OSHA New Directive: Protecting Residential Construction Workers from Falls

Falls are the leading cause of death for construction workers. "We cannot tolerate workers getting killed in residential construction when effective means are readily available to prevent those deaths," said Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA.

A new directive went into effect on June 16, 2011 providing residential construction workers with greater protection from being injured or killed on the job. Until recently residential builders were allowed by an interim directive to bypass fall protection requirements by using special alternative procedures. In December 2010, OSHA announced a new directive withdrawing that interim directive and requiring residential construction employers to provide workers with the conventional fall protection required by the construction fall protection standard, issued in 1994 (29 CFR 1926.501(b)(13)).

The new directive states that all employers must protect their workers who are engaged in residential construction 6 feet (1.8 m) or more above lower levels by conventional fall protection systems which include:

  • Guardrail systems
  • Safety nets
  • Personal fall arrest systems (body harnesses, lanyards, lifelines, etc.)

Workers now need to use these safety systems perform activities such as roofing, working on multi-story buildings, and even in some cases when installing walls and subfloors.

Under the new procedures, if residential construction employers determine that traditional fall protection is not feasible or creates an increased hazard in residential environments, employers will still be allowed to implement alternative procedures that will assure worker protection after developing a written site-specific fall protection plan.

A variety of training and compliance assistance materials are available in many formats on OSHA's Residential Fall Protection page. The most recently added is an educational slide presentation that describes safety methods for preventing injuries and deaths from falls, and explains techniques currently used by employers during various stages of construction.

For small businesses (with fewer than 250 employees at any one facility, and no more than 500 employees nationwide) OSHA provides a free compliance assistance service. OSHA's on-site consultation services are separate from the agency's enforcement operations and do not result in penalties or citations. To locate the Consultation Office nearest you, visit OSHA's On-site Consultation Web page or call 1-800-321-6742 (OSHA).

References:

Osha QuickTakes June 1, 2011, Volume 10, Issue 11

http://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=STANDARDS&p_id=10757#1926.501%28b%29%2813%29

http://www.osha.gov/doc/residential_fall_protection.html

http://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=NEWS_RELEASES&p_id=19896

Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP)

OSHA has established a new club that very few will want to be a member of, the Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP). The SVEP was created to "concentrate resources on inspecting employers who have demonstrated indifference by committing willful, repeated, or failure-to-abate violations." The goal of SVEP is to allow OSHA to devote special attention and scrutiny on those it considers the most egregious violators. SVEP replaces OSHA's Enhanced Enforcement Program (EEP).

Falling under OSHA's microscope can be costly for businesses already stressed in a down economy. Companies who wish to spare themselves the stigma and penalties associated with SVEP should follow OSHA guidelines and understand what can put them at risk for landing in SVEP.

Who Is a Candidate for SVEP?

SVEP membership focuses on those employers who have who have placed their employees in danger by committing willful, repeated, or failure-to-abate violations in one or more of the following circumstances:

  • A fatality or catastrophe situation has occurred
  • Employees are exposed in industry operations or processes to the most severe occupational hazards
  • Employees are exposed in industry operations or processes to so-called "high-emphasis hazards"
  • Employees are exposed to the potential release of a highly hazardous chemical and associated dangers
  • Any enforcement action considered to be egregious

High-Emphasis Hazards

One way that a company can become an SVEP member is to expose employees to "high-emphasis hazards." High-emphasis hazards cover a wide range of workplaces and have been defined by OSHA as hazards involving any of the following:

  • Falls covered under:
    • General industry standards
    • Construction industry standards
    • Shipyard standards
    • Marine terminal standards
    • Longshoring standards
  • Amputations
  • Combustible dust
  • Crystalline silica
  • Lead
  • Excavation/trenching
  • Shipbreaking
  • Grain elevators

What Does Being in SVEP Mean?

The objective of SVEP is to focus OSHA efforts on working with the most dangerous potential violators. Companies who find themselves in SVEP will be subjected to "enhanced" follow-up inspections which may expand to nationwide inspections of related workplaces and work sites.

OSHA plans on raising awareness about its activities in the SVEP program, which means that citations and notifications of penalty are sent to the employer's national headquarters and any unions associated with the workplace. OSHA may also issue media releases about potential safety hazards.

