Author Archives: EHS Today Staff

Fewer Than 20% of Employers are Prepared for Opioid Abuse

Even though 75% of companies have experienced the effects of the opioid epidemic, only 17% say they are "extremely well prepared" to handle it, according to a new survey from the National Safety Council (NSC). The results of the survey were released in recognition of Poison Prevention Week. “The opioid crisis is truly encompassing nearly every aspect of American lives. Today’s survey confirms that the No. 1 cause of preventable death is not just taking its toll on our home lives, but companies across the country are also grappling with the impact of this epidemic,” said Nick Smith, interim president and CEO of NSC. “If there is a silver lining, it’s that we have an opportunity to gain the attention and resources of American businesses to combat this societal scourge. NSC is committed to working with employers to define best practices and support a two-pronged approach of confronting the crisis in our homes and workplaces.” Recent NSC statistics have demonstrated the widespread impact of the opioid crisis. For the first time in U.S. history, a person is more likely to die from an accidental opioid overdose than from a motor vehicle crash. Workplace overdose deaths involving drugs or alcohol have increased by 25% for five consecutive years. Thirty-eight percent of employers have experienced absenteeism or impaired worker performance, and 31% have had an overdose, arrest, a near-miss or an injury because of employee opioid use. Other key findings from the NSC survey show: Employers are more concerned about hiring qualified workers, and employee benefits and worker compensation costs than they are about employee use of legal prescription opioids or illicit use/sale of opioids. However, opioid misuse – legal or illicit – can impact all other issues employers cited as more concerning. 86% of employers believe taking opioids even as prescribed can impair job performance, yet only 60% have policies in place requiring employees to notify their employer when they are using a prescription opioid. Only half of employers are very confident that they have the appropriate HR policies and resources to deal with opioid use and misuse in the workplace. 79% of employers are not very confident that individual employees can spot warning signs of opioid misuse Encouragingly, 41% of employers would return an employee to work after he or she receives treatment for misusing prescription opioids. A copy of the survey questionnaire and full methodology is available at the NSC's website..  Let's block ads! (Why?)

Nemak USA Inc. Workers Diagnosed with Lung Disease

Three workers at Sheboygan, Wisc.-based Nemak USA were diagnosed with occupational hypersensitivity pneumonitis, a debilitating lung disease. After a medical referral, OSHA inspected the automotive aluminum castings manufacturing facility in August 2018 and found the company failed to protect its employees. “Employers using these materials in their production must ensure that good hygiene practices are followed, and fluids are properly managed to protect employees from potential lung damage,” said Appleton Area Office Director Robert Bonack.    OSHA discovered Nemak USA failed to evaluate respiratory hazards. Because of this, the company's workers were exposed to metalworking fluids used on aluminum during the manufacturing process.  The company faces penalties of $26,520 for two serious health violations, the maximum penalty allowed by law. Nemak USA has 15 days to respond to the findings through compliance, requesting an informal conference with OSHA’s area director or by contesting the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. Let's block ads! (Why?)

OSHA: U.S. Battery Manufacturing Co. Exposed Workers to Lead

U.S. Battery Manufacturing Co. is facing $115,594 after an OSHA investigation completed under the Regional Emphasis Program on Lead. The company exposed workers to lead, unguarded machinery and other safety hazards at its facility in Augusta, Ga.  “Elevated lead levels can cause debilitating and permanent health issues,” said OSHA Atlanta-East Area Director William Fulcher. “OSHA’s lead standard requires employers to minimize workers’ exposure by using measures including engineering controls, safe work practices, and providing protective clothing and equipment.” OSHA cited U.S. Battery Manufacturing Co. for exposing employees to lead exceeding the permissible exposure limit as well as arsenic above the action level, and failing to record on OSHA’s 300 log that the company medically removed the employees from exposure. U.S. Battery also failed to conduct training, implement a medical surveillance program, and properly guard equipment. The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings. Let's block ads! (Why?)

