Have you heard? Noise-induced hearing loss is preventable

By Jeffrey Hutchins, Industrial Hygiene Technical Advisor

Hearing loss is something that can affect any of us not only at work, but in every aspect of our lives.

However, because noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) happens gradually over time, many of us don’t give it the attention it deserves.

That’s why the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) designates every October as National Protect Your Hearing Month. The NIDCD urges you to learn ways to protect yourself, your family and co-workers from NIHL. The following simple solutions from the NIDCD can go a long way toward protecting you from NIHL.

Turn down the volume
Set maximum volume limits on electronics and keep the volume low on music devices and TVs. Sounds at or above 85 A-weighted decibels (comparable to heavy city traffic) put you at risk for NIHL, especially if they last a long time. These days, earbuds are a common concern.

“There’s nothing wrong with earbuds that are producing sound at a low, nontoxic level. But earbuds are bad when you turn them up too loud,” says Dr. James Battey, director of the NIDCD. “My rule of thumb is, if an individual is standing at arm’s length from you and they can hear your earbuds … that noise is probably over 85 decibels and if delivered for a long enough time will cause noise-induced hearing loss.”

Move away from the noise
To reduce sound intensity and the impact of noise on your ears, increase the distance between you and the noise. Think of this simple step when you are near fireworks, concert speakers, or in a loud restaurant.

Wear hearing protection
Sometimes you can’t easily escape the sound, whether you’re at a movie theater, a concert, a sporting event or a noisy work environment. Earplugs or protective earmuffs can help. There is a single number required by law on each hearing protector called the noise reduction rating (NRR). The higher the NRR number, the more effective the protection. Be a good hearing health role model by wearing them yourself. If you don’t have hearing protectors, cover your ears with your hands.

In the workplace, think about the types of equipment or jobs that can cause hearing loss, such as:

  • Circular saws.
  • Chain saws.
  • Firing guns.
  • Air-powered ejection equipment.
  • Air-operated equipment without mufflers.
  • Metal stamping.
  • Machining operations.

Once you have identified the potential sources of loud noises, be sure to take the proper steps to protect yourself and your co-workers from the danger. The good news is NIHL is the only type of hearing loss that is completely preventable. If you understand the hazards of noise and how to practice good hearing health, you can protect your hearing for life.

BWC can help
Our industrial hygienists can help you identify NIHL hazards in your workplace with on-site consultations. The BWC Library also has plenty of resources, including videos, about noise and hearing conservation.

Safety is brewing in a growing Ohio industry

By Bernie Silkowski, Director of Loss Prevention Operations

Since 1912, Ohio’s workers’ compensation system has helped workers and employers cope with workplace injuries. But central to our mission is preventing those injuries from ever occurring in the first place.

Fewer accidents and injuries mean safe, healthy, skilled and productive employees.

While all jobs come with some element of risk, our job in BWC is to make sure risk is measured and mitigated wherever possible.

BWC does this through our Division of Safety and Hygiene, which is staffed by workplace safety, industrial hygiene, and ergonomics professionals who help employers develop and maintain effective safety-management programs.

We keep a close eye on industry trends and aim to reach new and growing employers as quickly as possible before safety becomes a major issue.

We understand that while employers in emerging industries want to prioritize safety, they are still perfecting processes and learning important lessons as they grow. They are often budding entrepreneurs with a small staff and on a shoestring budget who want to keep their employees safe but may not know how.

This is true of many craft brewers. Most are newer operations and many were started by homebrewers operating a business for the first time. In fact, nationwide, one-third of all craft brewers have been in business less than three years.  In Ohio alone, there are nearly 300 craft breweries with 65 more known to be in the works!

Staff in these craft breweries wear multiple hats and hold a vast array of responsibilities. Many of these breweries simply can’t afford to employ a full-time safety specialist as do large regional and national breweries. Reaching these employers early will help build a culture of safety in the industry into the future.

Yesterday BWC joined OSHA, the Ohio Craft Brewers Association, the Brewers Association, and the Master Brewers Association of the Americas (District Midwest) in creating the Ohio Craft Brewery Alliance to lend our respective expertise to help this rapidly expanding industry grow with safety in mind.

