Tuesday, March 31, 2015

EPA Seeking OSH Information for Nanomaterial

EPA is proposing one-time reporting and recordkeeping requirements on nanoscale chemical substances in the marketplace.

“Nanotechnology holds great promise for improving products, from TVs and vehicles to batteries and solar panels,” says Jim Jones, the agency’s assistant administrator for chemical safety and pollution prevention. “We want to continue to facilitate the trend toward this important technology.”

The proposal would require one-time reporting of existing exposure and OSH information from companies that manufacture or process chemical substances as nanoscale materials. The agency is proposing to use the Toxic Substances Control Act for the first time to collect such information.

Companies would notify EPA of:
• certain information, including specific chemical identity;
• production volume;
• methods of manufacture; processing, use, exposure, and release information; and
• available health and safety data.

EPA says this information would facilitate its evaluation of the materials and assessment of risks and risk management. Read an EPA fact sheet on nanomaterial here.

Monday, March 30, 2015

DOL Warns Workers About Green Tobacco Sickness

Wikimedia Commons/Emw
OSHA and NIOSH jointly issued a bulletin that identifies the threat of "green tobacco sickness," which can afflict workers in the tobacco industry. The bulletin warns of the symptoms of nicotine poisoning, which include dehydration, dizziness, headaches and vomiting. Those who plant, cultivate and harvest tobacco are particularly at risk, according to the bulletin.

The publication discusses preventive measures such as effective training, hand washing and appropriate PPE, such as gloves, long sleeve shirts, pants and water-resistant apparel. The latter is particularly important because nicotine is more likely to absorb into the bloodstream when it dissolves into rainwater, dew or sweat.

OSHA Extends PELs Comment Period to October

OSHA has extended the comment period on its Request for Information on Chemical Management and Permissible Exposure Limits to Oct. 9, 2015. The original comment deadline was April 8, 2015. In October 2014, the agency requested stakeholders' input about more effective and efficient approaches to address workplace conditions in which workers are exposed to hazardous chemicals. In announcing the extension, OSHA said it received many requests from stakeholders seeking additional time to research and formulate responses to questions included in the request for information (RFI).

OSHA's RFI said the agency "is reviewing its overall approach to managing chemical exposures in the workplace and seeks stakeholder input about more effective and efficient approaches that addresses challenges found with the current regulatory approach. This review involves considering issues related to updating permissible exposure limits (PELs), as well as examining other strategies that could be implemented to address workplace conditions where workers are exposed to chemicals." It said the request is concerned primarily with chemicals that cause adverse health effects from long-term occupational exposure.

Friday, March 27, 2015

CSB Chair Pens Op-Ed Article on Hazards to Latino Workers

2005 BP Texas City explosion (CSB)
"As the chairperson of the U.S. federal agency that investigates chemical disasters, I am concerned for all workers," says former CSB Chair Rafael Moure-Eraso in an op-ed article he authored for Houston Chronicle. "But as an immigrant from Colombia, where I first studied chemical engineering, I have a heightened concern for Latinos who work in and around chemical facilities across Texas and in the U.S. Their fatality and injury rates are disproportionately high."

The article shares a personal story of Katherine Rodriguez, whose father, Ray Gonzalez, died in a 2004 incident at a BP refinery in Texas City after a pipe burst and sprayed him with 500-degree water. This incident preceded the March 23, 2005, explosion at the same facility that killed 15 and injured hundreds. Moure-Eraso commends OSHA for its Latino outreach efforts, but says that more must be done to protect this vulnerable population, which is overrepresented in jobs with highly hazardous conditions.

ASSE & KOSHA Sign Memorandum Of Understanding

ASSE and the Korea Occupational Safety and Health Agency (KOSHA) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that will explore opportunities to collaborate, exchange technical information and conduct joint educational programs.

The landmark agreement marks the first time ASSE and KOSHA will partner to enhance work place safety in each region. Other goals include advancing issues and programs beneficial to their respective members and the occupational health and safety profession. The agreement builds on ASSE’s relationship with KOSHA as part of the International Network for Safety and Health Practitioner Organizations as well as the ISSA International Section on Prevention Culture. It also complements outreach work ASSE has done in Asia. In 2013, ASSE signed agreements with the China Occupational Safety and Health Association (COSHA) and the Industrial Safety and Health Association (ISHA) of R.O.C. (Taiwan).

“Partnering with KOSHA is an excellent opportunity for ASSE,” said ASSE Executive Director Fred Fortman, who signed the agreement along with KOSHA President Young-Soon Lee. “KOSHA is a most impressive organization. The opportunity to share expertise and exchange best practices with them will strengthen both organizations, our profession and work to assure safe and healthy workplaces throughout the world.”

