The Right Questions to Ask About Respirator Safety in the Workplace

April 23, 2015 by

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Clean air can easily be taken for granted, and when working in areas with hazardous particles or gasses, using the proper respirator to assist with breathing is literally a life or death matter. Choosing a respirator can be a complicated process especially if you aren’t armed with the proper information about the hazards you are trying to protect against.

Before trying to select a respirator for the job at hand, be sure you have identified the respiratory hazard, evaluated the hazard thoroughly, and have considered whether engineering or substitution controls are possible.

Ask the following questions about your workplace to get the selection process started.

  • What activities will the worker be doing while wearing the respirator (e.g., strenuous work)?
  • What are the characteristics of the operation or the process (e.g., hot temperature, confined space)?
  • Is it to be used in firefighting or emergencies?
  • How long will the worker need to wear the respirator?
  • Does the selected respirator fit the worker properly?
  • Where is the nearest safe area that has clean air?
  • Is it to be used in oxygen-deficient atmospheres (less than 18% oxygen in air; some jurisdictions say below 19.5%)?
  • What is the nature of the hazard (chemical properties, concentration in the air, warning properties)?
  • Is there more than one contaminant (i.e. a mixture or more than one chemical is present)?
  • What are the health effects of the airborne contaminant (carcinogenic, potentially lethal, irritating to eyes, absorbed through the skin)?
  • Is the airborne contaminant a gas, vapor or particulate (mist, dust or fume)?
  • Are the airborne levels below or above the exposure limit, or are they above levels that could be immediately dangerous to life or health?

Refer to the SDS for guidance on requirements of particular respiratory hazards around your facility if more hazard information is needed. When you are ready to begin making your respirator decision visit http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/npptl/topics/respirators/disp_part/RespSource.html for additional help and information on NIOSH approved respirators.

How Often Should You Be Evaluating Your Facility Safety Programs?

April 21, 2015 by

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It’s been awhile since the New Year mad rush to get all of your workplace safety compliance updates in order to fit with new regulations, is it time for a checkup? A new study at Texas A&M University says that workplace processes should be evaluated every 3 months to be at its optimum efficiency. The study states that a safety climates assessments ability to predict future safety mishaps has a drop off pattern that by the fourth month has no predictive power— the relationship between the safety assessment and incident rate in the organization expired.

If once every 3 months seems unrealistic for your facility for a full safety evaluation, make note of what areas of work are highest risk and start by checking them as often as possible. Get your workers actively involved in the process. Encourage them to report any concerns or near misses.

The alternatives for ignoring problems and not keeping a safe workplace are sobering. Recently managers were sentenced up to 5 years in prison for not providing workers with the proper workplace protections. Another owner was sentence to 15 years after a worker fatality. The consequences are real and could easily be avoided.

Trying to implement any kind of change in the workplace can admittedly be difficult and face resistance but attitude is key. Begin to lead by example and follow through on promises. Create an action plan and set milestone check-ins. As you begin to carry out your initiative, your persistence will pay off. Recognize those achievements and continue down the path of continued safety improvement.

Tips for Working Safe in Any Environment

April 17, 2015 by

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Work hazards are a cost of doing business but human lives don’t have to be. Injuries for all hazards can be prevented if the right precautions are taken. Once a proper process is put in place safety on the job can become second nature. Some of the most common hazards present in a wide array of environments that could easily be corrected to help improve workplaces include, hazardous chemical interaction, ergonomics such as lifting and vibration and physical hazards like slips, falls, noise and extreme temperatures.

Chemical Hazards

Is everyone sick and tired of hearing about GHS yet? While it is a hot topic of discussion right now with impending deadlines coming up, adopting this universal system of properly identifying, labeling, and training your employees will pay dividends for years to come. Making these changes allow workers to understand the hazardous chemicals that they are interacting with, the degree of its ability to do harm, and how to properly protect themselves against it.

Ergonomics

It’s a buzzword that is gaining more and more traction in the manufacturing industry as of late. Vibrations, standing for long durations of time and over extending motions take a toll on the body. While it may seem like a daunting and expensive undertaking to improve these conditions, it doesn’t have to be. Get your workforce involves. They are the ones closest to the potential problems and ask the questions: Is there a problem? How bad is it? Where do should we start? What could make a difference? Sometimes the answers are as simple as adjusting a chair, screen, or machine height, placing an ergonomic floor mat under a worker who is required to stand for long periods, or providing workers with anti-vibration PPE to absorb shock better.

