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. Continue Reading…
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 Continue Reading…
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.
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.
- 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 Continue Reading…
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)
Many countries, including the United States and Canada, require hazardous chemicals sold to the workplace to be labeled by the supplier. Regulations such as the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), and Canada’s WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System), set out the basic requirements for such labels (called “supplier labels” under WHMIS, and “labels for shipped containers” by OSHA). But as Mrs. Murphy’s experience shows, many hazardous chemicals still end up in unlabeled containers. They may be poured (“decanted”) from larger containers for convenience. The original supplier label may have been damaged or removed. Or two or more chemicals in separate containers may be mixed together to make a new product. No matter how it happens, unlabeled chemicals create a Continue Reading…
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…”).
View all of our Workplace Safety and HazMat/DG training courses »
Regardless of the term used, the processes require that workers receive knowledge of both the specific skills and behaviors to maintain a safe work environment; as well as the knowledge to apply the skills effectively to identify known or developing hazards and protect against them. Also, although we hope it’s “insurance” in our enlightened world, knowledge of rights and responsibilities under occupational health and safety regulations is an important piece of the program.
Although skill training often focuses on the mechanics of how the worker is to do tasks (e.g. put on a harness, wear a respirator, fill out Continue Reading…
If you work outdoors or are exposed to extreme heat you could be at risk for heat stress. Everybody can handle a little stress, but too much stress, in regards to heated working environments, can quickly turn into much more serious conditions such as, heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, rashes, and dehydration. Prevention of heat stress in workers is important. Recognition of potential elevated temperatures in the working environment is the responsibility of both employer and employee.
It doesn’t have to be really hot outside for heat stress to occur. Losing the opportunity to periodically cool down, rehydrate and rest allows the body’s temperature to keep rising. A person can get heat stress even when working in 70 degree weather. Air circulation, hydration, and frequent rest periods (or lack of all three) have the ability to amplify or diminish heat related symptoms. Employers should provide training to workers so they understand what heat stress is, how it affects their health and safety, and how it can be prevented.
Each year organizations like OSHA, and CDC publish warnings and potential health risks regarding the upcoming seasons. Below is the annual refresher on heat stress types and management provided by the CDC. Stay cool!
Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related disorder. It occurs when the body becomes unable to control its temperature: the body’s temperature rises rapidly, the Continue Reading…
According to OSHA the Most Frequently Cited Standards
The following were the top 10 most frequently cited standards in fiscal year 2012 (October 1, 2011 through September 30, 2012):
- Fall protection, construction (29 CFR 1926.501) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
- Hazard communication standard, general industry (29 CFR 1910.1200) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
- Scaffolding, general requirements, construction (29 CFR 1926.451) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
- Respiratory protection, general industry (29 CFR 1910.134) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
- Control of hazardous energy (lockout/tagout), general industry (29 CFR 1910.147) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
- Powered industrial trucks, general industry (29 CFR 1910.178) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
- Electrical, wiring methods, components and equipment, general industry (29 CFR 1910.305) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
- Ladders, construction (29 CFR 1926.1053) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
- Machines, general requirements, general industry (29 CFR 1910.212) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
- Electrical systems design, general requirements, general industry (29 CFR 1910.303) [related OSHA Safety and Health Topics page]
The following are the standards for which OSHA assessed the highest penalties in fiscal year 2012 (October 1, 2011 through September 30, 2012):
- Fall protection, construction (29 CFR 1926.501) [related OSHA Safety Continue Reading…
Have you ever thought about what’s in your first aid kit? We walk by them and never even notice them until we need them. If you are not monitoring them on a regular basis and know what they contain, when you need them it may be too late. According to OSHA’s Medical and First Aid standard at §1910.151(b), you need to have “adequate” first aid supplies readily available in the workplace. OSHA doesn’t define exactly what is considered “adequate,” but the kit contents should reflect the particular hazards of your workplace. Also, you may want guidance in putting together a basic kit. For that, you’ll have to go to the ANSI Z308.1-1998 consensus standard which lists the minimum contents of a generic first aid kit adequate for small worksites.
The Basic First Aid Kit
The ANSI Z308.1-1998 consensus standard provides a list of minimum items for a workplace first aid kit. It also contains requirements for indoor and outdoor kits and provides guidelines for:
- The standard sizes of cases;
- Unit packaging, including color coding;
- Specifications for the most commonly used items; and
- The arrangement of first aid materials for easy identification, removal, and replacement
ANSI Z308-1 requires that the minimum acceptable contents of a first aid kit (for a small workplace) include:
- An absorbent compress,
- Adhesive bandages and tape,
- Individual-use antiseptics,
- Burn treatment applications,
- Sterile pads,
- Triangular bandage, and
- Medical exam gloves.
The standard suggests that kit contents be inspected regularly Continue Reading…
Ergonomic conditions are disorders of the soft tissues often caused by factors such as overexertion while lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling or reaching, among other causes.
Each June, the National Safety Council encourages others to get involved and participate in National Safety Month. NSM is an annual observance to educate and influence behaviors around the leading causes of preventable injuries and deaths. Each week of the month carries a theme to bring attention to critical safety issues. This week, NSC is releasing helpful information and materials on preventing ergonomic conditions, such as overexertion.
According to the Injury Facts 2012 Edition, overexertion is the third leading cause of unintentional injuries in the United States, accounting for about 3.2 million emergency department visits.
Ergonomic conditions are disorders of the soft tissues often caused by factors such as overexertion while lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling or reaching, among other causes. Ergonomic conditions are best dealt with when caught early.
The signs of ergonomic conditions include:
- loss of grip strength
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, make sure to see your physician or an occupational physician as soon as possible to determine the cause of your pain.
Visit the National Safety Council’s website this June at nsc.org/nsm for a factsheet and quiz on ergonomics.