Archive for the ‘Employee safety’ category

OSHA’S Stance on Distracted Driving

August 22, 2014

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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) top priority is keeping workers safe. While workplace fatalities have been decreasing in recent years, motor vehicle crashes continue to be one of the leading causes of death among American workers. As distracted driving dramatically increasing the risk of vehicle accidents, OSHA and the Department of Transportation (DOT) are working together to combat distracted driving for the safety of workers across the country.

OSHA’s Distracted Driving Initiative

According to OSHA, employers should prohibit any work policy or practice that requires or encourages workers to text while driving, as it greatly increases the risk of being injured or killed in a motor vehicle crash.

While texting is not specifically addressed as an OSHA standard, the General Duty Clause in The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act) covers distracted driving by stating “employers must provide a workplace free of serious recognized hazards.” It is well recognized that texting while driving dramatically increases the risk of a motor vehicle injury or fatality. This means you could be in violation of the OSH Act if your company:

• Requires employees to text while driving
• Organizes work so that texting is a practical necessity even if not a formal requirement
• Provides any sort of financial or other incentives that encourage workers to text while driving

If OSHA receives a credible complaint that an employer enforces or encourages any of these activities, they will investigate and, where necessary, issue citations and penalties to end such practices.

Supporting Safety in Your Workplace

Since distracted driving falls under the General Duty Clause and not a specific standard, there are no direct guidelines for how you must protect employees from the dangers of distracted driving. It is up to you as the employer to institute your own measures to keep employees safe. The easiest way to do this is to develop a policy that outlines how employees are to use mobile devices while carrying out their duties. Specifically noting that texting while driving is not allowed not only protects employees but also will keep your company from violating OSHA regulation.

Preparing for an OSHA Visit

April 14, 2014

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A planned or unplanned visit from OHSA can be daunting. Use the guidelines below to help prepare for an OSHA inspection.

What triggers an OSHA inspection? An OSHA inspection can be triggered by any of the following:

  • Planned inspection
  • Complaint
  • National/local emphasis program (lead, amputations, etc.)
  • Site specific targeting program (high incident rate sites)
  • Follow-up on a previous inspection
  • Imminent danger
  • Fatality

What comprises an OSHA inspection?

Recordkeeping

  • OSHA 300 logs from the last five years (or records of work-related injuries and illnesses)
  • OSHA 301 forms or incident reports
  • Reports of fatalities and catastrophic events
  • Annual summaries for the last five years
  • Medical surveillance (hearing tests, respiratory, etc.)
  • MSDS books/sheets

Documentation review

  • Written safety compliance programs (HazComm, lockout/tagout, emergency procedures, etc.)
  • Development of the written program
  • Execution of the programs
  • Employee training (orientation, refresher, attendance records, subject matter, etc.)
  • Site inspection
  • Identify physical hazards
  • Observe employee unsafe behavior
  • Evaluate level of non-compliance with OSHA standards
  • Employee interviews
  • Labor representative
  • Rank and file
  • Management

What should I do if OSHA wants to inspect my worksite?

  • Provide a room with privacy for the inspector.
  • Examine the inspector’s credentials.
  • Ask for the purpose of the inspection (complaint, etc.).
  • Determine how you will handle the inspection.
  • Buy time: Require the inspector to leave and obtain a warrant, or ask the inspector to come back the next day because you are busy (depending on how much time you need).
  • Let the inspector in to proceed with the inspection, accompanied by appropriate personnel.
  • Inform appropriate production personnel (managers, supervisors) of the imminent inspection; advise them to quickly tour their areas and make “last minute” improvements (e.g. housekeeping, PPE, etc.).
  • Someone who is familiar with your written programs, as well as the facility, should accompany the inspector at all times to ensure questions can be answered appropriately.
  • If the inspector identifies any “quick fix” items, have them taken care of immediately, or at least by the time the inspector returns again.
  • Take “before” and “after” photographs of every improvement made.
  • If the inspector takes photographs or video, consider doing the same concurrently.
  • If the inspector conducts noise or air monitoring, consider doing the same concurrently.
  • Take good notes during the post-inspection conference; the inspector’s comments are likely to be items that might show up in citations.

What are OSHA’s violation classifications?

