prevalence estimates of hearing difficulty, according to the agency. According to NIOSH, hazardous noise affects approximately 22 million U.S. workers.

Read entire article - http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/updates/upd-02-01-16.html

Tagged in: NIOSH

Posted by on in Uncategorized

Whether it’s on the way to-, from-, or for the purpose of work, reaching the destination safely involves the driver being focused on the task at hand: driving.

Over the past decade or so, distracted driving has emerged as a major public safety concern – as well it should. Distracted driving remains one of the main causes of transportation-related accidents. According to Distraction.gov, the federal government’s website on distracted driving, in 2013, 3,154 people in the U.S. were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. That’s a 6.7% decrease in the recorded number of fatalities from the previous year. However, approximately 3,000 more people were injured in 2013 compared to the 421,000 injured in motor vehicle crashes

April is Distracted Driving Awareness month, and the National Safety Council’s theme this year is “Take Back Your Drive.” One estimate by the NSC puts the number of crashes caused by cell phone use and texting while driving at 1.6 million each year. It’s easy to blame the devices themselves, but a growing body of research suggests that they are part of larger picture, one in which they are just another set of contributors to a state of mental distraction.

A newly published study from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute seems to support this.1 In looking into which type of activity puts a driver at greater risk of being involved in a vehicle crash – a state of emotional agitation or performing activities such as using a hand-held cell phone – emotional agitation came out on top, researchers found. A person who is observably angry, sad, crying or emotionally agitated is almost 10 times more likely to experience a crash. The risk of a crash more than doubles when drivers perform activities that require them to take their eyes off the road, including reading emails or texts, or using a vehicle’s built-in touch screen.

Other research suggests that it isn’t the physical activity of operating a device (or devices) while driving that is the major cause for concern; rather, as some studies involving the use of hands-free cell phone use have shown, cognitive distraction caused by switching between language comprehension and processing the external cues needed to drive properly may be partly to blame.

It’s something to ponder – just maybe not when you’re behind the wheel.
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1. http://www.vtnews.vt.edu/articles/2016/02/022316-vtti-researchdistraction.html

Tagged in: Distracted driving

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and ASIS International (ASIS) recently hosted a joint stakeholder meeting to address active shooting incidents. More than 100 experts from the security, fire, law enforcement, EMS, life safety, professional associations and government fields discussed existing resources, the crossover between security and fire disciplines, operational solutions, management procedures, building design and construction issues, and cost considerations with an emphasis on preparation and planning. According to the NFPA, the intent of the collaborative effort was, and will continue to be, to examine gaps and exchange knowledge as they relate to active shooter events.

Read entire article - http://nfpatoday.blog.nfpa.org/2016/02/nfpa-and-asis-hold-joint-stakeholder-meeting-to-address-active-shooter-incident-preparation-and-planning.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+nfpablog+%28NFPA+Today+BLOG%29

Tagged in: NFPA

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has announced a rulemaking proposal designed to enhance the Agency’s ability to identify non-compliant motor carriers. The Safety Fitness Determination (SFD) Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), to be published in the Federal Register, would update FMCSA’s safety fitness rating methodology by integrating on-road safety data from inspections – along with the results of carrier investigations and crash reports – in order to determine a motor carrier’s overall safety fitness on a monthly basis.

 Read entire article - https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/newsroom/fmcsa-proposes-new-rule-determining-safety-fitness-motor-carriers

 

The final deadline in OSHA’s four-step conversion to the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) is less than three months away. By June 1, 2016, employers, manufacturers, importers and distributors of hazardous chemicals will have to be in full compliance with the revised hazard communication standard (HCS). OSHA adopted GHS in 2012 to make labels and Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) consistent with those used in most of the rest of the world.

Previous compliance deadlines were December 1, 2013, by when employers needed to have trained employees about the format and presentation of the new GHS labels and safety data sheets (SDSs) they will be seeing in the workplace; June 1, 2015, by which date all new labels and SDSs from manufacturers, importers and distributors needed to completed; and December 1, 2015, the date when manufacturers, importers and distributors could no longer use 1994 HCS-compliant labels.

According to the OSHA document Small Entity Compliance Guide for Employers That Use Hazardous Chemicals:
“If an employer identifies new hazards after December 1, 2015, due to the reclassification of the hazardous chemicals, it has six months, until June 1, 2016, to ensure that those hazards are included in the hazard communication program, workplace labeling reflects those new hazards, and employees are trained on the new hazards.”

According to that same document, OSHA inspections will be looking for at least the following aspects of an organization’s labeling approach:

-Designation of person(s) responsible for ensuring compliant labeling of shipped and inplant containers;
-Description of written alternatives to labeling of stationary process containers, if they are used;
-Appropriate labels on all workplace containers, including those received from a supplier, secondary containers, and stationary process containers;
-A description and explanation of labels on both shipped and workplace containers included in the employee training program; and,
-Procedures to review and update workplace label information when necessary.

Here is some more food for thought, even if your organization doesn’t handle chemicals: According to Federal OSHA, the HCS has been the second most violated standard it cites – 5482 times in 3055 federal OSHA inspections from October 2014 to September 2015, with a total of $3,308,262 in proposed penalties. The fall protection standard for construction took the top spot.

Tagged in: ghs OSHA

Results of a recently completed National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) study confirm the necessity of the current Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) respirator fit testing requirement, both annually and when physical changes have occurred. The study’s conclusions emphasize that respirator users who have lost more than 20 pounds should be re-tested to be sure that the current size and model of respirator in use still properly fits.

Read entire article - http://blogs.cdc.gov/niosh-science-blog/2016/01/05/fit-testing/

 

Eye injuries on the job can occur from a variety of sources, from exposure to chemicals or particulate matter to cuts or scrapes to the cornea. Other common sources of eye (and skin) injuries are splashes, steam burns and exposure to ultraviolet or infrared radiation.

Every day, an average of 2000 workers in the United States suffer job-related eye injuries that require medical treatment, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). March has been designated as Workplace Eye Wellness Month, a time to focus on vision safety on the job. Obviously, that should be a year-round concern; anytime is a good time to determine what personal protective equipment is appropriate for the job, review eye and face protection protocols with employees, and ensure they are correctly using the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) for the job.

According to OSHA Face Protection Standard 1910.133(a) (1), it is the responsibility of the employer to "ensure that each affected employee uses appropriate eye or face protection when exposed to eye or face hazards." That includes making sure the PPE uses eye protection that provides side protection when there is a hazard from flying objects (OSHA Face Protection Standard 1910.133(a) (2). For those who wear prescription lenses, OSHA Face Protection Standard 1910.133(a)(3) requires that each affected employee "engaged in operations that involve eye hazards wears eye protection that incorporates the prescription in its design, or wears eye protection that can be worn over the prescription lenses without disturbing the proper position of the prescription lenses or the protective lenses."

The PPE selected depends upon the type of hazard, the circumstances of exposure, the type of other PPE to be used, and a person’s vision needs. Common forms of PPE for the face and eyes include safety glasses, goggles, face shields, and full face respirators.

Of course, having the PPE is only part of equation: The equipment will only do its job properly if it is used properly. A Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) survey of workers who suffered eye injuries showed that nearly three out of five were not wearing eye protection at the time of the accident. The workers in the survey most often reported that they believed protection was not required for the situation.

