Sunday, December 1, 2013

Are Dust Masks Considered Respirators?

One question I always ask trainees when discussing personal protective equipment (PPE) during OSHA 10 hour training classes is whether or not OSHA considers a dust mask to be a respirator. It has been my experience that the vast majority of students in most classes answer “no, it is not”. But the simple answer to that question is “YES, dust masks are considered respirators per the OSHA respiratory protection standard”. However, the steps you must take to comply with that standard can vary greatly, depending on . . .
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Friday, November 1, 2013

Five OSHA Standards That Really Don’t Exist!

As a safety consultant and OSHA Outreach trainer, I hear a lot of discussion about certain safety measures that some people mistakenly believe must be followed “because Federal OSHA standards require it”. While their intentions are good, many times they would be embarrassed if someone challenged them to put their money where their mouth is and find the particular standard to which they referred, because the standard they are referring to does not exist. So I decided this month I would draw on my past experiences and share some of these phantom regulations I run across often by presenting my list of Five OSHA Standards That Really Don’t Exist.

Seat Belts on Forklifts:  How many times have you heard someone state that forklift operators must wear their seat belt (a.k.a. an operator restraint system) because “it’s required in the OSHA standards”? While forklift . . .   

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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Is Hands-on Fire Extinguisher Training Required?

One question I get  asked a lot during mock-OSHA inspections is whether or not the Federal OSHA standards for portable fire extinguishers requires employees to do “hands on” training with extinguishers. And the answer is not as simple as “yes” or “no”; a better answer would be, “it depends”.
First of all, the assumption is that unless you told them otherwise, it is reasonable to assume that any employee at your workplace could pick up a portable fire extinguisher hanging in their work area and try to use it to extinguish a fire should one start.  Therefore, 1910.157(g)(1) states that “Where the employer has provided portable fire extinguishers for employee use in the workplace, the employer shall also provide an educational program to familiarize employees with the general principles of fire extinguisher use and the hazards involved with incipient stage fire-fighting.”  The standard goes on to explain in paragraph (g)(2) that the education required in paragraph (g)(1) “must be provided to employees upon initial employment and at least annually thereafter.”
So does “education” require hands-on training? If you refer to the definitions for Subpart L that appear in 1910.155, you will find that paragraph (c)(14) defines "Education" as . . . . .

Monday, September 2, 2013

OSHA's Fall Protection Requirements for Aerial Lifts

When I first set down and began drafting this month’s blog post, I started off with the intent to address the many different fall protection requirements for general industry and construction. But I decided to shift gears (don’t worry, I’ll cover the general requirements in a future blog) and instead address the fall protection requirements for one specific type of equipment where I see the most misunderstandings among employers and employees: aerial lifts.
Federal OSHA standards 1910.67 and 1926.453 address aerial lifts for general industry and construction (respectively). Both of those contain a specific requirement that “A body belt shall be worn and a lanyard attached to the boom or basket when working from an aerial lift.” However, it is what the standards don’t say that can cause confusion.

During inspections of work sites, I commonly see someone working in an aerial lift wearing a full-body harness with a six-foot fall arrest lanyard attached to a tie-off point in the basket or work platform. When I ask why they are wearing that equipment, most tell me . . .

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Misunderstandings About the Applicability of OSHA's Permit-required Confined Spaces Standard

When OSHA published their Permit-required Confined Space standard (1910.146), it was inevitable that some people would misunderstand one or more parts of that complex standard. Surprisingly, though, the employers I find who are not in compliance with the requirements of this OSHA regulation are often not the ones who have implemented a permit-required confined space entry program at their site, but rather the ones who have not!  That is because many employers mistakenly believe they do not have confined spaces on their premises, or, they do have permit spaces on their site but think the standard does not apply to them because their employees do not enter those spaces.
So in this month’s blog post, I am going to address the three most common myths, mistakes and misinterpretations I have seen made by employers regarding the applicability of OSHA’s permit-required confined space entry standard to their operations.
Mistake #1 – “This standard does not apply to me because I do not have any confined spaces at my facility.”
When many employers think of OSHA’s definition of a confined space, they envision only tanks and silos. And if none of these are present at their work site, then they surmise that the OSHA permit-required confined space standard does not apply to them. But what many employers often overlook are other potential confined spaces that are present at their site, such as but certainly not limited to many crawl spaces, air handlers, duct-work, bag houses, utility . . . 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Ten Most Unique, Interesting, and Quirky OSHA Standards from State Plan Programs

