Protecting Workers from Heat Related Illness

CC_thermometerBy Rachel Morgan, EHS Specialist

Summer in the southeast creates a new set of hazards for workers. With temperatures reaching into the triple digits, employees must learn how to protect themselves against the various heat hazards that come along with working in these areas.

Heat illness encompasses a few different types of illness associated with the heat. These include heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, and heat rash. Workers that are not used to working in the extreme heat, not taking in enough liquids, and exposure to the direct sun are all factors that increase workers risk for developing heat related illness.

Heat stroke is the most serious of these heat illnesses. It occurs when the body overheats and the core body temperature reaches or exceeds 104 F, which can cause damage to organs such as the brain and heart. Heat stroke symptoms include confusion, cessation of sweating, fainting, and seizures.

Heat exhaustion is a less serious heat illness, but it should not be taken lightly because it can develop into heat stroke. Symptoms of this heat illness include body weakness, headaches, confusion, irritability, nausea, and wet skin from excessive sweating.

For the health and safety of workers, employers need to develop and implement heat illness prevention programs. These programs need to include requirements for training workers about the hazards associated with heat stress, how to recognize them, and how to prevent heat illnesses. Employers need to also ensure that employees have plenty of water available to them so that they can stay hydrated when working in these types of conditions.

Heat stress and illness can be managed when workers and employers work together. However, without proper precautions, these illnesses can result in death. For more information, visit https://www.osha.gov/Publications/osha3154.pdf

OSHA’s Proposed Silica Standard

rachel photo-website

Article by Rachel Morgan, EHS Specialist at Palmetto EHS, LLC.

A new silica standard has been proposed by OSHA to replace the silica PEL that the administration began enforcing in the 1970s. The PEL developed over 40 years ago must be calculated in the following equation: PEL = (10mg/m3) / (%Silica + 2). The new PEL would be a standard 50 μg/m3 over an 8 hour workday for general industry, construction, and maritime sectors alike. In addition to creating a new PEL, the rule also contains provisions for “measuring how much silica workers are exposed to, limiting workers’ access to areas where silica exposures are high, using effective methods for reducing exposures, providing medical exams to workers with high silica exposures, and training for workers about silica related hazards and how to limit exposure” (U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 2013).

The proposed rule with new provisions and an updated PEL, if passed, would further protect workers from some of the negative health affects seen from inhaling respirable crystalline silica particles, such as silicosis, respiratory diseases, and lung cancer, among others. By minimizing the negative health effects, the administration expects the new rule to save hundreds of lives and substantially reduce the number of silicosis cases each year.

To find more information, visit, OSHA’s Crystalline Silica Rulemaking page.

Obama’s Vow To Use Executive Authority Could Trickle Down To OSHA, Other Agencies

Reproduced with permission from Occupational Safety & Health Reporter, 44 OSHR 117 (Feb. 6, 2014).  Copyright 2014 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. (800-372-1033http://www.bna.com.  

By Stephen Lee

Feb. 3 –President Barack Obama’s vow in his Jan. 28 State of the Union address to use executive authority to advance his agenda, with or without congressional approval, has some business representatives worried about a flow of heavy-handed regulations streaming out of federal agencies.

“America does not stand still, and neither will I,” Obama said. “So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.”

Later in his speech, Obama announced that he would issue an executive order to raise the minimum wage for federal contractors to $10.10 per hour.

POTENTIAL SPILLOVER EFFECTS

That approach to governance could have spillover effects on federal agencies, which may feel more emboldened to move their own agendas through mechanisms such as letters of interpretation and guidance documents to bypass the lengthy rulemaking process, Norm Ornstein, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, told Bloomberg BNA Jan. 30.

Indeed, some business leaders have alleged that the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration under Obama already has been regulating by fiat, broadly expanding its authority to rule on issues such as permissible exposure limits, fines for violations, employee walkaround rights on safety inspections, noise controls and employer safety incentive programs.

“They’ve been trying to use the guidance process–which is far more streamlined and less complicated than rulemaking–to do things that should be done through rulemakings, things that create new policy and new obligations,” said Marc Freedman, executive director of labor law policy with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

In particular, the chamber has expressed concern that OSHA might wield the general duty clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act as a cudgel to expand its enforcement power on a broad set of workplace hazards, such as workplace violence.

OSHA REJECTS ALLEGATIONS

OSHA, however, has firmly rejected claims that it overreaches, saying it merely seeks to uphold its legislative mandate to protect workers and consistently follows a clear, transparent process for issuing rules.

