New Signs That Move You to Safety

More dynamic warning signs could reduce accidents

New PictureTraffic accidents claim lives, cause injury, and cost money. Working on ways to reduce them is a constant battle.

New research from Michigan Ross Professor Aradhna Krishna and post-doctoral scholar Luca Cian shows a simple way that could drive those numbers down—make the pictures on road warning signs depict more action.

A series of studies they ran with co-author Ryan Elder of Brigham Young’s Marriott School of Management showed that more dynamic signs led to quicker driver reaction and a heightened sense of vigilance.

It’s the latest practical application of sensory marketing, a field pioneered by Krishna.

“From evolutionary psychology we know that humans have developed systems to detect potential predators and other dangers,” says Krishna, Dwight F. Benton Professor of Marketing. “Thus, our attention system has evolved to detect actual movement automatically and quickly. In many contexts, such as road signs, actual animation is not possible. However, even static signs can be designed to invoke a sense of movement. These signs can then elicit similar consequences as animation—faster attention and faster reactions.”

Their paper, “A Sign of Things to Come: Behavioral Change Through Dynamic Iconography,” will be published in a future edition of the Journal of Consumer Research.

The authors performed five studies that compared signs with varying degrees of perceived motion and measured eye movement, driver reactions, and a sense of alertness. The results showed signs that depicted a higher sense of movement led to quicker reactions and more awareness of potential danger.

For example, the driving simulation showed that drivers slowed down faster when they saw signs with more action-oriented pictures. Reaction times were 50 milliseconds faster. That may not sound like much, but for a car traveling 60 mph, that’s a distance of 4.4 feet and can mean the difference between having an accident or not.

About 37,000 people a year die in car accidents in the United States, with an additional 2.35 million injured. Accidents also drive up insurance, repair, and healthcare costs.

“Many of our senses alert us to danger and to be more vigilant, such as our sense of smell and sound, and even taste,” says Cian. “This is another method by which the body is telling us to be more vigilant.”

The research also can be applied to other areas where consumers could be nudged toward more positive behavior, such as factory or production warning signs, recycling signs, consumer safety labels, or images for healthful food.

Roofing Contractor Faces Prison

Charged with ignoring safety hazards, failing to pay fines

A Maine roofing contractor’s continued refusal to obey a federal court order to correct safety hazards and pay more than $400,000 in fines could send him to jail. The U.S. Department of Labor has asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit in Boston to hold Stephen Lessard in civil contempt for defying a 2011 court order to correct violations cited by OSHA and pay $404,000 in fines and interest for the violations levied from 2000 to 2011.

“We have asked the court to subject Mr. Lessard to strong sanctions, including incarceration, if he continues to flout the law and the court’s earlier order,” said Michael Felsen, the department’s regional solicitor of labor for New England. “Seeking a contempt order, such as this, is a stringent and infrequent action, but one that is warranted in this case.”

Despite all this, Lessard continues to break the law. In January, OSHA cited him for egregious willful, repeated and serious violations for fall-related hazards at another work site and fined him $287,000.


Wallingford Workers Avert Explosion, Fire

Company faces $86,900 in penalties for safety violations

Employees at a Wallingford freight shipping terminal faced dangerous chemical, fire, and explosion hazards on Oct. 6, 2014, as they tried to contain a highly flammable and explosive chemical spill without proper training and personal protective equipment, OSHA investigators have determined.

As a result of these conditions, OSHA found two repeated and four serious violations of workplace safety standards by Ohio-based R+L Carriers Shared Services LLC. The company faces $86,900 in proposed fines. The repeated violations stem from similar hazards cited by OSHA during a 2011 inspection of an R+L terminal in Chicago.

“These workers were essentially defenseless. They did not know how to evaluate the hazards involved, what personal protective equipment to use and what steps to follow to contain the spill safely. Worse, no one present at the terminal did,” said Robert Kowalski, OSHA’s area director in Bridgeport. “These deficiencies in emergency response by R+L Carriers put its employees at risk of death or serious injury.”

The investigation determined a forklift was being used to move a pallet of tetrahydrofuran, a highly flammable liquid with a flash point of 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit, from one truck to another when a 55-gallon drum containing the liquid was punctured accidentally. The chemical began leaking through the truck bed to the ground. R+L employees attempted to contain the spill with sorbent material beneath the truck and by cordoning off the area. OSHA investigators found that Wallingford terminal’s management lacked an emergency response plan and had not trained employees as first responders.

