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Nieuwegein, The Netherlands — On-the-job exposure to silica, beryllium and certain other metals may be linked to the inflammatory disease sarcoidosis, results of a recent study led by Dutch researchers suggest.

For people who have sarcoidosis, inflammatory cells collect and grow in parts of the body – typically the lungs and lymph nodes – and can potentially damage organs. The cause of the disease isn’t known, “but experts think it results from the body’s immune system responding to an unknown substance,” the Mayo Clinic states. No cure for the disease exists, but treatments are available. In certain instances, sarcoidosis clears up on its own.

For the study, the researchers assessed the potential exposures to silica, beryllium, aluminum and zirconium among 256 sarcoidosis patients and 73 control patients who had obstructive sleep apnea, using the results of a questionnaire on work history. Patients with OSA were used as controls because “there is no relationship between environmental triggers and development of OSA.”

Results show that the sarcoidosis patients had a higher percentage of workplace exposure to silica or the other metals – 32.4% (or 83 out of 256), compared with the control group’s 24.7%. After the researchers examined the immune system reactions to silica and the other metals in 33 sarcoidosis patients and 19 control patients using a lymphocyte proliferation test, more than 21% of the former group showed reactions to the materials compared with none of the latter group.


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Although most facilities or homes will not store chemicals in massive quantities, improperly storing even a small amount of volatile chemicals can cause injury and even worse, death.

The massive explosion in Beirut on Aug. 4, 2020, occurred due to the improper storage of chemicals. About 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate was stored at the port for six years without preventive measures. The explosion killed 135 people, injured 5,000 people, and will most likely cost around $15 billion in economic losses. Needless to say, properly storing the ammonium nitrate would have saved many lives.

Although most facilities or homes will not store chemicals in massive quantities, improperly storing even a small amount of volatile chemicals can cause injury and even worse, death.

Flammable Versus Combustible

The difference between a flammable and combustible chemical is based on flashpoints, the lowest temperature at which hazardous materials will generate vapors and ignite if exposed to an ignition source.

Flashpoints vary from chemical to chemical. OSHA classifies flashpoints below 100°F (37.8°C) as flammable. Combustible liquids have a flashpoint at or above 100°F (37.8°C) and below 200°F (93.3°C). Flammable and combustible chemicals are present in almost every workplace and home. Knowing how to properly store these chemicals will prevent accidents and injuries.

Avoid Common Mistakes

Most accidents with flammable chemicals happen due to ignorance and complacency. According to a study conducted by the National Fire and Protection Association, flammable or combustible liquid fires result in an estimated 454 civilian deaths, 3,910 civilian injuries, and $1.5 billion in direct property damage per year. Properly storing flammable chemicals is the first step to avoid costly damage and injuries.

Here are three common mistakes to avoid:

Using the Right Storage Container

To save money, some people may opt to store unused chemicals in their original packaging. This may be fine for small amounts of chemicals that will be used in the short term. However, any chemical that will be stored for an extended period should be put in containers designed to hold flammable chemicals.

Use only approved safety containers. The most widely used containers are portable safety cans. They are available in different shapes and capacities. They are made from metal or very low conductivity plastic. These cans have additional features such as spring-mounted spout caps that automatically open when the vapor pressure builds up inside. The spout caps also close automatically when you finish filling or pouring from the safety can, or if the can is dropped.

Labeling the Containers

Regardless of the size of your facility or household, proper labeling of stored chemicals is extremely important. Some chemicals are clear and odorless and can be mistaken for nonhazardous materials. Use a standard label format with the name of the chemical, the date it was stored, and other Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) information included.

Having a Fire Prevention Plan

Accidents will happen and prevention is the best way to prevent a catastrophe. There are two ways to help minimize the possibility of a chemical fire spreading through your facility or home: a spill containment system and fire-resistant storage units.

● Spill containment involves chemicals and other hazardous materials contained within a barrier or drainage system rather than being absorbed at the surface. These systems will prevent the chemical from spreading to a larger area in the event of a spill.

● Fire-resistant storage units have special fire retardant composites in their construction plus heat triggered auto-closing and self-latching doors with vent seals. The cabinets provide a safe and convenient means to store containers of flammable liquids.

Having both of these safety storage precautions will significantly reduce the probability of injury if an accident occurs.

Flammable chemicals are part of daily life. Properly storing them just takes a little bit of planning and effort. Making sure you are up to date with compliance standards will ensure you are storing your chemicals is the safest manner possible.



