Tag Archive | "health"

Mobile Apps Help Make Workplaces Safe

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Mobile Apps Help Make Workplaces Safe

Posted on 21 December 2016 by CRadmin2

app-for-thatHealth and Safety specialists in the U.S. and Canada are increasingly turning to new technologies to help them keep workplaces safe and in compliance with all OSHA regulations. Among the most widely used technologies now are mobile apps for the iPhone, iPad and Android mobile devices.

Not so long ago, you would have to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars to purchase the meters or books required to make sure your business complies with all health and safety regulations. This expense was often diminished by renting the necessary equipment or hiring specialist consultants, but today, you can find literally thousands of mobile apps that get extremely close to professional measurement devices.

Many of the apps also serve as handy reference guides for all types of safety and compliance issues. Following is a brief list of some of the apps most helpful for the countertop fabrication industry:

LiftRight (Apple and Android) – This free mobile app from EMC Insurance Companies helps you calculate the NIOSH Lifting Equation for lifting tasks.

Respiratory Protection Resource (Apple and Android) – This free app from 3M Safety acts as a quick reference guide for the appropriate respiratory protection to use for difference chemicals and airborne substances.

Hearing Solutions Selector (Apple and Android) – Another free app from 3M Safety, the Hearing Solution Selector helps you find the right protection for your workers based on a few simple questions.

First Aid (Apple and Android) – Although there are dozens of first aid apps out there, this free one from the American Red Cross is the most comprehensive and easiest to use.

iAuditor (Apple and Android) – The iAuditor Safety Audit and Checklist app includes a library of more than 20,000 inspection forms and checklists used by a wide range of authorities, including government agencies, fire departments and trade associations.

Job Safety Analysis (Apple and Android) – Perform a better job safety analysis (JSA) with this app from Team Solutions Training. Use pre-filled options or create your JSAs with the simple menu selections.

Toolbox Meetings (Apple and Android) – The Toolbox Meetings app can help you document your required meetings that identify and clarify safety issues. The app is a full-featured software platform that takes all the assumptions and guesswork out of meetings and organizes factual evidence.

Incident Prevention Magazine (Apple and Android) – The final entry in our list of health and safety apps is Incident Prevention Magazine. It is written for the utility industry but provides a wealth of information for the construction and countertop fabrication industries. It is free of charge and all articles are written by authoritative safety experts.

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The Total Worker Health Approach

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The Total Worker Health Approach

Posted on 24 October 2016 by CRadmin2

ship-brandIt is widely known that the West Coast states (California, Oregon and Washington) have some of the strictest rules regarding the health and safety of workers, but these states also provide an assortment of publications and tools that are useful for any business anywhere in the nation. The latest of these tools is the Safety & Health Improvement Program (SHIP), which was developed in Oregon under the Total Worker Health (TWH) initiative established by the National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH).

About Total Worker Health

For decades, NIOSH has been attempting to deal with the 3 million nonfatal workplace injuries that occur in the U.S. each year, costing more than $1 billion per week in workers’ compensation claims. In 2011, NIOSH launched the TWH Program in an effort to advance the health and well-being of workers in the United States, which benefits not only workers but also employers in a variety of ways, including increased productivity.

As part of the TWH Program, NIOSH established six Centers of Excellence for Total Worker Health across the country. These centers, located in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Illinois, Iowa, Colorado and Oregon, have been conducting research and publishing new materials for employers for the past five years, and this work has culminated in the development of the Toolkit Kiosk by the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center.

Benefits of SHIP

The latest addition to the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center’s Toolkit Kiosk is SHIP, and its primary goal is “to promote employee health, safety, work-life balance and team effectiveness.” When used properly, the program can reduce stress and work-life conflicts experienced by employees, improve company health and safety practices and increase job performance and team effectiveness.

Research shows that when employees have conflicts between their work and personal lives, they experience higher levels of work stress, burnout, health problems and turnover. These conflicts also decrease job satisfaction, commitment to the company and performance.

SHIP has been extensively tested in labs, workshops and the real world. The program was first validated in the construction industry, and it has been adapted to for use in several others. It made available through online manuals, printable materials and software downloads, and it was designed to implemented without external support.

Work-Life Support

SHIP tackles the problem of work-life conflicts by getting owners, managers and supervisors involved in the safety and health of employees. First, supervisors must recognize that the demands of the job can affect personal and family responsibilities, but showing genuine concern about the conflicts, being knowledgeable about TWH programs, resources and policies and sharing techniques for managing responsibilities can help to reduce the impact on the business.

In order for the program to work, supervisors must demonstrate a commitment to safety – which includes all of the following points:

  • Understand and communicate the company’s safety expectations
  • Train employees on safe practices and how to recognize risks
  • Ask for suggestions and encourage creativity in coming up with solutions
  • Ensure duties are safe and demonstrate concern for employees
  • Reinforce safety procedures and practices
  • Take action against unsafe behavior and conditions

Supervisors are helped through this process with the four components of SHIP:

  1. Supervisor computer-based training
  2. Supervisor behavior tracking
  3. Team Effectiveness Process (TEP)
  4. Regular check-ins and follow-up

For further information about SHIP and the TWH approach, check out the Safety & Health Improvement Program website, download the SHIP Start Guide or go through the SHIP Leadership Briefing Slides for Power Point.

