A Message from the CEO

23. February 2015

Julius Griggs, CEO

Hello, and welcome back.

Thanks for keeping us busy and I hope 2015 is starting off well for you.

There is some great reading below, but first - a little reminder.

With everything that is going on around the world with organizations like ISIS, I want to remind everyone that we do offer HUMINT (Human Intelligence) Training in the classroom environment. This training is VERY popular right now.

While some organizations do not have the funding to conduct this type of training, a solution that seems to work well is to include our HUMINT topics as part of other required training, such as refresher training for responders.

Let us know if you would like this year’s refresher training for you to be on HUMINT and how it could impact you.

Thank you for reading.

Sincerely,

Julius P Griggs

Julius P. Griggs
President and CEO
Safety Unlimited, Inc.

 

A Message from the CEO , ,

Whistleblower Rights under OSHA

17. February 2015

The term whistle blower was coined in the early 1970’s by Ralph Nader to replace terms with negative connotations like “snitch” or “informant.” A whistleblower, much like a referee (from where the term originated), is someone who calls out or exposes illegal or foul play, exposes wrongdoing, or tries to put a stop to something.

In the case of manufacturing, construction, and hazardous materials industries, it is most likely less expensive to fix the problem to begin with than to have a workers’ compensation injury and claim. Unfortunately, sometimes companies won’t address hazards internally and a whistleblower is necessary to ensure that action is taken to prevent themselves and others from being injured on the job.

Recently, in a horrific accident at WKW Erbsloeh NA, Inc. in Alabama, a maintenance worker tripped on a walkway above a tank of acid and fell into the acid. There were no railings or toeboards on the walkway. The company had been cited by OSHA previously for that specific hazard and has had numerous other violations. You can search for an establishment’s OSHA violations on OSHA’s website.

Filing a complaint with OSHA is very simple; it does, however, need to be done in the time limit covered by the provision that the problem or issue falls under – this is usually 30, 60, or 180 days. You submit the Whistleblower Complaint Form online, download, and fax or mail it. You can also send a letter or call your local or regional OSHA office describing your complaint. It can be done anonymously, or you can give your name.

If an employee is morally and ethically convinced that they need to speak up, they should. Besides OSHA, who is on their side and offers protection against workplace retaliation, the National Whistleblowers Center (NWC) is an organization of attorneys created to protect Whistleblower rights, and to help people come forward without fear of retaliation. 

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Thirty Years of the ERG and Counting

11. February 2015

For more than 30 years, the Emergency Response Guidebook (ERG) has aided first responders in the initial stages of the response effort during hazardous materials releases. Use of the book has gradually expanded beyond the borders of the United States to Canada and several South American countries as well--a testament to the book's usefulness.

In 1973, the US Department of Transportation (DOT) released its first Emergency Response Guidebook (ERG) as part of a collaborative effort with Transport Canada and the Secretariat of Communications and Transportation of Mexico. This guide was meant to offer ready information about the hazards and safe response for first responders, which include firemen and policemen, to releases of hazardous materials via any of the numerous ways they are transported. The ERG describes itself as "a guide to aid first responders in quickly identifying the specific or generic hazards of the material(s) involved in the incident, and protecting themselves and the general public during the initial response phase of the incident."

The book was developed for use in the first 30 minutes of emergency response. Such operations involve identifying the material and establishing safe distances to prevent civilians or other unprotected people from entering the danger zone.

The ERG is divided into six sections:

1. White (front)

2. Yellow

3. Blue

4. Orange

5. Green

6. White (back)

Some of these sections allow identification of the material by different criteria. The yellow section identifies the material by its 4-digit ID/UN number, which may be visible on a placard or container label. The blue section provides material names in alphabetical order. Each of these sections provides reference numbers in other sections for critical response information, such as hazards presented by the material, what is considered a safe distance from the material, and shelter in place or evacuation instructions, in addition to the most critical component: how to proceed during the initial response phase.

The Emergency Response Guidebook is updated and released every four years in response to updates in technology and the use of new chemicals. The most recent copy of the ERG was released in 2012. You can download a free copy of the 2012 ERG at the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration website.