A final thought: OSHA urges employers not to rely exclusively upon PPE devices to protect against eye hazards. Personal protective gear should be a part of a safety environment that includes guards, engineering controls, and robust safety practices.

How is your workplace watching over employee eye safety?

There are 45 Skin Notation Profiles available on the NIOSH website, according to a Dec. 30 posting on the American Industrial Hygiene Association’s website. Dozens more are planned for the next few years, according to the agency. The documents are intended to create more awareness about the potential hazards that come from chemicals that contact the skin.

Read entire article - https://www.aiha.org/publications-and-resources/TheSynergist/Industry%20News/Pages/NIOSH-Skin-Notation-Profiles-Focus-Attention-on-Dermal-Exposures.aspx

Tagged in: NIOSH

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One of the most obvious ways to be injured – anywhere – is to fall. It’s a simple observation that is supported by statistics showing that falls are near the top of lists of nonfatal and fatal injuries that happen in the workplace.

According to the 2016 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index, the most disabling, nonfatal workplace injuries amounted to nearly $62 billion in U.S. workers’ compensation costs in 2013, the most recent year for which the data used in the index were available. The index is compiled by the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety and uses information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the National Academy of Social Insurance to find which events caused employees to miss six or more days of work and then ranks those causes by total workers’ compensation costs.

Falls to the same level (16.4%, or $10.16 billion) and falls to a lower level (8.7%, or $5.4 billion) came in second and third, respectively. Taken together, they accounted for over a quarter of the total costs on the most recent index. It’s worth noting that slips or trips that did not result in falls came in seventh place, accounting for $2.35 billion, or 3.8% of the top 10 total that year.

According to preliminary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries released in September 2015, fatal falls, slips, and trips increased by 10 percent in 2014 from the previous year. Falls to a lower level were up 9 percent to 647 from 595 in 2013, while falls on the same level increased 17 percent, according to the BLS. Overall, fatal work injuries increased by 2 percent in 2014 from the prior year, although the rate of 3.3 per 100,000 full-time workers stayed the same. 

With winter still upon us, here is another statistic to consider: The Accident Fund Insurance Company of America and United Heartland reported recently that almost a third of all Midwestern workers’ compensation claims that included lost time were the result of slips and falls on ice and snow.

According to those insurers, winter-related slip and fall claims doubled from 2013 to 2014.

The top five states were:
1. Indiana (37%)
2. Wisconsin (33%)
3. Michigan (32%)
4. Illinois (32%)
5. Minnesota (29%)

Accidents can and will happen, of course. What is your workplace doing to minimize the risk of them resulting from slips, trips and falls?

The public comment period for OSHA's updated Safety and Health Program Management Guidelines will come to a close on Feb. 15, 2016.

This revision of the voluntary guidelines first published in 1989 includes key principles such as finding and fixing hazards before they cause injury or illness, and making sure that workers have a voice in safety and health. OSHA has said the new material should be particularly helpful to small- and medium-sized businesses and address ways in which multiple employers at the same worksite can coordinate efforts to make sure all workers are protected equally.

Read entire article - https://www.osha.gov/shpmguidelines/

Tagged in: OSHA

Despite relatively mild temperatures in many parts of the country early this winter, frozen precipitation and low temperatures are still a possibility for some time ahead – and are already hitting us. In a timely email post on “From the Director’s Desk”, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Director Dr. John Howard emphasized awareness of the potential for cold stress for anyone working outdoors.

"Don't assume there is no need to prepare for working safely in the cold this year, because of the moderate temperatures in much of the country so far,” Howard wrote. “According to the National Weather Service, the long-range weather forecast predicts chillier temperatures than average in January and February in the Southern Plains and the Southeast. Cold weather can bring on health emergencies for people who may be susceptible as a result of their working environment, such as those who work outdoors or in an area that is poorly insulated or without heat."

When exposed to cold temperatures, the body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced. Prolonged exposure to cold will eventually use up your body's stored energy, according to the resource-packed NIOSH page on the subject of cold stress. The result is hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature. A body temperature that is too low affects the brain, making the victim unable to think clearly or move well. This makes hypothermia particularly dangerous because a person may not know it is happening and will not be able to do anything about it - (http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/coldstress/).

In his post, Howard discussed the threat of cold stress this season: "What constitutes cold stress and its effects can vary across different areas of the country. In regions relatively unaccustomed to winter weather, near-freezing temperatures are considered factors for cold stress. Whenever temperatures drop decidedly below normal and as wind speed increases, heat can more rapidly leave your body, leading to cold-related injuries and illnesses." This includes hypothermia, cold water immersion, frostbite, trench foot, and chilblains.

He offered the following tips for to reduce the risk of cold-related health problems at work:

For employers:
-Schedule maintenance and repair jobs in cold areas for warmer months.
-Schedule cold jobs for the warmest part of the day.
-Reduce the physical demands of workers.
-Use relief workers or assign extra workers for long, demanding jobs.
-Provide warm liquids to workers.
-Provide warm areas for use during break periods.
-Monitor workers who are at risk of cold stress.
-Provide cold stress training.

For workers:
-Wear appropriate clothing.
-Wear several layers of loose clothing. Layering provides better insulation.
-Tight clothing reduces blood circulation. Warm blood needs to be circulated to the extremities.
-Choose clothing that won't restrict movement, which could lead to a hazardous situation.
-Make sure to protect the ears, face, hands, and feet in extremely cold weather.
-Boots should be waterproof and insulated.
-Wear a hat; it will keep your whole body warmer.
-Move into warm locations during work breaks. Limit the amount of time outside on extremely cold days.
-Carry cold-weather gear, such as extra socks, gloves, hats, jacket, and blankets; a change of clothes; and a thermos of hot liquid.
-Include a thermometer and chemical hot packs in your first aid kit.
-Avoid touching cold metal surfaces with bare skin.
-Monitor your physical condition and that of your co-workers.

Tagged in: cold injuries NIOSH

A non-profit organization has unveiled its new website that identifies the biggest environmental/health/safety violators in the United States since 2010.

The searchable database (Violation Tracker) and an accompanying report come from the Corporate Research Project of Good Jobs First. The database includes penalties from EPA, OSHA and 11 other federal agencies that deal with EHS issues.

Read entire article - http://www.goodjobsfirst.org/violation-tracker

Tagged in: EPA OSHA

Last year was an eventful one for OSHA with respect to its rules for worker safety in the construction industry. A new standard for "construction work" in confined spaces – Subpart AA of 29 CFR 1926 of the Code of Federal Regulations – took effect in 2015 after several years in the making. The standard is aimed at preventing construction workers’ injuries or fatalities by either eliminating or isolating hazards in confined spaces at construction sites. It applies to all construction workers who might be exposed to confined space hazards, such as those posed by features ranging from sewers to crawl spaces and from storage bins to trenches – and a host of others where spaces and their entrances are tight.

Many workplaces contain spaces that are considered "confined" because although they might not be designed for extended human occupation, they are still large enough for workers to enter and perform tasks.

