Safety in the News 6/13/15 – Summer Safety Tips

This week there was an article on Cal-OSHA and their struggles to protect farm workers from rising summer temperatures.

Link to the news article

Summer has started to bring some very warm temperatures, so I thought it would good to post some resources for summer safety and prevention of heat related illnesses.

The first step is to better understand heat related illnesses.

Here is the NIOSH Fast Facts on Heat Illnesses

The next step is to know the trigger points for when to take precautions when the temperatures are high.

Here is the OSHA complete guide to heat stress. 

Here is a nice pocket guide from the Army in regards to work rest & fluid intake.

Here is the full OSHA technical manual on heat stress

Some of the more interesting literature for hydration and heat stress is in regards to urine color. Sqwincher (the industrial version of Gatorade) has a publication to detail urine color and how that relates to hydration. The typical “bathroom” humor around posting this chart goes something like this, “Hey SafetyDude, should we laminate these and put them on retractable lanyards near the urinals? *chuckle chuckle laugh laugh*” I just wanted to give you a proper warning if you choose to post the chart. 🙂 The good news is that they do grab people’s attention and bring awareness to the situation.

The Sqwincher Chart is linked here

A conversation about heat stress is not complete without evaluating other risks from sun exposure such as burns and the potential for skin cancer.

Here is a good resource about sunscreen.

Heat related illnesses at home and work are preventable. It takes planning and preparation to assure that there are protective measures, time and places to rest, and lots of fluids available. Too many times someone thinks that taking a break makes them seem weak or unable to perform a job. The truth is that high temperatures and improper protective measures can lead to serious injuries and even death.

One of the challenges in the summer (at least for my family) is keeping the kids protected. My kids are young and definitely summer children. They love playing in the warm sun, and they hate wearing much clothing. They are most comfortable in just their bathing suits. This means that my wife and I have to go on the offensive. We are constantly reapplying sunscreen, pulling them into the shade, keeping water bottles filled up, making them drink from said water bottles, putting hats on their heads, and trying to keep sunglasses on their faces. It’s tough! It is important to keep them protected from the hazard they don’t yet fully understand.

Here are some child safety tips for being in the sun

Keeping Kids Safe Around Vehicles

There were a couple of local news stories this week that applies more to home safety than to occupational safety, but they both hit home for me. Both news stories revolve around children and vehicles. One involved a toddler being backed over while in the driveway. The other involved a child who had exited a school bus and was later struck by a car near his home.

News Story 1 & News Story 2

My deepest sympathy and prayers to go all those involved in these two incidents.

As a father/safety guy, one of my focuses (especially in the summer) is to look for the kids when I am driving. With more daylight, my kids are usually playing somewhere in the yard when I get home. From the moment I first reach the drive, I start looking to where they are and what they are doing. I have to start judging what they may do. This is much harder than it sounds. My son, age 3, has become obsessed with cars, trucks, tractors, and pretty much any thing that moves. He loves to run to the car or any other moving object when he knows the vehicle. That is to say he loves my grandmother on her golf cart, my wife in her car, me in my car, or my dad on the tractor. Its an interesting challenge to keep him from running to what he enjoys and is utterly fascinated with. I have learned to pull into the drive way, stop, and let him come to me. I will get out and bring him into the car with me to finish the drive into the where I normally park. If his is with me, I know he is not around me in a blind spot.

My daughter, who is older, has learned some of the basic safety tips for traffic such as: stop, look, and listen, stay in a safe area when people are pulling into the driveway, and to stay visible to those who are driving. None-the-less, I still have to watch. Even someone who is trained in the right safety processes can make mistakes. It is part of my responsibility to watch for her just as she is watching for me. Safety at home and at work is a partnership.

My wife and I also have a partnership in safety. We know to help communicate where the kids are when either of us are driving. When I pull in, if I don’t see the kids, she points me to where they are and will signal me if I should wait or proceed. I do the same if I am home with the kids and she is leaving or arriving. One of my key steps is to keep the kids in the porch or play area until my wife as come to a full stop, car in part, and engine off. I am sure my kids feel the process us obsessive, but it is necessary to assure their safety.

When it comes to vehicle safety and kids, it is so important to not create a fear of the vehicles but a significant respect of the hazard. Each time there is a moving vehicle, we hold hands and talk him through the right way to wait and watch for traffic. It is important that kids understand to stay clear, stay in place, watch, listen, and stay visible. Anytime there is an incident involving a kids and a vehicle, lives are changed forever.

For more information, posters, and safety tips about keeping kids safe around vehicles (LINK)

Also, it is good to note that the NHTSA will require cars to come standard equipped with backup cameras in 2018 (LINK).

Weekly Safety News Roundup – 5/24/15

In news this week was some criticism of the OSHA fines in the DuPont, Texas deaths. It continues to show the antiquity of the OSHA fine structure. For small businesses, the fines can seem insurmountable while for large corporations the fines are are inconsequential. When it comes to risk from fines the EPA has far exceeded OSHA in terms of how they fines are conducted. The articles are interesting reads in regards to how the fines are perceived based on the perceived severity of the violations.

