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.

Regulatory Roundup, September 11, 2015

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

Texas Mutual News

When thunder roars, get indoorsLightning strike victims can suffer brain injuries and nerve damage for life.

Lightning strikes are on pace to more than double the average in recent years. Texas Mutual encourages everyone to take steps to protect themselves and their loved ones…MORE

Collin, McLennan County policyholders earn share of Texas Mutual’s $225M dividend distribution
The dividends are based largely on each qualifying Collin and McLennan County policyholders’ workplace safety record.

 National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)

Freight exemption could occur if railroad safety deadline not extended
U.S. railroads may not be obligated under federal law to carry freight including crude oil and hazardous materials if they fail to meet a year-end deadline for implementing positive train control technology…MORE

Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)

FRA to spend $10 Million to improve tracks along energy routes
The FRA is soliciting applications for $10 million in competitive grant funding available to states to improve highway-rail grade crossings and track along routes that transport energy products like crude oil and ethanol. Highway-rail grade crossing collisions are the second-leading cause of all railroad-related fatalities…MORE

 Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

Policy change affects anhydrous ammonia retailers
The policy would require retailers of anhydrous ammonia to comply with the same regulations as manufacturers and wholesale distributors of the fertilizer. Facilities that derive more than 50 percent of their income from direct sales of anhydrous ammonia to end users were notified in an OSHA memo July 22 that they will no longer be eligible for a retail exemption and will have to meet OSHA’s Process Safety Management standard by Jan. 21…MORE

Updates to OSHA 1910.269 carry obligations for employers
Updates to OSHA’s electric power generation, transmission and distribution standard require electrical workers who could be exposed to electrical arc to wear flame-resistant/arc-rated clothing. Employers were required to provide the clothing by Aug. 31, 2015…MORE

Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA)

CVSA to host Operation Safe Driver Week October 18-24
Law enforcement agencies in the United States, Canada and Mexico will increase traffic safety enforcement and offer safety education programs during the week. The goal is to increase commercial and non-commercial vehicle safety awareness…MORE

Chemical Safety Board (CSB)

CSB sets Houston meeting on DuPont La Porte release
The CSB will hold a public meeting Sept. 30 in Houston to consider recommendations following the methyl mercaptan gas release that killed four workers at the DuPont La Porte facility…MORE

 National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

NIOSH to develop best practices in motor vehicle safety in the oil and gas industry
Motor vehicle accidents account for 29 percent of workplace fatalities in the oil and gas industry. NIOSH is forming a work group to create and disseminate best practices in motor vehicle safety for the industry…MORE

Department of Transportation (DOT)

10 automakers commit to including automatic emergency braking (AEB) on all new vehicles
AEB systems use on-vehicle sensors such as radar, cameras or lasers to detect an imminent crash, warn the driver and, if the driver does not take sufficient action, engage the brakes…MORE

Studies, Resources, Trends, News

Study shows link between exercise, fewer slips and falls
Falls are the third-leading cause of accidental death for Americans between the ages of 45 and 64. Regular exercise can reduce the risk, according to a study by the University of Miami…MORE

Get free safety training resources for Spanish-speaking construction workers
Each resource describes an actual on-the-job accident and suggests control measures…MORE

Free webinar explains most common respiratory protection mistakes
Respiratory protection is the fourth-most cited OSHA violation. In this free webinar, you will learn how to avoid The Dirty Dozen – the 12 most common mistakes respiratory protection users make…MORE

When Thunder Roars, Get Indoors

On a stormy afternoon in 1969, lightning travelled through an underground speaker and struck a bank teller in the back. The bolt climbed the man’s spine, hit his brain and exited his right hand, which held a metal teller stamp.

Four decades and 46 surgeries later, the man still suffers back pain and migraines related to the incident. His traumatic experience inspired him to launch a support group, Lightning Strike and Electric Shock Survivors.

We’ve learned a lot about the dangers of lightning since 1969. The evidence is in the numbers; fatalities have decreased about 76 percent.

Still, lightning strikes are on pace to more than double the average in recent years. Texas Mutual encourages everyone to take steps to protect themselves and their loved ones.

Who’s at risk?
About 86 percent of people struck by lightning are men, and about two-thirds are enjoying a leisure activity when lightning strikes. Statistics suggest fishing presents the biggest risk, followed by playing on the beach and camping.

On the clock, farming and ranching account for the lion’s share – 33 percent – of lighting strike fatalities. Construction and roofing each account for 12 percent, followed by lawn care at 9 percent.

Just last month, an electrical transformer at the Valero Texas City oil refinery plant caught fire after being struck by lightning. Firefighters could not douse the fire with water due to the potential danger from electrical shock. They could only contain the fire to the transformer and allow the blaze to burn itself out.

Did you hear that?
Most people who are injured or killed by lightning are not struck directly, but rather when the bolt lands nearby. To estimate how close you are to lightning, count the seconds between the flash of lightning and the clap of thunder, and then divide that number by 5. That’s how many miles away the strike is.

