Spring 2011 Volume 51
While most of us are watching prime time television or are sound asleep, a growing number of Americans are busy at work. Flexible work hours, including evening shifts, night shifts and rotating shifts, have gained prominence with more than a quarter of all workers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. As a result, the issue of worker fatigue is a major concern for many employers.
“Without sufficient sleep, workers can easily lose focus, causing harm to themselves and others,” notes EMC Industrial Hygienist Craig Black. A recent study from the National Sleep Foundation supports Black’s statement. The study shows that:
- Sleep deprivation is greatest among shift workers, who average only 6.5 hours of sleep compared to 6.8 hours for people on regular “9-to-5” jobs
- Shift workers are more likely to suffer from insomnia as well as excessive daytime sleepiness.
- Shift workers are more likely to drive while fatigued and almost twice as likely to fall asleep at the wheel.
Loss Control Strategies For Worker Fatigue
Black suggests the following fatigue-fighting tips from the Sleep Science Center at the University of Illinois:
- Break up the monotony of repetitive tasks.
- Schedule more frequent breaks, especially if the task is dangerous.
- Install high-intensity lighting, which has been proven to have a stimulant effect on workers.
- Plan naps into workers’ schedules by combining two 15-minute breaks. (Naps can lead to a significant recovery of function.)
The Sleep Science Center also encourages shift workers to gain the support of their families to ensure a restful environment during sleep hours.
Count On EMC® To Help Fight Fatigue
According to the American College of Occupational and Environmental Health, nearly 40% of U.S. workers experience fatigue. Your EMC loss control representative can help you and your employees improve workplace safety by fighting fatigue day and night. Other helpful resources Black suggests include:
Train Your Staff On Hands-Only CPR
Chest compressions alone or Hands-Only Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) can be used to help an adult who suddenly collapses, according to a new American Heart Association scientific study. Without immediate, effective CPR from a bystander, a person’s chance of survival decreases 7%â€“10% per minute. By using Hands-Only CPR, bystanders can still act to improve the odds of survival, whether they are trained in conventional CPR or not. More information on CPR training can be found at http://www.handsonlycpr.org.
Obesity Increases Cost Of Injuries
Work-related injuries are far more costly if the injured worker is obese, concludes a recent study by the National Council on Compensation Insurance. The dramatically higher medical costs suggest that the types and nature of injuries sustained by obese workers, especially the “morbidly obese,” are more likely to result in permanent disabilities. The study is available at http://www.ncci.com/documents/obesity_research_brief.pdf.
Tobacco Smoke In The Workplace
The Surgeon General’s report on tobacco smoke and health details the adverse effects of even small amounts of tobacco smoke. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health offers online resources to help employers and workers prevent workplace exposures to tobacco smoke and to encourage workplace-based smoking cessation programs. Learn more at www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/tobacco.
Your outdoor job is difficult enough. Add rain into the mix and your job can become harder and much more dangerous. Here are work practices from the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration that will help prevent accidents and injuries when working in the rain.
Move more slowly and carefully
It is a natural reaction to try to work more quickly to get out of the rain. However, you should work more slowly and deliberately to prevent slipping and falling.
Use the correct equipment
Do not use electrical tools and equipment that are not specifically rated for outdoor use. When using hand tools, use tools with textured, nonslip grip handles.
Wear appropriate rain gear
Rain gear which includes both a coat and pants or overalls and is ventilated should be worn for prolonged wet-weather work. If it’s cold and rainy, wool or synthetic fibers specifically designed for cold weather use are the best for wear under rain gear.
Wear appropriate footwear
Footwear for use in inclement weather should have deep treads to help prevent slipping. To keep water out of shoes or boots, make sure the top of the shoe or boot extends above the ankle and rain gear extends to the ankles. Also, the top of the boot or shoe should be inside the pant leg.
Make sure that you can see
Be sure the area in which you are working is well lit; if needed, light the area using lights rated for outdoor use. Wear hoods or hats to keep rain out of your eyes. Make it a point to turn your head to look both ways and above and below you when wearing a hood in the rain.
Make sure you can be seen
Always wear bright-colored, reflective vests or rain gear, even during the day.
Source: Business & Legal Resources & Employer Resource Institute, www.BLR.com.
Imagine a game show where contestants are asked to evaluate workers’ compensation claims to determine whether or not they should be covered by the employer’s work comp plan. Let’s see how you might do as a contestant. Ready to play?
- A foreman plumber suffers an injury while driving for coffee in the course of his employment.
- A teacher suffers an injury while serving as a chaperone for the school’s ski club.
- A restaurant server IS injured when a co-worker throws ice at him while they ARE horsing around.
