Author Archives: Stefanie Valentic EHS Today

July/August 2019 Safety Product Innovations

View the latest products from EHS Today's July/August 2019 issue. EHS Today's print edition highlights the latest personal protective equipment, software and safety products ranging from footwear to training. Our July/August 2019 issue features innovations from Ergodyne, Tingley Rubber Corp., Bally Ribbon Mills, Malta Dynamics, Kee Safety and Alfa Laval. To view product descriptions and photos, use the arrows to move back and forth through the slideshow. Let's block ads! (Why?)

Job Descriptions Evolve as Robot Collaboration Increases

How will AI and IoT reshape the way we work in 2030? Dell Technologies and the Institute for the Future teamed up to explore this in a report "Realizing 2030: A Divided Vision of the Future".  Business leaders, 3800 of them around the globe, were asked to gauge their predictions and preparedness for the future. By 2030, the partnerships between man and machine will become especially close, says Gartner. They will be more immersive than ever and “help us surpass our own limitations.  Fueled by exponential increases in data, processing power and connectivity,  new possibilities will open up." So how will all of this affect the way we work? Leaders are unsure.  While 50% of business leaders agree that automated systems will free up their time, just as many 50% don’t agree. Of those that see automation lessen the workload they feel they can offload these areas; 1) Inventory management 2. Financial admin (i.e. invoices, POs) 3. Troubleshooting 4. Logistics/supply chain (i.e. delivery drivers) 5. Administration (i.e. scheduling meetings, data input)  6. Product design  7. Customer service 8. Marketing & communications 9. HR admin (recruitment and training) 10. Medical/health diagnoses Whether this new working environment will lead to job satisfaction isn't clear either as only 42% believe they’ll have more job satisfaction in the future by offloading the tasks they don’t want to do to machines. Opinion is also split on whether workers will be more productive due to more collaboration with machines. And only half think they will learn on the job with AR.  However, there is complete agreement on the fact that human and machines will work as integrated teams.  More than eight in ten (82%) leaders expect humans and machines will work as integrated teams within their organization inside of five years (26% say their workforce and machines are already successfully working this way Looking at the future needs of the workforce and how  technical skills will fit into this scheme, 56% say schools will need to teach how to learn rather than what to learn to prepare students for jobs that don’t exist yet (corroborating IFTF’s forecast that 85% of jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t been invented yet) - but 44% disagree. In conclusion, across the results of the survey, these differing viewpoints could make it difficult for business leaders to confidently prepare for a future that’s in flux. Let's block ads! (Why?)

How Safety Technology Can Reduce Musculoskeletal Injuries

Workplace fatigue isn’t just mental. The physical aspects can lead to a myriad of ergonomic injuries associated with excessive lifting, carrying and repetitive movement. Musculoskeletal injuries account for 33% of all workplace injury cases, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Ignoring the risk factors that play into these injuries can lead to a fatigued workforce more prone to injury along with a loss of productivity. A combination of observation, technology and training workers on the correct ways to move their bodies is the key to reducing sprains, strains and other injuries associated with physical fatigue, says John Post, Worklete co-founder and vice president of product.  “If you bend over and stand up and you round your back, you're using these little tiny muscles in your back to move that weight,” he explains. “If you're keeping your back flat, you're bracing and you're hinging at the hips. You’re using your big bulky glutes and hamstrings and quads, and you're actually going to be able to do more weight longer with much less fatigue. That's going to help not only reduce the chances of you getting injured, but you're actually going to be more productive because you're going be able to do more work.” Worklete, a San Francisco-based technology provider, collaborates with companies in the transportation, shipping and logistics industries to reduce the rate of musculoskeletal injuries. Giving team members the tools and wherewithal to cope with physical fatigue can assist employees with managing workplace fatigue as they become physically tired throughout their shifts. The goal is for workers to understand how to move in the strongest positions. “When we think about improving the way that team members move, we think about helping them understand how to build muscle memory,” Post says. “We use our technology to have them learn, but also be able to practice and receive coaching and feedback. We do this with consistency so that they progressively get better.” As a worker becomes tired during a repetitive task, the risk factor for injuries escalates. The root cause of the musculoskeletal injuries is that many employees aren’t cognizant of the way their body movement changes as fatigue sets in.   “When people get tired, they make more mistakes,” he says. “If they don't know the best ways to do things in the first place, then those mistakes are going to be much worse.” With a software platform, a common language can be broadcast throughout an entire company. Workers can discuss proper movement techniques that are demonstrated in formal training videos and can provide a greater amount of accountability across all levels of the organization. A strong safety culture reinforces practices and values across an entire company. Consistent opportunities and hands-on practice accompanied with emerging safety technology is essential to building processes that will prevent injuries. “When you think about learning theory, there are two main buckets,” he says. “One is what you would think of as passive learning. And that's things like reading or watching a video or seeing a demonstration. And the second bucket is things that are participatory learning and that includes group discussions, actually engaging in practice, getting coaching and feedback.” Let's block ads! (Why?)

