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One of the most obvious ways to be injured – anywhere – is to fall. It’s a simple observation that is supported by statistics showing that falls are near the top of lists of nonfatal and fatal injuries that happen in the workplace.

According to the 2016 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index, the most disabling, nonfatal workplace injuries amounted to nearly $62 billion in U.S. workers’ compensation costs in 2013, the most recent year for which the data used in the index were available. The index is compiled by the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety and uses information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the National Academy of Social Insurance to find which events caused employees to miss six or more days of work and then ranks those causes by total workers’ compensation costs.

Falls to the same level (16.4%, or $10.16 billion) and falls to a lower level (8.7%, or $5.4 billion) came in second and third, respectively. Taken together, they accounted for over a quarter of the total costs on the most recent index. It’s worth noting that slips or trips that did not result in falls came in seventh place, accounting for $2.35 billion, or 3.8% of the top 10 total that year.

According to preliminary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries released in September 2015, fatal falls, slips, and trips increased by 10 percent in 2014 from the previous year. Falls to a lower level were up 9 percent to 647 from 595 in 2013, while falls on the same level increased 17 percent, according to the BLS. Overall, fatal work injuries increased by 2 percent in 2014 from the prior year, although the rate of 3.3 per 100,000 full-time workers stayed the same. 

With winter still upon us, here is another statistic to consider: The Accident Fund Insurance Company of America and United Heartland reported recently that almost a third of all Midwestern workers’ compensation claims that included lost time were the result of slips and falls on ice and snow.

According to those insurers, winter-related slip and fall claims doubled from 2013 to 2014.

The top five states were:
1. Indiana (37%)
2. Wisconsin (33%)
3. Michigan (32%)
4. Illinois (32%)
5. Minnesota (29%)

Accidents can and will happen, of course. What is your workplace doing to minimize the risk of them resulting from slips, trips and falls?

The public comment period for OSHA's updated Safety and Health Program Management Guidelines will come to a close on Feb. 15, 2016.

This revision of the voluntary guidelines first published in 1989 includes key principles such as finding and fixing hazards before they cause injury or illness, and making sure that workers have a voice in safety and health. OSHA has said the new material should be particularly helpful to small- and medium-sized businesses and address ways in which multiple employers at the same worksite can coordinate efforts to make sure all workers are protected equally.

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Tagged in: OSHA

Despite relatively mild temperatures in many parts of the country early this winter, frozen precipitation and low temperatures are still a possibility for some time ahead – and are already hitting us. In a timely email post on “From the Director’s Desk”, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Director Dr. John Howard emphasized awareness of the potential for cold stress for anyone working outdoors.

"Don't assume there is no need to prepare for working safely in the cold this year, because of the moderate temperatures in much of the country so far,” Howard wrote. “According to the National Weather Service, the long-range weather forecast predicts chillier temperatures than average in January and February in the Southern Plains and the Southeast. Cold weather can bring on health emergencies for people who may be susceptible as a result of their working environment, such as those who work outdoors or in an area that is poorly insulated or without heat."

When exposed to cold temperatures, the body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced. Prolonged exposure to cold will eventually use up your body's stored energy, according to the resource-packed NIOSH page on the subject of cold stress. The result is hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature. A body temperature that is too low affects the brain, making the victim unable to think clearly or move well. This makes hypothermia particularly dangerous because a person may not know it is happening and will not be able to do anything about it - (

In his post, Howard discussed the threat of cold stress this season: "What constitutes cold stress and its effects can vary across different areas of the country. In regions relatively unaccustomed to winter weather, near-freezing temperatures are considered factors for cold stress. Whenever temperatures drop decidedly below normal and as wind speed increases, heat can more rapidly leave your body, leading to cold-related injuries and illnesses." This includes hypothermia, cold water immersion, frostbite, trench foot, and chilblains.

He offered the following tips for to reduce the risk of cold-related health problems at work:

For employers:
-Schedule maintenance and repair jobs in cold areas for warmer months.
-Schedule cold jobs for the warmest part of the day.
-Reduce the physical demands of workers.
-Use relief workers or assign extra workers for long, demanding jobs.
-Provide warm liquids to workers.
-Provide warm areas for use during break periods.
-Monitor workers who are at risk of cold stress.
-Provide cold stress training.

