Friday, August 29, 2014

NHTSA Launches Web Tool to Search for Recalls by VIN

Vehicle owners don't always know whether their car or motorcycle has been affected by a recall. Using a new online tool from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), consumers can enter a vehicle identification number (VIN) to find out if a specific vehicle still needs to be repaired as part of a safety recall in the last 15 years.

"Just as every single automaker should never hesitate to recall a defective vehicle, consumers should never hesitate to get their recalled vehicle fixed," says NHTSA Deputy Administrator David Friedman. "By making individual VIN searches readily available, we're providing another service to consumers--the peace of mind knowing that the vehicle they own, or that they are thinking of buying or renting, is free of safety defects."

Acclimatization Is Critical to Heat-Illness Prevention, Per OSHA Report

A new report from OSHA published in the CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report details the critical nature of acclimatization in preventing heat illness.

The report indicates that failing to allow for acclimatization of new employees or employees returning to work after more than a week away was “the most common deficiency and the factor most clearly associated with death” in a study of 20 cases of heat-related illness and death from 2012 to 2013. 

The agency recommends that acclimatization should be comprised of 20% of the usual span of a workday in the hot environment on the first day, increasing the duration of work by no more than 20% each following day. Heat waves or rapid temperature increases should also prompt a reduction in working time, cutting worker shifts—even those of experienced workers—by 50% and slowly increasing duration over the course of a few days.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

ASSE Foundation Scholarship & Grant Program Opens Sept.1, 2014, More Than $250,000 Available

Working on laptop outdoors. Cropped image of female student workASSE Foundation's 2015 Scholarship and Professional Education Grant program is available to students pursing degrees in occupational safety and health, and to safety professional working to advance their professional credentials. The Foundation will award more than $250,000 in 2015.

“The Foundation’s scholarship and grant program has grown significantly over the past 20 years,” said ASSE Foundation Board Chair, Alexi Carli from UPS. “We’re extremely excited to be a part of a growing number of students and professionals’ educations by facilitating these amazing opportunities. These scholarships and grants change lives not only for award recipients, but also individuals whose workplace is made safer by their actions.”

New this year are several awards including the Nick D. Yin Scholarship, the first global-oriented scholarship intended for students from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, or Macau studying in the United States.  In addition, SafeStart and UL join the Foundation’s program lineup with generous awards for students. Texas Safety Foundation has increased their funding to add a new scholarship and two new professional education grants are available from the ASSE Greater Boston and Oklahoma City chapters. 

Last but not least, the Foundation introduces a new category of awards titled Impact Scholarships. These awards range from $10,000 to $15,000 and are designed to cover a substantial portion of a student’s tuition, offering significant support during their education. The Foundation thanks Applications International Corporation for being the first to fund these special awards. 

To apply, visit between Sept. 1, 2014 and Dec. 1, 2014. Award recipients will be notified and announced on the Foundation’s website on April 1, 2015. Before submitting an application, applicants are encouraged to review the Frequently Asked Questions to be sure they qualify.

NTSB Seeks Public Comment On Reorganizing & Modernizing Investigation Procedures

As part of a larger modernization effort, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is seeking public comment on proposed changes to rules governing investigation procedures. The rules are laid out in 49 CFR Part 831.

NTSB proposes organizing its investigation procedures into mode-specific subparts, in an effort to make the rules more accessible and easier to reference. Updates of terminology and procedures, including using the term event to describe transportation mishaps in regulatory text across all transportation modes, are also proposed.

Additional proposed changes include allowing the sharing of information between parties for the sake of timely safety improvements.

“The proposed language will allow parties to release information within party organizations as needed to implement prevention, remedial action, or as otherwise noted by the NTSB (e.g., in a safety bulletin to employees), in accordance with certain criteria,” the notice reads.

This proposed reorganization is a part of a larger NTSB review and modernization of its regulations.

Per NTSB, the public may submit comments via, Docket No. NTSB-GC-2012-0002, or via postal mail or fax, addressed to the NTSB Office of General Counsel. Comments should be submitted no later than Oct. 14, 2014.

OSHA Cites Film Company for Safety Violations After Crew Death

OSHA has cited a film production company called Film Allman LLC for safety violations that lead to the death on the set of the Gregg Allman biopic, “Midnight Rider”.

Sarah Jones, a 27-year-old camera assistant, was killed in February when a train came on to a bridge during filming in Georgia. Several other crewmembers were injured during the incident. OSHA said in a news release that the production company failed to provide safety measures to protect the employees from trains and exposed workers to fall hazards with penalties totaling $74,900. 

Last month, filmmakers Randall Miller and his wife Jody Savin were charged with involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass in connection with the incident. Both have pleaded not guilty. A third filmmaker was also charged and but has yet to be arraigned.

"Employers are responsible for taking the necessary precautions to protect workers' health and safety, and the entertainment industry is no exception," says OSHA Administrator David Michaels.

Read more about safety in the entertainment industry in a recent PS Asks interview.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Friday, September 5, 2014 is N95 Day!

N95 Day is to recognize the importance of respiratory protection in the workplace and to become aware of the resources available when choosing and wearing a respirator.

Appropriate use of NIOSH-approved N95 filtering face respirators (FFRs) substantially reduces injury, illness, and death. NIOSH estimates that 20 million American workers use respirators every day to protect against potential job hazards.

NIOSH will sponsor a variety of activities for N95 day, including a Twitter chat with experts, a webinar on the importance of respirators for pandemic preparedness and Pinterest-able infographics with N95 FFR reminders, among others.

