April 26th, 2013 at 7:39 am
Should there be an RSHA?
Most of us are familiar with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA. It’s the organization that regulates and monitors safety in the workplace, but should we have a group that does the same for your home?
If we had a Residential Safety and Health Administration, or RSHA, it might reduce the 20,000 deaths, 7 million disabling injuries, and 20 million hospital trips that occur due to accidents at home in the U.S. each year, as was reported in 2002.
Estimates indicate that the size of this problem isn’t really known because the statistics don’t include the 30% of non-transportation injury deaths where the site of the injury was not recorded. The speculation is that many of those injuries likely happened in the home.
Despite the numbers mentioned above, more than half of American adults surveyed say they can’t think of anything they should or would do to make their homes safer or to prevent these injuries. Using common sense and following the same safety guidelines you do at work might be a good place to start.
In the next few weeks we’ll be looking at the common accidents and injuries that happen in and around the home and how to prevent them.
While it may not be realistic for homeowners to purchase fall protection equipment, simple things like ladder safety and using three point climbing techniques can help. Here are some questions you should ask yourself:
• Have you checked your ladders to make sure they’re in good condition?
• When painting or cleaning gutters to you overreach instead of moving the ladder?
• When getting up on the roof do you carry things in your hands when you’re climbing?
Falls also happen due to inadequate railings and banisters.
• Are you stairway banisters sturdy?
• Does the deck or balcony you built have a safe railing?
A surprising number of poisonings occur not just in little children, but also in adults who appear to die from mixtures of prescription drugs and other medicines.
• Be sure you know the risks of taking prescription and over the counter drugs in combination.
• Always check with your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions.
• Make sure medicines are kept out of the reach of children
Poisonings can also come from ingesting household chemicals or inhaling fumes from mixing chemicals. The most common problems come from improper handling and storage of chemicals. Here are some things to consider:
• Keep solvents, cleaners, and degreasers away from oil based items.
• Keep pool chemicals dry and separated. A leaking bottle of muriatic acid can create a toxic gas if it mixes chlorine liquid or tablets.
• Keep bug and weed killers away from other chemicals and away from children
• Do you wear gloves or safety glasses when handling chemicals?
Fires can be the result of a number of sources like chemicals, electrical, and housekeeping. OSHA has a number of regulations about chemical handling, electrical safety, and fire prevention that you may know from work. Follow those same guidelines in your home. Here are some things you can check, for each of these possible sources.
Chemical containers that leak and mix can create intense heat and spontaneously combust.
• Do you have any old or leaking containers in your garage or shed?
• Keep acids away from petroleum products.
• Don’t keep any flammable material like paint or thinners near a heat source.
• Do you have any paint cans next to the water heater?
Electricity is an essential part of our everyday lives, but it can be dangerous.
• Fires can be started by water heater temperatures set too high. Water heater manufactures recommend setting your water heater temperature at 120 degrees to help prevent scalding and to save energy.
• Do you have any power or extension cords that are frayed or have bad plugs or insulation?
• Are your extension cords overloaded? Check to see if you are using any electrical devices that draw more power than the extension cord is rated to handle. Don’t plug something that draws 20 amps into a cord that’s rated for 15 amps. If the fuse or breaker that the cord is connected to has a 30 amp capacity, the fuse or breaker won’t trip, but the cord will overheat and can start a fire.
Everyone thinks that they keep a clean house, but here are some areas that are easy to forget.
• Do you have a smoke alarm? Is it clean and working? Dust and bugs can get into smoke alarms and affect their operation; they should be vacuumed or brushed and tested monthly. The National Fire Prevention Association recommends replacing your smoke at least every 10 years. Alarms are electronic devices and parts will fail with age.
• Have you checked you dryer exhaust vent and list trap for build up?
• If you have gas appliances, (stove, water heater, furnace), is there any dust or trash around built up around the pilot light area?
