Spring 2014 Volume 63

Feature Articles

This is the final issue of Loss Control Insights that will be delivered to your mailbox.

Beginning in June, this valuable source of loss control information will go straight to your inbox to be viewed online. According to editor Jerry Loghry, the change provides a number of benefits to you as a reader of Loss Control Insights:

  • Access to more timely loss control topics delivered monthly
  • More interactive user experiences with valuable links, videos and graphics
  • The ability to quickly share information with your staff

“The mission of Loss Control Insights will not change,” notes Loghry. “We remain committed to bringing you loss control information to help reduce the frequency and severity of workplace injuries. The only difference is, you'll get that information more frequently and more conveniently.”

Click below to sign up for the electronic version of Loss Control Insights. If you prefer, you can send your email address to your EMC loss control representative or email losscontrol@emcins.com.

Sign Up for the latest in Loss Control

Expand Your Safety Knowledge With New Materials

Need quick and easy content for communicating safety messages? You can find it in a new book, Principles to Practice: Safety Talking Points, from David Lynn, CSP, president of Signature Services for Life & Safety Consultants, Inc. This pocket-sized book contains material on 103 safety topics that will help expand or reinforce your safety and health knowledge. In addition, Lynn released the DL Alert app in September 2013, which allows you to take a photo of a hazard and embed it in a template (such as a Best Practice template, a Hazard Alert template or Safety Alert template) for more efficient communication to your employees. Learn more about these valuable safety tools at www.david-lynn.com.

New Study Focuses on Driver Behaviors

A recently released study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that almost half of all drivers believe speeding is a problem. According to the “National Survey of Speeding Attitudes and Behavior,” one in five drivers admitted to going as fast as they can when they are going somewhere. The NHTSA survey showed various other driver behaviors as well:

  • Eighty percent of drivers believe that driving at or near the speed limit reduced the chance of a crash occurring.
  • Ninety-one percent of drivers agreed with the statement “everyone should obey the speed limit because it’s the law.”
  • Forty-eight percent of drivers found it very important that something is done to reduce speeding on U.S. roads.
  • Of those surveyed, male drivers and those ages 16–20 admitted to speeding the most over the past five years, and 11 percent of drivers in the 16–20 age group were involved in a speeding-related crash.

You can view the complete report at www.nhtsa.gov.

When people tell EMC Senior Safety Engineer Jim Stotser that they are good drivers, his first question is usually, “What does that mean?” According to Stotser, “being a good driver is more than arriving safely at your destination. It also means thinking about how your driving may impact other drivers along the way.”

Stotser, who logs an average of 5,000 miles a month on the road for EMC, has observed his fair share of self-described “good” drivers unable to maintain a steady speed, drifting from lane to lane or changing lanes without signaling. “These drivers may believe they are capable of multitasking, but a recent study proved differently,” notes Stotser. That study, conducted by the University of Utah, revealed that drivers who multitask may be inclined to do so because they have difficulty focusing on even a single task.

Stotser recommends policyholders adopt a distraction-free driving policy. “That means turning cell phones off and keeping them out of reach when on the road,” advises Stotser. “Anytime your mind is off the road, whether it's talking on a cell phone, eating or fiddling with your radio, you compromise your ability to be the good driver you believe yourself to be.”

Myth: Talking to someone on a cell phone is no more distracting than talking to someone in the car.

Reality: A 2008 study by the University of Utah found that drivers distracted by cell phones are more oblivious to changing traffic conditions because they are the only ones in the conversation who are aware of the road. In contrast, drivers with adult passengers in their cars have an extra set of eyes and ears to help alert the driver about oncoming traffic problems. Adult passengers also tend to talk less when traffic is challenging. People on the other end of a driver's cell phone are not aware of traffic challenges.

Myth: Hands-free devices eliminate the danger of cell phone use during driving.

Reality: Whether the phone is handheld or hands-free, cell phone conversations while driving are risky because the distraction that conversation causes to the brain remains the same. Drivers talking on cell phones can miss seeing up to 50 percent of their driving environments, including pedestrians and red lights. This phenomenon is also known as “inattention blindness.”

Myth: Drivers talking on cell phones have a quicker reaction time than those who are driving under the influence.

