A Fond Farewell; Thanks for the Support!

I appreciate all of the support I have received over the past few years writing this blog, however at this time I have transitioned into a new role and simply do not have the time to adequately maintain this site.

Therefore I bid you all a fond farewell (at least for now).

Toxic Release Inventory Reporting Due Soon: Is Your Facility Exempt?

If you don’t know whether your facility is required to submit Toxic Chemical Release forms you should find out FAST!  Affected facilities must complete a separate Form R or Form A for each listed chemical or chemical category that is manufactured, processed, or otherwise used in excess of the threshold amount annually.  Fortunately for everyone EPA has developed TRI-MEweb software for Form R submissions which greatly reduces the time necessary for compliance.

Section 313 of the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA) of 1986 was enacted to facilitate emergency planning, to minimize the effects of potential toxic chemical accidents, and to provide the public with information on releases of toxic chemicals in their communities.  As a result the TRI database was created which contains detailed information on nearly 650 chemicals and chemical categories that over 23,000 industrial and other facilities manage through disposal or other releases, recycling, energy recovery, or treatment.  The data are collected from industries including manufacturing, metal and coal mining, electric utilities, commercial hazardous waste treatment, and other industrial sectors.

TRI-MEweb is a Web-based application that can be accessed anywhere with a connection to the Internet.

TRI-MEweb

  • TRI-MEweb allows facilities to file a paperless report, significantly reduce data errors, and receive instant receipt confirmation of their submissions.
  • Certifying officials must register for the application that requires the printing, completion, and mailing of an electronic signature agreement.
  • TRI-MEweb submissions are NOT available for trade secret claims.  Facilities must continue to submit hard copies of the TRI reporting forms and trade secret substantiation form.

Don’t click through to the EPA TRI-MEweb site just yet.  Although EPA has identified more than 650 chemicals and chemical categories that are subject to the TRI annual reporting requirement there are exemptions you should be aware of that just may eliminate the need for a last minute scramble to complete you TRI reporting prior to July 1st.

Exemptions to TRI reporting:

Certain uses of listed toxic chemicals are exempt:

  • Use as a structural component of the facility.
  • Use in routine janitorial or facility grounds maintenance (including phenol in bathroom disinfectants and pesticides in lawn care products). Listed chemicals used in facility equipment maintenance and cleaning or maintenance activities that are integral to the production process at the facility are not exempt (e.g., herbicides used on an aboveground storage tank berm).
  • Employees’ personal use (foods, drugs, cosmetics, etc.).
  • Use of products containing toxic chemicals for facility motor vehicle maintenance.
  • Use of toxic chemicals contained in intake water (used for processing or noncontact cooling) or in intake air (used either as compressed air or for combustion).

The de minimis exemption applies where the quantity of a listed chemical in a mixture or other trade-name product is either:

  • An OSHA-defined carcinogen present at a concentration of less than 0.1 percent by weight
  • Any other listed chemical present at a concentration of less than 1 percent by weight

There are other exemptions as well such as those that are manufactured, processed, or used in a laboratory.  However all of these exemptions have limitations and I strongly encourage you to click through to the EPA TRI FAQ website to learn more.

More:  EPA Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) Program

New Study: OSHA Inspections Lower Workers Compensation Costs

A new study says it confirms that OSHA’s inspections not only prevent workers from getting hurt on the job, they also save billions of dollars for employers through reduced workers’ compensation costs. The study by business school economists at the University of California and Harvard University, analyzed how workplace safety inspections affected injury rates and other outcomes. In a comparison of 409 randomly inspected establishments in California with 409 matched-control establishments that were eligible, but not chosen, for inspection the study found no evidence that the inspection process and subsequent corrective actions came at the expense of employment, sales, credit ratings, or the firm’s survival.

Key Findings from the Study

  • 9.4% drop in injury claims at workplaces in the four years following an inspection
  • 26% average savings on workers’ compensation costs compared to similar, non-inspected companies
  • $355,000 average savings for an employer (small or large) as a result of an OSHA inspection
  • $6 billion estimated savings to employers nationwide

As researchers David Levine, Michael Toffel, and Matthew Johnson explain, “The benefits of a randomized safety inspection appear to be substantial.  These results do not support the hypothesis that OSHA regulations and inspections on average have little value in improving health and safety.” Furthermore, the researchers found “no evidence that these improvements came at the expense of employment, sales, credit ratings, or firm survival.”