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Oregon has proposed an emergency temporary standard for workplace coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) transmission. While there is no federal workplace safety and health standard for coronavirus exposures, California has an airborne transmissible disease standard for certain workplaces, and Virginia approved an emergency temporary standard for COVID-19 in July.

If approved, Oregon’s standard would contain requirements that apply to all workplaces, with additional requirements for job duties involving close-contact work activities and healthcare tasks like direct patient care. The Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is accepting public comments on its draft rule through September 7.

The temporary rule could take effect on September 14 and would remain in effect for 180 days.

Under the temporary rule, all employers in the state would be required to:

● Design both the workplace and work activities to eliminate the need for workers to be within 6 feet of another individual in order to fulfill their duties.
● Ensure that face coverings are worn if the employer can demonstrate that 6-foot separation is not practical while maintaining as much distance as practical.
● Face coverings must be worn by employees and other individuals whenever customers, contractors, or other visitors are present and a strict separation cannot be maintained, and they must be worn by employees working in office settings when not at their desk or seated in a conference room in addition to whenever 6-foot distancing cannot be reliably maintained between individuals (including in corridors, restrooms, elevators, and stairwells).
● When employees are transported in a motor vehicle for work purposes, the center points of the seats of passengers not part of the same household must be separated by at least 3 feet, and all individuals in the vehicle must wear face coverings.
● Face coverings must be worn when individuals are engaged in forceful exertion, singing, or shouting and they are not separated from other individuals to their front by at least 12 feet.

To meet the 6-foot distancing requirement, employers also can use an impermeable barrier that creates a “droplet buffer” and provides at least a 6-foot distance between the mouths of two individuals.

The temporary rule also would contain sanitation requirements. Employers must ensure that all high-contact surfaces used by multiple employees like cash registers, computers, door handles, drinking fountains, seatbelts, and telephones are thoroughly cleaned at the beginning of each shift. Shared equipment and frequently touched surfaces must be cleaned before use by another employee.

The employer also must ensure that employees have the supplies necessary and are able to use proper hand hygiene before and after using shared equipment or tools and before eating, drinking, applying cosmetics, or smoking.

At establishments with at least 25 employees at any time, the employer must designate one or more employees who will be responsible for identifying appropriate social distancing, proper face covering use, and sanitation measures and ensuring adopted policies are implemented.

The rule also would contain requirements for the medical removal of employees with COVID-19 symptoms, undergoing testing, or otherwise requiring isolation. Workers must be reassigned to duties that do not involve in-person contact whenever a medical provider or public health official recommends isolation or quarantine.

Reassignment must continue until the need no longer exists based on guidance from the medical provider or involved public health officials, but employees are entitled to return to their previous job duties once medical removal is no longer necessary.

The temporary requirements would be stricter for occupations like barbers, beauticians, massage therapists, hairdressers, makeup artists, and tattooing. Requirements would include exposure assessment plans, enhanced information and training, and enhanced sanitation.

The most stringent requirements would apply to direct patient care in healthcare facilities, emergency responders, and those transporting human remains or laboratory samples. Requirements would include infection control plans, covering tasks, and situations requiring personal protective equipment. Infection control plans must conform to policies and recommendations from the Oregon Health Authority regarding COVID-19.


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The shipping and trucking industry has had to work within unique OSHA standards for years. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, logistics companies will have to adapt to new, changing regulations. Not everything is a matter of law, and some guidelines may be unclear, so this isn't always a straightforward task.

Keeping employees and customers safe is essential at any time, but the pandemic brings new concerns. The global economy relies on shipping, but if transportation companies aren't careful, they can contribute to the spread of COVID-19. Here are a few examples of new safety protocols the industry should embrace:

1. Report All Potential Health Concerns

The shipping industry involves a lot of face-to-face interaction, so companies can't afford to take chances in a pandemic. If any employees are feeling sick or have come into contact with someone who's tested positive, they need to report it. That way, managers can schedule them to quarantine for the appropriate amount of time or get tested as soon as possible.

The Chamber of Marine Commerce requires immediate reporting to the Coast Guard for any illness on a vessel. Even if local authorities in an area don't have similar requirements, it's best to alert anyone who the situation might affect.

2. Minimize Contact Between Drivers and Customers

Logistics companies can be reasonably sure of the health of their drivers and other employees. Customers and partners, on the other hand, present another set of risks. Since businesses can't guarantee that others are healthy, they should keep outside contact to a minimum.