Employers may be required under SVEP provisions to hire a qualified safety and health consultant to develop and implement a comprehensive safety and health program at the work site. Other settlement provisions may include:

  • Interim abatement controls (if OSHA does not believe that final abatement can occur in a short period of time)
  • Providing a list of a company's current and future job sites
  • Quarterly filing of a log of work-related injuries and illnesses to OSHA along with consent that OSHA may inspect the work site based on information contained in these filings
  • Employer consent to entry of a court enforcement order (this is covered under Section 11(b) of OSHA), including federal court

Along with these provisions, OSHA is also ramping up fines and penalties.

Key Take-Away Messages for Business

OSHA's Enhanced Enforcement Program (EEP) is going away, but the new SVEP will focus OSHA's attention on specific companies. Some of those companies will be OSHA's most egregious violators, but they will not be alone. Companies that have exposed employees to hazards involving certain types of work (silica, grain silos, hazardous chemicals, and many others) can also land in SVEP as can any company at which a fatality or catastrophe occurred as a result of a violation. SVEP exposes a company to more inspections, tougher standards, and stiffer fines. The best approach to SVEP is to avoid doing anything that might cause OSHA to relegate the company to the ranks of SVEP. Such steps might include:

  • Maintaining safety standards rigorously
  • Responding to OSHA inspections and complaints promptly and effectively
  • Training employees in safety standards and monitoring compliance
  • Keeping up-to-date with OSHA regulations

References:

http://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=DIRECTIVES&p_id=3649

http://www.osha.gov/dep/enforcement/svep_grainhandling_memo_04122011.html

http://www.osha.gov/dep/svep-directive.pdf

OSHA's SHARP Program

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not just create and enforce workplace health and safety standards, it also offers programs and services to employers to help improve compliance. Designed to identify and correct job hazards as well as improve their injury and illness prevention programs, these programs and services are free of charge. One program of particular note is OSHA's Safety and Health Recognition Program, known as SHARP.

SHARP recognizes small employers who operate an exemplary safety and health management system. Acceptance of a worksite into SHARP from OSHA is an achievement of status that singles that enterprise out among your business peers as a model for worksite safety and health. Upon receiving SHARP recognition, OSHA exempts that worksite from OSHA programmed inspections during the period that SHARP certification is valid.

To be eligible for participation in SHARP a business must have fewer than 250 workers at a site (and no more than 500 employees nationwide). The business must submit to an on-site consultation service, which is separate from enforcement and does not result in penalties or citations. To participate in SHARP, you must:

  • Request a comprehensive consultation visit from the on-site consultation office, which involves a complete hazard identification survey
  • Involve employees in the consultation process
  • Correct all hazards identified by the consultant
  • Implement and maintain a safety and health management system that, at a minimum, addresses OSHA's 1989 Safety and Health Program Management Guidelines
  • Maintain the company's Days Away, Restricted, or Transferred (DART) rate and Total Recordable Case (TRC) rate below the national average for that industry
  • Agree to notify the state's on-site consultation office prior to making any changes in the working conditions or introducing new hazards into the workplace

One huge benefit of SHARP is that participating companies proactively provide protection to workers from safety and health hazards. Also, by involving workers in the process of creating a culture that emphasizes a safe work environment, companies can improve communication between workers and management and boost worker morale.

When a company is recognized by OSHA for achieving SHARP approval, that company becomes recognized as a leader in the industry. Consequently, such companies are more likely to attract top-qualified employees seeking to join a company clearly at the forefront of its industry.

Finally, businesses who achieve SHARP status can save money by:

  • Lowering workman's compensation insurance premiums
  • Improving worker retention and reduce costly turnover
  • Reducing worker days away from work, which may contribute to keep operations and production running smoothly.

Participation in SHARP does not eliminate the rights or responsibilities of owners or workers under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Under this act, the following types of incidents can trigger an OSHA enforcement inspection, even at SHARP sites:

  • Formal complaints
  • Fatality
  • Imminent danger situation
  • Any other significant events, as directed by the Assistant Secretary of OSHA.

You can read small business success stories from OSHA's on-site consultation program and participants in the Agency's Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP) on the OSHA website.

