This top 10 list could be a real lifesaver

By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer

The end of the year brings a barrage of top 10 lists – the top films, TV shows, albums, news stories and more. It seems every magazine, news organization and blog has them. So, we thought we’d get in on the action.

Admittedly, the top 10 we’re featuring may not have the pizzazz of many of the others you may see this month. But for employers and workers it’s important (potentially life-saving) info.

The list we’re highlighting is the – drum roll, please – top 10 most-cited safety violations of fiscal year 2017* from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Here are the top 10.

  1. Fall Protection; General Requirements (1926.501) – 6,072
  2. Hazard Communication (1910.1200) – 4,176
  3. Scaffolding (1926.451) – 3,288
  4. Respiratory Protection (1910.134) –  3,097
  5. Lockout/Tagout (1910.147) –  2,877
  6. Ladders (1926.1053) – 2,241
  7. Powered Industrial Trucks (1910.178) – 2,162
  8. Machine Guarding (1910.212) – 1,933
  9. Fall Protection – Training Requirements (1926.503) – 1,523
  10. Electrical – Wiring Methods (1910.305) – 1,405

OSHA released the list in September at the National Safety Council’s (NSC’s) 2017 Safety Congress and Expo in Indianapolis, but we thought we’d provide a recap. The December issue of NSC’s Safety+Health magazine has an in-depth cover story about the list.

“The OSHA Top 10 is more than just a list, it is a blueprint for keeping workers safe,” said NSC President and CEO Deborah A.P. Hersman said earlier this year. “When we all work together to address hazards, we can do the best job possible to ensure employees go home safely each day.”

In an interview with Safety+Health magazine, Patrick Kapust, deputy director of OSHA’s Directorate of Enforcement Programs said, “The Top 10 is a great place for the employer to start if they don’t know where to start. The list identifies some of the major hazards out there. Take that list and see how it may apply to your workplace.”

He added, “Important questions to ask are, ‘What’s happening with my training programs? Are they covering what they should?’ Hazard communication, respiratory protection, lockout/tagout, powered industrial trucks – all of those require specific training programs. Look at your programs in these areas, because many of the deficiencies we find involve training.”

Our Division of Safety & Hygiene can provide this training at no additional cost to Ohio employers. It’s covered by the premiums they’ve already paid. Visit our Education Training & Outreach page for options we can provide. We can also help make your workplace safer with the consulting services we provide to Ohio’s public and private employers.

Now is as good a time as any to assess your workforce and make a list of where your organization may need safety training and consultation.

*Preliminary figures as of Sept. 5, 2017

Slipping in a winter wonderland? Not if you take these steps first

By Cari Gray, BWC Industrial Safety Consultant Specialist

Here we go again – another Ohio winter. Unfortunately, for many people winter will mean more than snow, ice and shoveling; for some, it may mean concussions, bruises and broken bones.  You’ve guessed it – we’re going to talk about navigating the winter wonderland on foot and staying upright.

I work with many Ohio employers and it seems almost everyone has a story about a slip, trip or fall in snow or ice.  I have heard so many versions…walking across the parking lot into work, leaving work and walking down the sidewalk, just stepping in the front door, running to the post office for the company…on and on…and on.

The thing about slips, trips and falls in snow and ice is they can happen anywhere and anytime there is snow or ice, even if it’s only a small amount.  If the temperature is around freezing, you need to be concerned and prepared.

Often employees and employers feel helpless when it comes to this topic.  I agree, you have no control over the weather, but you are not helpless.  There are a few things you can do and say to help prevent slips, trips and falls this winter season.

First, have a PLAN. Before the first freeze, you need to have a plan for when the weather turns bad.  Know who will oversee snow and ice removal.  You may use an outside company or do the removal in-house.  Either way, have a discussion before you need services about who will do the removal, how often it will occur, and who will do inspections.  A designated employee should keep an eye on the weather and other concerns you may have about how snow will get removed and ice will be treated.

Employers can do a couple of MAINTENANCE type things to reduce the likelihood of snow and ice-related falls.  Make sure lighting is good in areas employees walk.  You need to fix and fill in holes as they appear – I know sometimes that’s a never-ending battle with the freeze/thaw around here – but try.  And, listen – make sure you listen and react when employees tell you about slip and fall concerns.  Another great tool is to do frequent inspections on slip and fall concerns.  Really – walk around (safely), including outside and look for things that you can trip or slip on – I bet you will find them (if you do – please fix them).

TRAIN your employees. I am not kidding – consider training your employees how to walk on snow and ice.  It may sound silly, but sometimes that’s what people will remember.

In trainings I’ve done in the past, I tell folks to “walk like a Duck.” They remember it (and me – sometimes people come up to me at the grocery store and say hey – you are the lady who told me to walk like a duck…it happens).

