You’ll Never See Them Coming: The Importance of Permissible Exposure Limits on Harmful Chemicals

January 29, 2015 by

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Permissible exposure limits (PELs) have been all over the news with countless incidents being reported showing the debilitating affects lifelong exposure without any proper precautions can have on a loyal worker. Of the thousands of chemicals used in workplaces, OSHA has PELs for less than 500, 95% of which have not been updated since 1971. Recognizing the shortcomings in PEL standards OSHA is putting the responsibility back in the hands of individual companies to do the right thing and ensure the safety of the hardworking individuals.

With many types of harmful chemical and gases found in workplaces across America, the effects can be vast and grave. Exposure symptoms can start as a simple nose or eye irritation but can quickly build into chronic light headedness, difficulty breathing, cancer, paralysis or even death. It is an unfortunate state of affairs when it comes to PELs. Workers are being exposed to limits that are legal but in no way healthy.

In October 2014 OSHA launched a nation dialogue in hopes of giving stakeholders a forum to develop innovative, effective approaches to improve the health of workers. OSHA has also been trying to find new ways of ensuring the safety of workers where they feel companies aren’t doing enough on their own to protect. For example in a recent visit highlighted in the wall street journal OSHA cited dangerous environment not under the PELs but rather the General Duty Clause to correct a situation that was having a negative effect on the well being of its employees.

Chemicals have warnings on them for a reason, the workers who have to interact with them shouldn’t have to risk their own well being to do so. While giving a voice to this long term issue is the first step, hopefully not only OSHA but facilities on an individual basis will start taking safety into their own hand while formal legislation is being passed if for nothing else than the future wellbeing of their own company.

If your workplace is looking for safer chemical alternatives, visit the OSHA toolkit for transitioning here https://www.osha.gov/dsg/safer_chemicals/index.html

Workplace Safety News Roundup

January 27, 2015 by

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Keeping track of new OSHA regulations and taking advantage of supplemental safety training and reading materials makes a large difference in the success of the programs you implement in your workplace. Seeing what others are doing both for the better and worse help mold an all encompassing safety initiative. Here is a sampling of some of the news buzzing around workplace safety this month.

State of Safety 2015

What is the state of safety? It’s a question Safety+Health explores every year by speaking with experts and looking at the most recent data. The largest national source of occupational injury and illness data comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ annual Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses. This survey provides an estimate of nonfatal injuries nationwide, allowing stakeholders to get a clearer picture of workplace safety in the United States.

To read more about these findings click here: http://www.safetyandhealthmagazine.com/articles/11572-state-of-safety-2015

Workplace psychological injury on radar, but more ‘work to be done’

An increasing number of workers comp claims for psychological injuries is a factor causing HR teams to examine the possible workplace safety implications. “A lot of companies are talking about psychological injuries and the types of systems they need to put in place to deal with that. It is more of a recent challenge.”
Learn more about what this may mean for your workplace click herehttp://www.hcamag.com/hr-news/workplace-psychological-injury-on-radar-but-more-work-to-be-done-194766.aspx

OSHA Will Put Workplace Safety Data Online as ‘Nudge’ to Employers

The site already includes information on worker fatalities and catastrophes. The hope, David Michaels Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health says, is that additional information will embarrass companies into being more careful. “We believe that the possibility of public reporting of serious injuries will encourage—or, in the behavioral economics term, nudge—employers to take steps to prevent injuries so they’re not seen as unsafe places to work,” says Michaels. “After all, if you had a choice of applying for a job at a place where a worker had just lost a hand, vs. one where no amputation has occurred, which would you choose?”

To find out more information about this click here: http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-09-18/osha-will-put-workplace-safety-data-online-as-nudge-to-employers

OSHA Violations

OSHA fines company more than $76,000 for willfully putting employees at risk

An OSHA inspection resulted in one willful and 17 serious health and safety violations for not conducting noise testing or providing protective equipment and not monitoring worker exposure to noise at a Weston foundry. The company faces proposed penalties of $76,200. Read More here

Cited for Exposing workers to trench cave-ins for the 8th time

For the eighth time, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited an Excavating Co. for allowing its employees to work at great risk in trenches without cave-in protection and a safe means to exit the trench.

OSHA inspectors witnessed two employees repairing a valve on a city water line in an 8-foot trench. An investigation followed, and the agency cited the company for two willful and one serious violation with penalties of $147,000. For its continual failure to protect workers from cave-in hazards, the Jamestown-based company has been placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program*. The company has been cited eight times since 1997, and failed to pay its most recent penalties from a 2011 inspection. Read more here

Employers face more than $110K in fines for failing to provide protections

Workers doing renovations faced potentially fatal falls of up to 40 feet because their employers failed to provide proper protection. In all, four contractors were cited and fined $110,670 by OSHA. OSHA found several fall hazards; no fall protection for employees working on the roof; unguarded floor holes; insufficient anchorage for fall protection; and employees untrained to recognize fall hazards. Read more here

5 Types of Cold Stress Left Untreated

January 22, 2015 by

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Exposure to wide ranging temperatures can be taxing on the human body. While much attention is given to the importance of keeping workers out of the sun and properly hydrated during the summer, there is just as much danger when it comes to workers who are exposed to extreme cold conditions, resulting in cold stress.