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Healthy Aging in the Workplace

11. February 2015

Currently, 20% of all American workers are over 65. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, that number will jump to 25% in another five years. While safety and health are vital to every workplace, this shift in the age demographic of workers makes issues of healthier workers more pressing because with aging comes a greater likelihood of both chronic health conditions and on-the-job injury. It's important, then, to understand that appropriate programs and support in the workplace can help workers be productive longer.

The most common health conditions affecting older workers are arthritis and hypertension. The former impacts 47% of workers over the age of 55 and the latter, 44%. More than 75% of aging workers are estimated to have at least one chronic health condition that requires management. These figures have implications for both how well, and when, older workers can physically perform their duties.

Interestingly however, because of experience, increased caution, greater likelihood of following safety regulations, and awareness of relative physical limitations, older workers tend to experience fewer workplace injuries than younger colleagues. However, when accidents involving older workers do occur, the workers often require more time to heal and incidents affecting older workers are more likely to be fatal.

Employers increasingly see the value that older workers bring to the job. Older workers have greater institutional knowledge and usually more experience. They often possess more productive work habits than younger colleagues. They report lower stress levels on the job and, in general, get along better with their co-workers.

Workplaces have often, out of necessity, adapted to older workers. Both the Age Discrimination Employment Act of 1967 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibit workplace discrimination based on age and disability, respectively, and thus support the retention of older qualified workers despite limitations that may come from age or disability. However, some employers are more proactive than others, realizing that a well-designed, employee-centered approach to the  physical nature and organization of work benefits all workers regardless of age. Workplace design, flexibility of the work schedule, and ergonomic interventions increasingly focus on the needs of older employees. Many workplace accommodations are easy and inexpensive to make. Modern orthotics, appropriate flooring and seating, optimal lighting, and new information technology hardware and software can help older individuals continue to work. New emphasis on job sharing, flexible work schedules, and work from home can support added years on the job.

For some useful strategies for preparing a more age-friendly work environment, check out the CDC's webpage on Healthy Aging at Work.

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Office Environment and Worker Safety and Health

11. February 2015

If you work and are spending one-third to one-half of your day in an office setting, then your surroundings there are as important as those in your home. The effect of your indoor environment may have an influence on the performance, productivity, health, and well-being of office workers.

Although we usually have little control over the buildings we work in, being aware of problems that can affect us will enable us to take counter-measures and may encourage the creation of stimulating and nurturing environments.

A well-designed office allows each employee to work comfortably without needing to over-reach, sit or stand too long, or use awkward postures (correct ergonomic design). Sometimes, equipment or furniture changes are the best solution to allow employees to work comfortably. On other occasions, the equipment may be satisfactory but the task could be redesigned.

For example, studies have shown that those working at computers have less discomfort with short, hourly breaks.

Below are some tips in making your work environment a healthy, safe, and productive one:

Make sure that your chair is comfortable and has adjustable height and arms. When you are sitting straight with feet flat on the floor your arms should be at a 90-degree angle when typing on the computer. If you are having to strain or stretch to reach your computer then you are putting stress on the back and shoulder area. Chairs can certainly be expensive but in the long run it will cost much less than spending time at the chiropractor.

Plants do more than just enhance the beauty of your surroundings, many actually clean pollutants out of the air as they add oxygen and humidity to the indoor environment. They also filter the air, and can fight against the common high-tech ill, sick building disease.

Studies suggest that natural light increases human productivity and reduces fatigue and stress. By simply replacing your antiquated fluorescent tubes with full-spectrum tubes, you can instantly enhance your environment and your well-being. Full spectrum lighting emits a natural, balanced spectrum of light that is the closest you can get to sunlight indoors. Based on years of study not only do they bring out true, vibrant colors but they can also ease eye fatigue, improve your mood, reduce cortisol (stress hormone) levels, slow aging of the retina, and reduce glare.

