Fall 2012 Volume 57

Feature Articles

Avoiding Injury

For years, companies have used various incentive programs to achieve better safety compliance from their employees. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) new memorandum regarding employer safety incentive and disincentive policies and practices changes all of that. According to EMC Loss Prevention Information Manager Jerry Loghry, if you use an injury-report-based incentive program, you may generate an OSHA whistleblower investigation if an employee or a group of employees is denied an incentive because an injury is reported.

“We commend OSHA for making this important decision,” says Loghry. “EMC has always believed that the best way to promote safety is to encourage it through safety audits, not incentives.” To demonstrate his point, Loghry uses the example of an employer who promises to award all employees on a team a special gift if there are no OSHA- recordable injuries for the first half of the year. One employee suffers a recordable injury 30 days before the end of the time period, but waits until after the gifts are awarded to report the injury so everyone can receive a gift. By this point, the injury has gotten worse because of lack of treatment.

“Unlike incentive programs, safety audit programs examine how employees are incorporating safety policies into their day-to-day work practices,” explains Loghry.

“Following an audit, employees can be rewarded for their commitment to safe workplace practices, which should be detailed in a company’s safety program.”

Loghry suggests the following tips for a safety audit:

  • Ensure your safety rules are specific and provide definite requirements
  • Communicate your safety rules to your employees
  • Ascertain the knowledge of your employees about the safety rule(s) for which they have been trained
  • Enforce your safety program consistently and without exceptions

EMC encourages policyholders to conduct safety audits on a quarterly basis to identify and correct problems before an accident happens.

If your company has an injury-report-based incentive program, you should modify it to a program based on safety performance. “This will be a major change for many companies, but in the end, it will be a change for the better,” concludes Loghry.

To view OSHA’s employer safety incentive and disincentive policies and practices memorandum, visit www.osha.gov/as/opa/whistleblowermemo.html.

Safe Grilling Tips
Each year, about 30 people are injured as a result of gas grill fires and explosions, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The Propane Education and Research Council has developed a new interactive program to reduce that number. The online program teaches proper grilling procedures using propane. Register for free at www.propanemarc.com to find all the latest information about safe grilling practices for employees and/or customers.

Larger Trucks At Greater Risk Of Fire In High-Speed Crashes
Large trucks, such as semitrucks in particular, are more likely to catch fire in high-speed vehicle crashes compared to light trucks and passenger vehicles, according to a recent study by the Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center (KIPRC). Dr. Terry Bunn, director of KIPRC, suggests two possible causes: greater impact force of semitrucks in collisions and fuel tank placement differences between semitrucks and passenger vehicles. Dr. Bunn suggests the incidence of large truck fires can be reduced or eliminated by taking preventative steps to improve safety on the road. For a copy of the full study, visit ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22405242.

Safe Work Practices With Nanomaterials
A new guidance document from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health raises awareness of the occupational safety and health practices necessary during the synthesis, characterization and experimentation using engineered nanomaterials in a laboratory setting. The document provides the best information currently available on engineering controls and safe work practices to be followed when working with engineered nanomaterials in research laboratories. More information on nanotechnology can be found at www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/nanotech, and the paper can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2012-147/.

Play It Cool

EMC Senior Safety Engineer Jim Stotser spends a lot of time on the road, so he is well aware of a safety problem that has recently been documented in a study by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) — turn signal neglect. According to the study, the neglect rate for lane-changing vehicles is 48%, and the neglect rate for turning vehicles is 25%. That translates to an astonishing 750 billion times a year that drivers neglect to use turn signals on U.S. roadways, or over 2 billion times per day. Each incident of neglect elevates the risk of a multivehicle crash.

“You can’t blame every accident on an absent turn signal, but the SAE study concludes that the collective result of turn signal neglect is as many as 2 million crashes per year,” notes Stotser. In comparison, the U.S. Department of Transportation states that distracted driving causes about 950,000 crashes per year, so turn signal neglect is actually a more significant safety issue.

