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OSHA: Preventing Falls with OSHA 10 Training

builder worker painting facade of high-rise building wearing personal protective equipment to prevent a fallGravity is a serious yet often overlooked safety hazard. Failure to protect workers from falls was the most common OSHA violation in 2015 with 6,721 violations. The risk of worker falls has grown rapidly with the growth of the communications industry and the use of communications towers. By enrolling your workers in an OSHA 10 hour workplace safety course, you can create a safer environment and help prevent needless accidents. Read more

OSHA: Incident Reporting and Recordkeeping

Safety Agent Inspecting after Workplace AccidentAs part of OSHA’s push for higher workplace safety standards, employers must report and record all serious accidents resulting in worker injury or illness. This requirement helps companies improve their environmental health and safety training programs, protect workers, and ultimately create safer working conditions. Review the latest reporting rules (effective January 1, 2015) to keep your business OSHA compliant. Read more

Furniture Fiasco: A Case for LOTO Training

There’s no excuse for putting profits before worker safety. According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) work injury report survey, moving machine parts resulted in 88 percent of all equipment-related injuries among respondents. Investing in lock out tag out (LOTO) training helps save lives, prevent costly legal proceedings, and protect a company’s reputation. Read more

Construction Confined Space Entry Training Gets Final Ruling

Confined spaces rarely make for optimal working conditions. Hazards such as collapsing structures, toxic fumes, electricity, combustion, and suffocation can endanger the lives of unprepared workers. New OSHA regulations require that employers establish a confined space entry policy and ensure that workers receive adequate training in confined space safety standards for construction sites. Read more

Automated Training Improves Worker Safety and Performance

Industrial workers in front of computer in control roomIn fields such as construction, manufacturing, and medicine, proper safety training is a must. Employees need to know how to safely operate tools and machinery, respond to emergencies, recognize safety hazards and help prevent accidents. Many companies today rely on automated training tools to keep employees up to speed. When implemented correctly, automated training helps companies save time and money, streamline operations, and ensure that employees meet safety and performance standards.

Types of Automated Training

Automated training is now usually done online or may be set up on a company’s proprietary intranet. It can include availability of training videos, safety and training manuals, interactive software applications, and other documents that provide instruction on various workplace procedures. For example, new employees might be asked to watch a video tutorial on how to use a specific piece of company machinery. Other companies may require workers to complete a web-based training session and pass an online exam.

For important safety training, employees can complete their OSHA training online, making it much easier and more convenient for employers to meet OSHA safety standards and maintain a well-trained workforce.

Why Use Automated Training?

It’s natural and necessary for businesses to grow and change. As technology improves and markets shift, companies develop new processes and acquire new tools. That means continuously training and retraining employees to keep up with the changes occurring in the business and in the industry.

Automated training allows companies to foster new skills and growth without the time and labor cost of more traditional training methods. Managers can save the time and cost involved in arranging for onsite and sometimes one-on-one instruction of new employees. Automated training also ensures that the same information reaches every worker, helping create a culture of knowledge and safety. And it’s more efficient for making sure current employees complete updates and refreshers, or get trained on new equipment or a new process.

Properly implemented, automated training tracks each employee’s training record and forwards that information to their permanent HR file, as well as being available to their supervisor at any time.

Benefits of Automated Training

Proper training is crucial in preventing workplace accidents, complying with OSHA safety standards, and improving quality and efficiency. An automated training system achieves these benchmarks in many ways:

  •        It keeps information current and consistent across new and long-time employees, making sure everyone knows what to do and how to do it (or not do it).
  •        It organizes all employee data into one convenient database. Managers can track worker progress, schedule training sessions, and provide personalized feedback on their profiles. This structure also simplifies HR tasks.
  •        It allows managers to target specific training goals. With an automated training system, managers can tailor training by department, role, or other categories to ensure that workers learn information relevant and helpful to their specific job.
  •        Automated testing allows managers to verify that workers understand the material and can safely and accurately use it on the job.

Earn your OSHA Certificate Online

Managers and workers alike can benefit from automated training. From basic safety training to completing OSHA certification online, automated training helps solidify operating procedures and foster a more current and productive workplace.

Online OSHA safety training is easy with a number of OSHA Pros online courses available.  As an automated training tool available to anyone, enrolling in an online OSHA safety course can help you and your company save time and money. Having workers complete the appropriate OSHA training for their jobs helps assure a safer working environment, reducing the likelihood of accidents and safety violations. Automated, online safety training is the wave of the future and a competitive advantage for employers who take advantage of its benefits to maintain a well-trained workforce.

Preventing Lower Back Injury in the Workplace

Warehouse worker with low back pain holding a boxLower back injury is a leading cause of worker disability. Low back pain affects roughly a quarter of the global population each year, resulting in over 20 million healthy years lost, according to a study by researchers at the University of Sydney. Reducing the instance of lower back injury is a key challenge for employers worldwide. Often, employees ignore the warning signs until the pain becomes too great. Raising awareness of the causes and symptoms of back injury are crucial steps that employers can take. Occupational health and safety training is an important tool for companies to reduce the risk of lower back injury and help reduce the number of workers’ compensation and disability claims.

Causes of Lower Back Injury

Most job-related lower back injuries occur due to repeated microtears in the joints and ligaments of the spine and the muscles of the back. Poor posture when lifting or pulling heavy objects causes pain to accumulate and range of motion to decrease. Twisting, straining or bending while lifting or pulling can cause strain on muscles, ligaments, joints and spinal discs that result in injuries. The seriousness of injuries can vary from mild strain to serious damage that may require hospitalization and surgery, severely restrict the worker’s mobility, and result in temporary or permanent disability. Workers nearing retirement age are more prone to injury, and those working in agriculture have the highest risk among industry sectors.

Reducing the Risk of Low Back Injury

Lifting The BoxWorkplace safety training seminars and back safety training are great tools to educate employees about proper back care on the job. However, each workplace should also evaluate their risks and opportunities to create a low injury work environment. If there are currently no standards in place, a good first step is to observe and analyze employees as they work. Have employees fill out a survey regarding physical difficulties on the job and their experience with low back pain. Measure the weight lifting requirements, the frequency of motion, and distance travelled in each activity. Record video of lifting tasks and evaluate it for concerns. Is the floor too slippery? Are shelves, work stations, and conveyor belts positioned efficiently in relation to one another? Are handles grip-friendly? Once these variables are addressed, managers and employees can develop plans to not only reduce back strain and risk of injury, but also boost efficiency.

There are many ways employees and managers can reduce the risk of low back injury:

  • Use carts or other assistive devices to transport heavy objects.
  • Store heavy objects at waist level to minimize the strain of reaching and bending.
  • Position storage centers as closer to conveyor belts and other work stations.
  • Break up large shipments into smaller units.
  • Favor pushing movements over pulling movements, which can strain the lower back.
  • Avoid twisting motions, which increase the likelihood of injury.
  • Have employees alternate tasks to minimize the burden and allow time for rest.
  • Have two or more employees lift heavy objects.
  • Encourage employees to wear well-cushioned footwear.
  • Employees should avoid standing or sitting for prolonged periods of time.
  • Provide benches, footrests, rails, chairs, and other ways to employees to change position.

Workplace Safety Training for Low Back Injury Prevention

Warehouse supervisor instructing worker on use of fork pallet stacker equipmentIn addition to the tips above, workplace safety training can help protect employees from multiple job-related hazards. Consider hosting safety training seminars that teach the basics of ergonomic movements, avoiding injury, and reporting potential hazards. Many companies now provide employee strength and fitness training. Exercise and proper stretching can improve bone and muscle strength and reduce the risk of overextending the lower back muscles. Lastly, make sure that all employees know how to operate job-specific machinery and equipment.

Occupational health and safety training seminars, such as OSHA10 General Industry or OSHA30 Construction training courses include training on protecting against low back injury. All workers should complete an OSHA safety and health course as part of a comprehensive workplace health and safety policy that helps protect employees and employers from injuries and time lost on the job.

Ammonia Hazards in the Workplace

Companies that manufacture products requiring refrigeration commonly use ammonia. Ammonia is a generally safe and cost-effective way to regulate temperatures and prevent spoilage. However ammonia is a hazardous chemical, and, without proper safety procedures, ammonia leaks in the workplace can endanger workers and even the public. Development and compliance with Process Safety Management (PSM) standards, combined with adequate OSHA HAZWOPER training, can help companies protect employees from injuries caused by ammonia accidents and avoid severe fines and penalties for safety violations.