OSHA Administrator David Michaels has said, for example, that the agency’s October 2013 framework to help employers transition to safer chemicals and the agency’s list of more stringent exposure levels developed outside of OSHA are recommendations only, and don’t signal an attempt to regulate.

Guidance and reinterpretations have triggered too much opposition for OSHA to attempt any significant expansion of its authority, especially in light of its failed 2011 proposed reinterpretation of its noise control standards, according to Aaron Trippler, director of government affairs with the American Industrial Hygiene Association.

OSHA withdrew the proposed reinterpretation shortly after announcing it.

“There is way too much politics in occupational health and safety issues for the agency to use these processes in any other way,” Trippler told Bloomberg BNA Feb. 3.

AGENCIES RESTRAINED

Moreover, agencies’ ability to regulate without following the Administrative Procedure Act is highly restrained, Ornstein said.

“It’s not like OSHA could turn around and say, ‘You know what, we’re going to change safety rules creating a whole new set of categories,’ ” Ornstein said. “The safety rules that OSHA has implemented all come within boundaries set by the OSH Act, and related laws. You can’t do this stuff on your own.”

“There’s some significant leeway in terms of implementing the directives, and in some cases the laws are vague,” he said. “But what we also have to keep in mind is that, in a larger sense, if you get an agency or the president taking an action that pushes the envelope or goes way beyond what is allowed in the laws, Congress has its own remedies.”

Ornstein further said Obama’s hand has been forced by an intransigent Republican party in Congress.

“I think he would prefer, and still would, to do this through Congress, as any president would, because laws have more reach, more bite, more endurance and more legitimacy than executive actions,” he said. “But if you can’t get laws, then you have two choices: You wring your hands or you do whatever you can.”

Paul Verkuil, chairman of the Administrative Conference of the United States, told Bloomberg BNA in December 2013 that he understood why agencies would try to “find a way around” the cumbersome notice-and-comment process.

REPUBLICANS CRITICAL OF PLAN

Following Obama’s speech, several Republican lawmakers blasted his plans to use more executive authority.

“For years, President Obama has chosen to withdraw from policy debates and ignore our Constitutional balance of power,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said in a statement. “Identifying that you cannot work with a Republican House or a Democratic Senate should not be a point of pride or a governing philosophy. Let’s put away the pen and pick up the phone and work together to find common ground.”

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, in a statement said the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act (H.R. 367S. 15), which would subject all significant regulations to an up-or-down vote in Congress before they can take effect, is a powerful measure to check a runaway executive.

MCCONNELL QUERIES JUSTICE DEPARTMENT

On Jan. 31, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder saying he was “gravely concerned that the system of checks and balances enshrined in the Constitution is threatened by the President’s determination to take unilateral action.” He requested a response by Feb. 14.

“Policy decisions should not be created in a vacuum,” Molly Fuhs, a spokeswoman for the American Legislative Exchange Council, told Bloomberg BNA Jan. 31. “Mandates–and in the president’s case, broad executive authority–prevents the creation of thoughtful and sound policy.”

 

OSHA Top 10 Violations for Fiscal Year 2013

These are the top ten OSHA violations for fiscal year 2013. Note that the top 10 list is considered preliminary since not all violations have been added to OSHA’s reporting system at this point.  OSHA does not, however, expect the order to change once the reporting system is completely up to date.

1. Fall Protection in construction (1926.501)        8,241 violations (7,250 in 2012-1st)
Includes violations for failure to guard open sides and edges of platforms, to prevent falls from roofs, and to cover or guard floor and wall holes.

2. Hazard Communication (1910.1200)                 6,156 violations (4,696 in 2012-2nd)
Includes violations for failure to have a written program, train employees on chemical hazards, improper or no labels on containers, and MSDS violations such as missing MSDSs.

3. Scaffolding in construction (1926.451)              5,423 violations (3,814 in 2012-3rd)
Includes violations for scaffold construction issues, improper access to scaffolding work surfaces,and lack of guardrails, etc.

4. Respiratory Protection (1910.134)                     3,879 violations (2,371 in 2012-4th)
Includes violations for missing written respiratory protection programs or program problems, poor fit test procedures and lack of fit testing, issues with respirator selection process, and lack of procedures for voluntary use of respirators.

5. Electrical-wiring methods ( 1910.305)               3,452 violations (1,744 in 2012-8th)
Includes violations for flexible cords and cables that were not used properly,  violations related to extension cord usage,  temporary wiring citations,  and use of temporary wiring as permanent wiring.

