Safety and Profitability Go Hand-in-Hand

In addition to the devastating toll on-the-job injuries can have on employees, work injuries can also impact your company’s bottom line.

Lost productivity due to employee absences and the cost of implementing corrective actions are just two significant expenses that contribute to an estimated $170 billion businesses spend nationwide each year when employees suffer job-related injuries or illnesses.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates you can reduce your share of these costs by 20-to-40 percent by placing greater emphasis on safety in your workplace. You can also reap the benefits of a more efficient workplace and greater morale among your employees.

Keeping your employees safe

Providing a safe working environment for your employees starts with your Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP), a written safety plan that helps you find and fix hazards in the workplace, before anyone is hurt. In California, the IIPP has been a legal requirement since 1991. Five years after implementing the requirement, California experienced a 19 percent net decrease in occupational injuries and illnesses. In 2009, the workplace fatality rates for California, Hawaii, and Washington were 31 percent below the national average.

Studies indicate that a safer workplace can also lead to happier workers, higher employee retention rate, and an improved bottom line. Not only that, the financial costs associated with injured or sick workers also goes down.

Safety stand up meeting

Educating the workforce

One key step in promoting a safer workplace is educating your employees.

In the construction industry, for example, “toolbox” or “tailgate” meetings are required every 10 days. Businesses in any industry are encouraged to hold regularly scheduled safety meetings, to address new regulations, new hazards, and/or equipment. You can also refresh your employees on existing safety protocols.

You must conduct training if any of these circumstances occur:

  • When a new employee is hired.
  • When a new program is established.
  • When employees take on a new job assignment.
  • When new substances, processes, procedures, or equipment are introduced to the workplace and present a new hazard.
  • When you or your supervisorial staff are made aware of a new or previously unrecognized hazard.
  • For supervisorial staff: ensure they are familiar with the safety and health hazards to which employees under their immediate direction and control may be exposed.

Remember that you are required to maintain written documentation of all training and instruction.

Employee safety is a top priority for all employers. The investment you make to ensure their safety can pay off in reduced accidents and injuries, lower absentee rates, and fewer claims all of which can help you lower your workers’ compensation insurance costs.

OSHA Significantly Reduces Silica Dust Exposure Limits

Construction Site silica dust

When workers in construction, mining, or other industries cut, crush, grind, or process silica-bearing material, a substance called respirable crystalline silica (silica dust) releases into the air. If inhaled, this can cause serious health problems for your workers, such as silicosis, lung cancer, and kidney disease.

Cal/OSHA has recently adopted two Federal OSHA regulations to reduce the risk of diseases associated with breathing silica dust. One standard applies to the construction industry, and the other to general industry and maritime.

The new standards are OSHA’s latest effort to reduce silica dust exposure. Between 1968 and 2005, the mortality rate from silicosis alone dropped from nearly 1,200 deaths per year to about 170. This is a result of occupational health standards adopted since OSHA’s inception, as well as a decline in certain heavy industries. By reducing permissible exposures even more this year, OSHA’s objective is to further cut the rate of silicosis and other diseases caused by inhaling silica dust.

Employee Training should include...

Setting new standards

Under both new regulations, the eight-hour permissible exposure limit (PEL) for all types of respirable crystalline silica is now 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air (μg/m3). That’s half the prior limit just for respirable quartz. Exposures that exceed the new PEL require respiratory protection. You must also post warning signs and restrict access to these regulated areas.

Even at the 50 μg/m3 permissible limit, OSHA still considers there to be significant disease and mortality risk, but the agency says the new PEL is appropriate because it is the lowest level feasible for all affected industries.

Therefore, the agency has established a 25 μg/m3 action level. When exposures exceed this level, additional safeguards are required.

These include:

  • Developing and implementing an exposure control plan, and validating its effectiveness through air monitoring.
  • Conducting employee medical evaluations as part of ongoing medical surveillance of exposed workers.
  • Developing a silica housekeeping program, placing emphasis on high efficiency vacuum and wet cleaning methods.
  • Employee training.

Wet mopping, wiping, and HEPA vacuuming are effective measures for cleaning process areas and reducing surface contamination that may accumulate and further contribute to exposure. Compressed air and dry sweeping should be avoided, as these contribute to airborne silica exposures.

For the construction industry only, OSHA specifies process and tool specific control measures that – once fully implemented – would eliminate the need for air monitoring. These measures rely on dust collection, air filtration, and water feed systems for dust control. It also identifies processes that will require respiratory protection to supplement dust control measures. General industry and maritime operations must always conduct air monitoring.

Less risk of serious illness

While OSHA’s new standard means employers must implement additional control measures, it comes as good news for the estimated 2.3 million people who work in industries where silica dust exposure is a daily occurrence, as they will breathe in less of the substance.

Tailgate Topics

Safety Tip of the Week


Don’t Fall Through a Skylight

Skylight guard fall protection

When someone sits, stands, walks, or falls on top of a skylight, chances are it won’t support that person’s weight. And what’s below the skylight is typically a very long drop.

When working around a skylight, its presence must be addressed even if the work you are performing is not directly related to the skylight. The smallest misstep could lead to someone falling through a skylight and suffering a major injury or worse.

What your employees need to know about working around skylights

Injuries and deaths have occurred when people decided to sit on skylights during lunch breaks, or by walking over one while trying to access another area of the roof.

Raised or protruding skylights can be tripping hazards – especially if someone is not paying attention to where they are walking. Conversely, some skylights lay flat, flush with the roof and are difficult to see.

What your employees need to do when working around skylights

If the assigned task has your workers within six feet of a skylight, Cal/OSHA requires that specific safety steps be taken before any other work can begin.

These options include:

  • Securely installing a mesh guard over each skylight.
  • Securely installing a screen under the skylight.
  • Securely installing guardrails around each skylight
  • Placing a net or other covering over the skylight
  • Use of a suspension harness when your workers are installing the barriers or have no option to cover the skylights.

If a skylight is removed, a specifically-designed floor covering strong enough to hold at least 400 pounds, must be placed over the opening and securely mounted to the roof. A written notice stating “Opening – Do Not Remove” is also required.

What to cover at your safety meeting

Discuss with your workers the challenges they face while working on a roof with skylights. Remind them not to begin the assigned tasks without taking the proper protective measures.

  • Have a skylight guard, guardrails, or other required coverings available at your meeting and demonstrate how to properly install them.
  • If you will be installing temporary perimeter fencing or netting, have this on hand for a demonstration.
  • Remind employees when a fall protection harness is required, and demonstrate how to use it.
  • Remind your employees not to climb, sit, or lean on skylight guardrails or mesh guarding.
  • Review your rescue plan so everyone knows what to do in the event someone falls.

When your employees work at heights, they are at greater risk of serious or fatal injury. When skylights are involved, the risk increases due to the added number of openings in the roof.

Use of proper guarding and fall protection help your employees complete their work in a safer environment.

Safety Recommendations:__________________________________________________________________________________

Job Specific Topics:_______________________________________________________________________________________

M.S.D.S Reviewed:_______________________________________________________________________________________

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