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April 2014

Safety Matters

OSHA Releases New Resources for Chemical Safety

Every year, tens of thousands of workers become sick or die from exposure to hazardous chemicals on the job. OSHA has introduced two resources to help employers protect workers against these exposures.

The first is an online tool kit (www.osha.gov/dsg/safer_chemicals/index.html) to help employers and workers identify hazardous chemicals and transition to using safer chemicals. The kit outlines a seven-step process for finding, comparing and selecting alternatives to dangerous chemicals. It offers in-depth explanations for each step, provides examples and additional resources, including corporate success stories and a short introductory video featuring OSHA Administrator David Michaels.
The second resource, the Annotated Permissible Exposure Limits, or annotated PEL tables, enables employers to adopt newer, more protective workplace exposure limits on a voluntary basis. Although companies must still adhere to OSHA's mandatory PELs, companies can adopt stricter exposure limits to ensure greater protection.

"There is no question that many of OSHA's chemical standards are not adequately protective," Michaels says. "I advise employers who want to ensure that their workplaces are safe to utilize the occupational exposure limits on these annotated tables, since simply complying with OSHA's antiquated PELs will not guarantee that workers will be safe."

The annotated PEL tables provide a side-by-side comparison of OSHA PELs for general industry to the recommended exposure limits of the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, NIOSH and American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists. This resource offers easy accessibility to up-to-date workplace exposure limits; it is available at www.osha.gov/dsg/annotated-pels/index.html.

Distracted Driving Kills: How SH&E Professionals Can Take a Stand

In 2004, ExxonMobil analyzed more than half a dozen available studies on cell phone use behind the wheel and found research indicating a direct link between cell phone use while driving and increased accident risk. That was nearly a decade ago.

Today, cell phones have become even more advanced. People can get directions, check e-mail, interact with social media and even watch TV all from their phones. Unfortunately, when people use phones at the wrong time, such as when driving, they can triple their risk of collision, according to a study by Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (www.vtti.vt.edu/featured/052913-cellphone.html). In fact, more than 1.1 million collisions each year directly result from distracted driving, says John Ulczycki, vice president of strategic initiatives at NSC.

Distracted driving has sparked awareness campaigns, tough legislation and strict bans by employers starting in the 2000s, but so far these efforts seem to have had little effect. At the 2013 National Safety Congress, Michael Henderek, member of the NSC board of directors, David Strayer, professor of cognition and neural science in University of Utah's Department of Psychology, David Teater, senior director of the transportation initiative at NSC, and Ulczycki discussed this issue.

Despite solid research on the hazards of distracted driving, data show that it has not declined. In fact, although studies (http://goo.gl/Nd3R89) show more teens and young adults are starting to recognize the threat of texting and driving, many still engage in the risky behavior. As Teater explains, cell phones have become so ingrained in our culture that more than research is needed to combat distracted driving.

While some people choose not to use their phones behind the wheel, others need education, policies, laws and enforcement to change their behavior, Teater says. SH&E professionals, he continues, can begin by encouraging education and adopting company cell phone policies, like ExxonMobil did in 2004.

ExxonMobil banned the use of cell phones and electronic devices while operating a company vehicle or driving for company business. The ban came as part of the firm's vision to prevent employee injuries under its "Nobody Gets Hurt" campaign. After 6 months of thorough educational training, the policy was fully implemented, and it continues to grow today.

Whistleblowers Now Able to File Complaints Online

OSHA has announced that whistleblowers covered by one of 22 OSHA statutes can now file complaints online.
The online form, found at www.osha.gov/whistleblower/WBComplaint.html, asks workers to include basic whistleblower complaint information allowing OSHA to contact them in the future for follow-up. All complaints will be routed to the appropriate regional investigators. The form also eases the process of filing a complaint by mail or in person at an OSHA regional office, as workers can download and print the form, then fill it out and submit complaints to OSHA in hard-copy format.

FAA Allows Expanded Use of Portable Electronic Devices

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has determined that airlines can expand portable electronic device (PED) usage for passengers during flight. The agency is providing airlines with implementation guidance on how to expand passenger use of PEDs during all phases of flight. According to the agency, "Passengers will eventually be able to read e-books, play games and watch videos on their devices during all phases of flight, with very limited exceptions."

FAA reports the decision was based on feedback from airline representatives, aviation manufacturers, passengers, pilots, flight attendants and mobile technology industry representatives. In addition, the PED Aviation Rulemaking Committee discovered most commercial airplanes can withstand radio interference signals from PEDs. FAA provided airlines with guidelines to assess whether their airplanes can tolerate such interference. Once an airline verifies its tolerance, it can allow passengers to use handheld, lightweight devices at all altitudes. For more information, visit www.faa.gov.

CDC Addresses Safety of Older Drivers in the Workplace

Highway transportation incidents are the leading cause of occupational fatalities in the U.S. with the highest fatality rates occurring among workers 65 and older. According to data analyzed by CDC, workers 65 and older had the highest overall fatality rate, exceeding three times that of workers age 18 to 54.

Data from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) collected from 2003 to 2010 show that occupational highway transportation incidents killed more than 11,500 U.S. workers, 3,113 (26.9%) of whom were 55 or older. Overall, fatality rates were highest among workers 65 or older [3.1 deaths per 100,000 full-time-equivalent (FTE) workers], followed by those age 55 to 64 (1.4 deaths per 100,000 FTE workers).

According to the data, workers in the transportation and warehousing industries were at the highest risk as were workers who performed transportation and material moving duties. Fatality rates remained stable for those age 18 to 54 and 55 to 64, while workers age 65 or older were more than three times more likely to be injured in a motor vehicle crash than those age 18 to 54.

