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OSHA’S FINAL RULE ON BERYLLIUM EXPOSURE

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In January 2017, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued its final rule which will significantly lower occupational exposure to beryllium, a material which, while being indispensable in numerous industries, has the potential to cause extreme lung diseases. The updated standards cover general industry, construction, and shipyards. Employers will now be required to take extended measures that will cover an estimated 62,000 workers in 7,300 establishments from the hazards of beryllium exposure in the workplace.

This Beryllium rule might be subjected to repeal using the Congressional Review Act (CRA), in the same way the Volks Rule is currently being challenged in Congress. The CRA is a way for Congress to pass a filibuster proof resolution of disapproval of any executive act within 60 days of Congressional sessions after the rule takes place.

Because the President has the opportunity to veto the disapproval, the CRA has only been successfully used once, in repealing an Ergonomics OSHA rule issued in November 2000 near the end of the Clinton administration, when the newly elected President George W. Bush failed to veto the Republican Congress’ action.

Beryllium is a metal element which is stronger than steel and lighter than aluminum. Between its incredible strength-to-weight ratio and high melting point, it plays a fundamental role in aerospace, telecommunications, information technology, defense, medical, and nuclear industries. Additionally beneficial are its high thermal stability and conductivity, reflectivity, and transparency. Those working outside of beryllium’s primary industries would know it from its uses in cellular telephone and aircraft manufacturing. Those currently at the greatest risk are workers in foundry and smelting operations, fabricating, machining, grinding beryllium metal and alloys, beryllium oxide ceramics manufacturing and dental lab work. Beryllium exposure is also notable in industries where coal-burning is performed, and where abrasive blasters release beryllium into the breathable atmosphere through the use of slag blasting abrasives.

The metal was originally known as glucinium, from the Greek word “glykys” (which means “sweet”) as a result of its sweet taste. It was quickly discovered, however, that beryllium is extremely toxic and has since been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as a human carcinogen for its capacity to cause lung cancer. It is primarily toxic when materials containing beryllium are processed in a manner which releases its dust, fumes, or mist into a work atmosphere where they can be inhaled by workers. Because of beryllium’s ability to trigger severe lung disease in those exposed to it on a regular basis, OSHA created its final rule to revise permissible exposure limits it previously based on outdated scientific studies.

On top of lung cancer, exposure to beryllium and its compounds has the potential to cause Chronic Beryllium Disease (CBD). CBD is a severe lung disease which can lead to serious debilitation or death. Symptoms may develop quickly, or may be delayed for months or years after exposure depending on the individual and the level and frequency of their exposure to beryllium. The symptoms may continue to worsen even after the worker is no longer exposed. Some symptoms of CBD include weight loss, cough, fatigue, fever, and night sweats, among others.

The adverse health effects caused by beryllium exposure have been widely known for decades. OSHA’s final rule addresses its current PEL which is severely outdated and unable to adequately protect workers from disease. Although the impending reduction in PEL is drastic at a staggering 90 percent, OSHA is confident that advances in modern technology will easily allow employers to access the means to meet requirements. Based on scientific studies, many employers (such as the U.S. Department of Energy) have already begun to take the necessary steps to moderate and control beryllium exposure.

“Outdated exposure limits do not adequately protect workers from beryllium exposure,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “OSHA’s new standard is based on a strong foundation of science and consensus on the need for action, including peer-reviewed scientific evidence, a model standard developed by industry and labor, current consensus standards and extensive public outreach. The new limits will reduce exposures and protect the lives and lungs of thousands of beryllium-exposed workers.”

The final rule will dramatically lower the eight-hour permissible exposure limit from the previous level of 2.0 micrograms per cubic meter to 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter. Where exposure is above 0.2 micrograms per cubic meters, employers will be required to take appropriate measures to lower the airborne beryllium concentration through engineering and work practice controls. The short-term exposure limit will be 2.0 micrograms per cubic meter over a 15-minute sampling period.

Further, the rule explains that employers must control access to work areas where there is a high exposure to beryllium, provide necessary respiratory protection, and provide personal protective equipment and clothing in situations where there is the potential for high exposure or skin contact. Employers must also create and implement plans which detail how they will measure workplace beryllium exposure and control it thereafter, and how they will administer beryllium-specific training programs. Certain workers exposed to beryllium must be offered medical examinations at the employers’ expense; if, after the examination, the employee is found to be suffering from beryllium-related health effects, the employer must provide reasonable accommodations to that worker in order to control their exposure.