  • Violation Penalty
  • De Minimis Violation Warning
  • Non-Serious Violation Up to $7,000 per violation
  • Serious Violation Up to $7,000 per violation
  • Willful or Repeated Violation Between $5,000 and $70,000 per violation
  • Willful Violation Resulting in Death of Employee Up to $10,000 and/or imprisonment for up to six months
  • Penalties may double for a second or higher conviction
  • Uncorrected Violation Up to $7,000 per day until the violation is corrected
  • Making false statements, representations or certification up to $10,000 and/or imprisonment for up to six months
  • Violation of posting requirements up to $7,000 per violation
  • Providing unauthorized advance notice of inspection up to $1,000, imprisonment for up to six months or both

Why might OSHA write a citation and assign a $0.00 penalty?

OSHA often assigns a $0.00 penalty in order to write a large number of citations without it being unrealistically expensive for you. However, this is typically only done one time; if OSHA finds the same violations in the future, it may cite you for a “willful” or “repeat” violation and assign a penalty up to $70,000. Be sure to start with a clean slate. All violations from previous inspections should be cleared, or you may be assigned large penalties.

What should I do if I receive citations following an OSHA inspection?

  • Pay the citations.
  • OSHA may offer a reduction in the penalty if it feels the inspection otherwise went well; it will ask you to agree to pay the penalty early in order to pay the discounted penalty.
  • If you strongly disagree with one or more citations, send OSHA a letter of “notice to contest” within 15 days of the inspection; prepare to go to court.
  • Use the “informal conference,” which is one of the most common responses.
  • Meet with the OSHA area director within 15 days of receiving the citations.
  • It enables you to challenge the citations and penalties without going to court.
  • Regardless of the outcome, you give up your right to officially contest your citations.
  • You can make your case to eliminate the citation altogether, reduce the severity of the citation classification, reduce the penalty amount, or revise something about the abatement (time or content).

Reduce workplace accidents with OSHA’s four-point safety program

May 7, 2013

OSHA guidelines can help employers implement and maintain a successful safety program throughout their organization.

Implementing a quality safety program is essential to reducing workplace accidents. To assist in building this program, OSHA provides you with all the guidance you need to get started.

OSHA doesn’t officially require employers to develop comprehensive safety and health programs, but doing so is an effective way to ensure you stay in compliance with OSHA standards. More importantly, it is the cornerstone of building a comprehensive safety culture, which is the best way to reduce work-related injury and illness as well as their associated costs.

If you currently have a weak or nonexistent safety program, following OSHA’s suggestions can help simplify the process while you begin integrating a focus on safety into your everyday operations.

Based on its Safety and Health Program Management Guidelines, OSHA has outlined four basic elements of a successful safety and health management program.

Management Leadership and Employee Involvement

OSHA recommends that the highest levels of management commit the necessary resources of staff, money and time to ensure that everyone on the worksite is protected from injury and illness hazards. Without the continued support of management there is no way a safety program will get off the ground. Specifically, OSHA recommends annual review, goal setting and action planning at all levels of management, with input from employees across the spectrum of the organization.

Worksite Analysis

OSHA’s sample plan recommends that all employers conduct a baseline survey to identify all safety and health hazards at the site at the time of implementation and control or eliminate (when possible) all hazards found. Reviewing employee injury records can also be valuable as they may identify a common cause.

Depending on the industry, you may be able to assess risks on your own. If you have any doubts about possible hazards, it is recommended that you call in an outside expert or consultant to review your operations and provide possible solutions.

In addition to identifying existing hazards so they can be dealt with, a worksite analysis will denote the conditions at the start of your program, establishing a baseline that will allow you to measure improvement. This will help you track development and allow you to benchmark your processes against others in your industry. Periodic review of your programs effectiveness, along with ongoing monitoring of employee injuries, is needed for your safety program’s continued success.

Hazard Prevention and Control

All hazards discovered during the Worksite Analysis should be eliminated if possible. Alternate control methods should be used for those hazards that remain. This may include engineering or administrative controls or the use of personal protective equipment.

It is also recommended that you determine which OSHA standards apply to the work being conducted so individual safety and health programs can be established for each.

Training

OSHA recommends that all employees receive sufficient training to understand what their individual safety and health responsibilities are, and how to fulfill them. Supervisors should personally provide each employee with safety materials and guidance pertaining to his or her job. These measures might include:

-    Making sure that each employee has access to a safety manual for review and future reference.

-    When applicable, delivering a personal copy of safety rules, policies and procedures pertaining to specific employees’ duties.

-    Asking questions of employees, and answering employees’ questions, to ensure knowledge and understanding of safety rules, polices and job-specific procedures described in the safety program manual.

-    Training each new employee – through verbal instruction and demonstration – on how to perform assigned job tasks safely.

