A Source for Workplace Safety News and Notes - from ®

December 30, 2014

OH&S Offers Three Steps to Safely Collect Combustible Dust

Warning combustible dust area sign
Although OSHA still has no combustible dust hazard regulation, inspectors do issue fines for lack of proper housekeeping related to dust buildup, using the Combustible Dust National Emphasis Program (NEP), CPL 03-00-008, for citation guidelines. The NEP lists 18 different standards ranging from ventilation to electrical to housekeeping.

An article in the December issue of OH&S magazine recommends three steps to help select equipment that is safe for collecting combustible dust in nearly any environment. Here's a summary of the steps:

Three Steps to Safe Dust Collection:

  1. Understand Your Facility and Your Responsibilities. Have dust from your workplace tested to find out if it's combustible, and confirm your NEC classification.
  2. Review OSHA and NFPA Regulations, Standards and Recommendations. The OSHA combustible dust NEP includes maintenance and housekeeping advice, and NFPA 654 Section 8 discusses housekeeping procedures and frequency. The NFPA document lists vacuuming as the preferred cleaning method, because it avoids creation of dust clouds. 

December 17, 2014

Workplace Safety News and Notes - December 2014

Here's a roundup of current workplace safety news and links:

New NIOSH Training Helps Reduce Risks for Emergency Responders Who Work Long Hours

NIOSH’s new interim training program is for emergency workers who deploy to disaster sites caused by weather, earthquakes, and other catastrophic events like Ebola. The 30-minute online training is for workers and managers to help them better cope with the demands of these emergency operations. Emergency responders in healthcare, public safety, utilities, construction, humanitarian aid, and clean-up services can learn strategies to reduce risks that are linked to working long hours. Learn more or take the training here.

New Report Can Help Prevent Trucking Industry Injuries

Caution 3-point contactA report produced by Washington State’s Trucking Injury Reduction Emphasis Through Surveillance program provides in-depth information on trucking injuries from 2006-2012. Using Washington State workers’ compensation data grouped by industry sector, the report details the most frequent injury type, source and cost. It also includes worker training tips useful for trucking firms and occupational health pros. Check out the report and other resources at

Recommendations to Reduce Silica Exposure When Maintaining Dirt Roads

Road maintenance crew overexposures to respirable crystalline silica led HHE Program investigators to recommend ways to minimize dust exposure during dust-generating activities. They recommended wetting the soil prior to work, scheduling dust-generating tasks on days when the soil is moist, and regularly maintaining air filters in the equipment.
A link to this final report is available at here

Warning BiohazardNIOSH Offers Health Hazard Evaluation Info for Employers and Employees

Two new booklets designed to inform employers or employees about the Health Hazard Evaluation process, including what a Health Hazard Evaluation is, how and who can request one, and what happens once the request is made. The Employer booklet is here, and the Employee booklet is here.

December 16, 2014

Top 10 OSHA Fines of 2014 Surpass $9.2 Million

The top 10 OSHA fines of 2014 totaled more than $9.2 million. Significant fines (over $100,000) for the same period averaged some $2.6 million/month, and totaled $30 million

Here's a list of the top 10 workplace safety fines OSHA has issued so far this year. Some are still pending final decisions

1. $2.4 million settlement with Republic Steel

The comprehensive settlement, in which the company agrees to abate all cited hazards and implement numerous safeguards to prevent future injuries, addresses more than 100 safety and health violations found by OSHA at company facilities during 2013 inspections. They include arc flash, lockout/tagout, machine guarding and fall hazards at various facilities. Republic also agreed to additional penalty amounts if it fails to comply with the agreement.

In addition, the company will hire additional safety and health staff; conduct internal safety and health inspections with union representatives; establish and implement a comprehensive safety and health management program; hire third-party auditors; and meet quarterly with OSHA staff to assure implementation of the agreement. 

December 11, 2014

Workplace Injuries Decline to 3 Million in 2013

Digital safety scoreboards
help promote workplace safety.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that non-fatal workplace injuries declined significantly in 2013, and that the DART rate declined for the first time since 2009. Slightly more than 3 million nonfatal injuries and illnesses were reported by U.S. private industry in 2013, for an incidence rate of 3.3 cases per 100 full-time workers.

Key findings from the 2013 Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses:

  • The total recordable cases (TRC) incidence rate of injury and illness in private industry declined from 2012, as did the rate for cases involving days away from work, job transfer or restriction (DART). This was the first DART rate decline since 2009.
  • The rate of reported injuries and illnesses declined significantly among the manufacturing, retail and utilities sectors, but was statistically unchanged among all other private industry sectors compared to 2012.
  • Manufacturing continued a 16-year trend as the only private industry sector in which the rate of job transfer or restriction exceeded the rate of days away from work. These rates declined to 1.2 and 1.0 per 100 full-time workers, respectively.
  • The incidence rate of injuries among private industry workers declined to 3.1, down from 3.2 in 2012. In comparison, the illness incidence rate was unchanged. 
  • Although the rate of injuries and illnesses among state and local government workers declined to 5.2, it remains significantly higher than the private industry rate. 

December 8, 2014

New Safety Equipment is Lighter, More Comfortable Than Ever

safety glasses, safety shoes, hard hats required beyond this point
Even with modern, comfortable equipment,
PPE safety signs can improve employee compliance.
Way back when, worksite safety equipment was often heavy, uncomfortable and even interfered with the work. Small wonder that so many workers bypassed safety precautions as managers either looked the other way or were forced to take disciplinary action against employees who refused to use standard-issue equipment. Neither is an acceptable solution.

Safety Equipment Manufacturers are More Responsive Than Ever

Today, safety equipment manufacturers have listened to workers and safety pros, and are making safety equipment from new materials, in more sizes and new configurations so their products are more wearable than ever. 3M, for example, released safety goggles that include "reader" lenses for workers who have trouble seeing fine-print, such as safety instructions.

December 4, 2014

Significant OSHA Fines Total Just $875,000 in November 2014

OSHA announced just four significant fines in November with a proposed total of $875,010 (compared to 10 fines totaling $1.77 million in October). Common fines included fall and electrical hazards at a variety of locations. Most cases are still pending final decisions. Here are some details:

$342,250 and SVEP for Repeat Fall and Equipment Violations at a
Georgia Auto Parts Plant

Slippery floor - trip hazard
OSHA inspected the site after receiving a complaint alleging improper material handling and machine guarding hazards. "The high number of repeat violations of the same or similar hazards demonstrates that this employer is not concerned with protecting its permanent or temporary employees from occupational dangers," said an OSHA official.

Eight repeat violations involve exposing workers to slip and fall hazards due to soiled and slippery welding oils on floors; failing to protect workers from moving machine parts during service and maintenance; neglecting to protect employees from dangerous equipment with required guarding; and storing oxygen and acetylene cylinders improperly. The company was cited for these same violations in 2010, 2012 and 2013.

December 1, 2014

Feeling Stressed at Work? A New App Can Help

get in gear with safety 365 days accident free
Some workplace stress is normal (that's why it's called "work"), but excess stress can interfere with physical and emotional health on and off the job. It reduces productivity and can lead to accidents and impact businesses in other ways, as well. What can you do if you're feeling excess stress at work every day? Start with a new app that measures your stress and gives suggestions to reduce it.

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety worked with the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers to develop a free smart phone app that lets you answer a questionnaire to measure your level of stress. App users are asked to respond to 25 questions about work demands, organizational factors, relationships, workplace values, health and safety concerns, stress symptoms and offensive behaviors.