Reality: A controlled driving simulator study conducted by the University of Utah found that drivers using cell phones had slower reaction times than drivers with a .08 blood alcohol content, the legal intoxication limit.

[Source: National Safety Council]/p>

“The news must be spreading,” says EMC Safety Engineer Kody Daniel, who sees more employers implementing loss control strategies to protect workers' hands. The news Daniel is referring to is a 2013 National Safety Council study that reported injuries to the hands (wrist and fingers included) represented 16.5 percent of workplace injuries in 2010. In addition, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that approximately 110,000 workers with hand and finger injuries lose days away from work each year, second only to back strain and sprain.

work glove

Four Hand Safety Strategies

  1. Know the risks: The risk of hand injury is significantly elevated when equipment or tools do not perform as expected or when workers use a different work method, perform an unusual task, or are distracted, rushed or ill.
  2. Choose the right personal protective equipment (PPE): If engineering or administrative controls don’t reduce potential hazards, provide employees with appropriate PPE, such as gloves, which have been proven to be most effective in reducing hand injuries.
  3. Check hand tools: Inspect hand tools for wear and tear like broken or cracked parts, dull blades and other deterioration that could result in hand injuries.
  4. Educate workers: In addition to training employees how to safely use machinery or tools that could result in hand injuries, you should make them aware of the proper use and maintenance of any PPE.

Count on EMC© for a variety of online resources to help promote hand safety in your workplace.

Other Topics

On the job with Justin Roeglin

Controlling a hazard at its source is the best way to protect employees. However, when engineering, work practice and administrative controls do not provide sufficient protection, employers must provide personal protective equipment (PPE) for their employees and ensure its proper use.

“Developing a comprehensive PPE program is the best way to make certain your employees have and are using appropriate PPE,” advises EMC Safety Engineer Justin Roeglin. According to Roeglin, such a program should include:

  • Performing a hazard assessment of the workplace to identify physical and health hazards
  • Identifying and providing appropriate PPE for employees
  • Training employees on the use and care of PPE
  • Maintaining PPE, including replacing worn or damaged PPE
  • Periodically reviewing, updating and evaluating the effectiveness of the PPE program

“With few exceptions, OSHA now requires employers to pay for PPE used to comply with OSHA standards,” notes Roeglin. Among the PPE that employers must pay for are metatarsal foot protection; nonprescription eye protection; goggles and face shields; firefighting PPE; hard hats; hearing protection; and welding PPE. Roeglin encourages employers to review current OSHA standards at www.osha.gov when developing a PPE program.

Forget about waiting for your safety videos to arrive in the mail. Now you can point and click to get the video you need when you need it. EMC's new streaming safety video library offers more than 400 high-quality videos to satisfy your safety and compliance training needs.

Click the Safety Video link at www.emcins.com/losscontrol, and you'll be connected to an easy-to-navigate catalog, giving you 24/7 access to streaming safety videos about various industries and topics. The library is available free of charge to EMC commercial policyholders. Count on EMC® to make important safety training more convenient you and your employees.

What's New In Our Video Library

EMC's video library is updated on a regular basis. Check out these latest additions:

  • Personal Protective Equipment: Your Last Line Of Defense!
  • Personal Protective Equipment: Real Accidents, Real Stories
  • Distracted Driving: Real Accidents, Real Stories II
  • Drowsy Driving: It's Your Wake Up Call
  • Groundskeeping Safety

Schools

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention developed a new surveillance system and an e-learning course to help organizations investigate illness outbreaks in food services. Learn what this new tool means for our kitchens.

Increased awareness and implementation of proper food safety in restaurants and delis may help prevent many of the foodborne illness outbreaks reported each year in the United States, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Researchers identified gaps in the education of restaurant workers and in public health surveillance—two critical tools necessary in preventing a very common and costly public health problem.

The research identifies food preparation and handling practices, worker health policies and hand-washing practices among the underlying environmental factors that often are not reported during foodborne outbreaks, even though more than half of all the foodborne outbreaks that are reported each year are associated with restaurants or delis. Forty-eight million people become ill and 3,000 die each year in the United States due to foodborne outbreaks.