I tell them to close their eyes and envision a duck…they have their feet slightly pointed out, they go slow and they look where they are walking…that’s what you want!  Spread your feet a little wide  and keep your hands out of your pockets to increase your center of gravity.  You also never see a duck carrying a bunch of boxes or papers (or anything for that matter). Ducks are also not distracted – so have the conversation with your employees about watching where they walk and paying attention to their surroundings.

Wear the right SHOES. I know snow boots don’t always match your outfit – but lying on your back in the middle of the parking lot does not look very attractive either.  Proper footwear is so important!  If you want to wear fancy shoes (guys or gals), put them in a bag and change once you get past the parking lot and into the building.  I really like kids snow boots, they have great traction and they are so warm, but that might be taking it to far.

There is another option – they make covers that slip over your shoes to help prevent slips and falls on slippery surfaces.  They are sold at most safety supplies stores and online. I have bought them for gifts before (I know, safety geek here), but nonetheless – they work great – if you remember to put them on.

Don’t feel helpless this winter. There are steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of slips, trips and falls.  Doing nothing is not an option, we must identify the safety concerns, find solutions and stick to them.  Help yourself and others stay upright on the snow and ice this season.

Shopping online? Don’t get Scrooged

By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer

Black Friday is behind us; now it’s on to Cyber Monday and its insanely good deals. But if you’re not careful, it’s also an insanely easy way for cyber thieves to scam you.

Since 2000, online shopping has exploded among American consumers. A recent Pew Research study reveals roughly eight in 10 Americans are online shoppers, and 15 percent buy online on a weekly basis. Unfortunately, this uptick in cyber shopping comes with unwanted side effects.

With more and more people shopping online every year, cyber criminals are always looking to take advantage. It’s more important than ever for shoppers to avoid potential risks when stuffing those virtual shopping carts.

The SANS Institute says the best way to protect yourself online is shopping only at trusted websites with an established reputation. Criminals create these fake websites by replicating the look of real sites or using the names of well-known stores or brands. They then use these fraudulent websites to prey on people who are looking for the best deal possible or hard-to-find items. SANS says you can protect yourself by doing the following:

  • When possible, purchase from websites that you already know, trust, and have done business with previously.
  • Verify the website has a legitimate mailing address and a phone number for sales or support-related questions. If the site looks suspicious, call and speak to a human. If you can’t get through to someone, that is the first big sign you are dealing with a fake website.
  • Look for obvious warning signs, like deals that are obviously too good to be true or poor grammar and spelling.
  • Be very suspicious if a website appears to be an exact replica of a well-known website you have used in the past, but its domain name or the name of the store is slightly different. For example, you may be used to shopping online at Amazon, whose website is https://www.amazon.com. But be very suspicious if you find yourself at websites pretending to be Amazon, such as http://store-amazoncom.com.
  • Type the store’s name or URL into a search engine and see what other people have said about the website in the past. Look for terms like “fraud, scam, never again or fake.” A lack of reviews can also be a sign indicating that the website is very new and might not be trustworthy.
  • Before purchasing any items, make sure your connection to the website is encrypted. Most browsers show a connection is encrypted by having a lock and/or the letters HTTPS in green right before the website’s name.

For additional info on safe online shopping and securing your credit cards and mobile devices, check out the latest edition of the OUCH! Security Awareness Newsletter from SANS Institute.

BWC, State Fire Marshal outline safety resources available to Ohio’s firefighting community

By Melissa Vince, BWC Public Relations Manager

In light of recent media attention to cancer risks and other on-the-job dangers faced by firefighters, the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) is partnering with the State Fire Marshal’s office to educate Ohio firefighters about safety resources available through their agencies.

“Firefighters face unique and life-threatening hazards as they protect the lives and property of their fellow Ohioans, and they deserve our best efforts to keep them safe on the job,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Sarah Morrison. “We have committed a number of resources to reduce these dangers and improve the safety and health of Ohio firefighters.”

Added State Fire Marshal Jeff Hussey: “Firefighters put their lives on the line on a daily basis. We want to ensure they’re equipped with the best resources to do their jobs safely.”

BWC resources include:

Fire department grants
BWC’s new Firefighter Exposure to Environmental Elements Grant Program awards dollars to Ohio fire departments, both career and volunteer, to purchase safety gear and equipment that protect against carcinogens and other harmful elements encountered during a fire fight. BWC has awarded more than $1.2 million to 120 Ohio fire departments to date.

Items eligible for purchase include diesel exhaust systems, extractors/washing machines for turn-out gear, hoods with barrier protection and washable gloves. The exhaust systems and extractors are also available for purchase through BWC’s Safety Intervention Grant Program. Many smaller fire departments are eligible to purchase equipment without any matching funds.

