COVID-19 pandemic: CPWR shares tips to help shield construction workers from exposure

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Photo: beekeepx/iStockphoto

Silver Spring, MD — Aiming to protect construction workers from the COVID-19 pandemic, CPWR – The Center for Construction Research and Training has released guidance for employees and employers.

CPWR collaborated with North America’s Building Trades Unions, as well as partners in research and government, to develop the guidance. The center said it plans to update its COVID-19 webpage regularly as information becomes available.

Tips for workers include:

  • Don’t go to work if you’re feeling sick.
  • Don’t shake hands when greeting others.
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from others on the worksite, if possible, including during meetings and training sessions.
  • Avoid contact with sick people.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, or do so into your elbow.
  • Wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds. Use soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

For employers:

  • Plan for office staff to have the ability to work from home.
  • Provide soap and running water – and hand sanitizer, if possible – on all worksites to allow for frequent handwashing.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces on worksites and in offices, including hand rails, doorknobs and portable toilets.
  • If a job involves working at a health care facility, provide workers with Infection Control Risk Assessment training.

Final rule to amend trucker hours-of-service regs sent to OMB for review

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Photo: vitpho/iStockphoto

Washington — A final rule the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration claims would add flexibility to hours-of-service regulations for commercial truck drivers has been sent to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review.

FMCSA submitted the rule March 2. Addressing attendees of the Truckload Carriers Association Conference the next day in Kissimmee, FL, acting agency administrator Jim Mullen said that although he could not go into the rule’s specifics, “please know that the goal of this process from the beginning has been to improve safety for all motorists and to increase flexibility for commercial drivers.”

On the heels of multiple delays, FMCSA published a proposed rule in the Aug. 22 Federal Register and set an initial comment deadline of Oct. 7. The comment period later was extended to Oct. 21.

FMCSA weighed nearly 8,200 comments on the proposed rule. Among the highlights of the proposal:

  • Expanding the current 100-air mile short haul exemption to 14 hours on duty from 12 hours on duty, to be consistent for rules with long-haul truck drivers.
  • Extending the current 14-hour on-duty limitation by up to two hours when a truck driver encounters adverse driving conditions.
  • Revising the current mandatory 30-minute break for truck drivers after eight hours of continuous driving.
  • Reinstating the option for splitting up the required 10-hour off-duty rest break for drivers operating trucks equipped with sleeper berth compartments.
  • Allowing covered commercial motor vehicle operators one rest break – for up to three consecutive hours – during every 14-hour on-duty period.
  • Allowing covered CMV operators to use multiple off-duty periods of at least three hours in place of taking 10 consecutive hours off duty.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and TruckerNation.org, both longtime proponents of HOS reform, support the changes.

“We applaud the agency for submitting the final rule to OMB so quickly,” OOIDA President and CEO Todd Spencer said in an article published March 3 in the association’s Land Line magazine. “As FMCSA continues to move forward with hours-of-service reform, we are optimistic the final product will create meaningful reform that provides drivers with more flexibility and control over their schedules. If FMCSA gets it right, we’re confident most drivers will be happy with the changes.”

In a March 3 video posted on Facebook, TruckerNation.org spokesperson Andrea Marks says, “It cannot be overstated enough how proud we are of the trucking industry that we are here.”

Moments later, Marks reminds viewers that, their optimism notwithstanding, the federal rulemaking process is neither “intuitive” nor “one that happens fast.”

Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance Executive Director Collin Mooney told Safety+Health that his organization expects the final rule to be published in May or June.

“If it’s done right, it could be a win-win,” Mooney said. “If there’s too much flexibility, well then, safety can be compromised.”

One concern Mooney cited was the possible effects on driving time in the event the adverse driving conditions and mandatory rest break provisions were compounded.

“Seventeen, 18, 19 hours is just going to be way too long for anybody, so we wanted to see that tightened up a little bit,” Mooney said.

OMB listed the status of the rule as pending review at press time.

Employers choose production over safety when business is good, Yale researcher says

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Photo: marrio31/iStockphoto

New Haven, CT — When demand is high and profits are up, many employers look to increase production rather than invest in safety, a recent study led by a Yale University researcher suggests.

Using data from the U.S. mining industry, the research team found that when the price of the mineral being mined increased 1%, serious injuries and fatalities rose 0.15% and safety and health violations increased 0.13%.

Demand for a product plays a significant role, lead study author Kerwin K. Charles, dean of the School of Management and professor of economics, policy and management at Yale, said in an article published online Jan. 2 in Yale Insights. Many of the safety violations were determined to be willful or negligent, the article notes.

Charles told Yale Insights: When demand is high, “I’ve got money in my pocket. I can buy a fan. I can buy a safer drill press. But here’s a second thing that’s going to happen: I’ll think, I’d better make hay while the sun is shining. When times are good, I should produce more. That means work my workers harder. That means work on the weekends. That safety training? Let’s put it off.”