“Inspectors have not had a formal system to capture and report the underlying factors that likely contribute to foodborne outbreaks or a way to inform prevention strategies and implement routine corrective measures in restaurants, delis and schools to prevent future outbreaks,” said Carol Selman, head of CDC’s Environmental Health Specialists Network team at the National Center for Environmental Health.

Four recent articles in the Journal of Food Protection focus on actions to prevent foodborne illness outbreaks related to ground beef, chicken and leafy vegetables like lettuce and spinach. The articles also focus on specific food safety practices, such as ill workers not working while they are sick, as key prevention strategies.

Since 2000, CDC has worked with state and local health departments to develop new surveillance and training tools to advance the use of environmental health assessments as a part of foodborne outbreak investigations.

  • The National Voluntary Environmental Assessment Information System is a new surveillance system targeted to state, tribal and other localities that inspect and regulate restaurants and other food venues such as banquet facilities, schools and other institutions. The system provides an avenue to capture underlying environmental assessment data that describes what happened and how events most likely lead to a foodborne illness outbreak. This data will help CDC and other public health professionals determine and understand more completely the primary and underlying causes of foodborne illness outbreaks.
  • A free interactive e-learning course has been developed to help state and local health departments investigate foodborne illness outbreaks in restaurants and other food service venues as a member of a larger outbreak response team, identify an outbreak’s environmental causes and recommend appropriate control measures. This e-learning course is also available to members of the food industry, academia and the public—anyone interested in understanding the causes of foodborne outbreaks.

“We are taking a key step forward in capturing critical data that will allow us to assemble a big picture view of the environmental causes of foodborne illness outbreaks,” Selman said.

With these tools, state and local public health food safety programs can report data from environmental assessments as a part of outbreak investigations and prevent future foodborne illness outbreaks in restaurants and other food service establishments.

CDC developed these products in collaboration with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and state and local health departments. For more information about the National Voluntary Environmental Assessment Information System: http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/ehs/NVEAIS/index.htm. For information about free e-learning courses in Environmental Assessment of Foodborne Illness Outbreaks: http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/ehs/eLearn/EA_FIO/index.htm. For more information on the study findings: http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/ehs/News/Features/2013/JFP-articles.html.

[Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]

School bullying statistics show that about one in four kids in the United States is bullied repeatedly. The best way to address the problem is to stop it before it starts. Learn how to help prevent bullying at www.stopbullying.gov.

Bullying can threaten students' physical and emotional safety at school and can negatively impact their ability to learn. The best way to address bullying is to stop it before it starts. There are a number of things school staff can do to help prevent bullying.

Getting Started
Assess school prevention and intervention efforts around student behavior, including substance use and violence. You may be able to build upon them or integrate bullying- prevention strategies. Many programs help address the same protective measures and risk factors that bullying programs do.

Assess Bullying in Your School
Conduct assessments in your school to determine how often bullying occurs, where it happens, how students and adults intervene, and whether your prevention efforts are working.

Engage Parents and Youth
Everyone in the community should work together to send a unified message against bullying. Launch an awareness campaign to make the objectives known to the school, parents and community members. Establish a school safety committee or task force to plan, implement and evaluate your school's bullying prevention program.

Create Policies and Rules
Create a mission statement, code of conduct, campuswide rules and a bullying-reporting system. These establish a climate in which bullying is not acceptable. Disseminate and communicate widely.

Build a Safe Environment
Establish a school culture of acceptance, tolerance and respect. Use staff meetings, assemblies, class and parent meetings, newsletters to families, the school website and the student handbook to establish a positive climate at school. Reinforce positive social interactions and inclusiveness.

Educate Students and School Staff
Build bullying prevention materials into the curriculum and school activities. Train teachers and staff on the school's rules and policies. Give them the skills to intervene consistently and appropriately.

[Source: www.stopbullying.gov]

Petroleum Marketers

Essential data stored within gas detectors can help increase workplace safety, but often gets overlooked. Learn how new technologies can help you better manage the data in your gas detection program.

If you are responsible for improving your facility's portable gas detection program, what do you need to know to incorporate the latest technology?If you are responsible for improving your facility’s portable gas detection program, what do you need to know to incorporate the latest technology?

