Buckle Up – Everybody!

The United States has a bit of an epidemic on its hands involving vehicular fatalities.  The death rate on American roads jumped six percent last year to the highest rate since 2007.

A good place to start fixing that problem is to get everyone to buckle up.  That includes passengers in the back seat, but we all know that is a hard sell.

So for your next safety meeting, here is a video that shows what happens when back seat passengers don’t use seat belts. Continue reading “Buckle Up – Everybody!”

Nothing Says “OOPS” Like A Dumpster Full Of Medical Records

Officials haven’t explained yet how the medical records for up to 1800 people wound up in a dumpster in Houston.  Somehow they were thrown out from an office of the  Texas Health and Human Services Commission.  Records apparently contained patient names, conditions, even bank account information.  Here’s a full rundown on the story from Houston’s KPRC-TV.

While this is an extreme case, many companies have their own problems managing the medical records of their employees.  Privacy and record security fall under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and fines for HIPAA violations range from $100 to $50,000 per violation (or per record) with a cap of $1.5 million.  Even though the law has real teeth, company handling of medical information can be pretty sloppy.    Continue reading “Nothing Says “OOPS” Like A Dumpster Full Of Medical Records”

OSHA’s Silica Rule – What It Means To Oil and Gas

In about a week, OSHA’s rule on silica was supposed to go into effect for the construction industry.  However, the Administration delayed implementation until late September and the rule has also been challenged in court.

That doesn’t mean industry is off the hook however.  Silicosis kills about a hundred people a year and OSHA says more than two million American workers are exposed to harmful level of silica a year.  Without as standard on exposure, companies may avoid OSHA fines, but wind up facing liability for silicosis cases down the road.

Construction is not alone in facing a compliance deadline if the rule goes into force.   General industry and maritime will need to comply by June of next year. Oil and gas fracking operations need to comply with new engineering controls by June of 2021.    That 2021 date has caused some confusion within the oil and gas sector.  Many read it to mean that they don’t need to meet the requirement for four more years.   However, the rule actually says that fracking operations need to protect workers from silica exposure by next June, just like other general industries.    The 2021 date is when they need to adopt engineering control to limit the amount of respirable silica around drilling sites.

The chemical company ArrMaz produces a product that coats sand to reduce silica dust used in fracking operations.  The company has developed one of the best explanations of how the rule will be applied in oil and gas operations that I have seen.   You can download a copy of their graphic here: ArrMaz_Respirable Crystalline Silica_InfoGraphic.

The bottom line is that there are ways to reduce silica dust on a frack site and industry is working on other engineering solutions, but companies need to understand that the requirement to protect workers on the exposure side is likely to arrive in a year.


When OSHA Calls: Why Recordkeeping Is So Important

It always generates headlines when a company is hit with a big OSHA fine, but we rarely hear about all of the cases when OSHA investigates and determines there was no safety violation.   Here’s one recent case that offers important lessons to safety professionals.

On March 22, AK Steel in Middletown, Ohio received a letter from OSHA saying the agency had received complaints of a number of safety violations, including “welders have no certification to weld or pressure pipes, structures, railings, etc.” and “no welding logs are being kept for certifications purposes,”  according to the local Journal News.    The letter gave the company one week to respond. Continue reading “When OSHA Calls: Why Recordkeeping Is So Important”

Why You Can’t Ignore OSHA’s Injury Reporting Rule…Even If It Is Delayed.

OSHA has delayed the actual electronic reporting requirements of its injury and illness reporting rule change, but that doesn’t mean companies can just forget about complying with the rule.  That’s because, while the electronic portion was to go into effect in July,  the parts of the rule that prohibit discouraging or punishing workers who try to report injuries are already in effect.  A new court ruling shows whistle-blower  provisions like the ones in the rule have real teeth in them.

Continue reading “Why You Can’t Ignore OSHA’s Injury Reporting Rule…Even If It Is Delayed.”

Breaking: OSHA Delays Electronic Injury Reporting

OSHA says it will postpone its upcoming deadline for companies to report injuries and illnesses through an online form.  About 450,000 companies would have had to comply on July First if the rule was not delayed.   Not really surprising that the agency announced the delay, since it never went live with the online form that companies needed to use to make the reports and there is still no one in charge of OSHA. Continue reading “Breaking: OSHA Delays Electronic Injury Reporting”

Cited By OSHA? It May Only Be the Start Of Your Troubles.

Companies have been watching OSHA closely to see what direction the agency takes under the new administration.   Between  rollbacks of regulations and threatened budget cuts, there is a good chance OSHA will be less aggressive in the future.    But there are clear signs that OSHA may be the least of a company’s worries if there is a serious accident. Continue reading “Cited By OSHA? It May Only Be the Start Of Your Troubles.”