Author Archives: Stefanie Valentic

Cal/OSHA Fines Aardvark Clay & Supplies After Worker Death

On Sept. 20, 2018, Enrique Vasquez Garcia went to work and never returned home. The 18-year-old Aardvark Clay & Supplies Inc. worker was fatally injured when he became caught in the mixing blades of an unguarded pug mill. “Pug mills have rotating blades that can cause amputations and fatally injure employees,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum in a statement. “Employers must ensure all machinery and its parts are properly guarded, and employees are effectively trained to prevent tragic accidents like this.” Santa Ana, Calif.-based Aardvark Clay & Supplies uses industrial pug mills to manufacture and mix clay. Garcia became fatally entangled in the clay manufacturing machine when he tried to identify why the clay stopped traveling through the extruder.  Cal/OSHA investigators discovered that the mill's safety guards had been removed from the industrial mixer and Garcia had not received training on the machine before the accident. The agency also found that all four of the shop’s pug mills had unguarded openings, which exposed workers to the moving parts. Safety regulations require mixers to have a cover to prevent employees’ hands from entering the machine during operation, Cal/OSHA states. Although Aardvark had provided safety guards for the mills, the employer removed the guards. At one point, fabricated guards were added to the machines but were later removed when the employer believed they interfered with the rate of production, Cal/OSHA discovered. Aardvark Clay & Supplies also failed to effectively train workers on the hazards involved with operating the machinery and did not identify or correct the hazards.  Cal/OSHA fined the company $250,160 in proposed penalties for its willful failure to properly guard equipment and to train its workers. In total, five violations were issued: one willful-serious accident-related, one willful-serious, two serious and one general. The willful-serious violations were cited for the  Aardvark’s failure to guard machine openings and points of operation. The serious violations identify hazards from the unguarded cutting portion of the clay machine and failure of the employer’s safety program to identify unsafe conditions, implement corrective procedures and effectively train employees on work-related hazards.  Let's block ads! (Why?)

Back to Basics: Why Workplace Violence Programs Matter

Emad “Al” Shenouda has conducted over 300 active shooter training sessions and has conducted train-the-trainer programs for over 3,000 law enforcement officers. A former federal protective security advisor for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), he has seen the proliferation of active shooting incidents across the United States. He now provides consulting services as well as training through The Power of Preparedness, a sequence of courses designed to prepare workers for a workplace violence situation. The training program is geared towards healthcare, manufacturing and commercial industries. The program’s lessons focus on psychosocial indicators of workplace violence and cover the broad spectrum of insider, external and collusion threats. Hands-on demonstrations allow them to train staff on room barricading techniques and lockdown procedures. In an interview with EHS Today, Shenouda explains why workplace violence programs matter and what safety and human resources professionals should do to ensure workers are prepared. EHS Today: Which factors/events influenced or shaped your training course?Emad “Al” Shenouda: Virginia Tech, the DHS and FBI developed the “Run, Hide, Fight” program as the national strategy for active shooter preparedness and response. We provided classroom training, but it became impossible to scale and meet the needs of larger organization or smaller organizations that stand-up training is not suitable or possible. Based on our experience and customer feedback, we knew that people were getting killed in the U.S. because of mass casualty shootings and other active assailant attacks faster than they can be trained. We must bring basic active shooter/assailant training to 50 million people as efficiently as possible. EHS Today: Where should an EHS professional start when he/she is looking to implement a plan? Shenouda: Employers must begin by accepting and understanding that the threat of workplace violence is a significant phenomenon in the United States. No workplace is immune. It can happen anywhere, any time. Two people are killed daily in the U.S.  EHS Today: How can an EHS professional work hand-in-hand with human resources (HR) to ensure any policies/procedures are efficiently implemented?Shenouda: HR needs to ensure that they have adequate pre-employment screening and that they offer workplace violence training to all employees with emphasis on behavioral indicators and reporting mechanisms as well as an employee assistance program (EAP). Safety and security should become the field extension of HR – eyes and ears – and work with management and supervision to detect problem behavior and act on it quickly before an employee goes through a downward spiral and becomes dangerous to the workplace. EHS Today: Do you have any examples of programs/policies that could hinder emergency responders or be counterproductive in saving lives? Shenouda: Believing that it can’t happen to them – the wildebeest mentality. With more wildebeests than lions, they believe that it won’t get them, that it will be some other poor chap. EHS Today: What resources in addition to your training course can employers utilize?Shenouda: The DHS offers the “Run, Hide, Fight” video. Your local law enforcement could do some training without cost. We offer additional consulting services such as security and vulnerability assessments as well as planning and exercising workshops. Let's block ads! (Why?)