Follow along on Twitter with the hashtag #N95Day and on NIOSH’s Facebook page.

Energize Safety: Combating Complacency

Why do behavior-based systems fail, and what can be done to pump life into those systems to make them sustainable? Expect to hear some innovative and entertaining answers from Tim Page-Bottorff, CSP, and Larry Wilson, both of SafeStart, during ASSE’s upcoming Energize Your Safety Management Program symposium.

“This is going to be a paradigm shift in what people can do to change that up so they can keep that around,” says Page-Bottorff. To bring about that paradigm shift,  Page-Bottorff says that occupational safety and health professionals need to employ strategies to combat complacency. Other key areas for change include improving communication skills, altering safety-related habits and taking steps to accommodate for human error in the workplace.

In his view, a symposium setting is the perfect venue for building momentum in this direction. “Learning something new is always great. But learning something new when you get a bunch of professionals together and network together, it's that much greater. Having a symposium like this gets people together, gets networks of information out there,” Page-Bottorff explains.

He also recognizes that there is no one-size-fits all answer when it comes to improving occupational safety. Prior to a career in safety, Page-Bottorff served in the military. “The military is what gave me respect for the business, respect for the career, and also understanding where people are coming from,” he says. “You can't always assume that everybody has the same approach. People come from different walks of life.” Safety professionals need to keep this in mind when devising new programs and processes.

If his Safety 2014 presentation is any indication, attendees can expect an engaging session, with a little bit of pop culture woven in. “Talking about current events that spark a conversation is a great way to get people involved,” Page-Bottorff says.

ASSE's Energize symposium will be held Oct. 23-24 in Denver, CO. Click here to learn more.

NHTSA Begins Laying Groundwork for Vehicle-to-Vehicle Communications

© ODonnell 
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration  (NHTSA) has released an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) and supporting research report on vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications technology.

The report includes analysis of several key issues surrounding the implementation of V2V technology, including technical feasibility, privacy and security, and early predictions of cost and safety benefits. The ANPRM solicits public feedback to inform regulatory work, which is presumed will eventually require V2V devices in new light vehicles.

The report estimates that two safety applications—Left Turn Assist (LTA) and Intersection Movement Assist (IMA)—could prevent up to 592,000 crashes and save 1,083 lives per year. Other potential warnings could include forward collision, blind spot, do not pass, and stop light/stop sign alerts.

"Safety is our top priority, and V2V technology represents the next great advance in saving lives," says U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "This technology could move us from helping people survive crashes to helping them avoid crashes altogethersaving lives, saving money and even saving fuel thanks to the widespread benefits it offers."

Safety & Sustainability Take Center Stage at XX World Safety Congress

ASSE brought together several subject-matter experts to discuss
how to build a sustainable culture of prevention in the supply chain.

During the XX World Safety Congress running this week in Frankfurt, Germany, ASSE hosted a symposium, “Building a Sustainable Culture of Prevention in the Supply Chain.” 2014-15 ASSE President Trish Ennis moderated the session. During her opening remarks, Ennis noted, "Of the four worst tragedies in the history of the supply chain, three of the worst have happened in the last 2 years. There's still a lot of work to be done in this area."

To illustrate that point, Center for Safety and Health Sustainability (CSHS) Chair and 2014-15 ASSE Senior Vice President Tom Cecich shared a tale of two cities that compared two major construction projects of four cities: the construction for the Qatar World Cup 2022 and the 2012 London Olympics, and the construction of the Las Vegas City Center and the construction of One World Trade Center in New York City. Cecich reported that Qatar has already recorded more than 900 fatalities, which projects to an estimated 4,000 fatalities over the life of the project. London had zero fatalities. The Las Vegas project recorded 12 fatalities, while the New York City project had none.

"The point is," Cecich said, "it's possible to complete major (truly major) construction projects without fatalities. If complex construction projects can be completed without serious losses, then any business activities can be."

He also reiterated a key point being advocated by CSHS, ASSE and other groups: "By definition, worker safety and health is part of sustainability. This needs to matter."

Heinecke Werner, a health economist with more than 30 years' experiences in emerging economies of Asia, Africa and Latin America, noted that consumers can play a huge role in moving this dialogue forward. "Market forces are more powerful than government regulations. This is a demand approach. Consumers must demand sustainable products."

To deliver sustainable products and create sustainable workplaces, companies have to change their culture. Thom Kramer, president of International Society for Fall Protection, said that the future of occupational safety requires developing an organizational mind-set that puts prevention ahead of protection. He offered these five areas of focus:
  1. Implement prevention through design.
  2. Follow the hierarchy of controls.
  3. Minimize the need for worker judgment.
  4. Educate and motivate organizations to establish a prevention culture.
  5. Develop tools to make equipment easier to use.
"Try to develop systems and equipment that is intuitive to what people use in their everyday lives," Kramer advised.

ASSE's growing international membership and influence are on full display during the Congress.
ASSE member Natalie Skeepers from
South Africa with ASSE President
Trish Ennis and ASSE staff member
Laura Clements.
ASSE member Natalie Skeepers traveled from South Africa, while G. Kamildeen Abiodun, president of ASSE's Nigeria Chapter delivered the presentation, “An Approach for Successful Construction HSE Planning and Implementation in Africa." According to Abiodun, more than 70% of African workplaces are in the informal sectors with little or no safety and health awareness. "Expert safety managers need to gain understanding of the sociocultural concerns of the informal workforce and leadership by example is of significant importance in the management of safety and health in Africa," he explained.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Energize Safety: Reinventing Behavior-Based Safety

There was a time when many viewed behavior-based safety (BBS) as the answer to workplace injuries and illnesses. Over time, however, it became clear that BBS is really is just another tool in the arsenal that EHS professionals can deploy to protect workers and improve operational performance. Many of its principles remain valid, but it’s time to rethink and reinvent them for today's workplace.

