A Source for Workplace Safety News and Notes - from ®

April 20, 2016

April 2016 Workplace Safety News and Notes

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

Free Resources for National Safety Stand-Down May 2-6

OSHA has designated May 2-6, 2016, for the third annual National Safety Stand-Down. The event is a nationwide effort to remind and educate employers and workers in the construction industry of the serious dangers of falls. Employers are encouraged to pause during the workday for topic discussions, demonstrations and training on how to recognize hazards and prevent falls. Download free stand-down resources from OSHA.

GAO Report Highlights Violence in Health Care Settings
first aid station

A new Government Accountability Office report released April 14 recommends actions to address violence directed at the nation's health care workers. According to data from three federal datasets GAO reviewed, workers in health care facilities experience substantially higher estimated rates of nonfatal injury due to workplace violence compared to workers overall. The report Additional Efforts Needed to Help Protect Health Care Workers from Workplace Violence describes violence as a serious concern for health workers, although the full extent of the problem is unknown. Review the report. (pdf)

New Eye and Face Protection Standards Take Effect April 25

OSHA published a final rule that updates requirements for personal protective equipment for workers in general industry, shipyards, longshoring, marine terminals and construction. The new rule updates references in OSHA’s Eye and Face Protection Standards to include ANSI/ISEA Z87.1-2010. Learn more.

Dealing with Opioid Abuse in the Workplace

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You've probably heard that prescription painkillers have become a leading cause of drug overdose deaths, which now exceed car crashes as the leading cause of unintentional death. But you might be surprised to learn how pervasive opioid prescription use in the workplace - perhaps even yours.

A recent study of 200 Indiana employers found that prescription drug abuse currently affects 80 percent of companies. About two in three of the employers who were surveyed saw prescription drug abuse as a bigger problem in their workplaces than illegal drugs, with one in five reporting that there had been an injury or a near-miss related to prescription drugs.

Opioid prescription medications have become a very real health and safety issue in the workplace. They can cause impairment, increase the risk of workplace incidents, errors and injury - even when taken as prescribed. Prescription painkillers also profoundly increase workers’ compensation costs, increase the length of worker disability and increase work time lost.

Safety Tip: Protect Workers from Mosquito-borne Diseases

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Warm summer weather - and mosquitoes - are just around the corner in much of the U.S. Many areas have recently experienced flooding that may bring bumper crops of the pesky pests. And disease cases from mosquito, flea and tick bites more than tripled in the US from 2001 to 2016. Here are some tips from NIOSH to help keep outdoor workers safe from mosquito-borne illnesses.

Employers should protect workers and workers should protect themselves from diseases spread by mosquitoes. Although most people do not become sick after a bite from an infected mosquito, some people have a mild, short-term illness or (rarely) severe or long-term illness. Severe cases of mosquito-borne diseases can cause death. Diseases that are spread to people by mosquitoes include Zika virus, West Nile virus, Chikungunya virus, dengue and malaria.

Workers at Risk

Workers are at risk when they are working where mosquitoes are biting. Different species of mosquitoes are found in different geographic locations, are most active at different times, and spread different diseases. The risk to workers varies by:
  • Geographic location
  • Habitat at the work site
  • Season
  • Time of day

April 15, 2016

Major OSHA Fines Top $1.8 Million in March 2016

Asbestos may cause cancer
Federal OSHA investigators issued $1,824,574 in 13 major fines in March. Fall protection and chemical hazards were among common hazards. Many smaller citations involved amputations, fall hazards and even vinegar fumes. OSHA also agreed to $850,000 in two settlements, one involving lead and asbestos hazards during renovation work, and the other related to untrained forklift operators, obstructed exit routes, damaged storage racks and inadequate chemical hazard communication training.

Here are some details of the top citations reported in March, which may still be pending final decisions: 

$203,324 for whistleblower violations at a New Jersey bank

JP Morgan Chase Bank illegally terminated a loan manager at a New Jersey office who raised concerns about financial transactions. OSHA has ordered the bank to reinstate the employee, pay $151,669.36 in back wages and $51,654.85 in compensatory damages and out-of-pocket medical expenses. The bank must also expunge the employee's personnel records and post a notice for employees informing them of their whistleblower rights.

OSHA's investigation found the employee raised numerous concerns to bank management between November 2013 and May 2014 about failures to properly record loans, both internally and to government regulators, and refused to override a failed compliance test and falsely report it as having passed. The bank retaliated by removing the employee's responsibilities, eliminating his position and subsequently terminating his employment. Get more details here.

$198,550 for repeat fall protection hazards at New Jersey construction sites

Fall protection required

April 13, 2016

2015 Safest Year Ever for U.S. Mine Operations

Preliminary data from the Mine Safety and Health Administration shows 2015 was the safest year in mining history, both in terms of number of deaths and injury and fatality rates. In 2015, 28 miners died in mining accidents, down from 45 in 2014. The fatal injury rate, expressed as reported injuries per 200,000 hours worked, was the lowest in mining history at 0.0096, down from 0.0144 in 2014 and 0.0110 in 2011 and 2012.

Mine Safety Highlights for 2015:

  • The fatal injury rate for coal mining was 0.0121, the lowest rate ever. The previous fatal injury rate low was set in 2011, during a period of peak employment in the coal industry.
  • In the metal and nonmetal mining industry, both the number of fatalities and the fatal injury rate were cut almost in half from the previous year’s figures. The fatal injury rate of 0.0085 was close to the all-time low of 0.0079 set in 2012. 
  • The all-injury rate dropped to a new low in 2015 at 2.28. Coal’s all-injury rate fell to 2.88, the first time it dropped below 3.0. Metal and nonmetal’s all-injury rate fell to a new low of 2.01.

The number of miners and mining operations were down in 2015, and accordingly, MSHA conducted fewer inspections. Even accounting for the decline in the number of mines, compliance improved, demonstrated by an 11 percent reduction in the number of citations and orders issued. Assessed penalties declined to about $62.3 million in 2015.

MSHA will release a final version of the calendar year data in July.

Learn More: