New Resource Helps Enhance Posture Assessment Practices in the Workplace

Overexertion injuries cost businesses billions each year

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), in partnership with the Canadian Centre of Research Expertise for the Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders, has released a new report that can help occupational health and safety practitioners more accurately and efficiently assess postural stress of workers performing their duties at work.

The ability to conduct posture assessments in the workplace can assist with the prevention and control of musculoskeletal disorders.

The report, Observation-Based Posture Assessment: Review of Current Practice and Recommendations for Improvement, describes a research-based approach to classifying the severity of torso and arm posture. This approach has been demonstrated to improve the accuracy and efficiency of workplace posture analysis.

The authors address enhancements such as the benefits of digital video, computer software, training, and use of visual cues. Additionally, the report provides practitioners with useful tips for digitally recording and analyzing workers’ posture.

“Overexertion injuries to muscles, bones or joints cost U.S. businesses billions of dollars each year,” said Brian Lowe, Ph.D., research industrial engineer and NIOSH author. “This report can assist practitioners by providing research-based and practical recommendations to improve their practice of posture analysis of workers who are at risk of injury from lifting, pushing, pulling, carrying, or manual handling.”

Useful tips for recording and analyzing workers’ posture include:

  • Record the task from multiple views and encourage the worker to avoid loose-fitting clothing.
  • If possible, have one of those views be perpendicular to the plane of the joint movement.
  • Zoom in on limb segments so that the joint of interest is as large as possible in the camera field of view.

Connecticut Roofing Contractor Faces Nearly $300K in OSHA Fines

Company exposed workers to falls at two work sites

According to OSHA, a Hartford-area roofing firm deliberately and repeatedly failed to use legally required fall protection for its employees at two work sites in New Britain and exposed workers to potentially fatal falls. The company faces four willful and two serious violations of safety standards and $294,000 in fines.

“These employees were one slip, trip, or step away from deadly or disabling injuries. Their employer knew this, yet chose to do nothing about it,” says Warren Simpson, OSHA’s area director in Hartford. “Falls are the most dangerous hazard in construction work, responsible for the deaths of three Connecticut workers in 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Yet, falls are among the most preventable hazards, but only if employers supply and ensure the use of fall protection. Failing or refusing to do so is gambling with workers’ lives.”

Responding on March 6, 2014, to a complaint, an OSHA inspector found the roofing contractor’s employees exposed to 16-foot falls while ripping shingles from a roof at 551 Corbin Ave in New Britain. On April 19, an OSHA inspector returning from another inspection observed employees exposed to 10-foot falls while ripping shingles from the roof of a house at 39 East St. Additional fall hazards at both sites occurred because ladders did not extend at least 3 feet above landings to ensure proper stability.

For these conditions, OSHA cited the contractor for four willful violations of fall protection standards, with $280,000 in fines. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing, or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.

At the East Street site, workers were exposed to falls while improperly ascending ladders and faced possible electrocution from working without protection close to a working power line. OSHA cited the employer for two serious violations, with $14,000 in fines, for these hazards. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

“Gravity doesn’t give you a second chance. If you fall and there is no effective fall protection in place, the result could end your career or your life,” said Jeffrey Erskine, OSHA’s acting deputy regional administrator for New England. “This is our message to employers: It is imperative that you plan ahead to get the job done safely, provide your employees with the right equipment, and train them to use it properly. It is your responsibility.”

To raise awareness of fall hazards and safeguards among workers, employers, and the public, OSHA has created a Stop Falls web page with detailed information in English and Spanish on fall protection standards. The page offers fact sheets, posters and videos that vividly illustrate various fall hazards and appropriate preventive measures.

OSHA Announces Top 10 Violations for 2014

Fall protection most frequently cited category

On Sept. 16, OSHA announced the preliminary top 10 most frequently cited workplace safety violations for fiscal year 2014. Patrick Kapust, deputy director of OSHA’s Directorate of Enforcement Programs, presented the top 10 before a crowd at the National Safety Council Congress & Expo in San Diego.

“We greatly appreciate our colleagues at OSHA sharing their most recent data at the nation’s largest gathering of safety and health professionals,” said National Safety Council President and CEO Deborah A.P. Hersman. “This data is a poignant reminder that there is still much room for improvement in making our workplaces safer, and that it is going to take all of us to make a difference.”

The Top 10 for FY 2014 are:

    1. Fall Protection (1926.501) —6,143 violations
    2. Hazard Communication (1910.1200) —5,161
    3. Scaffolding (1926.451) —4,029
    4. Respiratory Protection (1910.134) —3,223
    5. Lockout/Tagout (1910.147) —2,704
    6. Powered Industrial Trucks (1910.178) —2,662
    7. Electrical–Wiring Methods (1910.305) —2,490
    8. Ladders (1926.1053) —2,448
    9. Machine Guarding (1910.212) —2,200
    10. Electrical–General Requirements (1910.303)–2,056

New Resource Provides Tips to Help Truckers Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Truck drivers experience nearly 17% of transportation-related fatalities

The long hours and demanding nature of driving a truck can make it a hazardous occupation; fatigue is one of the main occupational hazards commercial drivers face. A new publication available from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) provides truck drivers with tips for improving sleep quality to improve their health and help reduce the risk for drowsy driving and vehicle crashes.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2009 truck drivers experienced 16.8% of all transportation-related fatalities and 2.04% of the nonfatal injuries requiring days away from work, even though they only made up 1.0% of the U.S. workforce.

“Sleep plays a critical role in our personal well-being; [driving] for long periods without getting adequate sleep may place truck drivers at higher risk for vehicle crashes, as well as create other health concerns,” said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D. “This new resource provides easy to implement solutions that will help truck drivers stay safe and well while on the job and continue their good work.”

In a 2010 study, NIOSH researchers found that U.S. long-haul truck drivers were twice as likely to be obese compared to the adult working population, as well as more likely to suffer from other risk factors for chronic disease.

The new publication, Quick Sleep Tips for Truck Drivers, outlines the importance of sleep for truck drivers and what they can do to ensure they get a good night’s sleep while on the road and at home. The brochure provides tips and recommendations for:

  • Improving the sleep environment
  • Preparing for better sleep
  • What to avoid before bedtime

For more information and strategies for managing sleep, visit the NIOSH Work Schedules topic page.

Occupational Fatalities Down Significantly in Connecticut

Ten fewer incidents in 2013 than in 2012

Preliminary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released in September show that fatal work injuries in Connecticut dropped from 36 in 2012 to 26 in 2013.

Nationally, 4,405 fatal work injuries were recorded in 2013, fewer than the revised count of 4,628 recorded in 2012

Fatal transportation incidents were lower by 10% percent in 2013, but still accounted for about two out of every five fatal work injuries in 2013. Of the 1,740 transportation-related fatal injuries in 2013, nearly three out of every five (991 cases) were roadway incidents involving motorized land vehicles.

Overall, 753 workers were killed as a result of violence and other injuries by persons or animals, including 397 homicides and 270 suicides.

Fatal falls, slips, or trips took the lives of 699 workers in 2013. Falls to a lower level accounted for 574 (82 percent) of those fatalities. In 2013, the height of the fall was reported for 466 of the fatal falls to a lower level. Of those, about 1 in 4 occurred after a fall of 10 feet or less. Another one-fifth of the fatal falls occurred from falls of over 30 feet.

For complete BLS data on occupational fatalities, click here.

How Job Stress Prompts Employee Resignations

Estimated cost to business: $300 billion per year

An increasing number of employees continue to battle a workforce issue that threatens the productivity of businesses nationwide: stress. According to a recent Randstad  study, Stress and the American Worker, U.S. employees cited stress as a top reason to quit their jobs.

Randstad asked 2,257 American workers what would be the most likely reasons to leave their current position. When asked to select up to three out of 10 possible factors that might push an employee to leave their job—including excessive workload and difficult working relationships—a high stress level (at 24%) was the third most selected reason, behind pay (37%) and opportunity for advancement (27%).

“As our nation continues to recover from the Great Recession, workplace stress has become the norm for many American workers who struggle with increased workloads, constant connectivity, and poor work-life balance,” said Jim Link, chief HR officer, Randstad North America. “This has become an issue of concern for employers nationwide, as it not only affects employee morale, but also a company’s bottom line. The American Psychological Association estimated that job stress costs U.S. businesses more than $300 billion a year in absenteeism, turnover, diminished productivity, and healthcare costs.”

Who Is Most Likely to Quit Due to Stress?
The study found the negative effects of workplace stress vary by gender and, to a lesser extent, age. For example, 27% of women (compared to 22% of men) cite a high stress level as a top reason to leave their current job. Within generational groups, one quarter (25%) of Gen Y/Millennial employees say stress is a likely reason they would leave their current organization, similar to Generation X and Baby Boomers, both at 24%.

“It’s crucial for managers to understand there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to addressing the problem of stress in the workplace, and some employees are more susceptible to stress than others,” Link said. “The good news about workplace stress is that it can be managed, especially when employers provide support—and that starts with being well-connected to your workers. Companies can impact employee stress by communicating regularly with workers to identify their concerns and establishing wellness programs that make healthy stress management a top priority across the organization.”

Five Tips to Alleviate Workplace Stress

  • Communicate often: By effectively communicating with workers, managers can better gauge the stress level of their employees and work to diminish pressure before it affects morale and productivity.
  • Encourage camaraderie: Employees who actively connect with one another often create a better office environment. It’s important to set aside time for staff to socialize and get to know one another.
  • Promote wellness: Give employees access to wellness programs that help relieve stress. Whether it’s a company workout facility or reimbursements for yoga classes, wellness programs are proven strategies to help relieve workplace stress.
  • Set an example: Healthy stress management starts at the top. If employees consistently see their boss as being stressed, the negative energy can trickle down and impact the entire team.
  • Empower your employees: One of the most stress-inducing triggers is feeling out of control, so allow your staff to take ownership of their work and give them as much control as possible when it comes to making decisions on how work gets done.

Comment Period Extended on Injury/Illness Tracking Rule

Input due Oct. 14

OSHA has announced it will extend the comment period on the proposed rule to improve tracking of workplace injuries and illnesses to Oct. 14, 2014.

