July 8th, 2015

OSHA adds key hazards for investigators’ focus in healthcare inspections

Emphasis placed on musculoskeletal disorders, bloodborne pathogens,
workplace violence, tuberculosis and slips, trips and falls

WASHINGTON — Targeting some of the most common causes of workplace injury and illness in the healthcare industry, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced the agency is expanding its use of enforcement resources in hospitals and nursing homes to focus on: musculoskeletal disorders related to patient or resident handling; bloodborne pathogens; workplace violence; tuberculosis and slips, trips and falls.
U.S. hospitals recorded nearly 58,000 work-related injuries and illnesses in 2013, amounting to 6.4 work-related injuries and illnesses for every 100 full-time employees: almost twice as high as the overall rate for private industry.
“Workers who take care of us when we are sick or hurt should not be at such high risk for injuries — that simply is not right. Workers in hospitals, nursing homes and long-term care facilities have work injury and illness rates that are among the highest in the country, and virtually all of these injuries and illnesses are preventable,” said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. “OSHA has provided employers with education, training and resource materials, and it’s time for hospitals and the health care industry to make the changes necessary to protect their workers.”
OSHA has advised its staff through a memorandum that all inspections of hospitals and nursing home facilities, including those prompted by complaints, referrals or severe injury reports, should include the review of potential hazards involving MSD related to patient handling; bloodborne pathogens; workplace violence; tuberculosis; and slips, trips and falls.
“The most recent statistics tell us that almost half of all reported injuries in the healthcare industry were attributed to overexertion and related tasks. Nurses and nursing assistants each accounted for a substantial share of this total,” added Dr. Michaels. “There are feasible solutions for preventing these hazards and now is the time for employers to implement them.”
For more information; to obtain compliance assistance; file a complaint or report amputations, losses of an eye, workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public can call OSHA’s toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742).

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January 15th, 2015

OSHA is reminding covered employers to post OSHA’s Form 300A, which summarizes the total number of job-related injuries and illnesses that occurred during 2014 and were logged on OSHA’s Form 300, the log of work-related injuries and illnesses. The summary must be posted between Feb. 1 and April 30, 2015, and should be displayed in a common area where notices to employees are usually posted.

Employers with 10 or fewer employees and employers in specific low-hazard industries are normally exempt from federal OSHA injury and illness recordkeeping and posting requirements. Due to changes in OSHA’s recordkeeping requirements that went into effect Jan. 1, 2015, certain previously exempt industries are now covered. Lists of both exempt and newly covered industries are available on OSHA’s website. Visit the Updates to OSHA’s Recordkeeping Rule Web page for more information

November 18th, 2014

Beginning January 1, 2015, there will be a change to what covered employers are required to report to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Employers will now be required to report all work-related fatalities within 8 hours and all in-patient hospitalizations, amputations, and losses of an eye within 24 hours of finding about the incident.

Previously, employers were required to report all workplace fatalities and when three or more workers were hospitalized in the same incident.

The updated reporting requirements are not simply paperwork but have a life-saving purpose: they will enable employers and workers to prevent future injuries by identifying and eliminating the most serious workplace hazards.

Employers have three options for reporting these severe incidents to OSHA. They can call their nearest area office during normal business hours, call the 24-hour OSHA hotline at 1-800-321-OSHA (1-800-321-6742), or they can report online at For more information and resources, including a new YouTube video, visit OSHA’s Web page on the updated reporting requirements.

Starting January 1, 2015:

All employers* must report:

  • All work-related fatalities within 8 hours

Within 24 hours, all work-related:

  • Inpatient hospitalizations
  • Amputations
  • Losses of an eye

How to Report Incident

*Employers under Federal OSHA’s jurisdiction must begin reporting by January 1. Establishments in a state with a State run OSHA program should contact their state plan for the implementation date.

April 10th, 2014

By now, most of us have been impacted in one way or another by “distracted driving”. A commonly accepted definition of “distracted” is “any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving.” All distractions endanger not only the driver and passengers, but also bystanders.

