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Osha has a new webpage with guidance specifically for keeping construction workers safe during the pandemic

Construction worker with PPE | Photo Credit: Courtesy of Turner Construction

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Turner Construction

This section provides guidance for construction employers and workers, such as those engaged in carpentry, ironworking, plumbing, electrical, heating/ ventilation/air conditioning/ventilation, masonry and concrete work, utility construction work, and earthmoving activities.

Click here to visit the new webpage. 

 

Drinking alcohol won’t protect you against COVID-19, experts say

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Photo: coldsnowstorm/iStockphoto

Bethesda, MD — Although alcohol is a key ingredient in hand sanitizers that can help kill the coronavirus, alcoholic drinks don’t have the same effect and may actually hinder your immune system’s response to COVID-19, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism is cautioning consumers.

To be effective against the coronavirus, hand sanitizers must contain at least 60% ethyl alcohol, NIAAA says in a May 12 press release. In contrast, a typical drink is only 0.01% to 0.03% alcohol – “a tiny fraction of the concentration needed to produce an antiseptic action.” A blood-alcohol concentration of 0.4% can be fatal.

“Alcohol misuse makes the body more susceptible to viral infections and can worsen the prognosis,” the institute adds. “Alcohol in the body at the time of exposure to a pathogen tends to impair the body’s immediate immune response to the pathogen, making it easier for an infection to develop.”

Longer term, excessive alcohol consumption impairs the immune system’s response in the lungs and has been linked to acute respiratory distress syndrome. “In fact,” NIAAA says, “individuals who misuse alcohol chronically are more likely to develop ARDS, more likely to need mechanical ventilation, have a prolonged stay in the intensive care unit and have a higher risk of mortality from ARDS. All of these effects of alcohol misuse could certainly complicate COVID-19 prevention, treatment and recovery.”

RAPID EMPLOYMENT JOB TRAINING GRANT

In response to the unemployment impact of COVID-19, Arizona has established a
financial program to support employers and continue reenergizing Arizona’s economy.
The Rapid Employment Job Training Grant provides support by reimbursing costs
associated with training substantial numbers of new employees quickly. Read More»

Build a strong culture: Tips for ‘talking safety’

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Image: Missouri Department of Transportation

No one can keep an entire organization safe on his or her own. Collaboration is needed to create a strong safety culture in which everyone looks out for each other.

There’s no magic formula to make someone heed safety advice. But improving the atmosphere around safety conversations can make it easier to give and receive advice in a graceful, constructive way. Here are some ways you can do that:

Retire the ‘safety police.’ The “gotcha” approach is counterproductive, experts say. When workers feel they’re being policed, they find ways to hide their unsafe behaviors, resulting in lost opportunities for improvement. To make a genuine, long-term impact, take a persuasive approach rather than a punitive one.

Speak the worker’s language. Instead of presenting the information in the way that makes the most sense to the speaker, consider how the worker will receive it. Before saying anything, take a moment to think about who is being spoken to and what he or she cares about, and tailor the conversation to speak to those motivations. And remember: Good communication goes both ways. Instead of doing all the talking, listen to what workers have to say – especially any questions or objections they bring up, which can reveal their motivations.
Demonstrate care and concern. By far, the greatest reason to give a worker for adopting a safe behavior is concern for his or her well-being, and the best way to avoid the appearance of lecturing is to show concern for that person. Be calm and keep emotions in check to help send the right message.
Focus on specifics. To avoid expressing judgment or disapproval and provoking a defensive reaction, limit comments to the precise unsafe behaviors or conditions that were witnessed.
Get (and give) permission. If you’re concerned that well-intentioned advice will come off as intrusive, it may help to set the stage for the safety conversation beforehand.
Lead by example and encourage others to do the same. Workers tend to do what those around them are doing, so it’s essential to demonstrate safe behaviors in addition to talking about them.

A safe drive

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Photo: Jennifer Yario

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of workplace death. Preliminary estimates released in May by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show a 1.2% decrease in motor vehicle-related deaths in 2019 from the previous year.