OSHRC Holds Integra Health Management Accountable for Workplace Violence

Integra Health Management is to blame following the death of a worker who was stabbed during a home visit, according to the  Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC). The social service employer was cited with multiple safety violations after the employee was stabbed nine times left bleeding on a front lawn after a December 2012 home visit to an agency client with a history of mental illness and violent criminal behavior. “It is well-known – and tragic – that healthcare and social service workers are frequent victims of workplace violence,” said Jessica Martinez, co-executive director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH), in a statement. “Employers have a legal responsibility to act on this knowledge and provide a safe and healthy workplace. Integra failed and a social service worker lost her life.” Following the tragedy, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), found a “serious violation” of the general duty clause of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act by exposing workers “to the hazard of being physically assaulted by members [clients] with a history of violent behavior.” Healthcare workers are five times more likely than workers in other sectors to be the victim of workplace violence, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Stronger protections are needed, Martinez said. “A specific OSHA standard on workplace violence is required to offer better protect to healthcare and social service workers,” she recommended. “Instead of waiting for more workers to be injured or killed, Congress should direct OSHA to provide stronger enforcement.” National COSH filed an amicus curiae brief in the OSHRC proceeding, Secretary of Labor vs. Integra Health Management, Inc. The case was decided on March 4, 2019. “This ruling will help prevent future tragedies,” said attorney Randy Rabinowitz, who represented National COSH, the National Association of Social Workers and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) as amici in this case. “Employers are now on notice of their responsibility under existing law to reduce the risks of workplace violence.” The murdered social service worker, who is not identified by name in the OSHRC ruling, raised safety concerns to her supervisor after a previous home visit. Despite these concerns, she was assigned – alone – to complete a required assessment with the client. Two citations against Integra were upheld in 2015 by an OSHA administrative law judge. Integra appealed the ruling. This week’s decision by the OSHRC upholds the original citations, which included $10,500 in proposed penalties and a requirement that Integra implement a workplace violence prevention program. In its amicus brief, National COSH argued that Integra had the ability to reduce the risk of workplace violence through: increasing the training for service coordinators assigning an experienced service coordinator to initial assessments of patients with a history of violence or implementing a mandatory buddy system so a service coordinator would not face a potentially violent situation alone. None of these abatement measures require changes to the physical aspects of the workplace, according to National COSH.  In January 2017, in response to a petition from National COSH, the AFL-CIO, SEIU, National Nurses United and other labor and public health advocates, OSHA initiated a rulemaking process to issue a workplace violence prevention standard for healthcare and social service workers. The rulemaking process has since been stalled. In February, Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT), introduced the Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act, which directs OSHA to issue standard requiring health care and social service employers to implement a plan to reduce the risk of workplace violence. “We can never accept that violence is just ‘part of the job’,” Martinez said. “Assaults on healthcare and social service workers are not random. They are not unpredictable. These are known hazards -- and like other hazards, the risks can be reduced with rigorous standards and tough enforcement.” Let's block ads! (Why?)

OSHA Cites Florida Companies After Two Worker Deaths

Two contractors working on the JW Marriott Hotel in Orlando, Fla. are facing numerous safety violations after two workers died at the work site. OSHA has fined PCL Construction Services Inc. and Universal Engineering Sciences to the tune of $157,792 after the fatalities. “Using specified drawings and shoring plans may have prevented these fatalities,” said OSHA Tampa Area Office Director Les Grove, in a statement. The workers were pouring concrete on the seventh floor when the support structure collapsed.  The agency discovered the contractors failed to inspect formwork, shoring, working decks and scaffolds properly prior to construction to ensure that the equipment met the required specified formwork drawings. OSHA also issued PCL Construction Services Inc. a willful citation for failing to design, fabricate, erect, support and brace the formwork so that it was capable of supporting vertical and lateral loads. Additionally, OSHA sent a hazard alert letter to Puleo’s Concrete Inc. and C&C Pumping Services Inc., employers of the two deceased workers, recommending that they develop a workplace policy to follow-up with the general contractor to ensure installation of shoring equipment according to the most recent drawings. The companies have 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. Let's block ads! (Why?)

Campbell Institute: Train Workers on Visual Literacy to Spot Hazards

New findings show that workers are able to spot workplace hazards more accurately when they are trained on the concepts of visual literacy. The Campbell Institute at the National Safety Council completed a study which examined how employees at companies such as Cummins Inc. have been able to identify otherwise unnoticed hazards after training. “About 90% of the information people consume is visual,” said John Dony, Campbell Institute director, in a statement. “Taking in that much visual data can lead us to have inattentional blindness – only seeing what we deem important to see but being blind to many other details, like potential hazards. That’s why training workers to better see where those hazards might exist is crucial to workplace health and safety.” According to A Second Look: Update on Visual Literacy, employees who have received the visual literacy training have identified new types of hazards by using the elements and process of visual literacy, which has led to improvements and fixes in their work environments. Within three months after training at Cummins Inc. was completed, 132 issues were identified and 25 new hazards were corrected. There also appears to be an increase in the number of proactive hazard and near-miss reports after the delivery of visual literacy training. Workers also are showing a heightened risk perception and lower risk tolerance. The Campbell Institute has partnered with the Center of Visual Expertise (COVE) to provide the train-the-trainer workshops for institute members in the pilot project. To continue with the evaluation, the researchers at the Institute and COVE hope to receive more data on Job Safety Analyses (JSA) from all the project sites to test the hypothesis that visual literacy for hazard recognition can result in better quality JSAs. COVE evaluations of the training workshops show that employers find this new concept of visual literacy to be very helpful. Based on 55 evaluations, 95% would recommend the workshop to a colleague, and 100% have endorsed the relevance of visual literacy to the field of environment, health and safety. Let's block ads! (Why?)

