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According to the final data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in its Census of Fatal Occupational Injury data for fiscal 2015, of the 4,836 fatal workplace injuries that year, 136 were associated with confined spaces. While it represents less than three percent of the total, that number is significant because in most cases, such fatalities could be prevented.

According to OSHA, a confined space is an area that is large enough and configured such that an employee or person can bodily enter and perform some type of work; has limited or restricted means for entry or exit; and is not designed for continuous occupancy. Some examples of confined spaces include storage tanks, sewers, manholes, tunnels, ship voids, pipelines, silos, wells, pits and trenches. These also require a permit for entry. In the United States, any pit or trench with a depth equal to or greater than four feet is classified as a permit-required confined space.

Confined spaces, as the term suggests, might also act to harbor hazardous gases. For this reason, regulation number CFR 1910.146(c) subsection (d) states that "There may be no hazardous atmosphere within a space whenever an employee is inside the space." This is where atmospheric sampling is an invaluable tool.

According to OSHA, a hazardous atmosphere is an environment that could expose an employee to the risk of death or incapacitation, injury, or acute illness, or could keep the employee from rescuing him- or herself. That includes flammable gas, vapor or mist; airborne combustible dust; atmospheric oxygen above or below specified thresholds, or any other immediately dangerous atmospheric condition.

The practice of atmospheric testing in confined spaces to gauge potential hazards is hardly new – taking along a caged canary into a coal mine is perhaps the best known example from history.

A subcategory of confined spaces requires a permit in order for workers to operate inside them. Such permit-required confined spaces must have one or more specific characteristics: The first is that they contain hazardous gases. Others are that they contain a material that has the potential for engulfing an entrant, have an internal configuration that could lead to entrapment or asphyxiation, or contain any other recognized serious safety or health hazard. Hazardous gases are classified into three categories: toxic, asphyxiating and flammable or explosive. Confined spaces can present any combination of those atmospheric hazards.

Workplace Safety & Health Co. is equipped to review confined spaces in your facility, determine whether each meets the OSHA criteria for confined space, and if so, whether it should be permit-required.

With our experience in assessing thousands of confined spaces in a wide range of industries, Workplace Safety & Health Co. can help your organization reach a “best practice” level of compliance. Give us a call or visit our website today to learn more.

Tagged in: confined space

Nearly half of all adult asthma cases – 48 percent – might be related to work – and therefore could be preventable. That’s according to a study published in December in the CDC’s MMWR, which found that as many as 2.7 million U.S. workers might have asthma caused by or exacerbated by workplace conditions.

The study used data from the 2006–2007 adult Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) Asthma Call-back Survey (ACBS) to quantify potential occupationally-associated asthma cases and to identify the workers most at risk, by industry and state. Among the five occupations with the highest current asthma prevalence, office and administrative support was identified in 16 of the 21 states, health care practitioners and technical in 15 states, and sales and related in 13 states.

Read entire article - https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/wr/mm6547a1.htm?s_cid=mm6547a1_w

 

Tagged in: CDC MMWR

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In this 3-part series, we’ll look at the concept of safety culture in the workplace and how your organization can leverage its commitment to safety to attract and keep talent in a competitive market.

Who is Getting Your Safety Message?

Safety is a fundamental part of every culture and has been from at least the dawn of recorded history. It is no great stretch to posit that our continued existence as a species owes at least something to our ancestors’ knowledge on what to do and what to avoid in order to live a long life and to have been able transmit that information from generation to generation.

It’s only been in the past few decades, however, that the term “safety culture” has entered into the lexicon. According to OSHA, “Safety cultures consist of shared beliefs, practices, and attitudes that exist at an establishment. Culture is the atmosphere created by those beliefs, attitudes, etc., which shape our behavior.”

So far so good. Based on that definition, it’s clear that every organization has a safety culture. We know that cultivating a culture of safety is an ongoing, organic process, and not one that can always be readily quantified. After all, while we could spot check people’s knowledge of a particular process or job routine, how do we accurately measure their attitudes, beliefs and values with respect to safety?

Perhaps the better question to ask: Is our safety culture as effective as it could be?

A robust safety culture might be easier to define by considering clear-cut examples of what it isn’t.

When a safety practice is successful, such as when the selection of the proper personal protective equipment for a specific task is accompanied by training an employee on its proper use, the benefit is typically identified and appreciated within the organization. But it might not necessarily become known to the “outside world.”

Conversely, asking an employee to perform a task with inadequate safety equipment would likely be viewed by anyone inside or outside that organization as a reflection of a poor safety culture. And since a cultural universal is that bad news travels fast, we can all read about apparent lapses in safety on the job daily in the news media, opinions posted on social media and job boards from employees (and former employees), and even on OSHA’s official website.

What messages is your organization sending about its safety culture?

Tagged in: OSHA safety culture

Pneumoconiosis among coal workers, also commonly known as “black lung disease,” has resurfaced in the U.S. in “alarming” numbers, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

The disabling, often fatal occupational disease is caused by overexposure to respirable coal mine dust.

A report in a recent CDC MMWR bulletin describes a cluster of 60 cases of PMF identified in current and former coal miners at a single eastern Kentucky radiology practice from January 2015 through August 2016. This cluster was not found through the national surveillance program. That’s something the report’s authors say makes an argument for improved surveillance to promptly identify the early stages of the disease and halt its progression to PMF.

Read entire article - https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/wr/mm6549a1.htm?s_cid=mm6549a1_w

Tagged in: CDC NIOSH

Those words, issued as part of a statement by U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez on the results of the most recent Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, reflect a stark reality.

Accidents will happen, of course, but many factors that affect safety in the workplace are within our control.

When it recently released its Census of Fatal Occupational Injury data for fiscal 2015, the Bureau of Labor Statistics confirmed that 4,836 fatal workplace injuries occurred that year. Though up only slightly from the 4,821 fatal injuries reported in 2014, it was the highest number since 2008, when there were 5,214 fatal occupational injuries. Other sobering standouts were that there were 903 deaths among Latino workers – the most in any year since 2007, when there 937 fatalities. Road fatalities were up 9 percent from 2014.

Deaths listed as resulting from exposures to electricity dropped in 2015, but fatalities stemming from exposure to temperature extremes rose. Occupational deaths from nonmedical use of drugs or alcohol, unintentional overdose, went up 45 percent in 2015 to 165. There were 136 workers who died in incidents associated with confined spaces in 2015.

Falls to a lower level accounted for 81 percent of all fatal falls. Of the cases where the height of the fall was known, more than 40 percent happened at heights of 15 feet or lower. Fatal falls to a lower level accounted for nearly 40 percent of fatal work injuries in the private construction industry in 2015.

In the full statement on those data, Perez said that “These numbers underscore the urgent need for employers to provide a safe workplace for their employees as the law requires. We have a moral responsibility to make sure that workers who showed up to work today are still alive to punch the clock tomorrow. The fact is, we know how to prevent these deaths. The U.S. Department of Labor is – and will always be – committed to working with employers, workers, community organizations, unions and others to improve safety and health in our nation’s workplaces. This effort is essential to ensuring that no more workers are taken unnecessarily from their families."

It’s worth noting that BLS said the release is the first time that the CFOI has published a single annual release without revisions, adding this will be the only release for 2015 CFOI data. The agency said a similar schedule will be followed in subsequent years, meaning there will be no August or September preliminary releases.

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