Safety

Avoiding OSHA Citations

by National Peo National Peo No Comments

5 Ways to Avoid OSHA Citations by Increasing Employee Safety

Workforce SafetyIn 2012, private-sector workers suffered 2,976,400 recordable on-the-job injuries. Of those, 340,900 involved skin tears, strains, and sprains while 219,630 included slips, trips, and falls. Some 905,700 injuries required recuperating time off for a median duration of eight days.

Your company can save $4-$6 for every $1 you invest in a safety program. Following these tips from the National Law Review will help mitigate workplace hazards and protect your employees while avoiding expensive OSHA citations.

1. Provide Comprehensive Workforce Safety Training Regularly

OSHA cites employers that fail to meet various training requirements. Examples include not instructing workers on pertinent safety matters and neglecting to ensure that crews understand the regulations. Fortunately, these violations are avoidable. After comprehensive safety training, have team members complete quizzes to demonstrate their full comprehension.

Many companies require personnel to get high exam scores between 90 and 100 percent. Provide retraining and retesting for any employees who don’t attain minimum acceptable grades on their first attempts. Keep all records including safety training materials and quizzes on file. Having these documents handy in case an OSHA inspection arises will prove that you’ve complied with the federal agency’s training requirements.

2. Conduct Internal Safety Audits

Choose a reputable safety compliance company to manage audits that identify and remove workplace safety hazards, cementing your ongoing excellent reputation. National PEO offers facility audits that match sweeping OSHA inspections with full written reports and photos showing any safety hazards. We review your latest safety procedure documents and highlight potential safety and compliance problems in your 5-year backlog of OSHA 300 forms. A thorough analysis of all safety-related records includes your printed environmental program measures, hazardous material management plan, and accident reports with supporting documentation.

Our services don’t end when we point out your crew’s main safety risks. We’ll also make sure that you prioritize and eradicate all impending threats correctly and completely. Whenever OSHA inspections discover compliance issues, National PEO is ready to facilitate your abatement. We’ll implement a methodical action plan so your organization will comply with OSHA’s regulations and be a safer workplace for your team.

Safety in the Workplace3. Create a Steadfast Safety Culture

Strong dependable safety values and behaviors are crucial to protect your staff. All management levels need to communicate with employees actively and be present physically where personnel work. These actions demonstrate superiors’ attention to crew safety, which increases workers’ safety commitment and general job satisfaction. Visit work sites to notice potential hazards first hand and discover others by conversing with staffers.

Assure laborers that your company prioritizes safety before production while welcoming and encouraging suggestions to improve workplace safeguards. Promoting open communication inspires safety obligations at all job levels and improves the chances of uncovering potential problems significantly. Often, workers identify possible hazards first. Using specific machines or in certain areas regularly enables them to offer insightful suggestions to resolve issues. Whenever employees identify potential dangers, assess situations promptly and address concerns within reasonable intervals.

4. Maintain and Communicate Current Safety Information

Your organization must provide your staff with vital safety information including emergency evacuation procedures. Depending on your industry, OSHA may mandate that you provide written guidance covering safe work performance essentials. You need to document job-related illnesses and injuries and possibly complete process safety management forms.

Review OSHA’s changing documentation requirements regularly to determine your latest stipulations, and review your documents to be certain they’re current and thorough. Confirm that affected workers comprehend safety materials fully, know when and how to use them, and appreciate the reasons for maintaining them. That helps assure team safety while giving you another chance to offer suggestions and reveal missing information.

5. Protect Temporary Workers and Contractors

Safeguarding all job-site crewmembers including temporary staff and contractors is key. You can avoid many tragic events by verifying that everyone follows standard safe practices. OSHA’s compliance officers have expanded their inspection scope to include temp workers who undergo on-site hazardous exposures. That directive increased inspections involving transitory workforces by 322 percent during 2014.

OSHA issued countless citations to employers but found temporary staffing agencies noncompliant in just 15 percent of inspections. Often, host companies failed to train short-term laborers properly or provide safety gear that their permanent employees use routinely, increasing transitory workers’ injury risks. Temporary staff providers received citations mostly for violations involving not training personnel properly.

How to Have Healthier Workers

by National Peo National Peo No Comments

How to Have Healthier Workers

How to Have Healthier WorkersWorkplace wellness initiatives can save your company money. For as many as 74 percent of American companies, lowering health care costs is a primary motivator for workplace wellness programs. But that’s not the only way wellness initiatives help your bottom line. Healthy workers have more energy, take fewer days off of work, and are more productive. Workers who feel that their company makes their health a priority are more likely to stay in their jobs, and they have better morale.

You may not have the resources or the staff to implement a full-fledge workplace wellness program. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t support your workers in becoming healthier, happier, and more productive. Small gestures, like making it easier for your employees to exercise, offering them flu vaccines, and educating them about healthy eating and stress management, can go a long way toward preventing serious illness among members of your work force.

