The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was created at the federal level on December 29, 1970, with the goal of assuring “safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education, and assistance.” Since its creation, the agency has evolved and become commonplace in the workers’ compensation scene as a means of investigating work injuries and providing information to interested stakeholders. Parties seeking to reduce workers’ compensation program costs should understand OSHA and view the agency as a partner in making workplaces safe for employees.
Understanding OSHA Basics
There are many misconceptions about OSHA. It is important to those seeking to provide a safe workplace to understand better the requirements and how the agency is responsible for enforcing safety standards.
OSHA standards and agency overview covers most private sector employers. While it does not cover many state and local government agencies, employees of these entities are subject to protections by the federal act and applicable state programs.
The federal act also allows states to create their own OSHA programs. In these jurisdictions, the state agency receives funding from the federal government to run its program. This allows states to develop their own standards, provided they meet the federal minimums required under the Act. There are currently 22 OSHA approved programs that include: Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming.
EH&S News, NES Safety Topic – October 26, 2017 Written by: Brittiny Harris, NES, Inc.
Wildfires Create Smoke Inhalation Hazards
California is dealing with one of the most disastrous fire seasons in its history, and with these fires come serious smoke inhalation hazards.
The loss of life is tragic, and the loss of property is extreme. Beyond these concerns, fires have ravaged many California cities and surrounding areas, spewing huge amounts of smoke into the atmosphere and covering surfaces in a thick layer of toxic ash. Smoke inhalation hazards are a prominent problem that firefighters (and firefighters’ support personnel), cleanup crews, industrial hygienists, private citizens, and all others in the affected regions are dealing with and will continue to encounter as a result of these wildfires.
Many of these smoke inhalation hazards are created not only from the burning trees and grass but from burning houses. As they burn, houses produce highly dangerous gases, chemicals, and fine particles that can cause severe health issues if inhaled. The paint, metal, batteries, and many more products commonly found in and around houses create dangerous fumes causing serious smoke inhalation hazards for employees trying to contain the fire and for residents in the area.
Given the massive scope of the 2017 California wildfires, a tremendous amount of smoke and ash has been released into the atmosphere. It is therefore important to realize that prevailing winds can carry significantly dangerous quantities of smoke tens and even hundreds of miles from its originating source.
OSHA Warns About Smoke Inhalation Hazards
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has taken action to advise employers on how to protect their employees from smoke inhalation hazards and from the painful side effects of the ash toxins. OSHA advocates three different methods to protect people who are close to the fire and dealing with smoke inhalation hazards.
Smoke Hazard Safety Measures
OSHA’s first recommendation is to always have engineering controls in place. These include keeping indoor areas smoke free with clean air from ventilation systems. The general population has been advised to adjust air-conditioning units and use car vent systems to recirculate the air in order to avoid allowing outside air into the car.
The next line of defense endorsed by OSHA is administrative controls. When smoke inhalation hazards are present, keep employees, children, and the general population around the affected areas indoors. Limit time spent outside whenever possible.
Personal Protective Equipment
OSHA also recommends employees use personal protective equipment (PPE), specifically respirators along with any barriers that can be used between your skin and the hazardous smoke.
OSHA does specify that respirators are only needed if the air is designated to be “unhealthy”, “very unhealthy”, or “hazardous” according to California Code of Regulations (CCR) Title 8 §5141 General Industry Safety Orders. N95s disposable respirators through P100s respirators are not required to be fit-tested, but they do come with user instructions and are a valued option for PPE. OSHA urges respirator users to shave facial hair and to avoid wearing a hat over the straps of the mask in order for it to fit correctly. OSHA, however, does recognize that the respirators do not protect against exposure to gases, vapors, oils, pesticides, and other chemicals. It should also be noted that the respirators do not provide oxygen, they only filter out harmful particles; because of this, there is a higher risk of heat illness among those who already have trouble breathing.
OSHA cautions employees who are using a respirator to always be aware of how they are feeling while using the respirator. If the employee is feeling dizzy, faint, lightheaded, nauseous, or disoriented in any way, he or she should remove the respirator, proceed to a safer area, and get medical attention. Employees are advised to use a new respirator every day and dispose of dirty respirators and any respirators that become hard to breathe through.
Recently I was asked about safe torque levels when using electrically, pneumatically, or hydraulically powered screwdrivers or wrenches. These tools are often used in assembly jobs in the manufacturing industry.
Basically, torque is a measure of the turning force on an object. A person holds the tool in place while the tool delivers a specified amount of force, measured in English units, inch-pounds (Newton-meters [nM] in the metric world). As the tool delivers the force, the body braces against the force. When the specified force is reached, the machine stops abruptly. It is this jerking reaction force that causes the problem – over time this repeated force can cause musculoskeletal disorders (MSD). How much force, torque in this case, can a person safely handle? The amount of torque force that a person can tolerate over the course of day varies greatly. Overall, strength, age, sex, posture, grip size and type are all factors that determine tolerance to torque forces.
For healthy adults, we know the range of the maximum voluntary contraction (MVC), the measure of strength for this type of force. But that tells us only the maximum a person can generate. This is not a good indicator for someone repeatedly doing this type of work. For that, we need to modify the MVC with a percentage. 14% of MVC is used for intermittent static contractions and 8% for continuous static contractions over the course of day. So doing the math, I calculate that for 95% of women, the range is 6.7 inch-pounds to 14.6 inch-pounds, with 10.66 inch-pounds being the average. For 95% of men, the range is 13.6 inch-pounds to 21.3 inch-pounds, with 17.6 inch-pounds being the average.
What do you do if the torque tool generates more force than a person can comfortably handle over the course of the day? There are two approaches: engineering controls and administrative controls. Engineering controls should be the first line of defense. Here are a few options:
Reaction arm for conventional tool: When a torque tool reaches its specified force, it abruptly stops. A reaction arm transmits the force to the frame rather than the human body. It is interesting that the industry recommends torque reaction arms for forces greater than 12 pounds; this is a pretty good estimate for males. For women, I recommend using these torque reaction arms for forces greater than 10 inch-pounds. There are many on the market, click here for an example.
Pulse tools: These tools apply the force by pulsing, and are very quiet and do not require a reaction arm. However, they are more expensive upfront and require more maintenance. In the long run, they may be cost-effective depending upon how they are used.
The recommendations are adaptable to most workplaces, and employers may adjust them for such variables as number of employees, the makeup of the workforce, and the type of work performed. The concepts can be used to create a new program or enhance an existing one.
The document outlines five key elements of an effective anti-retaliation program:
1. Management leadership, commitment, and accountability
2. System for listening to and resolving employees’ safety and compliance concerns
3. System for receiving and responding to reports of retaliation
4. Anti-retaliation training for employees and managers
5. Program oversight
“These recommended practices will provide companies with the tools to create a robust anti-retaliation program,” said Jordan Barab, acting assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. “In the long run, it’s good for workers and good for business.” Continue reading Workplace Anti-Retaliation Programs→
EDITOR’S NOTE: Central Coast IndustrialCare has “In the Event of Work Injury” laminated posters and wallet cards available in English and Spanish.
Just email our Client Services Manager, Susan Berban.
High quality, and simple. High quality, and simple. High quality, and simple. Those two concepts are the cornerstones of the clothing brand Patagonia’s business philosophy.
High Quality & Simple
I’m Michael Stack with Amaxx, and I was recently up in Freeport, Maine with my wife celebrating our eighth year anniversary on a little getaway. Now, she needed a raincoat so we spent some time in the Patagonia outlet, and I picked up the book written by their founder Yvon Chouinard. As I was reading it that day and later following to finish it, these two concepts resonated throughout the 258-page book for their business success and the foundation of that company.
Employee’s Bombarded With Information
It got me really thinking as I was reading this book, is how these two concepts can really be applied to Workers’ Compensation, particularly in the communication and the messaging to our employees. Because the reality is that employees today are just bombarded with information on a day-to-day basis of things that they need to understand, and a lot of times need to put into action. Continue reading 2 Must Have Concepts For Your Injury Response Message→
This month the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a memorandum which seeks to clarify the extent to which OSHA will consider post-accident drug and alcohol testing to be a violation of federal regulations.
The memorandum addresses questions that have arisen about a rule that OSHA published in May. That rule, theElectronic Recordkeeping Rule, prohibits retaliation against employees who report workplace injuries and illnesses.
