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The early 21st century brought about a major change in the way we communicate using mobile electronics. The advent of the cell phone and its descendant, the smartphone, meant we were no longer bound to a nearby telephone receiver to hold voice conversations, send and receive text messages and email, post comments on social media and browse the internet. And yet, with this new freedom came new health and safety issues.  

By now, we're likely all familiar with the dangers of driving while talking or texting on a cell phone. But research into smartphone use over the past decade or so shows that distracted driving isn’t the only hazard faced when going mobile with mobile devices.  

More than four out of five adults in the U.S. (86 percent) report that they constantly or often check their email, texts and social media accounts, according to the American Psychological Association’s (APA) report "Stress in America™: Coping with Change" released earlier this year. The report’s findings suggest that attachment to devices and the constant use of technology is associated with higher stress levels among those who participated in the study.

This excessive technology and social media use has given rise to the “constant checker” — a person who checks his or her email, texts and social media accounts on a constant basis. The survey found that stress level is higher, on average, for constant checkers than for those who do not engage with technology as frequently. 

On a 10-point scale, where one equates “little or no stress” and 10 means “a great deal of stress,” the average reported overall stress level for constant checkers is 5.3, compared with 4.4 for those who don’t check as frequently. Among the ranks of the employed in the United States who check their work email constantly on their days off, the reported overall stress level is even higher – 6.0.

Just under two-thirds of those surveyed (65 percent) indicated that they somewhat or strongly agree that periodically “unplugging” or taking a “digital detox” is important for their mental health. However, only 28 percent of those who say this actually report doing so. Other commonly reported strategies used by people in the U.S. to manage their technology usage include not allowing cell phones at the dinner table (28 percent) and turning of notifications for social media apps (19 percent).

For the past decade, the American Psychological Association has commissioned The Stress in America™ survey to measure attitudes and perceptions of stress among the general public and identifies leading sources of stress, common behaviors used to manage stress and the impact of stress on people’s lives. 

The full report of the most recent study is available at http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2017/technology-social-media.PDF

Tagged in: technology

The present regulatory approach toward safety and health in the workplace needs improvement. That's according to the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), whose “OSHA Reform Blueprint” lists 12 points outlining changes to emphasize risk management, sharpen the agency’s focus on productive policies and fill gaps that limit OSHA’s ability to protect workers.

Read entire article - http://www.asse.org/assets/1/7/ASSE_Blueprint-_Reforming_Workplace_Safety___Health.pdf

Tagged in: OSHA workplace safety

If investing in safety at the workplace sometimes seems costly, there are numbers that show just how expensive the alternative can be.

The most serious workplace injuries cost companies in the United States $59.9 billion per year. That's according to the 2017 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index, which used figures from 2014, the most recent year statistically valid injury data are available from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the National Academy of Social Insurance in order to identify critical risk areas in worker safety.

The index looks at what caused employees to miss six or more days of work and then ranks those reasons by total workers’ compensation costs.

Taking the top spot in this year's index was overexertion involving outside sources. That category includes lifting, pushing, pulling, holding, carrying or throwing objects. Such injuries accounted for 23% of the total costs, or $13.79 billion.

The remaining categories in the top 10 were:
-falls on same level, $10.62 billion, 17.7%;
-falls to lower level, $5.5 billion, 9.2%;
-being struck by object or equipment, $4.43 billion, 7.4%;
-other exertions or bodily reactions, $3.89 billion, 6.5%;
-roadway incidents involving motorized land vehicle, $3.7 billion, 6.2%
-slip or trip without fall, $2.3 billion, 3.8%;
-caught in or compressed by equipment or objects, $1.95 billion, 3.3%;
-struck against object or equipment, $1.95 billion, 3.2%, and
-repetitive motions involving micro-tasks, $1.81 billion, 3.0%.

That order in among the top 10 was unchanged from the previous year. What did change from year to year, however, was the share of the top 10 causes of serious workplace accidents. In 2014, the cost of all disabling workplace accidents was 83.4 percent, up by just under 1% from 2013. The report also found that falls on the same level and roadway incidents continued to increase.

At Workplace Safety & Health Co., our primary concern is to assist customers in reducing injuries and illnesses while promoting their profitability through robust health and safety management practices. A mock OSHA audit from Workplace Safety & Health Co. can provide valuable insight into the presence of unsafe conditions and/or unsafe work practices that may be present at your facility. Give us a call or visit our website to learn more about how we can help.

