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February 2017

Personal Safety – Listen To Your Inner Voice

Randy-Morehouse-bio Posted by Randy Morehouse

During a recent safety training session the subject of famous last words came up.  The favorite last words turned out to be, “Hey! Watch this!”  We can all imagine any number of ways that this ends with someone getting hurt.  In fact, television shows, social media sites, and the internet in general are full of bad endings.  Usually we smile and wonder, “What were they thinking?!”  Unfortunately, the reality of a workplace injury isn’t funny and it ends up costing everyone.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2015 there were over 2.9 million private industry recordable injuries. 

We all have an inner voice that says, “This could go badly!” right before we do something unsafe.  It is the same voice that says, “Told you so!” when things do go wrong.  For some this voice is loud and demanding.  For others it is timid, barely heard and seldom listened to.  We all have it; whether we choose to listen to it or not is our choice.  However, safety culture also plays a significant role in determining how often this voice is heard.

Think of this inner voice as your built-in self-preservation device.  It is there to keep you safe and requires attention.  There are many reasons why this voice is brushed off.  But employers have an obligation to provide workplaces where employees are encouraged, or better yet required, to act responsibly and safely in all aspects of their jobs.  Listening to the inner voice becomes much easier when the organizational culture supports safety at all levels and asks for employee input.   

For example: what if you had to walk across an icy parking lot to enter your workplace?  Your inner voice has let you know that you might fall.  What do you do? 

  1. Walk across it as you do every day and just hope for the best?
  2. Call for assistance?
  3. Park closer to the entrance to limit the exposure to the ice?
  4. Put on those ice cleats that you were issued?
  5. Spread some sand on the walkways as you enter?

If option A is chosen, the opportunity to act safely and reduce or eliminate the risk has been missed.  In this single situation we may have made it across the parking lot, but understand that the likelihood of injury is directly related to how often we choose to listen before acting.    

Crossing an icy parking lot is one of many unsafe acts that occur with regularity.  Here are some other choices people make that affect their safety:

  • Lifting a heavy object                                   
  • Wearing footwear that is not slip-resistant
  • Leaving a trip hazard or a spill on the floor          
  • Driving too fast for the road conditions
  • Using a cell phone while driving

If we choose to regularly ignore our inner voice, eventually we will be hurt.  The more we listen to, and act on, what our inner voice is saying, the less likely we are to be injured.  It takes practice and deliberate action to improve our safety in everyday situations, but the good news is that the more we listen to our inner voice, the louder it gets and the easier it is to follow it.  A supportive safety culture also makes it easier to do the right thing. 

Thankfully our inner voice is with us everywhere.  Whether it is at work, at home, or while driving, it is there and needs to be listened to.  If you are a supervisor make sure you are listening to your inner voice, but also make sure that you are allowing your employees to do the same.  If production ends up having the loudest “voice” then safety voices can be drowned out. 

If you are looking for ways to improve workplace safety, give every employee a voice in the matter.  Dan Petersen is featured in an EHS Today piece entitled “Dan Petersen: Why Safety is a People Problem.”  Check it out; it might help you better understand the importance of personal responsibility and how organizational cultures can either improve or hinder employee safety.  

Listen to your voice, and encourage your coworkers do the same! 


OSHA & Healthcare: Update 2017

DarnleyPosted by David Darnley, MS, CHSP

People ask many questions when it comes to healthcare facilities.  Hospitals and nursing homes are under scrutiny and many want to know, “How do they compare?” This is often surrounding patient care issues, but OSHA wants everyone to be aware of incident rates as well.  How do accident histories compare to competitors and other like operations?  Similarly, prospective patients or residents and/or potential employees are often interested in this information. “How safe is it to work in that facility?” Thanks to OSHA’s new rule on electronic tracking and posting of injury data, everyone will have access to this information.

Beginning July 1, 2017, any healthcare facility with 20 or more employees is required to electronically submit the injury and illness data from their OSHA 300A summary logs.  For the following year, employers will be required to submit data from the 300A summary, 300 log, and 301 or equivalent.  Check out Adam Levesque’s recent post addressing the new requirements for many industries.  

This, and other information such as OSHA’s five points of emphasis for healthcare, safe patient handling, standard enforcement, and what to expect during an OSHA inspection will be discussed in our upcoming webinar, “OSHA & Healthcare: Update 2017”. 

MEMIC customers are welcome to join us for the live webinar on February 16th at 10:00am EST. To register, please click here.

 


Back Belts – Do They Prevent Back Injuries?

SylvesterPosted by Rob Sylvester, CEHT

Back injuries are common in many industries, and can be extremely debilitating.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 155,740 private industry back injury cases in 2015.  That’s over 400 cases per day!  How do we prevent so much pain and lost productivity?  Should we give back belts to everyone that lifts or “moves stuff” as part of their job?  Should we give them to someone that has already had a back injury? In this post we’ll take a closer look at the first question.  The latter is something that should be discussed with the treating therapist and/or medical provider and will not be covered here.

