Safety & Security News Briefs

By SHRM Online staff Nov 23, 2014
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Government Workers Have More Days Away from Work Because of Illness or Injury than Private Employees

While the overall number of reported nonfatal occupational injury and illness cases that required days away from work to recuperate decreased 9 percent in 2009 for private industry, state government and local government, local and state government workers had much higher rates of days away from work than private employees.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the rate of days away from work attributable to occupational illness and injury for local government workers was 185 cases per 10,000 full-time workers. The rate for state government workers was 180 cases, while the rate for private employees was 117 cases.

“The BLS report is interesting in that, for the first time, it reports incidence rates for workers in state and local governments, half of whom work in states where public employees have no OSHA coverage,” said David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, in a news release. “Specifically, we see a high occurrence among many public employee occupations, particularly among transit and intercity bus drivers, law enforcement officers, emergency response workers, and nursing aides and orderlies.”

Michaels noted that musculoskeletal disorders comprise almost 30 percent of all workplace illnesses and injuries requiring time away from work. He added that the falling rate of workplace illnesses and injuries might be attributed in part to fewer people being employed and working fewer hours because of the poor economy, especially in the construction and manufacturing industries.

OSHA to Issue Interpretation of Workplace Noise Exposure Controls

Updated Jan. 21, 2011: OSHA has rescinded this proposed interpretation.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is proposing to issue an interpretation of the term “feasible administrative or engineering controls” as used in the general industry and construction occupational noise exposure standards and to amend its current enforcement policy to reflect the interpretation. “Feasible” will have its ordinary meaning of “capable of being done,” according to an OSHA news release.

OSHA’s noise standards state that feasible administrative or engineering controls—such as modifications to plant, equipment, processes or materials that reduce the sound intensity at the source, or rotating employees so that they work in noisy areas for a short time—must be used. Personal protective equipment (PPE), such as ear plugs or ear muffs, can be used only as supplements when other controls are not completely effective. This is consistent with other OSHA health standards, the release stated.

However, under the current enforcement policy, OSHA issues citations for failure to use engineering and administrative controls only when they cost less than a hearing conservation program or such equipment is ineffective. This allows employers to rely on PPE more than engineering or other controls.

The agency proposes to change its noise enforcement policy to authorize issuing citations requiring the use of administrative and engineering controls when feasible. See the Federal Register notice of the proposal.

Comments on the interpretation must be submitted on or before Dec. 20, 2010, to; OSHA Docket Office, Docket No. OSHA-2010-0032, U.S. Department of Labor, Room N-2625, 200 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington DC 20210 (three copies); or fax number (202) 693-1648 (no more than 10 pages).

Company Saves on Workers’ Comp Premiums by Working with OSHA

Working with the Texas Occupational Safety and Health Consultation Program, Anthony Forest Products has lowered its workers’ compensation insurance premium from nearly $1 million in 1990 to $125,000 in 2010.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) On-site Consultation Programs work with small businesses to identify safety and health hazards and lower workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities. Consultants, working for free and on a confidential basis, clarify OSHA regulatory requirements, identify potential hazards, provide correction assistance, and help develop written safety and health policies. In addition, Anthony Forest Products realized it needed to increase communications between workers and management and instituted bimonthly meetings on safety and health activities and conditions.

During a closing conference between the consultant for Anthony Forest Products and the company manager in 1991, they reviewed established correction due dates for identified hazards and recommendations for improving the safety and health management system. After the consultation, the Texas facility’s total recordable case rate in 2000 was 4.0 compared to the national average of the industry of 10.7, and the site’s days away, restricted and transferred rate was 2.0 compared to the national average for the industry of 3.3.

The consultant had told the manager about OSHA’s Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP), which supports small businesses that implement and continuously improve safety and health by exempting them from programmed OSHA inspections for up to two years.

All six of Anthony Forest Products’ facilities have achieved SHARP status, leading to significant savings and improvements in the company’s safety and health culture, according to Lynda Anthony, vice president of HR for the company, in a news release: “The shift in the safety and health culture and attitude at the company’s facilities has improved worker morale, enhanced productivity and improved the quality of the company’s products. In addition, the company’s personnel turnover has significantly decreased.”

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