Care, Protect, Grow: The U.S. Compliance Blog

Confined Space Entry: Permit or Non-Permit?

According to the Bureau of Labor & Statistics (BLS), there were 1,030 confined space entry fatalities across all fifty states from 2011 to 2018. In addition, confined space fatalities increased from 120 in 2011 to 148 in 2018.

Permit or Non-Permit?

For those that may not know, in 29 CFR 1910.146(b), OSHA defines a confined space as any space that (1) is large enough and so configured that an employee can bodily enter and perform assigned work, (2) has limited or restricted means for entry and exit, and (3) is not designated for continuous employee occupancy.

Once the confined space applicability has been established, the employer must determine the permit applicability of the space. This is completed by evaluating to see if any of the three following hazards exist: (1) Hazardous Atmosphere, (2) Contains material or has a configuration that has the potential to engulf or entrap, and/or (3) Contains other recognized serious safety or health hazard. This second evaluation step is where you, as the employer, determine if the space is permit-required or not. A flow chart is listed below to help you assess the spaces at your facility.

 

It’s important to note that non-permit does not necessarily mean non-hazardous. Keep in mind that during the entrance to the space conditions, hazards and the scope of work may change. This makes it necessary for you, as the employer, to re-evaluate the space.

Can a Permit-Required Confined Space be re-classified as a Non-Permit Space and if so, what are the criteria?

Yes, a permit-required confined space may be reclassified into a non-permit confined space under certain conditions. Essentially, a non-permit confined space involves a confined space that does not contain or, with respect to atmospheric hazards, have the potential to contain any hazard capable of causing death or serious physical harm.

To re-classify a permit-required confined space into a non-permit confined space, you must do the following:

  • If the permit-required space poses no actual or potential atmospheric hazards (and you’ve tested and inspected the space to ensure that), and if all hazards within the space are eliminated without entry into the space, the permit space may be reclassified as a non-permit space for as long as the non-atmospheric hazards are eliminated.
  • You must document the basis for determining that all hazards in a permit space have been eliminated through a certification that contains the date, the location of the space, and the signature of the person making the determination. The certification shall be made available to each employee entering the space or to that employee’s authorized representative.
  • Note: Control of atmospheric hazards through forced air ventilation does not constitute the elimination of the hazards.

What does this mean for my facility and my team?

As an employer, you may be thinking, “our employees don’t enter confined spaces—it’s the contractor’s responsibility.” However, just because your employees do not enter the space directly does not mean that you can overlook the entrance process and the hazards associated with it.

OSHA states that there are three designations for employers: the entry, the host, and the controlling contractor/employer. For example, if a company is leasing a building and needs a contractor to come onsite and clean out a pit or work on a large machine, the owner of the building or property would be the host employer. The company operating in that space would be the controlling employer, and the contractor would be the entry employer.

To put it simply, the host employer is the employer that owns or manages the property where the entrance is being completed. The controlling employer is the employer with the overall responsibility for the entrance. Lastly, the entry employer/contractor is the one who decides if the space will be entered and should communicate with the controlling employer to determine what hazards exist inside the respective confined space and, most importantly, how to control said hazards and protect employees prior to entry.

Strategies for Safe Entry

Often, companies today are contracting out confined space entry because of the scope of the job being completed, and because of the risks associated with the entrance. That can often lead to confusion or ignorance when it comes to confined space entry. Below are the key steps for a safe entry, regardless of the entrant or the host/controlling employer.

  1. Complete a documented assessment of the spaces at your facility for permit applicability.
  2. Post notice of permit-required confined spaces at their access points.
  3. Determine if your employees will be entering any permit-required confined spaces.
  4. If your employees will be entering permit-required confined spaces, review specific employee responsibilities and rescue plans before entering any permit-required confined spaces.
  5. If any atmospheric hazards may be present, make sure to complete air monitoring prior to entry and throughout the job at the front, middle, and back of the space.
  6. Implement controls for all other hazards, including lockout/tagout, the use of PPE, fall protection, and air monitoring.
  7. Train employees in confined space entry, awareness, and hazard recognition.
  8. Practice the training through confined space entry drills. If offsite rescue is being used, invite them to the drill as well.

If you need assistance determining permit applicability or evaluating your facility’s confined spaces, U.S. Compliance can offer the resources and guidelines to ensure safe working conditions and maintain compliance.

Injury Prevention: Management of Non-Routine Tasks as a Method to Reduce Risk

Non-routine tasks arise in nearly every workplace and can present multiple risks to employees. For standard, everyday processes, understanding risks and how to minimize interaction with these risks is fairly straightforward to evaluate and control. When unexpected tasks need to be addressed quickly, it can be challenging to assess and manage the issue in a safe manner. Thus, it is critical that every facility understands and prepares for non-routine tasks.

Common non-routine tasks include emergency maintenance, natural disasters, confined space entry, and chemical spill cleanups. Oftentimes, during these emergencies, speed is prioritized over safety. This type of quick, unplanned work can result in severe injuries if adequate assessments and preparations are not made.

Non-routine tasks can also include tasks conducted for the first time, infrequent tasks, tasks assigned that are outside of an employee’s regular duties, and tasks performed differently than the originally documented procedure. Although a task may be routine for one employee, the same may not be true for a new employee or an employee who stepped into a new role. It is critical for employees who are conducting non-routine tasks to have the time, resources, and training before they begin their work.

Reacting vs Responding

Preparation is the key difference between reacting and responding. When we react, we act spontaneously and rely on our instincts. If an employee is inexperienced or is working too quickly without taking into consideration safety measures, then this type of reactionary work can lead to a serious injury. In contrast, when we respond, our actions are planned, and there is a framework to work within, which can help manage risks and reduce the probability of injuries.

