Workplace Safety Tied To Preventing Occupational Hearing Loss

The American Academy of Audiology estimates there are upwards of 5 million, perhaps as many as 30 million Americans occupationally exposed to noise levels greater than the OSHA Action Level of 85 dBA.   Additionally, they estimate that one in four of these workers will develop a permanent hearing loss as a result of trying to earn a living.

Manage Workers’ Compensation – Improve the Bottom Line

Employers often look at Workers' Compensation as an unavoidable cost of doing business and is frequently ignored when rates are low. It's not until employers experience rate hikes that they really start paying attention to the issue.  We suggest looking at Workers' Compensation as an important tool to improve the bottom line by focusing on keeping rates low over the long-term to take advantage of significant savings.

Is Your Facility Prepared for a Compliance Inspection?

It’s already 2012 and now is a great time to review your facility’s environmental, health & safety compliance standing.   You should be aware of your ability to withstand an inspection from OSHA or EPA this year.   Typically, an inspector will assess the effectiveness of your facility’s environmental and safety programs by asking EHS, operations, and maintenance staff to answer a series of general questions.

4,000 home fires occur on Thanksgiving Day!

Thanksgiving Day has more than double the number of home cooking fires than an average day according to the U.S. Fire Administration. In fact, each year more than 4,000 fires occur on Thanksgiving Day. The American Red Cross has released a Thanksgiving Day Fire Safety Factsheet that contains sobering information on the dangers of cooking fires. More information on keeping this Holiday from becoming a tragedy can be found at: Food Safety http://www.fsis.usda.gov/fact_sheets/Seasonal_Food_Safety_Fact_Sheets/ Pet Safety http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/pet-care-tips/thanksgiving-safety-tips.aspx Stay safe and have a great Thanksgiving weekend everyone!

Daylight Saving Time – Workers Adjust to Falling Back better than Spring Forward

Researchers at Michigan State University  recently analyzed the number of injuries reported to the  Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) from 1983 to 2006 (The U.S. Department of Labor requires all mine operators to investigate and report all mining-related injuries).  The researchers also looked at the number of workdays employees missed as a result of their injuries.  Across the 24 years, there were 576,292 reported injuries on the job. As reported by EHS Today in 2009, on average, 3.6 more injuries occurred on the Mondays following the switch to DST compared to other days, and 2,649 more days of work were lost as a result of those injuries.  That’s approximately a 68% increase in lost workdays.  Work experience did not appear to play a role in the number of injuries suffered.  The researchers did not, however, find any significant changes in the number and severity of workplace injuries on the Mondays after the switch to standard time in the fall, when people gained an hour.  Further analysis of the American Time Use Survey showed that people had a much easier time adjusting their sleep schedules and did not, on average, sleep less or more after they changed to standard time. The Dawn of Daylight Saving Time Although Benjamin Franklin first suggested Daylight Saving Time (DST) in 1784, modern DST was not proposed until 1895 when an entomologist from New Zealand, George Vernon Hudson, presented a proposal for a two-hour daylight saving shift to the Wellington Philosophical Society primarily to allow sufficient daylight in the evening for him to happily collect insects and bugs as part of his hobby.   His full time job got in the way of collecting these little buggers during the day. Starting on 30 April 1916, Germany and its World War I allies were the first to use DST as a way to conserve coal during wartime.  The United States finally adopted DST in 1918  when Congress signed into the law the railroad time zone system which called for the observance of daylight saving time nationwide.  However parts of the law were repealed the following year, and daylight saving time thereafter became a matter left up to local jurisdictions. Oversight of daylight saving time resided with the Interstate Commerce Commission until in 1966, Congress passed the Uniform Time Act, which standardized the start and end dates for daylight saving time but continued to allow individual states to remain on standard time if their legislatures allowed it.  A 1972 amendment extended the option not to observe daylight saving time to areas on the border of two time zones but within the same U.S. state.  Before the move by Congress in 2005 to extend daylight saving time, the most recent modification occurred in 1986, when the start date was moved from the last Sunday in April to the first Sunday in April. Daylight Saving Time = More Evening Daylight Daylight saving time decreases the amount of daylight in the morning hours,  so that more daylight is available during the evening.   However, not everyone benefits from the daylight saving time change.  Contrary to what most people may think farmers and others who rise before dawn have to operate in the dark a while longer before daybreak therefore do not receive any benefits from the change.  Modern DST, however, can bring some safety benefits.  Research has shown that more available daylight does decrease the number of traffic accidents, traffic fatalities, and incidences of crime.  In 1995 the  Insurance Institute for Highway Safety  estimated a reduction of 1.2%, including a 5% reduction in crashes fatal to pedestrians. 13 things you may not know about DST When we change our clocks… Daylight Saving Time   begins  for most of the United States at 2 a.m. on  the second Sunday of March . Time  reverts  to  standard time  at 2 a.m. on  the first Sunday of November . In the U.S., each time zone switches at a different time. Twice a year, when  Daylight Saving Time   begins  or ends , make it a habit to not only change your clocks, but do a few other semi-annual tasks that will  improve safety  in your home … Do these things every 6 months when you reset your clocks: Check and replace the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide  (CO)  alarms.  Replace any smoke alarms older than ten years. Replace any CO alarms older than five years. Prepare a disaster supply kit for your house  (water, food, flashlights, batteries, blankets) .Once you’ve created your home disaster kit, use the semi-annual time change to check its contents  (including testing/replacing flashlight batteries) . A COLD winter is coming! Make a “ winter car-emergency kit “  now  and put your vehicle!   It’s a good idea to carry a  car-emergency kit  in your car year-round, but be sure to add cold-weather gear to your general car-emergency kit each fall.   Like a Boy Scout, “Be Prepared!” In cold weather, even a very minor car problem or flat tire can be deadly serious, or at the very least,  miserable  to deal with, unless you’re well prepared. Check home and outbuilding storage areas for hazardous materials.  Discard  (properly, please)  any which are outdated, no longer used, or in poor condition.   Move any which are within reach of kids or pets. Check and discard expired medications –  those dates really DO have meaning  – some very common over-the-counter medications can cause  serious  problems due to change through aging.