It is OSHA’s hope that once the final rule reaches its maximum effect over the next 3 years, it will prevent 90 beryllium-related fatalities and further prevent 46 new cases of beryllium-related diseases annually.

Employers have plenty of time to meet the new requirements and arrange for implementing the appropriate protections detailed by the final rule. The rule officially goes into effect on March 21, 2017, but you have until March 18, 2018 to comply with the majority of its provisions. You then have another year (March 11, 2019) to install required change rooms and showers, and another year after that (March 10, 2020) to install engineering controls, such as ventilation systems.

 

WALKING WORKING SURFACES: OSHA RULE UPDATE

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On November 17, 2016, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a Final Rule designed to better protect workers at risk of falls from heights or on the same level. The Rule updates and clarifies standards, and adds training and inspection requirements. It will incorporate technology advances, best practices, and national consensus standards. OSHA updated “1910 Subpart D – Walking-Working Surfaces” (also known for covering “slip, trip, and fall” hazards) and added personal fall protection system requirements to “1910 Subpart I – Personal Protective Equipment.”

The rule will affect a variety of workers in the General Industry, from painters to warehouse workers. It will not have an effect on Construction or Agriculture standards.

The idea is to get General Industry caught up to the fall protection procedures already in place in Construction and improved upon by industry best practices. These changes also affect the fall protection elements throughout the General Industry regulation such as: “Subpart F Powered Platforms, Manlifts, and Vehicle Mounted Work Platforms”, “Subpart I Personal Protective Equipment”, “Subpart N Materials Handling and Storage”, and “Subpart R Special Industries.”

OSHA estimates that an average of 202,066 serious injuries and 345 fatalities occur annually as a result of falls from heights or the same level. By implementing this Final Rule, the agency hopes to prevent at least 5,842 serious injuries and 29 fatalities on average per year among affected workers. Currently, employers are required to install guardrails as their primary method of fall protection; the Rule will allow those same employers to select their own fall protection system from an approved list of options to address specific fall hazards with targeted solutions.

The Final Rule will allow non-conventional fall protection methods in some situations, like low-slope roofs. Additionally, it will replace outdated General Industry scaffold standards with a requirement to follow the more current Construction scaffold standards, as well as phase out a dangerous exception for the outdoor advertising industry that allows qualified climbers to forego fall protection.

The General Industry will see updates to fall protection requirements in specific situations, such as hoist areas, runways, areas above dangerous equipment, wall openings, repair pits, stairways, scaffolds, and slaughtering platforms. Standards involving the performance, inspection, use, and maintenance of fall protection systems will see upgrades as well.

Under circumstances where fall protection is required (such as when individuals are working 4 feet or more above a lower level, or on runways, near wall openings or stairways, etc.), there are now numerous additional protection options. Here are some examples:

Guardrail System: A barrier along on unprotected side of a walking working surface.

Safety Net System: Stops falling workers before they hit a lower level or obstruction

Personal Fall Arrest System (PFAS): A device (or combination of devices) which stops a fall before worker hits a lower level. It uses a body harness, anchorage, connector and even a combination of a lanyard, deceleration device, and lifeline. Body belts are not a PFAS.

Positioning System: A device which allows an employee to be suspended on a vertical surface and work hands free using a body harness or body belt.

Travel Restraint System: Eliminates the ability of falling off an unprotected edge using an anchorage, anchorage connector, lanyard, and body support.

Ladder Safety System: Eliminates or reduces the possibility of falling off a fixed ladder using a carrier, safety sleeve, lanyard, connectors, and body harness. Cages and wells are not a ladder safety system.

Rope Descent Systems: OSHA will mirror its current Powered Platforms standard by codifying Rope Descent Systems (RDS) used by window washers using a roof anchorage, support rope, descent device, carabiners, and a chair to perform work while suspended. The Final Rule includes a 300-foot height limit for RDS use, and requires building owners to ensure in writing that anchorages have been tested, certified, and maintained to support 5,000 pounds per worker.