“This is a first-of-its-kind report on a subject that, amazingly, has never been studied. The turn signal is one of the very original automotive crash-prevention devices, and this simple driver-to-driver communication device remains extremely effective, but only when it is accurately displayed as required by law,” states Richard Ponziani, P.E., president of RLP Engineering and author of the report. “The turn signal can no longer be considered ‘optional,’ and all drivers have an ongoing duty to use it, just as they have a duty to stop at a stop sign or at a red light,” he added.

Play It Cool

While the causes and remedies to combat distracted driving remain a matter of ongoing debate, the solution for turn signal neglect is simple, direct, effective and cost-saving: the smart turn signal. Smart turn signals use vehicle sensors and computer control to not only shut off the turn signal appropriately and accurately under every conceivable driving situation, but also assist the driver in using the turn signal regularly. Smart turn signals use the information from the same vehicle sensors used for the stability control system (now standard on all new cars).

It is anticipated that this life-saving technology will be integrated into vehicle production in the near future.

To read the full report, visit papers.sae.org/2012-01-0261

Avoiding Injury

Imagine the surprise when a policyholder opened his phone bill and saw the total amount due was in the tens of thousands of dollars! How can that happen? It was caused by fraud within the internal corporate telephone switchboard networks, also known as private branch exchange (PBX) systems, and according to EMC Risk Improvement Manager Mike Duffield, the incidence of PBX fraud is on the rise.

“Hackers gain access to corporate phones and/or voicemail systems and either use those numbers or sell them to others who can quickly rack up excessive phone charges,” explains Duffield. “Unfortunately, most organizations don’t realize they have a problem until their phone bill arrives, a bill for which they are financially responsible.” Duffield offers the following best practices from TDS Telecommunications Corporation to protect your PBX system from fraudulent activity:

  • Do not use any preconfigured default codes and passwords and change default settings as soon as possible after the system is installed
  • Force password and authorization code changes for employees periodically
  • Do not keep extensions active for former employees
  • Check the recorded announcement on your voicemail regularly to ensure the greeting is indeed yours
  • Disable the remote notification, auto-attendant, call-forwarding and out-dialing capabilities from your voicemail if they are not used
  • Consider restricting calls from international or long-distance locations to which your company does not require access
  • Familiarize yourself with your company’s call patterns and monitor them regularly
  • Keep your PBX system in a secure location to which only authorized users have access

“Don’t wait for your phone bill to detect PBX fraud,” advises Duffield. Take the necessary steps to protect your system from telephone hackers who pose a financial and security threat to your organization.

Other Topics

Frank Mortimer

EMC Field Services Supervisor Frank Mortimer is on a mission to have every liquefied petroleum (LP) gas dealer operate in the safest way possible. For the past year, he’s visited with a number of dealers who have reported a minimal number of claims. As a result of these visits, EMC has developed a series of best practices that any LP dealer can follow to help reduce losses:


  • Ongoing training of employees using the Certified Employee Training Program developed by the Propane Education and Research Council or an equivalent instructional program
  • Inspecting trucks and piping for any potential leaks and keeping accurate records of those inspections as well as regularly reviewing the documentation
  • Training for all employees who may take a call from a customer who is “out of gas” on the proper handling procedures; the reason a customer is out of gas should be determined, and a leak check should be completed before any refueling of the system
  • Bulk storage containers should contain all safety features required by the LP Gas Code, NFPA 58©; this includes emergency shutoff valves and/or backflow check valves with bulkheads
  • According to industry standards regarding requalification of cylinders, the Requalification Identification Number issued by the Department of Transportation should be stamped on all requalified cylinders

Some of the best practices are noted in an EMC Tech Sheet titled “LP Gas Dealers, Best Business Practices,” which is available on this website under Loss Control » Tech Sheets » Propane/LP Gas.

In addition to sharing these valuable tips with LP dealers, Frank has also been busy training EMC risk improvement representatives and underwriters on how to assist LP dealers in creating safer environments for their employees, customers and neighbors.

