Category: Construction

THE DANGERS OF SILICOSIS

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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.

TAKE THE DANGER OUT OF ABRASIVE BLASTING

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Abrasive blasting, often known as “sand blasting” due to the fact that silica sand is the most commonly-used abrasive material today, is a technique developed in 1904 to clean metal surfaces, apply a texture to concrete, or prepare a surface for the application of another material such as paint. Operations involve accelerating abrasive material particles at high velocity through a nozzle aimed at a target surface. The technique is a model of human ingenuity with applications across several industries, but unfortunately is not without its own set of safety hazards.

SILICOSIS

The primary risk associated with abrasive blasting is respiratory hazards, wherein dusts formed by pulverized abrasive material or broken materials from the target surface become airborne with the potential for inhalation. While a wide variety of abrasive materials are used for blasting, silica sand remains the most prominent and can lead to a dangerous fungal growth in the lungs called “silicosis” if inhaled. Symptoms of silicosis can arise years after inhalation, a potentially deadly condition waiting dormant until it’s too late. Intense exposure can cause symptoms within a year, although prolonged general exposure is more common and takes an average of 10-15 years to induce symptoms. Symptoms may include difficulty breathing, fever, cough, and bluish skin, and can eventually become cancerous if left untreated. People with silicosis are also at a high risk of developing tuberculosis.

NOISE EXPOSURE

Occupational noise exposure is another significant safety hazard connected to abrasive blasting operations. Loud machinery as well as sound reverberating from the surface of impacted materials can pose serious risks to hearing, with long-term or permanent hearing loss being a possibility. Noise exposure can be controlled with a workplace hearing conservation program where noise levels are monitored and protective equipment or engineering controls are implemented.

OTHER HAZARDS

Other abrasive blasting-related hazards can include slips, trips, and falls from accumulated dust particles (especially when a particularly slippery abrasive material is used, such as steel shot or glass), falls when working from heights, and fatigue. Workplaces where abrasive blasting operations occur should implement the appropriate protective systems and administrative controls to reduce or eliminate these hazards.

JOB HAZARD ANALYSIS

The most powerful tool at your disposal when combating safety hazards is a job hazard analysis. This analysis is performed before abrasive blasting operations begin, and is used to identify potential hazards in the work zone. By collecting a detailed account of these hazards, you can develop an effective strategy for controlling them. Your analysis will depend on your unique, specific workplace, but some things to look out for may include the abrasive material being used, the type of material being blasted, potential exposure to airborne contaminates for workers outside of and unrelated to the blasting operation, the integrity of equipment and ventilation systems, and clutter and fall hazards. The more thorough you are in your analysis, the more likely you are to identify a hazard which may have otherwise gone unnoticed. Afterwards, you can use your analysis results to select the most hazard-appropriate controls for your operation.

CONTROLS

There are many possible methods for controlling abrasive blasting-related hazards which will depend on your workplace and the results of your job hazard analysis, but a few to think about include using a less toxic abrasive material, barriers or curtain walls, exhaust ventilation systems, scheduling blasting operations during times when the fewest number of other employees are on site, and not performing operations in conditions of high winds.

Much of the hazard prevention involved with abrasive blasting is in the hands of the worker. Personal protective equipment, housekeeping, and proper hygiene take away much of the risks associated with airborne dust particles. When airborne contaminates exceed the permissible exposure limit (PEL), all workers in the abrasive blasting area, whether directly involved with the blasting or providing a support role such as cleanup, are required to wear an air-supplied breathing helmet. Blasters should also use leather or heavy canvas gloves with full forearm protection, aprons or coveralls, hearing protection, and safety shoes or boots.

HOUSEKEEPING

Workers should clean up as they go, attending to dust spills immediately using either wet methods or HEPA vacuuming in order to prevent settled dust from dispersing into the air. Equipment must be inspected before and after used, and maintained and stored properly. Workers should not bring contaminated clothing or equipment home; showering and handwashing stations should be available onsite to accommodate. Eating, drinking, or using tobacco with contaminated hands or clothing, or within the blasting area, must not be permitted.

WRITING A SUBSTANTIAL INCIDENT REPORT

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An incident report is one of the most valuable tools an employer can have in their commitment to a safe and healthful workplace. After managing the aftermath of an incident, it’s important to move forward in ways that ensure a similar incident doesn’t occur again in the future – to learn from mistakes, so to speak. A strong incident report will help you achieve this goal by detailing the events surrounding the incident, identifying a root cause, and leading to an effective course of corrective action.