Just ask Terry Mathis, CEO, ProAct Safety Inc., The Woodlands, TX. Mathis will be a featured speaker at ASSE’s upcoming Energize Your Safety Management Program symposium. As many who have tried or considered BBS can attest, such initiatives can be resource-intensive and expensive. That's why, Mathis advises, EHS professionals should be asking themselves these questions: Which of these activities really add value? What’s enough? What’s too much?

According to Mathis, new alternatives have emerged that achieve many of the same results as older BBS models, but at a lower cost, while consuming fewer resources and achieving lasting changes more quickly. “The idea [of BBS] is very good. But which behaviors do you get workers to start or stop behaviors? How many can you do at a time? What’s the most effective and efficient way of making those changes in the workplace?” Mathis explains. “We’ve experimented with it over the years. There’s a traditional way of doing this, and there are a lot of new possibilities of how you can get the same thing done more effectively and more efficiently.”

This applies to those trying BBS for the first time as well as those who've had programs in place for 10 to 15 years, Mathis says. Reengineering and rethinking the old models leads to processes that aren’t “painstaking to get up and going if you’re starting from scratch” while it can help those with established programs determine "where do we go from here?" The ultimate outcome is to generate a new level of energy around occupational safety.

“A lot of the old processes made the mistake of saying, ‘This is the formula, this is the way to do it, so let’s just keep doing it that way,’” Mathis explains. The early gains many companies experience—for example, 40% reductions in key rates after the first year—motivate people to engage and support the process. However, as improvement rates taper off, people stop cheering and it starts to become routine and less meaningful. “It’s an activity without a result,” Mathis says. “People have forgotten that the whole goal of behavior-based safety processes is to prevent accidents. We have to come back and remind those teams from time to time that the goal of the process is not to crank the process. The goal is to get the process to produce results.”

Mathis points to the book What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, and suggests its title carries a key message for safety and behavior-based safety in particular. “What got you those first gains isn’t going to get you those last few and get rid of those last few accidents. If you’re still using that same methodology, it’s time for a change. It’s time to ask, What’s the next level of behavior-based safety? How do you take it to that next level after these spectacular results?”

He will answer those questions and more at ASSE’s Energize symposium, slated to run Oct. 23-24 in Denver, CO. “If your organization is saying, ‘Look, we’re doing everything we know how to do and we still have this little, albeit much smaller than it used to be, problem,’ it’s time to look for new ideas, the leading edge, the next best thing, and I think that’s what this conference will be. The focus won’t be how to get from bad to good, but rather how to get from good to great. That fits a lot of companies today.”

ASSE's Energize symposium will be held Oct. 23-24 in Denver, CO. Click here to learn more.

Back to School! 5 Ways to Protect Kids Against Germs

Back to school time usually means sharing germs and getting sick--something parents are all too familiar with. RAND Corp.'s Jeanne Ringel offers several ways parents can protect kids from spreading germs and illness. Although most of us know these preventive measures, the article is a helpful reminder as the nation's children go back to school.

1) Make sure they get enough sleep.
2) Have them take a water bottle to school.
3) Encourage frequent hand washing.
4) Teach them to cover coughs and sneezes.
5) Make sure they get a flu shot.

CDC offers advice and tips to help parents, including information about hand washing, respiratory etiquette, a sleep chart and information about flu and its prevention.

Disaster Psychology: The Myths of Panic

On Aug. 13, 2014, Paul and Ron Gantt of Safety Compliance, Inc. presented an ASSE webinar titled “Disaster Psychology: The Myths of Panic," exploring the concept of human behavior following disasters and emergencies, specifically when the word panic is used to describe them. 

There is a common belief that people are a problem when emergencies occur and that the best way to deal with those problems is to employ rigid emergency response structures and to withhold information about potential risks. However research from social sciences and studies shows that is not exactly the case, as panic is often based on perception.

The Gantts said “there are no natural disasters” and that events that have natural causes are almost entirely man made. It’s often easy to predict where disasters will occur, but not when they will occur. Often, the difference between those who survive and do not is based on human choice. For human lives to be saved, the thinking needs to be altered through new emergency planning systems to account for human behavior in disasters and emergencies.

The presentation offered several case studies dissecting human reaction in disaster situations, including the 1977 Beverly Hills Supper Club fire that killed 165 people and the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. In the case of the Beverly Hills Supper Club fire, NFPA found found no evidence of panic in the disaster, as employees and other staff members tried to put out the fire and helped assist in the evacuation. On 9/11, 70% of the survivors spoke with someone before trying to evacuate, and on average it took 6 minutes for a survivor to exit.

According to the Gantts, research suggests that actual panic may be induced due to specific environmental situations — specifically perception of immediate great threat, belief of being trapped and a feeling of helplessness. People believe in panic because of their perception and, in turn, it has become a default belief.

They also discussed common disaster behaviors, for example, how people instinctually want to be with and help others. During the 1989 San Francisco Earthquake 31,000 residents aided the search-and-rescue effort. A large number of “walking wounded” offered their assistance following the Boston Marathon bombing in April 2013.

