OSHA Update
2 Million Plus Workers Get Protection From Deadly Dust! (Part 2)

Silicosis and OSHA Standards

As you may recall in my last blog, I spoke of a tragic story out of West Virginia. It was the Hawk’s Nest Industrial Incident and the repercussions on the people of that time in the 1930s. Up to date each year illness continues takes the lives of thousands of workers. One of these illness still present is caused by a deadly dust – crystalline silica which can cause Silicosis. It is approximated that 2.3 million people in the U.S. are exposed to silica at work. Over time workers have come to count on OSHA to adopt standards to be enforced in the workplace. These standards aid in the reduction of the risks to workers from contracting illness or injury in the workplace.

Let’s review what crystalline silica is. Crystalline silica is an important industrial material found largely in the earth’s crust and is commonly found in the likes of sand, stone, rock, concrete, brick, block, and mortar. It is found in materials that we see every day in the construction of roads, buildings, and sidewalks. Silica dust occurs in the workplace when operations involve cutting, sawing, drilling, and crushing of concrete, brick, block, rock, and stone. It can also be found among operations that use sand products, such as glass manufacturing, foundries, sand blasting, and hydraulic fracturing.

Crystalline silica (respirable) is hazardous to workers who inhale small particles, which puts a worker at risk of developing silica-related diseases that can be serious. Even deadly. Tiny as these particles are they can be easily inhaled and get deep into workers lungs, which then causes silicosis, an irreversible, incurable, and fatal lung disease. There are other repercussions from exposure to silica, workers are at risk for lung cancer, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), and kidney disease.

Silica Exposure Limits

OSHA and the workforce has known about the dangers of silica for a long time. As a matter of fact more than 80 years ago, U.S. Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins brought experts and stakeholders together to figure out ways to safeguard labors from silica. OSHA’s current PEL’s (permissible exposure limits) for silica are over 40 years old. There has been proof that shows the current exposure limits do not protect workers. For instance silica exposure has been proven to cause lung cancer and kidney disease at the current PEL’s.

In efforts to protect workers from the dangers of crystalline silica, OSHA has finalized a ruling and put in place standards for silica. One for general industry and maritime, and the other for construction. OSHA has taken the time to gather information through many venues getting them to the point of establishing the final rule for silica. They have accomplished this through extensive review of scientific evidence from current industry standards, public outreach efforts, weeks of public hearings, and a period in which they took comments from the public. By doing this the ruling provides reasonable, inexpensive and flexible strategies for employers to implement protection for their workers. It is estimated that this ruling will save the lives of 600 or more workers each year and once fully implemented prevent more than 900 cases of Silicosis each year.

Just how will the rule protect workers? The rule reduces the volume of silica dust that a worker can be exposed to (PEL equation can be found here). Employers will have to implement controls and practices that reduce workers’ exposure to the silica dust. Employers will also have to safeguard that silica dust is wetted down or vacuumed up in dust collectors to prevent workers from breathing it in. Many employers have already been implementing measures to protect their workers from silica.

In brief under the new rule employers are required to:

  • limit access to high exposure areas
  • provide training
  • provide respiratory protection (if controls are not enough to limit exposure)
  • provide written exposure control plans
  • measure exposures

Employers are also required under this ruling to offer medical examinations to workers that are considered to be highly exposed to silica dust.

OSHA Compliance

OSHA will help employers comply with the rule to protect their workers by providing flexibility to help employers protect workers from silica exposure. They have given from one to five years to get the correct protections in place. OSHA has staggered compliance dates to give sufficient time to meet the requirements of this rule.

There are many industries affected by this new rule, are you one of them?

Here are the industries projected to be affected according to OSHA:

  • Construction
  • Glass manufacturing
  • Pottery products
  • Structural clay products
  • Concrete products
  • Foundries
  • Dental laboratories
  • Paintings and coatings
  • Jewelry production
  • Refractory products
  • Ready-mix concrete
  • Cut stone and stone products
  • Abrasive blasting
  • Refractory furnace installation and repair
  • Railroad transportation
  • Oil and gas operations

If specifications are followed correctly employers can be confident that they are providing workers with the necessary level of protection. What are these specifications? Stay tuned for part 3 of this silica blog series where I will detail the Crystalline Silica Rule.

