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December 2013

November 2013

OSHA's Proposed Rulemaking on Crystalline Silica

LaRochelle Greg 2 Posted by Greg LaRochelle

On October 25th, OSHA posted a News Release extending the public comment period for their proposed rulemaking on occupational exposure to crystalline silica.  This ubiquitous, naturally occurring mineral has long been regulated through OSHA’s Hazard Communication standard for materials used in business containing 0.1% or more of crystalline silica.  As stated on their website, “the proposed rule will save nearly 700 lives and prevent 1,600 new cases of silicosis per year, once the full effects of the rule are realized.”

The need for a specific regulation stems from the fact that permissible exposure limits (PELs) for crystalline silica are 40 years old, outdated, inconsistent across industries, and no longer adequately protect workers based on current research.  In the proposed rule, OSHA plans to revise the permissible exposure limit along with proposing a regulatory text for general industry and maritime and another for the construction industry in order to tailor requirements specific to these sectors. 

Click on the link, Crystalline Silica for more information on the proposed rulemaking.

Additionally, the U.S. Bureau of Mines has published a Crystalline Silica Primer that discusses its forms, natural occurrence, industrial use, and regulatory activities. 

Global Harmonization Standard Reminder

  John DeRoia 2013 Posted by John DeRoia

The first date in OSHA’s Global Harmonization Standard (GHS) is coming up before you know it.  OSHA is requiring that employees are trained on the new label elements (i.e., pictograms, hazard statements, precautionary statements, and signal words) and SDS format by December 1, 2013, while full compliance with the final rule will begin in 2015. 

OSHA believes that American workplaces will soon begin to receive labels and SDSs that are consistent with the GHS, since many American and foreign chemical manufacturers have already begun to produce HazCom 2012/GHS-compliant labels and SDSs.  It is important to ensure that when employees begin to see the new labels and SDSs in their workplaces, they will be familiar with them, understand how to use them, and access the information effectively.  In today’s world, a large percentage of tasks require the use of some type of chemical.  While many chemicals are classed as "hazardous," we can use these chemicals safely if we bear in mind that they must be used cautiously.  Just because we are familiar with a chemical doesn’t mean that we should regard it lightly.  Needed precautions must be taken every time we handle that chemical, even if it is for the 100th or 1,000th time.

The major changes to the existing Hazard Communication Standard include: 

  1. Hazard Classification: The definitions of hazard have been changed to provide specific criteria for classification of health and physical hazards, as well as classification of mixtures. These specific criteria will help to ensure that evaluations of hazardous effects are consistent across manufacturers, and that labels and safety data sheets are more accurate as a result.  
  2. Labels: Chemical manufacturers and importers will be required to provide a label that includes a harmonized signal word, pictogram, and hazard statement for each hazard class and category. Precautionary statements must also be provided.  
  3. Safety Data Sheets: Will now have a specified 16-section format.


Timeline of events:

Deroia Blog Photo 1

The new format of an SDS will include 16 sections:

Section 1. Identification

Section 2.  Hazard(s) identification

Section 3. Composition/information on ingredients

Section 4. First-Aid measures 

Section 5. Fire-fighting measures 

Section 6. Accidental release measures 

Section 7. Handling and storage 

Section 8. Exposure controls/personal protection

Section 9. Physical and chemical properties 

Section 10. Stability and reactivity 

Section 11. Toxicological information 

Section 12. Ecological information 

Section 13. Disposal considerations

Section 14. Transport information

Section 15. Regulatory information

Section 16. Other information, including date of preparation or last revision


New container labels will contain the following pictograms:

  DeRoia Blog Photo 2

This is just a reminder.  For more detailed information see the following links:

• OSHA’s website:

• MEMIC customer's can also access a recorded webinar on this topic through MEMIC's Safety Director.

Ol' Man Winter Is Comin... Are Your Employees Ready?

Klatt Randy Posted by Randy Klatt

Yes, it’s that time of year again.  The leaves are down, the pumpkins are just about gone, and the frosty weather is here.  Now is the time to ensure your employees are properly trained and equipped to work safely in cold environments.

