A Source for Workplace Safety News and Notes - from ®

June 26, 2017

4 Key Equipment Upgrades to Make Construction Sites Safer

Construction Area
Construction sites can be exciting, fast-paced places to work, but without the proper equipment, these sites can also be dangerous. According to the most recent statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor, just over 4,800 workers were killed on the job in 2015, averaging out to about 13 deaths a day.

Fortunately, construction site owners can help prevent workplace injuries and deaths by making sure their equipment is as safe as possible. With this in mind, the following equipment upgrades can help make the job site safer for everyone who works there:

Heavy Equipment

Forklift Daily Inspection
As notes, job site supervisors should check heavy construction equipment on a daily basis to make sure it's in good working order. If equipment isn't operating properly, it should be taken out of service until repaired or replaced. Backover accidents are not uncommon on noisy construction sites, so heavy equipment owners should consider upgrading to a loud reverse alarm system, ensuring workers and visitors are alerted when a backhoe, bulldozer or other equipment is moving backward.

Company Vehicles

Construction companies that require employees to drive company vehicles to and from job sites and appointments with clients should make sure these vehicles are also in good working order. In addition to ensuring the vehicles are serviced on a regular basis — and any issues a worker reports are fixed in a timely fashion — the tires should be routinely inspected for wear and tear.

If a company car’s tires are showing signs of cracks, low tread or other hazards, it's time to replace them. Extra tires can be purchased ahead of time and stored in company buildings, or purchased online and delivered directly to a job site. All-season performance tires are a good choice in many areas, and can easily handle just about any driving conditions.

Hard Hats
Hard Hat Area

All workers and visitors are required to wear a helmet whenever there's a risk of being hit in the head while on the job site. As notes, employers are responsible for providing their employees with head protection that meets consensus standards outlined by the American National Standards Institute.

These hard hats should be in good condition and must be replaced immediately if workers encounter an electric shock or are hit with something heavy. Even if hard hats look like they haven't suffered any damage, they're no longer safe to use when exposed to dangerous situations and should be discarded altogether.

Ladders and Scaffolding
Ladder Inspected By

When thinking about safety on a construction site, people often focus on the big, heavy equipment being used. But unsafe ladders and scaffolding are extremely dangerous and place workers at risk of severe injury or fatality.

In addition to inspecting any heavy equipment, a supervisor or other trained employee should carefully inspect any ladders or scaffolding before they're used throughout the day. If a piece of equipment appears defective, make it a point to properly mark or tag it before taking it out of service until it can be replaced or upgraded.


June 21, 2017

ASSE Releases OSHA Reform Blueprint

work safely your family depends on you
The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) has created an “OSHA Reform Blueprint” that details priorities and vision for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in these times of political change. The eight-page proposal calls for reforms to emphasize risk management, focus on productive policies and fill legislative and regulatory gaps that limit OSHA’s ability to better protect workers.

"The current regulatory approach toward safety and health in the workplace needs improvement. ASSE has developed a blueprint of data-driven and experienced-tested recommendations, vetted by safety professionals across many industries and occupational perspectives," the blueprint reads.

"To begin we recommend a much-needed shift in approach from solely managing compliance to also reducing risk, bringing American OSH practices in line with global trends. We then offer four recommendations to leverage OSHA’s limited resources for maximum impact, followed by two areas in which OSHA coverage must be expanded. We also suggest two ways to strengthen OSHA-NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) collaboration and we close with three ways OSHA could clarify its focus," says ASSE.

Key points of the ASSE proposal for OSHA are:

Adopt a risk-based approach:
  • Moving from a compliance model to an integrated risk-based approach
  • Require all employers to implement a safety and health program

Leverage Existing Resources to:
  • Focus efforts on finding solutions to the primary causes of workplace fatalities
  • Take advantage of existing initiatives and expertise in the OSH sector
  • Expand third-party auditing
  • Expand options for employers in settlement agreements
  • Embrace expanded use of consensus standards and negotiated rulemaking

Address Coverage Gaps to:
  • Provide coverage for all public workers
  • Reduce chemical and physical exposures through occupational hazard banding

Improve Collaboration:
  • Increase Collaboration between OSHA and NIOSH
  • Intensify Total Worker Health efforts

Clarify OSHA Roles:
  • Rescind the 2016 electronic recordkeeping rule
  • Do more to recognize companies with exemplary OSH practice
  • Cease activity beyond the scope of occupational health and safety


June 9, 2017

What to Include in Your Annual Safety Inspection Checklist

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) increased its maximum fines for employer safety violations last year for the first time in 25 years. The cap for serious, other-than-serious, and posting requirement as well as "failure-to-abate" violations rose from $7,000 to $12,471 per violation. The cap for willful or repeated violations rose from $70,000 per violation to $124,709 per violation. A fine like this or an injury lawsuit is the last thing your small business needs, making it vital to keep your workplace safety standards maintained. Here’s a review of some key areas you should be sure to include in your annual safety inspection checklist.