KOSHA has also invited ASSE to participate in the upcoming 31st International Congress on Occupational Health, May 31 to June 5, which it will be hosting in Seoul.

View the video of the landmark signing.

New Poultry & Meatpacking Work Speed Standards Request Denied

In December 2014, Nebraska Appleseed, the Southern Poverty Law Center and 10 other labor rights groups sent a letter to Department of Labor asking the agency to respond to a petition they originally submitted in September 2013 demanding new work speed standards for poultry and meatpacking plants. Specifically, the groups want limits on speeds, which are now as high as 325 cattle per hour in meatpacking plants and 175 birds per minute in poultry plants, to minimize cumulative trauma disorders and musculoskeletal disorders such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
A recent statement revealed that OSHA formally denied their petition. The agency cites “limited resources” as the reason, saying it cannot conduct the work necessary to create safeguards specifically for these workers.

“Despite OSHA’s denial, there is still an urgent need for a clear and enforceable work speed standard that protects 500,000 poultry and meatpacking workers across the country,” Omaid Zabih, a Nebraska Appleseed staff attorney, said in a statement. “We should not ignore the vast amount of medical and epidemiological literature, reports, surveys and newspaper accounts that all connect permanently disabling repetitive motion injuries to excessive work speed.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

New Report Says CDC Lab Practices Threaten Its Credibility

An independent report on lab safety at CDC calls the agency's commitment to safety "inconsistent and insufficient." The report, which was completed in January but posted on the agency's website this week, also says "laboratory safety training is inadequate."

The report was written by an external group of 11 experts in biosafety, laboratory science and research. In the report, the experts say they are "very concerned that the CDC is on the way to losing credibility." The agency created the advisory group to improve lab safety in July, following several mishaps and other issues that were uncovered through procedural reviews.

One incident occurred last June when dozens of employees in a bioterrorism lab working with the deadly anthrax virus were at risk because of a failure to properly follow sterilization techniques; the head of that lab resigned following the incident. Prior to that, with the advisory group already working to reduce lab safety risks and improve the safety culture, employees in the Ebola lab were potentially exposed to that virus when a technician mistakenly transported the wrong specimens from a high-level lab to a lower-level lab.

Internal investigations were conducted after each incident, and various changes were recommended, such as cameras being added to some labs and certificates being required to transfer samples from some labs. The 4-page report summarizes the groups findings and offers recommendations following visits to CDC labs, meetings with CDC staff and a survey about the laboratory safety culture.

The report recommends that all CDC labs undergo an external review and accreditation process. They suggest the College of American Pathologists for clinical labs and the American Biological Safety Association for research labs. To that point, the committee states, "The CDC must not see itself as special. The internal controls and rules that the rest of the world works under also apply to CDC."

View a report about this issue from USA Today.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

EPA Updates Safer Choice Label

EPA’s Safer Choice program is a way for consumers to make smarter buying choices concerning their health and the environment. The Safer Choice label, which has a new design, is given to products with safer chemical ingredients so that consumers can play a role in protecting each other and the environment. The program is voluntary, and EPA reports that currently more than 2,000 products qualify to carry the label.  

The update replaces the older Design for the Environment label. EPA reports it spent more than 1 year gathering ideas and new label options, with feedback from manufacturers and environmental and health advocates. According to the agency, the new Safer Choice label will be available in stores later this spring and summer. In addition to its label for consumer products, slightly different versions are available for product manufacturers and fragrance-free. Visit EPA’s Safer Choice website to learn more and to search for products that carry the label.  

Report Says Gulf of Mexico at Baseline Again Post Deepwater Horizon Spill

BP has released a report indicating that the Gulf of Mexico has returned to its baseline condition in the 5 years since the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. The Gulf of Mexico Environmental Recovery and Restoration report also indicates that impacts from the spill largely occurred in the spring and summer of 2010.

Courtesy of NOAA
The report is based on scientific studies that government agencies, academic institutions, BP and others conducted as part of the spill response, the ongoing Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) process or through independent research. NRDA is the process that the U.S. government, state agencies and BP conduct studies to identify injuries to natural resources resulting from the Deepwater Horizon accident, as well as the best way of restoring injured resources and the amount of money required to do so. This ongoing assessment is the largest environmental evaluation of its kind, spanning nearly 5 years and costing around $1.3 billion to date.

The report also looks at the BP-funded early restoration projects to speed the recovery of natural resources in the Gulf that were injured as a result of the spill. It also looks at the BP-funded early restoration projects to speed the recovery of natural resources in the Gulf that were injured as a result of the spill. The company has committed to pay $500 million over 10 years to support independent research through the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative, and has reportedly spent more than $28 billion on response, cleanup, early restoration and claims payments.