NIOSH Releases Fentanyl Safety Video

In 2017, fentanyl contributed to 70% of all opioid overdose deaths, according to a report by Dr. Chikarlo Leak. Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 80 to 100 times more potent than morphine. The drug contributed to 59% of overdose deaths in 2017. As Americans continue to feel the affects of the opioid epidemic, emergency responders are on the front line every day, to deadly substances that can kill a human with a miniscule dose. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recently released a video that shows emergency responders how to properly use personal protective equipment (PPE) to prevent occupational exposure to illicit drugs including fentanyl. The video was created as a joint effort with the Fredericksburg, Va. police and fire departments. [embedded content] Let's block ads! (Why?)

Payne Enterprises Faces Repeat Violations After Worker Fatality

On Saturday, April 6, firefighters recovered the body of 43-year-old Dalbert Burton at a residential construction site in Sugarcreek Twp., Ohio. The Payne Enterprises Inc. employee had been working in a deep trench at a home under construction when a deep trench collapsed. OSHA immediately launched an investigation into the incident, discovering multiple safety violations. The agency now has fined the company $145,860 as a result. “Tragedies such as this are preventable when employers comply with safety standards that exist to protect workers from trenching hazards,” said OSHA Area Director Ken Montgomery, in Cincinnati, Ohio. “OSHA regulations require employers to slope, shore, or shield trench walls to prevent cave-ins.” Dayton, Ohio-based Payne Enterprises is no stranger to OSHA. The agency previously cited the company in 2017, 2018 and in January.  The most recent investigations which occurred between April 7, 2019 and July 19, 2019 found Payne has repeatedly exposed workers to multiple trenching and excavation hazards. Payne received two repeated violations for not having a competent individual inspect the trench before allowing employees to enter and for failing to install an adequate protective system to prevent the trench collapse. As a result of Payne's repeated violations, OSHA has placed the company in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program. The company has 15 business days from July 26 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?)