Only 8% of data breaches were discovered internally by organizations, leaving the majority unaware of the state of their data, according to the 2012 Data Breach Investigation Report released by Verizon. EMC encourages you to reduce the risk of a data compromise by creating and implementing a plan to safeguard your organization’s sensitive information. To assist you in that process, EMC risk improvement professionals created a new data compromise section in the online Loss Prevention Information Manual.

The new section provides helpful advice on the types of data compromise, how to conduct an information inventory, assess your vulnerability and evaluate information needs and gives suggestions for taking measures to protect your information. You’ll also learn how to respond to and recover from a data compromise.

An incident of data compromise can have a negative impact on your organization’s brand, credibility and profits. Count on EMC® to help protect you, your customers and your employees from embarrassing and costly data compromises.

Insights Online

Contractors

Safe and efficient use of ladders is not complicated or difficult, but it does require that users practice proper ladder safety habits. Werner’s Climbing Pro III Online Resource Center provides a suite of online climbing safety courses in English, Spanish and French.

Werner Co. recently announced the availability of the free ClimbingPro III Online Resource Center at www.wernerclimbingpro.com. The online tool provides a secure, convenient way for students and instructors to administer the latest in ladder and pump jack safety training. End users have direct access to online training materials, which teach safe climbing practices and techniques.

The need for ladder safety training is clear. According to a 2009 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics study of occupational injuries, falls from roofs and ladders accounted for over one-third of all work-related fall fatalities. A previous study specific to the construction trades showed falls from ladders as the most common type of elevated fall, resulting in lost work time. Proper ladder selection and training in the proper use of ladders will greatly reduce the number of climbing-related accidents on the job.

“Based on the success of our previous ClimbingPro video releases, we wanted to extend the program in a way that provides everyone with easy access to high quality safety training,” said Chris Filardi, Senior Vice President of Marketing for Werner. “Making these interactive courses available online, in multiple languages and at no charge allows Werner to reach more end users with engaging content and immediate feedback on the successful completion of the courses. Werner is committed to providing a safer, more efficient work environment.”

The ClimbingPro III Online Resource Center is a full suite of online climbing safety courses designed specifically for professionals across a variety of industries, with real-time visibility of participation and performance. Courses are available in English, Spanish and French. This program complements the onsite training kits that include the updated ClimbingPro III videos and brochures also available at www.wernerladder.com.

The availability of both resources extends the reach of Werner’s safety training and brand awareness, providing unmatched value, choice and convenience to all ladder users.

Filardi continues, “This is a great opportunity for Werner to further demonstrate our commitment to the professionals who rely on our climbing equipment for their livelihood. Safety in the field is our overriding concern—starting from our design and development through manufacturing and the proper use on construction sites and in industries worldwide.”

Identifying potential losses is the first step in helping to prevent them from happening. Learn more about overall loss drivers for contractors and where to find information on ways to reduce them on your worksite.

Identifying potential losses is the first step in helping to prevent them from happening. To assist contractors in their loss control efforts, EMC compiled data on the frequency and severity of claims for the last three calendar years. Here are some highlights from that data:

  • Sprains and strains represented 35.5 % of workers’ compensation claims. They were also the costliest, representing 33.8 % of total incurred dollars.
  • Property vandalism represented 17.8 % of property claims, closely followed by wind damage (16.7 %), crime (15.8 %) and hail damage (15.5 %). However, hail damage and fire accounted for 59.5% of total incurred dollars.
  • Stolen equipment represented 53.2 % of inland marine claims.
  • Auto property damage and auto glass topped the list of auto claims, but rear-end and open highway claims topped the list for the costliest claims.

EMC offers contractors the following information and tools to help reduce worksite accidents:

Count on EMC® and count on your local EMC agent to provide you with the information, resources and tools needed to reduce the frequency and severity of losses for your company.

Local Governments

A new report shows that emergency workers have a high risk of suffering fatal accidents, injuries and other occupational diseases. Better protection for emergency workers against occupational hazards should be given high priority, as current environmental, economic and political developments suggest an increase in the severity and frequency of future disasters.

