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NIOSH Hosts Free Silica Safety Webinar

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NIOSH Hosts Free Silica Safety Webinar

Posted on 01 April 2019 by cradmin

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) will be hosting a free silica safety webinar on Tuesday, May 14 at 11am PST. Designed for stone countertop fabrication employers, the webinar will describe the dangers of silica exposure, outline employer requirements to comply with OSHA’s Respirable Crystalline Silica Rule, and offer methods employers can use to protect workers.

During the webinar, representatives from OSHA, NIOSH, and the California Department of Public Health will provide information related to silica exposure, including health risks, methods to protect employees from silica dust, and OSHA requirements. Two Natural Stone Institute Accredited members, Jonathan Mitnick (CCS Stone) and David Scott (Slabworks of Montana) will provide practical tips on controlling worker exposure to silica dust and share the steps they took to ensure their shops were OSHA compliant.

Mark Meriaux, Accreditation and Technical Manager for the Natural Stone Institute commented: “It is important for fabricators to comprehend the health risks involved with silicosis, both personally and for employees, and to understand what can be done to minimize the risks. There is currently at least one documented case of silicosis in California tied to a fabrication shop, so now is the time to get this message out to fabricators. We look forward to working with NIOSH to share this message.”

To register for this free webinar, contact [email protected] or visit www.naturalstoneinstitute.org/NIOSH.

You may also be interested in the Latest OSHA Video on Controlling Silica

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OSHA Campaigns for Heat Safety

Posted on 20 June 2017 by cradmin

111June is National Safety Month, which is organized through a partnership of the National Safety Council (NSC) and the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA). As part of its commitment to workplace safety and in conjunction with National Safety Month, OSHA is campaigning “to keep workers safe in the heat.”

The Heat Illness Prevention Campaign was first implemented in 2011 to educate employers and employees about the hazards associated with working in hot environments. Each year, dozens of workers die and more than 65,000 others require medical treatment for heat-related illnesses. Moreover, 40 percent of these deaths are in the construction industry.

Excess heat is a known safety hazard, and all employers have a responsibility to keep their workers safe from or in environments with high heat and/or humidity. Employers who know that employees will be working in high temperatures should establish a full program to prevent heat illnesses, which would include all of the following:

  • Water, shade and regular breaks are made available.
  • New workers and those returning from time off should be given gradually increasing duties and take breaks more frequently to become acclimated to the temperatures.
  • Train workers to prevent heat-related emergencies.
  • Plan ahead for emergency situations.
  • Monitor employees for signs of heat exhaustion.

Use the Updated Heat-Safety App

OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) have teamed up to develop an updated heat-safety app for Apple iPhones and Android Smartphones. The app provides users with a simple interface that provides the information needed to keep workers safe in hot conditions.

It is a good idea to encourage employees to use the app when they know they are working in hot and humid weather to help them understand what protective measures are necessary to stay safe. The app also provides hourly forecasts of the heat index so that adjustments can be made to the recommended protections.

Heat-Safety Tips from Employers

Granite Construction Company has 113 locations across the U.S. and is one of the 25 largest construction firms in the country. This company uses several methods to keep workers safe in high temperatures, including all of the following:

  • Each supervisor is issued a portable canopy.
  • Workers are provided with evaporative cooling towels and shades that attach to their hard hats.
  • The OSHA-NIOSH heat app is monitored and recommendations are followed.
  • Training sessions on heat exposure are conducted.
  • Workers always maintain proper hydration.

Other companies, such as land of Lincoln Goodwill industries and Ballard Marine Construction, provide frequent breaks in the heat, offer earlier shifts during the summer, provide sports drinks on hot days and put up canopies with integrated water misters.

For further information on heat safety, visit the OSHA Web page on Occupational Heat Exposure or read the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidebook Climate Change and Extreme Heat: What You Can Do to Prepare.

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Keep Motor Vehicle Safety in Mind

Posted on 24 February 2017 by cradmin

motor_vehicle_guide-trafficBecause the bulk of a countertop fabrication business is performed in the shop, and installers are focused on their projects, it can be easy to forget about driving in the context of workplace safety. However, according to the Department of Labor, of the 47,718 work-related fatalities reported from 2003 to 2011, a full 36 percent involved vehicle crashes and collisions.

Furthermore, the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH) estimates that the costs for workers’ compensation from these injuries reach about $2.4 billion each year. To make matters worse, NIOSH states that nearly all of these crashes and injuries were avoidable.