Ladder Safety Requirements: According to OSHA, 20 percent of workplace fatalities and severe injuries in the General Industry are a result of falls from ladders. To help remedy this, the Final Rule addresses fixed ladders, portable ladders, mobile ladder stands, and platforms. Current standards regarding the use of ladders in emergencies, or those which are an integral part of or are designed into a machine or equipment, will not be affected.

Fixed Ladders: These are permanently attached to a structure, building, or equipment. The Rule will phase in requirements for ladder safety systems or PFAS on fixed ladders which extend more than 24 feet, and phase out cages and wells.

Portable Ladders: Portable ladders are either self-supporting, or lean against a structure. The changes incorporated by the Rule focus on performance language rather than specification and design requirements. Examples include ensuring rungs and steps are slip resistant and that ladders are not placed on unstable bases, such as boxes or barrels.

Training: Employers who use personal fall protection and work in high hazard situations must be trained by a qualified person about fall and equipment hazards and fall protection systems so they can correctly:

  • Identify and minimize fall hazards
  • Use personal fall protection systems and rope descent systems
  • Maintain, inspect, and store fall protection equipment and systems

Retraining is required whenever:

  • Change in workplace operations
  • Change in equipment
  • A worker can benefit from additional training because of a lack of knowledge or skill

For help ensuring your business is prepared to incorporate the changes found in OSHA’s Final Rule, visit www.safetyservicescompany.com.

 

 

 

THE DAMAGING EFFECTS OF SILICA DUST

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Silica is an extremely common mineral compound found throughout numerous industries and applications across the globe. It exists in nature primarily as quartz, although in many areas it is a major component in sand. It is the second most common mineral in the earth’s crust. Occupationally, it affects approximately 2.3 million individuals in the United States alone. Any occupation which involves the handling or use of rock, brick, or sand, or participates in drilling, quarrying, or tunneling carries the risk of silica exposure. Inhaling crystalline silica dust can lead to debilitating and fatal lung cancers and diseases, most notably silicosis.

What Is Silicosis?

Silicosis is a lung affliction caused by breathing dust which contains fine particles of crystalline silica. If silica particles are inhaled, they become embedded in the lungs. The lung tissues then react by developing fibrotic nodules and scarring around the trapped particles. The scar tissue makes the lungs hard and stiff. This scarring can greatly reduce the function of the lungs, making it difficult and sometimes painful to breathe.

Silicosis comes in three forms:

Chronic silicosis: The most common form of the disease, it may go undetected for years in the early stages. Chest X-rays may not reveal an abnormality until after 15 or 20 years of exposure. If you believe you are overexposed to silica dust, visit a doctor who knows about lung diseases. The progress of silicosis can only be stopped; but cannot be cured.

Accelerated silicosis: This type of silicosis tends to develop between 5 and 10 years after an exposure to high concentrations of crystalline silica dust. Examinations through x-rays and symptoms are often similar or exactly the same as chronic silicosis, but appear faster and accelerate quickly (hence the name).

Acute silicosis: Acute silicosis appears relatively rapidly after exposure to extreme amounts crystalline silica dust. There are recorded cases of patients showing signs of acute silicosis mere weeks after exposure. In these cases, symptoms are disabling and develop very quickly, including shortness of breath, weight loss, cough, and often imminent death.

History

Because of its abundance in nature, the use of silica has been in practice since ancient times in various applications. Its health risks – those that come primarily with exposure to silica dust inhalation – were first documented in 1700 by Dr. Bernardino Ramazzini (the man often credited with the advent of occupational medicine) when he recognized symptoms of silicosis in stone cutters.

Much later, in the early 1900s, Dr. Alice Hamilton saw the same connections between silicosis and the dust being inhaled by granite cutters. This discovery and the engineering demands that followed would eventually set in motion a gradually increased awareness of silica dangers across the globe. Today, occupational health and safety agencies all across North America strictly enforce regulations which limit and protect workers from silica dust exposure.

Symptoms of Silicosis

Because in many cases silicosis does not develop for several years after exposure, patients may be slow to experience symptoms. This is why respirable silica dust exposure is so dangerous – there is very little to inform a worker there’s a problem until it’s too late. Once developed, symptoms may include:

  • Shortness of breath, worsened by physical exertion
  • Persistent and severe cough
  • Chest pain
  • Bluish skin
  • Fever
  • Rapid breathing
  • Weight loss and lack of appetite
  • Dark spots appearing in nail beds

Eventually, as the lungs’ ability to perform efficiently wanes, silica patients may require the support of oxygen-supplying or other respiration-assistance devices.