1. Teach Your Employees About Healthy Habits

Many of your employees would be happy to practice stress management and eat healthier meals, but they don’t know how. One way to teach your employees about nutrition, stress management, and exercise is to offer them regular, brief seminars on healthy eating habits and other pertinent topics, like how to manage and reduce stress, how to stay healthy when you’re travelling, and how to cook delicious, healthy meals. Offer some kind of incentive to encourage attendance — for example, employees who attend a certain number of seminars may earn an extra day off, or a further discount on company health insurance plans.

Healthier Workers2. Make It Easier for Employees to Exercise

Most adults with full-time jobs and family responsibilities struggle to find time to exercise regularly. If you don’t have the space for a full-service gym at your company, there’s still plenty you can do to save money on employee benefits by encouraging your workers to be more active.

You can offer secure bike parking for your employees who wish to cycle to work. You can start a lunchtime walking club, or bring in a fitness teacher to teach lunchtime aerobics or yoga classes, and offer employees participation incentives. You could even offer discounts on local gym memberships for employees and their spouses — choose a facility that’s close to your office so employees will have time to work out before coming in to the office or after leaving for the day.

3. Subsidize Flu Shots

Flu vaccines are one of the easiest ways to keep employees from calling out sick for days or even weeks in a row. They’re also a good way to protect employees’ families, since young children, elderly people, pregnant women, and people with certain health conditions are more likely to develop serious — even life-threatening — complications if infected with the flu. It’s easy enough to bring in some pharmacists and have every member of staff vaccinated against the flu — or at least, you can offer to reimburse employees for flu shots they obtain on their own time, if your company’s health insurance policy doesn’t already do so.

4. Offer Healthy Snack Options

Most employees will want a drink or snack once in a while, and if you want your workers to be healthy, then it’s up to you to make sure their snack and drink options are healthy, too. Pull the potato chips and candy bars — or at least some of them — out of the snack machine and replace them with nuts and other healthy snacks. Offer your employees a basket of fresh fruit in the break room. Fill the drink machine with sparkling water and fruit juices instead of soda. If your company has a cafeteria for workers, make sure there are plenty of nutritious and healthy options on the menu.

5. Support Stress Management

Many Americans these days don’t feel they’re managing their stress well — in the 2013 Stress in America survey, 35 percent of American adults said they felt more stressed than they had the year prior, and 53 percent said their health care providers offered them little or no advice on how to cope with stress. Many of the most stressed-out workers are Millennials, those aged 18 to 34.

By helping your employees manage stress, you can help protect them from high blood pressure, heart disease, and insomnia. You can also protect your company from the damaging effects of employee stress, which include absenteeism, reduced productivity and efficiency, and low morale. Offer regular seminars on stress reduction. Consider implementing some sort of employee assistance program so that workers who are struggling with problems — be they financial, family, or mental health related — can get help to cope with stress. Encourage stressed-out employees to take regular breaks, especially if they can take a few minutes to go outdoors.

A workplace wellness program can help your employees be healthier, happier, and more productive, and can improve your company’s bottom line in multiple ways. You don’t need to be able to provide your employees with a full-service gym or a dedicated workplace wellness staff in order to promote your employees’ health. All you have to do is give your employees the tools to live a healthier lifestyle, and they’ll do the rest.

Is Your Office Ready for Flu Season?

by National Peo National Peo No Comments

It’s Flu Season — Is Your Office Ready?

Flu Season at WorkIt’s inevitable: As the temperature drops, the number of employees who come to work sniffling, sneezing, and coughing goes up — and it doesn’t take long before you have what amounts to a mini-epidemic of sick people in the office. And you aren’t alone. Across the country, businesses lose as much as $7 billion per year in productivity and health care costs due to the flu and related illnesses. Collectively, American employees take more than 100,000 sick days every year during flu season.

While winter illnesses are a fact of life, they don’t have to be. Experts suggest, though, that many of these sick days could be avoided with the proper precautions. As an employer, you have a responsibility to help prevent the spread of influenza and other contagious diseases, and that requires both education and creating a culture of wellness.

Flu Shots Are Still Important

While the 2013-2014 flu season was widely considered one of the worst in recent memory, experts are predicting that the 2014-2015 flu season could be even worse. That is in large part because the flu vaccine that was developed for is showing signs of being less effective than anticipated.

Every year, scientists develop the flu vaccine based on research, trends, and the strain of flu that’s expected to be the most prevalent. Because there are hundreds of potential flu strains that could be active at any point, it’s virtually impossible to predict with exact certainty which will be the most common, or to protect against all of them. That’s why it’s possible to still come down with the flu even if you’ve been vaccinated; in all likelihood, you have been exposed to a different strain of the virus.

This year, as per protocol, scientists made educated guesses as to which strain would be the dominant one, and unfortunately, based on an examination of the early cases of the flu, this year’s vaccine is not effective at preventing that strain. However, doctors are quick to point out that this is not a reason to forgo the flu shot all together. The flu vaccine is designed to protect against several strains of the virus, so even if it’s not effective for one strain, it will still provide immunity for the others.