The nature of the work done by emergency workers makes it impossible to eliminate, or often even significantly reduce, the amount of risk to which they are exposed. The hazards they face range from more general issues related to managerial practices, a demanding work environment, physical and psychological overstrain and violence, to more specific dangers related to the character of a given event, such as exposure to chemical substances, biological agents and radiation.

Past disasters and more recent events demonstrate that communities are often not fully prepared for dealing with major disasters and that the protection of emergency workers against occupational safety and health (OSH) risks exhibits shortcomings. They need more extensive support, better preparedness, good disaster management and reliable risk assessment in order to be better prepared and protected in the future.

Awareness of OSH issues has to be raised, especially in the light of the increasing demands that are made upon emergency workers. Very general preventive measures begin with reducing the vulnerability of people to disasters and ameliorating the severity of an event. This would lead to a smaller number of emergency workers being placed in the way of harm and a reduction in the strain placed on them. This may involve issues such as responsible land-use, taking into account whether areas for newly built houses are vulnerable to natural disasters, the construction of buildings adapted to the natural disasters that may occur there or building in easy accessibility for emergency workers. It is also essential to improve detection and early warning systems for disasters and to make them commonly available.

Some more specific recommendations can also be formulated:

  • The OSH of emergency workers should be taken into consideration at the stage of designing buildings, especially with elements such as glass. Further studies that explore what kind of building/elevator design makes it possible for elevators to be used to evacuate people in different types of emergencies are needed because using elevators would decrease physical loads when carrying people, evacuation times and exposure to hazards.
  • The OSH of emergency workers should be included in emergency response plans. Bodies at international, national and organizational levels should ensure good coordination and communication between different groups of emergency workers involved in a disaster scene, establishing common language and communication systems and common training procedures. In order to disburden emergency workers deployed in disaster control, response organizations should be prepared to cope with intense media attention by designating a public information officer.
  • Different terrorist attack scenarios should be developed to predict the possible hazards for emergency workers and to give guidance to manufacturers about the design of specific personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • PPE should be further developed especially against multiple hazards and bioterrorism, taking into consideration the possibility of physical overstrain and the difficult working environment of emergency workers. Representatives of emergency and rescue organizations should be engaged in standardization activities for PPE in order to give input to the constant improvement.
  • Further research on the negative health effects on emergency workers because of their jobs is essential to improve their protection. That includes studies on the causal relationships between chemical substances, radiological radiation and cancer and the investigation of new construction materials such as synthetic polymers and the disclosure of their nature and toxicological properties.

[Source: European Agency for Safety and Health]

In light of the recent storms and tornado strikes that have hit several U.S. states, the American Society of Safety Engineers offers safety tips for workplaces to help during cleanup and to prepare for future contingency situations.

Post-Storm Cleanup Tips

After a disaster, the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) recommends that all businesses do a hazard evaluation and assessment that includes the following items:

Air Quality Assessment

Make sure the atmosphere in the workplace environment is tested for asbestos and other chemical/toxic agents. Air quality is an issue that businesses should pay careful attention to when restarting operations.

Check Mainframes

If your facility has mainframe computer applications, check lines and cabling for chiller systems to avoid chemical leaks.

Cleanup Safety

Implement cleanup and business resumption processes in a safe and healthful manner. You will accomplish nothing if your employees are injured or killed during the post disaster phase-in period. Provide training in the proper selection and use of personal protective equipment for your employees and yourself, such as eyewear, gloves, boots and dust masks/respirators for cleaning and when appropriate in other operations.

Electrical Safety

Check electrical systems, computer cables and telecommunications equipment to ensure they are still safe and that there is no danger of exposure to electricity exists. Wiring inspections should be conducted from the outside in to ensure that all wiring and connections are not in danger of shorting out due to water damage from rain or fire-fighting efforts.

Emergency Evacuation Planning

Ensure that there is a clear path of egress for the emergency evacuation of employees, that fire extinguishers are still operable and, check for damage and serviceability if any fire extinguisher facilities were used during the disaster. If damage is found, extinguishers should be replaced immediately.

