Supermarket Chain Acts to Prevent Musculoskeletal Injuries

OSHA urges others to follow suit

Before consumers get to choose products in the supermarket, workers in warehouses nationwide pack bulk quantities of merchandise onto wooden pallets and load them onto delivery trucks. The nature of this work puts the people who do it at risk for serious sprains, strains, and other musculoskeletal injuries. One supermarket chain, Maine-based Hannaford Supermarkets, has chosen to address the issue.

After inspections in 2013 and 2014, OSHA cited Hannaford for failing to keep its Schodack Landing, New York, and South Portland, Maine, distribution centers free from recognized hazards likely to cause musculoskeletal disorders, or MSDs. Hannaford initially contested its citations, but has now reached a settlement with the department in which the company agrees to institute ongoing and effective worker protection safeguards at both distribution centers.

“Many jobs in grocery and other warehouses require significant amounts of manual material handling. If employers do not take steps to address musculoskeletal hazards, workers will be hurt,” says Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “Hannaford is investing in preventing worker injuries. We urge other employers to follow its example. This action is good for workers and for a company’s bottom line.”

Under the settlement, Hannaford will do the following:

  • Engage a qualified ergonomist to assess both warehouses and prepare a report with recommendations addressing each of the hazards identified by OSHA
  • Have an employee-manager ergonomics committee at each facility participate in the process and make recommendations to the ergonomist and the company
  • Ensure that employees of contractors who perform similar work in the warehouses have access to the same protective measures as Hannaford employees
  • Request those contractors to implement the ergonomic work practices recommended by the ergonomist
  • Pay $9,750 in fines

The settlement can be viewed here.

To assist employers and workers in identifying and preventing MSDs and other injuries in grocery warehouses, OSHA has a free grocery warehousing eTool available on its website. In addition, OSHA has published an additional resource titled “Ergonomic Solutions for Retailers.

The original inspections were conducted by OSHA’s Albany, New York, and Augusta, Maine, offices. Attorneys Daniel Hennefeld and Ralph Minichiello of the department’s regional solicitors’ offices in New York City and Boston negotiated the settlement.

Beryllium: Permissible Exposure Level (PEL) Updated

First adjustment since 1948

The permissible exposure limit for beryllium a mineral used in 4,800 companies has been adjusted 2.0 micrograms per cubic meter (ug/m3) of air . The previous PEL  had not been updated since 1948. The new standard requires additional personal protective equipment, medical exams, medical surveillance, and training. OSHA estimates these new guidelines will save 100 lives annually.

Companies exposing their workers to  dangerous beryllium levels risk having their workers develop  lung cancer and Chronic Beryllium Disease (CBD) an incurable, debilitating and life-threatening disease caused by inhalation of airborne beryllium by individuals sensitized to beryllium.

Industries most often using beryllium include: aerospace, automotive, ceramic manufacturing, defense, dental labs, electronics, energy, medicine, nuclear energy, sporting goods, and telecommunication.

For an overview of OSHA’s recommendations  and the actions companies are now required to take please see their overview bulletin on this subject.

New Guidance for Enforcing the Revised Hazard Communication Standard

Standard to be fully implemented June 1, 2016

OSHA has issued instructions to compliance safety and health officers on how to ensure consistent enforcement of the revised Hazard Communication standard. This instruction outlines the revisions to the standard, such as the revised hazard classification of chemicals, standardizing label elements for containers of hazardous chemicals, and specifying the format and required content for safety data sheets. It explains how the revised standard is to be enforced during its transition period and after the standard is fully implemented on June 1, 2016.

OSHA revised the standard in March 2012 to align with the United Nations Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals. The revised standard improves the quality, consistency, and clarity of chemical hazard information that workers receive.

Under the standard, employers were required to train workers on the new label elements and safety data sheets by Dec. 1, 2013. Chemical manufacturers, importers, and distributors had to comply with revised safety data sheet requirements by June 1, 2015. Manufacturers and importers had to comply with new labeling provisions by June 1, 2015. Distributors have until Dec. 1, 2015, to comply with labeling provisions as long as they are not relabeling materials or creating safety data sheets, in which case they must comply with the June 1 deadline.