-    Observing employees performing the work and making sure they are doing it safely. If they are not, the supervisor should provide additional training before permitting the employee to do the work without supervision.

-    Providing all employees with safe operating instructions on seldom-used or new equipment before using the equipment.

-    Reviewing safe work practices with employees before permitting the performance of new, non-routine or specialized procedures.

-    Communicating accident reporting procedures and the importance they have for the continued success of the program as a whole.

Refresher training should occur periodically to keep standards high. If work environments or job tasks change, employees should receive updated instruction.

Creating an effective safety program for your organization based on OSHA’s Four-Point Program is a great first-step in reducing your organization’s workers’ compensation costs. This program, coupled with ongoing safety initiatives and program benchmarking, can mean thousands of dollars saved in premiums, increased productivity and reduced claims costs.

Good vs Great

October 16, 2012

good-great1It shouldn’t come as a surprise to hear that companies with great safety programs have the lowest loss ratios and the lowest insurance costs. This is because these are the accounts that insurance companies want to write. They fight for their business by offering better terms and pricing. If you want to reduce your insurance costs, the best advice I can give you is to nurture a safety culture within your company.

Are you good or are you great? Answer the following questions to see how you rank:

  • How well are your supervisors trained to implement and and enforce your safety program? Supervisors are your first line of defense and need to be trained and also need the authority to enforce the program.
  • Do your employees wear personal protective equipment (PPE)? Is it mandatory and enforced?
  • Do you have regular safety meetings and safety training for your employees? Meetings need to be consistent and they should reinforce your commitment to safety. Attendance and topic need to be documented and records maintained. These are all OSHA requirements.
  • Does new employee indoctrination include a review of the safety program? New employees need to know your attitude towards safety. Start them off right.
  • Do you “re-train” employees who are reassigned to new duties? They should be updated about job specific safety requirements. No employee should be allowed to operate equipment until they are properly trained on how to operate it safely.
  • Do you conduct regular premises inspections to spot hazards and take corrective action? Documentation is also an OSHA requirement.
  • Do you conduct effective accident investigations? Accidents are also a learning experience. Supervisors should be trained on how to determine the root cause of an accident and corrective action that needs to be taken to be sure it does not happen again.

If you are deficient in any of these areas, we can help. At DMIG we have safety and claims specialists on staff. They can conduct an analysis of your program to determine where you need to improve and help to implement necessary changes to lower your loss ratios and your insurance costs.

Ground-fault Protection for Construction Sites

October 12, 2012

According to the National Institute of Safety and Health, the most frequently cited Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) electrical violation is improper grounding of equipment or circuits. This is especially troubling for construction managers in light of the fact that construction workers suffer more electrical burns and fatal electrical injuries than workers in all other industries combined. Each incident carries significant costs in terms of lost time and resources and increases the employer’s risk of costly lawsuits. The most tragic aspect is that many of these accidents could have been prevented with the implementation of proper ground-fault protection practices.

“Construction workers suffer more electrical burns and fatal electrical injuries than workers in all other industries combined, but many of these incidents could have been prevented with the implementation of proper ground-fault protection practices.”

OSHA Regulations

OSHA requires employers to provide either: (a) ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) on construction sites for receptacle outlets in use and not part of the permanent wiring of the building or structure; or (b) a scheduled and recorded Assured Equipment Grounding Conductor Program (AEGCP), covering all cord sets, receptacles not part of the permanent wiring of the building, and equipment connected by cord and plug.

About GFCIs

Grounding a tool or electrical system involves creating a low-resistance electrical path that connects to the earth. A ground-fault occurs in a tool or electrical system when there is a break in this low-resistance grounding path. The electrical current may then take an alternative path to the ground through the user, resulting in serious injuries or death. GFCIs automatically limit or stop the flow of current in the event of a ground fault, overload or short circuit in the wiring system. They operate by monitoring the amount of current going into electric equipment and the amount of current flowing out along the circuit conductors. If the difference exceeds 5 milliamperes, the device automatically shuts off the power to prevent injury.