Safety Questions Arise After Two Fatal Boeing 737 MAX 8 Crashes

Safety experts, lawmakers and organizations are questioning Boeing’s 737 MAX 8 aircraft after a second fatal crash in five months. An Ethiopian Airlines flight heading to Nairobi, Kenya on Sunday, March 10 plunged to the ground shortly after take-off killing all 157 people on board. Despite calls for immediate grounding and recertification, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has stated MAX 8 jets still are allowed to operate in the United States. "The FAA's 'wait and see' attitude risks lives as well as the safety reputation of the US aviation industry,” Paul Hudson, president and longtime member of the FAA Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee said in a statement. “Even assuming this design defect should not by itself take the aircraft out of service, the failure to warn airlines and pilots of the new feature, and the inadequacy of training requirements, necessitate an immediate temporary grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX 8." The aircraft already has been restricted from entering China and Indonesia following an October 2018 Lion Air crash off the coast of Indonesia that killed 189 passengers. Investigators discovered that pilots were unable to override an automatic control system (MCAS or Maneuvering Character Augmentation System) that Boeing had not clearly disclosed. The automatic control system automatically guides the MAX 8 nose down if it determines the flight is at risk. Although the investigation into Sunday’s Ethiopian Airlines crash is far from over, early signs indicate the same issue contributed to this latest incident. Major airlines with “strong safety records” operated both MAX 8 jets that crashed. Both the October’s Lion Air aircraft and the Ethiopian airlines flight went down less than 15 minutes after take-off, according to a CNN report. President Donald Trump surmised that technology may be to blame.  “Airplanes are becoming far too complex to fly,” President Trump tweeted in response. “Pilots are no longer needed, but rather computer scientists from MIT. I see it all the time in many products. Always seeking to go one unnecessary step further, when often old and simpler is far better. Split second decisions are needed, and the complexity creates danger. All of this for great cost yet very little gain. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want Albert Einstein to be my pilot. I want great flying professionals that are allowed to easily and quickly take control of a plane!” After the most recent crash, German, Italy and the UK are among the countries that have temporarily banned the MAX 8 from its airspace pending a safety evaluation. Boeing released a statement, saying it has been “working closely” with the FAA on a software enhancement for its fleet that will be released by April. “Safety is a core value for everyone at Boeing and the safety of our airplanes, our customers’ passengers and their crews is always our top priority,” the company said on its website. “The 737 MAX is a safe airplane that was designed, built and supported by our skilled employees who approach their work with the utmost integrity.” Let's block ads! (Why?)

OSHA Seeks Input on Powered Industrial Trucks

OSHA is seeking information as it considers updating its standards on powered industrial trucks. National consensus standards for powered industrial trucks first became effective in 1971 and have been revised several times since their inception. The agency is requesting feedback on the types, age, and usage of powered industrial trucks; maintenance and retrofitting; how to regulate older powered industrial trucks; types of accidents and injuries associated with operating these machines; costs and benefits of retrofitting the machines with safety features; and other components of a safety program.   OSHA defines powered industrial trucks as forklifts, fork trucks, tractors, platform lift trucks, motorized hand trucks and other specialized industrial trucks powered by an electrical motor or an internal combustion engine.  It plans to use responses to determine actions it will take to reduce regulatory burdens, improve worker safety and create jobs for general, maritime, and construction industries Comments must be submitted on or before June 10, 2019 electronically at, the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal or by facsimile or mail. View the Federal Register notice for submission details.  Let's block ads! (Why?)