These efforts are not without problems, however. “Something like groupthink (is) going to be much more likely in a time/pressure situation like an emergency,”  Ron Gantt says. “You can see people so social going with the group even if they think it’s going to get them killed.” This type of thinking can also lead to confusion and inefficiency in response. 

The Gantts then detailed “the survival arc,” which breaks down into three “Ds” of denial (risk identification), or looking for confirmation before acting, deliberation (risk assessment – how risk managers calculate risk and how the public calculates it) and decision (risk reduction, or taking action.). 

They noted that people do not respond to warnings and alarms as quickly as they need to, believing instead that they need more information. Then, people will assess risk by calculating consequence with the probability of something happening before dread factors in. Finally, the presentation explained how to gain control of a difficult situation through prior training, emergency planning, building effective emergency systems and positioning emergency equipment and signage where it can easily be accessed and seen.  

The presenters introduced a different model for emergency and disaster planners to increase safety called behavior-based emergency planning. The system involves a series of training, credible leadership and effective emergency systems to create a more successful and consistent safety program.

Brush Up on BBQ Safety & Health

Guest post by Rhonda Turner

Brush is the key word here. Often, the only recognized hazards with grilling is undercooked meat, gas leaks on the grill, burns from the flames and the occasional grease fire. An unexpected, lesser-known hazard is the wire bristles from the grill brush.

The wire bristles from the brush often break off or fall out while the grates are being cleaned and remain on the grill surface without being noticed. Unfortunately, these wire bristles can end up attached to or imbedded in the food, and can be ingested. These tiny wire bristles can lodge in the throat, esophagus and intestines--essentially anywhere the food travels as it travels through the body. According to case reports, the severity of injury ranges from puncture of the soft tissues of the neck, causing severe pain on swallowing, to perforation of the gastrointestinal tract, requiring emergency surgery. 

CDC issued a report concerning this danger along with prevention guidelines in June 2012:
“Actions to prevent these injuries include increasing awareness among consumers, manufacturers, retailers, and medical professionals to promote prevention, timely diagnosis, and appropriate treatment. Additionally, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) currently is reviewing available grill-cleaning brush–related injury data to determine if an identifiable pattern of product defect could pose an unreasonable risk for injury or death, necessitating a consumer warning, product recall, or other regulatory action.”  
As an industrial hygiene consultant with the Kentucky Labor Cabinet, I have witnessed many things in the field, and I consider myself to be fairly knowledgeable in most areas of safety and health. But last month was my first encounter with an ingested metal wire. After hours of waiting in an emergency room with my son, a CT scan revealed a foreign body lodged just above his esophagus. That foreign body was a wire bristle that he had swallowed while eating a grilled burger.

An ENT specialist tried repeatedly to remove the wire bristle. After several hours of watching the scopes and metal instruments being pushed up my son's nose and down his throat, I realized that what I didn’t know as common knowledge and had not heard mention of in any training or school, should be considered a safety and health hazard about which more people should be aware. It is definitely a topic worthy of more attention, especially during the summer months when employers have cookouts for their employees and families spend a lot of time grilling in the backyard.

As always, our job as safety and health professionals is to recognize/identify hazards, alleviate the danger, and prevent harmful incidents. Considering severity and probability in this situation, yes, it seems unlikely that this would actually happen, but the severity when it does, outweighs taking the chance. There are some alternatives to using wire brushes, but if you continue to use one, thoroughly inspect it and the grill grates to determine whether there are any loose or broken bristles that could become attached to your food.

Rhonda Turner is an industrial hygiene consultant with the Kentucky Labor Cabinet. The views expressed are hers and are not intended to be representative of the Labor Cabinet.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Teaching Kids About Standards

Standards affect our lives each day, often in ways we don't even recognize. As part of its ongoing efforts to build awareness, ANSI has developed a suite of materials specifically designed to educate kids about standards and their influence. Free downloads include a Standards 101 fact sheet, a flyer that highlights how many standards affect the things found in a school locker and a poster about holidays and standards. The site also includes a selection of Standards Are Everywhere illustrative cards.

ASSE at XX World Safety Congress in Frankfurt, Germany This Week

ASSE is participating in the XX World Congress on Safety and Health at Work 2014, which is happening this week in Frankfurt, Germany. The slideshow below features a selection of photos that highlight just a small sampling of the activities underway. During the congress, the International Network of Safety and Health Practitioner Organizations, of which ASSE is a founding member, is presenting a poster on a global competence framework for the profession. In addition, ASSE presented a session on sustainability in the supply chain that featured speakers such as 2014-15 ASSE President Trish Ennis, 2014-15 Senior Vice President Tom Cecich and 2013-14 President Kathy Seabrook.

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Energizing Safety: What Does the Future Hold?

The word plateau is used quite often when discussing occupational safety--whether it's stalled progress in reducing serious injuries and fatalities or programs that are producing good but not world-class results. And we all know that complacency is the enemy of progress.

Frank White
So, what can safety professionals do to redirect their efforts and energize occupational safety? Frank White, president of ORCHSE Strategies LLC, Washington, DC, and a keynote speaker at ASSE's upcoming Energize Your Safety Management Program symposium, sees good things on the horizon. "There are some very exciting developments that offer the promise of significant workplace safety and health improvements that can propel the profession to new heights," he says. "If the safety profession can adopt and be sponsors of new trends and new developments, I think we have a chance to see significant advances in safety and health."

