Winter 2013 Volume 62

Feature Articles

The “Days of Shivery” are back, reports the Farmers’ Almanac. This time-trusted weather predictor is forecasting a winter with below-average temperatures for about two-thirds of the nation and significant snow for many regions. That’s good news for winter sports enthusiasts, but potentially bad news for business owners.

Thermometer Image
70%According to OSHA, about 70% of injuries that occur during winter storms are the result of motor vehicle accidents.
Slips and falls are the third-leading cause of workplace injuries with a spike in the winter, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics.
20%OSHA reports that 20% of winter workplace injuries are caused by prolonged exposure to the elements.
11,500According to the Center for Injury Research and Policy, an average of 11,500 snow removal-related injuries and medical emergencies are reported every year.

“Severe winter weather can lead to property damage, employee illness or injury, and possible business closures,” notes EMC Senior Engineer Larry Readout, who shares the following winter preparedness tips from the Center for Food Security and Public Health:

  • Stay informed—Monitor severe weather in your area at www.weather.gov.
  • Stockpile emergency supplies—Including emergency power, sandbags, a shovel, and road salt or ice melt.
  • Have a business emergency plan—The plan should address shelter locations on your property, access to emergency power, backup heating sources and other actions to reduce losses in the event of a storm.
  • Promote safe driving skills— Presentations, posters and internal communications are great ways to remind employees about driving techniques for wet or icy roads.
  • Eliminate the potential for slips and falls—Check outdoor and indoor walkways for any slip and fall hazards that could easily be exaggerated with snow and ice.

“There is nothing you can do to prevent winter from heading your way,” concludes Readout. “But there are a number of things you can do to prevent winter workplace accidents from heading in your direction.”

New OSHA Program Focuses on Isocyanates
Over the next three years, OSHA will focus outreach efforts and inspections on isocyanate hazards in an effort to reduce occupational illnesses, injuries and deaths. Workers in jobs such as painting, blowing insulation and the manufacturing and thermal degradation of polyurethane products may be exposed to these hazardous chemicals that can cause occupational asthma and other lung problems, as well as irritation of the eyes, nose, throat and skin. For more information about OSHA’s new national emphasis program for occupational exposure of isocyanates, visit www.osha.gov.

The Importance of Office Ergonomics
Half of office workers routinely experience work-related discomfort, and people in sedentary jobs are twice as likely to die from heart disease as active workers. These are just some of the consequences of not having an ergonomics program in place at your office as depicted by a recently published infographic from Humantech, Inc., a leader in workplace improvements. Download “10 Reasons Why You Need Office Ergonomics.”

Winter Tips for Propane Tank Safety
The Propane Education and Research Council recommends taking some simple safety precautions prior to, during and after winter storms to reduce the possibility of property loss from propane tank damage, injury and even death. For example, make sure the company hired to perform snow removal is advised of the location of both aboveground and underground tanks, and use a broom rather than a shovel to clear snow from tanks. These and other safety tips are available at www.propanesafety.com.


Each year, substance abuse costs the United States billions of dollars in expenditures for health care, workplace injuries, disability payments and productivity losses.

The New Workplace Epidemic
Many employers think of substance abuse as only relating to alcohol and illicit drugs, but because of their ease of accessibility, misuse of prescription drugs is among the fastest growing substance abuse problems in the workplace.

  • Prescription drugs are the third most commonly abused category of drugs, behind alcohol and marijuana (National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence).
  • The misuse and abuse of prescription painkillers were responsible for more than 475,000 emergency room visits in 2009, a number that nearly doubled in the last five years (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration Services).
  • More than 12 million people reported using prescription painkillers nonmedically in 2010 (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration Services).
Chart Icon
67%
of human resource professionals surveyed believe that substance abuse/education is one of the most serious issues they face in their company.

Preventing and Treating Prescription Drug Abuse
Substance abuse should be viewed as a chronic, manageable condition similar to other chronic diseases (e.g., diabetes and cardiovascular disease) that are targeted in a wellness program.

Because substance abuse of any kind threatens the health and safety of individuals, other employees, customers and your company, you need to establish a proactive and aggressive substance abuse and mandatory drugfree workplace program that incorporates the following components:

  • Drug testing during the hiring process, random testing, suspicion testing and postaccident testing
  • Access to an employee assistance program that provides short-term counseling and referral services for employees dealing with substance abuse problems
  • Educational programs that make employees aware of the health and other dangers related to prescription drug abuse
  • A supportive environment in which employees dealing with prescription drug abuse can seek confidential advice about treatment options
  • Training programs for supervisors and managers about ways to identify, report and respond to prescription drug abuse situations

Prevention Begins With Information
As with other health conditions, the more information you have about prescription drug abuse, the better you will be able to provide a safer and healthier workplace for employees. Count on EMC® to provide valuable resources that can answer wellness or injury management questions and guide you in the right direction to help manage substance abuse and establish a drug-free workplace.