July 4th is here, and America is celebrating her 237th birthday this year. And in spite of her faults, there is not a day goes by that I don’t say thanks to my maker for allowing me to be born and raised in the greatest country in the world. One of the benefits of being an OSHA trainer / consultant is that my line of work has allowed me to travel to each one of the 50 states, plus the District of Columbia. And I’ve found that there is something interesting or unique about each and every one of them; except for Kansas (sorry Jayhawks, but there is absolutely nothing about mile after mile of wheat fields that excites me).
You are probably aware that about half of the states and territories administer an approved State Plan OSHA Program, which means they have one or more OSHA standards that are unique to their state (one requiring a state OSHA poster, at a minimum). And a few states have added their own “twist” to some of the Federal OSHA standards. Since I have conducted training and/or mock-OSHA inspections in all of the states, I have learned about many of those unique and different state rules (sometimes the hard way). So this month, I thought I would share with you (in no particular order) what I consider to be some of the most unique, interesting, and/or quirky safety and health standards I’ve run across in various State Plan OSHA programs over the years:

In the Wolverine state, rule 5815 (2) – (7) requires the operator of an aerial work platform (boom-lift . . .) to carry (or have available at the job site) an operators permit, issued by their employer, for the specific type lift they are utilizing. That permit is valid only while performing work for the issuing employer, and expires after three (3) years, at which time it must be re-issued. Federal OSHA has no operator’s permit requirement . . .
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Saturday, June 1, 2013

GHS Label Signal Words: The Distinction between DANGER and WARNING

June 1, 2013 -  No need to panic, at least not yet. But let me remind you that the deadline for training all employees on the changes brought about by OSHA’s adoption of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) into the Hazard Communication standard is getting closer by the day. And while the December 1, 2013 deadline for getting all mandatory employee training completed may seem a long way off, just remember that it was more than fourteen (14) months ago that the revised OSHA Haz-Com standard was published and the deadline was first announced!
One of the best ways to understand a new (or revised) OSHA standard, I believe, is to prepare to teach a class about the topic. I am already covering this topic when conducting OSHA 10 and 30 hour Outreach training classes. And I just produced and posted on our website a free online GHS training tutorial titled “Understanding the GHS Labeling System” for employers to use for employee training purposes, and am currently working on the companion course on understanding safety data sheets (will be ready soon). And many of you already know that I create and post one free toolbox talk each month on our website related to the GHS training requirements; my goal is to have twelve (12) free GHS-related toolbox talks posted by December 1, 2013 that employers can utilize for employee training. As a result of these efforts, I have come to have a much better understanding of the revised OSHA Haz-Com standard.
When researching the labeling requirements of the GHS system, you will note the requirement that one of two “Signal Words” must appear on all container labels and safety data sheets (SDS’s) for harmful chemicals and products; either “DANGER” or “WARNING”. For many employees (and employers), these two terms may seem to be interchangeable, but once you dig into the standard and its appendices, you can see there is a distinct difference between their use and intent. In a nutshell, the signal .  .  .
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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Emergency Action Plans: They Are Usually Not Mandatory, However . . .

Some terrible things occurred during the course of three short days last month. First of all, a couple of troubled young brothers decided to explode two homemade bombs near the finish line at the Boston Marathon, killing three people and critically injuring over 100 others. Then two days later, there was a tremendous explosion at a fertilizer plant located in the small town of West, TX, injuring over 250 people and killing at least 15 people, many of them first responders. And right in the middle of all this, I get the following text message from my youngest daughter:
“ Daddy. The school is on lock down. I’m okay. We have the door blocked. I love you so much.”
While the explosions that occurred in Boston and West were horrific, it was that cryptic text message from my baby girl that really got to me. I felt so helpless, especially since I was stranded in the airport in Atlanta GA because the airline (which will remAAin unnAAmed) that I was supposed to be flying home on that afternoon was grounded due to a massive computer outage. But . . .
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Monday, April 1, 2013