Take a good look at the gas detection equipment in use at your facility. Is it suffering the wear and tear of daily use? Is it looking old? Is it old? What about maintenance? Is it completely manual, requiring a lot of time and leaving room for employee error and/or disregard? Lastly, do you have proper documentation of things such as equipment maintenance history or worker exposure history?

Your facility's safety record to this point might be free of gas-related incidents, but the safety of your employees could be at risk, particularly if the equipment isn't maintained properly or if it isn’t used correctly in the field. Implementing a complete gas detection program that includes the use of reliable equipment and training in its use ultimately could keep your workers safer.

A recent study on bump-testing practices was conducted by a leading gas detection manufacturer. The study showed that about 20 percent of users bump tested their monitors prior to each day’s use and 15 percent never bump tested. The rest of the users' practices fell somewhere in between. We are not surprised by the findings.

New Technology and Accessories

A portable gas detector is a critical piece of equipment meant to save the lives of employees. If you are going to use it with confidence, you must know that it is in proper working condition. The most important elements of gas detector maintenance are function (bump) testing and calibration.

The processes often are thought to be too costly and too burdensome to perform on a regular basis. However, there are services available that fully automate and document these functions, reducing the cost to your employer. These services also provide the data that is critical to assessing the overall health of the program.

Some of the new technology available in gas detection is revolutionary. For example, a new single-gas monitor uses two like sensors for the detection of a single gas. The two sensor readings are processed through an algorithm and displayed as a single reading to the user. This technology was developed to address the major challenge of making sure workers always are using fully functioning, reliable instruments in the field. Previously, that required a functional bump test of the instrument before each day’s use.

When implementing a complete gas detection program, employers need to consider the accessories needed to support their gas detector fleets—for example, confined space sampling accessories. Fortunately, some key accessories have been developed over the years that are attached to, or integrated into, a typical portable instrument to improve its performance when sampling for confined spaces such as pumps (external and internal), tubing, filters and probes. Specifically, there are options that allow a gas detector to function as a personal monitor, but allow it to be quickly converted for confined space sampling applications.

They also need to consider calibration gas. A true gas detection professional recognizes the importance of quality calibration gas and manages its supply accordingly. Consult with several gas detection manufacturers to ensure that they can provide the necessary calibration gas concentrations and stability to achieve accurate calibrations.

Docking Stations

Another important accessory to consider is a docking station. Since their introduction to the market, docking stations quickly have grown in popularity as they go beyond simply charging and automating the bump testing and calibration of an instrument. Docking stations store every calibration, bump test, data event and alarm that the instrument has ever recorded, as well as provide a single user interface for fleet-wide instrument management and visibility.

Docking stations have become a game-changing accessory by ensuring proper instrument maintenance and providing unique insight into user habits. They enable companies to thoroughly investigate root-cause incidents and increase the overall safety of their gas-detection program.

Industrial hygienists and EHS managers need to decide whether or not a “gas detection as a service” solution would be beneficial to their facilities. Gas detection as a service is a software-based system that provides visibility into gas detector alarms, exposure and usage.

By subscribing to such a service, your gas detection fleet and data is managed for you. When a unit is malfunctioning, a sensor is losing life or calibration gas is running low, a service-based gas detection program automatically notifies you and sends a new instrument, new sensors or replacement calibration gas cylinders. This often happens before you even know that these things require attention. This eliminates instrument downtime by having equipment that is always running at peak performance.

Beyond knowing when a unit is malfunctioning, a sensor is losing life or calibration gas is running low, a gas detection service can answer the following questions in real time: Do your gas detectors work properly? Are your gas detectors used properly? What gas hazards are present in your workplace?

Though the essential data stored within gas detectors will help you make decisions that increase workplace safety and strengthen your safety culture, it often goes unused. Informed decisions will save lives; uninformed decisions will encourage more unsafe behaviors and conditions.

Learn how managing the data in your gas detection program will keep your people safer and help you answer these three questions:

  • Do your gas detectors work properly?
  • Are your gas detectors being used correctly?
  • What gas hazards are your team members being exposed to?

