HazMat Prep and Response Training

I have had several requests for HazMat and HazCom training recently and have found a lot of confusion in what companies were actually looking for.  In talking to some colleagues, I realized that this is a fairly common problem.  Companies all need to provide OSHA HazCom training and ones that ship transport or receive hazardous materials need to provide DOT HazMat, but they may not know where one stops and the other starts.  It is understandable because they overlap and a lot of classes are hybrids of the two. Continue reading “HazMat Prep and Response Training”

Forget What Your Safety Manual Says About Injury Management – What Does OSHA Say?

A lot of companies have a safety manual that they bought from a service or maybe it was written by some previous safety manager and tends to be updated only when things change.   Over time, we tend to accept our written policies and procedures without looking at what they are supposed to accomplish.   Managing workplace injuries is one of those areas.  So just to take a fresh look at the issue, let’s go back to what the OSHA regulations actually say about managing injuries.  It is found in the  Medical Services and First Aid Standard (29 CFR 1910.151).  It is very simple and very clear:

1910.151(a)  The employer shall ensure the ready availability of medical personnel for advice and consultation on matters of plant health.

1910.151(b) In the absence of an infirmary, clinic, or hospital in near proximity to the workplace which is used for the treatment of all injured employees, a person or persons shall be adequately trained to render first aid. Adequate first aid supplies shall be readily available.

Continue reading “Forget What Your Safety Manual Says About Injury Management – What Does OSHA Say?”

5 Steps to Effective Injury Management – Blog Post From ASSE

Let me share with you a blog that I provided to the American Society of Safety Engineers on some best practices to consider as you set up an injury management program.  You can find the full post here.

I am a strong believer that safety departments do a much better job on the prevention side than in reducing the extent of injuries after they happen.  What many don’t fully understand is that there is a cost to injuries, but a failure to address the injury properly after it happens can make that cost skyrocket. Continue reading “5 Steps to Effective Injury Management – Blog Post From ASSE”

What The Boss Doesn’t Know Can Hurt Him….And His Company

Google the phrase “Safety starts at the top” and you will get more than 6,000 results.  We automatically accept that the CEO sets the tone on safety in a company.
What if the people at the top don’t know the true state of safety in their organizations?   DNV GL just released a study that makes that point crystal clear.   The report, SHORT-TERM AGILITY, LONG-TERM RESILIENCE, looks at a lot of issues facing the oil and gas industry as it attempts to recover, including the impact of intense cost cutting on overall safety.    DNV GL’s survey of executives found that more than half expect to continue to lay off workers in 2017 and one-third expect to reduce spending on training and competency systems. Only a handful expect to increase spending on health, safety, and environmental programs.
Here’s the most interesting part of the DNV GL study – They asked different levels within organizations whether cost-cutting initiatives were increasing health and safety risk.
Only one-in-10 of the executives thought cutbacks in the company had increased safety risks.  However, roughly one-in-four of the people who were closest to the ground – either business unit heads of non-managers – thought there was increased risk.
What does this mean?   There are a couple of scenarios.  Both spell trouble:
Scenario One:  The heads of units and rank-and-file workers overestimate the risk.  That is natural. Good unit and line managers worry about risk a lot because they are directly responsible for controlling it. Cuts came to programs they were directly involved in, so they felt them directly.  Let’s also accept that some safety programs may not have been all that effective in the first place and cutting them doesn’t materially impact risk.  The danger here is that, if unit managers and people in the field overestimate risk, the top executives have failed to communicate why and how their companies are going to run lean without sacrificing safety.
Scenario Two: Oil patch execs don’t have a true feel for the safety risks in the field.  The danger there is even greater, because the people who run the companies may not have enough visibility on their exposure to accidents, injuries and losses.   Either way, it could spell trouble.
Part of the problem is that top execs usually look at programs (budgets for safety may not have been cut as much as other parts of the company), stats (usually recordable injuries and time away from work, which should be lower if there is less work and you aren’t hiring inexperienced employees).   As the study points out, part of the problem is:
the distance between the boardroom of the budget-setters and the risks in the field. Senior management often have good sight of formal indicators (such as lost-time injuries or days away from work) but can sometimes be too far from operations to see things like corroding steel,failing pipework, structural problems or workforce overload.
However, we are now three years into a serious downturn.  Maintenance and replacements have been deferred.  A lot of the tools that give executives objective visibility into field conditions, like audits and inspections, have been reduced, if not cut.  If the company relies on contractors, survival has meant requiring those contractors to make their own deep cuts, forcing them to figure out how to make ends meet.
The disconnect on safety perception between the C-suite and the people who are closest to the work is not unique to this downturn or even oil and gas.  It shows up frequently in surveys of every industry.   A 2010 survey of company culture on Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) in Australia asked people throughout company structures
about their safety programs.   About 85% of the Owners and CEO’s said they agreed or strongly  agreed that “Top level management demonstrates a commitment to OHS.”   Down at the field or specialist level, that number fell to less than 60%.
Some of this has nothing to do with safety and everything to do with the way information is shared in organizations.  There is a popular pyramid graph that shows how much bad news is actually shared within an organization.  The message is that only about four percent of the problems experienced in the field actually make it to the CEO’s desk.   The warning is that no one wants to bring the boss bad news.
As oil and gas recovers, companies put more crews in the field, new people get hired and equipment utilization goes up.  The potential for incidents related to equipment failures, over-work or lack of training goes up the way too much pressure can find a weak spot in a balloon.
CEOs and their executive teams need to be actively engaged in identifying risk and addressing weaknesses.  Unit managers need to be honest about what they are seeing in the field.   Above all, CEOs need to invest in communicating with every level of their organizations so they have a true picture of their exposure and ensuring that no one is afraid to bring bad news to their doors.