Shipping companies can use real-time text updates to alert customers of incoming packages, then leave them on the doorstep. Workers who have to interact with others at docks or airports should maintain a 6-foot distance. COVID-19 may be able to survive on surfaces, so workers may want to wear gloves if they need to touch any common surface.

3. Plan for Flexibility

If a driver starts feeling sick on the road, it can present a unique challenge. Businesses may have to reorganize their routes on the fly to allow the ill worker to finish faster and quarantine. Given these new obstacles, the trucking industry will have to become more flexible.

Many state and federal regulations for drivers are relaxing, such as employees being able to work longer hours. These loosening restrictions can help companies make up for unforeseen circumstances. To make the most of these relaxed OSHA standards, businesses will need to plan to be flexible if necessary.

4. Regularly Disinfect Vehicles and Packages

According to the CDC, it may be possible to contract COVID-19 from touching an infected surface and then touching an orifice. While this isn't the primary way the virus spreads, it's still worth considering. Any workers handling packages or using shared spaces like company vehicles should disinfect all surfaces.

The EPA keeps a list of anti-COVID disinfectants employees can use. Workers should use gloves and disinfect surfaces any time they are done touching an item before someone else might. Afterward, they should put on a new pair of gloves to avoid cross-contamination.

5. Keep Up-To-Date Logs

If an employee does test positive for COVID-19, contact tracing is essential. Companies should keep logs of when, where and with whom employees work to enable this if necessary. These records will make contact tracing a much faster and more straightforward process.

Without accurate, up-to-date logs, it could be near impossible to determine who might be at risk. Proactive record keeping ensures businesses can control these health hazards as soon as possible.

The Industry Must Adapt Amid COVID-19

The trucking and shipping industries involve a lot of workers and customers, which can be risky during a pandemic. By adhering to updated OSHA standards and following these protocols, though, these companies can stay safe. The world can't survive without logistics businesses, so they should do everything in their power to stay healthy.


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PPE focus on fall protection

8/24/2020 12:58 PM

For those working at heights, finding the right equipment is essential The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) defines working at heights as “any work where a person could fall a distance and be injured. This event might include, for example, falling from a step ladder, off of a roof, or through an unguarded hole in the ground or floor. Fall protection may also be required when working above an open top tank, bin, hopper, or vat.”

Although the exact number may vary depending on each province, OHS laws generally require some kind of action when a worker has the potential to fall about three metres (10 feet), says the CCOHS.

Legislation is typically updated every few years — every three to five years on average, says Erica Cole, product manager at Pure Safety Group. These legal updates are mandatory, but there are voluntary standards as well. One of the major fall protection standards in Canada is CSA Z259.17-16. There are subcategories and subcomponents of that standard that address each component in a fall arrest system: connecting devices, anchors and body wear such as harnesses.

In the U.S., there are different trigger heights depending on the activity, says Dan Henn, vice president of operations at Reliance Fall Protection. “In general industry, we generally expect anybody who is subject to a fall of four feet or greater to be protected in some manner,” he says. “In most construction environments, that trigger height is about six feet.”

Trigger heights are “predicated on the amount of risk that we are collectively willing to accept in a particular discipline or industry,” adds Henn.

Fall protection in numbers
According to the CCOHS, 42,000 workers get injured annually due to fall accidents in Canada. Sixty-seven per cent of falls happen on the same level (slips and trips), while the remaining 30 per cent are falls from heights. Fall incidents represented 18 per cent of “time-loss injuries” in 2016 as per the Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada.

In 2017, there were 887 fall fatalities in the United States and 227,760 injuries. Of that number, more than half were on the same level. Indeed, one doesn’t need to fall a tremendous distance for there to be a potential for a serious impact. In 2017, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 12 per cent of fatal falls were from elevations of less than six feet.

There are several requirements for those working at heights and a broad spectrum of equipment that is understood as fall protection.

Nevertheless, lack of or inadequate fall protection remains a huge issue in North America. In 2013, the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OHSA) stated that fall protection was the most cited workplace safety violation in the United States, tallying in at 8,241 violations, ahead of hazard communication (6,156) and scaffolding (5,423).

A number of companies in Canada have received fall protection fines in the last year or so relating to lack of or inadequate fall protection: In March 2019, M K Construction was fined $20,000 after exposing a worker to a fall risk of up to 6.1 metres; in April 2019, Cybertech Controls and Electric was fined $70,000 after a worker fell through a ceiling; in August 2019, roofing company Navco Construction was fined $13,179 after workers were exposed to fall risk; in November 2019, landscape firm PattyMac was fined $56,250 after a worker was injured falling from a ladder; and, in January 2020, Thunder Creek Pork was fined $60,000 after a worker was injured after falling from a trailer and landing on a cement floor.

