COVID-19 pandemic: OSHA creates guidelines for reopening ‘nonessential’ businesses


Photo: RichLegg/iStockphoto

Washington — As “nonessential” businesses across the country get ready to reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic, OSHA is offering guidance on protecting returning workers

The document lays out a three-phase reopening strategy. It lists recommendations for each phase and provides examples of how to implement hazard assessments, controls, hygiene practices, physical distancing, identification and isolation of ill employees, and training, among other topics.

“For all phases of reopening, employers should develop and implement policies and procedures that address preventing, monitoring for and responding to any emergence or resurgence of COVID-19 in the workplace or community,” OSHA states.

The document has a set of FAQs and answers, as well as applicable OSHA standards and required workplace protections.

“OSHA recommends that employers continually monitor federal, state and local government guidelines for updated information about ongoing community transmission and mitigation measures, as well as for evolving guidance on disinfection and other best practices for worker protection,” a June 18 press release states.

COVID-19 pandemic: DOL inspector general identifies top issues for OSHA, MSHA

Washington — Responding to the “significant increase” in worker and whistleblower complaints complaints during the COVID-19 pandemic, along with completing inspections and investigations – all in a timely manner – are among the challenges facing OSHA and the Mine Safety and Health Administration.

In a three-page report published June 17, the Department of Labor Office of the Inspector General asserts that OSHA has “limited resources” to provide clear and relevant coronavirus-related guidance, as well as protect workers who report safety concerns.

For essential workers who are at high risk of exposure – including those in health care, meat processing, agriculture and manufacturing – the nature of work and inherent barriers to physical distancing make it “particularly difficult” to provide protection. “Further, unless proper precautions are taken, avoidable COVID-19 infections and deaths may occur as more people return to work,” the report adds. “OSHA is challenged in fulfilling its mission due to resource constraints and the urgency of actions required.”

Meanwhile, MSHA is challenged by agency and state travel restrictions, hindering its ability to complete inspections and investigations in a timely manner, DOL OIG contends. It notes that MSHA is focusing its efforts on the four “highest-risk” mandatory annual inspections of underground mines and the two mandatory annual inspections of surface mines.

“Both mandatory and discretionary inspections to address specific mine safety concerns are at risk of not being conducted due to COVID-19,” the report states.

DOL OIG adds that miners with preexisting health conditions, such as respiratory disease, “are especially vulnerable” to COVID-19.

The report is part of a collection of reports from OIGs overseeing agencies involved in the pandemic response released by the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, which was established by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

COVID-19 pandemic: Study finds many employees working from home may use it as ‘an excuse to drink’


Photo: JAVIER LARRAONDO/iStockphoto

Brentwood, TN — Drinking alcohol while working from home may be an emerging concern during the COVID-19 pandemic, with 1 out of 3 respondents to a recent survey saying they’re more likely than usual to do so. – a resource of the American Addiction Centers, a national provider of addiction treatment services – in late March conducted an online survey of 3,000 U.S. adults working from home “to find out how many are using their new office setup as an excuse to drink.”

In general, 35% of the respondents said they were more likely to consume alcohol while self-isolating, while 22% said they’ve stockpiled alcohol over other food and drink items while isolating. Beer was the beverage of choice for 38% of the respondents, followed by cocktails (26%), wine (21%) and straight spirits (15%).

“These are stressful times as many employees struggle with having to adapt to a home working environment, in which distractions are abundant and alcohol may seem like a good solution,” an spokesperson said on the website. “There are a number of accessible online resources available if you suspect substance addiction, such as support helplines, chat rooms and forums.”

The survey results were published on the website April 2.

Seven Steps to Correctly Wear a Respirator at Work Poster


OSHA’s poster that shows employers and workers how to properly wear and remove a respirator is now available in 16 languages.

Seven Steps to Correctly Wear a Respirator at Work Poster

OSHA 4015 – 2020) English: PDF

(OSHA 4016 – 2020) Spanish: PDF

(OSHA 4036 – 2020) Arabic: PDF

(OSHA 4037 – 2020) Brazilian Portuguese: PDF

(OSHA 4032 – 2020) Chinese Simplified: PDF

(OSHA 4031 – 2020) Chinese Traditional: PDF

(OSHA 4034 – 2020) French Creole: PDF

(OSHA 4041 – 2020) Hmong: PDF

(OSHA 4039 – 2020) Korean: PDF

(OSHA 4043 – 2020) Kunama: PDF

(OSHA 4038 – 2020) Polish: PDF

(OSHA 4040 – 2020) Russian: PDF

(OSHA 4044 – 2020) Somali: PDF

(OSHA 4033 – 2020) Tagalog: PDF

(OSHA 4042 – 2020) Thai: PDF

(OSHA 4035 – 2020) Vietnamese: PDF






Marijuana tops list of substances identified in CMV drivers’ failed drug tests: FMCSA


Photo: vitpho/iStockphoto

Washington — The first report to use data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s new Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse shows that, from the database’s Sept. 28 launch through May, marijuana was the most common substance found in positive drug and alcohol tests among commercial motor vehicle drivers.

