Thursday, January 29, 2009

Compliance duties owed to each employee

I hope the title does not sound too complicated, but as I was looking through OSHA's website, found the "What's New" page and read the following entry. I thought it was interesting and might just be an additional incentive for an employer to comply with the OSHA regulations.

29 CFR 1910.9(a)
Personal protective equipment. Standards in this part requiring the employer to provide personal protective equipment (PPE), including respirators and other types of PPE, because of hazards to employees impose a separate compliance duty with respect to each employee covered by the requirement. The employer must provide PPE to each employee required to use the PPE, and each failure to provide PPE to an employee may be considered a separate violation.
29 CFR 1910.9(b)
Training. Standards in this part requiring training on hazards and related matters, such as standards requiring that employees receive training or that the employer train employees, provide training to employees, or institute or implement a training program, impose a separate compliance duty with respect to each employee covered by the requirement. The employer must train each affected employee in the manner required by the standard, and each failure to train an employee may be considered a separate violation.

The basic summary of these two regulations is that there are two basic obligations that employers have to EACH employee. Therefore, to meet these regulatory obligations employers must evaluate each individual employee's need for PPE and safety training and then make sure each individual employee receives the needed PPE and safety training.

If an employers fails to meet an employee's need for PPE or OSHA required safety training, then that employer could be issued a violation and fine for each employee who did not receive proper PPE or proper safety training.

For more information, please feel free to comment on this blog.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Cell Phone Use & Driving Safety

Cell phone use has risen to be the number one cause of distracted driving.

Distracted driving is a factor in 25 to 30 percent of all traffic crashes. With hectic schedules and roadway delays, many employees feel pressured to multi-task just to keep up with their personal and work-related responsibilities. More time on the road means less time at home or at work but “drive time” can never mean “down time.” Since drivers make more than 200 decisions during every mile traveled, it's critical for employers to stress that when driving for work, safe driving is their primary responsibility.

The National Safety Council notes results of several studies specifically related to cell phone use while driving, including:

  • Drivers using a cell phone are at a four times greater risk of a crash
  • Cell phone use contributes to 6% of all crashes, and
  • The annual financial toll of cell phone-related crashes is estimated at $43 billion.

NSC admits other in-car activities are more dangerous than using cell phones. However, cell phone use has become so prevalent, it has become more dangerous overall.

Also, studies show that hands-free devices don’t make cell phone calls safer while driving safe.

What’s the difference between talking on a hands-free phone and speaking with someone else in a car? Unlike the passenger sitting next to you, the person on the other end of the call is oblivious to what’s happening around the driver on the road. The passenger provides another pair of eyes and can help keep the driver alert.

In summary, we can learn that driving safely requires drivers to remain focused on driving at all times. Whether it is a cell phone or other distraction, remind your employees about their workplace safety obligations.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Steps to Workplace Driving Safety - part 2

In previous posts about Workplace Driving Safety we introduced a 10-step plan for a workplace driving safety program. In this post we will elaborate on the last 5 steps of the plan.

Step 6: Vehicle Selection, Maintenance and Inspection

Selecting, properly maintaining and routinely inspecting company vehicles is an important part of preventing crashes and related losses.

It is advisable that the organization review and consider the safety features of all vehicles to be considered for use. Those vehicles that demonstrate “best in class” status for crash-worthiness and overall safety should be chosen and made available to drivers.

For the latest information on crash test ratings and other important vehicle safety information, visit To report a concern about a defect or problem with your vehicle, contact the NHTSA Auto Safety Hotline at: 1-888-DASH-2-DOT.

Vehicles should be on a routine preventive maintenance schedule for servicing and checking of safety-related equipment. Regular maintenance should be done at specific mileage intervals consistent with the manufacturer's recommendations. A mechanic should do a thorough inspection of each vehicle at least annually with documented results placed in the vehicle's file.

Personal vehicles used for company business are not necessarily subject to the same criteria and are generally the responsibility of the owner. However, personal vehicles used on company business should be maintained in a manner that provides the employee with maximum safety and reflects positively on the company.

Step 7: Disciplinary Action System
Develop a strategy to determine the course of action after the occurrence of a moving violation and/or “preventable” crash. There are a variety of corrective action programs available; the majority of these are based on a system that assigns points for moving violations. The system should provide for progressive discipline if a driver begins to develop a pattern of repeated traffic violations and/or preventable crashes. The system should describe what specific action(s) will be taken if a driver accumulates a certain number of violations or preventable crashes in any predefined period.

Step 8: Reward/Incentive Program
Develop and implement a driver reward/incentive program to make safe driving an integral part of your business culture. Safe driving behaviors contribute directly to the bottom line and should be recognized as such. Positive results are realized when driving performance is incorporated into the overall evaluation of job performance. Reward and incentive programs typically involve recognition, monetary rewards, special privileges or the use of incentives to motivate the achievement of a predetermined goal or to increase participation in a program or event.

