A Source for Workplace Safety News and Notes - from ®

April 21, 2010

Welcome - April 2010

As warm weather returns, many employees return to outdoor duties - and the safety scene changes, too. That makes spring a good time to review construction and outdoor safety policies with your workforce.

Here are a few key points from this month's issue:
Blue_Bullet_Small2 NIOSH offers no-cost worksite evaluations
Blue_Bullet_Small2 The Healthcare Reform Bill might benefit productivity
Blue_Bullet_Small2 OSHA is planning for increased enforcement - and higher fines
Blue_Bullet_Small2 Construction safety tips and myths

Have a safe month!
Paul Sandefer, President

What's New at April

Crane Operation Signs and Training Posters. We've added a great selection of crane hand signal labels and posters to our store. All show the universal hand signals for crane operation and movement. Some include signal descriptions and many posters have space for your company name at no additional cost - perfect for training or on-site reminders. View the new crane signs here, or learn more about crane hand signals here.

ZOOM Tool Shows Sign Details. Also new this month is a great feature that makes it easier to find exactly the sign you need. Just click the magnifying glass under select signs to see a larger preview image without loading the product info page. It works on both category and product pages! See an example here.

Reminder: New Lead-Based Paint Rule Takes Effect April 22. Renovation, repair and painting contractors must earn lead certification and use lead-safe work practices - including posting approved lead hazard signs. The rule applies to activities that disturb six square feet or more of a paint inside, or 20 square feet or more outside. View construction safety signs here, or EPA lead safety info here.

OSHA Head Seeks Higher Penalties, Improved Whistleblower Protection

Employers who ignore OSHA's rules and risk workers' lives should pay higher penalties, OSHA Assistant Secretary Michaels told Congress in March. Monetary penalties for violations of the OSH Act have been increased only once in 40 years.

"Safe jobs exist only when employers have adequate incentives to comply with OSHA's requirements. Those incentives are affected, in turn, by both the magnitude and the likelihood of penalties. Swift, certain and meaningful penalties provide an important incentive to 'do the right thing. However, OSHA's current penalties are not large enough to provide adequate incentives," said Michaels.

Michaels illustrated the disparity between OSHA penalties and those of other agencies: In 2001, a tank of sulphuric acid exploded at a refinery, killing a worker and literally dissolving his body. OSHA's penalty was $175,000. In the same incident, thousands of dead fish and crabs were discovered, allowing an EPA Clean Water Act violation amounting to $10 million.

Whistleblower recommendations include increasing the existing 30-day deadline for filing an 11(c) complaint to 180 days, and reinforcing current employee protections against retaliation.

Read his full testimony here or browse OSHA safety signs here.

NIOSH Offers No-cost Worksite Health Hazard Evaluation Service

The NIOSH Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) program evaluates new or recently discovered hazards, illnesses from unknown causes or exposures to chemical, biological and working hazards not regulated by OSHA. It is done to learn whether workers are exposed to hazardous materials or harmful conditions. NIOSH responds to HHE requests by:
  • Sending helpful information or a referral to a more appropriate agency
  • Calling to discuss the problems and how they might be solved
  • Visiting the workplace. When this happens, they will meet with the employer and employee representatives to discuss the issues and tour the workplace. They may review records about exposure and health, interview or survey employees, measure exposures and do medical testing. At the end of this evaluation, NIOSH will provide a written report to the employer and to the employee representatives.
For example, an evaluation at one facility found workers were being exposed to manganese and other chemicals. NIOSH investigators recommended the employer install local exhaust ventilation to reduce worker exposure to dust.

Safety Tip: Be Aware of Construction Hazards

Arc flash hazardAs building season returns, many construction workers will be back on the job - and in danger of construction injuries. OSHA reports that nearly 6.5 million people work at approximately 252,000 construction sites across the nation on any given day. The fatal injury rate for the construction industry is higher than the national average for all industries. Prominent safety signs can help keep your workers safe:

Potential hazards for workers in construction:
    Scaffolding safety
  • Falls (from heights)
  • Trench collapse
  • Scaffold collapse
  • Electric shock and arc flash/arc blast
  • Failure to use proper personal protective equipment; and
  • Repetitive motion injuries
For construction sites, the 10 OSHA standards most frequently cited are:
1. Scaffolding
2. Fall protection (scope, application, definitions)
hard hat area3. Excavations (general requirements)
4. Ladders
5. Head protection
6. Excavations (requirements for protective systems)
7. Hazard communication
8. Fall protection (training requirements)
9. Construction (general safety and health provisions)
10. Electrical (wiring methods, design and protection)

Browse construction safety signs at

13 Myths of Construction Safety

Do commonly held beliefs about construction safety result in misconceptions that drive improper actions - and actually jeopardize worksite safety? This article from the safety experts at Safety Management Group provides a list of general safety myths regarding construction, and some food for thought as you evaluate your safety program. Read more here.