As an employer, therefore, it’s still important that you encourage your employees to get their flu shots. A vaccine that’s not 100 percent matched is still better than no vaccine, as it can reduce the severity and duration of illness regardless of strain. Flu shots are considered preventive care under the Affordable Care Act, meaning that they will be covered by insurance, so cost should not be a deterrent to employees. Consider hosting a flu vaccination clinic in the office to make it more convenient for employees to get their shots, or extend break times to give employees time to see a health care provider.

Flu Season in the OfficeCreate a Culture of Wellness

Given the news about the flu vaccine this year — and the fact that some employees will still opt to forgo the vaccine for various reasons — you can still prevent the spread of illness in the office by creating a culture of wellness.

One of the most important aspects of creating a culture of wellness is to support an environment in which employees stay home when they are sick. According to one study, more than 60 percent of workers have gone to work when they are sick, most often because they are afraid of the repercussions, either financial or to their career, of staying home.

Many people feel that they are essential to the functioning of the business, and if they stay home sick, there will be bigger problems than a few sniffles. The problem, of course, is that sick employees spread germs that create more sick employees — and that can create real productivity issues.

To encourage employees to stay home when they are sick, take time to reiterate your company’s sick leave policy, and remind employees that they can do more harm than good coming to work ill. Spend some time developing contingency plans before there is an outbreak of illness to ensure that work stays on track if someone has to take a day off.

Finally, establish some guidelines for when employees absolutely must stay home. For example, anyone showing symptoms of the flu should stay home until they are feeling better or have been taking antiviral medications for 24 hours. Leaders can also set an example by staying home when they are sick. Employees often mirror their boss’ behavior, so if you come to work with a fever and cough, so will they.

If staying home isn’t practical — or the illness is just a minor cold — you can still encourage wellness by making it easy for employees to stop the spread of germs. Have hand sanitizer and tissues readily available, make sure there is plenty of soap at the sinks, and encourage employees to keep their work areas clean and germ free by cleaning and disinfecting desks, telephones, and keyboards on a regular basis.

It’s practically impossible to keep all employees from getting sick in the winter, but you can limit the number of sick days they take and keep the spread of germs under control by taking some basic precautions. Wash your hands, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, get your flu shot, and start counting the days until spring.

 

E-Cigarettes in the Workplace

by National Peo National Peo No Comments

The New Rise of Smoking: E-Cigarettes in the Workplace

Vaping in the WorkplaceIn the early 2000s, plenty of experts predicted smoking’s imminent demise, as all the signs pointed toward the end of cigarettes. However, smoking regained prominence in the public eye when e-cigarettes were introduced to U.S. smokers at the end of the last decade. The e-cigarette industry, which includes everything from one-hitter disposable units to complex rigs to unique customized modifications to myriad flavors, has grown drastically in the past few years to become a $2 billion industry, and many experts expect e-cigarettes to surpass traditional tobacco cigarettes within the next decade.

Governments around the country are dragging their feet in passing regulations on e-cigarettes, and the FDA is struggling to pass an opinion on the devices with the limited research available regarding health effects. In the meantime, many corporations aren’t sure what to do with employees who want to vape in and around workplaces.

Current Research

Everyone — even smokers of 50 years — know how terrible tobacco cigarettes are for the body, but no one knows exactly what effects e-cigarettes can have on vapers and those around them. However, as e-cigarettes gain popularity, researchers are receiving more funding to study their components and their effects on vapers as well as second-hand vapers. While the results trickle in, this is what is currently known for certain regarding the health of e-cigs.

The ingredients in e-juice (also known as e-liquid, or the fluid in e-cigs that is heated and inhaled) can be myriad depending on the producer, but the main components are generally the same across the board: nicotine, propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin.

While some studies have linked nicotine ingestion with increased risk of heart disease, these studies largely utilize data from tobacco smokers instead of vapers. In any case, e-juice tends to include drastically lower amounts of nicotine than cigarettes, and many vapers have transitioned to e-cigs as a means of quitting smoking and nicotine altogether.

Propylene glycol is an agent that helps the e-juice transition to vapor for inhalation. While the name looks distressing, this is actually a common ingredient in plenty of foods and medicines (like toothpaste and cough syrups) as well as in the fog created by fog machines at concerts or plays. The FDA has long considered this ingredient safe for consumption. The FDA has also asserted the safety of vegetable glycerin.

Some e-juices have been shown to produce harmful chemicals once the liquid is heated to vapor, but it is noteworthy that the amounts of these chemicals can range from nine to 450 times lower than they are in traditional cigarettes. Generally, scientists believe the amount of toxic chemicals emitted by e-cig vapor isn’t enough to cause concern.