Available data do not indicate the spill caused any significant long-term population-level impact to species in the Gulf. NRDA data did not reveal ongoing adverse impacts to bird populations linked to the spill beyond the initial, limited acute mortality in 2010. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) data show that fish populations are robust, and commercial landings generally have been consistent with pre-spill trends and ranges. Findings published by researchers and scientists working with the NRDA trustees show the spill did not affect most deepwater coral communities.

The report indicates that several factors were key in lessening the spill’s impact. It took place in deep water, far offshore and in a temperate climate, allowing the oil to break down. The type of light crude oil involved in the spill also degrades and evaporates faster than heavier oils. At the same time, the offshore response and shoreline cleanup – for which BP reportedly spent more than $14 billion and workers devoted more than 70 million personnel hours – mitigated the damage.

Also, the report says that in 2011, BP voluntarily agreed to spend $1 billion on projects to expedite the restoration of natural resources in the Gulf while the NRDA process was ongoing. As of December 2014, BP and the federal and state natural resource trustees had agreed on 54 early restoration projects totaling about $698 million.

Visit here to read the entire news article breaking down this report from Offshore.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

DOT Considers Overhaul of Aging Oil Pipeline

Federal regulators have quietly proposed a sweeping rewrite of oil pipeline safety rules almost 2
years after an Exxon Mobil Corp. pipeline split open and sent Canadian crude oil flowing through a neighborhood in Mayflower, AR.

If the proposal is finalized in its current form, as much as 182,000 miles (95%) of the U.S. pipelines that carry crude, gasoline and other liquids would be subject to the  rules and about half the system may have to undergo extensive tests to prove it can operate safely, according to information from DOT's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).

Known as the Hazardous Liquids Integrity Verification Process, the plan is an acknowledgment that some of the oil industry's testing technology isn't sophisticated enough to detect cracks or corrosion in time to prevent failure. As a result, PHMSA may have to tell companies they have to replace certain aging pipelines.

The oil and pipeline industries are already lobbying against the idea, saying PHMSA has overstepped its legal mandate. The agency has been struggling for years with the rapid runup in oil and gas production driven by hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling in shale. The amount of crude pumped in the U.S. has jumped nearly two-thirds in the past 5 years, forcing companies to replumb the North American pipeline network. The bulk of oil, gasoline, diesel and other fuels that PHMSA lumps together as hazardous liquids is still shipped by pipeline. Half of the oil and liquids pipelines in the country were built before 1970, according to PHMSA, and companies are continually reversing pipelines to serve new markets or converting pipelines to carry new products.

Visit Energywire for more on the overhaul plan.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Need for Stronger Safety Culture, Better Process Safety Management Remains 10 Years After Texas City Explosion

Damaged trailers near blowdown. Photo courtesy CSB.
On March 23, 2005, an explosion at BP's refinery in Texas City, TX, killed 15 workers and injured 180 others. Ten years later, many of the organizational and safety deficiencies that were cited as key contributing factors to that tragedy continue to plague the refining industry, says U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB). 

To mark the anniversary of the tragedy, CSB has released a special safety message calling for greater focus on the gaps in standards and practices that remain today and have contributed to other serious incidents over the last decade, including the Tesora refinery explosion in 2010 and the Chevron refinery fire in 2012.

“The CSB believes that current federal and state regulations do not focus enough on preventative measures or on continuously reducing process risks," CSB Chair Rafael Moure-Eraso says in the message. To encourage changes to existing federal and state regulations nationwide, the Board has included process safety management reform on the CSB’s list of most wanted safety improvements.

Should OSHA Regulate Professional Sports?

The long-term impact of football-related head trauma has been a major issue in recent years, especially with the recent retirement of 24-year-old San Francisco 49ers rookie Chris Borland due to concerns of the long-term effects of head injuries and the high-profile suicides like that of NFL Hall-of-Famer Junior Seau. In Seau's case, he was found to suffer from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a type of brain damage found in other deceased NFL players.

In the latest installment of "The Practical Employer" column, Jon Hyman mentions that OSHA lacks a standard on pro sports, although it does have the oft-cited general duty clause that requires employers to "provide employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.” Hyman notes that OSHA used used this clause to cite Sea World of Florida following a trainer’s death from a killer whale attack and questions if the general duty clause can reach the entertainment industry, then suggests it could reach professional sports.