Safety Grants
The Safety Intervention Grant Program assists Ohio employers purchasing equipment that will reduce employee illnesses and injury. Over the last three years, Ohio fire departments have received more than $9.7 million in funding for safety equipment, including hydraulic cots used for heavy patients and automated chest compression devices.

Public Employment Risk Reduction Program
BWC’s Public Employment Risk Reduction Program has been promoting safe and healthy working conditions for Ohio’s public employees for 25 years. The program had no jurisdiction over firefighters, EMTs, paramedics and corrections officers until the legislature expanded the program in BWC’s most recent budget. Effective Sept. 29, BWC has greater authority to help these employers identify unsafe and hazardous working conditions, as well as conduct workplace inspections to prevent accidents and injuries.

Safety, ergonomics and industrial hygiene consulting services
BWC’s safety, industrial hygiene and ergonomics specialists visit workplaces to assist in the development of effective injury and illness prevention strategies.

Research services
The BWC Division of Safety & Hygiene library provides free research services on occupational safety and health, workers’ compensation and rehabilitation. Librarians have access to one the largest repositories of occupational safety and health information in the nation and provide accurate answers to questions about firefighter occupational safety and health.

Firefighter safety training
To ease costs to local governments, the State Fire Marshal’s office and Ohio Emergency Medical Services provide $500,000 to fund Firefighter I Training, a 120-hour certification class. BWC committed another $1 million for the training to help prevent accidents and improve preparedness and response times during emergencies.

Additionally, BWC funds research into firefighter injury and illness prevention through its Occupational Safety and Health Research Program. Six Ohio universities have received $3 million for 13 projects through the program, which includes more than $718,000 for research into firefighter safety.

Marshal Hussey said a number of training opportunities, grants and loans are available through his office in the Ohio Department of Commerce. While some grants directly fund safety equipment and training, others can free up dollars needed to invest in safety.

Fire Department Equipment Grant
This grant funds protective clothing, self-contained breathing apparatuses, communications equipment and other miscellaneous equipment. Eligible fire departments must serve a population of less than 25,000. The application period typically runs from December to the end of January.

Bureau of Underground Storage Tank Regulation (BUSTR) Revolving Loan
These zero-interest loans are available to any political subdivision, including Community Improvement Corporations, to begin, continue or complete the removal, assessment, or corrective action related to underground storage tanks.

Firefighter I Training Grant and Volunteer Firefighter I Training Grant
These grants fund the costs of Firefighter I or Firefighter I Transition certification courses. The application period begins July 1.

Fire Department Training Reimbursement Grant
Fire departments that provide primary fire protection to an area with a permanent population of 25,000 or less qualify for the grant. Reimbursement is available for specific fire training classes, including the cost of training manuals and student workbooks. The application period runs from mid-December to mid-January.

MARCS Grant
The MARCS (Multi-Agency Radio Communication System) Grant is available to fire departments that serve a population of 25,000 or less. The money can be used to purchase systems, equipment, and/or services that are part of, integrated into, or otherwise interoperable with the MARCS operated by the State of Ohio. Up to $50,000 per department is available. The application period runs from October to mid-November.

Revolving Loan
The Small Government Fire Department Services Revolving Loan Program assists local governments in funding certain fire department expenses. A revolving loan can be used to expedite the purchase of major firefighting, rescue or EMS equipment. It can also be used for the construction or renovation of fire department buildings.

Rural Community Financial Assistance (RCFA)
This is a matching grant program to cover the cost of tuition and lodging at the Division of State Fire Marshal’s Ohio Fire Academy. Only firefighters from communities serving a population of less than 10,000 qualify. Multi-community projects may exceed 10,000, provided none of the communities in the project serve more than 10,000 people. The application period begins July 1.

Visit the State Fire Marshal’s grants page for more information.

The Columbus Dispatch published a five-day series in October about the cancer epidemic among firefighters. The news organization conducted two statewide surveys of firefighters and fire chiefs from across Ohio. Among the findings: One in six of the nearly 1,300 firefighters who responded said they had been diagnosed with cancer at some point in their careers. About 50 percent said they believed cancer was their biggest threat on the job.

Nearly 95 percent of the 360 fire chiefs surveyed said that cancer is the greatest occupational threat to their firefighters, but only about half provided cancer-prevention training or had rules in place to reduce the cancer threat.

The Dispatch series can be found online at Dispatch.com/unmasked.

Ohio safety councils gave when others needed it most

By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer

With Thanksgiving later this week, we’re officially entering the season of giving. However, for a group of Ohio safety councils and their members, the giving spirit arrived early this year.

In August and September, three powerful hurricanes (Harvey, Irma and Maria) ravaged the U.S. mainland as well as several U.S. territories in the Caribbean. The storms left horrific destruction, flooding and loss of life in their wake.

People from all over the country stepped up to donate their time, money and expertise to help the victims of the storms. Several Ohio safety councils and their members were no exception.