A facility that is prepared to respond would have the necessary equipment, PPE, and employee training prior to the event. This type of preparation allows the team to manage non-routine tasks in a safe and efficient manner.

Proactive Preparation

The first step towards minimizing the risks associated with non-routine tasks is to proactively identify unexcepted circumstances that may arise. For example, although a roof leak may be infrequent, if the leak occurs whenever there is heavy rainfall, it can be anticipated that it will occur again. Thus, the facility can prepare for this task by conducting an assessment and developing a procedure for repairing the roof.

Active safety committees with representation from different departments can be especially useful when trying to understand and assess various non-routine tasks throughout the facility. To start, the facility should assemble and agree upon a list of non-routine tasks that need to be evaluated. Once identified, the team can work together to observe and document any risks, hazards, and areas of concern for each task. The team can then work together, and/or with third-party specialists to establish a formal working procedure to address the specific non-routine task.

Job Hazard Assessments

Job Hazard Assessments should identify risks and hazards, detail how to execute the task in a manner that avoids these risks and hazards, and specify the required equipment and PPE. The information should be reviewed with all applicable employees and should be presented in a clear, detailed manner. The team should then observe the employee execute the procedure and determine if any deficiencies need to be addressed.

It is critical to periodically review the assessments and non-routine tasks to ensure that the procedure is adequate and addresses all safety concerns. This periodic review is also useful in assessing an employee’s competency with the procedure. The regular review of hazardous tasks encourages employees to take a deeper look into the hazards and risks associated with their work.

Collaboration

Collaborative efforts within a facility are the key to understanding and addressing the safety concerns associated with non-routine tasks. Each department and each employee face their own unique challenges and job tasks; their input and insight can be particularly useful when trying to understand the nuances of non-routine tasks.

Without careful evaluation and preparation, employees who conduct non-routine tasks can be at risk for serious injuries. Although developing procedures and protocols for non-routine tasks can be time-consuming and potentially costly, it is a necessary step toward ensuring the safety and well-being of your employees.

If you need assistance with Job Hazard Assessments or any other steps in the prevention process, U.S. Compliance is ready to help with all of your injury prevention needs.

Industrial Hygiene – Tips for Effective Site Surveys

What is Industrial Hygiene?

The American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) defines industrial hygiene as “a science and art devoted to the anticipation, recognition, evaluation, control, and confirmation of protection from those environmental factors or stresses arising in or from the workplace which may cause sickness, impaired health and well being, or significant discomfort among workers or among citizens of the community.”

How to Conduct a Site Survey

1. Conduct a Walkthrough Survey 

When questioning what type of monitoring or where monitoring is needed in a facility, it is recommended to start with a facility walkthrough. The walkthrough is needed to identify the different areas of the facility, how they are separated, and what processes take place in the different areas. Looking at the roof lines of the facility can help determine what areas would be exposed to similar contaminants based on the materials used or processes performed in those areas.

You also want to take note of anything you hear, see, smell, or touch when completing the walkthrough. Do you notice that certain areas are much noisier than others? Do you notice strong smells of any sort in any area or around a specific process? Do you see anything that is concerning, such as a dust cloud when an employee empties a bag of powdered material into a tank? Do you touch anything like oil mist on the floor as you are walking?

 

2. Identify Potential Concerns 

When looking to identify potential concerns, direct exposure must be assessed. Direct exposure occurs when an employee is exposed to a chemical or material through a process or task. The employee may directly handle the material, or they may be exposed to the material through a process.

With direct exposure, the contamination concern is the same as the material being used. For example, an employee could be exposed to alcohol vapors if they used alcohol to wipe down a product. They could also be exposed to alcohol vapors if they are working adjacent to a mixing tank where large amounts of alcohol are added. Any employee direct exposure should be assessed to determine the need for industrial hygiene monitoring.

Common hazards found in manufacturing environments include:

  • Chemical Hazards
    • Gases, vapors, dusts, fumes, mists, or smoke
  • Physical Hazards
    • Noise

 

3. Study the Relevant Processes

It is also important to access process(es) generating exposure. Process-generated exposure occurs when the process or task creates a different exposure hazard. For example, if an employee is bending a piece of metal with a press brake, there is little risk for any type of exposure. Meanwhile, if an employee is performing welding tasks on that same piece of metal, there could be several potential exposure hazards because of the weld fumes created during the process.

Any task that involves heating/cutting/mixing chemicals or materials should be accessed for process-generated exposure. The Safety Data Sheet (SDS) of the raw material(s) used in the process or task is helpful in determining potential hazards generated with exposure.

 

4. Conduct Monitoring

Conducting industrial hygiene monitoring is a critical step in controlling any potential hazards and important data to validate the need for mandated programs or the exemption thereof. The results of the monitoring will identify if controls are needed to keep employees safe. Even if there is no expected overexposure to a hazard, conducting baseline testing is still recommended. Baseline testing is the initial testing that identifies the level of hazard that employees are exposed to.

Testing should be completed with calibrated equipment capable of determining the time-weighted average (TWA) exposure. The time-weighted average takes into account the variable exposure through an entire shift, 8-hour workday, and 40-hour week exposure time.

While there is no required frequency for industrial hygiene testing, U.S. Compliance would recommend completing testing every 3-4 years if there are no specific concerns. Other triggers for testing would include facility changes or process changes.

Some hazards, such as lead contamination or chromium (VI) contamination, have specific testing requirements based on employee exposure. Details for specific testing requirements can be found within the OSHA regulation associated with the contaminant.

Common sampling examples include but are not limited to:

  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
  • Dust (total particulate and respirable particulate)
  • Total weld fumes
  • Carbon Monoxide
  • Crystalline Silica
  • Isocyanates
  • Oil Mists
  • Acids
  • Noise

 

5. Interpret the Results 

Once the results from monitoring are received, they will need to be compared to enforceable, applicable, and/or suggested exposure limits.