The new standard describes the requirements for practices and procedures to protect those involved in construction work at a job site with one or more confined spaces. The previous rules that applied to confined spaces in the construction industry required only that employees be trained to work in them. Since injuries and fatalities continued to occur, OSHA concluded there was more to be done from a regulatory standpoint and so looked at its rules for confined space work in other industries. A proposed rule for construction industry confined spaces was first published in 2007, leading to a final rule issued in May 2015 that became enforceable as of Oct. 2, 2015.The new rule expands on the training component by requiring employers to determine not only the appropriate training for employees, but to determine the kinds of environments they are working in, what hazards might exist there, how those hazards should be made safe, and to establish rescue practices.

Data gathered by the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics' Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries program found that fatal injuries in confined spaces went from a low of 81 in 1998 to a high of 100 in 2000, averaging 92 fatalities per year in a five-year period. OSHA said it estimates the new rule will protect at least 800 construction workers per year from serious injuries and will help cut down on the number of life-threatening hazards they encounter in confined spaces.
Some hazards in confined spaces may be obvious and easily identified. Others, such as many atmospheric hazards, may not.

Since confined spaces often have little natural ventilation, they can harbor air contaminants that compromise the body's ability to transport or use oxygen and/or have direct toxicological effects. Toxic gases such as carbon monoxide or hydrogen sulfide (sewer gas) can exist in a confined space due to production processes, through the natural breakdown of a substance, and/or from work activities such as welding or torch cutting performed in the space – processes that can also lead to oxygen depletion. Fortunately, such hazards can be avoided if identified and addressed before work is undertaken. Multi-gas monitoring is a practice commonly used in most confined spaces to measure levels of oxygen, carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide as well as combustible gas concentrations before entry is allowed.

At Workplace Safety & Health Co., our primary concern is to help customers reduce injuries and illnesses while promoting their profitability through sound health and safety management practices. Whether your work environment is predominately indoors or outdoors, our consultants can determine your business's air quality exposures through monitoring, mapping, surveys and evaluations that include qualitative air contaminant hazard assessments, air monitoring, and quantitative air assessments.

With our experience in assessing thousands of confined spaces in a wide range of industries, Workplace Safety & Health Co. can help your organization attain a “best practice” level of compliance. Give us a call or visit our website today to learn more.

Though the federal budget is not yet final, it appears OSHA fines could go up in 2016 due to language in the federal budget bill that has been agreed upon between Congress and the Obama administration. The fines could increase almost 80% in one leap, and increase annually by the rate of inflation after that.

In a section of the bill titled, “Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015,” OSHA would be allowed a “catch up adjustment,” that appears to date back to the previous increase in OSHA fines in 1990 (see pages 39-45 of the budget bill).

From October 1990 to September 2015, the Consumer Price Index, upon which the increase would be based, rose 78.24%.

Applying that increase to the current maximum OSHA penalties would produce these results would see an increase in the maximum repeat or willful violation fine from $70,000 now to $124,768, while the maximum serious violation fine would go from $7,000 to $12,477.

The bill would see the adjustment “take effect not later than August 1, 2016.”

Read entire article - http://docs.house.gov/billsthisweek/20151026/BILLS-114hr-PIH-BUDGET.pdf

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Noise, or undesirable sound, is one of the most common health problems to be in many workplaces.

Continued exposure to more than 85 decibels (dBA) of noise may cause gradual but permanent damage to hearing. Noise can also be detrimental to job performance, increase fatigue, and cause irritability. Exposure to high levels of noise causes hearing loss and can lead to other harmful health effect as well. Perhaps the most widely known detrimental effect of noise is noise-induced hearing loss. Such losses can be either temporary or permanent; the extent of the damage is dependent mainly upon the intensity and duration of exposure.

Some of the occupations OSHA has identified as being at high risk of hearing loss are:
- Firefighters and other first responders
- Military personnel
- Disc jockeys
- Subway workers
- Construction workers
- Musicians
- Factory workers
- Mine workers

Those categories might not come as a surprise, but they do serve to illustrate the range of jobs that routinely involve exposure to high and potentially damaging levels of noise.

Practically all companies directly involved in manufacturing, construction, or mining create noise as a by- product. While it cannot be totally eliminated, the negative health effects of noise can be limited by wearing the proper personal protective equipment and, in some instances, implementing engineering and/or administrative controls.

In the early 1980s, OSHA announced a hearing conservation amendment (29 CFR 1910.95, Occupational Noise Exposure Standard) that requires hearing conservation programs for all employees exposed to noise on an eight-hour, time weighted average (TWA) in excess of 85 decibels measured on an A-weighted scale (85 dBA). The permissible exposure limit is 90 dBA for an eight-hour TWA.

The first move toward protecting your employees’ hearing is to establish a hearing conservation program. Such a program includes provisions for measuring noise, implementing engineering and/or administrative controls of noise, conducting hearing tests for individual employees, and supplying the proper personal hearing protectors as needed.

OSHA requires a five-part minimum hearing conservation program for industry. It includes:
-Noise Monitoring: Sound levels must be measured to determine what safeguards are needed.
-Hearing Testing: All employees in a hearing conservation program must be tested annually.
-Employee Training and Education: Employees in a hearing conservation program must be trained every year on hearing protection.
-Hearing Protectors: Hearing protection devices should be made available to all employees according to the noise risks identified.
-Record Keeping: A company must maintain records on sound level results, equipment calibration results, and hearing test records of employees, along with its educational activities.

A noise survey of the workplace environment can be used to map what areas are most prone to noise, leading to a more efficient hearing conservation program. Workplace Safety & Health Co., Inc. can provide this service and help identify employees who need to be included in the noise control program. The results can be used to determine if an initial cost of engineering controls is a prudent investment in comparison to the ongoing costs of hearing conservation program management for your organization –helping you make decisions that are safe for sound.

Tagged in: noise measurement OSHA

In a speech that called for a national dialogue with stakeholders on ways to prevent work-related illness caused by exposure to hazardous substances, OSHA Assistant Secretary of Labor Dr. David Michaels said the current chemical exposure standards set by the agency are “dangerously out of date and do not protect workers.”

The dialogue will center on OSHA’s PELs – the regulatory limits on the amount or concentration of a substance in the air – meant to protect workers against the adverse health effects of exposure to hazardous substances.

OSHA has said that 95 percent of its current PELs have not been updated since they were adopted in 1971. The agency’s current PELs cover fewer than 500 chemicals out of the tens of thousands used in commerce, many of which are suspected of being harmful.

Michaels said that the first step in the dialogue is the publication of a Request for Information in the Federal Register.

Read entire article - tps://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=SPEECHES&p_id=3313

As calendar year 2015 comes to a close and 2016 begins, it’s a good time to look back on what is working and where there is room for improvement in terms of safety at the workplace.

New data compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/osh.pdf) show mixed outcomes with respect to reducing the nation’s workplace injuries and illnesses as a whole. Though the overall numbers are down from 2013, there was little or no decrease in 2014 in what the BLS lists as more serious injury cases.

According to the BLS, the rate of nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses in 2014 was 3.2 cases per 100 equivalent full-time workers (measured as total recordable cases, or TRC). In 2013, the rate was 3.3. The rate has gone down each year of the last 12, with the exception of 2012, when it was unchanged.

The days away from work, the rate of job transfer or restriction cases that involve more serious injuries rate stayed the same at 1.7. Other recordable cases went down from 1.6 to 1.5.

Private industries that saw a reduction in TRC in 2014 were retail, health care and social assistance, and accommodation and food services.

