Archive for Safety Standards

After the Storm

Few things are more devastating or confusing than to be in the path of a natural disaster, and hurricanes are among the worst. Last week, the most brutal storm to hit the United States in 12 years made landfall in Texas: Hurricane Harvey. By now you’ve seen more than enough images of devastation, rescue crews driving boats through flooded neighborhoods, and overcrowded shelters. It hasn’t been as deadly so far as Katrina or Sandy, thank God, but it’s far costlier than any other disaster in American history. The jaw-dropping combination of 132 mph winds and 19 trillion gallons of water, which AccuWeather hauntingly rendered as a gargantuan cube hovering over downtown Houston like the New Jersualem in the Revelation of John (the phrase “Biblical proportions” has been invoked numerous times in the media) have clobbered the region with an estimated $190 billion recovery cost.

 

Here at Enviro we have a track record of stepping up to provide rescue supplies in times of crisis, such as the Ebola outbreak in West Africa earlier in 2014. We’re committed to contributing similarly to the Harvey relief effort. It’s the least we can do as Americans and human beings to serve the heroes on the ground with the best of our equipment.

 

In a full-scale cleanup after a disaster of this scale, contamination is the primary concern. The water has wreaked havoc on Texas’s urban infrastructure. The sewers have overflown and deadly parasites and molds are free to infest the environment, as well as toxins from industrial sites. You need protection from those hazards, and companies like DuPont have got your back with Tyvek coveralls. Their signature flashspun polyethylene fabric protects against particles as small as 1 micron, and its protective qualities are inherent to the fabric and therefore resist wear and abrasion. You’ll want serged seams on the wrists to keep water from rushing into the sleeves, but for your legs you’ll need full waders. If you’re feeling particularly cautious, you might want to get the variety that comes with a respirator-fit hood, which brings us to the next item.

 

Airborne contaminants are everywhere in a situation like this. The National Hurricane Center website has a helpful animation that shows the spectrum of damage that hurricane winds can cause to a house and to a stand of palm trees. If you adjust the wind speed approximately to where Harvey’s winds reached their zenith, half of the house is disintegrated and blowing in the wind, and the trees are stripped of their fronds. That’s a cloud of building material (possibly predating the asbestos ban) floating free in the air to be inhaled. You need a respirator that has the right balance of high-performance and portability. The N95 particulate respirators from 3M are a good family of products to explore, some of which feature a nifty exhalation valve that prevents it getting too hot in there. The punishing heat of Texas in summer combined with the oppressively wet conditions and the level of exertion involved in rescue work way well make it a necessity.

 

This won’t be the final word on Harvey in this space, since it only covers two categories of product that we carry at Enviro. There will probably be more posts about the relief effort after the weekend, so stay tuned and stay safe.

Introduction to Hearing Protection

The landscape of the safety industry is complex, with an abundance of variations on a core group of products and concepts that can be paralyzingly overwhelming to even look at, let alone navigate. How is the average everyman supposed to know what he needs when the market is glutted with options that all seem the same? There are dozens if not hundreds of blogs out there to help guide the consumer towards the purchasing choice that’s best for them, and it’s anyone’s guess if reviving this blog will contribute meaningfully to that conversation. But here at Enviro we try to make it a point to reach out to the consumer base and help them determine what they need. We’ve organized our site to sort products into the most prominent categories that the industry recognizes, and we partner with the finest brands in the industry so that you get only the best. One of our most popular categories is hearing protection, which has been receiving a lot more attention lately.

Hearing protection has gone underrecognized and underregulated for decades, and labor environments have only been getting louder. Multiple generations of workers have suffered permanent damage to their hearing systems that could have been avoided if protection were emphasized in their workplace. OSHA’s estimate is that 22 million workers are exposed to hazardous noise annually, and that $242 million goes toward hearing disability comp. That’s money down the drain! Thankfully, interest in the hazards of occupational noise exposure is increasing, and we’re seeing more proactivity towards conserving the hearing of the working class.

So at what point is noise dangerous? The medium that carries sound from its source to your ear is air (that’s why you can’t hear anything in outer space), and the volume of sound is measured in decibels, the difference in air pressure that is created when a sound wave is present. Every hearing protection product has a noise reduction rating (NRR) that approximates how many decibels are subtracted from the sound entering the ear when the product is being used correctly.

