New National Safety Stand-Down Video Unveiled

Event this week and next

The 2015 National Safety Stand-Down is here! From May 4 to 15 companies across the country will stop their work, provide focused talks on fall prevention, and recommit themselves to on-the-job safety.

A new promotional video is now available to encourage employers in various industries to participate. The video reminds viewers that falls are the leading cause of death in construction, having killed more than 3,500 workers over the last decade, but every fall can be prevented with the right equipment and training. Last year more than 1 million employers and workers across the country joined the effort, and this year OSHA and its partners hope to reach over 3 million people at over 20,000 stand-down events.

Learn how you can be a part of this international effort by visiting our 2015 Stand-Down page. Download or order free fall prevention training materials in both English and Spanish, including the new 2015 Stand-Down poster, find a list of local events, and receive a certificate of participation signed by Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez.


EEOC Issues Proposed Rule on ADA and Wellness Programs

Rule would permit incentives, emphasize confidentiality

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) describing how Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to employer wellness programs that are part of group health plans. The NPRM is available here and was officially published on Monday, April 20, 2015. Members of the public have 60 days from that date (or until Friday, June 19) to submit comments.

The EEOC’s proposed rule would provide much needed guidance to both employers and employees about how wellness programs offered as part of an employer’s group health plan can comply with the ADA consistent with provisions governing wellness programs in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), as amended by the Affordable Care Act. In addition, the EEOC is also publishing a Fact Sheet for Small Businesses and a Question and Answer document for the general public.

Many employers that provide health insurance also offer workplace wellness programs intended to encourage healthier lifestyles or prevent disease. These programs sometimes use health risk assessments and biometric screenings to determine an employee’s health risk factors, such as body weight and cholesterol, blood glucose, and blood pressure levels. Some of these programs offer financial and other incentives for employees who participate or achieve certain health outcomes.

Although the ADA limits the circumstances in which employers may ask employees about their health or require them to undergo medical examinations, it allows such inquiries and exams if they are voluntary and part of an employee health program.

The NPRM further requires that if an employee health program seeks information about employee health or medical examinations, the program must be reasonably likely to promote health or prevent disease. Employees cannot be required to participate in a wellness program, and they cannot be denied health coverage or disciplined if they refuse to participate

The EEOC’s proposed rule makes clear that wellness programs are permitted under the ADA, but that they may not be used to discriminate based on disability. The rule explains that under the ADA, companies may offer incentives of up to 30% of the total cost of employee-only coverage in connection with wellness programs. These programs can include medical examinations or questions about employees’ health (such as questions on a health risk assessment).

This limit is generally consistent with limits that HIPAA imposes on wellness programs. The rule also makes clear, however, that the ADA provides important safeguards to employees to protect against discrimination based on disability. Accordingly, medical information collected as a part of a wellness program may be disclosed to employers only in aggregate form that does not reveal the employee’s identity and must be kept confidential in accordance with ADA requirements.

“The EEOC worked closely with the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Treasury in developing this NPRM to harmonize the ADA’s requirement that medical inquiries and exams that are part of an employee health program must be voluntary, and HIPAA’s goal of allowing incentives to encourage participation in wellness programs,” said EEOC Chair Jenny R. Yang.

Employers also may not subject employees to interference with their ADA rights, threats, intimidation, or coercion for refusing to participate in a wellness program or for failing to achieve certain health outcomes. Finally, individuals with disabilities must be provided with reasonable accommodations that allow them to participate in wellness programs and to earn whatever incentive an employer offers.

In addition to setting a limit on incentives, the NPRM, which includes interpretive guidance that will be published along with the final rule, requires that employers provide employees a notice that describes what medical information will be collected, with whom it will be shared, how it will be used, and how it will be kept confidential. The interpretive guidance also includes an extensive discussion of both legal requirements and best practices that ensure confidentiality of employee medical information.

The Commission looks forward to receiving comments on the NPRM that will shape the final regulation.   In addition, the Commission has asked a number of specific questions in the preamble to the NPRM on which it seeks comment before finalizing the rule. Methods for commenting are specified in the notice in the Federal Register.

The Challenges in Achieving Perfect Workplace Safety

Questions you should be asking

Zero-injury safety targets are easy to communicate and seem to be everywhere, but such goals can be counterproductive to a company’s efforts if the context in which they are used does not go beyond slogans and good intentions, according to the lead article in the April issue of the American Society of Safety Engineers’ Professional Safety Journal.