More information can be found here: https://www.osha.gov/silica/index.html

Other Articles in the Silica Blog Series

Crystalline Silica Rule (Part 3)

Silica Dust Just One Account in History (Part 1)

OSHA Labeling
Disney, Dwarfs and Workplace Labels

It was recently announced that Disney was re-releasing the classic animated movie “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”. The commercial started with the dwarfs singing their classic song “Heigh-Ho”. In this tune, the cute characters of Dopey, Bashful, Sneezy, Happy, Grumpy, Sleepy and Doc all sing about coming home from working all day digging in the mine. To remember these characters, watch and listen here.

As the scene starts, I can’t help but notice there are no OSHA workplace labels anywhere. In the new OSHA Hazard Communications Standard 1910.1200 there isn’t much guidance on how to handle workplace labeling. The regulation states “the employer shall ensure that each container of hazardous chemicals in the workplace is labeled, tagged or marked”. The regulation goes on to say use the same information that is found on the shipped containers or use a “Product identifier and words, pictures, symbols, or combination thereof, which provide at least general information regarding the hazards of the chemicals, and which, in conjunction with the other information immediately available to employees under the hazard communication program, will provide employees with the specific information regarding the physical and health hazards of the hazardous chemical.”

Many Employers may feel overwhelmed trying to figure out what to have in a workplace after reading the regulation. Let us help. We offer the GHS Workplace Labels (Orange System).

Orange System GHS Workplace Labels Available in 3 Styles


This is a symbol-based system designed to avoid language barriers. The details are easy to read and alerts workers to the hazards of the chemicals they are handling.

You’ll notice each style has the same basic format. There is a space for the name of the chemical and a way to indicate the signal word for that chemical. Doc Dwarf is happy about seeing sections dedicated to the health and physical hazards. In fact there are two distinct locations for physical hazards allowing for a more precise classification of the physical hazards of your chemical(s). The section dedicated to Personal Protective Equipment is greatly appreciated by Sneezy Dwarf. Now he can know whether or not a respirator is required when working with a given chemical.

Happy Dwarf is excited by this system for a few reasons. First of all, there are also various size options along with the choice for paper or vinyl that can be used for these labels. Also there are over 100 stock workplace labels pre-printed and ready to use. Some of these chemicals are Acetone, Gasoline, Benzene and others. For the full list of stock classified chemicals click here. This system even has an Implementation Manual, a Training Manual and posters to help get all of your employees up to speed, even Sleepy Dwarf.

When used together the simplicity of this system is enough to keep the Dwarfs Dopey and Bashful from getting into trouble.

So don’t be Grumpy Dwarf when it is time to update your workplace labeling. Let ICC The Compliance Center make it easy to do.

Clark Griswold and Portable Ladder Safety

As it is the time of year to begin taking down holiday decorations, the topic of portable ladder safety should be addressed. There are various ways to teach and model proper safety techniques in the use of these types of ladders. One of the best is by using humor and my personal favorite is Chevy Chase playing Clark Griswold in the National Lampoon’s movies. Chase’s use of slapstick or physical comedy often has the desired effect of teaching people the best ways to NOT do a task.

Let’s put together one of the classic scenes from “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” and apply OSHA’s Ladder Safety Requirements in 29 CFR 1926.1053 to it to see just how bad Clark Griswold is at safety. To view the scene, click here. To view OSHA’s Portable Ladder Safety Quick Card™, click here.

So, here is the comparison. Below is the requirement as listed on the Portable Ladder Safety Quick Card™ followed by how Clark is in violation of it.  See if you can find any I missed in my assessment.

  1. Read and follow all labels/markings on the ladder.

VIOLATION: This one is questionable, but given Clark’s way of working it is doubtful the yellow safety sticker on the side of the ladder was checked before it was removed from the garage and set into place.

  1. Avoid electrical hazards! – Look for overhead power lines before handling a ladder. Avoid using a metal ladder near power lines or exposed energized electrical equipment.

VIOLATION: Clark is using his metal ladder on his home which likely has power lines running to it.  He never looks around to see if any power lines are near him before he sets his ladder in place

  1. Always inspect the ladder prior to using it. If the ladder is damaged, it must be removed from service and tagged until repaired or discarded.

VIOLATION: This one is questionable, but given Clark’s way of working it is doubtful the ladder was checked before it was removed from the garage and set into place.

  1. Always maintain a 3-point (two hands and a foot, or two feet and a hand) contact on the ladder when climbing. Keep your body near the middle of the step and always face the ladder while climbing (see diagram).

VIOLATION: At various points in the clip, the only points of contact on the ladder are Clark’s 2 feet.  He also stretches out past the side of the ladder which takes his body away from the middle of the ladder. This is best noticed when Clark staples his shirt to the house.

  1. Only use ladders and appropriate accessories (ladder levelers, jacks or hooks) for their designed purposes.

VIOLATION: To attach the lights to the house, Clark uses metal staples. These are not appropriate “accessories” to hang lights.  A better alternative would be plastic hooks which could be held in place by staples and found in many hardware stores.

  1. Ladders must be free of any slippery material on the rungs, steps or feet.

VIOLATION: The setting for this scene is the snowy front yard of Clark’s house. He never makes any attempt to brush the snow from his feet before starting up the ladder.

  1. Use a ladder only on a stable and level surface, unless it has been secured (top or bottom) to prevent displacement.

VIOLATION: Again, given the setting the likelihood of Clark’s ladder placement being on a level surface as he moves around his house hanging lights is minimal. Also, at no point is the ladder secured to prevent displacement. This is reinforced when Clark attempts to pull his stapled sleeve from the house and the ladder falls backwards into the tree.

  1. Do not move or shift a ladder while a person or equipment is on the ladder.

VIOLATION:  Clark actually moves the ladder himself as he is on it in an attempt to get the ladder into place.  This is hard to see as it is not done over a great distance and is only done towards the beginning of the clip.

  1. An extension or straight ladder used to access an elevated surface must extend at least 3 feet above the point of support (see diagram).

VIOLATION: As Clark makes his ascent to the roof of the house, it is clear the top of the ladder is not 3 feet above the roofline (point of support).

  1. The proper angle for setting up a ladder is to place its base a quarter of the working length of the ladder from the wall or other vertical surface (see diagram).

VIOLATION: As the ladder is set in place, Clark makes no attempt to measure the proper distance needed to use the ladder.  He simply leans it against the house.

  1. A ladder placed in any location where it can be displaced by other work activities must be secured to prevent displacement or a barricade must be erected to keep traffic away from the ladder.

VIOLATION: This was not done. What is not shown in this clip is Rusty, Clark’s son, is working to untangle the lights to be used for decorating. This means, it is possible for Rusty to bump the ladder while Clark is on it.

  1. Be sure that all locks on an extension ladder are properly engaged.

VIOLATION: This was most certainly not done as was shown by Clark’s quick descent to the ground only seconds after climbing it.

By my count, Clark manages to be in violation of almost every requirement on the safety standard. So, to avoid being called the “Clark Griswold” of your family and risking serious injury review OSHA’s Portable Ladder Safety Quick Card™.

More Hazard Communication Issues

An inquiry was made by the American Coatings Association, which they asked OSHA to clearly outline the import of materials and the export of materials in sealed containers for the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS). The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) responded with a Letter of Interpretation (LOI) on November 23rd, 2015 which further clarified the responsibilities of US companies when importing or exporting materials that require attention under the 29 CFR 1910.1200

In regard to import OSHA’s guidance in the LOI states the responsibility falls on the importers to assure compliant labeling when the material becomes under their control. Once in their control, importers must follow the requirements of 29 CFR 1910.1200(b)(4) where applicable. Importers must also assure compliance with HCS 2012 prior to shipping within the United States. In this LOI, OSHA encourages the review of their CPL-02-02-079 Section X.F.2h compliance directive which entails information for materials packaged for shipment prior to June 1st, 2015.