References:

http://www.osha.gov/dcsp/smallbusiness/sharp.html

http://www.osha.gov/Publications/3439at-a-glance.pdf

OSHA-At-A-Glance

OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) offers a three-page publication, OSHA-at-a-Glance which provides concise yet thorough introduction to the organization. Since thhe Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act) was passed, OSHA has worked to prevent serious injury and death to workers on the job. In addition to setting and enforcing protective workplace safety and health standards, OSHA also provides information, training, and assistance to employers and workers.

OSHA-at-a-Glance includes information about:

  • Employer responsibilities
  • Employee rights
  • OSHA standards
  • Inspections
  • Help for employers
  • Information and education
  • Who OSHA covers
  • How to contact OSHA

Employers are expected to maintain a certain amount of transparency, as their responsibilities include keeping employees informed about chemical hazards, posting certain information clearly visible to workers, and keeping OSHA apprised of workplace fatalities.

Employees are entitled to know about hazards that could affect them and how to keep themselves safe. They also have the legal right to file a complaint with OSHA without fear of retaliation or discrimination.

The phrase "OSHA standards" is common in many workplaces, but many employers and employees may not really know what "OSHA standards" mean. The term OSHA standards applies to the rules that OSHA has set forth to describe the methods employers are legally required to follow to protect their workers from hazards. Employers need to know and thoroughly understand the OSHA standards relevant to their worksite.

OSHA is legally allowed to inspect any workplace under its jurisdiction, but what other factors play a role in terms of who is inspected? According to OSHA, inspections are based on priorities, including imminent danger, catastrophes and worker complaints. When inspections turn up violations or serious hazards, OSHA can issue citations, fines, or both. Citations tell employers what is wrong and also include methods by which the employer can fix the problem. Fines are financial penalties.

OSHA does not only make and enforce workplace rules, they also offer several free programs and services help employers identify and correct job hazards as well as improve their injury and illness prevention programs. Employers who are eager to comply with OSHA standards or are confused as to how to apply OSHA standards at their company are urged to take advantage of such services.

Getting clear information from a government agency may sound daunting, but there are several good sources of information from OSHA regarding occupational health and safety. These offerings may be found on its website and include:

  • Safety and health topics pages
  • Safety fact sheets
  • Expert advisor software
  • Copies of regulations and compliance directives

In general, OSHA covers workers in the private sector as well as many of those in the federal, state, and local governments. Some workers in state and local government who are not covered by federal OSHA are covered by state programs.

Anyone interested in contacting OSHA may go to their nearest OSHA office, visit www.osha.gov or call OSHA at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742), TTY 1- 877-889-5627.

References:

http://www.osha.gov/Publications/3439at-a-glance.pdf

OSHA QuickTakes July 1 2011, Volume 10, Issue 13

Onsite Flu Clinic

Nobody wants to get the flu, but every year, about 50 million people do. In the flu epidemic of 1918, 50 million people died of flu-related complications. Flu is not only a dangerous, debilitating disease, it costs businesses billions of dollars in lost productivity.

There is no foolproof way to guarantee that your employees will not get the flu, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta recommends a flu shot. These vaccinations provide protection against the top three strains of the flu for the coming year. This year's shot will protect those who get it from the H1N1 virus as well as two other of the most common types.

While some of your employees will no doubt take the initiative to get a flu shot on their own, many will not. A great way to encourage your employees to get a flu shot is to host an onsite flu vaccination clinic.

Promote the flu clinic with an all-out campaign by placing posters around your facility. If your company has an intranet site or newsletter, make sure the flu clinic is mentioned prominently. Have a company executive send out a company-wide email announcing the flu clinic. It's a great idea if you make it a business goal to get employees vaccinated against the flu.

The CDC offers a toolkit containing posters and information for businesses and employers who choose to host an onsite flu vaccination clinic. This kit includes some of those promotional items.

Here are some more tips to make your flu clinic successful:

  • Get managers and other leaders vaccinated first to set an example.
  • Offer incentives. Here are some ideas:
    • Give the shot free or at very low cost. (Balance the cost of the vaccine against how much you would lose if that employee got the flu.)
    • Extend the offer to the families of the employee for free or at low cost.
    • Allow employees to get their shots during working hours without having to punch out.
    • Hold a contest and offer prizes to the department with the highest participation.
    • Provide simple refreshments at the clinic.
  • Set up a comfortable and convenient location for the clinic.
  • Make sure the clinic is as convenient as possible for employees.