Does this mean that we need to have and RSHA? The answer is probably not. Your home should be a safe haven, what we do need is a greater awareness of the potential dangers around our homes, and the simple steps that we can take to prevent them.
In our next posting we’ll look some other dangers outside the house.
April 23rd, 2013 at 7:13 am
A public library in Orange, New Jersey was shut down by the States Department of Occupational Safety and Health last month due to numerous safety issues.
“It was a threat and a safety issue to patrons and workers in there,” Orange Mayor Dwayne Warren told the Jersey Journal.
The inspection results were not immediately available, but according to Warren the issues with the library include roofing problems, electrical issues with live wires, boiler and heating system trouble among other deficiencies.
The mayor estimates that the town will need to spend more than $1 million to repair the library.
The inspection of the library was spurred after council president Tency Eason fell in the library and alerted state inspectors to possible safety violations.
Eason stated her fall occurred when she “turned around to get up” but faltered due to the rail missing, falling instead into a glass cabinet.
The closure is the second of the library in the past five years. The first occurred in 2012, when the doors on the institution were closed for two months because of issues with lead paint and asbestos.
April 23rd, 2013 at 6:55 am
Space Mountain and Soarin’ Over California were closed voluntarily by park officials in mid-April after the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health issued six citations to Disneyland Resort for worker-safety violations.
Two of the citations issued to the park were for general violations and the four others for serious violations.
The serious violations include:
- Failing to provide independent anchorages for support line(s) and safety line(s) on Space Mountain
- Failing to have either a swinging gate or equivalent protection on the platform with access provided by ladderway on Space Mountain
- Failing to provide guardrails on all open sides of unenclosed elevated work locations more than 30 inches above the floor, ground, or other working areas
- Failing to implement and maintain all required elements an Injury and Illness Prevention Program
The investigation was the result of a contractor being seriously injured late last year while working on the building’s exterior. While investigating that accident, Cal/OSHA found that Disneyland failed to correct fall hazards on Space Mountain that were detailed in a report issued in 2006.
Cal/OSHA is proposing that Disneyland Resorts be penalized $234,850 for the violations.
April 22nd, 2013 at 9:48 am
In the wake of a massive explosion at a Texas fertilizer plant, a California Democrat has introduced a bill aimed at increasing funding to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
“As the devastating explosion in Texas shows, the benefits of ensuring a safe and [healthy] workplace are not just confined to the facility’s property line. Local communities also have a great deal at stake,” Rep. George Miller (D., Calif.) said in introducing the bill. A spokesman for Mr. Miller said the timing of the bill wasn’t related to the accident.
Miller’s bill would give federal OSHA more authority over state plans, while strengthening fines and authorizing felony prosecutions against employers who knowingly commit OSHA violations that result in death.
While the bill has the potential to make broad impacts on occupational health and safety, many expect it to fizzle in the House, due to a Republican majority.
The bill comes on the heels of a report by the Government Accountability Office stating some states have failed with their occupational safety and health programs to meet minimum workplace-safety inspection goals, in part because of state budget cuts and reduced staffing.
The GAO surveyed 22 state-run programs in both private- and public-sector workplaces. The report concluded that state agencies have difficulties meeting inspection goals because of a lack of funding and inability to properly staff because of low salaries.
The report recommended the federal OSHA be given authority to step in and take over some inspections when a state plan isn’t meeting minimum requirements.
The issue of funding for OSHA-run plans is an ongoing issue. The federal government has long been reluctant to take over state plan because it would further stretch its own limited resources.
Celeste Monforton, a lecturer at George Washington University and former policy analyst at OSHA, told the Wall Street Journal that OSHA inspectors, on average, visit every workplace in the U.S. once every 99.
The regularity of inspections varies widely by state, partly by the number of workplaces and funding. In Texas, which is covered by federal OSHA, it would take inspectors 126 years to visit every workplace, versus 42 years in Washington state, which is a state plan, she added.
April 16th, 2013 at 9:24 am
Nova Scotia and Quebec workers are set to see an increase in pay as both provinces are increasing their minimum wage rates.
