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.

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,, and phone, 800-204-1729; or contact Nick Walters via email,, 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.**

National Forklift Safety Day

Not only does this week mark the first ever OSHA-sponsored Safe and Sound Week, but today, June 13, 2017, is also National Forklift Safety Day.

Each year, about forklift incidents result in about 61,800 non-serious injuries, 34,900 serious injuries, and 85 fatalities, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). About 42% of those accidents are people being crushed by a vehicle tipping over, and another 25% are people being crushed between vehicle and surface.

On National Forklift Safety Day, many groups including the Industrial Truck Association, are working to get the word out on the importance of proper forklift safety practices, especially the need for effective operator training. The ITA also meets with government officials on National Forklift Safety Day to discuss what lawmakers can do to help improve forklift safety nationwide.

Forklift Safety Tips

While a training course is needed to properly educate a forklift operator, here are some helpful tips to remember the next time you get behind the controls of a forklift according to OSHA:

  • Inspect the forklift for damage before each use, and if damage is found, report it to a supervisor
  • Know the load limit of your vehicle
  • Honk your horn at all cross aisles to help avoid collisions with pedestrians
  • Always look in the direction of travel. If the load blocks your view, travel in reverse
  • To avoid tipover, never turn while on a grade
  • Do not travel with the load elevated

Do you or your employees need forklift safety training? At SCT, we offer a handful of classes covering numerous powered industrial trucks, including forklifts. Contact us today by calling 1-800-204-1729 or by filling out our online form.

Silica enforcement delayed until September

Enforcement of OSHA’s new final rule on crystalline silica has been pushed back until September 23, 2017, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced on April 6.

The cause for the enforcement delay is so that additional outreach, educational materials and guidance can be provided to employers. OSHA “determined that additional guidance is necessary due to the unique natures of the requirements in the construction standard,” according to an OSHA press release.

The enforcement date was originally scheduled to begin June 23, 2017.

We’ve talked about the new silica standard before, when it was first announced and when OSHA released its guide for the updated silica standard.

Respirable crystalline silica is a hazardous substance that workers, especially those in the construction industry, face exposure to on a regular basis. Exposure to silica, coupled with lack of safety measures, can lead to lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and kidney disease.

OSHA’s new final rule, which reduced the permissible exposure limit and increased safety requirements, is estimated to save more than 600 lives and prevent more than 900 new cases of silicosis each year, according to OSHA.

SCT has training programs in place to help employers update and refresh their silica safety policies. While enforcement may be delayed, the new final rule went into effect on June 23, 2016.

Protect workers today and call the safety experts at SCT at 1-800-204-1729.

SCT recognizes National Ladder Safety Month: Week 4

In the final week of National Ladder Safety Month our “Ladder Lowdown” video series focuses on proper inspection and disposal of ladders.

Ladders should be inspected for any defects before each use. If defects are found, the ladder should be marked and removed from service until it is either repaired or thrown away.

And be sure to follow the proper procedure for ladder disposal. There are potential legal consequences for not following recommended ladder disposal guidelines. Watch the Week 4 Ladder Lowdown video below to find out the right course of action.

Every week in March 2017 we’ve been highlighting the topics in National Ladder Safety Month. Each week the focus shines on a different ladder safety topic. If you missed any of our previous ladder safety month videos, be sure to check out Weeks 1, 2, and 3, which are linked below.

Follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and LinkedIn for the latest safety videos, news, and updates from the safety experts at SCT. Thank you for following us through the first ever National Ladder Safety Month.

For any workplace safety or occupational health needs, call the safety experts at SCT at

Week 3 of National Ladder Safety Month

While we may be an occupational safety and health company, that same safety focus should carry over into the home.

Whether you’re hanging lights during the holidays, cleaning out gutters, or changing light bulbs, ladders are used in almost every home.

For Week 3 of the first ever National Ladder Safety Month, our new video focuses on Ladder Safety at Home. The video also feature’s NIOSH’s Ladder Safety App, which is a great tool that can help you ensure your ladder is set up at the proper angle. We’ll dive into more of it’s features next week.

Every week this month, the focus shines on a different ladder safety topic. If you missed it, be sure to check out our video for Weeks 1 and 2, which are linked below.

Follow us on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and LinkedIn as we recognize every week of National Ladder Safety Month.

SCT Chicago Office welcomes Tom Bielema

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS — SCT’s new Chicago Office is proud to welcome former Peoria, Illinois, OSHA Area Director Tom Bielema to the SCT team. As SCT Regional Director, Mr. Bielema will assist in development and implementation of comprehensive safety and health solutions to a wide variety of clientele.

Tom Bielema, SCT Regional Director

Mr. Bielema began his career in occupational safety and health in 1994 as a student intern with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). After graduating from Purdue University, he joined OSHA full time in the Peoria Area Office in Peoria, Illinois where he spent the next 12 years as a Compliance Safety and Health Officer.

SCT Senior Vice President Rob Medlock said the hiring is a great opportunity for both Mr. Bielema and SCT.

“I’ve known Tom for many years. He’s a very down-to-earth and smart guy, who has the ability to cut through tough problems and simplify complex issues,” Mr. Medlock said. “Tom will be able to serve our clients well and obtain favorable resolutions to safety questions and conundrums.”

Mr. Medlock worked with Mr. Bielema when the former served as Director of the Cleveland Area OSHA Office.

During his tenure at OSHA, Mr. Bielema monitored safety in a variety of industries, including manufacturing, service, transportation, alternative energy, agriculture, grain handling, meat packing, health care, and numerous types of light, commercial, and heavy construction.

Mr. Bielema left government service in 2006 to serve as safety and heath manager for a large logistics and parts distribution center. This move to the private sector gave him a new skill set for understanding how to manage and direct safety in a variety of scenarios, including managing a multi-shift team, performing weekly training classes for new hires, medical/injury management, and motivating workers to embrace safety.

Mr. Bielema joins VP of Safety Engineering Services Nick Walters at SCT’s new Chicago office, though Mr. Bielema will be primarily operating out of a satellite office in the Peoria area. This expansion into Illinois is significant as SCT expands our safety footprint across the Midwest and provides access to our premier occupational safety and health solutions.

In 2007 Mr. Bielema returned to OSHA to serve as Assistant Area Director in the Peoria Office. He became Area Director of the Peoria OSHA Office in 2010 and served in that position until joining SCT in late February 2017. During his management service at OSHA, Mr. Bielema lead a team of highly skilled professionals in the 81 counties of Central and Southern Illinois.

Using his OSHA expertise, Mr. Bielema also joins Mr. Medlock and Mr. Walters on staff for expert witness services. With our staff’s extensive OSHA and safety background, SCT is uniquely poised to offer expert witness services to clients seeking assistance with OSHA compliance and inspections.

Fire Safety in the Workplace at NEOSC

Dennis Meyers, the Director of Business Development at SCT, educated business representatives about workplace fire safety at the Northeast Ohio Safety Council’s Monthly Meeting.

Be sure your company is up to OSHA’s standards. Contact SCT today!