“While we are heading in the right direction, more work needs to be done to ensure safety on our roadways,” NSC says. Keep it safe every time you get behind the wheel by following these best practices from NSC:

  • Adjust your mirrors to limit your blind spots.
  • Program your GPS before you leave.
  • Set your cellphone to “Do Not Disturb” and put it and any other distracting devices or items away.
  • Adjust your seat so you can reach any knobs and switches.
  • Have an emergency kit stocked and stored in your vehicle. Inspect it before setting off.
  • Make sure you’re in the right head space to drive – free of impairment, distraction and frustration.
  • Obey all traffic signs and posted speed limits.
  • Use your signals and lights when driving.
  • Give pedestrians the right of way.
  • Don’t drive if you’re tired. Try to take a nap before getting behind the wheel.
  • Drive slowly and cautiously in parking lots and garages.
  • Check the potential side effects of your medications before getting behind the wheel.
  • Stop for breaks on long driving trips.
  • Buckle up.
  • Leave yourself enough time to safely reach your destination.

“Any drop in motor vehicle deaths should be well received, but the ultimate goal we need to reach is zero,” NSC says.

Focus on mental health

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Workers might be facing a number of issues during the COVID-19 crisis that can have an impact on mental health, including furloughs and layoffs, social isolation, financial hardships and worries, and health concerns for themselves and their families.

“I’ve heard it said that the next pandemic wave may be mental health,” said Marissa J. Levine, a professor at the University of South Florida, during an April 14 webinar on mental health hosted by NSC. “Honestly, I’m concerned about that. It’s affected every state, every one of us, in some way.”

Employees might be getting information from numerous, and sometimes unreliable, sources at this time. “It’s very difficult, in these anxious times, to catch peoples’ attention,” Eric Goplerud, chair of the board of directors for the Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions, said during the webinar. “There are 11 words which will help you communicate and break through the anxiety: A simple message, repeated often, from a variety of trusted sources.”

Levine recommended employers and managers follow and share coping strategies from sources such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness, which suggests taking breaks from consuming news reports related to the pandemic, taking time to unwind, working on physical fitness and social connections, setting goals and priorities, and focusing on the facts.

For employers, human resources teams and safety leaders, Goplerud encouraged more communication about benefits programs, such as an employee assistance program. Leaders also should encourage more interaction with benefits vendors.

Employers and managers can share honest updates about COVID-19 while also providing a positive outlook for the path forward.

“There’s a real opportunity here for focusing on the positives without minimizing the issues that we’re dealing with,” Levine said. “Having a can-do attitude and the power of positive thinking are needed now more than ever.”

Advocacy group releases guidelines for safe return to work

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Photo: National COSH

Los Angeles — To help ensure the safety of people returning to work – as well as those already on the job – during the COVID-pandemic, the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health has released guidelines for workplace safety; worker participation; and fair compensation for sick, injured and at-risk workers.

In a report released May 14, National COSH states that essential businesses should have critical safety measures in place that are enforced and monitored. Contributing to the report – A Safe and Just Return to Work – were physicians, certified industrial hygienists, attorneys, academics, and leaders of nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations.

“The United States is far from being ready to open for business without putting not only workers but entire communities at grave risk of illness and death,” the report states. “Only the most essential businesses should be open, and even those must only be allowed to operate if critical safety measures are in place.”

The guidelines emphasize that protections must follow NIOSH’s Hierarchy of Controls, which places personal protective equipment as the final line of defense.

According to National COSH, a safe return-to-work strategy requires, at a minimum:

  • Effective and stringent health and safety protections informed by science; backed by robust enforcement; and designed with input from workers, employers and unions, among others.
  • A planned, detailed and meaningful system for testing, screening, contact tracing, isolation and epidemiological surveillance.
  • Guaranteed job protection and just compensation for workers, as well as individuals who can’t work.
  • Respect and inclusion of meaningful worker and union involvement in decision-making, return-to-work plans and workplace safety.
  • Measures to ensure equity, inclusion and a path to end health and economic disparities.

“Employers who adopt a ‘business-as-usual’ approach could cause workers and their family members to become sick or even die,” Sherry Baron, a professor of public health at Queens College in New York City and a contributor to the report, said in the release. “The right way to reduce risk and limit harm is to include workers in making the plan and implementing effective safety programs, based on the best available scientific evidence.

