A Source for Workplace Safety News and Notes - from ®

November 18, 2009

Survey: OSHA Visits

October Survey Results: Visits from OSHA
While just 1/3 of respondents have been visited by OSHA in the last 12 months, 2/3 of all respondents felt they were well-prepared for an inspection. Half of respondents said they have implemented new procedures as a result of previous OSHA visits.

How does your workplace compare?

Safety Humor

Murphy's Laws of Work

  • You can go anywhere you want if you look serious and carry a clipboard.
  • Anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn't the work he is supposed to be doing.
  • The last person that quit or was fired will be the one held responsible for everything that goes wrong... until the next person quits or is fired.
  • There is never enough time to do it right the first time, but there is always enough time to do it over.

November 17, 2009

November News & Notes

High-visibility warning garments are required safety attire for highway and road construction workers according to a new letter of interpretation recently released by OSHA.

Workplace Injuries and Illnesses Declined in 2008. Nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses among private industry employers in 2008 occurred at a rate of 3.9 cases per 100 equivalent full-time workers - a decline from 4.2 cases in 2007, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. The number of nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses reported in 2008 declined to 3.7 million cases, compared to 4 million cases in 2007. The total recordable case (TRC) injury and illness incidence rate among private industry employers has declined significantly each year since 2003. Read more here.

OSHA Addresses Combustible Dust Standard. OSHA has published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking as an initial step in developing a standard to address the hazards of combustible dust. More than 900 workers have been killed or injured in combustible dust explosions since 1980. OSHA has been conducting a Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program since October 2007; a status report is available on OSHA's Combustible Dust Safety and Health Topics page. Read more details here.

CDC Flu Update. Visits to doctors for influenza-like illness (ILI) nationally decreased very slightly this week from last week, after four consecutive weeks of sharp increases.

  • ILI continues to be higher than what is seen during the peak of most regular flu seasons.

  • Total influenza hospitalization rates for laboratory-confirmed flu are climbing and higher than expected for this time of year.

  • Forty-eight states are reporting widespread influenza activity at this time; a decline of one state from last week. This many reports of widespread activity at this time of year are unprecedented during seasonal flu.

  • Almost all influenza viruses identified so far continue to be 2009 H1N1 influenza A viruses. Read more from the CDC here.
OSHA to Evaluate State Plans. As a result of deficiencies found in Nevada OSHA's program, federal OSHA will implement a number of changes to strengthen the oversight, monitoring and evaluation of all state programs. Problems with the Nevada program include failure to issue appropriate willful and repeat violations, inspectors who were not properly trained to recognize construction hazards, and lack of follow-up to determine whether hazards were abated. Read more here.

A new H1N1 Flu and You brochure from gives information on the illness, tips on prevention and what to do if you get sick, signs of severe illness and more. Download a pdf file here.

BP Products North America Inc. has been issued the largest fine in OSHA's history for failure to correct potential hazards faced by employees - $87.4 million in proposed penalties. Safety violations at BP's Texas City, Texas, refinery resulted in a massive explosion causing 15 deaths and 170 injuries in 2005. BP later agreed to corrective actions to eliminate potential hazards. The fine was recently announced following an OSHA evaluation that determined BP has allowed hundreds of potential hazards to continue unabated, even after four years. Read more here.

Set the Tone for Safety

Seven Strategies Set the Tone for Safety

The safety orientation session can be an excellent opportunity to set the tone for a new project and help workers understand the role they play in achieving a safe workplace. But more often than not, it becomes a dreaded interruption, with a presenter who drones on about safety, telling workers things they believe they already know.

But it doesn't have to be that way. The experts at Safety Management Group have identified seven proven strategies to effectively deliver safety messages to new workers. These strategies can easily be applied to orientations at any construction or industrial site. Read more here.

