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.”

DOL Highlights Dangers of Lead Exposure

As part of a government-wide effort to reduce childhood lead exposure, Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta recently addressed lead exposure in the workplace.

Far too many Americans are exposed to lead in their workplace,” said Acosta in an OSHA news release. “Finding solutions to better protect these workers and minimize the amount of lead that is taken home, and potentially exposed to their children, is a priority.”

Workers who are exposed to lead can bring the toxic metal home on their shoes, clothes, skin, hair and hands, which can poison children or other family members. Jobs that commonly have lead exposure include painting, building renovation, bridge work, demolition, metal production, and plumbing.

Lead exposure can harm the brain, nervous system, blood, and kidneys, and some of these effects are permanent. Employers are required to take steps to reduce this take-home lead exposure, according to OSHA:

  • Test for lead levels in both the air of the workplace and the blood of workers.
  • Train workers on lead safety practices.
  • Control lead dust and fumes in the workplace.
  • Provide adequate personal protective equipment.
  • Give workers a place to wash hands, shower, and change clothes. Street clothes must be kept separate from work clothes.

Standards 1910.1025 in general industry and 1926.62 in construction spell out all of the OSHA requirements for combating lead exposure.

Workers can also pursue steps to reduce take-home lead exposure, including frequently washing hands, showering at the end of a shift, leaving contaminated work clothing at the job, and informing your doctor that you work with lead.

Need a deeper understanding of lead exposure in the workplace? Sign up for our Lead Awareness Training Course! Contact us at 1-800-204-1729 or use the contact form below to learn more.



Beryllium Enforcement Starting in May

OSHA’s updated beryllium standard has been a long time in the making, but a beryllium enforcement date has finally been set.

The administration announced that enforcement of the final rule will begin on May 11, 2018. The enforcement date had previously been scheduled for March 12, 2018. The extended timeframe ensures that stakeholders are aware of their obligations and that OSHA provides consistent instructions to its inspectors, according to an OSHA press release.

Back in January 2017, OSHA announced new comprehensive health standards addressing beryllium exposure in all industries. After seeking feedback from stakeholders, technical updates to the January 2017 General Industry Standard are being considered by the agency.

These updates, according to the press release, “clarify and simplify compliance with requirements.”

In addition to the general industry beryllium enforcement beginning on May 11, 2018, OSHA will also begin enforcement for the new lower 8-hour permissible exposure limit (PEL) and short-term (15-minute) exposure limit (STEL) for construction and shipyard industries.

According to OSHA, beryllium is a lightweight but strong metal used in many industries, including aerospace, medical, electronics, defense, and telecommunications. But beryllium is highly toxic, and workers who inhale it are at a higher risk of developing chronic beryllium disease or lung cancer.

The new beryllium rule, which has standards for construction, general industry, and shipyards, will decrease the permissible exposure limit of beryllium to an average of 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter of air over 8 hours. A new short-term exposure limit was established at 2.0 micrograms per cubic meter of air over a 15-minute sampling period.

Until the new beryllium enforcement date, should employers fail to meet the new PEL or STEL, “OSHA will inform the employer of the exposure levels and offer assistance to assure understanding and compliance,” according to the release.

Respiratory health is a major area of concern for OSHA. In addition to the beryllium enforcement starting in May 2018, awareness of and enforcement for OSHA’s respirable crystalline silica standards have dominated OSHA news since 2016. Check out our video below about the importance of respiratory health and silica awareness in the workplace.

Need help creating a respiratory health program at your workplace? Contact the experts at SCT by filling out the contact form below. We can guide you through the process, from initial assessment, to program development, air monitoring and training — SCT is your one stop safety shop!



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. 

ABCs of Safety: B is for Best Practices

“B is for Best Practices” is the second installment of our ABCs of Safety video series. We’re getting back to basics and delving deep in to the guiding principles of occupational safety and health.

The term “Best Practices” can vary between companies and industries, but there is a core group of OSHA-recognized safety elements that are deemed essential for successful workplace safety programs.

Check out our “B is for Best Practices” video below to discover those critical solutions.

6 Key Best Practices as recognized by OSHA

  1. Management leadership
  2. Worker participation
  3. Hazard ID and assessment
  4. Hazard prevention and control
  5. Education and training
  6. Program evaluation and improvement

Did you miss the first letter in our ABCs of Safety video series? Check it out below!

Do you want to review your best practices with one of SCT’s occupational safety and health experts? Tell us what you want to accomplish in our contact form below, and one of our safety team members will reach out to help get you the best solution!



OSHA releases fact sheet for General Industry Silica

OSHA has released a fact sheet about the General Industry silica standard, which will see enforcement take effect on June 23, 2018. For the past two years, silica has been a constant notice in any OSHA news update, and preventing potentially fatal silica-related diseases remains a top priority for OSHA.

While OSHA’s new silica standards for construction, general industry, and maritime became effective in June 2016, the enforcement and implementation dates were staggered to allow all industries time to adjust safety protocols and pursue additional employee training.

