Implementation of the new standards for respirable crystalline silica for general industry is just around the corner. Need a refresher as that date approaches? Here’s a review of what they are, how they came about and how your company can stay in compliance.
Issuing a new set of rules
The OSHA Respirable Crystalline Silica Standard for General Industry will take effect June 23, 2018. Rules governing the construction industry were implemented last September. OSHA issued the new standards based on more recent research into the dangers of silica. The aim: to protect the health of employees by limiting exposure and putting new safety measures into action.
Respirable crystalline silica: a serious health hazard
Silica is a mineral found in stone and sand. A fine dust called respirable crystalline silica is produced when employees drill, grind, blast or cut these materials. The people performing these tasks may inhale the harmful particles, which settle in their lungs.
Employees exposed to crystalline silica are at increased risk of developing silicosis, an incurable and sometimes disabling or fatal lung disease. Respirable crystalline silica has also been linked to lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and kidney disease.
OSHA says the new guidelines could prevent some 1,600 people a year from developing silicosis and save almost 700 lives annually.
What do the guidelines mean for your company?
The new rules will affect some 295,000 general industry employees across 30 sectors. Activities that produce respirable crystalline silica include abrasive blasting with sand or coal slag; manufacturing natural and engineered stone countertops, brick, concrete block, artificial stone and ceramic products; precast concrete operations; foundry work; and operations that employ sand.
The OSHA guidelines are extensive and can be difficult to process. You can refer to this fact sheet for more straightforward explanations.
Here’s a summary of the standards’ key requirements for your business:
- Evaluate employee exposure to respirable crystalline silica over an eight-hour day.
- Protect employees from respirable crystalline silica exposures over the permissible exposure limit (PEL) of 50 μg/m³, averaged over eight hours.
- Implement safer techniques and dust controls to reduce silica exposure.
- Provide employees with respirators when controls are not effective in reducing employee exposure below the PEL.
- Restrict employee access to areas where they may be exposed to respirable crystalline silica above the PEL.
- Prohibit the use of housekeeping methods that create airborne silica dust, such as dry sweeping and brushing and using compressed air, if feasible. Use methods such as wet sweeping or HEPA-filtered vacuums to remove dust instead.
- Write an exposure control plan.
- Offer medical examinations every three years to workers at or over the action level for at least 30 days a year. Keep records of the results of those medical examinations and employee exposure assessments.
- Train employees on work operations that result in exposure to crystalline silica and control methods that should be used to reduce exposure.
Many businesses in the industry are still working toward compliance. You may have concerns about whether your company is ready for these rules and what other steps you should take.
Pinnacol’s industrial hygienists can assist policyholders in evaluating respirable crystalline silica exposure at your worksite. Contact us at email@example.com or 303.361.4700.
Did you know that outdoor workers are up to 3.5 times more likely than indoor workers to develop skin cancer? Employees who work outdoors also are at a higher risk of experiencing heat stress, which can bring on rashes, cramps, fainting spells, exhaustion and even heat stroke. These five sun safety tips can guide you in safeguarding your employees:
- Wear on sun-protective clothing.
- Apply SPF 30+ sunscreen.
- Cover your head with a sun hat.
- Protect your eyes with quality sunglasses.
- Shade yourself from the sun whenever possible.
UV radiation from the sun reflects off water, sand, concrete, light-colored surfaces and snow, which can harm the eyes. These surfaces can considerably increase the strength of the sun’s damaging rays, so employees who work in these areas should exercise extra precaution.
Important to Know
- Sunlight exposure is highest during the summer and between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.
- Workers are exposed to UV radiation even on cloudy days.
- Many drugs and medications increase sensitivity to sunlight and the risk of sunburn. These include thiazides, diuretics, tetracycline, doxycycline, sulfa antibiotics and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen.
Is your workplace sun-safe?
- Consider a sun and heat safety policy and include responsibilities in job descriptions.
- Sync scheduled breaks with times when sunlight exposure is greatest, and provide shade, water and protective equipment.
- Provide your workers with practical information, resources and training.
- Schedule employee screenings and encourage self-exams for sunburn and skin cancer.
Pinnacol and other resources
For information and standards that can improve your organization’s sun safety, visit the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and American Cancer Society websites. For workplace posters, forms, online training and more, visit Pinnacol’s Knowledge Center webpages. Or call Pinnacol’s Safety On Call hotline at (303)361-4700 or (888)501-4752. Our Safety Services team stands ready to answer questions and help keep your employees safe from the sun’s hazards.