Courts (And The Trump Administration) May Decide If Your Injury Reporting Will Be Made Public

Last year, OSHA pushed through one of the most dramatic changes in how companies track injuries and illnesses at work.   The new injury reporting regulations required many companies to provide their annual injury and illness information electronically.  Much of it would be posted online for the public to see.  The rule also prohibited companies from discouraging reporting or punishing employees who do report injuries.

The changes went fully into effect at the start of this month, although OSHA still does not have the electronic submission system up and running yet. Industry has been very concerned about the potential for injury information to be visible to customers, competitors, unions or public opponants, as well being confused by the vague languge covering the ban on discouraging reporting.

Taking It To The Courts
Now a coalition of businesses that includes everyone from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to the National Turkey Federation has sued to stop the change from being enforced.   That case was filed in the federal court for the  Western Oklahoma District.  An earlier lawsuit is also moving in the federal court for Northern Texas.  That one includes the National Asssociation of Manufacturers.

The latest lawsuit challenges the rule, in part, because the plaintiffs say OSHA may be able to collect injury data, but it does not have legal authority to share it with the public.   It will be up to the court, based on the evidence, to decide whether that is the case or whether OSHA does have the authority.  However, one reaons the industry groups chose the Western Oklahoma is because it has a reputation for being conservative and employer-friendly.

The Trump Administration May Have An Impact on The Case

This is one case where the timing of the rule, the lawsuit and the election may help employers.   It is possible that the new administration may intervene to support the industry lawsuits.   In that case, the weight of arguing that the rule should stay in place could fall on some third party, such as unions.  A spokesperson for the AFL-CIO is quoted as saying that organized labor is reviewing the case now.

The biggest impact will come if the courts side with employers and say that OSHA does not have the authority to impose the rule.  The U.S. Solicitor General, who will be a Trump appointee, will decide whether the U.S. government appeals the case.  If there is no appeal, it usually means that the decision stands.  In this case it would mean that the rule would be tossed out.

So there is a lot riding on the two cases.  Employers should be ready to comply, but they should also keep up with the latest twists and turns as the lawsuits progress.

What The Rule Says

Under the change, establishments with 250 or more employees are requried to submit the following forms electronically :

  • 300 (Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses),
  • 300A (Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses), and
  • 301 (Injury and Illness Incident Report).

Much of that information would be available online for the public to see, minus names and other privacy-related information.  Certain smaller companies would just need to report their 300A summary online.    The rule also contained confusing language prohibiting companies from discouraging reporting, including a ban on certain post-injury drug testing.

OSHA’s webpage, with information on compliance, can be found here.

Driverless Cars: Putting the Autonomous Cart Before the Horse?

Take a look at the logos below.   These are the 33 different entities that are working on building driverless cars, according to the CB insights research groups.


Right now the leader of the pack is Tesla, which has sold about 70,000 cars capable of using autopilot and has plans to produce about 500,000 cars, all with auto-pilot by 2018.

Ready or not, here comes the age of the driverless car.  It is a textbook example of a technology hitting the street  (literally) before the regulations, legal questions, insurance coverage and infrastructure have had a chance to catch up.

This past summer Tesla made williston-f3.jpg
history when one of its cars became the first autonomous car to be involved in fatal accident. The NTSB is still investigating the accident but its preliminary report says the car was going 74 mph on a highway posted for 65 mph.

The Department of Transportation has issued a Federal Automated Vehicles Policy that is more of a roadmap for the steps that agencies need to take in order to regulate vehicle development.  As the Secretary of Transportation has said, Let’s not replace human-caused crashes with computer-caused crashes…“autonomous vehicles are coming,” whether the world is “ready or not.”