Sincerely Stefanie: The Heat is On

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night…” begins the creed of the United States Postal Service, but this socially-accepted ideology extends to nearly every American workplace, and workers are suffering from the expectations associated with it. From restaurants to landscapers to construction workers, summer months can be particularly grueling for workers without access to adequate rest periods, shade or water. What boggles my mind is that there are no regulations at the federal level to protect both indoor and outdoor workers from heat exposure. State-run Cal/OSHA’s Heat Illness Prevention standard (T8 CCR 3395) states employers are required to establish, implement and maintain a plan with the following minimum elements: 1.    Procedures for providing sufficient water2.    Procedures for providing access to shade3.    High-heat procedures4.    Emergency response procedures5.    Acclimatization methods and procedures. On its website, the agency provides guidance about preventing and responding to heat illness including effective communication, effective elements of program as well as best practices to remain in compliance while protecting workers. While California has been ahead of its time in introducing legislation to protect workers, federal OSHA has yet to produce a standard, instead allowing heat illness to fall under the all-encompassing General Duty Clause.   OSHA opted instead to launch a Heat Illness Prevention campaign in 2011. This education campaign has been a seemingly half-baked attempt at protecting workers from being exposed to extreme conditions.  The failure of this can be found throughout many workplaces; take the refusal of United Postal Service (UPS) to provide air-conditioned vehicles for its drivers as an example. Jim Klenk, a UPS worker with 15 years of experience, almost died from kidney failure due to heat exposure on the job.  News reports detail how temperatures in August 2016 reached 90 degrees. The temperature in the cargo area of his truck routinely reached triple digits. Klenk continued to work through the hazardous conditions, worried that he would look bad to his employer if he called off sick. After completing his shift, which was finished with numerous bouts of vomiting, he went home. The next day Klenk showed up for work, but he felt ill and drove to the emergency room where he was diagnosed with heat stroke. Shortly thereafter, Klenk’s wife Theresa launched an online petition to require UPS to install air conditioning units in their cargo trucks.  “In all but one state, UPS does not provide air conditioning for their drivers—even in the blistering summer heat. Join me in demanding that UPS keep their employees safe by adding AC to their delivery trucks,” Theresa says in her petition, “Drivers like my husband are at incredibly high risk during summer months, when temperatures in their trucks can climb to 180 degrees. As a result, they can face dehydration and heat stroke, which can have life-threatening consequences.” The public petition has attracted more than 500,000 supporters, some of whom told similar stories of outdoor delivery drivers suffering the detrimental effects of heat exposure. “A mail deliverer died of heatstroke in my neighborhood a few days ago, when the temperature was over 110 degrees. No mail or package matters more than a person’s life,” said Madeline Taylor of Woodland Hills, Calif., who signed the petition. For workers across the country who complete physically-intensive tasks in sweltering conditions, a glimmer of hope has arrived. California Rep. Judy Chu and Arizona Rep. Raúl Grijalva are spearheading the Asuncion Valdivia Illness and Fatality Prevention Act, a bill introduced in July that would require OSHA to develop a heat stress standard.   “Heat stress-related deaths are 100% preventable, which is what makes stories like that of Asuncion Valdivia, who died after working ten hours in 105-degree weather without a break, so tragic,” Rep. Chu said in a public statement.  If passed, OSHA would have two years to write and propose a heat illness standard for both indoor and outdoor workers. A final version would be required to be submitted 18 months after the first iteration. “Every day, workers around the country, whether on a farm or in a warehouse, work in 100-degree temperatures or more just to feed their own families and the country,” Chu said.  “But that exposure to high heat puts workers at risk of heat stroke or heat exhaustion. Even in just a single eight- to ten-hour shift, a worker can fall into a coma and die.As written, the Asuncion Valdivia Illness and Fatality Prevention Act states workers in high heat environments would be required to have paid breaks in cool spaces, access to water and limitations on how long they can be exposed to heat. It’s alarming that companies such as UPS use excuses such as drivers frequently opening doors as a reason to not install air conditioning or provisions for protecting its workers. Although the company has a written heat prevention program, it focuses on hydration and extra rest before, not during, extreme heat conditions, according to a CBS17 report. It’s time for OSHA to step up and develop a legally-enforceable standard before more workers such as Jim Klenk and Asuncion Valdivia make the news, hospitals and morgue as a result of alleged employer negligence just because they needed to provide for their families.  Let's block ads! (Why?)

