Thursday, February 27, 2014

Cal/OSHA May Revise Meaning of 'Repeat Violation'

Cal/OSHA has scheduled a meeting March 13, 2014, to discuss the possibility of revising the definition of "repeat violation" pertaining to its Section 334(d) of Title 8 of the California Code of Regulations. The agency reports possible changes are "intended to improve worker protection in California," and that the proposed revisions relate to the criteria for classifying a citation as "repeat." Occupational Health & Safety reports that one revision would extend the statute of limitations from 3 to 5 years; another would change the geographic limitation to statewide.

Any questions or concerns about the upcoming meeting can be directed to Chris Grossgart at (415) 557-0300.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Help Benchmark Ergonomics in the Workplace

Help benchmark methods for managing ergonomic conditions in the workplace by participating in Humantech's fifth benchmarking study. This study will focus on the resources (people, time, money) in which sites invest and the results achieved (injury reduction, productivity and quality improvements, employee retention, etc.). The goal of the study is to better quantify the return on investment (ROI) of site programs.

“We are looking for participants from [U.S.] sites with established ergonomics programs that are focused on manufacturing and production tasks. Participants should be interested in comparing their program with those in other industries,” says Humantech's Walt Rostykus. To maintain company confidentiality, participants are identified by industry type and size; their names are kept anonymous. Walt adds, “A maximum of 35 companies will be selected for the study, and all companies that volunteer to participate will receive a full copy of the summary report upon its completion.” If interested in participating in the latest study, contact Rostykus by March 31, 2014.

The group's most recent study, Elements of Successful Ergonomics Programs, was completed in 2011, and you can find summaries of previous benchmarking studies on Humantech's website.

Image ©

OSHA Administrator Urges: No More Falling Workers

More communication tower workers were killed in 2013 than in the previous 2 years combined, and four more tower-related deaths have already occurred in 2014. Speaking at the National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE) conference yesterday, Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSH David Michaels expressed OSHA’s concern about this disturbing trend, and said that actions must be taken to prevent more deaths.

“We are very concerned about this sharp rise,” Michaels said. “The fatality rate in this industry is extremely high and tower workers have a risk of fatal injury perhaps 25 to 30 times higher than the risk for the average American worker. This is clearly unacceptable.”

Michaels indicated that, in addition to increased enforcement, OSHA is taking steps to educate industry and workers, and helping small businesses by providing free consultations. According to Michaels, field staff conducting incident investigations are instructed to pay special attention to communication tower incidents, and to collect more complete data about these incidents to help the agency better understand and prevent them.

“Our inspectors will also be paying close attention to contracts and subcontracts to determine who is doing tower work and what their qualifications are,” Michaels said. “And we will be taking a hard look at the safety requirements that flow down through the contracts and how owners and contractors ensure that everyone involved meets those requirements.”

OSHA has posted Michaels’ full comments on its website.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Study Suggests Conscious Safety Management Growing Globally

Companies worldwide are shifting from reactive response to conscious management when it comes to occupational safety and health. And that, says DNV GL, is "a prelude to the development of a real corporate culture of occupational health and safety."

The firm surveyed more than 3,860 professionals from businesses in different industries in Europe, the Americas and Asia. More than 90% agree that managing workplace safety and health has become an integrated part of today’s corporate strategy, while 76% say they implement policies that exceed legal requirements. North Americans (66%) and Swedes (55%) believe ergonomics is the main risk area, while Asians (54%) perceive structural deficiencies of machines and equipment to be the main concern. According to DNV GL, these findings indicate that "companies find operational initiatives to be the most effective. In fact, the ranking of the top most effective actions is topped by the regular maintenance of premises (48%) and emergency measures (46%)," DNV GL says. "Organizational issues such as the assessment of all risks related to health and safety (37%) and preventive measures (35%) are down on the list."

But that's also starting to shift, as more companies recognize the need to strategically work on prevention. Survey respondents suggest that employee training (63%), assessment of all risks (63%) and adoption of management systems or prevention programs (59%) will top the list of future initiatives to safeguard worker safety. What's more, 90% of those surveyed expect to maintain or increase investments for occupational safety and health in the next 3 years.

