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OSHA recently published a new document in its Fatal Facts series. Titled Asphyxiation in a Sewer Line, the document emphasizes employers’ responsibilities to protect workers from confined space hazards while working in sewer line manholes. The document includes references to the new Confined Spaces in Construction Standard that takes effect on Aug. 3, 2015.

OSHA uses the term “fatal facts” to describe cases that are representative of employers who failed to identify and correct hazardous working conditions leading to fatalities at their worksites. The fact sheets offer ideas on how to correct these hazards and educate workers about safe work practices. The Asphyxiation in a Sewer Line fact document is based on a case in which a construction worker suffocated after entering a manhole. OSHA says the worker died from asphyxiation after entering a manhole with an uncontrolled hazardous atmosphere.
According to OSHA, although the manhole was newly constructed and was not yet connected to an active sewer system at the time of the incident, it contained a hazardous atmosphere that led to asphyxiation. The employer had not ensured that atmospheric hazards were identified and precautions for safe operations implemented before starting work at the site.

Additionally, OSHA says that:
-Workers were not trained to recognize confined space hazards and to take appropriate protective measures.
-The atmosphere in the manhole was not assessed to determine if conditions were acceptable before or during entry.
-Proper ventilation was not used to control atmospheric hazards in the manhole.
-Protective and emergency equipment was not provided at the worksite.
-An attendant was not stationed outside the manhole to monitor the situation and call for emergency services.
To prevent similar occurrences, OSHA advises that employers whose workers who will enter one or more permit-required confined space (PRCS) must implement a PRCS program for safe permit space entry operations (29 CFR 1926.1203(d), 29 CFR 1926.1204). Such programs include the following requirements:
-Provide training to workers at no cost to them in a language and vocabulary they understand, as required in 29 CFR 1926.1207, on how to safely perform permit space duties before their first assignment and as necessary.
-Prohibit entry into permit spaces until hazardous conditions (atmospheric and physical) present are identified, evaluated, and addressed (29 CFR 1926.1204(b)&(c)).
-Eliminate or control atmospheric hazards by ventilating, purging, inerting or flushing the permit space as necessary (29 CFR 1926.1204(c)(4)).
-Perform pre-entry testing for oxygen content, flammable gases and vapors, and potential toxic air contaminants (29 CFR 1926.1204(e)(3).
-Continuously monitor the permit space to verify that atmospheric conditions remain acceptable during entry (29 CFR 1926.1204(e)(1)(ii)).
-Provide essential equipment to workers with training on proper use, including: •Personal protective equipment when necessary (29 CFR 1926.1204(d)(4)).
-Rescue and emergency equipment to authorized workers, or implement procedures for rescue and emergency services (29 CFR 1926.1204(d)(8)&(i), 29 CFR 1926.1211).
-Station at least one trained attendant outside a permit space to perform all attendant’s duties (29 CFR 1926.1204(f); 29 CFR 1926.1209).

The full Fatal Facts document is available (along with other fact sheets on oil and gas, agriculture, construction, and engulfment) at https://www.osha.gov/Publications/fatalfacts.html

Workplace Safety & Health Co. can help you understand the definition of a confined space and a permit-required confined space and how it might apply to your workplace.

Tagged in: OSHA

The National Safety Council (NSC) has added its voice to the call for companies to use the latest science and not just OSHA’s limits when it comes to protecting workers from hazardous chemicals.

For Workers’ Memorial Day this year, the NSC urged employers to address workplace illnesses and to “consider the latest scientific research … which should go beyond OSHA’s Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs).”

Workplace illnesses result in 53,000 deaths and 427,000 nonfatal injuries each year, compared to workplace injuries which lead to 4,500 deaths and 4.8 million injuries requiring medical attention annually.