“Achieving zero-injury targets requires the will to support perfection and the ability to recognize and change every factor that could lead to injury,” writes author Michael Burnham. “Organizational conflicts and inefficiencies and the realities of human cognition limit the capacity to identify latent hazards, so each must be overcome if perfection is to be realized.”

In fact, Burnham recommends companies answer eight important questions before embarking on zero-injury safety programs with the first one being: How will zero as a target motivate employees? If the odds of reaching a goal are less than 50%, the article states management is trying to fool employees into performing and it will not work.

“When goals challenge employees, require skill learning, provide feedback, and create in the performer a sense of personal control, optimum motivation can be reached,” Burnham writes. “If a goal does not motivate employees to continue current levels of performance or to improve performance, its very purpose is defeated.”

Read more about what questions company executives should be asking.

Fatal Workplace Injuries Decline over Two Decades

Fatal injury rate higher among older workers

In 2013, 4,585 workers in the United States died from an injury suffered at work. This is the second-lowest figure since BLS began publishing national data in 1992. Although fatal workplace injuries have fallen 23% since 2000, a worker died every two hours in the United States from a workplace injury in 2013.

The rate of fatal workplace injuries has fallen since 2006, the first year that BLS published hours-based rates. The overall national rate of 3.3 fatal workplace injuries per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers in 2013 was the lowest published hours-based rate since 2006.

Fatal injuries affect workers of all ages. In 2013, five workers under age 16, and three workers age 90 or older died from workplace injuries.

Older workers have higher rates of fatal injury than younger workers; workers age 65 and older had a rate that was more than double the rate for all workers in 2013.

These data are from the BLS Injuries, Illnesses, and Fatalities program. BLS published the final counts of fatal work injuries in the United States in 2013 on April 22, 2015.

When Health Risks Go Down, Productivity Goes Up

Health improvements must be maintained over time

Changes in employee health risk factors have a significant impact on work productivity, reports a study in the April Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, official publication of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM).

The productivity benefits of improved health are “cumulative over time,” highlighting the need for companies to make “continuous investments in the culture of health,” according to the study by Laura Haglund-Howieson, MBA, of StayWell in St Paul, Minn., and colleagues.

The researchers analyzed health assessment surveys from nearly 97,000 workers between 2009 and 2011. The employees’ “Health Risk Scores” were analyzed as predictors of work absenteeism as well as “presenteeism”—health-related issues limiting work ability.

At the initial survey, there was a “fairly strong correlation” between health risks and productivity. In addition, reductions in health risks between surveys were related to improved productivity in future years—an effect that was cumulative over time.

“The key implication is that health improvements must be maintained over time so the productivity impacts can accumulate,” Haglund-Howieson and coauthors write. They note that average health risks decreased “slightly but significantly” over the three years of the study—probably because of the health promotion programs that were available to employees.

The effects of changes in health risks were relatively small, suggesting that other factors not considered in the study also affect productivity. The researchers suggest that additional types of policies—such as flexible work times and worker recognition programs—may be necessary to improve productivity for all workers.

Scaffold Breaks, Seriously Injuring Workers

Area company faces nearly $300,000 in OSHA fines

Three roofing workers employed by Provencher Home Improvement of Beverly, Massachusetts, were hospitalized after a two-story fall from a scaffold platform that broke beneath them according to OSHA inspectors. The incident occurred, inspectors said, because a spruce plank used as the platform could not support the workers’ weight, was not graded for scaffold use, and the plank’s invoice was clearly marked “not for scaffold use.”

OSHA found numerous violations in its inspection and has cited the company’s owner Daryl J. Provencher with fines totaling $294,500. The incident underscores the severity of fall hazards in the construction industry. Each year, hundreds die as a result of falls, many of which are preventable when proper safety rules are observed.

“Had this employer obeyed the law and followed OSHA standards, this incident and the resulting serious injuries to three workers would not have occurred. It was completely preventable,” said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. “Instead of purchasing and using scaffold grade planking that could support the load, this employer needlessly gambled with the safety and well-being of its employees.”

The three workers who fell were taken to local hospitals for treatment. Two were admitted as inpatients and the third received outpatient treatment. Their injuries included spinal, eye, facial, chest and rib fractures, broken bones, broken ribs, and a punctured lung.

OSHA identified additional hazards at the jobsite, including scaffold platforms that exceeded the maximum allowable height of 20 feet, ladders that did not extend at least three feet above landings for stability, and not ensuring that the employees were using fall protection. Other hazards encompassed the use of defective or damaged scaffold components, missing or inadequate scaffold anchorage, and failure to train employees in scaffold erection and safety. These conditions resulted in the company being cited for three willful, one repeat, and five serious violations.

