Winter 2012 Volume 58

Feature Articles

Tsunami Sign

EMC Senior Engineer Larry Readout is predicting a slip and fall tsunami for this winter. “Several conditions are coming together that may make this cold weather season worse than previous years for slip and fall accidents,” notes Readout. These conditions include:

  • An aging population, which is more prone to slips and falls
  • Distractions caused by the increasing use of smartphones and other digital devices
  • Predictions of snowier-than-normal conditions and cooler temperatures throughout the country
  • Larger retail spaces that require a greater degree of floor maintenance

WINTER SLIP AND FALL PREVENTION STRATEGIES
In light of his prediction, Readout gives the following strategies to help avert slip and fall accidents and their financial implications. (The average cost of a slip and fall injury is $28,000, including medical bills, physical therapy and missed wages, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics).

  • Check floor mats—Many slip and fall accidents result from curled floor mats or those that lack a high level of absorbency.
  • Use ice melt properly—Using too much ice melt leaves a residue that can be tracked inside, resulting in slippery floors. Sand or other traction aids like kitty litter can also be tracked into buildings and cause a hazard, so be sure to monitor entrances and sweep away or vacuum excess sand.
  • Train employees—Train employees on identifying and reporting slip and fall hazards, the benefits of wearing shoes and boots that provide the best traction on snow and ice, walking in designated walkways as much as possible, using handrails if available, taking shorter steps and learning safe falling techniques.
  • Implement a snow and ice management program—Be prepared for snow and ice removal by having a plan in place detailing when snow and ice will be removed, who is responsible for its removal and where it will be piled.
  • Install proper lighting—Parking lot and walkway lighting should be in working order and timed to turn on when employees are arriving and leaving work.

DO YOUR PART TO PREVENT SLIPS AND FALLS
“Slips and falls are some of the most preventable hazards in the workplace,” says Readout. “Many of the strategies to reduce the frequency and severity of these accidents, are fairly inexpensive and easy to implement,” he adds. Count on EMC® to provide you with posters, tech sheets, presentations, newsletters and more to protect you from the slip and fall tsunami that could be heading your way this winter season.

SOCIAL MEDIA AND WEATHER WARNINGS
How do people sift important weather information out of the incessant buzz of 24/7 social media, text messages, smartphone app alerts, overflowing email inboxes, the blogosphere and traditional print and broadcast media? Four new research awards funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration seek to answer this question and to improve the way potentially life-saving weather warnings reach those who need to act on them. More information about the research projects can be found at www.noaa.gov. Search for “social media and weather warnings.”

LOSS CONTROL GUIDES FOR SMALL BUSINESSES
A new resource released by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) will help small business owners navigate the maze of occupational safety and health information. The Small Business Safety and Health Resource Guide is intended to assist time-pressed small business owners looking for resources on regulations, training materials and recommendations. Each resource included was reviewed for relevance, ease of use, cost and credibility. NIOSH will continue to update the guide, based on readers’ feedback. For more information about this guide, visit www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/smbus.

PROTECTING WORKERS FROM FLUORESCENT BULBS’ MERCURY HAZARDS
Fluorescent bulbs can release mercury and may expose workers when they are broken as part of the routine disposal or recycling process. A new OSHA Quick Card provides information on how to properly clean up broken fluorescent bulbs to minimize workers’ exposures to mercury. In addition, a new fact sheet explains how workers may be exposed, what kinds of engineering controls and personal protective equipment they need, and how to use these controls and equipment properly. To order these or any other of OSHA’s educational materials, visit www.osha.gov/dsg/hazcom/ghsquickcards.html.

Tsunami Sign

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) required many changes in the workplace to ensure employee safety. Complying with these requirements is not always easy, and in many situations, compliance falls on the shoulders of the safety professional.

The ADA disallows discrimination against otherwise qualified individuals in an employment setting because of mental or physical disabilities. This means that in many situations, the employer has to adjust a work environment to allow an employee to function.

WORKPLACE ADAPTATIONS
Making accommodations in the workplace is important, yet one must avoid making a spectacle of employees with disabilities. One concept being utilized in workplaces is universal design, which is best defined as designing products and work spaces to allow use by everyone, regardless of disability. This eliminates many cases of employees standing out or requiring special assistance to be able to complete their tasks.

OSHA COMPLIANCE
Complying with OSHA guidelines can be more difficult in regards to employees with disabilities. This difficulty lies with ensuring that employees are aware of all hazards in the workplace. Multiple disabilities will create multiple reasons that may keep employees from recognizing hazards.

