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A bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives recently would codify the Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP), a safety and health program overseen by OSHA. The programs are aimed at preventing workplace injuries and fatalities while increasing productivity, employee engagement and lowering costs for companies and taxpayers.

The Programs recognize employers and workers in the private industry and federal agencies who have implemented effective safety and health management systems and maintain injury and illness rates below national Bureau of Labor Statistics averages for their respective industries. In VPP, management, labor, and OSHA work cooperatively and proactively to prevent fatalities, injuries, and illnesses through a system focused on hazard prevention and control, worksite analysis, training, and management commitment and worker involvement.

To participate, employers are required to submit an application to OSHA and undergo an onsite evaluation by a team of safety and health professionals. Union support is required for applicants represented by a bargaining unit. Program participants are re-evaluated every three to five years to remain in the programs. VPP participants are exempt from OSHA programmed inspections while they maintain their VPP status.

The bipartisan Voluntary Protection Program Act (H.R. 2500) was introduced by Congressman Gene Green (D-TX), Congressman Todd Rokita (R-IN) and Congresswoman Martha Roby (R-AL). In presenting the bill to the House, the representatives highlighted VPP's track record of improving safety and health at worksites across the U.S.

"We all want to ensure worker safety, and VPP seeks to achieve that through partnerships, not penalties,” Roby said in a statement. “VPP helps companies become compliant with workplace safety rules on the front end to avoid costly fines and harmful penalties on the back end. VPP is a smart way to ensure a safe and productive workplace, and I’m proud to be a part of this bipartisan legislation to finally codify it."

"VPP has been a great success in Indiana, including worksites like Cintas in Frankfort and Nucor in Crawfordsville,” said Rokita in a statement. “It is one federal program that works well, fostering cooperation between private businesses and a government regulator. This collaboration is good for employees, employers, and the American economy."

According to a statement from Rokita’s office, VPP currently covers nearly a million employees. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) estimates that tens of millions of taxpayer dollars are saved annually through VPP, calculating government savings to be more than $59 million a year. Private sector savings total more than $300 million annually.
For more information on the programs, navigate to https://www.osha.gov/dcsp/vpp/.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) announced it is seeking public review and comments by June 15 on five new projects. They include a new standard to set protocols for aircraft rescue and firefighting (ARFF) response to accidents at public air shows, a standard on required competencies of responders to derailments of high-hazard flammable trains carrying crude oil, ethanol, and other Class 3 products, and an EMS Officer standard.

Comments may be submitted to the Codes and Standards Administration Department, NFPA, 1 Batterymarch Park, Quincy, MA 02169-7471.

Read entire article - http://www.nfpa.org/codes-and-standards/standards-development-process/new-projects

Keeping cool during the summer months can seem like a chore unto itself, but it’s important to keep in mind that heat-related illnesses can happen year round in the work environment.

The body’s inability to adequately cool itself is a common cause of heat-related illnesses outdoors during the summer months, but this situation can occur throughout the year indoors as well. External sources of heat on the job can include direct contact with steam or a hot surface, and the body’s natural reactions to heat exposure (sweaty palms, fogged eyewear, and lightheadedness, for example) can also lead to an increased risk of accidents.

To help keep employees safe when things heat up at work, training should include ways to limit heat exposure and how to identify signs of heat-related illness. Worksite procedures should emphasize the importance of acclimatization and how it is developed, particularly for workers who are new to working in the heat or those who are returning after a week or more away from the job.

The best way to prevent heat-related illness is to make the work environment cooler, where possible. This could take the form of engineering controls such as air conditioning, cooling fans, insulating hot surfaces, ventilating hot air, eliminating steam leaks, etc., to reduce exposure.

OSHA recommends the following practices for managing work in a hot environment – whether they are outdoors or indoors:

-Employers should have an emergency plan in place that specifies what to do if a worker has signs of heat-related illness, and ensures that medical services are available if needed.
-Employers should take steps that help workers become acclimatized (gradually build up resistance to heat exposure), especially workers who are new to working in a hot environment or have been away from work for a week or more. Gradually increase workloads and allow more frequent breaks during the first week of work.
-Workers must have adequate potable water close to the work area, and should drink small amounts frequently.
-Rather than being exposed to heat for extended periods of time, workers should, wherever possible, be permitted to distribute the workload evenly over the day and incorporate work/rest cycles.
-If possible, physical demands should be reduced during hot weather, or heavier work scheduled for cooler times of the day.
-Rotating job functions among workers can help minimize overexertion and heat exposure.
-Workers should watch out for each other for symptoms of heat-related illness and administer appropriate first aid to anyone who is developing a heat-related illness.
-In some situations, employers may need to conduct physiological monitoring of workers. (The NIOSH/OSHA/USCG/EPA Occupational Safety and Health Guidance Manual for Hazardous Waste Site Activities, Chapter 8 (1985) (available as a pdf at https://www.osha.gov/Publications/complinks/OSHG-HazWaste/all-in-one.pdf) contains guidance on performing physiological monitoring of workers at hot worksites.)