The best place to start preparing for winter weather is www.emcins.com. Select Loss Control to access information about how to help prevent everything from winter driving accidents to slips and falls, cold stress injuries and illnesses to snow removal mishaps, and ice dams to sprinkler system malfunctions. You’ll also find a complete video library for safety training meetings, as well as posters to make employees aware of winter slip and fall hazards. Before winter hits, be sure to visit the Loss Control section on www.emcins.com for cold hard facts about reducing severe weather losses.

Some of the tech sheets available at www.emcins.com:

Winter Driving Image
Winter Driving
Slip and Fall Image
Winter Slip and Fall Prevention Program
Snow Plow Image
Commercial Snow Plow Safety
Protecting Workers Image
Protecting Workers in Cold Environments

Other Topics

On the job with Larry Readout

A fall on a slippery floor could cost your organization $10,000 or more, but according to EMC Senior Engineer Larry Readout, investing as little as $40 per square yard for walk-off mat tiles could reduce the likelihood of those falls.

“Walk-off mats are designed to hold about a gallon of water,” explains Readout. “As a result, water will be less likely to pool beyond the entryway.”

Readout offers the following recommendations for the effective use of walk-off mats:

  • Industry best practices suggest a 60-foot walk-off area at the building entrance.
  • Visually check walk-off mats for wear and tear throughout wet weather seasons.
  • Make certain the edges of any walk-off mats are tapered to avoid trips caused by curling edges.
  • Consider the advantages of walkoff mat tiles, which are easier to install, clean and replace. Tiles are also held in place with adhesive backing to reduce curling and can be configured to match the needs of any space.

“Organizations should also look at other areas that could result in slip and fall accidents,” notes Readout. “These include uneven concrete in the parking area, the traction of workplace floors, the types of floor cleaning chemicals used and the use of slip-resistant footwear for employees.”

Count on EMC® loss control experts like Readout to determine if you have adequate mat coverage, assess the condition of mats and recommend a matting strategy to help reduce slips and falls this coming winter and all year long.


Sexual harassment is one of the biggest human resource issues employers face today because of the cost and the physical and emotional impact to its victims.

Regardless of their operations, all organizations need to be committed to maintaining a workplace free of sexual harassment. EMC policyholders have access to two new online training courses to supplement their sexual harassment prevention program:

  • Sexual Harrassment Prevention—Designed for employees and supervisors, this program addresses examples of sexual harassment, its history and legal precedents relating to sexual harassment in the workplace.
  • Sexual Harassment Prevention, Reporting and Investigation Procedures—Designed for supervisors and upper management, this training program addresses the need for a sexual harassment policy, the elements of such a policy and the supervisor’s responsibilities with regards to preventing sexual harassment.

Count on EMC® to provide free online training on sexual harassment and many other topics to help reduce potential losses in your workplace.


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Insights Online

Schools

The American National Standards Institute has released a revised standard requiring service buses to have an ergonomic and comfortable driver’s seat. Learn more about reducing musculoskeletal disorders and helping drivers focus on their duties and the road.

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) released a revised standard requiring service buses to have an ergonomic and comfortable drivers’ seat. ISO 16121-1:2012, “Road vehicles—Ergonomic requirements for the driver’s workplace in line-service buses—Part 1: General description, basic requirements,” was created to reduce bus drivers’ risks of developing leg and lower back pain.

The standard requires bus designers to carefully choose the dimensions and mounting positions of a driver’s seat, pedals and steering wheel, keeping drivers seated at angles that comply with the given ranges of comfort. Comfortable seating options reduce musculoskeletal disorders and allow bus drivers to focus on their duties and the road.

The revised standard is part of ISO 16121, which includes requirements for visibility, information devices and controls, and cabin environment. Learn more.

Source: Society of Safety Engineers

Teachers face a number of low back pain risks as a result of their day-to-day activities in the classroom. Learn what teachers can do to reduce the severity of this common workplace injury.

Educators have the opportunity to make a huge impact on their students; however, they face many challenges, which may result in low back, neck and shoulder pain, tired feet, aching legs, headaches, insomnia and stress. Often, the number one concern for teachers is back pain when standing. Whether you’re a nursery school teacher or a college professor, job-related challenges can be reduced or avoided, especially if you know how to improve posture.

