OSHA Launches Newly Redesigned Small Business Webpage
The new Small Business page of OSHA's Web site provides links to numerous OSHA resources and information designed specifically for smaller employers, including the free On-site Consultation Program, safety and health tools and publications, easy-to-follow guides for specific OSHA standards, and descriptions of benefits that small businesses receive from OSHA. The page also includes information on the Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP), which recognizes small employers who operate an exemplary safety and health management system.
Hexavalent Chromium Rule Sets New Employer Requirements for Worker Protection
OSHA's final rule requiring employers to notify their workers of all hexavalent chromium exposures goes into effect June 15. The rule revises a provision in OSHA's Hexavalent Chromium standard that required workers be notified only when they experienced exposures exceeding established safe limits. Workers exposed to this toxic chemical are at greater risk for lung cancer and damage to the nose, throat, eyes, skin and respiratory tract. Occupational exposures to hexavalent chromium can occur among workers handling pigments, spray paints and coatings. See the news release for more information and visit OSHA's Safety and Health Topics page on hexavalent chromium to learn about protecting workers from exposure to this chemical.
Wichita Power Plant Reaches Star Status with Worker Safety
OSHA has recognized the management and 25 workers of Westar Energy-Murray Gill Energy Center in Wichita for achievement in the company's safety and health program. The company has been recognized as a "Star" site, the highest level of recognition that OSHA's Voluntary Protection Programs offer. The worksite earned VPP Star recognition following a comprehensive on-site evaluation by a team of OSHA safety and health experts. As part of attaining VPP status, employers must demonstrate management commitment to the safety and health of their workers, and actively involve them in the safety and health management system. Visit OSHA's Web site to learn more about the Voluntary Protection Programs.
OSHA Training Cards Updated With New Security Features to Deter Fraud
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has quietly incorporated new security features into the OSHA 10 and 30 hour wallet cards issued by trainers to students completing OSHA Outreach training courses. Since several states and many general contractors have made possession of an OSHA 10 hour or 30 hour card mandatory for workers on certain construction sites, there has been an explosion of cases where counterfeit cards were provided or sold to workers or their employers.
To get an explanation of the changes made to the OSHA wallet cards, we turned to Curtis Chambers, vice president of OSHA Pros, Inc. (http://www.osha-pros.com), a national OSHA training company. According to Mr. Chambers, who is also an OSHA-authorized Outreach Trainer, the wallet-sized cards are the same size and colors as before: medium blue for the general industry courses, and gold for the construction courses. However, the new cards have the OSHA logo in the upper left-hand corner, with blue ink used for the "O" of OSHA. Also, there is now a large number "10" or "30" (depending on the OSHA course completed) placed as a very faint watermark located in the front center of the OSHA cards. These two features should make the original OSHA cards more difficult to copy and issue to people who did not legitimately complete the course, according to Mr. Chambers.
Chambers also explained another new feature is the serial numbers appearing on the cards. The old cards had a nine-digit serial number printed in red ink (e.g.: 987654321). The newer cards have a two-digit number, followed by a hyphen, followed by a nine-digit number (e.g.: 21-987654321), also printed in red ink. This feature allows the card to be more easily tracked back to the OSHA trainer who issued the card originally. In addition, the OSHA trainers who issue OSHA cards are now required to keep a list of the student names and serial numbers of their cards on file, not previously required.
OSHA Proposes Sweeping Fall Protection/PPE Rule Revisions
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has announced in a notice of proposed rulemaking published in the May 24 Federal Register its plans to require improved worker protection from tripping, slipping, and falling hazards on walking and working surfaces.
"This proposal addresses workplace hazards that are a leading cause of work related injuries and deaths," said OSHA chief Dr. David Michaels.
The NPRM describes revisions to the Walking-Working Surfaces and Personal Protective Equipment standards to help prevent an estimated annual 20 workplace fatalities and more than 3,500 injuries serious enough to cause people to miss work. For example, in July 2009, a worker at a chocolate processing plant was killed after falling from an unguarded work platform.
