Author Archives: Stefanie Valentic

Cal/OSHA: Companies Exposed Workers to Valley Fever

Six California companies are facing $241,950 in fines after multiple workers contracted Valley Fever on a job site in Monterey County.The employers, one contractor and five subcontractors, failed to control worker exposure to contaminated dust at a solar project construction site in Cholame Hills, according to Cal/OSHA.“Employers who work in areas endemic to Valley Fever must take preventative measures to protect workers who may be exposed,” said Juliann Sum, Cal/OSHA chief, in a statement.Valley Fever is caused by Coccidioides immitis, a microscopic fungus that lives in 2- to 12-in. of soil in the state. Once the soil is disturbed, spores become airborne and, as a result, can be inhaled, according to the agency.The following employers did not provide and ensure use of respiratory protection to prevent exposure: McCarthy Building Companies Inc., Papich Construction Inc., Granite Construction Inc., Dudek, Sachs Electric Co. and Althouse and Meade Inc. The agency listed McCarthy as the general contractor. The other companies were noted as subcontractors.Papich Construction Inc. previously was cited for the same violations in 2013.Cal/OSHA provides the following suggestions about preventing Valley Fever:Determine if a worksite is in an area where fungal spores likely are to be present.Adopt site plans and work practices that minimize the disturbance of soil and maximize ground cover.Use water, appropriate soil stabilizers and/or re-vegetation to reduce airborne dust.Limit workers’ exposure to outdoor dust in disease-endemic areas by (1) providing air-conditioned cabs for vehicles that generate dust and making sure workers keep windows and vents closed, (2) suspending work during heavy winds, and (3) providing sleeping quarters, if applicable, away from sources of dust.When exposure to dust is unavoidable, provide approved respiratory protection to filter particles.Train supervisors and workers in how to recognize symptoms of Valley Fever and minimize exposure.More information about the violations can be found at the Cal/OSHA web site.Let's block ads! (Why?)

Multiple Fatalities at Didion Milling Leads to $1.8 million in OSHA Fines

On May 31, an explosion at a Didion Milling Inc. facility in Cambria, Wis.  claimed the lives of five workers and injured 12 others.The following workers were fatally injured in the incident: Carlos “Charly” Nunez, Angel Reyes, Pawel Tordoff, Duelle Block and Robert Goodenow. A subsequent OSHA investigation revealed multiple willful violations and details about what led to the blast.“Didion Milling could have prevented this tragedy if it had addressed hazards that are well-known in this industry,” said Ken Nishiyama Atha, OSHA regional administrator in Chicago. “Instead, their disregard for the law led to an explosion that claimed the lives of workers, and heartbreak for their families and the community.”Didion Milling, a company known for storing, milling and transporting corn as well as ethanol product, failed to correct numerous fire and explosion hazards, according to the agency.In total, investigators noted 14 willful – including eight willful per-instance egregious– and five serious citations at the Wisconsin facility.Among other contributing factors, Didion Milling did not make an effort to stop the leakage and accumulation of highly-combustible grain dust throughout the Cambria, Wis. facility or to properly maintain equipment to control ignition sources.Employees were not trained at least annually on common ignition methods including electrical and wiring methods. Filter dust collectors were not installed outside of the building, and filters installed inside the facility did not have explosion protection.In addition, the company did not ensure that pneumatic conveying systems handling combustible dust were grounded. Workers were not provided with personal protective equipment including clothing, respiratory devices or shields. OSHA also cited Didion Milling for a lack of an emergency protection plan or emergency alarm system. The company also did not have any written instructions or housekeeping plans regarding combustible grain dust removal.The agency proposed a total of $1,837,861 in fines. Didion Milling Inc. disagreed with the citations in the following statement posted on its web site:The Didion team continues to mourn the loss of our team members who died or were injured that tragic day in May – we will never forget what happened. Our thoughts remain first and foremost with the families of those affected, our employees and the community.Didion does not agree with the severity of the penalties levied against our family-owned business or the conclusions released by OSHA today. We are working with our legal counsel to determine how to address the findings from this federal agency. Regardless of how we address OSHA’s decision, it is our intent to rebuild our corn milling facility in Cambria. As a family-owned company that has operated in the community for more than 45 years, we recognize how important our mill is for creating new jobs and adding economic value to the area, as well as providing an important source of revenue for area farmers, and offering our customers high-quality products.We pledge to our team members, the farmers and customers we serve, our community partners, the Village of Cambria and the people of Wisconsin, that we will build a state-of-the-art, best in class facility. The new mill will utilize the latest technology and industry best practices, creating one of the most efficient, effective and safe operational systems available.We would like to once again thank our team members for their resolve and strength throughout this difficult process. We also would like to extend our gratitude to all of the First Responders who came from miles around to help us, and the Village of Cambria who opened their doors to support us.Didion is continuing to work with industry experts and other agencies to determine the cause of the incident.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 before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.Let's block ads! (Why?)