The TRC was the highest (3.9) among mid-size private industry companies (those that employed 50 to 249 workers), and lowest (1.5) among small companies (defined as having fewer than 11 workers).

Most injuries (about 75%) happened in service industries, with 25% in good-producing industries. The latter accounted for 35.6% of all occupational illnesses in 2014.

Several industries showed TRC rates above the national average of 3.2. They were:
-State and local government: 5.0
-Education and health services: 4.2
-Manufacturing: 4.0
-Natural resources and mining: 3.8
-Construction: 3.6
-Trade, transportation and utilities: 3.6, and
-Leisure and hospitality: 3.6.

Among states for which statistics are available for 2014, TRC rate for private industry declined in 10 states and was mainly unchanged in 31 states and the District of Columbia compared to the previous year. The TRC rate was higher in 19 states than the national average, was lower in 14 states and the District of Columbia, and about the same as the national rate in 8 states

Tagged in: workplace safety

The association has submitted a letter of support for legislation H.R. 3384.

The American Industrial Hygiene Association has submitted a letter of support for H.R. 3384, the "Quiet Communities Act of 2015." This legislation would reestablish and reauthorize funding for EPA's Office of Noise Abatement and Control.
According to AIHA's news release, the letter focuses on a 2014 study that estimated more than 104 million individuals in the United States had annual noise exposures at a level that increased their risk of noise-induced hearing loss and other noise-related health effects, such as cardiovascular disease, sleep disturbance, stress, general annoyance, and impaired learning and concentration.

AIHA says that the new legislation will also provide support for two other objectives of the 1972 Noise Control Act, including establishing a means for effective coordination of federal research and activities in noise control and providing information to the public regarding the noise emission and reduction characteristics of consumer products.

Read entire article - https://www.aiha.org/about-aiha/Press/2015PressReleases/Pages/AIHA-Submits-Letter-of-Support-for-Legislation-H.R.-3384.aspx

Tagged in: EPA noise measurement

A regulation to change how companies report injury data to OSHA appears to be edging toward reality. The rule as proposed would also make companies’ injury data available on a publicly searchable website.

The proposal (https://www.osha.gov/recordkeeping/proposed_data_form.html ) was announced two years ago, but it wasn’t until early October that OSHA’s “Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses” draft final rule arrived at the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

The National Law Review says this means “OSHA anticipates publication of this final rule very soon.” According to that publication, it could go into effect as soon as January 2016. Even if it doesn’t, putting it on the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA)’s desk increases the likelihood of the proposed rule taking effect before the close of 2016.

The rule would see several new electronic reporting requirements for companies:
-Establishments that are already required to keep injury and illness records and had 250 or more employees in the previous calendar year will have to electronically submit information from these records to OSHA on a quarterly basis.
-Establishments that are already required to keep injury and illness records and had 20 or more employees in the previous calendar year, and are in certain designated industries, will have to electronically submit the information from the OSHA annual summary Form 300A to OSHA.
-All employers who receive notification from OSHA will have to electronically submit specified information from their injury and illness records to OSHA.
The data OSHA collects that it intends to make public on its website may come from:
-All data fields from the OSHA Form 300A (Summary form)
-All data fields from the OSHA Form 300 (Log) with the exception of the employee’s name
-The data fields on the right side of the OSHA Form 301 (Incident report), such as the case number, date of injury or illness, time employee began work, time of event, what the employee was doing just before the incident occurred, what happened, what the injury or illness was, what object or substance directly harmed the employee, and the date of death if applicable.

Not surprisingly, there have been mixed reactions from industry and worker advocacy groups.
In its comments on the proposed rule, the National Association of Manufacturers has said that “without proper context, the raw data may result in unfair conclusions or judgments about a company or particular industry based on information that is not indicative of the actual safety record.”

Three weeks after the proposed rule was delivered to OIRA for review , another organization – the Corporate Research Project of Good Jobs First – had unveiled its own new website that identifies the biggest environmental/health/safety violators in the United States since 2010 (http://www.goodjobsfirst.org/violation-tracker). Its database includes penalties from EPA, OSHA and 11 other federal agencies that are involved with EHS issues.

Tagged in: OSHA

On Oct. 1, 2015, OSHA director James Maddux issued a memorandum extending the enforcement deadline for the confined spaces in construction standard for residential construction work. A temporary enforcement policy had been in effect for all employers covered by the standard through Oct. 2, 2015. OSHA is now further extending this temporary enforcement policy through Jan. 8, 2016, but only for employers engaged in residential construction work. This enforcement policy covers construction work on single-family homes, duplexes, and townhouses, not multi-unit apartment buildings.

Before Jan. 8, 2016, OSHA will not issue citations under the Confined Spaces in Construction standard to an employer engaged in residential construction work if the employer is making good faith efforts to comply with the standard, as long as the employer is in compliance with either the training requirements of the standard, found at 29 CFR 1926.1207, or the former training requirements found at 29 CFR 1926.21(b)(6)(i).

Read entire article - https://www.osha.gov/confinedspaces/tempenforcementpolicy_1015.html

Tagged in: confined space OSHA

OSHA has a new webpage (https://www.osha.gov/topcases/bystate.html) that lists the most expensive fines issued by the federal and state safety agencies.

The page lists enforcement cases with initial fines above $40,000. The page allows the user to click on each state and U.S. territory for a list of cases since Jan. 1, 2015. The data are from states that operate under federal OSHA as well as those that have their own state-run occupational safety agencies.

Details include:
-name and location of company
-union or non-union shop
-type of inspection (complaint, injury, programmed, follow-up, emphasis program, etc.)
-scope (partial or complete inspection)
-number and categorization of violations
-fine per violation and total fine
-the standard cited for each violation, and
-whether the violation has been abated

Read entire article: https://www.osha.gov/topcases/bystate.html

Tagged in: OSHA workplace safety

OSHA announced recently it is instituting a new system for planning and measuring its inspections, with more weight given to those that require more time and resources. According to an Oct. 1 blog post by Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels, this new Enforcement Weighting System will value routine inspections as one Enforcement Unit, while more complex categories are valued at up to eight Enforcement Units. "For example, process safety management inspections are valued at seven units, workplace violence inspections are three units, and inspections involving a chemical for which there is no permissible exposure limit are also three units. The values were set based on historical data," Michaels wrote, adding, "I want to be clear that OSHA has never set quotas for inspections and that will not change."

According to Michaels, OSHA personnel conducted 36,163 inspections and state plan states conducted another 47,217 inspections in FY2014. "Each one of those inspections was important, and potentially lifesaving. But the reality is that some required far more time and resources than others. For example, the inspection of an oil refinery or a chemical manufacturing facility is more complex and time-consuming than one of a trenching site. Those complex inspections make a big difference – showing employers, and the whole country, that we are determined to investigate serious hazards regardless of how complex or challenging those inspections may be," he wrote. "We are introducing this system to improve our strategic planning process and ensure that sufficient enforcement resources are allocated to cases that require more.

For two years, we piloted the weighted approach, running it side-by-side with our traditional inspection counting system. And we found that tracking inspections by complexity ensures that we don’t shortchange the more difficult inspections in favor of those that can be done quickly. We will continue to monitor this new approach and make adjustments as needed."