In 2008, OSHA stated that it has the jurisdiction to regulate professional sports if the athletes are employees. NFL players are protected by a labor union and parties to a collective bargaining agreement with the NFL are employees and, therefore, subject to OSHA’s regulatory jurisdiction.

The NFL has implemented league-wide rules in an attempt to minimize head injuries, and it has been effective. In 2014, the concussion rate fell 25% compared to 2013 and the rate is down 36% since 2012. However, it is estimated that NFL players still suffer 0.43 concussions per game. While the rate of concussions has fallen, the rate of injuries overall continues to rise, up 17% from 2013 to 2014, with 265 players placed on injured reserve during the 2014 regular season. 

Read Hyman's entire column on Workforce's site. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

For Your Weekend To-Do List: Join ASSE in Supporting Federal OSH Funding

ASSE and 2014-15 President Patricia Ennis, CSP, ARM, are calling on ASSE members and the broader OSH community to contact their legislators and urge them to support the funding bills for OSHA and NIOSH. Here is the a letter from Ennis:
Can you please take a couple minutes of your time this weekend and send a letter to your representatives in Congress to encourage them to join their Senate and House colleagues in support of OSHA and NIOSH?
Over the last several years, ASSE, AIHA and NSC have made a concerted effort to work together to join the many voices of our members in supporting OSHA and NIOSH funding for Fiscal Year 2016. We may all have different views of the exact ways that OSHA should be using its resources, but the vast majority of ASSE members understand that a strong OSHA plays an important role in the overall effort of OSH professionals and their committed employers to continue to advance workplace safety and health in our nation.
And any ASSE member who I know has been involved in NIOSH understands fully that it does not have enough resources to fulfill its role as pretty much the only resource for occupational safety and health education and research funding. Most important this year is that the administration once again is proposing to eliminate support for NIOSH’s Education and Research Centers and the NORA Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing research program.
To fight for a national commitment to OSH, “Dear Colleague” letters are circulating in the House and Senate, as is a letter from Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) in support of NIOSH. The deadline for elected officials to sign on the letters is Monday, March 23.
Please contact your elected officials to encourage them to sign on to the letters. The National Safety Council has created separate advocacy alerts for the NIOSH  and OSHA  “Dear Colleague” letters. By clicking on the alerts , you can easily identify your elected officials and send them customizable letters in a matter of minutes.
Thank you for contributing your voice.
Patricia M. Ennis, CSP, ARM
2014-15 ASSE President 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

NIOSH & Partners Recommend Controls for Silica Exposure During Asphalt Pavement Milling

Nearly 367,000 U.S. highway, street and bridge construction workers are at risk of exposure to respirable crystalline silica. According to research, workers currently use a variety of machinery when removing and recycling asphalt pavement, some of which generate airborne crystalline silica dust, putting road crews at risk of respiratory illness. In an ongoing effort to help mitigate these types of exposures, NIOSH has developed a new document that provides recommendations for controlling worker exposure to respirable crystalline silica.

Best Practice Engineering Control Guidelines to Control Worker Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica during Asphalt Pavement Milling, developed through the Silica/Asphalt Milling Machine Partnership, represents more than 10 years of collaborative research. According to the agency, a number of companies use cold-milling machines with toothed, rotating cutters that grind and remove pavement. Dust generated from these machines often contains respirable crystalline silica which can be mixed into the air workers breathe.

This document aims to provide best practices and recommendations to reduce the risk of exposure including ventilation controls, machine design alterations and water sprays used to cool the cutting teeth of milling machines to lessen silica dust exposure.

In addition to this document, the Center for Construction Research and Training has developed a shorter field guide that provides a quick reference to best practices and control recommendations.

Click here to learn more about engineering controls for silica in construction.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

McDonalds Workers Call for OSHA Checks After Safety Incidents

McDonalds workers in 19 U.S. cities are asking OSHA to inspect their workplaces saying that they have been injured due to a lack of training and protective equipment.

©iStockphoto.com/franklin lugenbeel
A labor group is calling for the company to be held accountable under federal rules for worker safety violations at its franchised restaurants, expanding a continuing effort to reduce historical protections for corporations operating under franchise arrangements. The group, Fight For $15/Fast Food Forward, backed by the Service Employees International Union recently announced a series of complaints alleging violations by 19 McDonald’s franchisees and nine corporate-owned stores. The group has prepared a detailed legal argument that it hopes will persuade OSHA to cite McDonald’s Corp. for violations that the agency might find at independently owned restaurants.

Workers have cited injuries such as burns suffered when filtering grease, slipping on greasy floors and incidents where workers suffered injuries resulting in nerve damage. 