The minimum wage rate in Nova Scotia increased by 1.5 pe cent on April 1to $10.30 an hour, while the wage for someone who has less than three months of experience also increased to $9.80 an hour. It is the fourth wage increase in the province since 2012.
Nova Scotia now has the highest minimum wage in Atlantic Canada, and one of the highest in the country, behind Nunavut and the Yukon.
In Quebec the minimum wage will increase 25 cents on May 1, bringing the rate to $10.15. People who receive tips at their jobs will see their wage go to $8.75 from $8.55.
Labour Minister Agnès Maltais said the annual minimum wage increase is a way for the government to fight poverty and improve the work environment.
More than nine out of 10 workers who earn minimum wage in Quebec work in the services industry.
April 16th, 2013 at 7:29 am
In recognition of National Highway Work Zone Awareness Week the federal Department of Occupational Health and Safety, construction contractors, the Federal Highway Administration, the state of Georgia, and local government organizations are sponsoring a series of one-hour stand downs at construction sites around Georgia.
The safety stand downs will occur each day from 7am to 8am the week of April 15-19.
During the stand-down workers will be educated on work-zone safety topics, such as struck-by accidents, texting while driving and distracted driving.
To help educate workers the Associated General Contractors of Georgia is offering companies materials to use to train employees during the stand down. To access these materials click here.
“Alliance members have demonstrated initiative and leadership organizing this industry-wide safety stand-down throughout Georgia to emphasize the importance of work zone safety. The stand-down will heighten construction workers’ awareness of and ability to identify and help employers eliminate work-related hazards,” said Teresa Harrison, OSHA’s acting regional administrator for the Southeast.
To further protect the safety of roadside workers, EMS personal, fire fighters and others pulled over to the side of the road Georgia has adopted the Spence Pass Law.
This law requires drivers to change lanes or slow down below the posted speed limit when they are in a lane adjacent to a stationary vehicle flashing emergency lights.
April 15th, 2013 at 7:23 am
In honor of the National Day of Mourning, Safety Services Company is offering Canadian employers a poster designed to increase awareness around workplace fatalities.
“Almost three employees in Canada will die every day on the job. These are deaths that are mostly preventable through proper safety training and administrative controls,” said Safety Services Company Spokesman Michael Rich. “We are offering this complementary poster to help spread the serious message of workplace death and injuries.”
In 2011, the most recent year with available data, 919 workplace deaths were recorded in Canada, or about 2.6 deaths every day. Furthermore, in the nineteen-year period from 1993 to 2011, 17,062 people lost their lives due to work-related causes, an average of 898 deaths per year.
The most dangerous industries proved to be construction, manufacturing and transportation, which combined accounted for slightly more than 50 percent of all occupational deaths.
While men account for 97 percent of all worker deaths in Canada, the injury rate between them and their female counterparts are essentially even.
“Men typically work in environments where a safety mishap is more likely to cause a fatal injury,” Rich said.
In addition to the three workers killed every day on the job, it is estimated that during the course of a year almost one out of every 46 workers will miss a day of work due to an occupational injury.
To help prevent death and injury Safety Services Company is offering a free poster designed to hammer home the importance of working safely. The poster features an image of a young girl standing at a grave and points out the mass amounts of worker deaths.
In addition to the free poster, the company is offering all Canadian employers a 20 percent discount off of a safety meeting subscription, a popular training program that enforces relevant safety principles through a once a week, five minute meeting.
“We hope that this offer in conjunction with The National Day of Mourning, can help increase worker safety,” Rich said.
The National Day of Mourning held annually on April 28, will fall on a Sunday this year.
To take advantage of this offer call 877-780-4106, or to just download the complimentary poster click here.
April 12th, 2013 at 2:17 pm
The federal government’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is investigating its state counterpart in Indiana (IOSHA).