Missouri Court of Appeals: Workers Can Sue Employers for Occupational Diseases AND Collect Workers’ Compensation

The first line on the Missouri Department of Labor’s Workers’ Compensation webpage reads: “The Missouri Division of Workers’ Compensation administers the programs providing services to all stake holders including workers who have been injured on the job or been exposed to occupational disease arising out of and in the course of employment.” However in 2005 when Missouri last updated its worker’s compensation laws, it failed to include the term occupational disease in the exclusive remedy section of the workers’ compensation statute. Thus opening a big can of worms for Missouri employers. In a recently published article written by Daniel Mehan, President and CEO of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce this “oversight” was highlighted as he noted that the Western District Court of Appeals ruled that workers’ compensation does NOT serve as the exclusive remedy for employees who may contract long-term, repeated exposure diseases. Transalation: Employees can sue their employers in civil court as an additional remedy to workers’ compensation. Both legal avenues are now seemingly concurrently open for employees in the state of Missouri. The court case that prompted this ruling involved Monroe Gunter (Monroe Gunter v. KCP&L Greater Missouri Operations Co., et al., Case No. 10CA-CV01079) who worked for KCP&L for thirty-four years before he retired in 1988. He was diagnosed with mesothelioma in February 2010. The court held that Gunter‘s claims were not subject to the exclusivity provisions of workers’ compensation because they did not arise out of an―accident as that term is defined in the statute. MISSOURI CHAMBER SAYS: UNCERTAINTY AHEAD “For decades employees who filed a worker’s compensation claim were precluded from filing a civil lawsuit against the employer for the same injury leading to the worker’s compensation claim. It apears this long-standing rule of law is now gone for long-term, repeat-exposure occupational diseases.” With Missouri’s Second injury fund already being frozen by Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster who stopped paying people who were granted permanent total disability awards by a judge, the opportunity for many of these cases to turn to civil courts for relief just opened up. Employers in Missouri should have alarm bells going off in their heads right now. If you, as an employer operate a facility that exposes or potentially exposes worker’s to chemicals or other agents that may cause long-term disease as a result of repeated exposures you may now be subject to civil litigation at the same time as being on the hook for worker’s compensation claims. Since the Missouri Attorney General’s office stopped settling cases against the fund in 2009, more than 30,000 cases are now pending and about 700 cases are filed each month waiting to be adjudicated. Not counting those cases, the fund’s estimated liability for awards already approved by judges is $1 billion. With Social Security Disability being the sole source of income for virtually all of the injured workers not being paid by the fund one can only guess at the number of people who will strongly consider remedies through civil action against their employers. LEGISLATIVE FIX NOT LIKELY ANYTIME SOON It is up to the Missouri legislature to resolve this issue. As the Court ruled “ The legislature is presumed to have intended what the statute says, and if the language used is clear, there is no room for construction beyond the plain meaning of the law .”  As noted in Mehan’s article, the Missouri Legislature failed to address this issue: a remedy was blocked according to Mehan “through work of trial attorneys wanting more litigation against Missouri employers to garner more legal fees on the issue.”   Thus placing Missouri employers in the unenviable position of being required to pay for workers’ compensation insurance knowing that workers can now seek civil action against them as well as filing for workers’ compensation benefits. EMPLOYERS MUST PROVIDE A SAFE WORKING ENVIRONMENT As a Missouri Employer it is now an imperative that you do everything to protect yourself from this risk. Including reviewing and updating your industrial hygiene safety programs, ensuring that all of your workers are protected at all times from dangerous or potentially disease causing agents in the workplace. Performing job hazard analyses (JHAs) for each specific job function, especially those relating to chemical storage, use and disposal. Consulting with experienced professionals in industrial hygiene and safety is a must for those employers without in house expertise. Training your supervisors and front line managers to recognize potential hazards and to effectively communicate the risk associated with those hazards to your workers, so they will take the necessary precautions to protect themselves is critical to protecting your organization against potential claims in the future.