  • Permissible Exposure Level (PEL)
    • The TWA concentration for a conventional 8-hour workday and a 40-hour work week, to which it is believed that nearly all workers may be repeatedly exposed, day after day, without adverse effect. As regulated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
  • Occupational Exposures Limits (OELs) – Suggested exposure limits
      • Threshold Limit Value (TLV)
        • The TWA concentration for a conventional 8-hour workday and a 40-hour work week, to which it is believed that nearly all workers may be repeatedly exposed, day after day, without adverse effect. As suggested by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH).
  • Recommended Exposure Level (REL)
        • The TWA concentration for a conventional 8-hour workday and a 40-hour work week, to which it is believed that nearly all workers may be repeatedly exposed, day after day, without adverse effect. As suggested by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
  • Short Term Exposure Limit (STEL)
      • The concentration to which it is believed that workers can be exposed continuously for a short period of time without suffering from irritation, chronic or irreversible damage, or narcosis that could lead to injury. The STEL is defined as a 15-minute exposure (and no more than 4 times per day with 60-minute intervals in-between).

If a monitoring result is found to be nearing the exposure limit, no action is required, although the contaminant should be monitored closely to ensure that it remains at a safe level.

If a monitoring result is found to exceed the exposure limit, controls should be implemented to protect the employee. Controls should be implemented following the below hierarchy.

If industrial hygiene monitoring results identify that there is no overexposure to a hazard, it is still a valuable result. The favorable result is documentation that the facility has provided a safe work environment for the employee.

U.S. Compliance can assist with most industrial hygiene sampling. If you need assistance with site surveys or testing, consult U.S. Compliance to maintain a safe facility.

OSHA’s National Emphasis Program on Heat-Related Hazards

Earlier this year, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) released its National Emphasis Program (NEP) on Outdoor and Indoor Heat-Related Hazards. The stated aim of the NEP is to “identify and eliminate or reduce […] occupational heat-related illnesses and injuries” by focusing on specific industries where such hazards exist.

In the past, heat-related inspections have accounted for 0.5% of all Federal inspections for fiscal years 2017 through 2021. Under this new directive, each Region is expected to double the number of heat inspections for 2022 from the previous five-year average. Following an inspection by a compliance safety and health officer (CSHO), a site may be issued a General Duty Clause (GDC) violation under Section 5(a)(1) of the OSH Act or a Hazard Alert Letter. However, OSHA may cite under an existing standard, such as 29 CFR § 1910.141, 29 CFR §1926.51, or 29 CFR §1928.110, that require potable water to be made available to employees.

Industries Targeted by the NEP

In Appendix A of the NEP, OSHA provides three tables of industries listed by their four-digit NAICS codes that have historically experienced a significant number of heat-related illnesses. Certain industries may have heat hazards inherent to their operations, such as bakeries, chemical manufacturing, and foundries. OSHA will randomly select which sites to visit on days where heat warnings or advisories are issued by the National Weather Service. Referrals for inspections may also be made by the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor.

Scope of Inspections

When a CSHO visits a site, they will assess how heat has affected and continues to affect the health and safety of the workers and assess what measures the employer has taken to mitigate exposure. The CSHO may review any pertinent OSHA 300 Logs and 301 Incident Reports as well as conduct worker interviews. A review of the site’s heat illness and injury program—if one exists—may also be conducted. In their review, the CSHO may check to see if elements of a comprehensive program are in place, including heat assessments, work-rest schedules, training, and provisions for acclimatization for new and returning workers.

To evaluate whether workers are at risk of heat-related illnesses, the CSHO will document weather conditions for the day, noting temperature and humidity, and will also seek to identify any activities that expose workers to heat-related hazards. After their inspection, the CSHO will review their data and determine if a citation or heat hazard letter is warranted.

Be Prepared, Be Ready

To avoid heat-related illnesses and keep workers safe, employers should implement engineering and administrative controls. Air conditioning, cooling fans, and shade should be provided where feasible. The employer should also consider scheduling jobs for either the cooler parts of the workday or during the cooler season—especially those involving routine maintenance. Workers should also take rests from the heat and use the time to replenish fluids and electrolytes lost through sweating. Employers should educate workers on how to identify heat-related illnesses and provide first aid. Employers should also provide training employees ample time to acclimatize to the heat. All these measures are part of an effective heat illness and injury program.

Should you need assistance in implementing a heat illness and injury program at your site, consult U.S. Compliance. U.S. Compliance can help you understand the applicability of the NEP to your site and evaluate heat exposure to keep your employees safe.

Electrical Safety – Effective Program Management

When working around electrical equipment, are your employees aware of the requirements and hazards associated with electrical safety? OSHA and NFPA have certain guidelines and criteria to follow to maintain an Electrical Safety Program. Following these guidelines will ensure that your facility and employees are working within the correct safety precautions.

It is required for all employers to implement and maintain an electrically safe work program that directs activity based on risks associated with electrical hazards. The program must include elements that verify electrical systems and equipment to comply with applicable installation codes and standards prior to being placed in service. This also qualifies for host employers that contract out any electrical work being performed at their facility. Employers are required to meet certain OSHA and NFPA 70E compliance standards in the areas of arc flash and electrical safety. Some examples of these standards are:

  • A short circuit study and development of time-current curves for protective devices
  • A protective device coordination study
  • Short circuit line diagrams
  • Comprehensive single-line diagrams for all services in the building
  • An SOP for keeping single-line diagrams up to date
  • Incident energy calculations for devices included in the arc flash study
  • Electrical safety training protocols (can be outlined within an electrical safety program)
  • Guidance on developing an electrical safety program
  • Developing an electrically energized work permit system
  • Arc flash safety PPE for qualified workers who may service electrical enclosures onsite
    • Specific PPE requirements can be determined from arc flash study

Risk Assessment

Employers must develop and maintain procedures for employees to utilize before being exposed to an electrical hazard. This can be done in the form of a Risk Assessment. The elements of that risk assessment must contain the following information:

  • Identifying hazards
  • Assess Risk
  • Implementation of controls

The Implementation of controls for hazards identified shall be done by elimination, substitution, engineering, awareness, and administrative or personal protective equipment. Once the risks have been identified and controlled, work procedures must be developed for employees to follow to ensure that hazards are not present. Once the risk assessments have been completed, work instructions or Lockout Tagout Procedures can be used as a control to ensure zero energy is obtained before working on an electrical system.