Health Emergency Preparation

Make sure your staff and facilities are prepared for health emergencies:
  • Employees have instructions for responding to health emergencies
  • Instructions and emergency contact numbers are clearly posted
  • Eye washes and emergency showers are inspected regularly
  • First aid supplies are up-to-date and clearly identified with first aid signs or labels
  • Employees have received “right to know” training on hazardous materials and how to find and use Material Safety Data Sheets

Fire Emergency Preparation and Prevention

Make sure that your fire prevention systems are in place and that you are prepared to respond to fire emergencies:
  • Flammable materials are properly stored and labeled, safely away from sources of heat and sparks
  • Sources of heat and sparks are shielded and kept clear from potential fuel sources such as paper and trash
  • Fire extinguishers are accessible, identified and have been checked and maintained
  • Fire exits are unlocked from the inside and accessible, with access to two exits from every point in the building and pathways to exits clear of obstructions
  • Emergency escape routes are posted
  • Smoke and sprinkler systems are installed and maintained, with batteries tested
  • All fire exits and equipment are clearly identified with required fire safety signs

Overexertion Prevention

Overexertion injuries from activities such as heavy lifting are the most common cause of workplace injury claims, so make sure you have overexertion prevention measures in place:
  • Employees who do heavy lifting and moving are trained in proper technique for injury prevention and in proper use of back support belts
  • Remind workers of lifting policies with lifting and back belt safety signs
  • Employees not capable of doing heavy lifting and moving are trained to leave these tasks to designated workers

Fall Prevention

Fall prevention is the safety violation category most cited by OSHA, so make sure you’re covered in this area:
  • Floors provide good traction, with no loose rugs, bumps or other hazards that could cause falls
  • Walkways are free of debris and spills, and are well-lit
  • Materials for cleaning up spills are appropriate for potential hazards, spill kits are clearly identified, and employees are trained to clean up promptly
  • Stairs are in good condition with no loose steps or handrails, clear pathways and adequate lighting
  • Ladders are provided where needed and are well maintained

Vehicle, Equipment, Tools and Storage

Make sure your vehicles, equipment, tools and storage are free of safety hazards, and that employees are properly trained to use them:
  • Vehicles are properly maintained and provided with maintenance logs and routine safety checklists
  • Machines are in good working condition, with parts such as o-rings properly maintained and safety guards in place
  • Personal protective equipment is provided, including hard hats, goggles, ear protectors, aprons, gloves and boots
  • Tools are in good condition, including wires and cords
  • Materials are stored in stable piles, with ladders provided where needed

Electrical and Lighting Equipment

Problems with electrical and lighting equipment can cause shocks, fires and falls, so be sure to take proper preventive steps:
  • Grounds are provided for all electrical tools and cords
  • Electrical equipment is in good working condition, including wires
  • Wires are not routed over metal objects or through doors or windows
  • Circuits are not overloaded
  • Lighting is sufficient for tasks
  • Emergency lights are installed and protected

Repetitive Motion Injury Prevention

Injuries caused by repetitive micro-tasks can lead to injury claims, so take preventive measures:
  • Employees are trained in ergonomic performance of tasks, including when to take breaks and stretch
  • Ergonomic equipment is provided
  • When possible, employees who perform repetitive tasks are rotated through other tasks periodically during the day


Burglaries, robberies and assaults are other hazards you should address:
  • Outdoor lighting and landscape maintenance that deprives criminals of hiding spots
  • Parking lots and building space is arranged so visitors and employees can be observed and cannot be trapped in closed spaces
  • Outdoor and indoor security barriers and systems are installed and in working condition
  • Employees who handle cash are properly trained
  • Discreet, secure storage is provided for employee valuables
  • Employees are trained in handling workplace violence
  • Telephones are accessible from all work stations
  • Security guard surveillance and buddy systems are set up

Compliance and Safety Signage

Safety signs and labels can play a major role in all these areas, but only if they are up-to-date, in good condition, and relevant. As your rules, equipment, facilities and processes change, be sure to consider the need for updated safety signs and labels, including:

June 1, 2017

NIOSH: Office Workers Most Likely to Rate Health as Poor

Are office workers less healthy than production workers? Results of a new NIOSH study may surprise you.

