A Source for Workplace Safety News and Notes - from ®

April 23, 2015

April Workplace Safety News and Notes

Here's a collection of recent workplace safety news and resources from around the web:

Cal/OSHA Shares Resources for Updated Heat Rules
The California Department of Industrial Relations has issued a new guidance document to help familiarize employers with the state’s updated heat illness prevention rules, which are set to go into effect May 1. The new standard applies to all outdoor places of employment. A major change is the trigger temperature for certain requirements and mandatory pre-shift meetings to review high-heat procedures. There is also a Q&A on enforcement of the updated rules.

FEMA Weather App Now Includes Weather Alerts
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has launched a new feature in its free weather app
to allow users to receive weather alerts from the National Weather Service for up to five locations across the nation. Features include:
 - Safety tips on how to stay safe before, during, and after more than 20 types of hazards
 - Easy access to apply for federal disaster assistance
 - The app shows Spanish content for smartphones that have Spanish as their default language

April 21, 2015

OSHA Offers Resources for 2015 National Safety Stand-Down in May

CAUTION Fall protection required
OSHA invites employers to participate in the 2015 National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction from May 4-15. The  Stand-Down will raise awareness of preventing fall hazards in construction, and OSHA has a variety of materials available to support the effort.

What is a Safety Stand-Down?

A Safety Stand-Down is an opportunity for employers to talk directly to employees about safety. This Stand-Down focuses on fall hazards and reinforcing the importance of fall prevention. It should provide an opportunity for employers and workers to talk about hazards, protective methods and the company's safety policies, goals and expectations.

Anyone who wants to prevent falls in the workplace can participate in the Stand-Down. Last year, participants included commercial and residential construction companies of all sizes, contractors, highway construction companies, general industry employers, the U.S. Military, unions, trade associations, institutes, worker interest organizations and safety equipment manufacturers.

How to Conduct a Safety Stand-Down

Companies and businesses of any size can participate by simply taking time out during the workday to discuss fall prevention with their workers. A Stand-Down can be as simple as a 15 minute toolbox talk, a break for safety equipment inspections or some other safety activity, or as thorough as several hours of safety training throughout the week.

Hands-on exercises (a worksite walkaround, equipment checks, etc.) can increase retention of the information. Make the event positive and interactive. Let workers talk about their experiences and encourage them to make suggestions. Some employers find that serving snacks increases participation. Be sure to follow up after your event. If you learn something that could improve your fall prevention program, consider making changes.

Why the Stand-Down is Important

Falls are the leading cause of death for construction workers, accounting for 279 of the 806 construction fatalities recorded in 2012. Thousands more suffer debilitating injuries every year. Fall prevention safety standards were among the top 10 most frequently cited OSHA standards during fiscal year 2014.

The Stand-Down website gives complete information on how to conduct a Stand-Down, receive a certificate of participation and access free education and training resources, fact sheets and other outreach materials in English and Spanish. It also includes a list of stand-down events that are free and open to the public.

April 20, 2015

Safety Tip: Preventing Nail Gun Accidents

Nail guns are powerful, easy to operate and boost productivity for nailing tasks. They are also responsible for an estimated 37,000 emergency room visits each year. Here are some tips to help keep workers safe while using nail guns. 

An investigation in the UK found nail gun injuries typically occur from one of these five situations:

    Disconnect before servicing
  1. Gun angle or operator position that puts the worker in the line of fire
  2. Performing maintenance without disconnecting the airline / power source
  3. Carrying a gun with a finger on the trigger
  4. Holding the workpiece too close to the nailing area
  5. A deliberate act of shooting another worker

NIOSH has identified seven major risk factors that can lead to nail gun injuries:

  1. Unintended nail discharge from double fire
  2. Unintended nail discharge from knocking the safety contact with the trigger squeezed
  3. Nail penetration through lumber work piece
  4. Nail ricochet after striking a hard surface or metal feature
  5. Missing the work piece
  6. Awkward position nailing
  7. Bypassing safety mechanisms

Practical steps employers can take to promote nail gun safety:

Hard hat, safety glasses, safety shoes required in this area at all times
  • Use full sequential trigger nail guns - This trigger reduces the risk of unintentional nail discharge and double fires, including injuries from bumping into co-workers.
  • Provide training - Both new and experienced workers can benefit from safety training to learn about the causes of nail gun injuries and specific steps to reduce them.
  • Establish nail gun work procedures - Develop your own nail gun work rules and procedures to address risk factors.
  • Provide PPE - Safety shoes to help protect workers’ toes are typically required by OSHA on residential construction sites. Hard hats, high-impact eye protection and hearing protection are also recommended.
  • Encourage reporting and discussion of injuries and close calls -  Many nail gun injuries go unreported, which means workers don't get necessary medical attention.
  • Provide first aid and medical treatment - Bone fractures, infection and further damage from incorrect nail removal are common issues with nail gun injuries.

Take a look at your nail gun practices and use these tips and resources to improve safety on your job sites.

