Safety news - Winter 2018
By: Kim Coonrod, Director, Loss Control
OSHA continues enforcement of healthcare general duty violations
An OSHA standard to mitigate workplace violence in healthcare facilities does not appear to be on the horizon, but this is not because OSHA is not aware of the main provisions that would be included in such a standard. In fact, it is not uncommon for OSHA to issue citations against healthcare employers whose employees are attacked, harmed, threatened, or verbally abused in ways employers know can occur and for which there are reasonable and readily available preventive measures employers are also aware of. Accordingly, the citations contain explicit instructions on measures the employer can take to protect employees from violence. Should OSHA eventually issue a workplace violence standard, employers that have already adopted these measures will be ahead of the game in coming into compliance.
Five recent citations
OSHA issues workplace violence citations under the General Duty Clause (Clause) of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act. Moreover, OSHA’s use of the Clause to cite healthcare employers whose employees were the victims of workplace violence has been increasing after a long period during which it was little used. In 2016, the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that between 1991 and 2014, OSHA issued 18 General Duty Clause citations to healthcare employers for failing to address workplace violence; 17 of these citations were issued between 2010 and 2014. Our review of OSHA news releases for 2017 and so far for 2018 found at least 5 General Duty citations against healthcare employers because of violence against employees.
Serious physical injuries
Measures needed to abate workplace violence hazards at a healthcare facility may be extensive, and for some employers, they may be costly. At the same time, OSHA’s penalties for failing to provide healthcare employees with a safe working environment, as required by the General Duty Clause, can exceed $200,000, especially if they are found to be serious or repeat violations.
In one of the more recent cases, OSHA proposed a penalty of $14,505 because of a healthcare employer’s alleged failure to protect employees from “physical assaults such as biting, kicking, punching, and scratching that resulted in serious physical injuries such as but not limited to lacerations, contusions, sprains, strains, headaches, and concussions.”
Under the citation, the employer was given a little more than two months to abate the hazards. OSHA’s citation goes on to provide four pages of possible abatement measures. The employer is not required to adopt each and every measure, but the employer must provide OSHA with an abatement certification letter that describes the measures it adopts to effect abatement. All employees must be informed of the measures. Moreover, OSHA must be satisfied that measures it believes will be effective have, in fact, been adopted.
U.S. Department of Labor posts new frequently asked questions and videos on OSHA standard for controlling silica in construction
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced that new frequently asked questions (FAQs) and training videos on the agency’s standard for respirable crystalline silica in construction are now available online.
Developed by OSHA in cooperation with industry and labor organizations, the FAQs provide employers and workers with guidance on the standard’s requirements. In addition, a series of six new videos instruct users on methods for controlling exposure to silica dust when performing common construction tasks, or using construction equipment. The videos cover topics including handheld power saws, jackhammers, drills, and grinders.
Visit OSHA’s silica standard for construction page for more information and resources on complying with the standard.
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 help 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 osha.gov.
OSHA warns about hazards of ATVs at the workplace
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) states that in 2016, ATVs caused more than 101,200 injuries in the U.S., and that 26 percent of those injuries affected kids under the age of 16. Between 2010 and 2013, an average of 532 adults were killed each year on ATVs, along with an average of 77 kids under the age 16.
The CPSC issued a press release on May 23, 2018, urging riders to avoid paved surfaces when operating ATVs. They made this move after finding that nearly one-third of reported ATV deaths, or at least 770 deaths between 2010 and 2013, were related to incidents involving ATVs on paved roads or parking lots.
“Off-road vehicles are not designed to be driven on paved surfaces,” said Ann Marie Buerkle, CPSC Acting Chairman, “and collisions with cars and other on-road vehicles can be deadly for ATV operators.”
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) also cautions about ATV hazards in the workplace, noting that though the majority of injuries and deaths occur during recreational use, “ATV use in America’s workplaces is widespread and increasing…” The administration has investigated workplace fatalities involving ATVs, and found that there were certain factors involved, including:
- Unbalanced loads
- Loads in excess of the ATV’s specified limits
- Operating at excessive speeds for the terrain/operation
- Operating ATVs on paved roads
- Not wearing a helmet
- Insufficient or no training
- Carrying passengers
OSHA recommends that employers provide instruction and hands-on training for employees on the safe handling of ATVs, and that companies should not permit ATV drivers to carry passengers. They also provide several other safety guidelines, including that employers ensure that employees only haul items on the ATV “in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications and never exceed the weight limit.”
Fact sheet from the NIOSH CMVS! Older drivers in the workplace: how employers and workers can prevent crashes
Older workers bring extensive skills, knowledge, and experience to their jobs. But, workers age 55 or older are at a higher risk of dying in a motor vehicle crash at work compared to younger adult workers. This fact sheet gives employers and workers information on age-related physical and mental changes that may affect older workers’ driving. Use the provided checklists that feature action steps and resources to help you, your co-workers, and your employees continue driving safely.
CDC report identifies jobs at high risk for carpal tunnel
A new report released on Oct. 4th by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention aims to assess trends in carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) cases and identify industries and occupations with high risk of CTS.
Carpal tunnel syndrome happens when the median nerve is compressed as it passes through the wrist within the carpal tunnel, which causes pain, tingling, weakness, or numbness in the hand or wrist. Workplace-related risks for CTS include work activities requiring forceful, repetitive tasks, vibration, or prolonged use of the wrists or hands in an awkward posture, according to CDC.
Industries with high rates of CTS included work that involved manufacturing apparel, processing food, and performing administrative work. Based on the data analyzed, the report states that the industries with the highest CTS rates were textile, fabric finishing, and coating mills (44.9); apparel accessories and other apparel manufacturing (43.1); and animal slaughtering and processing (39.8).
The report concludes that high-risk industries should consider implementing preventative and interceptive methods, such as ergonomic evaluations and development of instruments and tools that correct awkward hand and wrist posture and require less repetition and force.
Revised webpage makes state plan information easier to find
OSHA redesigned the State Plans webpage with a new color-coded, interactive map to simplify finding contact and jurisdictional information for each state. Users can also access frequently asked questions and details about State Plan activities.
Is it construction or maintenance?