Is Your Workforce Prepared for Emergencies?

February 19, 2018

A recent study demonstrated some significant gaps in emergency preparedness. While 87% of respondents stated that they were aware of their workplace’s fire drill policy, only 57% of respondents indicated their workplace had preparedness drills in place for events such as hazardous materials incidents, weather alerts, and active shooter incidents.

A survey of 530 respondents conducted by Rave Mobile Safety examined employee perceptions of workplace safety and security, and the findings revealed that “workplaces miss the mark in critical communication and planning, and could be unprepared to meet the future needs of employees,” Rave reported.

Additionally, the study reported, as the workforce continues to evolve with a growing number of Millennials and Generation Z employees joining, the way workplace safety is communicated may also need to shift.

53% of surveyed Millennial respondents were either unaware of their workplace’s emergency plans or said that their workplace did not have emergency plans in place. When compared to respondents age 45 and older, a big discrepancy is revealed: Only 34% of respondents in this age group responded the same way about their employers’ workplace safety plans.

Additionally, nearly half of the 45 and older age group said that they were “very likely” to report an issue in which their own or a co-worker’s safety was in question, but only 8% of Millennials said they were “very likely” to report an issue like this.

Most respondents agreed on their preferred mode of communication in the event of a workplace emergency: text message. However, only 37% of respondents said their workplace currently has a mass text message notification system in place.

The study concluded that employers must take steps to ensure that their organizations are prepared in the event of an emergency, whether it be a fire, hazardous materials incident or an active shooter situation.

Study Finds Nonfatal Injuries Among Law Enforcement Officers Increased

An estimated 669,100 law enforcement officers were treated in emergency departments across the nation for nonfatal injuries between 2003 and 2014, according to a study by researchers at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). The study, which is the first to examine nonfatal injuries among officers on a national scale, was published online this month in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Law enforcement officers (LEOs) have historically high rates of fatal and nonfatal injuries. The new research shows that officers are three times more likely to sustain a nonfatal injury than all other US workers, and is the first to capture nonfatal injuries sustained from assaults and unintentional injuries such as accidental falls or motor vehicle crashes.

“Studies based on evidence are an important feature of public health and this principle extends to studying the law enforcement community and their work,” said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D. “The safety and health of both police and citizens depend on understanding how policing tactics impact officer and citizen injuries.”

The study researchers, whose aim was to provide national estimates and trends of nonfatal injuries to law enforcement officers from 2003 – 2014, found the following:

  • The LEO nonfatal injury trend increased across the 12-year period studied; this is in contrast with the trend for all other US workers which significantly decreased.
  • Assault-related injury rates significantly increased almost 10% annually from 2003 to 2011.
  • The three leading reasons for on-duty injuries were assaults & violent acts (36%), bodily reactions & exertion from running or other repetitive motions (15%), and transportation incidents (14%).


The study used nonfatal injury data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System – Occupational Supplement (NEISS-Work). Data were obtained for injuries treated in U.S. emergency departments from 2003-2014.

Possible $75,000 Penalty for RPS Composites Alabama, Inc. After Employee Injury 

OSHA has cited fiberglass pipe manufacturer RPS Composites Alabama, Inc. for safety and health violations after an employee suffered a finger amputation. The company faces $74,833 in proposed penalties.

OSHA investigators determined that due to a lack of machine guarding, the employee’s safety-gloved hand was pulled into a pipe-winding machine, resulting in a finger amputation. OSHA cited the Mobile manufacturer for 10 serious and two other-than-serious violations for exposing employees to struck-by and caught-in hazards by failing to install proper machine guarding; failing to train employees on how to control energy sources; and allowing combustible dust to accumulate.

“Employers must evaluate their workplace to ensure employees are provided appropriate training, and the equipment they use is properly guarded to prevent amputation hazards,” said OSHA Mobile Area Office Director Joseph Roesler.

Protect Workers from Skin Exposure to Hazardous Materials

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports that more than 13 million workers in the US alone are potentially exposed to chemicals that can be absorbed through the skin. The agency goes on to proclaim that dermal exposures to hazardous agents can result in a variety of occupational diseases and disorders, including occupational skin diseases (OSD) and systemic toxicity.