So, who needs fall protection? And when?
“Fall protection is equipment designed to prevent you from falling or protect you if you actually fall. The benefit is if you fall you will not sustain severe injury,” says Cole.

“Anytime where we have the ability to fall to a lower level is typically when we're going to be looking at implementing some type of fall protection system,” says Henn.

“A lot of people, when they think about fall protection, they immediately go to the construction industry,” says Cole, “but there are other industries as well — and not only industry, but just regular, everyday people that are working.”

“Fall hazards exist in virtually every imaginable workplace and, quite frankly, in most residences, if we consider the act of cleaning out one's gutters or hanging up the Christmas lights,” says Henn.

He adds that a fall hazard exists “anytime we have somebody who is working on some elevated surface structure or in an environment where they are subjected to a fall hazard, which is usually going to be some form of unprotected side or edge, a catwalk, a roof, on top of a piece of equipment and machinery that perhaps we're maintaining or repairing.”

What equipment should be used?
Cole says there are a couple of major components that one should have in a fall protection system.

Before anything, use the correct hard hat. Working at heights, it is very important to have the right head protection. Rather than a conventional hard hat that simply rests upon the head, workers at heights should use a hat that is both top and side impact rated and has a chin strap or retention system.

Once the hat is on, “the first thing we're going to be investing in is engineering resources to determine where we can prevent or eliminate exposure to fall hazards. Can we do the work on the ground? Can we bring the work to the worker as opposed to taking the worker to the work?” says Henn.

i. Passive systems
There are a host of passive systems that can be implemented, including guardian barriers, netting or any kind of physical barrier that will prevent access to the fall hazard.

Passive fall protection “is designed to inhibit you from ever reaching the edge, so you never encounter the dangerous component of your work area,” says Cole. This could be a guardrail, a warning line system or even a person that watches over other workers and warns them when they get too close to the edge. In addition, there are positioning devices, which could be lanyards or chain positioning lanyards that allow you to work within a certain distance; they position your body so that you can never reach the edge.

Then, we get into “active” fall protection systems. “That’s our last line of defence,” says Henn.

ii. Harness
“When we get into those types of systems or solutions, the basic products or components of systems are first of all going to be a full body harness, which is basically the envelope for the individual at risk, the thing that we're going to use to capture and contain their body and hopefully arrest or prevent access to the fall hazard if we're rigged,” says Henn.

A body harness, which you wear on your person — your torso — is designed to minimize the forces that your body would experience in the event of a fall, says Cole.

“The type of harness that you would use would be based off of your application,” says Cole. For example, she says, the harness that someone may wear for construction may contain a tool belt. This harness is not necessarily aimed at other industries. If a person is working on an offshore rig or doing wind or energy work, there will be different components or different materials of hardware used.

iii. Connecting device
The next element is a connecting device or connecting subsystem. This could be in the form of a lanyard or lifeline. This is the tether that will attach to the user’s full-body harness.

A lanyard is a piece of webbing that may have a shock absorber on it, and it will connect your anchorage to your body harness. In essence, it’s a piece of equipment that goes between two other pieces of fall protection equipment.

This device connects to an integral part of active fall protection: the anchorage point.

iv. Anchorage
The anchorage is a structural element, says Henn. It could be the structure being worked on or some adjacent structure or element that is going to be strong enough to restrict movement or arrest the fall.

The other essential attribute to look out for in an anchorage structure is the elevation of the structure above the working surface. The higher the elevation of the anchorage, the shorter the potential there is for freefall distance or an unrestricted fall distance, says Henn.

Cole says an anchorage could be a component bolted to the floor, ceiling or a structural beam.
An anchorage point needs to be strong, proximate to the working location and elevated at least a couple of feet above the user’s dorsal ring on their full-body harness. Henn says the ideal minimum anchorage height is somewhere in the vicinity of seven and a half feet, although there are different strength requirements based upon the type of work that is being performed.

“The elevation of the anchorage above the walking working surface is critical to the outcome of any fall arrest scenario. It improves every measurable metric. The sooner I can rescue or fall, the less risk there is that that person is going to be injured or killed,” he says.