Occupation, lack of paid sick leave, and multiple psycho-social factors are related to workers’ own perceived low health status, according to a study by researchers at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

The study, published this month online ahead of print in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found that workers employed in business operations jobs, such as marketing or human resource professionals, were more likely to rate their health as fair or poor. The study also found workers who had no paid sick leave, worried about becoming unemployed, had difficulty balancing work and family, or who were bullied at work were more likely to report poor health.
“We believe this is the first study to show an association between business operations jobs and poor health,” said Sara Luckhaupt, M.D., NIOSH medical officer and lead author of the study. “Knowing which aspects of a person’s job can lead to poor health can help public health and employee wellness professionals develop, ideally with worker input, tailored workplace interventions to advance worker well-being.”

NIOSH researchers analyzed data from 10,767 adults employed across many occupations who participated in the 2010 National Health Interview Survey. Respondents were asked open-ended questions about their employment status and features of their job. The study considered five categories of job characteristics:
  • Occupation
  • Type of pay and job benefits
  • Work organization
  • Chemical/environmental hazards, and 
  • Workplace psycho-social factors including job insecurity, a hostile work environment, and work-life balance

Study participants also were asked to rate their health on a scale of excellent to poor, a measure known as self-rated health. Researchers found significant associations between the respondent’s self-rated health and job characteristics from each of the five categories.

Although workers in production occupations were most likely to report fair or poor health when only occupation was considered, once these results were adjusted for factors such as age, race, family income, etc. workers in the business operations profession were 85% more likely to report fair or poor health compared with workers in all other occupations.

Additional findings include:
  • Workers with no paid sick leave were 35% more like likely to report fair or poor health;
  • Workers who were worried about becoming unemployed were 43% more like likely to report fair or poor health;
  • Workers who reported difficulty combining work and family were 23% more likely to report fair or poor health; and
  • Workers who reported being bullied at work were 82% more likely to report fair or poor health.

The additional study findings, the authors said, point to the effect specific job characteristics may have on health compared to occupation alone. Work is an important determinant of health. The influence of work on a person’s health manifests in various ways, such as: employment conditions, how the work is organized, specific job-related tasks, exposures to hazardous agents, and long work hours. Work-life balance takes on a whole new meaning when these issues are perceived by the workers themselves as having a negative effect on their well-being.

May 23, 2017

New Study Gives Data, Recommendations for Preventing Construction Fatalities

Ironworker access only
The Associated General Contractors of America just released a new safety study with recommendations designed to help firms further improve the safety and health of their workforce. AGC of America partnered with the Myers-Lawson School of Construction at Virginia Tech to undertake a comprehensive study of every construction fatality that took place over the three-year period from 2010-2012.

A total of 2,338 workers died from construction-related injuries between 2010 and 2012, out of an overall 14,011 fatalities across all industries. Although no significant trend was observed across the three years, the difference among census regions was significant. Southern states accounted for 1,081 (46%) of those fatalities, more than twice that of any other region. When employment was factored in, the South still led the regions with 17 fatalities per 100,000 employees per year. It was followed closely by the Midwest with 16 fatalities per 100,000 employees.

New Findings

  • Most fatalities occurred between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., with a peak at noon. Previous studies found that occurrence of fatalities was most dominant between the hours of 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., and bottomed around noon.
  • Fatalities due to Transportation and Violence and other injuries by persons or animals increased, while fatalities due to Exposure to harmful substances and Fire and explosions decreased.
  • Small construction establishments with 1-9 employees accounted for 47% of fatalities and the highest fatality rate at 26 fatalities per 100,000 workers annually. Most previous studies ignored the smallest establishments.
  • Most highway and road work zone fatalities involved vehicular operations.
  • Hispanic workers made up 24% of the workforce and accounted for 20% of highway and road work zone fatalities in 2010-2012. This conflicts with the widespread perception that Hispanics are disproportionately victims of construction fatalities.

This study is innovative in several ways:
  • The data is current and the findings reflect the most recent trends in injuries in the construction industry.
  • Unlike previous studies of BLS data, this study drilled down deeper to capture specifics and the analysis resulted in more detailed and actionable information.
  • Advanced analytic techniques were adopted that can address a high number of cases with increased accuracy.
  • Unlike previous studies, the analysis included an emphasis on work zone-related accidents.
  • Regional differences were also investigated for every factor with an attempt to provide more targeted interventions while considering geographic variances.
Authors of the study say it provides concrete and actionable recommendations for intervention.

Learn more:

May 22, 2017

Cloudy Future for Electronic Submission of OSHA Recordkeeping Data

... but not electronically, yet.
In May, 2016, OSHA issued a new rule to improve tracking of workplace injuries and illnesses, which included provisions for employers to submit recordkeeping data electronically. In addition to requiring the electronic submission of recordkeeping data, the final rule also includes provisions that prohibit employers from retaliating against workers for reporting a fatality, injury, or illness.