Workplace Challenges
The day-to-day activities of being a teacher can lead to lower back pain over time.

  • Standing “lecture-style” for extended hours places an extra burden on the low back and legs, which may lead to poor posture. Additionally, hard, unforgiving surfaces can take their toll after prolonged standing.
  • Bending or stooping over children at their desks.
  • Sitting down for long periods when grading assignments.
  • Lifting or carrying small children, heavy equipment or paperwork.
  • Teachers in primary and early-year classrooms can spend an average of 20,000 hours during their 30-year careers sitting on furniture designed for children. In addition, teachers may be utilizing extra-low sinks and child-height computers and whiteboards, not to mention, sitting on the floor with students.

Workplace Solutions
Encourage teachers to adopt the following behaviors to reduce the frequency and severity of low back injuries:

  • Use a specially designed chair or floor cushion for low seating
  • Use a high stool instead of standing for hours
  • Use a height adjustable table
  • Transport heavy paperwork or equipment on a wheeled trolley
  • Stretch and move frequently, getting up and walking around every 20 minutes or so
  • Avoid excessive reaching and twisting by rearranging items on your desk, placing the most frequently used items closer to you
  • Wear comfortable, supportive shoes, possibly with orthotics, if necessary
  • Maintain ergonomically correct workstations
  • Learn how to improve posture and lift, bend and carry correctly

Reprinted with permission of AIMS Clnic, Matthew J. Speesler, MD, Medical Director, www.aimsclinic.com

Petroleum Marketers

The removal of sulfur and other compounds in ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel increases its ability to store a static charge, which could result in a fire or explosion. The Association of Equipment Manufacturers offers a best practices bulletin about this risk.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations require a major reduction in the sulfur content of diesel fuels and emission levels from diesel engines and vehicles. To meet the EPA regulations, the petroleum industry is producing ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD) fuel, a cleaner-burning diesel fuel containing a maximum 15 parts-per-million (ppm) sulfur.

The removal of sulfur and other compounds in ULSD fuel decreases its conductivity and increases its ability to store a static charge. Refineries may have treated the fuel with a static dissipating additive; however, there are many factors that can reduce the effectiveness of the additive over time. Static charges can build up in ULSD fuel while it is flowing through fuel delivery systems.

A static electricity discharge when combustible vapors are present could result in a fire or explosion; therefore, it is important to ensure that the entire system used to refuel machines (fuel supply tank, transfer pump, transfer hose, nozzle and others) are properly grounded and bonded. Consult your fuel or fuel system supplier to ensure the delivery system is in compliance with fueling standards for proper grounding and bonding practices.

A properly bonded fuel delivery system has an electrically conductive and unbroken connection between all components of the fuel delivery system.

  • Fuel supply tank, transfer pump, transfer hose, nozzle and others
  • A wire connection from the fuel delivery system to the machine chassis equalizes the static electric potential between the two machines, further reducing the chance of a static electricity discharge

A properly grounded fuel delivery system has an electrically conductive connection from the fuel delivery system tank to earth ground to allow static and electrical charge dissipation.

Consult your fuel or fuel system supplier to ensure the delivery system is in compliance with fueling standards for proper grounding and bonding practices.

Source: Association of Equipment Manufacturers

Well-developed emergency action plans (EAP) and proper employee training will result in fewer and less severe injuries and less damage to structures during emergencies involving hazardous spills. Use OSHA’s checklist to help develop your comprehensive EAP.

Emergency Action Plans for Hazardous Spills
Unexpected releases of toxic, reactive or flammable liquids and gases in processes involving highly hazardous chemicals have been reported for many years in various industries. Regardless of the industry that uses these chemicals, the potential for an accidental release can happen any time they are not properly controlled.

To help ensure safe and healthful workplaces, OSHA has issued the Process Safety Management of Highly Hazardous Chemicals standard (29 CFR 1910.119). It contains requirements for the management of hazards associated with processes using highly hazardous chemicals. One of those requirements is to develop an Emergency Action Plan (EAP).

Emergency Action Plan Checklist
OSHA recommends asking these questions when developing an EAP:

Does the plan consider all potential natural or mansh;made emergencies that could disrupt your workplace? Common sources of emergencies identified in emergency action plans include fires, explosions, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, toxic material releases, radiological and biological accidents, civil disturbances and workplace violence.

Does the plan contain a list of key personnel with contact information, as well as contact information for local emergency responders, agencies and contractors? Keep your list of key contacts current. Make provisions for an emergency communications system such as a cellular phone, a portable radio unit or other means to make swift contact with local law enforcement, the fire department and others.

