Thursday, July 31, 2014

NRC Releases Safe Science Report: Safety in Academic Laboratories

A report entitled "Safe Science: Promoting a Culture of Safety in Academic Chemical Research" by National Research Council (NRC) says that everyone involved in academic chemical research, from researchers to university leadership, plays an important role in promoting a culture of safety, and calls for constant commitment to safety throughout the organization. Simply establishing rules and fixing blame when the rules are not followed is not acceptable, NRC says. Rather, organizations should emphasize identifying and solving problems.

“The shift away from mere compliance and toward promoting a strong, positive safety culture has already yielded benefits in industries such as aviation and health care,” says H. Holden Thorp, provost at Washington University in St. Louis, who chairs the committee that wrote the report. “We hope our recommendations help move academic chemical research in a similar fashion--toward the adoption of a culture of safety in laboratories that goes beyond inspections, standard operating procedures and chemical safety plans, all with the ultimate goal of protecting the lives and health of those who work there.”

The report identifies five major stakeholder groups at universities and recommends actions they should take to support a strong safety culture:
  • Presidents, chancellors and provosts should demonstrate that safety is a core value of their institutions by discussing safety frequently and publicly, and encouraging others to do so as well.  They should use university resources in ways that support safety, for example by paying for PPE and hazardous waste disposal. They also should have in place a comprehensive risk management plan for lab safety that addresses prevention, mitigation and emergency response.
  • Vice presidents for research and deans should ensure that their institutions only undertake areas of research that they can carry out safely. They also should make sure everyone involved in the research knows his/her role in supporting safety and should develop reporting structures that better integrate safety management into overall research management.
  • Principal investigators and department chairs are responsible for establishing a strong, positive safety culture in the laboratories they oversee by demonstrating safe practices and wearing PPE, ensuring researchers are properly trained in safety before they begin any work and encouraging open, ongoing dialogue about safety concerns.
  • Researchers have a responsibility for supporting safety culture in the laboratories where they work and should be encouraged to take on leadership roles, such as serving on safety committees and taking part in non-punitive, walk-through inspections of other laboratories. Institutions should provide researchers with the equipment, training, systems and support they need to work safely. 
  • SH&E staff should partner with administrators, faculty and researchers to go beyond compliance and support these groups as they undertake actions to establish a strong, positive safety culture.

The report also says that laboratories should conduct analyses to help them identify and mitigate hazards, and recommends collecting and reporting data on near misses as a key approach to recognizing these hazards before they cause harm. The report also recommends that comprehensive, ongoing lab-centric training that ensures understanding of potential hazards and risks, as well as protective measures and mitigation techniques.

Download a free PDF of the report or order a prepublication copy from the National Academies Press website.

MSHA Proposes Rule to Increase Emphasis on Serious Safety Conditions

MSHA is seeking to amend existing civil penalty regulations by simplifying the criteria for assessing safety and health violations and increasing emphasis on serious safety and health conditions. The proposed rule will be published in today's Federal Register.

MSHA Administrator Joseph Main says the proposed rule will "simplify the process and increase consistency, objectivity and efficiency in the citations and orders that inspectors issue." He says it will also help improve compliance and resolve enforcement issues quickly.

By increasing penalties for unwarrantable failure violations (i.e., those that constitute more than just ordinary negligence), according to the agency, the rule will encourage mine operators to be more accountable and proactive in addressing mine safety and health conditions.

The proposed rule is open for comment for 60 days following its July 31 publication.

Taking Safety to the Office

A article and video published online by the Wall Street Journal, "Safety Cops Patrol the Office for High Heels: Companies Move Mandates Indoors; 'Avoid Bread,'" takes a light-hearted look at how companies like Chevron are taking safety rules from the field and applying them to office environments. According to WSJ reporters Alexandra Berzon and Rachel Feintzeig, "Field-inspired safety protocols are migrating to the office, where hazards include dripping umbrellas, the height of high heels and hot cups of coffee." How do you engage your office employees in safety?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Take Part in Humantech's Ergonomics & Technology Survey

Until Aug. 31, 2014, Humantech is conducting a survey on using technology to manage ergonomics programs. The confidential survey is open to any company that has an established ergonomic program. Survey questions address hardware, software and devices that companies use to manage parts of their ergo programs, including training, assessments, planning improvements, tracking metrics and documentation. Humantech says it will publish the results in a study that will determine current trends and best practices used to manage data and results of effective ergonomics programs. Survey participants will receive a copy of the report.

OSHA Issues Memo on Temp Workers

OSHA recently reminded its compliance staff of the agency’s long-standing enforcement policy regarding temporary workers. The agency has had a laser-focus on temporary worker safety in the past year.

“In general, OSHA will consider the staffing agency and host employer to be ‘joint employers’ of the worker in this situation,” the memo states. “Joint employment is a legal concept recognizing that, in some situations, the key attributes of the traditional employer-employee relationship are shared by two or more employers in such a manner that they each bear responsibility for compliance with statutory and regulatory requirements.

“As joint employers, both the host employer and the staffing agency have responsibilities for protecting the safety and health of the temporary worker under the OSH Act. In assessing compliance in any inspection where temporary workers are encountered, compliance officers must consider whether each employer has met its responsibility.”

The memo also provides details on general and site-specific training, hazard and risk assessment, communication about injuries and illnesses, whistleblowing and inspection initiation.

To assist compliance officers, the agency has published a recordkeeping bulletin, and plans to publish additional resources on topics such as whistleblower protection rights, PPE, HazCom, hearing conservation, heat exposure and forklifts.