The national online database – aimed at enhancing road safety by providing, in real time, the names of CMV drivers who fail drug and alcohol tests – identified 10,388 positive tests for marijuana. Cocaine (3,192) and methamphetamine (2,184) were the next most common substances detected.

Under federal regulations, motor carriers must conduct pre-employment drug testing in addition to random testing. Employees who test positive are prohibited from performing safety-sensitive functions, which includes operating a CMV.

According to the report, 19,849 CMV drivers had at least one violation and were unable to operate until completing the return-to-duty process – including 15,682 drivers who had yet to begin the process.

In an article published June 15 in the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association’s Land Line magazine, Amber Schweer, supervisor of OOIDA’s drug and alcohol consortium, said the legalization of marijuana for medicinal and/or recreational use in numerous states may be complicating the problem.

“There is a huge misconception that just because it is legal on the state level that it will be OK on the federal level,” Schweer said. “That is not the case.”

CBD products also figured to factor into the findings, Schweer added. In a Feb. 18 policy and compliance notice, the Department of Transportation cautioned that CBD products may contain higher levels of THC – the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana – than DOT allows in a controlled substance. DOT added that CBD use is not a “legitimate medical explanation” for a safety-sensitive employee who tests positive for marijuana.

“There are so many companies that claim you won’t test positive using their product when in reality they cannot guarantee that,” Schweer said. “Drivers are not heeding the warnings that are put out there and, unfortunately, are facing expensive and detrimental consequences to their career.”

Overall, the clearinghouse observed 21,156 positive tests for substance misuse among CMV drivers during the reporting period. Multiple substances can appear in positive tests, FMCSA notes in the report, which does not include the total number of tests conducted. Future reports are set to be released monthly. Employers made more than 905,000 queries into the clearinghouse since it was fully implemented Jan. 6.

COVID-19 pandemic: CDC issues guidance for airline, airport and transit workers


Photo: Animaflora/iStockphoto

Atlanta — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has published a series of fact sheets for airport, airline and transit employers to help protect their workers from exposure to COVID-19.

Each of the 12 fact sheets contains steps employers should take, tips for workers based on specific job tasks, instructions on which surfaces should be cleaned and disinfected, a link to the Environmental Protection Agency’s list of approved disinfectants for use against the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) that causes COVID-19, and links to other COVID-19-related online resources.

The fact sheets cover:

The fact sheets explain how COVID-19 can spread, describe who is at higher risk for more serious complications and list the disease’s common symptoms.

National Forklift Safety Day panel advises reinforcing the basics during annual event


Image: kadmy/iStockphoto

Washington — Reviewing familiar safety processes during the conclusion of a National Forklift Safety Day virtual presentation June 9, NFSD official Chuck Moratz told attendees, “There is no downside to constant, positive reinforcement.”

Moratz, chair of the NFSD task force, echoed the sentiments of four other experts who spoke before him. The panel, which presented during the program organized by the Industrial Truck Association and DC Velocity, agreed that refining the basics is a vital starting point to mitigating occupational forklift hazards. Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that 115 workers were killed in incidents involving forklifts in 2018 – a 55.4% increase from the previous year.

“Any time you have employees working in close proximity to forklifts or other heavy equipment, the potential for serious incidents becomes very real, especially when they have not been properly trained and are not abiding by mandatory safety rules and procedures,” said Moratz, who also is the senior vice president of manufacturing and engineering at the Lexington, KY-based Clark Material Handling Co. “Both pedestrians and forklift operators need to know the safety rules and procedures, and they must follow them in order to keep the flow of products moving without endangering others in the process.”

OSHA’s Powered Industrial Trucks Standard (1910.178) was the agency’s seventh most cited standard during fiscal year 2019. Four of the top five sections cited within the standard pertain to operator training.

The standard requires training programs to include components of formal instruction, practical training and a workplace performance evaluation. Before each job, forklift operators should check the vehicle’s seat belts, tires, lights, horn, brakes, backup alarms, fluid levels, and moving and load-supporting forklift parts.

Operators should be reminded that forklifts are not personal vehicles and to never engage in horseplay, OSHA advises.

Overall, 729 occupational fatalities involving forklifts occurred from 2011 to 2018, according to BLS data. Additionally, acting OSHA administrator Loren Sweatt said during the presentation that an average of 22 workers are injured in nonfatal forklift incidents each day.

“These numbers represent real people whose lives are disrupted, or worse, by a preventable incident,” Sweatt said.

Sweatt said OSHA continues to analyze comments from a March 2019 Request for Information seeking input from powered industrial truck stakeholders on “employer requirements for operation, maintenance and worker training.” In another regulatory update, Sweatt said OSHA expects to publish a proposed rule this year “updating references to consensus standards dealing with the design and construction” of powered industrial trucks.

An OSHA Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health work group is set to discuss the latter topic as part of a public teleconference slated for June 30.