Cole says the user rating should be taken into account as well as how heavy the person is that is wearing the equipment. The substrate material to which the anchor connects comes into play. It could be wood, metal decking or even concrete. Typically, these should be listed in the manufacturer instructions for that anchor. She says that you would also have a qualified person or an engineer examine the system on top of the manufacturer’s instructions, which are based on testing the company does and current legislation.

There is also a wide variety of products or solutions referred to as “anchorage connectors,” These will function as the connector between the anchorage and the personal fall protection or fall arrest system.

This equipment is all considered as active fall protection. Cole says to remember it as “ABC”: anchorage, body harness and connective device.

v. Dropped object prevention
While ABC is very important, Cole says there is another component that is not receiving as much light as it should — although it is starting to pick up steam. “I call that component the ‘D component,’ which is dropped object prevention,” she says. Indeed, if someone is doing maintenance or repairs or doing construction on a new build, the worker may have tools. “You have to think about what’s beneath you, what happens if that worker drops a wrench or a hammer. If you drop that at six foot or above height, serious injury or even a fatality could occur.”

Cole says that drop object prevention could be a tool tethering system, which would adhere to the worker’s body so that, if their hand lets go, the tool will not fall.

What are the dangers of not using, or using ill-fitting fall protection? In fall-related accidents, most injuries due to ill-fitting or improper protection are to the appendages (legs, arms) as well as the back, says Cole. She says that, on top of injury and potential death, companies also face government fines. This is a huge financial impact for the company.

“The risk of working without some kind of fall protection is, I think, relatively plain to see,” says Henn. “If we fall at considerable distance, we're going to sustain at the very minimum some kind of an injury, whether it be broken bones, soft tissue damage, organ damage, concussion, you name it. There's just a tremendous amount of risk. You know, gravity is always going to win.”

“I actually find that most accidents or falls that happen are due to improper selection of equipment,” says Cole.

Injuries and fatalities will happen not just due to a lack of fall protection but if one is using a system that is not designed to deal with the specific risk factors of the activity taking place in that specific environment, says Henn.

Another danger is that of orthostatic intolerance or suspension trauma. Essentially, explains Henn, this is when somebody is hanging in a harness and the lower elements of the harness — particularly the leg straps — restrict blood flow through the legs. This means that a large volume of blood is not being circulated as a result of not being oxygenated. Furthermore, if a soft tissue impact took place during the course of the fall, there could be clotting. As such, when the worker is taken down after a period of time, all the blood will suddenly be released, potentially accompanied by blood clots, and many different things can happen on a cardiovascular level or pulmonary level that are extremely negative.

Fall protection is not complete without a rescue plan. The aforementioned orthostatic intolerance occurs when there is no rescue plan in place. “We also need to make sure that we have taken the time to visualize our outcomes,” says Henn. “If we examine the working area and the work that has to be done and the hazards associated with working that area and what is going to happen to the worker should they fall with the equipment that they have, do we have confidence that it's going to do what we expect it to do?”
“Everyone should have a rescue plan,” says Cole. This would be part of active protection.

Can fall protection be improved?
In short, yes. In the U.S., there are some minimum expectations of products and components for manufacturers, but, fundamentally, “it's up to the user and the employer to make those determinations to ensure that they've bought a product that is compliant with the basic expectations of the regulation,” says Henn.

Furthermore, all of requirements are minimum requirements, which can be different from what should be best practice. Fall protection products “are not terribly intuitive,” Henn says. “A lot of the outcomes or performance elements of fall protection aren't going to be exceptionally obvious to somebody who isn't educated in terms of how these systems work and what their limitations are.”

Sadly, says Henn, these best practices are still lacking on many job sites. “I've been doing this for about 17 years now. And I've never been on a job site or in any significant facility where people were using fall protection, where I did not see at least one individual who was at risk of being seriously injured or killed because they were not utilizing their equipment correctly.”

“Make sure you’re working safely and make sure your equipment is up to date and up to standard,” says Cole. “It’s really just about making sure that people are getting back home the same way that they came in.”


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New research from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health illustrates the increased risk of hearing loss among noise-exposed workers in the service sector.