The incident reporting process consists of four steps:

Step 1: Control the Scene

Before you can do anything, you need to make sure the scene of the incident is under control. If the scene remains hazardous, such as in the case of fire or chemical spill, those dangers need to be neutralized and workers evacuated as necessary. If any workers were injured during the incident, they must receive the appropriate first aid, plus medical attention or transportation to a medical facility if the injuries are severe. A supervisor should be notified as soon as possible if for some reason one wasn’t present during the incident.

After focusing on controlling imminent hazards and injured workers, it’s time to lock down the scene. Only authorized personnel should be allowed in the area. Do not move any items unless absolutely necessary for safety, as you will want to properly document the scene with photographs and drawings during the next step.

Step 2: Conduct an Investigation

Since the end goal of an incident report is a corrective action plan, you’ll want to know as much as possible about what led up to the incident. Without a clear idea of how the incident occurred, you won’t be able to determine what measures to implement in order to prevent it from happening again.  To obtain this information, an investigation is necessary. Scrutinize the incident scene carefully, taking pictures and sketching a layout that accurately depicts the area. Having this information documented may be beneficial beyond the report itself, should you find yourself subject to OSHA investigation.

There is a limit to how much information you can gather by evaluating the scene of the incident; the rest of what you need to know will come from those involved. Conduct interviews with workers present for the incident as soon as possible, while their memories are still fresh. Interviews should be performed with tact and care, especially if the incident was severe, as workers involved may be under a lot of emotional stress. Furthermore, it’s possible a worker will be on edge out of fear that the interview will lead to disciplinary action. Speak calmly, professionally, and reassure the worker that your only goal is to learn about what happened.

Between investigating the scene and interviewing workers, the information you want includes:

  • Date, time, and location of the incident
  • The names, positions, and immediate supervisors of those involved, and witnesses
  • Events surrounding the incident (before, during, and after)
  • Exactly what those involved were doing when the incident occurred
  • Details of property damage
  • Specifics regarding any injuries, including what part of the body was injured, what type of injury, and the severity of the injury, as well as what treatments were administered
  • Environmental conditions, such as weather (if outdoors), slippery surfaces, noise levels, etc.
  • Tasks performed, equipment and materials involved, and personal protective equipment used

Take care to document this information in your report as thoroughly as necessary to ensure that anyone reading it would be able to develop a clear mental picture of the incident based on what you’ve written. Generally speaking, because this is essentially a preventative tool, the more information provided the better.

Step 3: Analyze Information and Determine Root Causes

This is where you’ll find out exactly what your corrective action will address. If you’re only looking at the big picture, you’ll see a variety of contributing factors which led to the incident. These are important in terms of making the proper adjustments going forward, but what you really want is to know what caused the incident at the core. This is known as the “root cause.”

Let’s imagine a new employee was operating a powered industrial truck (PIT) when he lost control and crashed into a stack of pallets. Injuries were minimal, but there was a good amount of property damage and everyone involved was shaken. After a thorough investigation, it was determined that the PIT had faulty brakes. Now, to determine the root causes of the incident, you’ll want to ask a series of questions that look beyond the obvious. The obvious states that bad brakes led to a loss of control, but why were the brakes faulty? Is there a preventative maintenance schedule (and if one was followed, why wasn’t the PIT marked as out of service?)? The employee was new – had he received adequate training and certification prior to operating the PIT? Why wasn’t the PIT inspected before use?

The answers to these questions will provide you with your root causes, which lead to the final step:

Step 4: Develop a Corrective Course of Action

With your incident report fully fleshed out, the last step is to use the information you’ve acquired to determine and document precisely how you’ll prevent a similar incident from reoccurring. Revisiting the previous example, this would include implementing a written preventative maintenance schedule and holding maintenance personnel accountable for it. If the new employee had not received the training necessary to safely operate a PIT, then you’ll want to examine how training is administered and how supervisors can test for skill. Once you’ve implemented corrective actions, be sure to reexamine your report at a later date in the near future to ensure these actions were sufficient.

