February is workplace eye safety month. Eye injuries in the workplace are common occurrences. More than 2,000 people injure their eyes at work every day. About 10% of those injuries result in one or more days of lost time, and about 10-20 % will cause temporary or permanent vision loss. On average, more than 700,000 workers injure their eyes at work each year luckily, 90% of all workplace eye injuries are preventable by using proper safety eyewear.
Workplace eye safety should be a priority regardless of your type of business. Here are some basic ways to prevent eye injuries at work. Assess:
• Examine your business operations
• Inspect all work areas, access routes, and equipment for eye hazards
• Study your company’s’ eye accident and injury reports
• Identify the operations and areas that present eye hazards Test:
• Employee vision problems can cause accidents
• Incorporate vision testing into routine employee physical exams Protect:
• Select protective eye wear that’s designed for the specific duty or hazard
• Protective eye wear must meet the current federal OSHA or state standards Participate:
• Create a 100% mandatory eye protection program in all operation areas of your business
• An all encompassing program prevents more injuries and is easier to enforce than one that limits eye protection to certain jobs Fit:
• Workers need comfortable protective eye wear that fits well
• Have eye wear fitted by a trained professional
• Provide repairs for protective eye wear and require each worker to be in charge of his or her own PPE Plan for an Emergency:
• Establish first-aid procedures for eye injuries
• Have eyewash stations readily available, especially where chemicals are used.
• Train all workers in basic first aid and identify others for more advanced training. Train:
• Create and conduct ongoing eye safety training and emphasize the need for protective eye wear.
• Include eye safety to your regular employee training programs, and to new employee orientation. Support:
• Management support is key to having a successful eye safety program.
• Managers and supervisors need to show their support for the program by wearing protective eye wear whenever and wherever needed. Review:
• Review and update your accident prevention policies annually. Your goal should be NO eye injuries or accidents! Put it in Writing:
• Put your eye safety program in writing
• Post a copy of the policy in work and employee gathering areas
• Emphasize your eye protection policy during new employee orientation
Although the type and quality of eye protection used, safety glasses, goggles, or faceshields are important, they are only effective if employees use them. Emphasizing and enforcing your eye safety policy is the foundation of workplace eye safety.
According to the DOL, the failure of workers to wear hard hats is one of the most commonly cited OSHA violations. Employers need to be steadfast in their enforcement of safety rules to protect their workers and themselves. A recent incident certainly reinforces the message that hard hats matter.
Earlier this month a worker delivering drywall to a construction site was killed when he was struck in the head by a tape measure that had fallen 50 stories. According to witnesses, the victim wasn’t wearing his hard hat at the time, having left it in his vehicle.
The instrument, which fell nearly 500 feet, was travelling at about 140 mph when it struck a piece of construction metal about 10 feet above ground. The tape measure then ricocheted off the metal and struck the victim, who had been leaning into a car window to talk to someone and had just pulled his head out when he was struck. The worker was rushed to the hospital, but died later of cardiac arrest.
Although the OSHA standards do not specifically identify occupations or applications where hard hats are required, 29 CFR 1910.135 states, “Each affected employee shall wear protective helmets when working in areas where there is a potential for injury to the head from falling objects.
This fatality is being investigated and among the questions that will be asked are:
Was a hard hat requirement posted at the job site?
What were the contractors and suppliers PPE policies?
Were the policies enforced?
Have either the contractor or supplier been cited for PPE violations before?
Employees occasionally may have issues with wearing hard hats, particularly when the weather gets hot or cold. Some of these issues can be remedied by providing cooling or winter liners, but it’s important to use only approved liners to ensure they don’t compromise the protective characteristics of the hat. By being diligent with their PPE enforcement program, companies can avoid injuries, OSHA violations, and prove that hard hats matter.
Federal OSHA regulations are simply the minimum standard. About half of the U.S. states have taken advantage of their own authority to make stricter, or additional, rules.
Maryland OSHA (MOSH) is one of the “state plan” states that administer their own “mini-OSHA.” MOSH has beefed up their regulations on everything from:
Asbestos in protective clothing
Smoking at work
Powered equipment training
Reporting toxic substances
Medical surveillance testing for lead poisoning, to
Tree care and removal
The designs for sloping, benching and support, shields, or other protective systems designed from tabulated data or a registered professional engineer need to be at the worksite while they are being constructed, according to the Federal government.
