Regulatory Roundup, October 2, 2015

Regulatory Roundup is Texas Mutual’s weekly digest of health and safety news from around the world.

Texas Mutual News

Workplace safety: There’s a wearable for that
The health and wellness industry quickly recognized the power of wearable technology. Not to be left behind, other industries, including workplace safety, are jumping on board…MORE

Texas Mutual policyholder earns Lone Star Safety Award
The Division of Worker’s Compensation issued its Lone Star Safety Award to Rusk County Electric Cooperative this week. The award was formerly known as the Peer Review Safety Award…MORE

National Safety Council (NSC)

New law requires Texas drunk drivers to install ignition interlocks
drunk drivingAs of Sept. 1, 2015, drunk driving offenders in Texas must install an ignition interlock on their vehicles before hitting the road again. The NSC encourages employers to reinforce their impaired driving policies and use the NSC’s free resources to educate drivers…MORE

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

EPA updates 20 year-old pesticide safety standards for farmworkers
The standards bar almost anyone under 18 from handling pesticides. They also require workers to be trained annually on the risks of pesticides. Currently, workers only have to be trained every five years…MORE

National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

NIOSH soliciting volunteers for oil field safety survey
NIOSH plans to survey approximately 500 oil and gas workers about on-the-job hazards. Employers who want to participate in the survey should contact NIOSH at (404) 639-7570 or…MORE

New young worker safety training program teaches 8 core competencies
teen workerApproximately 1.6 million U.S. youth age 15–17 are employed. Inexperience, eagerness to please and fear of asking questions double their risk of getting injured on the job. NIOSH rolled out a training program that teaches eight core competencies that can help protect young workers…MORE

Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA)

Former Massey Energy CEO could get 31 years in prison in Upper Big Branch mine deaths
Don Blankenship is charged with conspiring to cause willful violations of ventilation requirements and coal dust control regulations, as well as hindering MSHA enforcement efforts. The resulting explosion killed 29 workers and went down as the worst mining accident in the U.S. to date…MORE

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

New system gives greater weight to complex, time-consuming inspections
Under the new system, OSHA will focus on inspections that require more resources, such as musculoskeletal disorders, chemical exposures, workplace violence and process safety management violations. The new inspection system was featured in this week’s edition of OSHA’s QuickTakes newsletter…MORE

OSHA to start enforcing updated confined space rule Oct. 2
In August 2015, OSHA rolled out its updated confined space rule for the construction industry. OSHA gave industry a grace period, but it will start enforcing the rule on Oct. 2, 2015. OSHA also issued a new guide to help small businesses comply with the updated rule…MORE

Fall protection tops OSHA’s annual most-cited violations list
This marks the fifth consecutive year fall protection has earned the dubious distinction. Fall protection was followed by hazard communication and scaffolding violations on the list…MORE

OSHA encourages employers to consider alternative PELs
Most of OSHA’s permissible exposure limits (PELs) for hazardous substances are more than 40 years old. OSHA is working toward updating its PELs. In the meantime, it urges employers to consider following exposure limits set by other agencies, such as Cal/OSHA and NIOSH…MORE

National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA)

NFPA 350 bridges gaps in OSHA’s minimum confined space entry standards
confinedspace_sewerNFPA 350 provides some of the “how to’s” and best practices for activities such as hazard identification and control, gas monitoring and ventilation. It also defines competencies for those involved in confined space entry and encourages the use of change management and prevention through design…MORE


Studies, Resources, Trends, News

Combating opioid abuse: The employer’s perspective
Pills White BackgroundMore than 16,000 Americans died from prescription painkiller overdoses in 2013 – quadruple the total in 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Employers can help reverse the trend by educating workers about the hazards associated with opioids, requiring workers to report use of medicines that may affect their ability to do their jobs safely, testing for the most popular opioids, and offering an employee assistance program…MORE

Virtual reality makes failure safe, improves safety training
A man struggles to stay afloat in the middle of a lake, repeatedly making mistakes that lead to his drowning. Five minutes later, he finds himself in the same predicament. Fortunately, the man was playing a video game that simulated the drowning experience. By failing in a safe environment, he is better prepared to protect himself in a real-life emergency…MORE

Technology is changing safety: 4 areas to watch
Wearable devices, equipment sensors and smart watches are not new to the workplace safety world. What is new is the ability to connect those data sources and create new information streams in real time. It’s often referred to as “The Internet of Things,” and it creates the potential for new insight and action in managing safety…MORE

Workplace Safety: There’s a Wearable for That

A tower rising 50 stories. A tape measure attached to a construction worker’s waist. An unsuspecting man stepping from a vehicle at the foot of the building.

In case you don’t see where this story is going, here’s what happened.

The tape measure somehow got separated from the worker. It then fell approximately 400 feet, struck the unsuspecting man in the head and killed him.

The New York Times reported that the victim was delivering supplies to the job site. Perhaps he rationalized that he would only be there a few minutes, so he didn’t need his hard hat. Murphy’s Law said otherwise.

It turns out that wearable technology could have saved this man’s life.

You might not know wearables by name, but you surely recognize them. They’re those things people constantly glance at on their wrists or waistbands, receiving real-time data on their heart rate and myriad other health indicators.

Early wearable iterations were little more than glorified pedometers. But the technology has evolved, and current models are fashionable and functional.

Want to know how well you slept? There’s a wearable for that.

Curious who and what are stressing you out today? Wearables have you covered.

The wellness industry was among the first to recognize the power of wearable technology. Not to be left behind, pharmaceutical companies, charitable organizations and insurance carriers are jumping on board.

And what about workplace safety? Well, there are wearables for that, too.

Here’s a look at some of the ways wearable technology is removing human decision making from the workplace safety equation.

Giving workers a heads up about hazards
If our unsuspecting worker in the story above had been using a smart hard hat, his employer would have gotten a notification that he wasn’t wearing his personal protective equipment. Smart hard hats are also loaded with sensors that monitor the wearer’s heart rate, perspiration, breathing rate and brain activity. If vital signs reach dangerous levels, the system notifies the worker. If workers are in danger, they can command their hard hat to call for help. The technology will in turn help emergency personnel locate the victim.

Monitoring fatigue

Click on the image for a short podcast on safety glasses that monitor driver fatigue.

Click on the image for a short podcast on safety glasses that monitor driver fatigue.

More than one-third of adult drivers, or 103 million people, have fallen asleep at the wheel in the past year, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Manufacturers are waking up to the power of wearables in keeping drivers alert. Safety glasses can now monitor fatigue by tracking how many times the driver blinks. Similarly, a mining company recently unveiled a cap that continuously monitors workers’ brain waves, assesses their ability to resist sleep, and alerts them when they are in danger.

Making work zones safer
Nearly 600 people died in work zone crashes during 2013. Virginia Tech researchers want to cut that statistic by outfitting workers with a vest that includes a tiny sensor. If a collision is about to happen between a vehicle and a worker, the vest warns the worker in a matter of seconds. Likewise, the motorist receives a dashboard notification.

Protecting health care workers
Home health care workers are four times more likely to be victims of violent crimes than workers in other industries, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In fact, workplace violence is one of five health care industry hazards OSHA recently ordered its inspectors to target. Wearable technology is making it safer for home health care workers to do their jobs. With one touch of a button, the worker can alert authorized personnel if they are in danger. Other features alert employers if a worker leaves a designated safe zone, which is critical during abductions.

More to come
From wearables to autonomous cars to drones, technology and workplace safety go together like a hand and a cut-resistant glove. Follow this blog for updates on how technology is putting an extra layer of protection between workers and the hazards they face on the job.

Regulatory Roundup, September 25, 2015

Regulatory Roundup is Texas Mutual’s weekly digest of environmental health and safety news from around the country.

Texas Mutual News

At RTFC, your safety is their business
SCBACallen Hight, assistant fire chief/safety officer for Refinery Terminal Fire Company (RTFC), says if he doesn’t send his employees home safely at the end of the day, he hasn’t done his job. Hight must be doing something right. RTFC has logged 5 million man hours without a lost-time claim. Texas Mutual was proud to recognize their efforts with our annual safety award…MORE

Department of Transportation (DOT)

New pipeline safety rule pending after increase in accidents
The DOT will soon unveil a long-delayed rule to strengthen safety requirements for pipelines that move oil and other hazardous liquids…MORE


Toll of unsafe workplaces much higher than 12 a day
In 2013, 4,585 workers were killed in the United States due to workplace injuries, according to a new AFL-CIO report. Approximately 50,000 more died from occupational diseases, resulting in a loss of nearly 150 workers each day from preventable workplace conditions…MORE

National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

NIOSH releases oilfield fatality report
OilfieldDuring the first half of 2014, 43 oilfield workers died on the job, according to a new report issued by NIOSH. Rigging up/down was the most hazardous task, claiming nine lives…MORE

Department of Labor (DOL)

Farm safety: a lifestyle, not a slogan
Farmworkers are at high risk for work-related lung diseases, heat illness, confined space hazards, noise-induced hearing loss and falls. During National Farm Safety Week, the DOL reminds employers to provide training for farm employees in a language they understand. Employers can visit the Occupational Safety and Health Administration website for free Spanish-language resources…MORE

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

How GHS changed the definition of flammable liquids
PrintIn addition to its hazard communication standard, OSHA aligned its Flammable and Combustible Liquids standard, 29 CFR 1910.106, with the globally harmonized system. Under the old standard, any liquid with a flash point below 100 degrees Fahrenheit was considered flammable. Under the new standard, liquids with a flash point of not more than 199.4 degrees Fahrenheit are considered flammable…MORE

OSHA extends comment period for proposed rule clarifying employers’ recordkeeping obligation
OSHA issued this proposed rule in light of a court decision clarifying its long-standing position that the duty to record an injury or illness continues as long as the employer must keep records of the recordable injury or illness. The proposed amendments add no new compliance obligations…MORE

OSHRC asking for input on workplace violence case
The Occupational Safety and Heath Review Commission is soliciting public comments on whether OSHA’s General Duty Clause applies to workplace violence. OSHA recently cited an employer under the General Duty Clause following the death of a home health care worker…MORE

Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)

GAO to congress: Extend deadline for Positive Train Control
trainCongress should grant the Federal Railroad Administration the authority to extend the Dec. 31 deadline for implementing Positive Train Control technology, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office. Railroads cite costs and technological glitches as reasons they may not be able to comply with the deadline…MORE

Studies, Resources, Trends, News

10 deskercises you can do at work
The average office worker spends approximately 77 percent of their day sitting, and their bodies pay the price. Prolonged sitting contributes to diabetes, heart disease, musculoskeletal disorders and myriad other health issues. Here are 10 ways desk jockies can add physical activity to the daily grind without leaving their workstations…MORE

Driverless trucks could make work zones safer
Las week, we reported on wearable technology that can protect construction crews in work zones. But what about the workers who drive dump trucks, bull dozers and other equipment? We may soon be able to add driverless trucks to the array of tools that are making work zones safer…MORE

Don’t underestimated danger in manure pits
Manure pits can include methane, hydrogen sulfide, carbon dioxide and ammonia. The accumulation of these gases within a confined space can produce an oxygen-deficient, toxic environment. Safety guidelines include fencing off the pit and posting signage…MORE

At RTFC, Your Safety is Their Business

In April 2013, a warehouse of ammonium nitrate exploded at the West Fertilizer Company. Fifteen people were killed, and more than 160 were injured. The tragedy garnered media headlines across the country, sparked ammonium nitrate facility inspections, and inspired lawmakers to tighten the regulations around how this volatile compound is stored.

The West explosion represents Texas’ most recent high-profile brush with ammonium nitrate, but it was not our first.

