Author Archives: Stefanie Valentic

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. Let's block ads! (Why?)

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.”  Let's block ads! (Why?)

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.  Let's block ads! (Why?)

National Transportation Safety Board's 2019 Top 10 Safety Recommendations

Federal agency announces its annual list of improvements for 2019-2020. What measures need to be taken to reduce injuries on the road? The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released 46 recommendations it wants to target for 2019 through 2020. “We at the NTSB can speak on these issues. We board members can testify by invitation to legislatures and to Congress, but we have no power of our own to act," Sumwalt said. "We are counting on industry, advocates, and government to act on our recommendations. We are counting on the help of the broader safety community to implement these recommendations.” Of the 46 safety recommendations the NTSB wants to be implemented in the next two years, 20 seek regulatory action to improve transportation safety. Ten of the most critical safety recommendations comprise the agency's Most Wanted List, including broad, long-standing issues that continue to pose risks to the traveling American public.  Let's block ads! (Why?)

Sincerely Stefanie: Embracing Technology to Prevent Injury

January was Mental Wellness Month and a time to start new initiatives. This year, safety professionals should take a closer look at how mental health and fatigue can impact workers. Cognitive fatigue and burnout continue to cost U.S. employers more than $130 billion a year in health-related lost productivity, the National Safety Council (NSC) states. The NSC reports that a typical U.S. company with 1,000 employees can expect to lose more than $1 million each year to fatigue, which can often increase the workloads of other human operators. America’s workforce suffers an estimated annual cost of $136.4 billion from fatigue-related, health-related lost productive work time to employers. With fatigue and burnout a continuing topic of conversation among healthcare and safety professionals, researchers and safety organizations, now is the time to take steps to integrate new technology among your workforce in an effort to solve what seems to be such a simple problem with potentially dire consequences. OSHA cites “decreased alertness” because of cognitive fatigue as a direct factor in disasters such as the 2005 Texas City BP oil refinery explosion, the 2009 Colgan Air Crash, the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger and the nuclear accidents at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island. Fatigued workers experience increased sleep problems and risk for injury, illness and increased time off in relation to the number of hours they work per week, according to the agency. “While many people experience short-term symptoms of burnout due to specific circumstances, it is important to address these feelings instead of hoping they go away,” said Dean Aslinia, Ph.D., LPC-S, NCC, University of Phoenix’s counseling/mental health counseling program chair. “The data suggests that many employees are not taking their mental wellness as seriously as their physical health. Ignoring our mental health and symptoms of burnout not only affects job performance and relationships, it can also have a lasting impact on one’s physical health.” A three-year study funded by the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) foundation examined the benefits of wearables in the workplace. Twenty-five participants wore non-obtrusive wrist, hip and ankle sensors while completing three tasks commonly performed by manufacturing workers – assembly, stocking and remaining in a static or flexed position. The organization reports the study demonstrated that meaningful safety data can be collected by an employer in a cost-effective manner without interfering with a worker’s daily routine. “Fatigue is a hidden danger in the workplace, but now we’ve tackled the measurement and modeling of fatigue through wearable sensors, incorporating big data analytics and safety,” said Dr. Lora Cavuoto, a University of Buffalo professor who led the research along with Dr. Fadel Megahed at the Farmer School of Business at Miami University of Ohio. “Information is power, so knowing when, where and how fatigue impacts worker safety is critical. You can’t identify solutions until you pinpoint the problems,” Cavuoto added. With the plethora of recent research released before the end of January 2019, it’s no surprise that the adoption of safety technology will become increasingly important in the near future. The data from various sources has spoken, and the proven benefits of wearables and other devices should be recognized from the top down. With so much information at your fingertips, now is the time to go to leadership and show them the results. Let's block ads! (Why?)

The Benefits of a Drug-Free Workplace [Infographic]

On average, 15.6% of American workers live with a substance abuse disorder, according to the National Safety Council (NSC). With marijuana legalization and the opioid epidemic leading the news on a daily basis, employers are looking for ways to lower their costs and keep their workers health and productive.  U.S. Drug Test Centers prepared an infographic demonstrating the benefits of a drug-free workplace. Let's block ads! (Why?)

8 Winter Electrical Safety Tips

These recommendations from Georgia Power could prevent an electrical fire in your home this winter. The latest winter storm is causing record-breaking cold temperatures across the country. Developing a schedule to conduct home checks of appliances and outlets is a simple way to catch potential fire hazards during the season, Atlanta-based Georgia Power recommends. The company also is offering eight tips for electrical fire prevention and tools for home safety. Let's block ads! (Why?)