South Dakota Oil Spill Highlights Concern for Keystone XL Pipeline Development

A major Keystone pipeline oil spill in South Dakota is driving growing concern about the pipeline’s safety, despite TransCanada’s reassurance that there is no environmental impact.Media reports as well as a statement from TransCanada, the pipeline owner, confirm that 210,000 gallons of oil leaked into the ground in the town of Amherst. The company denies any threat to public safety or other impact as the clean-up process commences, stating:“Overnight and today TransCanada has continued to make progress in cleaning up the site. Through the work, we have also re-affirmed that the incident has been controlled and that there are no further environmental impacts observed and no threat to public safety. There are currently over 75 people supporting our incident response - specialists in environmental management, metallurgy, engineering, pipeline integrity and emergency response. TransCanada has mobilized a full complement of equipment on site including track hoes, earth movers, hydrovacs, bobcats, safety and emergency response equipment, vacuum trucks and high-powered lighting for around-the-clock operations.”The source of the leak has not been identified, but it is under investigation, according to the company. Reports show a discrepancy between the time TransCanada discovered the spill and notified agencies and regulators about it.The South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources was not alerted about the spill until 10:30 a.m. CT on Thursday, Nov. 16, even though TransCanada knew about the leak at 5:30 a.m. CT, according to NPR.TransCanada’s initial comments state the company acted immediately:“As soon as we detected the first sign of an irregularity, TransCanada’s state of the art leak detection shut down the pipeline within minutes, notified state and federal regulatory agencies, local officials and nearby residents. TransCanada personnel also physically confirmed that valves located up and down the pipeline from the incident site have been properly closed.Crews and equipment were dispatched and the area is being managed to ensure safety and security for personnel and residents. TransCanada workers and nationally recognized, industry leading experts (with proper safety equipment) began developing response plans. We continue to work methodically and around- the-clock on this process.”The company also claimed that up-to-date information is being provided to impacted landowners, and agencies including the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources currently are on site.The construction and operation of the yet-to-be-built Keystone XL pipeline, what TransCanada calls a safer, “state-of-the-art” pipeline, has spurred opposition across the board from environmental groups, even before initial approval from President Donald Trump in March. Organization representatives and opposed parties responded almost immediately after the spill was reported.“We’ve always said it’s not a question of whether a pipeline will spill, but when, and today TransCanada is making our case for us,” said Kelly Marthon, Sierra Club Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign director. “This is not the first time TransCanada’s pipeline has spilled toxic tar sands, and it won’t be the last. The PSC must take note: there is no such thing as a safe tar sands pipeline, and the only way to protect Nebraska communities from more tar sands spills is to say no to Keystone XL.”This is not the first time the Keystone pipeline system has leaked. Keystone I, the original pipeline currently in operation and the source of the leak, had 12 spills in its first year. The incident occurs just days before Nebraska legislators will announce their decision about whether to allow construction of the pipeline through their state.“Just days before the Nebraska Public Service Commission is set to make a historic decision on Keystone XL, a new tar sands pipeline, the writing on the wall to reject this pipeline could not be more clear,” said Rachel Rye Butler, Greenpeace Tar Sands campaigner. “These pipelines are bound to spill, and they put communities, precious drinking water, and our climate at risk. An approval of yet another pipeline is a mistake.”Let's block ads! (Why?)

November 2017 Product Showcase: Respiratory Protection [Photo Gallery]

Each month, EHS Today's print edition brings you the latest innovations in personal protective equipment. Each month, EHS Today's print edition brings you the latest in footwear, clothing, gloves, training, software and more. Our November 2017 issue highlights respiratory protection products. To view product descriptions and photos, use the arrows to move back and forth through the slideshow.Let's block ads! (Why?)