THE SAFETY PROFESSIONAL’S CHALLENGE
For some employees with disabilities, it may be necessary to provide restricted duty programs that may control the type of work conducted by the employee, the length of time the employee works without breaks, the amount of energy it takes for an employee to complete a task and the length of time it takes an employee to complete a task. Safety professionals often are expected to not only oversee restricted work programs, but also to determine what type of work falls into specific categories.

ENABLING LEARNING
Safety professionals are also tasked with making sure all employees understand the company’s policies and procedures. Training may need to be conducted in multiple ways to make sure all employees understand. Testing of the training may have to be offered in writing and orally to appropriately test all individuals. Additionally, safety professionals must keep up with laws as they continue to be molded in the court system. Interpretations of the law may change what is required for all locations.

Employees with disabilities have a right to a safe work environment, and it often is up to the safety professional to make sure it exists.

[These are excerpts from an article written by Brandon Emmick, an OSHA outreach instructor for construction, and used with permission from EHS Today. Copyright 2012 by Penton Media, Inc. To view the full article, visit www.ehstoday.com.]

Tsunami Sign

Wind damage to commercial property is a growing concern, according to insurance industry data. Eighteen of the top 20 catastrophic events since 1985, as identified by Insurance Services Office’s Property Claim Services, involved wind.

On July 17, 2012, the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) conducted the first high-wind test of commercial structures inside the IBHS Research Center. The test was intended to compare and contrast the high-wind performance of full-scale commercial strip mall-type structures; one was built using common construction practices and the other was built using stronger, safer wind-resistant elements.

The results of that test showed that:

  • Better-built structures are needed to protect consumers and workers in commercial buildings
  • Small business owners who want to stay in business and quickly recover from catastrophes should lease, buy or build stronger, safer structures
  • Carefully following high-wind construction guidance and choosing slightly more expensive products and systems can produce significantly stronger, safer buildings

By focusing on several key components when constructing a new business, including the roof, the doors and the walls, business owners can significantly improve commercial building performance by utilizing relatively low-cost mitigation measures.

[Reprinted with permission by the Institute of Business & Home Safety]

Other Topics

Larry Readout

When EMC Senior Engineer Larry Readout walks into a commercial facility, he keeps a watch on the floor, looking for uneven walkways, standing puddles of water and physical obstructions that could result in slip and fall accidents. He also comes armed with the technology to analyze the safety of surfaces.

"For the first time in its history, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), has instituted three standards on how to measure floor conditions," says Readout.

  • The first standard specifies the process by which walking surfaces shall be audited for slip resistance using a National Floor Safety Institute-approved device that measures the slip resistance of a hard surface.
  • The second standard specifies the process for measuring friction so building owners will know when regular maintenance or more serious attention is required.
  • The third standard specifies the process for measuring the force required to initiate sliding.

"There is a science to preventing slips and falls," notes Readout, who measures floors according to these new standards and regularly conducts employee training sessions on the subject of slip and fall prevention.

Slips & Falls By The Numbers
  • Over one million people in the United States experience a significant slip or fall each year.
  • Slips and falls are the third largest cause of workplace injuries.
  • Slip and fall accidents kill more workers than all other on-the-job fatalities combined.
  • Slips and falls lead to 104 million lost workdays per year in North America.

For more information on slip and fall prevention, check out the following resources:
Slip, Trip and Fall Prevention Guide
Slip and Fall Prevention Program
Slip and Fall Risk Assessment

[Source: National Safety Council and the Bureau of Labor Statistics]

Companies of all sizes can benefit from effective loss control practices, but smaller businesses may lack the people or finances to institute such programs. Recognizing this challenge, EMC added a series of easy-to-use safety program templates to the Loss Control section at www.emcins.com.

The templates can be used by small businesses to develop a customized written program to address a variety of safety needs. The user-friendly templates guide business owners through the process with visual prompts that identify areas where their input is needed. Business owners may also change any of the text in the template to meet their organization’s needs.

Count on EMC® to help clients of all types and sizes provide a safe workplace for their employees and customers.

Visit the Loss Control section at www.emcins.com for the following safety program templates:

Fleet Safety
Industrial Ergonomics
Lockout/Tagout
Manual Material Handling
Slip and Fall Prevention
Hazard Communication

Insights Online

Schools

NIOSH and OSHA have produced “Protecting Workers Who Use Cleaning Chemicals,” an information sheet that provides tips to help keep workers safe when using cleaning chemicals, including green cleaning products.