- A worker IS injured while go-kart racing during a mandatory off-site team-building event.
- May be covered. Accidents occurring during coffee breaks for off-site employees can be equivalent to those suffered by on-site workers.
- May be covered. A teacher who acts as chaperone to students participating in a school-sponsored activity may be acting in the course of her employment and is not engaged in “recreational activity.”
- May be covered. Joking actions of co-workers are a risk of employment because humans are playful and from time to time engage in pranks, which can be dangerous. Usually horseplay is not covered, but there are some exceptions.
- May be covered. The employee’s presence was mandatory, and any injuries may be recordable regardless of whether the employee was a participant or spectator.
As you can see, it is often difficult to determine what types of injuries are and are not covered by your workers’ compensation plan. It is even more difficult because rules vary from state to state. Rather than taking a guess, EMC Insurance Companies recommends you contact your local claims office and discuss with them. They can let you know whether you need to file a report, whether one should be filed for information only or whether it is an issue that needs further investigation.
An inspection of a convenience store reveals that an employee painting the curb around the parking lot has to kneel on the ground for several hours, which could result in back or knee injuries. The EMC loss control representative conducting the inspection recommends the purchase of a long-handle roller so the job can be done while standing in a much more comfortable position.
This is just one of the many situations presented in a new interactive CD from EMC. Designed to make petroleum marketers and convenience stores more aware of loss control risks they may face, the CD covers five basic areas—facility, worker, driver, customer and operations safety. An EMC loss control representative walks viewers through each area, pointing out possible risks and providing recommendations on ways to reduce the likelihood and severity of losses.
Ask your local EMC branch office or independent insurance agent for a copy of this informative loss control presentation. You can also view it online.
Worker fatigue isn’t just an issue in the workplace, it’s a big problem on the road as well. Drowsy driving is a factor in more than 100,000 crashes, causing 71,000 injuries and 1,500 deaths annually, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. EMC Industrial Hygienist Craig Black provide the following fatigue-fighting tips to drivers:
- First and foremost, get a full eight hours of sleep before heading off on the road.
- Take a break when you experience the warning signs of driver fatigue—yawning, tailgating and losing focus.
- Break up your driving time on longer trips by stopping every two hours or every 100 miles.
- Don’t settle for quick fixes. Turning up the radio or opening windows will only keep you awake for a short period of time.
- High calorie and fatty foods can make you sleepy, so eating a healthy diet is important for drivers.
- If possible, drive during daylight hours when your body is programmed to be awake.
- Take time out to exercise. A quick jog or walk at a rest area will get your heart and blood pumping.
More than 450,00 injuries are caused annually by crashes in adverse weather conditions, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). With spring rain in the forecast, now is a good time for your drivers to review the following wet weather driving tips from EMC’s loss control experts.
Be Wiper Ready—If your wipers are dry and brittle, they can’t do their job. Be sure your wipers are ready for action at all times. And don’t forget to fill up on washer fluid, too!
Slow Down—Drive at least five to 10 miles per hour slower on wet pavement and allow at least twice the normal following distance between cars to provide ample room for stopping.
Don’t Be Fooled By Standing Water—It doesn’t take much water to carry away vehicles, including SUVs and pickups. So stay clear of flooded areas, even if it’s just a foot deep!
Focus—Even in good weather, accidents tend to happen when drivers are tired or distracted. So be alert at all times when driving in wet weather.
Skid Recovery—Keep calm. Don’t slam on the brakes and do not pump the brakes if you have an anti-lock braking system (ABS). To get out of a skid, apply pressure to the brakes in a firm manner and steer the car in the direction of the skid.
In Case Of Hydroplaning—Don’t panic. Take your foot off the gas, hold the steering wheel in place and lightly apply the brakes. If you have a manual transmission, push in the clutch and let the car slow down on its own.
Electric fire pumps must be tested (in a no-flow condition) on a monthly basis, according to a revised standard announced by the National Fire Protection Administration (NFPA). The previous standard (NFPA25:Standard for the Inspection, Testing and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems) required testing on a weekly basis. Weekly testing is still recommended on diesel pumps. View EMC's Fire Pump Testing & Maintenance tech sheet for more information.
Several schools are addressing the problem of teachers bullying other teachers. “Schools cannot persuade students not to bully their peers if they see a principal bullying a teacher,” says Gary Namie, cofounder of the Workplace Bullying Institute. Learn more about developing a teacher-on-teacher bullying policy.
Student bullying is well-recognized, but invisible to policymakers is the plight of adults bullied by other adults in schools and workplaces. Surveys show that 35% of Americans are bullied at work. Bullying is bad anywhere, but bullying another adult in the presence of students is doubly harmful. It makes involuntary witnesses of children and models bullying for them to learn from, and it undermines teachers’ moral authority to stop student violence.