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Top 10 OSHA Violations in 2015

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Top 10 OSHA Violations in 2015

Posted on 18 July 2016 by cradmin

Safety-SignsWorking in a countertop fabrication shop can be dangerous if safety precautions are not followed. Many of the most hazardous situations are very specific to the industry, but employees may also become injured or killed by general hazards that are common in all types businesses. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) makes its data available to the public, and the latest release is for 2015.

In 2015, federal compliance officers conducted 35,820 inspections and state officers conducted 43,471 inspections, and following are the top 10 most frequently cited violations for the year:

  1. Fall protectionFalls are, by far, the most common type of accidents in the construction industry, accounting for nearly 40 percent of worker injuries in the construction industry. In most cases, citations can be avoided by simply keeping floors clean, dry and unobstructed, providing personal protective equipment (PPE) for falls and training employees about known dangers.
  2. Hazard communication standard – The hazard communication standard (HCS) requires businesses to label and provide safety data sheets for all hazardous chemicals used while on the job. All employees who are exposed to these chemicals must also be appropriately trained to handle them.
  3. General scaffolding requirements – Approximately 50 people each year are killed in scaffolding accidents while on the job. Injuries often occur when the planks or supports are not used properly. It is also common for workers to slip and fall or be struck by fallen objects while on scaffolding.
  4. Respiratory protection – About 5 million workers in the U.S. are required to wear respirators while working in environments with insufficient oxygen or harmful substances are in the air. For most countertop fabricators, the respirators are primarily used to reduce exposure to silica dust.
  5. Control of hazardous energy – Hazardous energy can from a variety of sources, including electrical, mechanical, thermal, chemical and hydraulic and pneumatic. Injuries can easily occur when employees are cleaning or maintaining heavy machinery. Examples include burns while repairing steam valves, getting crushed by a faulty conveyer-belt system and getting shocked while working on electrical equipment. The most effective way to prevent or reduce these types of injuries is to implement an approved lockout/tagout (LOTO) practice.
  6. Powered industrial trucks – Powered industrial trucks, more commonly known as forklifts, present several dangers, such as overloading, collisions with objects or people and falling off loading docks or trucks. Specialized training is recommended for all workers operating forklifts.
  7. Ladders – While ladders are common household tools, but they can be extremely deadly when care is not taken and proper procedures are not followed.
  8. Electrical, wiring methods, components and equipment – Because electricity is so deadly, federal and state safety precautions are very strict, very specific and designed to prevent several types of injuries, including shock, fire and explosions.
  9. Machinery and machine guarding – Heavy machines with moving parts are responsible for a great many workplace injuries and deaths. While many of these machines cannot be tamed, they can be sufficiently guarded to lower risk.
  10. Electrical systems design – In addition to components, wiring methods and equipment, you entire electrical system design could be a hazard.

Fabrication shops of all types are inherently dangerous, but injuries can be prevented by following all health and safety regulations. Even though compliance usually carries a high upfront cost, the cost of paying your workers’ compensation premiums is even more costly. For further information on common workplace injuries, contact the nearest OSHA office, a trade organization such as the Natural Stone Institute or a private compliance consultation firm.

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Controlling Exposure to Methylene Chloride

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Controlling Exposure to Methylene Chloride

Posted on 26 May 2016 by cradmin

methylene-chloride-chemical-label-lb-1584-86Several chemicals that are commonly found in countertop fabrication shops and used by countertop installers pose a potential health risk to employees and others who are exposed, and one of the most dangerous is methylene chloride. Methylene chloride exposure in the workplace is strictly controlled by federal OSHA standards and 28 OSHA-approved state standards.

Methylene chloride is a colorless liquid with an odor similar to that of chloroform, and it is used in several industrial and commercial processes, including paint stripping, sealer stripping, resin production, metal cleaning/degreasing and adhesives manufacturing and use.

Federal Exposure Limits

The most common routes of overexposure for employees are through inhalation and skin contact. The federal action level for airborne methylene chloride is 12.5 ppm over an eight-hour time-weighted average (TWA). This means that businesses with this level of exposure are mandated to comply with controls, including exposure monitoring and medical surveillance.

The short-term exposure limit (STEL) to methylene chloride for employees is 125 ppm over 15 minutes, and the permissible exposure limit (PEL) is 25 ppm over eight hours. These limits were set in 1997, and a regularity review conducted in 2010 determined that these levels are justified in protecting the health of U.S. workers.

Remember, however, that these are the federal exposure limits. You may live in one of the 28 states that override the federal standard, and the limits in your state could be more stringent.

Dangers of Methylene Chloride

Methylene chloride has been declared a potential occupational carcinogen by OSHA, a probable human carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and a possible human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). It has been banned altogether from paint strippers in the European Union (EU), and it is prohibited from being used in 13 product categories in California.

From 2000 to 2016, a total of 14 people have died in the U.S. from acute overexposure to methylene chloride. Thirteen of these fatalities were bathtub refinishers, and the other worked in a paint-manufacturing facility. However, furniture strippers and anyone else coming into contact with airborne or liquid methylene chloride are susceptible to adverse health effects.