Some of the typical distractions encountered are:

  • Using a cell phone
  • Texting
  • Eating and drinking
  • Talking to passengers
  • Grooming
  • Reading, including maps
  • Using a navigation system
  • Watching a video
  • Adjusting a radio, CD player, or MP3 player

Because text messaging requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention from the driver, it is by far the most alarming distraction. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the top three distractions are:

  • Talking with other passengers
  • Changing radio stations or looking for CDs or tapes
  • Making an outgoing or taking an incoming cell phone call

The statistics are sobering. It is estimated that anywhere from 4,000 to 8,000 crashes related to distracted driving occur daily in the United States. Here are some NHSTA data to consider:

  • The number of people killed in distraction-affected crashes decreased slightly from 3,360 in 2011 to 3,328 in 2012. An estimated 421,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver, This was a nine percent increase from the estimated 387,000 people injured in 2011.
  • 10% of all drivers under the age of 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crash. This age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted.
  • Drivers in their 20s make up 27 percent of the distracted drivers in fatal crashes. (NHTSA)
  • Engaging in visual-manual subtasks (such as reaching for a phone, dialing and texting) associated with the use of hand-held phones and other portable devices increased the risk of getting into a crash by three times. (VTTI)
  • Five seconds is the average time your eyes are off the road while texting. When traveling at 55mph, that’s enough time to cover the length of a football field blindfolded. (2009, VTTI)
  • Headset cell phone use is not substantially safer than hand-held use. (VTTI)
  • A quarter of teens respond to a text message once or more every time they drive. 20 percent of teens and 10 percent of parents admit that they have extended, multi-message text conversations while driving. (UMTRI)

Here a few simple tips from AAA to help keep yourself, your family members, and others on the road safe:

  • Plan ahead and make vehicle adjustments, including the radio, prior to putting the vehicle in gear.
  • Read maps or program your trip into your GPS or mobile device before you get on the road.
  • Avoid the temptation of using a cell phone while driving; pull over to a safe place to talk on the phone, text, or email.
  • Stop to eat or drink; do not be tempted to eat and drink while driving.
  • Pull over to take care of children.
  • Do not drive with pets unsecured in your vehicle; pets can be a major distraction to drivers in the vehicle.
  • And most of all, pay attention and stay focused on the task at hand … driving.

The best way to end distracted driving is to educate all Americans about the danger it poses. Please visit the NHSTA/ sites, such as FAQ and sample research reports, for more information.

December 18th, 2013

OSHA’s updated Hazard Communication Standard provides a common and coherent approach to classifying chemicals and communicating hazard information on labels and safety data sheets. The first deadline in the implementation phase is Dec. 1, 2013, the date by which employers must train workers on the new label elements and safety data sheet. Find information and resources, including QuickCards, a training fact sheet (PDF*), a list of frequently asked questions and a brief (PDF*) on labels and pictograms on OSHA’s Hazard Communications page

June 26th, 2013

During a plenary session at the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) Safety 2013 conference, OSHA Administrator Dr. David Michaels discussed his second term leading the agency and his hopes for the proposed I2P2 program.

In a June 25 plenary session at Safety 2013 in Las Vegas, OSHA Administrator Dr. David Michaels once again called the proposed Injury and Illness Prevention Program (I2P2) his “highest priority” but acknowledged that some consider the proposal controversial.

“I know there are people who don’t trust OSHA, who think we’re part of this regulatory state and that regulations are the reason for the [financial] crash in 2008,” Michaels said. “There are people who believe we regulate too much.”

But Michaels stressed that such a standard, which is designed to compel employers to find and fix hazards, could have wide-reaching ramifications in the occupational safety and health arena without creating economic woes for employers. During his presentation, he summed up the program by citing the following the sentence: “I2P2 would require employers to have an ongoing, investigative, preventative process in place instead of being reactive and addressing problems after an accident occurs.”
Michaels was quick to point out he did not write that sentence – in fact, the line was published in the Nation’s Restaurant News March 5 article, “Regulation Nation,” and was penned by an attorney opposing the I2P2 proposal.

“Would I want my son to work at a place with a preventative process or a reactive one?” Michaels asked. “If this is a burden we’re talking about, this is a burden we want to have. We’re saying to employers: We have to think about safety.”

