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.

Investing in safety is good business

By Sarah D. Morrison, BWC Administrator/CEO

Recent research published in the Journal of Accounting and Economics finds that managers of U.S. companies struggling to meet earnings expectations may risk the health and safety of workers to save on costs and please investors.

We at the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation believe skimping on safety to help the company’s bottom line is a bad business plan. It is short-sighted and contradicts what experts in occupational health and safety have been telling us for years — investing in safety is good business.

As safety experts, we make this case every day, and I’m pleased to say many Ohio businesses agree. Businesses that invest in workplace safety and health reduce fatalities, injuries and illnesses. This means lower medical and legal expenses and lower costs to train replacement employees — all of which minimizes workers’ compensation costs and premiums. Moreover, employers often find improvements to workplace safety and health boost employee morale and productivity. And when that happens, the company’s financial performance usually gets a boost, too.

Various studies report that for every $1 invested in workplace safety, employers receive between $2 and $6 in return. Ohio BWC is investing in safety as well. We offer numerous opportunities for companies to get financial assistance when they invest in safety.

We offer $15 million in safety intervention grants each year. These grants provide three dollars for every one dollar the employer invests in new safety equipment, up to $40,000. More than 2,000 businesses have benefited from the grants over the past four years. In one study, published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine in 2014, we found employers who received BWC safety grants decreased the frequency of injuries in the area of the new equipment by 66 percent and the cost of injuries by 81 percent.

We employ safety consultants, industrial hygienists and ergonomists who will help businesses develop and maintain effective safety-management programs – all at no charge to the employer. We’ve helped 59 small companies in high-hazard industries achieve SHARP status, a prestigious safety designation from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. In addition, Ohio employers have access to free informational services through our library, and they get free entry into two annual events we hold concurrently, the Ohio Safety Congress & Expo (the second largest occupational safety and health event in the nation) and the Workers’ Compensation Medical & Health Symposium.

As many Ohio businesses have found, our programs work. The number of businesses using our safety services and programs grew by 70 percent between 2010 and 2015 to more than 21,000. The number of injuries in our system, meanwhile, fell by 13.2 percent, even as Ohio was experiencing job growth of 7.5 percent.

Preventing workplace injuries is part of our mission, and we’re ramping up these efforts starting early next year when we introduce a new program to provide health and wellness services to workers employed by small businesses in high hazard industries. Additionally, we plan to launch a safety campaign to educate the public about safety awareness at work and in the home. The campaign will focus on preventing injuries associated with slips, trips and falls, overexertion and motor vehicle accidents.

We want to create a culture of safety across Ohio. Safety should be a way of life for all of us. Those who think it’s not worth the investment are doomed to discover otherwise. Our workers deserve better than that.

Gaming technology helping researchers study injuries at nursing facilities

BWC grants are funding exciting research into a variety occupational health and safety issues at Ohio colleges and universities.

Cleveland State University was one of the first recipients of the Ohio Occupational Safety and Health Research Program back in 2015. Since then, researchers have been studying how to reduce injuries in nursing homes.

Check out this story from News Channel 5 in Cleveland about how the university is using gaming technology in its research.

Are you prepared for the worst-case scenario?

By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer

The Boy Scout motto is short and simple: Be Prepared.

Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of scouting, wanted “each Scout to be ready in mind and body and to meet with a strong heart whatever challenges await him.” Following a similar philosophy, National Preparedness Month (NPM) reminds the public to be prepared for emergency situations at home, work, school and places of worship.

This year’s National Preparedness Month (NPM) – which kicks off Sept. 1 – focuses on planning with an overarching theme of Disasters Don’t Plan Ahead. You Can. We all can and should take action to prepare for emergencies. The recent news out of Texas in the wake of Hurricane Harvey is a heartbreaking and harsh reminder for us all.

As always, Ready.gov has a host of resources for use throughout the month with each week highlighting a different theme.  

Week 1:  Sept. 1-9 Make a Plan for Yourself, Family and Friends
Week 2:  Sept. 10-16 Plan to Help Your Neighbor and Community
Week 3:  Sept. 17-23 Practice and Build Out Your Plans
Week 4:  Sept. 24-30 Get Involved! Be a Part of Something Larger

The best way to be prepared is to make a plan for you, your family and friends. Ready.gov suggests asking the following questions as a starting point.

  • How will I receive emergency alerts and warnings?
  • What is my shelter plan?
  • What is my evacuation route?
  • What is my family/household communication plan?

From here you can craft a plan specific to your household, your family and your friends. For more details, visit the Ready.gov Make a Plan page.

It’s not just people who need to prepare for emergencies. It’s critical for businesses too. Ready.gov also has plenty of resources related to emergency preparedness for businesses.

Here at BWC, we also offer courses on preparedness for Ohio employers. To register for a course near you, log in to the BWC Learning Center and search under Emergency Preparedness. Finally, our Division of Safety & Hygiene Library has resources, including books, periodicals and videos, with more information about emergency preparedness planning.

Remember, when it comes to hazards (whether natural or human-caused) it’s always best to be prepared.

Plinko, prizes and promotion highlight BWC’s return to the fair

By the BWC Occupational Safety and Hygiene Fellows

A few weeks back, we were fortunate to be among the exhibitors at the Ohio State Fair. During our 12 days on-site, we estimate we interacted with at least 5,000 fairgoers at our booth.

People of all ages were curious and excited to stop by our booth to try their hand at Safety Plinko. Children were eager to play and delighted to take home prizes – outlet guards, cooling towels, safety glasses and earplugs – to help keep them safe from hazards at home. In less than two weeks, our representatives handed out hundreds of informational pamphlets and thousands of safety giveaways to fairgoers.