General industry and maritime employers must comply with all requirements of the new OSHA silica standard by June 23, 2018. The maritime and general industry silica standard requires employers to meet the following criteria:

  • Determine the amount of silica that workers are exposed to if it is, or may reasonably be expected to be, at or above the Action Level (AL) of 25 μg/m³ (micrograms of silica per cubic meter of air), averaged over an 8-hour day;
  • Protect workers from respirable crystalline silica exposures above the Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) of 50 μg/m³, averaged over an 8-hour day;
  • Limit access to areas where workers could be exposed above the PEL;
  • Use dust controls and safer work methods to protect workers from silica exposures above the PEL;
  • Provide respirators to workers when dust controls and safer work methods cannot limit exposures to the PEL;
  • Establish and implement a written exposure control plan that identifies tasks that involve exposure and methods used to protect workers;
  • Restrict housekeeping practices that expose workers to silica, such as use of compressed air without a ventilation system to capture the dust and dry sweeping, where effective, safe alternatives are available;
  • Offer medical exams–including chest X-rays and lung function tests–every three (3) years to workers exposed at or above the action level for 30 or more days per year;
  • Train workers on the health effects of silica exposure, workplace tasks that can expose them to silica, and ways to limit exposure; and
  • Keep records of workers’ silica exposure and medical exams.

View the full OSHA General Industry Silica fact sheet here.

There are two exceptions to the enforcement of the general industry silica standard: 1) medical surveillance must be offered to employees who will be exposed at or above the AL for 30 or more days a year starting on June 23, 2020; 2) Hydraulic fracturing operations in the oil and gas industry must implement dust controls to limit exposures to the new PEL by June 23, 2021.

It is important to note that medical surveillance MUST be offered to employees who will be exposed above the PEL for 30 or more days a year starting on June 23, 2018.

Update your silica safety program and employee training with SCT today! Fill out the contact form below and someone from our safety team will be in touch.



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!



Budget Document Details OSHA Agenda

Last week, we outlined how the federal government’s proposed 2019 Fiscal Year budget would impact the Department of Labor, which houses many of the federal organizations that focus on workplace safety and health, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

The budget outlined a 21 percent budget decrease for the Department of Labor, but OSHA’s budget of $549 million is the same amount as what was enacted in FY2018.

The OSHA budget has now been detailed in the administration’s Budget Justification document that further details exactly how its budget would be used in the coming fiscal year, which begins on October 1, 2018.


OSHA expects to release three final rules, including for beryllium in general industry. The beryllium procedure is set to “proceed fairly quickly with a proposal in either late 2018 or very early 2019,” according to the document.

Final updates to the shipyard and construction versions of the beryllium standard are still expected in FY2018.

Beryllium is an important material in the aerospace, electronics, energy,  medical, and defense industries, but exposure can put workers at an increased risk of developing chronic beryllium disease or lung cancer, according to OSHA.

The beryllium updates have been a long time in the making. The proposed rule was originally issued in 2015, with the final rule taking effect in May 2017.

If your company is in need of air monitoring or any other services to conform to the new beryllium standard, contact us today. SCT’s team of experts is always ready to help you reach your workplace safety goals.

Budget Shifts

While OSHA’s enacted 2018 budget matches the requested 2019 budget, the funds are set to be used in slightly different ways.

In FY 2019, the $549,033,000 budget will be used for 2,024 full time equivalent workers (FTE), which is an increase 71 FTE compared to 2018. An increase of $5.12 million would add 32 FTE to compliance assistance, including Voluntary Protection Programs, and a $6.148 million increase would add 42 FTE to enforcement.

OSHA has set a goal of 30,840 inspections and 46,573 enforcement units for FY2019. Enforcement units account for the differences in complexity and severity in different inspections. The 2019 enforcement unit goals are 12 percent increase over the number of units reached in 2017, according to the document.

To account for the budget increases in these areas, the Susan Harwood Training Grants would be eliminated, freeing up some $10.4 million. Additionally, $537,000 would be shifted away from Technical Support and $266,000 from Executive Direction.

Contact SCT with all Occupational Safety & Health Questions!



OSHA renews alliance with window cleaning industry group

The International Window Cleaning Association (IWCA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) renewed their partnership that provides training and resources to protect workers in the window cleaning industry, according to an OSHA news release.

The five-year agreement will see the two groups collaborate on addressing hazards, like falls from heights, and slips, trips, and falls. Additionally, there will be an increased “focus on the safe use of high-reach access equipment, including rope descent systems, ladders, and scaffolding.”

“Falls are among the most common hazards encountered by professional window cleaners,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Loren Sweatt in the release. “We value IWCA’s expertise, and look forward to our continued alliance to ensure workers receive information and training to keep them safe on the job.”

The partnership was originally formed in 2010 and was previously renewed in 2012. The IWCA is a non-profit trade association that represents more than 500 member companies worldwide, according to the release.

OSHA’s Alliance Program promotes relationships with groups committed to worker safety and health. The partnership allows the agency to reach a targeted audience, including workers in high-hazard industries, and provide better access to tools and information on workplace safety and health initiatives.

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.”