The three types of silicosis each affect the lungs in a slightly unique way:

Chronic silicosis will involve lung swelling and expansion of lymph nodes in the chest, which leads to difficulty breathing.

Patients of acute silicosis will experience severe inflammation of the lungs as well as the introduction of fluid, which creates severe loss of breath and lowered levels of blood oxygen.

The lungs of an accelerated silicosis patient will experience the same symptoms as chronic silicosis, except they will develop must faster.

Preventing Silicosis

There is no known cure for silicosis, but it is 100 percent preventable. Treatment options are also limited, as physicians ordinarily simply instruct workers to permanently remove themselves from exposure zones, avoid respiratory irritants, and quit smoking. Silicosis often comes with respiratory infections, so antibiotics may also be prescribed.

That said, the best way to avoid the horrific and debilitating consequences of silicosis is to prevent it from occurring altogether. Employers who are involved with the use and handling of silica in the workplace are required by law to install various measures to ensure worker exposure is below a dangerous level, and it is the workers’ responsibility to abide by those measures.

Engineering controls such as ventilation systems, work displacement, or substitution with an equal-yet-less-hazardous material may be used. Workers should comply with and respect any installed systems. Handling dust properly when it’s created is also important. Dust should never be cleaned with air or other procedures which could reintroduce it into the breathable atmosphere – use wet cleaning methods instead.

Where respiratory protection is required, workers should undergo thorough medical examinations to determine their safe compatibility with respirators, and be trained in how to use, store, and maintain them.

Workers should use any on-site facilities provided, such as showers and washing stations, to ensure silica dust does not cross contaminate. A change of clothes is critical to avoid carrying silica dust home with you on your work clothes.

Safety Services Company is committed to helping employers in the U.S. and Canada provide safe and healthful workplaces for their employees through innovative training programs. Learn how we can help neutralize the dangers of silica in your workplace by visiting www.safetyservicescompany.com.

 

NEAR MISS REPORTING

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Near miss reporting is a fundamental piece of a strong safety culture. While OSHA doesn’t require near miss reporting, companies capturing that information can gain insight into potential problem areas. Understanding the difference between incidents, near misses, and accidents is important when developing a comprehensive safety meeting topics.

An Incident is an unplanned, undesired event that hinders completion of a task and usually causes injury, illness, or property damage. The terms “unplanned and undesired” don’t mean unpreventable, nor do they mean that you can’t prepare for them. Analysis and planning are how we prepare for serious incidents that may occur, and how we take action to eliminate them.

A near miss is defined as an incident that could have resulted in injury, illness, or property damage, but didn’t. Near misses, also known as ‘close calls’, should really be near hits.

The definition of accident is similar to that of incident, but implies that the occurrence was unpreventable. An accident, using this definition, contradicts the basic concepts of a safety program, which is to find and fix hazards, and prevent incidents. If we accept that accidents have no cause, that means they are unpreventable, and they will happen again.

Training employees on the importance of reporting near misses not only will raise their awareness of potential hazards; it moves your safety program from a purely reactive mode toward a more proactive effort. Near misses are often a precursor to more serious incidents, and may be a warning that procedures and practices need to be examined.

The reporting and investigation of near misses can be instrumental in preventing injuries. Near misses are really a zero-cost learning opportunity, because it signals a potential problem without resulting in injury or loss.

If your current safety program doesn’t include the mandatory reporting of near misses, perhaps it should. Consider implementing near miss reporting the next time you review your safety program, which you should do annually. This commitment to continuous improvement will demonstrate the importance of safety to your company to all employees.

Life doesn’t always give us warning signs, but when it does, we should heed them. Having an internal near miss reporting and investigation procedure as part of your safety program is heeding one of those signs. Being able to anticipate and avoid incidents is far less costly than reacting to one. An ounce of prevention could be worth someone’s life.

DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME

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Unless you live in Arizona, Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, or the Virgin Islands you will probably be changing your clocks this weekend as Daylight Savings Time (DST) begins this Sunday March 8th at 2 A.M.
The larger question these days is “Why do we even have daylight savings time?” DST was started during WW I as a way to conserve energy. The use of daylight savings time was unpopular and was halted after the war. It was re-instituted during WW II. Because there was no U.S. federal law requiring the use of DST following WW II, the states were free to implement DST on their own.

This created interstate commerce and transportation scheduling problems, and resulted in the passage of the Uniform Time Act in 1966. The act mandated time changes in April and October (spring ahead and fall back), but also allowed states to opt out of using DST.

Enforcing DST is the responsibility of the Department of Transportation (DOT)
Although created to conserve energy, recent DOT studies have shown that in today’s world, any potential energy savings is lost to the use of computers, TV’s, and other electronic devices. Not only does DST not save energy it can also negatively affect your health.

Researchers in Stockholm found that the number of heart attacks rose about 5 percent during the first week of daylight saving time. The New England Journal of Medicine suggest that this rise may result from the disruption of sleep patterns and biological rhythms.

Today most of the U.S., Canada, and Europe observe DST, and if you live where it’s observed, here are some tips to help you adjust to it.

  • Start going to bed 15 minutes earlier several days before the start of DST, and move your bedtime up by 15 minutes every couple of nights
  • If you feel sleepy the Sunday after the change to DST, take a short nap (15 to 20 minutes) in the early afternoon. For some, napping can make nighttime sleeping harder, while for others, a short nap can be refreshing without ruining their night’s sleep
  • Avoid sleeping in longer in the morning
  • Try to go to bed and waking up at the same time each day, as this will help regulate your sleep. If possible, get up at the same time on weekends, too, this makes getting up on Monday mornings easier
  • With the change in daylight, try to incorporate a little more exercise and a little more sleep each day

There are currently renewed efforts underway to abolish DST because of the lack of any evidence that it’s beneficial. It may well be that the only positive about the beginning and end of DST is that it serves as a reminder to check and or replace your smoke detector batteries. If you have any questions about topics for safety meetings contact us today.

SNOW REMOVAL

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Every year workers are killed or seriously injured while performing snow or ice removal from the rooftops of commercial, residential, and other building structures. Snow removal operations are often performed under extreme weather conditions by workers who may have little experience or training on the hazards of the job which is why having a safety manual can become very important.

Snow removal may be necessary to prevent overloading and collapse or for construction or repair of decking or roofs. Workers often climb directly onto the roofs or structures and use shovels, snow rakes, or snow blowers to remove ice and snow. Other times these operations are done from aerial lifts used to access roofs and apply de-icing materials, or from ground level using ladders and snow rakes.

Hazards

Falls are the most common cause of worker fatalities and injuries during rooftop snow removal. Workers can fall off roofs, through skylights, or from ladders and aerial lifts.
In addition to falls, workers removing snow, face other significant hazards including:

  • Injuries from using snow blowers and other mechanized equipment
  • Collapses or tip-overs of aerial lifts
  • Becoming engulfed by falling snow
  • Being shocked/electrocuted from contacting power lines or using damaged extension cords
  • Frostbite or hypothermia
  • Musculoskeletal injuries

OSHA requires that employers plan and use the safe work practices to protect workers during snow removal activities. Before snow starts to accumulate, think about what will be needed to remove snow from roofs or other elevated surfaces safely:

  • Can the snow be removed without workers going onto the roof?
  • Are there any hazards on the roof that could become hidden by the snow and will need to be marked so that workers can see them (skylights, roof drains, vents, etc.)?
  • How to remove snow based on the building’s layout to prevent unbalanced loading?
  • Determine the maximum load limit the roof can handle, and compare that to the estimated combined weight of the snow, the removal equipment, and workers on the roof
  • What tools, equipment, PPE, clothing, and footwear will workers need?
  • What training will workers need?
  • How will snow removal equipment be moved to the roof?
  • How will you protect workers and others on the ground from the snow and ice being removed?

Remove Snow Without Going on the Roof

Whenever possible, use methods to clear ice and snow that don’t require workers to go on the roof, such as using ladders to apply de-icing materials or using snow rakes or draglines from the ground.