Employee Training

Once work procedures are developed and hazards have been controlled, employers must train employees as either Qualified or Unqualified Workers. As workers are identified as Qualified or Unqualified, review requirements on what additional training may be needed. For Qualified employees, Lockout Tagout training must be completed, as well as having the company’s Emergency Response Team trained in Contact Release.

Whether employers are performing this type of work in-house or having this contracted out, host employers must complete an Electrical Safety Program to review and communicate hazards in the workplace. Review OSHA and NFPA standards to ensure compliance is being maintained.

If you need assistance with your facility’s Risk Assessment or employee training, contact U.S. Compliance for guidance and helpful resources.

First Aid in the Workplace – Training Options and Key Considerations

While most work in the health and safety field focuses on injury prevention, every facility needs a plan if and when injuries do occur. Preparing to help employees in situations where things go wrong is a critical aspect of a comprehensive safety & health program. First aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and automated external defibrillator (AED) training allow a quicker onsite response to an emergency, which can help to prevent injuries from worsening. It’s important to understand first aid treatment and the associated training requirements to create and maintain a safe environment at your facility and remain compliant with Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards.

First aid training and the certification process gives employees the necessary information, skills, and confidence to help others during emergency situations. This training class will only take a few hours and can make a significant difference in assisting someone experiencing a medical emergency. According to the National Safety Council, 70% of heart attack-related deaths occur before reaching the hospital. In the midst of medical emergencies, every second counts, and having a team on-site that has been trained in First Aid/CPR/AED can make a world of difference.

First Aid Training and Regulatory Compliance

First Aid/CPR/AED training also has implications for regulatory compliance, as seen in 29 CFR 1910.151 (b), which states, “in the absence of an infirmary, clinic, or hospital in near proximity to the workplace which is used for the treatment of all injured employees, a person or persons shall be adequately trained to render first aid. Adequate first aid supplies shall be readily available.” This provides employers the option to have a member of the workforce trained in First Aid/CPR/AED. This option, for most employers, is a feasible and low-cost way to protect employees while remaining compliant with regulatory standards. OSHA recommends, but does not require, that every workplace include one or more employees who are trained and certified in first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

While OSHA standards do not specifically address AEDs, they do recommend that CPR training be a general program element of a first aid program. Some OSHA standards, like logging operations (29 CFR 1910.266), permit-required confined spaces (29 CFR 1910.146), and electric power generation, transmission, and distribution (29 CFR 1910.269), for example, have specific requirements that employees be trained in first aid and CPR. If an employer is covered by one of these specific standards, CPR training is required.

Under 29 CFR 1910.146: Permit-required Confined Spaces, employers are required to train affected employees in basic first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), as well as ensure that at least one member of the rescue team or service who holds a current certification in both areas is available. In 29 CFR 1910.269: Electric Power Generation, Transmission, and Distribution, there are clearer instructions on how many first aid-trained people should be available, depending on when and where the work is taking place. When employees are performing work on or are associated with exposed lines or equipment energized at 50 volts or more, the requirements for compliance are as follows:

  • For fieldwork involving two or more employees at a work location, at least two trained people must be available.
  • For line-clearance tree trimming performed by line-clearance tree trimmers who are not qualified employees, only one trained person needs to be available if all new employees are trained in first aid within three months of their hiring dates.
  • For fixed work locations such as substations, the number of trained persons available shall be sufficient to ensure that a trained person can reach each employee exposed to electric shock within four minutes. If the existing number of employees is insufficient to meet this requirement, each employee at the work location shall be a trained employee.

In addition to training for First Aid/CPR/AED, the bloodborne pathogens standard at 29 CFR 1910.1030(g)(2) requires employers to provide training to any employees who have occupational exposure to blood or other potentially infectious materials. This includes employees assigned medical or first aid duties by their employers.

How to Complete First Aid Training in Your Facility

There are many easy and comprehensive options available to complete this training. Some of these options may include:

  • Traditional On-site Class: This option provides an ideal training solution for workplaces that want or are required to learn how to respond to medical emergencies with in-person training content and skills verification. This option will include an on-site class and skills verification with an instructor, associated equipment, and a certification.
  • Blended Learning Course: This option is the perfect combination of online content and in-person skills sessions that make scheduling and administering your First Aid, CPR, and AED compliance training easy.
  • Remote Skills Verification: This option is the perfect combination of cognitive learning with flexible and remote skills verification guided by a live, authorized instructor. This option will include a live online course and equipment to perform the skills verification.

Training your employees doesn’t need to be difficult. U.S. Compliance offers comprehensive training in all three of these formats. If you are interested in training or need assistance identifying if training is required at your site, contact U.S. Compliance.

Proactive Management of Ergonomic-Related Injuries: Employee Benefit and Company ROI

Ergonomic-related injuries have a dramatic effect on both employees and a business’ operations and bottom line. Understanding the potential ergonomic hazards present at a facility and having a comprehensive ergonomics program and strategy are foundational pillars in preventing injuries from occurring. This also helps to minimize the progression of minor issues into major injuries and manage injuries when they do occur. Having a plan and appropriate proactive control measures will guide operations in caring for their valuable personnel and produce a positive Return-On-Investment (ROI) for implemented strategies.