Current Policies

e-cigs in the workplaceOnly a small handful of states have attempted to regulate the sale and use of e-cigarettes. While no states have any type of outright ban, many have simply amended previous tobacco laws to include e-cigarettes, meaning e-cigs cannot be purchased or used by minors, and e-cigs cannot be used in public spaces. While states drag their feet, many localities have enacted harsher restrictions, disallowing citizens from vaping in enclosed areas like restaurants and workspaces. Meanwhile, everywhere else vapers are puffing away wherever they desire.

Additionally, among companies who don’t operate in cities with strict regulations, policies vary wildly. For example, Walmart restricts smokers to designated areas outside the store, while Starbucks forbids its employees from smoking of any kind within 25 feet of any doors. Further, CVS and corporate-owned McDonald’s have an outright ban on all smoking anywhere, and on top of a complete smoking ban on the premises or in trucks, UPS requires its smoking employees — and vaping employees — to pay an additional $150 in insurance premiums to cover potential health care costs.

How to Proceed

It seems most prudent to err on the side of caution and ban e-cigarettes alongside cigarettes — but this could inspire claims of discrimination among vaping employees. Plus, there are other downsides to forbidding e-cigs in the office. For one, many employees demonstrate noticeable increases in productivity when they are allowed to indulge in their nicotine habit, which has an obvious positive impact on the company at large. For another, as mentioned previously, some smokers transition to e-cigs to stop smoking for good. Separating a quitting smoker from his or her cessation tool is asking for a relapse, and forcing your employee to go back to tobacco products is not only immoral but opens companies up to colossal health care costs in the future.

While you craft your policy on e-cigarettes, it’s best to make sure you’re complying with labor laws and governmental regulations and keeping the health of all your employees in mind. A PEO is an invaluable tool for keeping track of the ever-changing legalities of e-cigarettes, which most business managers and executives don’t have time to monitor. Keep your company healthy by keeping your employees happy — which may mean different policies regarding the use of e-cigarettes.

5 Ways to Create a Safe Work Environment

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If you want to foster a safe work environment, you need to make a commitment to take safety seriously. Every member of the company, from the intern to the CEO, must understand that the health and safety of every worker is of the utmost importance. Every member of the company must be willing to make workplace health and safety a priority.

When you take measures to foster workplace safety, you help to keep your employees healthy, happy and on the job. The fewer injuries and illnesses your workers experience, the more productive they can be. Implementing an effective health and safety program can save your business four to six dollars for every dollar you put in. That just makes good financial sense. Plus, it’s the right thing to do. Let’s take a look at some ways you can foster a safe work environment at your company.

Use Safety Gear

Proper safety gear is imperative if you hope to foster a safe and healthy environment for your workers. Construction workers need hard hats, lab workers need safety goggles and rubber gloves, fire fighters need flame-retardant clothes and police officers need bulletproof vests.

You might not be running a lab, fire station or police force, but that doesn’t mean your workers don’t need safety gear too. Restaurant workers need slip-resistant shoes and the thick fabric of a chef’s coat to protect him or her from the heat of the stove. Office workers need ergonomic work stations. Cleaners ought to wear knee pads when they kneel down to scrub floors. Every job has its hazards. Find out what they are and what gear your employees need to protect themselves from occupational injury or illness.

Make sure your employees use their safety gear, too. It won’t do any good if they just toss it aside. Make it a matter of company policy. Put up signs and have your managers and supervisors take pains to enforce the regulations.

Maintain the Premises

Get your building inspected regularly to make sure that no new hazards emerge to threaten your workers. Find ways to improve the safety of the premises. Rubber padding on stairway steps, rock salt on wintry outdoor walkways or rubber mats to prevent falls can all go a long way toward keeping your employees safe.

Obey Health Codes

Of course health code standards are important, but it can be hard to get employees to follow health codes of which they’re not aware. That’s why you see notices in public restrooms advising employees to wash their hands. Find out what the health codes are in your area and post notices in the workplace. Simply encouraging your employees to wash their hands regularly can go a long way toward preventing the spread of illness and keeping everyone in the workplace healthy. Post tips for effective hand washing in company restrooms.

Perform Emergency Drills

Your place of business should have multiple clearly-labeled emergency exits, and you should take the time to have regular emergency drills. It might seem like a pain in the neck and a waste of company time, but emergency drills help all of your employees familiarize themselves with the locations of the emergency exits and the emergency exiting procedure. Holding a regular drill helps ensure that your employees will be able to stay calm in an emergency situation, and exit the building in an orderly fashion. Regular emergency drills save lives.

In addition to regular emergency drills, make a clear map of emergency exits available to all employees. Keep your smoke detectors up-to-date and loaded with fresh batteries. Install fire extinguishers and sprinklers. Follow your local fire codes when installing emergency equipment.