To help determine the heat index for a given worksite, a number that can be used to calculate workers’ level of risk for heat-related illnesses, OSHA has developed a free mobile device application (available at https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/heat_index/heat_app.html) in both English and Spanish. Based on the heat index figure, the” Heat Safety Tool” displays the level of risk to outdoor workers and allows the user to access reminders about protective measures that should be taken at that risk level to protect workers from heat-related illness.

Tagged in: OSHA

The National Safety Council called on employers this Workers' Memorial Day, observed April 28, to better understand and identify the risks associated with occupational illnesses.

The organization has issued a new policy position (http://www.nsc.org/NewsDocuments/Occupational-Illness-125.pdf) with recommendations for employers to better address illnesses. Some of those include considering the latest available scientific research, consensus standards, employer best practices and other reliable sources of information for determining the most effective control strategies and determining how to improve reporting and tracking of occupational illnesses to support better understanding, prioritization, progress measurement and research.

The NSC has stated workplace-related illnesses are estimated to result in 53,000 deaths and 427,000 nonfatal illnesses each year, compared to workplace-related injuries, which are estimated to result in almost 4,000 deaths and 4.8 million injured requiring medical attention each year.

Read entire article - http://www.nsc.org/learn/about/Pages/NSC-urges-employers-to-address-workplace-illnesses.aspx?var=homepage1

The federal government recently released its revised, final number of workplace fatalities in the U.S. for 2013. The overall count is down from the previous year, though not by much.

The final count of workplace fatalities in 2013 – the most recent year for which data were available – was 4584, a decrease of 44 (or 0.95%) from 4628 in 2012. The preliminary count for 2013 was 4405. Thirty four states and Washington, DC, revised their counts upward since that time.

The final numbers reflect updates to the 2013 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) file made following the release of preliminary results in September 2014. Revisions and additions to the 2013 CFOI numbers come from both the identification of new cases and the revision of existing cases based on source documents received after the release of preliminary results.

After a trend toward a decreasing number of fatalities from 2006 to 2009, specifically 5840, 5657, 5214 and 4551, the number increased to nearly 4700 in 2010 and has shown slight decreases since then.

Workplace deaths by cause of event in 2013 were:
• transportation incidents: 41%
• violence and other injuries by persons or animals: 17%
• contact with objects and equipment: 16%
• slips, trips and falls: 16%
• exposure to harmful substances or environments: 7%, and
• fire and explosions: 3%.

Two types of events that rose in 2013 from 2012 were slips, trips and falls and fires and explosions. In fact, after the updates to the 2013 preliminary numbers, fatal work injuries as a result of slips, trips, and falls increased by 25 cases, raising the total to 724.

The overall fatality rate per 100,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers in 2013 was 3.3, down from a range of 3.4 to 3.6 from 2009 to 2012. However, the number of fatal work injuries involving Hispanic or Latino workers rose to 817 after updates, a 9 percent increase compared to the total in 2012 of 748. The fatal injury rate for Hispanic or Latino workers also rose to 3.9 per 100,000 FTE workers in 2013 from 3.7 in 2012. The number of non-Hispanic Blacks or African-Americans fatally injured at work in 2013 rose 6 percent from the preliminary count of 414 to the revised count of 439. The total for non-Hispanic white workers rose by 4 percent following the updates.

In the construction sector, there were 32 more fatalities in 2013 compared to 2012, a 3% increase and the largest number since 2009.

The total number of fatal injuries for contractors on the job in 2013 rose from 734 to 749 after updates. They accounted for 16 percent of all fatal work injuries that year.

Roadway deaths were higher by 108 cases (11 percent) from the preliminary count for 2013, increasing the total number of fatal work-related roadway incidents in 2013 to 1,099 cases. However, the final 2013 total showed a 5 percent decrease from the final 2012 count.

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