Caring for Employees

While the bottom line is always a consideration for an employer, the overall purpose of instituting an ergonomics or injury prevention program is to take care of people and send them home at the end of the day in a similar manner to which they arrived. As decent humans, nobody wants to see a person get hurt or witness the rippling impacts on an injured person, the injured person’s family, and the burden on the healthcare system. Identifying and correcting ergonomic hazards—before they occur—should always be the priority.

The encouraging news associated with proactively managing developing injuries is that there are positive impacts (which are often non-tangible or difficult to quantify) for both the employer and employees. Implementing a program that focuses on improving and reducing ergonomic hazards to prevent injuries from occurring not only protects employees but develops a positive safety culture in the workplace. The demonstration of care builds both culture and loyalty to the company. This typically aids in increasing quality of work, improving morale, and generally lowering workplace stress factors. From a hands-on perspective, simply making the job more ergonomically correct also optimizes productivity and improves general wellness because the tasks will cause less physical stress on the body.

Unfortunately, it is typically impossible to remove all hazards, so to some degree, ergonomic injuries are bound to occur. Workplace Musculoskeletal Disorders (WMSDs) tend to be cumulative in nature, in that extended exposure to hazards will progressively make a developing injury more severe and more difficult to manage. With absolute certainty, early intervention will prevent the development of more serious injuries. Experienced healthcare providers will state that early intervention or proactive care is typically more effective with both better and faster results in lieu of waiting for an injury to develop and become more severe.

The Costs of Injury

With employee care being paramount, there will realistically be direct impacts and costs associated when an employee is injured. With healthcare costs soaring, the total estimated cost (including wage losses, medical expenses, administrative expenses, and employer costs but excluding property damage) of a work-related injury in 2020 was $44,000 per medically consulted injury as per the National Safety Council (with the cost of a fatality averaging $1,310,000). While this average can be further teased apart by parts of the body affected, cause, and nature of the injury, in general, the impact of an injury at a facility is often underappreciated, and simple calculations can demonstrate the impact on the bottom line.

If a particular business were to have 10 injuries in a year that required medical consultation, the cost would be $440,000 (or 10 x $44,000). Assuming a 10% profit margin for that business, that means an extra $4.4 million in sales would be needed just to break even from the costs of injuries. That is a significant amount of capital that could potentially have been repurposed into injury prevention measures that would have also had non-tangible benefits for the business.

Beyond the high costs of an injury, when an injury requires medical consultation, most of those injuries become recordable injuries under OSHA’s Recordkeeping Regulation (29 CFR 1904). Most business managers will be familiar with those requirements and their impacts as the MOD rate associated with Workers’ Compensation insurance is directly connected to recordable injury numbers in relation to other businesses in similar industries. Further, when these injuries are reported to OSHA (either through Severe Injury Reporting Requirements, through Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) records requests, or through OSHA’s electronic submission of records requirements by March 2nd of each year), high injury rates can flag a business and increase the probability of a targeted regulatory inspection.

While the direct costs of injuries are quantifiable numbers, the impact on the employees and resulting impact on the business is much more difficult to quantify but should still be considered. Productivity loss is a loose term that can be used to describe other non-tangible business impacts, such as the costs associated with diminshed productivity or the decrease in quality resulting from new and/or less efficient workers needed to replace the injured person. Temporary or new employees are just not as effective as trained employees and may also cause other interpersonal or cultural disruptions in the facility culture. These factors also need to be considered in the larger context of the cost of an injury to a business.

Strategies for Prevention and ROI

The first step in building the business case for implementing a comprehensive ergonomics program is to properly understand the need. This will provide guidelines for the level of intervention most appropriate for the facility. First, estimating the true cost (both direct and indirect costs) of an injury by calculating the additional sales needed will yield a picture of the direct impact on the business.

 

Pending results, understanding both the direct and indirect costs of an injury and obtaining buy from the facility leadership become critical before implementing the initial stages of an ergonomics program. If senior leadership does not buy into building a proactive culture, efforts to create improvement will often be ineffective. Key elements of a proactive safety culture may include employee empowerment to express safety concerns (in non-retaliatory ways), encouraging the early reporting of symptoms of injury, and having an engaged safety committee. These are all indicators of a safety culture supported by facility leadership (note: most of these elements should be part of the facility’s Injury & Illness Prevention Program, MN AWAIR Program, Accident Prevention Program, etc.).

With the presence of proactive safety culture, the rollout of an ergonomics program addressing the facility’s specific needs will be more effective. The primary pillar of a program is to understand where key ergonomic hazards are present in the facility. Understanding where and when employees encounter ergonomic hazards (i.e., force, repetition, awkward posture, duration, and environment) will increase awareness of these potential hazards and lead to personnel subconsciously protecting themselves. Understanding these hazards typically results from conducting proper facility assessments/screenings followed by training personnel to recognize hazards.

While various ergonomic screenings are available on the market, U.S. Compliance utilizes a basic screening form as part of our standard ergonomics program. This screening form is intended as a high-level screening to identify key hazards and can be rolled out either by an EHS professional or through Safety Committee level employees. Oftentimes, and for more significant hazards or processes in which capital investments may be needed, an Advanced Ergonomics Screening that provides an in-depth assessment, a summary of hazards, and a quantified risk assessment may be justified (this level of screening is more complex and needs to be completed by an Ergonomics Specialist). Regardless of the screening type, the hazards identified need to be assessed for risk, and appropriate corrections must be implemented.