Spokesmen from federal and state OSHA departments declined to comment on the nature of the investigation, but documents obtained by the Indianapolis Star indicate that IOSHA is trying to boost the number of inspections it conducts without hiring new staff.
Those documents indicate that IOSHA recently began requiring experienced inspectors to conduct 61 inspections annually or an average of one inspection every 4 days.
Those numbers are concerning because inspections often involve complex test that must be sent to labs. By putting a four day time span on the inspection it could lead inspectors to doing partial inspections or completely ignoring more complex hazards.
The new requirements also encourage inspectors to identify an average of two to three serious, knowing or repeat violations per inspection, according to the documents obtained by The Star. Those violations bring the highest fines.
Last year IOSHA inspected 1,332 companies, the fewest since the federal government approved the creation of the state department of OSHA in 1986. In general the number of inspections conducted in Indiana has steadily declined each year, from a high in the 80’s of 8,000 annual workplace inspections.
Despite this continual erosion of the number of annual inspections the state’s labor commissioner, Sean Keefer, has promised 2,000 inspections in 2013.
While Keefer stated a desire to increase inspections, his agency is not beefing up staff. Currently the state has only 40 inspectors, 30 below what the federal government requires of the state.
According to OSHA the investigation will be completed this week, and a report will be issued by OSHA sometime next week.
April 12th, 2013 at 7:52 am
In order to raise awareness about workplace violence Safety Services Company is offering a free downloadable poster entitled zero tolerance.
“Violence in the workplace is one of the leading causes of death, yet it is entirely preventable,” said Safety Services Company Spokesman Michael Rich. “It is our hope that this poster will help spread the message about workplace violence.”
In 2011, the most recent year for which data is available, 780 workers lost their lives to workplace violence. The number represents nearly 20 percent of all workplace fatalities.
In addition to those who lose their lives nearly 2 million more Americans report being a victim of workplace violence each year.
Safety Services Company is a provider of occupational health and safety training and compliance materials. One of the company’s top product lines is “Do-it-Yourself” safety training programs designed to help companies meet OSHA requirements.
Yet despite violence being one of the top causes of deaths and injuries, Rich said that doesn’t translate into sales.
“Many companies only focus on the training that is required by law and unfortunately workplace violence doesn’t fall into that category,” Rich said.
The Zero Tolerance” poster Rich’s company is offering attempts to spread the message of how impactful workplace violence is on the workplace through a series of statistics.
To download the poster click here.
In addition to offering the poster, Rich said his company is offering 25% off their workplace violence training program all month.
It is time we recognize workplace violence as a true occupational hazard,” Rich said. “Hopefully by offering this poster and a discount on training we can help prevent the spread of violence in the workplace.”
For more information of workplace violence prevention training call 877-201-8923.
April 4th, 2013 at 11:48 am
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration today published Firefighting Precautions at Facilities with Combustible Dust*, a new, informative booklet that outlines safe procedures for emergency responders who may face fires and explosions caused by combustible dust.
“This booklet will keep both emergency response and facility workers safe by giving them a framework to prepare for potential emergencies involving combustible dust,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “Stakeholders that have reviewed the booklet, including fire chiefs and union health and safety representatives, describe it as ‘an excellent resource for explaining the hazards associated with combustible dust and outlining the best practices for pre-incident operational preparation by emergency responders.’”
Since 1980, more than 130 workers have been killed and more than 780 injured in combustible dust explosions. The publication describes how combustible dust explosions occur and uses previous incidents to illustrate how firefighting operations can prevent combustible dust explosions. The booklet explains the preparations emergency responders can make before a response and how these preparations will affect the operational plan during a response.
Combustible dusts include fine particles, fibers, chips, chunks or flakes that, under certain conditions, can cause a fire or explosion when suspended in air. Types of dusts include metal (for example, aluminum and magnesium), wood, plastic, rubber, coal, flour, sugar and paper, among others. OSHA’s Combustible Dust Web page provides employers and workers with additional information and resources for preventing and minimizing the effects of combustible dust fires and explosions.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.