Management also did not evaluate the hazards associated with tetrahydrofuran; failed to provide the responding employees with appropriate respiratory protection and personal protective equipment; and did not have a qualified person on-site to oversee the response. The terminal’s emergency action plan also did not include procedures for timely reporting of emergency events. It was also noted that employees had not been briefed on updates to the plan. Finally, the forklift that punctured the drum was not operated properly.

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. A repeated violation exists when an employer has been cited previously for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any other facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years.

R+L has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, meet informally with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

USPS Ordered to Pay Employee $229,000 in Whistleblower Case

Worker faced hostile retaliation

A U.S. District Court has upheld OSHA’s 2008 finding that the United States Postal Service violated worker protections under the OSH Act by retaliating against one of its safety specialists for assisting a coworker on a health and safety concern and for filing his own whistleblower complaints alleging retaliation and harassment. The court found that the employee is entitled to $229,228 in damages.

Soon after helping his coworker report unhealthful workplace conditions, the safety specialist found himself in an increasingly hostile work environment. In a matter of months, he was transferred to another office, forced to work in an unheated storage room, demoted, restricted in his movements, publicly humiliated, and subjected to four openly antagonistic interviews as part of workplace investigations. He was also issued a disciplinary letter and refused a promotion.

In April 2008, he filed his first whistleblower complaint with OSHA in Seattle. Several more complaints would follow as hostilities increased.

In addition to providing damages, the court ruling also requires the Postal Service to promote the employee to the same pay rate he would have now, had he not been denied a promotion. The judge also enjoined the Seattle-area Postal Service from discriminating against employees who complain to or cooperate with OSHA, and from failing to take action against managers who interfere with employees exercising their rights under the OSH Act.


OSHA Announces Final Rule on Handling Retaliation Complaints

Protects whistleblowers under Sarbanes-Oxley

On March 5, 2015, OSHA published a final rule finalizing procedures for handling whistleblower retaliation complaints filed under Section 806 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. The SOX Act protects workers who report fraudulent activities and violations of Securities Exchange Commission rules that can harm investors in publicly traded companies.

“Silencing workers who try to do the right thing is unacceptable,” said Assistant Secretary of Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “This final rule safeguards investors by protecting whistleblowers who shine a light on illegal or fraudulent conduct that otherwise may go uncorrected.”

SOX prohibits publicly-traded companies, nationally recognized statistical ratings organizations, and other covered persons from retaliating against an employee who provides information about conduct that the employee reasonably believes violates federal mail, wire, bank or securities fraud statutes, SEC rules, or any provision of federal law relating to fraud against shareholders.

For more information, click here.

Latest OSHA Activity

Bristol trash-to-energy plant faces $80,000 in fines

OSHA has cited Covanta Energy Bristol Inc. for 16 serious violations of workplace safety and health standards. These include:

  • Allowing combustible dust to accumulate on ledges, conduits, floors, guardrails, work platforms and catwalks
  • Failing to determine employees’ exposure level to ash containing toxic metals such as lead, cadmium and arsenic
  • Inadequate training and protective clothing for an employee performing testing on live electrical parts
  • Inadequate safeguards for employees working in confined spaces
  • Lack of an emergency eyewash for employees working with batteries
  • Fall, fork truck, air pressure and mechanical 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

“Covanta Energy Bristol Inc. needlessly exposed its employees to the hazards of electrocution, fire, falls, slips and trips, crushing, being trapped or overcome in a confined space, eye injuries, and cancer, lung, or kidney damage,” said Terence McEvily, OSHA’s acting area director in Hartford. “It must take effective steps to eliminate these hazards and prevent them from happening again.”

OSHA and NIOSH Issue Hazard Alert on Protecting Workers from Silica Exposure D
uring Countertop Manufacture and Installation

OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) have jointly issued a hazard alert about protecting workers from significant crystalline silica exposure during manufacturing, finishing, and installing natural and manufactured stone countertops.

The hazard alert follows reports of 46 workers in Spain and 25 workers in Israel who developed silicosis–an incurable, progressively disabling, and sometimes fatal lung disease–as a result of exposure to crystalline silica in their work manufacturing stone countertops. Ten of the workers in Israel required lung transplants as a result of their condition.

OSHA and NIOSH have identified exposure to silica as a health hazard to workers involved in stone countertop operations in the United States, both in fabrication shops and during in-home finishing/installation. The alert jointly issued by OSHA and NIOSH explains how this hazard can be mitigated with simple and effective dust controls.