Following the facility assessment and identification of key ergonomic hazards, employees need to be trained to recognize ergonomic hazards and concepts of back-injury prevention. Employees need to understand that regardless of screening and improvements made in the facility, it is not possible to eliminate all hazards completely. Recognizing hazards and protecting oneself when possible will always be a key component in reducing injury potential.

Additional components of an ergonomics program should also include a Seated or Desk Worker Screening Process since it’s easy to forget about office personnel who also have significant ergonomic hazards from prolonged sitting and computer work. Also, considering ergonomics in the planning phases for new equipment, line set-up, or new procedures is critical in reducing the introduction of new hazards into the process. Remember, it will always be easier and more efficient to address potential issues prior to the installation of a new process or equipment. Also, ongoing monitoring and periodic re-assessments of hazards need to occur to stay on top of developing issues.

For many facilities managing all of the steps of a comprehensive ergonomics program, the complexity may require advanced knowledge of ergonomic controls to determine the most cost-effective improvements. Retaining an ergonomics professional for ongoing support may be a solid strategy, especially in multifaceted environments. While U.S. Compliance has an ergonomics subscription model for this type of support, various providers are available who can provide any or all of the elements of a program, depending upon facility needs.

At times, it will realistically be impractical to reduce or engineer out ergonomic hazards. Despite best intentions, comprehensive screening, and employee training, some hazards will still exist that cannot be controlled appropriately. In these circumstances, it becomes critical to implement a program to manage the development of injuries when they do occur. As discussed above, early intervention is critical in these circumstances.

Over the last decade, a new strategy has emerged that brings on-site care providers into facilities to proactively manage developing injuries. While these programs can have a significant upfront investment, ROI with these programs is frequently in the 6 to 10 range. While this level of ROI sounds unbelievable, it has been demonstrated as a common range after experience in a large number of programs through multiple vendors. When employees are able to conveniently see a provider on-site—before it is a significant issue—they get better, and the injury often does not progress to the point of needing medical consultation or becoming a recordable-level injury.

Beyond injury prevention, employees look at this as an added benefit of employment at the company, which can also be postured for retention of talent, decreased turnover, and aids in almost all of the previously identified non-tangible benefits of a comprehensive ergonomics program. However, caution is needed while rolling out an on-site care program as this is a ballooning industry and many providers are entering the field without proper knowledge or processes. A vetted vendor is critical to properly manage cases and have structure to ensure that treatment does not cross the line into creating recordable injuries. Documentation and understanding what can and cannot be done is vital and reputable vendors will have the processes and protocols in place to ensure these lines are not crossed.

Summary

Implementing a comprehensive ergonomics program at a facility will have a dramatic impact on proactively managing injuries at any facility, regardless of size or industry. In the current work environment, taking care of hard-to-find quality employees is a necessity and fortunately, doing so will typically have a positive ROI and impact on a company’s bottom line. However, understanding what controls and processes are appropriate for a particular facility can become complex. While an experienced ergonomics professional can aid or streamline this process, the basic steps to roll out a program include:

  1. Build a proactive safety culture
  2. Implement a comprehensive ergonomics program
  3. Screen all significant jobs/tasks/positions for ergonomic hazards
  4. Implement controls for easy and high-risk hazards
  5. Train employees to recognize ergonomic hazards and back-injury prevention
  6. Implement a seated/desk worker ergonomics assessment process
  7. Consider ergonomics while planning phases of new equipment and processes
  8. Consider on-site care providers if hazards are persistent or cannot be adequately controlled

Get guidance on how to improve your facility’s ergonomic programs with help from U.S. Compliance. Our expert team is equipped with the best practices and systems for facilities of various industries. Visit our website or contact us today.

2022 OSHA Regulatory Agenda & Strategy – Emphasis Areas and Focus

Each year, OSHA releases guidance regarding its regulatory agenda and areas of focus. It is important to stay up-to-date with OSHA’s emphasis programs to ensure your facility maintains regulatory compliance. OSHA’s regulatory agenda and recently published Site-Specific Targeted Inspections guidance help provide insight into regulatory areas that this year’s inspections will focus on. This information is critical for evaluating the likelihood of an OSHA inspection at your facility. More importantly, it can help you prioritize onsite health & safety initiatives for 2022 and beyond.

OSHA Inspection Strategy

OSHA has a priority hierarchy for conducting onsite inspections. The following details the criteria in order of precedence:

  1. Imminent Danger Situations – Hazards that could cause death or serious physical harm receive top priority.
  2. Severe Injuries & Illnesses – Workplace fatalities must be reported within 8 hours and hospitalizations/amputations/losses of eye must be reported within 24 hours. Failure to properly report these incidents to OSHA will likely result in an inspection.
  3. Worker Complaints – Allegations of hazards or violations receive a high priority by OSHA.
  4. Referrals – Hazards identified by other federal agencies, state/local agencies, individuals, and the media can result in inspections.
  5. Targeted Inspections – Inspections aimed at high-hazard industries or individual workplaces that have experienced high rates of injuries and illnesses.
  6. Follow-up Inspections – Checks for abatement of violations cited during previous inspections are also conducted by OSHA in certain circumstances.

Site-Specific Targeted Inspections

OSHA has established a directive that aims for the site-specific targeting (SST) of non-construction businesses with 20 or more employees. OSHA will review injury and illness data from 2017-2019 and target businesses that experienced consistent injury illness rate increases over the three-year data period. The agency will review DART rates (Days Away, Restricted, or Transferred) for facilities and compare those values against the industry’s national average. Facilities with DART rates consistently above the national average can be targeted by OSHA. OSHA will also target sites that failed to electronically submit their 300A OSHA Log between 2017-2019 and will verify OSHA 300A information from sites with low DART rates.