Emergency Procedures

Create a new emergency plan and distribute it to employees as soon as they return to work. In case of emergency, designate a place for employees to gather once out of the building, or establish a phone number they should call following the emergency so that all can be accounted for. Frequently update the emergency contact list of names and phone numbers.

Health/Sanitation Issues

The general facility sanitation systems should be inspected and tested to guard against potential employee exposure to toxic agents. Food sanitation should also be addressed. Any unused foodstuffs should be discarded. If the workspace has a kitchen, inspect oven hoods and other ventilation devices to ensure they are working efficiently and are not clogged.

Interior And Exterior Exposures

For interior spaces, ensure that no wall or ceiling materials are in danger of falling. If such exposures do exist, the work environment is not ready for occupancy. Check for cracked windows and outside building materials, as these could fall onto pedestrians at any time.

Lighting

Make sure there are adequate illumination levels for employees. Emergency lighting should be checked to ensure it operates and functions in the correct manner.

Machine Inspections

Inspect the condition of drain, fill, plumbing and hydraulic lines on processes and machines. Evaluate and test plumbing lines in order to detect any hazardous gases.

Office Furniture

Inspect the furniture to ensure it can withstand expected loads and usages. Ensure that binder bins (storage devices screwed or bolted to railing systems on walls and panels) have not become unstable due to water damage or explosions. Inspect office equipment to ensure it is level, stable and cannot tip over.

Power Checks

If there is no access to electricity on the site, do not use fueled generators or heaters indoors. Ensure that there are no gas or sewer leaks in your facility. You will need to check with your local utilities for information regarding power, gas, water and sewer usage.

Protection Equipment

For fire and smoke alarms, it is important to assure that these have been cleaned and tested before allowing occupancy of the building. If such systems are wired into other systems, ensure that they are still compatible and work in an efficient and effective manner. Thorough inspection of fire-fighting systems, such as sprinkler and chemical equipment functions, is a must.

Safe Entry

Contact the proper government agencies to get approval to resume occupancy of the building. Do not enter a facility or building unless the proper clearances have been attained.

Solid/Hazardous Waste Removal

Broken glass, debris or other materials with sharp edges should be safely gathered and disposed of immediately. Before collection ensure that such materials can be disposed of to avoid creating even bigger hazards for both employees and the public. Solid waste disposal will be an issue, especially if hazardous waste is involved. Evaluate waste disposal issues prior to cleanup operations.

Structural Security

Make sure the structural integrity of the building or facility is validated by qualified professionals before anyone enters the facility.

Surfaces

Make sure flooring surfaces are acceptable and free from possible slips, trips and falls. Falls are the second leading cause of on-the-job deaths in the United States, and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, fatal work injuries involving falls were up 17 percent in 2004. ANSI standard A1264—Safety Requirements for Workplace Floor and Wall Openings, Stairs and Railing Systems—is a good starting point to help prevent falls. (www.ansi.org)

Use Existing Federal Guidelines

Use existing start-up guidance materials provided by government agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (www.fema.gov) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (www.cdc.gov/niosh)

Ventilation

Check vents to ensure that water heaters and gas furnaces are clear and operable. Dust and debris can stop or impede airflow, decreasing its quality and healthfulness. Safely start up heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, which should include prior inspection of lines before energizing and pressurizing the systems. Test your systems after inspection or have a qualified specialist do so. Blow cold air through HVAC systems first opposed to warm air, as it will help prevent mold growth in duct systems.

To help prepare for a contingency situation and to reduce risks, ASSE suggests the following safety tips, including a disaster safety checklist and resources to assist businesses and communities of all sizes:

Complete a Risk Assessment

This can range from self-assessment to an extensive engineering study. The specific industry, size and scope of your company determine your organization’s risk assessment needs. Know what kinds of emergencies might affect your company. Find out which natural disasters are most common in the areas where you operate at www.nhc.noaa.gov/. Learn what to do during a biological, chemical, explosive, nuclear or radiological attack at www.ready.gov.