In comments to that rule OSHA previously stated that the rule “does prohibit employers from using drug testing (or the threat of drug testing) as a form of adverse action against employees who report injuries or illnesses.” Those comments ignited a firestorm, and since then there has been debate as to whether all post-accident drug or alcohol testing is now prohibited.
Washington, DC (WorkersCompnsation.com) – Three inventors were recognized for their ideas to reduce work-related hearing loss during the first ‘Hear and Now – Noise Safety Challenge’ hosted by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Mine Safety and Health Administration, in partnership with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health on October 27, in Washington, D.C.
The challenge was launched with the dual goals of inspiring creative ideas and raising business awareness of the market for workplace safety innovation. Ten finalists, selected from 28 submissions to Challenge.gov, were invited to Washington, D.C., to present their solutions to reduce workplace-induced hearing loss.
Dealing with “chronic pain” is an issue the workers’ compensation claims management team deals with on a daily basis.
This is highlighted by the daily dose of news about the prescription drug epidemic and the countless Americans who are either addicted to these legal medications, or become addicted to street drugs as the result of using them to deal with work-related injuries. It is important to claim handlers to be proactive on this issue for the benefit of the injured employee and the bottom line.
What is Chronic Pain?
From a clinical standpoint, “chronic pain” is pain symptomology that lasts from three to six months following the onset of injury. This can be the result of a specific incident such as a slip/fall injury, an aggravation or acceleration of an underlying condition or an injury resulting from workplace exposure or repetitive activity.
In most incidents, healthcare professionals in the United States deal with chronic pain by prescribing opioid-based pain medications. These medications come in many forms and names people have come to know. They include:
These prescriptions are useful as they relieve pain for a period and allow a person to recover from injury. They are derived from opium, which is commonly processed into the street drug known as heroin. |
Quick Facts on Opioid Addiction
• From 2000 – 2013, the drug screening industry grew by $1.2 billion.Workers’ compensation insurers in California alone spend about $100 million per year for opioid-based pain medications.
At the 2016 SAWCA Annual Conference, a panel discussed a variety of issues associated with medical marijuana. The panel was:
• Dr. Robert Howell – Georgia GHSE
• Eric Haines – Chief Deputy – Escambia County Sheriff’s Office
• Michael Minardi – Chairman – Regulate Florida
• Reggie Garcia – United for Care
• Tom Glasson – Government Affairs Officer – AIG
• Paul Tauriello – Colorado Division of Workers’ Compensation
Recreational marijuana has been legal in Colorado for 3 years now. Last year the marijuana industry in Colorado generated $996 million in revenue. This resulted in around $200 million in tax revenues for the state. While this may seem like a large number, it is really a very small percentage of the state budget. With tobacco, for every $1 in taxes collected there is $10 in costs to the system including healthcare and regulatory costs. Is marijuana producing a better ratio or is the costs of regulating legalized marijuana higher than taxes collected from its sale?
Alternative to Opioids?
The issue with considering marijuana as an alternative to opioids is that there is no science to support this. Since marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug, there has been no credible testing and studies about its effectiveness for different conditions. Any other prescription medication has to go through extensive testing to be approved. Published articles on this topic are very unscientific and tend to be more driven by personal opinion rather than actual scientific fact.
The question becomes can we stop the opioid epidemic by substituting medical marijuana? The answer is that this is doubtful. Test subjects report a 30% reduction in pain with marijuana. It is likely that instead of replacing opioids, medical marijuana would be used in addition to it. Continue reading Medical Marijuana – Beyond the Obvious→
Washington, DC (WorkersCompensation.com) – The Occupational Safety and Health Administration today unveiled a new webpage developed to provide employers and workers with strategies and tools for preventing workplace violence in healthcare settings.
Similar to the guidelines, the new strategies and tools focus on workplace violence prevention programs that include elements such as management commitment and worker participation; worksite analysis and hazard identification; hazard prevention and control; safety and health training; and recordkeeping and program evaluation.
“Too many healthcare workers face threats and physical violence on the job while caring for our loved ones,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “It is not right that these valuable workers continue to be injured and sometimes killed on the job. Most of these injuries are preventable and OSHA is providing these resources to help combat these incidents and raise awareness that violence does not need to be part of the job.”
[READ FULL STORY HERE]
Health & Workers' Comp News for California's Santa Maria Valley