"This is a clear and grave example of the human cost incurred when fall protection safeguards are absent, ignored, or inadequate," said Michaels. "The loss of a worker's life might have been prevented if the protective measures in these revised standards had been in place and in use."
The current walking-working surfaces regulations allow employers to provide outdated and dangerous fall protection equipment such as lanyards and body belts that can result in workers suffering greater injury from falls. Construction and maritime workers already receive safer, more effective fall protection devices such as self-retracting lanyards and ladder safety and rope descent systems, which these proposed revisions would also require for general industry workers.
Current standards also do not allow OSHA to fine employers who let workers climb certain ladders without fall protection. Under the revised standards, this restriction would be lifted in virtually all industries, allowing OSHA inspectors to fine employers who jeopardize their workers’ safety and lives by climbing these ladders without proper fall protection.
OSHA notes that most of its existing standards for walking-working surfaces are more than 30 years old and inconsistent with both national consensus standards and more-recently promulgated OSHA standards addressing fall protection.
Among the areas covered in the sweeping proposal are significant revisions to the existing general industry scaffold standards; requirements for guardrail, safety net, and personal fall protection systems (including fall arrest, and positioning, and travel restraint systems); key-term definition amendments; rules for load limits; requirements for portable and fixed ladders; rules for ladders in elevator shafts; requirements for building anchorages and tie-offs; rules for the design, capacity, and use of step bolts and manhole steps; stairway design and installation criteria; requirements for riser heights and stairway landing platform widths; specific rules to limit the use of spiral stairs, ship stairs, or alternating tread-type stairs to "special limited usage" and "secondary access" situations when the employer demonstrates that it is not practical to provide a standard stairway; requirements for dockboards (bridge plates); rules to prohibit the use of rope-descent systems at heights greater than 300 feet; the establishment of 11 requirements employers must meet when rope-descent systems are used; requirements for employees in hoist areas of walking-working surfaces that are 4 feet or more above lower levels; specific requirements for the outdoor advertising and window cleaning industries; criteria that employees must meet to be considered qualified climbers; criteria for grab handle use; requirements for employee training and retraining; and more.
The wide-ranging proposal addresses not only falls and other hazards associated with walking-working surfaces but also hazards leading to combustible dust explosions and other accidents. Part of OSHA's current rules require that all places of employment, passageways, storerooms, and service rooms be kept clean and orderly, and in a sanitary condition. A paragraph in the new proposal requires that floors of workrooms be maintained in a clean and, so far as possible, dry condition. It also requires that, where wet processes are used, drainage be maintained, and false floors, platforms, mats, or other dry-standing places be provided when practicable. The agency said it does not expect all surfaces to be maintained in a pristine manner; however, surfaces must be maintained in a condition that will prevent slips, trips, falls, and other hazards.
Historically, OSHA interpreted these provisions as applying to combustible-dust accumulations associated with fire and explosion hazards. Regarding this interpretation, one court stated that "the housekeeping standard is not limited to tripping and falling hazards, but may be applied to [a] significant accumulation of combustible dust" [Con Agra Inc. v. Occupational Safety and Health Review Com'n, 672 F.2d 699, 702 (8th Cir. 1982), citing Bunge Corp. v. Secretary of Labor, 638 F.2d 831, 834 (5th Cir. 1981), which reached the same conclusion]. OSHA says the cases show that Sec. 1910.22(a) serves as one of the agency's most important enforcement tools for preventing combustible-dust accumulations and it continues to be an important element of OSHA's enforcement strategy for this hazard. Therefore, the agency seeks comment on whether it should include an explicit reference to combustible dust or other hazardous material in the regulatory language of the final rule. The agency says the language would merely clarify OSHA's long-held interpretation that Sec. 1910.22(a) is not limited to the hazards of slips, trips, and falls, but also addresses any hazard that can be created when floors and work areas are not maintained in an orderly, clean, dry, and sanitary condition.
Heat Stress Affects Performance
When the ambient temperature of the surrounding air is 95 degrees F or higher, radiation, convection, and conduction stop working. Evaporation is all that is left to cool the body.
1. By Bruce Baker, John LaDue
2. May 01, 2010
NIOSH notes in its publication "Occupational Exposure to Hot Environments," (1986) that although workers can acclimatize themselves to different levels of heat, each worker has an upper limit for heat stress beyond which that worker can become a heat casualty. Further, it has been shown that a worker's ability to focus attention and the worker's reaction times can be dramatically reduced by even a 2 percent dehydration level due to heat stress.
It's accepted that businesses such as foundries, heavy machine manufacturing, shipbuilding, and a variety of others have areas that subject employees to heat stress. In temperatures as low as 80 degrees Fahrenheit, the human body compensates for heat levels in the inner core by pumping blood to the skin for cooling. When combined with the fact that most people (an estimated 80 percent of the U.S. population) start the day in a dehydrated state, heat stress is a major contributing factor in preventable accidents and work-related injury.
Many types of businesses encounter daily activity that can cause heat stress in the people who work for them and do not even know it! "We have always done things this way" is a quote that is all too familiar when asked why preventive measures were not taken to prevent heat stress in the workplace.
This is how the body releases heat under normal circumstances:
1. Sixty-five percent of the body's heat is released through radiation. This occurs when the ambient air temperature is lower than the body's skin temperature. Radiation is the movement of heat energy from a warmer object to a cooler object.
2. Convection accounts for approximately 10 percent of heat loss. Convection is the transfer of heat energy from a warmer object or space to a cooler object or space through differences in density and the action of gravity.
3. Approximately 23 percent of heat loss is due to evaporation of perspiration from the skin. Evaporation is the cooling of a surface through the process of a liquid changing to a vapor and leaving that surface.
4. Conduction will add another 2 percent to the heat loss total. Conduction is the transfer of heat energy from a warmer object to a cooler object through direct contact.
When the ambient temperature of the surrounding air is 95 degrees F or higher, radiation, convection, and conduction stop working. Evaporation is all that is leftto cool the body. Protective clothing used by welders, firefighters, racers, and hazmat workers will make the heat situation even worse.
A performance study by NASA using telegraph key operators showed that in temperatures of 80 degrees F, the operator will make five errors an hour and 19 mistakes after three hours. At 90 degrees F, the operators made nine mistakes per hour -- 27 after three hours. At 95 degrees F, the mistakes went to 60 in one hour and 138 in three hours. Although errors made by telegraph key operators may not be critical, this same hot environment will produce a proportional amount of errors, regardless of the task.
When a person is in a hot environment, up to 48 percent of his blood is pumped by the heart to the skin for cooling. The first effect is to release heat, but water is also released through perspiration. If an individual loses 2 percent of body weight due to perspiring, that person is considered to be in a heat exhausted state. A study by Wasterlund and Chaseling1 placed forest workers in a controlled environment where one group was properly hydrated and the other dehydrated to an extent of 1 percent of body weight loss. The test included the time taken to debark and stack 2.4 cubic meters of plywood. They found a 12 percent decrease in productivity from the dehydrated group.
Another study by Gopinthan et al.2 focused on mental performance and the effects of dehydration on the decision-making process and its connection to an increase in work-related accidents. The study concluded that with 2 percent of body weight loss, visual motor tracking, short-term memory, attention, and arithmetic efficiency were all impaired. In the extreme, the study notes that a 23 percent reduction in reaction time occurred with a 4 percent body fluid loss.
At the ambient temperature of 95 degrees F, the body can no longer keep up with its internal heat generation levels, and inner core temperature begins to rise. The only mechanism to release body heat from the inner core is for up to 48 percent of the body's blood to be pumped to the skin to create perspiration. This creates two problems: blood loss to the organs, muscles, and brain; and dehydration.