5 Tips to Beat Flu Season in the Workplace

Flu season peaks between December and February, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Flu season is in full charge, and its wreaking havoc in workplaces across the United States. December, January and February are peak months for flu activity, and the illness currently is widespread across at least 24 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Because of the severity of the flu this year, taking steps to protect employees against an outbreak is crucial to keep the workplace functional. "Businesses should be proactive in helping keep workers and customers safe from getting the flu virus by taking steps to help prevent the spread of germs in their facilities," sais Adam Soreff, director of marketing and communications at UniFirst Corp., in a statement. "This is the time of year when our facility service and hygiene programs see a marked increase in demand for such items as alcohol-based hand sanitizers, like Purell, anti-bacterial hand soaps, disinfecting cleaning products, hands-free soap and paper dispensers, and touch-free faucets and flushers." The CDC states the flu's direct cost to businesses at $7 billion in sick days and lost productivity with an estimated 17 million workdays lost. UniFirst has provided recommendations to help prevent work environments from becoming a breeding ground for germs that can cause the flu and other seasonal illnesses. Let's block ads! (Why?)

Fatality Investigation: Mining Plant Electrican Dies After Railcar Fall

On June 23, 2018,  46-year-old Superior Silica Sands electrician Rodney Fernandez asked coworker Chad Thomsen if he needed assistance removing a defective railcar from service. The Superior Silica Sands plant at which they workers are employed utilized the railcars to store sand that would be transferred to an overland beltline. Additionally, approximately once a month, two railcars are loaded with sand for transport to Mexico. [embedded content] The two San Antonio-based employees worked to uncouple the cars. According to a Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) investigation, Thomsen, a plant manager, instructed Fernandez during the process. Thomsen explained how to set the manual handbrakes on the two railcars, but he did not set the manual handbrakes himself.  He then climbed into a Rail King 300 Trackmobile coupled to the number one car and left Fernandez to uncouple the number five rail car, approximately 250 ft. away, MSHA stated. Fernandez motioned Thomsen by hand to pull the three railcars. Thomsen began the task, but immediately stopped once he noticed his coworker was no longer visible. Thomsen discovered Fernandez lying unresponsive between the tracks and called emergency services. Fernandez was air lifted to University Hospital in San Antonio, Texas.  The Bexar County Medical Examiner’s Office personnel pronounced his death. Plant Operator Emiliano Gonzales witnessed the incident as it occurred. He observed Fernandez attempting to set the manual handbrake. Gonzales entered his office for a moment, and when he walked out he saw Fernandez being struck by the railcar and ejected from underneath an adjoining railcar. He immediately radioed for help as well. Upon notification of the incident, MHSA opened investigation and discovered the accident occurred because the mine operator did not ensure that the manual handbrakes or air brakes were set on the two railcars before uncoupling and moving the train. In addition, Superior Silica Sands did not provide new task training to Fernandez for performing this type of work. According to MSHA, Fernandez had been employed at San Antonio Plant for 10 weeks and 3 days and had no previous mining or rail experience.  He was in the process of being task trained on maintenance activities in the plant. However, this training did not include rail training. The agency issued two citations, concluding that Super Silica Sands Management engaged in “aggravated conduct constituting more than ordinary negligence in that it did not ensure or instruct the miner to set the manual handbrakes or block the two cars from movement prior to uncoupling” The Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 states that an untrained miner is a hazard to himself and to others. Because the company’s management also failed to train Fernandez, it was cited for unwarrantable failure to comply with a mandatory standard. MSHA's full report and conclusion are available on the agency's website. Let's block ads! (Why?)

AIHA Releases Public Policy Agenda

In an effort to reduce work-related injuries and illnesses, the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) plans to focus on 15 key issues with its inaugural Public Policy Agenda. The organization's agenda focuses attention on the nation's most important worker health and safety issues through 2020. "The story of America's workers is the story of America itself," said AIHA President Cynthia A. Ostrowski, M.S., CIH, FAIHA. "Our collective history has and continues to be made on the backs of the hardworking men and women found in our great country's factories, construction sites, health care facilities and mines, and in every other location imaginable. Truly, everywhere you look, America is at work." More than 54,000 people die from work-related injuries and illnesses each year, spurring AIHA's decision to target 15 key issues. "Addressing a problem of this scale calls for bold actions that are driven by scientific knowledge," added Ostrowski. The AIHA's 15 issues include: Big Data Cannabis Industry Health and Safety Disaster Planning, Response and Recovery Hazard Banding and Occupational Exposure Limits Hearing Protection Opioids in the Workplace Professional Title Protection Sensors Teen Workplace Health and Safety Temporary and Contract Workers Total Worker Exposure Transportation Safety Worker Fatigue Workforce Development Workplace Violence    Resources and additional information about the Public Policy Agenda are available at AIHA's website.    Let's block ads! (Why?)