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The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has issued a brief detailing what investigators found after a fire and explosions damaged two barges that were docked in Mobile, Ala., on April 24, 2013, in order for the barges' tanks to be cleaned. Flammable vapors flowed from the tank hatches into the engine room of the towing vessel and ignited, the brief says, and the fire spread to the barges alongside. Three people were seriously burned, and damage total to the towing vessel and the barges was estimated at $5.7 million, according to the report.

Read entire article: https://www.ntsb.gov/doclib/reports/2014/MAB1413.pdf

Tagged in: Flammable vapors NTSB

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a report on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's review of 20 heat-related enforcement cases from 2012 to 2013. OSHA's analysis suggests that the primary risk factor for heat fatalities is the lack of acclimatization programs.

Of the 13 enforcement cases involving worker fatalities, nine of the deaths occurred in the first three days of working on the job, while four of them occurred on the worker's first day. In all cases, heat illness prevention programs were found to be incomplete or absent and no provision was made for acclimatizing new workers to the heat.

Read entire article: https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=NEWS_RELEASES&p_id=26502

b2ap3_thumbnail_National-Preparedness-Month.jpg

How well prepared are you for an emergency or disaster? That’s one of the main questions National Preparedness Month asks of everyone, whether it’s at home or in the workplace.

September 2014 marks the eleventh annual observance of the themed month, sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the US Department of Homeland Security. This year’s theme is “Be Disaster Aware: Take Action to Prepare.” One goal of Homeland Security is to educate the public — including businesses – on how to prepare for emergencies, including natural disasters, mass casualties, biological and chemical threats, radiation emergencies, and terrorist attacks.

Much of the focus for National Preparedness Month centers around being ready to deal with emergencies and disasters at home, but the observance also raises the issue of being prepared for emergencies on the job. Safety at work is a year round priority, so it’s important to periodically review your company’s safety plans and policies. Most businesses have (and all should have) plans in place to deal with weather emergencies and hazardous materials, but what about human-caused events such as accidents, acts of violence by people and acts of terrorism?

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) lists the five steps in developing a preparedness program at work as:

•Program Management
◦Organize, develop and administer your preparedness program
◦Identify regulations that establish minimum requirements for your program

•Planning
◦Gather information about hazards and assess risks
◦Conduct a business impact analysis (BIA)
◦Examine ways to prevent hazards and reduce risks

•Implementation
Write a preparedness plan addressing:
◦Resource management
◦Emergency response
◦Crisis communications
◦Business continuity
◦Information technology
◦Employee assistance
◦Incident management
◦Training

•Testing and Exercises
◦Test and evaluate your plan
◦Define different types of exercises
◦Learn how to conduct exercises
◦Use exercise results to evaluate the effectiveness of the plan

•Program Improvement
◦Identify when the preparedness program needs to be reviewed
◦Discover methods to evaluate the preparedness program
◦Utilize the review to make necessary changes and plan improvements

How do your current plans measure up?

A new executive order from President Obama will mean closer scrutiny of companies that want to obtain federal contracts. Under the Fair Pay and Safe Workplace Executive Order, bidders on projects valued at more than $500,000 in goods, services, or a combination of both would be required to report violations of the OSH Act, the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and others that they were cited for during the three years prior to the start of a bidding process.

It doesn’t seem to mean, however, that OSHA violators will necessarily be barred from being awarded federal contracts. The EO will be implemented on new contracts in stages during 2016 and does not affect contracts already in place. Companies with violations will still be eligible to receive contracts, but their violations will be weighed as part of the decision-making process.

The order looks to identify contractors with "track records of compliance," which means preference will be given to contractors who have not had administrative merits determinations, arbitral awards or decisions, or civil judgments issued by the Department of Labor in the past three years for several labor laws, including the OSH Act of 1970.

The order doesn’t seem to have been created in a vacuum. According to a report released in 2013 by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, 18 federal contractors "were recipients of one of the largest 100 penalties issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of the Department of Labor between 2007 and 2012." That same report also mentioned that eight federal contractors were found to be responsible for the deaths of 42 U.S. workers in 2012 and that taxpayers provided $3.4 billion in contracts to those companies.

But according to a fact issued by the White House, the executive order isn’t just about singling out companies: It’s also a way to identify where remediation might be in order. The order requires federal procurement officers to provide contractors with an opportunity to disclose any steps taken to correct any violations or improve compliance with labor laws, including any agreements entered into with an enforcement agency.
“Companies with labor law violations will be offered the opportunity to receive early guidance on whether those violations are potentially problematic and remedy any problems,” according to the fact sheet.
When awarding contracts, procurement officers will consider the information when deciding if a contractor is "a responsible source that has a satisfactory record of integrity and business ethics."

The fact sheet also says that, “Contracting officers will take into account only the most egregious violations.” Those violations must “rise to the level of a lack of integrity or business ethics.”

So, while it appears one-time, level citations from OSHA aren’t likely to bar a company from obtaining a federal contract, it’s important to remember that if agency finds similar violations again for the same company, subsequent violations could be categorized as repeat. The best policy seems to be to have a safety program in place that will not lead to an OSHA inspection due to employee injuries.

Posted by on in Uncategorized

When we think of heat-related illnesses at work, we tend to think of them occurring during the summer months. But even when work environments are indoors, heat exposure from various sources can lead to illness, accidents, and unsafe work conditions year round. According to data compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2011, there were 4,420 workers who were affected by heat-related illnesses – indoors or out – and 61 workers who died from them.

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

To help keep employees safe when the going gets hot, 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 to the job after a week or more away.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Thermometer.jpgThe best way to prevent heat-related illness is to make the work environment cooler, where possible, such as by using engineering controls (air conditioning, cooling fans, insulating hot surfaces, eliminating steam leaks, etc.) to reduce exposure.

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

  • 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 exposure to heat), especially workers who are new to working in the heat 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 (safe for drinking) 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 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 figure 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 level of risk to outdoor workers and allows the user to access reminders about protective measures that should be taken at that point to protect workers from heat-related illness.

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