Protect Employees from Head Injuries

October 20, 2008

Protecting employees from potential head injuries is a key element of any safety program. A head injury can impair an employee for life or can be fatal. Wearing a hard hat is one of the easiest ways to protect an employee’s head from injury. Hard hats can protect employees from impact and penetration hazards, as well as from electrical shock and burn hazards. Employers must ensure that their employees wear head protection if objects might fall from above and strike them on the head; if they might bump their heads against fixed objects, such as exposed pipes or beams; or if there is a possibility of accidental head contact with electrical hazards. In general, whenever there is a danger of objects falling from above, such as working below others who are using tools or working under a conveyor belt, head protection must be worn.

Some occupations in which employees should be required to wear head protection include construction employees, carpenters, electricians, linemen, plumbers and pipefitters, timber and log cutters, and welders.

Hard hats must meet American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Standard Z89.1, Protective Headgear for Industrial Workers

The three primary types of hard hats include:

  • Class A hard hats provide impact and penetration resistance along with limited voltage protection (up to 2,200 volts).
  • Class B hard hats provide the highest level of protection against electrical hazards, with high-voltage shock and burn protection (up to 20,000 volts). They also provide protection from impact and penetration hazards caused by flying or falling objects.
  • Class C hard hats provide lightweight comfort and impact protection, but offer no protection from electrical hazards.


Note that another class of protective headgear on the market is called a “bump hat,” designed for use in areas with low head clearance. They are recommended for areas where protection is needed from head bumps and lacerations, but are not designed to protect against falling or flying objects and are not ANSI approved. It is essential to check the type of head protection employees are using to ensure that the equipment provides appropriate protection.

Connecticut Releases Data on Causes of Worker Deaths in 2007

Work injuries were the cause of 38 deaths in Connecticut during 2007, the Connecticut Department of Labor’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (CONN-OSHA) has reported.

According to State Labor Commissioner Patricia H. Mayfield, this figure—which remains unchanged from the number of work-related deaths reported for 2006—is below the state’s annual average of 41 deaths.

“While we are pleased that the number of work injury deaths has not increased, even one workplace fatality is one too many,” Mayfield said. “With the report’s data, our agency will continue to work closely with companies in order to educate employers and employees alike to recognize and address workplace hazards.”

In 2007, work injuries in America cost 5,488 lives nationwide. This translates into a rate of 3.7 deaths per 100,000 workers. Since much of Connecticut’s employment is in low-risk industries, the state has consistently been able to maintain a fatality rate below the national average. For 2007, Connecticut had a fatal work injury rate of 2.1 per 100,000 workers.

Specific data on Connecticut work-injury fatalities for 2007 includes the following details:

  • Falls resulted in 10 deaths in 2007 and accounted for the largest percentage of workers—about 26%—who lost their lives on the job. This includes falls from roofs, ladders, and scaffolding.
  • Assaults and violent acts accounted for the lives of nine workers, three of which were suicides.
  • In Connecticut, men accounted for 37 (97%) of the work-injury fatalities in 2007. Nationally, men accounted for 5,071 or 92% of the fatalities.
  • Wage and salary workers accounted for 74% of the fatalities. The remaining 26% were self-employed.
  • A total of nine (24%) of the fatalities were in transportation and material moving occupations. This category includes tractor-trailer drivers, delivery drivers, and driving sales workers.

Approximately 40% of the fatalities involved workers between 45 and 54 years of age. The next highest percentage of deaths, at 24%, was reported among the workforce in the 25 to 34 year age range.

The greatest recorded losses were experienced in 1998 with 57 fatalities, followed by 55 in 2000, and 54 in 2004. The lowest recorded loss occurred in 1993 with 31 deaths.

Since 1992, data on work fatalities is collected through the federal Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (CFOI) program. Information is collected through media coverage, police reports, death certificates, and employers.

All employers, regardless of their industry or company size, are required to report all work fatalities to federal OSHA within eight hours of a workplace death, by either calling 1-800-321-OSHA or visiting a local OSHA office. Although employers are not required to report fatal transportation accidents outside of construction zones or public transportation accidents, they are encouraged to report these fatalities as well.

“There is a common misconception that certain deaths, such as heart attacks or suicides, do not need to be reported to OSHA,” explains Erin Wilkins, CONN-OSHA Research Analyst who assisted in compiling the report. “Any death occurring in the workplace, or while an employee is ‘on duty,’ must be reported to OSHA.”

$174,000 Penalty for Trench Hazards

OSHA has cited Sante Berarducci Inc. for alleged safety and health violations found at a Coraopolis, Pa., jobsite. The citations propose a total of $174,000 in penalties. The Allison Park contractor employs 31 people.