6. Powered Industrial Trucks (1910.178)              3,340 violations (1,993 in 2012-7th)
Includes violations for lack of (or inadequate) operator training and refresher training, inspections, and condition of forklifts.

7. Ladders in construction (1926.1053)                 3,311 violations (2,310 in 2012-5th)
Includes violations for damaged ladders, use of the top of the ladder as a step, using the wrong ladder for the job, and placing excessive loads on ladders.

8. Lockout/Tagout (1910.147)                                3,254 violations (1,572 in 2012-9th)
Includes violations for lack of energy control procedures and specific procedures, inadequate worker training, group lockout provisions not met and periodic inspections not completed.

9. Electrical-general requirements (1910.303)      2,745 violations (1,332 in 2012-10th)
Includes violations related to employee exposure to potential electric shock or electrocution.

10. Machine Guarding (1910.212)                           2,701 violations (2,097 in 2012-6th)
Includes violations for missing guards, not anchoring fixed machinery, and exposure to blades and other point of operation hazards.

It is worth noting that the items on the top 10  list usually do not change, but they may rise or fall in rank each year depending on number of citations issued.  This year, the total number of violations in every category rose over fiscal year 2012.

OSHA GHS Training Deadline is December 1, 2013

GHS

Have you trained your employees on GHS?  OSHA revised its Hazard Communication Standard to align with the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) in March of 2012.

Two significant changes contained in the revised standard are the new labeling requirements and the new standardized format for Safety Data sheets (SDSs), which were formerly called Material Safety Data Sheets or MSDSs.  Training on these changes is required by December 1, 2013.

Need help complying quickly?  We have prepared a PowerPoint presentation that you can use with your employees. It has all the information you need including notes where applicable to help you explain the changes.  A completion certificate and training log in MS Word is also included so you can document the training.

Need more help with GHS compliance?  An easy to understand summary of all GHS requirements can be found in our blog post and OSHA’s Fact Sheet details the training requirements that must be in place by December 1, 2013.

Are You Ready for Your Certified Environmental Trainer (CET) Exam?

CET Flash CardsRecently, the Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP) has issued a “fast track” process for the Certified Environmental, Safety and Health Trainer (CET) certification exam for SH&E practitioners who schedule and sit for the examination by December 31, 2013. The CET is a certification for SH&E professionals with expertise in developing, designing, and delivering SH&E training.

I will be conducting a 2 hour live webinar on October 23, 2013 at 2 pm EST to discuss requirements for the CET, test preparation strategy, useful resources, ANSI/ASSE Z490.1, and the Pearson VUE test taking process.  A recording will also be available after the webinar.

Join me for the webinar and check out our Quizlet flashcards to prepare for your exam.

Indoor Firing Ranges and OSHA Compliance Part Two

range

In the previous post, I discussed the OSHA National Emphasis Program on Lead and how it has been applied frequently to indoor firing ranges recently.  These targeted inspections have caught many small business owners of firing ranges by surprise since many of these owners have very little experience with or knowledge of OSHA regulations.  In this post I will discuss other common OSHA compliance issues that apply to firing ranges.  These are all issues that are fair game once OSHA arrives at your facility.

The majority of OSHA inspections at firing ranges and gun clubs result from the National Emphasis program on lead.  These are unannounced inspections.  During an OSHA inspection, the compliance officer will tour the facility, review programs and records, interview employees, and may take pictures, video, and air samples.  Being prepared for an inspection will result in a much better outcome if OSHA does visit your facility.  The following are some compliance issues that generally affect firing ranges and gun clubs, although other standards may also apply based on your facility.