COVID-19 pandemic: CDC issues guidance for reopening businesses

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Photo: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Atlanta — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released guidelines intended to help businesses, as well as schools and mass transit operations, safely reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 60-page guidance document outlines a three-phase approach that includes six “gating criteria” to move forward, such as decreases in newly identified COVID-19 cases, decreases in percentage of positive tests and a robust testing program.

CDC advises employers to consider a variety of measures for keeping people safe, including practices for “scaling up” operations, safety actions (e.g., cleaning and disinfection, and physical distancing), monitoring possible reemergence of the virus, and maintaining health operations. Workers who are at high risk for severe illness (i.e., anyone over the age of 65 or with existing health conditions) “should be encouraged to self-identify, and employers should avoid making unnecessary medical inquiries.”

Employers should move to the next phase only if they can ensure a certain level of physical distancing, proper cleaning and disinfection, and protection of workers and customers.

Additionally, employers are advised to limit nonessential travel based on state and local guidance, ask employees who use public transportation to adapt to teleworking, and train all managers on recommended safety actions. This training can be conducted virtually.

The guidance also provides details on conducting routine, daily health checks; planning for when an employee becomes sick; maintaining healthy operations; and when to consider closing because of an illness.

Operation Safe Driver Week slated for July 12-18

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Photo: Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance

Greenbelt, MD — Law enforcement officers are expected to keep an extra sharp watch for commercial and passenger vehicle drivers engaging in unsafe behaviors July 12-18 during the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s annual Operation Safe Driver Week.

Officers will be looking for drivers who are texting, following too closely, not wearing seat belts or maneuvering in otherwise unsafe manners, while placing added emphasis on speeding.

A May 12 CVSA press release cites recent findings from the Governors Highway Safety Association showing that state highway officials nationwide “are seeing a severe spike in speeding” as traffic volume has decreased as a result of quarantines and stay-at-home orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Preliminary estimates from the National Safety Council show that, in March, the rate of motor vehicle deaths in the United States was 14% higher than in March 2019 despite fewer drivers being on the road.

CMV and passenger vehicle drivers in North America received nearly 47,000 citations and around 88,000 warnings during last year’s Operation Safe Driver Week, per data collected from law enforcement personnel. Citations and warnings related to speeding were most common, with CMV drivers receiving 1,454 citations and 2,126 warnings, and passenger vehicle drivers receiving 16,102 citations and 21,001 warnings.

“It’s essential that this enforcement initiative, which focuses on identifying and deterring unsafe driving behaviors such as speeding, go on as scheduled,” CVSA President John Samis said in the release. “As passenger vehicle drivers are limiting their travel to necessary trips and many [CMV] drivers are busy transporting vital goods to stores, it’s more important than ever to monitor our roadways for safe transport.”

COVID-19 pandemic: Manufacturing workers focus of new OSHA safety alert

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Photo: SeventyFour/iStockphoto

Washington — A new OSHA safety alert lists measures employers in the manufacturing industry should take to protect workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The alert calls on employers to encourage workers to stay home when sick, as well as report any safety or health concerns. The agency recommends limiting duration of work activities when physical distancing isn’t feasible. Move or reposition workstations to create more distance, or consider installing barriers (e.g., plexiglass shields) between workstations.

The alert states employers should “monitor public health communications about COVID-19 recommendations for the workplace and ensure that workers have access to and understand that information.” Workers should be educated on the proper ways to put on, take off, maintain and use/wear protective clothing and equipment.

Other tips:

  • Allow workers to wear masks over their nose and mouth to prevent the spread of germs.
  • Encourage respiratory etiquette, including covering coughs and sneezes.
  • Discourage workers from using co-workers’ tools and equipment.
  • Use disinfectant products listed by the Environmental Protection Agency as effective against the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) that causes COVID-19.
  • Promote personal hygiene. If workers don’t have access to soap and water for handwashing, provide hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Provide disinfectants and disposable towels workers can use to clean work surfaces.

The alert is available in English and Spanish.