Cold weather adversely affects any worker who is required to be outside or work in unheated spaces.  Workers in the construction, utility, public safety, truck driving, mail delivery, and snow removal industries are regularly exposed to the elements.  However, almost all workers have some exposure as they commute to and from work and trek into and out of buildings from their cars.

The hazards of winter weather seem endless, but here are some common causes of injury: 

  • Slips and Falls:  Ensure there is a plan in place for the shoveling, sweeping, salting, and sanding of all walkways, stairways, and parking lots your employees will use through the winter.  Footwear is extremely important.  Check out previous issues of The Safety Net to read about specific slip/trip/fall prevention, or log onto the Safety Director at and search “slips” within the Resource Library.
  • Cold Stress:  The body will lose heat when exposed to cold temperatures.  When this heat loss exceeds the ability to create heat, hypothermia occurs.  This is an extremely dangerous situation that can affect the person’s ability to think or move effectively.  Avoid prolonged exposures whenever possible, dress in layers of wool or synthetic clothing, and take frequent breaks.  Avoid exposing bare skin such as fingers, ears, and the nose.  Frostbite, the freezing of the tissue, will occur in these areas first.  Stay dry, or change wet clothing frequently.  Eat well, stay hydrated, and avoid alcohol and caffeine.  Learn more about cold stress prevention from the Centers for Disease Control and from OSHA’s Cold Stress Card
  • Winter Driving:  Snow and ice wreak havoc on the traveling public, but disasters are largely preventable.  If poor weather is forecast, plan ahead and leave plenty of time to get to your destination.  Better yet, postpone unnecessary trips until the weather has improved.  Keep your vehicle tuned up and be especially aware of your tire condition.  Snow tires are the best bet in the winter months, but regardless of tire type be sure to check pressures and tread wear regularly.  Also carry the essential equipment in your vehicle:  ice scrapers, broom, flashlight, blanket, sand or kitty litter, a snow shovel, and always have a well charged cell phone handy.   The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a great winter driving tip sheet.

The bottom line is that winter is soon upon us and we can’t change the weather.  All we can do is prepare for it and understand the inherent hazards.  Skiers, snow boarders, and snowmobile enthusiasts will rejoice, but if you are at work take the time to prepare for the cold weather and get through the winter safely. 

Snowy scene

Enter The Neutral Zone

LaRochelle Greg 1 Posted by Greg LaRochelle

If Rod Serling, the creator and narrator of the original television series, The Twilight Zone (circa 1959-1964), portrayed an ergonomist, he would likely begin his show with the following:

“You unlock this door with the key of posture awareness.  Inside it is another dimension: a dimension not only of muscle and bone but of nerves, tendons, and ligaments; a journey into a wondrous region whose boundaries are that of limited reach and minimal stress.  Your next stop…The Neutral Zone.”

The handbook, Fundamentals and Assessment Tools for Occupational Ergonomics, cites a definition of neutral zone as “the part of the range of physiological motion, measured from the neutral position, within which the motion is produced with a minimal internal resistance.”  The University of Connecticut’s Occupational and Environmental Health Center describes neutral posture as the resting position of each joint in which there is the least tension or pressure on nerves, tendons, muscles, and bones.  It’s also the position in which muscles are at their resting length where maximum force is developed most efficiently.

Applying the neutral zone principle to workstations establishes a boundary of 18 to 24 inches for the placement of most frequently used items such as the keyboard, mouse, phone, and pen & pencil container.  A simple way of defining this boundary without use of a tape measure or ruler is to hold your forearms horizontally over the work surface with elbows against your torso, sweeping your hands back and forth like windshield wipers.  Less frequently used items such as reference books, desk organizers, and electric calculators should be situated within a secondary zone of 24 to 36 inches and slid closer when needed.  Personal effects such as photos of the family and pets should be located furthest away. 

By querying MEMIC's Safety Net Blog page with the word “neutral” in the search field, several archived posts appear with links to the main article.  One in particular, titled Ten Tips for a Perfect Fit, provides sound advice on achieving ergonomic comfort at the workstation.  So read this and related posts and enter The Neutral Zone!