Workplaces, such as schools, hospitals, hotels, restaurants and manufacturing plants, use cleaning chemicals to ensure the cleanliness of their buildings. Workers who handle these products include building maintenance workers, janitors and housekeepers. Some cleaning chemicals can be hazardous, causing problems ranging from skin rashes and burns to coughing and asthma. Many employers are switching to green cleaning products because they are thought to be less hazardous to workers and the environment. NIOSH has provided an information sheet to employers on practices to help keep workers safe when working with cleaning chemicals, including green cleaning products.

Poor indoor air quality can impact the health of students and staff, which can affect concentration, attendance and performance. The Environmental Protection Agency offers schools several valuable resources to reduce exposure to indoor environmental contaminants.

How can your school or district make a healthy indoor environment a priority? One way is through the development of an indoor air quality (IAQ) management program— which can save money, improve health, and decrease student and staff absenteeism through simple, low-cost actions. The IAQ Tools for Schools guidance documents and resources help schools develop and sustain effective and comprehensive IAQ management programs, or other overall health and safety initiatives. The IAQ Tools for Schools guidance has been implemented successfully in tens of thousands of schools nationwide.

The Environment Protection Agency (EPA) developed the Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Tools for Schools guidance to reduce exposures to indoor environmental contaminants in schools through the voluntary adoption of sound and effective IAQ management practices.

These resources are designed to help schools create and maintain healthy indoor learning environments by identifying, correcting and preventing common issues. Poor indoor environmental quality can impact the comfort and health of students and staff, which can affect concentration, attendance and academic performance. In addition, if schools fail to respond promptly to poor IAQ, students and staff are at an increased risk of short-term health problems, such as fatigue and nausea, as well as long-term problems like asthma.

Providing A Framework For Success
The cornerstones of the IAQ Tools for Schools guidance include the Framework for Effective School IAQ Management: Key Drivers and Technical Solutions, and the Action Kit. Together, the Technical Solutions and Key Drivers give schools step-by-step actions to build effective and enduring IAQ management programs. This tremendous knowledge base was built on the accumulated learning of accomplished and award winning school IAQ management programs. This guidance helps schools—regardless of location, size, budget or condition—take action to create healthier, safer learning environments.

The IAQ Tools For Schools Action Kit
The Action Kit provides simple, easy-to-follow guidance that will help you put the Key Drivers and Technical Solutions into action in your school district. The resources, checklists and publications compiled into the Action Kit assist school districts in identifying the actions they can take to successfully plan and implement an effective IAQ management program.

The IAQ Tools for Schools guidance has been implemented successfully in tens of thousands of schools nationwide. Join this growing network of schools and school districts that are making the effort to create healthy and safe school environments. Get started today by visiting http://www.epa.gov/iaq/schools/actionkit.html.

[Reprinted from Environmental Protection Agency.]

Petroleum Marketers

The Petroleum Education & Research Council details how the new rules on crane operator qualifications and certification established by OSHA affect petroleum marketers.

New rules on crane operator qualifications and certification established by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) may result in designating certain tasks in the propane industry as being conducted at construction sites, thus requiring formal certification of crane operators.

Rules established by OSHA touch on its basic set of workplace rules within Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulation one for General Industry (Part 1910) and one for Construction (Part 1926). The new rule pertinent to the propane industry falls under its Construction set and requires extensive training and certification by an accredited third party for crane operators of most cranes above 2,000 pounds capacity. This includes most truck-mounted articulating (knuckle boom) and telescopic (stick boom) cranes used in the propane industry. Such an accredited third party includes, but is not limited to, the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO).

The rule took effect in Nov 10, 2010, but there is a four-year compliance period for the crane operator certification/qualification requirement. That means employers must be in compliance by Nov 10, 2014. To earn certification, a student must pass a written test and then pass a practical skills test within one year. Recertification is required every five years. As of Nov 8, 2010, crane operators who have not met these requirements can work only as a “crane operator in training.”

As with OSHA’s General Industry rules, the employer must ensure that all crane operators are trained and evaluated on that training before operating the equipment, and that the operator is competent to safely operate the equipment. For noncertified crane operators, employers must provide each operator-in-training with sufficient training to enable him to operate the equipment safely under continuous monitoring. Employers also may set their own limitations on the operator.