Sincerely Stefanie: Tired of the Same Old

America is tired. Last month, I wrote about how safety technology should be used to combat fatigue in the workplace. However, that is only one slice of the fatigue risk management process. The National Safety Council (NSC) is once again calling for employers to assess their programs, workplace environments and culture and to integrate fatigue-reducing measures into their data-driven safety systems. This couldn’t come at a better time. America’s companies have been gracing headlines with what is being called “burnout culture.” “Don’t stop when you’re tired; stop when you’re done,” proclaimed the carved cucumbers in a pitcher of water at WeWork, a company that provides shared technology workplaces. Bring a productive, dedicated worker is admirable, but at what point does the individual begin to feel the effects? The NSC reports that 90% of America’s employers have seen the impact of fatigue on its workers. The number of hours American workers have put in has steadily increased since the 70s. While the United States does not top the number of hours worked per year when ranked globally, the laws that govern paid sick days and legally-mandated annual leave are non-existent. What does this mean? According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there has been a 400% increase in productivity among American workers since 1950, yet employees are just not taking time off, leading to burnout, fatigue and possibly more injuries. In a nutshell, America’s adherence to a “Hustle Hard” culture is hurting its very own workers, and safety professionals should implement fatigue risk management systems to mitigate it. An interruption of a worker’s Circadian cycle, or internal clock, increases the risk for safety incidents to occur. Take a look at night-shift workers who report 30% more incidents versus those who work the standard 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. work day. The facts are clear: a tired mind is more likely to take shortcuts, make poor decisions and be less alert. In addition, the NSC states that changes in a person’s sleep-wake cycle also could lead to health problems such as depression, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The Campbell Institute states that an effective fatigue management policy includes limits on work hours as well as minimum requirements for off-duty and recovery rest periods, along with: Regular review of overtime schedules; Shared responsibilities for managing fatigue, such as Communication from the organization and the employee assuming responsibility for arriving fit for duty; Fatigue reporting system for employees; Procedures to determine whether fatigue played a role in an incident; Fatigue management training and education for employees and management; Provision of sleep disorder information and management; Continuous improvement process for managing fatigue risk. Emily Whitcomb, NSC’s senior program manager for fatigue initiatives, said it perfectly: “In our 24/7 world, too many employees are running on empty. Employees are an organization’s greatest asset, and addressing fatigue in workplaces will help eliminate preventable deaths and injuries.” Let's block ads! (Why?)

March 2019 Safety Product Innovations

View the latest products from EHS Today's March issue. EHS Today's print edition highlights the latest personal protective equipment, software and safety products ranging from footwear to training. Our March issue features innovations from MSA Safety, Ansell, Honeywell, CEA Instruments, Tingley Rubber Corp., Pure Safety Group and ReadyMax. To view product descriptions and photos, use the arrows to move back and forth through the slideshow.

U.S. Experiences Three Straight Years of 40,000 Motor Vehicle Deaths

Roadway deaths in the United States are slowly declining despite hitting 40,000 the last three years, according the National Safety Council (NSC), Preliminary estimates from the NSC show that in 2018, an estimated 40,000 people lost their lives to car crashes, down 1% from 2017 (40,231 deaths) and 2016 (40,327 deaths). “Forty-thousand deaths is simply unacceptable,” said Nick Smith, NSC interim president and CEO. “We cannot afford to tread water anymore. We know what works, but need to demonstrate the commitment to implementing the solutions. Roadway deaths are preventable by doubling down on what works, embracing technology advancements and creating a culture of safer driving.” Approximately 4.5 million people were seriously injured in crashes last year – also a 1% over 2017 figures. Seven states – Florida, Hawaii, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oregon, Pennsylvania – as well as Washington D.C. had at least a 5.8% spike in fatalities. Five states experienced declines of more than 9.4%: Kansas, Maine, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Wyoming. The new figures signal a leveling off after years of consecutive rises. However, 2018’s preliminary estimates still are 14% higher than four years ago. Driver behavior is likely contributing to the numbers staying stubbornly high, the NSC stated. To help ensure safer roads, NSC urges motorists to: Practice defensive driving. Buckle up, designate a sober driver or arrange alternative transportation, get plenty of sleep to avoid fatigue, and drive attentively, avoiding distractions.  Recognize the dangers of drugged driving, including impairment from prescription opioids.  Stay engaged in teens’ driving habits.  Learn about your vehicle’s safety systems and how to use them. Fix recalls immediately.  Ask lawmakers and state leaders to protect travelers on state roadways.  Join the Road to Zero to understand how safety professionals are addressing motor vehicle fatalities.  The NSC has issued traffic fatality estimates since 1921. Additional information can be found on the organization's website.