The willful and repeat violations stem from the company’s knowledge of the hazards and prior history of OSHA violations. It had been inspected repeatedly since 2005 resulting in a total of 47 violations and $123,720 in fines for the two entities. Three of the inspections involved scaffold violations, five involved ladder hazards, and three involved fall protection violations. The previous inspections took place at worksites in Danvers, Hamilton, Peabody, Revere Beach, and Salem.

Read the citations here.

If you would like more information about OSHA enforcement activity, plan to attend CBIA’s 2015 Safety & Health Conference, May 21 in Cromwell, where OSHA administrators will be on hand to answer your questions.

Connecticut Builder Cited by OSHA

Faces $52,000 in fines

Rock Hard Homes, Inc., a residential home builder in Southbury, was cited by OSHA for four repeat and one serious violation of workplace fall safety standards.

Violations include: failure to equip employees with an adequate fall protection system while they worked on a pitched roof approximately 28 feet above the ground; allowing employees to walk and work on surfaces without fall protection and exposing them to falls through holes, including skylights; improperly using portable ladders to access upper landings in which the ladders did not extend beyond the landings by the required three feet; and use of defective equipment.

The repeat citations stem from this employer’s history of similar fall protection violations cited by OSHA in August 2011 in Brookfield and May and June 2013 in Norwalk.

“While an accident did not prompt this inspection, the penalties proposed in this case demonstrate the severe nature of the cited hazards and the employer’s lack of concern for its workers,” said Robert Kowalski, OSHA area director in Bridgeport. “Fall hazards can and should be prevented through the use of proper equipment, training and safeguards for workers.”

Falls are the leading cause of death among construction workers, with 294 fatalities in the nation and 5 in Connecticut in the most recent figures from 2013. To help combat this deadly trend, OSHA is hosting a National Safety Stand-Down from May 4 to 15 in which employers will talk to their employees about safety practices and procedures on the job sites.


OSHA Releases New ‘It’s the Law’ Poster

Available for free in print or online

OSHA has released a new version of its “Job Safety and Health—It’s The Law!” poster. The poster informs workers of their rights and employers of their responsibilities.

The newly designed poster informs workers of their right to request an OSHA inspection of their workplaces, receive information and training on job hazards, report a work-related injury or illness, and raise safety and health concerns with their employer or OSHA without fear of retaliation.

The poster informs employers of their legal obligation to provide a safe workplace. In addition, it has been updated to include the new reporting requirements for employers, who must now report every fatality and every hospitalization, amputation, and loss of an eye. It also informs employers of their responsibilities to train all workers in a language and vocabulary they can understand, comply with OSHA standards, and post citations at or near the place of an alleged violation.

Over the agency’s 44-year history, there have been several versions of the official OSHA poster, with the last update published in 2007.

OSHA’s “It’s the Law” poster is free and can be downloaded here. Employers must display the poster in a conspicuous place where workers can see it. Previous versions of the poster do not need to be replaced.

Employers can order a print copy here.

Database of State OSHA Regs, Laws Now Available

Twenty-five states, including Connecticut, have state OSHA plans

Public Citizen and the Public Health Law Research (PHLR) program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation have released the first comprehensive database of all state occupational safety and health regulations and laws intended to protect workers from specific workplace hazards, in the 25 states with federally authorized enforcement agencies.

The database is designed for workers, unions, employers, occupational safety and health researchers and advocates, and state and federal regulatory officials as a tool to compare and contrast regulations and laws across different states and with existing OSHA rules.

The database reveals that most of the 25 states have amended or supplemented one or more federal regulations, and several states have issued regulations or laws protecting workers from hazards–such as heat stress, workplace violence, combustible dust, and musculoskeletal injuries–that have not yet been addressed in a federal OSHA regulation.

The 1970 federal Occupational Safety and Health Act established OSHA and permitted states to substitute their own rulemaking and enforcement agencies for federal OSHA, as long as the state programs, also known as state OSHA plans, are “at least as effective” as the federal agency. This was intended as a way to allow states to address local needs and unique industries.

As of now, 25 states and two U.S. territories have federally approved state OSHA plans. The database includes all state OSHA-enforced standards that have not been adopted identically from federal OSHA, and that protect workers from specific workplace safety and health hazards.