 

 

HEARING LOSS PREVENTION

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Occupational hearing loss affects millions of workers across the country. This type of injury can severely limit an individual’s ability to function normally, and reduces their quality of life. Businesses can expect to see a negative impact on productivity and profit as well as an increase in lost-time and workers’ compensation claims, leading to numerous additional hidden costs. Not only is it in your best interest to limit noise exposure in order to protect your bottom line, it is your duty and responsibility to provide your employees with a safe and healthful workplace.

How Does The Ear Work?

Sound begins by hitting the outer ear. When this happens, vibrations move towards and touch the ear drum, which transmits them to the middle and inner ear. Once at the middle ear, three bones (the malleus, the stapes, and the incus – also known as the hammer, stirrup, and anvil, respectively), take the vibrations and amplify them towards the inner ear. Within the middle ear, the cochlea, a spiral-shaped section of the ear filled with fluid and hair-lined cells, take the vibrations and translate them into nerve pulses by way of movement of the microscopic hairs. This translation becomes the sound we hear. When extremely loud noise makes its way into the cochlea, these hairs can be damaged or destroyed, resulting in hearing loss.

Measuring Noise Exposure

When measuring noise, we observe unites of sound pressure levels called decibels (dB). This term originated in the early 20th century based on measuring telephony power in the United States, through the Bell system of companies. A decibel is one tenth of a bel, named after Alexander Graham Bell. The version of the measurement we use for occupational noise exposure is the A-weighted version (dBA), which gives less weight to very low and very high noise frequencies has a stronger correlation with noise-related hearing damage. Decibels are further measured on a logarithmic scale, meaning that a small difference in the number of decibels corresponds with a massive difference in actual noise, and thereby potential for hearing loss. Dangerous decibel levels require monitoring, planning, and controls to keep noise from causing worker injury. Any noise with a decibel measurement over 85 dbA is considered hazardous.

What Kind of Damage Can You Expect?

Workers exposed to high levels of noise can expect the potential for permanent hearing loss, even if the exposure is infrequent. Hearing lost in this way is irreparable; there are currently no surgical or auxiliary options available today which can repair loss caused by damaged or destroyed cochlear hair cells. Singular incidents of extreme noise exposure may also lead to short-term hearing loss or changes in hearing (e.g. an individual may feel like their ears are plugged, or hear a persistent ringing). While often temporary to a matter of minutes or hours, frequent exposure can easily lead to these symptoms being permanent. Furthermore, those with noise-related hearing loss may be unable to understand speech or recognize sounds at higher frequencies.

Physiological damage aside, excessive noise can also increase stress in afflicted individuals, both physically and psychologically. It can inhibit the ability to communicate effectively, and increase the potential for dangerous incidents by making it difficult to concentrate or hear important safety or warning alarms and signals.

Controls

Engineering Controls

Engineering controls are the most preferred option in any hazard-mitigation hierarchy. They essentially involve eliminating a hazard altogether through displacement, replacement, installations, or other physical changes. Where noise is concerned, engineering controls take the source of noise and either eliminate it or, somewhere along its path, intercept it and reduce it below hazardous levels before it reaches the worker. Examples include selecting equipment which generates less noise as the same efficiency, installing barriers such as walls or insulation between the source and the worker, maintaining noise-generating equipment (e.g. proper lubrication) to eliminate preventable noise, and isolating the noise altogether.

Administrative Controls

Administrative controls involve modifying procedures, schedules, or behaviors in order to reduce hazard exposure as much as possible. These controls fall just below engineering controls in terms of effectiveness and desirability. Some examples of administrative controls which can reduce noise exposure include scheduling workers in limited, short shifts to work in noisy situations, positioning work at a long distance from loud noise sources, providing quiet rest areas for reprieve and relief, and scheduling work which generates excessive noise while the fewest workers possible are on site.

Personal Protective Equipment

Although personal protective equipment (PPE) is the least effective control method for mitigating hazards, it should always be used in conjunction with the others. Workers involved in operations where noise levels are above 85 dBA should wear ear plugs or other noise-reducing or –cancelling devices, so long as they don’t interfere with the worker’s ability to work safely and communicate properly.

Hearing Conservation Programs

Developing a thorough, comprehensive hearing conservation program is essential in any business’ efforts to prevent hearing loss, protect existing hearing, and convey crucial information to workers in the form of knowledge and training. Employees from the top down need to know how to operate a workplace in such a way that everyone involved with noisy work is properly safeguarded. Employers need to measure and monitor noise levels in the work place, give workers access to hearing exams, and provide workers with necessary PPE and training.