Step 9: Driver Training/Communication
Provide continuous driver safety training and communication. Even experienced drivers benefit from periodic training and reminders of safe driving practices and skills. It is easy to become complacent and not think about the consequences of our driving habits.

Step 10: Regulatory Compliance
Ensure adherence to highway safety regulations. It is important to clearly establish which, if any, local, state, and/or federal regulations govern your vehicles and/or drivers. These regulations may involve, but may not necessarily be limited to the:
  • Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)
  • U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT)
  • National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA)
  • Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)
  • Employment Standards Administration (ESA)
The last post in this series on driving safety will be about cell phone use while driving.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Steps to Workplace Driving Safety - part 1

In previous posts about Workplace Driving Safety we introduced a 10-step plan for a workplace driving safety program. In this post we will elaborate on the first 5 steps of the plan.

Step 1: Senior Management Commitment and Employee Involvement

The safety of an organization's employees as they drive for work and to and from work is so important that it requires the attention of top-level management. Senior management can provide leadership, set policies, and allocate resources (staff and budget) to create a safety culture. Actively encouraging employee participation and involvement at all levels of the organization is a good practice and will help the effort to succeed. Workers and their representatives must be involved in the initial planning phase.

Step 2: Written Policies and Procedures
A written statement emphasizing the commitment to reducing traffic-related deaths and injuries is essential to a successful program. Create a clear, comprehensive and enforceable set of traffic safety policies and communicate them to all employees. These are the cornerstones of an effective driver safety program. Post them throughout the workplace, distribute copies periodically, and discuss the policies at company meetings. Offer incentives for sticking to the rules, and point out the consequences of disregarding them. A customizable written driving safety plan can be obtained as part of the Driving Safety Program from National Safety Compliance.

Step 3: Driver Agreements
Establish a contract with all employees who drive for work purposes, whether they drive assigned company vehicles or drive their personal vehicles. By signing an agreement, the driver acknowledges awareness and understanding of the organization's traffic safety policies, procedures, and expectations regarding driver performance, vehicle maintenance and reporting of moving violations.

Step 4: Motor Vehicle Record (MVR) Checks
Check the driving records of all employees who drive for work purposes. You must screen out drivers who have poor driving records since they are most likely to cause problems in the future. The MVR should be reviewed periodically to ensure that the driver maintains a good driving record. Clearly define the number of violations an employee/driver can have before losing the privilege of driving for work, and provide training where indicated.

Step 5: Crash Reporting and Investigation
Establish and enforce a crash reporting and investigation process. All crashes, regardless of severity, should be reported to the employee's supervisor as soon as feasible after the incident. Company traffic safety policies and procedures should clearly guide drivers through their responsibilities in a crash situation. All crashes should be reviewed to determine their cause and whether or not the incidents were preventable. Understanding the root causes of crashes and why they are happening, regardless of fault, forms the basis for eliminating them in the future.

The next 5 steps of a workplace driving safety program will be discussed in the next post.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Workplace Driving Safety Program

This 10-Step Program provides guidelines for what an employer can do to improve traffic safety performance and minimize the risk of motor vehicle crashes. Following these steps helps employers ensure that they hire capable drivers, only allow eligible drivers to drive on company business, train them, supervise them, and maintain company vehicles properly. Adherence to these 10 steps can also help to keep your motor vehicle insurance costs as low as possible.
  1. Senior Management Commitment & Employee Involvement
  2. Written Policies and Procedures
  3. Driver Agreements
  4. Motor Vehicle Record (MVR) Checks
  5. Crash Reporting and Investigation
  6. Vehicle Selection, Maintenance and Inspection
  7. Disciplinary Action System
  8. Reward/Incentive Program
  9. Driver Training/Communication
  10. Regulatory Compliance
These steps are from the NETS Traffic Safety Primer: A Guidebook for Employers.

In the next two posts National Safety Compliance will discuss these steps in more detail.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Safe Driving Practices

Promoting Safe Driving Practices Helps Your Bottom Line

Motor vehicle crashes cost employers $60 billion annually in medical care, legal expenses, property damage, and lost productivity. They drive up the cost of benefits such as workers' compensation, Social Security, and private health and disability insurance. In addition, they increase the company overhead involved in administering these programs.

The average crash costs an employer $16,500. When a worker has an on-the-job crash that results in an injury, the average cost to their employer is $74,000. Costs can exceed $500,000 when a fatality is involved. Off-the-job crashes are costly to employers as well.

The real tragedy is that these crashes are largely preventable. Recognizing the opportunity that employers have to save lives, a growing number of employers have established driving safety programs in their companies. No organization can afford to ignore a major problem that has such a serious impact on both their personnel and the company budget.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Employee Driving Safety

Driving safety is an issue that affects everyone. If we drive safely, then there is always "the other person" who does not.

Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death and injury for all ages. Crashes on and off the job have far-reaching financial and psychological effects on employees, their coworkers and families, and their employers.

Every 12 minutes someone dies in a motor vehicle crash, every 10 seconds an injury occurs and every 5 seconds a crash occurs. Many of these incidents occur during the workday or during the commute to and from work. Employers bear the cost for injuries that occur both on and off the job. Whether you manage a fleet of vehicles, oversee a mobile sales force or simply employ commuters, by implementing a driving safety program in the workplace you can greatly reduce the risks faced by your employees and their families while protecting your company's bottom line.

You need a driver safety program:
  • To save lives and to reduce the risk of life-altering injuries within your workforce.
  • To protect your organization's human and financial resources.
  • To guard against potential company and personal liabilities associated witd crashes involving employees driving on company business.
Your program should work to keep the driver and those with whom he/she shares the road safe. And, if necessary, the program must work to change driver attitudes, improve behavior, and increase skills to build a “be safe” culture. By instructing your employees in basic safe driving practices and then rewarding safety-conscious behavior, you can help your employees and their families avoid tragedy.

Employees are an employer's most valuable asset. Workplace driver safety programs not only make good business sense but also are a good employee relations tool, demonstrating that employers care about their employees.

Over the next few days we will be discussing the steps for building a driver safety program in your workplace. These steps will be useful to any organization regardless of size of the organization, type of traffic encountered, number of vehicles involved, or whether employees drive company or personal vehicles for work purposes.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Eye Safety & Protection In The Workplace

Every day an estimated 1,000 eye injuries occur in American workplaces. The financial cost of these injuries is enormous -- more than $300 million per year in lost production time, medical expenses, and workers compensation. No dollar figure can adequately reflect the personal toll these accidents take on the injured workers.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is determined to help reduce eye injuries. In concert with efforts by concerned voluntary groups, OSHA has begun a nationwide information campaign to improve workplace eye protection.

Take a moment to think about possible eye hazards at your workplace. A survey by the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) of about 1,000 minor eye injuries reveals how and why many on-the-job accidents occur.


-- Not wearing eye protection. BLS reports that nearly three out of every five workers injured were not wearing eye protection at the time of the accident.

-- Wearing the wrong kind of eye protection for the job. About 40% of the injured workers were wearing some form of eye protection when the accident occurred. These workers were most likely to be wearing protective eyeglasses with no side shields, though injuries among employees wearing full-cup or flat-fold side shields occurred, as well.


-- Flying particles. BLS found that almost 70% of the accidents studied resulted from flying or falling objects or sparks striking the eye. Injured workers estimated that nearly three-fifths of the objects were smaller than a pin head. Most of the particles were said to be traveling faster than a hand-thrown object when the accident occurred.

-- Contact with chemicals caused one-fifth of the injuries. Other accidents were caused by objects swinging from a fixed or attached position, like tree limbs, ropes, chains, or tools which were pulled into the eye while the worker was using them.


-- Craft work; industrial equipment operation. Potential eye hazards can be found in nearly every industry, but BLS reported that more than 40% of injuries occurred among craft workers, like mechanics, repairers, carpenters, and plumbers. Over a third of the injured workers were operatives, such as assemblers, sanders, and grinding machine operators. Laborers suffered about one-fifth of the eye injuries. Almost half the injured workers were employed in manufacturing; slightly more than 20% were in construction.


-- Always wear effective eye protection / safety glasses. OSHA standards require that employers provide workers with suitable eye protection. To be effective, the eyewear must be of the appropriate type for the hazard encountered and properly fitted. For example, the BLS survey showed that 94% of the injuries to workers wearing eye protection resulted from objects or chemicals going around or under the protector. Eye protective devices should allow for air to circulate between the eye and the lens. Only 13 workers injured while wearing eye protection reported breakage.

Nearly one-fifth of the injured workers with eye protection wore face shields or welding helmets. However, only six percent of the workers injured while wearing eye protection wore goggles, which generally offer better protection for the eyes. Best protection is afforded when goggles are worn with face shields.

Better eye safety training and education. BLS reported that most workers were hurt while doing their regular jobs. Workers injured while not wearing protective eyewear most often said they believed it was not required by the situation. Even though the vast majority of employers furnished eye protection at no cost to employees, about 40% of the workers received no information on where and what kind of eyewear should be used.

-- Maintenance. Eye protection devices must be properly maintained. Scratched and dirty devices reduce vision, cause glare and may contribute to accidents.

Employers should also make sure appropriate first aid kits and/or eye wash stations are available for employee use in emergency situations.

Hard Hats & PPE On Construction Sites

Employers commonly inquire about when hard hats or other PPE is required by OSHA on construction sites or other workplaces. I will attempt to answer that question based upon OSHA construction industry regulations (29 CFR 1926) and OSHA's interpretations of its own regulations.

