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Fires in the United States last year cost the country $11.5 billion in property damage. As staggering as that total is, it’s down from the estimated $12.4 billion recorded by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) for 2012.

That’s just one finding contained in "Fire Loss in the United States in 2013", the most recent annual report released by the NFPA. The report compiles data on civilian fire deaths and injuries, property damage and intentionally set fires reported to the NFPA by fire departments that responded to the 2013 National Fire Experience Survey.

Last year, there were 1,240,000 fires reported in the U.S., down from the 1,375,500 fires responded to by public fire departments in 2012. It also represents the lowest rate of incidence since 1977-78 when the association began using its current survey methodology.

Of the fires reported in 2013, 487,500 involved structures, up about 1.5 percent from 2012. Nonresidential structure fires amounted to 100,500 in 2013, an increase of about 1 percent from the previous year. This category also included 70 civilian deaths, an increase of 7.7 percent from the previous year. The report defines the term “civilian” as “anyone other than a firefighter, and covers public service personnel such as police officers, civil defense staff, non-fire service medical personnel, and utility company employees.” Overall civilian deaths were up last year, too, from 2,855 in 2012 to 3,240 in 2013, with fires in the home accounting for about 85 percent. There were also 1,500 civilian injuries in nonresidential structures last year, a decrease of about 1.6 percent from 2012.

Estimates of civilian fire injuries are on the low side, the NFPA cautions, because many injuries are not reported to the responding fire service. This can occur at small fires to which fire departments don’t respond, or when fire departments aren’t aware of injured persons whom they didn’t transport to medical facilities.

Until last year, the number of structure fires had declined steadily, from a peak in 1977 of 1,098,000 to 480,500 in 2012. Whether last year’s numbers are a blip on the radar or represent the start of another trend remains to be seen, and it’s important to note that structure fires are just one part of a larger picture.

The report states there were an estimated 300 civilians who died in highway vehicle fires, statistically unchanged since 2012. From 1977 to 2013, the number of vehicle deaths on the nation’s roads has decreased 60 percent.
By region, the Midwest and the Northeast tied for the highest fire incident rate per thousand people (4.4), while the Midwest had the highest civilian death rate per million people (13.4).

The Northeast showed the highest civilian injury rate per million people (70.2), while the Midwest had the highest property loss per capita rate ($42.10).

The NFPA develops more than 300 codes and standards to minimize the possibility and effects of fire and other hazards. All of those codes and standards can be found at www.nfpa.org/freeaccess .

Tagged in: NFPA workplace fires

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October was National Indoor Air Quality Month, an observance aimed at drawing attention to the quality of the air we breathe at home and at work.

Studies conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency comparing the risks of environmental threats to public health list indoor air pollution from sources such as secondhand smoke, radon, organic compounds, and biological pollutants among the top five risks on a consistent basis.

In general, most indoor air quality problems in the workplace can be pinpointed to six main sources:
• Inadequate Ventilation – These problems involve lack of adequate fresh air and uneven distribution of fresh air within a structure.
• Humidity and Temperature – These concerns involve levels outside the normal range of human comfort.
• Inside Contamination – Possible sources of contamination include office equipment such as copy machines, office and cleaning supplies, and chemicals that are stored indoors.
• Outside Contamination – As the name suggests, this includes contaminants brought into a work environment, such through improper air intake or even changes in wind conditions (for example, vehicle exhaust fumes from a parking garage or loading dock drawn into a ventilation system).
• Microbial Contamination – This is typically associated with water leaks, water infiltration, increased humidity indoors, humidifiers, and contaminated ventilation ductwork – places that can harbor and encourage the growth of microbes.
• New Building Materials – The results from building materials that have just been installed (such as the familiar gas emissions from new carpeting). Such problems can be dissipated by increasing ventilation and typically resolve over time.

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 safety and health risks posed by air quality. Whether your employees’ work environment is predominately indoors or outdoors, 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.

A paint manufacturer has been cited by OSHA for six safety violations that involved amputation, electrical and other safety hazards following an April 2014 inspection at the Plaid Enterprises Inc. craft paint production in Decatur, Ga. OSHA initiated the inspection there in response to a complaint.

OSHA claims that a staffing agency provided temporary workers for the Plaid Enterprises' facility, but that it neither maintained supervision at the company nor was knowledgeable about the facility's hazardous conditions. No citations were proposed for staffing company. Proposed penalties for Plaid Enterprises Inc. total $84,500.

Read entire article - https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=NEWS_RELEASES&p_id=26787

Tagged in: OSHA

As an opening salvo of an initiative to conduct a national dialogue with stakeholders on ways to prevent work-related illness caused by exposure to hazardous substances, OSHA has announced the publication of a Request for Information (RFI) to stakeholders and others requesting recommendations on how the agency might update its permissible exposure limits (PELs) for hundreds of chemicals. PELs are regulatory limits on the amount or concentration of a substance in the air, and are meant to protect workers against the adverse health effects of exposure to hazardous substances. This opening stage is seeking stakeholder input on the management of hazardous chemical exposures in the workplace and strategies for updating PELs, a number of which have exposure limits that date back to the early 1970s.

The RFI was scheduled to be published in the Oct. 10 Federal Register.

Read entire article - https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=NEWS_RELEASES&p_id=26841

The revised set of labels brought about by the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) isn’t the only recent development in a move toward more comprehensive – and comprehensible ¬ – product descriptions for chemicals.

On the consumer front, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced that it is redesigning its Design for the Environment (DfE) Safer Product Label to better convey that products bearing the label meet the program’s “rigorous standard to be safer for people and the environment,” according to a news release.

“We want consumers to be able to easily find safer products that work well,” said Jim Jones, Assistant Administrator for Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, in a statement. “The agency wants to hear from the American people on which designs will help people identify household cleaning and other products that are safer for families and the environment.”

The redesigned label is aimed at helping consumers, businesses and institutional buyers recognize products that have attained the EPA Safer Product Label. According to the agency, all ingredients in products bearing the DfE logo have been evaluated by the EPA to make sure they qualify as high-performing and be packaged in an environmentally friendly manner. The criteria address potential health and environmental concerns, including, for example, if an ingredient is associated with causing cancer or reproductive harm, and if it accumulates in human tissue or in the environment. As a condition of the label, all ingredients must be disclosed either on the product or the manufacturer’s website. In effect, the EPA says, when people choose to use these products, they are protecting their families and the environment by making safer chemical choices. In addition to informing consumers, a stated goal of the program is to help partners drive change by providing technical tools, methodologies, and expertise to move toward safer, more sustainable formulations.

According to the agency, more than 2500 products have earned the DfE label to date. A complete list of those products is available at http://www.epa.gov/dfe/pubs/projects/formulat/formpart.htm .

From now until Oct. 31, the agency is asking the chemical and product manufacturing industry, retailers, consumers and environmental organizations to share their thoughts on four proposed label designs up until Oct. 31, 2014 at http://www.epa.gov/dfe/label .

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