There are many brands out there that offer hearing protection, but 3M is the one that we carry that has the largest presence on the site and draws the most enthusiastic response. 3M is one of the titans of the research/development world, and the innovations that come out of their labs are second to none. A few months ago their E-A-R EasyTouch earplugs hit the market, which feature a winning combination of comfortable thermoplastic resin coating and polypropylene stem that allows the worker to push it into the ear and find the perfect fit, without worrying about contamination. If you prefer the classic model, we also carry standard roll-down earplugs in a wide array of styles and functionalities.

Where our inventory really shines, in my opinion, is in earmuffs and headsets. This is where you can see some of that overwhelming variety I mentioned before. The most important distinction to know, however, is that between active and passive hearing protection. Earplugs and most earmuffs are passive: they block out all sounds, including those you might want to hear, such as conversation. Active hearing protection has a sophisticated, hypersensitive inner system that measures how loud sounds in the area are and selectively mutes those that are above a certain decibel threshold. I’ll get more into the exciting particulars of these products in future posts.

Reporting OSHA and Safety Violations

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides guidelines for workplace safety that employers must follow for the sake of their workers’ well-being and the sound functioning of their workplace. OSHA standards act as a supplement to the common sense and conscientiousness that should guide safety protocols at all workplaces, and dictate proper gear choices, from full brim hard hats to high visibility vests, for specific industries. It is the right of all Americans to work in an environment that does not place them at undue risk. The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 gives all employees and their representatives the right to report safety and OSHA violations.

Employees or their representatives who believe there is a substantial hazard in their workplace, or that their employer is not following OSHA safety standards, may file an official complaint and request and OSHA inspection of their workplace. For their own protection and in order to preserve their jobs, complainants have the right to request that their names not be revealed to their employers. For the purposes of filing a complaint, employee representatives may be any of the following: authorized representatives of collective bargaining organizations, such as unions; attorneys acting for employees; or any person acting in a representative capacity, from clergy to family members to nonprofit groups and organizations.

Before contacting OSHA to report the safety violation, the employee may wish to take intermediate steps to resolve the hazard. Initially, the employee may wish to report the issue verbally to the workplace’s supervisor or manager, or through any official workplace hazard reporting procedure that may exist. The employee may also raise the issue with the workplace health and safety representative. If such measures prove ineffective, employees may attempt to negotiate with management through union representatives. Workers may also contact local government organizations, such as Licensing & Inspection, to report workplace hazards.

In order to file a complaint with OSHA, a complainant should fill out an official OSHA complaint form from OSHA’s website. The complainant may submit the form online or download it and fax or mail it to the nearest OSHA regional or national office. Mailing addresses and telephone numbers for OSHA’s offices are available via the OSHA website. If a complainant believes that there is an emergency or that a safety violation is immediately life-threatening, the complainant should directly call the nearest OSHA office or 1-800-321-OSHA.

Workers do not have to know whether a specific OSHA standard has been violated when reporting a safety violation. It is enough that the complainant provide enough information for OSHA to determine that a hazard probably exists. At a minimum, the complainant must identify the workplace or company, the hazard, and the particular worksite or building where the hazard is located. In order to increase the likelihood of an onsite inspection, the complainant should include details including: number of employees working at the site and how many are exposed to the hazard; how workers are exposed to the hazard; what type of work is performed in unsafe conditions; what equipment is used and its condition; what materials or chemicals are used; how long employees work around the hazard; how long the condition has existed; whether anything has been done to correct the problem; whether anyone has thus far been harmed by the hazard; and whether there have been any “near-miss” incidents.

In order to ensure a safe and healthful workplace, OSHA provides workers with other rights in addition to requesting OSHA workplace inspections for safety violations. Workers may receive information and training about safety issues, methods to prevent harm, and the OSHA standards that apply to their workplace. They may get copies of any results of tests OSHA performs to find hazards in the workplace. Additionally, they may review records of work-related injuries and illnesses and get copies of medical records. All resources, including OSHA complaint forms, are readily available in Spanish as well as English.

