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December 16, 2015

December 2015 Workplace Safety News and Notes

Here's a collection of safety news and resources from around the web this month:

OSHA to Raise Penalties for Safety Violations in 2016

OSHA is expected to increase its monetary penalties for safety violations next year. The change came early this month, with a budget amendment that would allow OSHA to increase its fines in light of inflation. Previously, the agency was unable to increase due to a 1990 law. OSHA must now issue a preliminary final rule that will stipulate details about the increase before August 1, 2016. The fines are expected to be around 80 percent higher. A willful violation, for instance, may now carry a maximum penalty of around $127,000, compared to $70,000 today. View the full amendment here.

Electronic Logging Devices to be Required for Commercial Drivers

caution wide right turns
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has announced adoption of a Final Rule requiring commercial truck and bus drivers who currently use paper log books to maintain hours-of-service records to adopt Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) within two years. An ELD automatically records driving time, monitors engine hours, vehicle movement, miles driven and location information. It is anticipated that approximately three million drivers will be impacted. The rule also includes provisions to: prevent drivers from harassment based on ELD information; set technical and performance specs for ELDs; establish new support document requirements. Read more here.

OSHA Issues Tools to Help Prevent Workplace Violence in Healthcare 

OSHA has developed a new webpage to provide employers and workers with strategies and tools for preventing workplace violence in healthcare settings. The webpage, part of OSHA’s Worker Safety in Hospitals website, complements the updated Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Healthcare and Social Service Workers published earlier this year. The new page includes real-life examples from healthcare organizations that have incorporated successful workplace violence prevention programs, and models of how a workplace violence prevention program can complement and enhance an organization’s strategies for compliance and a culture of safety. Visit the new site.

NIOSH Launches Motor Vehicle Safety eNewsletter, Behind the Wheel at Work

The NIOSH Center for Motor Vehicle Safety has launched a quarterly e-newsletter to share research updates, links to motor vehicle safety resources, practical tips on workplace driving and news about upcoming events. Behind the Wheel at Work will include vehicle-related research updates and practical tools to apply research-based strategies in the workplace. The first issue features an article on the NIOSH National survey of U.S. long-haul truck drivers. Learn more.

respirator required
OSHA Expects to Complete Silica Rule in February 2016

OSHA's fall 2015 regulatory agenda projects that its final rule for occupational exposure to crystalline silica will be completed in February 2016, according to the AIHA. The rule has been in development for more than 15 years. OSHA received more than 1,700 comments on the proposed rule issued two years ago and is now reviewing material in the rulemaking record. Read more.

Review Floor Maintenance Procedures to Reduce Slip and Fall Incidents

Analyzing floor safety risks and establishing plans and procedures that address hazards will help prevent or minimize the chance of incidents and injuries, according to a recent article in OH&S magazine. For example, improper cleaning can lead to floors with low levels of traction. Reviewing floor cleaning and housekeeping procedures can help reduce premature floor wear, as well as slip and fall incidents and injuries. Learn more in the article.

pesticide storage area

OH&S Webinars in January

  - January 21 - Chemicals, Pesticides and Other Stuff - How to Comply?
  - January 27 - Care and Maintenance of PPE for Arc Flash and Flash Fire: Incidents and Issues for Practical Applications

See details and register here.

Safety Stats for Construction Trades Released

The Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR) released a report that charts fatal and nonfatal injuries among construction trades between 2003 and 2014. It illustrates injury variations across selected construction trades, and highlights leading causes of fatal and nonfatal injuries in the most recent years. It also includes recently available data on height of fall. The report also includes data on roofers, electrical power-line installers and cement masons. View the report (pdf).

December 15, 2015

The Top Workplace Safety News of 2015

Workplace safety news and notes
Here's a recap of the 10 articles that generated the most interest in our Connection newsletter and here on the safety blog during 2015. Our monthly News & Notes feature and lists of top OSHA fines also are very popular. (See the Top 10 OSHA Fines of 2015.) We do our best to keep you up-do-date on new rules, tools and tips that can help keep your workplace safe and in compliance. 

Here's our Top 10 of 2015. (Click the heading to read more.)

1. Top 5 Disabling Workplace Injuries Cause 2/3 of Workers' Comp Costs

According to BLS and other data, the top five disabling workplace injuries accounted for 65 percent of all workers' compensation costs in 2012 (the most recent year for which data was available). U.S. businesses spend nearly $750,000 weekly on these five workplace injuries.

2. "Why'd They Do That?" Photos Show Safety Fails

Advanced Safety & Health, LLC, an OH&S firm with offices in Kentucky, Indiana and Pennsylvania, has assembled a wonderful collection of images showing some workplace safety fails that are hard to believe. Looks like "common sense" isn't so common anymore.