When the brain, muscles, and major organs are receiving half of the blood they normally receive, the heart must work much harder to try to deliver the same volume of blood to those organs to keep them nourished by beating up to 150 times a minute. Then also factor in a thickening of the blood due to fluid loss (dehydration), and you begin to understand why heart attacks are a major byproduct of heat stress.
When an employee performs heavy, physical work, fluid intake may not overcome the effects of sweat output. Employees who perform duties in fully encapsulated protective clothing may have increased sweat rates of 2.25 liters per hour. Other studies link job-related accidents to "orthostatic intolerance." Carter et al.3 established that with a 3 percent dehydration state caused by heat exposure, subjects experienced a significant reduction in cerebral blood flow velocity when changing from a seated to standing position, and this can cause workers to lose consciousness. This may lead one to believe that taking fluids to hydrate the body is enough to prevent heat stress; however, it can take as much as 24 hours for the body to absorb enough fluid to fully rehydrate.
Work may need to be curtailed while fluid is replaced, or the dehydration rate must be slowed by using personal cooling methods, such as misting fans, ice vests, or active cooling products that pump cooled fluid through tubing or a bladder sewn to a garment the employee wears under the protective clothing.
Warning signs of heat exhaustion are heavy perspiration, fatigue and weakness, muscle and body ache, headache, nausea, rapid heartbeat, confusion, loss of consciousness, and vomiting, with or without loss of consciousness.
Godek, Bartolozzi, et al.4 have shown that fluid intake alone does not reduce core body temperature. Action must be taken to allow the worker to cool in addition to taking fluid. The inner core temperature will continue to rise for up to 30 minutes after work is stopped unless other means are used to cool the blood that has been pumped to the skin for cooling.
While conduction accounts for only 2 percent of heat loss under normal circumstances, the "OSHA Technical Manual" (Section III: Chapter 4) talks about how active cooling products using water are useful in preventing heat stress by using conduction to enhance the body's capacity to cool. In fact, it has been demonstrated that water is 28 times faster in cooling a subject than cooled air. These products slow the rate at which the core body temperature rises by using conduction to greatly increase the body's capacity to cool the blood that is pumped to the skin during times of elevated core temperatures. In turn, this slows the fluid loss caused by sweating. By using shirts and vests that incorporate active cooling on about 40 percent of the body surface, the danger of heat stress can be greatly reduced.
The Importance of Heat Stress Training
Education of employees is the most critical element in reducing heat stress-related accidents in the workplace. Many workers and supervisors feel the need to "get the job done" in the toughest situations. When they do not take into account the effects that heat stress can have on the body, dangerous events can take place.
Reduction in cognitive function, attention span, and visual motor tracking can lead to mistakes that could have tragic consequences. Policies that allow workers to use products that help to prevent heat stress in the workplace will greatly reduce heat stress related-illness and injury.
Employee training and company policies must help the employees decide they can protect themselves from heat stress. And reducing heat stress will improve productivity and reduce accidents at the workplace.
1. Wasterlund DS, Chaseling J, Burstrom L: The effect of fluid consumption on the forest workers’ performance strategy. Appl Ergon 35:29-36, 2004.
2. Gopinathan PM, Pichan G, Sharma VM: Role of dehydration in heat stress-induced variations in mental performance. Arch Environ Health 43:15-17, 1988.
3. Carter R 3rd, Cheuvront SN, Vernieuw CR, Sawka MN: Hypohydration and prior heat stress exacerbates decreases in cerebral blood flow velocity during standing. J Appl Physiol 101:1744-1750, 2006.
4. Godek S, Bartolozzi A, Burkholder R, Sugarman E, Dorshimer G: Core temperature and percentage of dehydration in professional football linemen and backs during preseason practice. J Athl Train 41(1):8-17, 2006.