In 1947, a French ship carrying ammonium nitrate fertilizer blew up in the deep water port of Texas City. The explosion caused a chain reaction of fires, killing 576 people and injuring more than 4,000, according to the Texas Almanac.

True to the resiliency that epitomizes Lone Star State culture, Texas City businesses remained, rebuilt and expanded. To help ensure their safety, Refinery Terminal Fire Company (RTFC) was born.

RTFC is a non-profit emergency response organization headquartered in Corpus Christi. It provides emergency response services for the chemical and refinery industries. Industrial fire protection, prevention, inspection, hazard mitigation, training, in-plant services and technical support are all in a day’s work for RTFC employees.

That’s an impressive laundry list of services, but RTFC’s website offers a more succinct explanation of its mission: “Your safety is our business.”

RTFC’s mantra extends to its employees, as well.

“If I don’t send my firefighters home safely to their families the same way they came to work, I’m not doing my job,” said Callen Hight, assistant fire chief/safety officer.

Hight is indeed doing his job, and he’s doing it well. RTFC has logged 12 years without a lost-time injury. That equates to 5 million hours spent fighting fires, cleaning up hazardous materials and rescuing workers from dangerous confined spaces.

This fall, Texas Mutual was honored to recognize RTFC with our annual platinum safety partner award. Hight and his team dedicate the resources necessary to keeping employees safe and on the job. We thank them for sharing our vision of a safer Texas.

Regulatory Roundup, September 18, 2015

Regulatory Roundup is Texas Mutual’s weekly compilation of environmental health and safety news from around the word.

Texas Mutual News

Jefferson County policyholders earn share of Texas Mutual’s $225M dividend distributionThis is the 17th consecutive year the board has voted to distribute policyholder dividends, bringing the total to $1.8 billion. The company has paid the majority of that total – over $1 billion – since 2010.

Dividends are based largely on qualifying policyholders’ workplace safety records…MORE

Cliquish geese, safety search engines and noisy workplaces
On a recent ride-along with Al Capps, David Wylie learned two important lessons. One involved a serious safety issue that can affect any industry. And the other, well, you’ll have to visit out blog to find out…MORE

Turn it down, please!
Hearing loss is the most common work-related injury in the United States. It affects about 22 million Americans each year and costs businesses $242 million in workers’ compensation benefits…MORE

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)

FAA revises guidance for safely taxiing, towing aircraft
The guidance includes newly defined items such as airport operations areas and non-movement areas. It also offers guidance for towered airports regarding non-pilot workers and equipment in the runway safety area…MORE

National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

NIOSH blog offers behind-the-scenes glimpse into latest safety campaign
generalgenericbrochure 1
If you wanted to deliver a series of public health messages to people gathered at a busy Consulate (think Saturday at the DMV), or at another trusted community organization, how would you do it? That was the core question behind NIOSH’s new safety campaign targeting Spanish-speaking workers. NIOSH will explain how it tackled the issue in a series of blog posts…MORE

Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC)

Workplace fatalities in Texas rose 3 percent in 2014
In 2014, 524 Texans lost their lives on the job, according to the DWC’s annual census of workplace fatalities. Not surprisingly, transportation incidents accounted for the majority – 237 – of those fatalities, followed by slips, trips and falls…MORE

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

Workplace fatalities rose slightly in 2014
The preliminary total of 4,679 fatal work injuries represents a 2 percent increase over 2013, according to the annual census of fatal occupational injuries…MORE

OSHA renews alliance with West Texas staffing company
Under the alliance, OSHA and Texas Mutual policyholder T&T Staff Management provide safety materials in English and Spanish to workers, with a focus on the construction industry…MORE

OSHA revises firefighter manual on building design, fire systems
OSHA intends for the updates to improve safety for emergency responders by informing them about building features and designs. New topics in the revised manual include water supply, building phases, emergency power, and room and floor numbering…MORE

 Studies, Resources, Trends, News

Drones improve safety in burgeoning wind energy industry
Climbing a 300-foot wind turbine is challenging, even for industry veteran and ultra-marathoner Mike Bowman. “It’s a workout,” said Bowman. It’s also a safety hazard. Thanks to new drone technology, Bowman may soon be able to inspect wind turbines safely from the ground…MORE