Impact on the Propane Industry
Traditionally, crane operations conducted in the propane industry were not considered construction activities, and thus covered under OSHA’s less stringent general industry rules, where crane operators required training but were not required to be tested and certified by an accredited third party. That test will be crane-specific as opposed to propane operations specific. The practical skills assessment must be conducted by an NCCCO (or other accredited organization) qualified proctor/instructor.

Under the new OSHA rule, crane operators must be trained and pass a rigorous certification process that includes a knowledge test and a hands-on skills exam at a cost of $200-300 per employee. Keep in mind, most training facilities charge a minimum of $1,000 per employee for a two to three day course to prepare them for the certification test, placing a significant financial and employee resource burden on all propane companies.

All crane operators would need to be tested and certified before Nov 10, 2014. Employees that fail the certification process cannot operate a crane after this date. If you operate a crane and are not certified, your company is in violation of the rule and could face penalties and fines from OSHA. The only caveat to this is if an operator in training is conducting crane operations under the supervision of a certified operator.

The new rule was developed after some deadly incidents involving large construction crane mishaps in New York City. That led OSHA to write the rules to cover not only the propane industry, but also firms that use cranes as a small part of their operations.

The propane industry has spent millions of dollars on training how to safely and effectively conduct its operations, from delivering propane to installing propane systems. As such, a propane-specific training program for crane operators is an important part of reducing incidents, injuries and property damage.

There are some parts in the new rule that members of the propane industry should take into consideration as they prepare to get their employees trained and certified.

Cranes in General Industry vs. Construction Industry
If crane work does not fall under one of the special standards, such as Construction or Maritime, then OSHA usually considers it to fall under general industry. OSHA generally considers construction to include the building, altering or repairing of new or existing structures. Construction work also includes demolition and deconstruction of a portion or all of a structure. Maintenance may also be considered construction depending on its complexity and scope.

Crane Operations Covered by the Construction Standard
In terms of tank installation operations, according to OSHA, “If the site at which the tank is installed is a building under construction, installation of a propane tank would qualify as construction work.” On the other hand, replacing a small tank at an existing site with a new tank of the same capacity would be considered general industry work. Furthermore, if a propane marketer delivers a new tank to a construction site and leaves it on the ground or other location to be installed by a third party, the delivery of that tank provided by the propane marketer is not covered under the construction standard.

Some have also asked whether a propane service technician who uses the crane on his mechanics truck be considered a “crane operator,” much like someone who operates construction cranes.

Certification Test
In addition to the cost of certification, NCCCO already has a certification program titled “Articulating Crane Operator,” which was developed to meet the needs of operators using truck-mounted articulating boom cranes. The NCCCO also is developing the certification test for telescopic cranes, with some input from the propane industry. And, while there will not be a propane-specific crane test, there probably will be a test for truck mounted/maintenance truck-type crane operations that apply to the propane industry , including load charts, inspection protocols, rigging, out rigging and wire ropes. In addition, there will be a single test for truck mounted/maintenance truck crane operations.

There are no specific requirements to provide knowledge-test crane training, but under NCCCO certification, practical examinations must be administered by those who have been accredited by NCCCO for this purpose. NCCCO publishes a list of accredited practical examiners who have indicated they will offer their services on a “for hire” basis. Accredited practical examiners are authorized to offer the NCCCO Practical Exam at approved test sites, and the scheduling of these tests will be done through a coordinator responsible for each site. NCCCO accredited practical examiners are not permitted to participate in other crane-operator certification programs. Individuals who wish to qualify as a NCCCO-accredited practical examiner should visit www.nccco.org.

Current Activities
The Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) is developing a crane operator training program for the propane industry that will cover many of the basics surrounding crane safety. The new program, scheduled to be released later this year, is a multimedia instructional program that will illustrate and address the tasks associated with and specific to crane operations in the propane industry. It will be a comprehensive program able to be to be facilitated in both self-study and classroom-style environments.

The program will include a DVD, a companion workbook in the CD format, self-evaluation and skills assessment forms, and quizzes to help reinforce the training. All forms and quizzes will be available to download. The instructor guide and PowerPoint presentation of the entire program, suitable for classroom instruction, will be developed and available in CD format. The guide will also include tips and instructions for the trainer. The program is being developed with oversight from propane marketers and crane manufacturers, as well as National Propane Gas Association staff.