Short-term exposure to high concentrations of methylene chloride can produce the following symptoms:

  • Confusion
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Vomiting

Skin exposure to liquid methylene chloride can cause irritation, redness, swelling and burns, and it can be equally irritating to the eyes, mouth and upper digestive system. In addition, long-term exposure may produce the following adverse health effects:

  • Dry, cracked and inflamed skin
  • Liver damage
  • Central nervous system (CNS) damage
  • Aggravation of existing angina and heart conditions
  • Increased risk of cancer

Hazard Controls for Methylene Chloride

A number of controls are mandated and recommended by OSHA and other chemical-hazard experts. The first of which is communicating the hazard to employees and other employers at multi-employer worksites. Workers must be trained about the hazard and how to reduce exposure. The best course of action to take is to replace all products with methylene chloride, but if this is not possible, other measures must be taken.

Products containing methylene chloride should not be used in confined or unventilated spaces, and additional exhaust ventilation should be in place when used indoors. Simply opening windows and using household room fans are not sufficient for ventilation. Full-face, supplied-air respirators should be provided to employees in areas with high concentrations of methylene chloride, and protective gloves and clothing should be worn at all times.

Areas where methylene chloride is used must be marked as regulated areas, and restrictions should on access to these areas should be implemented. In addition, employers are required to begin an exposure-monitoring program in regulated areas in some situations.

For further information about methylene chloride, refer to OSHA Publication 3144-06R or contact the nearest state or federal OSHA office.

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Effective Safety Planning Part 6: Safety Meetings

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Effective Safety Planning Part 6: Safety Meetings

Posted on 21 April 2016 by cradmin

next-safety-meeting-date-time-location-topic-required-to-attendThe final edition of our six-part series on effective safety planning is aimed at helping you with the upkeep of all the hard work you put into your four-point safety plan: holding regular safety meetings. In a few states, such as Washington, Oregon and California, regular safety meetings are mandated by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), but in most area, meetings are recommended but not required by law.

Keep Safety a Top Priority

If you talk to any organization or business specializing in OSHA-compliance training, they will all recommend that you hold safety meetings for several reasons. Some fabricators hold safety meetings every week while others prefer monthly, quarterly or even annually, the last of which is not recommended but better than having no meetings at all. A select few businesses go the extra mile and hold safety meetings daily or at the beginning of each shift to really hit home how important it is to effectively deal with workplace hazards. After all, taking five to 10 minutes each shift could end up saving you thousands of dollars in medical expenses and workers’ compensation premiums.

Safety meetings are one of the most effective ways to ensure that all employees know and remember all of the safety rules, and it encourages a culture of safety in your business. You will be able to discuss opinions and facts on what are acceptable work practices and clear up misunderstandings about how to use tools and equipment in a manner that is least likely to cause harm.

Set an Example as Team Leaders

Workplace safety meetings help management to get all employees to follow the safety standards you have put into place. Holding regular meetings also helps to reinforce the leadership role of management, but managers have also have to do their part by setting good examples for the others. When employees see management following all of the safety rules, they will be more inclined to do so themselves.

This is a vital part of safety meetings because it extends into everyday practices. In addition, you want your managers and supervisors to follow safety practices because when they get sick or injured, your liability is potentially higher than it would be for an entry-level worker.

Safety Meetings or Safety Committee?

Some OSHA jurisdictions allow regular safety meetings to be replaced with a full-time safety committee, but it is your job to discover which is more effective in your specific situation. For the most part, safety committees work best when you have more than 10 employees. When you have fewer than 10 employees, the time it takes to organize the committee and then have the members inspect each and every situation detracts from the work their regular work. In this case, safety meetings are a matter of dollars and cents.

What Is a Safety Meeting?

Safety meetings are usually led by one person who is in management or who has had extra training to learn all of the specific actions that must be taken to comply with OSHA regulations, or to go beyond compliance for even greater safety. The meetings may be overviews of new safety rules, or they may focus on a single situation. In Oregon, businesses that are involved in construction, manufacturing and utilities must keep written records of meetings for three years, but this is a good idea for all businesses no matter where they operate. When you have records of what was covered and who attended, it helps to reduce your liability should accidents occur in situations that were topics of one or more meetings.

If you have trouble thinking of topics for safety meetings, there is no need to try to discover them yourself. Of course, the most effective meetings are those that cover topics specific to your business and location. However, if you can’t think of anything to cover, the California State Compensation Insurance Fund and the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries have both prepared lists of possible subjects that can either help you get started or save you when you are in a bind.

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OSHA Finalizes New Silica Rule Amid Concern

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OSHA Finalizes New Silica Rule Amid Concern

Posted on 25 March 2016 by cradmin

On March 24, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) finalized the revised federal rule for limiting the exposure of workers to crystalline silica, which is known to cause an array of medical conditions, including silicosis, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

OSHA believes the new rule will save more than 600 lives, prevent 900 cases of silicosis each year and provide a net annual savings of $7.7 billion. However, many individuals and organizations in the construction and building industries say putting more effort into enforcing the old rule would have gone further to protect the health of workers without increasing the cost of construction/renovation.