Data pertaining to these three key areas held within your monitoring instruments paints a picture of your gas detection program and safety culture.

Despite all the advancements in gas-detection technology, industrial workers still die from exposure to toxic or explosive gases. Gas detector manufacturers can produce the most reliable instruments available, but if they are not used properly, the likelihood of people being injured and killed will remain very high.

In an organization with a weak safety culture or poor processes, team members might not use their gas detectors correctly. They might not use them at all. Even with the highest skill levels, years of experience and the best of intentions, team members will be at risk if they are not supported by safety-conscious management working to improve the culture and choose the correct gas detection equipment.

[Reprinted with permission by EHS Today. Copyright 2014 by Penton.]

A new survey from the American Society of Safety Engineers and Dräger confirms the need for additional education and training about the new guidelines for exposure to hydrogen sulfide. Learn more about protecting your workers from this hazard.

A new survey from the American Society of Safety Engineers and Dräger confirms the need for additional education and training in the oil and gas industry about new guidelines that have been recommended for exposure to hydrogen sulfide (H2S).

“The 1ppm (parts per million) Hydrogen Sulfide Threshold: Are You Prepared?” survey uncovered that more than half (53 percent) of safety experts in the oil and gas industry are unaware of new standards set by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) that may help decrease deaths caused by the inhalation of H2S.

A colorless gas commonly referred to as sewer gas and stink damp, H2S remains the leading cause of death among gas inhalation-related deaths in the workplace. Hydrogen sulfide also possesses a unique property of causing olfactory fatigue (temporary anosmia) at concentrations above—depending on the individual—50-100 ppm. The guidelines, which are not legal requirements, recently recommended by ACGIH for H2S limits include:

  • Threshold limit value (TLV): 1 ppm
  • Time-weighted average (TWA): 1.4 mg/m3
  • Short-term exposure level (STEL): 5 ppm, 7.0mg/m3

Beyond establishing that there is a general lack of awareness surrounding the H2S guidelines, the survey also uncovered other notable observations including:

  • The majority (76 percent) of safety professionals who know about the new standards reported no urgency to adopt them, despite the increased safety that can result.
  • Companies reported using a variety of alarm levels: 39 percent using 10 ppm and 15 ppm; 35 percent using 5 ppm and 10 ppm; and 15 percent using 10 ppm and 20 ppm.
  • Of those companies that have not adopted the new ACGIH guidance, only 24 percent have adjusted their H2S limits within the last three years. Moreover, only 34 percent anticipate adjusting their current H2S limits in the near future.
  • Most safety engineers surveyed (64 percent) believe that it is important that instruments are able to detect below 1 ppm. However, only 41 percent believe that a 1 ppm H2S resolution can be seen with accuracy in personal monitoring instruments, and 74 percent are concerned that with the 1 ppm resolution there will be an increase in false readings.
  • The majority (70 percent) of respondents think adopting the 1 ppm levels in their workplace would affect worker-protection costs.
  • 92 percent of those companies surveyed use personal monitoring instruments as a part of their industrial hygiene program.
  • 55 percent use an internal electronic/mechanical docking station to complete checks and record results; 31 percent manually calibrate the instruments via direct flow of calibration gas and record the results; and 14 percent use a third party to conduct calibrations and a manual application of gas for bump tests.
  • When survey participants were asked if they were aware of the concerns with using pentane as the only gas source for calibration of catalytic sensors in gas monitoring instruments, a little more than half (53 percent) were unaware of the concerns or that this practice is recommended. 47 percent were aware that methane should be used for periodic testing as well.

Comments from participants also indicated there is significant interest in the issue of H2S safety and health and this is the first step in identifying methods and technologies to assist in preventing injuries and fatalities resulting from H2S exposure.

While the new H2S limits are recommendations and carry no legal obligations at this time, the message is clear. There is a strong belief by agencies, such as ACGIH, that these exposure levels will create a safer work environment. Therefore, it is likely that there will be a wider acceptance and implementation among industrial hygienists and safety professionals as more data becomes available.

Forward-thinking companies will be preparing for the evolution of these standards by considering steps that support these lower limits before they become mandatory. The potential benefits—both in terms of worker safety and cost savings—are significant.