While this program might not contain all of the specific information to prepare your employees to pass a third-party certification exam, it does provide three important goals: (1) a cost-effective means to train your employees to safely conduct the crane operations specific to the propane industry, (2) a course of study sufficient to designate your employees as “competent crane operator in training,” and (3) a means to prepare for the certification exam and the hands-on practical exam.

The program will provide crane operators in the propane industry the means to be trained and operate a crane safely as well as provide them with the ability to reach the “competent operator” status, as required by the new rule. However, due to the comprehensive nature of the certification exam, it alone may not be enough. As such, the Petroleum Education and Research Council will be working with its state association partners and industry trainers to get everyone up to speed on the new training requirements and perhaps provide the necessary information to trainers so that they can offer the precertification test training.

[Courtesy of the Propane Education and Research Council]

Although the convenience store business is designed to easily accommodate customers, this business model also makes stores an attractive target for robbers and other criminals.

Convenience stores (c-stores) are unique commercial properties because they are usually open 24 hours, are largely cash-based businesses, can be operated by one clerk, and are conveniently located for quick in-and-out shopping, according to Chris McGoey, who specializes in security at these businesses. The nature of this business makes it very convenient for customers, but unfortunately, it also makes it an attractive target for robbers and other criminals.

Western Behavioral Sciences Institute (WBSI) published a study on robbery deterrence which is the basis for today’s robbery prevention programs across the country. The study set out to prove the theory that convenience store robbers used a selection process before choosing targets and therefore, could be deterred by making a c-store less attractive to them. The study said that robbers considered escape routes, amount of money available, number of clerks on duty, and available witnesses before they would commit to the robbery.

The robbery deterrence efforts the WBSI study claimed to be effective are to:

  • Reduce the amount of cash available. Limiting cash amount could dissuade robbers, as well as minimize financial losses should a robbery occur.
  • Eliminate escape routes. Limit the number of entrances and exits to the store and parking lot.
  • Install proper lighting and surveillance. Robbers are deterred by brightly lit stores in which employees and the store’s cash registers are clearly visible from the street. Security cameras should also be installed to help control theft.
  • Post signs regarding low cash amounts and video surveillance.
  • Train employees in violence and robbery prevention techniques. This training should be ongoing and include the use of the National Association of Convenience Stores security training video available on the EMC Loss Control website.

EMC is aware of the security challenges for convenience stores and has a variety of products to assist security efforts including:

Count on EMC® and your local EMC agent or loss control representative to provide you with the information, resources and tools necessary to improve your store’s security.

[Source: www.securitymagazine.comSource: www.securitymagazine.com]

Contractors

Almost every workday, a construction worker somewhere in the United States dies as a result of a fall. Maps have been posted by the Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR) to call attention to this hazard and try to reduce the annual death toll.

Two maps (one shows U.S. construction fatalities as pins on a U.S. map, the other shows U.S. construction fatalities resulting from falls) have been posted by the Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR), to call attention to this hazard and try to reduce the annual death toll. Fatal falls in construction are preventable through planning, training, and protective equipment, according to the center, which receives funding from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

Center Executive Director Pete Stafford said the second map shows the locations of all fatal construction falls during 2011 that CPWR researchers could identify in official reports, popular media, and other data sources.

“The map offers a chilling graphic portrayal of the terrible toll these accidents take on the men and women of our industry. Almost every workday a construction worker somewhere in the United States dies as a result of a fall; such a tragedy probably unfolded not far from your home,” Stafford wrote in an email from the center about the maps. He asked visitors to the campaigns’ website and the maps page to share them with friends, colleagues, and family members to raise public awareness “about the unacceptable number of workplace accidents that claim our fellow Americans in the building trades.”

CPWR recorded 578 construction deaths, including 180 fatal falls, during 2011. In 2008, before the current recession reduced construction employment significantly, BLS reported about 1,200 construction deaths.

The campaigns’ page is www.stopconstructionfalls.com and the maps page is http://stopconstructionfalls.com/?page_id=4. CPWR asked anyone familiar with a construction fatality that occurred after January 2012 to email fatalitymap@cpwr.com with the date, location, cause of the fatality, and the senders’ contact information for purposes of follow-up.

U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis also called for action to prevent fatal construction falls when she spoke in April at the Action Summit for Worker Safety and Health at East Los Angeles College. According to DOL, she announced a new OSHA outreach and education campaign, saying, “This is how we can honor the fallen: by standing up together with courage and conviction and saying two words that will echo across this country: never again.”

Reprinted with permission by Occupational Health and Safety, www. ohsonline.com, an 1105 Media Inc. publication.

