OSHA moves National Safety Stand-Down to September

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Photo: OSHA

Washington — OSHA has rescheduled the seventh annual National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction for Sept. 14-18.

The event initially was set for May 4-8, but was postponed March 27 over concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic. It now will coincide with Construction Safety Week, which also was recently rescheduled for Sept. 14-18.

Speaking during a July 2 webinar hosted by CPWR – The Center for Construction Research and Training, OSHA Directorate of Construction Director Scott Ketcham said the agency and its partners in the stand-down – NIOSH and CPWR – “are going to be working on getting information out to you as stakeholders on how to do a falls stand-down in a COVID environment” that includes physical distancing and other precautionary measures.

Falls are among the leading causes of fatal workplace injuries among construction workers. OSHA “encourages employers to remain vigilant and to use all available resources to enhance worker safety.” According to the agency, millions of construction workers have participated in the campaign since the stand-down began in 2014, with events having occurred in all 50 states and internationally.

U.S. Department of Labor Issues Guidance to Ensure Uniform Enforcement of Silica Standards

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently issued a compliance directive designed to ensure uniformity in inspection and enforcement procedures when addressing respirable crystalline silica exposures in general industry, maritime, and construction.

The new directive provides OSHA compliance safety and health officers with guidance on how to enforce the silica standards’ requirements, including:

  • Methods of compliance;
  • Table 1 tasks and specified exposure control methods;
  • Exposure assessments;
  • Housekeeping;
  • Respiratory protection;
  • Regulated areas;
  • Recordkeeping;
  • Employee information and training;
  • Medical surveillance; and
  • Communication of hazards.

The directive also provides clarity on major topics, such as alternative exposure control methods when a construction employer does not fully and properly implement Table 1, variability in sampling, multi-employer situations, and temporary workers.

OSHA began enforcing most provisions of the construction standard in September 2017, with enforcement of the requirements for sample analysis starting in June 2018. Enforcement of most of the general industry and maritime standards began in June 2018, with enforcement of some medical surveillance requirements commencing on June 23, 2020. On June 23, 2021, OSHA will begin enforcing requirements for engineering controls for hydraulic fracturing operations in the oil and gas industry.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to help ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.

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

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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.

Cal/OSHA to employers: It’s your duty to prevent heat illness

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Image: Missouri Department of Transportation/Flickr

Oakland, CA — Employers are responsible for protecting workers from heat illness, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health – also known as Cal/OSHA – reiterates in a recent reminder.

Since 2005, the state has had a heat illness prevention standard for all outdoor workers, including those in agriculture, construction and landscaping. Also protected under the standard are those who spend a significant amount of time working outdoors, such as security guards and groundskeepers, or in non-air-conditioned vehicles such as transportation and delivery drivers.

Under the standard, employers must:

  • Develop and implement an effective written heat illness prevention plan that includes emergency response procedures.
  • Provide instruction on heat illness prevention to all supervisors and employees.
  • Make available drinking water that is fresh, pure and suitably cool, and encourage workers to drink at least 1 quart per hour.
  • Make sure shade is available when temperatures exceed 80° F or when workers request it, and encourage rest breaks.

Employers also should consider heat illness mitigation strategies while implementing required measures designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including allowing appropriate time and space for workers to take breaks while maintaining physical distancing protocol. Further, employers should provide cloth facial coverings or allow workers to use their own.

“Employers should be aware that wearing face coverings can make it more difficult to breathe and harder for a worker to cool off, so additional breaks may be needed to prevent overheating,” Cal/OSHA says in a May 26 press release, adding that agricultural and other outdoor workers are not encouraged to wear surgical or respirator masks as facial coverings.

The agency has published a sample document employers can use to develop a heat illness prevention plan.

OSHA hosts webinar on preventing heat-related illnesses, injuries

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Photo: OSHA

Washington — To prevent illnesses and injuries related to environmental heat exposure, employers need to “think about preventing injuries and providing workers with the right equipment for the job,” a May 19 webinar hosted by OSHA advises.