Use Required Fall Protection

Falls cause most of the deaths and severe injuries that occur during snow removal operations. OSHA requires employers to evaluate and protect workers from fall hazards when working at heights of 4 feet or more above a lower level (1910.23), 6 feet, or more for construction work (1926.501).

If workers must access roofs and other elevated surfaces to clear snow:

  • Train them on fall hazards and the proper use of fall protection equipment,
  • Ensure all workers use their fall protection equipment when removing snow in areas that are not adequately guarded
  • Have workers put on their fall protection equipment before accessing the roof
  • Have a written rescue plan in case a fallen worker becomes caught by a fall protection system
  • Remove or mark rooftop or landscaping features that could present trip or fall hazards

Ground Workers

Workers at ground level removing snow from the roof, and bystanders, can become trapped under snow falling from roofs and suffocate. Snow being removed for a roof can be dangerous. One cubic foot of dry snow weighs about seven pounds, while a cubic foot of wet snow weighs anywhere from 12 to 18 pounds. To protect personnel from removed snow:

  • Identify a safe work zone in the area where snow is being removed to keep the public back 10 feet from where snow is expected to fall
  • Instruct workers to wear eye and head protection when removing snow and ice.
  • Instruct workers using snow rakes and draglines to remove only small amounts of snow at a time.

Effective planning and preparation can protect workers and the public from injuries during snow removal work.

Contact Release Training is New to NFPA 70E 2015

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The 2015 NFPA 70E standard for workplace electrical safety is now making the rounds, and depending on when the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) you report to, may be adopted at any time in the next three years.

The foreword of the new standard lists 20 major changes. One change introduces the concept of “contact release” in the emergency response training. Employees exposed to shock hazards must be trained, every year, how to safely break a connection an electrocution victim may have with exposed parts. A person may freeze onto the conductor when the electricity coursing through the body causes muscles to contract, and if the current is strong anyone else who directly touches that person may be electrocuted as well.

Contact Release Training

Everybody needs to know to quickly turn off the power and safely rescue the victim without direct contact. Touching an electrocuted person may cause the second person to be shocked.

The first option is to turn off the power source at the disconnect switch, circuit breaker, power cord. Call for 911 and then have trained employees provide first aid, CPR, or AED assistance. Because sometimes the power source may be unknown or the disconnect switch can’t be located, every employee should know where they are in the case of an emergency.

The second option is forcibly removing the victim in a safe way if the power can’t be disconnected quickly enough to save the victim from breathing or heartbeat paralysis, and flesh and internal organ damage. This may mean dislodging, hitting or prying the victim with a nonconductive material while remaining in a safe location.

First examine the scene looking for other hazards especially stored energy, fire and hot surfaces.

Ideally your hands and feed should be dry, you are wearing protective equipment and be standing on a clean dry non-conductive surface like a rubber blanket or other insulating material.

Then knock, pry, or drag the victim from the conductor with nonconductive material which can be a dry wooden board, nonmetallic conduit, insulated tools, hot sticks, shotgun sticks or some nonconductive rope or an insulated extension cord. Loop the cord around their body or the grasping arm and pull strong enough to break their grip.

First Aid

The victim needs to be cared for until qualified emergency response personnel arrive. Check for breathing and pulse and if necessary administer CPR or use an AED up to your level of training. Once CPR has been started, continue until emergency personnel arrive.

Stay with the victim until help arrives and conduct additional first aid, according to training. If conscious, keep the victim still, warm and comfortable, they could suffer from insufficient blood circulation and go into physiological shock. They could also suffer heartbeat irregularities or a heart attack up to several hours later even if the shock isn’t enough to immediately disrupt the heartbeat.

Other Safety School articles that examine the more academic concepts of occupational safety:

  • OSHA Inspections
  • Contact Release Training for NFPA 70E 2015
  • Scaffolding Code of Safe Practices
  • Emergency Response Plans for Permit Required Confined Spaces
  • Spotlighting the Importance of Checklists
  • Details of a Fully Developed Emergency Action Plan
  • The Six Guiding Principles of an Industrial Hygienist
  • Exactly How Does A Safety Manual Protect Your Company in an Inspection?
  • Who Is Covered (Or Not) By OSHA

 

WINTER WALKING

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This winter has been one of the worst for much of the U.S., with near-record snow, ice, and many other weather hazards. Walking in winter weather can be particularly dangerous.
Snow is bad enough, but ice and icy conditions can present a far greater hazard to your health. Snow is easy to see, remove, and does provide some traction. Ice, on the other hand, can be hard to see and dangerous, especially if you’re on foot.
The last thing you want to do is fight the weather, get to work, park your car, and then injure yourself when you get there. Slipping and falling on parking lot and sidewalk ice injuries in are common, and can cause serious injuries. Broken arms, wrists, and hips are far too common in snowy and icy conditions.