Reducing Carbon Monoxide Exposure with Portable Generator Use

Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning due to improper generator use is a serious risk not just during cold weather, but all year round. OSHA is reminding employers and safety professionals to ensure workers are protected against CO exposure to the colorless, odorless gas that can cause neurological damage, coma or death. When fuel-burning equipment and tools are used in buildings or semi-enclosed spaces without adequate ventilation, overexposure can occur. The danger increases during the winter months when this type of equipment is used in indoor areas that have been sealed tightly to block out cold temperatures and wind. CO exposure is not specific to one occupation. Welders, mechanics, brewers, taxi drivers, toll booth attendants and police officers are just some of the workers who could be exposed on the job. The CO permissible exposure limit (PEL) is 50 parts per million (ppm). OSHA standards prohibit worker exposure to more than 50 parts of the gas per million parts of air averaged during an 8-hour time period, according to the agency. Symptoms of overexposure include headaches, dizziness, drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, or tightness across the chest, while prolonged exposure can pose more dire health effects. In addition to portable generators and space heaters, sources of carbon monoxide can include anything that uses combustion to operate, such as power tools, compressors, pumps, welding equipment, furnaces, gas-powered forklifts, and motorized vehicles, according to OSHA. To reduce the risk of carbon monoxide exposure in the workplace, employers should follow 10 recommendations OSHA outlines in its Carbon Monoxide Poisoning fact sheet.  If someone has been exposed, OSHA states the following steps should be taken to save lives: Move the victim immediately to fresh airin an open area. Call 911 or another local emergency numberfor medical attention or assistance. Administer 100-percent oxygen using atight-fitting mask if the victim is breathing. Administer cardiopulmonary resuscitationif the victim has stopped breathing. However, the agency also cautions that there could be a high risk to fatal levels of CO during a rescue attempt. Rescuers should be skilled at performing recovery operations and using recovery equipment. In addition, employers should make sure that rescuers are not exposed to dangerous CO levels when performing rescue operations, the agency says.

Protecting Your Workplace Against Active Shooters

He was quiet, such a nice guy. He kept to himself. He didn’t socialize much. Does that sound familiar? Neighbors, coworkers, friends of active shooting perpetrators typically describe the person to the media as a nice person in the days following a mass casualty incident. They typically don’t recognize the behaviors and actions of a person planning an act of workplace violence. “The average worker does not snap overnight – that’s Hollywood,” says Al Shenouda, a former law enforcement tactical commander and security advisor with the Department of Homeland Security and speaker at EHS Today’s 2018 Safety Leadership Conference. Workplace violence is more likely to occur in places without policies or managers who understand what types of behaviors lead to an event. So, what can a safety professional do to effectively train workers to spot acts of incivility, discontent and changes in a person they see on a daily basis? Early Recognition Having an “it’ll never happen to me” mentality is a surefire way to be unprepared when an act of workplace violence occurs, Shenouda says. Shenouda, along with other subject matter experts, provides organizations with insights and tactics on preventing and surviving an active shooter situation. The value of early recognition, or seeing changes in a worker and addressing them, is the first step to prevention. “Establish an early warning system,” says Gino Soave, Niles Industrial Coatings’ corporate safety director and speaker at EHS Today’s 2018 Safety Leadership Conference. “No threat is too small. Words always precede actions.” Changes in behavior should be reported to a supervisor. For example, introverted workers that begin to voice their opinions in an aggressive manner, or an employee that is more extroverted and seem withdrawn could potentially plan to retaliate. Soave notes 12 particular behaviors that could lead to an act of workplace violence: 1. Temper tantrums2. Excessive absenteeism3. Decrease in productivity4. Testing limits5. Disrespect for authority6. Verbalizes negative action/harm7. Sabotage/theft8. Numbers and intensity of arguments rise9. Intense anger10. Social withdrawal11. Suicidal threats12. Property destruction When it comes down to it, every employee should have some type of basic awareness training, Shenouda says. Company policy for escalating behaviors should reiterate a no-tolerance policy. If a threat or incivility occurs, a worker should immediately alert a direct supervisor. The supervisor should report behavior to a human resources or safety representative, who will then take the appropriate steps to address the individual. “Most workers don’t understand the ins and outs of a prevention program,” Shenouda says. “You want to save lives? Do basic awareness training. When things start getting unglued, what are you going to do?” Respond and Save The “hot potato” scenario often leads to an active shooting. Employees who see changes in a fellow worker will begin avoiding the person, acting like nothing is happening, denies anything is wrong or brushes it off as something that is not part of their job responsibilities, Soave says. “Has society trained us not to get involved if something doesn’t directly affect us?” he questions. These changes and the subsequent lack of response are the catalyst for escalated behaviors. However, once an active shooting takes place, employees cannot sit back and every single one needs to be trained to respond accordingly. “Most mass shooting incidents last three to five minutes,” Shenouda says. “They’re looking for body count. More people are getting killed now by active shooters than in history.” An effective basic training program should not only include preventing an incident, it should also include situational awareness, survival training and first aid techniques. “In an emergency situation, paramedics and law enforcement are not the first responders,” Soave says. “Citizens are the first responders.” Staying a step ahead of danger is key. Have workers identify spaces that provide a vantage point, rooms in which they could barricade themselves and tools and common items they can use as weapons. Because a person can succumb to an injury before law enforcement arrives, techniques such as improvising a tourniquet and stopping blood loss should be taught. “The key is to try to get out in front of these acts,” Soave recommends. “Keep an open line of communication and keep training exciting. This falls under OSHA’s general duty clause. It’s no different than what you do every day.” 