Lightning by the Numbers
25 million – Average U.S. cloud-to-ground lightning strikes per year
50,000 degrees (F) – Temperature that lightning can reach
1,800 – Average number of thunderstorms on earth at any given moment
100 – Number of times lightning hits earth per second
5-10 miles – Distance lightning can strike away from a thunderstorm
Source: National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration

If math isn’t your strong suit, that’s okay. Just remember this simple guideline: If you hear thunder, lightning is close enough to strike you.

When thunder roars, get indoors
If you are outside when thunderstorms are in the area, you are not safe. When you hear thunder, immediately move to a safe shelter, such as a substantial building or an enclosed, metal-topped vehicle with windows up. Stay there at least 30 minutes after you hear the last sound of thunder.

When you get inside, stay off corded phones, computers and other electrical equipment that put you in direct contact with electricity. Avoid plumbing, including sinks, baths and faucets. Steer clear of windows and doors, and stay off porches. Do not lie on concrete floors, and do not lean against concrete walls.

Caught outside?
If you are caught outside with no safe shelter nearby, follow these tips to reduce your risk:

  • Immediately get off elevated areas such as hills, mountain ridges and peaks.
  • Never lie flatly on the ground.
  • Never shelter under an isolated tree.
  • Never use a cliff or rocky overhang for shelter.
  • Immediately get out and away from ponds, lakes and other bodies of water.
  • Stay away from objects that conduct electricity, such as barbed wire fences, power lines and windmills.

September is National Preparedness Month
Severe weather, flooding, fires and other disasters claim lives and affect businesses. In fact, approximately 40 percent of small businesses never reopen after a disaster. In September, regulatory agencies and safety professionals urge everyone to prepare their homes and their businesses for disasters. Texas Mutual offers a free disaster preparedness video on its Work Safe, Texas website. You can also visit for a four-step disaster preparedness process.

Regulatory Roundup, September 4, 2015

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

Texas Mutual News

Let’s take the anonymity out of workplace violence
Stopping Domestic Violence
Workplace violence perpetrators too often become public figures, while their victims remain largely anonymous. Perhaps if we could put a name and face with victims, we would allow ourselves to be moved from passive observers to active participants in finding a solution to workplace violence…MORE

Breathe Easy: It’s N95 Respirator Day
Approximately 20 million workers are exposed to airborne health risks every day. Any idea which respirator the majority of those workers turn to for protection? If you guessed N95s, you’re right…MORE

Visit Work Safe, Texas
Work Safe
September updates to our public safety website include a disaster preparedness video, an article on protecting yourself from drunk drivers this holiday weekend, and tips for avoiding slips, trips and falls…MORE

National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

NIOSH rolls out Spanish-language safety materials
NIOSH’s multimedia tools include booklets, brochures and real-worker testimonial videos, all in Spanish. Each resource has gone through extensive testing with the intended audience…MORE

NIOSH recommends LEV to reduce dust exposure in highway construction
NIOSH researchers have documented respirable crystalline silica exposures for workers operating dowel drilling machines of up to 26 times the REL during full-depth pavement repair, and up to eight times the REL during new runway construction. Local exhaust ventilation dust control measures reduce workers’ exposure to hazardous dust, according to NIOSH…MORE

NIOSH to study injuries and accidents in oil fields
OilfieldStarting in 2016, NIOSH will distribute questionnaires to 500 oil field workers in North Dakota, Texas and one other state that will be determined in the coming months. NIOSH will ask workers the hours they work, whether they wear protective gear, and whether employers typically provide written safety policies and make their employees aware of their right to stop a job when they spot a potential safety hazard. Truck drivers in the industry will be asked whether they are paid by the hour or the load and whether their employers require them to drive in bad weather…MORE

National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)

Joint employers: Changing the name of the temp game
The NLRB recently ruled companies that use temporary agencies are considered “joint employers.” As such, they share responsibility with agencies for liabilities regarding temporary workers. In addition, temporary workers who unionize have the right to bargain with the parent company and the temporary agency…MORE

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

Free webinar addresses hazard communication inspection procedures
OSHA will host the webinar at 2 p.m. ET, Sept. 9. Presenters will discuss enforcement procedures and the requirements for manufacturers and importers to develop compliant safety data sheets by June 1, 2015…MORE

 Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA)

MSHA proposes rule to prevent crushing, pinning deaths and injuries
The MSHA has proposed a rule that would require haulage machinery in underground coal mines to be equipped with technology that prevents miners from becoming struck, pinned or crushed…MORE

Department of Transportation (DOT)

Groups divided over hair sampling for truck driver drug tests
Congress is considering legislation that would allow the DOT to recognize hair samples as an alternative testing method to urine samples, which detect drug use for only two to three days. Hair samples can detect drug use for up to 90 days…MORE

Studies, Resources, Trends, News

Companies turn to athletic trainers to keep industrial athletes injury-free
healthy livingProfessional athletes put their bodies through the ringer a few hours a day. The typical employee is hard at work for up to 10 hours a day. The result can be debilitating musculoskeletal disorders. Many companies are turning to athletic trainers to keep industrial athletes injury-free and on the job…MORE

Baby’s on the way—What about your respirator?
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, according to a preliminary NIOSH study…MORE

