April Is Workplace Violence Awareness Month

First published by CDC.Workplace violence

Workplace violence is any type of violence or threat of violence against workers. It generally occurs in the workplace but can also happen away from it. Workplace violence can range from threats and verbal abuse to more serious events that lead to physical assaults, homicides, and mass casualty events, such as those that occurred recently at workplaces in Atlanta, Georgia, and Boulder, Colorado. Because April is Workplace Violence Awareness month, we would like to share resources on what we know based on research and also where research gaps still exist.

Workplace violence can occur anywhere and at any time, but certain groups of workers are at increased risk. These groups include those who exchange money with the public; transport passengers, goods, or services; work alone or in small groups late at night or early in the morning; and come into close contact as they treat and provide patient care. Examples include retail workers, nurses, taxi drivers, and others who commonly interact with customers, clients, or patients. However, workplace violence doesn’t have to involve workers and customers or clients. Threats and assaults can also come from other employees, supervisors or managers, a domestic partner, or a current or former spouse.

The risk of workplace violence has not decreased during the pandemic—in fact, many incidents have occurred in the past year. The pandemic has intensified feelings of stress and created uncertainty about the future for many, including employers, workers, customers, and clients. Workers were threatened and assaulted as businesses implemented new disease prevention policies and practices. In response, CDC has developed guidance for employers and employees in retail and service industries to address workplace violence during this time of uncertainty. Over the last year, there were other violence incidents, including ones affecting healthcare workers, public health professionals, and other frontline workers who experienced stigma, threats, and assaults. Some CDC guidance may be applicable to these groups of workers as well.

NIOSH researchers have studied this complex issue since workplace violence was identified as a public health concern in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Employers and employees in large and small businesses, as well as healthcare settings, can use these resources and trainings to help reduce workplace violence. While we have learned a lot about workplace violence prevention over the years, knowledge gaps still exist. And with that, NIOSH continues to prioritize the need for additional research to improve violence prevention for workers through non-pandemic and pandemic-relatedpdf icon research.


McCraren Compliance offers many opportunities in safety training to help circumvent accidents. Please take a moment to visit our calendar of classes to see what we can do to help your safety measures from training to consulting.

Three Keys to Trenching and Excavation Safety

Trenching incidents are responsible for Backhoe digging a trenchapproximately 25 fatalities each year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. From underground utilities to potential cave-ins to being struck by objects, workers face a range of hazards in these environments.

“When we talk about trenching and excavation, soil is by far our biggest hazard, but any underground utility that we come in contact with, whether we find a gas line we were not aware of, or high-voltage electric that is buried underground, is a hazard. There are so many hazards that have to be accounted for and it’s constantly changing,” says Eric Voight, vice president and assistant director at Conner Strong & Buckelew and member of the ANSI/ASSP A10 Committee.

Proper planning, understanding and monitoring the work environment and training can help workers safely complete a trenching and excavation project. Before you begin your next trenching and excavation project, keep these three points in mind.

Understand the Job Site

The first step toward a safe trenching or excavation project is knowing the soil type(s) and hazards workers will encounter on the job site. This requires assessing the soil(s), identifying hazards present and determining the steps needed to protect workers from those hazards.

“Before you put any shovel into the ground, before you bring any excavator or heavy piece of equipment, you have to plan for all of the hazards that we could encounter, and that starts even before you get out on the site,” Voight explains. “You have to make sure that that you call 8-1-1, or whatever your number is in your locality, and have them come out and mark for any known hazards that could be in the area.”

In terms of classification, soils are divided into four types:

  • Type A: clay, silty clay, sandy clay and clay loam
  • Type B: angular gravel, silt, silt loam and soils that are fissured or near sources of vibration
  • Type C: granular soils in which particles don’t stick together and cohesive soils with a low unconfined compressive strength
  • Stable rock

Voight stresses the need to do multiple tests on soils, using techniques such as a visual test, a ribbon test or a dry strength test to determine the types of soil present. You may also use tools such as a torvane or a pocket penetrometer to assist in the analysis.