Four Best OSHA-related Safety Apps on the Web - Download Them All for FREE

Can you believe it’s already April? This happens to be one of my favorite months of the year for a couple of reasons. First of all, it means that Spring has sprung and the weather starts to get appreciably warmer (at least in the part of the country where I live). It also happens to be the month during which I celebrate my birthday. However, when you get to be my age, you tend to have everything you really need, and the presents I get are usually shoved into the back of the closet. But that does not stop my two daughters from using their daddy’s credit card to try and buy me the perfect gift.
This year, the girls bought me one of those new “smart” phones, the fancy kind with a big fat display screen and numerous other built-in goodies. I’ll admit it took me a few hours to figure out how to place a call, answer a call, and send an email using my new smartphone. But after conquering those basic tasks, I decided it was time to try and download some of those fancy new Apps I keep hearing about.
Being the consummate safety professional that I am, I decided the first App I should download was the OSHA Heat App that came out a couple of years ago. You know the one; if an employee is working his butt off, but is not sure if he should be thirsty for a drink of water, he simply pulls out his smart phone, connects to the internet, opens the OSHA Heat App, enters several variables like temperature, humidity, expected workload and his mother’s maiden name, then presses a button and crosses his fingers that the App does not crash; and if all the stars align and he bought an unlimited data plan for the smartphone, it alerts the worker whether or not it is time to stop and get a drink of water. I know what you’re thinking; “how did I ever get along without this App!” But believe it or not, this App only cost OSHA a little more than a quarter-million taxpayer dollars to have developed. So after downloading that hot new App (no pun intended; actually, it was intended), I set out to find more safety-related Apps to download from the world-wide web.
What I found was that there were actually quite a few OSHA-related safety Apps available, some good and some not-so-good.  In fact, OSHA held a contest last year to encourage people to develop health and safety-related Apps, and you can see their list of winners on their website. But I wanted to research ALL of the safety Apps available on the web so I could pick out the most useful ones, based on factors like download speed, ease of use, and most importantly, potential for preventing an injury. And I narrowed them all down to the top four most useful Apps, which I downloaded onto my smartphone.
Suddenly a thought came to me; since people today are simply too busy to research all of the Apps that are available for download on the internet, I should publish my list of what I have deemed to be the top four OSHA-related safety Apps available, and let others share in this wealth of knowledge. So here they are, appearing in no particular order, my list of the four best OSHA-related safety Apps available on the web:
OSHA Cold App – this App is the obvious compliment to the OSHA Heat App. Here are the instructions on how to use this App:
Place your smartphone face up on the ground in an open area located outdoors, exposed to the elements. Wait 12 minutes, and then scratch a fingernail over the screen. Then look at the screen; if you see a layer of frost buildup on the screen, very cold weather has been detected. You should immediately take a break and sip some hot chocolate.
OSHA Black Ice Detection App – this is another cold weather-related App, and it helps you detect when a thin layer of hard-to-see "black ice” has built up on sidewalks or pavement, which could lead to a nasty slip and fall. To use this App, follow these instructions:
Place your smartphone flat on its back on top of the sidewalk or pavement. Use one hand (either left or right) to give the phone a shove. If the phone easily slides across the pavement, black ice has been detected, and you should immediately apply some ice-melting compound before walking on the sidewalk or pavement.
OSHA Suspended Overhead Load Avoidance App – insures you become aware that a load is suspended over your head when working near cranes and hoists; failure to know this could result in potential injury should the load be lowered on top of you. Here is how you use this App:
Turn on the “camera” function of your smartphone. Point the phone straight up into the air directly over your head, then look up through the viewfinder or at the display screen (whichever is applicable to your smartphone). If you see a load suspended directly over your head through the viewfinder or on the screen of your smartphone, you should immediately move to a different area. Repeat this process often.
OSHA Proper Lifting Technique App – this App is designed to automatically alert you when you fail to use proper lifting techniques when picking up a box or similar load off the floor, exposing you to a potentially painful back injury. The instructions for using this App are listed here:
Place your smartphone flat on the top of your head, and maintain your head in an upright position so that the phone stays balanced on top of your head. Then, carefully lower your body by bending your knees while keeping your back straight and maintaining your head in an upright position, taking care to keep the phone balanced on your head. Then grasp the object to be lifted with both hands, and slowly stand back up by straightening your legs while keeping your back straight and your head up. If the smartphone slides off the top of your head at any time during this process, it is telling you that you did not maintain proper lifting form, and the lift must be aborted at once!
I think you’ll agree that these four new smartphone Apps are a “must have” for both safety professionals and employees at many of our workplaces. And best of all, each one of these Apps work with all nine versions of the iPhone, as well as on all Android phones. Plus, they can all be downloaded for FREE at our website (  So please, share this blog post with everyone in your network so they too can benefit from my research.
Do you have other smartphone Apps that you highly recommend? Or better yet, can you dream up an idea for a new OSHA Safety App that we could develop together? If so, share your idea with me by entering it into the Comments box below. And if your idea for a new smartphone App looks as promising as these I have found, I may even have it developed and put up for sale on the web; then you and I can split the profits! 
Oh yeah. In closing, I remember that there is one more thing I really like about the month of April; it is the month during which we get to celebrate April Fool’s Day. Hope no one pulls one over on you!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Employers: You Better Dig a Little Deeper into the OSHA HAZWOPER Training Requirements