Historically, the heavy construction industry has always been an industry where more than your normal job hazards can exist. Working around earthmoving equipment such as dump trucks, scrapers, loaders, crawler or wheel tractors, bulldozers, off-highway trucks, graders, agricultural/industrial tractors, and similar equipment can be extremely hazardous, especially when such equipment is backing up.

Occupations that could be working around such equipment include laborers, equipment operators, iron workers, carpenters, surveyors, inspectors, project managers and any other personnel in the area. The need to have ground workers near moving equipment to perform their work can be a problem.

Being struck by or caught in-between are two of the leading accidents associated with injuries and fatalities on construction sites. Struck by or caught in-between accidents also are associated with earthmoving equipment. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) document “Building Safer Highway Work Zones: Measures to Prevent Worker Injuries From Vehicles and Equipment,” more than 100 workers are killed and more than 20,000 are injured each year in the highway and street construction industry. Vehicles and equipment operating in and around the work zone are involved in more than half of the worker fatalities in this industry. Also stated is that incidents involving backing vehicles were prominent among the worker-on-foot fatalities that occurred within the confines of the work zone.

Working in the Blind
Although high-speed trucks, scrapers, and other heavy equipment can be a danger, equally dangerous is low-speed equipment backing up. Construction equipment is typically large and presents large blind areas to the operator’s vision when backing up equipment. Blind areas around construction equipment contribute to many accidents on job sites. Besides hitting fixed objects, there can be a variety of workers who are on foot who would be exposed to equipment backing up.

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has standards and interpretations of the standards that are designed to reduce accidents from backing over workers at a construction job site. Companies and individuals who work around heavy construction equipment need to be aware of these standards. In reviewing various law firms’ websites, many attorneys are aware of the standards. Although the OSHA standards concerning equipment backing are not new, unfortunately, violations of them can be seen at construction job sites.

Reviewing OSHA's Standards
Federal OSHA has two standards in its 29 CFR 1926 Subpart O, Motor Vehicles, Mechanized Equipment and Marine Operations, construction standards that deal with backing vehicles and equipment. The standards, 1926.601(b)(4) and 1926.602(a)(9), apply only to the motor vehicles and materials handling equipment used in construction operations. The standards read:

1926.601 Motor vehicles.
(b) General requirements.
(4) No employer shall use any motor vehicle equipment having an obstructed view to the rear unless:
(i) The vehicle has a reverse signal alarm audible above the surrounding noise level or
(ii) The vehicle is backed up only when an observer signals that it is safe to do so

1926.602 Material handling equipment.
(a) Earthmoving equipment; general
(9) Audible alarms
(ii) No employer shall permit earthmoving or compacting equipment which has an obstructed view to the rear to be used in reverse gear unless the equipment has in operation a reverse signal alarm distinguishable from the surrounding noise level or an employee signals that it is safe to do so

There is flexibility in determining the best method to warn others working in the area of backing vehicles and equipment. A back-up alarm or an observer must signal the operator that it is safe to proceed when an operator’s view to the rear is obstructed. The alarm must be loud enough to be distinguishable from other sounds. Due to the loudness of back-up alarms, often the community where the work is being performed will complain about them. Sometimes you will also get resistance from construction workers about the loudness. Workers also can become lax or anesthetized from hearing a back-up alarm sounding off throughout the day.

OSHA’s Interpretations
There are several OSHA Letters of Interpretation concerning back-up alarms that should be of particular interest to those who are involved with construction equipment. The following questions and responses are from two different letters from OSHA’s Directorate of Construction.

March 2, 2010
Re: Permissible methods of operating trucks in reverse on construction sites.

Question: Does 29 CFR 1926 Subpart O, permit an employer to use a rear-mount day/night camera system with in-cab monitoring of the truck's rear instead of a back-up alarm?
Answer: Where the back-up camera provides an “unobstructed view to the rear,” that is, a clear view of the path the vehicle is to take, such that the driver can see if anyone is in that path or about to enter the danger area of that path, the requirement for an audible alarm or observer is not applicable. Here, the camera system provides the operator with a clear view to the rear and, thus, this back-up alarm requirement is not triggered.

Question: When operating a truck in reverse, is an employer who uses a radar/doppler or such motion sensing system in the rear of a truck -- which warns both the driver and employees working within the vicinity of the vehicle whenever the truck is in reverse -- in compliance with 29 CFR 1926 Subpart O?
Answer: The Standards provide employers with flexibility to use technology to meet this requirement. So long as the radar/doppler that you use provides adequate warning to workers in the path of the truck and to workers walking towards the path of the truck in time to avoid contact, you will be in compliance with this particular OSHA requirement.