Workplaces with strong hearing conservation programs see more productivity and fewer losses through injuries and lost-time claims. To learn how Safety Services Company can assist you with creating such a program, or perfecting an existing one, visit www.safetyservicescompany.com.

 

 

Federal Laws on Employee Breaks: The Good and Bad News

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Federal Labor Law Breaks

In April, we ran an article about asphalt safety, giving some tips on how to stay safe while hazards like hot asphalt, vehicular traffic, complex machinery and heavy equipment are present. We received a comment, about federal labor law breaks, that raises issues not just on the risks of this job, but also on the complicated subject of employee breaks. Below is the comment from a.olechnowicz:

“Working as a flagger on a paving job for 10-14 hours straight without any breaks–this seems very unsafe, also flagging on freshly poured asphalt at 160 degrees in 95-100 degree outside temp—without any breaks. It becomes very difficult. Are there any OSHA guidelines covering this? Also, there is no training given on hazards of inhaling asphalt fumes.”

It is common belief that providing breaks to employees is fair; studies have also shown that breaks actually improve productivity. Also, they have found that employees who took 10- to 15-minute breaks every 2 hours accomplished more work than those who worked non-stop.

Although some of you might be aware of this reality, I bet others will find it a surprise.We bring you now our first serving of good and bad news:

Good news:

There’s actually a federal law that defines breaks. It’s the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Bad news:

FLSA does not require employers to give ANY BREAKS to their employees.

This serving is not so hot, though. A lot has been said about it both on the web and off of it.Still, not everyone is aware that employers are not mandated by federal law to give breaks to their employees.Take note that we’re talking specifically about employees above the age of 18.

Good news:

There are 22 states that have laws including provisions for work breaks.

Bad news:

Only 19 of these 22 states require a meal or rest break for employees.Only 7 of the 19 require a rest break in addition to a meal break.

These 7 states are California, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. All of them require employers to provide paid rest periods.

Rest breaks or coffee breaks are paid and usually last 20 minutes or less.Meal breaks or lunch breaks are 30 minutes or longer. While they are considered unpaid, an employee must be relieved of all work duties.If they continue work while eating, the meal break would be considered paid.

Good news:

OSHA has a say on the issue of employee breaks.

Bad news:

They only give exceptions to highly hazardous jobs such as those done in nuclear plants and high-altitude steel erection jobs.

Surely this is a matter not to be taken lightly.After all, a lot of jobs out there might not be as hazardous as those done in nuclear plants and high-altitude steel erection jobs. But the fact remains that these jobs are hazardous.

Also, whether or not a job passes as hazardous in the standards of federal and state laws, no one can change the fact that employees are humans; they have physiological limitations.Come to think of it, even machines need a break; otherwise they’d end up getting damaged in no time.With humans most damages are irrevocable.

Good news:

FLSA acknowledges that some employers choose to give breaks to their employees as a “benefit”.

Bad news:

The fact remains that employers may not choose to give breaks.

The reality is simple yet bitter to swallow:Employees who work in states with no laws requiring breaks have to rely on their own employers to get this “benefit”. But this doesn’t mean that they should be at the losing end.

If you believe you deserve to have breaks in your job, you always have the choice to talk to your employer.This should go easier if you and your co-workers raise this issue together.

Now if you have breaks but you work in one of the states without a law requiring it, then your employer is voluntarily providing them.It means your employer can revoke this policy or make modifications in it at any time.

But if your employer violates break or meal provisions in the FLSA and/or state laws, you have the right to report this to your state labor department. You may also seek the help of a lawyer.

For now, we can only hope that more states pay greater attention to this complicated issue.Let’s also cross our fingers that more employers see breaks as a means to gaining higher productivity. Of course, all this comes with more hopes that we’ll have better news for employees in the future.

HEAT ILLNESS: AWARENESS AND PROTECTING WORKERS

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As we transition to warmer temperatures, it’s important to revisit your workplace’s Heat Illness Prevention Program to ensure your employees are equipped to combat heat-related stress and illnesses. Heat is the number one cause of weather-related fatalities in the United States despite the fact that most heat-related deaths are preventable.