One example White highlights is the fact that the number and rate of serious injuries and fatalities has remained steady despite ongoing decreases in injury and illness rates. "New approaches under development to identify risks associated with serious injuries and fatalities and new ways of tackling those could make a real difference," he says.

To make the most of these developments, the profession must connect better with the public. "Nobody cares about worker safety in the general public except when there’s a tragedy. Then they pay attention to it for a week," White says. "We've long lamented our inability to connect with the public. There are things out there that can help capture the public's attention. Total worker health is one of them. Sustainability is another movement that safety has only recently tried to be a significant part of. ASSE is leading the way in that regard."

For these developments to truly take root, White says it's also long past time to stop relying solely on OSHA data to document performance needs to change. "For 45 years our profession has relied on OSHA data. Companies pay attention when OSHA acts. That's kind of been the be-all-end-all. To really drive performance improvements . . . the profession has to think more broadly and adopt steps like total worker health and worker health wellness, and not just focus on workplace safety."

And, while the safety profession has achieved many things in the past few years, White advises practitioners to keep an eye on the future. "We need to understand our accomplishments, but we need to strive for continual improvement," he concludes. "I think looking at the future and what the potential obstacles are and the opportunities allow you to go to the next level. We should always look for improvement and new approaches and successes."

ASSE's Energize symposium will offer attendees the opportunity to do just that. In addition to White's look at the future, sessions will cover such forward-thinking topics as gap analysis, risk assessment, safety climate and global best practices. Attendees will also hear about the various safety and health management systems and how they can be implemented to improve safety performance and deliver new business outcomes.

ASSE's Energize symposium will be held Oct. 23-24 in Denver, CO. Click here to learn more.

NIOSH Seeks Public Comment on Draft Document for Workplace Tobacco Policies

NIOSH is seeking public comment on a draft Current Intelligence Bulletin (CIB) called Promoting Health and Preventing Disease and Injury Through Workplace Tobacco Policies. The public comment period closes on Sept. 15, 2014 and comments can be submitted here. “This draft document is aimed not just at preventing occupational injury and illness related to tobacco use, but also at improving the general health and well-being of workers,” says NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D. The CIB integrates occupational safety and health protection with health promotion—including smoking cessation programs—to prevent worker injury and illness. It also explores topics such as tobacco use among workers, exposure to secondhand smoke and electronic nicotine delivery systems. Also included in the CIB are NIOSH’s recommendations and resources for individuals seeking assistance with tobacco cessation or additional information about workplace interventions. Read more about tobacco in the workplace at NIOSH’s website, and smoking cessation at the American Heart Association’s site.

Friday, August 22, 2014

OSHA Severe Violator Program Grows by 23%

© Celik
A report in The National Law Review reports that the number of worksites in OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP) has increased by 23% in the past year. The program allows for increased OSHA scrutiny after “egregious” oversights or circumstances such as a workplace fatality or an incident that hospitalizes at least 3 workers. The program was launched in 2010.

As of July 1, 423 worksites are listed on the SVEP, up from last year’s 343.

Per the report, “The SVEP list is dominated by construction and manufacturing firms. There are 257 construction firms, up from last year’s 204, and 117 manufacturing sites, an increase from 97 in 2013. In addition, small employers make up more than half of the list. A total of 235 SVEP sites employ no more than 10 workers. Only 61 SVEP-listed employers have at least 100 workers. Neither the industry or size profiles of companies in the program changed from last year.”

If the citations that put a company in the program are not either withdrawn or dismissed in a contested case, the company must settle the citations with OSHA and spend a minimum of 3 years in the program.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Parents Take Driving Risks Too, Survey Finds

A survey by Liberty Mutual Insurance and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) found that parents admit they are just as bad as teens when it comes to risky driving behaviors. According to the survey, parents admit to dangerous driving practices in disturbing numbers:

  • Talking on a cell phone while driving: 86%
  • Speeding: 80%
  • Texting and driving: 40%
  • Driving after drinking: 34%
  • Driving without a seat belt: 21%

"Research shows that teens often replicate their parents' poor driving behaviors, so it's critical for the safety of everyone on the road that parents be a model for responsible driving whenever they are behind the wheel," says Liberty Mutual's Dave Melton.

Liberty Mutual and SADD encourage parents and teens alike to have frequent and open conversations about responsible driving, and to consider signing the Parent/Teen Driving Contract. The contract offers a guide to safe driving conversations and a customized agreement for parents and teens to create and uphold family driving rules.

"The majority of teens learn to drive from their parents, and an open dialogue about safe behaviors on both sides is critical," says SADD's Stephen Gray Wallace. "If parents aren't setting the right example for safe driving every time they're behind the wheel, it's probable that teens will learn and mimic those risky behaviors."

DOE Announces New Initiative to Reduce Methane Emissions from U.S. Gas Systems

Reducing methane emissions is a significant way to take action on climate change. It can be used as source of clean energy that generates revenue, spurs investment, improves safety, and leads to cleaner air. As part of the Obama administration's Climate Action Plan, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced a Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions from national gas systems after a series of roundtable discussions with stakeholders.

The Initiative to Help Modernize Natural Gas Transmission and Distribution Infrastructure includes efficiency standards for gas compressors, research and development to improve systems' efficiency and reduce leaks, a recommendation that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission look at cost recovery mechanisms for gas transmission infrastructure, as well as a partnership with the National Association of Regulatory Commissioners to accelerate distribution infrastructure investments.