This survey suggests a global shift in occupational safety management is underway. Are you seeing similar developments in your organization?

Monday, February 24, 2014

EPA Proposes Changes to Agricultural Worker Protection Standard

EPA has announced proposed changes to its agricultural worker protection standard that would help protect agricultural workers and their families from pesticide exposure. Proposed changes to the standard include:

  • Increasing the frequency of training related to protections workers are afforded under the law, including restrictions on entering pesticide-treated fields and surrounding areas, decontamination supplies, access to information and use of PPE. The current standard requires training once every 5 years, which would increase to once annually.
  • Training would be expanded to include guidance on preventing take-home exposure from pesticides on clothing.
  • Expanded mandatory posting of no-entry signs that prohibit workers from entering areas where the most hazardous pesticides have recently been applied.
  • Children under 16 would be prohibited from handling pesticides, with an exemption for family farms.
  • No-entry buffer areas surrounding pesticide-treated fields would help prevent exposure from pesticide fumes and overspray.
  • Measures to improve the states' abilities to enforce compliance regarding pesticide exposure and training requirements. 
  • PPE, namely respirators, must be consistent with OSHA standards.
  • Specific information on pesticide application, including the label and Safety Data Sheets, would be made available to farm workers and advocates, such as medical personnel.
EPA is seeking comments on the proposed changes. Visit EPA's website for more information.

Workplace Safety Risks Are Top Concern for Small Businesses

According to a survey by Employers Insurance Co., among the risks facing small businesses, workplace safety risks are the most worrisome for potentially affecting the business. The survey interviewed a national representative sample of 502 small businesses with fewer than 100 employees.

The survey also sought to learn how prepared small business owners felt they were for various workplace injuries, and if or if they were focusing attention on unlikely events. "We were relieved to find that the most common type of injuries--slips, trips and falls--was cited most often," says Employers' Stephen Festa. "However, we were surprised that almost four out of five small business owners did not claim to be most prepared for them." The study found that only 21% of respondents felt most prepared to address slip, trip and fall exposures. When asked which risk they felt least prepared for, 29% of respondents said that acts of violence topped that list.

Learn About U.S. Labor Department, Visit Its 'DOL A to Z' Website

Want to know more about U.S. Department of Labor? Visit its "DOL A to Z" webpage to learn more about the agency. It's going through the alphabet, letter by letter, and delving into specifics about the agency's policies, regulations and work to "break through the jargon and the acronyms," and to provide the public with a more clear understanding about what it is and what it does.

Visit the site regularly, as more information is posted.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

OSHA Seeking Comments on Interim Final Rule Under Food Safety Modernization Act

OSHA has published an interim final rule to address retaliation complaints under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and is seeking public comments.

FSMA provides protection from retaliation to employees who report potential violations of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. Whistleblowers who report possible violations by businesses engaged in the manufacture, processing, packing, transporting, distribution, reception, holding or importation of food are protected from retaliation under the current law. The interim final rule establishes procedures, burdens of proof, remedies and statutes of limitations, similar to the other whistleblower protection statutes administered by OSHA.

Comments can be submitted until April 14, 2014, at, or via mail or facsimile. See the Federal Register notice for more information.

EPA Reports Decrease in Toxic Chemical Releases

In its annual Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) report, EPA found a 12% decrease in total releases of toxic chemicals from 2011 to 2012. In addition to the overall decrease, the agency found a decrease of hazardous air pollutants (e.g., hydrochloric acid, mercury); toxic releases into surface water decreased by 3%; and toxic releases to land decreased 16%.

