A Source for Workplace Safety News and Notes - from ®

May 21, 2010

Safety Tip: Electrical Safety in the Field

(From the Electrical Safety Foundation, International)These points will remind experienced workers of basic electrical safety practices:
  • Complete a detailed job plan and communicate it to all co-workers.
  • Know safety requirements and follow them.
  • Understand the construction and operation of all electrical equipment and the hazards involved.
  • Identify all possible energy sources that could pose on-the-job hazards.
  • Before working on or around electrical systems or equipment, identify the load circuits and disconnect. In some cases, turning power off may cause other hazards. Such hazards and additional guidance should be addressed in your work plan.
  • Select appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and wear it until the electrical system is in a safe condition.
  • Never assume the equipment or system is de-energized. Always test before you touch.
  • Use lock-out / tag-out procedures.
  • Make sure your test equipment is working properly both before and after you use it.
  • If at any time the job becomes more hazardous than you had anticipated, stop and revise the plans.
Learn more:

CDC Research Shows Younger Workers Need More Protection

Younger workers (ages 15-24) are twice as likely as their older counterparts to be treated in hospital emergency departments for work-related injuries. This new analysis, conducted by the CDC and NIOSH, shows that employers could do more to protect young workers from workplace hazards.

National data collected from 1998 to 2007 shows that every year some 800,000 young workers were treated in emergency departments and nearly 600 died from work-related injuries. While the injury rate for young workers was twice that of older workers, their fatality rate was lower - 3.6 deaths per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers (FTE) vs. 4.4 deaths for workers age 25 and older.

News and Notes: May 2010

FDA Expands AED Recall. Automatic External Defibrillators can save lives, but only if they work properly. The FDA recently expanded its recall of certain AED units, due to electrical component malfunctions that may not be detected by device self-tests. Read more here.

Dept. of Labor Introduces Disability Law Advisor. The new online tool is designed to help employers determine which federal disability nondiscrimination laws apply to their business or organization. It provides a customized list of federal disability nondiscrimination laws that may apply to you and shows links to detailed information that will help you understand your requirements under these laws. The Advisor does not address worker's comp or state and local laws. Visit the Advisor here.

To commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the ADA, has launched the Countdown: 100 Days to the ADA web page and blog.

May 20 Webcast to Connect Employee Engagement and Safety. The no-cost event will detail the important link between employee engagement and safety performance. The session will address engagement as a key to safe behavior, the benefits of a wellness program and how to communicate to drive success. Learn more here.

More States Ban Texting While Driving. Wisconsin and Michigan are among the latest states to pass texting-while-driving laws. In Wisconsin, it is a primary offense, meaning police can stop motorists for this offense alone. Michigan drives can only be ticketed if stopped for another offense. Both bans affect drivers of all ages.

Deadly Lightning Strikes. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 58 people in the U.S. are killed each year by lightning - and summer is peak season. Advise your outdoor workers about lightning safety. Review NOAA's Lightning Safety Tips.

Electrical Safety for Field and Office Workers

The ESFI has developed the Never Assume series of electrical safety awareness videos for electrical workers to address these topics:
  Blue_Bullet_Small2 Overview of electrical standards and regulations
  Blue_Bullet_Small2 Electrical safety for construction
  Blue_Bullet_Small2 Electrical safety for commercial and industrial workers
  Blue_Bullet_Small2 "Test Before You Touch"
  Blue_Bullet_Small2 Job planning and permits

These videos don't take the place of training, but can help build awareness of key electrical safety topics. Watch the introduction video here. But electrical accidents don't just occur in construction and industrial environments. Office workers can also benefit from electrical safety awareness. "Electrical accidents that occur in an office environment are usually a result of faulty or defective equipment, unsafe installation, or misuse of equipment - specifically, extension cords, power strips, and surge protectors," says Brett Brenner, ESFI president.

Follow these basic safety principles to help ensure electrical safety in the office:
  • Surge protectors protect equipment, but they do not provide protection from the potential hazards of an overloaded circuit. Make sure the electrical load is not too great for the circuit.
  • Avoid overloading outlets with too many appliances. Never plug in more than one high-wattage appliance at a time.
  • Unplug appliances when not in use to conserve energy, and also to minimize opportunities for electric shock or fire.
  • Inspect electrical cords once a month to ensure that they are not frayed, cracked or damaged.
  • Do not place electrical cords in high traffic areas, under carpets or across doorways where they pose a potential tripping hazard.
  • Instead of relying on extension cords and power strips, consider having a licensed electrician install additional outlets where you need them.
  • Ensure that all electrical products and equipment are certified by a nationally recognized testing laboratory such as UL, CSA, or ETL, and read the manufacturer's instructions carefully.
Learn more with these links:

Are You Competent in OSHA's Eyes?


You're probably familiar with OSHA's requirement that safety oversight be handled by a "competent person." But what exactly does that mean? What makes an individual "competent" in OSHA's eyes?

The law defines a competent person as someone "who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions which are unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to employees, and who has authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them." That seems clear enough, yet many companies miss a key element of this definition - and leave themselves at risk with OSHA.

Fortunately, the safety experts at Safety Management Group have information that can help you avoid this and other common misconceptions about safety supervision. Read more here.