In conclusion, Michaels wrote that "I have long believed that we should not merely focus on the number of inspections that we conduct but also take into account their impact on improving health and safety. Our inspections send a message, and as a result employers abate hazards not just at the establishment we inspect but at other workplaces. This change will allow us to better focus our resources on more meaningful inspections – the ones that have the greatest impact."

Tagged in: OSHA

OSHA’s annual preliminary list of top 10 most-cited safety violations – what National Safety Council President and CEO Deborah A.P. Hersman has called “a roadmap that identifies the hazards you want to avoid on the journey to safety excellence” – saw little change this year compared to last year’s.

The list was released Sept. 29 at the National Safety Council‘s 2015 Congress & Expo by Patrick Kapust, deputy director of OSHA’s Directorate of Enforcement Programs.

And here it is (the applicable OSHA standard appears in parentheses):
1. Fall Protection in Construction (1926.501) – 6,721
2. Hazard Communication (1910.1200) – 5,192
3. Scaffolding in Construction (1926.451) – 4,295
4. Respiratory Protection (1910.134) – 3,305
5. Lockout/Tagout (1910.147) – 3,002
6. Powered Industrial Trucks (1910.178) – 2,760
7. Ladders in Construction (1926.1053) – 2,489
8. Electrical – Wiring Methods (1910.305) – 2,404
9. Machine Guarding (1910.212) – 2,295
10. Electrical – General Requirements (1910.303) – 1,973

The figures are for FY 2015, which ran from Oct. 1, 2014 through Sept. 8, 2015. The figures were to be updated after the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, 2015.

In terms of ranking, only the categories of Electrical Wiring Methods and Ladders exchanged places in FY 2015.
The No. 2 violation continues to be a strong second, however. While the number of hazard communication violations issued by OSHA did not see a large increase from FY 2014 to FY 2015, its ranking on the list should still serve employers as an indicator of the importance of ensuring chemical hazard training is up to date with the agency’s adoption into its existing chemical standard.

Under GHS, chemical labels contain a signal word, pictogram and hazard statement for each hazard class and category.

There are nine standardized pictograms that must be surrounded by a red border. Precautionary statements may also be included.

SDSs now have a 16-section format, with sections that include identification of the chemical, first-aid steps for exposure and disposal considerations.

As of June 1, 2015, all new chemical labels and safety data sheets (SDSs) are required to conform to GHS. However, it is possible that some of the old-style labels and SDSs will persist for some time. Under the new system, distributors may still ship products with the previous set of labels until Dec. 1, 2015.

At Workplace Safety, we stand ready to help businesses build safety into their work practices with training programs in areas including HAZMAT/HAZWOPER, lockout/tagout, confined space entry and rescue, first aid/CPR (to including AED and Bloodborne Pathogens), asbestos operations and maintenance, excavation safety and fall protection.

Tagged in: OSHA

OSHA has issued policies and procedures for applying a new process for resolving whistleblower dispute according to an announcement on its website. The process is part of an early resolution process that is part of a regional Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) program.

The program gives whistleblower parties the change to negotiate a settlement with the assistance of a neutral, confidential OSHA rep with expertise in whistleblower investigations. The ADR Act requires that each federal agency "adopt a policy that addresses the use of alternative means of dispute resolution and case management."

"OSHA receives several thousand whistleblower complaints for investigation each year," Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels said in a statement. "The Alternative Dispute Resolution process can be a valuable alternative to the expensive and time consuming process of an investigation and litigation. It will provide whistleblower complainants and respondents the option of exploring voluntary resolution of their disputes outside of the traditional investigative process."

Read entire - https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=NEWS_RELEASES&p_id=28596

Tagged in: OSHA whistlerblower

The final deadline by which OSHA expects U.S. employers to fully comply with its 2012 final rule revising the Hazard Communication Standard is less than eight months away – and the clock is ticking.

By June 1, 2016, employers should have their workplace labeling procedures in place and their employees trained on what the agency has termed the "right to understand" standard, differentiating it from the previous "right to know" regulation.

A May 2015 memorandum to OSHA regional administrators from the Director of OSHA's Directorate of Enforcement Programs, Thomas Galassi, was issued three days before the most recent deadline, June 1, 2015 for manufacturers to be producing safety data sheets and labels in format that complies with the Globally Harmonized System (GHS). In that document, Galassi indicated many chemical suppliers would likely miss that June 1 deadline, referring to a memorandum in February that said OSHA inspectors should take into account good-faith efforts by chemical manufacturers, importers, and distributors trying to comply with the revised standard but having not received classification and safety data sheet information from suppliers upstream.

"Since issuing the guidance on February 9, 2015, OSHA has received an overwhelming number of additional questions and requests for further clarification on behalf of manufacturers, importers, and distributors. Many of the questions relate to the use of HCS 1994-compliant labels on containers packaged for shipment (i.e., existing stock)," the memo stated.

According to the revised standard, manufacturers and importers must classify the hazards of chemicals they produce or import, and distributors must transmit the required information to employers. Employers, in turn, must provide information to their employees about any hazardous chemicals to which they are exposed, using a hazard communication program, labels and other forms of warning, safety data sheets, and information and training.

The revised standard allows distributors to continue shipping chemicals with labels that meet the old standard, though only until Dec. 1 of this year.

According to the final rule, employers are to ensure that each container of a hazardous chemical is labeled with a product identifier, signal word, hazard statement(s), pictogram(s) and precautionary statement(s). However, that does not apply to portable containers into which hazardous chemicals are being transferred from labeled containers and that are intended only for immediate use by the employee conducting the transfer.

In addition, the final rule states that employers "may use signs, placards, process sheets, batch tickets, operating procedures, or other such written materials in lieu of affixing labels to individual stationary process containers, as long as the alternative method identifies the containers to which it is applicable and conveys the information required . . . to be on a label."

Fortunately, OSHA has provided a great deal of information about the new standard on its website (https://www.osha.gov/dep/enforcement/hcs_guide_052015.html); examples include a "Steps to an Effective Hazard Communication Program for Employers That Use Hazardous Chemicals" fact sheet, a side-by-side comparison of the previous and new standards and the memos issued by Galassi.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recently extended the transition period for the respirator certification standard by means of a new final rule. The standards initially established in the 2012 final rule were originally designed to take effect over a three-year transition period, during which manufacturers were allowed to continue to manufacture, label, and sell respirators certified to the prior standards. The new rule allows NIOSH to extend the concluding date until one year after the agency approves a Closed-Circuit Escape Respirator (CCER) model.

Read entire article - https://www.aiha.org/publications-and-resources/TheSynergist/Industry%20News/Pages/NIOSH-Extends-Transition-Period-for-Respirator-Certification-Standard.aspx

Tagged in: NIOSH

Preliminary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries showed fatal work injuries increased by 2 percent in 2014 from the prior year, although the rate of 3.3 per 100,000 full-time workers stayed the same.

The preliminary total in 2014 was 4,679 fatal work injuries.

"Far too many people are still killed on the job – 13 workers every day taken from their families tragically and unnecessarily. These numbers underscore the urgent need for employers to provide a safe workplace for their employees as the law requires," U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez said in a statement.

Fatal falls, slips, and trips rose by 10 percent in 2014 from the previous year. Falls to lower level were up 9 percent to 647 from 595 in 2013, while falls on the same level increased 17 percent, according to BLS. And fatal work injuries due to transportation incidents rose slightly to 1,891 from 1,865 in 2013, with transportation incidents accounting for 40 percent of fatal workplace injuries in 2014.