Do Emergency Planning Now

Start planning to improve the likelihood that your company will survive and recover. Carefully assess how your company functions, both internally and externally, to determine which staff, materials, procedures and equipment are absolutely necessary to keep the business operating and identify operations critical to survival and recovery. Include emergency payroll, expedited financial decision-making and accounting systems to track and document costs in the event of a disaster, and establish procedures for succession of management. Include at least one person who is not at the company headquarters, if applicable. Homeland Security suggests you identify suppliers, shippers, resources and other businesses you must interact with on a daily basis, and develop professional relationships with more than one company to use in case your primary contractor cannot service your needs.

Planning

Plan what you will do if your building, plant or store is not accessible and develop a continuity of operations plan that includes all facets of your business. For instance, determine if you can run the business from a different location or from your home, and develop relationships with other companies to use their facilities in case a disaster makes your location unusable.

Defining Procedures

Define crisis management procedures and individual responsibilities in advance, and make sure those involved know what they are supposed to do. Train others in case you need backup help and review your emergency plans annually. Just as your business changes over time, so do your preparedness needs.

Coordinating With Others

Meet with other businesses in your building or industrial complex. Talk with first responders, emergency managers, community organizations and utility providers. Plan with your suppliers, shippers and others you regularly do business with, share your plans, and encourage and offer to help other businesses to start their own continuity.

Emergency Planning For Employees

Your employees and coworkers are a valuable asset. You need to know what people need to recover after a disaster. It is possible that your staff will need time to ensure the well-being of their family members, but getting back to work is important to the personal recovery of people who have experienced disasters. It is important to re-establish routines when possible.

[Source: American Society of Safety Engineers]

Petroleum Marketers

More than 70% of substance abusers hold jobs, according to the American Council for Drug Education. However, people who work under the influence have a negative impact on safety, productivity and profitability. Learn the signs of abuse and what you can do to help prevent substance abuse from affecting your workplace.

Americans consume 60 percent of the world’s production of illegal drugs. 23 million people use marijuana at least four times a week, 18 million people abuse alcohol; 6 million people regularly use cocaine, and 2 million people use heroin. In the workplace, the problems of these substance abusers become your problems. They increase risk of accidents, lower productivity, raise insurance costs and reduce profits.

What Is Substance Abuse?

Men and women dependent on heroin, cocaine or crack—who must have these potent drugs to get through the day—are clearly substance abusers. And drug dependency takes more than one form. You need not be physically addicted (suffer painful bodily symptoms of withdrawal when denied your drug of choice) to be drug dependent. Psychological dependency is equally responsible for compulsive drug use.

Substance abuse also covers a range of behavior that goes far beyond dependency. Abuse may involve regular marijuana use, heavy drinking, weekend binges, casual consumption of tranquilizers or misuse of other prescription drugs. It includes any use of drugs or alcohol that threatens physical or mental health, inhibits responsible personal relationships or diminishes the ability to meet family, social or vocational obligations.

Does It Threaten Jobs?

Substance abusers don’t have to abuse drugs on the job to create a negative impact on the workplace. Compared to their non abusing coworkers, they are:

  • 10 times more likely to miss work
  • 3.6 times more likely to be involved in on-the-job accidents (and 5 times more likely to injure themselves or another in the process)
  • 5 times more likely to file a workers’ compensation claim
  • 33% less productive
  • Responsible for health care costs that are 3 times as high

Operating machinery under the influence of alcohol or drugs is clearly high-risk. But danger also increases when reflexes or judgment are compromised to any degree by drug or alcohol use. And substance abusers are not only five times more likely than other workers to cause injuries, they are also responsible for 40 percent of all industrial fatalities. Working at minimal capacity, these workers increase the workloads of others, lower productivity, compromise product quality and can tarnish a company’s image. Their absences and health care demands raise costs. They reduce competitiveness and profitability, weakening the companies that employ them and threatening everyone’s job security.