MOSH wants employers to keep those designs at the worksite even longer to include while they are being used in the larger construction project.
Asbestos in Protective Clothing
Asbestos is as useful as it is deadly, and before its carcinogenic hazards were fully known, asbestos was utilized as heat insulating protective clothing. But because asbestos protective clothing that is improperly maintained can expose employees to that hazard, Maryland has banned employers from buying, using, requiring a worker to use or even keeping any asbestos clothing at a place of employment.
Smoking at Work
Every state has its own smoking laws. Some ban smoking within 20 feet of a business’s entrance; some have exceptions for bars and restaurants – but not Maryland.
MOSH makes it clear that smoking is not allowed in any indoor place of employment, and that there must be a “No Smoking” posted at each entrance.
OSHA’s 1910.146 regulation defines confined and permit required confined spaces, with employer and employee responsibilities.
Maryland decided to eliminate some guesswork and make a rule that, with limited exceptions, requires there to be at least one other person immediately nearby when someone enters a manhole.
The exception to this rule is if the employee can go into the manhole with cables or equipment to take readings, perform housekeeping or an inspection, or complete some other safe task.
Powered Equipment Training
OSHA has specific training regulations for some heavy equipment such as: forklifts and cranes. However, for earthmoving equipment such as scrapers, loaders, tractors, bulldozers, off-highway trucks, graders and similar equipment, the training requirements are vague, and you have to refer to General Safety and Health Provisions training element, 1926.21, which requires employees are able to recognize and avoid unsafe conditions in their work environment.
For its part, Maryland, has established some training elements for what it defines as power equipment: backhoes, bulldozer, front-end loader, skid steers, gradalls, scraper pans, cranes, and hoists.
The employer must develop and carry out a program of the standards needed to safely operate power equipment including: limitations and use; rated load capacities; and special hazards.
Companies need to keep on file a written description of the program, as well as where and when employees received safety training on file.
Employers must also post applicable manufacturer specifications for power equipment, and any required operating instructions.
Reporting Toxic Chemicals
Part of OSHA’s Hazard Communication regulations includes a provision to compile a list of the hazardous materials that employees may be exposed to while at a worksite.
MOSH wants all employers to take that list, (arranged alphabetically by the common name, with the chemical name, where it can be found, and the date it was first brought to the worksite), and send it to the Maryland Department of the Environment every two years.
Lead Testing Medical Surveillance
Where an employee may be exposed to lead (e.g. lead-based paint, old houses) OSHA has a medical surveillance program to initially test employees with periodic testing against that baseline.
Some of the additional testing that Maryland requires is to carry out initial testing before any assignment to an area with airborne concentration at the action level. This is in addition to the federal testing requirement of at least every two months for the first six months, and then every six months after that.
Maryland also wants employers to test employees at the termination of employment.
Federal guidelines have a process for temporarily removing employees with elevated lead levels from the exposure site for medical protection, with follow up tests for up to 18 months until a final decision is made. Requirements after that period are not defined.
Maryland instead directs employers to obtain a medical determination and continue to provide medical removal benefits until the decision is made about whether the employee can safely return to the same work.
Tree Care and Removal
OSHA doesn’t have regulations for every job, and tree care and removal are examples. The employer often must look at the potential hazards and cobble together safe work procedures.
MOSH decided that risks of tree care (e.g. cutting, pruning, tree removal) were enough that it codified the requirements for that type of work. The requirements include regulations on fall protection, the equipment used, personal protective equipment, fire protection, traffic control, power lines, tree and brush removal, chipping, and training.
Noting the alarming statistics in a Feb. 14, 2014 open letter to Communication Tower Employers that 2013 saw 13 workers killed at communication towers (more than the previous two years combined), and four more deaths to start 2014, OSHA is backing safety standard compliance with heightened enforcement.
They’ve also created a web page dedicated to communication tower safety.
Letter to Communication Tower Employers
Because of the rapid increase in communication tower work from upgrades to the cell tower infrastructure, OSHA is concerned about a trajectory of even more deaths and is working with industry organizations like the National Association of Tower Erectors to reverse the recent trend. OSHA has also contacted relevant employers to remind them of their responsibilities, providing the following action points:
Prior to initial assignment, adequately train newly hired employees on safe work practices and monitor them to ensure they are followed.