Safety Calls for Employer Involvement

With each new generation, the safety of motor vehicles has been improved through new features and modifications, and that trend looks as though it will continue into the indefinite future. But the only sure way to minimize the risk to acceptable levels is for employers to take the appropriate steps and pay attention to what is going on in the workplace and with individual workers who need to drive to fulfill their duties.

While several government agencies have jurisdiction over road and driver safety, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) directly offers help to employers in developing and implementing effective driver safety programs. Not so long ago government regulatory agencies left motor vehicle safety to law enforcement, but this left a wide gap between receiving a license and violating a traffic law.

“We consciously set out to change that approach a number of years ago, recognizing that law enforcement will focus on what happens on the road but may disregard workplace factors and expectations that created the risk in the first place,” said Michael Wood, administrator of Oregon OSHA.

Workplace Driver Safety Programs

Although there are rules put in place by OSHA, state laws and other regulations aimed at reducing motor vehicle crashes and injuries, it is up to each employer to create an effective driver safety program. Following are a few guidelines for doing so:

  • Put your vehicle safety policy in writing, and have employees acknowledge they understand it with their signatures.
  • Get a copy of the driving records for each employee who will be operating a company vehicle.
  • Properly investigate and report all motor vehicle incidents.
  • Ensure vehicles are regularly maintained according to the manufacturers’ maintenance schedules.
  • Provide incentives for good driving, and discipline employees who violate the vehicle safety policy.
  • Invest the time and money to ensure all employees who will be driving are fully trained to drive each type of vehicle and educated on the rules of the road.
  • Follow all of the rules, including registration and licensing.

NIOSH Five-Year Plan

NIOSH has been actively working to improve driver safety since 2010, when the agency opened the Center for Motor Vehicle Safety. The goal of the center is to bring together all of the various organizations and authorities, public, private and academic, to identify crash risk factors and develop employer interventions that will reduce car and truck accidents on the job.

No matter how comprehensive a driver safety program is, it always makes sense to remind drivers of a few basic safety tips:

  • Always wear seatbelts.
  • Focus on the road, and avoid distractions.
  • Stay alert and don’t drive while impaired, whether the impairment is caused by alcohol, illegal drugs or legally prescribed medications.
  • Stay calm in stressful situations.
  • Keep an eye out for pedestrians.
  • Secure all tools and equipment inside and outside the vehicle.
  • Have an emergency kit available.

For Further Information

If you would like more information about driver safety for employers, contact your state department of transportation, call your nearest OSHA office or visit the following websites: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), NIOSH Vehicle Safety and the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS).

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The Total Worker Health Approach

Posted on 24 October 2016 by CRadmin2

ship-brandIt is widely known that the West Coast states (California, Oregon and Washington) have some of the strictest rules regarding the health and safety of workers, but these states also provide an assortment of publications and tools that are useful for any business anywhere in the nation. The latest of these tools is the Safety & Health Improvement Program (SHIP), which was developed in Oregon under the Total Worker Health (TWH) initiative established by the National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH).

About Total Worker Health

For decades, NIOSH has been attempting to deal with the 3 million nonfatal workplace injuries that occur in the U.S. each year, costing more than $1 billion per week in workers’ compensation claims. In 2011, NIOSH launched the TWH Program in an effort to advance the health and well-being of workers in the United States, which benefits not only workers but also employers in a variety of ways, including increased productivity.

As part of the TWH Program, NIOSH established six Centers of Excellence for Total Worker Health across the country. These centers, located in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Illinois, Iowa, Colorado and Oregon, have been conducting research and publishing new materials for employers for the past five years, and this work has culminated in the development of the Toolkit Kiosk by the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center.

Benefits of SHIP

The latest addition to the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center’s Toolkit Kiosk is SHIP, and its primary goal is “to promote employee health, safety, work-life balance and team effectiveness.” When used properly, the program can reduce stress and work-life conflicts experienced by employees, improve company health and safety practices and increase job performance and team effectiveness.

Research shows that when employees have conflicts between their work and personal lives, they experience higher levels of work stress, burnout, health problems and turnover. These conflicts also decrease job satisfaction, commitment to the company and performance.

SHIP has been extensively tested in labs, workshops and the real world. The program was first validated in the construction industry, and it has been adapted to for use in several others. It made available through online manuals, printable materials and software downloads, and it was designed to implemented without external support.