The Dangers of Ammonia

Technician using PPE while working with ammonia tankThe ammonia refrigeration process has seen little change since the early 20th century. It is used to create a cool environment that helps keep products fresh and prevent bacterial growth. Refrigerant grade anhydrous ammonia is a clear colorless gas or liquid and is considered an irritant. At high levels, its corrosive properties can severely damage lungs, eyes and other human tissue. Ammonia is not flammable, but canisters exposed to high heat may explode.

Anhydrous ammonia leakages can threaten the safety of workers and others inside and outside of the operating plant. These risks include:

  • • A risk of fire and combustion when concentrations exceed 16 to 25 percent
  • • Severe corrosion and displacement of oxygen in poorly ventilated areas
  • • Extreme leakages that flow outside and endanger the public
  • • Contamination of food and beverages in process and storage units

The Atlantic Glacier case

In September 2014, ice manufacturer and distributor Atlantic Glacier USA incurred 19 OSHA safety citations and paid over a quarter million dollars in fines related to ammonia usage after failing a comprehensive inspection of its ice manufacturing plant where it had nearly 15,000 pounds of ammonia in use. The company had extremely poor PSM in place, which resulted in the identification of numerous safety hazards that could have had catastrophic and potentially lethal results in the case of an accident and anhydrous ammonia release.

OSHA maintains strict guidelines for the safe use and maintenance of large amounts of hazardous chemicals like ammonia. The company failed to establish adequate precautions, thereby placing its workers in danger. Its violations included:

  • • Incomplete and inadequate operating procedures
  • • Lack of testing and inspections documentation
  • • Failure to prove that equipment met safety and engineering standards
  • • Failure to train and educate employees on process safety and emergency response procedures
  • • Inadequate work space around process equipment
  • • Lack of accessible exit routes
  • • Using improperly rated electrical switches in a wet setting

The Importance of Process Safety Management (PSM)

Companies having over 10,000 lbs of ammonia must have a comprehensive and fully documented PSM program. All workers must be trained and fully aware of the PSM standards and procedures and be able to carry out proper implementation of the safety protocols. Due to the size and complexity of many ammonia refrigeration systems, regular maintenance and equipment upgrades are a must. Most companies have a team of maintenance professionals well-versed in engineering design and handling of ammonia refrigeration systems. They also partner with contractors who aid in system repair and upgrades. A team of workers should be on site at all times to regularly inspect systems for deficiencies and resolve issues as necessary. Many companies using hazardous materials like ammonia also employ workers certified in various first-aid and emergency procedures.

OSHA HAZWOPER training and PSM

Companies can find extensive information about recommended safety standards and PSM procedures on OSHA’s website. By consolidating these guidelines with their own safety practices, companies can create a workplace environment that maximizes worker safety and minimizes the risk of dangerous ammonia leaks and worker exposure.

Proper implementation of PSM also means adequate safety training for employees who work with and around hazardous materials. Workers should be familiar with OSHA HAZWOPER safety standards. OSHA HAZWOPER training provides comprehensive training to help workers learn to safely handle equipment and hazardous materials in the workplace, as well as learn the correct use of personal protective equipment. A comprehensive safety program that includes PSM and HAZWOPER training of employees will help employers prevent accidents, injuries and fines.

Will New York’s Labor Law 240 Soon Pull a 180?

Skyscraper Under Construction, Upper West Side, Manhattan, NycContractors and construction workers all know New York’s Scaffold Law, officially known as Labor Law 240: irrespective of workplace safety training and equipment, any workers injured by elevation-related injuries in construction, repair, or demolition work cannot be held liable for their own injuries even if they were personally negligent, such as failing to use available safety equipment. Since payout on a workplace injury is thus virtually assured, a major problem of the 100+ year-old law is the extremely high cost of liability insurance premiums that building groups have to pay. This insurance liability cost was long ago replaced by workers’ compensation insurance systems in other states, with only New York retaining such an outdated policy. One consequence has been to make New York’s construction industry less competitive.

The law frustrates employers and dissuades investors, turning potential projects into bureaucratic nightmares in the process. “I refer to the NY labor law 240 all the time in my expert witness cases. It really strains companies and makes xxx lawyers I consult with a lot of money. I would think twice about running a construction company in New York because of their labor laws,” says William Mizel,CSP, President of CSR, L.P.