Keep Springtime Allergies From Impacting Workplace Safety

Spring has "sprung" especially early this year, and pollen counts across the country are at all-time highs. The normal pollen count is about 124, but in some parts of the country counts as high as 5,000 have been recorded. Levels this high affect workers indoors and out - and can make it difficult to focus on the job or on proper safety measures.
There are two reasons for this, reports Web MD: the allergy symptoms; or the medications taken to combat them. To stay alert with allergies at work one doctor recommends non-sedating antihistamines or asking your doctor about a nasal steroid spray. Here are three tips to help take charge of on-the-job allergies:
  • Ensure work areas are well ventilated and have proper humidity to minimize molds (less than 50% for an indoor office).
  • Regularly dust work areas.
  • If you clean your own workplace, wear a dust mask.
Read more at Web MD or View PPE and respirator signs at

NIOSH Director Addresses Healthcare Reform

NIOSH Director Dr. John Howard commented on the recently passed Healthcare Reform bill and its provisions regarding workplace health and safety. The bill authorizes many new programs targeting prevention and wellness. Included in these programs is the authority for CDC to conduct research and provide technical assistance related to employer-based wellness programs. The bill directs the CDC Director to:

  • Provide employers with technical assistance, consultation, tools, and other resources to evaluate employer-based wellness programs including evaluating such programs as they relate to changes in employees' health status, absenteeism, productivity, medical costs, and the rate of workplace injury.
  • Build evaluation capacity among workplace staff by training employers on how to evaluate employer-based wellness programs utilizing mechanisms such as web portals, call centers, etc.
  • Within two years, conduct a national worksite health policies and programs survey to assess employer-based health policies and programs - followed by a report to Congress with recommendations for the implementation of effective employer-based health policies and programs.

At this time, it's not clear if NIOSH will play a part in these duties. The bill also establishes the National Health Care Workforce Commission, with membership to include health professionals, employers, third party payers and labor unions. Responsibilities of the Commission include a requirement to "submit recommendations to Congress, the Department of Labor, and the Department of Health and Human Services about improving safety, health, and worker protections in the workplace for the healthcare workforce."

Read more here.

OSHA Outlines Strategic Plan for 2010-2016

OHSA recently held a Q & A session to gather ideas about the Dept. of Labor's strategic direction over the next six years. According to a plan overview, "OSHA is focusing on actively promoting safe and healthy working conditions for working men and women by: setting and enforcing workplace safety and health standards; delivering effective enforcement; providing outreach, education and compliance assistance; and encouraging continual improvement in workplace safety and health."
Strategies to achieve these goals include:

  • Strengthen enforcement capabilities - target the most egregious and persistent violators
  • Strengthen regulatory capabilities
  • Increase OSHA's presence in the workplace
  • Protect workers in high-hazard occupations and vulnerable and hard-to-reach worker populations
  • Review and restructure penalties to ensure they are consistent with the seriousness of the violation and act as effective deterrence to violators
  • Maintain a strong outreach and education program
  • Enhance and strengthen compliance assistance program for small businesses

Success will be measured in terms of:

  • Reduced fatalities associated with the four leading causes of workplace death: falls, electrocutions, caught in or between, and struck by
  • Increased number of targeted hazards abated. Targeted injuries and illnesses include:
    - Hearing loss in manufacturing, illnesses in general industry and construction, and workplace amputations
    - Increased worker and employer awareness of OSHA rights, responsibilities and programs to improve "voice in the workplace."

You can review a draft of the plan here.

April News and Notes

No-cost Arc Flash Safety Webinar on May 5. This 1-hour webinar (sponsored by ARAMARK and ISHN) will offer guidance on how OSHA and NFPA 70E can help your employees be safe from injuries caused by electrical incidents. Topics will include NFPA 70E (2009 edition) and the OSHA relationship, arc flash hazard analysis, flame resistant clothing, PPE sourcing methods and your budget. Learn more here.
Study Finds High Fatalities, Injuries, Illnesses in Wholesale and Retail Trades. A new peer-reviewed article by NIOSH scientists finds the wholesale and retail trades sector accounts for a disproportionately high percentage of all work-related injuries and illnesses in private industry. "Occupational Fatalities, Injuries, Illnesses, and Related Economic Loss in the Wholesale and Retail Trade Sector" explores factors that pose work-related risks, estimates the costs and identifies areas for potential safety and health interventions. The article is available here.

EPA Proposes Adding 16 Chemicals to Toxics Release Inventory List. In the first proposed expansion in over a decade, the EPA is proposing to add 16 chemicals to the TRI list of reportable chemicals. The Agency's proposal is part of ongoing efforts to examine the scope of TRI chemical coverage. The 16 chemicals have been classified as "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen" by the National Toxicology Program. Learn more here.

OSHA Program Protects Federal Workers. Hazardous federal worksites are the focus of the OSHA Federal Agency Targeting Inspection Program 2010 (FEDTARG10). The nationwide program emphasizes workplace safety and health for federal workers and contractors supervised by federal personnel. It focuses on the most dangerous federal agency workplaces of 2009. Field inspectors conducted 59 inspections of high hazard federal worksites and found 336 violations of OSHA safety and health standards. See more here or read the notice here.

Iowa became the 21st state to ban texting for all drivers. Under the ban, it's a primary offense for teens to talk on a cell phone or text while driving. For non-teen drivers, using a hand-held cell phone or texting is a secondary offense that allows law enforcement officials to ticket drivers if they are pulled over for another offense. The law takes effect in July. Check your state's status here.
Brochures Outline Dangers for Workers Using Rosin-Core Solder. When rosin-core solder wire is heated by a soldering iron, fumes are produced that contain a wide variety of chemicals, including aldehydes, terpenes, and resin acids. The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services has developed a brochure intended to alert solder users of fume hazards and methods for preventing exposure. Download it here.