NSC: Few Americans Can Spot Signs of Opioid Abuse

Can you spot the signs of opioid abuse? If your answer is no, you're not alone.The National Safety Council (NSC) has released survey results examining opioid misuse in the United States. Only 20 percent of those polled said they are "very confident" they can spot the signs of an overdose, and 28 percent said they are aware of treatment options."The most fatally abused drug today may be sitting in your medicine cabinet," said Deborah A.P. Hersman, NSC president and CEO.  "Fortunately, we know what we need to do to eliminate more than 20,000 preventable deaths each year, and education plays a critical role. We hope the Stop Everyday Killers campaign helps personalize this tragedy in order to save lives."Study findings show that one in four Americans personally have a connection to the epidemic sweeping the U.S. However, 40 percent of them indicated they are not concerned about prescription pain medication as a health and safety threat to their family. Results also discovered that only 16 percent of respondents who take prescriptions actually are concerned about becoming addicted, and, overall, only 63 percent of Americans believe that opioids are very addictive. However, the survey found one in three Americans who were prescribed an opioid in the last three years did not realize the medicine they took was an opioid.In response to the survey, the organization has teamed up with Stericycle for pharmaceutical disposal. The company is providing pre-paid Seal&Send envelopes for returning unused medications. In addition, NSC has created "Opioids: Warn Me" labels for insurance and pharmacy cards. These labels are intended to prompt a critical conversation between patients and prescribers about the risks of taking opioids and possible alternatives. The "Opioids: Warn Me" labels and the Seal&Send envelopes are available at NSC's website.Let's block ads! (Why?)

OSHA: Electrical Hazards Present at Custom Nonwoven Inc.

Custom Nonwoven Inc. willfully exposed its workers to multiple hazards, according to a recent OSHA investigation.The company, based in New Albany, Miss., was cited for two willful, seven serious and five other-than-serious violations."The hazards this company was cited for are preventable," said Courtney Bohannon, OSHA acting area director, in Jackson, Miss. in a statement. "Following basic safety requirements can be the difference between workers returning home safely or suffering a severe injury or worse."An agency inspection on Oct. 25 found the company exposed workers to unguarded machines; electrocution and burns from exposed electrical wires and control cabinets; and falls from walkways that were not equipped with guardrails.In addition, Custom Nonwoven, a subsidiary of Korea Synthetic Fiber, failed to provide hearing protection to its workers and did not have a written hazard communication program. The company faces penalties that total $220,544.Custom Nonwoven has 15 business days from receipt of its 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?)

Sincerely Stefanie: Gain New Habits, Not Pounds

The holidays are just around the corner. The fine dinnerware will come out for its annual appearance. The children will argue about whether they’re old enough to sit at the “adult” table.I can smell it now. Every year, it’s like walking into Willy Wonka’s factory, but without the candy. Instead of a chocolate river, there’s an endless stream of gravy. Pumpkin pie with whipped cream piled high. Cranberry sauce, sweet and sticky. Bacon-wrapped turkey. As delicious as it sounds, you can’t just have one helping.The holidays are a joyous occasion, but also full of temptation. While studies vary on the amount of weight the average American gains in during this time, they all conclude that it happens.Because of this annual trend, the American Heart Association (AHA) is kicking off a month-long campaign to encourage people to make healthier choices by designating November as Eat Smart Month.“We often rationalize poor eating habits over the holidays with the promise of New Year’s resolutions, but half of the weight people gain this time of year tends to stick around at least until summer,” said Jo Ann Carson, PhD., professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas and chair of the AHA’s Nutrition Committee.In essence, starting a lifestyle change and getting into the habit of better choices and portion control should start well before the clock turns midnight on New Year’s Eve.Just over three years ago, I consciously made a decision to change my lifestyle. It wasn’t a New Year’s resolution. I never was overweight. I just knew for my personal well-being that it was time.I didn’t pick up a book on the latest fad diet. I didn’t watch TV doctors who inevitably just spew endorsements for companies that wave money at them. I put on some sneakers, walked out the door and ran into what has become an ever-evolving journey into health and wellness.Little-by-little and step-by-step. That’s all it takes to integrate changes into your life, and it involves a combination of activity, diet and mindset. All habits start with the realization that a change needs to be made and repeating that habit until it becomes commonplace. Instead of waiting for a new year to make changes, Eat Smart Month could be a reason to kick start healthier eating habits.The AHA suggests the following food options to cut down on calories this holiday season:1. Spice it up – A new study found that people who enjoy spicy foods appear to eat less salt and have lower blood pressure.2. Add color – Bright colors can be found at the supermarket and on the holiday buffet. From red apples to orange pumpkins or green pears, adding just one cup of fruits and vegetables a day is a significant step toward a more vibrant life.3. Pre-game – It’s easy to overeat or munch on snacks while in social settings. To help resist temptation, eat a healthy snack or meal before heading out. High-fiber foods like avocados are smart options because they keep you full longer.4. Minimize – Practice moderation, not deprivation. Opt for a small plate, help yourself to a smaller portion or ask for a to-go box in advance and place half your order out of sight in the container.5. Slow down – It takes time for your stomach to signal your brain that you’re full. Slow your pace by setting down your fork between bites, taking frequent drinks of water and pausing to talk with friends and family.Three years ago, I never thought I would have a goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon. However, I started small, choosing 5Ks and eventually half marathons. Then I began to work on nutrition – the hardest part. Little-by-little and step-by-step, my new habits became part of my lifestyle.But I didn’t do it alone. I found others – coworkers, friends, club members – who were looking to achieve various fitness goals and discussed what worked and what didn’t so that we all could accomplish what we set out to do.With Eat Smart Month and the impending barrage of office parties and family dinners, let’s make an effort to gain new, healthy habits, not pounds. Start small – one fewer scoop of mashed potatoes or a smaller slice of pie. Make it a discussion at the table, and get into a mindset that could better than any resolution you have to wait a whole year to break again. Let's block ads! (Why?)