So it seems a little surprising that the Liberty Mutual Research Institute For Safety, which is funded by Liberty Mutual Insurance and has done outstanding research on vehicle accidents, has taken a very welcoming view of the future of autonomous cars.  In fact a new analysis report from the institute says on its first page, “Whether it takes 20, 40 or 100 years to achieve full automation, automated vehicles have the potential to make roadways safer.”

Faced with so many questions and concerns that the car makers may be moving faster than law enforcement and the public are ready, why would one of the most respected safety research groups be so optimistic?  The answer seems be that humans are so bad behind the wheel that robots can only be an improvement.   The head of the institute makes the point that “driver error is a contributing factor in 70-90 percent of all road vehicle crashes.”

Put another way, an american dies in a crash every 15 minutes.  Vehicle accidents are a major reason that workplace fatalities have stopped falling and started rising.  The institute is saying that no driver may be safer than the drivers that are out there right now.

In fact, the articles point out that, in addition to our concerns over the technology and its potential for failure, we need to carefully study how people will react with the technology.  Human factors are about more than just errors.  They are about how humans interact and adapt to technology through design, engineering, and execution.  Aviation went through similar considerations as autopilot systems were introduced to airplanes.  In this case, the automakers are not likely to slow down their development.  It may be up to the rest of us to catch up.

Late Judges Ruling Means OSHA’s New Injury Reporting Rules Kick-In December 1st!

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OSHA published the new regulations earlier this year, but delayed implementation because of confusion over the rules and a pending legal challenge. The deadline for the rule to take effect was December 1st. That was in doubt because a number of business groups sued and filed for a preliminary injunction that would have prevented OSHA from implementing the rule.

However, late Monday evening, November 28th, the judge in the case denied the injunction. The case will continue, but the judge determined that OSHA can put the rule into place while the case is litigated. Based on everything we know now, that means the reporting requirements go into place tomorrow, December 1st.

What Does This Mean To Your Company?

The Rule impacts four areas:

  • It changes the way injuries and illness will be reported to OSHA.
OSHA’s goal is to make company injury and illness data available to the public over the Internet (without violating privacy laws). To do this, larger and many medium-sized companies will be required to report their information electronically.
  • It requires companies encourage employees to report any injuries.
OSHA will have the ability to penalize companies that are found to discourage reporting or, potentially, did not clearly communicate to employees the process to report.
  • It changes post-incident substance abuse testing.
While testing with cause will still be allowed, the rule prohibits blanket post-injury testing if there is not a reasonable expectation that the injury was caused by drug or alcohol use.
  • It changes the way companies use rewards to encourage safe behavior.
OSHA believes that safety awards and other incentives may discourage injury reporting. Companies will need to look closely at their programs to make sure they pass the test.
There Is No Reason To Panic Over These Changes, But You Need To Review Your Programs Now!
The actual electronic reports are not due until mid-2017 and the electronic reporting system is not up and running yet. However, the rules against discouraging reporting and the drug test provisions do come into place tomorrow. OSHA may not enforce them immediately, but that does not mean that they won’t be part of civil litigation or whistleblower claims.

Do you want to learn more or talk about strategies for meeting the requirements and reducing recordables overall? Let’s talk!  Contact us at info@lifelinestrategies.com  or by calling 985-789-0577

Big Changes Coming For OSHA, But What Kind of Changes?

lifeline-osha-2Let’s get this over with quickly.   What will OSHA be like under a Trump Administration?  The answer is I don’t know.  No one knows.  Probably Donald Trump doesn’t know.

A new administration has about 4,000 jobs to fill and neither the campaign or the transition has involved much of a focus on OSHA or workplace safety.   We do know that, as a fundamental principle, the new administration wants to scale back rules that may stifle business. However, Trump’s immigration comments seem to indicate that his focus in the labor department will be on visa issues, not workplace safety.

A former OSHA administrator Ed Foulke has offered up a list of OSHA issues he thinks the administration may look at in an article in EHS magazine:

  1. Walking-Working Surfaces Standard

  2. Respirable Silica Standard

  3. Recording and Reporting Occupational Injuries and Illnesses

  4. Whistleblower Statutes

  5. Increased OSHA Penalties

  6. OSHA Enforcement

  7. Non-Company Personnel Participation in OSHA Inspections

  8. Restroom Access for Transgender Workers

  9. Increasing Compliance Assistance

  10. Filling Empty Seats on The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission

That is a full and ambitious list.  Personally, I don’t see the changes being that earth-shattering and I don’t think is Mr. Foulke is suggesting that.  Big agencies move like ocean liners.  They don’t get moving quickly, but, once started, they are hard to turn around.  Rules that have already been issued probably don’t change.