Physical Hazards

Often the most visible but somehow the most ignored, physical hazards in the workplace include things like excessive noise, tripping and slipping, inadequate machine guarding, and extreme temperatures. Defending against these is pretty straightforward. Good housekeeping goes a long way. Putting things back in their place after they are used, avoiding stacking boxes too high or being disorganized, and keeping aisle clear of debris will help cut down first tier of issues. When it comes to excessive noise measuring the decibel range in your facility and making sure your workers are provided the necessary hearing protection is key. If temperature is a factor, schedule in breaks throughout the day to change clothes, hydrate, and warm or cool down.

A Reminder About Work Zone Safety

April 9, 2015 by

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100 lives could be saved. Is that enough incentive to make work zones safe? It is estimated that about 100 workers die in highway construction accidents each year. Some of the primary ways to eliminate fatalities are through education and awareness. Work zone safety is everyone’s responsibility, not only those who work on the roadways but also those who travel on them.

This year’s work zone awareness week was appropriately themed around Expect the Unexpected, because no worker goes out on the job in the morning with the intention of not returning at night. Incidents can happen in a variety of ways throughout a work zone including collisions, struck by accidents, overturns or falls from vehicles or equipment. As the weather continues to warm up and the cones, barricades and lane changes start popping up on roadways here are some simple safety tips to keep in mind.

On the Road
• Pay close attention to posted signs and remove all distractions from your line of sight
• Slow down and drive defensively
• Leave ample space between you and the vehicle in front of you for evasive maneuvers
• Stay alert for changing road conditions while traversing a work zone
• Obey all traffic control devices in a work zone especially road crew flaggers

In the Work Zone
• Always wear reflective gear to remain highly visible to workers and commuters
• Use proper signaling required by the authority in charge
• Have clearly defined routes for foot traffic, vehicles, equipment etc.
• Communicate throughout the work site any changes or events that may impact work flow
• Schedule drop offs of material and designate an area that provides the most convenient access for those who need it
• Create and train workers on evacuation and fall prevention plans for the work site

Top 10 Employer Workplace Safety Responsibilities

April 7, 2015 by

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Are You Holding Up Your End of the Bargain?

While your employees are working hard to drive productivity and growth, are you doing what is expected of you as an employer to keep your workers safe on the job. It is always highlighted in great detail the responsibilities of workers within a facility in order to meet deadlines but far less often are the responsibilities of the employer outlined. Making your workers aware of their rights and what they should be expecting from their place of employment helps keep everyone accountable and helps to show your employees that you have an invested interest in their well-being and are working just as hard for them as they are for your company.

Under the OSH Act, it is the employer’s responsibility to provide a workplace free from serious recognized hazards and to comply with standards, rules and regulations issued to keep workers safe.

Here is a list of 10 more Employer Responsibilities that all businesses should be keeping up to date with.

  • Make sure employees have, and use safe tools and equipment and properly maintain it.
  • Establish or update operating procedures and communicate them so that employees follow safety and health requirements.
  •  Develop and implement a written hazard communication program and train employees on the hazards they are exposed to and proper precautions (and a copy of safety data sheets must be readily available). See the OSHA page on Hazard Communication.
  • Post, at a prominent location within the workplace, the OSHA poster (or the state-plan equivalent) informing employees of their rights and responsibilities.
  • Report hospitalizations and fatalities promptly:
    • Private Sector: to the local OSHA office (780-3178) within 8 hours of any accident that is fatal or that results in the hospitalization of three or more employees.
    • Maine Public Sector: to the Bureau of Labor Standards Workplace Safety and Health Division within 24 hours if an injured worker has an overnight hospital stay and within 8 hours in case of a death. Weekdays (except state holidays) from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. call 624-6400. At other times, fax to 624-6449 or call on pager 750-1852.
  • Keep records of work-related injuries and illnesses. (Note: Employers with 10 or fewer employees and employers in certain low-hazard industries are exempt from this requirement.
  •  Provide employees, former employees and their representative’s access to the Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses.
  • Do not discriminate against employees who exercise their rights under the Act. See our “Whistleblower Protection” webpage.
  • Post OSHA citations at or near the work area involved. Each citation must remain posted until the violation has been corrected, or for three working days, whichever is longer. Post abatement verification documents or tags.
  •  Correct cited violations by the deadline set in the OSHA citation and submit required abatement verification documentation.

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