OSHA began its investigation on May 6, 2008, after receiving a complaint alleging employee exposure to unshored trenches as deep as 22 feet. The investigation verified the allegation and resulted in the issuance of citations alleging four willful violations with a penalty of $168,000 and two serious violations with a penalty of $6,000.

“Sante Berarducci received repeated warnings and was well aware of the trenching hazards identified at the site but chose not to correct them,” said Robert Szymanski, director of OSHA’s Pittsburgh Area Office. “It is imperative that the company take the necessary steps to eliminate these hazards to ensure its employees stay safe on the job.”

Three of the alleged willful violations were due to the company’s failure to protect employees working in three separate trenches from cave-in hazards. The fourth willful violation alleges the failure to provide a safe means to exit the trench. OSHA issues a willful violation when an employer exhibits plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health.

The serious violations allege the company’s use of unsafe alloy steel chain slings and failure to maintain a spoil pile at least 2 feet away from the edge of the trench wall. A serious citation is issued when death or serious physical harm is likely to result if an accident were to occur as the result of a worksite hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

Contractor Faces More Than $70,000 in OSHA Fines for Cave-in Hazards at Sewer Installation Jobsite

OSHA has cited Baltazar Contractors Inc. of Ludlow, Mass., for alleged willful, repeat, and serious violations of excavation safety standards at a sewer installation site in Marlborough, Mass. The contractor faces $70,100 in proposed fines following an OSHA inspection prompted by a report of potential unsafe conditions at the worksite.

“An unprotected excavation is an especially dangerous place in which to work since its walls can collapse, crush, and bury employees before they can react or escape,” said Jeffrey A. Erskine, OSHA’s acting area director in Methuen. “That’s why proper and effective cave-in protection must be in place and in use before employees enter any excavation five feet or more in depth. Such required protection was missing in this excavation.”

Specifically, OSHA found Baltazar employees working in an excavation more than five feet deep that lacked cave-in protection and a safe means of egress. A protective trench box that was on the jobsite was missing required securing pins, and the unprotected excavation had not been inspected by a competent person with the knowledge and authority to identify and correct these hazards.

As a result, OSHA issued Baltazar Contractors one willful citation, with a $56,000 fine, for the lack of cave-in protection; one repeat citation with a fine of $8,400 for the lack of safe egress (OSHA cited Baltazar in 2006 for a similar hazard at a Connecticut worksite); and two serious citations with $5,700 in fines for the defective trench box and lack of inspection.

OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health. A serious citation is issued when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known. A repeat citation is issued when an employer previously has been cited for a substantially similar hazard and that citation has become final.

This inspection was conducted by OSHA’s Methuen, Mass., Area Office. Baltazar Contractors has elected to contest its citations and penalties to the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Fall and Impalement Hazards at New York Worksite Lead to $48,000 in OSHA Fines

OSHA cited masonry contractor, Damap Construction Inc., of Spring Valley, N.Y., for alleged willful violations of safety standards at a residential construction site located in Suffern, N.Y. Damap Construction faces a total of $48,000 in proposed fines.

The citations and fines follow an OSHA inspection initiated in April after an agency inspector passing by the worksite observed employees working in plain view without fall protection. Specifically, OSHA’s inspection found that Damap employees were exposed to falls of more than 51 feet while installing plywood grout stops at the perimeters of the building’s roof. They also were exposed to impalement hazards from unguarded reinforcing steel rebar beside where they were working. OSHA had cited Damap Construction in 2005 for similar hazards at a Yonkers, N.Y., jobsite.

“There is no way to understate the danger of fall hazards, which are the number one killer in construction work,” said Diana Cortez, OSHA’s area director in Tarrytown. “Whenever employees work without adequate and effective fall protection, they are just one misstep away from death or disabling injury. What’s particularly disturbing in this case is that this employer knew these safeguards were required yet did not ensure they were in place and in use.”

As a result of these conditions, OSHA has issued two willful citations to Damap Construction. OSHA defines a willful violation as one committed with plain indifference to or intentional disregard for employee safety and health.

“One effective means of addressing workplace hazards is an effective safety and health management system,” Cortez said. “Having one allows employees and management to work together in a systematic and effective manner to evaluate, identify, and eliminate hazards before they cause injury or illness.”

Damap Construction has elected to contest its citations and fines to the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. This inspection was conducted by OSHA’s Tarrytown, N.Y., Area Office.

OSHA Cites U.S. Forest Service for Unsafe Working Conditions at Salmon-Challis National Forest

OSHA has cited the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) for 51 alleged serious safety violations, 77 repeat violations, and 16 other-than-serious violations at 10 locations throughout the Salmon-Challis National Forest in Idaho and nearby ranger districts.