Silica and Injury Reporting: However, it is very possible that the administration could change the course of the silica standard and the injury and illness reporting rule.  Both are unpopular, confusing and are under litigation. If the administration weighs in against them in court, it would carry a lot of weight.

Whistleblower Protection: While the new rules on whistleblower protection for workers may be unpopular with this administration, but it is the kind of hot-button issue that Congress generally tries to avoid.

Increased Fines: Similarly, I don’t see the administration rolling back the increased OSHA penalty schedules.  First, they were passed under a Republican Congress just last year.   Second, violators never make sympathetic victims.  Finally, and most importantly, the first rule of fines is they never go down.

Ken’s Fearless Predictions: If I can pull out my own crystal ball, my prediction is that the major change in OSHA is that it OSHA’s basic philosophy toward industry changes immediately after Inauguration Day.   OSHA has historically had a poor record for finalizing regulations through the maze of industry opposition.  Current Administrator David Michaels has greatly increased OSHA’s use of field directives, letters of interpretation, and aggressive inspection findings to toughen enforcement without passing regulations.   In one bit of bureaucratic slight of hand, OSHA published a database of dozens of chemical permissible exposure limits (PELs) based on industry standards and government recommendations.  It is a valuable tool, but it bypassed the entire regulatory process with its public debate and expert review.   Another big, long-lasting change has been to expand the used of the General Duty Clause to hold employers responsible for a number of hazards not defined by regulation.

No doubt, Dr. Micheals takes pride in his ability to raise the safety bar in spite of a regulatory process that in many ways doesn’t work.   However, the next Administrator is unlikely to be so aggressive and may try to reverse the process.

Bottom Line: So it is very likely that what distinguishes Donald Trump’s OSHA will be its silence. Very few regulations, very few new initiatives and a lot lot less of the Name and Shame approach which found the head of the agency announcing big fines against violators.

Many in industry will love that.  The danger is that a spike in accidents and injuries could be a lasting legacy that will spur a future ramp up of the very programs this administration is trying to back away from.

Are Your Employees Distracted to Death? Strategies For Reducing Vehicle Fatalities

cell-phoneOur Apps may be killing us; at least that is the gist of an article in the New York Times about the relationship between phone Apps and traffic fatalities.   For example, in Tampa last month, a teenage girl was using Snapchat to video the driver of the car she was in as he wound the car up to 115 MPH.  A moment later, he lost control of the car.  The driver, the girl and three people in the minivan they hit all died.

It is part of a larger hazard, distracted driving, and officials say the problem had reversed four decades of improvement in highway fatalities.   According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in the first six months of 2016, highway deaths jumped to 17,775, an increase of more than 10 percent, as compared to the first six months of 2015.  The culprit – all of the information sources, screens,gadgets,  and gizmos vying for our attention.  The head of the agency calls it a crisis that needs to be addressed.

There is no question that workplace distracted driving needs to be addressed.   First, driving incidents are a major cause of injuries.  For industries like oil and gas, vehicle incidents are the leading cause of fatalities.   Distracted driving prevention needs to be a part of any effective safety program.

Companies also need to recognize that OSHA considers distracted driving to be a compliance issue.   In 2010,  the head of OSHA wrote an open letter to industry, saying “It is your responsibility and legal obligation to have a clear, unequivocal and enforced policy against texting while driving.”

The same can be said for any app or car information system, such as Bluetooth connections, that can take a driver’s attention away from the road.  In OSHA-speak, distracted driving may be ‘general duty’ clause violation (Section 5(a)(1) of the OSHA act).   As safety professionals well understand, the general duty clause is in the eye of the beholder.   If OSHA thinks the company should have recognized and addressed the hazard, it is likely to cite the company under the clause.

Not all the compliance issues involving cell phones are that vague.   The regulations for cranes and derricks (29 CFR § 1926.1417(d)) very explicitly ban cells phones for operators unless they are used for signalling.   Additionally, there are state laws that ban or restrict cell phone use by drivers.   As a part of their hazard analysis under regulations, companies also need to consider the potential for a fire from a cell phone battery in an explosive or flammable environment.

Finally, host companies need to be aware that they are responsible for the practices of companies and temporary workers they bring onto their sites, including anything that may lead to distracted driving.

Companies should enact a distracted driving program, both as a way to protect employees and as a necessary compliance effort.   Do you need help developing your program?  Would another set of eyes help make sure you are not missing anything?   Contact us at info@lifeline strategies.com.