The TRI report provides important health and environmental information concerning communities (including data on certain toxic chemicals released into the air, water and land), as well as information on waste management and pollution prevention by U.S. facilities. Watch EPA's YouTube video on the TRI report to learn more.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

FAA Issues Final Rule on Pilot Use of Portable Electronic Devices

Although passenger use of portable electronic devices (PEDs) on airplanes has recently expanded, pilots will see no such changes. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a final rule reinforcing that airline pilots cannot use PEDs for personal use during all operations. FAA says its "sterile cockpit" rule from 1981 forbids pilots to partake in distracting behavior during critical phases of flight and it asks carriers to address distractions through crew training programs.

According to its press release, the agency says the final rule "codifies existing FAA policies and procedures and meets an FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 mandate by prohibiting all commercial airline (passenger and cargo) flight crews from using personal wireless communications devices or laptop computers for personal reasons during aircraft operations."

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Vote in Professional Safety's 2013 Readers' Choice Poll

What was your favorite Professional Safety article that was published in 2013? Vote in the Professional Safety Readers' Choice poll and voice your opinion. After you vote, click on the word "Comments" at the bottom of the page and let us know why you picked that particular article. Results will be announced in March 2014.

Monday, February 17, 2014

NTSB Hosts Forum on Cruise Ship Safety

National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will hold a public forum in Washington, DC, March 25-26, to discuss cruise ship safety and oversight to encourage dialog among stakeholders, regulators and the public. The forum, "Cruise Ships: Examining Safety, Operations and Oversight," will review regulations that cover cruise ships, as well as ship design and fire protection, operations and corporate oversight.

"We are convening this forum to learn more about the international cruise ship industry," says NTSB chair Deborah Hersman, "from vessel construction to evacuation--and all of the significant operational and oversight activities in between."

An agenda and list of participants will be available closer to the event on the NTSB website.

Photo credit: Steve Mason/Photodisc/Thinkstock

Deadline Extended for ASSE's Student Safety Awareness Art Contest

NAOSH Week 2014 is scheduled for May 4-10, and there is still time to enter ASSE's Student Safety Awareness Art Contest. Formerly known as the Safety-on-the-Job kids' poster contest, the new art contest is two-fold. It encourages children ages 5 to 12 to submit original artwork that depicts workplace safety; in addition, children ages 13 to 17 are encouraged to express workplace safety in the form of a video.

Prizes for each group are:
1st place: $1,000
2nd place: $500
3rd place: $250

The entry deadline has been extended to Feb. 28, 2014. For more information or to submit an entry, visit the NAOSH 2014 website.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Winter Weather Preparedness: Tips for Businesses

On Feb. 6, 2014, CNA hosted its second winter weather preparedness webinar. Cold Weather Preparation 2014 discussed lessons learned from the 2013-14 winter season as well as offers tips to help businesses prepare for the remainder of the year and avoid health and safety issues in years to come.    

Over the course of this winter, many parts of the U.S. have witnessed bitter cold temperatures and above-average snowfall as various extreme snowstorms have swept the nation. According to Thomas Gray, risk control consulting director for CNA, snow and freezing temperatures can have a negative impact on many aspects of a business and its employees. In addition to the dangerous road conditions, snow, ice and freezing temperatures can cause structural damage to buildings including roof collapses, power failure, reduced natural gas pressure and sprinkler system freeze-up, which can leave a facility vulnerable in the event of a fire. 

By implementing simple steps, Gray says, business owners can protect themselves from unnecessary loss, while ensuring workers safety.

Companies can get started early by planning ahead for snow and ice removal, arranging for constant surveillance of facilities to monitor trouble conditions, monitoring the National Weather Service for storm advisories, having an up-to-date list of all emergency contacts, assigning snow plowing and shoveling duties, installing snow markers near fire hydrants and fire protection control valves located outside, checking facilities for dangerous snow accumulations (particularly on the roof), arranging for emergency generators in case of power loss and a plan for extended utility outages (up to 1 week or more).

Companies can also implement safety polices and procedures to avoid major hazards including roof collapses and sprinkler system freeze-ups.

Working Safely on Snow Covered Roofs
Many roofs are not made to handle the extra weight from snow build-up. If possible, Gray says, business owners should gather data/information about the building’s roof, and inspect its conditions before winter arrives. After snow falls, business owners can clear the roof of snow accumulations, but special caution should be taken, as working on snow-covered roofs poses significant dangers, including serious falls and exposure to extreme cold. 