Provisions of the New Silica Standards

According to the OSHA Silica Web portal and the OSHA Fact Sheet Workers’ Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica: Final Rule Overview, the new rule is comprised of two separate standards: one for the construction industry and one for maritime and general industry. The four key provisions:

  1. The permissible exposure limit (PEL) for crystalline silica has been reduced from 250 micrograms per cubic meter to 50 micrograms per cubic meter in an eight-hour period.
  1. Employers are required to limit worker exposure to silica through engineering controls, personal protective equipment (PPE) and controlled access to areas with high concentrations. In addition, employers must develop a written exposure-control program, and train employees on the hazards of silica and how to limit exposure.
  1. Employers are required to monitor the health of workers with high exposure potential by providing regular medical examinations and information on lung health.
  1. The rule has some flexibility for OSHA to help employers, especially small businesses, comply with the rule and protect workers from silica exposure.

The new rule goes into effect on June 23 of this year (2016), but staggered schedules have been set with various industries to comply with the requirements.

  • Construction: One year – June 23, 2017
  • Maritime and General Industry: Two years – June 23, 2018
  • Hydraulic fracturing (fracking): Five years for engineering controls, two years for all other provisions

OSHA Defends New Rule

OSHA defends the new federal rule for silica exposure limits by stating that approximately 2.3 million workers in the United States are exposed to crystalline silica on the job and that the current PEL is more than 40 years old. According to OSHA, the old limit is based on research from the 1960s, and new evidence has emerged since that time to indicate the old limit does not adequately protect workers. In addition, the administration claims the technology to comply with the rule is readily available and affordable.

“We’ve known for over 40 years that it needed to be strengthened, and it has taken 40 years to strengthen it,” said Secretary of Labor Tom Perez. “Many people who are going to work right now and breathing unacceptable levels of silica dust are in for a brighter future. The science says we need to be at 50, so that’s what the final rule will say.”

“Silica is a killer, and employers need to take the necessary steps so that they can reduce exposure,” continued Perez. “And the good news is that those necessary steps are not going to break the bank. It’s real simple stuff. Get a vacuum. Get water. Those are the key elements of pretty simple compliance.”

Industries Respond

Several industry groups have opposed the new silica ruling since it was first proposed back in 2013, and the largest opponent is a partnership of 25 trade associations called the Construction Industry Safety Coalition (CISC), which includes the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), the Marble Institute of America (MIA) and the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC).

Stephen E. Sandherr, CEO of the AGC, has expressed his dismay over the new rule speaking on behalf of his entire organization. “Instead of crafting new and innovative ways to get more firms to comply with the current silica standard, which we know would save even more workers each year, administration officials appear to have instead opted to set a new standard that is well beyond the capabilities of current air filtration and dust removal technologies,” stated Sandherr. “Wishing firms could meet this new but unattainable standard will undoubtedly deliver many positive headlines for the administration, but it will be all but impossible for most construction firms to comply with this new rule.”

“We will continue our exhaustive review of this new regulation, consult with our members and decide on a future course of action that will best serve the health and safety of millions of construction workers across the country,” Sandherr concluded.

The NAHB held back its resentment but echoed the sentiments of the AGC. “NAHB has long advocated the importance of the rule being both technologically and economically feasible,” said Ed Brady, chair of the NAHB. “While we’re still reviewing the final rule, we’re concerned that it may not adequately address these issues and take into consideration real-world application.”

Jeff Buczkiewicz, president of the Mason Contractors Association of America (MCAA), is also concerned about the feasibility of the new OSHA rule. “At first glance, we have observed that a number of provisions that concerned us in the proposed rule have been left in the final rule. This makes us continue to question the final rule’s technological and economic feasibility for the construction industry,” said Buczkiewicz. “In addition, OSHA has added several new provisions not in the proposed rule that we have not had a chance to thoroughly review and consider the impacts. Once we complete our review, we will be able to be more specific about what was released today.”

The exception to the negative response to the new rule among the industry comes from the trade unions. The North America Building Trades Union (NABTU) issued the following response: “North America’s Building Trades Union is pleased OSHA has issued the final silica standard. Put simply, the OSHA silica standard will protect construction workers from getting sick or dying due to silica dust exposure.”

The AFL-CIO is also onboard with the new rule. “We applaud the Obama administration for issuing these lifesaving measures and commend Secretary of Labor Tom Perez and OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels for their tremendous leadership and dedication to bring the silica rules to completion,” read the official AFL-CIO statement. “The labor movement has fought for these standards for decades. We will continue to fight to defend these rules from the certain industry attacks that will come so that workers are finally protected from this deadly dust.”

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Effective Safety Planning Part 5: Training for Employees, Supervisors and Managers

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Effective Safety Planning Part 5: Training for Employees, Supervisors and Managers

Posted on 23 February 2016 by cradmin

safetytraining_0Last month, we took a break from our six-part series on Effective Safety Planning to bring you news of the MSI+BSI safety initiative for 2016. Now, we continue the series with a followup to December’s article on Hazard Prevention and Control. Once you have established a culture of safety, created a four-point safety plan as recommended by OSHA, identified all workplace hazards and implemented prevention and control measures, it is time to train your supervisors, managers and employees.