Who Needs Hazardous Materials Transportation Training?

If your employees are involved with hazardous materials, you must ensure that your employees receive appropriate training. This means ALL employees who meet DOT’s definition of “hazmat employees.” A hazmat employee is a person who is employed by a hazardous materials employer and “directly affects hazardous materials transportation safety. This is a broad definition, for example, an office assistant who types the required hazardous materials description on a shipping paper at the direction of another is a hazmat employee and must be trained, tested, and certified. Did you know that? If not, you may need to seek some advice from an experienced trainer who can help you with this complex regulatory issue. The regulations clearly intend that any individual who has any impact on the safety of hazmats in transportation is considered a hazmat employee who requires training and certification. HAZMAT EMPLOYER MUST train and test certify develop and retain records of current training (inclusive of preceding three years) for each hazmat employee (during the period of employment and 90 days thereafter) TRAINING MUST INCLUDE General awareness/familiarization Function-specific, training Safety Security awareness In-depth security training, if a security plan is required Driver training (for each hazmat employee who will operate a motor vehicle) RECURRING TRAINING Is required at least once every three years.  The three year period begins on the actual date of training. Relevant training received from a previous employer or other source may be used to satisfy the requirements, provided a current record of training is obtained from the previous employer or source (i.e., OSHA, EPA, and other Federal or international agencies.) Training must address components specified in 172.704(a) of the HMR to be considered applicable. Many training providers offer HAZMAT employee training online, however it is important to note that taking an online class may NOT satisfy the DOT’s training requrirements. That’s because many online training courses don’t offer function-specific training as required under the statute.  As an employer you may be unwittingly exposing yourself to potential regulatory fines and citations due to the easy access of cheap online training providers who are all too eager to collect fees without necessarily providing all the elements to regulatory compliance training program. As an employer you need to ask the tough questions of your training provider and don’t take their answer at face value if it seems ‘to good to be true’.   Review all of DOT’s training requirements , before you check this training off your “to do” list.  

Public Sector Injury Rates Continue to be Significantly Higher than Private Sector in 2010

The Department of Labor announced last week that nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses among private industry employers declined in 2010 to a rate of 3.5 cases per 100 equivalent full-time workers, down from a rate of 3.6 in 2009.  Manufacturing was the sole private industry sector to experience an increase in the incidence rate of injuries and illnesses in 2010—rising to 4.4 cases per 100 full-time workers from 4.3 cases the year earlier. More than one-half of the 3.1 million private industry injury and illness cases reported nationally in 2010 were of a more serious nature that involved days away from work, job transfer, or restriction—commonly referred to as DART cases. These cases occurred at a rate of 1.8 cases per 100 full-time worker. State and local government workers Nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses among state and local government workers continue to be dangerously higher than that of private sector workers at 5.7 cases per 100 full-time workers in 2010, relatively unchanged from 2009.   Which begs the question; Why is this happening, and why do we as a society continue to ignore this problem?   The  National public sector estimates cover approximately 18.4 million state and local government workers.   According to the Dept. of Labor report, nearly 80% of these injuries and illnesses reported in the public sector occurred among local government workers in 2010, resulting in an injury and illness rate of 6.1 cases per 100 full-time workers—significantly higher than the 4.6 cases per 100 full-time workers in state government.