Is 911 your best confined space rescue option?
The majority of 911 responders are firefighters, not confined space rescue experts. Consequently, 60 percent of confined space fatalities involve rescuers…MORE

Underage, unlicensed truck driver reveals what really happens on the roads
Truck on freeway
Truck drivers often alter hours of service numbers or keep two sets of books. Some also counter long hours with amphetamines to stay alert on long trips, according to a former driver…MORE

2015 on track to be deadly driving year
Traffic deaths are 14 percent higher through the first six months of 2015 than they were during the same period in 2014. Serious injuries are 30 percent higher, according to the National Safety Council…MORE

Driver’s ‘selfie’ attempt causes crash
Maine State Police have issued a distracted driving summons to a man who they say crashed into a tree while taking a “selfie” with his passengers, injuring several of them…MORE

New technology helps oil and gas industry settle the dust
An emerging industry is helping oil and gas companies protect workers from silica exposure. Crews keep fracking sand in a box resembling a metal freight container. When they are ready for the sand, they release it from the bottom of the box using gravity, not air pumps…MORE

Breathe Easy: It’s N95 Respirator Day

N95 Respirator Day. Really?

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

Maybe NIOSH figured in the hubbub of other safety observances, we’d pick up the N95 banner and run with it, no questions asked.

Now, I get Stand Down for Safety. After all, falls are the leading cause of deaths among construction workers. Few would argue that taking a few minutes to stop work and discuss the importance of fall prevention is a waste time.

Same goes for the upcoming Drive Safely Work Week. Motor vehicle accidents claim more lives than any other type of workplace accident, regardless of industry. Why wouldn’t you take time to remember the importance of buckling up, staying alert, avoiding distractions and controlling your speed?

But when I heard N95 Respirator Day was fast approaching, my first thought was, “You mean those flimsy white masks people wear when they mow their lawns?”

Still, I figured I owed it to NIOSH to poke around and see if N95 Respirator Day is much ado about nothing or a legitimate safety issue that deserves your attention.

Consider this safety professional convinced.

Respirators help protect employees who work in environments with insufficient oxygen or where harmful dusts, fogs, smokes, mists, fumes, gases, vapors or sprays are present. Approximately 20 million workers are exposed to these airborne health risks every day, according to NIOSH. Any idea which respirator the majority of those workers turn to for protection?

If you guessed N95s, you’re right.

So with apologies to NIOSH, here are a few things you need to know about those flimsy white masks.

Break the code
N95 respirators are the most common, basic type of disposable respirators. They are commonly used by health care workers, researchers, construction workers and others whose jobs expose them to dust and small particles. N95 respirators protect users by filtering out hazardous particles in the air.

Use Your N95 Safely
Learn how to properly put on and remove your respirator. Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for details.
Conduct a seal check every time you put a respirator on. Facial hair, piercings and anything else that interferes with the seal is strictly prohibited.
Never alter your N95. If you write on it, add fabric or staple anything to it, you void the NIOSH approval.
Discard your N95 after a single use.
Remember that N95 respirators, like other personal protective equipment, are your last line of defense against workplace hazards.

Filters fall into one of three categories:

  • N – Not resistant to oil
  • R – Resistant to oil
  • P – Oil proof

Furthermore, there are three levels of filter efficiencies: 95% (N95), 99% (N99) and N100 or HEPA filter (99.97% ).

So, an N95 respirator is not oil-resistant, and it filters 95 percent of the particles it is supposed to filter.

Get a medical evaluation
Under OSHA’s respiratory protection standard, workers who are required to wear a respirator due to a potential hazard in their work environment must be fit-tested, trained and medically evaluated. Medical evaluation is required once, prior to initial fit testing and use. However, you may have to be re-evaluated under certain circumstances. OSHA provides a medical evaluation form to facilitate the process.

Make sure your respirator is NIOSH-approved
To be considered OSHA-compliant, an N95 respirator must be NIOSH-approved. Look for the N95 or a NIOSH logo on the respirator or packaging.

There have been instances of manufacturers misrepresenting their products as NIOSH-approved. The most reliable way to tell whether NIOSH has approved a respirator is to look for the NIOSH TC# on the box or the produc. Sometimes, NIOSH rescinds respirator approvals at the manufacturer’s request or for cause. Refer to NIOSH’s website for a list of revoked respirator approvals.

Get fit tested annually
An N95 respirator requires a tight seal between the face and the mask. That is why OSHA requires users to get fit-tested. You only have to get tested annually unless you experience a physical change that could affect the respirator’s fit. Examples include large weight gain or loss, major dental work, facial surgery that changes the shape of your face, or significant scarring in the area of the seal.

Employers: Do you need a respiratory protection program?
If your employees are required to wear respirators, you must maintain a respiratory protection program. For more information on respiratory protection, visit the OSHA website, watch these videos and download this helpful publication.

Texas Mutual Insurance Company offers this information as general guidance. The company does not represent the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), nor do its employees speak on OSHA’s behalf. This guidance does not constitute legal advice. The company encourages you to review the governmental regulations and, for specific guidance, contact your local OSHA field office or consult with your legal counsel.

%d bloggers like this: