Congress pushes for OSHA Workplace Violence standard

House Democrats have introduced legislation to induce the Secretary of Labor to create an OSHA Workplace Violence standard for health care facilities. The Health Care Workplace Violence Prevention Act aims to reduce instances of workplace violence within the health care industry, which has a higher than average rate of workplace violence at inpatient worksites.

The move toward creating a workplace violence standard isn’t new. This latest national push follows a 2014 initiative launched by California OSHA (Cal/OSHA) which took effect in 2017.

For years, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries has illustrated that workers in the health care and social assistance industries see more fatal injuries resulting from workplace violence than any other category. In 2016 alone, there were 42 fatalities in the health care and social assistance fields that were caused by violence and other injuries by persons or animals. (That includes violence perpetrated by persons, self-inflicted injury, and attacks by animals.)

Of those 42 fatalities, 17 occurred in nursing and residential care facilities.

The Cal/OSHA regulations require all health care employers in California to develop and issue plans to prevent workplace violence  by April 1, 2018. The state’s legislation was backed by the California Nurses Association (CNA) and National Nurses United (NNU).

Though lacking an OSHA workplace violence standard, the agency does have general information and loose guidelines for assessing and handling workplace violence on its website.

The House legislation, introduced by Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) on March 8,  was applauded by the NNU in a press release.

“Right now, health care facilities are not doing enough to prevent these violent incidents. Under the proposed federal standard, hospitals would need to assess and correct for environmental risk factors, patient specific risk factors, staffing and security system sufficiency,” said Deborah Burger, RN, NNU co-president, in the release.

“There are a number of interventions that can reduce violence in the hospital. For example, affixing furniture and lighting so they can’t be used as weapons, maintaining clear lines of site between workers while they are caring for patients, and providing easy access to panic buttons or phones to call for help,” Burger said. “It is imperative that nurses, doctors, and other health care workers, along with security staff and custodial personnel, are all involved in the development and implementation of these plans.”

Sleep Awareness Week 2018

Have you adjusted to Sunday’s (3/11/18) time change? Every year most people are a little cranky about losing an hour of sleep on the Monday after Daylight Saving Time takes effect. Sleep is important in daily life, and the National Sleep Foundation has named this week, March 11-17, 2018, as Sleep Awareness Week.

We’ve written about the impact of sleep deprivation and its effects on workplace performance before, and the statistics haven’t changed. According to the CDC, “short sleep duration among the U.S. working population accounts for an estimated $411 billion cost to the economy and results in 1.2 million lost work days” every year.

Last year, we shared some healthy sleep tips from the National Sleep Foundation. This year, the organization has developed a web tool called “Inside Your Bedroom: Use Your Senses!”

The tool takes the viewer through the five senses: touch, sight, hearing, smell, and taste, and explores how aspects of each sense can impact sleep.

Give it a try and find ways to improve your sleep environment.

SCT celebrates International Women’s Day 2018

In recognition of International Women’s Day 2018, SCT wants to thank all the women on our staff, working in the field and in the office. International Women’s Day is a global day that celebrates the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women.

Thank you to all of the amazing staff members at SCT! Keep up all the incredible work you do each and every day.

OSHA stakeholders present to Congressional subcommittee

On February 27, 2018, the congressional Subcommittee on Workforce Protections hosted a hearing entitled “A More Effective and Collaborative OSHA: A View from Stakeholders.”

In his opening statement, Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL) said the purpose of the meeting was to focus on “how OSHA can work more cooperatively with job creators especially in the small businesses community, to expand its compliance assistance efforts and for employers to provide the safest and healthiest workplaces possible.”

The hearing featured testimony from four witnesses: Peter Gerstenberger, on behalf of the Tree Care Industry Association; J. Gary Hill, on behalf of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB); Dr. David Michaels, former Assistant Secretary for OSHA; and Eric Hobbs,  on behalf of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Gerstenberger told the committee that tree care industry has one of the 10 highest fatality rates in the U.S., with about 80 deaths annually. He also stated that while OSHA has worked with the association to improve worker safety, it hasn’t done enough and a specific safety standard is needed.

“From our perspective, federal OSHA could be most effective if it would adopt a rule specific to our industry. Here is why: a regulation will inform and empower every OSHA Certified Safety and Health Official to identify hazards and control measures unique to tree work and to intervene to prevent accidents,” Gerstenberger said.

Hill testified about the need for the expansion of small business compliance assistance because many small construction companies are confused by the existing standards.

“NAHB’s members want to ensure they are compliant with existing standards, but it is not always clear what the regulatory requirements are, especially when coupled with all of the other regulations that apply to the home building industry,” Hill said. “If OSHA’s goal is truly to ensure worker safety rather than the collection of fines, it must reorient away from its emphasis on enforcement and promulgation of new standards and focus more on compliance assistance to businesses subject to its regulations.”

Michaels, who led OSHA from 2009 to January 2017, said in his testimony that compliance programs are useful for employees who voluntarily want to protect their employees, but that clear standards and “strong, fair enforcement” are more effective in protecting workers.