According to a new update, researchers examined audiograms for 1.9 million noise-exposed workers across all industries, including audiograms for more than 150,000 workers in the service sector, which includes workers in services like security and surveillance; educational training; entertainment and recreation; accommodations and food service; machinery repairing; dry cleaning and laundry; and landscaping. The main findings included:

■ The prevalence of hearing loss within Services was 17 percent, very close to the prevalence of all industries combined (16 percent).
■ However, many sub-sectors greatly exceeded the overall prevalence by large percentages (10 to 33 percent higher), and many had high risks for hearing loss.
■ Workers in Administration of Urban Planning and Community and Rural Development had the highest prevalence (50 percent), and workers in Solid Waste Combustors and Incinerators had more than double the risk, the highest of any sub-sector.
■ Some sub-sectors traditionally viewed as ‘low-risk’ also had higher than expected prevalences and/or risks, such as professional and technical services and schools. For example, Custom Computer Programming Services, and Elementary and Secondary Schools, had prevalences 35 percent and 26 percent, respectively.

In conclusion, the researchers found that large numbers of workers within Services have an elevated risk of hearing loss and need immediate hearing conservation efforts. Additional research and surveillance are needed for sub-sectors for which there is low awareness of hearing hazards or a lack of hearing data. It is very important to identify the at-risk workers in these sub-sectors and protect their hearing, with the help of targeted interventions.

Occupational hearing loss is preventable. For general occupational hearing loss prevention, NIOSH recommends removing or reducing noise at the source using the hierarchy of controls and when noise cannot be reduced to safe levels, implementing an effective hearing conservation program.


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OSHA is helping to separate facts from rumors about workers wearing cloth masks or other face coverings during the coronavirus pandemic.

The agency addresses this question in its coronavirus FAQ: Does wearing a medical/surgical mask or cloth face covering cause unsafe oxygen levels or harmful carbon dioxide levels to the wearer?

No, says OSHA.

Medical masks, including surgical masks, are routinely worn by healthcare workers throughout the day as part of their PPE and do not compromise their oxygen levels or cause carbon dioxide buildup.

They are designed to be breathed through and can protect against respiratory droplets, which are typically much larger than tiny carbon dioxide particles.

Consequently, most carbon dioxide particles will either go through the mask or escape along the mask’s loose-fitting perimeter. Some carbon dioxide might collect between the mask and the wearer’s face, but not at unsafe levels.

Like medical masks, cloth face coverings are loose-fitting with no seal and are designed to be breathed through.

In addition, workers may easily remove their medical masks or cloth face coverings periodically (and when not in close proximity with others) to eliminate any negligible build-up of carbon dioxide that might occur.

Cloth face coverings and medical masks can help prevent the spread of potentially infectious respiratory droplets from the wearer to their co-workers, including when the wearer has COVID-19 and does not know it.

OSHA standard does not apply

Some people have mistakenly claimed that OSHA standards (e.g., the Respiratory Protection standard, 29 CFR 1910.134; the Permit-Required Confined Space standard 29 CFR 1910.146; and the Air Contaminants standard, 29 CFR 1910.1000) apply to the issue of oxygen or carbon dioxide levels resulting from the use of medical masks or cloth face coverings in work settings with normal ambient air (e.g. healthcare settings, offices, retail settings, construction).

These standards do not apply to the wearing of medical masks or cloth face coverings in work settings with normal ambient air. These standards would only apply to work settings where there are known or suspected sources of chemicals (e.g., manufacturing facilities) or workers are required to enter a potentially dangerous location (e.g., a large tank or vessel).


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As construction professionals, it feels like we’re always thinking about safety — and yet, our industry is still one of the most high-risk. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), one in five worker deaths occurs in construction, accounting for nearly a quarter of all worker fatalities in the United States.The administration reports that over half of all these fatalities are caused by the “fatal four” incidents — falls, struck by objects, electrocutions, and caught-in/between hazards.

However, investing in the right safety procedures, training, workwear, and supplies can drastically reduce the likelihood of a severe accident or fatality happening on your job site. Preventing injuries is key to solidifying an influential safety culture, keeping your workers safe, and safeguarding your company at the same time. Here are signs your construction company needs to rethink its safety culture:

1. You’re Not Inspecting Job Sites Daily – Doing multiple thorough inspections of your site daily is crucial to ensuring that your workers and clients are not put at risk. Since they’re usually required under the contract with your client, inspections are important to help you keep your business strong. Some critical safety inspection tasks to complete daily include:

a. Hazard identification to ensure that your workers are not exposed to any apparent hazards, including chemicals and struck-by hazards
b. Equipment inspection to ensure that all tools and excavation equipment work well, are correctly positioned and are run by competent employees
c. Process inspection to ensure that the materials and equipment used are appropriate for the scope and plan on the project
d. Standards inspection to ensure that all installations are installed according to specific standards and local building codes
e. Thorough cleaning and disinfecting among shared equipment
f. Detailed reporting of all inspections throughout the day

2. Employees Are Getting Sick and Hurt – Simply taking a look at the safety data from the last several months can tell you whether or not you need to make a drastic change in terms of safety protocols. Not even a single serious accident is acceptable, so your data should provide some insight into where and what you need to change. If employees are regularly getting hurt, rethink hazards, equipment, and processes. If they’re routinely facing illnesses, consider rethinking your paid sick leave policies and working on improving cleanliness.