Although electronic submissions were scheduled to start July 1, 2017, for employers in certain industries with more than 250 employees, there is no active tool to submit injury data to OSHA. OSHA's recordkeeping page has this statement:

"OSHA is not accepting electronic submissions of injury and illness logs at this time, and intends to propose extending the July 1, 2017 date by which certain employers are required to submit the information from their completed 2016 Form 300A electronically. Updates will be posted to this webpage when they are available."

So what's the holdup?

Since the final rule was published, several court cases have emerged challenging the legality of the final rule - most related to the retaliation provisions. The rule prohibits employers from discouraging workers from reporting an injury or illness. The final rule requires employers to inform employees of their right to report work-related injuries and illnesses free from retaliation, which can be satisfied by posting the already-required OSHA workplace poster. It also clarifies the existing implicit requirement that an employer’s procedure for reporting work-related injuries and illnesses must be reasonable and not deter or discourage employees from reporting; and incorporates the existing statutory prohibition on retaliating against employees for reporting work-related injuries or illnesses.

Legal challenges focus on definitions and application of the retaliation rules

A recent article published by OH&S magazine considers the future of the recordkeeping rule and outlines current legal challenges to the rule, including:

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court claiming that OSHA lacks the authority to issue the rule’s anti-retaliation provision, in addition to opposing the public posting of employers’ injury and illness logs.

The NAHB believes that public posting will expose businesses to reputational harm with no evidence that it would effectively improve workplace safety. Several public health advocacy groups filed a motion in March to intervene in the lawsuit, wishing to act as defendants alongside OSHA. Among these public health groups are Public Citizen, which argues the rule will improve data collection which will be used to identify trends and improve worker protections. The case is currently waiting to be reviewed by the courts.

In July of 2016, Associated Builders and Contractors and seven other organizations also filed a lawsuit to block the rule from going into effect. The lawsuit focused on anti-retaliation provisions that prohibit employers from using drug testing after an incident to retaliate against workers who report injuries or illnesses. The organizations claim the provision is as an overreach of authority by unlawfully limiting safety incentive programs and routine post-accident drug testing. The motion was denied by the U.S. District Court in late November, and decisions on the legality of the rule have been delayed until after the ruling’s first submission deadline on July 1, 2017.

Add a new administration and labor secretary to the mix, and the future of the “Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses” rule becomes increasingly cloudy. Stay tuned...


May 16, 2017

New Crane and Construction Laws for NYC

overhead and gantry crane hand signals
New York City has six new laws related to construction safety and construction cranes. The new laws were signed last week, along with eight additional bills. Here's some info on the new construction-related laws:

Intro. 81-A requires the Department of Buildings (DOB) to notify OSHA about Construction Code violations that may endanger workers.

"If New York City is going to prevent another 33 construction worker fatalities over the next two years, we need to make sure that the Buildings Department is communicating with OSHA about violations that could jeopardize worker safety. We cannot solve the problem if the left hand is not working together with the right hand." said Council Member Rory I. Lancman.

Intro. 1433-A requires DOB to list online incidents that have occurred on a construction site.

Now, every injury and every death on a construction site must be counted, regardless of whether a construction worker or member of the public. "By counting every injury and death, we’ll be able to see who is getting hurt, where and why so that we as a city can make construction safer,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “While Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Department of Buildings (DOB) count injuries and deaths in different ways, the city will count everyone requiring reporting within 72 hours about contractors, the incident, nature of work, hours on the job, injuries, who was hurt, collective bargaining rights of those injured, details on the site and more, with fines of up to $25,000 and daily fines of as much as $1,000 for those who fail to report."

Intros 1446 and 1448 require safety plans and a safety monitoring program at construction sites, and strengthen licensing requirements for crane operators.

1446-A requires Class-B hoisting machine operators to get a license rating to use certain cranes.

1448-A requires contractors to retain construction superintendents for all major projects at buildings over three stories.

“The law requiring construction superintendents for all major projects at buildings over three stories will expand safety supervision to an additional 2,300 higher-risk sites citywide. This measure, along with the crane-safety bills signed today, will enshrine in law safety enhancements that DOB has been implementing through regulation,” said Buildings Commissioner Rick D. Chandler, PE.

Intro. 1421-A requires certain cranes to have GPS or other locating devices or for DOB to be notified when these cranes are moved on or off a work site.

Intro. 1435-A requires certain cranes to be equipped with data-logging equipment to record operations & work conditions.