  1. Lead –See previous post.
  2. Noise Exposure-Noise sampling should be conducted to determine if noise levels are above 85 dB as an eight hour time weighted average.  If they are, baseline and annual audiometric testing should be performed and hearing protection should be provided for employees.  A hearing conservation program must also be implemented if noise results are 85 dB or greater.
  3. OSHA Recordkeeping-Your facility is required to keep OSHA logs if you had 10 or more employees at any time last year.  This includes part-time employees and generally includes temporary employees as well.  See OSHA’s recordkeeping page for more information and download the forms here.  OSHA will ask to review the past 3-5 years of OSHA logs plus the current year.  If there are no injuries for the year, you still need to complete the form.  Just fill out the form and zero out the totals.  Remember to post the 300 A summary form from February 1-April 30 each year.
  4. OSHA Poster– the OSHA poster should be posted in a conspicuous place (such as a break room) at the work site where employees can review it.
  5. Emergency Action Plan-You need to ensure that all of your exits are unlocked while the building is occupied, that exit signs are in place, and that exits and exit routes remain unblocked.  You should develop an emergency action plan to address potential workplace emergencies.  This OSHA E-Tool will assist you in developing your emergency action plan.
  6. Fire extinguishers-Fire extinguishers should be properly maintained and inspected, and should not be blocked.  Employees should have a basic understanding of how to use fire extinguishers.  Hands-on training is required if employees are required to use them as part of their job duties.
  7. Electrical Safety-Ensure that basic electrical safety rules are followed.  Common OSHA violations are for things like missing ground pins, broken outlet covers, overloaded circuits, extension cords used as permanent wiring, missing blanks in unused openings in panel boxes, and unlabeled panel boxes.  Make sure your business corrects any electrical safety hazards.
  8. Personal Protective Equipment -OSHA requires employers to do a PPE Hazard Assessment to determine what PPE is needed for each task performed at the facility.  A written certification of this assessment must be maintained.  Employees must also be trained on the limitations of PPE, how to wear it, take it on and off, care for it, inspect it and use it.
  9. Hazard Communication-OSHA requires employers whose employees use chemicals in the workplace to have a written hazard communication program.  Safety Data Sheets (formerly called material safety data sheets) and a list of chemicals must be maintained for all chemicals in the workplace.  All chemicals must be labeled.  Recent changes to this standard will change many of the requirements including training, MSDSs, labels, and other compliance issues.  For more information see our post on GHS and Hazcom.
  10. Accident Reporting and First Aid-Employees should be trained on accident reporting procedures. First aid supplies should be maintained on site and if there is no medical facility or EMS station that can provide emergency care in close proximity (OSHA has defined this as 3-4 minutes away), employees should be trained to render first aid.
  11. General safety or orientation training should be provided for your employees.  The training should cover basic OSHA requirements like accident reporting, PPE, first aid, emergency action plans, fire extinguishers, electrical safety, hazard communication, noise, and lead.  Other topics may also be required based on your facility.

If you need additional help with OSHA compliance for your firing range, contact us.

Indoor Firing Ranges and OSHA Compliance Part One – Lead

firing-range

Indoor firing ranges have been visited by OSHA recently under the National Emphasis Program for Lead.  Firing ranges and gun clubs generally fall under SIC Codes 7997 and 7999.  Both codes are listed in the National Emphasis Program.

Many gun club and firing ranges are small businesses without full time safety managers and their owners are not familiar with OSHA regulations required for their businesses. We have received many phone calls from concerned firing range owners in the past six months so I want to use this post to outline some basic OSHA compliance requirements that may apply to your business.

Lead

The first OSHA compliance issue that I will discuss is the OSHA Lead Standard.  The General Industry Standard 1910.1025 applies to firing ranges/shooting ranges and gun clubs.  The Lead Standard is exposure driven, which means that certain parts of the standard apply if employee exposure levels exceed either the OSHA Action Level (AL) of 30 ug/m3 or the OSHA Permissible Exposure Level (PEL) of 50 ug/m3.  You can think of the Action Level as the level at which you are required by law to take action.  Certain parts of the standard will kick in at this level but others will not.  Virtually the entire standard will apply if employee exposure levels reach the PEL.  In order to determine employee exposures, you need to do air sampling for lead.  Sampling should be conducted for multiple job tasks, but at a minimum, on workers who enter the range, perform cleaning activities in the range, and those who change out HVAC filters.

Once you conduct your sampling and receive your results you should do the following:

  1. Notify employees of their results.  This includes employees that do the same tasks that were not monitored.  The best way to handle this is to have a short team meeting to present and explain the results and have employees sign a summary of the sampling results to show that they received them.
  2. Determine compliance requirements based on the sample results, and implement these requirements.

Compliance requirements will fall under three categories, results less than the Action Level, results at or above the Action Level but below the PEL, and results at or above the PEL.

What You Have to Do When Lead Results are Below the AL

  • Train employees on Appendix A & B of the Lead Standard
  • Resample periodically to ensure that levels are below AL and PEL.  This is especially important if you have changes in the range (ventilation, number of ranges, etc.).
  • Personal protective equipment should be provided if necessary (disposable gloves and clothing if employees are exposed to lead dust during cleaning or changing of HVAC filters).
  • Follow good housekeeping procedures-HEPA vacuuming, etc. Dry sweeping and compressed air are not allowed for cleaning of lead dust.  Lead waste should be placed in sealed bags and disposed of based on state environmental requirements.