Fatal work injuries due to violence and other injuries by persons or animals were lower in 2014, with 749 deaths in 2014 compared to 773 in 2013.

 

October has been declared both Eye Injury Prevention Month by the American Academy of Ophthalmology and Home Eye Safety Month by the Prevent Blindness organization. No matter the month, though, it’s always sound practice to review eye and face protection protocols periodically with employees to ensure they are correctly using the personal protective equipment (PPE) suited to the job.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), each day an average of 2,000 workers in the United States suffers job-related eye injuries requiring medical treatment. According to a survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately three out of every five workers who experienced eye injuries were not wearing eye protection at the time of the accident or were not wearing the proper kind of eye protection for the task.

PPE selection depends upon the type of hazard, the circumstances of exposure, the type of other PPE to be used, and an individual’s vision needs. Common forms of PPE for the face and eyes include safety glasses, goggles, face shields, and full face respirators.

According to OSHA Face Protection Standard 1910.133(a) (1), it is the responsibility of the employer to “ensure that each affected employee uses appropriate eye or face protection when exposed to eye or face hazards.” That includes making sure the PPE selected for eye protection provides side protection when there is a hazard from flying objects (OSHA Face Protection Standard 1910.133(a) (2). For those who wear prescription lenses, the OSHA Face Protection Standard 1910.133(a)(3) requires that each affected employee “engaged in operations that involve eye hazards wears eye protection that incorporates the prescription in its design, or wears eye protection that can be worn over the prescription lenses without disturbing the proper position of the prescription lenses or the protective lenses.”

According to these standards, a person should always wear properly fitted eye protective gear when:
-Doing work that may produce particles, slivers, or dust from materials like wood, metal, plastic, concrete, and drywall;
-Hammering, sanding, grinding, or doing masonry work;
-Working with power tools;
-Working with chemicals, including common household chemicals like ammonia, oven cleaners, and bleach;
-Using a lawnmower, riding mower, or other motorized gardening devices like string trimmers;
-Working with wet or powdered ready mix concrete, mortar mix, or repair products;
-Welding (which requires extra protection like a welding helmet from sparks and UV radiation);
-“Jumping” the battery of a motor vehicle;
-Being a bystander to any of the above situations.

OSHA urges employers not to rely on PPE devices alone to protect against eye hazards. Rather, personal protective gear should be a part of a safety environment that includes engineering controls and robust safety practices.

NIOSH has published a new recommendation that says attaching a regular shop vacuum to a dust-collecting circular saw can provide a low-cost solution in order to reduce exposure to hazardous dust produced when construction workers cut fiber-cement siding.

According to a press release, the research that led to this finding was conducted in two phases. In one, researchers looked at three dust-collecting circular saws connected to an external vacuum in a laboratory setting. Further studies were conducted at construction sites where workers were cutting fiber-cement siding. Results of the field studies showed that a regular shop vacuum controlled the amount of silica-containing dust in the air to well below the NIOSH-recommended exposure limit for respirable crystalline silica.

Read entire article - http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/updates/upd-06-18-15.html

Tagged in: CDC NIOSH

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Air quality is important for everyone, but it is of special concern for those who must work in confined spaces.

A total of four farmer deaths in hog manure pits in July in the Midwest show how even a routine job in a confined space can turn tragic. In the first in incident, in Wisconsin, a father and son were killed from exposure to toxic gases while trying to retrieve something dropped into a manure pit. In the more recent case, in Iowa, another father and son died from exposure to toxic gases when one attempted to rescue the other. Although the incidents occurred in agricultural operations, they illustrate the potential for the rescuers of the initial victim overcome by toxic gases in a confined space to become victims also.

Such pits can release methane, ammonia, and carbon dioxide as well as hydrogen sulfide when disturbed, risking exposure that can lead to unconsciousness and death. Farm safety experts commonly recommend the use of some form of breathing apparatus when working in that environment for those reasons.

Some other examples of confined spaces include storage tanks, sewers, manholes, tunnels, ship voids, pipelines, silos, wells, and trenches. A permit-required confined space has to have one or more specific characteristics, one being that it contains a hazardous atmosphere. These are classified into three categories: toxic; asphyxiating; and flammable or explosive atmospheres. Depending on the chemicals present and their concentration, such environments can present multiple atmospheric hazards.

For those reasons, it is recommended that employers in a number of industries test and monitor their confined spaces at multiple levels with instruments that will detect aspects of hazardous atmospheres encountered by anyone who plans to enter. The ability to perform non-entry rescue is also critical to prevent the loss of would-be rescuers. This involves the entrant wearing a full body harness connected to a confined space-applicable retrieval device mounted outside the space, so that the attendant can remove an unconscious entrant without having to enter the confined space.

The practice of atmospheric testing in confined spaces to determine potential hazards is not new – bringing a caged canary into a coalmine is perhaps the best known example from history. Today’s testing equipment and procedures skip the canary, but they serve a similar purpose. Modern sensor and battery technology has improved the reliability of these instruments and has made them easier to use at a lower price point. For the occasional user, they can be rented from a number of safety equipment rental companies. This approach is sound since the rental companies will maintain and calibrate the instruments as recommended by the manufacturer. Using an unreliable and out-of-calibration toxic and combustible gas meter can almost be worse than using none at all since a faulty meter may provide a false sense of security.

Workplace Safety & Health Co. is equipped to identify and assess the hazards of suspected confined spaces in your facility, determine whether each meets the OSHA criteria for a confined space, and if so, whether it should be permit-required. Workplace Safety & Health Co. can also pre-test the atmosphere in accessible spaces to provide advanced warning that additional precautions may be needed prior to entering a confined space.

With our experience in assessing thousands of confined spaces in a wide range of industries, Workplace Safety & Health Co. can help your organization attain a “best practice” level of compliance. Give us a call or visit our website today to learn more.

Tagged in: air quality OSHA

OSHA announced in July it will not issue citations to employers who make good faith efforts to comply with a new Construction Confined Space Rule until Oct. 2.

"The agency is postponing full enforcement of the new standard to Oct. 2, 2015, in response to requests for additional time to train and acquire the equipment necessary to comply with the new standard," an OSHA announcement stated. "During this 60-day temporary enforcement period, OSHA will not issue citations to employers who make good faith efforts to comply with the new standard. Employers must be in compliance with either the training requirements of the new standard or the previous standard. Employers who fail to train their employees consistent with either of these two standards will be cited."

The announcement also spells out what factors OSHA will accept as indicating employers are making good-faith efforts to comply, stating that these factors "include: scheduling training for employees as required by the new standard; ordering the equipment necessary to comply with the new standard; and taking alternative measures to educate and protect employees from confined space hazards."

The final rule – issued May 4 – is similar to the OSHA general industry standard. A major difference is that the construction standard will require employers on multi-employer sites to share vital safety information and to continuously monitor hazards.

Read entire article - https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=NEWS_RELEASES&p_id=28236

Tagged in: confined space OSHA

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How prepared is your organization in the event of an emergency or disaster?

What might seem like a simple, straightforward question is often a very complex issue to answer.

September 2015 marks the twelfth annual National Preparedness Month. A central goal of the observance is educating the public on how to prepare for natural and man-made disasters. This year’s theme is “Don't Wait. Communicate. Make Your Emergency Plan Today.”