Train From the Top Down

In Part One of this series, we talked about how important it was for a business to establish a culture of safety, and one of the essential factors in doing this is to get your entire team onboard. If your supervisors and managers are not interested in safety, how do you expect your employees to be? The same goes for training. Safety training starts at the top and works its way down.

Because so many situations warrant further training, such as new hires, promotions, new equipment and new environments, professional training from a third-party organization can get expensive. You will want to have your supervisors and managers fully trained on all aspects of health and safety so that employee training can be conducted in-house whenever necessary.

OSHA rules are very extensive and specific concerning safety training, and they can be found in the 270-page publication Training Requirements in OSHA Standards. However, you must be aware that even stricter standards may have been imposed by your state legislation or state OSHA.

In Oregon, our state OSHA does a great job of providing training consultations and additional materials and resources for small-to-mid-sized businesses, such as Safe and the Supervisor: An Introduction to Five Important Safety Responsibilities.

Training Overview

Remember, everyone who is on the work floor or at a job site must be thoroughly trained, this includes full-time employees, part-time employees, temps, supervisors, managers, contractors and yourself. Only those who have been properly trained and authorized to perform a job based on that training should be permitted to do it. Otherwise, you open your company to liability should an accident occur.

safety_training-NAHBEven if all employees have been trained, if one of them is observed performing a job poorly or in an unsafe manner, he or she may need additional training. To help you determine whether everyone understands their training, some companies hold emergency drills, but at the very least, supervisors and managers should periodically assess working conditions for new or unrecognized hazards.

At a bare minimum, everyone in the workplace should know all of the following:

  • Fire and emergency plans
  • Location and proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • The types of chemicals and other foreign substances present
  • The precautions that must be taken when handling or working with dangerous materials

Health & Safety Training Programs

OSHA has recognized that health and safety training is most effective when it is incorporated into a company’s overall training program for general and specific job duties. The content of a program, however, will vary by the specific conditions and characteristics of the environment and the workforce. In addition, the most effective training programs follow these five principles of teaching and learning:

  1. Everyone should understand the purpose of the training.
  2. Information to be taught should be organized to ensure maximum effectiveness for those learning.
  3. Learning is accomplished most easily when skills and knowledge can be practiced and applied immediately.
  4. Feedback should be provided for each individual after practice runs.
  5. Several teaching methods should be incorporated to take into account that the most effective methods of learning are different for everyone.

BG1Once a training program has been developed, it should be evaluated to identify its strengths and weaknesses. This is often best achieved by having a safety professional from outside the company review it. This feedback can be essential in creating additional training programs or changing current training programs to accommodate for changing conditions.

Keep Written Records

When performing safety training, Oregon OSHA recommends the following six-step procedure, which ends with keeping sufficient documentation.

  1. Introduction – All learners are told what they are going to be trained to do and why. The importance of the training not only to the employee’s health but also to the success of company should be emphasized. Explain the consequences of not following safety procedures.
  1. Show and tell – The trainer explains the safety procedures to the trainees and follows up with demonstrations so that they develop familiarity.
  1. Ask and show – The trainee takes what was learned from step 2 and explains the procedure to the trainer. The trainer takes this opportunity to correct mistakes and provide clarification.
  1. Tell and show – The trainee shows the trainer that he or she can perform the safety procedures.
  1. Conclusion – The trainer recognizes the accomplishments of each trainee, re-emphasizing how important the training is, how it fits into overall work processes and makes each individual accountable for their future performance.
  1. Documentation – All training sessions should be formally documented, and all trainees should acknowledge they have been through and understand the training. A great way to do this is to issue certificates of completion that note the training subjects, date and location. It should be signed and dated by the trainee, the trainer and a work supervisor.

Final Thoughts on Hazard Training

You are not alone when it comes to hazard training. If you have questions, OSHA is willing to help. Most businesses can take advantage of free consultations directly from OSHA without fear of reprisal for current non-compliance issues. You can find additional help from insurance providers, corporate headquarters, local safety councils and industry associations, such as ISFA or MIA+BMI.

Be on the lookout for next month’s Health & Safety Watch where we will conclude our series with Effective Safety Planning Part 6: Safety Meetings.

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Effective Safety Planning Part 2: The Four-Point Plan

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Effective Safety Planning Part 2: The Four-Point Plan

Posted on 21 October 2015 by cradmin

Every day in the United States, 17 workers are killed in occupational accidents, 137 succumb to fatal, job-related medical conditions and more than 17,000 suffer from injuries sustained while working. Aggregating the losses for the year, the cost to the U.S. economy is more than $170 billion. Chances are that your business has experienced a bit of these losses, but they can be reduced to a bare minimum by establishing a four-point safety plan as recommended by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Last month, we took a look at the ultimate goal of safety planning, which is establishing a culture of safety in the workplace. It is generally regarded that maintaining a strong safety culture is the most effective way of reducing worker injuries and fatalities. However, developing a culture of safety is more easily accomplished by following the OSHA-recommended Four-Point Safety Program:

  1. Commitment from management and employee involvement
  2. Full worksite analysis
  3. Hazard abatement, prevention and control
  4. Safety training for managers, supervisors and employees

Commitment from Management

The first step in the establishment of an effective safety plan is to obtain a commitment from everyone in the company, starting at the top. As an owner or manager of the business, when you take a genuine interest in the safety and health of your employees, you employees will be more likely to reflect your sentiment. You must create a clear and uncompromising safety plan that covers everyone equally with no exceptions, and you must actively enforce it at all times.

