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February 2013

Use Your Filtering Facepiece

LaRochelle Greg 1 Posted by Greg LaRochelle

OSHA defines a filtering facepiece (dust mask) as “a negative pressure particulate respirator with a filter as an integral part of the facepiece or with the entire facepiece composed of the filtering medium.”

A filtering facepiece, e.g. N95 respirator, is typically used for added comfort and protection when particulate contaminant concentrations are below the OSHA permissible exposure limit.  In this case, filtering facepiece respirator use is voluntary with only a copy of Appendix D to the OSHA respiratory protection standard required to be provided to the employee.  This appendix offers information on the use and limitations of respirators.

There may also be conditions when the employer requires use of filtering facepiece respirators such as in healthcare for protection against infectious micro-organisms.  In this case, a complete respiratory protection program is required by OSHA.  This includes a written plan, medical evaluation, annual training, annual fit testing of the filtering facepiece, and program evaluation.

For additional information, click on this link to an OSHA Letter of Interpretation  that answers seven questions on filtering facepiece use.

For a full summary of OSHA’s respiratory protection program requirements, check out the two part MEMIC Safety Net Blog - What Do I Really Need for a Respiratory Protection Program?

This winter it's time to protect our heads!

Koch Peter 1 Posted by Peter Koch

Head and face injuries are common among skiers and riders.  When high rates of speed are factored in, those injuries can be significant.  Did you know:

  1. In 2012, “67 percent of skiers and snowboarders now wear helmets.”   NSAA Helmet Usage  
  2. Head trauma accounts for 120,000 – or 1 in 5 – of the 600,000 injuries suffered by skiers and snowboarders each year.  The Dangerous Mistake You’re Making on the Slopes
  3. A concussion is caused by the sudden deceleration of your head and your brain impacting the inside of your skull; not by your skull impacting a surface or object.  Mayo Clinic: Concussion Causes
  4. Skiers and snowboarders travel at an average maximum speed of 27mph. - The Science Behind Helmets
  5. Hitting your un-helmeted head against a fixed object while skiing or snowboarding at an average speed of 19 mph can impart g-force to your brain of between 329 and 696g.  – The Science Behind Helmets (on average, football tackles generate between 50 and 120g - G-force and gray matter)
  6. You can sustain a minor concussion from an impact with as little as 95g and a serious, possibly life-threatening brain injury from 275g. – How Serious Are Concussions
  7. The ASTM F2040 test for recreational snow sports helmets requires force at impact to be under 300g at 13.85mph. - The Science Behind Helmets

The equipment available won’t always prevent those significant injuries.  So why would you wear a helmet?

Here are some points to ponder:

  1. Helmets can prevent almost 100 percent of minor head injuries (defined as scalp lacerations, scrapes, fractures, surface bruises). - The Science Behind Helmets
  2. Helmets can, at speeds below 30mph, reduce the likelihood of head injury when impacting icy snow. - Helmets and The Science Behind Helmets
  3. Speeds inherent in skiing and snowboarding can overwhelm the helmet’s degree of protection, but still reduce the force imparted to the head.
  4. Helmets are no replacement for good decisions and behavior within one’s skill and ability for the conditions and environment.

The bottom line is: Today's ski/snowboard helmets are light, comfortable, inexpensive, and effective. While they won’t protect from every impact, helmets offer an extra degree of protection over and above the safety basics of skiing/riding responsibly for the environment, snow conditions, and your ability. 

Before you leave the helmet home or on the shelf consider your answer to this question, “If there is a tool available, that offers some protection from potential injuries, why wouldn’t you use it?”

Skiing couple

Is "Safety First" at your Organization?

Klatt Randy Posted by Randy Klatt

We often see this slogan prominently displayed at businesses throughout the country.  Safety First is a bold statement, one that, on the face of it, seems appropriate for any organization.  After all, what is more important than the safety of your employees?

However, if this statement is examined closely a significant problem comes to light.  Consider why a business is “in business”.   Generally, a service or a product is offered to customers.  Bus companies transport people, widget makers manufacture widgets, and car insurance companies sell and service insurance policies.  Isn’t this really why these businesses exist?  Safety isn’t first; offering these products or services is first. 

So, how should safety be prioritized?  Surely it is important to a company’s bottom line, right?  Yes, it sure is.  It is so important that it needs to be given equal priority with all other business areas.  I find the three-legged stool analogy to be effective in explaining how safety should become an integral part of all businesses.

The three legs of the stool are productivity, quality, and safety.  As you know, a three-legged stool is extremely stable.  It won’t wobble no matter how uneven the surface.  But if you remove one leg, the stool falls over.  Look at your business in the same way. 

Companies that focus only on production may be very successful in producing a lot of product or service.  But if that is their only focus, quality is sure to suffer.  Likewise, if quality is the only concern, the production numbers fall short and customers are forced to go elsewhere.  And, if quality and production are the only points of emphasis, safety programs are ineffective.  Workplace injuries are extremely expensive, both in human and monetary terms.  Profits go down when employees suffer injuries, equipment is damaged and all the associated costs rise.

