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The rate of nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses in the U.S. dropped in 2015 by the greatest amount since 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That continues a downward trend that, with the exception of 2012, has happened over the past 13 years.

According to data released recently by the BLS, employers in private industry reported about 2.9 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses last year. That is a decline of about 48,000 from 2014, even though there was an increase in total hours worked. The rate of cases recorded in 2015 was 3.0 per 100 full-time workers – down from 3.2 the previous year. That makes it the lowest recorded case rate since at 2002, when OSHA recordkeeping requirements were modified. In 2003, the rate was 5.0. It fell below 4.0 for the first time in 2008 when the rate reached 3.9.The last time the rate dropped by more than 0.1 was in 2009, when it fell from 3.9 in 2008 to 3.6.

The decline in total recordable cases resulted largely by decreases in two categories: those involving days away from work and other recordable cases. The rate for cases of job transfer or restriction held steady.

Six of 19 private industry sectors reported a decline in injuries:
-mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction
-transportation and warehousing
-finance and insurance
-health care and social assistance, and
-accommodation and food services.

Some other highlights from the report:
-The only sector in the report to show an increase was wholesale trade. The other dozen sectors stayed flat.
-Over half of the 2.9 million injuries involved days away from work, job restriction or transfer (DART).
-The injury rate was highest among mid-size companies (50-249 employees) and lowest among the smallest employers (fewer than 11 employees).
-About three of four injuries occurred in service industries.
-Of the 41 states for which state rates are available, rates declined in nine and remained steady in 32 and the District of Columbia.

Four states registered injury rates above a 4.0:
-Maine: 4.8
-Vermont: 4.6
-Washington: 4.4, and
-Montana: 4.3.

Two state showed rates below 2.0:
-Washington, DC: 1.6, and
-Louisiana: 1.9.

"We are encouraged to see the significant decline in worker injury and illness rates,” Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels said in a statement. “This is the result of the relentless efforts of employers, unions, worker advocates, occupational safety and health professionals, and federal and state government agencies ensuring that worker safety and health remains a top priority every day.

"Despite the decline, approximately 2.9 million private sector workers suffered nonfatal injuries and illnesses last year. That is still far too many. At OSHA, we will continue to do all that we can to continue driving the rate down."

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's workforce by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.

This is the first of three annual BLS workplace injury reports released in the fall. In November, BLS will release a report on nonfatal injuries with days away from work. In December, the agency will release its annual report on fatal injuries.

Tagged in: OSHA

Smoking leaves a mark on the human genome in the form of DNA methylation, a process by which cells control gene activity. That’s according to research in the American Heart Association Journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Genetics.

The new findings suggest that DNA methylation could be an important sign that reveals an individual’s smoking history, and could provide researchers with potential targets for new therapies.

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OSHA is looking to update 18 of its standards, part of an ongoing effort that began more than 20 years ago.

The changes, Standards Improvement Project-Phase IV, are part of a series begun in 1995 in response to a presidential executive order, “Improving Regulations and Regulatory Review.” That order aims to reduce regulatory burden while maintaining or enhancing employees’ safety and health.
OSHA announced that this latest phase will include revisions to its standards that may be confusing, outdated, or unnecessary in its recordkeeping, general industry, maritime, and construction standards. Previous changes were issued in 1998, 2005 and 2011.

"The changes we propose will modernize OSHA standards, help employers better understand their responsibilities, increase compliance, and reduce compliance costs," Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels said in a statement. "Most importantly, these revisions will improve the safety and health protections afforded to workers across all industries."

The agency's notice in the Oct. 4 Federal Register said these proposed revisions would save employers an estimated $3.2 million per year and are based on responses to a public Request for Information issued in 2012 along with recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health, OSHA's staff, and the Office of Management and Budget.

One revision, the removal of a single word, could have some bearing on the lockout/tagout standard. In addressing a federal court ruling, OSHA proposes to remove the word “unexpected” from the Control of Hazardous Energy standard (1910.147). That word currently appears in servicing and maintenance operations in the lockout/tagout section. Specifically, it applies to a situation “in which the unexpected energization or startup of the machines or equipment, or the release of stored energy could cause injury to the employees.”
OSHA said it intended “unexpected energization” to refer to any startup that happens before the employee servicing the equipment intended.