BWC will leverage our professional safety staff to help develop safety programs and connect brewers to free resources and services and BWC’s one-of-a-kind safety library.  These BWC consultants from our local loss prevention offices and the OSHA On-Site Consultation program will perform safety management consultations, conduct walk-thru inspections, identify hazards, and link brewers to specialized, on-site or online safety training.  As always, our assistance is at no cost to the employers.

For their part the brewer associations will openly share all information, resources, and best practices freely with all craft brewers nationwide including those who are not members of the associations.  All signatories agree to participate in forums and other opportunities to promote safety.

Ultimately, brewers who work toward a goal of identifying, correcting or mitigating hazards and fostering a proactive approach to safety can create a safer work environment. These measures may also help lower costs for workers’ compensation.

We’re excited to be a part of this alliance to help elevate safety in Ohio’s craft breweries.

This is the type of commitment we need to build a culture of safety in every Ohio workplace.

Special thanks go to Keith Bullock, OSHA On-Site Safety and Health Consultant, for coordinating the alliance with all parties. Keith and other BWC consultants are available to advise breweries and direct them to the necessary programs and resources. Breweries can call 1-800-282-1425 to request assistance.

Have you inspected your forklift lately?

By Cari Gray, BWC Industrial Safety Consultant Specialist

Every day at many work locations, powered industrial trucks (aka forklifts) are sadly being neglected and unloved. Sounds extreme, but it’s true.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard states, “Industrial trucks shall be examined before being placed in service … Such examination shall be made at least daily.” OSHA continues, “where industrial trucks are used on a round-the-clock basis, they shall be examined after each shift.”

So, let’s break down when and what to inspect, and who should do it.

First and foremost – inspections MUST be done.

Inspections need to be done when you put a powered industrial truck (let’s call them forklifts from here on out) in service.

This means inspecting new forklifts and those that have been sitting around unused more than one day. Beyond that, if you use a forklift more than one shift in any given day – you need to inspect it at least after each shift.

OK, so now that’s a little clearer and we know when to inspect – let’s talk about WHO must inspect. Often the forklift operators are the inspectors – and that’s perfectly acceptable. It makes sense for the person who is most impacted to do the inspection. However, sometimes a supervisor or a maintenance employee does the inspection., That’s fine, too. Just make sure the inspector is trained, the inspection’s getting done and it’s getting done right.

Now, let’s cover WHAT we should inspect for. First things first – you need to make sure you are inspecting anything the manufacturer recommends. Yup, you’ve got it – that means you need the manual for the equipment. I know, I know, you have a really old forklift, or maybe you bought it used from an auction … who has the manual? Well, you should. I If you don’t have it, you need to find it – look online, contact the manufacturer or a dealer … but find it. Once you have it, I suggest making a copy and squirrelling away the original so you don’t have to go through this again.

After you use the manufacturer recommendations, you need to consider things that OSHA details out for training. You’ve got it right – OSHA does not give a list of what should be inspected, however it does list mechanical things you need to train your folks on … so it makes sense to inspect for those things. These include:

  • Safety guards.
  • Batteries or fuel systems.
  • Steering systems and wheels.
  • Load backrest extensions.
  • Brakes, horn and lights (if present).

Additionally, you should look at housekeeping – seriously housekeeping on a forklift! Your truck should be kept “clean, free of lint, excess oil and grease.” Now, I’m not expecting the equipment to be clean enough to eat off, but it should not look like a pig sty. You should also include any other safety and operational items that you and your company deem inspection-worthy.

I recommend you create your own checklist to include all these things. You can find dozens of samples online, but don’t just use one without carefully looking at it.  You can update and customize this checklist as needed, it’s yours … so make it look like it!

The OSHA standard also says you need to train your employees on “any vehicle inspection and maintenance that the operator will be required to perform.” Bottom line, if your forklift operators are doing the inspections, they need to know how to do them. A great way to train them is to go out and do the inspection as an exercise during the operator training on a real-life forklift. You can also use this YouTube video that we created (I helped) to aid in the training of forklift inspection.