“These rulemakings will help to ensure that consensus standards referenced in OSHA rule address current industry practice and state-of-the-art technology,” Sweatt said. “OSHA understands that working with stakeholders is the best way to achieve the agency’s mission.”

The eighth annual National Forklift Safety Day is scheduled for June 8, 2021.

COVID-19 pandemic: UK manufacturing association issues guidance for scaffold tower users


Photo: FooTToo/iStockphoto

London — In an effort to protect workers who use scaffold towers from exposure to COVID-19, the UK-based Prefabricated Access Suppliers’ and Manufacturers’ Association has published guidelines for employers and safety and health professionals.

The guidance notes that two workers normally would work in close proximity to erect a tower. However, workers should make “a conscious effort … to complete the task while remaining [6 feet] apart.” For instance, one worker can assemble the base section of a scaffold tower and install stabilizers before climbing onto the first platform. Then, another worker can assist with building the rest of structure from the ground.

“However, a more reliable method may be using one-person towers, which are specially designed to be built and dismantled by one individual working alone,” PASMA states.

Other recommendations:

  • Follow government health guidance.
  • Provide workers with handwashing facilities and alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Plan more frequent deep cleaning of facilities and scaffold components.
  • Encourage workers to practice safe physical distancing.
  • Communicate all safety measures to employees.
  • Review and assess your risk assessment plan, as well as how it might be impacted by COVID-19.
  • Review your rescue plan to determine how a worker who becomes ill or injured would be rescued.
  • Plan online scaffold training sessions for portions that can be taught remotely.
  • Make sure training facilities keep workers safe when conducting in-person courses.

People using household cleaners, disinfectants in unsafe ways during pandemic, survey finds


Photo: Floortje/iStockphoto

Washington — Washing foods with bleach, applying household cleaning or disinfectant products to the hands or skin, and intentionally inhaling or ingesting these products are among the “non-recommended, high-risk practices” nearly 2 out of 5 U.S. adults say they have tried to prevent contracting COVID-19, results of a recent survey indicate.

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including the agency’s COVID-19 response team, looked at data from an online survey of a nationally representative cohort of 502 U.S. adults. The survey – conducted May 4 – included questions about general knowledge, attitudes and practices related to the use of household cleaners and disinfectants, as well as about specific information regarding cleaning and disinfection strategies for preventing the transmission of COVID-19.

Among the 39% of the respondents who reported they had engaged in these high-risk, unsafe behaviors within the past month:

  • 19% applied bleach to food items, including fruits and vegetables.
  • 18% used household cleaning and disinfecting products on their hands or skin.
  • 10% misted their body with a cleaning or disinfectant spray.
  • 6% inhaled vapors from household cleaners or disinfectants.
  • 4% had drank or gargled diluted bleach solutions, soapy water, or other cleaning and disinfectant solutions.

Overall, 77% of the respondents didn’t know they should use only room-temperature water to dilute bleach solutions, and 65% were unaware that they shouldn’t mix bleach with vinegar.

One-quarter of the respondents reported experiencing at least one adverse health effect, which they believed resulted from the use of disinfectants or cleaners.

“COVID-19 prevention messages should continue to emphasize evidence-based, safe practices such as frequent hand hygiene and frequent cleaning and disinfection of high-touch surfaces,” the researchers said. “These messages should include specific recommendations for the safe use of cleaners and disinfectants, including the importance of reading and following label instructions.”

The survey results were published online June 5 in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Researchers study link between worker safety, business longevity


Photo: CGinspiration/iStockphoto

Corvallis, OR — Future safety regulations need to reward employer innovation that improves both worker safety and a business’s likelihood of survival, researchers say after finding that “organizations that do not provide a safe workplace gain an economic advantage over those that do.”

An international team, led by researchers from Oregon State University, looked at short- and long-term “survival” – defined as ongoing operations, even after a change in ownership – of more than 100,000 Oregon-based organizations over a 25-year period. The team gauged whether a company provided a safe workplace by reviewing its history of disabling claims, using data provided by the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services.

An international team of researchers looked at short- and long-term “survival” – defined as ongoing operations, even after a change in ownership – of more than 100,000 Oregon-based organizations over a 25-year period. The team gauged whether a company provided a safe workplace by reviewing its history of disabling claims, using data provided by the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services.

Results showed that organizations with worker injury claims survived up to 56% longer than organizations with no claims. Further, companies with at least 100 employees and claims filed against them were more likely to survive compared with similar-sized companies without claims.

Additionally, high claims costs were more likely to harm the survival of younger or smaller companies, or companies that are growing quickly. For this reason, the researchers said, those companies have a greater incentive to protect their workforce, but likely fewer resources to do so.

“The goal of improving the longevity of a business conflicts with the goal of protecting the workforce,” researcher Anthony Veltri, associate professor of public health and human sciences as OSU, said in a May 13 press release.

“When it’s cheaper to pay nominal fines for violating workplace regulations than to provide safe workplaces, that indicates current safety regulations are not enough to protect workers,” the researchers concluded.

The study was published online May 5 in the journal Management Science.