Crystalline silica is found in granite, sandstone, quartzite, various other rocks, and sand. Workers who inhale very small crystalline silica particles are at risk for silicosis. Symptoms of silicosis can include shortness of breath, cough, and fatigue and may or may not be obviously attributable to silica. Workers exposed to airborne crystalline silica also are at increased risk for lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and kidney disease.

The hazard alert details what can be done at stone countertop fabrication and installation worksites to protect workers from exposure to silica. This includes monitoring the air to determine silica exposure levels; using engineering controls and safe work practices to control dust exposure; and providing workers with respiratory protection when needed, training, and information about the hazards of silica.

Massachusetts Roofing Contractor Cited for Fourth Time for Exposing Employees to Potentially Fatal Falls; Faces
 $43,560 in Fines

William Trahant, Jr., Construction, Inc., of Lynn, Mass., was cited by OSHA for one willful, one repeat, and three serious violations of workplace safety and health standards. These include: lack of fall protection for employees repairing an asphalt shingle roof on a three-story house, inadequate anchorage points for fall arrest lines, and not training employees to recognize and address fall hazards.

An additional fall hazard stemmed from using a damaged portable ladder, with split rails and bent rungs, to access the roof. Finally, an employee working on the ground beneath the roofers lacked a hardhat, exposing him to falling objects.

The willful and repeat citations stem from this employer’s history of fall protection violations. William Trahant, Jr. Construction, Inc., was previously cited by OSHA for similar violations in August 2014 for a worksite located in Revere, Mass., September 2012 for a site in Peabody, and July 2011 for another site in Peabody.

“Trahant Construction continues to demonstrate a wanton disregard for employee safety, exposing its employees to deadly or disabling injuries on multiple occasions,” said Anthony Covello, OSHA’s acting area director in Andover. “Falls are the leading cause of death in construction work. This employer must take steps to effectively train and enforce a culture of safety for himself and his employees.”

Central Transport LLC Shipping Exposes Terminal Employees
in Multiple States to Injuries and Death from Defective Forklifts 

Employees at Central Transport LLC’s 170 freight shipping terminals nationwide use forklifts daily to move, handle, load, and unload freight and other materials. These vehicles must be maintained according to recognized safety standards, so that workers are not crushed, struck by, or injured by defective forklifts.

Multiple inspections during the last several years by OSHA have found that Central Transport has repeatedly left dangerously defective forklifts in service in at least 11 shipping terminals in nine states: Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

As a result, the department has filed a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission seeking an order to require the freight shipper to remove damaged, defective and unsafe powered industrial trucks from service at all its locations nationwide.

“A systemic problem demands a systemic solution,” said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. “Central Transport’s corporate safety managers participated in several OSHA inspections and were aware of the widespread nature of these hazards, but have not corrected them across the board. This means that employees at many Central Transport terminals continue to be exposed to deadly or disabling injuries day after day. This must change.”

The department’s complaint alleges that Central Transport has been aware of the need to remove damaged, defective, and unsafe forklifts from service since 2006. Several OSHA inspections resulted in 11 citations and final orders, which required Central Transport to remove damaged forklifts from service. However, OSHA inspections in 2014 of company freight terminals in Billerica, Massachusetts, and Rock Island and Hillside, Illinois, found that the company, despite its awareness of the hazards involved, knowingly allowed this dangerous practice to continue at multiple locations.

“When a company operates in multiple locations and workers face similar hazards at many, if not all, locations, their safety can’t be addressed in a piecemeal fashion. Given the breadth and severity of the hazards these workers face, and Central Transport’s failure to respond proactively, we are seeking an order requiring correction at all of the company’s locations where these hazards exist,” said Michael Felsen, the department’s regional solicitor of labor in Boston, whose office filed the complaint.

Central Transport, based in Warren, Michigan, employs about 4,300 workers at 170 locations nationwide.

After the Distraction Ends, the Danger Remains

New facts about interrupted road awareness

You reach down to adjust the dial on your car radio. It only takes two seconds, so you say it is no big deal and perfectly safe.

New research from Liberty Mutual’s Research Institute for Safety, however, indicates that may be an incorrect assumption. It has been understood that even minor distractions while driving increase crash risk, but the reasons have been elusive. The study sought to provide further insight on the dangers behind distracted driving

Currently, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends that in-vehicle glances be restricted to no more than two seconds. Unfortunately, if you do something minor, such as turning the radio knob, which ostensibly may only take two seconds, the risk period  may be longer than you realize.