In 29 CFR Part 1926 Subpart E (Personal Protective and Life Saving Equipment), §1926.95 (Criteria for personal protective equipment) states:
(a) Application. Protective equipment, including personal protective equipment for eyes, face, and head, and extremities, protective shields and barriers, providedshall be, used, and maintained...wherever it is necessary by reason of hazards of processes or environment, chemical hazards, radiological hazards, or mechanical irritants encountered in a manner capable of causing injury or impairment in the function of any part of the body through... physical contact. [Emphasis added.]
Section 1926.100 (Head protection) states:
(a) Employees working in areas where there is a possible danger of head injury from impact, or from falling or flying objects, or from electrical shock and burns, shall be protected by protective helmets. [Emphasis added.]
Under these standards, an employer must initially evaluate the activities of its employees and determine whether these hazards are reasonably foreseeable. Such employees must use appropriate PPE. Please also remember that commonly on construction sites there are multiple sub-contractors working. Each employer is responsible for providing PPE for its employees, even if the hazard is created by a different employer. Here is an example...Company A has employees on the jobsite doing outdoor work that would not normally require a hard hat. However, Company B has employees (wearing PPE) on the same jobsite that are using a crane to lift materials into place. If the employees of Company A are potentially exposed to the hazard of a falling object from the crane, then Company A must provide its employees hard hats and require them to be used.

On construction sites, employers must constantly be aware of new or changing hazards created by all persons or conditions on the jobsite. OSHA requires employers to keep their employees safe. If this means the use of PPE, then the employer must provide that PPE at no-cost to the employee and require them to properly wear that PPE while exposed to the potential hazards.

Also, note that OSHA standards set minimum safety and health requirements; they do not prohibit employers from adopting more stringent requirements.

Please note that employees should always receive appropriate construction safety training regarding work on construction sites and PPE safety training for those items they use.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Back Injuries and Safe Lifting


Preventing back injuries is a major workplace safety challenge. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than one million workers suffer back injuries each year, and back injuries account for one of every five workplace injuries or illnesses. Further, one-fourth of all worker's compensation claims involve back injuries, costing industry billions of dollars on top of the pain and suffering borne by employees.

Moreover, though lifting, placing, carrying, holding and lowering are involved in manual materials handling (the principal cause of recordable work injuries) the BLS survey shows that four out of five of these injuries were to the lower back, and that three out of four occurred while the employee was lifting.

No approach has been found for totally eliminating back injuries caused by lifting, though it is felt that a substantial portion can be prevented by an effective back safety training and control program and ergonomic design of work tasks.

Suggested administrative controls include:

- Training employees to utilize lifting techniques that place minimum stress on the lower back.

- Physical conditioning or stretching programs to reduce the risk of muscle strain.

Suggested engineering controls include:

- A reduction in the size or weight of the object lifted. The parameters include maximum allowable weights for a given set of task requirements; the compactness of a package; the presence of handles, and the stability of the package being handled.

- Adjusting the height of a pallet or shelf. Lifting which occurs below knee height or above shoulder height is more strenuous than lifting between these limits. Obstructions which prevent an employee's body contact with the object being lifted also generally increase the risk of injury.

- Installation of mechanical aids such as pneumatic lifts, conveyors, and/or automated materials handling equipment.

In one study it was determined that at least one-third of recordable back injuries could be prevented through better job design (ergonomics).

Other factors include frequency of lifting, duration of lifting activities, and type of lifting, as well as individual variables such as age, sex, body size, state of health, and general physical fitness.



If you are new at your job, your risk of injury is much greater than for more experienced co-workers. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has reported that 40% of workers injured have been on the job less than one year.

Why are new workers more likely to be hurt? BLS studies show that employees injured at work often lack one vital tool to protect themselves: information. Take a look at the following data gathered by BLS in various surveys:

-- of 724 workers hurt while using scaffolds, 27% said they received no information on safety requirements for installing the kind of scaffold on which they were injured.

-- of 868 workers who suffered head injuries, 71% said they had no instruction concerning hard hats.

-- of 554 workers hurt while servicing equipment, 61% said they were not informed about lockout procedures.

In nearly every type of injury BLS researchers have studied, the same story is repeated over and over. Workers often do not receive the safety information they need--even on jobs involving dangerous equipment where training is clearly essential. In one BLS study of workers injured while operating power saws, nearly one of every five said no safety training on the equipment had been provided.


-- Make safety training an essential part of your workplace routine. OSHA standards require safety training for workers in many types of hazardous work. A comprehensive safety training program will assure compliance and can also pay off in reduced absenteeism, lower insurance costs, and increased efficiency.

For OSHA safety training resources, including videos, DVDs, posters and books, please visit National Safety Compliance.