[Reprinted with permission by EHS Today. Copyright 2014 by Penton.]

Contractors

A new online form provides workers with an additional way to file a complaint with OSHA without fear of retaliation. Learn more about this form designed to protect workers and the public.

Workers now have the option to file complaints on OSHA's website. The online form provides workers who have been retaliated against an additional way to reach out for Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) assistance.

“The ability of workers to speak out and exercise their rights without fear of retaliation provides the backbone for some of American workers' most essential protections,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “Whistleblower laws protect not only workers, but also the public at large, and now workers will have an additional avenue available to file a complaint with OSHA.”

Workers can make complaints to OSHA by filing a written complaint or by calling the agency’s 800-321-OSHA (6742) number or an OSHA regional or area office. Workers can also electronically submit a complaint to OSHA by visiting at www.osha.gov/whistleblower/WBComplaint.html.

The new online form prompts the worker to include basic whistleblower complaint information so they can be easily contacted for follow-up. Complaints are automatically routed to the appropriate regional investigators. In addition, the complaint form can be downloaded and submitted to the agency in hard-copy format by fax, mail or hand delivery. The paper version is identical to the electronic version and requests the same information necessary to initiate a whistleblower investigation.

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of 22 statutes protecting employees who report violations of various securities laws and trucking, airline, nuclear power, pipeline, environmental, rail, public transportation, workplace safety and health, and consumer protection laws. Detailed information on employee whistleblower rights, including fact sheets and instructions on how to submit the form in hard-copy format is available online at www.whistleblowers.gov.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.

[Source: Occupational Safety And Health Administration]

Each year, an average of 15 electrocutions are caused by contact between cranes or similar boomed vehicles and energized overhead power lines. A new OSHA video, based on real-life incidents, is a powerful way to alert your workers of the dangers and how to reduce the likelihood of such accidents.

Overhead electric power lines present a serious electrocution hazard to personnel in a variety of industries. Uninsulated conductors supported on towers or poles are the most common means of electric power transmission and distribution. These overhead lines are exposed to contact by mobile equipment such as cranes and trucks. Equipment contacting energized overhead lines become elevated to a high voltage, and simultaneous contact by personnel of the “hot” frame and ground can cause serious electrical shock and burns.

An estimated 2,300 accidental overhead line contacts occur each year in the United States. Each year an average of 15 electrocutions were caused by contact between cranes or similar boomed vehicles and energized overhead power lines. More than half of these crane-related electrocutions occurred in the construction industry. A new animated video in OSHA's educational series about potential hazards in the construction industry is now available.

“Prevent Electrocutions: Work Safely With Cranes Near Power Lines” is the 14th video in the series, which are based on real-life incidents. They include detailed depictions of hazards and the safety measures that would have prevented the injuries and fatalities.

Available in both English and Spanish, the videos are brief, easy to understand and geared to the needs of employers and workers. To stream or download the videos, visit OSHA’s construction v-tools web page or Department of Labor YouTube channel.

[Source: Occupational Safety and Health Administration]

Local Governments

Firefighters are more likely to develop certain types of cancer than the general population, according to a recent study from the U.S. Fire Administration. Read more about the cancer risks firefighters face.

A recent U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) research project clarifies the relationship between firefighter occupational exposures and cancer.

After examining mortality patterns and cancer incidence among a group of 29,993 U.S. career firefighters employed between 1950–2009 in the cities of San Francisco, Calif.; Chicago, Ill.; and Philadelphia, Pa., the researchers found that:

  • Cancers of the respiratory, digestive and urinary systems accounted for a majority of the types of cancer seen in the study population. The higher rates suggest that firefighters are more likely to develop those cancers.
  • The population of firefighters in the study had double the rate of mesothelioma than the U.S. population as a whole. This was the first study ever to identify an excess of mesothelioma in U.S. firefighters. The researchers said it was likely that the findings were associated with exposure to asbestos, a known cause of mesothelioma.
  • Firefighters can be exposed to contaminants from fires that are known or suspected to cause cancer. These contaminants include combustion by-products such as benzene and formaldehyde, and materials in debris such as asbestos from older structures.
  • The findings of the new study do not address other factors that can influence risk for cancer, such as smoking, diet and alcohol consumption. In addition, few women and minorities were in the study population, limiting the ability to draw statistical conclusions about their risk for cancer.

