Ask the Experts: Silica

We have another Ask the Experts segment, this time featuring SCT Regional Director Tom Bielema.

During his time working for OSHA, Mr. Bielema helped develop the new silica standard. The new rule went into effect in June 2016, but the enforcement date in construction of Sept. 23, 2017, is quickly approaching. Mr. Bielema’s most recent position with OSHA was as Area Director for the Peoria, IL, office.

Watch our conversation with Mr. Bielema to find out more details about who is impacted by the new rule, what you need to do to become OSHA compliant, and how to best protect your employees.

Did you catch our first Ask the Experts video featuring SCT Vice President of Engineering Services and former OSHA Regional Director Nick Walters? Click here to watch Mr. Walters detail the new Walking-Working Surfaces Standard.

If you want to talk to Mr. Walters, Mr. Bielema, or any of our other OSHA Experts, contact us today at 1-800-204-1729 or use our online contact page.

OSHA electronic reporting to be accepted starting August 1

Starting August 1, 2017, companies eager to get a jumpstart on OSHA’s electronic reporting requirements can submit their completed 2016 OSHA Form 300A through the administration’s Injury Tracking Application (ITA) webpage.

In June 2017, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) notified the business community that it was extending the deadline for submitting the electronic records to December 1, 2017, “to allow affected entities sufficient time to familiarize themselves with the electronic reporting system, and to provide the new administration an opportunity to review the new electronic reporting requirements prior to their implementation.”

In 2016, OSHA–under the previous administration–implemented a new final rule requiring some employers to electronically send injury and illness data directly to the agency, which would be publicly posted on OSHA’s website.

“Since high injury rates are a sign of poor management, no employer wants to be seen publicly as operating a dangerous workplace,” former Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels said in a news release. “Our new reporting requirements will ‘nudge’ employers to prevent worker injuries and illnesses to demonstrate to investors, job seekers, customers and the public that they operate safe and well-managed facilities. Access to injury data will also help OSHA better target our compliance assistance and enforcement resources at establishments where workers are at greatest risk, and enable ‘big data’ researchers to apply their skills to making workplaces safer.”

According to OSHA’s press release announcing the August 1 online availability date, the data submission process involves four steps:

  1. Creating an establishment;
  2. adding 300A summary data;
  3. submitting data to OSHA; and
  4. reviewing the confirmation email.

The secure ITA webpage gives employers three options for data submission:

  1. Users will be able to manually enter data into a web form.
  2. Users will have the ability to upload a CSV file to process single or multiple establishments at the same time.
  3. Users with automated recordkeeping systems to transmit data electronically via an application programming interface.

Visit the ITA webpage for information on reporting requirements, FAQs, and assistance with completing the form.

Workplace Violence in the Healthcare Industry

As we continue to examine the workplace hazards facing those in the healthcare industry, our new video focuses on workplace violence.

Unfortunately, workplace violence can occur in any industry. But statistics show that healthcare employees are one of the most at-risk industry sectors in the United States. Check out our video below to learn more about what OSHA recommends to curb violence in the workplace.

For all of your workplace safety and health needs, contact the experts at SCT. We can come to your job site, analyze potential hazards, design solutions, and train your employees to properly carry out proper safety protocol. Employees are a company’s most valuable asset – protect them. Businesses who expect the best turn to SCT.

OSHA releases new Confined Space fact sheet

A confined space is defined in OSHA’s construction standard 29 CFR 1926 Subpart AA as meeting the following criteria:

  • The space is large enough for a worker to enter it
  • The space has limited or restricted means of entry or exit
  • The space is not designed for continuous occupancy

Working with the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), OSHA has released a new Confined Space FactSheet to answer some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and “clarify some of the standard’s provisions and their application to residential construction work,” according to the document.

One of the major distinctions explained in the new publication is the difference of a confined space and a permit-required confined space. Before beginning a residential homebuilding project, all involved employers “must ensure that a competent person identifies all confined spaces in which one or more employees it directs may work, and identifies each space that is a permit-required confined space.”

Permit-required confined spaces are those that can be immediately dangerous to workers’ lives, and possess the following characteristics:

  • Contains or has the potential to contain a hazardous atmosphere
  • Contains a material that has the potential for engulfing an entrant
  • Has an internal configuration such that an entrant could be trapped or asphyxiated by inwardly converging walls or by a floor which slopes downward and tapers to a smaller cross-section
  • Contains any other recognized serious safety or health hazard

In the “Confined Spaces in Residential Construction” publication, OSHA and NAHB agree that the vast majority of the confined space standard’s requirements “only apply to permit-required confined spaces, and attics, basements, and crawl spaces in a residential home–three common spaces–will not typically trigger these requirements.”

But “vast majority” does not mean “all,” which is why it is important that employers working on residential homebuilding projects understand the standard’s definition, scope, and application so as best to comply with federal regulations and ensure worker safety.