Business owners and managers must demonstrate leadership in keeping a safe workplace by providing training, resources and motivation and by holding everyone accountable for safety, including themselves. A written plan starts with training management to be effective safety leaders.

The best way to create safety leaders is to elevate safety above everything else. Safety should not merely be another duty that must be accomplished. Rather, it should be among the company’s chief values or part of the mission statement. Safety and health should be an overriding concern that plays into every situation every day of the week.

Benefits of Management Safety Leadership

Effective safety leaders can make a huge difference in a business. Management leadership can increase productivity, cut costs and improve morale in the workplace. OSHA has found that companies enrolling in one of its Voluntary Protection Program’s (VPPs) report a decrease in lost workday cases by up to 80 percent. In addition, studies show that for every dollar saved on direct medical expenses or insurance compensation, up to $50 are saved on indirect expenses, which may include hiring and training new workers, delays in production, equipment repair and much more. A prime example of the benefits of a proactive safety program comes from a major Ford factory that experienced a 13 percent increase in productivity and a 16 percent decrease in wasted materials.

Actions of Effective Safety Leaders

When managers are committed to workplace safety, they will take many of the following actions:

  • Post the company’s official safety policy near the required OSHA Workplace Poster so that it is easy to find and read.
  • Hold employee meetings concerning safety and health issue, goals and procedures.
  • Visibly and explicitly show support and personal involvement in the company safety plan, such as reviewing reports and conducting follow-ups when accidents occur.
  • Personally follow all laws and safety rules that pertain to employees.
  • Immediately halt hazardous activities or activities held in unsafe conditions.
  • Encourage all employees to become involved in workplace safety, especially those who have specialized knowledge.
  • Assign specific safety responsibilities to employees as outlined in the safety plan. Try to disburse duties in the same way that you would assign production duties.
  • Provide the people, time and training necessary to ensure all responsibilities can be carried out.
  • Make everyone accountable for the responsibilities that have been assigned to them.
  • Ensure that all responsibilities are covered and completed adequately.
  • Review safety accomplishments and accidents at regular meetings held at intervals of no greater than one year.

Employee Involvement Is Crucial

One of the top reasons for making your managers effective safety leaders is to encourage employee involvement in your workplace safety and health program. The best way to reduce health and safety issues is to share responsibility for them with everyone. In this way, you can tap the unique knowledge and resources that your employees provide. In addition, employees will have greater interest in and appreciation of the company safety plan the more involved they are in establishing and maintaining it, and they will be less likely to engage in unsafe activities that can affect your bottom line.

Following are just a few of the advantages of getting employees involved in workplace safety:

  • Employees will hold a vested interest in their own safety and their duties in keeping a safe workplace.
  • Group decisions are more likely to be followed.
  • Employees are more apt to support programs that they have helped create or maintain, and without employee buy-in, safety will be compromised.
  • Employees who are encouraged to share ideas and expertise are generally more satisfied and productive than those who are told to keep quiet.
  • The more involved employees are with the safety plan, the more they will learn about how to avoid injuries and dangerous situations.

Employees can be encouraged to participate in workplace safety in several ways:

  • Become members of safety committees
  • Conduct onsite safety inspections
  • Analyze workplace hazards
  • Develop safety rules
  • Participate in accident investigations
  • Become safety observers, safety coaches or safety trainers
  • Report hazards
  • Provide ideas for reducing or eliminating hazards

Be on the lookout for next month’s Health & Safety Watch where we will continue our theme with Effective Safety Planning Part 3: Workplace Hazard Assessment.

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Respiratory Protection Part 2: Countertop Fabrication and Silica Dust Exposure

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Respiratory Protection Part 2: Countertop Fabrication and Silica Dust Exposure

Posted on 19 August 2015 by cradmin

silica-dust Last month, we took a look at general respiratory protection in the countertop fabrication industry, and this month, we expand on that topic by exploring silica dust exposure and silicosis. Silica dust is the number one airborne contaminant in countertop fabrication shops, and it may exist anywhere stone, quartz surfacing or concrete slabs are being cut.

Silica has recently become a hot topic among countertop fabricators since the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced a proposal to decrease the allowable limits for silica exposure. Although this proposed rule change has caused quite a stir in the industry and very few fabricators agree with it, the proposal has already had an impact by raising awareness of the issue.

Silicosis Cases Decline but Still Common

The problem with excessive exposure to silica dust is that it can accumulate in the lungs and cause a potentially fatal chronic disease known as silicosis. Although cases of silicosis have fallen and the mortality rate from the disease has decreased over the past 50 years, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports that approximately 100 people die in the U.S. every year from complications associated with the disease, and from 2011 to 2013, 12 of those people were under 45 years of age.