3. Employees Aren’t Wearing the Right Gear – There is no scenario where your workers should be forced to go into a dangerous situation without the right gear. Always outfit your team with work safety gear selected for the specific jobs at hand, following all guidelines by OSHA and your state and local codes. We always recommend choosing ANSI/ISEA high visibility gear and providing workers with new, properly fitting personal protective equipment (PPE) for the face, eyes, and ears.

4. You Don’t Have the Proper Emergency Supplies – Even though we have some of the most durable, protective safety apparel out of almost any industry, construction site injuries and emergencies do happen. You always want to be prepared to address any injury on the job, whether it is something as small as a splinter or callous or something as serious as a life-threatening collision. Always follow OSHA’s guidelines for first aid, making sure you always have a first aid kit, fire extinguishers, and staff members trained in CPR and first aid.

5. Employees Are Afraid to Report Risks – This is undoubtedly one of the biggest issues when it comes to construction safety. Having a poor safety culture is one where workers might feel shamed or disparaged for bringing up potential risks. And yet, it’s the workers themselves—those who spend a ton of time on the job site—who are the best-equipped to point out and discover job site risks. Creating a secure, anonymous system of reporting can help curb this issue.

6. You’re Not Providing Site-Specific Training – Among the more preventable injuries and incidents that compromise job site safety are the ones that occur because crew members—including supervisors, workers, and contractors—don’t know the site. The construction company's role is to do a thorough hazard and site analysis before breaking ground. Developing some site-specific training and protocols can help prevent slips, falls, and struck-by hazards each day.

7. You’re Not Performing Near-Miss and Incident Investigations – A “near-miss” occurs when an event doesn’t cause harm but has real potential to lead to injury or accidents in the future. By paying attention to what could have happened, you’re able to safeguard against very serious incidents in the future. In work environments where safety culture isn’t cultivated, near-misses and incidents go unreported and workers may even be discouraged from reporting them. This mindset can be extremely dangerous for your team.

8. You’re Not Conducting Toolbox Talks – Toolbox talks are group discussions that informally cover specific safety issues. It sounds like a simple enough thing to implement, and it’s actually way more effective than you might imagine. In fact, construction professionals report that toolbox talks are the number one most effective way to communicate safety messages. They are even considered more effective than training sessions. These talks allow leaders to address important safety protocols while also opening up the floor to worker concerns.

Keep an Open Dialogue

Often, the signs of an impending accident are clear among workers. Owners and safety managers need to talk to their team and keep an open dialogue to share vital information. Poor safety culture and improper procedures can leave your team members in danger and your company at risk of liability.


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On August 6, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) released updated guidance for healthcare employers facing severe shortages of respirators during the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. The supply chain for respirators has improved but is not yet fully restored, according to Cal/OSHA.

Healthcare facilities in California must comply with the state’s Aerosol Transmissible Diseases (ATD) Standard, which has no federal equivalent. COVID-19 is a respiratory illness caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. COVID-19 currently is widespread in most U.S. communities and considered a workplace hazard.

“Respirators must always be immediately available to health care workers who may be called upon to perform emergency aerosol generating procedures on suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients,” stated a boxed warning in the guidance. A surgical mask may not be used in situations when a respirator is required.

The guidance includes recommended engineering controls and work practices to help minimize the need for respiratory protection and strategies for extended respirator use and optimizing supplies.

Engineering and work practice controls include:

• Minimizing the number of employees exposed to suspected and confirmed COVID-19 patients and infectious aerosols by using barrier enclosures that cover a patient’s head and upper body;
• Masking suspected and confirmed COVID-19 patients as a source control method whenever employees are not using a respirator;
• Training employees on additional precautions and changes to the ATD plan when respirators cannot be obtained or when there are changes to procedures such as respirator reuse or extended use; and
• Informing employees and their representatives that the changes are only in effect until respirator supplies can be restored, keeping them updated on status changes.