The last item to keep in mind about forklift inspections is: if you find something unsafe, you DO something about it. OSHA 1910.178(p)(1) says: “If at any time a powered industrial truck is found to be in need of repair, defective, or in any way unsafe, the truck shall be taken out of service until it has been restored to safe operating condition.” Don’t ignore unsafe conditions you discover on a forklift. I know, you need to get the job done, but if you have an incident because your forklift is unsafe, it will take a lot longer to do the job and you may hurt someone. That’s not worth it!

The last thought I will leave you with is, consider the dreaded concern of “pencil whipping.” I know you would never do it – but sometimes the importance of an inspection is forgotten and in our rush – we grab the inspection sheet and check off it’s “all good” without even looking at the equipment. If you are the inspector and you are reading this: DON’T DO THAT – that’s silly. If you administer the inspection program, don’t allow others to take shortcuts either.

You can do things to prevent accidents – do spot checks, ask questions and double check. Make forklift inspections a priority!

Time’s running out to apply for our Safety Innovation Awards!

Attention Ohio employers! The application deadline for the 2018 Safety Innovation Awards is just around the corner. To spotlight innovative Ohio employers and their ingenuity, we’re once again seeking entries for our Safety Innovation Award Program.

This annual program awards cash prizes from $1,000 to $6,000 to employers that develop innovative solutions to reduce the risk of workplace injuries and illnesses to their employees.

Public and private employers may apply online on our website by Sept. 30.

Finalists will attend Ohio Safety Congress & Expo 2019 (OSC19) in Columbus on March 6-8, 2019, to present their innovations to a judges’ panel and the public.

OSC19 attendees will determine the recipient of The People’s Choice award. We will present the awards during a ceremony at Safety Congress. Learn more about last year’s winners in the video below.

In addition to cash prizes, finalists and their innovations are:

  • Spotlighted in the Safety Congress event guide seen by thousands of attendees.
  • Featured in an area entirely dedicated to them in the Expo Marketplace at OSC19.
  • Honored in a ceremony at Safety Congress.

We can’t wait to see the ingenious and creative innovation you’ve developed to keep your workers safer and healthier on the job. Apply today!

If you have any questions about the program, email bwcsafetyinnovations@bwc.state.oh.us or call us at 1-800-644-6292.

Restaurant safety: It’s not just about food safety

By Ben Hissam, BWC Industrial Safety Consultant

Having worked in restaurants as a chef or chef manager for more than 10 years, I have seen first-hand the hazards of the industry.

I remember the long hours, usually working six nights a week. It is a demanding job that you have to really love, getting satisfaction from making people happy through your work.

When I came to BWC, I decided to help develop the restaurant safety class because of my industry experience. My days in the kitchen gave me insights into restaurant operations in the front and back of the house.

I remember starting in the restaurant industry, when everything was made from scratch. This often included hand cutting vegetables and salads, meats, potatoes and more. Prep work was, and still is, a large part of the job. Ergonomic-related injuries – including repetitive hand motions, prolonged standing, lifting produce cases, etc. – are some of the most common injuries in the business.

Other common hazards include cuts, burns, and slips, trips and falls. Unlike the imminent danger hazards in construction and manufacturing, hazards in restaurants tend toward first-aid types of injuries. Rarer are reportable injuries such as amputations or fatalities from entanglement in a large industrial mixer or buffalo chopper, which are more likely in food processing than in a restaurant.

The restaurant industry is partially exempt from Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recordkeeping requirements. People attending the restaurant safety courses I teach say they are often more concerned with health department inspections.

Restaurant staff usually attend food safety classes, like servsafe, that focus on the safety of food prep and storage, areas the health department regulates. However, it’s also important they not overlook the standards that OSHA regulates in the restaurant industry, including:

  • Hazard communication – exposure to corrosive sanitation and cleaning chemicals.
  • Walking working surfaces – slippery or cluttered floors.
  • Machine guarding – powered equipment, slicers, mixers, etc.
  • Lock out – cord and plug control single point lock out.
  • Personal protective equipment – slip-resistant shoes, cut-resistant gloves, thermal protection etc.
  • Emergency action plans – one-way exit discharge blocked by trash staging in back of house.
  • Electrical – ground-fault circuit interrupter protection where conductive services are located.