Provide appropriate fall protection and training on its effective use, and consistently supervise and enforce their use.
Select contractors based on the use of safety criteria and subcontractor oversight. Actively evaluate the contractor’s ability to provide safety, beyond providing “check the box” contracts.
OSHA told employers that, in addition to falls, workers have been injured or killed by: falling objects, equipment failure and collapsing towers. These are hazards that employees need to be protected against.
The organization warned that during inspections, OSHA will pay particular attention to contract oversight and identify the company performing work on the tower, the tower owner, carrier and other responsible parties.
Increased Attention on Communication Tower Worksites
In a memo on Nov. 8, 2013, regional administrators were instructed to tell the compliance officers to inspect all communication tower worksites when they are aware of them to ensure the owners are taking responsibility for workers’ safety.
OSHA considers the fall hazards obvious, well known and potentially fatal, so when workers are not using fall protection they should cite the owners for applicable willful fall protection and general duty clause violations.
Inspectors will also identify as far as possible all relevant parties up the contracting chain, including the name of the company performing the tower work, the tower owner, and carrier including the entity whose signal was being worked on.
Inspectors will contact OSHA’s national office as soon as possible when a communication tower incident occurs.
To gather better tracking data the following information will be gathered at each incident.
Victim(s) age and sex
Type of tower involved (i.e., monopole, lattice, guyed, etc.)
Number of employees present at the time of the incident
Description of incident and known causes
Description of the use of fall protection (Was fall protection provided? Was it provided but not used? Was it used, but did it fail? What was the height of the fall?)
Contract chain information
Was a base mounted drum hoist in use for personnel?
Additional employee information (length of employment in industry, level of training, etc.)
Ambient Radio Frequency (Was ambient RF present? Were employees wearing any measuring or warning devices to protect against ambient RF?)
In an advisory PDF, OSHA described the following representative scenario of how workers are dying in communication tower incidents.
“A worker was climbing down a 400-foot telecommunications tower when he lost his footing. The ladder safety device or system (consisting of the carabineer, carrier rail, safety sleeve and body harness) he used failed to arrest his fall. The safety sleeve did not activate correctly to stop the worker’s fall, the chest D-ring ripped out of the body harness, and he plunged 90 feet to his death.”
The web page where you can download this PDF provides the applicable regulations and information on OSHA’s communication tower incident investigations.
Construction Industry 1926 Subpart M Fall Protection
America’s workforce is changing. The number of women and minorities are entering the workforce is growing daily. While this trend in workforce diversification should be seen as a good sign on many levels, it does present some unexpected workplace issues, not the least of which has to do with Personal Protective Equipment.
As more workers of different shapes and sizes enter the workplace, the need for wider varieties of better fitting PPE also increases. Although most PPE, such as gloves, clothes, or boots are available in many sizes, one notable exception is in the area of eye protection.
Due to the variances in facial structure among men and women across various ethnicities, safety eyewear is one of the hardest types of PPE to fit, and many safety managers aren’t trained to do it properly. The risks of providing workers with ill-fitting eyewear can have significant consequences. More than 700,000 recordable eye injuries that occur in our nation annually and about 90% of those are preventable.
Ill-fitting eyewear allows debris to enter the eyes, and can cause slipping, fogging, and soreness results in worker distraction, loss of productivity, and even reluctance to use the eyewear. When workers are being fitting for eye protection there are five key elements to keep in mind.
One Size Doesn’t Fit All
Eyewear options must take into account differences in the height, width, or location of cheekbones, nose bridges, and ears, as well as overall head size and shape. In high hazard work areas supervisors must recognize the importance of providing gap-free eye protection. If your workforce includes a mix of men and women from different ethnic backgrounds, one size or style of eyewear may not keep everyone safe. New designs in eyewear based on facial profiles have produced new styles that fit up to 85 percent of workers right out of the box. For the rest of the workforce, you’ll need to find the style and size that’s right for each individual.
Find the Proper Fit
Personal fit testing across the workforce a good place to start. Consider eyewear with adjustability features at the temples to help close facial gaps and provide a customizable fit and eliminate sore spots and slipping.