Employers must provide and ensure that all employees exposed to aerosol-generating procedures use powered air-purifying respirators (PAPRs) or another respirator that provides equivalent or greater protection. If PAPRs are unavailable and cannot be obtained, an N95 respirator is the minimum protection that should be used. More protective respirators like elastomeric half-mask or full-face respirators, which are more likely to seal well to the face and achieve a better fit factor, should be used if available.

Methods that may be used to extend supplies of N95 respirators include the following:

• Using reusable National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)-certified respirators—elastomeric half-mask, full-facepiece respirators and PAPRs equipped with particulate filters that can be disinfected and reused multiple times—instead of disposable filtering facepiece respirators;
• Using industrial, NIOSH-certified filtering facepiece respirators recognized under the Food and Drug Administration’s Emergency Use Authorization issued on March 2;
• Allowing employees to wear their own respirators if they comply with Cal/OSHA requirements;
• Using fit-testing methods that maximize respirator supplies and fit-testing efficiency like qualitative fit testing, which does not damage the respirator so the respirator used during the test can be used on the job by the employee who was tested;
• Using certain expired NIOSH-certified filtering facepiece respirators that NIOSH has approved for use under specific conditions; and
• Extended respirator use—for a maximum of 8 to 12 hours—and storing disinfected filtering facepiece respirators for future shortages.

The ATD Standard also applies to correctional facilities, diagnostic laboratories, and police and public health services; the agency only issued guidance on August 6 for healthcare facilities.


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As the novel coronavirus began to shut down the global economy, an EHS Today survey shows safety leaders were ready to battle the virus in the workplace.

It takes a leader to handle unprecedented challenges within the workplace, and the COVID-19 pandemic has shown the essential role of the safety leader. No longer are these professionals viewed as “cops,” but they now are looked at as arbiters of critical decisions that will keep businesses moving forward and employees safe as economic conditions fluctuate.

Just over 700 safety professionals recently participated in an EHS Today editorial survey in which they provided insight into how companies are managing the evolving business environment and what they think workplace safety will look like in the future.

While the majority of respondents represented the manufacturing (33.5%) industry, construction (11.4%), government (7.6%), and oil and gas (5.8%) were among the other industries represented.

The majority, 88.9% of those who took the survey, felt that their organization has been effectively supporting and communicating policies throughout the pandemic.

“Our president sent out weekly email updates, even if it was to just comfort employees and reinforce that their health comes first and we’re all in this together,” one respondent wrote. “The company took early measures and have put in place procedures that will protect our facilities as changes in the pandemic occur.”

Still, some safety professionals felt like executive leadership could have been more proactive in such a visible role and to act as a role model.

“There are measures in place,” one safety professional said. “In general, the measures are followed. However, senior management fails to lead by example as face masks are not worn.”

Whether or not the C-suite has been supporting efforts, safety professionals still need to step up as leaders in during this unprecedented time and practice emergency preparedness. More than half (58.7%) of respondents indicated that their EHS management program included policies and controls for infectious diseases/illness prevention prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.

As the pandemic reared its ugly head, respondents faced continuing challenges to their efforts, the biggest ones being cross functional management (22.5%), time (19%), and staggered phases (15.2%). Nearly 20% (19.66%) specified other obstacles, such as lack of adherence to new measures.

“There is a lot of pushback from employees. Some are scared to death others are not,” one safety professional explained. “Some employees have never stopped working or changed their job in any way. For example, a water utility worker cannot work from home. They feel this all crazy. The office worker likes working from home and doesn’t want to come to work. Because all they hear is how bad it is. If we can’t get back to work the economy is going to tank.”

Return-to-work efforts pose a test in business continuity efforts, with 44.7% of respondents saying it will take 1-3 months to get their entire workforce back to their facilities, 30% saying it will take 3-6 months and 8.3% saying it will take a year.

New procedures also have caused safety professionals to see an increase in expenditures, with 44.7% saying their budgets have increased in response to pandemic protocols.

Because of the uncertain public health environment, future operations will change to ensure workplace safety. Professionals gave a glimpse into the “new norm,” saying flexible work policies including work from home (50.6%), an increased emphasis on industrial hygiene and occupational health (49.8%), additional policies and controls (43%), and increased technology investment (18.9%) will support business continuity in the future.

One respondent concludes, “This pandemic should be a huge eye opener for everyone around the globe. I strongly believe that this will be the way of life going forward.”


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