Ways to Recover from Burnout [Infographic]

Stress manifests itself in many ways — physically, mentally and emotionally.Deadlines, workload and low pay only are a few factors that contribute to stress and subsequent workplace burnout, which can lead to emotional exhaustion, feelings of bleakness or feelings of helplessness.A new infographic from examines which countries and workers are most susceptible to stress and burnout as well as ways to determine if it’s time to take a vacation, develop a better work-life balance or seek new employment opportunities.View the infographic to learn more:Let's block ads! (Why?)

Workplace Bullying in Hospitals Affects Patient Care

Nurses subject to hazing, harassment and bullying are a “significant” factor in the dynamics of patient care, work culture and job retention, according to research from the Emergency Nurses Association.The study, published in the International Emergency Nursing Journal, used situational analysis to obtain experiences and opinions from 44 nurses."Workplace bullying is unfortunately pervasive in emergency nursing to the detriment of patient care," said Lisa Wolf, PhD, RN, CEN, FAEN, lead researcher and director of ENA's Institute for Emergency Nursing Research.The research suggests obvious incidents of guilty bystanding, maintaining the status quo or retaliation in a hospital setting leads to bullying and a decline in patient care.To combat the issue, researchers suggest management can have a significant effect on reducing workplace bullying and its related risks to nurses and patients. An assessment of hospital work environments should include nurse perceptions of and responses to workplace bullying, the study indicated.Researchers also developed a model of nurse bullying in U.S. emergency departments they say can help hospital and emergency department leaders understand the process by which bullying manifests in their department.The theory describes responses to bullying as it occurs, how those responses affect the frequency of that behavior and the influence the bullying and environmental elements might have on the prevalence of bullying."Our new theory shows a clear process nurses and administrators can use to identify bullying elements within their environment to ultimately correct this behavior," Wolf said.Let's block ads! (Why?)

OSHA Cites Ski Masonry LLC After Fatal Electrocution

Ski Masonry LLC of Pittsburgh is facing $201,354 in penalties after a worker was fatally electrocuted.In April, OSHA opened an investigation after a 21-year-old laborer, who was working close to energized powerlines, came into contact with them and died."Ski Masonry knowingly took unacceptable risks when performing masonry work close to overhead powerlines," said Christopher Robinson, OSHA Pittsburgh area office director, in a statement. "Companies must assess their worksites and follow all safety requirements to prevent such tragedies from recurring."Agency inspectors discovered that workers were knowingly permitted to work within 10 feet of overhead, energized and uninsulated electrical lines. Sky Masonry also failed to provide fall protection and utilized scaffolding without a secure base plate.In total, OSHA cited the contractor with two willful and five serious citations for violations and added the company to its Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP).The company has 15 business days from receipt of its 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?)