On this issue, the OSHA states, “Most chemicals are readily absorbed through the skin and can cause other health effects and/or contribute to the dose absorbed by inhalation of the chemical from the air. Many studies indicate that absorption of chemicals through the skin can occur without being noticed by the worker. In many cases, skin is a more significant route of exposure than the lung. This is particularly true for non-volatile chemicals which are relatively toxic and which remain on work surfaces for long periods of time.”

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) figures, the number of cases and the rate of skin disease in the US exceeds recordable respiratory illnesses. In 2010, BLS reported 34,400 recordable skin diseases at a rate of 3.4 injuries per 10,000 employees, compared to 19,300 respiratory illnesses with a rate of 1.9 illnesses per 10,000 employees.

“There are countless chemicals found in work environments that can be absorbed through unprotected skin or cause chemical burns,” said Jeffrey Miller, CIH® and Chair of ABIH. “Just as respiratory hazards need to be recognized and addressed, so too do potential skin exposure hazards in order to protect the health and safety of workers. This is also necessary to keep companies and institutions in regulatory compliance due to the fact that dermal exposures are addressed for a number of toxic and hazardous substances in specific OSHA standards.”

Whistleblower Lawsuit Resolved in Favor of Employee

OSHA and Environmental Management Specialists Inc. (EMS) reached a settlement agreement that resolves a lawsuit filed under the anti-retaliation provision of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act. Under the agreement, Steubenville, Ohio-based EMS will pay $21,000 in back wages to one of its employees.

A field technician alleged EMS terminated him after he filed complaints with OSHA that employees were exposed to confined space and respiratory hazards as they cleaned storage tanks.

In addition to paying the technician $21,000 in back wages, EMS will expunge the termination and all references to this action from the employee’s record.

“An employee’s commitment to workplace safety should be commended – not punished,” said Ken Nishiyama Atha, OSHA Chicago-area Regional Administrator. “This settlement represents a true win for an employee willing to exercise his rights to ensure workplace safety for his co-workers and himself.”

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of 22 statutes protecting employees who report violations of various airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, motor vehicle safety, healthcare reform, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime, and securities laws. Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise concerns or provide information to their employer or the government under any of these laws. Employees who believe they are retaliated against for engaging in protected conduct may file a complaint with OSHA’s Directorate of Whistleblower Protection Programs.

Diesel Spill Incurred $28,800 Fine for Oregon Boat Owner

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) fined the owner of a fishing boat called the Emerald Sea, $28,800 for spilling about 300 gallons of diesel fuel into the Skipanon River near Warrenton in August 2016.

The spill happened when Emerald Sea's crew overfilled a fuel tank. The crew didn't attempt to contain or clean up the spill, allowing the diesel sheen to stretch for more than a mile on the river.

Spilling diesel and other petroleum products in waterways poses health threats to people, fish, birds and other wildlife.

West Creek Construction, LLC Fined for Asbestos Violations

The Oregon DEQ has issued a $12,800 civil penalty to West Creek Construction, LLC for conducting an asbestos abatement project without a license and openly accumulating demolition waste that contained asbestos during a residential renovation project in April 2017.

West Creek Construction mishandled asbestos-containing flooring and made non-friable siding friable by cutting and breaking it with a saw. Friable materials can be easily crumbled and potentially release asbestos fibers into the air.

Asbestos fibers cause lung cancer and other illnesses. There is no known safe level of exposure.

NSF International and National Science Foundation to Host Legionella Conference

NSF International, a global public health and safety organization, is hosting Legionella Conference 2018 – Managing Legionella and Other Pathogens in Building Water Systems on May 9-11, 2018, in Baltimore, Maryland. The three-day conference is sponsored by the National Science Foundation and marks the first time experts from industry, academia, public health, medicine and government will meet to discuss Legionella and other pathogens found in water distribution systems, building water plumbing systems and cooling towers.