Other hazards restaurants should address include awkward lifting and bending, and workplace violence, such as robbery or fights among employees.

We offer classroom and online courses to help restaurants address hazards and develop comprehensive safety plans to protect their workers. You can learn more or register online. I hope to see you in class!

How a new data tool can make your workplace safer

BWC/NIOSH partnership makes injury data easier to understand  

By Mike Lampl, BWC Division of Safety & Hygiene Research Director

Wouldn’t it be useful to have a way to easily identify what’s causing injuries and what types of injuries have been rising in your industry?

We thought it would be. So, we partnered with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to produce data visualization charts that display summaries of 1.2 million Ohio workers’ compensa­tion injury claims.

These data visualization charts – also called dashboards – are an interactive way to share information and explore large datasets efficiently. This interactive tool, covering claims from 2001 to 2011, displays injury trends by year, industry, and diagnosis or cause of injury. In the coming months, BWC and NIOSH will add data for more calendar years.

With the dashboards, you can create personalized views of charts that display claim counts and rates by general cause of injury.You can use this information to target ergonomic and safety prevention activities by understanding injury trends by year, industry, and diagnosis or cause of injury. The dashboards include:

  • Dynamic and interactive charts that are user-friendly and easy to read.
  • Summaries of workers’ compensation claims (both counts and rates) by general cause of injury.
  • A detailed look at the largest and smallest industry sectors in the state.

The dashboards are user friendly and straightforward. For example, a user can go to the Detailed Industry Results page and select their industry from 267 options*. In this case, say Warehousing and Storage. From the dashboard, the user can then view claims count, frequency, full-time equivalent employees and prevention index. Prevention index is a method for ranking an industry in terms of frequency of injuries and injury rates.

Additionally, users can filter results to see what the prevention index is for ergonomic-related injuries; slips, trips and falls; and all other injuries. If the prevention index ranking is highest for ergonomic-related injuries, the industry should be focusing on preventing ergonomic injuries.

Our Division of Safety & Hygiene uses information from these dashboards to pinpoint industries and associated employers that could use specific, no-cost safety services we offer.

Thankfully, the overall trend for claims rates is going down in Ohio, which users can see in the General Industry Results page of the dashboard. A report that our research staff prepared shows the total recordable cases incidence rate of 2.7 in Ohio in 2016 was lower than the national rate of 3.2 cases per 100 full-time equivalent workers.

Ohio businesses and employees are already doing an excellent job of improving processes and practices related to occupational safety and health. We’re confident these dashboards, born out of our partnership with NIOSH, will be another powerful resource for making Ohio’s workplaces even safer.

* Industry options are based on the North American Industry Classification System codes.

Your workplace safety innovation could be a winner!

By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer

Has your organization developed a new piece of equipment, tool or process to reduce risk to your workforce? Have you made changes to an existing method to improve safety and health in your workplace?  If so, you could earn a cash prize for your ingenuity by applying for a BWC Safety Innovation Award.

The application period for our 2019 Safety Innovation Awards is now open! We’re seeking innovative and creative solutions that reduce risk, create cost savings, and that have potential application to other workplaces, industries or operations.

If you are an Ohio employer – or know one – that has taken an innovative step to reduce risk of injury or illness, check out the award criteria and application.

We’re accepting applications until Sept. 30, 2018. Finalists will receive cash awards, ranging from $1,000 to $6,000 and statewide recognition at the Ohio Safety Congress & Expo in Columbus March 6 to 8, 2019.

Last year’s finalists included innovations such as a remote-controlled vacuuming system for cleaning clarifier tanks and an articulating arm that assists workers when doing weld tear-downs on truck cabs. You can check out descriptions and videos of all the 2018 finalists’ innovations.

We hope the past finalists and their ideas will inspire you to apply for the 2019 awards. If you have any questions about the program, email bwcsafetyinnovations@bwc.state.oh.us or call 1-800-644-6292.

We look forward to seeing your innovative approaches to eliminating workplace risks and hazards!