Dr. David Michaels responded strongly to the study,  “I have been promoting that message since I became head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration almost three years ago. It is supported by empirical evidence—and now—it’s been confirmed by a peer-reviewed study published in Science, one of the world’s top scientific journals. Not only that, the new study, conducted by professors at the University of California and Harvard Business School, shows that OSHA inspections save billions of dollars for employers through reduced workers compensation costs.”  OSHA’s full response to the study.

Read the entire study here.  “Randomized Government Safety Inspections Reduce Worker Injuries with No Detectable Job Loss,”

Missouri Closes Workers Compensation Loophole: Protecting Co-Workers from Lawsuits

The Missouri Senate passed legislation recently that would effectively close a major loophole in Missouri Workers Compensation laws.   The following the Missouri chamber of Commerce’s press release detailing the legislation.

Missouri Chamber pleased with passage of workers’ compensation reform that protects Missouri workers

Yesterday, the Missouri Senate passed legislation, House Bill 1540, on a unanimous vote and was adopted by the House with a vote of 122-29.  The bill was sponsored by Rep. Tim Jones specifies that an employee subject to workers’ compensation provisions must be released from all liability for personal injury or death to a co-employee due to an accident or occupational disease.

Following reforms to the workers’ compensation system in 2005, the courts began interpreting the law in such a way that co-workers were no longer protected as the exclusive remedy for workplace accidents.  Already, millions of dollars in lawsuits and settlements have been paid out as more and more trial attorneys find ways to leverage this loophole.

This comes at a crucial time as the Missouri Chamber has heard reports of trial attorneys using the loophole to go after the personal assets of co-workers of employees who were killed at a Joplin business during last year’s tornado.

“Every possession that these individuals own that wasn’t taken by the tornado is now at risk due to a flaw in the law that trial attorneys are using to get rich,” said Daniel P. Mehan, Missouri Chamber president and CEO.  “We are getting pleas from businesses that are being bankrupted by a rash of co-employee lawsuits, but reports of this flaw and the tornado being used to line the pockets of lawyers on the backs of innocent workers reaches an all-new low,” Mehan said.

“Workers’ compensation served as the exclusive remedy for co-employees for decades until the changes to the law in 2005,” Rich AuBuchon, general counsel for the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said.  “This loophole puts Missouri workers in the crosshairs of trial attorneys seeking big payouts for a cause of action that was not intended to exist.  No employee should be forced to worry about losing their home to a lawsuit based on an unintentional workplace accident.  The passage of this legislation will protect employees and employers throughout Missouri.”

The passage of this legislation was extremely difficult.  Despite this success other critical issues impacting our workers’ compensation system remain including a loophole that allows employees to sue in court for compensation of occupational disease in addition to receiving workers compensation benefits.  Also, Missouri’s insolvent Second Injury Fund remains unresolved.  The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry will continue to work on these issues but with only three days left in the 2012 Legislative Session the issues remaining may not be resolved this year.

OSHA Has Specific Training Requirements For Workers

Working with many different types of clients is a lot of fun, but it also keeps you on your toes.  Especially regarding training requirements. One of the most frequently asked questions I get involves OSHA regulations on how often you must have safety meetings.

Currently OSHA has no regulation on how often you must have safety meetings. However, there are regulations that require training on a scheduled basis such as Bloodborne Pathogens (29 CFR 1910.1030) training, which is required annually.

Other general industry standards that require annual training include:

  • Asbestos—29 CFR 1910.1001
  • Exposure and Medical Records—29 CFR 1910.1020
  • Fire Brigades—29 CFR 1910.156 (quarterly training required for interior structural firefighters
  • Fire Extinguishers—29 CFR 1910.157
  • Fixed Fire Extinguisher Systems—29 CFR 1910.160
  • Grain Handling—29 CFR 1910.272
  • HAZWOPER—29 CFR 1910.120
  • Machine Guarding—29 CFR 1910.217 and 218
  • Noise—29 CFR 1910.95
  • Respiratory Protection—29 CFR 1910.134
  • Toxic Substances—29 CFR 1910.1003, 1017,1018, 1025-1029, 1043, 1045-1048, 1050

Then there are two standards that require training every 3 years: Process Safety Management (29 CFR 1910.119) and Powered Industrial Trucks (29 CFR 1910.178).  For more information on OSHA required training visit the OSHA website, or contact me directly at learningsolutions@occutec.com.

Talk about Safety: Save a Life!