Dank Dilemma: The Unregulated CBD Market and Drug Testing

“We are in the Wild Wild West when it comes to CBD,” Adele Abrams exclaimed to a crowded room of attendees at the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) Safety 2019 conference. The employment law attorney and president of the Law Office of Adele L. Abrams P.C. in Beltville, Md. isn’t far from the truth. The absence of federal oversight of cannabinol (CBD)-based products has given rise to predatory companies looking to capitalize on the burgeoning CBD market, which is expected to increase to $23.7 billion through 2023, according to research firm Brightfield Group. One-owner smoke shops to mass retailers are entering the game in an unprecedented time when marijuana legislation is at the forefront of discussion and the opioid epidemic continues to ravage homes and workplaces across the country.  “The CBD market has been growing rapidly, but we will see unprecedented growth in 2019,” explains Bethany Gomez, Brightfield Group managing director. “The bulk of this growth is coming from large retailers like CVS, Walgreens, and Kroger entering the market and providing that availability to consumers.” A 2019 Consumer Reports survey found that nearly 64 million Americans have admitted to using CBD for ailments ranging from chronic pain and anxiety to seizure disorders and cancer. With an unregulated market, variability in the potency and purity of CBD products is causing issues among consumers, including testing positive for Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the principal cannabinoid in cannabis. It’s in the Chemistry CBD is one of more than 100 chemical constituents in the cannabis plant that cause a physiological affect once it is consumed. Products containing the component come in various forms from vape cartridges and extracts to topical lotions, beers, coffee and even cosmetics.  The popularity of CBD skyrocketed after widespread, aggressive marketing to users who desire alternatives to prescription medicines as well as the absence of the psychoactive effects associated with cannabis. Because CBD is extracted from the cannabis or hemp plant, users who ingest products that contain the derivative in theory will not test positive for THC. With so many options on store shelves, consumers are rolling the dice when it comes to what they use, unless they are purchasing from a qualified, legal dispensary or trusted source. Both proponents and opponents of cannabis legalization are weighing in on the issue, agreeing that federal oversight is needed.   “Unregulated CBD products can contain THC, which could adversely affect a consumer’s career,” says Stacey Worthy, legal counsel to Aimed Alliance. “Some products are marketed as containing only CBD; however, lab testing revealed that these products contained elevated levels of THC, which can show up on an employee’s drug test. Consumers could purchase a product like this unaware of the product’s THC content and they could lose their job because of it.” The Department of Defense issued a warning to active duty service members, warning troops about the risks of ingesting unregulated CBD products. Testing positive for THC is grounds for discharge in the military. “Regulating these products would prevent this from happening because the government could require that these products undergo laboratory testing to verify their contents and to ensure they do not contain THC over 0.3%,” says Worthy. Standard workplace testing for cannabis identifies the presence of a specific metabolite known as carboxy-THC. CBD does not convert into carboxy-THC, explains Paul Armentano, National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) deputy director.  “The issue, unfortunately, for some employees is that oftentimes, these commercially available products are of inconsistent or variable purity, and as a result, they contain other unwanted substances not identified on the label, like THC,” he says. “In a case of where an employer may inadvertently fail such a test by taking a CBD product, it’s not because of the CBD itself, it’s because the product was of inferior quality and actually contained THC.” NORML recently provided testimony to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), calling upon the agency to “move expeditiously” to bring regulations to govern the emerging market.In turn, pharmaceutical companies are devising alternatives that would meet the agency’s approval to be distributed at pharmacies nationwide. GW Pharmaceuticals/Greenwich Biosciences, a biopharmaceutical company focused on discovering therapeutic cannabis-based medicines, has developed an oral formulation of purified CBD for use in seizure patients, the first cannabis plant-derived medicine ever approved by the FDA. “We believe that patients should be protected against companies that are knowingly or negligently providing products that may be unsafe and promoting them for unapproved health or medical uses,” says Alice Mead, vice president, US professional relations. “We have spent over 20 years researching the safety and efficacy of cannabis for medicinal use. Our desire is to ensure that regulation of cannabis maintains critical public health and safety guardrails and encourages the further development of cannabis-derived medications through the FDA approval process, which we believe is in the best interest of patient safety.” Public Perception Americans wants a solution to unregulated CBD, and it isn’t prohibition. The FDA recently sought public comment on products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds, receiving more than 4,200 responses overwhelmingly supporting decriminalization of marijuana as well as CBD. Many respondents compared CBD to daily supplements such as multivitamins, which are readily available on store shelves.  “You allow vitamins with very little regulation. You’ve allowed opioids to addict a huge percent of the population,” said Deborah Carlisle, one respondent. “CBD is a pain aid for many people. The tax money derived from legalization alone could help in education and so many other areas. The majority of the population wants an end to prohibition. Prohibition didn’t work for alcohol and this is a healthier choice. There are so many additives to food, artificial sweeteners and coloring but the FDA restricts adding CBD to food when it grows naturally and not artificially.” Some comments detailed the alleged negative side effects of popular prescription drugs. Police officers, veterans and industry workers weighed in on the need for legislative action. “I’ve been using CBD oil for a month now! Let me tell you about my experience with it! I’m a law enforcement officer (21-year veteran) with PTSD and anxiety,” an anonymous response says. “I was on Lexapro for two years and had zero drive, zero motivation and weight gain. I also have arthritis in my hands and back. I also have been diagnosed with degenerative disk disease. I took 2400 mg. of ibuprofen a day for pain and inflammation. Since starting CBD oil, I haven’t had to take either medication. I haven’t felt this great in years! Zero anxiety attacks!” Despite widespread CBD use, organizations such as the National Safety Council (NSC) continue to caution against the use of cannabis and its derivatives, especially on the job. “We know it is impairing, and we do believe there will be safety impacts in workplaces and on the roads,” says Jane Terry, NSC senior director of government affairs. “Whether it be alcohol, opioids, over the counter – using those and doing some of these safety-sensitive tasks just don’t mix, period.” Exercising Caution Individuals who live in states that have decriminalized marijuana currently are able to purchase CBD products that have been tested for efficacy and purity. Consumers purchasing online or at unlicensed retailers are taking a risk of products that contain THC and additives such as pesticides or chemicals. “If one is going to purchase a CBD or a product marketed as a CBD-infused product, online or from some commercial manufacturer, outside of the confines of a state-licensed dispensary, then it is an entirely unregulated product, and it is entirely buyer beware,” Armentano explains. “Those individuals that are seeking a regulated CBD product, if they are fortunate enough to live in a state that regulates medical marijuana production, they have the option to obtain a CBD-infused product that has been subject to regulation.” Because CBD is an organic component of marijuana, by default, in those jurisdictions, products that are available to state-registered patients must go through a specific regulatory process, he says. Before those products hit the shelves at state-licensed dispensaries, they must be tested to make sure the product does not contain high levels of adulterants or solvents. The drug testing landscape will continue to evolve as regulation is defined. Companies that employ federal workers or public workers oftentimes are subject to federal drug testing guidelines, and those guidelines haven’t changed as a result of state-level changes in marijuana policy.  Navigating the changing legislative landscape is a maze employers face. While the answer is black and white for most public entities, private employers have entered gray areas when it comes to updating substance use policies to comply with changing cultural and legal status of marijuana in their respective jurisdictions. “In many ways, workplace drug testing for cannabis is a holdover from a bygone era, an era with which cannabis use was largely stigmatized and was criminalized virtually all throughout the United States,” Armentano says. “That simply isn’t the case anymore. And workplace drug testing programs ought to change with the times.” One thing is for certain: the medicinal benefits of cannabis continue to draw heated debate from organizations, researchers, legislators and stakeholders across the country. A changing cultural landscape and shift away from Reefer Madness can only allow for greater research into the plant that has assisted users with their ailments. “This is a relatively new thing and the market has grown exponentially, and it’s on track to grow the next few years,” Terry says. “One of the things we need with cannabis-related products like CBD is to get more data and research out there.”   Let's block ads! (Why?)