Much of the focus of each year’s observance is on being ready to deal with emergencies and disasters at home, but the observance also raises the issue of being prepared for emergencies at work. In 2004, The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) unveiled Ready Business, an extension of the national Ready campaign that focuses on business preparedness. The business preparedness section of the website Ready.gov recommends that the planning process take an “all hazards” approach. That is, taking into account different types of threats and hazards and their likelihood of occurring.

As part of the planning process, the website recommends developing strategies for prevention/deterrence and risk mitigation. This should include threats or hazards that can be classified as probable as well as hazards that could cause injury, property damage, business disruption or environmental impact.

Developing an all hazards preparedness plan includes identifying potential hazards, assessing vulnerabilities and considering potential impacts. A risk assessment identifies threats or hazards and opportunities for hazard prevention, deterrence, and risk mitigation. Human injuries should be the consideration of highest priority in a risk assessment, of course, but other assets in the assessment could range from buildings and machinery to raw materials and finished products.

In conducting a risk assessment, the Ready.gov recommends looking for vulnerabilities, or weaknesses, that would make an asset more susceptible to (and contribute to the severity of) damage from a hazard. Such vulnerabilities could range from deficiencies in the way a structure is built to its security or protection system. A simple example of such a deficiency is not having a working sprinkler system in place to limit damage in the event of a fire.

For more information on putting together emergency plans for the workplace, visit http://www.ready.gov/business

As part of National Safety Month in June, the National Safety Council updated its annual list of the Odds of Dying from various causes.

Some key comparisons of lifetime odds of dying from common activities are:
-Motor vehicle crash (1-in-112) vs. commercial airplane crash (1-in-96,566)
-Overdosing on opioid prescription painkillers (1-in-234) vs. being electrocuted (1-in-12,200)
-Falling (1-in-144) vs. a catastrophic storm (1-in-6,780)
-Being a passenger in a car (1-in-470) vs. a lightning strike (1-in-164,968)
-Walking along or crossing the street (1-in-704) vs. a bee, wasp or hornet sting (1-in-55,764), and
-Complications from surgical or medical are (1-in-1,532) vs. an earthquake (1-in-179,965).

http://www.nsc.org/act/events/Pages/Odds-of-Dying-2015.aspx

When making sure first aids kits are properly stocked, it’s also a good idea to make sure they are up to date. As part of a revision to the 2014 edition, the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) has received American National Standards Institute (ANSI) approval for ANSI/ISEA Z308.1-2015, American National Standard-Minimum Requirements for Workplace First Aid Kits and Supplies.

The standard was put together by members of ISEA’s First Aid Group and industry stakeholders and was approved by a consensus review panel of health and safety experts, unions, construction industry and other user groups, test labs, and government agencies. According to ISEA, the 2015 revision corrects a minor measurement conversion error with respect to the U.S. measurement for minimum application for antibiotic and antiseptic supplies that appeared in the 2014 edition.The effective date of the new standard is June 2016.

A major change from previous editions is the introduction of a multi-tiered approach to kit designations. According to ISEA, the new designations were based on a review of workplace injuries in which first aid was administered and a consideration of current practices in treating them. The revision introduces two classes of first aid kits, further divided into four types.

The classes are based on the assortment and quantity of the supplies the kits contain. Class A kits are aimed at dealing with most common workplace injuries, including minor cuts, abrasions and sprains. Class B kits are designed with a broader range and quantity of supplies to deal with injuries in more complex or high-risk environments.

First aid kits are further designated by Type (I, II, III or IV) depending on the work environment in which they are to be used. A Type I kit is meant for indoor use and for and permanent mounting to a wall or other structure. In contrast, Type IV kits are suitable for outdoor use and required to pass corrosion-, moisture- and impact-resistance tests.

Many of the first aid supplies previously identified as being recommendations in the 2009 standard are now required for both of the newly-designated kit types. In addition, scissors are to be included in both classes of kits and a splint and a tourniquet are both required for a Class B first aid kit.

For more information, visit www.safetyequipment.org

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced in late May that it will continue its partnership with Health Canada to align United States and Canadian regulatory approaches to labeling and classification requirements for workplace chemicals.

OSHA aligned its Hazard Communication Standard with the GHS in March 2012 to provide a common, understandable approach to classifying chemicals and communicating hazard information on labels and safety data sheets. Canada published a similar regulation in February 2015.

The goal of the partnership is to implement a system allowing the use of one label and one safety data sheet (SDS) that would be acceptable in both countries. In 2013, OSHA and Health Canada signed a Memorandum of Understanding to promote ongoing collaboration on implementing the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) in their respective jurisdictions.

https://www.osha.gov/newsrelease/trade-20150528.html

Tagged in: OSHA

OSHA recently published a new document in its Fatal Facts series. Titled Asphyxiation in a Sewer Line, the document emphasizes employers’ responsibilities to protect workers from confined space hazards while working in sewer line manholes. The document includes references to the new Confined Spaces in Construction Standard that takes effect on Aug. 3, 2015.

OSHA uses the term “fatal facts” to describe cases that are representative of employers who failed to identify and correct hazardous working conditions leading to fatalities at their worksites. The fact sheets offer ideas on how to correct these hazards and educate workers about safe work practices. The Asphyxiation in a Sewer Line fact document is based on a case in which a construction worker suffocated after entering a manhole. OSHA says the worker died from asphyxiation after entering a manhole with an uncontrolled hazardous atmosphere.
According to OSHA, although the manhole was newly constructed and was not yet connected to an active sewer system at the time of the incident, it contained a hazardous atmosphere that led to asphyxiation. The employer had not ensured that atmospheric hazards were identified and precautions for safe operations implemented before starting work at the site.

Additionally, OSHA says that:
-Workers were not trained to recognize confined space hazards and to take appropriate protective measures.
-The atmosphere in the manhole was not assessed to determine if conditions were acceptable before or during entry.
-Proper ventilation was not used to control atmospheric hazards in the manhole.
-Protective and emergency equipment was not provided at the worksite.
-An attendant was not stationed outside the manhole to monitor the situation and call for emergency services.
To prevent similar occurrences, OSHA advises that employers whose workers who will enter one or more permit-required confined space (PRCS) must implement a PRCS program for safe permit space entry operations (29 CFR 1926.1203(d), 29 CFR 1926.1204). Such programs include the following requirements:
-Provide training to workers at no cost to them in a language and vocabulary they understand, as required in 29 CFR 1926.1207, on how to safely perform permit space duties before their first assignment and as necessary.
-Prohibit entry into permit spaces until hazardous conditions (atmospheric and physical) present are identified, evaluated, and addressed (29 CFR 1926.1204(b)&(c)).
-Eliminate or control atmospheric hazards by ventilating, purging, inerting or flushing the permit space as necessary (29 CFR 1926.1204(c)(4)).
-Perform pre-entry testing for oxygen content, flammable gases and vapors, and potential toxic air contaminants (29 CFR 1926.1204(e)(3).
-Continuously monitor the permit space to verify that atmospheric conditions remain acceptable during entry (29 CFR 1926.1204(e)(1)(ii)).
-Provide essential equipment to workers with training on proper use, including: •Personal protective equipment when necessary (29 CFR 1926.1204(d)(4)).
-Rescue and emergency equipment to authorized workers, or implement procedures for rescue and emergency services (29 CFR 1926.1204(d)(8)&(i), 29 CFR 1926.1211).
-Station at least one trained attendant outside a permit space to perform all attendant’s duties (29 CFR 1926.1204(f); 29 CFR 1926.1209).