OSHA’s guidance for export in this LOI for sealed containers is that if prepared for direct shipment outside the US and are inside a USDOT approved shipping container, the manufacturer can label the container for the destination country. A HCS compliant label must be affixed to the outside package or be attached to the shipping papers as well. The container would also have to be labeled according the appropriate regulation for transport. In the case of said containers being stored in a manufacturer’s onsite warehouse prior to shipment overseas, then the external packaging must be labeled in accordance with 29 CFR 1910.1200(f)(6) in addition to the above mentioned labeling. The requirements of 29 CFR 1910.1200 (b)(4) apply in addition to the requirements already mentioned if containers are stored off-site or in a third party warehouse prior to overseas shipment. The manufacturer must provide a safety data sheet to the third party employer.

Manufacturers that are exporting materials may find relief from the burden of attempting to label shipped containers under the US and other country’s regulations. Reminders have been given to importers that if it cannot be arranged for compliant labeling to be applied materials prior to US entry, the duty will fall upon them.

Access to this LOI, which contains the above information, was provided by the Society for Chemical Hazard Communication (SCHC).

OSHA, Newspapers, & Pictures – Electrical Safety

A few weeks ago I posted a blog regarding Fall Prevention. In it there was a reference to Arthur Brisbane, a reporter who in 1911 used the expression “Use a picture. It’s worth a thousand words.” As a follow-up to that blog, here is another one where a picture is worth a thousand words.

Last weekend allowed me the chance to see the musical “Matilda” at The Fox Theatre in downtown St. Louis. As I walked to the main doors I could hear water splashing against the ground. Upon closer inspection the source of the sound was found. Take a look at the following picture.

exposed wires - electrical safety

Again, you can imagine the conversation held after seeing this. There were lots of shocking comments, and stories about the stupid things we did as children in regards to electrical sockets. There were even a few regarding “the show must go on” but, it got me thinking. Just how is electrical safety handled in the workplace or in construction areas?

Upon arrival to work on Monday, I did some checking. The Top 10 OSHA Violations for 2015 is out and two of the top ten for 2015 include electrical issues. One is for “Electrical – Wiring Methods” and the other is for “Electrical – General Requirements”. If you look back over the past five years, some aspect of electricity is listed on every one.

Per the OSHA website, “Electricity has long been recognized as a serious workplace hazard. OSHA’s electrical standards are designed to protect employees exposed to dangers such as electric shock, electrocution, fires, and explosions. Electrical hazards are addressed in specific standards for the general industry, shipyard employment, and marine terminals.” Those standards and locations are as follows:

General Industry (29 CFR 1910)

  • 1910.137, Electrical protective devices
  • 1910.269, Electric power generation, transmission, and distribution [related topic page]
  • 1910.302, Electric utilization systems
  • 1910.303, General requirements
  • 1910.304, Wiring design and protection
  • 1910.305, Wiring methods, components, and equipment for general use
  • 1910.306, Specific purpose equipment and installations
  • 1910.307, Hazardous (classified) locations
  • 1910.308, Special systems
  • 1910.331, Scope
  • 1910.332, Training
  • 1910.333, Selection and use of work practices
  • 1910.334, Use of equipment
  • 1910.335, Safeguards for personnel protection

Shipyard Employment (29 CFR 1915)

  • 1915.181, Electrical circuits and distribution boards

Marine Terminals (29 CFR 1917)

  • 1917.157, Battery charging and changing

If one looks back at the picture, it is clear this is some sort of wiring which is exposed to the outside. It is also clear that water is flowing out of the same opening that has the wiring. This water is not only running down the wires, but it is then splashing back up onto the box where the wiring originates and/or ends. This is a problem. Is there a breakdown somewhere in regards to training people on the hazards of electricity? OSHA offers several resources and trainings for employers and employees on Electrical Safety. The easiest and fastest is found on the OSHA® Quick Card™.

If you work with electricity in any way be it an office, on a farm or on a construction site – get properly trained! It would be shame to have the “thousand words” this picture generates on the topic of electrical safety go to waste.

Right to Know
Has Right to Know Gone Too Far?

Right to know regulations are great for employees. They help educate the employees to understand all of the hazards they may be exposed to. OSHA’s philosophy behind their hazard communication standard is based around the “right to know” concept. One key to the system is the training of employees to not only know about a hazard, but to understand the hazard. Some states have implemented individual right to know requirements to provide information to workers above and beyond the federal level.