Michaels also said the sentiment that safety regulations kill jobs is incorrect. “It is more accurate to call OSHA standards public health ‘protections’ because that’s exactly what they do: protect workers from preventable injuries, illnesses and death. When you hear someone talk about rolling back OSHA regulations, they’re really talking about endangering workers.”

In his testimony, Hobbs said OSHA needs to regain the trust of employers.

“For OSHA to lead the effort at improving workplace safety effectively, it must rebuild that trust. No single step or statement by the agency will do so. It will take a sustained, consistent effort,” Hobbs said. “Employers will welcome having a partner in the agency and being able to turn to it as a resource, rather than just to suffer under it as a disciplinarian.”

The submitted written testimony from each witness is available online at the committee’s website. A complete video recording of the hearing is also available on YouTube. 

Ohio BWC to cut premium rates 12 percent

The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) recently announced a 12 percent reduction to premium rates for private employers in the state.

Citing a BWC news release, Crain’s Cleveland Business reported that the BWC’s board of directors approved the cut, which will take effect on July 1, 2018. The reduction will save private employers $163.5 million compared with current premium levels.

Several factors allowed for this rate reduction, including slower medical inflation growth, safer workplaces, and fewer claims, BWC administrator and CEO Sarah Morrison said in the release. The BWC added that its 86,290 allowed claims in 2017 was the fewest number of claims since at least 1997.

This new reduction also will not impact the already-available discounts for employers that participate in the BWC’s Drug-Free Safety Program (DFSP). Employers can earn a rebate on workers’ compensation premiums by completing various program requirements: a 4 percent discount at the basic level, and a 7 percent discount at the advanced level.

At SCT, our occupational health experts guide dozens of employers through the DFSP process, helping them save thousands of dollars on their premium payments each and every year. Plus,  a DFSP can create a safer and more productive workplace.

For more information on the Ohio BWC Drug Free Safety Program, watch our video that tells you all you need to know.

Interested in a drug-free program for your workplace? Don’t delay, as this year’s deadline for the BWC program is fast approaching on March 30. Contact us today at 1-800-204-1729 or complete the contact form below.


Spike in trench-related deaths yields construction hazard alert

A public health research center in Kentucky has issued hazard alert in 2018 to raise awareness about an increase in trench-related fatalities first seen in 2016.

In its January 2018 Hazard Alert, the Kentucky Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) Program from the Kentucky Injury Prevention Research Center (KIPRC) put out the alert after evaluating three cases of fatal trench collapses within the state from 2015 to 2017.

Though complete data on national rates of trenching fatalities and injuries for fiscal year (FY) 2017 is currently unavailable, by May 2017 there had been 15 recorded fatalities, which is 65 percent of the total number of fatalities seen in FY 2016.

In FY 2017, which covers October 2016 through September 2017, federal OSHA cited 29 CFR 1926.651, or Specific Excavation Requirements, 673 times. Those citations yielded assessed penalties of $3,066,257.

We wrote about the climbing fatality rate in trenching in 2016 when the first reports of the elevated numbers were released. The safety rules and guidelines for trenching and excavation work include multiple preventative measures to protect against trench collapse, which leads the causes of trench-related fatalities and injuries.

One cubic yard of soil can weigh up to 3,000 pounds, about the size of a mid-sized car.

Soil is heavy, and the life expectancy of a worker trapped beneath earth is mere minutes. Trench collapse with encasement robs the worker of air, and the victim asphyxiates.

Trenches between five and 20 feet in depth are required to have protective measures like benching, shoring, sloping and shielding. Beyond 20 feet deep, a registered professional engineer must design a protective system for the trench.

OSHA’s Construction eTool on Trenching and Excavation offers some great starter tips on evaluating your worksite and improving your work safety conditions. It is imperative, however, to make safety a priority and ensure you create a trenching and excavation safety program that meets all federal, state and local guidelines and that will protect workers.

Dennis Hobart, SCT’s director of construction services, has spent the past two decades working specifically with trenching and excavation construction projects. He assists project managers in designing safe trenches and training workers on how to maintain trench structures and work safely within trenches.

Our recently launched video series, The ABCs of Safety, takes viewers through the basics of important safety concepts. Do you work with trenching and excavation projects? Stick with our series and you may find an upcoming video especially relevant to you! Check out the Letter A video below.

Contact SCT today to talk trench-related safety by filling out the form below!



OSHA, BCSP collaborate on safety information distribution

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP) are collaborating to provide BCSP certification holders with safety information and guidance to protect workers’ safety and health, according to an OSHA press release.

The two-year alliance will see BCSP working with OSHA to increase involvement of safety and health professionals and employers in safety information outreach efforts like the Safe + Sound Campaign, and the National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction. Both industry safety initiatives are annual events put on by OSHA.

Additionally, BCSP will assist in developing OSHA resources for small and medium-sized employers to identify situations that may benefit from a safety and health professional’s expertise, and aid in finding the right professional to help.