The Sixth Circuit, however, rejected OSHA’s interpretation of the standard, ruling that the lockout/tagout standard did not apply when a startup procedure provided a warning to a worker that machinery was about to start. In the case the court was asked to consider, workers were servicing machines that used a multi-step startup procedure that included time delays. The court said that startup using such procedures would not be unexpected.

But OSHA said it believes the court’s decision misconstrues the lockout/tagout standard by allowing employers to use warning and delay systems as an alternative to following the standards’ requirements. OSHA also points out that deleting “unexpected” from the standard would make it consistent with the lockout/tagout regulation that applies to shipyards, where the word does not appear in the same context.

OSHA notes that currently its inspectors apply 11 different factors to determine whether particular warning devices are adequate to comply with its standard.

Among the 17 other changes proposed in the latest round of revisions:
-Removing a requirement for employers to provide x-rays to screen for lung cancer for employees who face that exposure. Studies have found x-rays aren’t beneficial in the lung cancer screening process.
-Removing feral cats, under the shipyard regulations, from the category of “vermin” from which employees would have to be protected.
-Revising the minimum breaking-strength requirement for lifelines in the Safety belts, lifelines, and lanyards standard, § 1926.104(c), to 5,000 pounds. This change would bring that standard into conformity with the breaking-strength requirements in the fall protection systems criteria and practices (‘‘Fall Protection’’) standard at § 1926.502(d)(9). OSHA said it believes making identical specifications for the same equipment will avoid confusion and improve compliance.

Comments on the proposal must be submitted by Dec. 5, 2016.

OSHA and Health Canada announced recently the development of a 2016-2017 Workplace Chemical Work Plan to ensure future workplace chemical requirements are acceptable in both the United States and Canada without reducing safety.

According to a news release from OSHA, the plan involves activities to support developing materials to assist stakeholders with implementing the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling (GHS), coordinating opinions on issues that come from international discussions on GHS, and maintaining alignment between the U.S. and Canadian requirements for implementing the GHS when revisions are made.

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Tagged in: OSHA

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While it might cause us to shudder to think, winter is just around the corner. And the freezin’ season, of course, comes with its own set of challenges.

Driving in cold weather, carbon monoxide exposure from using generators inside, shoveling snow and clearing roofs, fires, and slips and falls are just some of the hazards posed by winter weather and our responses to it.

The OSHA’s online page about winter hazards, includes guidance for driving, dealing with stranded vehicles, shoveling snow and using powered equipment such as snow blowers, preventing slips on snow and ice, working near or repairing downed or damaged power lines, and removing downed trees.

The webpage at offers a number of tips and precautions to take before driving in winter weather conditions, especially if watches or warnings have been issued. Some of those include:
-Keeping the gas tank full to keep the fuel line from freezing.
-Letting someone know your destination, route, and when you expect to arrive.
-Keeping a cell phone or other emergency communication device with you.
-Packing your vehicle with an emergency kit that includes thermal blankets, extra winter clothes, a 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.
-Having a supply of material such as rock salt or sand for extra traction beneath tires.

When it comes to strenuous activities to do in the snow, few compare to shoveling the white stuff. Anyone shoveling snow may become exhausted, dehydrated, and/or experience back injuries, or heart attacks. With those possibilities in mind, a recommended practice before shoveling is to warm up first. That means scooping small amounts of snow at a time and pushing the snow rather than lifting it. "The use of proper lifting technique is necessary to avoid back and other injuries when shoveling snow: keep the back straight, lift with the legs and do not turn or twist the body," OSHA advises.

When removing snow from roofs and working at heights, OSHA recommends employers evaluate snow removal tasks for hazards. That includes planning how to do the work safely and how workers can be protected from hazardous work conditions, preferably by using snow removal methods that do not call for workers to venture out onto roofs. Employers should determine the right type of equipment and PPE (personal fall arrest systems, non-slip safety boots, etc.) for the job and make sure that workers are trained on how to use them properly.

To prevent slips and falls on snow and ice, employers should clear walking surfaces of snow and ice and spread deicer as soon as possible after a winter storm. Proper footwear is a must for walking on snow or ice. OSHA notes that a "pair of insulated and water resistant boots with good rubber treads is a must for walking during or after a winter storm. Keeping a pair of rubber over-shoes with good treads which fit over your street shoes is a good idea during the winter months. Take short steps and walk at a slower pace so you can react quickly to a change in traction, when walking on an icy or snow-covered walkway."


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