Inadequate, noncompliant hazard communication can lead to worker injuries, even death. OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) ensures employees’ right to know and understand the potential hazards of chemicals they work with, as well as safeguards to protect themselves.
OSHA sets forth the following six steps to effective hazard communication:
- Identify a point person for hazard communication — This employee is responsible for obtaining safety data sheets (SDSs), planning employee training and managing other elements of program implementation at your organization.
- Develop and implement the plan — Hazard communication requires a plan that explains how your organization will conduct its program. The plan should list hazardous chemicals at your worksites and specify labeling, SDSs, training and communication protocols.
- Label all containers — Ensure all containers in your facility are labeled. If your organization manufactures or ships chemicals, label them. Labels must include specific information set forth in the Classification and Labeling of Chemicals section below.
- Make SDSs available — Obtain an SDS for each hazardous chemical at your workplace, and make SDSs readily available to workers. If you make SDSs available only electronically, make sure there’s a way to provide the SDSs in the event of a power failure or emergency. If you receive chemical deliveries, suppliers should provide accompanying SDSs; if they don’t, request the SDSs.
- Formally educate employees — Train employees before they begin work near hazardous chemicals and when new hazards are introduced to the workplace. Conduct multilingual training to accommodate a diverse workforce, and ensure that employees understand the hazards and your organization’s protective measures and equipment.
- Evaluate and enhance hazard communication — Periodically evaluate, update and enhance your organization’s program, especially when new hazards are introduced. OSHA’s HCS mandates that hazard communication remains up-to-date, comprehensive and tailored to your organization.
Classification and Labeling of Chemicals
OSHA’s HCS provides classification criteria for the hazards of chemicals, as well as a standardized approach to creating SDSs and labels. Your SDSs must follow a specified 16-section format, and labels must include the following six elements:
- A product name or identifier, such as “WD-40”
- A signal word, such as “danger” or “warning”
- Hazard statement(s)
- Precautionary statement(s)
- The name, address and telephone number of the chemical manufacturer, importer or other responsible party
For more information, visit OSHA’s hazard communication webpage. Another helpful resource is the Society of Chemical Hazard Communication. Also, check out Pinnacol’s hazard communication webpages for further information and downloads of a sample written hazard communication program, training materials and more. Pinnacol offers J.J. Keller safety resources on this topic, including training videos, interactive training and safety talks. Or contact Pinnacol’s Safety On Call at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303.361.4700 or 888.501.4752. Our Safety Services Team stands ready to answer questions, provide materials, and help your organization remain compliant and keep your employees safe, healthy and productive.
By Colorado Restaurant Insurance —
Winter Months are Approaching. How To Prevent Slips, Trips & Falls
It’s true! More than 3 million food service employees and over 1 million guests are injured annually as a result of restaurant slips and falls. Food, water, ice, snow, dirt, sand, and more, can prove to be recipes for disaster; not only for employees, but also for customers and vendors, alike. Many of these injuries are serious, including broken bones, head injuries, twisted ankles and knees, muscle strains and cuts. According to the National Floor Safety Institute, the hospitality industry spends over $2 billion on such injuries each year and these injuries are increasing at a rate of about 10% annually.
Not only can the potential injury from a slip, trip or fall result in pain and suffering for the injured customer, these accidents reflect adversely on your business. In addition, they also impact your insurance claims experience and insurability as a business owner. Your employees should have the knowledge and authority to take corrective action when unsafe conditions or unsafe acts are observed. The safety and well-being of your customers and employees should be front and center within your day-to-day operations. While not every accident is preventable, restaurants and bars should keep safety a top-priority by creating and maintaining a safe environment for their employees and guests by implementing customary industry standards and procedures.
Consider implementing recommended safe work practices within your restaurant, including:
- Provide non-slip matting in areas that tend to be wet.
- Alert workers/customers to step-ups and step-downs by using hazard tape or other warning signs.
- Provide adequate lighting, especially in serving and preparation areas.
- Use portable signage warning of “WET SURFACES” to alert customers of the slippery conditions.
- Frequently check all critical flooring; aisles, waiting areas & restrooms during business hours to make sure they are dry, clean and free of hazards.
- All staircases should have proper treads, a sturdy handrails on each side of the stairs and adequate lighting on every flight of stairs
- Provide mirrors for blind corners.
- Keep passageways and walkways free of clutter and crowding.
Do your safety part outside your restaurant, including:
- Parking lots and sidewalks should be clean and level.