Fight for $15 also filed hundreds of claims against McDonald's with the National Labor Relations Board, alleging the company violated labor rights of its employees at various restaurants nationwide. More than 100 were found to have merit. Hearings take place at the end of the month in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. If settlements aren't reached, the company and it's franchisees could be required to pay back wages and reinstate workers who were fired. 

McDonald’s released a statement saying that the company and its franchisees are committed to providing safe working conditions, and it will review the allegations.

View a recent report from the Chicago Tribune about this issue. 

Dangers of Working in TV, Film Industry Increasing

When it comes to occupational safety and health, it's probably not often that you think about the safety of actors, film crews and others in the entertainment industry. It seems safety may not be top of mind among producers in the industry either, particularly among those shooting reality shows that thrive on dramatic footage. According to Tribune reporter Richard Verrier, fatalities during filming have increased over the last 5 years, since reaching a record low of zero in 2003. "Authorities put at least some of the blame on shortcuts taken by producers to save time and money," Verrier writes, citing OSHA Administrator David Michaels as one of those authorities.

Verrier recounts several fatalities that were caused by hazards that were both predictable and preventable. The culprit appears to be lack of investment in basic safety precautions. "It's truly remarkable to me that production companies can use ultra-advanced technology to make spectacular films but too often they won't spend the modest resources necessary to make sure their workers aren't injured or killed on the job," Michaels says in the article.

The incidents haven't gone completely unnoticed, however. Just last week, director Randall Miller pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter for the death of Sarah Johns that occurred on the set of his film Midnight Rider in 2014. He was sentenced to 2 years in prison. After delivering the sentence in that case, Judge Anthony Harrison told Ms. Jones’s parents: “I hope that this day will contribute to your goal of sending a message of safety to the industry.”

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

OSHA's Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Updates Eye & Face Protection Standards

OSHA has published a proposed revision to its eye and face protection standards that updates the PPE requirements for general industry, shipyard employment, longshoring, marine terminals and construction standards. The agency reports its revisions include the current American National Standards Institute eye and face protection standard and updates language in the construction eye and face protection standard to improve consistency with general industry and maritime standards. Public comments may be electronically via the Federal eRulemaking Portal, by mail or by fax. Comments are due April 15, 2015. For more information, see the Federal Register notice.

New Seat Belt Advertising Campaign Targets Tweens

©iStockphoto.com/Daniel Kaesler
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced a new campaign to encourage tweens to buckle up.

The campaign's slogan, "Never Give Up Until They Buckle Up," puts a focus on seat belt safety and urges parents of children ages 8 to14 to ensure that their kids are wearing their seat belt every time the car is moving.

Over the past 5 years, 1,552 kids between the ages of 8 and 14 died in car crashes. Among those who died, almost half were not wearing their seat belts.

According to a recent series of NHTSA focus groups, seat belt use can be lost in the chaos of every day activities including shuttling kids to and from school, running quick errands or rushing to extra curricular activities. And studies show that as kids get older, they are less likely to buckle up.

The campaign, developed in both English and Spanish, includes television, radio, outdoor, print and digital ads. It encourages parents to consistently remind children to buckle up regardless of how short or routine the drive may be.

Visit www.safercar.gov/kidsbuckleup to learn more.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Green Building Industry to Credit Prevention Through Design

OSH professionals have heard a lot about prevention through design (PTD) over the years, and NIOSH's national emphasis on the topic has given it even greater visibility. The construction industry is also getting on board. In February, U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) posted a new pilot “Prevention through Design” credit to its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Pilot Credit Library.

The pilot credit grew out of efforts motivated by a National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) Construction goal to increase PTD use by integrating safety and health into green rating systems. NIOSH initiated a partnership with USGBC to build a relationship and to explore the connection between occupational safety and health and sustainable building practices.

According to NIOSH, the PTD pilot credit will help reduce illnesses and injuries by supporting high-performance, cost-effective employee safety and health outcomes across the building life cycle. The pilot credit addresses two building life cycle phases important for safety and health: 1) operations and maintenance (O&M); and 2) construction.

For O&M, the pilot credit promotes a cross-disciplinary safety design review. It provides a list of systems to consider, such as roofs and equipment rooms. "Examples of safety design review outcomes include decisions to reduce fall hazards by installing a parapet wall or a guard rail on a roof, or by specifying non-fragile glass for skylights," NIOSH explains.

For construction, the pilot credit describes a cross-disciplinary safety constructability review. It provides a list of topics to guide the review, such as building re-use and work at height. "Examples of safety constructability review outcomes could include a decision to use steel columns that arrive on site with pre-drilled holes for insertion of fall protection lines that would facilitate temporary fall protection for construction workers; or a decision to pre-fabricate components at ground-level to minimize falls from working at height," NIOSH reports.