"These important measures must be paired with quick action by EPA to regulate methane from oil and gas production, processing, and transport facilities, as well as finalizing a strong clean power plan." says Deb Nardone, who directs the Sierra Club's Beyond Natural Gas campaign. "Together, actions by DOE and EPA can move the ball forward to break our reliance on all fossil fuels, including dirty fraced gas, while ushering in clean energy and energy efficiency."

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Humantech Publishes Ergonomics Benchmarking Study

Humantech has published a benchmarking study that was designed to quantify the value of ergonomics programs. "The Cost and Return on Investment of Ergonomics Programs" details a project that evaluated ergonomic program investment and performance in safety, quality, productivity and employee retention. According to the report, the ROI of a site ergonomics program can exceed three times the investment.

"Our goal was to measure the payback of the ergonomics program at a given site," says Humantech's Walt Rostykus. "Over the years, we've been able to measure the ROI of engineering controls of specific tasks; however, the payback of an established site ergonomics program remained unknown. We wanted to develop an equation that reliably demonstrates the resulting business value of a program."

NFPA Releases Report on Physical Disability & Fires, Promotes Value of Sprinklers

According to a recent report released by National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), "Physical Disability as a Factor in Home Fire Deaths," approximately 15% of U.S. home fire deaths from 2007 to 2011 were caused at least in part by physical disabilities. The report states that when physical disability was a factor, 60% of victims were 65 years old or older and 85% of victims were killed in 1- and 2-family homes.

Perhaps even more astounding, more than half of the victims died in homes with operational smoke alarms. NFPA is using this report to promote the merits of widespread installation of sprinkler systems.

"Additional steps must be taken to provide maximum safety for people with physical or sensory disabilities," the report says. “Many of the victims might have been saved had home fire sprinklers been present."

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

EPA Announces Potential Revisions to Risk Management Program

EPA has announced several potential revisions to the Clean Air Act Risk Management Program (RMP) regulations after a recent slew of industrial incidents. The RMP program Request for Information–or the 2014 RMP RFI–describes several potential changes that could increase the number of regulated substances like ammonium nitrate, increase the costs of sources currently regulated through third-party audits and by regulating the installation of automated detecting and monitoring systems to provide early warning of chemical releases.

Some changes include mandatory root-cause investigations, site requirements and the disclosure of chemicals and accident history for facilities. While the proposal is not technically formal, it is believed that momentum is headed in that direction.

EPA is also requesting comment on a variety of topics, including mandating stop work authority and third-party audits akin to those conducted after the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It is also asking whether specific timeframes should be established for the completion of post-incident investigations, as well as a variety of other questions. 

The comment submission deadline is Oct. 29, 2014, and companies already subject to the RMP regulations should have their review completed and comments in by that date. Submit comments and additional materials by following the online instructions here. Use docket EPA-HQ-OEM-2014-0328. 

NHTSA Report Outlines Advancement in V2V Technology

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) and supporting research on vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications technology. The report highlights NHTSA and DOT efforts in V2V technology and details
research findings in several key areas including technical feasibility, privacy and security, and preliminary estimates on costs and safety benefits. 

"Safety is our top priority, and V2V technology represents the next great advance in saving lives," says U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "This technology could move us from helping people survive crashes to helping them avoid crashes altogether—saving lives, saving money and even saving fuel thanks to the widespread benefits it offers."

According to the report V2V technology has the potential to be fused with existing vehicle safety features to further improve the effectiveness of many crash avoidance safety systems. DOT and NHTSA are currently seeking public input on these findings to support the Department’s regulatory work to eventually require V2V devices in new light vehicles. The ANPRM will be available for public comment for 60 days.

For more information on V2V technology visit NHTSA’s V2V Communications site.

OSHA Launches Online Earthquake Protection Resources

© Dimovski
OSHA has launched a website with a variety of earthquake preparation resources. Topics include the value of developing of an emergency response plan and dedicated workplace training. Tips include determining safe locations and practicing safety procedures. Hazards to avoid after an earthquake–including collapsing walls, falling objects and fire–are also covered.

Earthquakes can occur at any time at any worksite throughout the U.S., posing a risk of injury, death and extensive damage to buildings and other infrastructure, OSHA says. With this in mind, employers should prepare workers on evacuation and emergency action plans, and provide emergency supplies such as battery-operated emergency radios and medical resources.

Monday, August 18, 2014

2015 Safe-In-Sound Awards Open for Nominations

Nominations are being accepted for the 2015 Safe-in-Sound Excellence and Innovation in Hearing Loss Prevention Awards. The awards honor excellent workplace hearing loss prevention practices and recognize organizations that document measurable achievements in hearing loss prevention programs.

Applicants' hearing loss prevention programs are evaluated against key performance indicators in each of three work sectors: construction, manufacturing and services. A fourth award recognizes individuals or companies whose work epitomizes innovation in hearing loss prevention, but who are not necessarily part of those three work sectors.

Applications are due Sept. 8, 2014. The awards will be presented at the 40th NHCA Annual Conference, slated for Feb. 19-21, 2015, in New Orleans, LA.

Friday, August 15, 2014

OSHA Extends Comment Deadline for Proposed Injury & Illness Tracking Rule

According to OSHA, public comments on the proposed rule to improve the tracking of workplace injuries and illnesses can now be submitted until Oct. 14, 2014. The agency says it wants to ensure that employers, employees and the public have access to the most accurate data in their workplaces so that the most appropriate steps toward safer and healthier workplaces can be taken. The proposal, originally published on Nov. 8, 2013, would amend OSHA's recordkeeping regulation to add requirements for the electronic submission of injury and illness information.