The findings of this NIOSH study were reported in an Oct. 14, 2013, article published by the international peer-reviewed journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Background
USFA and NIOSH partnered on a study to examine the potential for increased risk of cancer among firefighters due to exposures from smoke, soot and other contaminants in the line of duty. This was a formal epidemiological study with medical oversight.

The primary objective of the project was to clarify the relationship between firefighter occupational exposures and cancer. The project improves upon previously published firefighter studies by significantly increasing the study group size and person-years at risk, and using a more detailed exposure surrogate metric in both the mortality and incidence analyses than are found in most previous studies. These improvements increase the precision of disease risk estimates.

This NIOSH study supported by USFA was intended to fill gaps in current knowledge and inform ongoing efforts to further characterize the cancer risk associated with certain exposures. By analyzing deaths and cancer cases among firefighters, NIOSH attempted to determine whether:

  • More cancers than expected occurred among the group.
  • Cancers are definitively associated with exposures to the contaminants to which firefighters may have been exposed.

In collaboration with the National Cancer Institute and the University of California at Davis/Department of Public Health Sciences, NIOSH researchers found that a combined population of almost 30,000 firefighters from three large cities had higher rates of several types of cancers, and of all cancers combined, than the U.S. population as a whole.

These findings are generally consistent with the results of several previous, smaller studies. Because this new study had a larger study population followed for a longer period of time, the results strengthen the scientific evidence for a relationship between firefighting and cancer.

Next Study Phase
In a second phase of the study, the researchers will further examine employment records from the same three fire departments to derive information on occupational exposures, and to look at exposures in relation to cancer incidence and mortality. Those findings, when completed, will be published in a future article.

To learn more about the study, visit www.cdc.gov/niosh/firefighters/ffCancerStudy.html

[Source: U.S. Fire Administration]

Emerging technologies and ever-changing employee needs are making it more important than ever to use proven methods to manage modern office ergonomics. Read some practical tips on how to avoid office ergonomics failures.

I've heard plenty of excuses as to why an organization has an unsuccessful office ergonomics process. Excuses are like noses—everyone has one and they smell.

There was a time when developing, deploying and sustaining effective office ergonomics processes were ridiculously challenging. For many organizations, the work involved represented a drain on an organization's resources, and for many EHS professionals, a potential career pothole.

Any EHS professional who was lucky enough to participate in the activities required to implement such a process can attest to the frustration over never-ending employee requests for workstation assessments, repeated equipment modifications or corrections, a backlog of employee complaints and even injuries.

Luckily, those days are in the past; positive changes in furniture design, the development of more effective office layouts and, most importantly, the availability of easy-to-use online ergonomics training and self-assessment modules for the worker make setting up a comfortable and safe workspace much easier today. In truth, with the technological advancements, there are few legitimate reasons why a company cannot successfully create proper ergonomic conditions in the workplace.

Today's office is a complex and dynamic collection of elements. It constantly is evolving in response to emerging technology (tablets, hybrids, Google glasses, etc.) and ever-changing employee needs. However, with all the changes and technological complexities to consider, it is more important than ever to use proven and efficient methods to manage your modern office ergonomics process.

So take note of the following practical tips offered to avoid some of the most common reasons for office ergonomics failure.

Excuse No. 1: We don't need to do anything because musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) aren't really hurting our people or our company's bottom line.

The research is in and it clearly states that doing nothing is not enough. No matter what you call them— cumulative trauma disorders, repetitive motion injuries or musculoskeletal disorders—soft tissue injuries continue to be a major cause of risk and loss in today's office environment. In recent benchmarking studies, employers indicated that MSDs account for 24 percent to 75 percent of all of their recordable injuries. It generally is accepted that the three primary MSD risk factors that exist in the office are awkward postures, high forces and long duration and/or high frequencies. Although the limit for each varies by joint structure (shoulder, wrist, back, etc.), increasing the combination of these risk factors is tied to increased incidence of developing an MSD.