National Emphasis Program

OSHA develops National Emphasis Programs (NEPs) to focus efforts on specific high-hazard industries. NEPs are evaluated by using available data from sources including NIOSH reports, injury & illness data, inspection data, and other available information sources. In 2022, OSHA’s NEP will focus on industries with higher rates of Covid-19 and industries where employees work in high-heat environments.

As Covid-19 cases decline, the revised NEP is being modified to target industries with increased potential exposure to Covid-19. The revised NEP will focus on follow-up inspections at sites where unvaccinated employees work in close contact with each other. Previous inspections through 2021 show a higher frequency of unprogrammed inspections in healthcare industries, as well as critical infrastructure including food processing, general warehousing and storage, supermarkets, and restaurants.

OSHA anticipates that the majority of the inspections covered under this NEP will continue to occur in general industry, particularly in healthcare, based on current OSHA enforcement data showing higher COVID-19-related complaints, referrals, and severe incident reports at healthcare worksites.

In Q4 of 2021, OSHA established an enforcement initiative to help prevent and protect workers from heat-related illnesses and death. This NEP is an expansion of a current Regional Emphasis Program in Region 6 (AR, LA, MN, OH, WI). OSHA Area Directors across the nation will prioritize inspections at facilities with a high number of heat-related complaints, as well as industries where strenuous work is conducted in high-heat environments (>80 degrees F – both indoor and outdoor).

It is recommended that employers conduct a hazard analysis and implement strategies to minimize the potential of heat-related illnesses, including training, encouraging breaks, and providing cold water & beverages.

For more information on the National Emphasis Program, visit the pages below:

Local Emphasis Program

Similar to NEPs, Local Emphasis Programs (LEPs) are developed by OSHA to target high-hazard industries within a particular region. LEPs are created and implemented at the regional level and are aimed to help bring awareness and reduce/eliminate specific hazards in high-hazard industries within a region. Each region has a set of LEPs published by OSHA.

For example, in Region 5 (IL, IN, MI, MN, OH, WI) and Region 8 (CO, MT, ND, SD, UT, WY), a Local Emphasis Program for 2022 focuses on industries with high noise hazards. The purpose of this Regional Emphasis Program is to encourage employers to take steps to identify, reduce, and eliminate hazards associated with exposure to high levels of noise.

In Region 10 (AK, ID, OR, WA), multiple new LEPs were issued/renewed for 2022. LEPs for this region will target grain handling industries, powered industrial trucks, crane use in construction, and general construction.

For more information on Local Emphasis Programs specific to your region and industry, view the directives here.

What’s Ahead for OSHA?

As the country moves out of the Covid-19 Pandemic, it is expected that OSHA will resume normal operations and continue to increase its onsite presence and inspections. It is especially important for sites with high rates of injuries, as well as industries targeted by NEPs and LEPs, to ensure they are doing their due diligence when it comes to evaluating and establishing a safe workplace. Through understanding LEPs and NEPs and their applicability to your site, you can help keep your employees safe while reducing the probability of a costly fine from an OSHA inspection finding.

Stay up to date with current OSHA guidance to help maintain regulatory compliance at your facility by visiting our website or by contacting us.

 

2022 OSHA Injury Recordkeeping – Reporting and Key Requirements

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recordkeeping regulation requires employers with 10 or more employees in certain industries to routinely maintain “OSHA Logs.” To identify if your industry requires you to prepare and maintain OSHA logs, you can reference the full list of exempt industries here. These logs are used to record serious occupational injuries and illnesses. Maintaining accurate OSHA Logs is vital for all stakeholders when evaluating workplace safety, understanding hazards and risks, and determining the implementation of controls to reduce or eliminate hazards.

OSHA Logs consist of three separate documents:

  • OSHA Form 300: Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses
  • OSHA Form 300A: Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses
  • OSHA Form 301: Injury and Illness Incident Report

Applicable employers must maintain at least five years’ worth of each of these documents, as OSHA may request to review injury and illness records during facility inspections.

OSHA has developed a step-by-step guidance document to assist with the completion of the OSHA 300 logs, which can be found here.

Important 2022 Deadlines

The OSHA Form 300A Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses for the previous calendar year must be posted in a conspicuous location in the facility from February 1 to April 30 each year.

Along with the paper logs, the OSHA Form 300A Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses for the previous calendar year must be electronically reported through OSHA’s Injury Tracking Application by March 2 for applicable facilities (see information for applicability below).

What Injuries Need to be Recorded?

OSHA has outlined specific criteria for injuries that should be recorded on the OSHA 300 logs:

  • Any work-related fatality.
  • Any work-related injury or illness that results in loss of consciousness, days away from work, restricted work, or transfer to another job.
  • Any work-related injury or illness requiring medical treatment beyond first aid.
  • Any work-related diagnosed case of cancer, chronic irreversible diseases, fractured or cracked bones or teeth, and punctured eardrums.
  • There are also special recording criteria for work-related cases involving: needlesticks and sharps injuries; medical removal; hearing loss; and tuberculosis.

All work-related injuries or illnesses should be recorded on the facility’s OSHA 300 log within seven days of the employer receiving notification of the incident. OSHA has outlined all general recording requirements in 29 CFR 1904.7.

In addition to logging the information, note that serious injuries meeting set criteria must also be called into OSHA at the time of the incident. Employers should regularly review their logs to ensure that any required reporting was not missed.

With OSHA’s updated recordkeeping rule, the list of severe injuries that employers must report to OSHA has expanded. For example, all work-related fatalities must be reported within 8 hours. Similarly, all work-related inpatient hospitalizations, amputations, and losses of an eye must be reported within 24 hours.