What do the experts say?

In 1996, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) responded to an increase in advice on back belt selection. In their response, the Institute decided to address a more fundamental question. Rather than ask "Which belt will best protect workers?" NIOSH researchers began with the question, "Do back belts protect workers?"

NIOSH “does not recommend the use of back belts to prevent injuries among workers who have never been injured. If you or your workers are wearing back belts as protective equipment against back injury, you should be aware of the lack of scientific evidence supporting their use.

Harvard Medical School supported these findings in 2012“Several studies have cast some doubt on whether back belts (also called back supports or abdominal belts) help protect workers' backs or reduce sick time and workers' compensation claims. One report, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that these belts didn't curtail back injuries. In this two-year study, which included several thousand employees who handled merchandise, the use of back belts didn't reduce either the incidence of low back pain or the number of back injury claims. Another study looked at two groups of people with work-related low back disorders.  Those in one group were asked to wear back belts and receive education on back health.  Those in the other group received the educational component only. There was no significant difference in the recovery of the two groups.”

Rather than relying on a back belt to prevent back injuries, incorporate safer work practices. Since the majority of back injuries result from lifting, twisting or material handling, solid ergonomic programs are a key to success.  Here are some thoughts and tips.

Together, we can continue to make America’s workforce safer!

 

 


OSHA’s Updated Electronic Recordkeeping Rule: Are you Prepared?

  LevesquePosted by Adam Levesque, MBA, CSP

OSHA has updated their recordkeeping requirements for employers across many different industries in an effort to ensure the completeness and overall accuracy of injury and illness information.  The update requires employers to inform employees of their right to report work related injuries and illness free from retaliation, clarifies the requirement for employers to establish a documented procedure for reporting and managing work related injuries which do not deter or discourage reporting, and includes an updated statute prohibiting employers from retaliating against employees who report work related injuries and illnesses.

Of particular note, the new rule, which took effect January 1, requires specific employers in pre-identified industries to electronically submit their injury and illness data.  The required information for electronic submittal includes the same data that employers are already collecting and reporting annually on the OSHA injury and illness forms.  OSHA will analyze and publically publish the information submitted by employers with the intent to motivate employers to improve health and safety performance.  The database of public injury and illness information will allow businesses to benchmark their performance against others in like industries.  The accessible data will also allow potential employees, customers and the public to see where health and safety of workers stands within businesses.

The updated electronic reporting requirement is being phased in over the next two years.  OSHA has separated the affected establishments into two categories: employers with 250 or more employees, and employers with 20-249 employees in high risk industries which are classified by an industry NAICS code.

Recordkeeping

OSHA states that the total number of employees is based on a single physical location where operations are conducted or services are provided.  The total employee count must consider an establishment’s peak employment during the reporting year which includes seasonal, temporary and part-time workers.  As an example, if your business is not in a high risk industry and has 400 employees in four different locations with 100 employees in each location, then electronic reporting is not required.  Subsequently, if your business is in a high risk industry and has 50 employees in two locations with 40 employees at one location and 10 employees at the other, then electronic reporting would be required only for the operation with 40 employees. 

During 2017, the first year of implementation, employers who fall into either of the above categories must submit 2016 data recorded on the 300A form electronically by July 1, 2017. During the second year of implementation the same employers must submit 2017 injury and illness data contained on all three OSHA forms (300A, 300 and 301) by July 1, 2018.  Beginning in 2019, those employers will be required to annually report all OSHA forms electronically by March 2.

Once you have made the determination on your establishment’s reporting requirement applicability, you need to know where you can submit your information.  OSHA has stated that there will be three options available for submitting data: manual data entry via web form, upload of a single CSV (excel type) file which will allow for the submission of multiple site information, and transmission of electronic data through a custom software application available from OSHA.  The site is scheduled to launch in full in February, however OSHA has already released the CSV template and information on the software application.

It is worth noting the potential impact of the recent memorandum issued by the Trump Administration related to federal agencies sending new regulations to the Office of the Federal Register.  This may “temporarily postpone” the implementation of this, and other, OSHA regulations. 

According to Mark Ames of the American Industrial Hygiene Association, “…the White House issued a regulatory freeze impacting all pending regulations – including final rules that have yet to be fully implemented… This seems straightforward, but there’s actually a lot of vague language in the memo that can be interpreted in multiple ways, making the specific impacts on worker health and safety hard to predict. While agencies are rushing to provide guidance on which rules are subject to the freeze, this period of regulatory disruption is likely to continue for some time, even after President Trump’s nominees have been installed, since the president has ambitious plans for cutting federal regulations, creating additional vast uncertainties.”

Nevertheless, bringing your company into compliance with this and all proposed regulations is likely the right path to take at this time. 

For more information see the resources below.

OSHAs Recordkeeping Webpage and Frequently Asked Questions

OSHA Fact Sheet – Final Rule to Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses

OSHA Fact Sheet – Who is Required to Keep Records and Who is Exempt

Click here to read the rule