“Toolbox Talks”, “Toolbox Topics” , “Safety Chats” , “Tailgate Meetings” or whatever your organization calls them is a brief safety talk or meeting about a specific subject at the beginning of the shift. These talks can be done in a variety of ways but are typically a brief (5-10 minute) interactive discussion meeting on something safety related. Toolbox Topics are used to cover a variety of short safety training subjects and to remind employees each day before they go to work, the importance of being safe.  They can also help foster and grow a culture of safety within your company.

However sometimes the same safety meetings that occur time after time lose some of the spark as an effective training tool.  We’ve all been to safety meetings that missed the mark—topics were not pertinent, sessions ran too long, disorganization ruled.  We have all experienced times when the safety training was forgotten as soon as the meeting was over.

It’s too important to just give up though.  Employee’s lives and fortune depend upon their knowledge and attitude about job site safety.  One seemingly silly accident can quickly ruin a company financially as well, and for the remaining employees it can certainly alter their quality of life.  It is in every worker’s interest to protect their savings and earning potential as well as their life and health.

Tips for Effective Safety Meetings

  • Carefully time the length of meetings.  If you hold meetings once a month, keep the length at 30-45 minutes; once a week, keep it 30 minutes or less with 20 minutes as the ideal length. The longest meetings should run no more than an hour.
  • For construction work, have short, informal tailgate safety meetings of 5, 10, or 15 minutes before work once a week, with a longer talk at least once a month or at the start of each phase of the construction project.
  • Schedule topics over a long period—a year is most common.  The schedule provides reasonable deadlines for the trainer and helps others plan their working days.
  • Select meeting topics on the basis of 1) a review of the most recent types of accidents and near-accidents, 2) related corporate safety goals, 3) any particular subjects that need to be covered from a legal or insurance standpoint, and 4) your basic list of safety topics to be reviewed.
  • Have the senior management person at the location open the meeting and sit in—it’s a sign of commitment.

Without constant reminders about safety, we tend to forget, get sloppy, take risks, and have accidents.  Safety meetings are a great refresher and can keep you abreast of changes in the regulations, safety procedures, equipment, personal protective equipment (PPE) and job assignments, and responsibilities.  Refresher training is also sometimes required by OSHA and having a pre-planned weekly meeting is a convenient way to go over required training.

The characteristics of a Safety Culture

What does an organizational culture that gives safety a priority look like?  There are several identified characteristics that go to make up a safety culture. Included in these are:

  • An informed culture*: one in which those who manage and operate the system have current knowledge about the human, technical, organisational and environmental factors that determine the safety of the system as a whole,
  • A reporting culture*: a culture in which people are willing to report errors and near misses,
  • A just culture*: a culture of ‘no blame’ where an atmosphere of trust is present and people are encouraged or even rewarded for providing essential safety-related information- but where there is also a clear line between acceptable and unacceptable behavior,
  • A flexible culture*: which can take different forms but is characterized as shifting from the conventional hierarchical mode to a flatter professional structure.
  • A learning culture*: the willingness and the competence to draw the right conclusions from its safety information system, and the will to implement major reforms when the need is indicated.

*Reason, J.T. (1997) Managing the Risks of Organisational Accidents

Taken together these five characteristics help form a culture of trust and of informed collective.  Of course trust is needed, especially in the face of assaults upon the beliefs that people are trying their best,  such as accidents and near-miss incidents which all too easily look like failures of individuals.  Informed people know what is really happening, lessening the chance of mistakes.  These and other critical elements help us to identify what beliefs are associated with a safety culture and will ultimately help reduce the frequency of accidents/incidents.

GHS is finally here…almost!

OSHA’s recently published the final rule to adopt the Global Harmonization System (GHS), which according to them will not change the framework and scope of the current Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) but will help ensure improved consistency in the classification and labeling of all workplace chemicals. GHS provides a single set of harmonized criteria for classifying chemicals according to their health and physical hazards and specifies hazard communication elements for labeling and safety data sheets. Under GHS, labels would include signal words, pictograms, and hazard and precautionary statements and safety data sheets would have standardized format. This system was agreed on at an international level by governments, industry, and labor, and adopted by the UN in 2002 with a goal of 2008 for implementation.

According to OSHA this change will affect over 40 million workers in about 5 million workplaces. The change to GHS was a long time in coming and necessary as the global chemical business is more than a $1.7 trillion per year enterprise. In the U.S., chemicals are more than a $450 billion business and exports are greater than $80 billion per year. Existing laws and regulations are currently different enough to require multiple labels for the same product both within the U.S. and in international trade and requiring multiple safety data sheets for the same product in international trade. Several U.S. regulatory agencies and various countries also have different requirements for hazard definitions as well as for information to be included on labels or material safety data sheets. GHS effectively establishes agreed hazard classification and communication provisions with explanatory information on how to apply the system worldwide.