Tagged in: workplace safety

The American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) recently announced its support of the Accurate Workplace Injury and Illness Records Restoration Act. The bill, H.R. 2428, would reinstate the OSHA recordkeeping rule overturned this year by use of the Congressional Review Act. The Accurate Workplace Injury and Illness Records Restoration Act would allow OSHA to issue citations where violations of recordkeeping requirements continued for more than six months.

AIHA says accurate injury and illness records are essential in identifying and correcting workplace hazards.

Read entire article - https://www.aiha.org/about-aiha/Press/2017PressReleases/Pages/AIHA-Supports-the-Accurate-Workplace-Injury-and-Illness-Records-Restoration-Act-.aspx

Tagged in: OSHA

We now know that lead exposure can damage the cardiovascular and central nervous systems and can be harmful in children’s development. So why does the toxic metal continue to be used in a variety of products? More to the point, what are some ways to help protect people and the environment from exposure?

The element's resistance to weathering and corrosion have been well known for centuries. The English word "plumbing" stems from the widespread use of the element known in Latin as "plumbum" (more widely known today by the chemical symbol "Pb") in pipes.

It's known that work such as sanding, cutting and demolition can produce hazardous chips and dust by disturbing lead-based paint. Yet, lead continues to be used in yellow highway paints, in paint primers for steel bridges and in the shipbuilding industry.

Prior to the 1960s (and up through the late 1970s), paint used in homes was most often lead based. Lead oxide was used as a pigment, while lead naphthenate was used in small concentrations due to its anti-bacterial and anti-mold properties.
In the 1990s, the EPA established lead-based paint regulations after it was determined that millions of people had been exposed to lead poisoning from paint peeling from walls. The most common ways for lead to enter the body are through inhaling it as a dust or fume or ingesting it accidentally. Once inside, lead can circulate and be deposited throughout the body, making it a cumulative and persistent toxic substance.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) regulates many aspects of lead exposure in the residential environment. Young children are especially vulnerable since they tend to place things into their mouth. More information can be found at: https://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/healthy_homes/enforcement/regulations

What it all boils down to is the fact that as materials that contain lead age, exposure will continue to be a human and environmental health concern. For that reason, lead abatement means that lead-containing materials and structures need to stay in good repair and that any work to them or their surroundings should be planned carefully.

Important initial steps in mitigating the health risks from lead hazards are to identify its presence and to determine exposure risks to people and to the environment.

Mitigating lead hazards can be achieved in four basic ways:
-Replacing part of an asset coated in lead-based paint with a part that is not.
-Enclosing a part or surface covered in lead-based paint with a solid barrier.
-Encapsulating a part or surface covered in lead-based paint to make it inaccessible
-Removing the lead-based paint.

Both the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have established rules to keep employees safe from lead hazards at work.

OSHA in 1978 established a separate standard addressing Occupational Exposure to Lead (29 CFR 1910.1025) that includes a permissible exposure limit (PEL) for employees who work in general and maritime industries. The OSHA General Industry Standard sets 50 micrograms per cubic meter as the 8-hour time-weighted average concentration of lead in air. This is the maximum concentration to which a worker can be exposed, on a daily basis, over a working lifetime to prevent material impairment of his/her health or functional capacity. The standard also includes an action level of 30 micrograms per cubic meter, which triggers requirements for employers with regard to monitoring lead levels and providing for medical evaluation and treatment for employees if various thresholds are exceeded. A separate standard that applies to the construction industry (29 CFR 1926.62) was published in 1995 and specified the same PEL and action level.

In effect since 2010, the EPA's Renovation, Repair and Painting Program sets standards for employers if their employees' work involves disturbing paint in residential, educational, or child care settings built before 1978, when the use of lead-based paint in such buildings was banned. According to those rules, workers must be trained and certified in lead-safe work practices.

The agency publishes a handbook (available at https://www.epa.gov/lead/small-entity-compliance-guide-renovate-right-epas-lead-based-paint-renovation-repair-and) for businesses to determine whether the program applies to them.

There are two methods the EPA recognizes for testing paint: X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analysis and paint chip sampling with an analysis by an accredited laboratory. At Workplace Safety & Health Co., in addition to using these test methods, we also use AutoCAD™ drawings and photographs in our survey reports to show the location and appearance of each surface coating we analyze. So before starting in on that next renovation or construction project that you suspect might lead to exposure to lead, call us first and be sure -- and safe.

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