Some key findings:

  • The number of state standards issued by each of the 25 state OSHA plans varies widely. Just four states (California, Michigan, Oregon, and Washington) are responsible for the vast majority of all state occupational safety and health standards.
  • Seven states (Alaska, Connecticut, Hawaii, Minnesota, New York, Tennessee, and Vermont) have retained more protective chemical exposure limits developed by federal OSHA in 1989 but rescinded by court order in 1993. Four states (California, Michigan, Oregon, and Washington) have developed at least one chemical exposure limit that has never been adopted by federal OSHA.
  • Three states (California, Minnesota, and Washington) have developed standards protecting workers from heat stress.
  • Three states (New Mexico, New York, and Washington) have standards to prevent death and injury from workplace violence.
  • Two states (California and Utah) have developed standards to prevent explosions from combustible dust.
  • Two state plans (California and Minnesota) enforce standards or laws addressing safe patient handling requirements to minimize musculoskeletal injuries in healthcare workers, while California also has a rule addressing ergonomics injuries more generally.
  • Two states (Michigan and Oregon) have especially informative websites, which compare their state standards with federal OSHA regulations, making it clear where they differ from the federal rules.

“This database shows that some state OSHA plans have been proactive and issued numerous regulations and laws that are a model for what is possible in other states and at federal OSHA,” said Dr. Sammy Almashat, researcher with Public Citizen’s Health Research Group.

“As the first publicly available clearinghouse for state occupational safety and health standards, we hope the database will be a useful resource for workers, employers, researchers and regulatory officials alike, allowing them to more easily identify states with certain standards and compare them with existing federal OSHA rules,” added Keith Wrightson, worker safety advocate with Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division, who compiled the database with Almashat.

Visit the database.

Truck Driver Health and Safety

Trucker employment expected to grow by 11%

By John Howard, M.D.
Director, NIOSH

From armchairs to zucchini, almost everything we buy is transported by truck. Long-haul truck drivers are drivers of heavy tractor trailers whose freight delivery routes require them to sleep away from home most nights. They live on the road with limited access to healthy foods, drive long hours, have low physical activity levels, and feel stress from demanding schedules. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, employment of heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers is projected to grow 11% from 2012 to 2022. As more men and women become truck drivers, it is important that we make their health and safety a priority.

Last year, NIOSH published the findings from the National Survey of U.S. Long-Haul Truck Driver Health and Injury. The study is the first to provide a comprehensive look at the health status, health and safety risk factors, and work practices of long-haul truck drivers in the United States. During 2010, NIOSH researchers collected data from 1,670 long-haul truck drivers at 32 truck stops across the 48 contiguous United States.

Data from the survey are a key component of NIOSH’s first-ever Vital Signs, CDC’s monthly release of data and calls to action on important public health issues. The theme of this month’s Vital Signs, launched on March 3, is Trucker Safety: Using a Seat Belt MattersVital Signs includes an article in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) based on data on truck drivers’ seat belt use from the NIOSH survey. It also provides a graphic fact sheet and website, a media release, and social media tools. Most of the Vital Signs materials are available in English and Spanish.

Crashes Leading Cause of Trucker Fatalities

It will come as no surprise to our readers that motor vehicles crashes are the leading cause of fatal work-related injuries for truck drivers in the United States. But, the NIOSH survey provides important new insights into the relationship between long-haul drivers’ work environment and a higher likelihood of health problems. Key health findings of the survey were:

  • Seven in ten long-haul truck drivers were obese (BMI of 30 or higher)—twice the number of U.S. adult workers that were obese.
  • More than half of long-haul truck drivers were current cigarette smokers—over twice the number of current cigarette smokers among all U.S. adult workers.
  • Long-haul truck drivers were twice as likely as other workers to report they were told they had diabetes.
  • More than half of long-haul truck drivers reported having two or more of the following risk factors: high blood pressure, obesity, smoking, little physical activity, high cholesterol, six or fewer hours of sleep.
  • About six in ten long-haul truck drivers slept less than six days at home within the past month, while 18% spent zero days.

Poor health can affect truck drivers during their working lives and into retirement. Health issues can also force truck drivers to leave the industry. If a health problem affects a driver’s ability to control and drive a commercial motor vehicle safely, he or she may not qualify for a commercial driver’s license. This infographic, created by NIOSH, illustrates the impact of obesity on a truck driver’s livelihood.

This initial survey on long-haul truck drivers provides baseline health and injury data that can be used to inform the development of interventions such as occupational health screenings, well-being programs, and expanded workplace health and safety policies. Findings from the study have been used to demonstrate the need to address the health and well-being of truck drivers on and off the job. The data can be used as benchmarks to assess the impact of prevention efforts on truck driver health and safety and help improve the overall health and work environment for long-haul truck drivers.

I invite you to learn about our work and to consider ways in which you can collaborate in moving this research to practice. Please contact Karl Sieber at if you are interested in partnering in this endeavor.