Many employers at work sites where chemicals are used believe the employee training requirements in paragraph (q)(6) of the HAZWOPER standards do not apply to their work site because if they were to have a large chemical spill or release at the site, they would simply call in an outside firm or organization (like the local Fire Department) to handle the emergency. However, what many employers do not realize is that even if they call in an outside company or organization to deal with the spill, they may still have people in their organization that are required to have a certain level of training per paragraph (q)(6) of the HAZWOPER standards for general industry (1910.120) and construction (1926.65). To help illustrate what I mean, consider the following hypothetical scenario:
“A forklift operator at a factory accidentally strikes some pipes that run between chemical tanks located behind the shop, and the chemical began running onto the ground. The forklift operator quickly alerts his foreman about the accident. The foreman looked at the accident site from a safe distance and realizes that the quantity of chemical being released is beyond an incidental spill that could be safely handled by normal operating personnel, so he tells his workers to evacuate the area, and then he contacts the site safety manager to report the incident. The site safety manager immediately calls the local Fire Department to report the spill and specifically requests they send their hazardous materials (HAZMAT) response team to the site. He then goes to the general area of the accident, careful to remain a safe distance, and observes some of the liquid chemical is running across the pavement towards a storm drain inlet. So he quickly grabs some absorbent “pigs” from a nearby spill response kit and places them across the opening of the storm drain inlet before the chemical can reach the area.
Once the fire department’s HAZMAT team arrives, their incident commander confers with the safety manager, and then instructs two of his team members to gear up and take monitoring equipment to the point of release to confirm which chemical is involved and to evaluate any potential atmospheric and/or safety hazards. By that time, the company’s head of the engineering department arrives at the scene, and he gears up to go into the hot zone with the fire department’s HAZMAT team members so he can point out which valves need to be shut off to stop the flow of chemical. Once the valves are identified, one of the HAZMAT team members turns off the valves to stop the chemical from running out of the broken pipes, and then they stabilize the area to prevent further spread of the chemical.”
Wherever there is an initial response to a hazardous material that is spilled or otherwise released in quantities beyond an incidental spill, such as at the factory in our scenario, the OSHA HAZWOPER standard has specific training standards in paragraph (q) for five distinct categories of workers potentially involved in the initial response. Here is an overview of training requirements for workers in all five worker categories mentioned in our scenario:
·    The first worker category listed in paragraph (q) of the standard is called “First Responder Awareness Level”, and their training requirements are described in 1910.120(q)(6)(i). In our scenario, this person is the foreman in the area where the forklift struck the pipes. In other incidents, this may be someone such as a police officer who happens upon a major wreck involving a chemical tank-truck, or perhaps a security officer making rounds after hours at a chemical manufacturing plant who happens upon an unexpected spill or release of chemicals. The First Responder Awareness Level employee must be provided with training sufficient to understand that the release of chemicals is beyond the scope of an incidental release, and that it will require response and clean-up by specially trained workers. The foreman in our scenario notified the site safety manager of the release, and also initiated the evacuation of workers in the area per his company’s emergency action plan. He did not take any further action to try to contain or confine the chemical release. Awareness level responders must also receive adequate training to be able recognize and identify the hazardous substance(s) involved in the release, to understand the risks presented by the hazardous material(s) involved, and be able to implement whatever part they are assigned in executing the emergency action plan at the site. There is no minimum time period that their training must cover, just a requirement that the training enable the first responder to perform his or her duties.

·    The next person involved in the emergency response in our scenario is the site safety manager, who had been trained as a “First Responder Operations Level”, as outlined in 1910.120(q)(6)(ii). In other cases, this may be a fire-fighter who responds to a wreck and sprays water on a burning tanker from afar, or an equipment room operator who tries to electronically manipulate valves from the control room to shut off an electronic valve or pump on a broken chemical line. The site safety manager in our scenario responded to the initial chemical release in a purely defensive fashion to protect the environment from the effects of the chemicals by placing the absorbent pigs in front of the storm drain inlet, never putting himself in a position to be harmed by the released chemical. Operations level responders must be trained to the same level of knowledge required for an Awareness Level responder (previously described), as well as in whatever defensive steps should be taken to contain the release from a safe distance to protect nearby workers and property. Operations-level responders must also be trained to properly utilize any personal protective equipment (PPE) necessary to perform their job safely, have an understanding of the basic terminology used in emergency responses to chemical releases, and know the procedures needed to ensure safe decontamination of their equipment and PPE when needed. The OSHA standard states their training must take at least eight (8) hours to complete or that person must have enough experience to objectively demonstrate competency in all required areas.