The researchers also found that, for large conglomerates mining multiple minerals, a boost in revenue for one part of the company can lead to fewer injuries in other parts of the company.

“A mine that doesn’t itself have high demand but is benefiting from high demand at a sister mine, injuries on the job go down,” Charles told Yale Insights. He said that more financial resources, “in isolation,” can boost safety.

The study was published in October in the National Bureau of Economic Research.

New report from NSC shows how existing technologies can help save workers’ lives

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Bonita Springs, FL — With workplace fatalities on the rise in the United States, a new research report from the Work to Zero initiative at the National Safety Council indicates employers “may not be doing enough to protect their workforce.”

According to Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries data released Dec. 17 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 5,250 workers died as a result of on-the-job injuries in 2018 – a 2% increase from 2017 and the highest number of fatalities since 5,657 were recorded in 2007.

The report, “Safety Technology 2020: Mapping Technology Solutions for Reducing Serious Injuries and Fatalities in the Workplace,” reviews the current state of safety technology; provides insights from more than 40 environmental, health and safety professionals; and maps major sources and causal factors of workplace deaths to promising safety technologies.

“The data says it all – while workplace injuries are trending down, workplace fatalities are rising,” NSC President and CEO Lorraine M. Martin said in a Feb. 18 press release. “Hundreds of technologies exist today that have enormous potential to eliminate these preventable deaths. This report is an excellent starting point for employers to understand how new technology can ensure a safer workforce.”

The report looks at 18 various non-roadway, hazardous situations, such as working at height, workplace violence, and repair and maintenance – in which fatal injuries are most likely to occur among workers and provides potential technology solutions for each situation.

The report was presented Feb. 13 during the inaugural Work to Zero Summit.

Cardiac Science recalls all G3 Elite AEDs

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Photo Aquir/iStockphoto

Deerfield, WI — Cardiac Science Corp. has issued a voluntary recall of its G3 Elite AEDs because a “software anomaly” may cause the devices’ status indicator to malfunction.

In a Jan. 21 notice to customers, the company states that it has received reports of the Rescue Ready status indicator displaying red and the service LED illuminating because of the software issue. The anomaly is associated with the devices’ daylight saving time feature.

“If the device is configured with the DST enabled, it will experience error code ‘0x99’ after daylight saving (time),” the notice states. “In this state, the device must be returned to Cardiac Science to clear the error, but it can be used clinically if an emergency arises.”

The company encourages customers with affected G3 Elite AEDs to immediately:

  • Locate the affected devices.
  • Remove the device from service if it has failed its self-test.
  • Alert all G3 Elite users of the problem.
  • Contact the Cardiac Science technical support team at (262) 953-3500 or (800) 426-0337, or a local representative, to schedule an update – regardless of self-test status.

Cardiac Science is revising the software to prevent the issue from occurring in the future and will make the update available free of charge, the notice states.

Pure Safety Group recalls SRLs with stainless steel or web lifelines

Houston — Pure Safety Group has issued an immediate recall and stop-use alert for its Guardian Fall Protection Self-Retracting Lifelines that use a stainless steel or web lifeline.

“A small number of SRLs were identified as noncompliant with ANSI Z359.14-14 and must immediately be removed from service,” PSG states in a press release. Under certain conditions, the stainless steel or web lifeline may not perform to industry standards in leading-edge applications and could result in serious bodily injury or death.

The recall affects the following product numbers:

  • 10931: Halo (formerly Edge) Series with 20-foot stainless steel cable
  • 10933: Halo (formerly Edge) Series with 25-foot stainless steel cable
  • 10936: Halo (formerly Edge) Series with 30-foot stainless steel cable
  • 10979: Diablo (formerly Daytona) with 50-foot stainless steel cable
  • 10980: Diablo (formerly Daytona) with 65-foot stainless steel cable
  • 10908: Halo Series with 20-foot web retractable lifeline with boot cover

According to the release, no incidents or injuries related to the recall have been reported. In November, PSG issued an immediate recall and stop-use alert for its Guardian Fall Protection and Web Device 3-Way Rescue and Retrieval Self-Retracting Lifeline units.

Free online course: Understanding and preventing worker opioid misuse

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Photo: National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences’ Worker Training Program

Research Triangle Park, NC — The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences’ Worker Training Program has launched a free online training course designed to help employers and workers recognize occupational risk factors for opioid misuse and addiction, as well as develop solutions for prevention.

Along with providing background information on the opioid epidemic, the course’s 11 modules provide resources, exercises and case studies on topics such as:

  • Understanding opioid use disorder
  • Synthetic opioids (including fentanyl)
  • Occupational exposure
  • Workplace substance use prevention programs

Jonathan Rosen, a consultant for WTP – which aims to protect workers who handle hazardous materials and waste generation, removal, containment and transportation – steered the development of the endeavor, according to an article published in the November issue of Environmental Factors, NIEHS’s monthly newsletter.