Construction industry labor shortage affects safety, survey finds
Fifteen percent of firms that participated in an Associated General Contractors of America survey reported an increase in reportable injuries and illnesses because of workforce challenges. Another 13 percent reported an increase in jobsite hazards identified in inspection reports. And 11 percent reported an increase in workers’ compensation claims that they attribute to tight labor market conditions…MORE

Free webinar explains updates to NFPA 70E
The November 2 webinar will cover terminology changes, coverage requirements, changes for manufactures, hazard analysis and fire-retardant clothing compliance requirements…MORE

Get your child’s car seat inspected
Approximately 126,000 children under the age of 13 were injured in motor vehicle accidents during 2013, according to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. Visit this website to find a car seat inspection facility near you…MORE

Let’s chat about forklift safety
Forklift driver
How often should forklift drivers be trained, and who should conduct the training? Experts answered those questions and more during this week’s forklift Twitter chat. If you missed it, you can get the highlights online…MORE

New vest warns highway construction workers of danger
Nearly 600 people died in work-zone crashes during 2013. Virginia Tech researchers want to cut that statistic by outfitting workers with a vest that includes a tiny sensor. If a collision is about to occur between a vehicle and a worker, the vest can warn the worker in a matter of seconds. Likewise, the motorist will receive a dashboard notification…MORE

Turn it Down, Please!

In yesterday’s post, we reported that hearing loss is the most common work-related injury in the United States. It affects about 22 million Americans each year and costs businesses $242 million in workers’ compensation benefits.

The bad news is that once you’ve lost your hearing, you can’t get it back. The good news is that hearing loss is preventable.

At 88 dBA, it would take four hours to cause hearing damage. At 98 dBA, a half an hour. For more information, click on the image for a three-minute podcast.

At 88 dBA, it would take four hours to cause hearing damage. At 98 dBA, a half an hour. For more information, click on the image for a three-minute podcast.

Here are a few tips for turning up the volume on your efforts to protect workers from occupational noise exposure.

Do you have a noise problem?
You would probably expect to uncover noise exposure issues on construction sites, in manufacturing plants and at rock concerts. But even relatively quiet office environments can surpass OSHA’s noise thresholds. A few red flags can help you determine whether you need to explore the issue in your workplace:

  • You must raise your voice to be heard.
  • You can’t hear someone 3 feet away from you.
  • Speech around you sounds muffled or dull after you leave the noisy area.
  • You have pain or ringing in your ears (this is called “tinnitus”).

If any of these red flags sound familiar, you might have a noise problem. Fortunately, noise sampling is simple. At least the baseline variety is.

Smartphone developers offer apps that use the devices’ built-in microphone or an external microphone to sample noise levels quickly. Accuracy can be suspect with apps, however, so don’t rely on them for regulatory compliance. If you need a more accurate measure of noise, turn to a sound level meter or a dosimeter.

Do you need a hearing conservation program?
Once you’ve sampled the noise in your workplace, what’s next? There are two noise level measurements that trigger action on your part.

How Loud is It?
10 dBA – Normal breathing
40 dBA – Refrigerator humming
50-60 dBA – Quiet office
78 dBA – Washing machine
85-90 dBA – Lawnmower, food blender
100 dBA – Cement mixer
110 dBA – Jackhammer
Source: National Institute on Deafness and
Other Communication Disorders

85 decibels (dBA) – If workers are exposed to a time weighted average noise level of 85 dBA or higher over an eight-hour work shift, employers must implement a hearing conservation program. Hearing conservation programs require employers to measure noise levels; provide free training, annual hearing exams and hearing protection; and evaluate the adequacy of hearing protectors.