·    The next level of responder covered in our scenario are the members of the fire department’s HAZMAT crew who went into the hot zone (where the accident actually occurred) to evaluate the atmosphere and stop the actual leak. They are referred to as “Hazardous Materials Technicians”, and their training requirements are addressed in OSHA standard 1910.120(q)(6)(iii). These workers must receive at least 24 hours of training on topics needed to enable them to perform their duties safely, which includes but is not limited to understanding the means and methods necessary to stop the actual release of chemicals (for example, closing valves or patching / plugging a ruptured line). Their training must consist of instruction equaling that of the First Responder Operations Level, plus additional instruction to enable them to implement the emergency action plan for their organization, select and utilize personal protective equipment necessary for the particular incident in which they are involved, utilize equipment to identify and verify the hazardous materials (chemical, biological, and/or radiological) involved in the incident, function within their role in the Incident Command System (ICS). They must also have a basic knowledge of the terms commonly used in hazardous materials responses, as well as have an understanding of the harmful effects of the materials to which they are exposed.

·    The next level of emergency responder is called the “Hazardous Materials Specialist”, covered in 1910.120(q)(6)(iv). They provide support to the Hazardous Materials Technicians by offering skills or knowledge about the specific materials or processes involved in the incident, and/or act as liaison to various agencies responding to the event.   In our scenario, this is the company’s head of the engineering department, who went into the hot zone with the Hazardous Materials Technicians to point out which valves shut off the flow of chemicals in the ruptured pipes. In other events, this could be someone trained to operate specialized monitoring equipment to evaluate conditions in the hot zone. These “Specialists” must have a minimum of 24 hours training in the same general topics as that required for the First Responder Operations Level, plus whatever specialized knowledge is needed to perform their designated task (such as use of specialized monitoring instrumentation, ability to identify and/or operate critical valves . . .). While commonly employed, a HAZMAT Specialist may not be utilized in all emergency response incidents.

·    The fifth and final classification of emergency responder found in paragraph (q) of the OSHA HAZWOPER standard is that of the “On Scene Incident Commander.” In our scenario, the On Site Incident Commander was the leader of the Fire Department’s HAZMAT Response Team. However, the person acting in this role may change from person to person over time as different agencies respond to the scene, per the protocols outlined in the Incident Command Systems (ICS). Their training requirements are outlined in 1910.120(q)(6)(v), and must consist of at least 24 hours training in topics covered for the First Responder Operations Level, plus additional training to be able to oversee the execution of the emergency action plans for all entities involved (local, state, federal). They must have knowledge of the hazards of the hazardous materials (chemical, biological, and/or radiological) involved in the incident, and also be able to manage or evaluate the selection, use, and decontamination of the personal protective equipment used in the response incident.
As you can now see, three different company employees in our scenario were involved in the response to the point that they were required to be trained under paragraph (q) of the OSHA HAZWOPER standards, even though the company called in an outside organization (the Fire Department HAZMAT team) to deal with the spill. Those employees were the foreman (First Responder Awareness Level), the site safety manager (First Responder Operations Level), and the head of engineering (Hazardous Materials Specialist). 
With this information in mind, reconsider your own operations. Do you have employees who would be expected to respond in some fashion to a chemical spill or release and therefore fall into one or more of these five categories covered in paragraph (q) of the HAZWOPER standard? At the least, employers with hazardous chemicals on site in quantities that could potentially exceed an incidental spill would need a worker (or workers) trained to the First Responder Awareness Level so someone is available to recognize when it is actually necessary to call in outside assistance. So double check what your emergency response plan entails, and if one or more workers are involved to the degree covered in our scenario, you need to ensure you have documentation to show they were provided with the necessary HAZWOPER training specified for their appropriate level of response.

Do you have employees trained for any level of response in your operations? Can you think of a different scenario that helps demonstrate an event where such training for employees might be overlooked? If so, please make a comment below. And as always, feel free to share this information with others in your network. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Ten Most Common Mistakes Found on OSHA Injury and Illness Recordkeeping Forms

February 1st has arrived, which means that you have probably already reviewed your OSHA injury and illness recordkeeping forms for last year, filled out and posted your OSHA Form 300A on the employee bulletin board, and started a new set of recordkeeping forms for the New Year. However, you might want to review the following list of the top ten most common mistakes that I have found when reviewing OSHA injury and illness recordkeeping forms (link to forms here) of clients during mock-OSHA inspections performed over the years; you may even find something that you need to go back and correct on your previous years’ forms!

Here, in no particular order, is my personal list of the ten most-common found mistakes on the OSHA Injury and Illness Recordkeeping Forms:
·         No case number appears on the Form 300 and Form 301. See column A of the Form 300? This is where you have to enter a case number, which is a unique number (e.g.: 01, 02, 03 . . .) that you make up and assign to each recordable incident. But be aware that this case number must ALSO appear on the corresponding OSHA Form 301 (Injury and Illness Incident Report) on line 10. And if you utilize an “equivalent” form in lieu of the OSHA 301 (such as a workers comp first report of injury form), this case number must appear somewhere on the alternate form as well.
·         Check-marks are entered in both Column “H” (days away from work) AND Column “I” (job transfer or restriction) under the “Classify the Case” section of the OSHA 300.  I see this happen often whenever an employee has to stay off work for a few days due to their injury, and then comes back to work on light duty for a couple of days. It seems logical that you would check both columns, right? However, the proper procedure in this case would be to check only one of the two boxes (the one with the most severe classification, which in this case is column H, "days away from work”). The reason you do not check both is that at the end of the year when you tally up the final numbers, you would actually show two incidents instead of one, and your incident rate would be artificially high. 
·         The employer does not enter both the number of days away from work (in Column K) AND number of days with job transfer or restriction (in Column L) of the OSHA Form 300 when an employee has both. This is the contrasting problem to the previous listed problem. Even though you would only check Column H under “Classify the Case” in the example above, you would still list the corresponding number of lost workdaysin Column K AND days with job transfer or restrictions in Column L. So remember, in any incident involving both lost workdays and job restrictions or transfer, even though there would only be one checkmark (in column H), there would be days entered in both columns K and L.
·         The employer mistakenly enters the number of scheduled work-days missed or with transfers/restricted duty instead of the number of Calendar days missed in Columns “H” and “I” of the OSHA Form 300. This is often due to the record-keeper doing things the old way, when we used to fill out the OSHA 200 form. OSHA now requires you to enter the total number of calendar days missed or on light duty in these columns, not the number of scheduled workdays missed or on light duty. So even if an employee who normally works Monday through Friday with weekends off is injured on a Friday, and the doctor says he is not able to return to work or is on restricted duty until the following Monday, you would still have to count the Saturday and Sunday that the doctor said they could not work as lost or restricted workdays. [Reference1904.7(b)(3)(iv) and (v)].
·         Incidents that should be recorded as an Illness are instead being classified as an Injury under Column M. If an employee suffers flash-burn from welding, would you classify that as an injury or an illness? It should actually be classified as an illness (entered in line 6, titled “All Other Illnesses”). Incidents that are cumulative in nature (such as flash-burn, sunburn, noise-induced hearing loss, and cumulative trauma disorders) are generally considered as illnesses, whereas injury incidents typically result from a single exposure or event.
·         Incidents affecting temporary service employees working under contract for an employer are not entered on that employer’s OSHA injury and illness records. The OSHA standards require you to enter all recordable incidents on your log suffered by any employee if you are directing their day-to-day activities. That is typically (although not always) the case where a company contracts with a temporary help service or employee leasing company; the exception being when the temp service or leasing agency is also supervising the actual work being performed by their workers. [Reference1904.31(b)(2)]
·         Recordable injuries or illnesses are not entered on the OSHA Form 300 within seven (7) calendar days of notification about the incident occurring, as required by OSHA. Typically, employers know about such incidents on the day they occur, and that is when the seven day calendar day count begins to record the incident on your OSHA Form 300 (Log of Work-related Injuries and Illnesses). But in those cases where the employer does not learn about a recordable incident until a few days after it occurs, the seven days begins on the day they find out about it happening. So do not wait and update your logs once a month (or even once a quarter), as I so often see. Keep them up-to-date to within one week. [Reference 1904.29(b)(3)]
·         Employers often under-report the “total hours worked by all employees last year” on the OSHA Form 300-A (Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses). The total hours worked by all employees at the establishment during the corresponding year must be recorded on the form (see the right-hand side of form, under establishment information). This is important because under-reporting your hours worked will make your incident rates artificially high! Under-reporting is usually due to the employer forgetting to count the hours worked for ALL employees working at the establishment; this includes not just workers on the line, but also all salaried positions such as supervisors and managers, employees in support functions such as engineering, accounting, purchasing or human resources, and even the Big Kahuna himself (or herself). If they work at that site and are injured, that incident would go on your log, so you get to count their hours worked too. [Reference 1904.32(b)(2)(ii)]
·         The signature certifying the accuracy of data on the OSHA Form 300-A is not that of a “Company Executive”. If you are the site safety manager, HR manager, or office manager, you most likely do not meet the definition of a company executive, and therefore should not be signing this particular form. OSHA defines an executive as the company owner (if the company is a sole proprietorship or partnership), a corporate officer, the highest ranking company official working at that site, or the immediate supervisor of the highest ranking person at the site. [Reference1904.32(b)(4)]
·         An employer does not maintain OSHA Injury and Illness Recordkeeping Forms for their company because they mistakenly claim the “small employer” exemption. Okay, this one is not actually addressing a mistake on a form; it addresses people who mistakenly think they don’t have to fill out the forms. The OSHA standards say that an employer is generally exempt from maintaining these forms IF their company had ten (10) or fewer employees all of the previous year. There are two operative terms here; the first one is “ALL”, as in “all” of the previous year. You must look at your peak employment number throughout the entire year, and if that number was more than ten at any time during the previous year, then you must keep the forms the following year. Also, keep in mind that this is saying the total number of employees working for the COMPANY; you may employee ten or fewer employees at your particular site, but if there are other establishments within the same company (for example, a manufacturer with multiple facilities located throughout the state), you must count the total number of all COMPANY employees to see whether or not you qualify for that small employer exemption, not just the ones at your particular facility. [Reference 1904.1(b)(1) and (2)]
So there is my personal list of mistakes I have found most often when reviewing the OSHA injury and illness records of clients over the years. While you may consider some of these findings “ticky-tacky”, they are all citable offenses none-the-less, and you don’t want to give the OSHA compliance officer any reason to pull out his or her pen. And in a couple of these cases, the mistakes could actually result in a higher than necessary incident rate for your establishment, which could have very negative ramifications. So take a few minutes to check your OSHA injury and injury recordkeeping forms for the last five years (that is how long you are required to maintain them) and fix any mistakes you may find.
Have you ever been cited for one of the reasons listed above? Or maybe you’d like to share some other common mistake you’ve seen that pops up too often. If so, please share with your experience with our readers in the “comments” section below. And last but not least, please pass a link to this blog post along to others in your network who you think may benefit from this information.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