Does the plan identify the conditions under which an evacuation would be necessary? The plan should identify the different types of situations that will require an evacuation of the workplace. This might include a fire, earthquake or chemical spill. The extent of evacuation may be different depending on the type of hazard.

Does the plan address how rescue operations will be performed? Unless you are a large employer handling hazardous materials and processes or have employees regularly working in hazardous situations, you will probably choose to rely on local emergency responders who are trained, equipped and certified to conduct rescues. Make sure any external department or agency identified in your plan is prepared to respond as outlined in your plan. Untrained individuals may endanger themselves and those they are trying to rescue.

Does the plan address the types of actions expected of employees for the various types of potential emergencies? The plan may specify different actions for employees depending on the emergency. For example, employers may want to have employees assemble in one area of the workplace if it is threatened by a tornado or earthquake, but evacuate to an exterior location during a fire.

Does the plan identify one or more assembly areas (as necessary for different types of emergencies) where employees will gather and a method for accounting for all employees? Accounting for all employees following an evacuation is critical. Confusion in the assembly areas can lead to delays in rescuing anyone trapped in the building or to unnecessary and dangerous search-and-rescue operations. To ensure the fastest, most accurate accounting of your employees, consider taking a head count after the evacuation. The names and last known locations of anyone not accounted for should be passed on to the official in charge.

Does the plan identify how and when employees will be trained so that they understand the types of emergencies that may occur, their responsibilities and actions as outlined in the plan? Training should be offered to employees when you develop your initial plan and when new employees are hired. Employees should be retrained when:

  • Your plan changes due to a change in the layout or design of the facility
  • New equipment, hazardous materials or processes are introduced that affect evacuation routes
  • New types of hazards are introduced that require special actions
General training for your employees should address the following:
  • Individual roles and responsibilities
  • Threats, hazards and protective actions
  • Notification, warning and communications procedures
  • Emergency response procedures
  • Evacuation, shelter and accountability procedures
  • Location and use of common emergency equipment
  • Emergency shutdown procedures
You may also need to provide additional training to your employees (e.g., first-aid procedures and portable fire extinguisher use) depending on the responsibilities allocated to employees in your plan.

Does the plan identify a preferred method for reporting fires and other emergencies? Dialing 911 is a common method for reporting emergencies, if external responders are used; however, internal numbers may be used. Internal numbers are sometimes connected to intercom systems so that coded announcements may be made. In some cases, employees are requested to activate manual pull stations or other alarm systems.

For help developing an emergency action plan, visit OSHA's Evacuation Plans and Procedures eTool.

Source: Occupational Health and Safety Administration

Contractors

Workers who are exposed to extreme cold may be at risk of cold stress, which can result in hypothermia and frostbite. Learn the symptoms and first aid treatments to protect your workers.

Workers who are exposed to extreme cold or work in cold environments may be at risk of cold stress. Extreme cold weather is a dangerous situation that can cause health emergencies in susceptible people, such as those without shelter, outdoor workers and those who work in areas that are poorly insulated or without heat.

What constitutes cold stress and its effects can vary across different regions of the country. In regions relatively unaccustomed to winter weather, near freezing temperatures are considered factors for “cold stress.” Whenever temperatures drop decidedly below normal and as wind speed increases, heat can more rapidly leave your body. These weather-related conditions may lead to hypothermia, frostbite and other serious health problems.

Employers should take the following steps to protect workers from cold stress:

  • Schedule maintenance and repair jobs in cold areas for warmer months
  • Schedule cold jobs for the warmer part of the day
  • Reduce the physical demands of workers
  • Use relief workers or assign extra workers for long, demanding jobs
  • Provide warm liquids to workers
  • Provide warm areas for use during break periods
  • Monitor workers who are at risk of cold stress
  • Provide cold stress training that includes information about worker risk, prevention, symptoms, the importance of monitoring yourself and coworkers for symptoms, treatment, and personal protective equipment

Recommendations for Workers
Workers should avoid exposure to extremely cold temperatures when possible. When cold environments or temperatures cannot be avoided, workers should follow these recommendations to protect themselves from cold stress:

  • Wear several layers of loose clothing to provide better insulation
  • Make sure to protect the ears, face, hands and feet in extremely cold weather
  • Move into warm locations during work breaks; limit the amount of time outside on extremely cold days
  • Carry cold weather gear, such as extra socks, gloves, hats, jacket, blankets, a change of clothes, and a thermos of hot liquid
  • Include a thermometer and chemical hot packs in your first aid kit
  • Avoid touching cold metal surfaces with bare skin
  • Monitor your physical condition and that of your coworkers

Visit www.cdc.gov for more information about the various forms of cold stress and how to treat them.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The design and construction of buildings using current sustainability practices do not always benefit construction workers’ safety and health. Learn more from EU-OSHA’s new fact sheet about the risks associated with new technologies and unfamiliar materials.