What You Have to do When Lead Results at or are Above the AL but less than the PEL

  • Train employees on Appendix A & of the Lead Standard
  • Resample for lead every six months.
  • Personal protective equipment should be provided if necessary (disposable gloves and clothing if employees are exposed to lead dust during cleaning or changing of HVAC filters).
  • Respirators should be provided if requested.
  • Medical Surveillance is required, and medical removal provisions apply if employees have elevated blood lead levels.
  • Follow good housekeeping procedures-HEPA vacuuming, etc. Dry sweeping and compressed air are not allowed for cleaning of lead dust.  Lead waste should be placed in sealed bags and disposed of based on state environmental requirements.

What You Have to do When Lead Results are at or Above the PEL

  • Train employees on Appendix A & of the Lead Standard
  • Resample for lead every three months.
  • Implement a lead compliance program to help reduce lead exposures in the workplace.
  • Personal protective equipment must be worn (disposable gloves and clothing and respirators).
  • Change facilities with showers must be provided and employees cannot wear lead contaminated clothing home.
  • Hand washing facilities and separate lunch rooms must be provided to ensure that employees do not accidentally ingest lead.
  • Medical Surveillance is required, and medical removal provisions apply if employees have elevated blood lead levels.
  • Follow good housekeeping procedures-HEPA vacuuming, etc. Dry sweeping and compressed air are not allowed for cleaning of lead dust.  Lead waste should be placed in sealed bags and disposed of based on state environmental requirements.

Additional safety and health resources for indoor firing ranges:

NIOSH indoor firing range page

NIOSH Workplace Solutions for Firing Ranges

If you need additional help with lead requirements for your firing range, contact us.

In Part Two of this blog post I will discuss other OSHA compliance issues which apply to firing ranges.

NIOSH Alert Addressing Dampness in Buildings

Surface Mold

Surface Mold

Dampness in office buildings, nonindustrial buildings, and schools can create mold growth which can lead to respiratory issues for some susceptible building occupants.

Some causes of dampness in indoor environments include water intrusion into the building (such as roof leaks and window leaks), leaks from plumbing and HVAC units, and uncontrolled relative humidity.

NIOSH recently released an alert Preventing Occupational Respiratory Disease from Exposures Caused by Dampness in Office Buildings, Schools, and Other Nonindustrial Buildings.  According to NIOSH, “research studies have shown that dampness-related exposures from building dampness and mold have been associated with respiratory symptoms, asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, rhinosinusitis, bronchitis, and respiratory infections in research studies. Individuals with asthma or hypersensitivity pneumonitis may be at risk for progression to more severe disease if the relationship between illness and exposure to the damp building is not recognized and exposures continue.”

This new alert makes recommendations for building owners and employers as well as building occupants.

NIOSH Recommendations for Building Owners and Employers to Prevent Dampness and Control Mold Growth

  • „Inform occupants that respiratory effects from exposure in damp buildings can occur and implement a system for response to building dampness and musty or moldy odors, leaks, and flooding incidents as well as building-related respiratory symptoms or disease.
  • Encourage occupants who have developed persistent or worsening respiratory symptoms while working in the building to see a healthcare provider; refer to local or state listings of occupational medicine physicians or the Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics.
  • Follow recommendations from a healthcare provider for relocation of occupants diagnosed with building-related respiratory disease.
  • Establish an indoor environmental quality (IEQ) team to oversee implementation of an IEQ program. The IEQ team should consist of a coordinator and representatives of the building employees, employers, and building management. IEQ teams for schools may wish to include nurses, school board officials, and parents.The EPA’s Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools can be used as a model for such a program.

NIOSH Recommendations for Building Occupants

  • Inform your building manager/owner about signs of leaks, flooding, dampness, musty or moldy odors, and ventilation problems in the building; also, let your employer or building manager/owner know of any respiratory problems that may be building-related.
  • „See your healthcare provider if you have developed persistent or worsening health symptoms while working in the building. Let your employer or building manager/ owner know if your healthcare provider recommends relocation to another work area to prevent exposure to mold or dampness related contaminants that may be causing or exacerbating your symptoms in situations where dampness problems persist.
  • Familiarize yourself with the IEQ program at your workplace and become an active member of the IEQ team, if needed. If there is no IEQ program at your workplace, strive for one to be established.