One state in particular has gone way beyond and branched the right to know into the consumer sector. Yes, I’m talking about California and their Prop 65 legislation. According to the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) website (click here), Proposition 65, the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, was enacted as a ballot initiative in November 1986. The proposition was intended to protect California citizens and the State’s drinking water sources from chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm, and to inform citizens about exposures to such chemicals.

The list of chemicals covered by Prop 65 can be found on OEHHA’s website (click here). Note that they specify coverage to citizens, not just workers. This means that Prop 65 applies everywhere in California, not just workplaces where employees are trained to understand what the information really means. It also means that products that are labeled for Prop 65 make their way into other states, where consumers have no idea what the statements are telling them. Informing citizens is done via labeling and/or signage at point of exposure, point of purchase, or point of entry to a facility, as applicable. This can lead to indifference in CA and mild panic in other states.

As a resident of the state of NY who has spent a lot of time in the state of CA, I have seen both sides. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the need for right to know legislation, but has California gone too far with Prop 65? Let me give some examples.

I like to go camping and have slowly been adding gear to my camping supplies. I recently purchased a camping axe at a large retail store in NY to use for splitting logs for campfires. Since I know what Prop 65 is, I was not at all bothered when I saw this warning on the axe:

Prop 65 warning on an axe

Most NY consumers would be alarmed by this warning. The thing that most consumers don’t understand about Prop 65 is that the threshold for warning requirements is based on the actual exposure to the listed chemical. The majority of the time, the manufacturer has no idea what the exposure level to the end user will be, so they include the warnings any time the chemical is present. In the case of my axe, the likelihood of being exposed to the threshold quantity of a hazardous ingredient during normal use is probably zero. This is why I wasn’t bothered by the warning (and now fondly refer to my camping axe as the “cancer axe”). A citizen, regardless of the state they are in, who does not understand the legislation could be scared away from purchasing or using a product based on the warnings that appear, even though the risk of exposure to the hazard is essentially zero.

In California, citizens are bombarded by Prop 65 warnings to the point that they may be losing their effectiveness. I like to equate it to the story of the boy who cried wolf. The warnings are everywhere, so how is a citizen to know when they are really at risk?

During my frequent visits to California, I have come across some Prop 65 warnings in more locations and on more products than I can count. I recruited my father, a resident of CA and avid photographer, to help me out and get me some photos of warnings. Below are some of our favorite finds, to give an idea of what Californians see on a daily basis.

This was found in a national book store chain, on a shelf that held fabric and plastic covers for e-readers, cell phones, and other electronic devices:

Prop 65 warning on a shelf inside a book store

This warning sticker was a more recent discovery for me. These stickers are showing up on the driver’s side windows of new vehicles:

New vehicle Prop 65 warning window

And my last example, found on the door of a fast food restaurant:

Prop 65 warning on the door of a fast-food restaurant

So back to my original question, has right to know gone too far? I think in some cases, it has. Overwhelming citizens with warnings can be counterproductive and dilute the effectiveness of the intent of the legislation. Right to know is a great concept, as long as there is also understanding as to what the information provided means and how it applies to the situation at hand.


OSHA Video Game Controler
OSHA Plays Video Games for Safety

In 1983 the science fiction film “War Games” was released. The film is set in America at the height of the Cold War where the threat of nuclear war is a topic of much speculation. The plot surrounds a hacker named David, his access to the supercomputer with artificial intelligence called War Operation Plan Response (WOPR) and a friendly game of “Global Thermonuclear War”. This game among others on WOPR was designed to teach the artificial intelligence strategy and planning. A classic line from this movie is, “Shall we play a game?” which is uttered by WOPR.

Apparently, OSHA is following in these same footsteps. OSHA has released a game. (Note: Unity Player required to play)


“OSHA’s Hazard Identification Training Tool is an interactive, online, game-based training tool for small business owners, workers and others interested in learning the core concepts of hazard identification. After using this tool, users will better understand the process to identify hazards in their own workplace.”

The point of the game/tool is to find and name various workplace hazards. The goal is for managers and workers to be proactive in preventing injury and illnesses on while on the job. There are four scenarios including Manufacturing, Construction, OSHA Visual Inspection, and Emergency Room. It is recommended start with OSHA Visual Inspection Training. To keep the game/tool from getting “stale”, OSHA had it designed to alter the scenario each time it is played. This means different hazards will appear each time the scenario is played.

While OSHA intended this for small business owners, perhaps all can benefit from a trip through one of the scenarios.

OSHA Video Game Trailer

OSHA Safety
Does the Safety Dance Song Really Improve Workplace Safety?

Dancing for Safety

Trying to maintain workplace safety is never easy. Companies write best practices, policies and guidelines regularly to keep workers safe. Where there is often a breakdown is in having people actually follow those practices, policies and guidelines. As a former educator, engaging students and having them work with me rather than against me could be challenging. Even though my subject matter was science and my students were high school students, the data is clear. Music is a powerful tool to help with learning, driving concepts home and strengthening the mind.

So, to get workers involved with their own safety perhaps the 1980s song “Safety Dance” by the band Men Without Hats can be used. (Click here to hear the song) Granted the lyrics are not exactly written for workplace safety but the rhythm of the song and the chorus can be used to ask some basic questions every employee should ask every day.

Safety Questions

What are the basic safety questions that can keep someone safe? Various websites are dedicated to worker safety and tips for maintaining it. Below is a list of my top five.

  1. What is my work area?
    This is important to know in case there is electrical equipment, hazardous chemicals or machinery in your area that could impact how you do a job. Be aware of any changes in the area and be sure to evaluate them for any possible impact on safety. If something seems unsafe, then report it to a Supervisor. Also, know the Proper Protective Equipment (PPE) needed in your area and wear it appropriately.
  2. Is my posture OK?
    Know if you should lift something and how to lift it. Use wheelbarrows, forklifts or hand trucks for heavy items. For new jobs or equipment perhaps an ergonomic review is needed. This review can help determine if a chair, table or other devices can be added to take strain off of muscles and joints.
  3. Have I taken a break recently?
    This question ties into ergonomics, too. Injuries can often occur due to repetitive work. Plus, after an extended period of time the level of alertness and focus on a task is impaired. Breaks also help relieve worker stress. Stress can lead to concentration problems and depression which can in turn lead to impaired safety.
  4. What is this machine?
    Always be aware of how the equipment in your area works and how to use it in your current job. Never use an incorrect tool for any job or take shortcuts. Be knowledgeable of your company’s lockout/tagout program. Here again, use the proper PPE for the job and machine.
  5. Where are my emergency exits and first aid stations?
    In case of any emergency, you may be asked to evacuate your area. Always know how to get out safely and where to report in such a situation.  Keep the path to the exits clear. For minor injuries, know how and where to receive help.

Always remember, “S-s-s-s A-a-a-a F-f-f-f E-e-e-e T-t-t-t Y-y-y-y / Safe, dance!”

OSHA Labeling
Workplace Labels – An Essential Part of Workplace Safety

Nola Murphy’s Story

It was in a soft-drink bottle. It looked like lemonade. But 73-year-old Nola Murphy discovered, after pouring herself a glass, that it wasn’t. In fact, it was a toxic mould-remover that a cleaner had left sitting on a restaurant bar. The cleaner had poured the product from a larger container into the soft drink bottle for easier handling.

Mrs. Murphy was lucky – she survived the experience, although she required emergency hospital treatment. But her story, given in an article in the New Zealand Medical Journal, shows how putting hazardous chemicals in unlabeled containers can be a recipe for disaster. (More: The New Zealand Herald)
Continue reading “Workplace Labels – An Essential Part of Workplace Safety”

Safety Training – Training or Education?

Safety training for workers is a key component of occupational health and safety regulations throughout North America.


Training & Education

Although the dictionary definitions distinguish between the two terms (To paraphrase – “Training: …action of teaching … a skill or type of behavior…”; “Education: The process of receiving … instruction … or … information about or training in a particular subject…”), the objective is to ensure that workers have both the knowledge and skills to ensure that they return home safely at the end of the day. One might add “in at least as good condition as when they arrived” (although when I worked in the pharmaceutical industry some people qualified that – “no better or worse than when you arrived…”).
Continue reading “Safety Training – Training or Education?”