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Heat stress is a very real and very serious issue in workplace safety. For some occupations, so is cold stress.

Workers who are exposed to extreme cold or work in cold environments may be at risk of cold stress. Extreme cold weather is a dangerous situation that can lead to health emergencies in susceptible people – those without shelter, outdoor workers, and those who work in an area that is poorly insulated or without heat.

What exactly constitutes cold stress and its effects can vary from region to region. Temperatures that drop significantly below normal along with increasing wind speeds can rapidly rob the body of heat. That means that places that are relatively unaccustomed to winter weather, even near freezing temperatures are considered factors for cold stress. Such weather-related conditions may lead to serious health problems.

"When exposed to cold temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced. Prolonged exposure to cold will eventually use up your body's stored energy,” according to the resource-filled National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) page on the subject of cold stress, http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/coldstress/. “The result is hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature. A body temperature that is too low affects the brain, making the victim unable to think clearly or move well. This makes hypothermia particularly dangerous because a person may not know it is happening and will not be able to do anything about it."

The page describes early and late hypothermia symptoms and the correct first aid measures for a worker with hypothermia:
-Alert the supervisor and request medical assistance.
-Move the victim into a warm room or shelter.
-Remove their wet clothing.
-Warm the center of their body first-chest, neck, head, and groin-using an electric blanket, if available; or use skin-to-skin contact under loose, dry layers of blankets, clothing, towels, or sheets.
-Warm beverages may help increase the body temperature, but do not give alcoholic beverages. Do not try to give beverages to an unconscious person.
-After their body temperature has increased, keep the victim dry and wrapped in a warm blanket, including the head and neck.
-If victim has no pulse, begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

On its page providing guidance for interpreting its weather advisories, watches, warnings and bulletins (http://www.noaa.gov/features/03_protecting/winter.html), the National Weather Service page quotes meteorologist John Koch: "Thousands of people die every year in weather-related traffic accidents. The best way to avoid a tragedy is to be aware of weather conditions and limit travel when hazardous weather conditions exist." NWS advises motorists to do the following before driving in winter weather conditions, especially if watches or warnings or have been issued in your locale:
-Keep the gas tank full to keep the fuel line from freezing.
-Let someone know your destination, route, and when you expect to arrive.
-Keep a cell phone or other emergency communication device with you.
-Pack your vehicle with thermal blankets, extra winter clothes, basic tool kit, (including a good knife and jumper cables), an ice scraper and shovel, flashlights or battery-powered lanterns with extra batteries, and high calorie, nonperishable food and water.
-Use sand or kitty litter under your tires for extra traction, especially if you find yourself stuck in a slippery spot.

Being temporarily stuck – but safe – might only seem like cold comfort, but it’s far better than the serious health problems that can arise from cold stress.

Tagged in: cold injuries OSHA

According to the 2013 Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses released recently by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), last year continued a generally downward trend in the incidence of many kinds of workplace injuries.

Some of the key findings of the survey include:

-The total recordable cases (TRC) incidence rate of injury and illness reported by private industry employers declined in 2013 from 2012. The incidence rate for more serious cases – those requiring days away from work, job transfer or restriction known as DART cases – also declined to 1.7 from 1.8, a figure that had held steady from 2009 through 2012. The TRC injury and illness incidence rate stayed highest in 2013 among privately held businesses of medium size, defined as those employing between 50 and 249 workers. The TRC rate was lowest among small establishments – those that employ fewer than 11 people.

-Manufacturing in 2013 continued a 16-year trend as the only sector of private industry in which the rate of job transfer- or restriction-only cases was more than the rate of cases with days away from work. The rates for these two case types declined by 0.1 case in 2013 to 1.2 cases and 1.0 case per 100 full-time workers, respectively.

-Private industry employers reported slightly more than 3 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses in 2013. The incidence rate was 3.3 cases per 100 equivalent full-time workers, down from 3.4 in 2011 and 2012. The rate has declined each of the last 11 years, except for 2012.

-The incidence rate of injuries only among private industry workers declined to 3.1 cases per 100 full-time workers in 2013, down from 3.2 cases per 100 in 2012. The incidence rate of illness cases was statistically unchanged in between those years.

