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If there is any question whether confined spaces can be hazardous places, consider the following news item.

In Xinxiang, China, a young woman accidentally dropped her new cell phone into a cesspit when she used the open-pit toilet.
Her husband jumped into the pit to find the phone – worth about the equivalent of $320 in the United States ¬– and lost consciousness.
His mother jumped in to save him, and she, too, lost consciousness.
The woman who dropped the phone then entered the pit, and fainted.
Next, the husband’s father went into the pit and became stuck. Two neighbors who responded to calls for help also jumped into the pit ¬– and fainted.
The husband and his mother died in the hospital. The man’s wife, her father-in-law and a neighbor were also injured in the incident.
According to a newspaper article, eyewitnesses said the victims were all no more than knee-deep in the pit’s contents and for no longer than five minutes (1). 

While there are numerous potential lessons here (including that no piece of equipment is worth risking ones’ life to retrieve from a hazardous confined space), the overarching theme is that confined spaces are often inherently dangerous, and in short, if you’re not properly trained, stay out of them.
Even OSHA has commented on the incident. After examining its records on accident investigations for fatal confined space incidents, the agency concluded that when there were multiple deaths, the majority of the victims in each event died trying to rescue the original entrant from a confined space (2).

This is consistent the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) finding that would-be “rescuers” accounted for more than 60 percent of the fatalities in confined spaces.

Some examples of confined spaces in workplace environments are storage tanks, sewers, manholes, tunnels, ship voids, pipelines, silos, wells, pits and trenches. Such spaces require a permit for entry. In fact, in the United States, any pit or trench with a depth equal to or greater than 4 feet is classified as a permit-required confined space.

When determining if an area constitutes a confined space by OSHA definitions, it is always best to err on the side of caution. The experience of Workplace Safety & Health Co., Inc. consultants can be employed to identify confined spaces and assess whether they should be listed as “permit-required.” In some cases, permit-required confined spaces can be reclassified to non-permit spaces if all hazards can be completely eliminated.


Sources
1. http://www.scmp.com/news/china/article/1521835/two-die-cesspit-after-woman-accidentally-drops-her-phone-while-going
2. (https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=PREAMBLES&p_id=839 )

b2ap3_thumbnail_logo_nhtsa.jpgThe U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued a final rule requiring rear visibility technology in all new vehicles under 10,000 pounds by May 2018. According to a press release from the administration, the new rule will significantly reduce the risk of fatalities and serious injuries caused by backover accidents.

The rule will require all vehicles under 10,000 pounds, including buses and trucks, manufactured on or after May 1, 2018, to come equipped with rear visibility technology that expands the field of view to enable the driver of a motor vehicle to detect areas behind the vehicle to reduce death and injury resulting from backover incidents.

Read entire article - http://www.nhtsa.gov/About+NHTSA/Press+Releases/2014/NHTSA+Announces+Final+Rule+Requiring+Rear+Visibility+Technology

b2ap3_thumbnail_logo_ilo.jpgThe International Labour Organization has announced its annual Safety and Health in the Use Of Chemicals at Work in conjunction with the World Day for Safety and Health at Work on April 28. The report reviews the present situation on the use of chemicals and their impact in workplaces and the environment, including various national, regional, and international efforts to address them.

The report also presents the elements for establishing national and enterprise level programs that contribute to ensure the sound management of chemicals at work. The report also calls on governments, employers, workers and their organizations to collaborate in the development and implementation of national policies and strategies aimed at the sound management of chemicals at work.

Read entire article here.

b2ap3_thumbnail_air_quality.jpgAir quality in the workplace should an ongoing concern, and that includes the quality of the air where the workplace is outdoors.

Back in April, Air Quality Awareness Week ran from April 28 – May 2. Each day of that work week, Monday through Friday, comes with its own theme. They started the week off on Monday as “Do Your Part: Reduce Your Contribution to Air Pollution”, capped off by Friday’s “Traveler’s Health”. In and among these themes are a number of tips from the Environmental Protection Agency that apply to the public outside and inside a work environment.

One measure of air quality, the Air Quality Index (AQI), can be used to help plan outdoor activities regardless of the occasion.

Finding the day’s AQI report is becoming increasingly easy. It’s available on the Web (http://www.airnow.gov), on many local television weather forecasts, and via free e-mail tools and apps (http://www.enviroflash.info and http://m.epa.gov/apps/airnow.html). After finding the forecast for a local area, checking the health recommendations can show how to reduce the amount of pollution breathed in.

At Workplace Safety & Health Co., our primary concern is to help our customers reduce injuries and illnesses while promoting their profitability through sound health and safety management practices – and that includes helping to identify and manage risks posed by air quality. Whether your employees’ work environment is predominately outdoors or indoors, our consultants can solve your business’s air quality exposures through monitoring, mapping, surveys and evaluations that include qualitative air contaminant hazard assessments, air monitoring, and quantitative air contaminant exposure assessment. So give us a call, and breathe easier.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_temperature-hot.jpgWith the wide temperature swings we experienced here in the Midwest this past spring, sometimes it can be hard to believe that the summer and the temperature-related health and safety concerns it brings is just around the corner.

To draw attention to this fact, some states observe a Heat Safety Awareness or Heat Awareness Day each year in late spring. For its part, OSHA is once again conducting a nationwide campaign to raise awareness and educate employers and workers on the hazards of working in the heat, along with steps to take in preventing heat-related illnesses and death.

The campaign’s simple slogan “Water. Rest. Shade.” has already reached more than 7 million people in the past three years, according to OSHA. In its materials–fact sheets, posters, quick cards, training guides, and wallet cards–the agency makes it clear that workers at risk include anyone who is exposed to hot and humid conditions, especially anyone performing heavy work tasks and/or using bulky personal protective equipment.

Being able to “take the heat” can take time, and some workers might be at greater risk than others if they have not yet built up a tolerance to hot conditions. For those reasons, OSHA recommends allowing more frequent breaks for new workers or workers who have been away from the job for a week or more in order to acclimatize to conditions.

According to OSHA, occupations most affected by heat-related illness are: construction, trade/transportation/utility, agriculture and building/grounds maintenance and cleaning. Other workers who may be affected by exposure to environmental heat include those involved in transportation/baggage handling, water transportation; landscaping services; greenhouse, nursery, and floriculture production; and support activities for oil and gas operations.

OSHA makes it clear also that employers are responsible for providing workplaces that are safe from excessive heat. That can also include furnishing workers with water, rest and shade, as well as education about the symptoms of heat-related illnesses and their prevention. Worksite training and plans should also address the steps to take both to prevent heat illness and what to do in an emergency. Prompt and proper action can truly save lives.

OSHA’s main safety points for people who work in hot environments are:

•Drink water every 15 minutes, even if you’re not thirsty.

•Rest in the shade to cool down.

•Wear a hat and light-colored clothing.

•Learn the signs of heat illness and what to do in an emergency.

•Keep an eye on fellow workers.

OSHA maintains a dedicated webpage, https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/heat_index/heat_app.html, that includes a heat safety tool app, a training guide and lesson plan, and other resources all aimed at keeping worker health and safety risks low when the mercury starts to climb.

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