When you consider the contagious nature of the flu, you can see that every one of your employees protected against it can help to ensure the health of your whole workforce.

While hosting a flu vaccination clinic may seem like a benevolent thing to do for your employees, it is also a very smart business practice. If you can reduce the number of your employees who contract influenza this year you will probably reduce your costs in absenteeism and medical costs. After all, how much of the $10.4 billion pie do you really want to pay for?

More info available:

http://www.flu.gov/

http://www.cdc.gov/flu/

References:

http://www.cdc.gov/flu/pdf/business/Toolkit_Seasonal_Flu_For_Businesses_and_Employers.pdf

http://pediatrics.about.com/od/kidsandtheflu/a/05_late_shots.htm

http://www.cdc.gov/flu/

http://answers.flu.gov/questions/4253

National Emphasis Program - Primary Metals Industries

This summer, OSHA launched a National Emphasis Program (NEP) focused on helping protect workers in the primary metals industries from chemical and physical hazards. A NEP is an initiative by OSHA aimed at raising awareness and safety in a particular area. In this case, the NEP will help identify harmful chemical and physical hazards in establishments producing metal products and reduce or eliminate worker exposures to them.

Primary metals industries are those which extract and refine metals from rocks containing iron, lead, nickel, tin and other elements. Examples include manufactures of:

  • Nails
  • Insulated wires and cables
  • Steel piping
  • Copper and aluminum products

Based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, the primary metals industries has long been an area of safety concern. Primary metal industries may expose employees to metal dusts, fumes, carbon monoxide, lead, silica, and other potentially dangerous substances. Additionally, noise exposure and heat hazards are not uncommon in such workplaces. The Primary Metal Industries NEP is aimed at drawing attention to these hazards and, in that way, protecting workers.

Potential Hazards in the Primary Metal Industries

Substances frequently present in the primary metals industry can be dangerous and even life threatening. Many of them have been associated with:

  • Irritation or damage to eyes, nose, throat and skin
  • Breathing problems
  • Chest pain
  • Joint pain

The goals of the primary metal industry NEP are to minimize or eliminate exposure to such substances along with reducing physical hazards common in the industry (noise exposure and heat).

Inspections

Expect that OSHA will beef up inspections of facilities that manufacture primary metals and metal products. Should such inspections cause OSHA to issue citations or make recommendations, expect them to conduct follow-up site visits to ensure that proper corrective steps have been put into effect.

It is anticipated that these inspections will focus on:

  • Respiratory protection
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Noise and hearing conservation
  • Heat stress safety
  • Silica and lead hazards and safety
  • Hazard communication standard

According to Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels, "Workers who are not properly protected from the hazards of metals refining are at increased risk of serious, potentially deadly health effects. OSHA's new enforcement program will raise awareness of the dangers of exposure to metals and other chemicals, so that employers can correct hazards and comply with OSHA standards."

Key Takeaways for the Primary Metal Industries

Get the OSHA directive for this latest NEP to help your company prepare. Be sure to follow OSHA directives. Expect to see heightened scrutiny and more inspections.

References:

http://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=NEWS_RELEASES&p_id=19935

http://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/Directive_pdf/CPL_03-00-013.pdf

http://blog.msdsonline.com/2011/06/osha-targets-primary-metals-industry-focus-on-injury-and-illness-msds-ppe%E2%80%99s/

http://ehstoday.com/standards/osha/osha-establishes-nep-primary-metal-industries-0603/

Preventing Lead Exposure in the Workplace

Overexposure to lead is one of the most common overexposure dangers found in industry today. Lead exposure is a leading cause of workplace illness. Between 0.5 and 1.5 million workers are exposed to lead in the workplace every year. Lead exposure can cause damage to the nervous system, kidneys, blood forming organs and reproductive system.

Who is at Risk for Lead Exposure?