Get Everyone Involved

Workplace health and safety are crucial to keeping your employees happy and your company running smoothly. Make sure you abide by all local workplace safety regulations and post your company’s health and safety policy where everyone can see it. Get your employees involved to implement and improve the health and safety policies. You, your workers and your whole company will benefit from health and safety measures in the form of increased productivity, enhanced worker loyalty and cost savings. Make time on a regular once a month basis to discuss workplace safety policies and procedures with your employees as a group. The point of this exercise isn’t just to help reinforce procedures but to give your employees a chance to offer feedback. They may have observations or concerns that can help you improve your workplace safety policies and procedures. Your employees may be in a position to notice things that you haven’t and to point out areas where your workplace safety policies could use some work. They can also let you know what parts of your health and safety plan are going well.

Fire Prevention and Safety

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October is National Fire Prevention Month. Is your place of business compliant with both fire code and OSHA standards for fires and protecting your employees? Many companies think that because they have fire extinguishers, maybe a sprinkler system and maybe smoke alarms they are in compliance and that is all that is required.

Unfortunately, this reasoning pertaining to fires safety and prevention often results in severe burn injuries to employees and even their lives. How would you answer the following questions pertaining to fire safety and prevention in you company?

1. Are all of your fire extinguishers current with the required annual inspection and recertification?

2. Do you perform the OSHA required monthly employer self inspections of all fire extinguishers?

3. If you have a sprinkler system, has it had the required annual inspection and recertification?

4. If you have smoke detectors in your facility are they checked monthly and batteries changed every six months?

5. Is emergency exit lighting tested each month to make sure the lights will come on during a fire or power failure?

6. Are employees trained on how to use fire extinguishers?

7. Do you have a written emergency plan and evacuation floor plan drawings posted?

8. Are your flammable and combustible materials properly stored?

9. Do you conduct the annual fire prevention and safety training classes for you employees as required by OSHA?

10. Do you conduct a fire drill at least once per year?

If you can’t answer yes to all of these questions, your employees are in danger of sever injury or death in the event a fire breaks out in your facility. You can obtain training and assistance from your local fire department, training consultants or your local OSHA training and consulting department.

Safety Training

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Does your company have a written safety program which is adhered to and would meet the training requirements under the OSHA standards? Each of the standards has specific language pertaining to training, the type of training, etc. Even if you are doing the safety training, instruction, etc. in accordance with the standards are you doing the training in a manner that the employees can understand?

 

In other words are you conducting classes and training in Spanish for the Hispanic employees who speak no English or limited English?

 

How about employees, who are illiterate, can you tell them to read the safety procedures and operators manual to fulfill the requirement of their safety training? No. You can not send training material home with the employee and have a spouse, child or other person read it to them to fulfill the training requirement as some companies do.

 

The OSHA standards are very specific that it is the employers responsible to provide the required safety training in a manner and format that all employees can understand. The training can be conduct by a competent in house employee, manager, etc., independent safety trainer, consultant or even OSHA. Yes, OSHA can provide onsite safety training for employers who do not have the financial means or competent employee to provide the training. This training is performed through the OSHA department of consultation and training free of charge. However, OSHA resources are limited, demand is high and the waiting list for the training can be several weeks (in Arizona the wait time is 6-8 weeks). Due to the demand (in Arizona) the OSHA training and consultation office will only conduct 2 to 3 classes per employer per year.

 

When you conduct your safety training including any weekly toolbox or tailgate safety briefings, make sure you document the class with a minimum of a sign in log, with topic, date and who made the presentation. If you want to have the employees take quizzes all the better during an OSHA inspection.

 

OSHA is now going to check training records, the method and will probably ask employees about safety training and specific information covered pertaining to their job. How will your training hold up during an inspection?

 

If you do not have a copy of the OSHA standards for your company I strongly recommend making the investment and acquiring a current copy of the standards for your company. The standards are CFR1910 General Industry for all employers except construction and maritime operations. For the construction industry the standards are CFR1926 and maritime are CFR1915, CFR1917 and CFR1918.

 

 

OSHA Act of 1970 “General Duty Clause”
Each employer shall furnish to each of his employees, employment and a place of employment which are free of recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or physical harm to his employees: and shallcomply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under this Act.
 Each employee shall comply with occupational safety and health standards and all rules, regulations and orders issued pursuant to this Act which are applicable to his own actions and conduct
 

This is the law; all other sections of the manual are the minimum standards by which an employer shall comply.

 

For those employers who are not familiar with the penalties that can be levied on an employer by OSHA, below gives a breakdown.

 

OSHA Penalties
 

 

1.      Non-Serious (Other Than Serious) – Is a violation of an OSHA standard which is considered minor and may not carry a penalty with it. The violation still has to be abated. May or may not carry a penalty.

 

2.      Serious – Is a hazard in violation of an OSHA standard which has a high probability of causing illness, injury or possible death and will have a monetary penalty attached which will be determined by OSHA.

      Maximum penalty may range up to $7,000 per violation.

 

3.      Willful Serious – Is a hazard in violation of an OSHA standard which the company or management was aware of but failed to correct or abate the hazard which would lead to imminent danger of health, injury or death to an employee. This type of citation carries the potential for very expensive penalties. Maximum penalty may range up to $70,000 per violation.