90 decibels – If your employees are exposed to a time weighted average noise level of 90 dBA or higher, you must implement a hearing conservation program and take steps to reduce employee exposure below 90 dBA. You can control noise exposure by using the hierarchy of controls

Use the hierarchy of controls
Safety professionals use the hierarchy of controls to rank hazard control measures by their effectiveness. There are three tiers of control measures in the hierarchy:

  1. Engineering controls eliminate hazards at their source. Engineering controls should always be your first choice for controlling workplace hazards. Buying quieter equipment is an example of an effective engineering control for noise exposure. You can also place barriers between employees and the noise source.
  2. Administrative controls should be your second choice. Administrative controls involve changes in work practices to control hazard exposure. For example, you could limit the time employees work in noisy environments by rotating them among tasks. Or you could reposition workers farther away from the noise source.
  3. Personal protective equipment (PPE) is your last line of defense against any workplace hazard. That’s because the equipment can fail, and it can give workers a false sense of security. PPE for noise exposure includes earmuffs and earplugs. If you choose PPE, check the noise reduction rating on the packaging to make sure it meets your needs. You can also visit NIOSH’s website to test your hearing protection.

For more information on occupational noise exposure, visit these sites:


Cliquish Geese, Safety Search Engines and Noisy Workplaces

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

Like all of his Texas Mutual safety services peers, Al Capps is a veritable search engine of environmental health and safety information.

Want to know the most effective methods for treating and handling wastewater? Al’s your guy.

Curious how many violations you could face if OSHA showed up at your door? Ask Al, who inspected workplaces as a representative of the nation’s most high-profile workplace safety agency.

Perhaps the most important lesson Al has learned during his diverse career, however, has nothing to do with fall protection or electrical hazards.

“I had been laid off, and I was having trouble finding a job a few years back,” remembered Al. “I started volunteering at a local zoo to fill time, and they offered me a job. We had a sick goose, and one of my responsibilities was to give him his medication every day.”

Sounds innocuous enough, right? After all, it’s not like Al’s boss asked him to take the lion for his daily walk. Still, the task wasn’t without challenges.

“I had to catch the goose first, and he was pretty fast,” said Al, “but that was only half the battle. Once I had him, his pen-mate would run over and start attacking me. I guess he was taking up for his buddy.”

Who knew? Looks like we can add cliquish geese to the list of occupational hazards associated with working in a zoo.

Al’s zoo-keeping days are in his rear view mirror, as are thousands of miles of Central Texas Hill Country. Today, he spends 99 percent of his time on the road, teaching employers how to prevent workplace accidents.

Hearing loss is the most common work-related injury in the United States. It affects about 22 million Americans each year and costs businesses $242 million in workers’ compensation benefits.

I recently spent a day tagging along with Al on his visits. With plenty of “windshield time” to look forward to, I seized the opportunity to pick Al’s brain about workplace safety. After all, I’m a corporate writer getting a crash course safety. I need all the nuggets of wisdom I can get, and I got plenty during our first visit.

The policyholder is a demolition company responsible for gutting buildings that are being remodeled. The owner understands the importance of workplace safety, and so do his foremen.

The company has a written safety program, and new employees get an up-close look at it during their first day on the job. When accidents do happen, management investigates them as soon as possible, uncovers root causes and puts preventive measures in place.

It seemed that when it came to safety, this policyholder had all their bases covered. So what could they possibly learn from Al and his writer side-kick? Plenty, it turned out.

In asking questions and learning more about the policyholder’s operations, it occurred to Al that their employees might be exposed to noise levels that exceed regulatory thresholds. The foreman had never thought of that, and he assured Al he would take measurements at some of his job sites.

In the grand scheme of workplace hazards, it can be easy to overlook occupational noise. But hearing loss is the most common work-related injury in the United States. It affects about 22 million Americans each year and costs businesses $242 million in workers’ compensation benefits.

The bad news is that once you lose your hearing, you can’t get it back. The good news is that hearing loss is preventable.

As a hack musician, I’ve always got my ears open for tips on preventing hearing loss. So I dug a little deeper. In tomorrow’s post, I’ll share tips for making sure your employees hear your message about noise exposure.