At greatest risk are employees in lead-related industries including:

  • Painters and remodelers
  • Battery manufacturers and recyclers
  • Automotive radiator manufacturers and repairpeople
  • Employess involved in casting and machining lead, brass, bronze, pewter, and white metal
  • Metal platers
  • Manufacturers of leaded paints, inks, dyes, glazes, or pigments
  • Employees who work with leaded paints, inks, dyes, glazes, or pigments
  • Lead solderers, such as in the electronics industry
  • Employees at gun firing ranges
  • Ship builders
  • Those working in salvaging and recycling scrap metal
  • Manufacturers of ceramics
  • Manufacturers of leaded glass or crystal
  • Manufacturers of ammunition and explosives
  • Employees who compound plastic resins
  • Auto body repairpeople
  • Stained glass artists

Preventing Lead Exposure

The best way to prevent lead poisoning is to prevent contact with lead. An employer's first line of defense is proper engineering controls, such as a local exhaust ventilation system. Lead exposure can also be controlled by:

  • Safety training
  • Safe work practices, possibly including the use of a respirator and protective clothing
  • Switching to lead-free materials and/or controlling lead at the source

Second-Hand Lead Exposure

Those who are exposed to lead in the workplace can carry lead dust on their clothes or skin and expose family members. Following these simple rules when working with lead can stop this "second-hand" exposure to lead.

  • Do not eat, drink or smoke in lead-contaminated work areas
  • Wash hands before eating, smoking, or touching the face after doing any work with lead
  • Wear protective equipment over clothing whenever working with lead.
  • Shower, wash the hair and change into clean clothes (including shoes) before leaving the workplace
  • Store street clothes in a separate area from work clothes
  • Maintaining a well-balanced diet with proper nutrition can help reduce lead levels

These steps are particularly important, since "take-home lead" can contaminate vehicles and the home and is particularly harmful to small children.

Blood Tests

Those employed in a lead-related industry or work with lead should undergo a blood test. The amount of lead in the blood is measured in micrograms of lead per deciliter of whole blood (µg/dl). This type of measurement provides the blood lead level, or BLL. The typical BLL for U.S. adults is less than 5 µg/dl.

The first blood test establishes what might be considered the baseline. Periodic blood tests thereafter can determine if lead levels are rising. Note that a blood test measures lead levels at the time the test is taken.

Take-Away Messages

Lead exposure is a serious concern, but there are steps that can be taken to prevent it or at least reduce its risk. Of particular concern is second-hand exposure to lead that may endanger an employee's family. Click here to learn more about OSHA's lead standards

References:

http://www.osha.gov/Publications/osha3142.pdf

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lead_poisoning

http://www.ct.gov/dph/LIB/dph/environmental_health/EOHA/pdf/Work_Lead.pdf

http://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/data_Hurricane_Facts/LeadHazards.pdf

http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/lead/

Protecting Young Workers

Young workers, defined as those under the age of 24 who are gainfully employed, make up 13% of the U.S. workforce (17.5 million workers in 2010). However, they may be at particular risk of on-the-job injuries:

  • In 2009, 359 young workers were fatally injured on the job
  • On average, 795,000 young workers must be taken to a hospital emergency room every year for an on-the-job (non-fatal) injury
  • More than twice as many young workers are injured (fatally and non-fatally) than older workers
To address this problem, OSHA is reaching out to young workers. It is thought that young workers are at greater risk of injury or illness on the job for these reasons:
  • Inexperience with equipment
  • Eagerness to please employers and do a good job
  • Reluctance to speak up about dangerous working conditions
  • Not knowing that workers have the right to a safe working environment
  • Inadequate understanding of proper safety precautions

In OSHA's blog, David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health writes, "First, you have the right to a safe workplace. For instance, your employer must give you proper safety and health training as part of the training you receive when you start a new job. Ask questions if something seems unsafe or hazardous. Your employer can also establish a mentoring program to "buddy" you with a more experienced worker to learn about ways to ensure your safety and health. You have the right to speak up and ask your boss questions, but if you don't feel comfortable doing that, find a friend, teacher or parent to talk to about your concerns. If you're in a union, talk to your union representative. If you still feel unsafe, call OSHA. You should also learn about the federal and state child labor laws and regulations that apply to you, which include certain limitations on the work that teens under age 18 can do or the equipment they can use."

The OSHA blog also reports on the rights employees have with respect to their working environment. Employers are obligated to provide for employees a workplace free of serious hazards. To this end, employers are obligated to:

  • Tell employees about the hazards and dangers of their jobs
  • Inform employees about the OSHA standards that apply to their workplace in plain language that they can understand
  • Provide job safety training regarding workplace hazards and any required personal protective equipment (PPE), also known as safety gear
  • Tell employees who to talk to if they ever have a health or safety question about the job
  • Inform employees what to do and who to talk to if they get hurt on the job

In particular, young workers may not fully understand what employers are supposed to provide in terms of a safe workplace, and may incorrectly assume that their employers are doing everything "by the book," when, in fact, safety shortfalls may be present.