The public meeting held on the proposal saw many stakeholders concerned that the proposal may create motivation for employers to under-record such incidents and that it would lead to more employers adopting practices that discourage employees reporting incidents.

OSHA is asking for comments on whether to amend the proposed rule to:
  1. require that employers inform their employees of their right to report injuries and illnesses;
  2. more clearly communicate the requirement that any injury and illness reporting requirements established by the employer be reasonable and not burdensome;
  3. provide OSHA an additional remedy to keep employers from taking adverse action against employees who report injuries and illnesses.
Comments may be submitted at

U.S. & E.U. Developing Comparable Data for Workplace Safety

The U.S. and European Union (EU) have both historically captured and reported data on worker safety and health, but differing standards in injury definitions, data sources and collection techniques have made an apples-to-apples comparison of U.S. and EU data impractical. However, collaboration between the BLS and Eurostat–the statistical office of the EU–is working to bridge those differences and make that data comparable.

The joint effort stems back to a special session on statistics during the July 2012 Seventh U.S.–EU Joint Conference on Occupational Safety and Health in Brussels, Belgium.

A standout from a recent BLS report about the project is a comparison of U.S. and EU fatal work injury statistics in the private industry, based on 2010 data. The comparisons for the study are limited to "main industry" branches. Per BLS, the total number of fatal work injuries in those branches was 2,530 for the U.S. and 3,353 for the EU. Notable differences in the data include:
  • Nine percent of cases occurred in the manufacturing industry in the EU, compared with 14.9% of cases in the U.S.
  • Cases occurring in the “accommodation and food service activities” industry accounted for 1.4% in the EU, compared with 4% of cases in the U.S.

While the report is not indicative of distinct overarching trends and differences, its development illustrates that such comparisons could be possible in the future.

“This work begins a conversation and provides an opportunity to identify areas for further comparisons and research,” the BLS report states. “Future work and collaboration will provide better information about fatal workplace hazards and, ideally, lead to improvements in worker safety and health in both the United States and the European Union.”

Thursday, August 14, 2014

NETS Tool Kit Encourages Safe Driving Practices for All Employees

In conjunction with 2014 Drive Safely to Work Week (scheduled for Oct. 6-10), Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS) urges companies to adopt elements of road safety for all employees as a main component of its safety culture. To help spread the message, NETS introduces its free online tool kit, "Driving Your Safety Culture Home." The organization reports the kit "builds the case for executive leadership to adopt safe driving as part of the corporate safety culture and provides low-cost steps to engage employees with a starting point focused on seat belts and mobile device use while driving."

For more information and to download the kit, visit the NETS website.

FAA Teams With NATCA to Implement Safety Reporting Program for Office of Airports Employees

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) have entered into a partnership to launch a new Airport Voluntary Reporting System (AVRS). The 18-month pilot program allows FAA employees who work in the Office of Airports to communicate safety concerns without fear of retaliation. 

The program, launched July 2, allows employees to file a confidential report through an online system. From there, an Oversight Board composed of three FAA executives will review, investigate and help resolve the reports. The board will then send recommendations to the manager and monitor the solution. The board will also send a report to the employee who filed the report, removing confidential information so all airport employees have the opportunity to view it. 

“Safety is our highest priority, and it is critical that the Department of Transportation and our partners promote a culture of safety,” says U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.  “A culture of safety means that employees can report safety concerns freely, without retaliation, so that the millions of airline passengers may have the best, safest experience possible.”

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

NTSB to Offer Training Class on Emergency Communications

National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is devoting two days at its Training Center to offer guidance to aviation public affairs professionals on how to most effectively manage emergency communications in the aftermath of a major aircraft incident.

The training will be offered on Oct. 23-24, 2014, at the NTSB Training Center in Ashburn, VA, and is geared towards communications professionals working with airports, airlines, air charter operators and corporations with aviation departments.

Attendees will learn the process by which investigation-related information is verified and released to the public, how aviation incidents are covered by various media outlets and the role social media plays in the distribution and consumption of breaking news. In addition, aviation communications professionals will provide case studies highlighting best practices and lessons learned during previous aircraft incidents.

Click here for the complete course description and registration information or vist the NTSB Training Center homepage for more information.

After Chemical Spill, New Jersey Senator Calls for Stricter Rail Regulations

The Washington Times reports that a New Jersey senator is calling for tougher consequences for railroads that violate safety rules. Democrat Robert Menendez cites a report from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) as his motivation.

The NTSB report details “systemic problems” that led to a derailment and chemical spill in Paulsboro, NJ. Exposure to high levels of vinyl chloride in the aftermath has been linked to dizziness, breathing problems and even death for nearby citizens.

Train operator Conrail has been blamed for the derailment, based on its use of a problematic swinging bridge despite repeated issues. NTSB also says Conrail took too long to shared detailed information with local emergency medical responders.

Menendez says his plan entails the following:
  • harsher penalties for railroad safety violations;
  • requiring railroads to alert local emergency management officials if transporting of hazardous materials;
  • implementing new safety procedures for rail workers when signal lights are red;
  • improving risk assessment tools for railroads;
  •  educating communities about hazardous materials passing through on trains.

Mendez says allowing railroads to self-regulate matters of safety simply is not good enough, and the Paulsboro case is evidence enough.

“Paulsboro is an example that it’s not good enough,” Menendez says. “It just cannot be the cost of doing business, that you have an occasional derailment.”