- Provide adequate lighting for nighttime use.
- Redirect any downspouts that empty water onto sidewalks and parking lots.
- Remove snow and ice as soon as possible after each storm.
- Have sand and ice melting chemicals available to spread on ice that might form as melting and re-freezing occur.
- Exterior stairs should be well lit, handrails on each side, and snow and ice removal is extremely important.
Employers have a primary responsibility for protecting the safety and health of their workers and customers. However, employees are responsible for following the Safe Work Practices of their employers. In summary, successful control of the hazards associated with these exposures will result in a safer restaurant environment and reduce injury frequency and severity.
Consult Colorado Restaurant Insurance at email@example.com or call 303-880-2806 to learn more about how to manage your restaurant risks.
Last year motor vehicle crashes cost Pinnacol policyholders an average of $17,980. According to OSHA, when a worker has an on-the-job crash that results in an injury, the cost to the employer is $74,000, and costs can exceed $500,000 when a fatality is involved. In fact, vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among our nation’s workers. This time of year, wintry roads can prove especially hazardous.
Ensure vehicle systems are working properly
Now is a good time to encourage your employees to perform the following vehicle maintenance:
- Scheduled maintenance: Schedule service for an oil change, coolant flush and brake inspection based on the mileage and manufacturer’s maintenance schedule. Address any maintenance issues with the vehicle’s battery, electrical system, hoses and belts.
- Fluids: Check to ensure proper oil, coolant, transmission and other fluid levels.
- Tires: Check for proper tread depth and for signs of damage or uneven wear. Ensure tires are properly inflated.
- Visibility systems: Inspect turn signals, headlights, brake lights, defrosters (windshield and rear window) and wipers. Install winter windshield wipers.
For more detailed inspection checklists, visit the Colorado Department of Transportation pre- and post-trip vehicle safety checklist and Pinnacol’s vehicle safety checklist.
Outfit vehicles with emergency essentials
Workers should be encouraged to outfit their vehicles for winter with emergency kits that include the following items:
- Cellphone or two-way radio
- Windshield ice scraper
- Extra windshield wiper fluid
- Snow brush
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- Traction aids (bag of sand or granular cat litter)
- Emergency flares
- Jumper cables
- Road maps
- Blankets, change of warm clothes
For more information on shoring up winter driving safety at your organization, visit Pinnacol.com for articles, checklists, workplace posters and employee training resources. Additional resources are available on the websites of the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and National Safety Council. Or contact Pinnacol’s Safety On Call online or at 303.361.4700 or 888.501.4752. Our safety services team stands ready to answer questions and help keep your workforce safe behind the wheel this winter.
One million Americans slip, trip, or fall every year, costing employers an average of $40,000 per incident and accounting for 20 percent of all job-related injuries and 15 percent of all accidental deaths — about 20,000 people annually. These two sets of tips — one for workers, the other for worksites — can help keep your employees on their toes and on task:
Tips for Worker Safety
- Wear boots or overshoes with non-slip soles. Avoid footwear that has smooth soles, which increase the risk of slipping.
- Walk cautiously. Know that you could slip or quickly encounter an unseen patch of ice.
- Avoid the temptation to run to beat traffic when crossing a street. (We should always try to avoid running at work.)
- Your arms help keep you balanced, so keep your hands out of your pockets. Avoid carrying loads that are unwieldy and may cause you to lose balance.
- Look ahead to see where you step. When walking on icy areas, spread your feet slightly to increase your center of gravity and take short, shuffling steps. Curl your toes under and walk as flat-footed as possible.
- Avoid horseplay or other distractions.
- When entering or exiting your vehicles, hold onto the door or side of the vehicle for extra support. Maintain three points of contact at all times.
Tips for Worksite Safety
- Have a program and procedures to promptly remove ice and snow from parking lots, garages and sidewalks.
- Email winter weather warnings to staff, cautioning them about ice, snow and slippery surfaces at the worksite. For staff who have no email access, post notices on bulletin boards.
- Post and distribute phone and email contacts for maintenance department, encouraging employees to report icy conditions.
- Place labeled bins of ice-melting chemicals and scoops that employees can use immediately on icy patches. The bins should include instructions for handling ice melting chemicals. Secure bins so they cannot be removed.
- Provide beveled-edge mats in entrances during winter months and when it rains.
- Water from melting snow or ice can accumulate inside the workplace and at entrances. Monitor these problem areas and keep them dry. Ensure that mats are in place; replace mats if they become saturated with water.