The Workplace Bullying Institute recommends the following strategies for reducing the likelihood of teacher-on-teacher bullying:
- Assess the prevalence of teacher-on-teacher bullying in your schools
- Engage faculty and staff through awareness-raising speeches and presentations on the topic
- Get board endorsement for the creation of teacher-on-teacher bullying policies and procedures
- Develop training and educational materials for all faculty and staff members
As a result of taking these actions, school staff will see and feel the pressure lifted from teachers. At the same time, administrators will enjoy the retention of the best teachers and staff and avoid potential litigation.
The Sioux City Experience
In 2009, the Sioux City Community School District in Iowa became the first district in the U.S. to comprehensively tackle workplace bullying on behalf of its adult employees. It began with presentations to various employee groups at the joint invitation of the Waitt Institute for Violence Prevention, a foundation promoting multiple prevention programs in the district, and the district. The district’s new superintendent, Dr. Paul Gausman, made the commitment to prevent and correct adult bullying during his first year. An interdisciplinary employee group was assembled to write the explicit antibullying policy and comprehensive enforcement procedures. The school board approved the policy in January 2009. In addition to the policy, the original group created a permanent internal resource team called the Bullying Prevention Advocates (BPA). In September 2009, BPA volunteer members—representing teachers, support staff and administrators—participated in three intensive days of preparation for their future roles as peer coaches and educators, with consultants from the Work Doctor, a company specializing in workplace intervention to prevent bullying.
For more information about bullying in schools and the workplace, visit www.workplacebullying.org.
[Source: Workplace Bullying Institute]
The Firefighter Support Foundation maintains a collection of free training materials. The materials include written articles, webcasts, news, discussion forums and streaming training videos.
You can access these materials at www.fireengineering.com/index/training.html.
While drug testing of employees has become a normal part of the workplace, public employers should be mindful of constitutional and other restrictions that are placed on the testing of your employees. Learn more about developing and implementing a proper drug testing program for your local government.
While various legal principles place limits on numerous aspects of all employment-related drug-testing programs, public employers have several unique limitations that private employers do not. Specifically, drug tests are regarded as "searches" and if done by a public employer, such as a local government, are considered "state action," which, in turn, implicates the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures.
Municipal employers should remember the Constitution imposes controls on the relationship between it and its employees and specifically places restrictions on drug testing practices. Despite such constitutional restrictions, it is clear from relevant court decisions that a properly administered drug-testing program, designed to protect public safety and similar needs while protecting the dignity of employees and without placing employees in a criminal context, will pass constitutional muster.
When Can You Legally Test Employees?
- Pre-employment testing
- Reasonable suspicion testing
- Random testing of safety sensitive positions
- DOT testing for CDL drivers
Court decisions addressing constitutional aspects of public employee drug testing programs are numerous and somewhat complex, but the following general guidelines regarding the limits and/or restrictions on a public employer’s ability to drug test its employees appear to be clear.
- Pre-employment drug tests are permitted as long as they comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
- For public employees not involved in public safety or security positions, some individualized suspicion, which courts characterize as "reasonable suspicion," is required before drug/alcohol testing of such employees is acceptable.
Under a Fourth Amendment analysis, without some governmental need which overrides individual privacy concerns, some reasonable suspicion is usually required before a search is valid. While there is no one national standard for "reasonable suspicion," it has been defined in similar ways by numerous courts. Generally, "reasonable suspicion" exists when an employer has specific, objective facts, and reasonable inferences drawn from those facts, that suggest an employee is using drugs or is under the influence of alcohol while on the job. Such objective facts may include observation of drug/alcohol use; apparent intoxication; abnormal or erratic behavior; and reports from apparently reliable and credible sources of drug/alcohol use.
Which Positions Are Considered "Safety-Sensitive?"
- Transit employees
- Bus drivers
- Police officers
- Emergency medical technicians
- Corrections personnel
Random testing of public employees has been subject to careful scrutiny by the courts. Because drug testing is a search and a search usually requires individual suspicion—a random drug test is basically a random search. Such a search must have a justification which overrides an individual’s expectation of privacy. Where an employee’s job duties involve public safety and/or security, random drug tests have been upheld. The nature and importance of such employees’ job duties have been found to reduce their expectation of privacy, thus permitting random tests.
Courts have upheld random drug testing for public employees in safety-sensitive positions. Otherwise, unless authorized by law, random testing of public employees is prohibited.
While drug testing of employees has become a normal part of the American workplace, public employers should be mindful of the constitutional and other restrictions that are placed on the testing of their employees. A properly developed and implemented drug testing program is essential for every municipal employer.