  • Frequent, prolonged and often unexplained absences
  • Involvement in accidents both on and off the job
  • Erratic work patterns and reduced productivity
  • Indifference to personal hygiene
  • Overreaction to real or imagined critics
  • Overt physical signs such as exhaustion or hyperactivity, dilated pupils, slurred speech or an unsteady walk
  • Marijuana users may have bloodshot or glassy eyes and a persistent cough
  • Cocaine users display increased energy and enthusiasm early in their drug involvement and later may be subject to extreme mood swings and can become paranoid or delusional
  • Alcohol abusers find it hard to conceal morning-after hangovers; their productivity declines, and they may show signs of physical deterioration
How Can It Be Prevented?

A comprehensive drug-free workplace program may be the best means of preventing, detecting and dealing with substance abusers. Such a program generally includes the following elements:

  • A written policy that is supported by top management, understood by all employees, consistently enforced and perfectly clear about what is expected of employees and the consequences of policy violations
  • A substance abuse prevention program with an employee drug education component that focuses not only on the dangers of drug and alcohol use but also on the availability of counseling and treatment
  • Training of managers, front line supervisors, human resources personnel, medical staff and others in identifying and dealing with substance abusers
  • An appropriate drug and alcohol testing component designed to prevent the hiring of workers who use illegal drugs and—as part of a comprehensive program—provide early identification and referral of treatment for employees with drug or alcohol problems
  • An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that provides counseling for employees and their family members and that is structured to help workers with a wide range of problems.

Working with substance abusers, EAP professionals provide assistance to make it possible for employees to remain on or return to the job. Many companies offer counseling and treatment services or refer employees to services in the community. It is sometimes necessary for workers to take time off for treatment. In these cases, successful completion of a rehabilitation program generally brings the former substance abusers back into the workforce.

What Can You Do?

Substance abusers in the workplace can create problems that affect you and should concern you. As a coworker, you can address these problems in a number of ways:

  • Don’t be an enabler. When you cover up for substance abusers, lend them money or help conceal poor work performance, you are protecting them from the consequences of their behavior. You are making it possible for them to continue abusing drugs or alcohol. You may think you’re being a friend, but you are doing them no favor.
  • Don’t look the other way. If you suspect drugs are being used or sold, youshould pass the word to a supervisor or security or human resources personnel. Such contacts are confidential, and, in many organizations, this information can be conveyed anonymously.
  • Don’t intervene on your own. Drug abuse and dealing are serious problems that should be handled by qualified professionals.
  • Don’t worry about jeopardizing a substance abuser’s job. Employees are oftenreluctant to let management know when they suspect drug activity, worried that any coworkers they identify will be penalized or even lose their jobs. The reality is that you place a coworker in far greater jeopardy when you don’t report your concern and, in that way, make continued drug use possible.

Bear in mind that the threat of being fired often provides a potent deterrent to substance abuse and will prompt many drug- and alcohol-troubled workers to accept help when they have previously ignored the pleas of family and friends. Faced with the possibility of losing their jobs, workers who have refused to recognize or acknowledge their substance abuse are often motivated to enter treatment and—what may be even more important—remain in treatment long enough to make fundamental changes in attitudes and behavior.

[Source: American Council for Drug Education]

Diesel fumes are as dangerous as secondhand smoke and asbestos, according to a recent report from the World Health Organization. Scientific evidence found that diesel exhaust is a cause of lung cancer.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is part of the World Health Organization, recently classified diesel engine exhaust as carcinogenic to humans, based on sufficient evidence that exposure is associated with an increased risk for lung cancer.

Dr. Christopher Portier, Chairman of the IARC working group, stated that “The scientific evidence was compelling, and the working group’s conclusion was unanimous: diesel engine exhaust causes lung cancer in humans.” Dr. Portier continued, “Given the additional health impacts from diesel particulates, exposure to this mixture of chemicals should be reduced worldwide.”

Dr. Kurt Straif, head of the IARC Monographs Program, stated “The main studies that led to this conclusion were in highly exposed workers. However, we have learned from other carcinogens, such as radon, that initial studies showing a risk in heavily exposed occupational groups were followed by positive findings for the general population. Therefore, actions to reduce exposures should encompass workers and the general population.”