Article 1 & Article 2

When it comes to fines, there are many that feel that OSHA could do better to seek legislation to update and improve the overall structure of the way they calculate and present fines.

In some interesting news, OSHA found the owner of a company to be in criminal contempt for not allowing OSHA inspectors onsite after employee complaints. The OSHA officers had a judges order to be able to come onto the site and perform the inspection. The company still disallowed the inspection officers to enter the facility. OSHA then turned back to the courts to get a criminal contempt charge. It makes me wonder why the company did not allow the OSHA officers to enter the first time and especially when they came back with a judges order. That is quite audacious. Certainly by acting in that way, the company creates a high level of suspicion of what they are trying to cover up or avoid.

Weekly Safety Roundup – 5/17/15

The big news of the week was DuPont being fined for the multiple fatality incident from November of last year. There were many questions of how the employees entered the space, how the space filled with gas, why the rescue efforts failed, and how did the equipment malfunction. From the article and a summary of the OSHA citations, it appears that there were a number of failures from all those aspects. The key take away for me was that when non-standard conditions come up, there has to be a process to evaluate the risk and change the way the work is being done.

A man that was using a bucket as a bathroom was found dead due to carbon monoxide poisoning. The worker was with a traveling group that pressure washed remotely. Because they did not have facilities, they kept a bucket in the back of the truck to act as a bathroom. The back of the truck also had the gas powered pressure washer. The back of the truck filled with fumes as he was using the bucket. His co-workers found him unconscious. A sad lack of planning from the company’s part by not providing the right bathroom or the right ventilation.

A surveying company was fined by OSHA after one of their employees died on the job from a bear attack. Hazards present themselves in various ways. Taking time to perform a strong Job Safety Analysis or Task Hazard Analysis can be of great assistance in preparing for the work that is about to be performed.

A man was fatally killed during a lawn mower incident but OSHA proposed no citations. One of those facts about OSHA is that if you are working exclusively for yourself, OSHA does not cover that business. This lawn care company was owned by the individual that was killed, and he was the only employee. During the investigation, OSHA could not cite based on that aspect of the law.

Safety News of the Week 5/9/15

Fortune published an article about the antiquated OSHA penalties and how that affects the safety of workers. This article begins by citing the low fine Wal-Mart received from the Black Friday trampling death from a few years ago. Certainly, the worker should have been protected. I still, though, have a much larger issues with that fatality. This was not only about occupational safety, but being a decent human being. I still cannot wrap my mind around how any one or group could trample someone to death to buy cheap electronics for Christmas. Well . . . back to the article. It does gives some interesting information about the laws that are trying to get put into place to give OSHA more teeth when it comes to fatalities. Overall, there are improvements that need to happen to update and create consistency in the OSHA fines system. Unfortunately, this literally takes an act of Congress.

On the flip side, another article from this week shows the progress that the OSH act for worker safety. It is a good read that shows that there has been significant effectiveness since the act was passed. I will certainly say I am happy for it, not only because it protects workers but because it created work for someone like me. Certainly, OSHA and the laws that they enforce has helped in creating a safety workplace. There is still much more that needs to be done to assure the safety of workers. There should be a sense of pride in those workplaces that have got on board with creating a safe working environment. Now it is time for keep pushing all industries for that level of compliance.

A federal judge not only upheld a willful violation, but increased the fine against the company. The construction company was cited due to a fatality from a crane that collapsed. The company continued to fight the citation only to come up against a judge that basically said enough is enough. It is a strong message sent to those that would follow suit that fighting a citation will not only cost you in legal costs but could even increase the penalty.

OSHA is considering how to address the health and safety of transgender workers. The initial focus appears to be on restroom access. According to the article,  “OSHA and National Center for Transgender Equality announced an alliance Monday to develop a bulletin of recommended best practices for restroom access for transgender workers.” Certainly, the additional focus from OSHA will help in bringing attention to these issues.

Weekly Safety News Roundup 5/2/15

A trenching death creates a hazard for the rescue crew. A trench fell in and the rescue was slowed because the rescue crews has to shore up the sides before they could begin the extrication. This definitely is a case where the trench was not properly protected before the worker entered. Trenching issues are very common. For some reason, there are still companies that treat trenching and excavation as “just digging a hole.” There is so much more to creating a safe environment for workers when it comes to this standard. There are many considerations that have to be made when performing the work such as rescue and soil content. These injuries are preventable through training, planning, and proper rule adherence.

Dollar Stores are under various OSHA investigation for not creating a safe workplace. According the the article, it seems to be a regular occurrence among Dollar Stores where exits and aisles are blocked. This creates an environment where is there was to be an emergency the workers may not have a safe way to exit the store. The interesting point of the story is that it cites management not walking the stores as a source of the trouble. This is an interesting dynamic when you think about the interactions that are going on with this scenario. The employees are unpacking boxes or stacking boxes in ways that are blocking exits. In essence, they are creating an issue that could be easily avoided by not stacking boxes in the front of the exits. There is a reason they are performing an action that could endanger their own life. It could be that they don’t have enough room for boxes, it could be they do not understand the importance of keeping a clear exit, it could be that the employees don’t have enough time to correct the issues. The idea that management walks not being effective could be a root cause, is plausible. The management should train the employees to know why not to block the exits. They should set and enforce the standards. They should also give the employees the time and resources to get the job done right.

