If the hard hat has sustained an impact, dispose of it immediately, even if the damage is not visible.
By Don Rust
Protecting employees from potential head injuries is a key element of a safety program in virtually all industries. The primary reasons for an organization to require hard hats in the work environment is to help protect employees from head trauma from objects falling from above; bumping into fixed objects, such as pipes or beams; or contact with electrical hazards. Head protection also can serve to help protect employees from splashes, rain, high heat, and exposure to ultraviolet light.
In this article, we will discuss many of the frequently asked questions related to hard hats.
When Is a Hard Hat Required?
OSHA requires, in 29 CFR 1910.135, that if the following hazardous conditions are present, then head protection is required:
Objects might fall from above and strike employees on the head
There is potential for employees to bump their heads against fixed objects, such as exposed pipes or beams
There is a possibility of accidental head contact with electrical hazards
Other countries or organizations may have additional requirements, but most regulations are hazard based and start with a thorough workplace hazard assessment.
What Industry Standard or Approval Do Hard Hats Need?
This can vary by country or global region because there are various standards in place. In North America, the current standards are the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Standard for Head Protection, Z89.1 (current version is 2009) and the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) Industrial Protective Headwear, Z94.1 (current version is 2005). These two standards share the “Type” and “Class” descriptors, which makes it easier to ensure that the right hard hats are selected for your application. However, as you will see below, the tests are slightly different, so a hard hat manufacturer must test to all standards that it chooses to meet, based upon the markets in which it wants to sell.
Identifying and intervening with at-risk injured workers can save payers a bundle in workers compensation costs. These are the so-called “creeping catastrophic’ claims; the seemingly minor injuries expected to resolve within weeks that go south and before you know it, have been on the books for months or longer. They typically involve a variety of expensive medical procedures and medications, all of which are unsuccessful in alleviating the person’s pain.
This small fraction of workers’ compensation claims encompasses a majority of costs for payers. In recent years, the industry has done a better job of red-flagging these claimants earlier in the process. But an oft-overlooked tool to help is urine drug testing.
Urine Drug Testing helps physicians whether the patient is compliant with prescribed medications and/or using non-prescriber or illicit drugs.
But UDT has been ignored in many cases or overused in others. Using UDT judiciously can be a tremendous help.
Recent research shows fewer than half the injured workers prescribed opioids received UDT – 17 percent to 50 percent. However, it also showed that of the top 5 percent of claims, UDT was conducted in 7 out of 10 physician visits.
Guidelines from the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, the Official Disability Guidelines and the Washington State Interagency vary regarding UDT frequency recommendation. But they all call for UDT at baseline when opioids are initially prescribed, then at various times throughout the year based on the injured worker’s risk stratification. Those at low risk may only need UDT every six months to annually; while high-risk claimants might need to be tested monthly.
The testing provides objective information to support improved clinical decision making, and helps medical providers:
More than 2 million workers are victims of workplace violence every year. While healthcare clearly leads the industries reporting workplace violence, many other industries are also at risk. Employers and payers can significantly impact the rate of violent incidents by understanding the risks unique to their industries and worksites and developing strategies to mitigate them.
OSHA defines workplace violence as any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening, disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site. That includes everything from verbal abuse to physical assaults and even homicide.
The most recent statistics show that violence in workplaces is increasing, despite lower overall crime among the general population – including homicides. In healthcare, the numbers are 7.8 cases of workplace violence for every 10,000 employees. In the sales industry, half of the work-related deaths are due to homicide. School districts also report higher rates of violence, aside from the much-publicized mass shootings.
Despite the high prevalence of workplace violence incidents more than 70 percent of U.S. workplaces do not have a formal program or policy that addresses the issue, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Create the Policy
There are three steps to creating a violence-free workplace.
Assess the risk. First, you need to determine the violence hazards affecting your workforce. They could vary among employees. A healthcare establishment, for example, could have staffers who deal with potentially violent patients in the emergency room, along with nurses in the field. The risks facing each are very different.
ER workers should be aware of potential incidents not only from patients themselves but from family members who may become frustrated. A nurse who conducts home health visits may be vulnerable to risks because she or he is alone. The home health worker should know to ask questions, such as whether there are firearms in the home.