NIOSH is working with USGBC to develop webinars on the credit. The agency is also interested in hearing from users in the field--everything from useful experiences and success stories to new developments or other input. You can contact NIOSH's Scott Earnest with your information. 

ASSE has a wide selection of technical PTD articles posted online. The Society is also secretariat for ANSI/ASSE Z590.3-2011, Prevention through Design Guidelines for Addressing Occupational Hazards and Risks in Design and Redesign Processes. You will also find additional resources in the PS article archive (members only) and ASSE's Body of Knowledge asset tool.

NHTSA Releases Two New Studies on Impaired Driving on U.S. Roads

©iStockphoto.com/Craig Cozart
Results from the 2013-2014 National Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers, indicate a steady decline in the prevalence of alcohol use by drivers. But, as drinking and driving continues to fall, use of illegal drugs or medicines is rising.

The survey, conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), found the number of drivers with alcohol in their system has declined by nearly 30% since 2007. Conversely, the number of drivers with marijuana in their systems has grown by nearly 50% since 2007. Overall, 22% of drivers tested positive for some kind of drug, including illegal drugs, prescription or over-the-counter medications.

According to NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind, tougher laws, crackdowns and campaigns against drunk driving have helped to reduce the number of cases by more than 80% since the agency began conducting these surveys in 1973. “At the same time, the latest Roadside Survey raises significant questions about drug use and highway safety,” he says.

To better understand of the correlation between drug use and crash risk, a second survey, compared data collected over a 20-month period from more than 3,000 drivers who were involved in crashes, as well as 6,000 drivers who did not crash. The study found that marijuana users are more likely to be involved in crashes, but notes that this may be due in part to the fact that many marijuana users are already part of groups at higher risk for crashes (i.e., young men).

“These findings highlight the importance of research to better understand how marijuana use affects drivers so states and communities can craft the best safety policies,” says Jeff Michael, NHTSA’s associate administrator for research and program development.

To further understand the risk of drugged driving, the agency plans to conduct a series of additional studies including the Washington State Roadside Survey, which will assess risk in a state where marijuana has been legalized. Click here to learn more.

Flooding Preparedness Tips From FEMA

With spring on the horizon and the winter thaw beginning, the threat of flooding becomes more prevalent with changing temperatures.
©iStockphoto.com/Andrii Gatash

“With the change of seasons comes the risk of snow melt, heavy rains, and rising waters—we’re all at some level of flood risk,” says Andrew Velasquez III, FEMA Region V administrator. “It is important we prepare now for the impact floods could have on our homes, our businesses and in our communities.”

Here are some  steps FEMA recommends to prepare for and protect against flooding:
  • Consider purchasing flood insurance to protect your home against the damage floodwaters can cause. Homeowners’ insurance policies do not typically cover flood losses, and most policies take 30 days to become effective. Visit FloodSmart.gov for more information. 
  • Store important papers in a safe place. Make copies of critical documents (such as mortgage papers, deed, passport and bank information). Keep copies in your home and store originals in a secure place outside the home, such as a bank safe deposit box. 
  • Elevate mechanicals such as the water heater, washer, dryer and furnace off the basement floor to avoid potential damage.
  • Shovel snow away from your home and clean your gutters to keep your home free from potential water damage.
  • Build and maintain an emergency supply kit. Include drinking water, a first-aid kit, canned food, a radio, flashlight and blankets. Ready.gov has a disaster supply checklist for flood safety tips and information. Remember to store additional supply kits in your car and at the office, too. 
  • Have a family emergency plan in place. Plan and practice flood evacuation routes. Plan in advance how you will get to a safe place, how you will contact one another, how you will get back together and what you will do in different situations. 
Individuals can always find valuable preparedness information at www.Ready.gov or download the free FEMA app, available for Android, Apple or Blackberry devices. To learn more about preparing for floods, how to purchase a flood insurance policy and the benefits of protecting your home or property investment against flooding visit FloodSmart.gov or call (800) 427-2419.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Characteristics of Successful Wellness Programs, Part 2

As healthcare costs continue to escalate, a number of organizations are turning to wellness programs as a solution. As expressed in part 1 of this article, wellness programs are proven to be an effective tool in reducing healthcare costs, boosting company moral and improving employee assurance.

Unfortunately, there are some challenges associated with implementing workplace wellness programs including low participation and engagement. To help OSH professionals as well as their employees overcome these challenges, Don Powell, president and CEO of American Institute for Preventive Medicine, has identified 20 characteristics for successful employee wellness programs:

11) Lifestyle programs. Engage employee through health coaching, self-help programs and small group programs.