- Isolate problem areas by closing them to the general public, or install signs warning of the slip hazard. When you close or rope off a wet area, ensure that you don’t redirect foot traffic to other slip and trip hazards.
For more information on preventing slips, trips and falls during the coming winter months, as well as sample checklists, pointers and worksite posters, visit Pinnacol.com. Additional resources are available on the website pages of the Occupational Safety & Health Administration and National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). (While developed for healthcare workers, the NIOSH publication includes helpful tips to prevent winter falls at any workplace.) Or contact Safety On Call at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303.361.4700 or 888.501.4752. Our safety services team stands ready to answer questions and help keep your workforce on sure footing.
In 2013, overexertion injuries from lifting, carrying, pushing and pulling materials accounted for $15 billion in workers’ compensation costs nationally, or 25 percent of all claims costs. Only the common cold accounts for more lost days of work.
Claims involving lifting are the most common strain-related injury that Pinnacol sees. From 2011 to 2015, strain claims from lifting accounted for 32 percent of all strains, with an average annual cost of almost $31 million. The average cost of a low back injury claim is $10,745. And the indirect costs to the policyholder (e.g., loss of productivity, overtime costs and rehiring and training costs) can be much greater — two to four times the direct cost of the claim. The following controls can help curb back and shoulder injuries at your workplace:
Engineering controls — Change or modify tools, equipment or machinery to reduce the physical demands of the job. Use assistive devices (e.g., crane, forklift, conveyor) to handle materials.
Work practice controls — Change the way job tasks are performed to reduce the frequency and duration of risk exposure. For example, reorganize the order of job tasks to allow muscle recovery between tasks that require excessive force.
Administrative controls — These include job rotation, job enlargement, gradual introduction to work and pre-shift warm-up and stretching programs. Another administrative control is team lifting for certain heavy or awkward materials.
Training controls — Demonstrate these techniques when training employees on safe lifting:
- Get as close to the load as possible before lifting it, and keep the load close once you’ve lifted it. If possible, straddle the load or slide the load toward you before picking it up.
- Make sure your footing is secure. Do not lift objects that obscure vision and footing. Plan ahead, and make sure that your travel path is clear of obstructions and that there aren’t slip hazards, such as a wet floor.
- Do not twist while lifting! Move your feet so they point in the direction of the lift as you turn. A good phrase to teach is, “keep the toes to the load.” Lift smoothly and slowly, and do not jerk the load.
For more information on safe lifting in the workplace — including lifting procedures and a worksite poster — visit the lifting and ergonomics webpage at Pinnacol.com. Additional resources are available from the OSHA’s ergonomics webpage and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). NIOSH and California OSHA also have an excellent booklet with guidelines on manual material handling. Or call Pinnacol’s Safety On Call line at 303.361.4700 or 888.501.4752. Our safety services team stands ready to answer questions and help you take next steps toward safe lifting in the workplace.
Every year, 30 million people in the United States are exposed to dangerous noise levels at work. Thousands of people endure hearing loss, and high noise levels on the job can cause emotional stress and reduce productivity. Excessive noise levels can interfere with communication and concentration, making it hard to hear warning signals or even someone shouting a warning, leading to accidents or injuries at your worksites.
OSHA sets limits on noise exposure on the job based on a worker’s time weighted average over an eight-hour day. OSHA’s permissible exposure limit for noise is 90dBA. In addition, if your employees endure noise levels averaging 85 dBA or greater over an eight-hour day, your organization must implement a hearing conservation program.
Visit OSHA’s website to learn more about the agency’s standards and guidance for general industry and for construction in particular. There, you’ll also find links to helpful guidance from other federal agencies and national organizations.
Pinnacol’s industrial hygienists can evaluate employee exposure to noise in your workplace and determine if your organization needs to develop and implement a hearing conservation program. This service is free to policyholders. Contact your Pinnacol safety consultant to learn more.
Additionally, enter your policyholder number to access the noise and hearing conservation page on Pinnacol’s website. There you’ll find the following helpful downloads:
- Sample Hearing Conservation Program
- General Estimates of Work-Related Noises
- Preventing Occupational Hearing Loss – A Practical Guide
- Preventing Occupational Hearing Loss – Compliance Checklist
- Preventing Occupational Hearing Loss – Program Evaluation Checklist
- Tips on Using Hearing Protection
You can also contact Pinnacol’s Safety On Call hotline at 303.361.4700 or 888.501.4752. Our Safety Services team is committed to helping you protect your employees from occupational hearing loss.