Business owners can help workers work safely on snow-covered roofs through proper training, use of protection and equipment maintenance. CNA offers some guidelines to help business owners implement proper controls to mitigate these risks.

Preventing Sprinkler System Freeze-Ups
Along with snow and freezing conditions, winter brings the danger of impaired fire protection due to water freezing in sprinkler piping, underground mains, gravity suction tanks or fire pumps. Freezing pipes not only runs the risk of fire and damage to the building contents, but may also require expensive repairs to the system. Climates that are seldom associated with cold weather (such as mid-southern USA) are most vulnerable to the freezing of automatic sprinkler systems, so it is important that property owners be alert to unusual climatic changes and be prepared to take preventive measures.

Preventing a sprinkler system freeze-ups will depend heavily on the type of sprinkler system in the facility. Most freeze-ups result from failure to provide adequate heat, while others are caused by doors, windows, cracks, loose siding or similar defects in building maintenance. Generally, keeping the heat at or above 40°F will give the pipes enough cushion to avoid freezing. Building owners/managers should closely and frequently monitor the heating system to make sure that it is delivering heat to all areas of the facility and avoid using open flame to thaw frozen water pipes near combustible materials or combustible building components.

For more information and tips on how to deal with frozen pipes, click here.

More information and winter weather resources are available on the company website.

CSB Animated Video Illustrates Tesoro Refinery Incident

CSB has released a 5-minute video that recreates the Tesoro Refinery explosion and fire, which occurred on April, 2, 2010, in Anacortes, WA. The computer-animated video shows the process of high temperature hydrogen attack, which according to the agency, damaged and weakened a nearly 40-year-old carbon heat exchanger. This damage led to the explosion, which could have been prevented had the company replaced the exchanger with a safer alloy model. Visit CSB to view the video.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

OSHA Aims to Reduce Falls From Telecommunications Towers

Photo ©leirsuretime70/thinkstockphotos
OSHA is collaborating with the National Association of Tower Erectors and other industry stakeholders to ensure that communication tower employers understand their responsibility to protect workers performing this high-hazard work. The collaboration was sparked by recent tragedies, the agency says. On Jan. 31, a maintenance worker fell to his death from a cell tower in Cameron County, TX. The next day, a cell phone tower collapsed in Clarksburg, WV. Minutes later a second tower at the same site fell. Two workers and a firefighter responding to the scene died and two employees suffered serious injuries.

OSHA reports that 13 fatalities occurred in this industry in 2013, more than in the previous 2 years combined. Most of these fatalities were the result of falling. This trend appears to be continuing with the four deaths occurring in the first five weeks of 2014. In response, the agency has sent a letter to communication tower employers urging compliance and strict adherence to safety standards and common-sense practices. A new web page examines the issues surrounding communication tower work.

Ask the Safety Leadership Coach

Do you have a question about safety leadership coaching? Now's your chance to pose your question to coaching expert, blogger and Professional Safety author Doug Gray. Read Doug's recent leadership blog post on psychological health and safety and why it's important.

The article explores its effects on the workplace, both positive and negative. Think about employees at your facility. Who are the most psychologically healthy and unhealthy individuals? Think about how psychological well-being might affect their work, productivity, safety and the morale of others. Doug asks readers, "What are the effects on safety metrics at your company for tolerating those employees with lower psychological health and wellness?"

After you read the article, contact him with your questions. He will answer them here on EHS Works.

Image copyright rafal_olechowski

Monday, February 10, 2014

NIOSH Accepting Abstracts for Total Worker Health Symposium

NIOSH is accepting abstracts for its 1st International Symposium to Advance Total Worker Health, scheduled for Oct. 6-8, 2014, in Bethesda, MD. Abstracts are due March 24, 2014. According to the agency, the event will focus on research, practices, programs and policies that help advance workers' safety, health and well-being through the integration of health protection and promotion.