“Millions of U.S. workers are exposed to heat in the workplace, and although heat-related illness is preventable, each year thousands of workers are getting sick from their exposure to heat, and … some cases are fatal,” Stephen Boyd, deputy regional administrator for OSHA Region 6, said during the presentation.

The agency notes that operations involving high air temperatures, radiant heat sources, high humidity, direct physical contact with hot objects and strenuous physical activity carry high potential for causing work-related heat stress. OSHA cites numerous industrial occupations and locations in which problems may occur. Among outdoor workers, examples include construction, refining, asbestos removal, hazardous waste site activities and emergency response operations – especially those requiring workers to wear semipermeable or permeable protective clothing.

Sites of potentially hazardous indoor operations include foundries, brick firing and ceramic plants, glass product facilities, rubber product factories, electrical utilities (particularly boiler rooms), bakeries, confectionaries, commercial kitchens, laundries, food canneries, chemical plants, mining sites, smelters, and steam tunnels.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, heat illnesses caused 49 worker deaths in 2018 – a 53.1% increase from the previous year. That same year, 3,950 workers experienced days away from work as a result of nonfatal injuries and illnesses from occupational heat exposure.

The webinar explores strategies for heat hazard recognition, as well as planning and supervision, engineering controls and work practices, training, and resources.

All new or returning workers should be acclimatized to environmental heat conditions by first working shorter shifts before building up to longer ones, OSHA recommends. Additionally, these workers should gradually increase their workloads while taking more frequent breaks at the start.

OSHA offers employer and worker resources for working in hot weather through its “Water. Rest. Shade.” Campaign.

“Water, rest, shade: These will mean the difference between life and death,” OSHA states during the webinar.

Agency tips to help prevent heat-related illnesses:

  • Drink water every 15 minutes.
  • Take rest breaks in the shade to cool down.
  • Wear a hat and light-colored clothing.
  • Monitor co-workers for symptoms of heat-related illnesses.

An effort to mitigate heat-related illnesses and fatalities include a Heat Safety Tool – a free mobile app designed in collaboration with NIOSH.

Trench Safety Stand Down set for June 15-19

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Fairfax, VA — The National Utility Contractors Association, with support from OSHA and the North American Excavation Shoring Association, is calling on employers involved in trench work to participate in the fifth annual Trench Safety Stand Down, scheduled for June 15-19.

The event is intended to raise awareness of the dangers of trenching and excavation, as well as promote the use of protective systems such as sloping, shoring and shielding. The OSHA standard for trenching and excavation (29 CFR 1926.650, Subpart P) requires protective systems for trenches that are 5 feet or deeper, unless the excavation occurs in stable rock.

As part of the event, NUCA, NAXSA and OSHA are offering free online tools, including posters, checklists, fact sheets and videos.

OSHA cautions that 1 cubic yard of soil can weigh as much as 3,000 pounds, and adds that trench collapses are “rarely survivable.” According to NUCA, citing data from OSHA, 17 workers died in trench incidents in 2018.

As a result of previously successful campaigns, NUCA has expanded upon the stand-down and declared June the inaugural Trench Safety Month, a May 20 organizational press release states.

“In this industry, the safety of our employees on the jobsite is our top priority,” NUCA CEO Doug Carlson said in the release. “Making this June ‘Trench Safety Month’ emphasizes the valuable training and experiences our members’ employees are gaining through the Trench Safety Stand Down week held annually in June throughout our industry.”

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. 

 

COVID-19 pandemic: Construction workers subject of new OSHA alert

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Photo: strods/iStockphoto

Washington — Aimed at protecting construction workers from exposure to COVID-19, a new OSHA safety alert lists measures employers should take during the pandemic.