On the same date in late August, two safety councils (the Cleveland Southwest and Miami County safety councils) contacted BWC Safety Council Program Manager Michelle Francisco about a statewide initiative to raise money for Hurricane Harvey relief among all Ohio safety councils.

After receiving BWC’s approval, Cleveland Southwest Safety Council Administrator Kathy Kellums and Miami County Safety Council Program Director Jessica Stein sent a joint fundraising appeal to all 83 Ohio safety councils. “We felt this was a way to say Ohio cares,” said Kellums.

With fundraising already under way for Harvey relief, hurricanes Irma and Maria hit several Caribbean islands with a vengeance, with Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands taking the brunt of the storms. In the aftermath of now three devastating storms, the fundraising focus shifted to a larger relief effort. The safety councils decided to donate any funds raised to the Cleveland Salvation Army’s hurricane relief fund.

One Cleveland Southwest Safety Council member, Quadax, Inc., held an employee charity drive, raising $1,694 in employee contributions, and another company from the same safety council donated $500. In the end, the Cleveland Southwest Safety Council, led the way with more than $4,000 in donations. Overall, more than a dozen safety councils and their members collected $8,770.

On Oct. 31, Kellums and Stein delivered the donations to the Cleveland Salvation Army for its relief work in the Caribbean. The safety councils’ donations made it possible for disaster workers to provide up to 15,000 meals each day to residents of St. John, Virgin Islands.

“As BWC’s safety council program manager, I’d like to give thanks to all of Ohio’s safety councils for making our state a safer place to live and work,” said Francisco. “And for going above and beyond when fellow citizens desperately need help.”

Don’t trip for treats

By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer

Fading daylight, uneven sidewalks and walkways, ill-fitting or restrictive costumes: What could possibly go wrong?

Trick-or-treating is fun for families, but it is also fraught with fall hazards.

Here are some tips from STEADY U Ohio on how to have a scary good time without the slipping and tripping that can lead to a frightening fall.

  • Eat a nutritious meal before heading out to trick-or-treating to make sure you have plenty of energy, and avoid blood sugar level spikes, which can cause dizziness.
  • Carry a flashlight and watch for uneven sidewalks, curbs, debris and other tripping hazards.
  • Choose costumes that fit well: If it’s too loose, it can cause trips; too tight, it can limit movement.
  • Avoid long gowns, capes and accessories that can snag on objects or wrap around legs and trip children or adults.
  • Use makeup instead of masks that limit peripheral vision.
  • Fabulous footwear might complete a costume, but sensible shoes will be less likely to cause a tumble.
  • If you decorate your yard or home for visitors, make sure walkways are free of cords and visitors can’t trip on decorations.
  • Battery-powered luminaries and mini-lights can provide extra lighting at foot level without spoiling spooky effects.
  • If you’re going for that “big scare,” make sure the area is level and clear of objects to prevent falls when people react.

STEADY U Ohio is a statewide collaborative falls prevention initiative, supported by Ohio government and state business partners to ensure that every county, every community and every Ohioan knows how they can prevent falls, one step at a time.

Visit www.steadyu.ohio.gov for more tips and resources to help you and your loved ones prevent falls.

Breathe easy: BWC can help tackle respirable silica in the workplace

By Jeffrey Hutchins, Industrial Hygiene Technical Advisor

Did you know the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) began enforcing the construction standard for respirable crystalline silica (RCS) last month?

Do you know what the standard includes and how to stay in compliance with it?

The standard establishes a new eight-hour time weighted average permissible exposure limit of 50 µg/m3 for all covered industries. It also requires other employee protections, such as:

  • Performing exposure assessments;
  • Using exposure control methods and respiratory protection;
  • Offering medical surveillance;
  • Developing hazard communication information;
  • Keeping silica-related records.

BWC’s Division of Safety & Hygiene has a variety of resources to help Ohio employers understand and meet the requirements of the new standard. These resources are available at no charge as part of the loss-prevention services provided through Ohio workers’ compensation premiums. Services include:

  • On-site industrial hygiene consulting to determine airborne RCS levels and, if needed, assistance in developing a written exposure control plan. Request on-site consultation
  • Safety Intervention Grants to help purchase engineered dust-control solutions. Learn more
  • Training focused on awareness-level RCS hazards and respiratory protection. Learn more
  • Additional resources such as videos and the latest publications from the Division of Safety & Hygiene Library. Learn more

BWC’s industrial hygienists have years of experience in the field and conduct RCS sampling and analysis using the methods specified in the OSHA standard. Training courses focus on topics related to the standard (e.g., respiratory protection and respirator fit testing).

Our latest safety video provides an overview of respirable silica in the workplace, including where silica is found, requirements of the new OSHA standard and elements of a silica exposure control program.

Visit our website to request consulting services.