Average high temperatures have seen a steady increase across the country over the past couple of decades. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) anticipates that average temperatures will continue to increase, and heat waves will become more frequent and impactful. This prediction should encourage all businesses to look at how their employees are exposed to high temperatures, and what they can do to accommodate.

Businesses with employees who perform work in moderate to high temperatures or humid conditions, especially where increased heart rate and perspiration are concerned, must be given the necessary tools to recognize, understand, and prevent heat stress illnesses.

Essentially, heat stress prevention comes down to workplace design, employee training, and effective work procedures. Design and procedures will vary greatly depending on geographical location and the type of work being performed. Businesses should keep in mind that heat stress can occur regardless of the time of year, in both outdoor and indoor conditions. Required personal protective equipment (PPE) can also have a significant impact on the body’s ability to expel heat. Workers involved with hazardous waste operations or asbestos removal, for example, are often required to wear impermeable protective equipment which can trap heat close to the body. A thorough risk assessment will help businesses identify risk elements such as these.

A strong working knowledge of how the body regulates heat, and how personal factors can affect that regulation, is an extremely valuable tool in prevention. The human body needs to maintain a core temperature between 96.8 (36) and 100.4 (38) degrees Fahrenheit to function at peak performance. Weather conditions, manual labor, and personal factors can cause the core temperature to increase, which can lead to the development of a series of heat-related illnesses.

To regulate internal temperature, the body uses two basic mechanisms. The first is to increase the heart rate which assists in moving blood and heat away from vital organs to the skin. The second is perspiration, during which the body expels heat in moisture through the pores, which then evaporates and carries heat away in the process. Personal factors, such as acclimatization, caffeine and alcohol consumption, hydration replenishment, general health, age, and certain prescription medications can affect how well these mechanisms work and should be taken into consideration before performing work in high temperatures. Perspiration is the more effective of the two mechanisms, which means that proper hydration to replenish fluids lost as sweat is absolutely essential.

There are four common disorders which surface as a result of heat stress, ranging from mild discomfort to life-threatening conditions:

Heat rash is the most common ailment which occurs while working in the heat. It is also called “prickly heat.” Symptoms include red, blotchy, itchy skin, particularly in areas of the body with high perspiration, and a prickling sensation. Rashes which aren’t cleaned thoroughly and frequently may become infected. Moving to a cool environment, cleaning the affected area with cool water, and complete drying are often effective treatments.

Heat cramps occur as a result of salt being lost through perspiration. They are painful muscle spasms causing lumps in the affected muscles, usually the back, legs, and arms. The pain can be severe enough to greatly inhibit movement. Workers should cease activities to tend to cramps as soon as they feel them. Stretching and massaging the affected muscle as well as replacing salt by drinking electrolyte replacement fluids are useful techniques in tending to heat cramps.

Heat exhaustion is a dangerous result of heat stress which can lead to a heat stroke if not treated promptly with first aid. It happens when the body is so overexerted that it cannot supply blood simultaneously to vital organs and the skin for temperature regulations. Inflicted workers may experience weakness, headache, breathlessness, nausea, vomiting, faintness, or loss of consciousness. Call 911 and move workers exhibiting these symptoms to a cool place and give them water to drink. Remove any clothing that isn’t necessary and loosen other clothing. Shower or sponge them down with cool water. It will take at least 30 minutes for the body to cool down after experiencing heat exhaustion.

Heat stroke is a disorder which requires immediate medical attention, and can lead rapidly to fatality if not treated quickly. A person experiencing a heat stroke may experience confusion, hot, dry skin, high body temperatures, lack of sweating, irrational behavior, convulsions, and/or a loss of consciousness. Call 911 right away and take the victim to a cool area to immerse or shower them with cool water. Wrap them in wet sheets and fan them until you can transport them to a hospital or an ambulance arrives.

Knowledge can mean the difference between life and death during a critical victimization of heat stress. Workers should understand the nature and symptoms of heat-related illnesses both in a sense of recognizing them in themselves, and when a coworker is suffering. In many cases, a quick and efficient response can save a heat stress victim from numerous long-term effects that would have otherwise occurred had symptoms gone untreated. Proper training and a strong Heat Stress Prevention Program will help protect worker health year round.

 

Walking Working Surfaces: Know the OSHA Rule Update

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Walking Working Surfaces OSHA Rule

On November 17, 2016, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a Final Walking Working Surfaces Rule, for the purpose of better protecting 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

Annually, an average of 202,066 serious injuries and 345 fatalities occur 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. Employers are currently 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. Also, 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 injuries 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, please visit www.safetyservicescompany.com.