If eyewear is to be worn in combination with other forms of PPE, a thin temple profile will cut down on bulk and sore spots underneath hard hats.
Eyewear with a flexible or fingered nosepiece can conform to various nasal profiles to help fit an array of nose bridge sizes.
Another design option to consider is a flexible brow bar atop floating lenses, which can ensure an accurate, gap-free fit without compromising peripheral optics.
Even though women make up nearly half of today’s workforce, they are often overlooked when it comes to protective eyewear. Female workers, whose heads tend to be smaller and narrower than men’s, may need adjustable and flexible styles in slim or small sizes for a more secure, gap-free, and comfortable fit.
While a secure, gap-free fit is best for keeping debris out, it can lead to fogging. Fogging usually occurs when:
A worker’s body generates heat from exertion
When transitioning between extreme temperatures
Working in humid environments
When a worker’s vision is reduced, their risk of injury increases. To combat fogging, a worker may temporarily remove eye protection to wipe it dry or, worse yet, choose to leave it off to avoid obscured vision.
In hot and humid conditions look for safety eyewear with built-in ventilation to promote air flow and reduce fogging while still maintaining a secure fit. Advanced anti-fog coatings are also effective at promoting clear vision, while anti-fog wipes are a good option for on-the-spot fog removal. Remember, the less often workers are distracted by their PPE, the more productive they can be.
Less is Not More
Skimping on the cost of safety eyewear may seem to save money up front, but when it comes to eye safety, paying a little extra for high-quality eyewear can save a company from serious and usually preventable medical costs. A theoretical scenario developed by the International Safety Equipment Association demonstrated that an eye injury could cost a company nearly $1 million and would have been prevented by using a $5 pair of safety spectacles or a $10 pair of goggles. When you consider the cost of providing proper eye protection versus paying for a workplace eye injury, the benefit of purchasing high-performing safety eyewear becomes obvious.
The Importance of Style
Style should not be overlooked when selecting safety eyewear. Studies show that workers who don’t like the style of their eyewear are more likely to remove it, even in the presence of hazards. Furthermore, when workers are allowed to select their own safety eyewear without the proper guidance, they are likely to make their selection based on style over safety or fit, which can lead to serious problems.
Given the role style plays, look for modern, lightweight options, such as sports-inspired wraparound frames, floating lenses, or sophisticated metal frames. Many safety eyewear styles, including prescription frames, are fashioned after popular sunglass designs, and some manufacturers even offer licensed styles to promote adoption. The goal is to find safety eyewear that workers are willing to wear even when a safety manager isn’t looking.
By first offering safety eyewear that is best suited to workers’ safety needs, followed closely by style; employers can support a stronger culture of acceptance and compliance.
In today’s increasingly diverse workforce, it’s more important than ever to provide workers with properly fitting safety eyewear. Employers need to avoid the one-size-fits-all approach that has dominated the workplace for decades. By offering the proper safety eyewear choices, employers not only improve employee comfort, productivity and safety, but also reduce the risk of costly eye injuries. Those are factors worth keeping an eye on.
Because of high profile fatal incidents and a high rate of injury OSHA wants to ensure temporary workers have the same protections and training of traditional workers. To accomplish this, OSHA has started an initiative including releasing training information and creating alliances with staffing agencies to provide safety training information. Instructors are also instructed to assess during inspections and investigations whether employees are temporary and have received required training.
In an April 29, 2013 memo to regional administrators the Director of Enforcement Programs Thomas Galassi said, “Recent inspections have indicated problems where temporary workers have not been trained and were not protected from serious workplace hazards due to lack of personal protective equipment when working with hazardous chemicals and lack of lockout/tagout protections, among others.”
Investigators are now using training records and interviews to determine whether employees are temporary, their level of training, and documenting the staffing agency and the extent the host employer and agency are supervising the worker daily.
OSHA broadly defines a temporary worker as one who is supplied to a host employer and paid by a staffing agency, whether or not their job is temporary.
The memo announcing this change, referenced citing Bacardi Bottling Corporation with violations after a 21-year-old temporary worker died on his first day. A ProPublica article described the Bacardi plant as a place with inadequate safety protection and training, especially for temporary employees, where Bacardi expected the staffing agency to be responsible for the training and safety.