November 16, 2009

Safety Tip: H1N1 Flu Advice from the CDC

Simple actions can help prevent the spread of germs that cause respiratory illnesses like influenza. Here are some tips to protect yourself, and others:
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw away the tissue.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • Stay home if you are sick. CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.
  • Be prepared in case you get sick and need to stay home for several days; a supply of over-the-counter medicines, alcohol-based hand rubs, tissues, facemasks and other related items might be useful and help avoid the need to make trips out in public while you are sick and contagious.
  • Follow public health advice regarding school closures, avoiding crowds and other social distancing measures.

OSHA Makes Statement on H1N1-related Inspections

H1N1_fluOSHA will soon issue a compliance directive to ensure uniform procedures when conducting inspections to identify risks of occupational exposure to H1N1 virus. The directive will closely follow the CDC's Interim Guidance on Infection Control Measures for 2009 H1N1 Influenza in Healthcare Settings, Including Protection of Healthcare Personnel.

In response to complaints, OSHA inspectors will ensure that healthcare employers implement a hierarchy of controls (including source control, engineering and administrative measures), and encourage vaccination and other work practices recommended by the CDC. Where respirators are required, the OSHA Respiratory Protection standard must be followed, including worker training and fit testing.

The CDC recommends use of respiratory protection that is at least as protective as a fit tested disposable N95 respirator for healthcare personnel who are in close contact (within 6 feet) with patients with suspected or confirmed 2009 H1N1 influenza.

If OSHA inspectors determine a facility has not violated any OSHA requirements but believes that additional measures could enhance the protection of employees, OSHA may issue a Hazard Alert Letter outlining suggested measures to further protect workers.

Read more here.
Review the latest CDC Guidance here.

November 12, 2009

Sign Posts and Mounting Hardware Now Available

In response to customer requests, we now offer a variety of sign posts and sign-mounting accessories designed to work with our parking signs and many other signs:
  • 3 types of posts to meet your needs, from 7-foot economy posts to 8-foot premium square posts with optional mounting sleeves - all with standard mounting hardware included
  • Aluminum and poly post bases for permanent or temporary mounting applications
  • Tamper-resistant mounting hardware to secure your signs from vandals
  • 3 types of fence-mounting kits to let you easily mount our signs to open chain link fences
Visit our new Mounting Accessories page to learn more.

Top OSHA Safety Violations for 2009

OSHA has revealed the preliminary top 10 workplace safety violations for 2009. The number of top 10 violations increased almost 30 percent over the same time period in 2008. The 10 most common violations in 2009 are:
1. Scaffolding - 9,093 violations. Scaffold accidents most often result from the planking or support giving way, or the employee slipping or being struck by a falling object.
2. Fall Protection - 6,771 violations. Fall protection must be provided at four feet in general industry, five feet in maritime and six feet in construction.
3. Hazard Communication - 6,378 violations. Chemical manufacturers and importers are required prepare labels and safety data sheets to convey the hazard information to their downstream customers.
4. Respiratory Protection - 3,803 violations
5. Lockout-Tagout - 3,321 violations. These practices safeguard employees from unexpected startup of machinery and equipment or the release of hazardous energy during service or maintenance activities.
6. Electrical (Wiring) - 3,079 violations
7. Ladders - 3,072 violations. The Department of Labor lists falls as one of the leading causes of traumatic occupational death.
8. Powered Industrial Trucks - 2,993 violations. Each year, tens of thousands of injuries related to powered industrial trucks, or forklifts, occur in US workplaces.
9. Electrical - 2,556 violations
10. Machine Guarding - 2,364 violations. Any machine part, function or process that may cause injury must be safeguarded.

Elevator / Escalator Safety Week

Elevator / Escalator Safety Week is November 9-13
National Elevator / Escalator Safety Awareness Week is celebrated the second full week of November each year to increase public awareness of safe riding behavior.

Why is this important? Because the Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates some 20,000 injuries from elevators and escalators require emergency-room treatment each year. And according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 13 workers died from on-the-job accidents involving elevators in 2007.