In addition, 2015 marks the first time a countertop fabricator in the U.S. has been diagnosed with silicosis, joining the ranks of Italy, Spain and Israel. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the man was exposed to silica dust from quartz surfacing for 10 years. Quartz countertops are 70 to 90 percent crystalline silica, and with the material’s surge in popularity, excessive exposure must be addressed in fabrication shops. However, it is important to note that silica is also present in nearly all types of natural stone, including granite and soapstone, and concrete.

Protecting Employees and Ourselves

OSHA3768aCountertop fabricators can take several steps to control silica levels in their shops and limit exposure to workers. The first step in the process is monitor the air in order to determine just how much silica dust is present. This will not only help protect the health of anyone present but will also help you stay in compliance with federal and state regulations. If levels above what is permissible are found, employers are mandated to take corrective action to reduce worker exposure.

The methods that can be used to reduce silica exposure fall into three categories: engineering controls, work practices and personal protective equipment (PPE). Each of these categories should be considered part of a hierarchy. If engineering controls do not sufficiently lower silica levels, changes in work practices must be attempted, and if levels are still too high, employees in the area must be fit for and provided with appropriate PPE.

Engineering Controls

  • Employ water-spraying systems to keep dust from becoming airborne.
  • Use remote-controlled saws and other tools to keep people out of the exposure zones.
  • Modify handheld grinders to deliver water to the point of contact.
  • Replace dry grinders with wet-edge routers.
  • Use tools under a shroud and vacuum with a HEPA filter.
  • Install local exhaust ventilation (LEV) systems.
  • Use combinations of the above.

Work Practices

  • When cleaning, use HEPA vacuums or wet sweepers rather than dry sweepers or compressed air.
  • Replace filters frequently.
  • Increase flow on water systems.
  • Wet slabs before fabricating.

When cutting, grinding and polishing countertops onsite, control silica dust exposure by performing as much work as possible under controlled shop conditions, and use LEV systems when wet methods are impractical. In addition, try to use tools equipped with dust shrouds, and clean up all dust with a HEPA-filtered vacuum as soon as possible.

Respiratory Protection

hydfrac_hazalert_12When engineering controls and work practices have failed to lower silica dust levels, employers are required to provide respirator protection to employees, but this means much more than simply making PPE available. Employers are required to create a respiratory protection program that meets the OSHA Respiratory Protection Standard (29 CFR 1910.134). Such programs include the following requirements:

  • hydfrac_hazalert_11Selecting the proper respirators
  • Fit-testing employees for respirators
  • Completing medical evaluations for all employees required to wear respirators
  • Training employees how to properly use respirators
  • Observing that employees are using and maintaining respirators properly

When respirators are required to be worn in areas with high levels of silica dust, at minimum, the PPE must be a NIOSH-approved N95 respirator. When silica levels are higher than 10 times the limit, half-face respirators may not be used. Instead, you must use respirators that offer more protection, such as full-face respirators, which are effective in environments that are 50 times higher than the current federal exposure level. Another option is to purchase powered air-purifying respirators (PAPRs), which are more comfortable and easier on the body than pressure-demand respirators are.

For Further Information

Further information on silica dust exposure and silicosis can be found in a variety of ways. A great deal of current information is available online, and you may also tap into other resources, including state and federal OSHA offices, which provide free consultation services for small-to-mid-sized businesses (SMBs). You can also contact trade organization, such as the Marble Institute of America (MIA), which has been recognized by OSHA for making comprehensive training resources available.

A few of the helpful materials you can access online are as follows:

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Respiratory Protection in the Countertop Industry (Part 1)

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Respiratory Protection in the Countertop Industry (Part 1)

Posted on 21 July 2015 by cradmin

respiratoryprotection_indexForklifts and falling slabs are the primary safety concerns for countertop fabricators, but in addition to safety, employers are responsible for the health of the employees in their shops. Health concerns in the workplace are too numerous to mention in a single article, but many of them can be boiled down to one particular element: respiratory protection.

However, the concept and application of respiratory protection alone can be complex, so we are presenting the topic in two parts. In Part 1, we will explore respirators in general and some of the federal and state regulations regarding their use, and in Part 2, coming next month, we will explore silica dust in greater detail.

Respiratory Protection in the Workplace

Simply touching or coming into close contact with volatile compounds can cause serious medical issues, and most workers try to pay close attention to what gets on their skin, but when the dangers are airborne, they can be impossible to avoid. Whether the danger is airborne silica dust from cutting stone or solvent vapors from adhesives or coating, the only real protection is to wear a properly fitting respirator designed specifically for the hazards.

Today, it is estimated that around 5 million workers in 1.3 million workplaces are required to wear respirators while on the job in order to comply with all federal and state laws. Respirators are designed to protect workers from harmful substances in the air or from environments with insufficient oxygen. Airborne hazards may cause any number of serious and life-threatening medical conditions, including cancer, disease, respiratory impairment and lack of oxygen.

The federal rules for respirators and when they must be worn by workers are spelled out in OSHA Standard 29 CFR, Part 1910.134 – Respiratory Protection, Occupational Safety and Health Standards. However, a training and reference sheet produced by OSHA makes it easy for employers to understand the requirements under this standard: Major Requirements of OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard 29 CFR 1910.134.