“You really have to get your hands dirty,” he says. “It’s not something that you can just step back and take a look and say ‘this looks like Type C soil.’” You actually have to put your hands into the dirt because it’s something you may have to justify how you came up with your determination.”

Throughout the planning process and with any soil evaluation and testing, it’s critical to partner with the competent person on the project to determine how job site hazards will be addressed and what will be the best solutions for providing a safe work environment.

“One of the biggest things you have to identify is who your competent person is going to be,” Voight says. “That competent person will be the one who will determine, based on the depth, width, soil type and work processes, which protective structure will be best for your workers.”

OSHA defines a competent person as “one who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions which are unsanitary, hazardous or dangerous to employees, and who has authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them.”

Monitor the Work Environment

The conditions on a trenching and excavation site change constantly. Therefore, you have to continuously monitor the site to determine how those changes may affect worker safety. These could be weather-related factors, or issues related to the makeup of the job site changing over the course of a project.

“An evaluation must be done any time conditions change on the site,” Voight says. “Whether it’s an afternoon thunderstorm, or freezing and thawing, those are critical times because those conditions can create voids in the soil and drastically change how a trench is going to react.”

He adds that soil wants to fill back in due to the natural pressures of any voids that are created, so that must be taken into account when determining which protective measures are best-suited for a particular project.

“Once you understand that a hazard is always going to be there, then you can plan on different ways that you can go through and minimize those risks,” he says. “Whether it’s through a protective structure or some sort of sloping or benching, there are many options that you can choose. Choose the one that matches your task.”

In addition to a safety professional monitoring the conditions on the job site, workers must also continuously assess the conditions in a trench to make sure they stay safe throughout the work day.

“The best thing workers can do to protect themselves is make sure there is some barrier between themselves and the soil,” Voight explains. “Whether it is a trench box, a trench shield, timber shoring or removing soil to create an opening. If there is no soil that can entrap them, then there’s no soil that can bury them.”

Know the Numbers

Voight emphasizes that the standards developed around trenching and excavation such as the ANSI/ASSP A10.12 standard are data driven, and you need to know certain numbers to protect workers on the site.

Before you begin any trenching and excavation project, keep these numbers in mind, in accordance with the A10.12 standard:

  • Provide a means of access and egress in trenches that are 4 ft. or more in depth so as to require no more than 25 ft. of lateral travel for workers.
  • Keep spoil piles at least 2 ft. from the edge of a trench.
  • Trenches 5 ft. or more in depth require a protective structure.
  • Trenches 6 ft. or more in depth require fall protection.
  • Trenches greater than 20 ft. in depth require a professional engineer to review the protection of structures you have in place.

“We need to make sure that ultimately we’re keeping that soil away from entrapping our workers,” he says. “It takes time, it takes effort, but it’s the only way we’re going to prevent injuries and fatalities.”

Listen to our podcast with Eric Voight of the ANSI/ASSP A10 Committee to learn more about how you can protect workers during trenching and excavation projects.

U.S. Department of Labor Using Public Service Announcements and Billboards to Promote Worker Safety and Health Amid Coronavirus

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has undertaken a public service messaging effort to remind workers that the agency is committed to ensuring their safety and health during the coronavirus pandemic.

OSHA is using public service audio announcements in English and Spanish, as well as bilingual digital and print billboard messaging, to encourage employees to contact OSHA with their concerns about workplace safety amid the coronavirus pandemic. Billboards will appear in states under federal OSHA jurisdiction.

The billboards and announcements are OSHA’s latest efforts to educate and protect American workers and help employers provide healthy workplaces as the coronavirus pandemic evolves. OSHA has published numerous alerts and advisories for various industries, including Guidance on Returning to Work, which assists employers as they reopen businesses and employees return to work.

Visit OSHA’s COVID-19 webpage frequently for updates. For further information about coronavirus, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Researchers study link between worker safety, business longevity

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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.