Altor Inc. and President Vasilio Saites Ruled in Contempt of Court

A decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals demonstrates the personal liability CEOs and C-suite executives should have when it comes to workplace safety. New Jersey-based Altor Inc. and Vasilio Saites, the company's president, were found to be in contempt of court for neglecting to pay $412,000 in penalities tied to numerous willful safety violations. “The U.S. Department of Labor will use all appropriate and available legal tools to ensure that employers are held accountable for their obligations under the Occupational Safety and Health Act to help ensure that workplaces are safe and employers who violate the law do not gain an unfair economic advantage over law-abiding competitors,” said Kate S. O’Scannlain, solicitor of labor. OSHA cited the construcion company for multiple violations of the agency's fall protection standards. The court previously ordered Altor and Saites to pay the fine after the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC) affirmed the violations.  The court’s contempt judgment specifies that Saites is liable for the full amount of the penalty if Altor does not pay. If Altor and Saites do not fully pay within 30 days or show the court why they cannot do so, the secretary of labor will propose a daily penalty for the court to assess. The court’s ruling is the result of lengthy litigation by the Department’s Office of the Solicitor including multiple hearings before the OSHRC and the court of appeals to affirm Altor’s violations of OSHA’s safety requirements and remedy the company’s longstanding refusal to pay the associated penalties. Let's block ads! (Why?)

Will Robots Replace Mental Health Professionals?

Imagine sitting in a psychiatrist’s office. Behind the desk isn't a human, but instead is a robot asking you to describe your feelings. A new report published by Sermo, a global social platform for physicians, explores the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) in the mental health field. “It is time for us to stop thinking about AI as a battle of machines versus humans. We need to instead focus on how AI can optimize and improve clinicians’ abilities to deliver better care,” said Dr. Murali Doraiswamy, psychiatry and medicine professor at Duke University and study partner. Sermo, along with Dr. Doraiswamy and Dr. Charlotte Blease, Harvard research fellow in general medicine, assessed 791 psychiatrists across 22 countries. Survey respondents were questioned about the likelihood that future technology would replace, not just assist, human doctors in performing complex psychiatric tasks. The pilot survey of psychiatrists was conducted globally from April to May 2019 to understand whether or not future technology, specifically AI/ML, could replace the average psychiatrist in performing 10 specific psychiatric tasks, according to the survey methodology. Psychiatrists overwhelmingly agreed that technology would not make their jobs obsolete. Only 4% believed that AI potentially could replace humans, and only 17% indicated that they were concerned that robots could replace a human in providing empathetic care. The majority of survey respondents (67%) said it was unlikely that future technology could replace human doctors for tasks such as assessing a patient's mental status, assessing potential for violence (58%) or determining whether the patient needs to be hospitalized (55%). "The findings from this survey also raise questions about the preparedness of the profession to navigate technological change in the delivery of patient care," Dr. Blease said. In fact, mental health professionals surveyed indentified two tasks AI technology reasonably could replace humans. Seventy-five percent of respondents said technology could assist with providing patient documentation such as updating medical records, while 54% said it could help with synthesizing patient information to reach diagnoses. Researchers attibute the skepticism and uncertainty expressed by doctors and technology to the "hype" around AI and the fact that respondents placed high value on human interaction and personalized professional analysis. In addition, psychiatrists potentially could be underestimating the pace of technological advancement. Although doctors were skeptical about the prospect of being replaced by AI and machine learning, one in two mental health professionals supported future technologies in evolving how they handle their jobs. Psychiatrists While doctors were skeptical about the prospects of AI/ML replacing them, one in two psychiatrists felt that future technologies would significantly transform their jobs. Psychiatrists also predicted that AI/ML could aid in more accurate diagnosis, reducing administrative burden, 24/7 monitoring, individualized drug targets to reduce side effects, integration of new streams of data from wearables and genetics, and reducing human errors, according to research findings. Above all, psychiatrists were concerned about the ethical and safety concerns of AI integration into medical practice. “This should be a high priority for research since even a single line of bad code could have serious repercussions,” cautioned Doraiswamy. Sermo, global social platform for physicians and largest health care professional survey company, along with psychiatry and health technology researchers at Duke University School of Medicine and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School collaborated on collecting and analyzing survey responses. Let's block ads! (Why?)

OSHA Discovers Multiple Hazards at Fuyao Glass America

An inspection initiated under OSHA's Site-Specific Targeting program has led to $724,380 in fines for an Ohio manufacturer. Fuyao Glass America Inc. exposed workers to numerous safety and health hazards at its Moraine, Ohio, production plant.  “This company’s repeated failure to implement and enforce safety and health programs at the workplace is unacceptable,” said Bill Donovan, acting regional administrator. “Employers must continually evaluate their facilities for hazards, and train employees and managers to use proper safety controls and equipment to keep their worksites safe and healthful.” OSHA found nine repeated and 13 serious violations at Fuyao, including ones for electrical safety, failing to evaulate permit-required confined spaces; failure to train workers on lockout/tagout and entering confined spaces; failure to install machine guarding; and lack of hearing protection, fall protection or personal protective equipment. The compant's plant has been cited12 times in the past four years for similar violations. Fuyao has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference or contest the findings. Let's block ads! (Why?)