For additional information on the revised Hazard Communication Standard, click here.

New Process for Resolving Whistleblower Complaints

Aims for alternative means of early resolution

OSHA has issued policies and procedures* for applying a new process for resolving whistleblower disputes. The new process is an early resolution process that is to be used as part of a regional Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) program. The ADR program offers whistleblower parties the opportunity to negotiate a settlement with the assistance of a neutral, confidential OSHA representative who has subject-matter expertise in whistleblower investigations. The Administrative Dispute Resolution Act* requires that each federal agency “adopt a policy that addresses the use of alternative means of dispute resolution and case management.”

“OSHA receives several thousand whistleblower complaints for investigation each year,” says Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “The Alternative Dispute Resolution process can be a valuable alternative to the expensive and time consuming process of an investigation and litigation. It will provide whistleblower complainants and respondents the option of exploring voluntary resolution of their disputes outside of the traditional investigative process.”

OSHA piloted an ADR program in two of its regions from Oct. 2012 to Sept. 2013. The pilot proved that the early resolution ADR process is a successful method for helping parties to reach a mutual and voluntary outcome to their whistleblower cases. The pilot program demonstrated that having staff dedicated to facilitating settlement negotiations provides an efficient and effective service that is highly desired by complainants and respondents alike.

The success of the early resolution ADR process has resulted in the agency making it available to all of its regions. This directive does not prohibit OSHA whistleblower offices from offering complainants and respondents other alternative dispute resolution processes, such as third-party mediation.

OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of 22 statutes protecting employees who report violations of various securities laws, trucking, airline, nuclear power, pipeline, environmental, rail, maritime, health care, workplace safety and health regulations, and consumer product safety laws.

For more information, click here.

New OSHA Webpage Shows High Penalty Enforcement Cases by State

Includes links to inspection details

OSHA has launched a new webpage highlighting enforcement cases, organized by state, that have initial penalties above $40,000. Cases are based on citations issued to employers beginning Jan. 1, 2015.

The page features an interactive U.S. map where visitors can click on a state and view a list of cases. It also offers an alternate view of all the cases by state in a table format. Lists provide links to inspection details for each case and are updated weekly.

For more information on enforcement data available on OSHA’s website, visit the Data and Statistics webpage.

OSHA to Target Industries with High Amputation Rates

Updated National Emphasis Program

On Aug. 17, OSHA issued an updated National Emphasis Program on Amputations. The NEP has been in existence since 2006 and is targeted to industries with high numbers and rates of amputations. In this updated NEP, OSHA is using current enforcement data and Bureau of Labor Statistics injury data to assist with site selection targeting, the same methodology used in the prior NEP.

Related: Company Fails to Report Injury after Second Worker’s Finger Amputated

According to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics data, manufacturing employers report that 2,000 workers suffered amputations in 2013. The rate of amputations in the manufacturing sector was more than twice as much (1.7 per 10,000 full-time employees) as that of all private industry (0.7). These serious injuries are preventable by following basic safety precautions.

The NEP includes a list of industries with high numbers and rates of amputations as reported to BLS.

“Workers injured from unguarded machinery and equipment can suffer permanent disability or lose their lives,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “This directive will help ensure that employers identify and eliminate serious workplace hazards and provide safe workplaces for all workers.”

OSHA’s inspections over the past 40 years indicate that employee exposures to unguarded or inadequately guarded machinery and equipment, along with related hazardous energy exposures during servicing and maintenance activities, occur in many workplaces.

This directive updates the 2006 NEP on Amputations and applies to general industry workplaces in which any machinery or equipment likely to cause amputations are present. Inspections will include an evaluation of employee exposures during operations such as: clearing jams; cleaning, oiling or greasing machines or machine pans; and locking out machinery to prevent accidental startup.