When pressed for a timeline for I2P2’s possible progress, Michaels was unable to offer concrete dates and said he was “hesitant to predict anything.” He did, however, reiterate that I2P2 remained his priority, and he urged safety stakeholders to add their support to the proposal by talking to Congress, adding comments to OSHA’s docket and offering public support.
“I hope you’re with us,” he said.

Michaels also addressed the fact that he will continue to lead OSHA throughout President Obama’s second term, saying he was “very pleased to be able to stay.”

“It’s always difficult during a transition,” he said. “We’re able to continue to move in the same direction. As we learn more, we’re slightly refocusing, but essentially our direction will remain the same for the next three and a half years.”

During a question-and-answer session following his prepared marks, Michaels addressed the concern that small employers may have difficulty complying with OSHA requirements like I2P2. Michaels was steadfast that safety is nonnegotiable, no matter the employer’s size – comments that were met with a smattering of audience applause.

“If you have a small employer with high hazards, they’ll need a safety and health professional. That’s just the cost of doing business,” Michaels said. “Small employers will be able to get information from the Web, from trade associations [and elsewhere] … they shouldn’t be running an operation that isn’t safe. If they can’t afford to do that, they should think about whether they can afford to be doing this business.”

February 19th, 2013

On February 4, 2013, Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health spoke at an OSHA Employees All-Hands Meeting where he recognized some of the agency’s successes over the past several years, and discussed its future directions for 2013. This past December marked Michaels’ third anniversary of becoming Assistant Secretary of OSHA.

The significant accomplishments Michaels highlighted were:

  • Launching the new Severe Violator Enforcement Program to target the worst of the worst violators.
  • Issuing a record number of significant and egregious enforcement cases — including the largest fine in OSHA history.
  • Issuing three major standards — one of which was an important new rule aligning OSHA’s Hazard Communication standard with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS).
  • Playing an influential role in protecting clean up and recovery workers in national disasters.
  • Conducting unprecedented outreach and education to vulnerable workers — including Latinos, members of the Asian American Pacific Islander community, and others with limited English proficiency.
  • Conducting a vigorous compliance assistance program to help employers and workers — including two national outreach campaigns.
  • Approving hundreds of new Voluntary Protection Program sites and enhanced the integrity of the program.
  • Strengthening protection of whistleblowers.
  • Launching several new National, Regional and Local Emphasis inspection programs.

In addition, Michaels stated that last year, OSHA removed 685,000 workers from job hazards. It also conducted nearly 41,000 federal OSHA inspections and another 51,000 with its state plan partners.

Although Michaels expressed his gratitude for the solid foundation that Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis put in place to protect workers, with the support of the Deputy Secretary at the Department of Labor, Seth Harris, who is now Acting Secretary, Michaels’ acknowledges that there is much more work to be done.

The number one priority that Michaels identified for the future that he believes is critical to driving injury, illness, and fatality rates down is the injury and illness prevention program initiative.

“One of my main objectives is to educate our country’s employers about moving beyond reactive compliance to embrace a culture of safety. Many workplaces have already adopted injury and illness prevention programs, where employers develop a process to find and fix workplace hazards before workers are hurt,” said Michaels. “Employers in our terrific VPP and SHARP recognition programs recognize that higher profits are the welcome byproducts of safety management. These employers experience dramatic decreases in workplace injuries, accompanied by a transformed workplace culture that leads to higher productivity and quality, reduced turnover, reduced costs, and greater employee satisfaction. Now it’s time to take this message from the best to the rest.”