There are 5 types of cold stress that if ignored and left untreated could result in life threatening consequences. These types include hypothermia, frostbit, cold water immersion, trench foot, and chilblains. If you have workers that are required to remain out in the elements all winter long make sure that they are provided with the proper gear to protect against the bitter temperatures and increasing wind speeds.

Prolonged exposure to cold will eventually use up your body’s stored energy. A body temperature that is too low affects the brain, making the victim unable to think clearly or move well. This is particularly dangerous because a person may not know it is happening and will not be able to do anything about it. This is hypothermia setting in. It is important to note that during cold water immersion this process is accelerated up to 25 times the normal rate.

When freezing to the body occurs the loss of feeling and color from the affected areas sets in most commonly on the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers, or toes. These are the feelings of the beginning stages of frostbite. If there has been prolonged exposure of damp condition such as snow to the feet as well, trench foot is likely to develop.  Left ignored this can result in permanent body tissue damage and amputation.

Repeated skin exposure to sudden and drastic fluctuations in temperatures could result in painful inflammation of small blood vessels in your skin known as Chilblains. Redness, itching, blistering and skin discoloration with additional exposure. Permanent damage to capillary beds is possible.

The best action is preventative when it comes to protecting against all forms of cold stress. Make sure your workers are wearing appropriate clothing including layering loose fitting garments and protecting the ears, face hands and feet. Allow them to cold weather gear including extra socks, gloves, jackets, blankets and a change of clothes and hot liquids and always monitor their condition limiting time outside on extremely cold days.

For more information on cold stress and the breakdown of all the types visit http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/coldstress/

Evaluating Your Current Safety Plans: Leading and Lagging Indicators of Safety Performance

January 20, 2015 by

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Do you take the time out to evaluate your workplace from time to time to see if your procedures have been driving the most beneficial outcomes? When it comes to safety practices it is important to evaluate your current plans to see where improvements can be made, one way of doing this is by starting to take a look at the leading and lagging indicators of performance within your facility.

Some might say that leading indicators drive lagging indicators. This means that leading indicators are what drive the direction of your program and correlate with safety performance such as activities, participation, perception, behavior and conditions. For example, the layout and organization of your building, the presence of safety training, hazard alerts and follow-ups, audits, the pace of work and how people navigate and interact with each other to do their jobs. These would all be leading indicators to make note of.

Lagging indicators are what comes out of the leading indicators and are more data oriented around injury reporting, and workers compensation costs, lost time injuries and near misses. The tangible data that can be broken down and analyzed based on the history of your facility and its safety record.

Sorting the actions and reactions of what makes up your facility currently and how they have resulted in your past workplace safety performance is a good place to start to see what you could change or be doing better. By dividing your workplace into leading and lagging indicators this may be a great first step in coming up with the “road ahead” in your facilities safety plan for 2015.

The Hierarchy of Controls for Making Safety Changes

January 15, 2015 by

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Controlling exposure to hazards around your facility while getting the job done is a constant struggle that many business owners face. While every business comes with its own unique situations, balancing the safest solution while still being able to perform the necessary tasks is not always clear. There no universally acceptable answer.

Many businesses often turn to the hierarchy of controls of develop a safety protocol that will work best for their environment. The hierarchy of controls is a system used in many industries to minimize or eliminate exposure of hazard and is a widely accepted system promoted by many safety organizations including OSHA and the CDC.

There are 5 controls that are listed from most effective to least effective and differ on the type of solution that each one provides. The 5 controls are as follows.

Elimination Is at the top of the diagram and involves physically removing the hazard from the workplace. For example removing a dangerous machine. While this is the most effective means of dealing with a hazard it is also often time the most difficult to implement in an existing process and can have high upfront costs associated with it.

Substitution, like Elimination is at the top of the diagram as a highly effective solution to and existing safety hazard and also requires major changes in equipment and procedures. For example replacing a dangerous machine with a safer alternative. Ideally for Elimination and Substitution controls it is easiest to introduce them in the design and development process before any procedures are already in place.

Engineering controls are used to remove a hazard or place a barrier between workers and a hazard requiring physical change to the workplace like elimination and substitution. For example developing and attaching a machine guard. Well-designed engineering controls can be highly effective in protecting workers and will typically be independent of worker interactions to provide this high level of protection. Initial costs of engineering controls can be higher than administrative of PPE but have high long term return on investment that could include lower operating costs and higher productivity.

Administrative controls are all about identifying and implementing procedures to help your workers conduct their job in a safe manner. This may often include reduction in time a worker is exposed to the hazard, increasing safety signage, performing a risk assessment and making sure all employees are properly trained.

PPE controls are the last line of defense. When all other controls have been considered and ruled out PPE should be used. For example when a job requires working at heights make sure to provide the proper fall protection, make sure it fits the worker properly, train them on how to properly use the fall protection, and make sure that they use it to prevent injury should a fall occur.

All of these controls should be properly weighted in order to find the right solution to fit your working environment before a decision is made. For More Information visit the CDC webpage at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/engcontrols/


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