 

 

4.      Failure to Abate– Is when an employer fails to abate a hazard after receiving the inspection citation with violations and penalties.

Maximum penalty may range up to $7,000 per day per violation for 30                            days.

Who’s Tools and Equipment?

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Does your company supply employees with tools, ladders, etc. to perform their assigned duties? Or does your company require employees to provide some or all of their tools to perform their duties? Does your company lease or rent tools, equipment, etc?

Well, if you think you are not responsible for the condition of tools and if they are not in compliance with safety standards because the employee provides them, you may want to rethink that philosophy. OSHA does not have specific standards stating this so this area would be covered under the General Duty Clause.

As an employer you are responsible for providing a safe and healthful place of employment for your employees. If employees bring their own tools to work to perform their job it is the employer’s responsibility to make sure the tools are compliant and all guards, safety interlocks, etc. are in place and working properly.

If an OSHA compliance inspector should happen to see a power hand tool with a defective cord, or missing guard the employer will be cited and fined for the violation. The tool that is not in compliance with safety standards poses not only a risk to the tool owner, but also to any other employee who may decide to use or borrow the defective tool. This includes ladders, hand tools, personally owned PPE, etc.

As the employer you have the responsibility to:

1.     Inspect employee owned tools, accessories, ladders, etc. to make sure  they are safe to use and are in compliance with current safety standards.

2.     If the employee owned tools, accessories, ladders, etc. are defective or are not compliant due to missing guards, damaged cords, etc. have the employee remove them from the premises immediately.

3.     Have the employee replace or have the defective tools, accessories, ladders, etc. repaired and brought back into compliance before bringing them back on the premises.

4.     As the employer if an employee uses personal tools, ladders, etc. on the job and is injured or results in the injury of other employees due to the   equipment being defective, in need of repair, modified, etc. you can be held responsible under the general duty clause of the OSHA Act.

This also applies to tools and equipment that you may rent or lease from another company. If it is on your site and your employees are operating the equipment and/or tools it is your responsibility as the employer to inspect it to make sure it is safe and in compliance.

As an example a client was inspected by OSHA this year and had a loaner forklift on site from the company that had their forklift in the shop for repairs. The client’s employees were operating the forklift on the site. The compliance officer inspected the forklift to find that the seat belt was missing, the horn was not operational and there was no operator manual with the forklift. Needless to say the client was cited and penalized a total of $2,000 for this violation, even though the forklift did not belong to them. The forklift was not in compliance with OSHA standards and the specifications of the manufacturer.

OSHA Act of 1970 “General Duty Clause”
Each employer shall furnish to each of his employees, employment and a place of employment which are free of recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or physical harm to his employees: and shallcomply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under this Act.
  Each employee shall comply with occupational safety and health standards and all rules, regulations and orders issued pursuant to this Act which are applicable to his own actions and conduct
             This is the law; all other sections of the manual are the minimum standards by which an employer shall comply.             This is the law; all other sections of the manual are the minimum standards by which an employer shall comply.            For those employers who are not familiar with the penalties that can be levied on an employer by OSHA, below gives a breakdown.             This is the law; all other sections of the manual are the minimum standards by which an employer shall comply.            For those employers who are not familiar with the penalties that can be levied on an employer by OSHA, below gives a breakdown.OSHA Penalties
             This is the law; all other sections of the manual are the minimum standards by which an employer shall comply.            For those employers who are not familiar with the penalties that can be levied on an employer by OSHA, below gives a breakdown.1.      Non-Serious (Other Than Serious) – Is a violation of an OSHA standard which is considered minor and may not carry a penalty with it. The violation still has to be abated. May or may not carry a penalty.

This is the law; all other sections of the manual are the minimum standards by which an employer shall comply.            For those employers who are not familiar with the penalties that can be levied on an employer by OSHA, below gives a breakdown.1.      (Other Than Serious) – Is a violation of an OSHA standard which is considered minor and may not carry a penalty with it. The violation still has to be abated.2.      Serious – Is a hazard in violation of an OSHA standard which has a high probability of causing illness, injury or possible death and will have a monetary penalty attached which will be determined by OSHA. Maximum penalty may range up to $7,000 per violation.

3.      Willful Serious – Is a hazard in violation of an OSHA standard which the company or management was aware of but failed to correct or abate the hazard which would lead to imminent danger of health, injury or death to an employee. This type of citation carries the potential for very expensive penalties. Maximum penalty may range up to $70,000 per violation.

4.      Failure to Abate – Is when an employer fails to abate a hazard after receiving the inspection citation with violations and penalties. Maximum penalty may range up to $7,000 per day per violation for 30 days.

OSHA Updates

by National Peo National Peo No Comments

In March and April I attended a couple of meeting where OSHA updates were covered by the Director of Arizona Department of Occupational Safety and Health. His updates covered both updates in what is happening in both state and federal OSHA.