Did you realize that musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are among the most frequently reported causes of lost or restricted work time? According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, MSD cases accounted for 31 percent of all worker injury and illness cases in 2015.
MSDs comes into play whenever soft-tissue strain results from improper or repetitive body movements, as well as lack of motion.
What to Do
Working over long periods of time in awkward postures without taking breaks can greatly increase your employees’ risk for musculoskeletal injuries. Proper workstation setup and layout, good fit with a quality task chair and posture changes throughout the day are the most effective ways to reduce the risk of overuse injuries. Reorganizing work so employees can stand and walk every 30 to 45 minutes, for example, is a no-cost approach to reduce the effects of sitting in a static posture.
What Not to Do
Look for these common awkward postures at your employees’ workstations and inform workers of these risk factors for injury:
- Working in a seated, static position for more than 30 minutes without standing or walking.
- Sitting so far forward in a chair that the back is unsupported or, worse, slouching forward over the keyboard.
- Working with elbows extended in front of the body, which creates muscle tension in the upper back.
- Cradling the phone for long periods while performing keyboard/mouse work.
- Entering data from a document that is face down on the desk, requiring awkward neck flexion or twisting.
- Placing contact stress on soft tissues, such as resting wrists on a hard, sharp desktop edge while using a computer mouse.
Pinnacol is here to educate policyholders and improve the ergonomic setup and layout of your computer workstations. Visit the Knowledge Center on Pinnacol’s website to view our interactive office ergonomics video. A host of additional downloads – FAQs; guidelines for choosing an ergonomic chair and workstation setup, a stretching and warm-up exercise handout, and equipment procurement and use checklists – can help prevent musculoskeletal strains and injuries to your workers. You can order a computer DVD copy of the interactive video program from Pinnacol’s Order Materials webpage under the DVD Training & Resources section. Your organization can make copies of the DVD and distribute them to employees or even copy the files to your organization’s intranet.
Pinnacol partners with Office Relief, an ergonomic chairs and accessories supplier with discounted prices for Pinnacol customers. Office Relief offers one-stop shopping for purchasing high-quality task chairs, sit/stand workstations, keyboards, mice and various other desk accessories to improve the ergonomic setup of the workstation. Contact Office Relief’s Jeff Bellamy at (720) 232.5637 or email@example.com. Identify yourself as a Pinnacol customer to receive a product catalog with Pinnacol’s preferred pricing. Bellamy provides onsite services, as well, such as free chair demos.
You can also contact Pinnacol’s Safety On Call online or at 303.361.4700 or 888.501.4752. Our Safety Services team is committed to helping you keep your organization’s employees healthy, productive and injury-free.
In 2016, Pinnacol processed 2,048 claims for eye injuries for a gross total of just over $2 million. Despite the high risk of eye injury in some industries, many workers skip the precautions that could protect their eyes wearing either the wrong kind of eye protection or no protection when accidents occur. Eye injuries take a toll on businesses, too, accounting for $300 million annually in medical bills, compensation and downtime.
The use of proper eye protection such as safety glasses, goggles and face shields prevents eye injuries. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires the use of eye and face protection whenever there is a chance of injury from flying objects, splashing chemicals, intense heat and even light radiation. The appropriate eye protection for each work situation depends on the hazards, circumstances of exposure and individual vision needs.
Safety eyewear rated by American National Standards Institute (ANSI) meets specific guidelines. For example, one of the common ratings — ANSI Z87.1 — identifies the eyewear as impact-resistant, an effective safeguard against flying objects. Ensure that eyewear for your workers carries the appropriate ANSI rating. Most manufacturers comply with ANSI, and even stylish eyewear is available from major brands such as 3M, Edge Eyewear, UVEX and others.
Locate and provide “reader” glasses for those employees who perform detailed tasks up close. Be aware that OSHA does require employers to pay for certain personal protective equipment, including non-prescription eye protection. Whether your business is construction, manufacturing or healthcare, there are times when your workers require eye protection. After all, you have only two eyes; let’s protect them with the right equipment!
We encourage you to visit OSHA’s website for helpful resources. Its “eTool,” for example, includes a hazard assessment, information about selecting protective devices and OSHA’s requirements.
For guidance on personal protective equipment and many other resources to help protect your workers’ eyes, visit the Knowledge Center on Pinnacol’s website. Or call Pinnacol’s Safety On Call hotline at 303-361-4700 or 888-501-4752. Our safety services team stands ready to answer questions and help keep your workforce safe, healthy and on the job.