Beryllium OSHA compliance date pushed yet again

The OSHA compliance date for the agency’s general industry beryllium standard has been pushed until December 12, 2018, as a provision of a settlement agreement between OSHA and groups with concerns about certain ancillary provisions in the final rule.

OSHA and the four petitioners — the National Association of Manufacturers, AirBorn Inc., Materion Brush Inc., and Mead Metals Inc. — signed the agreement on April 24, 2018, according to a report from Safety & Health Magazine.

On May 4, 2018, OSHA announced a direct final rule that revised a few parts of the rule. Specifically, it clarified the definitions of Beryllium Work Area, emergency, dermal contact, and beryllium contamination, as well as provisions for disposal and recycling, according to an OSHA news release. 

The new OSHA compliance date of December 12, 2018, is in place for all but two provisions in the rule: change rooms/showers and engineering controls. Those provisions have compliance dates of March 11, 2019, and March 10, 2020, respectively.

OSHA’s beryllium final rule was first published on January 9, 2017, and went into effect May 20, 2017. Enforcement of the standards was most recently slated to begin on March 12, 2018, after being pushed back from March 2018.

According to OSHA’s estimates, about 62,000 workers are exposed to beryllium. The updated regulations included in the final rule is projected to save 90 people from beryllium-related disease, and prevent 46 new cases of chronic beryllium disease each year.

Beryllium is a strong, lightweight metal used in electronics and the defense industry, among others. Overexposure can cause serious health risks, including incurable chronic beryllium disease and lung cancer.

OSHA offers free resources for National Safety Stand Down

Two weeks ago we told you about the National Safety Stand Down happening May 7-11, 2018, and gave you a few links to our fall protection related videos for some Tool Box Talk inspiration. This week we’re bringing you some free OSHA resources that dropped online for employers to use while hosting their own stand down events.

The purpose of the National Safety Stand Down initiative is to reduce the occurrences of falls in the construction industry. Falls from elevation are one of the Fatal Four, which are the top causes of death among construction workers. The Fatal Four include: falls, caught in/between, struck by object, and electrocution.

According to OSHA, eliminating the fatal four would save 631 workers’ lives each year. From the most recent data available (calendar year 2016), the Fatal Four break down looks like this:

  • Falls – 384 out of 991 total deaths in construction (38.7%)
  • Struck by Object – 93 deaths (9.4%)
  • Electrocutions – 82 deaths (8.3%)
  • Caught in/between – 72 deaths (7.3%)

OSHA and other health agencies, like NIOSH, have developed resources for employers to use while hosting their own National Safety Stand Down events at their job sites. Resources featured on the official website include guidance on ladder safety and scaffolding, as well as Tool Box Talk ideas and videos. Many of the resources provided by OSHA are available in both English and Spanish.

 

SCT offers 6-Part Medical Evaluation

With the expansion of our Occupational Health Department’s services to include blood draws, SCT is excited to announce that we are providing a 6-part medical evaluation that is specifically designed for workers exposed to hazards within the industrial painting industry.

The 6-part service, which we formally call the 6-Part Painter’s Medical Evaluation, provides the comprehensive medical testing for workers who are expected to be exposed to hazards involved on industrial painting job sites. The tests included in the medical evaluation provide the OSHA-required baseline for workers and employers to guard against any elevated exposure on a job site.

Features of SCT’s 6-part medical evaluation include:

  1. Respiratory Medical Clearance Questionnaire and Review
  2. Spirometry (Pulmonary Function Test)
  3. Audiogram Evaluation & Snellen Vision Test
  4. Lead Level & Zinc Protoporphyrin (ZPP) Blood Draws
  5. Complete Blood Count (CBC) with Differential Blood Draw
  6. Urine Dip Test

The cost for the evaluation is $195 per person.

Let SCT come to you!

SCT has a full suite of mobile occupational health services. Using our state of the art mobile testing unit, we can arrive on your job site, perform all necessary testing, and fit into your schedule.

Contact us today using the contact form below, or talk to Cost Reduction Specialist Terri Cantrell directly at TCantrell@sct.us.com or 440-449-6000.








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Protecting America’s Workers Act reintroduced in Senate

The Protecting America’s Workers Act (PAW Act) has been resuscitated by six senators in an attempt to update 1970’s Occupational Safety and Health Act by broadening its coverage.

The PAW Act has had a protracted life in Congress. Since its introduction in April 2004 by the late Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), it has been introduced 15 times with none of the bills making it beyond the committee stage, according to Safety and Health Magazine.

Introduced March 22, the latest iteration’s abstract (S. 2621) on www.congress.gov defines its purpose as “A bill to amend the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 to expand coverage under the Act, to increase protections for whistleblowers, to increase penalties for high gravity violations, to adjust penalties for inflation, to provide rights for victims or their family members, and for other purposes.”

The bill was introduced by Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI).

“We need to provide greater protections for workers and their families so no one gets hurt. Everyone should be able to go to work knowing they will come home at the end of the day in the same condition and without experiencing any threat to their health and safety,” said Senator Baldwin in a press release. “It is unacceptable that workers face unsafe working conditions or risk losing their job if they file a complaint. This legislation will improve the rights of employees, foster the safety of their workplaces and hold accountable the bad actors who break the law and do harm to American workers.”

As the law currently stands, an employer faces a risk of being charged with, at most, a misdemeanor “when a willful violation of OSHA leads to a worker’s death,” according to the same press release. The most recent version of the PAW Act aims to authorize felony penalties against “employers who knowingly commit OSHA violations that result in death or serious bodily injury…”

The new version of the bill also seeks to update the current civil penalties in OSHA cases, and sets a minimum penalty of $50,000 for a worker’s death caused by a willful violation.

Co-sponsors of the newest Protecting America’s Workers Act include Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

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.








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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!








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