“Assuring the safety and health of working men and women, and ensuring that safety professionals have the tools to do so, are the foundation of our respective organizations,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Loren Sweatt in the release. “We look forward to working with BCSP to promote the education and training needed by professionals who help protect workers in America.”

Potentially fatal occupational asthma is preventable

Occupational asthma accounted for an estimated 11-21% of the asthma-related deaths in 2015, according to data recently published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

A review of collected data from the CDC found that between 1999-2016, there were 33,307 deaths from asthma in adults aged 15-64 years old. Included in this figure was “an estimated 3,664-6,994 (approximately 204-389 annually) that could be attributable to occupational exposures and were therefore potentially preventable.”

When broken out by industry, the asthma-related mortality was “significantly elected among males in food, beverage, and tobacco products manufacturing, other retail trade, and miscellaneous manufacturing, and among females in social assistance.”

What is Occupational Asthma?

According to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI), “occupational asthma is caused by inhaling fumes, gases, dust or other potentially harmful substances while ‘on the job.’”

Symptoms are often worse during the days or nights worked, and improve when affected workers have time off. Symptoms will re-emerge when the affected parties return to work.

Those with a family history may be more likely to develop occupational asthma, particularly to some substances such as flour, animals, and latex; however, those with no family history of asthma or allergies can still develop the disease if exposed to conditions that induce it over time.

Just like other occupational respiratory diseases, like asbestosis from asbestos exposure, smoking greatly increases a worker’s risk for developing occupational asthma.

Causes of Occupational Asthma

Like the CDC’s findings, the AAAAI points out that the rate of occupational asthma varies within industries, but there are some higher-risk categories.

Prolonged exposure to irritants such as hydrochloric acid, sulfur dioxide or ammonia, found in the petroleum or chemical industries, can be a cause of occupational asthma. Exposure to these substances in high concentrations may result in wheezing and other asthma symptoms immediately after exposure.

“Veterinarians, fishermen, and animal handlers in laboratories can develop allergic reactions to animal proteins. Healthcare workers can develop asthma from breathing in powdered proteins from latex gloves or from mixing powdered medications,” according to the AAAAI.

Occupational Asthma is Preventable

Respiratory protection is a crucial part of occupational safety and health. Any work that involves exposure to potentially harmful chemicals, irritants, or other respirable substances should have an abatement plan.

Engineering and administrative controls should be explored and implemented before thinking about personal protective equipment. PPE should always be the last part of a respiratory health plan. PPE is not acceptable as the sole means of protection for workers.

The safety experts at SCT can help evaluate facilities for exposure risk, review and update respiratory health written programs, and training workers on proper respiratory health abatement tactics and PPE usage.

For more on worker respiratory health with a focus on silica exposure, check out our video below. If you are in need of any PPE, be sure to visit SCT Supply, our online safety supply store. We offer free shipping on orders over $600!

SCT heads to World of Concrete in Las Vegas

SCT will be at this year’s World of Concrete show in Las Vegas, NV from January 23-26. Visit us at Diamond Products’ booths, where we will be performing silica monitoring as Diamond Products demonstrates their tools.

With the recently updated silica standard in effect,  SCT now offers a 2-hour Silica Awareness training class and an 8-hour Silica Competent Person training class.

SCT General Manager and silica expert Joe Ventura will also be available to meet during the show.

Want to set up a meeting at World of Concrete or schedule a training class for your employees? Fill out the contact form and we will reply as soon as possible.

Time to post the OSHA 300A Form

February 1 is right around the corner, which means OSHA is reminding employers to post a copy of their OSHA 300A Form in a common area where notices to employees are typically posted.

The OSHA 300A Form summarizes job-related injuries and illnesses during the previous year. OSHA requires this summary form to be displayed between February 1 and April 30.

According to OSHA’s recordkeeping and posting requirements, businesses with 10 or fewer employees and certain low-hazard industries are exempt from such posting requirements.

OSHA recordkeeping and reporting made headlines in 2016 and 2017 with the launch of the agency’s online reporting platform, called the Injury Tracking Application (ITA). As we previously reported, the electronic service was intended to improve workplace safety while giving researchers a pathway to more easily examine and identify new workplace hazards.

Companies required to comply with the electronic posting standard include businesses with 250 or more employees, or those with 20-249 employees in certain high-risk areas.

Since the electronic recordkeeping standard was introduced, there has been much debate over whether or not the electronic posting is necessary and fully secure. Certain states have OSHA-approved State Plans that have not, as of yet, adopted the requirement to submit electronic OSHA injury and illness reports. Businesses in these states — California, Maryland, Minnesota, South Carolina, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming — are not currently required to submit electronic data to OSHA through the ITA.

Stick with the safety experts at SCT as we follow all the developments with OSHA recordkeeping rules and regulations.

But remember, come Thursday, February 1, 2018, your company needs to post a copy of its OSHA 300A Form in a common area for all employees to access.