Here are some general tips to help companies and employees stay safe when conditions are icy:

  • Employers should clear snow and ice from walking surfaces and spread deicer as quickly as possible after a storm.
  • Employees should wear footwear that has good traction and insulation. Avoid wearing boots or shoes with smooth leather or plastic soles and heels. You should always wear shoes or boots made of non-slip rubber or neoprene with grooved soles when walking on snow and ice.
  • Wear a heavy, bulky coat that will cushion you if you should fall.
  • Wear a bright colored or reflective clothing so drivers can see you.
  • Keep warm, but make sure you can hear what’s going on around you.
  • During the day, wear sunglasses to help you see better and avoid hazards.

Walk like a penguin

In cold temperatures, assume that all wet, dark areas on pavement and sidewalks are slippery and icy. A thin layer of moisture can freeze on cold surfaces, forming a nearly invisible layer of black ice that can look like a wet spot on the pavement.

Walk in designated walkways whenever possible. Taking shortcuts over snow piles and other frozen areas can be dangerous. Avoid walking in the street if at all possible, icy streets are slippery for cars too, and they’re much more difficult to stop.

  • When walking on ice, angle your feet out, like a penguin, this will increase your center of gravity.
  • Lean slightly forward and walk flat-footed to keep your center of gravity directly over your feet.
  • Taking short steps will help you keep your balance
  • Extend your arms out to your sides to maintain balance. If you must carry a load, try not to carry too much; leave your hands and arms free to balance yourself.
  • If you do carry something, carry it in your dominant hand. This can help prevent you from using your dominant hand break your fall, and avoid injuring your hand, wrist, or arm.
  • Keep your hands out of your pockets. Putting your hands in your pockets while walking may keep them warm, but it decreases your center of gravity, balance, and increases your chances of slipping and falling.
  • Watch where you’re walking, focus on the path in front of you, and take your time
  • When walking on stairs always use the hand-railings and plant your feet firmly on each step.
  • It’s easy to lose your balance when getting into or out of your car, use the vehicle to help support yourself.
  • Look at the ground while you’re walking, don’t end up slipping on ice that we could have seen if we had been looking.

Walking on a slippery floor can be just as dangerous as walking on ice. Keep these tips in mind when entering a building:

  • Melting ice or water on the floor can make it slippery.
  • Watch for floors and stairs that may be wet and slippery, walk carefully by outer doors.
  • Determine the best path to take to get to your destination and take a little extra time to get there
  • Be sure to use floor mats when entering a building to remove moisture from the soles of your shoes – this will help protect you, and others, from having to walk on wet or slippery surfaces

Winter weather can be irritating enough without adding injury to the equation.

GETTING A GRIP ON HAND-ARM VIBRATION SYNDROME

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Hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) also known as “Dead Finger” or “Dead Hand” causes symptoms in fingers, hands, and arms from using vibrating tools, or by working with machinery that vibrates. HAV, formerly vibration white finger, was renamed to HAVS, as other symptoms may occur in addition to white fingers.

HAV, may appear shortly after starting a job, or may not appear until years later. The harmful health effects of vibrating tools are related to the length of time that a worker has been using vibrating tools and to the frequency of the vibration. The length of time person uses a vibrating tool, and the speed at which the tool vibrates, increases the risk of HAV.

The technical name for HAV is Raynaud’s Syndrome of Occupational Origin. Raynaud’s Syndrome can occur in people who do not use vibrating hand-held tools, and a number of medical illnesses can also cause Raynaud’s Syndrome.

Many symptoms of HAV syndrome will disappear when worker stops using tools vibrate the hands and arms. The muscle fatigue and pain in the arms and shoulders associated with HAV also will generally disappear. In the early stages, if a worker stops using vibrating tools, HAV will not get any worse and may get slightly better.