Nearly 50 percent of all office occupants will experience work-related MSD pain during their careers, and as many as 16 percent of office staff members report their pain to be severe. Beyond pain, data on MSD injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome indicates that direct costs can run into the tens of thousands of dollars for treatment, and an average of up to two dozen lost workdays per occurrence. When combined with indirect costs associated with increased absenteeism, higher turnover and hours of lost productivity, the losses can be staggering.

Excuse No. 2: We provided new office chairs. That should be enough, right?

Improving ergonomic seating across an organization can have tangible benefits over worn or improper seating. However, new evidence now links prolonged sitting with a number of health concerns beside increased MSD risk. The simple act of sitting has been shown to increase intervertebral disk pressure, and the overall body of knowledge on the detrimental health effects of prolonged sitting has been building over the past few years.

In a 2012 Australian study, researchers analyzed the results of 18 studies with a total of nearly 800,000 participants and found prolonged sitting increases the risk of diabetes (112 percent), cardiovascular events (147 percent), death from cardiovascular causes (90 percent) and death from all causes (49 percent). The study found that adults who sat for 11 hours or more a day had a 40 percent increased risk of dying in the next three years than those who sat for fewer than four hours a day.

Most concerning is that the unsettling data association held true even after taking into account physical activity, weight and health status. Further data from the study shows that sitting may be as harmful to your health as smoking: Every hour of sitting cuts about 22 minutes from your life span. By contrast, it is estimated that smokers shorten their lives by approximately 11 minutes per cigarette.

Despite these dire statistics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's 2011 Take-a-Stand project brings some good news. It found that using a sit-stand device designed to fit an employee's workstation reduced time spent sitting by an average of 224 percent (66 minutes per day), reduced upper back and neck pain by 54 percent and improved employee mood states. According to the study, “This project was successful in reducing sedentary behaviors of workers and suggests reduced sitting time improves worker health.”

Excuse No. 3: Our people don't need office ergonomics education. We have extremely bright and talented people.

We often hear that companies don't need to provide office ergonomics education because people already should know what to do. Quite the opposite situation exists, as data indicates that education in proper postures and encouragement of equipment adjustments can have a positive impact. Successful companies utilize online office ergonomics e-learning programs to train large numbers of people in a short period of time.

It also is important to recognize the need for education in equipment adjustment. Simply put, failure to make a proper equipment adjustment provides the same result as not offering it at all. I've seen companies that have provided expensive adjustable chairs and flexible sit-to-stand workstations but did not show the office occupants how to use them under the assumption that users would intuitively know how to adjust the equipment to fit their individual anthropometrics.

The reality is that people don't know and they may not even think about adjusting or setting up their workstations until they feel pain or develop a musculoskeletal injury.

Training employees in office ergonomics is key. It is not until workers understand why an ergonomic workstation is important, and how to set up equipment such as adjustable furniture, computer monitors, placement of phone, etc., that they achieve a stimulating and healthy environment.

Excuse No. 4: We can't assess everyone's workstation.

The prevailing thoughts in the past were that every office occupant needed a one-on-one assessment in order to meet their office ergonomics needs. This methodology proved to be a drain on organizational resources and frequently delayed the response time in priority cases.

A more efficient and streamlined approach has replaced this dated method. Today, leading companies use online, interactive self-assessment screening modules to immediately bring office ergonomics to entire organizations, not just to individuals. Simple, clear and directed tutorials enable the user to assess their office ergonomics conditions. Typically, these modules educate in ergonomics principles, outline the role the employee has in the process and instruct users on how to identify and then correct problem areas.

Data collected on the effects of using this type of training indicates that about 80 percent of office occupants can adopt a low-risk working position and workstation setup without a one-on-one assessment. The remaining employees who require additional action can be identified and their needs can be addressed quickly. Data also shows that simple corrective actions are required for only about 10 percent of occupants, and the remaining five percent to 10 percent require individual assessments. These statistics may seem trivial, but they become significant when you have thousands of employees who require assessments.

Supporting your world-class workforce requires a world-class work environment—an office environment that is comfortable, productive, healthy and safe.

[Reprinted with permission by EHS Today. Copyright 2014 by Penton.]