A recent study, shed new light on the impact of the Scaffold Law. Research showed that New York has, on average, 677 workplace accidents more per year attributable to this law. These 677 additional incidents cost the public $785 million dollars in lawsuits, legal fees and insurance costs, money which industry experts argue could be used instead to pay for 12,000 new jobs or be used to fund New York schools and other vital services. These findings have led the researchers to one conclusion on Labor Law 240: reform is needed for New York’s Scaffold Law.

Whether the law is reformed or not, employers would be wise to reemphasize occupational health and safety training for all workers, such as OSHA 10 construction safety training and OSHA 30 construction safety training courses, that cover scaffolding, ladder safety and other OSHA standards, including those related to working in a highrise work environment.

In work environments with a strong culture of employee safety training, employers and employees share the knowledge necessary to recognize, report and remediate workplace safety hazards before accidents occur so that worker health and safety are enhanced, and laws such as New York’s archaic Scaffold Law become unnecessary.

Company Learns Expensive Lesson from Welding Safety Violations

Poor Welding Safety Practices Lead to Disaster

Even with advances in welding technology, attention to safety remains a serious issue. That became especially evident to Black Elk Energy, a Houston-based offshore oil producer that racked up 356 citations in just three years for violating OSHA safety regulations and endangering the lives of workers. The company’s risky practices culminated in a rig explosion that claimed the lives of three contractors. A month earlier, another safety oversight had injured six more workers.

Welder working with electrode  semiautomatic arc welding

A regulator for the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) stated that in terms of safety in offshore operations, Black Elk repeatedly failed to make sound decisions. The company’s contractors failed to remove dangerous hydrocarbons from pipes before welding commenced, and Black Elk failed to conduct a safety audit prior to the accident. When the contractors proceeded to weld the pipe, which led to a wet oil tank, the hydrocarbons ignited, causing the pipes to combust.

This case reflects repeated instances of failure to take workplace safety seriously. In the Black Elk case, neither the company nor its contractors practiced proper safety procedures, and neither stopped work even when they could smell the distinct odor of gas. Had each company put in place and routinely used proper welding safety procedures, this tragedy would likely have been averted. The resulting fines and lawsuits in this case demonstrate the serious consequences of safety failures that can follow companies and their affected workers and workers’ families for years.

Safety training such as OSHA 30 training essential to building a safety culture

The impact to Black Elk may be irreparable to the company. The blast resulted in tens of millions of dollars in costs and the company has had to sell off assets and has lost much of its top management.  Other firms should take such negligence and its consequences as a lesson and take action today to make sure that there is adequate attention to safety throughout their organizations.

In the oil drilling industry, or any industry involving dangerous tasks like welding, company leadership has an obligation to its workers and to itself to provide adequate training, safety-based processes and procedures, management oversight of the safety environment, and an overall culture of safety throughout the organization. Safety protocols, procedures and regular safety reminders must be used throughout the organization to avoid situations such as Black Elk’s.

A key part of any safety program, all welders and other line workers, as well as supervisors and managers, should complete formal OSHA safety training. Taking an OSHA safety training course is a small commitment each worker can make to master basic OSHA safety standards that may save a life, possibly their own. Our online OSHA 30 hour Construction training  and OSHA 30 hour General Industry training course includes welding safety training. Demonstrate your commitment to safety by completing adequate OSHA training for your job and help prevent accidents like Black Elk’s from happening in your workplace.

To test your welding safety knowledge now,  take our welding safety quiz.

The Focus Four Causes of Death in the Workplace [Infographic]

Workplace safety can be a big topic to cover, but all workers should be aware of the Focus Four causes of deaths in the workplace and how to avoid them. These Fatal Four cause the majority of fatal accidents because workers and their employers are not trained to put safety first and to follow safety best practices in all situations. The four hazards – falls, caught in/between, struck by and electrocution – are all avoidable in the workplace when both supervisors and workers are expected to complete appropriate OSHA safety training courses, and maintain a work environment that emphasizes worker safety at all times.

For a useful guide to the Focus/Fatal Four and basic best practices to avoid falling victim to them, take a look at our infographic below, and share it/post it for co-workers to benefit as well.

OSHA Focus Four Workplace Hazards Infographic

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