Some ways to assess the risks facing your organization include
Find out from staff members whether, where and when they feel threatened.
Review past records. Incident reports can reveal areas where violence has occurred, and they should be a focus of prevention policies.
Check the research. Studies provide clues to areas vulnerable to violence. Within healthcare facilities, inpatient and acute psychiatric services, geriatric long-term care settings, and urban ERs have been shown to be at higher risk than some other areas.
When his first daughter was born, Steve Marks was juggling two jobs.
From 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Marks was a nurse manager at a casino medical unit. When his shift ended, he slept an hour or two before moving on to his other job as a hospital supervisor from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. two nights a week. Afterward, he drove back to his first job, where he curled up under his desk for an hour-long nap.
“When you’ve got bills to pay and things that have to be done, children or parents or other things keeping you up, sleep is the last thing that gets paid attention to,” he said. “It’s like, ‘All right, I can deal with this. Let me just close my eyes for a couple minutes and I’ll get back to it.’ That doesn’t make up for the loss [of sleep].”
After two years, Marks decided to stop working two jobs. Now administrator of health and safety services at Viking Yachts in New Gretna, NJ, he shares his stories to educate people about occupational fatigue.
Kim Olszewski – vice president of Lewisburg, PA-based Mid-State Occupational Health Services – also understands fatigue after working the night shift in health care. She, alongside Marks, participates in presentations on occupational fatigue.
Employers are becoming increasingly aware that fatigue is a safety issue, Olszewski said, and they, along with workers, play a role in tackling the problem.
“The key is the proactive piece, driving it from the top down, talking about fatigue, how it can be managed, how can it impacts all aspects of life – not just work,” she said.
A poster at the AIHce EXP conference summarized findings from NIOSH assessments at construction sites in 10 states during 2007-2012.
PHILADELPHIA – Workers engaged in constructing or repairing roads and bridges are oftennot being adequately protected against respiratory hazards, including silica and lead, according to a poster presentation at the AIHce EXP 2018 conference here. The poster summarized findings from NIOSH assessments at 13 companies’ construction sites in 10 states during 2007-2012.
Six of the companies with sites where air monitoring was conducted had exposures exceeding NIOSH recommended exposure limits. The site visits determined that the companies’ air monitoring was not always adequate for the specific exposures and proper respiratory protection was not always selected.
Improvements suggested by the authors include fit testing tight-fitting respirators, training the workers, ensuring workers are clean shaven for a proper respirator fit, ensuring a respiratory protection program administrator is trained and available at the job site, ensuring respirators are properly cleaned and stored, conducting air monitoring more frequently because of changes in construction work, and providing respiratory protection when engineering controls are not adequate.
There are many ways interested stakeholders can reduce workers’ compensation costs in their programs. Running a more effective program and reducing costs starts with a safe work environment that can be as simple as the A B Cs…
Avoid unnecessary risks in the workplace. Educate all workers on how to be safe.
Be aware of common pitfalls that drain program costs. This includes not making sure all employees are aware of safety.
Caution all employee’s to be careful during the workday.
Do not delay in reporting work injuries. Provide resources for employees to report claims and provide appropriate First Aid.
Employers are usually the party required to complete the state-mandated First Report of Injury.
Falls in the workplace lead to serious work injuries. Always make sure employees are provided with the proper safety equipment.
Get an ergonomic workplace assessment for all employees. Repetitive use injuries are common in any occupation or job.
Help all injured employees in their return-to-work efforts. Studies show the best way to reduce workers’ compensation costs is to get people back in the workforce as soon as possible.
Idiopathic work injuries are generally not compensable. A careful investigation is required to determine if this is the case so liability can be denied in a timely manner.
Just because an employee claims a work injury does not mean it is always compensable. A proper investigation starts immediately after the injury occurs.
Keep your First-Aid kit properly supplied. This can be the responsibility of a safety committee member to check safety supplies frequently.
Letting garbage sit around the workplace can result in injuries. Encourage all employees to clean up messes – even if they are not responsible for it.