OSHA Cites Bruce Foods Corp. with 24 Safety Violations

Mexican food manufacturer Bruce Foods Corp. is facing $194,350 in fines after a worker suffered an amputation. The El Paso, Texas-based company was cited for 24 serious safety violations. “Moving machine parts can cause severe injuries when they are not properly guarded and safety procedures are not in place,” said OSHA El Paso Area Director Diego Alvarado Jr. “This injury could have been prevented with employee training and proper machine guarding.” Bruce Foods failed to train employees in lockout/tagout procedures; had inadequate machine guarding and lack of fall protection; and exposed employees to live electrical parts. The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings. Let's block ads! (Why?)

Being Ethical Has Its Perks: World's Most Ethical Companies

What is the criteria for being an ethical company? And why is it important? Ethisphere, which on Feb. 26 released the 2019 World’s Most Ethical Companies, chooses companies that have met rigorous criteria across five categories covering the quality of their ethics and compliance program, organizational culture, corporate citizenship and responsibility, governance, and leadership and reputation.  Making this list translates to improved financial performance. The group tracks how the stock prices of publicly traded honorees compare to the Large Cap Index and found that companies listed World’s Most Ethical Companies outperform large-cap sector over five years by 14.4% and over three years by 10.5%. In addition to financial markets, other stakeholders view those on this list favorably. “Today employees, consumers and stakeholders value companies that show both a commitment to business integrity and also have the organizational humility to never stop seeking improvement,” said Ethisphere CEO, Timothy Erblich. This year 128 honorees representing 21 countries and 50 industries have been named to the list which includes 16 first-time honorees and eight organizations that have been named to the list every year since 2007. The thirteenth class of honorees is among the most sophisticated in cultivating a culture of integrity: measuring whether employees are comfortable speaking up, view leadership as trustworthy and take personal ownership in making sure the company is an ethical place to work. “Responsibility has been a hallmark of IBM’s culture for 107 years – from our labs to our boardroom – and we’re honored to be recognized as one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies,” said IBM  CEO, Ginni Rometty. “We know our clients and the consumers they serve expect more than groundbreaking innovation and expertise. They want to work with a partner they trust, and one that works to make the world better, safer and smarter. We are deeply committed to these values.” More than ever, the data from the process shows global companies stepping up to advance society and addressing issues like diversity and inclusion, supporting the rule of law, and advancing human rights. “At the heart of Milliken is a set of strong beliefs about the way we conduct business ". explained Milliken & Company CEO, Halsey M. Cook. “ We know that ethical practices matter to our customers, our communities and our associates. Conducting business in an ethical manner can be traced to innovation, according to Sony Corp. “At its core, Sony is committed to ethical and responsible business practices,” said Sony Corp.CEO, Kenichiro Yoshida. “Operating with integrity and sincerity is as central to the identity of Sony as is our groundbreaking spirit of innovation, which is why we are proud to be named as one of the 2019 World’s Most Ethical Companies.” Let's block ads! (Why?)

Hilti Inc. Racks Up OSHA Fines After Forklift Accident

Plano, Tx.- based Hilti Inc. is facing $164,802 in penalties after OSHA discovered numerous safety violations following a forklift accident. Agency investigators found the hardware merchant wholesaler exposed workers to struck-by hazards after an employee was injured while operating a forklift at a distribution center in Atlanta. “Developing, implementing, and maintaining a safety and health program, and ensuring safety standards are followed can significantly reduce the chance of unfortunate incidents such as this one,” said OSHA Atlanta-East Area Director William Fulcher. OSHA inspectors determined that Hilti failed to provide forklift operator training and instructions to employees operating the vehicles, and ensure that employees performed daily forklift inspections. The company also exposed employees to corrosive materials; failed to provide eyewash stations and showers in the work area; failed to develop a written hazard communication program and data sheets for forklift battery electrolytes; and failed to notify OSHA within 24 hours of any incident that leads to a worker's hospitalization. The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings.

Let the Robots Do the Dirty Work, Say UK Workers

The UK has seen a 31% increase in industrial robot installations from 2016-2017. Alongside this increase is the preference by employees as to the work that robots should be doing. Asked about the workplace of the future, UK employees want robots to take over the unhealthy (83%), hazardous (77%) or monotonous (72%) jobs. These are the findings of the automatica trend index which was based on  interviews with 1,000 employees  The majority of workers in the UK not only want robots to take over the dirty, dull and dangerous work: About 70% think that robots give people the chance to learn more qualified work and create more opportunities for education and training. Asked about the level of maturity, 40% of working people report, that training for the digital world has already been successfully established by their employer. But only 6% think such initiatives have reached a level of excellence. At the same time, people welcome the idea to join forces at the workplace of the future by working in human-robot teams. 68% think that working hand in hand with robots without safety fences will improve manufacturing. The reason for that: Human talents such as judgment and fine motor skills will be combined with those of robots e.g. force and precision. This human-machine collaboration will make UK companies more competitive say 70% of the respondents. And 52% say that digitization and robotics will bring back jobs that were previously located abroad. The latest data of the International Federation of Robotics show, that robot density in the United Kingdom matches the global average of 85 industrial robots per 10,000 employees installed in the manufacturing industry. This ranks the country 15th in Europe and 22nd in the world.