3. How Safe is Your State? NSC Releases Top 10 List of Accidental Death Rates

As part of National Safety Month, the National Safety Council released its annual list of states with the highest and lowest rates of injury-related deaths, which include poisonings, vehicle accidents and falls. West Virginia had the highest rate for the third time in four years. The state’s rate of 77.2 deaths per 100,000 people was largely fueled by overdoses from opioid prescription painkillers. For the second straight year, Maryland had the lowest rate at 26.9, which is far below the national rate of 40.6. See the top and bottom states.

4. How To Choose the Right Safety Committee Members

The first step in making a safety committee work most effectively is making sure that it has the right members. You need members representing hourly workers to upper management. They should be respected by other workers, and not let management’s viewpoint dominate discussions. If that doesn't sound easy, you're in luck. This article by Safety Management Group in Indianapolis can help you avoid common safety committeee pitfalls.

5. Fall Protection Tops 2015 OSHA Violations List  OSHA

For the fifth straight year, OSHA's Fall Protection Standard (1926.501) was the agency's most often cited standard, Hazard Communication was #2, followed by Scaffolding and Respiratory Protection in the preliminary list. Finalized data will be available in December.

Top 10 OSHA Fines of 2015 Total $8.7 Million

The 10 largest OSHA fines of 2015 totaled some $8.69 million from January to mid December. What these numbers don't show is that some individual companies have received multiple fines this year totaling from $1.4 million for one company to $1.87 million for another. OSHA issued more than 165 significant fines (over $100,000) for the year, with a total value of $35.1 million.

A recent budget amendment could mean significantly higher fines next year, when OSHA will be allowed to adjust fines for inflation. Fines could increase as much as 80 percent in 2016, taking a willful violation from $70,000 to $127,000, for example.

Here's a list of the top 10 fines issued in 2015. Some are still pending final decisions.

1. $1.8 million and SVEP for exposing construction workers to asbestos in Illinois

Asbestos warning. PPE required
During renovation of a former elementary school, two Illinois construction companies violated numerous OSHA health standards related to the dangers of asbestos. The companies now face a total of $1,792,000 in penalties and entry to the Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP) for willfully exposing at least eight workers to asbestos. The investigation also found management brought non-English speaking workers to the U.S. and threatened them with termination if they spoke with OSHA inspectors. View citations against the two companies here and here. (pdf)

2. $1.76 million fine and SVEP after 1,000 injuries in past 36 months at a Wisconsin furniture manufacturer

After a worker lost three fingers while operating a woodworking machine without required safety mechanisms in place, a resulting inspection identified 12 willful, 12 repeat and 14 serious safety violations. In a 3.5-year period, more than 1,000 work-related injuries were recorded at the manufacturer. See the citations here.  

3. $963,000 and SVEP following a deadly blast at a Nebraska railcar cleaning facility

Moments before a blast ripped through a railcar in April, an air quality check showed a serious risk of an explosion. Despite the warning, two employees were sent into the car to work without monitoring the air continuously for explosive hazards as required, nor providing the employees with emergency retrieval equipment or properly fitted respirators. The explosion that resulted blew the railcar's escape ladder off, killed the two men and injured another. OSHA cited the company for seven egregious, three willful, two repeated, 20 serious and one other-than-serious safety and health violations. View the health and safety citations.

4. $861,000 and SVEP for repeat amputation and other hazards at an Ohio poultry processor. 2015 total tops $1.8 million

watch your finers & hands
Investigation of an Ohio chicken processing facility found that the company was aware of dangers, but continued to expose workers to serious and potentially fatal injuries. Acting on a referral, OSHA cited the company for two willful, 20 repeat, 30 serious and three other-than-serious safety and health violations. The company has been issued more than $1.87 million in OSHA penalties in 2015, the most recent a $462,000 fine in December. View the initial citations here. (pdf)

December 1, 2015

Construction Site Spotters: Much More Than Backup Assistants

Burried Cable
You wouldn't let an untrained worker operate heavy equipment on a jobsite because it's too dangerous. But what kind of training do you give the spotter you trust to protect that equipment, its operator and other workers? 

If you think being a spotter is an easy job that doesn’t require a lot of brainpower or that the "new guy" can handle it, you could be setting up a disaster. In fact, three of the four leading causes of construction site fatalities – struck-by accidents, electrocutions and caught-between hazards – are situations spotters usually help manage.

A new article by the safety experts at Safety Management Group in Indianapolis gives some needed perspective to the Spotter role, calling it "a critical element of site safety."

Besides making sure that backing vehicles don’t run into people or objects, spotters monitor cranes and other equipment operating near power lines. They protect vehicles and equipment, monitor earthmoving processes and stay alert to the presence of underground utilities. Spotters have a variety of responsibilities - and therefore require adequate training and a part in safety pre-planning meetings.