Combustible Dust Explosion Prevention

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), if your company or firm produces/manufactures any of the following products or materials in powdered form, there is a potential for a “Combustible Dust” explosion and respiratory health risks. These products or materials include:

Combustible DustAgriculture Products: egg white, powdered milk, soy flour, sugar, whey, wood flour, starch, tapioca and more.
Agricultural Dusts: cotton, malt, oat flour, peat, potato flour, gluten, rye flour, tea, wheat starch, sunflower seed dust, coffee dust, alfalfa, soybean dust, sugar, onion powder and more.
Carbonaceous Dusts: corn, cork, charcoal, lignite, peat, soot, pine, cellulose, coal, coke (petroleum), lignite and lampblack.
Chemical Dusts: sulfur, calcium acetate, dextrin, lactose, lead stearate, ascorbis acid and more.
Metal Dusts: aluminum, bronze, iron carbonyl, magnesium and zinc.
Plastic Dusts: polyethylene, emulsion, epoxy resin, melamine resin, polypropylene, phenolic resin and more.

To lessen the risk of a “Combustible Dust” explosion, explosion proof vacuums are recommended for cleanup and housekeeping. These types of vacuums do not produce sparks and help to reduce the risk of an explosion.

To ensure worker safety, make sure your employees are equipped with the appropriate respiratory protection to lower the risk of long term respiratory issues.

View the OSHA Combustible Dust Poster for a complete list of products or materials at risk, along with dust control and prevention measures.

The OSHA/NIOSH Guide to Nail Gun Safety

A Nail Gun is a common tool used by contractors and carpenters everyday at construction sites, especially in residential construction and every year, tens of thousands of painful injuries occur related to nail guns. The Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, Dr. David Michaels said that nail gun injuries are responsible for approximately 37,000 emergency room visits annually.

In an effort to prevent nail gun injuries, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has developed a handbook for employers and self-employed contractors titled, “Nail Gun Safety – A Guide for Construction Contractors”.

Improving Nail Gun Safety in the Workplace
OSHA and NIOSH have developed six steps that employers can take to improve nail gun safety and prevent workers from injury or death.

  1. Use nail guns with a full sequential trigger – this type of trigger will reduce the risk of unintentional nail discharge and double fire, which includes bumping into co-workers.
  2. Provide adequate training – everyone benefits from training. Employers should provide hands on training, including operation, loading the nail gun, air compressor operation, awkward positions and what-to-do when the nail gun malfunctions.
  3. Establish work procedures – creating a step-by-step procedure for handling, operating and storing of nail guns will make the workplace safe and reduce employee injuries.
  4. Provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – workers should be provided and required to wear steel toe boots, a hard hat, high impact safety glasses with ANSI Z87.1 protection, and earplugs or earmuffs while operating a nail gun.
  5. Encourage employees to discuss the importance of nail gun safety – employees should be active in making sure fellow employees are following proper nail gun operating procedures.
  6. Provide adequate first aid supplies and immediate medical treatment immediately following nail gun injuries.

Nail Gun Don’ts

  • Never bypass or disable nail gun safety features, including removing the spring from the safety-contact tip, or securing the trigger so it does not need to be pressed.
  • Never keep your finger on the trigger when holding or carrying a nail gun that is not in use.
  • Never lower the nail gun from above or drag it by the air hose.
  • Never operate a nail gun with your non-dominate hand.

Click Here to download OSHA’s “Nail Gun Safety – A Guide for Construction Contractors” handbook.

Workplace safety makes sense for business, expert says

A recent discussion in the Orlando Sentinel with workplace expert, Isabel Perry emphasizes the importance of workplace safety programs. Aside from the legal and social responsibility requirements, there is a cost effective aspect that, once realized, make work place safety mandatory. Fewer accidents result in lower insurance cost and increased productivity.

With respect to costs, if a workplace injury results in a $2,000 cost for a company that maintains a 10 percent profit margin, the company needs to increase revenues by $20,000 to pay for that accident.

Perry maintains that the most effective improvements for workplace safety include nonslip flooring and matts and safety harnesses for elevated work environments.  She also contends that there is a $3 savings for every $1 spent on safety – an investment well worth it.

Workplace Safety Tips

A recent article in Australia’s Safe to Work newsletter offers some advice on creating a safer, injury free work place.  The writer contends that no matter what the size of an organization, occupational health and safety risks  can't be ignored as an integral part of business management.  The biggest risk is to do nothing at all.

The following tips are offered to help create a safer, injury free work place.

1.    Understand responsibilities – make someone in charge for understanding practical and legal safety requirements.  Have a clear and simple safety policy.