Electronic Submission of Injury and Illness Records to OSHA

Under the updated Final Rule that was made effective February 25, 2019, many facilities must electronically report their OSHA Form 300A: Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses to the OSHA Injury Tracking Application (ITA). Facilities that employ 250 or more employees that are required to maintain OSHA logs, and facilities that employ 20-249 employees that are classified as industries that have historically high injury rates, must electronically submit their OSHA Form 300A information. The full list of applicable industries can be found here.

In order to report your facility’s OSHA Form 300A information, visit the OSHA ITA website and follow the prompts for launching the Injury Tracking Application. If this is your first time reporting your facility’s OSHA Form 300A information, you will need to create an account to enter the facility’s information. You will need the establishment name, NAICS industry code, and the completed OSHA Form 300A for the previous year to complete the submission.

Potential Amendment to OSHA’s Recordkeeping Regulation

OSHA proposes to amend its recordkeeping regulation to restore the requirement of electronically submitted OSHA Form 300s (Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses) and OSHA Form 301s (Injury and Illness Incident Report) for establishments with 250 or more employees that are required to routinely keep annual injury and illness records. Likewise, OSHA State Plan states will be required to follow suit. Under the current regulation, these establishments are only required to electronically submit information from the OSHA Form 300A (Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses) annually.

COVID-19 and OSHA Recordkeeping

Under OSHA’s recordkeeping requirements, COVID-19 is a recordable illness, and thus employers are responsible for recording cases of COVID-19 if:

  1. The case is a confirmed case of COVID-19, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC);
  2. The case is work-related as defined by 29 CFR 1904.5; and
  3. The case involves one or more of the general recording criteria set forth in 29 CFR 1904.7.

On May 19, 2020, OSHA provided an updated guidance document to assist with determining if an employee’s positive COVID-19 case would be recordable on an employer’s OSHA logs. The below flow chart has been developed from the information in this guidance document to assist with the determination of work-relatedness.

If a COIVD-19 case is determined to be work-related, the incident would need to be recorded as a “Respiratory Condition.”  If the employee requests that their name not be entered on the log, the case must be treated as a privacy case, as specified by 29 CFR 1904.29(b)(7)(VI).

 

If you have any issues determining an injury’s recordability or regarding your facility’s OSHA 300 logs, consult OSHA’s many recordkeeping resources or contact U.S. Compliance to assist with any recordkeeping questions or concerns.

Hazard Assessment – Ways to Complete and Benefits of the Process

Do you know what hazards are present in your facility? More importantly, do you know what controls are in place to mitigate those hazards? Identifying workplace hazards is a critical step in developing a comprehensive safety and health program. A hazard assessment is a simple document that lists the potential hazards of a specific task. The hazard assessment may also identify any established controls pertaining to the specific hazards. Listing the controls may assist in monitoring the effectiveness of reducing the potential risk to an acceptable level. The hazard assessment form may be simple, but identifying all of the hazards and controls can be challenging.

How to Complete a Hazard Assessment

There are many different titles for hazard assessment, such as Job Hazard Assessment, Safety Hazard Analysis, Risk Assessment, What-If Analysis, and many more. When determining what hazard assessment form to utilize, it is important to know that there is no universal or standardized form. There are multiple styles of assessments available, and the best one is up to the user.

Completing the assessments will consist of collecting, interpreting, and reviewing information from various resources. Those resources include safety data sheets, employee interviews, observations, incident investigations, incident trends, operating manuals, safety programs, and safety site inspections.

The first step in completing a hazard assessment is to develop a list of jobs in the workplace. These typically will include production-related jobs but may also include machine-specific and non-routine tasks. When considering what tasks to complete first, it may help to look at incident records to identify trends or high-risk areas. Once the jobs are listed, they can be broken down into specific tasks. Depending on the complexity, the assessment may consist of an entire job or a specific task.

The next step is to identify the already known information of the task. This may include reviewing any chemical Safety Data Sheets, existing work instructions, incident investigations, equipment user manuals, training materials, or applicable regulatory information from organizations such as Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

Once known hazards have been identified, it is time to dig a bit deeper into the process. This would be the time to observe the process, interview employees or subject matter experts. Observing the process and conducting interviews will not only confirm the already known hazards, but might also identify additional hazards for the specific task. Be sure to note any potential emergency or non-routine situations that may create hazards such as chemical spills, power outages, fires, and medical response.

The last step is to assess and understand the potential types of incidents for each identified hazard. Understanding the potential incidents will assist in establishing effective mitigation controls. The hierarchy control of hazards can be utilized when determining what type of control(s) to implement. Once controls are established, it is important to reassess the task to identify any residual risk. Additional controls may be required if the residual risk is too great.

When To Complete Hazard Assessments

Hazard Assessments should be completed when there is a new job, task, or process. The assessments should be reviewed and possibly updated whenever there are changes to the process, incidents, identification of ineffective controls, or new hazards.

Benefits

There are many benefits to completing a comprehensive hazard assessment. Those benefits may include establishing or sustaining compliance, reduction of incidents, and hazard abatement. While completing hazard assessments, the participants may also identify other production-related issues such as quality, environmental, and even efficiency.

Under the OSHA Act of 1970’s General Duty Clause Section 5, each employer must provide employees a place of employment, which is free of any recognized hazards that are likely to cause severe injury or a fatality. The hazard assessment may also assist in developing specific programs, safety rules, and training materials for various topics such as personal protective equipment, hazard communication, and lockout/tagout. Additionally, the hazard assessment may illuminate the need for employee exposure monitoring in areas such as noise and hazardous chemicals.

Summary

Recognizing the need to complete or review your hazard assessments is an important step to prevent injuries in the workplace. Completing a hazard assessment may seem complex, but establishing a system to effectively communicate potential hazards and controls will not only increase your site’s compliance but may also reduce injuries.

Contact U.S. Compliance for assistance or if you are interested in completing, refreshing, or auditing your hazard assessments.