Rosen outlines the following objectives for the course:

  • Address the impact of the opioid crisis on workers, workplaces and communities
  • Follow the public health model of primary, secondary and tertiary prevention
  • Define opioid use disorder as a disease that affects the brain
  • Remove stigma
  • Adopt action planning to allow participants to begin taking next steps.

The course cites recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data showing that 130 opioid-related overdose deaths occur daily. Overall, 399,000 such deaths occurred in the United States from 1999 to 2017. Speaking during an NIEHS seminar Oct. 10, Rosen encouraged employers to take preventive measures to limit hazards that may cause work-related injuries, noting that many cases of workplace-related opioid misuse involve prescriptions administered to treat injuries that occurred on the job.

“Prevention starts with making sure the job is not injurious,” Rosen said. “There are many potential solutions to help ensure that workers are not subject to conditions that will result in pain and injury.”

Drugged Driving—What You Should Know

Blurred nighttime road from perspective of a drugged driver

In 2016, 44 percent of drivers in fatal car crashes (with known results) tested positive for drugs, according to the recent report entitled “Drug-Impaired Driving: Marijuana and Opioids Raise Critical Issues for States” by the Governors Highway Safety Association. This is up from 28 percent in 2006. See a graphic from the report below for more information about drugged driving and marijuana and opioids.

 

graphic from GHSA report

“Drug-Impaired Driving: Marijuana and Opioids Raise Critical Issues for States”  by the Governors Highway Safety Association

 

More “Drugged Driving” Facts

What is drug-impaired driving? Driving under the influence of over-the-counter medications, prescription drugs, marijuana, or illegal drugs.

How common is drug-impaired driving?  In 2017, 12.8 million people (ages 16 and older) drove after using illicit drugs. (2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables)

man with pills behind the wheelWhy is drug-impaired driving dangerous? Over-the-counter (OTC) medications and drugs affect the brain and can alter perception, mental processes, attention, balance, coordination, reaction time and other abilities required for safe driving. Even small amounts of some drugs can have a serious effect on driving ability.

A recent national survey showed 22.5% of nighttime weekend drivers tested positive for illegal, prescription, or OTC drugs that can impair driving. (Drug-Impaired Driving: A Guide for States, April 2017. NHTSA 2014 Drug-Impaired Driving Survey)

What substances are used the most when driving? After alcohol, marijuana is the most commonly used drug. (Source: National Institute of Drug Abuse)

What happens when you use drugs and drive? Marijuana can decrease a person’s ability to drive a car. It slows reaction time, impairs a driver’s concentration and attention, and reduces hand-eye coordination. It is dangerous to drive after mixing alcohol and marijuana. Driving after using prescription drugs or over-the-counter medicine, such as cough suppressants, antihistamines, sleeping aids, and anti-anxiety medications may impair driving ability.

Check out the graphic below from the National Institute on Drug Abuse about the effects different drugs can have on driving (click to enlarge).

Graphic: Marijuana- slows reaction time and impairs judgement of time and distance; meth or cocaine - aggressive and reckless behaviors; opioids - drowsiness and impaired memory and thinking skills; sedatives (benzodiazepines, barbiturates) - dizziness and drowsiness

Is it legal? Even in states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use, driving while under the influence of marijuana is still illegal. Unfortunately, too many people are misinformed. A study conducted by Liberty Mutual Insurance and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) found that a third of all teens believe it is legal to drive under the influence of marijuana. In addition 27 percent of parents believed it was legal.

Not only is driving while high illegal, it’s also very dangerous. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the effects of marijuana can include: altered senses and sense of time, slow reaction time, anxiety, hallucinations and more.

TIP: Parents—tell your teen not to drive after using marijuana or other drugs, and don’t get in a car with a driver who has used marijuana or other drugs!

Remember: Marijuana and many medications act on parts of the brain that can impair driving ability. Many prescription drugs have warning labels against the operation of machinery and driving motor vehicles, for a certain period of time after use. You are more likely to be injured or in an accident while driving while under the influence of marijuana or prescription drugs.

Of all professions, construction workers most likely to use opioids and cocaine

Construction workers are more likely use cocaine and misuse prescription opioids, according to a study  by the Center for Drug Use and HIV/HCV Research at NYU College of Global Public Health. These workers are also the second most likely to use marijuana.

Researchers looked at data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health between 2005 and 2014.

“It makes sense that we see higher rates of construction workers using pain-relieving substances such as opioids and marijuana, given the labor-intensive nature of their work and high rates of injuries,” said Danielle Ompad, the study’s lead author. Read more.