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.
Falls from heights and elevated surfaces continue to be a driver in workers’ compensation costs across the United States. Now is the time for employers and other interested stakeholders to take a stand against falls. It will not only reduce workers’ compensation program costs but increase morale within the workplace.
A Case Study in Preventable Workplace Falls
Falls within the workplace continue to be the leading cause of workplace deaths despite improvements and availability of cost-effective safety equipment. This is mainly prevalent in the construction industry where workers engage in daily activities in a variety of settings and conditions. This includes smaller residential construction projects, which account for a disproportionally high number of catastrophic workers’ compensation claims. Preventing these incidents all starts with a proactive contractor dedicated to improving the safety on their job site.
Preventing falls from heights and elevated surfaces can be prevented by simple strategies:
Advance planning that includes understanding the job site and unique conditions employees might face when performing their work activities;
Making sure all employees and others on a construction site have the necessary safety equipment. This includes making sure the equipment is properly working and free from defect; and
Providing the necessary training on how to correctly use the safety equipment used in the workplace. A surprising number of work injuries and deaths occur when this equipment is not correctly used by employees.
Communication is Key!
The first step in preventing falls in the workplace is communication. When it comes to workplace safety and a known safety risk, interested stakeholders can never communicate to its workforce enough. This communication must also be effective. Steps contractors can take should include:
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.
Workplace safety is important during the holiday season. Stressing this topic can also reduce workers’ compensation program expenses. This is especially true as employees are decking the workplace halls — you want to avoid falla falls, falla falls, falls, falls falls!
The Real Expense of Workplace Safety
Failing to have a safe workplace impacts, everyone. Employees get injured; overtime costs go up; all employees get stressed. It also reduces productivity and adds unnecessary costs to the hiring and replacement of talented individuals who cannot return to work. It adds to healthcare costs in the United States and places an unnecessary burden on emergency rooms. Now is the time to prevent workplace injuries.
Slip, Trips and Falls in the Workplace
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) tracks injuries and deaths that occur in the American workplace. Approximately 15% of all deaths in workers’ compensation settings occur when someone falls in a same level or multi-level incident. Only motor vehicle accidents account for more workplace deaths.
The economic impact of slip/fall injuries is astronomical. The National Safety Council estimates these types of injuries cost American industry over $13 billion per year. This averages out to be about $40,000 per incident. The consequence of poor training and safety compliance continues to grow. Interested and proactive claims management teams can make a difference and reverse this troubling trend. It also starts with educating insured on fall avoidance and other safety issues.
Creating a Culture of Safety
OSHA does require training for all employees subject to slip/fall dangers. Those interested in making a difference in their workplace need to go beyond the minimum requirements
Prevent same level slip and fall injuries:
Keep work areas free of clutter, dust and other debris;
Require employees to wear low-heeled shoes with no-slip surfaces;
Ensure that rugs and mats have skid-proof backing;
Avoid having non-tracked flooring installed in workspaces;
Discourage horseplay in the workplace. This can include specifically prohibiting conduct that can result in slips, falls or other related injuries;
Keep rooms free of clutter, especially on floors; and
Use correct lighting in stairwells and hallways.
Employees working at heights such as catwalks, ladders, and scaffolding are in extreme danger for severe injury from falls. Important measures to implement in the workplace should include:
Development and implementation of a fall protection program. This includes training and ongoing evaluation of safety measures for employees and management to use daily;
Avoid unprotected side and openings. When these settings are unavoidable, use of a guardrail, safety net or fall arrest systems are paramount;
Provide instruction on the safe posting and use of ladders;
Purchase and require the use of OSHA compliant ladders when engaging in workplace activities; and
Inspection of ladders and scaffolding before and after all use.
While this list is not all-inclusive, there needs to be a proactive approach to employee safety when working at heights. It is also important to engage management on these issues and foster a culture of compliance with safety procedures and injury avoidance.
The holiday season should be a time of joy and gratitude—not emergency room visits. While slip/fall injuries will never be eliminated, they can be avoided. Taking a proactive approach reduces workers’ compensation costs and allows people to focus on the holiday season.