May 11, 2017

Railroad Safety Training Deadlines Extended One Year

Railroad Crossing
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has granted an extra year for U.S. railroads to comply with training requirements in the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, which established minimum training standards for all safety-related railroad employees.

The FRA says model training program developers alerted the agency that "they will not be able to timely produce model programs that an estimated 1,459 railroads and contractors are expected to use to comply with the rule's program submission requirements."

Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 243, Training, Qualifications, and Oversight for Safety-Related Railroad Employees, requires each railroad or contractor that employs one or more safety-related railroad employees to develop and submit a training program to FRA for approval and to designate the minimum training qualifications for each occupational category of employee. The rule also requires most employers to conduct periodic oversight of their employees and develop annual written reviews of their training programs to close performance gaps.

  • Training organizations and learning institutions (TO/LI) that have provided training to safety-related employees prior to 1/1/2018 may continue without FRA approval until 1/1/2019.
  • TO/LI need approval no later than 01/01/2019 to continue (extensions may be granted with sufficient facts)

The regulation permits organizations, businesses, or associations to develop training programs that could be used by multiple employers. FRA encourages a modular approach to model program development to allow for easy customization by employers:

  • Model programs submitted to FRA prior to May 1, 2018 are considered approved and may be implemented 180 days after date of submission, unless the FRA notifies the organization that developed and submitted the program that it (the program), contains deficiencies.
  • An employer that uses a model program approved by FRA only needs to submit the unique identifier and any additional information that is specific to that employer or deviated from the model program
FRA has developed a Stakeholder Training Matrix to help those covered by the training requirement understand what type of items will require on the job training, and it has provided a link to submit training programs for approval.

Upcoming Implementation Dates, as of April 28, 2017:

Additional Resources:

May 5, 2017

National Safety Stand-Down: Free Webinar and Live Facebook Chat on Roofing and Construction Safety

A worker in your crew just fell from a height and is suspended from a fall-arrest system! What do you do now?

As part of the National Safety Stand-Down, the National Roofing Contractors Association will host a free webinar on May 8 to discuss hazards present after a worker has fallen from a roof and his or her personal fall-arrest system has deployed or activated. The webinar will include information regarding risks to a worker who is suspended from a body harness and the steps the worker may be able to take to reduce or eliminate those risks. It also will show examples of equipment available for use in assisted-rescue and self-rescue situations, along with techniques a worker may use - whether suspended on a rope grab and lifeline or self-retracting lifeline - to increase the chances of survival. 

NRCA will also host a live Facebook chat on May 10 to discuss trending roofing and construction safety topics. 

NIOSH, OSHA and the Center for Construction Research and Training will hold the fourth annual National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction from May 8-12. The week-long event encourages employers to pause during their workday for safety discussions, demonstrations and training in hazard recognition and fall prevention.

Learn more:

May 2, 2017

New Resources for Employee Safe Driving Campaign with Focus on Speed

Speeding has been a factor in nearly 1/3rd of U.S. crash deaths every year since 2005. Research shows that a 5% cut in average speed can result in a 30% reduction in the number of fatal road traffic crashes, so small changes can create big results!

That's why the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS) now offers its Drive Safely Work Week™ (DSWW) road safety awareness campaign more frequently, beginning with a new campaign focused on speed. The emphasis is on short, direct, actionable messages highlighting specific behaviors employees can change that will reduce their risk of a vehicle crash.

Speed campaign free employer materials include:

  • Launch Letter
  • Fact Sheet
  • Safety Presentation
  • Pledge Cards
  • A Variety of Posters
  • Social Media & Email Graphics
Materials are not dated, so employers can schedule a DSWW campaign whenever it works best for them. Here's an example of the information your employees could find helpful:


  1. Plan your route. Advance planning saves far more time than speeding, and you'll be less likely to feel the need to speed.
  2. Keep an eye on the odometer. When you do the recommended mirror-sweep every 5-6 seconds, look at the odometer so you can avoid accidental speeding.
  3. Use cruise control selectively. Set cruise control to a legal, safe speed, taking into account current driving conditions. Using cruise control is NOT recommended for driving on city streets, in heavy traffic, on hilly or curvy roads, or on slippery, wet, snowy, or icy roads.
  4. The music you listen to could influence your speed. Consider a driving playlist or tune in to music designed to reduce stress and help you slow down.
  5. Consider fuel efficiency. Speeding, rapid acceleration and hard braking can lower fuel economy by 15% to 30% in highway driving and 10% to 40% in urban driving.
It's not difficult to plan a DSWW campaign for your own workplace. Download the speed campaign from NETS website, and share this important message with your employees.