My Prediction for the Most Cited OSHA Standard . . . in 2014?

Happy 2013!  With the beginning of every New Year comes predictions for the future, and the vast majority of them turn out to be false. However, I have one sure-fire, slam-dunk prediction for the year after next that will no doubt come true. In fact, you can bet the house on it!  Here it is:
“In 2014, OSHA will issue more citations for violations of 1910.1200(h)(3)(iv) during the year than for any other standard in the book.”
Now most people who make predictions do so for the coming year. So why am I making a prediction for 2014, which is two years in advance? Because OSHA just revised their Hazard Communication standard to align with the United Nation’s “Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals”, commonly referred to as “GHS”. And buried in that revised standard is a significant change to the employee training requirements that every covered employer in the country will have to have in place by December 1, 2013. And I’m betting that many employers will be caught flat-footed when 2014 rolls around, either having not conducted the additional required training at all, or not covering the required topics adequately. And that is when OSHA will start handing out the citations!
In the revised Haz-Com standard, manufacturers and distributors of hazardous chemicals and products actually have until December 1, 2015 to standardize how they categorize the hazards of their products, as well as the information and format of their container labels and Safety Data Sheets (formerly known as MSDS’s). And employers will have until that date to get these new items in place at their facilities. However, OSHA added some significant new requirements for employers to train their workers about these pending changes, and they are only giving you until December 1, 2013 to complete all of this additional training.
So what must you get started covering right now to make certain you get all the required training completed by December 1st of this year and avoid the possibility of citations. If you look closely at the specific standard I mentioned above [1910.1200(h)(3)(iv)], you will see that OSHA now requires workers to be provided with training so they understand: 1) the labels on shipped containers and the workplace labeling system used by their employer; and, 2) new Safety Data Sheets (aka SDS’s), including the order of information on those sheets and how employees can obtain and use the appropriate hazard information to protect themselves.