Young employees, in particular, should know about OSHA and that it provides all workers, including young workers, with the right to:

  • Receive information and training about hazards, methods to avoid harm, and OSHA standards (in clear language they can understand)
  • Exercise their workplace safety rights without fear of employer retaliation or discrimination
  • Ask OSHA to inspect your workplace.

Young workers may be intimidated by their employers, so companies should work hard toward creating a safety-biased culture where all employees, including the newest, greenest, and youngest, can learn about safety requirements and feel comfortable in asking that proper safety measures be taken on the job.

Any workers who feel that they are exposed to unsafe working conditions or are asked to work in an environment where safety procedures are not being appropriately followed have certain rights. Failure to claim these rights may result in injury or even death.

  • Workers have the right to report unsafe conditions to supervisors (or in the case of young workers to parents, teachers, or other adults) without fear of retaliation or discrimination
  • Workers have the right to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) on the job
  • Workers have the right to demand that proper safety measures be taken
  • Workers have the right to refuse if employers or supervisors ask them shortcut safety procedures, bypass safety features on equipment, or otherwise cut corners in terms of adequate safety procedures
  • Workers have the right to speak up to their supervisors and employers if they have concerns about safety
  • Workers have the right to ask questions about safety procedures and to have safety measures explained to them clearly in a way that they understand

References:

http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/teenworkers/employers.html

http://social.dol.gov/blog/a-letter-to-young-workers-your-right-to-a-safe-and-healthful-workplace/

http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/youth/

http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5915a2.htm

http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/blog/nsb050410_youth.html

On-site Consultation Program

In order to promote increased safety and health in small and medium sized businesses OSHA provides an On-site Consultation Program offering free and confidential advice. Priority for using this program is given to high-hazard worksites. The service is delivered by state governments using well trained professional staff who help the business:

  • Recognize and remove hazards from the workplace
  • Protect the workers from injury and illness
  • Prevent loss of life at the worksite
  • Cultivate informed and alert employees who take responsibility for their own and their coworkers' safety and for worksite safety as a whole
  • Improve employee morale

Consultants do not issue citations or penalties. Names and information are not reported to OSHA nor are any unsafe or unhealthful working conditions that the consultant uncovers. However companies are obliged to correct serious job safety and health hazards. Businesses are taught ways to:

  • Lower injury and illness rates
  • Decrease workers' compensation costs
  • Reduce lost workdays
  • Limit equipment damage and product losses

Companies that participate are eligible for recognition in OSHA's Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP).

CamGlass: A Case Study

Cameron Glass (CamGlass) of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, is a prototyping and fabrication company that makes the glass used in the cabs of road graders, back hoes, dozers, skid steers, farm and logging equipment. CamGlass was experiencing a high rate of workplace accidents, resulting in higher workers' compensation insurance costs in the late 1990s. Since its first consultation in 2000, CamGlass has reduced its injuries and illness rate by 82%. In 2011 it celebrated its tenth year in SHARP.

The CamGlass case demonstrates that a proactive approach to workplace safety can pay off. What is even more interesting is that some of the things CamGlass did were effective but not difficult or expensive to the company. For example, some of the CamGlass improvements were:

  • Holding "Tool Box" meetings with employees to communicate and review incidents for awareness training
  • Individual workplace hazard assessments made by both management and employees
  • Root cause investigations of accidents with corrective and preventive actions
  • Recommendations for safety improvement are communicated to management, supervisors, and employees

The company's workers compensation insurance premium was reduced in the last ten years by 38%.

"It takes a significant commitment at all levels in an organization to pursue and achieve SHARP certification, but the program works and the benefits to workplace safety and health are certainly worth it. I would highly recommend the Oklahoma On-site Consultation Program to other employers interested in improving workplace safety and health." stated Mr. Skotarek, the Safety Manager at CamGlass.