-The rate of reported injuries and illnesses declined in 2013 in manufacturing, retail, and utilities, but was statistically unchanged among all other private industry sectors compared to 2012. Nearly 2.9 million (94.9 percent) of the more than 3.0 million nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses in 2013 were injuries. Among them, over 2.1 million (75.5 percent) happened in service-providing industries, which employed 82.4 percent of the private industry workforce. The remaining approximately 700,000 injuries (24.5 percent) happened in goods-producing industries, which represented 17.6 percent of private industry employment in 2013.

While the news overall is encouraging, as always, the fact that many of these statistics exist at all also points to areas where there is room for improvement.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2015, OSHA reporting requirements changed. Employers will be responsible for reporting all fatal work injuries within 8 hours, and all in-patient hospitalizations, amputations or losses of an eye within 24 hours. The agency has said it has an updated list of the industries that are required to keep injury and illness records.

Read entire article - https://www.osha.gov/recordkeeping2014/reporting.html

Tagged in: OSHA

OSHA announced an enforcement case against a Nebraska company stemming from a worker's death. The 23-year-old man was found unresponsive in a tanker truck at Michael Foods Inc.'s Big Red Farms facility in Wakefield, Neb. He was conducting sampling of the tank, which contained egg products and nitrogen. OSHA has cited the company for five serious safety violations, including exposing employees to nitrogen hazards.

OSHA found that the company failed to prevent employees from entering permit-required confined spaces. The company did not ensure that emergency services were proficient in confined space rescues and that appropriate equipment for a confined space rescue could be used to perform one quickly. According to OSHA, the company also did not train workers on the health hazards related to atmospheric chemicals in the workplace; failed to evaluate respiratory hazards for employees sampling from nitrogen-filled tanks; and did not ensure employees wore appropriate eye protection when exposed to corrosive liquids.

Read entire article - https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=NEWS_RELEASES&p_id=27093

Tagged in: Flammable vapors OSHA

While we don’t have a crystal ball at our disposal, we can still look into the future as far as some of the items on OSHA’s regulatory agenda are concerned. That includes updating some current regulations and creating new ones in 2015.

Federal agencies recently released their Fall 2014 regulatory agendas, and for its part, OSHA has said it plans to issue three final rules next year. They are:

March 2015 - Confined Spaces in Construction: Although OSHA has confined space regulations for general industry, it doesn’t have rules for construction. This proposed standard would extend protections to workers in construction.

June 2015 - Walking Working Surfaces and Personal Fall Protection Systems (Slips, Trips and Fall Prevention): The standard to protect workers from slip, trip and fall hazards has been in the rulemaking process since 1990.

August 2015 - Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses: This rule would require larger employers to submit injury and illness logs in electronic form and make them public records.

Other OSHA proposals in the works in 2015 include:

Chemical Management and Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs): This October, OSHA issued a request for information (RFI) on how to address outdated PELs and lack of exposure limits for some chemicals. The comment period for the RFI is set to end on April 8.

Process Safety Management and Prevention of Major Chemical Accidents: OSHA issued about a year ago an RFI to “identify issues related to modernization of the Process Safety Management standard and related standards necessary to meet the goal of preventing major chemical accidents” The next step would be for OSHA to begin the review process for the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA). This would involve the SBREFA panel meeting with representatives of small businesses that are directly regulated by the act. It would also represent an opportunity to provide advice and recommendations on regulatory alternatives to minimize the burden on small businesses.

Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA): This would involve the SBREFA panel meeting with representatives of small businesses that are directly regulated by the act. It would also represent an opportunity to provide advice and recommendations on regulatory alternatives to minimize the burden on small businesses.

Communication Towers: OSHA has noted that the fatality rate for communication tower workers is extremely high with falls the leading cause of death. OSHA has said it plans to issue an RFI in the near future on proposed regulations for these workers.

Occupational Exposure to Crystalline Silica: This proposed regulation would update OSHA’s current rules on silica, including establishing a stricter permissible exposure limits. In 2014, OSHA held public hearings on the proposal and has said it will be done analyzing comments the hearings by June 2015.

Occupational Exposure to Beryllium: OSHA has said it expects to issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to regulate occupational exposure to beryllium in January.

Tagged in: OSHA

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