If you have elevators or escalators in your facility or worksite, this is the perfect time to review safety records and measures to protect your workers. The ASME A17.1, Safety Code for Elevators and Escalators, and CSA B44, Safety Code for Elevators, are the basis for elevator codes used throughout the United States and Canada, but are only guides unless adopted as law or regulation by the authority having jurisdiction.

For more information:
View elevator and escalator safety signs at
View the ASME A17.1/CSA B44 table of contents here, or buy the handbook here.
Review OSHA confined space regulations pertaining to elevator pits here.

November 9, 2009

Training with Real-Life Examples Improves Safety Sign Effectiveness

More than 5,000 workplace fatalities were reported in the U.S. in 2008, and more than 1 million injuries and illnesses occur annually. These numbers point to the continued importance of workplace safety efforts. Creating and maintaining a safe work environment requires:
1) Understanding the benefits of a safe work environment
2) Addressing workplace issues, and
3) Cultivating a culture that promotes safety

Clearly, communication is the common thread among all three.

How can you communicate effectively in the workplace? Start by posting safety signs.

Prominent safety signs that list safety rules and regulations and identify workplace hazards are among the most cost-effective safety tools. In fact, senior financial executives estimate that each $1 invested in injury prevention returns $2 or more in bottom-line benefits.1

But even with safety signs posted, workers continue to suffer injuries. Did you ever wonder why? Cognitive researchers and other experts have developed some possible explanations. First, signs can be improperly placed or poorly designed. If they can’t be seen or understood, they can’t help. Second, warning signs can become “overly familiar” so they are no longer noticed or thought about. Third, workers often consider other people to be more vulnerable to a hazard than they are themselves. Fourth, workers may simply choose to practice risky behavior. And finally, warning signs may simply be more effective as reminders of a known hazard, rather than as a way to educate workers about unknown hazards.2,3

So how do you maximize the effectiveness of safety signs in your workplace? In a word: communication.

A sign presenting a warning message is only one part of the communication equation. Your workers must understand what the warning means, be able recall it quickly and realize that it applies to them. Ideally, workers will also plan to follow posted safety messages and feel some control over their own safety. Fortunately, simple training can help accomplish all these goals. Especially effective is training that includes real-world accident scenarios that illustrate the hazard, the required or prohibited actions and the possible consequences of failure to comply.2

If you get creative, you can find memorable ways to safely demonstrate to workers what could happen to them if they don’t follow posted safety signs. For example, at The Book of Odds website you can find the odds of death from all kinds of risks. So before someone asks what the odds are of being injured or killed, you can tell them. The site has an entire category on Accidents & Deaths, and a sub-section on Workplace Accidents. At another site,, students and researchers at Carnegie Mellon University let you compare mortality risks by gender, age, cause of death and geographic region.

Now that you’re thinking about safety communication, why not conduct a safety sign audit at your workplace? Look for out-of-date, damaged or missing safety signs; Identify new locations where warnings and notices could improve worker safety; Check fire exits, shipping/receiving areas, PPE reminders, machine and process areas, storage areas, restricted areas and all areas where chemicals are used. Then take a look outside your building. Would additional parking lot or fire control signs improve safety on your property?

You’ll probably be surprised how many additional messages you can identify. When you do, browse to to search and shop from more than 38,000 safety signs and labels, including OSHA, ANSI and custom formats.

And when your signs are delivered, don’t just post them and expect workers to read and follow them. By illustrating what the signs mean and what can happen if they are ignored, you’ll help workers better understand and recall your safety messages. Remember, the key to workplace safety is communication, and signs communicate safety.

David Anderson
ComplianceSigns, Inc.

1 2005 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index, Chief Financial Officer Survey.
2 From Research to Reality, Winter 2009.
3 A. Adams, S. Bochner, L. Bilik. Applied Ergonomics, Aug. 1998.