Take-Away Messages

A proactive approach to workplace safety can be beneficial:

  • The On-site Consultation Program may be available to your business—and it's free
  • The CamGlass case study shows that involving employees as well as managers in safety can identify and address potential safety issues before they cause trouble
  • Accidents hurt not only employees, they hurt business in the form of higher workmans' compensation premiums and potential fines, penalties, and lawsuits—why not prevent them before they hurt employees and cost employers?

References:

http://www.osha.gov/as/opa/quicktakes/qt060111.html#9

http://www.osha.gov/dcsp/success_stories/sharp/ss_camglass.html

http://www.osha.gov/dcsp/smallbusiness/sharp.html

Protecting Workers During and After Tornados

Tornados can strike with little or no warning. Although they occur more frequently in the Midwestern, Southeastern and Southwestern United States, no state in the U.S. is immune to them. Tornados are incredibly violent storms; wind in the vortex can exceed 300 miles per hour, which is sufficient to destroy virtually anything in its path. Between 1992 and 2006 in the U.S, there were 33 occupational deaths attributed to tornados.

OSHA has created a new web page in order to help workers and employers prepare for a tornado and protect themselves in a tornado's aftermath. Since tornados can strike abruptly and without warning, employers must be cognizant of how to take proper precautions to protect employees.

Look for the Warning Signs

The earlier you are warned the better. When weather is stormy or unpredictable, employers should monitor a weather service for updates. Computer alert systems (such as WeatherBug) can signal a computer work station when dangerous weather conditions exist. Parts of the country particularly vulnerable to tornadic activity often have local warning systems in place, such as sirens.

Some of the signs of an impending tornado include:

  • Dark, often greenish clouds or sky
  • Wall clouds
  • Large hail
  • Funnel clouds
  • Roaring noise

Plan for Safety

The best safety plans are those made before disaster strikes. Employers should identify shelter locations in the workplace, train employees when and how to take shelter, and set up some sort of accountability procedure (so that all employees can be accounted for after the storm passes). OSHA recommends the following accountability procedure for tornados:

  • Create a company system for knowing who is in the building at any given time
  • Establish an alarm system to warn employees
    • Test this system frequently by conducting drills
    • Develop plans to communicate warnings to individuals who may have disabilities (for instance, who cannot hear the alarms)
    • Assure that employees with disabilities are able to participate in the drills (for instance, patients in wheelchairs)
    • Make sure that employees who do not speak English well know the alarm system and can participate in drills
  • Design a system so that workers, visitors, vendors, customers, and others can be accounted for as they arrive at the shelter
    • Use a prepared roster or checklist
    • Take head counts
    • Be sure the system allows for tracking non-employees who may be on premises at the time
  • Assign specific responsibilities in advance to key employees (such as taking roll, counting heads, rounding up non-employees, settling employees into the shelter, and so on)
    • Designate employees for specific tasks, train them, and drill regularly
    • Train an alternate for every single task in the same way (so that no task is overlooked because somebody is not at work that day)

Underground is the best place to be during a tornado, but that is not always possible. If underground shelter is not available, the next-best areas for shelter are those as far removed from doors, windows, and outside walls as possible, that is, an interior room. The more secure the room, the better. Shelter areas constructed of reinforced concrete, brick, or blocks and having a heavy concrete floor and substantial roof are safest. Rooms with flat, wide-span roofs are not a good choice (such as auditoriums or gyms).

Individuals caught outside as a tornado approaches should seek shelter immediately, ideally underground or in a well-built interior room. If that is not possible, such individuals should be taught to find the lowest ground possible,

If an employee is caught in a vehicle as a tornado approaches, they should be trained to:

  • Stay in the vehicle—resist the urge to get out and try to "make a run for it"
  • Put on their seatbelt
  • Keep themselves below the window level
  • If possible, cover themselves with a blanket or a jacket. If that is not available, they should cover their heads as much as possible with their arms

Employers should keep an emergency kit on site.

Tornado are dangerous, unpredictable, and can occur with warning. Being prepared will increase the odds in your favor.

References:

http://www.osha.gov/as/opa/quicktakes/qt061511.html#8

http://www.redcross.org/www-files/Documents/pdf/Preparedness/checklists/Tornado.pdf

http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/tornadoes/prepared.asp?

http://www.ready.gov/america/beinformed/tornadoes.html

http://www.ready.gov/business/_downloads/emergency_supplies.pdf

http://www.fema.gov/hazard/tornado/index.shtm

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20081416

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