On Jan. 1, 2015, OSHA issued new requirements for reporting work-related fatalities and severe injuries. Employers must now report fatalities within eight hours of learning of the incident and any in-patient hospitalization, amputation or loss of an eye within 24 hours of learning of the incident. Employers can report an event by telephone to the nearest OSHA area office or to OSHA’s 24-hour hotline at 800-321-6742. Employers will soon be able to report events electronically through OSHA’s website.


Keeping Workers Safe Through Anthropometric Research

Results in machines, vehicles, and PPE that are a better fit for workers

By John Howard, M.D.
Director, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

Safety at work can depend on an effective or comfortable fit between the physical workplace or the tools of work, and the worker. A seatbelt becomes impractical if it can’t be latched securely or comfortably. The safety that firefighters’ gloves provide is compromised if the gloves are too big, hampering dexterity and movement in a hectic and physically risky situation. Whatever the example of fitting today’s workplace to the worker, one thing is certain—anthropometric research can help. Anthropometry is the science of defining human body dimensions and physical characteristics. NIOSH conducts anthropometric research to prevent work-related injuries and deaths by studying how work spaces and equipment fit today’s diverse worker population. This includes the fit of machines, vehicles, and personal protective equipment (PPE).

Although some anthropometric data have been published in recent years based on the body sizes and shapes of modern military personnel, most data available today were collected in the 1950s and 1970s from military personnel and the general population from that era. These decades-old data do not represent, on average and collectively, the sizes and body types of today’s workers, who are much more diverse in age, gender, and ethnicity. NIOSH research has shown workers have unique shapes and sizes for specific occupations. For instance, research revealed that truck drivers are heavier and wider than the average worker in the U.S. population, which has prompted many in the truck manufacturing industry to redesign truck cabs to support truck driver safety.

The differences in the body sizes and shapes of today’s workers when compared to previously available anthropometric data, as well as limited availability of proper fitting PPE, can contribute to worker injuries and fatalities. The anthropometric research we’re conducting will support worker safety and health by helping designers and manufacturers in:

  • Redesigning equipment and workspaces to better meet the needs of workers
  • Developing PPE that fits and works better
  • Making PPE more comfortable

Using anthropometric data to design machines, vehicles, and PPE that better fit today’s workers is an important part of Prevention through Design (PtD). An example of PtD is Dr. Ziqing Zhaung’s research on head-and-face anthropometry and 3D head models of industrial workers, which was incorporated into technical specifications of the International Organization for Standardization’s (ISO) standards for testing new respirator face pieces. Moreover, an article written by NIOSH’s Dr. Hongwei Hsiao, which has been among the most-read articles in Human Factors in the past few years, gives several other examples of how equipment and PPE can be redesigned to improve the safety and health of workers. Taken together, these research outputs have assisted in the development of better-fitting PPE for the workplace, with manufacturers reporting the use of NIOSH data in design efforts of everything from hard hats to fall protection harnesses.

Most of NIOSH’s research on workers’ physical measures takes place in the NIOSH Anthropometry Labs. The Morgantown and Pittsburgh labs were developed in 1995 and 2001 respectively, and they are two of only several in the world with advanced technologies for collecting highly accurate anthropometric data. Computer-generated human models are available for analysis through 3-dimensional digital scanning in the lab. Full-body, head, and foot scanners as well as a hand-held scanning device for stationary objects are available and can produce high resolution scans within seconds.

NIOSH also has a Mobile Anthropometry Lab equipped with a whole body, foot, hand, and head scanner, all inside a 30-foot long trailer. This lab on wheels allows researchers to reach workers across the nation. The Mobile Anthropometry Lab has traveled across the United States, making stops in Boise, Fort Worth, New Haven, Phoenix, Minneapolis, Richmond, and Tallahassee.

These two labs were instrumental in our most recent research. As you may recall from the February issue of eNews, I shared some of NIOSH’s 2015 priorities. One of those goals was to develop and publish a summary of truck driver and firefighter anthropometry data on the NIOSH website for use in equipment and workspace design. I am delighted to report that NIOSH has made significant progress toward achieving this goal.