Call (877) 849-1149 today to speak with one of our safety solutions experts.

 

What You Should Know About Silica Dust

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OSHA Silica, Silica Exposure

What are the Damaging Effects of Silica Dust?

Silica dust is an extremely common, and potentially hazardous, 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. In fact, 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 an occupational disease caused by exposure to dust from crystalline silica, one of the most common minerals on our planet. Silicosis is a progressive, disabling lung disease caused by breathing dust that contains particles of crystalline silica so small you can only see them with a microscope. Silicosis isn’t curable, and sadly, workers still die from the disease, but it’s preventable. The keys to prevention are simple, identify workplace activities that create crystalline silica dust and then either eliminate the dust, or control it so that workers aren’t exposed to it.

Furthermore, 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. Finally, this scarring can greatly reduce the function of the lungs, making it difficult and sometimes painful to breathe.

Most importantly, 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 silica exposure via 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.

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 set in motion an increased awareness of silica exposure 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 many cases silicosis do not develop until 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, patients faced with silica exposure 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.

Identifying Hazards

Identifying hazardous activities: You may be using products or materials that contain crystalline silica and not even know it. If your workplace is dusty, or if you work with materials that produce dust, you should be concerned about silicosis and crystalline silica hazards.

Activities that could put workers at risk:

Manufacturing: Metal casting; Working with glass products; Ceramics, clay and pottery; Asphalt paving material; Cut stone and stone products; Abrasives; Paint and rubber products; Filtered food and beverages.

Construction: Chipping, hammering and drilling rock, Abrasive blasting; Crushing, loading, hauling and dumping rock; Cement work; Sawing, hammering, drilling, grinding, and chipping masonry or concrete; Demolition of concrete or masonry structures; Dry sweeping or using pressurized air to blow concrete, rock or sand dust.

How to eliminate or control crystalline silica dust hazards: Once the activities that expose workers to hazardous levels of crystalline silica have been identified, you need to eliminate the exposure or control it so that it’s not hazardous. Here are some suggestions.

In work activities where there’s a potential to eliminate silica exposure:

Use substitutes

  • The best way to eliminate exposure is to use materials that don’t contain crystalline silica. This is an example of the “engineering” approach to hazard control. There are a number of abrasive materials that can be used to eliminate crystalline silica exposure including metal or plastic shot, organic materials such as apricot pits and corn cobs and emery, garnet or glass beads

In work activities where exposure to silica can’t be eliminated:

Use dust-containment systems

  • Install dust-collection systems on machines that generate dust or using enclosed cabinets with gloved armholes to do hazardous tasks
  • Use wet drilling or sawing methods to control dust. Remove dust and debris with a wet vacuum, or hose it down rather than blowing it around with compressed air or dry sweeping it
  • Use local-exhaust ventilation systems to keep work areas dust free

Use PPE

  • PPE such as respirators and dust masks can protect workers from hazards, but it doesn’t eliminate them. If the equipment fails, or it’s not appropriate for a particular job, workers can still be exposed
  • If you work with materials containing crystalline silica, you should always practice good personal hygiene. Wash your hands before eating, drinking or smoking. Shower, if possible, and change into clean clothes before leaving the worksite. Never eat, drink, or use tobacco in abrasive blasting areas

Preventing Silicosis

There is no known cure for silicosis, but it is 100 percent preventable by utilizing OSHA silica exposure safety procedures. Treatment options are 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. Additionally, handling dust properly when it’s created is important. Dust should never be cleaned with air or other procedures which could reintroduce it into the breathable atmosphere.

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

Most importantly, workers should use any on-site facilities provided 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.

Remember

Though silicosis shows no symptoms at first, the victim eventually has trouble breathing and develops a severe cough. Other symptoms include fatigue, loss of appetite, chest pains and fever. Only a complete work history, chest X-ray, and a lung-function test will determine whether a worker has the disease. If you think you may have silicosis should see a medical doctor who specializes in occupational medicine.

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

Call (877) 673-4369 today to speak with one of our safety solutions experts.