For workers:
-Wear appropriate clothing.
-Wear several layers of loose clothing. Layering provides better insulation.
-Tight clothing reduces blood circulation. Warm blood needs to be circulated to the extremities.
-Choose clothing that won't restrict movement, which could lead to a hazardous situation.
-Make sure to protect the ears, face, hands, and feet in extremely cold weather.
-Boots should be waterproof and insulated.
-Wear a hat; it will keep your whole body warmer.
-Move into warm locations during work breaks. Limit the amount of time outside on extremely cold days.
-Carry cold-weather gear, such as extra socks, gloves, hats, jacket, and blankets; a change of clothes; and a thermos of hot liquid.
-Include a thermometer and chemical hot packs in your first aid kit.
-Avoid touching cold metal surfaces with bare skin.
-Monitor your physical condition and that of your co-workers.

Tagged in: cold injuries NIOSH

A non-profit organization has unveiled its new website that identifies the biggest environmental/health/safety violators in the United States since 2010.

The searchable database (Violation Tracker) and an accompanying report come from the Corporate Research Project of Good Jobs First. The database includes penalties from EPA, OSHA and 11 other federal agencies that deal with EHS issues.

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Tagged in: EPA OSHA

Last year was an eventful one for OSHA with respect to its rules for worker safety in the construction industry. A new standard for "construction work" in confined spaces – Subpart AA of 29 CFR 1926 of the Code of Federal Regulations – took effect in 2015 after several years in the making. The standard is aimed at preventing construction workers’ injuries or fatalities by either eliminating or isolating hazards in confined spaces at construction sites. It applies to all construction workers who might be exposed to confined space hazards, such as those posed by features ranging from sewers to crawl spaces and from storage bins to trenches – and a host of others where spaces and their entrances are tight.

Many workplaces contain spaces that are considered "confined" because although they might not be designed for extended human occupation, they are still large enough for workers to enter and perform tasks.

The new standard describes the requirements for practices and procedures to protect those involved in construction work at a job site with one or more confined spaces. The previous rules that applied to confined spaces in the construction industry required only that employees be trained to work in them. Since injuries and fatalities continued to occur, OSHA concluded there was more to be done from a regulatory standpoint and so looked at its rules for confined space work in other industries. A proposed rule for construction industry confined spaces was first published in 2007, leading to a final rule issued in May 2015 that became enforceable as of Oct. 2, 2015.The new rule expands on the training component by requiring employers to determine not only the appropriate training for employees, but to determine the kinds of environments they are working in, what hazards might exist there, how those hazards should be made safe, and to establish rescue practices.

Data gathered by the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics' Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries program found that fatal injuries in confined spaces went from a low of 81 in 1998 to a high of 100 in 2000, averaging 92 fatalities per year in a five-year period. OSHA said it estimates the new rule will protect at least 800 construction workers per year from serious injuries and will help cut down on the number of life-threatening hazards they encounter in confined spaces.
Some hazards in confined spaces may be obvious and easily identified. Others, such as many atmospheric hazards, may not.

Since confined spaces often have little natural ventilation, they can harbor air contaminants that compromise the body's ability to transport or use oxygen and/or have direct toxicological effects. Toxic gases such as carbon monoxide or hydrogen sulfide (sewer gas) can exist in a confined space due to production processes, through the natural breakdown of a substance, and/or from work activities such as welding or torch cutting performed in the space – processes that can also lead to oxygen depletion. Fortunately, such hazards can be avoided if identified and addressed before work is undertaken. Multi-gas monitoring is a practice commonly used in most confined spaces to measure levels of oxygen, carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide as well as combustible gas concentrations before entry is allowed.

At Workplace Safety & Health Co., our primary concern is to help customers reduce injuries and illnesses while promoting their profitability through sound health and safety management practices. Whether your work environment is predominately indoors or outdoors, our consultants can determine your business's air quality exposures through monitoring, mapping, surveys and evaluations that include qualitative air contaminant hazard assessments, air monitoring, and quantitative air assessments.

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


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