Sept. 20, 2007
Re: Whether "discriminating [back-up] alarms" may be used to meet the requirements of 29 CFR 1926.602(a)(9)(ii).

Question: Does the use of a “discriminating alarm” meet the requirements set forth in 29 CFR 1926.602(a)(9)(ii)? In this case, “discriminating alarm” refers to a system that uses infrared light, ultrasonic waves, radar, or similar means to detect objects or persons at the rear of the equipment, and sounds an audible alarm when a person or object is detected.
Answer: A discriminating alarm as described above would fulfill the requirements of 1926.602(a)(9)(ii) as long as the alarm was consistently effective in detecting any employee who is in the path of the equipment and alerting the employee of the backing-up of the equipment. Alternatives to conventional back-up alarms may be used so long as they “provide adequate warning to workers in the path of the vehicle, and to workers walking towards the path of the vehicle in time to avoid contact.” A discriminating alarm that detected such employees and gave warning to them in time to avoid contact with the vehicle would therefore meet the requirements of the Standard.

Preventing Equipment Backing Accidents
There are many proactive measures that can be taken to prevent vehicle and equipment backing accidents. Most of the measures might be considered common sense, but often they are not initiated until a serious accident occurs. Proactive measures that can prevent vehicle and equipment backing accidents are:

  • Provide and require safety tailgate meetings regularly to emphasize the seriousness of the hazard and to keep employee awareness up
  • Have all personnel on the job site wearing reflective vests that adhere to the ANSI/ISEA 107-1999, American National Standard for High-Visibility Safety Apparel standard
  • Coordinate job schedules to ensure only essential workers will be in the areas where equipment is operating
  • Preplan where storage areas are to be
  • Coordinate job conditions, such as haul roads
  • Establish control points to limit access by the public to the job site
  • Ensure compliance with OSHA standards for vehicle and equipment backing

In regards to OSHA interpretations concerning vehicle and equipment backing exposures, modern technology can address the hazard by the use of a back-up camera or the use of a radar motion sensing system. The NIOSH Spokane Research Laboratory conducted tests concerning camera and sensor systems on various trucks used in road construction and maintenance. In summary, the following observations were made:

  • A camera system may be more appropriate than a sensor-based warning system (e.g., radar or sonar) in work zones that are crowded with equipment and workers where the alarms become a nuisance and are ignored
  • A dual system of camera and sensor alarm has advantages, such as the sensor’s providing an alarm that prompts the driver to check the video monitor
  • False alarms on sensor-based systems from mud, dirt, or snow buildup need to be addressed
  • Sensor-based alarms would need to be disabled on trucks pulling trailers
  • Mounting position for sensors or cameras can be difficult on dump trucks
  • Due to the harsher working conditions of construction equipment, using sensors or cameras on construction equipment can be more challenging

The NOISH article on the above tests, “Evaluation of Devices to Prevent Construction Equipment Backing Incidents,” by Todd M. Ruff, is a very good article to examine closely.

Conclusion
A combination of proactive measures can prevent backing accidents. The OSHA interpretation letters allow modern technology to address safety issues with a possible better solution than previous methods. An important point to remember about equipment back-up systems: OSHA does not approve equipment or processes. Equipment and processes may meet the requirements of the OSHA standards, but OSHA does not approve the equipment or processes. This article covers the significant points of OSHA’s standards concerning the backing of construction motor vehicles and materials handling equipment. The purpose of this article is not to provide any legal advice, but rather to help construction personnel better understand the hazards, prevent backing accidents, and know the relevant OSHA standards. For a more thorough look at the standards and the Letters of Interpretation, visit www.osha.gov.

Understanding the hazards, prevention methods, and the standards can help everyone in having a safer job site around construction equipment.

[Reprinted with permission by Occupational Health and Safety, www. ohsonline.com, an 1105 Media Inc. publication.]

Local Government

Do you know the necessary steps that employers must take to keep workers safe while working in winter conditions? Learn the hazards associated with working in winter storms and the effective means of addressing them below, and then visit the new OSHA Winter Storms web page for more information.