Dr. Christopher Wild, director of IARC, said, “While IARC’s remit is to establish the evidence base for regulatory decisions at national and international levels, today’s conclusion sends a strong signal that public health action is warranted. This emphasis is needed globally, including among the more vulnerable populations in developing countries where new technology and protective measures may otherwise take many years to be adopted.”

Large populations are exposed to diesel exhaust in everyday life, whether through their occupations or through the ambient air. People are exposed not only to motor vehicle exhausts, but also to exhausts other diesel engines, including from other modes of transport (e.g., diesel trains and ships) and from power generators. Increasing environmental concerns over the past two decades have resulted in regulatory action in North America, Europe and elsewhere with successively tighter emission standards for both diesel and gasoline engines.

There is a strong interplay between standards and technology—standards drive technology, and new technology enables more stringent standards. For diesel engines, this requires changes in the fuel, such as marked decreases in sulfur content, changes in engine design to burn diesel fuel more efficiently and reductions in emissions through exhaust control technology. However, while the amount of particulates and chemicals are reduced with these changes, it is not yet clear how the quantitative and qualitative changes may translate into altered health effects. Research into this question is needed.

[Source: World Health Organization]

Schools

Asthma is a leading chronic illness among children and adolescents in the United States. It is also one of the leading causes of school absenteeism. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer some guidelines for creating asthma-friendly schools.

An estimated 10.1 million (13.6 percent) children have been diagnosed with asthma in their lifetimes, and 7.0 million (9.4 percent) still have asthma, according to 2010 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Asthma’s Impact on the Nation” report. The report also noted that in 2008, children ages 5 to 17 years who had one or more asthma attacks in the previous 12 months missed a combined10.5 million days of school.

Asthma is a leading chronic illness among children and adolescents in the United States. It is also one of the leading causes of school absenteeism. On average, in a classroom of 30 children, about three are likely to have asthma. Low-income populations, minorities and children living in inner cities experience more emergency department visits, hospitalizations and deaths due to asthma than the general population.

Asthma-friendly schools are those that make the effort to create safe and supportive learning environments for students with asthma. They have policies and procedures to help students successfully manage their asthma. Researchers who investigated looked ways to best manage asthma in schools found that successful school-based asthma programs:

  • Establish strong links with asthma care clinicians to ensure appropriate and ongoing medical care
  • Target students who are the most affected by asthma at school to identify and intervene with those in greatest need
  • Get administrative buy-in and build a team of enthusiastic people, including a full-time school nurse, to support the program
  • Use a coordinated, multi component and collaborative approach that includes school nursing services, asthma education for students and professional development for school staff
  • Support evaluation of school-based programs and use adequate and appropriate outcome measures

[Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]

Employees armed with string trimmers this summer need to remember devices can be just as dangerous as large lawn maintenance equipment. Consider a recent OSHA report of an employee operating a string trimmer when it caught a rock and threw it at a nearby coworker, striking him in the eye. The coworker was hospitalized for two days.

The Illinois Department of Public Health offers the following safety rules to help your maintenance crews avoid injury while using a string trimmer:

  • Wear appropriate protective gear, including safety goggles, hearing protection and gloves. Persons who suffer from hay fever may want to wear a disposable mask to reduce the amount of inhaled allergenic particles.
  • Choose clothing that fits trimly and has no strings or dangling straps that could catch in the trimmer or underbrush. Avoid ties and jewelry. Wear long pants and sturdy shoes with non slip soles.
  • Be sure workers have read the operator’s and safety manuals before using the trimmer. It is important to be familiar with the controls, particularly with how to stop the unit and shut off the engine.
  • Keep the area where crews will be working clear of bystanders, children and pets. Manufacturers recommend that no one enter the operating danger zone, an area 50 feet in radius. Even beyond this zone, there is danger of eye injury from thrown objects.
  • Never operate the tool without good visibility and light.
  • Keep the unit and attachments in good working condition. Tighten loose fasteners, and replace any missing fasteners before using the unit. Check the cutting head assembly before each use.
  • Always use the machine with both hands. Do not operate one-handed.

[Source: Turf Magazine]