Situations in offices that can lead to injury or illness range from physical hazards (such as cords across walkways, leaving low drawers open, objects falling from overhead) to task-related (speed or repetition, duration, job control, etc.), environmental (chemical or biological sources), or design-related hazards (such as nonadjustable furniture or equipment).

Most of the time, it's the major sources of stress that lead to job burnout and health problems. Job stress can affect your home life too. There are a variety of steps you can take to reduce both your overall stress levels and the stress you find on the job and in the workplace.

These include:

  • Taking responsibility for improving your physical and emotional well-being;
  • Avoiding pitfalls by identifying knee jerk habits and negative attitudes that add to the stress you experience at work; and
  • Learning better communication skills to ease and improve your relationships with management and coworkers.

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A Message from the CEO

27. January 2015

Julius Griggs, CEO

Hello and Happy New Year.

We are off and running and very busy, but always love to hear from you.

Please let us know how we are doing, or what training or services you would like to see us offer.

Also, be sure to view the article on OSHA’s new reporting requirements.

Happy reading, and see you next month.

Sincerely,

Julius P Griggs

Julius P. Griggs

President and CEO

Safety Unlimited, Inc.

 

A Message from the CEO , ,

When and How to Wash Your Hands

15. January 2015

Did you know a recent study by the CDC found that only 35% of men and 65% of women washed their hands after using a public restroom? Per the CDC, there are up to a trillion bacteria in a single gram of stool. Handwashing with soap and clean water is the easiest and most effective way to stay healthy, yet, apparently, many people don’t think they need to wash their hands after using the toilet.

Good handwashing technique is simple enough for children to learn, and is taught because of its effectiveness in preventing infection. As we go through the day, we touch unclean surfaces. We transfer those germs, bacteria, and, possibly, diseases from our hands to other surfaces, including our own mouth and nose. We can do our part to help keep everyone healthy in our homes, offices, and worksites by simply improving our handwashing practices.

When should we wash our hands? Handwashing is a must BEFORE preparing food, eating, treating a wound, or inserting contact lenses. Handwashing is absolutely needed AFTER changing a dirty diaper, using the bathroom (for whatever reason), touching garbage or an animal, or sneezing/coughing into your hand or tissue. An alcohol-based hand sanitizer is an effective substitute if your hands are not visibly dirty, and you can’t access soap and water.

How should we wash our hands? According to the Mayo Clinic, there are 5 simple steps, but you can’t rush them:

1. WET – using clean water (hot water does not actually kill more germs);

2. LATHER – suds from under your fingernails to the bottom of your wrists with soap;

3. SCRUB – vigorously for twenty full seconds;

4. RINSE – using clean water; and

5. DRY – using a clean paper towel if available.

Furthermore, if you touch the sink or doorknob directly after washing, you have touched two of the dirtiest areas in a bathroom! To keep your hands clean, you can use a paper towel to turn off the water and open the door.

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Winter Weather and Cold Stress

13. January 2015

A cold environment can adversely affect any worker exposed to cold air temperatures, especially when it’s windy. Such exposure puts workers at risk of cold stress.

Near or below freezing temperatures, especially when combined with increasing wind speed, can cause heat to leave the body more rapidly than normal. Wetness or dampness, even from body sweat, also facilitates heat loss. Cold stress occurs when the body’s skin temperature is driven down and then, eventually, the body’s internal temperature. When the body is unable to warm itself, serious cold-related illnesses and injuries may occur and permanent tissue damage and even death may result. 

There are three types of cold stress: trench foot, frostbite, and hypothermia.

Trench foot is a non-freezing injury of the feet caused by prolonged exposure to wet and cold conditions. Injury occurs because wet feet lose heat 25-times faster than dry feet. Symptoms include reddening, tingling, pain, swelling, leg cramps, numbness, and blisters.

Frostbite is caused by freezing of the skin and tissues. Reddened skin develops gray or white patches on the fingers, toes, nose, or ear lobes. Tingling, aching, loss of feeling, and blisters may occur. Frostbite can cause permanent damage and, in severe cases, can lead to amputation. Risk is increased for those with poor circulation and those not properly dressed for extreme cold.