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has created a web page to help protect workers from hazards they may face during winter storm response and recovery operations. The web page provides guidance on how employers and workers involved in cleanup and recovery operations can recognize snow storm-related hazards and the necessary steps that employers must take to keep workers safe while working in these conditions. The page includes guidance for workers clearing heavy snow in front of workplaces and from rooftops, workers encountering downed power lines or traveling on icy roads, and utility workers restoring power after winter storms.

Hazards associated with working in winter storms include:

  • Being struck by falling objects such as icicles, tree limbs, and utility poles
  • Driving accidents due to slippery roadways
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Dehydration, hypothermia and frostbite
  • Exhaustion from strenuous activity
  • Back injuries or heart attack while removing snow
  • Slips and falls due to slippery walkways
  • Electrocution from downed power lines and downed objects in contact with power lines
  • Burns from fires caused by energized line contact or equipment failure
  • Falls from snow removal on roofs or while working in aerial lifts or on ladders
  • Roof collapse under weight of snow (or melting snow if drains are clogged)
  • Lacerations or amputations from unguarded or improperly operated chain saws and ower tools, and improperly attempting to clear jams in snow blowers.

Effective means of addressing winter storm hazards include:

  • Assume all power lines are energized and stay well clear of any downed or damaged power lines
  • Make certain all powered equipment is properly guarded and disconnected from power sources before cleaning or performing maintenance
  • Use caution around surfaces weighed down by large amounts of snow or ice
  • Scooping small amounts of snow and using proper lifting form to avoid over-exertion or injuries
  • Clear walking surfaces of snow and ice and use salt or its equivalent where appropriate
  • Employers should provide and ensure the use of fall protection and provide and maintain ladders
  • Stay in the vehicle — do not leave the vehicle unless help is visible within 100 yards
  • Wear reflective clothing, and eye, face and body protection
  • Establish and clearly marking work zones
  • Use engineering controls, personal protective equipment and safe work practices to reduce the length and severity of exposure to the cold

The new Winter Storms Web page at https://www.osha.gov/dts/weather/winter_weather/ includes links to guidance from OSHA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the American Red Cross, the National Weather Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Safety Council and other agencies and organizations.

For more information, visit www.osha.gov.

[Reprinted from the Occupational Safety & Health Administration.]

To ensure that emergency responders can meet the challenges of disasters, every effort must be made to protect them from the safety and health risks inherent in their work. A technical assistance document developed by National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health is now available, which provides a recommended health-monitoring and surveillance system.

When disaster strikes, the nation depends on emergency response workers who are prepared and trained to respond effectively. Response work can range from well-contained, localized efforts to massive, diffuse mobilizations and involves a broad array of activities including search, rescue, investigations, assessment, recovery, cleanup, and restoration. Such work is carried out by individuals from emergency management, fire services, law enforcement, emergency medical services, public health, construction and other skilled support, disaster relief, mental health, and volunteer organizations.

To ensure that workers can meet the challenges of disasters, every effort must be made to protect emergency workers from the safety and health risks inherent in the work. A new National Response Team technical assistance document, “Emergency Responder Health Monitoring and Surveillance,” is now available which provides a recommended health monitoring and surveillance system. The Emergency Responder Health Monitoring and Surveillance system includes specific recommendations and tools for all phases of a response, including the pre-deployment, deployment, and post-deployment phase. The intent of medical monitoring and surveillance is to identify exposures and/or signs and symptoms early in the course of an emergency response. Early detection can prevent or mitigate adverse physical and psychological outcomes; helping to ensure that workers and volunteers are not harmed in the course of their response and are able to maintain their ability to respond effectively.

This document describes a comprehensive approach to address a variety of public health measures including:

  • Medical screening that focuses on assessment of fitness and ability to safely and effectively deploy on a response
  • Training regarding hazards to be anticipated and protective measures to mitigate them
  • Approaches to centralized tracking or rostering of responders
  • Surveillance and monitoring for exposures and adverse health effects, including supporting efforts in environmental monitoring and assessment
  • Out-processing assessments on completion of response duties and deployments
  • Follow-up or long-term surveillance or monitoring for potential delayed or long-term adverse effects of the deployment experience

The document also includes guidelines and recommendations for procedures to implement these protections that are fully compatible within the Incident Command System or National Incident Management System structures. These guidelines have been adopted as the accepted standard organizational focus for emergency response at all levels and for all incident sizes and types. A companion document entitled: “Emergency Responder Health Monitoring and Surveillance (ERHMS): A Guide for Key Decision Makers” was developed to summarize key components.

These guidelines provide vital resources for protecting emergency responders.

[Reprinted from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.]