Released April 21, the alert calls on employers to encourage workers to report any safety or health concerns and stay home when sick. Additionally, the agency recommends that in-person meetings, including toolbox talks and safety meetings, be kept as short as possible. Organizations should limit the number of workers in attendance and make sure they remain at least 6 feet apart from each other at all times.

Employers also should ensure alcohol-based wipes are used to clean tools and equipment – especially those that are shared – before and after use. Workers tasked with cleaning should consult manufacturer recommendations for proper use and any restrictions.

Physical distancing protocol should be followed inside work trailers or when visitors are onsite, and physical contact should be avoided.

Organizations are advised to clean and disinfect jobsite toilets on a regular basis, and ensure hand-sanitizer dispensers are filled. Any other frequently touched items such as door pulls should be cleaned and disinfected.

Other recommendations:

  • Educate workers on the proper way to put on, take off, maintain and use/wear protective clothing and equipment.
  • Allow workers to wear masks over their nose and mouth to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • Encourage respiratory etiquette, including covering coughs and sneezes.
  • Use cleaning 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 sanitizers that contain at least 60% alcohol.
  • Continue to use “normal control measures,” including personal protective equipment, to safeguard workers from other job hazards associated with construction activities.

The alert is available in English and Spanish.

‘No two roofs are basically alike’: CPWR hosts webinar on fall protection

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Photo: nycshooter/iStockphoto

Silver Spring, MD — Roofers face an increased risk of fatal falls to a lower level compared with other construction subgroups, making fall protection strategies a vital component of roof work planning and training.

That was the message of an April 16 webinar hosted by CPWR – The Center for Construction Research and Training in conjunction with the National Roofing Contractors Association.

Multiple NRCA officials spotlighted basics of fall prevention and protection. “Of course, the challenge with roofing is that no two roofs are basically alike,” said Thomas Shanahan, the association’s vice president of enterprise risk management and executive education. “It’s a very dynamic versus static workplace, so it’s always changing, and so we have to be ever mindful of what are our options – what are the things we can be doing to protect workers so we plan for that.”

According to CPWR research released in 2019, although roofers experienced fewer fatal falls in 2017, the rate of fatal falls within the subgroup stood at 35.9 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers – more than 10 times greater than the rate of all construction occupations combined.

The speakers highlighted the National Campaign to Prevent Falls in Construction – a joint effort of NIOSH, OSHA and CPWR – which offers three core steps to preventing falls:

  • Plan ahead to get the job done safely
  • Provide the right equipment
  • Train everyone to use the equipment safely

In the event of a fall, Rich Trewyn, director of enterprise risk management at NRCA, said the two basic elements of rescue are delaying orthostatic shock while suspended, also known as suspension trauma, and bringing the fallen worker to a support surface such as the ground or roof. Carefully handle the fallen worker to ensure he or she is in a comfortable position, and call 911.

“All of this rescue portion is all about preplanning, and planning for an event that really isn’t going to be easy to plan for,” Trewyn said. “But it’s something that we can do, it’s something that we can practice for and make sure that we’re training our employees in the proper way.”

In the introduction to the webinar, Scott Ketcham, director of OSHA’s Directorate of Construction, discussed the agency’s efforts to mitigate “Construction Focus Four” hazards: caught-in or caught-between incidents, electrocution, falls, and struck-by incidents.

Citing data from the OSHA Information System database, Ketcham also displayed the agency’s “Top 10” list of most cited standards for construction for fiscal year 2019, noting that six involved an element of fall protection. Fall Protection – General Requirements (1926.501) topped the list with 6,881 violations, while Fall Protection – Training Requirements (1926.503) ranked fourth with 2,015.

With OSHA recently deciding to postpone the National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Ketcham gave updates on other planned outreach events in which the agency is involved. The Heat Illness Prevention campaign is on for the spring and summer; the Trench Safety Stand-Down remains “tentatively” scheduled for June 15-19; and Safe + Sound Week, slated for Aug. 10-16, is set to proceed as scheduled.