What To Do If OSHA Pays You a Visit

Do you know what to do if OSHA pays a surprise visit? Federal and state agencies conduct nearly 100,000 inspections every year, so the odds of your worksite being inspected are fairly low. But like any other workplace safety issue, employers need to know how to respond. Here's advice from the National Safety Council's Safety & Health magazine:

Quickly find the OSHA safety signs you need at 

April 17, 2015

Safety on the Playground - 4 Key Elements

Children see playgrounds as a sanctuary for fun and games, a place where they make friends and enjoy learning new things. They have been pivotal to children's development - a place to learn key social skills while interacting with their peers while simultaneously developing motor skills. In today's world of mobile phones, computers and TVs that can supply endless entertainment, playgrounds offer a beneficial and healthful alternative, which is why they are great features for schools and neighborhood or public parks.

But for all this growth to take place, adults must ensure playgrounds are safe and will not end up harming any children that are spending their time there. It is crucial that playgrounds are managed correctly and maintained properly to ensure safe use. Here are four key elements that can help make your playground a safe environment for kids of any age.

Soft-Surface Flooring

One of the most common playground accidents is tripping or falling over, resulting in grazed knees, elbows or hands. While there's no way to stop children from falling over (it's part of learning and growing up!), it is important to minimize the damage done to them when they do fall. Introducing a soft surface in to playgrounds is a realistic idea that offers real advantages. In many areas, concrete or asphalt has traditionally been used for playground flooring. These surfaces have little or no shock absorbing traits, making it all the more painful when children - or adults - fall on it. It also means the injuries sustained from a fall would more than likely break the skin, leaving it at risk of infection. Rather than using surfaces with no shock absorbing traits, safer alternatives would offer people a softer fall. 

April 15, 2015

Still confused by new GHS standards? This site can help.

GHS pictrogram sign
2015 will be a busy year for GHS (the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals), and keeping track of that activity will be a challenge for many businesses. If you're feeling a bit lost already, may be just the tool you need.

The website offers free, original and accurate chemical safety tutorials and references for anyone dealing with chemical safety regulations including GHS. The goal is to help people quickly find chemical compliance info and safety requirements for their products and businesses.

The site was created by a group of chemical regulatory experts who needed, "a good place to sort out and track chemical regulations in an accurate and comprehensive manner - in simple and logical languages." Recent articles include:

The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) was developed by the United Nations to standardize classification and labeling of chemicals globally. It defines physical, health and environmental hazards of chemicals and harmonizes classification criteria. It also standardizes the content and format of chemical labels and Safety Data Sheets.

April 14, 2015

7 Steps to Hand Safety

Gloves required
What does a jar of peanut butter have to do with hand safety? A number of U.S. Steel employees wondered the same thing at first. They soon learned the jars were part of a hand safety training exercise in which they tried opening the jar and performing other tasks without using their fingers or hands – a possible outcome if workplace hand safety rules are not followed.

You don’t want to wait until it’s too late to make hand safety a major part of your workplace program. The peanut butter exercise fits midway through a 7 step process proposed by a recent hand safety article in EHS Today. Interestingly enough, this is the first step that even brings employee involvement into the equation. The full list of steps is:

April 10, 2015

March 2015 OSHA Activity: 16 Significant Fines at $3.1 Million

OSHA released details on 16 significant fines in March. Proposed fines total $3.1 million, compared to $3.7 million for just 13 cases in February. The top five fines contributed half of the March total. Common citations included machine safety, amputation, fall hazards and whistleblower violations. Here are some details:

$366,400 and SVEP for repeat machine, fall and confined space hazards at an Illinois scrap metal facility

safety belt must be worn
Workers were again exposed to dangerous amputation hazards during maintenance and while processing scrap metal because safety mechanisms were not in place. Inspection resulted in five willful and nine serious safety violations, including fall and confined space hazards. The company had similar violations in 2014 and 2010.

Inspectors found workers exposed to falls and trips from unguarded floor openings, platforms up to 10 feet in height and walking across a conveyor system to enter and exit workstations. Prior to the current OSHA inspections, the company had been inspected seven times in the previous five years and cited for machine hazards at various locations in Illinois and Iowa. View the current citations (pdf).

$350,000 for whistleblower violations at a Nebraska railroad operation

For the third time since 2011, the company has violated the Federal Railroad Safety Act by disciplining employees who reported workplace injuries and sought medical attention. Since 2001, the company has faced more than 200 whistleblower complaints nationwide.

In the most recent case, OSHA investigators determined that a 35-year-employee was disciplined after reporting and receiving medical attention for injuries sustained in collision. The company has been ordered to pay the worker $350,000 in punitive and compensatory damages and attorney's fees, remove disciplinary information from the employee's personnel record and provide information about whistleblower rights to all employees. Prior to this incident, the employee had never been disciplined. The company's actions "...are indicative of a culture that doesn't show loyalty to their workers or concern for their safety," said OSHA's regional administrator.