The NSC issued a new policy position recommending that employers:
-Use consensus standards, employer best practices and information from the American Conference of Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) for determining the most effective control strategies, which should go beyond OSHA’s PELs, Hazard Communication Standard and the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS)
-Improve reporting and tracking of occupational illnesses
-Share information and practices on prevention of occupational illnesses
-Reduce risks of exposure to chemicals by using the hierarchy of controls
-Contribute to the review and update of existing standards that protect workers from harmful exposure to chemicals, and
-Consider total worker health factors that may exacerbate occupational illness exposures.

OSHA just closed the comment period in its Request for Information on revising PELs. The next step is for the agency to publish the results of the RFI, which could happen before the close of 2015.

http://www.nsc.org/NewsDocuments/Occupational-Illness-125.pdf

 

Tagged in: OSHA

A bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives recently would codify the Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP), a safety and health program overseen by OSHA. The programs are aimed at preventing workplace injuries and fatalities while increasing productivity, employee engagement and lowering costs for companies and taxpayers.

The Programs recognize employers and workers in the private industry and federal agencies who have implemented effective safety and health management systems and maintain injury and illness rates below national Bureau of Labor Statistics averages for their respective industries. In VPP, management, labor, and OSHA work cooperatively and proactively to prevent fatalities, injuries, and illnesses through a system focused on hazard prevention and control, worksite analysis, training, and management commitment and worker involvement.

To participate, employers are required to submit an application to OSHA and undergo an onsite evaluation by a team of safety and health professionals. Union support is required for applicants represented by a bargaining unit. Program participants are re-evaluated every three to five years to remain in the programs. VPP participants are exempt from OSHA programmed inspections while they maintain their VPP status.

The bipartisan Voluntary Protection Program Act (H.R. 2500) was introduced by Congressman Gene Green (D-TX), Congressman Todd Rokita (R-IN) and Congresswoman Martha Roby (R-AL). In presenting the bill to the House, the representatives highlighted VPP's track record of improving safety and health at worksites across the U.S.

"We all want to ensure worker safety, and VPP seeks to achieve that through partnerships, not penalties,” Roby said in a statement. “VPP helps companies become compliant with workplace safety rules on the front end to avoid costly fines and harmful penalties on the back end. VPP is a smart way to ensure a safe and productive workplace, and I’m proud to be a part of this bipartisan legislation to finally codify it."

"VPP has been a great success in Indiana, including worksites like Cintas in Frankfort and Nucor in Crawfordsville,” said Rokita in a statement. “It is one federal program that works well, fostering cooperation between private businesses and a government regulator. This collaboration is good for employees, employers, and the American economy."

According to a statement from Rokita’s office, VPP currently covers nearly a million employees. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) estimates that tens of millions of taxpayer dollars are saved annually through VPP, calculating government savings to be more than $59 million a year. Private sector savings total more than $300 million annually.
For more information on the programs, navigate to https://www.osha.gov/dcsp/vpp/.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) announced it is seeking public review and comments by June 15 on five new projects. They include a new standard to set protocols for aircraft rescue and firefighting (ARFF) response to accidents at public air shows, a standard on required competencies of responders to derailments of high-hazard flammable trains carrying crude oil, ethanol, and other Class 3 products, and an EMS Officer standard.

Comments may be submitted to the Codes and Standards Administration Department, NFPA, 1 Batterymarch Park, Quincy, MA 02169-7471.

Read entire article - http://www.nfpa.org/codes-and-standards/standards-development-process/new-projects

Keeping cool during the summer months can seem like a chore unto itself, but it’s important to keep in mind that heat-related illnesses can happen year round in the work environment.

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

To help keep employees safe when things heat up at work, 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 after a week or more away from the job.

The best way to prevent heat-related illness is to make the work environment cooler, where possible. This could take the form of engineering controls such as air conditioning, cooling fans, insulating hot surfaces, ventilating hot air, eliminating steam leaks, etc., to reduce exposure.

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

-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 resistance to heat exposure), especially workers who are new to working in a hot environment 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 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-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 number 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 the level of risk to outdoor workers and allows the user to access reminders about protective measures that should be taken at that risk level to protect workers from heat-related illness.

Tagged in: OSHA

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