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

NHTSA Studying Drunk Driver Detection Technology

Automotive News reports that federal regulators are studying the potential implementation of vehicular technology to detect drunk drivers. Nat Beuse, associate administrator for vehicle safety research at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), has revealed that alcohol detection technology is one approach the agency is exploring to reduce traffic fatalities.

Specific details regarding functionality or suppliers were not offered, but Beuse says an integrated alcohol detection system in vehicles would reduce the number of alcohol-related fatalities on U.S. roadways. While vehicular fatalities have declined in recent decades, they still account for more than 33,000 deaths annually and cost approximately $827 billion per year, he says.

The practical function­ of such a system–disabling a vehicle versus displaying an alert to the driver, for example–is a policy question that requires more deliberation, federal officials say. The technology still requires additional development and testing, but could be prepared for widespread implementation by 2018, reportedly.

Monday, August 11, 2014

New Congressional Report Criticizes EPA Oversight of Injection Wells

A recent report released by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) says federal officials have not adequately overseen hundreds of thousands of wells used to inject toxic oil and gas drilling waste deep underground.

The report cites inconsistency in handling safety inspections, poor record keeping and failure to adjust guidelines to adapt to new risks brought on by domestic drilling, and that injection wells are causing earthquakes, per reports from Ohio to Oklahoma and Texas. There are also concerns of potential water contamination as a result of the injection wells.

Currently, oversight of injection wells is delegated by EPA to state agencies, but the GAO report says that EPA is inconsistent in its inspection of the state programs to ensure that regulators follow the Safe Drinking Water Act and EPA guidelines. Since the requirements are only at the state level and not federal, it is difficult for EPA to take legal action.  

Preventing Backing Incidents on Construction Sites

From 2003 to 2010, 443 workers were killed on construction sites by a vehicle or mobile equipment. Of those cases, 143 involved a vehicle or mobile equipment that was backing up. Those statistics are stark reminder of the many dangers ever present on construction sites. NIOSH is tackling this issue with a new Workplace Solutions publication, "Preventing Worker Injuries and Deaths from Backing Construction Vehicles and Equipment at Roadway Construction Worksites." The document highlights controls such as standard operating procedures, equipment servicing, communication and operator training, and provides tips for workers on foot as well.

You can learn more about work zone safety from National Work Zone Information Clearinghouse. OSHA also hosts a Preventing Backovers Topic Page and NIOSH hosts a Safety and Health Topic Page on highway work zones.

NIOSH Launches Center for Exposure Assessment Devices

NIOSH has launched the Center for Direct Reading and Sensor Technologies (NCDRST), planned as a central hub for the agency's work in exposure assessment devices. Agency Director John Howard says the increasing prevalence of sensor technology in both business and commercial applications–spurred by the advent of relatively affordable mobile computing–is “opening up a whole new era of participatory research and information sharing.” This wealth of new information and tools in turn has great value and future potential for safety applications.

Increasingly practical and prevalent monitors and sensors generate more data and make it possible to perform more thorough exposure assessments. In a safety context, the sheer speed of new technologies offers instantaneous measurements of hazards, which can expedite their reduction or elimination.

Worker empowerment could be another benefit of implementing accessible sensor technologies, Howard says.

“Through the use of these technologies, workers can help their employers, supervisors, and colleagues reduce harmful workplace exposures and become active partners in preventing occupational illnesses and injuries,” he explains.

While the promise is great, these new technologies bring new questions with them. Issues of accuracy and appropriate implementation are two of the most immediate, Howard says. Analysis of the vast quantity of data generated is also a complex task.

The NCDRST will coordinate national research and protocol development for these technologies. A new NIOSH topic page provides further information on the new center.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Executive Order Increases Scrutiny of Past Contractor Conduct

Bloomberg BNA reports that President Obama has signed the “Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces" executive order, which requires prospective federal contractors to inform agencies of past violations of federal wage, discrimination, safety and health, family and medical leave, labor and other workplace laws. White House officials say this order reflects the president’s belief that “taxpayer dollars should not reward employers that break the law.”
©Diadem Images/Jonathan P. Larsen

Starting in 2016, new federal contracts valued at more than $500,000 will prompt companies to reveal any workplace violations from the past 3 years before becoming eligible for a contract, according to a White House fact sheet.

“Contractors that consistently adhere to labor laws are more likely to have workplace practices that enhance productivity and increase the likelihood of timely, predictable and satisfactory delivery of goods and services to the federal government,” the executive order says.

The order applies to all contracts for goods and services including construction. It will track contract applicants' recent violations of the following:
  • Fair Labor Standards Act;
  • Occupational Safety and Health Act;
  • Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act;
  • National Labor Relations Act;
  • Davis-Bacon Act;
  • Service Contract Act;
  • EO 11,246 on equal employment opportunity;
  • Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act;
  • Vietnam Era Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act;
  • Family and Medical Leave Act;
  • Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act;
  • Americans with Disabilities Act;
  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act;
  • EO 13,658, the Feb. 2 executive order on the minimum wage for contractors' employees; and
  • equivalent state laws as defined by the Department of Labor.

White House officials emphasized that this order is not intended to punish federal contractors, and those with relatively clean records should see little or no difference in their pursuit of federal contracts. At present, there has been no specific number of violations that would disqualify a company, but administration officials say one violation would not take a company out of the running.

Bloomberg’s report says industry groups have responded with skepticism.

“Effectively, the president is sanctioning a practice known as ‘blacklisting' companies from federal contracts due to even minor infractions of complex labor laws,” says Joe Trauger, vice president of human resources policy for the National Association of Manufacturers.