Hypothermia occurs when the body temperature drops below 95 degrees. Prolonged exposure to cold will eventually use up the body’s stored energy. The result is abnormally low body temperature. Uncontrollable shivering is the mildest symptom of hypothermia; other symptoms include loss of coordination, confusion, slurred speech, slow breathing and heart rate, and unconsciousness. Death is a real possibility.

Although OSHA does not have a specific standard that covers working in cold environments, employers have a duty to protect workers from recognized hazards that can cause serious physical harm or death in the workplace. Employers should train workers to:

  • Understand conditions that lead to cold stress;
  • Recognize its symptoms;  
  • Be clear about how to prevent it;
  • Be able to help those who are affected by it; and
  • Select proper clothing for cold, wet, and windy conditions.

For more information, check out OSHA’s Cold Stress Safety and Health Guide

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The Radium Girls and Occupational Safety

5. January 2015

Occupational and national safety has come a long way in the past 100 years. In the middle of the previous century it was common for doctors to endorse the use of cigarettes; the use of leaded gasoline was claimed to have no adverse effects on human health; and at the outset of the century, Radium was applied to commercial products without significant precautions taken for workers exposed to the substance.

The most common use of Radium, a highly radioactive element, was on instrument dials. Due to Radium's high radioactivity, materials painted with Radium would glow, making them visible in low light. The most notorious use was the creation of watch faces with numbers painted with a paint that included Radium. The practical reasons for doing so were obvious, but occupational safety precautions at the workplace were nonexistent.

The women employed to paint these numbers used fine brushes to apply the numbers, but in order to ensure the brush retained a fine point they would lick or wet the brush with their mouths, inadvertently ingesting small amounts of Radium.

Over time, the Radium exposure caused sores, anemia, and bone cancer.

A lawsuit in the 1920s by these employees suffering from Radium exposure showed that the employers had taken significant precautions to protect themselves from the radioactivity of the paint, but they had done nothing to protect the employees. In addition, the company attempted to prove the "Radium Girls" were instead suffering from syphilis rather than the effects of radiation poisoning.

This case played a significant role in the development of occupational disease labor laws and prompted an increase in safety precautions for workers who still painted dials and other instrumentation with Radium. Following implementation of these laws and better safety practices, the number of illnesses and deaths related to the use of Radium dropped to zero, indicating the plight of the Radium Girls was avoidable.

The use of Radium in this manner has been discontinued since the 1960s.

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OSHA's Record-Keeping Requirements from January 1st, 2015

30. December 2014

paperwork

"No one should have to sacrifice their life for their livelihood, because a nation built on the dignity of work must provide safe working conditions for its people," says Thomas E. Perez, the United States Secretary of Labor.

OSHA’s updated recordkeeping rule expands the list of severe injuries that all employers must report to OSHA. Establishments located in states under Federal OSHA jurisdiction must begin to comply with the new requirements on January 1, 2015. Establishments located in states that operate their own safety and health programs should check with their state plan for the implementation date of the new requirements.

Previously, employers had to report the following to OSHA:

  • All work-related fatalities; and
  • Work-related hospitalizations of three or more employees.

Starting in 2015, employers will have to report the following to OSHA:

  • All work-related fatalities;
  • All work-related inpatient hospitalizations of one or more employees;
  • All work-related amputations; and 
  • All work-related losses of an eye.

Who is Required to Keep Records?

Under OSHA's recordkeeping regulation, certain covered employers are required to prepare and maintain records of serious occupational injuries and illnesses using the OSHA 300 Log. This information is important for employers, workers, and OSHA in evaluating the safety of a workplace, understanding industry hazards, and implementing worker protections to reduce and eliminate hazards.

However, there are two classes of employers that are partially exempt from routinely keeping injury and illness records;

  • First, employers with ten or fewer employees at all times during the previous calendar year are exempt from routinely keeping OSHA injury and illness records. OSHA's revised recordkeeping regulation maintains this exemption; and
  • Second, establishments in certain low-hazard industries are also partially exempt from routinely keeping OSHA injury and illness records.

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