12) Provide health coaching. Coaching can be done over the phone, via email, one-on-one or in small groups.

13) Offer self-help programs. Self-help programs and interactive kits can help employees change their behavior in the privacy of their own homes on their own time, Powell says. 

14) Offer group programs. Despite the difficulty of getting people together regularly, there is a place for group programs including monthly/bi-monthly lunch-and-learns or health-seminars and exercise clubs.

15) Online wellness challenges. Some successful wellness programs have been able to leverage the power of social networking and reach employees across multiple worksite locations. 

16) Medical self-care. Teach employees to make better decisions when it comes to their health by teaching them the difference between symptoms that require professional assistance versus symptoms can be treated at home.

17) Education. Communicate wellness messages in a variety of creative ways. “The more you can package health information in novel ways, the more likely you are to get engagement,” Powell says. “Packaging health information in unusual ways can capture people’s attention.”

18) Provide appropriate program materials. Regardless of the audience, wellness materials should be written at a sixth grade reading level. People are often short on time, so simpler is better, Powell says.

19) Rewards. Rewards are more consistent with creating a health-partnership culture, says Powell. Incentives should fit with the workplace culture.

20) Reporting. Successful workplace wellness programs determine the value of what they have done and determine what the data means in relation to the program’s objectives. Consider looking at other measures, such as creating a more positive workforce or seeing wellness as a way to attract employees, says Powell.

Powell suggests these tips can aid organizations in the development and implementation of a high-performing, wellness program.

Learn more characteristics of successful wellness programs.

NTSB to Hold Forum on the Dangers of Railroad Trespassing

Throughout American history, railroad tracks have held a certain symbolism and cultural significance. However, these areas are not only private property but also dangerous places to hang out. In 2013, 476 people were killed and another 432 were injured in railroad trespassing incidents.

In an effort to reduce these tragedies, NTSB is holding a public forum March 24-25 on the dangers of trespassing on the railroad right-of-way. Trains and Trespassing: Ending Tragic Encounters will feature speakers who have been touched by railroad trespassing tragedies, either from personal injury, affected community members, or rail employees whose crews have struck people on railroad property. The forum will draw on the expertise of railroads, regulators and researchers to discuss current and future prevention strategies.

The public is invited to attend the forum in person or view the live webcast.

MSHA Issues Best Practices for Electrical Safety

As a result of three recent electrical incidents at underground coal mines, MSHA issued an electrical safety alert that lists best practices during electrical work. 
  1. Do not perform electrical work until the circuit is deenergized, locked and tagged out.
  2. Never touch any ungrounded electrical component until you are sure it is deengergized. 
  3. Identify all hazards, then develop and follow a safe plan to perform the work to ensure the safety of all miners who are involved in the task. Conduct electrical measurements to test for unwanted electrical power, especially in wet or muddy areas.
  4. Always handle deenergized cable instead of energized cable, or wear properly rated and well maintained electrical gloves when handling energized cables. 
  5. Conduct complete and thorough examinations on all electrical equipment to hand-over-hand examinations of deenergized electrical cables. 
  6. Protect electrical cables from damage by mobile equipment and falling roof. When cable damage is suspected, immediately notify a qualified electrician so that a potentially dangerous condition can be corrected. 
  7. Install sensitive ground fault relays with instantaneous trip setting of 125 mA or less on all face equipment. Use trailing cables with a grounded metallic shield. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

ASTM Proposes Guide to Green Chemical Alternatives

ASTM International has proposed a new guide to help companies explore alternative chemical use in the life cycle of their products. ASTM says that assessing and using alternative chemicals has become increasingly common in many industries, such as green building certifications.

According to ASTM, the proposed standard, WK40619, Guide for Making Chemical Selection Decisions in the Life Cycle of Products, will act as a template to help companies analyze a given chemical's social, economic and ecological implications at each stage of a product's life cycle. The guide will help companies follow a process, document and rationalize how to incorporate sustainability into their business decisions related to products and ingredients.

"Green building systems and codes could potentially use the proposed standard as a means of meeting green chemistry credits and goals," says Michael Schmeida, chair of ASTM E60 Committee on Sustainability. "In addition, regulators could reference it as a compliance path for their green chemistry regulations."

NIOSH Study Reviews Hearing Loss Trends

NIOSH released a study that examines 30 years of hearing loss trends experienced by workers
exposed to noise while on the job. The study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine found that progress has been made in reducing the risk of hearing loss within most industry sectors, but additional efforts are needed within the mining, construction, and healthcare and social assistance sectors.