Other initiatives include continuing to:

  • Address the problem of systems that undermine a workplace culture of safety. These include incentive programs based on injury rates or reports that can discourage workers from reporting injuries and programs that punish workers for reporting injuries.
  • Provide swift assistance and direct resources to those most in need of our help. As tornados tore through the middle of the country, historic floods plagued North Dakota, as oil spilled into the Yellowstone River, OSHA responded with boots on the ground to bring life-saving guidance to responders and cleanup crews. It drew lessons from these hardships, devising original and effective strategies to provide swift assistance and direct resources to those most in need of the agency’s help.
  • Protect vulnerable and hard-to-reach workers . OSHA is continuing to translate its publications and webpages into Spanish and other languages. And, it plans to re-launch the Campaign to Prevent Fatal Falls in Construction this spring-with signs on buses and billboards, new training guides, and more.
  • Strengthen the whistleblower program. As the number of whistleblower statutes under its jurisdiction continues to expand, OSHA will continue to strengthen its whistleblower protection program
  • Address the alarmingly high rate of worker injuries and illnesses in hospitals and health care. OSHA is developing guidance products.
  • Work closely with industries like the oil and gas sector to protect workers. Due to the success of the safety stand down in Oklahoma, additional events have been planned in Texas, Montana, and North Dakota.
  • Develop new ways to approach dangerously outdated chemical standards. The GAO recently reported, the current complexity of the rulemaking process makes it prohibitively difficult to issue new standards in a reasonable amount of time. One challenge is to develop news ways to approach the issue of Permissible Exposure Limits, both from the enforcement and standard setting perspectives.
  • Protect temporary and contingent workers. OSHA is working with Wage and Hour — its sister agency — on protecting these workers. It has begun reaching out to temporary workers through day labor and construction groups, and as the agency moves forward it plans to amplify its efforts to ensure that temporary workers are getting the training and information they need to be safe at work.
June 25th, 2012

The violations involve deficient lockout/tagout procedures, a lack of machine guarding, defective slings, poor housekeeping, a lack of protective footwear, and failing to have legible load ratings on slings.

OSHA has cited National Vinyl Products Inc. and subsidiary NVP Hospitality Design LLC, both located in St. Genevieve, Mo., with a total of 30 safety and health violations, including three repeat violations for failing to properly ground electrical equipment and a lack of machine guarding. Proposed penalties total $199,800.

OSHA initiated a follow-up inspection of National Vinyl Products Inc. in December 2011 after inspections in May 2009 and April 2010 resulted in citations for a variety of violations. The most recent inspection resulted in citations for 12 violations. OSHA initiated a concurrent inspection of NVP Hospitality Design LLC based on a report of unsafe working conditions, which resulted in citations for 18 violations.

“Employers have a responsibility to protect the safety of their workers,” said Charles E. Adkins, OSHA’s regional administrator in Kansas City, Mo. “It is imperative that employers make the commitment to safety and health to ensure that employees are not continually exposed to hazards like these.”

One repeat violation at National Vinyl Products is failing to ground electrical equipment. Two repeat violations at NVP Hospitality Design involve a lack of machine guarding and using flexible cords that are not grounded. These violations previously were cited during the 2009 and 2010 inspections.

National Vinyl Products has been cited with a failure-to-abate violation for not correcting machine guarding deficiencies cited during an April 2010 inspection of the facility.

Nine serious safety and health violations at National Vinyl Products involve deficient lockout/tagout procedures, a lack of machine guarding, defective slings, poor housekeeping, a lack of protective footwear, and failing to have legible load ratings on slings.

Fourteen serious safety and health violations at NVP Hospitality Design involve deficient lockout/tagout procedures, a lack of machine guarding, and a lack of personal protective equipment including eyewear. Other hazards cited involve a lack of fall protection and failing to train workers who use powered industrial trucks, properly store and label flammable liquids, and implement a hazard communication program.

Three other-than-serious violations relate to a lack of certification for hazard assessments at both companies and record-keeping deficiencies at NVP Hospitality Design.

Proposed penalties total $119,700 for National Vinyl Products and $80,100 for NVP Hospitality Design.

May 22nd, 2012

Even under the nose of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) headquarters, unnecessary and dangerous exposure to asbestos still is occurring, leading directly to long-term health concerns now in Washington, D.C.

The union representing Capitol police force filed an official complaint with the Office of Compliance for failing to warn or protect its officers from exposure during the three-month, asbestos abatement project in the Senate subway tunnels.

The story was detailed in The Hill, a news-gathering website focused on the nation’s Capitol.