Legionella Conference attendees will discuss and learn the latest monitoring, treatment and management approaches for successfully preventing the spread of Legionella in buildings, hospitals and other at-risk facilities.

The conference will feature more than 40 speakers, including representatives of the EPA, CDC, state organizations and various technical, mitigation and plumbing groups. Topics will cover biofilms, analytical techniques for detection and quantification, management technologies, prevention techniques, risk assessment, and state and federal guidance and requirements.

“Prevention of Legionnaires’ disease is a complex challenge that requires a team-based approach to be successful as no single industry or profession can solve this issue on its own. The goal of the Legionella Conference is to gather together all the different stakeholders and a diverse group of experts and thought leaders to share ideas and discuss ways of detecting, mitigating and preventing Legionella outbreaks,” said Dave Purkiss, Vice President of the Global Water Division at NSF International. “We’re bringing together everyone involved in building operations – from building owners and managers to members of the engineering and HVAC communities, along with regulators, specifiers and government officials.”

In the last year, more than 6,000 Americans were diagnosed with the waterborne disease, which is caused by inhaling small water droplets contaminated with Legionella bacteria. According to a recent study by the CDC, bacteria responsible for Legionnaires’ disease are common in cooling towers throughout the United States. The CDC found that nine out of 10 outbreaks could have been avoided if a properly designed and implemented water management plan had been in place.

“The CDC’s outbreak investigations study makes clear that these are preventable illnesses and deaths,” said Chris Boyd, General Manager of Building Water Health Programs at NSF International. “As an industry, we need to move from a reactive approach to a proactive model focused on prevention. It should no longer be acceptable to use increases in illness and death as the sentinel data that triggers investigations and response. We must begin responding to building water system risks before an outbreak occurs. With the right approach of hazard assessment, process controls, detection and corrective action, we can stop Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks before they occur and before they take lives.”

Conference attendees are encouraged to present new innovations, research and data. The call for submissions is open until Feb. 23, 2018 at 11:59 p.m. EST.

Track Safety Equipment Usage with Enhanced ID Card

Construction companies and other employers can now track employees' usage of safety equipment with Credential Verification Service's (CVS) new feature.

CVS provides photo ID cards with a QR code. Authorized employees first scan the QR code on the employee's card with a tablet or smartphone to log each checkout of a respirator mask, a climbing harness, or other safety equipment. The card is scanned again to display the employee's past usage of safety equipment. This is a new optional feature. The basic service logs and displays employees' training records.

Recent OSHA silica regulations require companies to track the usage of respirator masks. If an employee uses a mask more than 30 times a year, he or she must receive a specialized medical checkup. CVS now gives construction companies, especially masonry, drywall, and demolition contractors, an easy way to track issuance.

The CVS database is instantly updated to record each usage. Managers can easily download a complete spreadsheet of all equipment checked out, by each employee, to meet regulatory reporting requirements.

Credential Verification Service is used in safety-crucial industries such as construction, healthcare, energy, and transportation.

OSHA Renews Alliance with the International Window Cleaning Association to Protect the Safety of Industry Workers

OSHA and the International Window Cleaning Association (IWCA) recently renewed an alliance to continue providing training and resources to protect the safety and health of workers in the window cleaning industry.

During the five-year agreement, OSHA and IWCA will work together to address hazards, such as falls from heights, and slips, trips, and falls. Participants will also focus on the safe use of high-reach access equipment, including rope descent systems, ladders, and scaffolding.

“Falls are among the most common hazards encountered by professional window cleaners,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Loren Sweatt. “We value IWCA’s expertise, and look forward to our continued alliance to ensure workers receive information and training to keep them safe on the job."

The alliance was originally signed in 2010, and renewed in 2012. In the past, participants collaborated to develop resources for the window cleaning industry.  IWCA also supported OSHA outreach campaigns, such as the National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction, Safe + Sound Campaign, and the Heat Illness Prevention Campaign. Additionally, the association has provided its members with training on the new requirements for OSHA’s Walking-Working Surfaces and Personal Fall Protection Systems standard.

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