The Evolution of Drug Testing in the Workplace

With more than 30 states allowing the medicinal use of marijuana and 10 allowing fully recreational, it’s no surprise that employers are scrambling for ways to adapt to changing regulations. Coupled with the opioid epidemic, the intricacies of an effective drug testing program and policy can vary based on the industry and state. The answer might be as simple as a no-tolerance policy for some employers, but for others the legalities are difficult to navigate. “As companies consider strategies to protect their workplaces, they should also consider the risks that employees who use drugs present to their co-workers, customers and the general public,” says Kimberly Samano, PhD, scientific director, Quest Diagnostics. Testing Positive Data from Quest Diagnostics shows drug use by the U.S. workforce increased each year—and by double-digits over two years between 2015 and 2017, in five of 16 major U.S. industry sectors analyzed. Despite efforts to regulate opioid prescriptions, the number of overdoses continues to climb. New opioid users prefer heroin over prescription drugs such as hydrocodone and oxycodone. This is due in large part to widespread accessibility, according to a study by Washington University researchers Theodore Cicero and Matthew Ellis. “Our data document that, as the most commonly prescribed opioids—hydrocodone and oxycodone—became less accessible due to supply-side interventions, the use of heroin as an initiating opioid has grown at an alarming rate,” they report. “Given that opioid novices have limited tolerance to opioids, a slight imprecision in dosing inherent in heroin use is likely to be an important factor contributing to the growth in heroin-related overdose fatalities in recent years.” While substance abuse has sharply risen over the past decade, the market for drug testing is also showing “significant” growth, according to Allied Market Research. The global drug abuse situation has been driven by factors such as rise in availability of prohibited drugs and “drastic” lifestyle changes among the millennial population. The research firm sees technological advancements in body analyzers and a rise in focus on raising awareness above the adverse effects of drugs boosting substance abuse testing among employers worldwide. However, the firm also notes employers show a lack of awareness about the availability of advanced drug testing devices as well as concerns about breaking medical privacy laws when it comes to mitigating substance abuse among their workforce. Marijuana Legalization Marijuana currently is legal in more than 30 states for medicinal use, with other states expected to follow. Recreational marijuana use became legal in Michigan in December 2018. James E. Baiers, chief legal officer for Trion Solutions Inc., which manages human resources administration for small- to mid-size businesses in the state, recommends employers constantly assess their drug policies for clear communication to ensure that workers accurately informed. “The new law legalizing marijuana in Michigan does not supplant or override an employer’s policy to maintain a drug-free workplace – and does not prohibit an employer from disciplining or terminating an employee for violating its drug policy,” Baiers explains. “In fact, some businesses are required to maintain a drug-free workplace – such as those in transportation; operating heavy equipment and machinery; and recipients of federal contracts or federal grants.” Michigan’s new law, however, does not require employers to make accommodations for workers who have a medical marijuana prescription. Craig A. Vanderburg, chief operating officer, Trion Solutions, echoes the importance of a clearly spelled-out policy. “How it all falls out remains to be seen, but the most important advice now is to ensure company policies are clearly described and carefully communicated to all job candidates and employees,” he says.