According to a copy of the complaint, police officers were stationed in the subway tunnels without the proper safety equipment while the removal of asbestos was being done under the watch of the EPA. The abatement was being performed as part of a project to install a new sprinkler system in the tunnels.

An exposure to the tiny asbestos fibers can lead to a number of serious health problems, included mesothelioma, which could mask itself for decades during a lengthy latency period. Experts have concurred that no amount of asbestos exposure is considered safe.

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This not the first time that asbestos exposure has been a concern at the Capitol. Members of the Capitol Power Plant tunnel crew raised the issue in 2006 when a local environmental laboratory found asbestos in the air at dangerous levels.

Police officer normally is considered an high risk occupation for asbestos exposure. Officers , like firefighters often are first-responders to emergency situations, moving into areas unprotected against environmental hazards like asbestos.

As a glaring example, many New York City police officers have experienced respiratory issues stemming from exposure from the 9/11 terrorist attack at the World Trade Center more than a decade ago.

The asbestos removal at the Capitol was done during the weekends. A notice in advance was sent to all building occupants, including Senators and their staffs and the Capitol police.

Senate superintendent Robin Morey detailed many of the precautions in the memo back in January:

“Employees conducting the abatement have current EPA certifications , personal protective equipment and necessary training. . . . The work will be supervised by an EPA accredited supervisor. . . . Areas where the abatement of ACM (asbestos containing material) is taking place will be fully enclosed with a sealed containment. . . . We are taking all necessary precautions to ensure public and Senate staff safety.”

The union’s complaint, according to The Hill reporter, alleges that the officers on duty nearby were not notified by management of the asbestos hazards, and requests to reassign officers in the area were ignored.

Part of the complaint alleges that there were no posted signs in the immediate area of asbestos removal.

A Capitol police spokesperson, though, told The Hill that all necessary precautions were taken.

Asbestos has been a priority for years with the EPA, which his charged with enforcing regulations to protect human health and the environment. It was listed as one of the top seven priorities for 2012 by EPA administrator Lisa Jackson.

May 8th, 2012

OSHA’s recently published the final rule to adopt the Global Harmonization System (GHS), whichaccording to them will not change the framework and scope of the current Hazard CommunicationStandard (HCS) but will help ensure improved consistency in the classification and labeling of allworkplace chemicals. GHS provides a single set of harmonized criteria for classifying chemicalsaccording to their health and physical hazards and specifies hazard communication elements for labelingand safety data sheets. Under GHS, labels would include signal words, pictograms, and hazard andprecautionary statements and safety data sheets would have standardized format. This system wasagreed on at an international level by governments, industry, and labor, and adopted by the UN in 2002with a goal of 2008 for implementation.

According to OSHA this change will affect over 40 million workers in about 5 million workplaces. Thechange to GHS was a long time in coming and necessary as the global chemical business is more than a$1.7 trillion per year enterprise. In the U.S., chemicals are more than a $450 billion business and exportsare greater than $80 billion per year. Existing laws and regulations are currently different enoughto require multiple labels for the same product both within the U.S. and in international trade andrequiring multiple safety data sheets for the same product in international trade. Several U.S. regulatoryagencies and various countries also have different requirements for hazard definitions as well as forinformation to be included on labels or material safety data sheets. GHS effectively establishes agreedhazard classification and communication provisions with explanatory information on how to apply thesystem worldwide.

It is important to remember that GHS itself is not a regulation or a standard. The GHS Document(referred to as “The Purple Book”) is simply a mechanism to meet the basic requirements of anyhazard communication system, which is to decide if the chemical product produced and/or supplied ishazardous and to prepare a label and/or Safety Data Sheet as appropriate. OSHA’s HCS will incorporatethe needed elements of GHS to make international trade and commerce easier.

Of course with change comes the need for training. Employers will need to have trained their employeesregarding the new label elements and safety data sheets format by December 1, 2013 with fullimplementation of GHS taking place December 1, 2015.

OSHA has published a side-by-side comparison of the current HCS with the new GHS elementsincorporated which can be found here. If you need more information or training contact Greg Lemke who would be happy to help you find the needed resources.