About AEGCPs

The OSHA-approved alternative to using GFCIs on a construction site is an AEGCP, which is a regimented system for testing electrical tools and extension cords to assure their proper grounding. If an AEGCP is used in place of GFCIs for ground-fault protection, the following minimum requirements apply:

  • Keep a written description of the program at the jobsite. Outline specific procedures for the required equipment inspections, tests and test schedule, and make them available to OSHA and to affected persons upon demand.
  • Designate one or more competent persons to implement the program. OSHA defines a competent person as someone who is a) qualified to identify hazards and b) authorized to take prompt corrective measures.
  • Visually inspect all cord sets, attachment caps, plugs and receptacles, and any equipment connected by cord and plug, before use each day. If you see any external damage, such as deformed or missing pins, damaged insulation, etc., or discover internal damage, take the equipment out of use until it is repaired.
  • Perform two OSHA-required tests on all electrical equipment: a continuity test, and a terminal connection test. These tests are required:
  • Before first use
  • After any repairs, and before placing back in service
  • After suspected damage, and before returning to use
  • Every 3 months
  • Maintain a written record of the required tests, identifying all equipment that passed the test and the last date it was tested (or the testing interval). Like the program description, make it available to OSHA inspectors and affected persons upon demand.

Using GFCIs in Conjunction with AEGCPs

Although OSHA permits the use of an AEGCP in lieu of GFCIs, it would be a mistake to view the choice as strictly an either/or proposition. The best course of action is to use GFCIs in conjunction with an Assured Equipment Grounding Conductor Program. Taking this step will not eliminate the possibility of a costly electrical accident on the worksite, but it will significantly reduce the risk of injury or death due to ground faults.

For more risk management tips, contact Der Manouel Insurance Group at 925-426-7810.

Source: OSHA

Safety Matters: Talking points for safety meetings

August 6, 2012

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), one of the most effective ways to promote a safe working environment is to get involved in company safety meetings. Since safety is our top priority, we’ve gathered some tips to help you make the most out of our company safety meetings.

Why Safety Meetings

These informal, brief meetings allow your employees the opportunity to stay up to date on potential workplace hazards and safe workplace practices, such as machinery use, tool handling, equipment use, and safety-minded attitudes — basically anything that may contribute to accidents or illnesses in your workplace.

Meeting Basics

  • Attending safety meetings should be mandatory. Be aware of what days you hold meetings, and have your employees plan accordingly.
  • Always have employees sign a safety meeting log – record keeping is an important part of your safety and compliance program.
  • Have employees be active participants. Some of the best safety ideas come from workers because they often know best what and where the dangers are.
  • During safety meetings, if your employees have something to add, encourage them to speak up.
  • Make part of the meeting an open forum and ask employees if they’ve noticed any activity that could have been a safety violation, i.e. spills not being cleaned up properly or someone didn’t follow lockout/tagout procedures. Solicit feedback so you can cover the topic at a future safety meeting, and everyone can benefit.
  • If employees already know the topic of the day, ask them not to tune out, but to add valuable information they may have to the conversation.
  • If one of your employees has an idea for a safety topic, chances are others will find it of interest too. Encourage your employees to share the details with their supervisor or the safety committee.
  • Encourage employees to ask questions about safety, like how to lift safely or read a material safety data sheet (MSDS). There are no dumb questions when it comes to safety.
  • Create a safety bulletin board or empower your human resources representative to always have safety information accessible to your employees.
  • Recommend that your employees nominate someone within your organization who exemplifies safety and then recognize that person in your next safety meeting. This can serve as an incentive to other employees to increase their safety habits.

Obesity Tied to Workers’ Comp Claims

July 3, 2012

A recent study by the  National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) has found the indemnity benefit duration of obese workers’ to be over five times longer than non-obese claimants.

Comparing the claims of obese to non-obese claimants, the study finds that obesity contributes in significant ways to the length of time during which claimants receive indemnity benefits. Indemnity duration was measured based on Temporary Total and Permanent Total indemnity benefit payments. They matched all claim characteristics except for age at injury. The claims were then analyzed using a model that accounts for the possible non-linear influence of age.

The statistical analysis shows that claimants with a comorbidity indicator pointing to obesity have an indemnity benefit duration that is more than five times the value of claimants who do not have this comorbidity indicator but are otherwise comparable. Inclusive of Permanent Partial indemnity payments, this multiple climbs to more than six.

A Duke University study of its own employees pointed to higher odds of injury for workers in the highest obesity category. That study followed claims from Duke University and Duke University Health System over an eight year period. That  study also found that medical costs for morbidly-obese employees were 6.8 times higher than non-obese employees. These employees were also twice as likely to have a claim and missed almost 13 more days of work.

Keas, an innovative social game that promotes health and happiness in the workplace through game-play, social networking and rewards, released the below infographic further validating the cost of having obese employees. Keas motivates and empowers users to adopt and maintain healthy habits and lifestyles, resulting in a healthier, happier, and more productive workforce.


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