Work-Life Support

SHIP tackles the problem of work-life conflicts by getting owners, managers and supervisors involved in the safety and health of employees. First, supervisors must recognize that the demands of the job can affect personal and family responsibilities, but showing genuine concern about the conflicts, being knowledgeable about TWH programs, resources and policies and sharing techniques for managing responsibilities can help to reduce the impact on the business.

In order for the program to work, supervisors must demonstrate a commitment to safety – which includes all of the following points:

  • Understand and communicate the company’s safety expectations
  • Train employees on safe practices and how to recognize risks
  • Ask for suggestions and encourage creativity in coming up with solutions
  • Ensure duties are safe and demonstrate concern for employees
  • Reinforce safety procedures and practices
  • Take action against unsafe behavior and conditions

Supervisors are helped through this process with the four components of SHIP:

  1. Supervisor computer-based training
  2. Supervisor behavior tracking
  3. Team Effectiveness Process (TEP)
  4. Regular check-ins and follow-up

For further information about SHIP and the TWH approach, check out the Safety & Health Improvement Program website, download the SHIP Start Guide or go through the SHIP Leadership Briefing Slides for Power Point.

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Regulating the Countertop Industry: Make Your Voice Heard

Posted on 27 March 2014 by CRadmin2

The proposed change in the silica dust exposure limits by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that was announced August 23, 2013 has been big news in the countertop fabrication industry, but it is not be too late to provide input. The open debate began on March 25 and is slated to run until April 1, so there is still time to have your voice heard.

Although the executive vice president of the Marble Institute of America (MIA) has stated that MIA considers itself partners with OSHA and strongly believes that safety in the workplace is of utmost importance, the organization is fighting against the proposed rule change. The MIA has also put together a comprehensive resource detailing how fabricators can educate themselves about the dangers of silica, how to prevent and control worker exposure, how to prepare for the rule change and how to prepare for a visit from OSHA.

The MIA has stressed that the ultimate success of this effort lies on the ability of those in the natural-stone industries to speak with a unified voice, and it appears that a new, yet possibly controversial, avenue to react to the change has just been presented by the National Institute of Occupational Safety (NIOSH) through the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

On March 18, an article detailing the hazards of silica specifically from engineered stone countertops was published by NIOSH on the CDC website. This was the same date that hearings on the proposed silica rule change opened. The article details how silica exposure may lead to the incurable disease silicosis, but it has also given fabricators fuel for the debate and presented an invitation to help the them and OSHA learn more about how silica exposure is currently being handled.

While the seriousness of silicosis cannot be argued, the article only cites studies conducted in Spain and Israel, and the NIOSH admits, “No reported cases of silicosis in the U.S. have been linked to quartz surfacing materials.” However, several recent OSHA inspections have documented overexposures from both natural stone and engineered stone fabrication facilities. It is these overexposure reports that have led the MIA to call upon all fabricators to ensure that they comply with the standards according to the law. If fabricators can show that they are taking the proper precautions, the administration will be more apt to delay or halt the proposed change.

In addition, the NIOSH has issued a statement admitting that very little is known about how the quartz countertop segment of the industry is dealing with the hazard of silica exposure. It is calling for quartz fabricators to voluntarily submit a request for a Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) so that the hazard can be more closely studied in a state-of-the-art fabrication facility.

At present, it is unknown whether any fabricators have stepped up to the task, but if none have so far, it is quite understandable why they haven’t. No one wants to invite a wolf inside his or her home, but this may be an opportunity for the quartz countertop industry to show that adequate measures are already in place and are very effective. This could show the government that the countertop industry can regulate itself and protect its workers without the need for further or stricter regulations.

While many would be inclined to believe that inviting the NIOSH into their facilities is an invitation for trouble, the possibility does exist that this may benefit the company and the industry as a whole. We are interested to hear the opinions of quartz fabricators about volunteering for HHEs and the possible benefits and drawbacks of voluntarily submitting to an evaluation. For further information, fabricators may visit the HHE program Web page.

In addition, fabricators should be aware that there is still time to enter public opinions on the matter and that post-hearing comments may be made up to 45 days after the public hearings have transpired. For more information on how to voice your opinion on the matter, visit the OSHA Web page on silica and click on the tab labeled Public Participation. Also, feel free to comment on this blog page or email us at [email protected] to provide us with feedback on this important issue.

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