View the call for abstracts document for themes, topics of interest and instructions on how to submit a proposal.

Friday, February 7, 2014

OSHA Proposes to Extend Crane Operator Requirements Until 2017

OSHA has issued a proposed rule to delay the compliance date for the crane operator certification requirements until Nov. 10, 2017. The proposal would extend (to the same date) the current phase-in rules that employers use to ensure that operators are qualified to operate equipment. OSHA's final standard for crane operators on construction sites required them to meet one of four qualification options by Nov. 10, 2014, yet after numerous concerns, the agency decided to extend its enforcement date so that the requirements "do not take effect during potential rulemaking or cause disruption to the construction industry."

For more information or to submit a comment, visit OSHA's Cranes and Derricks website.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

White Paper Reports on Truck Drivers' Safety Compliance Knowledge

A new white paper from American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), "Compliance, Safety Accountability (CSA): Assessing the New Safety Measurement System & Its Implications—2013 Update," shows that drivers do not have a clear understanding CSA, after 3 years of its implementation. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the CSA program was implemented in 2010 to "provide a better view into how well large commercial motor vehicle carriers and drivers are complying with safety rules, and to intervene earlier with those who are not."

The recent report includes 7,800 driver responses who were analyzed over the 3-year period. ATRI reports that the drivers, on average, responded to the CSA knowledge test with 42.4% accuracy, which suggests that drivers still do not have clear understanding of CSA. Despite this lack of knowledge, ATRI also reports that carrier-provided CSA training has increased since 2011 and driver job security concerns, due to CSA, have decreased by about 10%, over the 3-year period.

Visit ATRI's website to request a copy of the report.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

EPA Planning to Update Radiation Protection Standards

EPA's current Environmental Radiation Protection Standards for Nuclear Power Operations date back to 1977. They were issued to limit radiation releases and public exposure resulting from the normal operation of nuclear power plants and facilities involved in the milling, conversion, fabrication, use and reprocessing of uranium fuel for power generation. Though they remain in use, they are based on nuclear power technology and the understanding of radiation biology that was current 37 years ago.

The agency is now seeking public comments as it moves to update these standards. Comments are being accepted between now and June 4, 2014 at

EPA is providing stakeholders with more information through fact sheets on the advance notice of proposed rulemaking, the current standards, and the uranium fuel cycle. EPA will also host a series of webinars to discuss the input the agency hopes to receive in response to its advance notice of proposed rulemaking.

Safety 2014: Find Ways to Give Back

No matter what their area of expertise, SH&E professionals have a common thread: They are driven by an altruistic spirit. Safety 2014 in Orlando, FL, offers a few ways to give back.

ASSE Foundation Activities

Help support the future of the safety profession by taking part in the ASSE Foundation 2014 Safety Matters Golf Tournament. The tournament will be held at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club Orlando on June 8. The $165 fee includes greens fee, cart rental, range balls and lunch. This fun day on the links is a great way to help support the Foundation’s programs in research, education and leadership development within the safety community.
Another way to support the Foundation’s programs at Safety 2014 is to take part in the ASSEF Silent Auction, either by contributing donations to be auctioned, or by bidding on items either on site or now online. Funds raised during the silent auction help support SH&E scholarships.

Volunteer for the Greet Team

If you’re planning to attend Safety 2014 or you’re from the Orlando area, be part of the excitement by volunteering some of your time to help make the conference a success. Volunteer to be a hotel or convention center greeter, or donate your smiling face to help direct attendees to lunches and general sessions. Download the greeter volunteer form to get started.

Be a Guest Blogger

As a conference attendee, share your experience by being a guest blogger on ASSE’s blog, EHS Works. Give your perspective—in your own voice—about sessions you’re already attending, and in the process share your experience with fellow members who can’t make it to the conference. For more information, contact Sue Trebswether.