It is important to remember that GHS itself is not a regulation or a standard. The GHS Document (referred to as “The Purple Book”) is simply a mechanism to meet the basic requirements of any hazard communication system, which is to decide if the chemical product produced and/or supplied is hazardous and to prepare a label and/or Safety Data Sheet as appropriate. OSHA’s HCS will incorporate the needed elements of GHS to make international trade and commerce easier.

Of course with change comes the need for training. Employers will need to have trained their employees regarding the new label elements and safety data sheets format by December 1, 2013 with full implementation of GHS taking place December 1, 2015.

OSHA has published a side-by-side comparison of the current HCS with the new GHS elements incorporated which can be found here.  If you need more information or training contact me,  I’d be happy to help you find the needed resources.

4-Year GHS Compliance Transition Period

May 25, 2012 to November 30, 2013
All employers that use, handle, store chemicals
Train employees how to read and interpret chemical labels and (material) safety data sheets in compliance with either:

  • The pre-GHS HazCom standard for labels and MSDSs; or
  • The revised HazCom standard with GHS for new-style labels and SDSs; or
  • Both old and new requirements at the same time
December 1, 2013
All employers that use, handle, store chemicals
Train employees about the new GHS-compliant chemical labels and SDSs.
June 1, 2015
Chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors
Comply with all the requirements of the GHS rule, including classify chemical hazards and prepare new labels and SDSs. Distributors have until December 1, 2015 to comply with the shipping requirements for GHS-compliant labels.
December 1, 2015
Chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors
All shipments of chemical containers must include the new GHS-compliant label (signal word, pictogram, hazard statement, and precautionary statement).
June 1, 2016
All employers that use, handle, store chemicals
Update alternative workplace labeling and hazard communication program as necessary, and provide additional employee training for newly identified physical or health hazards.

Get By With A Little Help From A Friend: Safety Professionals & Trainers

Recently I had the great pleaure of getting to know more and more experienced safety professionals and trainers using LinkedIn Groups.    Some of the more interesting subjects within our industry are being discussed right now by a wide range of professionals whose insight and knowledge has helped me immensely in my career.   I have listed below a couple of the more interesting blog posts that I have discovered using LinkedIn.   

The Most Overlooked Paragraph in the OSHA Standards

Several months ago I was reading posts made by members in one of the many social networking groups I belong to that are dedicated to occupational health and safety matters. The original discussion question inquired about the regulations that should be applied to workers who were not wearing fall protection harnesses while spreading metal decking…(read more).

Don’t Overlook OSHA’s “Unscheduled” Refresher Training Requirements

When I conduct mock-OSHA inspections for companies, we spend a lot of time focusing on their employee safety training efforts. What we typically find is that most employers provide a new employee safety orientation to get the newbies up to speed on the mandatory OSHA topics…(read more).

Beware – Where Behavior Based Safety Programs and OSHA Standards Collide

Occasionally a company that has implemented an OSHA compliance program asks me for recommendations to help them “go to the next level” and “exceed OSHA compliance”. Often times I recommend they look into implementing a behavior based safety (BBS) program to compliment what they have in place. Many of you in the safety profession already know what a behavior based safety program is…(read more)

Employee Training Leads to Increased Productivity

According to ASTD research, companies that invest in employee learning have higher productivity, revenue growth, and profit growth than companies that do not. Employee training is a fundamental determinant of customer satisfaction, sales per employee, and market capitalization within an organization. Employee satisfaction with opportunities for learning and development is one of the most important predictors of whether an employee will stay with his or her current employer and the opportunity for professional development and training is one of the top three things people consider when deciding where they want to work.

Training should be viewed as a business value for your organization. There are measurable and hidden qualities that determine the health and well-being of an organization, drive decision-making for all work activities, and attract investors. A well trained workforce is definitely a quality that your organization needs to succeed.

Five ways you can increase the payback of your training dollars

  • Make training on ongoing process, and reassess training needs frequently to make sure you’re meeting today’s needs, not yesterday’s.
  • Encourage employees to talk about their training needs and request additional training.
  • Provide employees with opportunities to use newly learned skills on the job.
  • Make sure your training is comprehensive, interesting, and interactive, and gives employees the chance to practice new skills in a safe setting.
  • Send employees back to work with learning aids such as checklists, step-by-step instructions, and safety reminders that help them safely and effectively transfer newly learned skills to their job.
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