2.    Consult workers – any decision that involves worker safety should draw upon the experiences of those affected.

3.    Identify, assess and control risk – have a system in place in identify hazards so that appropriate measures can be taken to minimize and eliminate the risk.

4.    Inform, train and supervise – suitable training and employee involvement it essential in achieving safety success.

5.    Manage incidents and injuries – even with the best of precautions, accidents will happen.  Effective management will minimize loss and disruptions.

The full text of this article can be found here.  For all your workplace safety needs, please visit our web catalog at www.envirosafetyproducts.com

What To Expect From OSHA Inspections

A man claiming to be an OSHA inspector has been harassing businesses in the Phoenix, AZ area. The impostor threatens business owners with citations and fines, then offers to forget about the violations for a check or cash payment. To avoid being taken advantage of, business owners should know exactly what to expect during an OSHA inspection.

  • Identification – Before beginning an inspection, compliance officers will identify themselves as OSHA representatives, and present credentials which include both a photograph and a serial number.
  • Opening Conference – The inspector will provide specific details as to why a company has been selected, the scope of the inspection, walk-through procedures, authorized representatives, and employee interviews.
  • Walk Around – After the opening conference, the facility inspection begins. A representative from the business will accompany the compliance officer on walk through portions of the facility covered by the the inspection, looking for hazards. Inspectors are required to document all violations, including those that are fixed on the spot.
  • Closing Conference – After the walk around, the inspector will hold a closing conference with the employer and employee representatives. At this time, the compliance officer will discuss the results of the inspection, and offer possible courses of action. OSHA inspectors should NEVER ask for payment or hand you an invoice. Any citations, fines or penalties resulting from the inspection will be mailed to you within 6 months of inspection date.

Statistics Show Fatalities & Injuries on the Decline

Since the creation of OSHA in 1970, workplace safety has dramatically improved and the number of fatalities and injuries has decreased over the years. Here are some statistics you should know.

  1. According to the National Safety Council and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the workplace fatality rate has decreased by 78% since 1970.
  2. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 11 injuries per 100 full-time workers in 1973; by 2001 the rate was 5.7 per 100 workers, a decrease of 48%.
  3. Since 1970, the fatality rate in manufacturing has decreased by 66% and the injury rate has decreased 53%, as opposed to manufacturing plants that don’t implicate OSHA standards.
  4. Similarly, the fatality rate at construction sites has decreased by 82% and the injury rate by 64%.
  5. In 2009, 71,700 fewer construction related injuries were reported, a 22% decline from 2008.
  6. Between 2006-2009, the injury rate among full-time workers decreased from 4.2% to 3.5 % per 100 workers.
  7. In 2009 a total of 4,551 fatal work injuries were reported, a 26% decline from 1992 where 6,217 fatal injuries were reported.
  8. The number of fatalities related to non-highway work decreased from 436 reports in 1992 to only 261 in 2009, a 40% decrease.
  9. 37 States reported a decline in workplace fatalities from 2008-2009.
  10. The number of work related fatalities in Hispanic or Latino workers have declined 22% from 923 incidents in 2005 down to 713 incidents in 2009.


Company Recieves 14 Citations from OSHA

OSHA fined Integrated Laminate Systems a total of $49,000 after a February inspection found 14 violations including one related to employees being exposed to methylene chloride at the company’s production facility located in Cinnaminson, N.J.

“Methylene chloride exposure can have very serious health effects, such as cancer and cardiac distress,” said Paula Dixon-Roderick, director of OSHA’s area office in N.J. “It is vital that the company takes immediate action to insure that employees have a safe and healthful work environment.”

The amount of methylene chloride employees were being exposed to were 1.02 to 1.28 times the permissible exposure level of 25 parts per million.  The company could have avoided the fine if it would have identified and evaluated the respirator hazard in the workplace and conducted air monitoring for employees, establish a respiratory protection program, required employees to wear the appropriate chemical coveralls and hand protection along with a supplied air respirator when working with chemicals, provide eyewash stations and showers and provide medical surveillance to employees working around methylene chloride.

Other violations the company received included employees being exposed to a crushing hazard while traveling on a work platform attached to a powered industrial truck, Class I flammables dispensed into containers that were not electrically interconnected to the nozzle and the use of flexible cords and cables as a substitute for fixed wiring.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthy workplace for their employees.