Preventing hand-arm vibration

Employers can implement the following steps to help prevent HAVS in workers who use vibrating tools:

  • Hold tools loosely, and in different positions.
  • Ensure that tools are well-maintained
  • Use the right tool for the job.
  • Keep warm while at work – especially your hands.
  • You should not smoke – the chemicals in tobacco can affect blood flow.
  • Jobs should be redesigned to minimize the use of hand-held vibrating tools.
  • Replace high vibration tools with improved, low vibration tools that are designed to absorb vibration
  • Whenever possible, substitute a manual tool for a vibrating tool.
  • Determine vibration exposure times and implement work breaks to avoid constant exposure. A worker using a vibrating tool continuously should take a 10 minute break after each hour of using the tool.

Education

Employees who are required to use vibrating hand-held tools should receive training about the hazards of vibration and they should be taught how to minimize the ill effects of vibration.

Smokers are much more susceptible to HAV that non-smokers and the HAV in smokers is usually more severe. For this reason, workers who use vibrating hand-held tools should not smoke.

Medical Evaluation

  • Workers whose occupations will place them at risk of developing HAV should have pre-employment physicals, and then be checked at least annually for symptoms.
  • Workers that have a history of abnormalities in blood circulation and especially workers who have Raynaud’s Syndrome should not be permitted to use vibrating hand-held tools.
  • If workers develop symptoms of tingling or numbness, or if their fingers occasionally become white or blue, or painful, should be examined by a doctor familiar with the diagnosis and treatment of HAV.
  • Workers who have moderate to severe symptoms of HAV should be reassigned to work that does not involve using vibrating tools.

It is not clear how vibration causes hand-arm vibration syndrome. It is probably due to slight but repeated injury to the small nerves and blood vessels in the fingers. Up to 1 in 10 people who work regularly with vibrating tools may develop HAVS.

Temporary tingling or numbness immediately following the use of a vibrating hand tool is not considered HAV, however tingling and numbness in the fingers lasting more than an hour after finishing work may indicate early stages of HAV.

Q&A: Lockout Procedures At Shift Change

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Question:

“I have some questions concerning lockout tag out and shift change with group lockout…We use what is called a “cross-turn tag” at shift change, ONLY when there is no employee to take over as a primary lockout person. These tags have numbers and those numbers are documented on the lockout paper that also shows what equipment is locked, how many locks are currently being used and what kind of energy source is being isolated. The main concern we are having is, when a new employee comes to lockout the box (group lock out), that employee HAS to cut the cross-turn tag prior to placing the his/her lock and they assume responsibility of becoming the new “master”. Some of the employees believe that having to cut this tag should not be required and it should be used as a “anti-tamper” device so they know that the box and it’s content has not been compromised.”

Answer:

“I do see a problem with the process that you’ve described, and it’s not in the changeover process when a new employee comes onto the job that you described, but it’s in setting up a group lockout procedure where there is no initial primary lockout person.

While a group lockout is a way to decrease the amount of locks (one for each individual on the job) on each hasp on the equipment, it is not a way to relinquish the responsibility to have one person responsible for the integrity of the lockout/tagout process. That’s spelled out in the OSHA regulations on group lockout, 1910.147(f)(3).

“Primary responsibility is vested in an authorized employee for a set number of employees working under the protection of a group lockout or tagout device (such as an operations lock).” – 1910.147(f)(3)(ii)(A)

The OSHA regulation requires specific procedures to be developed to ensure continuous protection between off-going and oncoming employees – 1910.147(f)(4) – , but does not spell out what they need to be. So a properly developed and executed “cross-turn tag” may be effectively used to indicate the change from one primary lockout person to another. Still OSHA shows a preference toward using a lockout device first and tagout only when a lock is infeasible.

Instead of creating a procedure that starts with nobody in charge of the group lockout, I would create a permit system where there is always a primary person responsible for everyone’s safety in charge of the lockbox that has the key to the lockout devices and the hasp to the lockbox has a lock for every individual employee on the project. The permit will name the primary person and each employee on the project. Then when a new employee comes onto the project, they can check with the primary person who can take note of the new employee on the permit and the new person can add their lock to the hasp on the lockbox.”

Other Question & Answer articles:

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  • Lockout Procedures At Shift Change
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