OSHA finally issues a confined space rule for construction. This is a long time coming. General industry has had a fairly robust program in place, but there was no specific guidance for construction. It was time that construction has the same protection as industry.

SeaWorld is fighting their OSHA violation from the death of a whale trainer in 2010. OSHA (of course) does not have specific guidance on whale training safety, but they do have the ability to fine a company based on the general duty clause. In this case, OSHA stated that they felt SeaWorld did not provide adequate training for their staff in regards to the work they are performing and the safe guards that should be in place. This shows that just because there is not a regulation, there still has to be safety precautions in place to protect workers from occupational illness and injury.

An interactive map shows occupation fatalities by location. An interesting and sobering tool.

Bumble Bee Foods, Two Managers Charged in Death of Man Cooked With Tuna

I remember when this event happened.This was a significant learning opportunity for many organizations across the food industry.

I would like to know more about the evidence that charges the two men in the case. As the article says, prosecutions are rare.

Click here to see the statement from the company. According to their release, there were no willful OSHA violations committed in regards to the incident. It is interesting that that DA is now filing charges.

This strikes a very personal point for me. As a safety professional, I do feel a lot of responsibility and accountability. But, am I ultimately responsible for all aspects of safety? I am not sure that is humanly possible. Again though, time and evidence will tell the story.

US Food Safety

LOS ANGELES — Bumble Bee Foods and two managers were charged by Los Angeles prosecutors Monday with violating safety regulations in the death of a worker who was cooked in an industrial oven with tons of tuna.

Jose Melena was performing maintenance in a 35-foot-long oven at the company’s Santa Fe Springs plant before dawn Oct. 11, 2012, when a co-worker, who mistakenly believed Melena was in the bathroom, filled the pressure cooker with 12,000 pounds of canned tuna and it was turned on.

When a supervisor noticed Melena, 62, was missing, an announcement was made on the intercom and employees searched for him in the facility and parking lot, according to a report by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health. His body was found two hours later after the pressure cooker, which reached a temperature of 270 degrees, was turned off and opened.

The company, its plant…

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Weekly Safety News Roundup – 4/25/15

A Michigan plastic injection molding plant received a huge fine following the death of a worker. The worker was crushed while performing  maintenance and another employee cycled the machine resulting the fatality. A willful set of violations including basic lockout tagout was cited. Such an unfortunate death with two sets of lives forever changed. The man who was killed had a family. They have to go on without their father and husband due to such a preventable incident. Unfortunately, there is another side to the incident. The other employee who thought they were doing a typical job by turning on the machine, I would suspect, has a different approach to safety and the job now. In many training seminars, I talk about that even though a process may not be the individuals fault there will be a level of remorse if it leads to an injury. I use this thought process especially when training fork truck operators. When a fork truck comes into contact with a pedestrian, the pedestrian loses every time. As a fork truck operator, they should always be as hyper-aware of pedestrians as possible. It could be the pedestrian’s fault for stepping out into traffic without looking, but the operator of the fork truck will have the remembrance of the incident. Injuries affect all workers in some ways. Safety is very much about not only the individual, but the team effort. In the above news story, it is a shame that the lack of company policy and enforcement led to this situation that forever changed two families.

On a separate note, the fine was for 558K while the revenue for that company was estimated at 35M. That equates to 1.6% of the revenue as a fine.

A New Hampshire company was fined for exposing employees to chemicals. The particular chemical was methylene chloride which is a specifically listed chemical in the OSHA regulations There have been many claims that OSHA should be granted the availability to quickly make updates to their chemical listing of specific chemical safety. In this case, this chemical was already listed. A listed chemical has significant regulations of how to monitor and protect employees. The company in question was previously cited by OSHA. For what? Chemical issues. It seems that some have difficulty understanding that the law is the law.

A house bill requests that employers have the opportunity to abate OSHA findings before getting fined. This is an interesting idea that an employer could receive a reduced fine by quickly fixing issues. It does beg the question, though, would some employers use it as an excuse to ignore safety issues. If they know they can fix it after it is cited, would they delay making the right decisions. I have also pondered the question of when the next evolution of OSHA will require full-time onsite officers for companies much like some USDA, FDA, or even accounting firms have today.

Better late than never, I guess. April is/was distracted driver month. This is such an important topic for both workplace drivers and at home. It is important that employers adopt a program that outlines its safe driving practices. At home, it is important that parents not only explain the necessity for not texting and driving but also set the example and hold teenaged drivers accountable. Again, an accident can affect more than one life. Texting can wait, it is not worth the risk.