The proposal, published on Nov. 8, 2013, would amend the agency’s recordkeeping regulation to add requirements for the electronic submission of injury and illness information that employers are already required to keep.

OSHA is soliciting comments on whether to amend the proposed rule to: 1) require that employers inform their employees of their right to report injuries and illnesses; 2) more clearly communicate that any injury and illness reporting requirements established by the employer must be reasonable and not unduly burdensome; and 3) provide OSHA additional means to prohibit employers from retaliating against employees for reporting injuries and illnesses.

Recent OSHA Enforcement Activity

Rhode Island, Massachusetts companies cited for serious violations

A Rhode Island firm was cited by OSHA for exposing its workers to lead and potentially dangerous falls while scraping and abrasively removing lead-based paint from an outbuilding

OSHA opened inspections on May 8 when two OSHA inspectors observed employees climbing an extension ladder that was set up at an incorrect and unsafe angle.

An OSHA official stated that “The hazards were both immediate and long-term. A fall from an improperly used ladder could have disabled or killed workers within seconds. Exposure to lead-based paint without proper safeguards could, over time, contribute to chronic health conditions. The society’s care and maintenance of historic structures should not come at a cost to the health and well-being of its workers. It must take effective action to ensure that these hazards don’t occur again.”

OSHA found that the company did not determine the level of lead exposure for each employee and did not provide interim safeguards, including appropriate respiratory protection; personal protective clothing and equipment; areas to change out of lead-contaminated clothing; hand-washing facilities; biological monitoring; and hazard communication training. In addition, a vacuum cleaner lacked a high-efficiency particulate air filter used to collect lead-contaminated debris. Finally, the employer did not train workers in the proper procedures of working with ladders.

As a result, the firm was cited for 10 serious violations and proposed $51,840 in fines. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

Employees at a Massachusetts company were exposed to possible electrocution from working close to energized power lines at a work site where required safeguards were not used. The OSHA inspection found that employees used a trench rod and a fiberglass pole with a metal end to lift overhead power lines, so that workers could move excavating equipment under the lines and onto the work site. The company faces $70,290 in proposed fines

The OSHA area director pointed out that “This employer knew the overhead power lines were dangerous, but did not take steps to protect workers or shield them from contact and electrocution. Electricity is swift and deadly. While it is fortunate no one was injured or killed in this case, the hazard of death or disabling burns was real and present.”

OSHA had previously cited the company in 2011 for a similar hazard. Based on the employer’s knowledge of the hazard, OSHA has cited the firm for a willful violation with $69,300 in proposed fines. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.

Another violation, with a $990 fine, was cited for improper labeling of a trench box.

New Data Sheds Light on Distracted Driving

Be sure your drivers, other employees are aware of these hazards

Recent data from Lytx, Inc., a manufacturer of video-based driver safety technology used by commercial fleets, has found that eating or drinking while driving is nearly as dangerous as any cell phone distraction–handheld or hands-free–and greatly increases a driver’s risk of being in or causing a collision.

“I see people eating while driving almost every day. What we’ve learned is that this type of distraction is nearly as dangerous as talking or texting on your phone,” said Del Lisk, vice president of Safety Services for Lytx. “We know that distracted driving is a significant factor in vehicle collisions, and our predictive analytics show that distractions such as eating and drinking or smartphones and tablets are among the leading causes of collisions. Everyone should think about that the next time they are unwrapping a burrito on the freeway. Getting into a collision and potentially causing serious injury simply isn’t worth it.”

Lytx’s data found that:

  • Drivers with food or drink distractions are 3.6 times more likely to be involved in a collision than drivers who do not eat and drink while driving.
  • Drivers using a hands-free device are 4.6 times more likely to be involved in a collision than drivers who did not use their hands-free device.
  • Drivers with smartphone or tablet distraction are 4.7 times more likely to be involved in a collision than drivers who did not use their cellular handheld device.

Distracted Driving Near-Collisions Double on Sunny Days

Lyxt also released data revealing that more drivers are apt to engage in distracted driving when weather conditions are clear than during inclement weather. In fact, your chances of having a near-collision while driving nearly doubles in good weather conditions.

“We have concluded that drivers are not as alert and may engage in distracted driving more often when the weather is clear,” says Lisk. “We have released this data to remind drivers the perils of distracted driving and importance to drive alert regardless of the weather conditions.”

Lytx analytics experts studied more than 2.5 billion miles driven from September 2011 to April 2013. The data found the ratio of near-collision incidents is 8.6 to 1 in clear weather compared to 4.6 to 1 in inclement weather.


OSHA Updates Policy on Temporary Workers

Host employer, staffing agency are ‘joint employers’

On April 13, 2013, OSHA launched its Temporary Worker Initiative (TWI) in an effort to ensure the safety of temporary workers. In July, it updated this policy stepping up its enforcement efforts in this area.

The July memorandum clarifies the responsibilities of hosts employers and agencies providing laborers, pointing out that the staffing agency and host employer are ‘joint employers’ of the worker. This joint responsibility makes each responsible for compliance with safety requirements.

Read the memorandum here.