Approximately 22 million U.S. workers are exposed to hazardous noise at work. Long-term exposure to hazardous noise, a single high noise exposure, or exposure to ototoxic chemicals that damage hearing can cause occupational hearing loss – a job-related illness that is permanent and potentially debilitating, but entirely preventable.

NIOSH researchers examined audiograms – results from hearing tests – for almost 2 million noise-exposed workers from 1981 to 2010.

Some key findings include:
  • The overall prevalence of hearing loss for workers in all industries remained consistent at 20% over the entire 30-year period. The prevalence is the total number of workers who have hearing loss (existing and new cases) and illustrates the burden of the illness.
  • The incidence and risk of incident hearing loss decreased over time, indicating some progress in occupational hearing loss prevention efforts during the period covered. The incidence is the number of new cases of hearing loss. 
  • Risks of incident hearing loss were significantly lower during 2006-2010 for every industry sector except mining, and healthcare and social assistance.
The findings in the mining, construction, and healthcare and social assistance sectors are also supported by other research. Efforts to reduce both the burden and risk of hearing loss are still needed. There is no industry where workers can be considered "safe" from hearing loss.

Read the study Trends in Worker Hearing Loss by Industry Sector, 1981–2010 or learn more about hearing loss prevention by visiting CDC's Noise and Hearing Loss Prevention Page. Additionally, visit CDC's occupational hearing loss surveillance page for more on that topic.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

2015 Safe-in-Sound Excellence in Hearing Loss Prevention Winners Announced

NIOSH and National Hearing Conservation Association (NHCA) have announced the winners of the 2015 Safe-in-Sound Excellence in Hearing Loss Prevention Awards, which recognize companies for their dedication to preventing noise-induced hearing loss through excellent workplace prevention practices.

"We know that noise-induced hearing loss can affect workers in any sector of the economy and that it has a significant impact on the individual their family and our nation's economy," says NIOSH's John Howard. "We are honored to once again have this opportunity to recognize organizations that are leading the way in preventing work-related hearing loss and keeping workers safe and healthy."

Crashes Cause Most On-the Job Deaths Among U.S. Truckers

Crashes involving large trucks remain a concern for truck drivers, passengers and other motorists, as well as businesses and communities. Overall, 317,000 motor vehicle crashes involving large trucks were reported to police in 2012, according to the latest Vital Signs report by CDC. The estimated cost of truck and bus crashes to the U.S. economy was $99 billion that year.

The number of truck driver or passenger crash fatalities increased from 2009 to 2012 after a reported 35-year low in 2009. In 2012, 700 drivers of large trucks or their passengers died in crashes, with an estimated 26,000 individuals injured. In total, 65% of on-the-job deaths of truck drivers that year were the result of a motor vehicle crash, with a third of those not wearing a seat belt.

The CDC report includes data from the National Survey of U.S. Long-Haul Truck Driver Health and Injury, conducted by CDC at 32 truck stops along interstate highways across the U.S. in 2010.

Key findings include: 
  • An estimated 14% of long-haul truck drivers reported not using a seat belt on every trip. 
  • More than one-third of long-haul truck drivers had been involved in one or more serious crashes during their driving careers. 
  • Long-haul truck drivers who reported not wearing seat belts also tended to engage in other unsafe driving behaviors such as speeding and committing moving violations. They were also more likely to work for an employer that did not have a written workplace safety program. 
  • Long-haul truck drivers who lived in a state with a primary seat belt law–the law that allows police to stop motorists solely for being unbelted–were more likely to report often using a seat belt. 
“Using a seat belt is the most effective way to prevent injury or death in the event of a crash,” says Stephanie Pratt, Ph.D., coordinator of NIOSH's Center for Motor Vehicle Safety. “The smartest strategy for overall safety is to prevent truck crashes from happening in the first place. Employers can help prevent crashes and injuries through comprehensive driver safety programs that address other known risk factors such as drowsy and distracted driving.”

Additional information on motor vehicle safety at work (including trucker safety) is available at the NIOSH Motor Vehicle Safety page as well as the NIOSH Long-Haul Truck Drivers page.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

NTSB Study Aims to Better Manage Gas Pipeline Integrity

National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released a study on integrity management of gas transmission pipelines in high consequence areas. The agency reports integrity management involves the process by which pipeline operators and inspectors find and address problems before they result in incidents. The study includes recommendations on various improvements, which include a broadened use of in-line inspection, the inspection method that detects the most potential problem areas per mile of pipeline. 
In addition, the agency recommends closer state-to-state and federal-state cooperation among inspectors, and calls for expanded and improved resources and guidance at the federal level, including improvements to the National Pipeline Mapping System and better integration of geographic information system technology.