Hauling Your Equipment to Safety

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Hauling in Construction

One of the most crucial but tricky tasks fleet managers handle is moving over-sized, heavy loads to different locations. This job is a very difficult task, and it could be very dangerous to someone lacking the right equipment and training. Hauling heavy, large loads requires the use of hauling in construction. This process also demands that the proper machinery is controlled by workers who are qualified, the right routes and permits, as well as compliance with set regulations, which vary in each state.

There are several different types of hauling equipment that can be used for building and construction. Some of the most typical types include cranes, bulldozers, forklifts, dump trucks, and excavators, as well as many others.

Cranes

Cranes possess a tower-like framework that is equipped with pulleys and cables that are used to lower and lift different materials and objects. In construction, cranes are either mounted on a truck or fixed to the ground. In order to operate this type of equipment, it is best to have a qualified operator do so through radio-type controls, or from a control station cab secured to the crane.

The most basic type of crane is a mobile crane, which consists of a steel truss or telescopic boom that is mounted on a mobile platform. The boom can be either raised or lowered by hydraulic cylinders or cables and is hinged at the bottom.

Bulldozers

Bulldozers are greatly impressive machines that are supplied with a dozer blade. Due to their size, bulldozers can maintain their functionality in extremely difficult terrains and have fantastic ground mobility. The machine’s wide tracks allow it to divide the dozer’s weight over large areas; which keeps it from sinking into sandy or muddy ground.

A bulldozer’s torque divider abilities and ground hold are made to convert the engine’s power into dragging capabilities, which allows it to use its own weight to move heavy objects and remove others from the ground. Because of these traits, bulldozers are most often used to clear several types of obstacles, such as shrubbery and debris.

Forklifts

This type of construction machinery is also referred to as a forklift truck – a power-packed piece of industrial equipment that’s main function is to transport and lift different objects or materials with the steel forks attached underneath the load. Forklifts are often used to move loads and equipment that are stored in pallets. Made in the 1920s, forklifts have a broad range of load capabilities and are made in several different types. However, the counterbalance is the most typical.

Dump Trucks

The main intention of dump trucks is moving loose material, such as gravel, sand, and dirt for construction purposes. A traditional dump truck is equipped with a hydraulically controlled open box bed that is hinged at the back of the truck, while the front of the box rises to let the box’s contents fall out easily. There are several other types of dump trucks, such as semi-trailer dump trucks, off-road dump trucks, and transfer dump trucks.

Excavators

A hydraulic excavator is different from other pieces of equipment, due to the fact that its movements are made through the transfer of hydraulic fluid. Excavators are usually seen in residential areas, specifically when digging plays a massive role in a construction project. Compact excavators have increased in popularity because of their ability to fit nearly anywhere. These machines are also equipped with different attachments. These include breakers, augers, compactors, and clamps, which make them an adaptable piece of hauling equipment.

Call (888) 247-6133 today to speak with one of our safety solutions experts about equipment hauling in construction.

Marijuana Use vs. Fit for Duty

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Workplaces are feeling the effects of both medical and recreational marijuana legalization. These new laws are making it more difficult to discipline someone who tests positive for marijuana. Ambiguous language protects impaired drivers from prosecution and makes it hard for employers to prove impairment at work.

Unlike alcohol, a test that shows level of marijuana impairment is not available. Instead a person can test positive weeks after using marijuana. One alternative approach to simply banning marijuana use as a component of the company drug and alcohol policy is to cover impairment in the safety policy under fitness for duty.

Start off by requiring employees disclose when they start taking any drug that causes impairment when working a safety sensitive job. This can be marijuana or a cold medicine, and the employee doesn’t have to disclose the drug or medical condition.

Be sure to update all job descriptions to define all safety sensitive jobs in compliance, by just listing essential job functions. Have a policy that states when an employee works in a safety sensitive job they should be able to work in a constant state of alertness and in a safe manner, and disclose when they have taken an impairing effect prescription or other substance.

Then the employer has the right to make a fitness for duty determination or send the employee to an occupational doctor for a fitness for duty evaluation with a copy of the job description. If it comes back that they are impaired and didn’t tell you, then you can manage that under your safety policy, and not your drug policy.

Make sure that all employees have a copy of the written company policy and education on drug and alcohol abuse that includes where to get more information. Supervisors need recurrent training on the effects of drugs and alcohol and how to determine reasonable suspicion.

Everybody needs to know the company position on medical and recreational marijuana and other prescription drug use through a consistent and proactive policy that includes appropriate testing.