While that standard looks very similar to the old Haz-Com training requirements, the actual elements of the labeling and Safety Data Sheets (SDS’s) have significantly changed and will require extensive training for workers. Here is an overview of the major differences that will have to be covered in the training this year:
Training on Container Labels & In-house Labeling Systems:  All containers of hazardous chemicals will now have to be labeled with the following information:
·         Product identifier;
·         Signal word*;
·         Hazard statement(s)*;
·         Pictogram(s)*;
·         Precautionary statement(s)*; and,
·         Name, address, and telephone number of the chemical manufacturer, importer, or other responsible party
The four bullet points above that are marked with a red asterisk (*) are new to the OSHA Haz-Com standard. Be aware that OSHA has very specific requirements for how that information is to be formatted on labels [see 1910.1200(f)(1) and (2)], and this must be specifically addressed with your employees during training.
Training on Safety Data Sheets (formerly known as material safety data sheets): Safety Data Sheets (SDS’s) for all hazardous chemicals in the workplace will have to be formatted to include specific section numbers and headings, and contain all associated information under each heading, in the specific order listed below:
·         Section 1 - Identification;
·         Section 2 - Hazard(s) identification;
·         Section 3 - Composition/information on ingredients;
·         Section 4 - First-aid measures;
·         Section 5 - Fire-fighting measures;
·         Section 6 - Accidental release measures;
·         Section 7 - Handling and storage;
·         Section 8 - Exposure controls/personal protection;
·         Section 9 - Physical and chemical properties;
·         Section 10 - Stability and reactivity;
·         Section 11 - Toxicological information;
·         Section 12 - Ecological information;
·         Section 13 - Disposal considerations;
·         Section 14 - Transport information;
·         Section 15 - Regulatory information; and,
·         Section 16 - Other information, including date of preparation or last revision
So while the old OSHA Haz-Com standard required training on MSDS’s in general, the revised standard is very specific about the training workers will need; For example, they must now understand the specific order of the information appearing on the SDS’s, and in which sections they can obtain the appropriate hazard information they seek.
In addition to making sure all affected workers receive training on the new labeling and Safety Data Sheet requirements, there is actually one more part of the standard that will also have to be specifically covered during employee training sessions. According to 1910.1200(h)(3)(ii) (which I also predict will be cited by OSHA quite a bit in 2014), employees have to be trained not only to understand the general physical and health hazards of the hazardous products in the workplace, as was the case with the old standard, but also specifics about the simple asphyxiation, combustible dust, and pyrophoric gas hazards, as well as hazards not otherwise classified, of the chemicals in the work area. These hazard categories were not specifically spelled out in the old standard, so no doubt OSHA will be looking for clear evidence that these topics were also covered, where applicable, in your upcoming training sessions.
I found it interesting that OSHA requires employers to provide the training by December 1, 2013, yet the actual labeling and SDS requirements don’t have to be implemented until a couple of years later. OSHA did this because they believe that American workplaces will soon begin to receive labels and SDSs that are consistent with the revised Haz-Com standard, since many domestic and foreign chemical manufacturers already produce GHS-compliant labels and SDSs. And the agency feel it is important to ensure that when workers begin to see the new types of labels and SDSs at work, they will be familiar with them, understand how to use them, and be able to access the information effectively. So for a while at least, employees will need to understand both the old and the new Haz-Com labeling systems and safety data sheets until everything gets transitioned to the new systems.
While it may appear to be a daunting task to accomplish all of this training in just a few short months, there are many resources to assist employers in meeting the deadline. Our company is offering free monthly OSHA Toolbox talks on our sister website (click here to see the list) that you can download to assist with your in-house training efforts. Each month, the toolbox talk will address one aspect of the revised Haz-Com training requirements, with the goal of covering them all by December 1, 2013. We also offer training DVDs to help you meet the mandatory training requirements (click here). And last but not least, there are many OSHA Trainers standing by who can conduct the training for you if needed (click here to find one). Whatever approach you take, I’d urge you to get started right away if you have not already. And by getting started now rather than later, you can avoid being one of the many employers who I predicted will get dinged by OSHA in 2014.
Have you already taken any steps to train your workers on the new employee training elements contained in the revised OSHA Hazard Communication Standard? If so, please share with our readers how you are going about this in the “comments” section below. And last but not least, please pass a link to this blog post along to others in your network who you think may benefit from this information.