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We all know how hot it starts to get this time of year, but we don’t always appreciate how quickly heat-related stress can lead to serious health problems. Heat is one of the leading weather-related killers in the United States. To help call attention to that fact, the National Weather Service sponsors Heat Safety Awareness Day on the last Friday of May just a few weeks ahead of the official beginning of summer.

Heat safety awareness has year-round place in workplace safety plans, but it is especially important during the summer months.

Heat stress related injuries are often the result of the body’s inability to cope with prolonged exposure to extreme heat. It is of particular concern during the summer months, especially for people who work in factories, in construction, or on farms.

People at increased risk of heat stress include those 65 years of age or older, those who are overweight, have heart disease or high blood pressure, or who take medications that can be affected by extreme heat.
Being aware of the health and safety risks posed by exposure to heat in the workplace is a year-round concern, even in workplaces where temperatures can be regulated. In addition to burns from accidental direct contact with steam or hot surfaces, heat can also indirectly lead to other injuries by causing sweaty palms, fogged eyewear, and dizziness.

Preventing heat stress in employees is as important an aspect of safety plan design as any other. Employers need to educate workers on what heat stress is, how it affects their health and safety, and how it can be prevented.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH) offers a number of resources on heat safety at work, from fact sheets and infographics to blog posts and planning documents available at https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/heatstress/.

It’s not just seat cushions that are impacted by long periods of sitting. You may have heard the phrase “sitting is the new smoking.” There is evidence to suggest that the comparison is a fitting one. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH), prolonged sitting is associated with a variety of negative health effects that include back and shoulder pain, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity, and chronic diseases. What’s more, people who sit for long periods of time as part of their job can still be at risk for these conditions even if they otherwise meet recommended levels of physical activity outside of work.

New guidance from NIOSH known as Total Worker Health® (THW) offers employers solutions to the problem of prolonged sitting on the job, protecting employees from workplace injuries while helping them to improve their overall health and well-being, both on and off the clock.

According to NIOSH, a sedentary job is one that involves predominately sitting, with occasional walking, standing, and lifting no more than 10 pounds. Examples include management and professional work, office and administrative support roles, as well as cashiers, data entry, and call center employees.

Some of the ways organizations can reduce sedentary include offering the flexibility to have standing or walking meetings, providing sit-stand work stations and encouraging flexible rest breaks.

Not surprisingly, cutting down on worker sedentary time also spells benefits for employers. Some of the direct benefits, NIOSH says, include reductions in health-related expenses and in absenteeism. Some of the indirect benefits may include improved worker morale, better recruitment and retention, and even reduced injury rates.

For organizations considering incorporating TWH into their existing health and safety programs, NIOSH offers the following guidance:
-Include senior management support and worker participation in all health initiatives.
-Involve workers and their representatives in designing and implementing procedures and practices to reduce sedentary work and promote physical activity.
-Ensure that any program meant to advance workplace well-being has the commitment of organizational leadership.
-Evaluate existing resources and current policies, programs, and practices to find what works to promote physical activity and future needs.
-Allow workers more control over their activities, workloads, and schedules, and allow them to set up their workstations to take physical activity breaks after long periods of sitting.
-Educate managers and supervisors on ways to reduce job stress faced by workers.
-Ensure privacy by adhering to the regulatory requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, etc. and train staff in privacy and confidentiality.
-Link existing worker safety and health programs to current programs in use in the workplace.
-Offer organizational support to encourage physical activity such as walking or biking to work or during breaks.
-Provide health information about the risks of sedentary work to employees.

The full document, “Using Total Worker Health® Concepts to Reduce the Health Risks from Sedentary Work,” is available at https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/wp-solutions/2017-131/.

Tagged in: NIOSH

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), OSHA and partners including ASSE and AIHA are encouraging employers to hold special activities during June 12-18 – Safe + Sound Week. The event is a nationwide effort to raise awareness and understanding of the value of safety and health programs in workplaces.

Read entire article - https://www.osha.gov/safeandsoundweek/

Tagged in: NIOSH

There are significant differences in short sleep duration – less than seven hours a night – among occupational groups. That’s according to a CDC study that is believed to be the first to evaluate short sleep duration in more than 90 detailed occupation groups and across multiple states.

Read entire article - https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/updates/upd-03-03-17.html

Updated OSHA regulations that went into effect in January 2017 stand to have a pervasive impact on all fall protection programs going forward.

In November 2016, OSHA issued a final rule on Walking-Working Surfaces and Personal Fall Protection Systems (29 CFR 1910 Subparts D & I). The 500-plus page document sets compliance dates that go out as far as 2036, but many are much more pressing. In one example, workers exposed to fall hazards or who use fall protection equipment must receive training by May 2017.

Some of the key features of the new rule are discussed below.

Roof Work
A common concern with respect to roof work involves distance, specifically, what is considered to be a safe distance from the edge of an unprotected roof.

Although OSHA's previous position is that there is no safe distance, the new rule does provide some clarification on this point. The regulation states that work at less than 6 feet from the roof edge requires conventional means of protection (such as a guardrail, personal fall arrest systems, etc.). From a distance of 6-15 feet, the new rule allows for a designated area for infrequent or temporary work. These areas are defined in more detail in the rule’s commentary section.

Some of the new features clearly reflect an alignment with regulations on construction. One is that a warning line is required beginning at 6 feet from the edge.

Under the new rule, work at a distance greater than 15 feet from an unprotected edge does not require an employer to provide any fall protection – but only if the work is both infrequent and temporary. In this situation, the rule allows for an administrative control to be used in order to keep workers from being closer than 15 feet from an unprotected edge.

Guardrails, Ladders and Stairs
The new rule contains new information on common features such as guardrails, ladders and stairs.

One key feature of the new rule with respect to these devices is a number of additional approved types: They include alternating tread-type stairs, combination ladders and mobile ladder stand platforms. The rule also now includes specific requirements for spiral stairs and ship stairs. For falls of greater than 24 feet, the new rule requires the use of ladder safety systems. Enforcement of the requirements for new ladders is set to start in November 2018, and every ladder will be required to comply with this by 2036.

General industry regulations for guardrails are now aligned with construction rules and require a height of 42 inches (plus or minus 3 inches). Under the new rule, openings are required to be no larger than 19 inches. No longer allowed is the use of chains to close off access to openings or the use of a "parapet alternative" option that involved a shorter (30-inch) barrier, provided as it was of sufficient width (18 inches).

Competent and Qualified Persons
The new regulations address more than just hardware requirements, and one subset speaks more specifically than in the previous version to the roles of “Competent and Qualified” persons.

That includes distinct training and responsibilities for personnel who have those designations. There are specific references on the need for a Qualified Person for the following job functions:
-Worker training, which in the past was linked to the Competent Person
-Instances in which correction or repair involves structural integrity of a walking-working surface
-Inspection of knots in a lanyard or vertical lifeline
-Annual inspection of rope descent anchorages
-Anchorage certification

Workplace Assessments
One of the most significant features of the new rule is the need for fall hazard assessments. 29 CFR 1910.132(d) now requires workplace assessment. That means employers must ensure the following to be in compliance:
-Determine whether hazards are present and, if so, communicate that information to employees, select types of personal protective equipment for employees, and ensure its proper fit.
-Coordinate with other entities to assess hazards for multi-employer sites.
-Document the completion of assessments, including what workplaces were evaluated, who certifies that an evaluation was performed, and the date of the assessment.

Tagged in: OSHA workplace safety

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