ProPublica makes the case that this is commonplace. Their figures show temporary workers face a greater risk of injury, 36 to 72 percent depending on the states with publicly available records. Temporary worker jobs tend to have higher injury rates like manual laborers, but injuries are considered under reported as employees do not want to be ostracized by the staffing agency.
While part of the attraction for companies to use temporary workers is shielding from higher insurance rates from injury reports absorbed by the staffing agency, OSHA’s stance is that both the staffing agency and host employers are jointly responsible for maintaining a safe work environment with training, hazard communication and PPE. That means both employers could be held responsible for violations. The staffing agency may provide general safety and health training and host employers provide workplace specific training, but both need to communicate to ensure the necessary protections are provided.
When NASA releases its report today that Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano’s suit leaked water into his helmet on two NASA space walks last July, creating a dangerous situation, perhaps it could look to OSHA’s Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) regulations to have ensured the suit was removed from service and fixed before being used again.
The story from ABC news with video of an astronaut describing the situation paints a trying ordeal that put the astronauts life in danger, because of a simple malfunction.
Apparently the inside of his suit leaked cooling water into the ventilation system that got into the helmet. A mixture of water and air blew through the vent port until water bubbles built up behind the head piece and through capillary action because of the lack of gravity flowed over his face, covering his ears, eyes and nose.
Just two cups of water created the hazardous situation affecting his hearing and breathing ability.
Maybe pointing out OSHA regulations that all employers have to deal with is pedantic for an organization such as NASA, I’m sure they have their own sophisticated safety procedures that this report is a part of.
But the report is the result of the second time that spacesuit had leaked, and according to OSHA regulation 1910.132(e) that once PPE is defective or damaged it needs to be immediately removed from service until it is repaired or replaced.
For example the respiratory regulation sets a requirement for regular inspections and removing respirators that fail an inspection to be removed from service – discarded, repaired or adjusted according to specific procedures.
And any employer or employee can take from this “out of this world” example to realize that even a small defect can have disastrous results, and all PPE needs to function correctly.
A group of Australian miners were fired after posting a viral video of themselves doing the “Harlem Shake.”
The 30-second video features around eight underground mine workers in various states of undress performing their rendition of the viral dance craze at the Agnew Gold Mine just west of Agnew, Western Australia.
Barminco, the Australia-based underground services company that operates the mine, sent dismissal letters to 15 workers, all the workers seen in the video and several who were off camera. In the letters, Barminco claimed the performance was in violation of the company’s “core values of safety, integrity and excellence.”
Some of the miners reportedly were drawing a six-figure income from their work in the mine when they lost their jobs. The dismissal letters forbid any of the group from being “subcontracted by Barminco at any site domestically and globally.”
The new rules also include a requirement that diesel engines on and around a drilling rig have an emergency shut-down device to prevent fire.
According to Wyoming OSHA, “These practices and policies have already been in place and applied in the Oil and Gas Industry with the majority of employers throughout the state.”
The safety of Wyoming workers, especially in the rapidly growing oil and gas industry, has received a lot of attention in the state. The state’s former epidemiologist, Dr. Timothy Ryan, decried the legislature’s inactivity on worker safety when he tendered his resignation earlier in the year, while Gov. Matt Mead has continued a push for industry leaders to prioritize the well-being of their workers.
The changes would require the “conspicuous display” of signs at entrances to well locations stating “Flame Resistant Clothing (FRC) is required to be worn”.
Most in the industry see the rules change as a reflection of what is already going on in the field.
“What they were looking at was bringing things up to date with where the standards are,” Bruce Hinchey, president of the Petroleum Association of Wyoming told the Wyoming Business Report.
But John Robitaille, vice president of the Petroleum Association of Wyoming, told the Casper Star-Tribune, “Some companies, feel a hazard assessment should be done, and if the assessment deems you put on flame-resistant clothing, you put on flame-resistant clothing.”
Further proposed changes to Wyoming OSHA rules include a change to the hazard communication standard to align the state rules with the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals.
Wyoming OSHA will accept comments, data or arguments through Wednesday, September 26, to be presented at the public hearing on October 5. The hearing will be held at 9 AM at the Wyoming Oil & Gas Conservation Commission Bldg, Hearing Room #129, 2211 King Boulevard in Casper.