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b2ap3_thumbnail_air_quality.jpgAir quality in the workplace should an ongoing concern, and that includes the quality of the air where the workplace is outdoors.

Back in April, Air Quality Awareness Week ran from April 28 – May 2. Each day of that work week, Monday through Friday, comes with its own theme. They started the week off on Monday as “Do Your Part: Reduce Your Contribution to Air Pollution”, capped off by Friday’s “Traveler’s Health”. In and among these themes are a number of tips from the Environmental Protection Agency that apply to the public outside and inside a work environment.

One measure of air quality, the Air Quality Index (AQI), can be used to help plan outdoor activities regardless of the occasion.

Finding the day’s AQI report is becoming increasingly easy. It’s available on the Web (http://www.airnow.gov), on many local television weather forecasts, and via free e-mail tools and apps (http://www.enviroflash.info and http://m.epa.gov/apps/airnow.html). After finding the forecast for a local area, checking the health recommendations can show how to reduce the amount of pollution breathed in.

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

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b2ap3_thumbnail_temperature-hot.jpgWith the wide temperature swings we experienced here in the Midwest this past spring, sometimes it can be hard to believe that the summer and the temperature-related health and safety concerns it brings is just around the corner.

To draw attention to this fact, some states observe a Heat Safety Awareness or Heat Awareness Day each year in late spring. For its part, OSHA is once again conducting a nationwide campaign to raise awareness and educate employers and workers on the hazards of working in the heat, along with steps to take in preventing heat-related illnesses and death.

The campaign’s simple slogan “Water. Rest. Shade.” has already reached more than 7 million people in the past three years, according to OSHA. In its materials–fact sheets, posters, quick cards, training guides, and wallet cards–the agency makes it clear that workers at risk include anyone who is exposed to hot and humid conditions, especially anyone performing heavy work tasks and/or using bulky personal protective equipment.

Being able to “take the heat” can take time, and some workers might be at greater risk than others if they have not yet built up a tolerance to hot conditions. For those reasons, OSHA recommends allowing more frequent breaks for new workers or workers who have been away from the job for a week or more in order to acclimatize to conditions.

According to OSHA, occupations most affected by heat-related illness are: construction, trade/transportation/utility, agriculture and building/grounds maintenance and cleaning. Other workers who may be affected by exposure to environmental heat include those involved in transportation/baggage handling, water transportation; landscaping services; greenhouse, nursery, and floriculture production; and support activities for oil and gas operations.

OSHA makes it clear also that employers are responsible for providing workplaces that are safe from excessive heat. That can also include furnishing workers with water, rest and shade, as well as education about the symptoms of heat-related illnesses and their prevention. Worksite training and plans should also address the steps to take both to prevent heat illness and what to do in an emergency. Prompt and proper action can truly save lives.

OSHA’s main safety points for people who work in hot environments are:

•Drink water every 15 minutes, even if you’re not thirsty.

•Rest in the shade to cool down.

•Wear a hat and light-colored clothing.

•Learn the signs of heat illness and what to do in an emergency.

•Keep an eye on fellow workers.

OSHA maintains a dedicated webpage, https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/heat_index/heat_app.html, that includes a heat safety tool app, a training guide and lesson plan, and other resources all aimed at keeping worker health and safety risks low when the mercury starts to climb.

Non-profit organizations face many of the same regulations as for-profit concerns, including those that pertain to employee safety in the workplace. Holding non-profit status or having a small number of employees does not exempt a business from OSHA compliance; unless a facility is municipal- , state-, or federally-owned, it is subject to OSHA regulations so long as it has employees.

That means that many non-profits, too, need to understand their responsibilities to employees, identify and attempt to prevent hazards, and provide training to employees on their rights with respect to safety on the job. Fortunately, in mid-May OSHA announced the availability of the 2014 Susan Harwood Training Grant Program. The initiative provides $7 million under to support the creation of in-person, hands-on training and educational programs as well as materials for workers and employers in small businesses; industries with high injury, illness, and fatality rates; and workers who are underserved, have limited English proficiency or who are temporary.

The grants are available to nonprofit organizations including community and faith-based organizations, employer associations, labor unions, joint labor/management associations, and colleges and universities and can be used to fund training and education for workers and employers to identify and prevent workplace safety and health hazards. OSHA has said two types of safety and health training grants will be awarded: Targeted Topic Training and Capacity Building, with funding split evenly for each grant fund.

According to OSHA, Targeted Topic Training grants support the development of quality training materials and programs for addressing workplace hazards and prevention strategies. The Targeted Topic Training grants require applicants to address occupational safety and health topics designated by OSHA. Targeted Topic Training grants may be eligible for one additional follow-on grant, based on satisfactory performance. The deadline to submit Targeted Topic Training grants (SHTG-FY-14-01) is Monday, June 30, 2014.

Capacity Building grants focus on developing and expanding the capacity of an organization to provide safety and health training, education, and related assistance to target audiences. Grant recipients are expected to increase occupational safety and health competence and improve organizational capacity to assist workers and employers on an ongoing basis by ensuring that services continue beyond federal financial support. Capacity Building Developmental grant recipients may be eligible for additional 12-month follow-on grants, based on satisfactory performance. The cutoff for Capacity Building grants (SHTG-FY-14-02) is Thursday, June 26, 2014.

All applications must be submitted electronically and are due no later than 11:59 p.m. EDT on each grant’s due date – no extensions of the deadline will be granted.

The solicitation for both grant applications is available at http://www.grants.gov, where new applicants need to register and returning applicants must ensure their registration is accurate and current.

More information on the Susan Harwood Training Grant Program, including access to a proposal webinar to assist prospective applicants in understanding the application process, is available on OSHA’s website at https://www.osha.gov/dte/sharwood/index.html.

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Under OSHA Recordkeeping regulation (29 CFR 1904), covered employers are required to prepare and maintain records of serious occupational injuries and illnesses, whether they are direct employees or those working through a staffing agency. According to OSHA, the agency’s new Temporary Worker Initiative will use enforcement, outreach, and training to make sure that temporary workers are protected in the workplace.

The agency announced the initiative to raise awareness and compliance with requirements that temporary workers receive the same training and protection that existing workers receive. Part of that effort is a new educational resource that focusing on requirements for injury recording of temporary worker injuries and illnesses. The measures were prompted in part by OSHA investigations in recent months into reports of temporary workers suffering serious or fatal injuries, many of which occur within their first few days on the job.

The new Recordkeeping Bulletin (https://www.osha.gov/temp_workers/OSHA_TWI_Bulletin.pdf) explains the requirements for both the staffing agency and the host employer and addresses how to identify who is responsible for recording work-related injuries and illnesses of temporary workers on the OSHA 300 log.

Covered employers are required to record on that log any recordable injuries and illnesses of all employees on their payroll, whether those workers are classified as labor, executive, hourly, salary, part-time, seasonal, or migrant workers. Covered employers must log also any recordable injuries and illnesses that occur to employees who are not on the company payroll if these employers are supervised on a day-to-day basis.

OSHA says that the temporary worker Recordkeeping Bulletin is the first in a series of guidance documents to be released to support the initiative to raise awareness about compliance with OSHA requirements for temporary workers.

A construction worker fatality at East Georgia State College in Swainsboro, Ga. has resulted in five safety violations against Smiley Plaster Co. The company faces $57,000 in penalties. The 42-year-old worker fell approximately 19 feet off scaffolding to his death while applying stucco to a pre-existing building that was being renovated as a college dormitory. OSHA’s investigation into the Sept. 20, 2013 fatality found that the company failed to provide fall protection to employees who work from scaffolding at heights over 10 feet.

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