Pass Along Your Knowledge

There’s no better way to give back to your profession than sharing your knowledge, expertise and lessons learned with fellow safety professionals. Learn about writing for Professional Safety by stopping by the Service Center.
Another way to share your knowledge is by becoming a presenter at Safety 2015, which will be held in Dallas, TX, June 7-10, 2015. By presenting at Safety 2015, you can expand the profession’s knowledge and help prepare future practitioners for the challenges ahead. Learn more at this year’s conference by attending a session on how to submit a proposal to become a presenter next year.
Registration has opened for Safety 2014. Register today and think about how you can give back.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Using Technology to Predict Workplace Injuries

On Jan. 29, 2014, Safety+ Health, a magazine produced by the National Safety Council, hosted Predicting & Preventing Workplace Injuries: A How-To Guide. The webinar addressed how companies can use safety data and analytics to predict and prevent injury.

According to speaker Griffin Schultz, the general manager of Predictive Solutions Corp., there is a new paradigm for data analytics consisting of not only collecting and analyzing data, but also using that data to predict future outcomes. This paradigm is supported by technological advancements that allow computers to predict future events according to data.

Basic data analytics generally involve collecting and organizing data that can then be used to answer questions such as, What happened? Where did it happen? and How often did it happen?

Advanced and predictive analytics, however, take analysis a step further, providing answers to more complex questions, such as, Why did it happen? Will trends continue? and What might happen next?

Companies can get started using predictive analytics by utilizing software solutions such as SafetyNet, a safety management service that is being used to gather more than 1.8 million workplace safety observations per month. Customers enter their own inspection data, which is then compared to other inspections not only within the same company, but also to data entered by other users of the service. Those comparisons identify correlations between inspection elements and negative outcomes, and SafetyNet’s red flag model allows users to see which of their current projects, sites or work groups may be at risk.

Schultz warns that a company cannot rely solely on this predictive model to keep workers safe. He likens the red flag SafetyNet displays next to at-risk operations to the check engine light on a car. The red flag helps alert a safety professional to a potential hazard, but additional inspections and basic data analytics then need to be performed to determine what element of the operation is causing the risk and how that hazard might be mitigated.

OSHA's 2014 Regulatory Intentions

According to ASSE's government affairs staff, OSHA's 2014 regulatory agenda is ambitious and perhaps a signal that the long wait for rulemaking by the agency may be coming to an end. That said, ASSE cautions that “any intentions to take action or dates announced by OSHA need to be taken with a grain of salt,” primarily due to resource issues, legal review requirements or various other factors that delay rulemaking.

These projects are at the prerule stage:
  • Bloodborne pathogens
  • Infectious diseases
  • Reinforced concrete in construction
  • Preventing backover injuries and fatalities 
These items are at the proposed rule stage
  • Occupational exposure to crystalline silica (view ASSE’s comments on the proposed rule here)
  • Occupational exposure to beryllium
  • Combustible dust
  • Injury and illness prevention program
  • Confined space in construction
  • Electric power transmission and distribution/electrical protective equipment

Monday, February 3, 2014

EU-OSHA Reports on Women in the Workplace

A report from European Union Occupational Health and Safety Agency examines gender issues within the workplace. "New Risks & Trends in the Safety & Health of Women at Work," provides information on trends on the employment of women and working conditions; hazard exposure; work-related incidents; health problems for women in the workplace; issues faced by younger and older women; and increasingly diversified working time patterns as major risk factors. In addition, the report provides an update to the agency's 2003 research conducted on gender issues at work.

"Much remains to be done, especially for older and younger women, to ensure decent work for all," the report states. "This focus on workplace health and safety benefits not only women but also men who work, and can lead to improved workplaces."

Nomination Deadline Soon: Innovation Award in Occupational Safety Management

The deadline is approaching for nominations for ASSE's inaugural Award for Innovation in Occupational Safety Management, sponsored by Cintas. The award will recognize individuals who have addressed workplace safety challenges in innovative ways. The winner will receive a $3,000 cash prize and be recognized at Safety 2014 in Orlando, FL, June 8-11.

The deadline for nominations is March 31, 2014. Visit the Innovate 2014 website for details on nomination criteria.