[Reprinted with permission. Article originally appeared in the Winter 2010 edition of Riskletter, a publication by Risk Management Services of the Municipal Association of South Carolina. Article authored by Kevin W. Sturm, an attorney with Sturm & Cont, P.A. in Spartanburg, South Carolina. The Firm limits its practice to representing private and public employers in labor, employment, immigration, workplace safety and environmental law matters. The information contained herein should not be construed as legal advice—please consult your labor attorney.]
OSHA recently rescinded a 1995 directive that made it easier for residential construction companies to use fall protection alternatives. Learn how this might impact your operation.
OSHA published a notice Dec. 22 that it is issuing a new compliance directive for fall protection used during residential construction. The new directive, STD 03-11-002, Fall Protection in Residential Construction, rescinds compliance directive STD 03-00-001, Interim Fall Protection Compliance Guidelines for Residential Construction, which became effective June 18, 1999.
The change took effect immediately. The effective date of STD 03-11-002 for enforcement purposes is June 16, 2011. It was recommended by the Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health, the National Association of Home Builders, the AFL-CIO, and the Occupational Safety and Health State Plan Association, according to OSHA's notice.
This is significant to homebuilders and their workers because 29 CFR 1926.501(b)(13) requires that workers engaged in residential construction six feet or more above lower levels generally must be protected by conventional fall protection (guardrail systems, safety net systems, or personal fall arrest systems), unless the employer can demonstrate such fall protection is infeasible or presents a greater hazard. The rescinded directive, however, allowed employers engaged in any of four types of construction activities to use alternative procedures rather than conventional fall protection without having to show the conventional protection was infeasible at that particular site. The four types are:
- GROUP 1. Installation of floor joists, floor sheathing and roof sheathing; erecting exterior walls; setting and bracing roof trusses and rafters.
- GROUP 2. Working on concrete and block foundation walls and related formwork.
- GROUP 3. This group consists of the following activities when performed in attics and on roofs: installing drywall, insulation, HVAC systems, electrical systems (including alarms, telephone lines and cable TV), plumbing and carpentry.
- GROUP 4. Roofing work (removal, repair or installation of weatherproofing roofing materials such as shingles, tile and tar paper).
"Fatalities from falls are the number one cause of workplace deaths in construction. We cannot tolerate workers getting killed in residential construction when effective means are readily available to prevent those deaths," Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels said in a news release. "Almost every week, we see a worker killed from falling off a residential roof. We can stop these fatalities, and we must."
[Reprinted with permission from Occupational Health & Safety magazine]
The U.S. Department of Transportation recently reminded the construction industry about the hazards of underground digging following two recent incidents involving excavation workers and high-pressure energy pipelines. The DOT encourages contractors to call 811 before digging.
The Common Ground Alliance (CGA) and its stakeholders have designated April as National Safe Digging Month. This month is dedicated to increasing awareness of safe digging practices across the country and celebrating the four-year anniversary of 811, the national call-before-you-dig number.
Throughout the busy digging month of April, CGA and its members are encouraging homeowners and contractors to call 811 before they dig, in order to prevent injuries, property damage and inconvenient outages.
Did you know?
- More than 200,000 underground utility lines are struck each year in the United States.
- 37% of all U.S. digging damages result from not calling before digging.
- Utilities are buried only a few inches underground, making them easy to strike, even during shallow digging projects.
Here are some ways you can participate:
- Join us during National Safe Digging Month by calling 811 before beginning any outdoor digging project, large or small.
- If you have a website, personal blog or or e-newsletter, you can post our "We Support Safe Digging Month" button on your profile to show your support for safe digging.
- Encourage your organization or company to sign a "Safe Digging Month Proclamation."
811 is the FCC-designated national N-11 number created to eliminate confusion with multiple "Call Before You Dig" numbers across the country. This quick and efficient service connects callers with local One Call centers who notify the appropriate local utilities, who then send crews to the requested site to mark the approximate location of underground lines for free.
About The Common Ground Alliance
CGA is a member-driven association of nearly 1,400 individuals, organizations and sponsors in every facet of the underground utility industry. Established in 2000, CGA is committed to saving lives and preventing damage to American underground infrastructure by promoting effective damage prevention practices. CGA has established itself as a leading organization in the effort to reduce damages to underground facilities in North America through shared responsibility among all stakeholders. For more information, visit CGA on the web at www.commongroundalliance.com.
[Source: Common Ground Alliance]
In response to consumer questions, the Propane Education & Research Council created 16 modules that cover many issues in simple language consumers can understand.
View the modules at www.usepropane.com.