The full Fatal Facts document is available (along with other fact sheets on oil and gas, agriculture, construction, and engulfment) at https://www.osha.gov/Publications/fatalfacts.html

Workplace Safety & Health Co. can help you understand the definition of a confined space and a permit-required confined space and how it might apply to your workplace.

Tagged in: OSHA

The National Safety Council (NSC) has added its voice to the call for companies to use the latest science and not just OSHA’s limits when it comes to protecting workers from hazardous chemicals.

For Workers’ Memorial Day this year, the NSC urged employers to address workplace illnesses and to “consider the latest scientific research … which should go beyond OSHA’s Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs).”

Workplace illnesses result in 53,000 deaths and 427,000 nonfatal injuries each year, compared to workplace injuries which lead to 4,500 deaths and 4.8 million injuries requiring medical attention annually.

The NSC issued a new policy position recommending that employers:
-Use consensus standards, employer best practices and information from the American Conference of Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) for determining the most effective control strategies, which should go beyond OSHA’s PELs, Hazard Communication Standard and the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS)
-Improve reporting and tracking of occupational illnesses
-Share information and practices on prevention of occupational illnesses
-Reduce risks of exposure to chemicals by using the hierarchy of controls
-Contribute to the review and update of existing standards that protect workers from harmful exposure to chemicals, and
-Consider total worker health factors that may exacerbate occupational illness exposures.

OSHA just closed the comment period in its Request for Information on revising PELs. The next step is for the agency to publish the results of the RFI, which could happen before the close of 2015.

http://www.nsc.org/NewsDocuments/Occupational-Illness-125.pdf

 

Tagged in: OSHA

A bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives recently would codify the Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP), a safety and health program overseen by OSHA. The programs are aimed at preventing workplace injuries and fatalities while increasing productivity, employee engagement and lowering costs for companies and taxpayers.

The Programs recognize employers and workers in the private industry and federal agencies who have implemented effective safety and health management systems and maintain injury and illness rates below national Bureau of Labor Statistics averages for their respective industries. In VPP, management, labor, and OSHA work cooperatively and proactively to prevent fatalities, injuries, and illnesses through a system focused on hazard prevention and control, worksite analysis, training, and management commitment and worker involvement.

To participate, employers are required to submit an application to OSHA and undergo an onsite evaluation by a team of safety and health professionals. Union support is required for applicants represented by a bargaining unit. Program participants are re-evaluated every three to five years to remain in the programs. VPP participants are exempt from OSHA programmed inspections while they maintain their VPP status.

The bipartisan Voluntary Protection Program Act (H.R. 2500) was introduced by Congressman Gene Green (D-TX), Congressman Todd Rokita (R-IN) and Congresswoman Martha Roby (R-AL). In presenting the bill to the House, the representatives highlighted VPP's track record of improving safety and health at worksites across the U.S.

"We all want to ensure worker safety, and VPP seeks to achieve that through partnerships, not penalties,” Roby said in a statement. “VPP helps companies become compliant with workplace safety rules on the front end to avoid costly fines and harmful penalties on the back end. VPP is a smart way to ensure a safe and productive workplace, and I’m proud to be a part of this bipartisan legislation to finally codify it."

"VPP has been a great success in Indiana, including worksites like Cintas in Frankfort and Nucor in Crawfordsville,” said Rokita in a statement. “It is one federal program that works well, fostering cooperation between private businesses and a government regulator. This collaboration is good for employees, employers, and the American economy."

According to a statement from Rokita’s office, VPP currently covers nearly a million employees. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) estimates that tens of millions of taxpayer dollars are saved annually through VPP, calculating government savings to be more than $59 million a year. Private sector savings total more than $300 million annually.
For more information on the programs, navigate to https://www.osha.gov/dcsp/vpp/.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) announced it is seeking public review and comments by June 15 on five new projects. They include a new standard to set protocols for aircraft rescue and firefighting (ARFF) response to accidents at public air shows, a standard on required competencies of responders to derailments of high-hazard flammable trains carrying crude oil, ethanol, and other Class 3 products, and an EMS Officer standard.

Comments may be submitted to the Codes and Standards Administration Department, NFPA, 1 Batterymarch Park, Quincy, MA 02169-7471.

Read entire article - http://www.nfpa.org/codes-and-standards/standards-development-process/new-projects

Keeping cool during the summer months can seem like a chore unto itself, but it’s important to keep in mind that heat-related illnesses can happen year round in the work environment.

The body’s inability to adequately cool itself is a common cause of heat-related illnesses outdoors during the summer months, but this situation can occur throughout the year indoors as well. External sources of heat on the job can include direct contact with steam or a hot surface, and the body’s natural reactions to heat exposure (sweaty palms, fogged eyewear, and lightheadedness, for example) can also lead to an increased risk of accidents.

To help keep employees safe when things heat up at work, training should include ways to limit heat exposure and how to identify signs of heat-related illness. Worksite procedures should emphasize the importance of acclimatization and how it is developed, particularly for workers who are new to working in the heat or those who are returning after a week or more away from the job.

The best way to prevent heat-related illness is to make the work environment cooler, where possible. This could take the form of engineering controls such as air conditioning, cooling fans, insulating hot surfaces, ventilating hot air, eliminating steam leaks, etc., to reduce exposure.

OSHA recommends the following practices for managing work in a hot environment – whether they are outdoors or indoors:

-Employers should have an emergency plan in place that specifies what to do if a worker has signs of heat-related illness, and ensures that medical services are available if needed.
-Employers should take steps that help workers become acclimatized (gradually build up resistance to heat exposure), especially workers who are new to working in a hot environment or have been away from work for a week or more. Gradually increase workloads and allow more frequent breaks during the first week of work.
-Workers must have adequate potable water close to the work area, and should drink small amounts frequently.
-Rather than being exposed to heat for extended periods of time, workers should, wherever possible, be permitted to distribute the workload evenly over the day and incorporate work/rest cycles.
-If possible, physical demands should be reduced during hot weather, or heavier work scheduled for cooler times of the day.
-Rotating job functions among workers can help minimize overexertion and heat exposure.
-Workers should watch out for each other for symptoms of heat-related illness and administer appropriate first aid to anyone who is developing a heat-related illness.
-In some situations, employers may need to conduct physiological monitoring of workers. (The NIOSH/OSHA/USCG/EPA Occupational Safety and Health Guidance Manual for Hazardous Waste Site Activities, Chapter 8 (1985) (available as a pdf at https://www.osha.gov/Publications/complinks/OSHG-HazWaste/all-in-one.pdf) contains guidance on performing physiological monitoring of workers at hot worksites.)

To help determine the heat index for a given worksite, a number that can be used to calculate workers’ level of risk for heat-related illnesses, OSHA has developed a free mobile device application (available at https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/heat_index/heat_app.html) in both English and Spanish. Based on the heat index figure, the” Heat Safety Tool” displays the level of risk to outdoor workers and allows the user to access reminders about protective measures that should be taken at that risk level to protect workers from heat-related illness.

Tagged in: OSHA

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