The Liberty study demonstrated that driver’s road awareness is interrupted for more than just two seconds. There is an additional readjustment period as the driver returns to focusing on the road that impacts the ability to concentrate on the road and properly assess new hazards. Increasing the danger was drivers’ lack of awareness of their poor hazard identification.

As one of the investigators points out, “ The fact that drivers consistently missed critical information but were unaware of having missed it suggests that they would be likely to continue unsafe behaviors. We need to find ways to illustrate to drivers just how much in-vehicle distractions can impair their driving performance.”


New NIOSH Web Page on Engineering Controls

Critical information on eliminating workplace hazards

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has posted a new directory page that links to NIOSH Web pages, projects, programs, tools, and resources related to engineering controls created to improve workplace health and safety.

Engineering controls protect workers by removing hazardous conditions or by placing a barrier between the worker and the hazard.

Click here to view the new page.

Total Worker Health

Integrating health protection, health promotion

Occupational safety and health programs and workplace health promotion efforts traditionally have operated in silos. The good news is that’s finally changing.

An emerging body of evidence recognizes that separate approaches are not as effective as integrated approaches that consider worker safety, health, and well-being at work and beyond the workplace.

Today, more employers are making the connection that a safe, healthy, and engaged workforce affects their bottom line.

Learn more from the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health.

Stand Tall, Stand Proud, and Stand-Down for Fall Safety!

OSHA to host second-annual Construction Fall Safety Stand-Down

Every day in this country, construction workers fall. One wrong step and they’re tumbling down a steeply pitched roof, sliding or dropping off an unstable ladder, or left hanging from a scaffold. The difference between an unexpected stumble and tragedy is simple: fall protection.

Falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry, as hundreds of workers die each year and thousands more suffer catastrophic, debilitating injuries. Yet, lack of proper fall protection remains the most frequently cited violation by OSHA. To recognize this often fatal hazard, tens of thousands of employers and more than a million workers across the country joined OSHA in 2014 for a weeklong Fall Safety Stand-Down, the largest occupational safety event ever held. OSHA hopes to triple these numbers during this year’s Fall Safety Stand-Down from May 4‒15, 2015.

“With the economy on the rebound and housing starts on the rise, now is the time to for all of us to renew our commitment to sending workers home safe every night,” said Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. “Last year’s Stand-Down showed us what employers and workers sharing that commitment can accomplish. Responsible employers understand that safety is not a luxury—it is a necessity.”

Building on last year’s widespread participation, OSHA has made this year’s Stand-Down a two-week event. From May 4‒15*, employers and workers will pause during their workday for topic talks, demonstrations, and training on how to use safety harnesses, guard rails, and other means of protecting workers from falls. Underscoring the importance of this effort, industry and business leaders, including universities, labor organizations, and community and faith-based groups, have already begun scheduling 2015 stand-downs in all 50 states and around the world.

“Fatal falls and injuries impact workers in all kinds of jobs across the country; it’s a broad problem that takes a terrible toll on workers and their families,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “Given the tremendous response we’ve received, it’s clear that this is an important issue to a great number of people across this nation. I know it is, to me and all my colleagues here at the department, which is why we are so pleased to work towards preventing these tragedies through innovative and collaborative efforts like the Stand-Down.”

The National Fall Safety Stand-Down is part of OSHA’s fall prevention campaign, launched three years ago with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, NIOSH’s National Occupational Research Agenda, and The Center for Construction Research and Training. Additional partners for this year’s event include: American Society for Safety Engineers, National Safety Council, National Construction Safety Executives, the United States Air Force, OSHA-approved state plans, state consultation programs, and OSHA Training Institute Education Centers.

OSHA and partners would like to encourage all workers and employers that face fall hazards on the job to participate in this year’s Stand-Down. The newly launched National Safety Stand-Down 2015 website provides details on: how to conduct a Stand-Down; receive a certificate of participation; and access free education and training resources, fact sheets, and other outreach materials in English and Spanish. It will also include a list of stand-down events free and open to the public, as soon as they become available.

*CBIA would like to hear what activities our members may be planning for the Construction Fall Safety Stand-Down. Please share with us by contacting Phillip Montgomery at 860.244.1982 or We would like to list these activities in an upcoming Safety & Health E-News.