NIOSH recently released a summary of results from the first-ever federal anthropometric study of U.S. truck drivers. This document can help truck manufacturers improve the ergonomic design of truck cabs to better fit the sizes and shapes of today’s drivers. A truck cab designed on up-to-date truck driver body size and shape data supports a safer work environment for its operator. NIOSH gave data from this research to several truck manufacturers, which are using it to redesign truck cabs.

As for firefighter anthropometric research, NIOSH’s most recent studies have assessed fire apparatus seat and seat belt designs, and the fit of  gloves used in structural firefighting to accommodate current firefighters. As a result, NIOSH has given apparatus manufacturers and standards committees recommendations for seatbelt length, seat width and spacing, and head supports. NIOSH has also proposed an improved sizing scheme for structural firefighting gloves. A summary of firefighter anthropometry data was published in Human Factors , and NIOSH expects to publish the detailed data on its website by the end of 2015.

With support from stakeholders and partners, NIOSH has finished collecting data on emergency medical services workers, and it is gearing up to collect data on law enforcement officers. We expect these study findings will help identify design improvements for work vehicles and PPE.

Our anthropometric research gives us significant opportunities to prevent injuries through the concept of Prevention through Design. This research also takes our findings and allows them to be applied to practical uses outside the Institute. Working with manufacturers, standards committees, trade associations, labor organizations, employers, and workers, our research can be adopted in the workplace, so that together we can help ensure workers’ safety and health in today’s places of employment

Precautions Can Improve Cold-Room Comfort

An overlooked area of work-related cold stress

Work in cold, damp conditions can be uncomfortable, even just for an hour or two. However, workers who prepare food for 8-hour shifts in refrigerated, 40°F food preparation and storage enclosures called cold rooms may feel extremely uncomfortable, have declining work performance, and be more likely to get hurt on the job.

Current safety guidelines in technical standards apply to below-freezing conditions or outdoor work, but not to cold rooms. For this reason, cold rooms are an overlooked area of work-related cold stress, and employers and workers are unlikely to have guidance tailored to their particular needs.

NIOSH researchers have recently published a report that includes information on how to help protect employees who work in the unique environment of a cold room. Responding to a request to evaluate work conditions in cold rooms at a food-catering company for airlines, NIOSH found several causes of employee discomfort:

  • Air drafts.
  • Unworn gloves because of concerns that bulky gear would hamper dexterity for tasks needing fine hand and finger movements.
  • Insufficient training about how to work safely in a cold room.

To address these issues, the researchers suggested that the employer at the food-catering company take the following steps, which also might apply to other cold-room employers:

  • Install equipment to reduce drafts and condensation.
  • Give employees glove liners to wear under required plastic gloves.
  • Encourage employees to change out of wet clothes.
  • Rotate employees between warmer and colder areas.
  • Install hand warmers, such as those that blow warm air, outside of cold rooms.
  • Minimize work requiring manual dexterity in cold rooms.

Researchers also suggested that the food-catering company train employees how to avoid cold stress, and urge them to report and seek prompt medical attention for any symptoms they experience.

To learn more about cold stress, visit NIOSH Workplace Safety & Health Topics: Cold Stress.

To read the health hazard evaluation, go to  Evaluation of Ergonomic Risk Factors, Thermal Exposures, and Job Stress at an Airline Catering Facility.

To read the full journal article, go to Recommendations to Improve Employee Thermal Comfort When Working in 40°F Refrigerated Cold Rooms

Baby’s on the Way–What About Your Respirator?

Eight million U.S. workers wear respirators on the job

Pregnant women may turn to maternity clothes for comfort but may wonder whether they need a new respirator in the workplace. Will their fit-tested facemasks still provide a tight seal if they gain weight during pregnancy? Results of a new NIOSH study, accepted for publication by the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene, suggest that the fit-tested model of respirator provided before pregnancy will continue to fit a pregnant worker as long as she follows medical guidelines for healthy weight gain during pregnancy. A larger study is warranted to validate the findings, the researchers said.