The safety of older workers behind the wheel is particularly important as more people are working beyond the traditional retirement age. By 2020, the number of U.S. workers who are 55 and older is projected to increase from approximately 15 million to 41 million. In addition, physical and cognitive changes associated with aging (such as declines in visual acuity, skill in processing complex visual information, reaction time and executive functioning) affect the ability to drive. Beginning at age 60, drivers are more likely to die from injuries sustained in a crash.

CDC suggests employers and workers can prevent work-related vehicle crashes by addressing modifiable behaviors and risk factors (e.g., long work hours, fatigue, occupational stress, time pressure, distracted driving, nonuse of seat belts) as well as through injury prevention and wellness programs.
To learn more, visit http://goo.gl/DLg4WS.

Dell Recognized for Encouraging Wellness

Dell was awarded The Health Project's (www.thehealthproject.com) 2013 C. Everett Koop National Health Award, which recognizes organizations for their efforts to promote health and wellness programs that, in turn, produce documented health improvements and cost savings. The Well at Dell program was created in 2004 to encourage healthy lifestyles for employees and their families, while reducing the company's healthcare costs.

The program, which has an 80% employee participation rate, follows evidence-based guidelines to reward employees who monitor, maintain and improve their health. Well at Dell features on-site fitness and health centers; virtual wellness offerings; annual health screenings; quarterly wellness challenges; telephone and on-site lifestyle coaching; and condition management programs. In general, the program has seen a reduction in key health risks, cost savings associated with risk reduction and a high engagement rate.
"Employers share the goal of improving the health and well-being of workers, so that individuals can enjoy long and productive lives, avoid disability and perform at their best," says Ron Goetzel, president and CEO of The Health Project. "Dell's efforts demonstrate that, when done right, evidence-based health promotion and disease prevention programs not only make workers healthier, they can also produce a positive return on investment."

Business Continuity After an Emergency

Emergency situations, including those involving severe weather or violent crime, can occur at any time, and companies must be prepared not only to protect employees, but also to ensure that business will continue to run successfully following such an event. "Knowing the potential risks your organization could have and implementing a strategy is the first step to a successful emergency response plan," says William McGuire, president and CEO of Global Elite Group. He adds that a risk assessment approach can be useful for many different industries because not all work environments are at risk for the same emergency scenarios.

McGuire's suggestions include:

  • Make arrangements for a temporary office location and communication center separate from the facility.
  • Cross-train employees so that if one worker is injured during an event, another can easily take over his/her responsibilities.
  • Review emergency response plans annually and after any major changes are made to the company.

Read more at http://ehsworks1.blogspot.com/2013/11/ensuring-business-continuity-after.html.

Webinar Recap: Corrective & Preventive Action
Characterizing the Problem & Assembling the Right Team

British Standards Institution (BSI) presented the webinar Corrective & Preventive Action: Characterizing the Problem and Assembling the Right Team, the second in a series of webcasts detailing the elements of a successful corrective and preventive action (CAPA) process. Speakers included ISO Product Manager John DiMaria and BSI Software Product Specialist Raj Sivasankar.

According to DiMaria, whether a CAPA is required generally depends on whether the nonconformity is an isolated incident or a symptom of bigger problems. If the nonconformity is identified as a problem with the process of normal operations, then a CAPA is needed. For example, if delivery rates have rapidly decreased in efficiency during a short period, it will affect the process of normal operations and require a CAPA. Corrective action can also be necessary for addressing nonconformities that violate regulations or standards.

However, human errors are often isolated incidents that do not require CAPA. "It's always a good idea to look at the particular incident and decide whether it's a process problem or a people problem," says DiMaria. "If several people are having the same issue, it's a process issue, not a people issue."

The experts explained that to characterize the problem, it must be clearly defined, including sources of data and information and a detailed description of the problem.
Descriptions of problems should be written, concise and complete, presenting the information so that it is easy to understand and translate. A description should include data without opinions, and DiMaria suggests noting differences between operations prior to the problem and current operations, as well as the desired state of operations. Using the example of poor delivery rates, the description would need to include the amount of time over which the change took place and data regarding how much longer delivery is taking now versus the amount of time it used to take and the desired length of time.

Problem descriptions should not include suggestions for improvement. Instead, remedial action should be determined after the root causes have been identified to ensure that actions will address those causes rather than merely alleviate individual symptoms of the problem.

"In some more serious situations, you may have to issue some immediate action to ‘stop the bleeding', so to speak, until you can find out what the cause is," DiMaria says, stressing that ultimately, the cause must be identified and remedied.

All sources of information must be documented for use during investigation and implementation of an action plan. Depending on the type of problem, internal sources of data may include supplier evaluations, internal audits, deviation reports, design controls and test results, while common external sources are recalls, complaints, return reports and customer test reports.

"The key is specifying the particular problem statement," says DiMaria, noting that the problem statement will help determine which internal and external sources of data may be useful. "It's essential that everyone involved looks at the problem and agrees on the problem statement."

To be productive, the team must include an effective team leader and members who have a connection to the process, varying perspectives, proper skills and a knowledge of data sources.

"Make sure that you have good cross-functional teams with the right people, the process owners, not just warm bodies. It can be people on the docks or in customer service, people who are taking orders," DiMaria says.

DiMaria believes the most common mistakes made in the CAPA process involve missing follow-up dates, changing follow-up dates without documenting a justified reason for the change and not closing the loop to verify that the action worked. He adds that organizations that fail to close a loop may apply CAPA to the same problem multiple times because they are only fixing symptoms of the problem due to a weak root-cause investigation.

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