OSHA’s inspection found serious violations involving fall hazards, emergency egress design and maintenance, machine guarding, storage of compressed gas cylinders, liquefied petroleum gas, flammable liquids, and electrical hazards. In addition, OSHA cited the supervisor’s office for a broad spectrum of deficiencies in its agency-required safety and health program. A serious citation is issued when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

OSHA previously cited the USFS for violations at other sites in Idaho, including restricted exit access, lack of machine guarding, fire extinguisher maintenance, and electrical hazards. OSHA issues repeat citations when an employer previously has been cited for similar hazards and those citations have become final.

The other-than-serious violations include recordkeeping, hazard communication, personal protective equipment, and electrical issues. An other-than-serious violation is a hazardous condition that would probably not cause death or serious physical harm but would have an immediate relationship to the safety and health of employees.

“Federal agencies are required by executive order to comply with OSHA standards and must promptly abate unsafe working conditions,” said Richard S. Terrill, regional administrator for OSHA in Seattle. “These citations put the U.S. Forest Service on notice that improvements need to be made.”

New OSHA Resource Addresses Shipfitting in the Maritime Industry

Employers and employees in the maritime industry can benefit from a new OSHA resource that addresses the hazards of shipfitting in vessel construction and repair and ways to avoid those hazards.  Each example offers an analysis of the problem and provides abatement measures specific to the situation that could have prevented the incident.

OSHA Asks VPP Partners in New York, New Jersey, and Puerto Rico to “Stand Down for Crane Safety”

The New York Regional Office of OSHA is asking the 151 worksites in its jurisdiction participating in OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) to conduct voluntary inspections of any crane activity occurring at their worksites. The VPP is an elite, voluntary, merit-based program that recognizes worksites committed to effective employee protection beyond the requirements of OSHA standards.

During the “Stand Down for Crane Safety,” VPP worksites in New York, New Jersey, and Puerto Rico will have an opportunity to reinforce best practices in crane safety by stopping crane work and demonstrating their proactive commitment to safety and health for both their own and contractor employees.

“We’re asking all companies to examine any crane operations at their worksites to ensure all applicable OSHA requirements are met and to promptly correct any deficiencies should they be found,” said Robert Kulick, OSHA’s regional administrator in New York. “Worksites earn entry into the VPP by showing that their safety and health management systems go well beyond OSHA standards and are effective in reducing injuries and illnesses.”

Though many of these worksites may not use cranes as part of their everyday operations, cranes operated by contractors may be present on a temporary basis, such as for a construction project. In those instances, OSHA is asking the VPP companies to take a look at their contractors’ crane activity.

While this initiative is focused on VPP companies, OSHA asks all construction companies to conduct a crane stand-down in an effort to protect the safety and health of their employees.

Information on crane inspections and crane safety is available online at OSHA’s website. 

Three Northeastern Attorney Generals Call on Manufacturers to Stop Using Bisphenol A in Baby Bottles and Formula Containers

On October 13, the Attorney Generals of Connecticut, New Jersey, and Delaware sent letters to 11 companies urging them to stop using the toxic chemical bisphenol A (BPA) in baby bottles and baby formula containers in light of recent studies clearly linking the chemical to potential health problems. The letters were sent to baby bottle manufacturers Avent, Disney First Years, Gerber, Dr. Brown, Playtex, and Evenflo; and formula makers Abbott, Mead Johnson, PBM Products, Nature’s One, and Wyeth.

BPA, which hardens plastic, is used in the lining of baby formula containers. Growing scientific evidence shows that even a small amount of BPA can cause damage to infant reproductive, neurological, and immune systems.

“I am alarmed by recent studies confirming that BPA leaches from these products into the foods they hold,” Connecticutt Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said in the letters. “The preventable release of a toxic chemical directly into the food we eat is unconscionable and intolerable.

“Credible, escalating laboratory evidence demonstrates that even low dose exposure to BPA causes serious damage to reproductive, neurological and immune systems during the critical stages of fetal and infant development,” he continued. “A recent study commissioned by a coalition of United States and Canadian environmental health organizations found definitive evidence that when heated, baby bottles leached BPA at levels that have proven to cause a range of adverse effects on laboratory animals. Experiments have linked exposure to BPA at very low levels to health problems, including prostate and breast cancer, early onset of puberty, obesity, and diabetes.”

A recent release by Yale School of Medicine clearly links low levels of BPA exposure to brain fluctuations and mood disorders in monkeys. Another recent study by federal health agencies confirmed that BPA may affect human development.

“Over 20,000 parents, along with environmental and public health organizations, petitioned major manufacturers of plastic baby bottles containing BPA urging the voluntary elimination of the dangerous chemical,” Blumenthal added. “We call for the immediate elimination of this dangerous chemical from our children’s food. We urge you to take a leadership role in making safer children’s products by immediately discontinuing the use of BPA. We believe that your company has a public duty to ensure that every product is safe for every consumer, but especially for infants and children.”