Take a few moments to assess how your company views safety.  Is it given the same priority as production and quality?  Is it important to all employees, facilitated by supervisors, and supported by all managers?  The alternative is an unpredictable injury cycle that no business can afford. 

To learn more about fostering your safety culture check out the resources at

Workplace Violence: A Troubling Reality

Tony soares 2012 Posted by Tony Soares

Violence in the workplace has become the second leading cause of all work related fatalities. 

Consider this:

  • One-sixth of violent crimes occur in the workplace. There are about 2 million incidents a year and 780 deaths in 2011. Guns are involved in 80 percent of deaths.
  • As many as 18,000 people are assaulted at work each week.
  • Certain jobs pose a higher risk for violence, including those where employees handle cash, work alone, late-night or early morning hours, work in high-crime areas, or guard valuables.

Employee-related violence in the workplace occurs when someone reacts to a trigger in a violent manner. These triggers can be related to the workplace. For example:

  • When lay-offs occur, affected employees can react violently.
  • Employees who are terminated can also become violent—either at the time of firing or later.
  • Current employees who are warned about poor behavior may have a violent reaction.
  • Employees who receive a less-than-satisfactory performance review may take exception in a physical manner. 
  • Conflicts among employees can sometimes escalate into violent behavior.

Understand and follow your organization’s security procedures for handling these incidents, including exit interviews, denying access to computer files, or escorting former employees off the premises.  Personal problems can also result in violence at work from either employees or from their contacts outside of work.

In order to respond effectively to potential incidents, first recognize warning signs:

  • Co-workers, clients, or customers who threaten to get even.
  • People who talk excessively about violence in the news, movies, on TV, or about weapons.
  • People who raise their voices, use abusive language, or who blame others for problems. 

When signs of potential violence are observed, immediate steps should be in your security plan, but basic tips include:

  • Remain calm and show respect. Speak in a moderate tone of voice.
  • Focus on the problem by asking for details about the situation and possible solutions.
  • If you still feel the person may become violent, alert a co-worker.
  • Report the situation immediately according to established procedures.
  • Never argue with an agitated person or tell them they’re wrong to be upset.
  • Never raise your voice or mimic the angry person’s behavior. For more detail refer to this article from the FBI:  Workplace Violence Prevention.

You and your employees should also follow these security procedures:

  • Report to the proper authority any strangers you see anywhere inside or outside the building.
  • Make sure visitors are escorted the entire time they’re on the premises.
  • Report any missing items or signs of a break-in immediately.

Employee terminations can result in violence, whatever the reason for the discharge. Whenever you must discharge an employee for violent behavior, choose an office near an exit in which to conduct the termination.  Request that a security person be present or nearby, and if necessary, obtain a restraining order that bars the person from company premises after a termination. 

In some instances, violent outbursts may be avoided by giving an employee proper notice of any performance or behavioral issues through progressive discipline.  Make sure you know what kind of assistance your organization offers through the Employee Assistance Program so that you can offer employees the appropriate counseling options. 

For additional information on violence in the workplace and how to prevent it, check out the SHRM website, the Insurance Information Institute, this article from BLS, and OSHA’s Safety and Health webpage on Workplace Violence.

It's That Time Again: Post Your OSHA 300 Log Summary

Koch Peter 1 Posted by Peter Koch

OSHA's  29CFR 1904.1  requires all employers with more than 10 employees to keep a record of workplace injuries and illnesses.  All employers are required to complete this recordkeeping unless they have 10 or fewer employees during all of the last calendar year or the business is classified in a specific low-hazard retail, service, finance, insurance, or real estate industry.  Click on the following link to see a list of Partially Exempt Industries.

Because the OSHA Record Keeping Rule has many facets, this blog will only outline what OSHA requires for forms and posting.  More detail regarding definitions, requirements, timelines, and forms can be found at the OSHA Recordkeeping web page.

As we close the book on 2012 it's time to review the workplace injuries that occurred over the past year, enter recordable injuries on the OSHA 300 Log, and post the summary.  In the Recordkeeping Standard, OSHA outlines:

  • What is considered a recordable injury
  • How injuries are categorized
  • Forms, on which, injuries are recorded
  • How long to post the summary, and
  • How long to keep the forms

Following is a general outline of the steps you have to take to complete the required forms:

  1. Review your OSHA 300 log for 2012 (relevant injuries that occurred January 1, 2012 through December 31, 2012) - 29 CFR 1904.29.
  2. Complete the OSHA 300a Summary form by February 1, 2013 - 29 CFR 1904.32.
  3. Post the OSHA 300a Summary form from February 1, 2013 to April 30, 2013 - 29 CFR 1904.3.
  4. Fill out the OSHA 301, or equivalent form (some state workers' compensation first reports may be acceptable), for each OSHA recordable injury on the OSHA 300 log.

Some businesses receive an Annual OSHA Injury and Illness Survey.  This must be completed as directed in the survey and returned to OSHA or the stated designee [1904.41(a)], in addition to the forms/logs described above.

The forms, instructions, and the OSHA standard can also be found through the following links:

The standard is well written and in a question and answer format.