The safety experts at SCT have decades of experience working for OSHA, national utility providers, glass manufacturers, and other industries that frequently encounter the potential for confined spaces. SCT Director of Construction Services Dennis Hobart has more than two decades of safety experience training thousands of employees on trenching and excavation and confined space hazards.

Mr. Hobart is also the principle trainer on SCT’s mobile fall protection and confined space training simulator, a 32-foot vehicle outfitted with all the necessary equipment and materials needed to conduct beneficial hands-on, practical training. Contact Mr. Hobart today by calling SCT at 1-800-204-1729 to discuss scheduling an updated training! Watch the video below for a look inside of our simulator.

Safety Hurdles in the Health Care Industry

Health care workers face some of the most hazardous work environments in the country, with nearly 600,000 reported work related injuries and illnesses in 2015, the most of any private industry sector.

Throughout July, we will be tackling some of the biggest hazards facing the industry. Watch our first video of the series below.

If you need more in-depth workplace safety training or on-site workplace audits, contact SCT today. Learn more about our team of experts who boast decades of experience in the safety industry, including multiple former OSHA Area Directors.

Ask the Expert: Walking-Working Surfaces

Earlier this year, an update to the OSHA General Industry standard for Walking-Working Surfaces went into effect.

In short, the rule sought to align the General Industry standard with the Construction standards. OSHA estimates that these changes will prevent 29 fatalities and 5,842 lost-workday injuries every year.

So what exactly does the new standard mean for you and your business? Watch SCT Vice President of Engineering Services Nick Walters discuss the biggest changes. As the former OSHA Regional Administrator of Region V, which oversees six states, Mr. Walters draws on his decades of OSHA experience to provide unrivaled insight into the administration’s updated regulations. There are only 10 Regional Administrators in the country.

Keep an eye out for more videos from our team of OSHA experts who boast decades of experience working for and alongside OSHA. We’ll be covering a number of other occupational safety and health topics including silica, lead, scaffolding, lockout/tagout, and machine guarding. To learn more about our team, click here.

If you or your company needs training on the new OSHA Walking-Working Surface standard or wants one of our experts to visit your worksite for a complete analysis to identify any potential safety hazards, call us today at 1-800-204-1729.

Firework safety on the Fourth of July!

While we want all Americans to have a fun and celebratory Independence Day, as a safety company we feel a sense of obligation to talk about firework safety.

The National Fire Protection Association reports that fireworks ignite an average of 18,500 fires each year, including 1,300 structure fires, 300 vehicle fires, and 16, 900 outside and other fires, according to its website. An estimated 11,900 people were treated for fireworks-related injuries in 2015, of which 51% of those were injuries to extremities and 41% were to the head.

Many of the victims involved in firework accidents are often children and teens using consumer fireworks. The NFPA has created a safety video to raise awareness about the hazards associated with using consumer fireworks.

Check out more fire-related safety videos on NFPA’s YouTube channel.

For fireworks retailers and display operators, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has some recommendations for firework safety on its website:

OSHA Tips For Fireworks Retailers:

  • Keep exits clear and accessible
  • Know all exit routes
  • Maintain view of fireworks
  • Know alarm procedures
  • Know fire extinguisher location and operation
  • Remove and dispose of damaged fireworks
  • Remove loose pyrotechnic powder promptly
  • Use only non-sparking tools; do not use vacuum cleaners
  • Do not allow smoking within 50 feet of sales area
  • Keep facilities secure

OSHA Tips For Display Operators:

  • Make sure personnel are trained and competent
  • Obtain required licenses, permits and inspections
  • Maintain display site security and communications
  • Wear protective gear and proper clothing
  • Prohibit accidental ignition sources
  • Properly install mortar boxes, racks and drums
  • Keep fireworks cartons closed
  • Keep fireworks dry and in good condition
  • Always handle fireworks carefully
  • Stay away from loaded mortars

From the safety family at SCT, have a safe and happy Fourth of July!

OSHA requests comment on Voluntary Protection Programs

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is calling for public input and suggestions in order to strengthen its Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP).

An initiative designed to encourage private industry and federal agencies to prevent workplace injuries and illnesses, VPPs are a collaborative effort between management, labor and OSHA that commits to successful implementation of a comprehensive safety and health management system.

“As the Regional Administrator for OSHA’s Region V, I had the opportunity to speak with hundreds of folks from VPP sites, both management and workers,” said Nick Walters, SCT Vice President of Safety Engineering Services. “Every person that I spoke with commented about how VPP not only took their safety and health management systems to the next level, but they also emphasized the positive impact the process had on communication at their facilities which led to improved production, quality, and overall team morale.”

VPP sites have injury and illness rates that are, on average, significantly below their industry averages, Walters added.

Factors used to determine VPP qualification include:

  • management commitment and employee involvement
  • worksite analysis
  • hazard prevention and control
  • training

“These are all reasons that support the fact that implementing effective safety and health management systems and pursuing VPP makes good business sense,” Walters said. “In the 25 years that I worked for OSHA, by far, the best safety and health management systems that I saw being utilized were at VPP Star sites.”