One of the first things covered was the mandated increase in compliance inspections by both federal and state administered OSHA’s. The number of compliance inspections in Arizona has increased even with a shortage of compliance inspectors with approximately 130,000 businesses in the state. Statistically they are finding that approximately 45% of businesses inspected are in compliance which is good, unfortunately, that leaves 55% of the businesses non-compliant which is not good for employees.

The use of the free OSHA training and consultation serves has increased and continuing to increase which is a good sign that more businesses are starting to take employee safety more seriously. Currently if your company wants to utilize this free service from OSHA you will have to schedule their service 4-6 weeks in advance and due to demand they are limiting the number of visits per year. However, you can still take advantage of the free training classes they conduct throughout the state all year long. You can find a schedule of training classes on the Arizona Industrial Commission web site. Go to organization, scroll down to OSHA, scroll down to the second block of titles and click on ADOSH Advocate, and open the current issue. The training schedule is listed at the end of the newsletter for the quarter. It is an excellent source of information on safety and issues.

This year federal OSHA emphasis program is targeting the OSHA 300 logs and reporting and all state run OSHA programs are following the federal program. Several times a year I get phone calls from clients asking what the OSHA 300 logs and reports are and are they required to maintain these logs. The answer is very simple. Yes! All companies are required to maintain these injury logs and summary reports annually per 29 CFR Part 1904 Recording and Reporting Occupation Injuries and Illness. During compliance inspections this year, compliance officers will be asking to review your OSHA 300 logs and summary reports for at least the past three years minimum. If you do not have the required documentation you can expect to be cited and penalized for failure to maintain the logs. In March of this year a company in Arizona was fined $300 for failing to have logs and summary reports for the past three years. If your logs are filled out improperly, inaccurately or you have failed to list some injuries you may also be looking at additional penalties. There is a change coming to the OSHA 300 logs which is suppose to take effect on January 1st of 2011 and that is the addition of reporting MSD (Muscular, Skeletal Disorders) also known as repetitive stress syndrome. If you would like a copy of the 29CFR Part 1904 on reporting, you may contact me via e-mail and I will forward a copy to you in PDF format.

More changes coming from federal OSHA to both the General Industry and Construction Industry standards this year. The final rule for crane and derrick changes is suppose to be finalized in July, eight years after the process began. Additional changes to expect in the future are to walking and working surfaces and fall protection for general industry and confined spaces for construction industry.

There is new legislation moving through Congress to bring OSHA into the 21st century and to bring legal power up to the same level as other federal agencies, such as EPA, DOT, Dept. of Agriculture, etc. In the forty years since OSHA was signed into law, penalties have only been increased one time. The average penalty for a violation under federal inspections is $1000 per violation and in many cases they are contested and reduced. The maximum penalty for a serious violation is $7,000 and for a serious willful violation the maximum penalty is $70,000. If there is a fatality at a workplace and a business owner or manager is found guilty in court of contributing to the death of the employee through non compliance the maximum jail time is six months. Some of the major changes proposed under this house bill are as follows:

·        Increase the maximum penalty for serious willful violations from $70,000 to   $250,000.

·        Increase jail time on criminal cases involving workplace fatalities from the current six months to a maximum of ten years.

·        Expanding potential criminal liability to corporate officers and directors in workplace fatalities.

·        Increasing the time for employees to report work place discrimination involving a work place inspection from thirty days to one hundred eighty days.

This bill wants to send a message to the employers who ignore employee work place safety. If they do not want to be compliant under the U.S. Department of Labor OSHA Act, then there will be substantial consequences. Being compliant is just good business no matter how you look at it.

A British statesman once remarked “The only human institution that rejects progress is the cemetery”.

 

Mother Natures Silent Killer

by National Peo National Peo No Comments

Hypothermia

            There’s a chill in the air, leaves are changing color in some parts of the country and other parts of the country there has already been significant snow fall. Are you and your employees ready for the fall and winter environment? Unfortunately, most people don’t give hypothermia the attention that is given to heat stress. In Arizona almost as many people die from hypothermia as die from heat stroke.

 

The down side to hypothermia is that some of the symptoms are similar to heat stress. However, first aid is more complex and recovery is slower and longer requiring professional medical treatment being administered as soon as possible.

 

Everyone reading this article has had hypothermia at least once if not more. Let me prove it.

 

Have you ever felt cold?

 

Have you ever shivered?

 

Have you ever shivered so hard you could not stop?

 

If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you have experienced the first stages of hypothermia. Like heat stress, hypothermia is preventable when the proper precautions are taken.

 

What is the difference between heat stress and hypothermia? Hypothermia is basically the reverse medical condition of heat stress. With heat stress the body can’t dissipate heat fast enough, dehydrations starts and it becomes a vicious cycle. Hypothermia is a medical condition where the body loses heat faster then it can generate heat, hypothermia starts and this becomes a vicious cycle also.