BPA is used in a wide variety of plastics, including reusable water bottles and sunglasses. Baby bottle and formula containers are not required to say whether they contain BPA. Some manufacturers, however, have stopped using the chemical and say so on their packaging.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has so far declined to ban the BPA in spite of growing scientific evidence of its toxicity. Blumenthal recently wrote the FDA asking it to ban BPA in baby bottles and baby formula containers.

DOT Announces New Federal Rule to Make School Buses Safer

New federal rules will make the nation’s 474,000 school buses safer by requiring higher seat backs, mandating lap and shoulder belts on small school buses, and setting safety standards for seat belts on large school buses, according to a recent announcement by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary E. Peters said the new rule requires all new school buses in America to be equipped with 24-inch-high seat backs instead of the 20-inch-high seat backs required today. Higher seat backs will help prevent taller and heavier children from being thrown over the seat in a crash, decreasing the chance of injury to them and the children in front of them.

“Even though riding in school buses is the safest form of travel in America today, any accident is still a tragedy,” Secretary Peters said. “Taken together, these steps are designed with a single purpose, making children safer.”

Peters added that all new school buses weighing less than five tons will be required to have three-point seat belts. She noted that the lap and shoulder belts better protect children in small buses, adding that smaller school buses are more vulnerable because they don’t absorb shock as well as larger buses.

The Secretary said the federal government also was setting new standards for seat belts on large school buses. Standards will improve seat belt safety and help lower the cost of installing the belts. She cautioned, however, that seat belts on larger buses can limit capacity and force more students to walk or ride in cars to school, which is statistically more dangerous.

“The last thing we want to do is force parents to choose other, less safe ways of getting their children to school,” she said. That is why she said the federal government also would begin allowing school districts to use federal highway safety funds to pay for the cost of installing these belts.

“No school district should have to choose between books and safety,” said Deputy Transportation Secretary Thomas Barrett, who outlined the new school bus rules on October 15 during a visit to a Deatsville, Ala., elementary school with Governor Bob Riley.

“I thank Secretary Peters and Deputy Secretary Barrett for their leadership on this important issue,” Riley said. “These new measures will make children on school buses safer and give states a clear picture of what they can do to better protect students.”

Barrett noted that a phone call from the Governor to Secretary Peters following a November 2006 bus crash in Huntsville helped prompt the new rule. “The fact that there are so few fatalities on buses every year is little solace for a grieving parent or a saddened governor,” Barrett said.

New Draft Standard for Organic Personal Care Products Now Available for Public Review

NSF International has announced that “NSF Draft Standard 305: Organic Personal Care Products” is available for public comment until Nov. 10, 2008. This draft standard will be the first U.S. national standard to define organic labeling and marketing requirements for organic personal care products. Comments on the first edition draft closed in March 2008.

Previously, personal care product companies have had to work within the limitations of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Organic Program standards, which were written specifically for food. The NSF proposed draft standard may soon be used by companies that would like to make organic label and marketing claims, while meeting the strict requirements of this standard, which includes organic ingredient specifications.

 These comments will then be reviewed by the joint committee that developed the standard and incorporated where appropriate.

NSF International is an independent, not-for-profit organization that helps protect consumers by certifying products and writing standards for food, water, and consumer goods . Founded in 1944, NSF is committed to protecting public health and safety worldwide. NSF is a World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Food and Water Safety and Indoor Environment. Additional services include safety audits for the food and water industries, management systems registrations delivered through NSF International Strategic Registrations, organic certification provided by Quality Assurance International, and education through the NSF Center for Public Health Education.

Halloween Fire Safety Tips

Halloween is a fun time for little ghosts and goblins. Parents of the little trick or treaters can make sure that Halloween is a safe, enjoyable evening by taking a few basic steps, according to William Swope, Kentucky State Fire Marshal.

“A little planning can go a long way toward making sure that your child has a ‘fire-safe’ holiday,” Swope said.

The planning begins with buying the Halloween costume. Check the labels to make sure your little one’s costume, wig, or prop is fire resistant or flame retardant. When creating a costume, choose material that doesn’t ignite easily.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) offers these additional tips for the big night:

  • Provide your child with a lightweight flashlight to carry around.
  • Keep dried flowers, cornstalks, and crepe paper away from heat sources, including light bulbs and heaters.
  • Illuminate jack-o’-lanterns with flashlights or battery-operated candles, instead of burning candles.
  • Use lights instead of candles or torch lights to decorate sidewalks and yards.
  • Instruct your child to stay away from open flames and to stop, drop, and roll if clothing catches on fire.

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