SCT Senior Vice President Rob Medlock agreed with Walters’ assessment of VPPs adding, “VPPs are the pinnacle of voluntary compliance and have a positive impact on entire industries through mentorship and peer associations.”

Medlock, who served as the Area Director for the Cleveland Area OSHA Office for 20 years, offered one critique for OSHA’s VPPs.

“One area that OSHA needs to consider is the resource strain which VPP evaluations and monitoring place on the OSHA Area Offices conducting the VPP process,” he said. “VPP sites must be continually monitored and field assessments take a toll on the office resources.”

Given pending and potential budget cuts, Medlock said the agency should develop innovative ways to use competent outside consultants in a way that would ensure the integrity of the VPP system, and relieve stress on current staffing levels.

“While the SGE [special government employee] system is a needed supplement, there are never enough SGEs to fill the gaps and no incentive for SGEs to participate,” Medlock said. “A system where VPP sites can share in the costs of VPP certifications may be an option. OSHA could also consider privatizing, yet maintaining control over the VPP approval system such as they do in some states with the 7(c)(1) consultation service.”

The pilot VPP began as an experimental program in California, according to OSHA’s VPP webpage. The program was later rolled out nationally in 1982. Federal worksites gained VPP eligibility in 1998.

OSHA is hosting a stakeholder meeting on July 17, 2017, “to discuss the future direction of the agency’s Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP). The discussion will include comments and suggestions from the public on potential avenues for action,” according to an OSHA press release.

Questions being asked of stakeholders and the public include:

  • What can the agency do to enhance and encourage the efforts of employers, workers and unions to identify and address workplace hazards through the VPP?
  • How can the agency support increased participation in VPP while operating with available resources and maintaining the integrity of the program?
  • How can the agency modify VPP to enhance the efforts and engagement of long-term VPP participants?
  • How might the agency modify Corporate VPP for greater leverage and effectiveness?
  • How can the agency further leverage participant resources such as Special Government Employees?

The public can provide input and read others’ comments by visiting Regulations.Gov VPP Sustainability comment board. The period for public comments closes on September 15, 2017.

Want to better understand how VPPs work? To create your company’s new safety culture today contact Rob Medlock via email, RMedlock@sct.us.com, and phone, 800-204-1729; or contact Nick Walters via email, NWalters@sct.us.com, and phone, 708-382-2900.

**This blog post was updated June 29, 2017, at 9:45 am to include comments from SCT Senior Vice President Rob Medlock.**

More Beryllium Rule Changes Proposed by OSHA

Technicians examine a James Webb Space Telescope mirror, which is made out of beryllium

On June 23 the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced proposed changes to the updated beryllium standard, which has already been delayed twice in recent months. OSHA is now seeking public input on the proposal.

The changes would only impact the construction and shipyard industries, leaving general industry unchanged. Additionally, OSHA announced that it would not enforce the Jan. 9, 2017, final rule while these new changes are being considered.

The permissible exposure limit of 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter of air and short-term exposure limit of 2.0 micrograms per cubic meter of air would stay the same, but rules requiring certain types of personal protective equipment and medical monitoring of employees would be rolled back, according to an OSHA news release.

The proposed changes are set to be published in the Federal Register on June 27, 2017. OSHA is seeking comments from the public and other interested parties during the 60-day comment period that follows the publication. Information about how to comment on the proposal can be found here.

The full list of standards that OSHA is seeking comment on include:

  • Ventilation standard in construction (1926.57)
  • Criteria for personal protective equipment standard in construction (1926.95)
  • Mechanical paint removers standard in shipyards (1915.34)
  • Ventilation and protection in welding, cutting and heating in shipyards (1915.51)
  • Hand and body protection standard in shipyards (1915.157)
  • Confined and enclosed spaces standards in shipyards (Part 1915 Subpart B)
  • Ventilation standard in general industry for exhaust ventilation and housekeeping (1910.94(a)(4), (a)(7))1
  • Respiratory Protection standard in general industry (1910.134)1,2
  • Hazard communication standard in general industry (1910.1200)1,2

According to OSHA, beryllium is a lightweight but strong metal used in many industries, including aerospace, medical, electronics, defense, and telecommunications. Workers that perform abrasive blasting in construction and shipyards may also be exposed to beryllium. But beryllium is highly toxic, and workers who inhale it are at a higher risk of developing chronic beryllium disease or lung cancer. An estimated 100 people die from chronic beryllium disease each year.

Image source: NASA

Staying Safe while Working in Extreme Heat

As we approach the warm summer months here in the United States, millions of workers will have to battle the sun and heat while working outdoors.

If an employee or coworker succumbed to a heat-related illness such as heat stroke, would you know what to do? Watch our video for some helpful tips that could save a life.

To ensure your workers, both indoor and out, are prepared for all of the safety challenges that the workplace can bring, contact the experts at SCT.