 

Heat always migrates to a cooler environment. The average person has a body core temperature of approximately 98.6° and when unprotected parts of the body are exposed to temperatures below 98.6° body heat transfers to the cooler environment and starts to accelerate the process. As the environmental and body core temperature drop, the brain sends a message to constrict the blood vessels in the extremities restricting blood flow. The blood is then retained in the body core to conserve heat because the body can not produce heat fast enough to warm the entire body. After about twenty minutes, the brain sends another message for the blood vessels to temporarily dilate and let warm blood from the body core flow to the extremities to warm them up and bring the cold blood back to the body core and then constrict the blood vessels again. When this occurs the cold blood being returned to the core lowers the core temperature resulting in the organs working harder to heat the cold blood and maintain body temperature. Unfortunately, this becomes a vicious cycle and the person slips deeper into the danger zones of hypothermia.

 

Just like heat stress, the same key essentials for prevention of hypothermia and they are proper hydration, proper diet and clothing for the environmental exposure you or your employees will be exposed to. I am only going to cover the causes and risk factors for a person who may be exposed to conditions where they may experience hypothermia. The detailed symptoms and first aid are covered in specific safety training and first aid classes and will not be covered in this article.

 

The Primary Causes of Hypothermia are:

·        The failure to stay properly hydrated which accelerates hypothermia.

·        Failure to consume the appropriate amount of calories to fuel the body to generate heat.

·        Failure to have the proper clothing for the environmental conditions.

·        Failure to keep moving to generate heat. When muscles are working they are generating heat.

·        Various medical conditions effect how the body generates heat in cold environments.

 

The Primary Medical Risk Factors of Hypothermia are:

·        Infants and people aged 65 and older have trouble regulating body heat which makes them highly susceptible to hypothermia.

·        Consumption of alcohol when environmental temperatures are at or below freezing. This can lead to flash freezing of tissue inside the mouth, top and back of the throat and trachea which can be fatal.

·        The use of illegal drugs inhibits the body’s ability to produce heat and regulate body temperature.

·        Certain prescription medications will inhibit the body’s ability to regulate body heat.

·        People who are diabetic have trouble with cold temperatures.

·        People who are fighting infection have trouble with cold temperatures.

·        People who have coronary problems are at high risk dealing with cold temperatures.

 

Environmental Risk Factors of Hypothermia are:

·        Temperatures at or below 50° Fahrenheit.

·        Winds from 4 to 30 miles per hour.

·        Rain, sleet, snow or freezing rain.

·        Wet clothing from sweat, rain, snow, etc.

 

Safety Measures in the Prevention of Hypothermia:

·        Eat a health meal which will supply the calories required to generate adequate body heat for the conditions that will be found in the environmental conditions.

·        Eat snacks periodically to replenish calories.

·        Drink warm non-caffeinated beverages.

·        Do not sit or lean on cold items such as bleachers, stones, ground, aluminum, automobiles, etc.

·        Keep moving as much as possible.

·        Keep clothing dry.

 

Clothing not to wear in cold wet weather to prevent hypothermia:

·        Tennis shoes provide no insulation properties when dry and accelerate heat loss when wet.

·        Cotton or nylon socks provide little to no insulation when dry and none when wet.

·        Blue jeans and denim jackets have minimal insulation properties when dry and none when damp or wet.

·        Cotton sweat shirts provide little insulation when dry and none when damp or wet.

·        Don’t wear short sleeve shirts or short pants.

·        Don’t wear ponchos because they do not cover the entire leg and if the wind is blowing, rain will blow up under the poncho.

 

Clothing to wear for protection and prevention of hypothermia:
·        Leather water repellant shoes or hiking boots. These types of shoes will repel water; they also breathe which will permit perspiration to escape while keeping the feet warm.
·        Wool or wool blend hiking socks provide excellent insulation for the feet while wicking away moisture. Wool will retain up to 80% of its insulation property when wet, where cotton doesn’t.
·        Wool or wool blend trousers.
·        Long sleeve shirts.
·        Wool or wool blend sweater.
·        Coat or jacket that will insulate, repel water and wick away sweat.
·        Neck scarf to insulate the neck area and prevent heat from escaping through the top of the coat or jacket.
·        A wool or wool blend head covering.
·        If it is raining or heavy snow, a rain suit with separate jacket and hood to keep clothing dry.
             Every year in the United State approximate 600 to 700 people die from hypothermia and in Arizona an average of 23 people die of hypothermia.            Every year in the United State approximate 600 to 700 people die from hypothermia and in Arizona an average of 23 people die of hypothermia. 

Every year in the United State approximate 600 to 700 people die from hypothermia and in Arizona an average of 23 people die of hypothermia.             Remember this, nobody ever froze to death, they died of hypothermia first. The freezing part came later if the temperature was below freezing.

 

            Hypothermia is preventable. Enjoy the winter months and don’t fall victim to hypothermia.