Reducing Respiratory Hazards

Under OSHA’s respiratory protection standard, employers are required to provide a safe and healthy working environment free of respiratory hazards. When such hazards are present, the employer is required to implement a three-step process in order to control them.

  1. Identify all of the respiratory hazards in the workplace and at specific job sites. This includes considering the sources of respiratory hazards in raw materials, processes and end products and reviewing safety data sheets for chemicals used.
  1. Evaluate employee exposure levels to each identified hazard. Obtain data about employee exposure by taking personal and locational air samples and comparing it to data from industry studies, trade associations or manufacturers.
  1. Eliminate or reduce exposure to hazards. Respirators are expensive, incur ongoing costs and reduce productivity. Because of this, it is much more desirable and cost effective to eliminate or reduce respiratory hazards through the following means rather than submit to the use of respirators and as the only means of protection.
  • Engineering controls – Ventilation, exhaust ducts, process isolation
  • Work practice controls – Wet-cutting, etc.
  • Administrative controls – Reducing the number of employees or the amount of time employees are exposed to specific hazards, substituting toxic materials for non-toxic materials

Requirements of the Respiratory Protection Standard

If you, as an employer, cannot completely eliminate the need for respirators in the workplace, which is the respiratory protection standard, it is recommended that you take the following four steps in implementing an effective respiratory program:

  1. Educate yourself on respirators and respiratory health.
  2. Seek the help of outside experts. Free and paid assistance is available from several sources:
  • State and federal OSHA consultation services
  • Workers’ compensation carriers
  • Trade associations
  • Private health and safety consulting firms
  • Respirator manufacturers, distributors and vendors
  1. Develop and implement a written respiratory protection program.
  2. Establish a system to evaluate the program, ensuring it remains updated, efficient and effective.

Developing an Effective Respiratory Protection Program

med_evaluationsIf airborne contaminants are present in your workplace, it is not enough simply to supply respirators to workers in the hazardous areas. You must develop a full respiratory protection program. The program must be put in writing and describe how all of the following will be accomplished:

  1. Choose the appropriate respirators for each employee in each hazardous zone.
  1. Conduct medical evaluations for employees. All employees required to wear respirators must complete an OSHA Respirator Medical Evaluation Questionnaire and undergo a physical examination by a licensed physician trained in occupational health. Remember, the questionnaires and results of the examination are confidential medical records that should be kept by the doctor or healthcare organization. In most cases, it is a violation of the law to store these records on premises where they can be accessed by unauthorized personnel. However, employers should receive evaluation documents from the doctor that should be kept in your records.
  1. Fit-test employees who are required to wear tight-fitting respirators. Equipment and services ror fit-testing may be available at local occupational health clinics.
  1. Observe employees to ensure they are using their respirators correctly at all times, while performing regular work and during emergencies.
  1. Clean, maintain and replace respirators as necessary to ensure they are always working properly. Further details of this requirement can be found within the OSHA rule.
  1. Train employees on respiratory hazards and how to protect themselves from such hazards.
  1. Evaluate the respiratory protection program in order to keep it updated for new materials, processes and environments.

Types of Respirators

typesWhen choosing respirators for your employees, it is imperative to understand that you cannot use just any respirator. Several different types of respirators have been developed to protect people from specific respiratory hazards in various environments. It is up to you to discover and evaluate which hazards your employees are being exposed to and which respirators protect against these hazards.

Respirators are organized into categories based on several factors, and one of these is the inlet covering, which is the part of the respirator that forms a protective barrier between the contaminated air and the wearer’s respiratory tract. Tight-fitting respirators include a facemask that creates a seal over the face while loose-fitting respirators typically cover the user’s entire head and sometimes the shoulders.

Respirators can further be classified as air purifying and atmosphere supplying. Air purifying respirators include a filter, canister or cartridge for specific air hazards, and different filters are needed for each class and type of contaminant. Non-powered air-purifying respirators are activated when the worker inhales, but powered air-purifying respirators make it easier to breathe. Types of air-purifying respirators are as follows:

  • Particulate-removing respirator
  • Gas-and-vapor-removing respirator
  • Combination respirator for removing particulates and vapors

Atmosphere-supplying respirators provide the wearer with breathable air from a source outside the immediate environment. The three major types of atmosphere-supplying respirators are as follows:

  • Supplied-air respirator (SAR) – Supplies breathable air from a stationary source through a flexible hosing system.
  • Self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) – Supplies breathable air from a portable source.
  • Combination respirator – Can be used as an SAR or SCBA.

Respiratory Protection Resources for Employers

Respiratory protection is one of the leading occupational health topics in the United States, and dozens of resources are available online to help employers comply with the federal standard and state regulations and to protect the health and lives of their employees. While the following list is not exhaustive, it provides a good starting point for anyone who wishes to implement a new respiratory protection plan or audit an existing plan.

If you have a state OSHA agency, it will be your greatest resource for information specific to your location. However, the federal OSHA branch and several states also offer valuable information on the subject.

Be on the lookout for next month’s CountertopResource.com Health & Safety Watch, featuring Part 2 of our series on respiratory protection: Countertop Fabrication and Silica Dust Exposure.

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