In the United States, more than 3 million industrial workers and nearly 5 million nursing staff wear respirators to protect themselves from airborne toxins. As part of a workplace safety and health program, respirators can help stop airborne toxins from reaching the lungs when ventilation and cleaning measures alone cannot remove all contaminants or if the cost of installing these measures is prohibitive.

Because respirators must fit properly to function and significant changes in body weight can affect fit, OSHA  requires annual fit testing. Whether pregnant women who wear respirators at work should undergo another fit testing was unclear prior to this study.

Researchers compared head and facial measurements and fit-test results of 15 voluntary participants in their second or third trimester of pregnancy to 15 voluntary, non-pregnant women similar in age, height, and weight. Besides measuring participants’ weight, height, and body-mass index, the researchers measured 13 head and facial dimensions that typically determine respirator fit. They then performed fit tests with N95 respirators, the most commonly used respirator in U.S. industry and healthcare. After comparing these detailed facial measurements and fit-test results between the two groups of participants, the researchers found no significant differences.

For more information, visit NIOSH Respirator Trusted-Source Information.

To read the unedited manuscript accepted for publication, go to: Effect of Pregnancy Upon Facial Anthropometrics and Respirator Fit Testing.

Company Fails to Report Injury After Second Worker’s Finger Amputated

Faces $83,200 in new penalties

A 56-year-old employee of furniture manufacturer Ashley Furniture Industries Inc. had his right ring finger amputated because the company has continued to ignore safety requirements to protect workers from moving machine parts. The company also failed to report the injury to OSHA as required.

After an OSHA inspection, the agency issued citations to the Arcadia Wisconsin-based company on July 21. The company was issued two willful violations for failing to protect workers from machinery operating parts and neglecting to report a hospitalization within 24 hours. OSHA cited two other-than-serious safety violations for failing to keep accurate injury records. Placed in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program earlier this year, Ashley faces proposed penalties of $83,200 as a result of the agency’s investigation of the March 11 injury.

A person outside the company reported the injury to OSHA nearly a month after the incident. Inspectors found the groover blade of a machine used to fabricate wooden drawers caused the amputation of the machine operator’s finger. A 49-year-old employee had a similar injury on the same type of machinery in January 2015, resulting in the willful violation.

“Workers at Ashley Furniture cannot count on their company to do what’s right when it comes to safety. These workers are at risk because this company is intentionally and willfully disregarding OSHA standards and requirements,” said Mark Hysell, OSHA’s area director in Eau Claire.

In its inspections, OSHA found that Ashley failed to protect workers from dangerous machine operating parts when employees performed maintenance and during blade changes on woodworking machinery. Safety procedures require employers to prevent machines from unintentional operation during service and maintenance by using blocking and locking devices to prevent unexpected machine movement, a procedure known as lockout/tagout. This violation is among OSHA’s most frequently cited and often results in death or permanent disability.

Ashley Furniture has contested citations issued by OSHA in January 2015, which cited the company for 38 safety violations at the Arcadia location. Proposed penalties total $1,766,000. A hearing before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission will be scheduled. The agency issued the citations following an investigation that found that workers at the Arcadia plant had experienced more than 1,000 work-related injuries in the previous three-and-a-half-year period.

At that time, OSHA placed the company in the SVEP for failure to address safety hazards. As a result of the SVEP designation, inspections are currently open at Ashley’s facilities in California, Pennsylvania, Mississippi and North Carolina.

Forbes lists Ashley Furniture as the 117th largest private company in America with $3.85 billion in annual revenue as of October 2014. The worldwide distributor employs about 20,000 workers at 30 locations nationwide. The Arcadia plant is the largest employer in Trempealeau County.

The company has had 34 federal OSHA inspections and 23 state plan inspections since 1982. In its 33 previous inspections, OSHA issued citations for 96 serious, four repeated, and 38 other-than-serious violations. Four inspections were initiated as a result of finger amputations, including one in 2014 at the Arcadia plant.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.