The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work released an e-fact sheet to raise awareness of the occupational safety and health (OSH) risks associated with green building construction. Some of these OSH risks are new compared with traditional construction sites and are associated with new green materials, technologies or design. Other risks are well-known to the construction sector (for example working at height), but they arise in new situations or combinations associated with green buildings that demand specific consideration.

Some of the findings highlighted in this e-fact sheet include:

  • A survey among nine construction firms in the United States, involving 86 construction projects, revealed that green (LEED certified) projects had a slightly higher numbers of incidents than non-green projects. However, green and non-green projects had similar numbers of incidents that caused loss of working time.
  • Known risks found on traditional construction sites such as working at height and slips, trips and falls are also an issue at green building sites and are more severe in certain cases.
  • Because green buildings are often tightly sealed and more thoroughly insulated to save energy, ventilation may be reduced during internal finishing work. This may increase exposure to volatile organic compounds from paints or adhesives to dust, including crystalline silica.
  • Generally, materials from renewable organic sources might bring elevated risks of exposure to protein-based allergens and micro-organisms such as bacteria, molds and fungi, or endotoxins.
  • Green design elements reported to cause OSH risks include skylights and atriums, which involve an increased use of scaffolding.
  • The increased use of insulation materials in green building may lead to increased exposure to man-made mineral fibers in demolition activities.

Download the complete e-fact sheet.

Source: European Agency for Safety and Health at Work

Local Governments

The first 30 minutes are the most crucial when responding to a hazmat situation. Learn more about a mobile app that quickly locates information regarding standard response procedures for gas and liquid pipeline incidents.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) developed a free, mobile app of its Emergency Response Guidebook 2012 (ERG). The new safety tool provides the nation’s emergency responders with fast, easily accessible information to help them manage hazardous material incidents.

The mobile ERG makes it easier for firefighters, police and other emergency first responders to quickly locate the information they need. An electronic word search function ensures easy reading even during nighttime emergencies. The 2012 version of the ERG includes new evacuation tables for large toxic gas spills and standard response procedures for gas and liquid pipeline incidents.

“The first 30 minutes are the most crucial when it comes to responding to a hazmat situation,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “The new app is both mobile and flexible and gives first responders the knowledge they need to protect themselves and their communities in an emergency.”

PHMSA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Library of Medicine (NLM) joined forces in producing the free ERG mobile application. Download this software from Apple iTunes and from Google Play. In addition, a version of the ERG is available in NLM’s Wireless Information System for Emergency Responders application. “This invaluable tool improves the speed and accessibility to hazardous materials response information to those on the front line of accidents and incidents,” said PHMSA Administrator Cynthia Quarterman.

Source: Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Safety Administration

Emergency responders face injury and sometimes death during operations in facilities with combustible dust. A new OSHA informational booklet explains the best practices for preincident operational procedures for responders.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently published “Firefighting Precautions at Facilities with Combustible Dust.” This new, informative booklet outlines safe procedures for emergency responders who may face fires and explosions caused by combustible dust.

“This booklet will keep both emergency response and facility workers safe by giving them a framework to prepare for potential emergencies involving combustible dust,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “Stakeholders who have reviewed the booklet, including fire chiefs and union health and safety representatives, describe it as an excellent resource for explaining the hazards associated with combustible dust and outlining the best practices for preincident operational preparation by emergency responders.”

Since 1980, more than 130 workers have been killed and more than 780 injured in combustible dust explosions. The publication describes how combustible dust explosions occur and uses previous incidents to illustrate how firefighting operations can prevent combustible dust explosions. The booklet explains the preparations emergency responders can make before a response and how these preparations will affect the operational plan during a response. Combustible dusts include fine particles, fibers, chips, chunks or flakes that, under certain conditions, can cause a fire or explosion when suspended in air. Types of dusts include metal (e.g., aluminum and magnesium), wood, plastic, rubber, coal, flour, sugar and paper, among others.

OSHA’s Combustible Dust webpage provides employers and workers with additional information and resources for preventing and minimizing the effects of combustible dust fires and explosions.

Source: Occupational Safety and Health Administration