The plink, plink, plink of chips dropping down the board drew a crowd and brought smiles to entire families. Kids were most attracted to the colorful safety glasses they could wear, just like their parents. To earn prizes, we asked Plinko players questions to help promote awareness and educate them (in a fun way) on how to be Safe at Work and Safe at Home.

Participants appreciated the insight on common safety practices for home and the workplace, and our employees were excited to provide potentially life-saving information to everyone from grandparents on down to school-age children. The fair was also a chance for us to talk about our Division of Safety & Hygiene’s programs and services available to Ohio employers at no extra cost.

The Ohio State Fair was an outstanding venue for us to reach the public and educate Ohioans on ways to protect themselves on and off the clock. Thanks to all who stopped by our booth!

Related
Handout – Safe at Work, Safe at Home

 

Don’t look at the sun and other not-so-obvious tips!

By Sharon Roney, BWC Library Administrator

Monday, Aug. 21, will be the first solar eclipse to pass over the continental United States since 1979.

Ohio will not experience a total eclipse, which is where the shadow of the moon totally blocks the sunlight hitting the earth. We will experience between 85 to 95 percent totality depending on where you are in Ohio – less in the northeast corner of the state and more in the southwest.

What this means for you is that it will be unsafe anywhere in Ohio to look at the eclipse as it is happening without appropriate protection. There will always be a small area of the sun uncovered by the moon. So, what is appropriate protection?

  1. Special eclipse glasses that comply with the ISO 12312-2 international safety standard
  2. Welders glasses with at least shade 12 lenses
  3. Telescopes or binoculars with solar filters

If you work outdoors you may be tempted to take a peek at the sun when the eclipse is at its fullest here. Don’t! You will damage your eyes, possibly permanently.

Be sure to inform anyone working on a job site about this danger. If employees want to go outside to view the eclipse, warn them of the dangers. Visit NASA’s website for detailed eclipse information, including eclipse safety.

An eclipse is an interesting experience. The air will become cooler, streetlights may come on and birds may stop singing. Even if you don’t view the sun through your protective lenses, the experience of an eclipse is unique. Stop and look around at the changes it brings to your environment.

If you miss this eclipse, the next one to visit our area will be in April 2024 and a large part of northwestern Ohio will be in its path on that date. If you really get the eclipse bug, you can find worldwide future eclipse events at the Great American Eclipse website.

Home may be sweet, but is it safe?

By Kendra DePaul, BWC Other States Coverage Manager

“If you want to be safe today, go to work.” That is a quote from Steve Casner’s book titled “Careful: A User’s Guide to Our Injury-Prone Minds.” I recently finished the book and was surprised to learn the major sources of injuries, and the risks we should be aware of in our day-to-day activities.

At BWC, we have keen insight on occupational accidents and how to prevent them. We are fortunate to have our Division of Safety & Hygiene, which works tirelessly to educate employers on the importance of safety and what they can do to improve conditions in workplaces. And it has worked! Recently Ohio has outperformed the national trend in reducing workplace injuries. Employers and employees throughout the state have gotten the message that safety is important.

The book shows that although occupational safety has made great strides, something happens when we leave work; we forget all that we learned about being safe. We get distracted and take risks, which leads to a growing number of non-work-related injuries and deaths. Consider this: in 2014, just fewer than 3 percent of all unintentional injury fatalities happened at work. For comparison, a shocking 50 percent of these fatalities happened in our homes.

The statistics suggest our homes are dangerous places with disaster lurking around every corner. But how can our “home sweet home” be so full of peril? The book goes on to explain that our workplaces have instituted a culture of safety, training us on doing our jobs safely with rules and checklists. At home, we are pretty much on our own, and the data shows we do a pretty bad job at being safe.

To summarize many of the book’s statistics, I would say – BEWARE OF THE DIY PROJECT. I know many of us take on home improvement projects to save a buck or because we may actually enjoy working around the house. But many of the unintentional injuries happen because we really don’t know what we’re doing. How often do we use the right tool for the right job, and use it correctly? The book says when you take note of the reasons people visit the ER, you realize not many of us have learned how to use tools correctly. We also forgot that we are amateurs and do not put a plan in place for the inevitable errors we will make. When is the last time we put on a harness when we cleaned out the gutters or stood on a chair instead of using a ladder? All too often, these small lapses in judgment end in disaster.

The other issue is that we are all in such a darn hurry! Everyone is flying around trying to pack hundreds of activities into a 24-hour day. We speed in our cars, run through yellow lights, are constantly distracted by our cell phone, and always multi-tasking to get things done. The book clearly illustrates that multi-tasking is useless and dangerous because we can only really pay attention to one thing at a time. And if we realized the risks we take in our cars to save a minute or two, we would clearly understand that the amount of time saved is not worth it.

The same goes for walking. We all learned to look both ways when crossing at the crosswalk, but in 2015 a pedestrian was killed by a car every two hours. And 78 percent of those fatalities happened when people were crossing in a non-intersection. We quickly throw out the window everything we learned in Safety Town to save a minute or two of extra walking.

So what is the solution? How do we take what we know prevents workplace injuries and apply it in our everyday lives? A large part of it is being aware that the real risks to our lives are not murders, shark attacks or airplane crashes, but driving down the street and completing our household chores. It is taking a moment or two to think through how to mitigate risk in our lives and practicing it every day. If nothing else, it is putting our phone down when we’re driving and paying attention to the world around us.

Here at BWC, we are developing an educational campaign to generate awareness of safety behaviors that apply both at home and at work, specifically as it relates to the areas of slip, trips, falls, overexertion and driving. We want to educate all Ohioans on avoiding these types of injuries, and ultimately change behaviors to create a culture of safety that follows Ohioans from work to home and from home to work.

Related
Handout – Safe at Work, Safe at Home