May 20, 2010

OSHA: Safety Training Must Be in a Language Workers Understand

OSHA recently issued an enforcement memorandum directed at safety training for non-English speaking workers. The memo reiterates OSHA's policy that employee training required by OSHA standards must be presented in a manner that employees can understand.
In practical terms, this means employers must instruct employees using both a language and vocabulary the employees can understand. OSHA compliance officers are responsible for checking and verifying that employers have provided training to employees - and that the training was provided in a format the trainees could understand. has made it easy to select alternate languages for common safety signs. Just use the drop-down menu below the sign to see what languages are available, or to request a different language.

To help employers with a Spanish-speaking workforce meet these obligations, OSHA has created a web-based assistance tool.

Electrical Safety: Arc Flash Awareness

Each year, 2,000 workers are admitted to burn centers for treatment of severe arc flash burns. While great advances are being made to improve equipment design and thereby reduce the number of arc flash incidences, awareness is still a key to improved safety. 

What is an arc flash?

An arc flash is a sudden release of electrical energy through the air when a high-voltage gap exists and there is a breakdown between conductors. An arc flash gives off thermal radiation (heat) and bright, intense light that can cause burns and other injuries. Temperatures have been recorded as high as 35,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Exposure to these extreme temperatures burns the skin directly and instantly ignites clothing - Yow!

High-voltage arcs can also produce considerable pressure waves by rapidly heating the air and creating a blast. This pressure burst, or arc blast, can hit a worker with grenade-like force and send metal droplets from melted copper and aluminum electrical components shooting out at speeds up to 700 miles per hour -- fast enough for the tiny shrapnel to penetrate a body.

What causes an arc flash?

An arc flash can be spontaneous or can result from inadvertently bridging electrical contacts with a conducting object. Other causes may include dropped tools, the buildup of conductive dust, or corrosion.

Arc Flash Awareness video available from NIOSH

ESFI and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Office of Mine Safety and Health are promoting a NIOSH video, Arc Flash Awareness and the companion booklet, Information and Discussion Topics for Electrical Workers. The 25-minute video shows arc flashes, causes and electrical safety regulations. It also provides important safety recommendations.

Arc Flash Resources:

OSHA Severe Violator Program Focuses on Repeat Offenders

The new Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP) is intended to focus OSHA enforcement resources on employers that show indifference to employee safety laws. The supplemental enforcement tool includes increased OSHA inspections in these worksites, including mandatory follow-up inspections and inspections of related worksites where similar hazards and deficiencies may be present.

High-emphasis hazards are targeted, including fall hazards and specific hazards identified from selected National Emphasis Programs.
Criteria for a Severe Violator Enforcement Case:
  • A fatality/catastrophe inspection in which OSHA finds one or more willful or repeated violations or failure-to-abate notices based on a serious violation related to a death of an employee or three or more hospitalizations.

  • An inspection in which OSHA finds two or more willful or repeated violations or failure-to-abate notices (or any combination of these), based on serious violations related to a High-Emphasis Hazard.

  • An inspection in which OSHA finds three or more willful or repeated violations or failure-to-abate notices (or any combination of these), based on high-gravity serious violations related to highly hazardous chemicals, as defined in the PSM standard.
Willful and repeated citations and failure-to-abate notices must be based on serious violations, except for recordkeeping, which must be egregious.

What's New at - May 2010

Hand Washing Signs and Labels for work, school, church, restaurant, anywhere! Proper hand washing technique is the best way to protect health. To help you send that message, we've added dozens of new hand washing signs and labels, including instructional signs, clear labels for mirrors, and a new collection of kid-friendly signs for schools, medical offices or anywhere kids gather. All this is in addition to our engraved, OSHA, ANSI and Braille hand washing products. Visit our new hand washing page here.
More DOT Hazard Placards and Labels - Even Easier to Browse. We just added many new placards and labels and made them even easier to find on our new Chemical / Biohazard - DOT / DoD Hazard Class Signs page. You'll now find labels and placards on separate pages, as well as DoD Fire Division signs. We also added links to our Aircraft Hazmat and Shipping & Receiving pages to give you fast access to any sign you need. There are new items on all pages, so check them out today.
State-Specific No Smoking Signs. As more and more states enact specific No Smoking laws, we develop new signs and labels to meet state specifications. New Kansas and Wisconsin smoking laws take effect in July, and we'll soon have appropriate signs available. This month, the Michigan Smoke-Free Air law went into effect, and we have signs in a variety of styles designed to meet Michigan standards. We also have specific signs for most other states.
Visit our state No Smoking page and click on a state to see relevant signs.

May is National Electrical Safety Month

Every day, one worker dies from electrocution or an arc flash incident, and every year another 4,000 are injured in electrical incidents. To help reduce electrical injuries, the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) encourages employers to promote electrical safety during National Electrical Safety Month. 

Effective electrical safety programs increase safety awareness, provide established safety guidelines, and ensure the proper tools and technology are used to mitigate the risks associated with electrical safety hazards. Awareness of electrical hazards is critical to preventing accidents and creating a safer work environment - in the plant, on the job site and in the office.

You'll learn more about electrical safety throughout this month's Connection. It's always easy to browse electrical safety signs at