Regulatory Roundup, December 30, 2015

oneRegulatory Roundup is Texas Mutual’s weekly digest of workplace safety and wellness news.

Texas Mutual

Tornadoes carve path of destruction across North Texas
Over the holiday weekend, 11 tornados swept the Dallas area. The destruction included 50,000 power outages, 1,000 leveled homes and buildings, and, most important, 11 fatalities, including an infant. Texas Mutual responded with two timely blog posts. One shared tips for weathering a tornado, and the other explained the hazards associated with recovery efforts.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)

E-log mandate set to take effect Dec. 2017
Semi TruckThe mandate will require truck operators to abandon paper duty status logs in favor or electronic logging devices. FMCSA says the rule will save the industry $1 billion a year in administrative costs. It also says the rule will save 26 lives and prevent 562 injuries annually…MORE

FMCSA abandons controversial proposed rule
The FMCSA will not move forward with a rule that would have required each U.S.-based commercial motor vehicle to display a label documenting the vehicle’s compliance with all applicable Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. Industry groups claimed the rule would provide no safety benefits and impose significant costs on carriers…MORE

Reduced controlled substance testing rate to save carriers $50M a year
Beginning January 1, the FMCSA will lower its minimum rate for random controlled substances testing from 50 to 25 percent. FMCSA reduced the controlled substance testing rate after positive random tests fell below 1 percent for three consecutive years from 2011 through 2013. The move will save motor carriers an estimated $50 million a year…MORE

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)

The usual suspects: Motor vehicle fatalities are up, and the causes are familiar
IncreaseThe death toll on U.S. highways rose 8.1 percent in the first half of 2015. More than half of people killed were not wearing seat belts, according to the NHTSA. Other causes of motor vehicle fatalities will come as no surprise: impairment, distraction and fatigue. Texas Mutual encourages the public to watch our series of one-minute videos on overcoming the common causes of motor vehicle injuries and fatalities…MORE

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

OSHA naming workers’ comp insurers in employer safety citations
OSHA issues press releases announcing employer fines of $40,000 or more. In an effort to ramp up accountability, the agency has begun identifying cited employers’ workers’ comp insurers. Note: You must register for a free Business Insurance account to read this articleMORE

Administrative court allows request for enterprise-wide hazard abatement by employer to proceed to trial
“Other appropriate relief.” Those three words form the basis of a precedent-setting judgment that could affect any employer fined by OSHA. Under the judgment, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission may have the authority under the OSH Act to order abatement measures beyond the specific violations identified in the citation…MORE

Fertilizer dealers spared from OSHA rule
A provision in the bill prohibits OSHA from applying its Process Safety Management rule to agricultural retailers until the Census Bureau has establishes a North American Industry Classification System code for farm supply retailers…MORE

Looking ahead: Future OSHA rules
If OSHA abolishes obsolete permissible exposure limits (PELs), it would be easier for its inspectors to fine employers under the General Duty Clause. PELs are one of six new rules OSHA will consider in 2016…MORE

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Drug overdose deaths surged in 14 states last year
Pills White Background
Drug overdoses increased 6.5 percent between 2013 and 2014, claiming 47,005 lives. Heroin and prescription painkillers were responsible for 61 percent of the deaths, the New York Times noted…MORE

Studies, news, resources

Dialogue, drills essential to protecting workers from violence
In 2014, 403 Americans died in workplace homicides, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Safety professionals must learn how to speak frankly about violence without scaring employees. And they should stress the importance of quickly choosing among three core responses during a violent encounter: run, hide or fight…MORE

SmartCap monitors drivers’ brainwaves to keep them alert
The cap’s built-in electroencephalogram system continuously analyzes the wearer’s brainwaves and alerts them to symptoms of fatigue, in real time…MORE

National Safety Council predicts deadly holiday weekend on the road
The National Safety Council predicts 653 people will die in traffic accidents during the Christmas and New Year’s weekends. Another 79,000 will suffer serious injuries. An estimated 405 lives could be saved if everyone wore seat belts during these two holidays…MORE

Driverless car accidents pile up, but who’s at fault?
Driverless cars have racked up a crash rate double that of those with human drivers, but they’ve been blameless in every case. Well, sort of blameless. It turns out that sometimes, the best way to protect yourself behind the wheel is to violate those best safety practices you learned so long ago. Unfortunately, driverless cars can’t exercise that level of discretion…yet…MORE


Safety Tips for the Calm After the Storm

In yesterday’s post, we reported that 11 tornados carved a path of destruction across the Dallas area during the holiday weekend. Gov. Gregg Abbott responded by declaring a state of emergency in multiple North Texas counties.

State and federal agencies are working alongside volunteers to assess and reverse the damage. If your business participates in recovery efforts, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration encourages you to educate your employees about the hazards they might encounter and teach them how to protect themselves.

Potential hazards

  • Hazardous driving conditions due to slippery and/or blocked roadways
  • Slips and falls due to slippery walkways
  • Falling and flying objects, such as tree limbs and utility poles
  • Sharp objects, including nails and broken glass
  • Electrical hazards from downed power lines or downed objects in contact with power lines
  • Falls from heights
  • Burns from fires caused by energized line contact or equipment failure
  • Exhaustion from working extended shifts
  • Heat exposure and dehydration

General precautions

  • Leave utility restoration, hazardous material clean-up, and search and rescue to the professionals. They have the proper training, equipment and experience.
  • Monitor your local radio or television stations for emergency information and the potential for additional storms.
  • Be aware of possible structural, electrical or gas-leak hazards, and report them to the proper local authorities and/or utility.
  • Do not touch downed power lines or objects in contact with downed power lines.
  • Wear boots, gloves and other proper clothing when walking on or near debris.
  • Be careful around sharp objects, including nails and broken glass.
  • Use the proper safety precautions when operating generators, chainsaws and other power tools.
  • Take steps to prevent heat illness and dehydration. 

More resources

For tips on weathering tornados and the hazards that often accompany them, visit Texas Mutual’s blog post titled “Lessons from the Field: Tornados Carve Path of Destruction Across North Texas.”

For information on preparing your home and your business for an emergency, leverage these free tools:

OSHA Evacuation Plans and Procedures eTool

OSHA Emergency Action Plan standard – Make a Plan

FEMA Family Emergency Planning Guide

FEMA Family Emergency Communication Plan


Lessons from the Field: Tornadoes Carve Path of Destruction Across North Texas

Generally speaking, the key to moving forward is to avoid looking back. But that’s not entirely true when it comes to workplace safety.

Over the holiday weekend, 11 tornados swept the Dallas area. The destruction included 50,000 power outages, 1,000 leveled homes and buildings, and, most important, 11 fatalities, including an infant.

In the wake of the widespread devastation, Gov. Gregg Abbott declared a state of emergency in Dallas, Ellis, Rockwall and Collin Counties. State and federal agencies, including the Department of Public Safety, are on hand to help assess and reverse the damage.

Red Cross Offers Tornado App

The American Red Cross offers an app that helps you weather tornados. The app features a tornado warning notification, location-based shelter maps, step-by-step guides to creating an emergency response plan, and interactive quizzes that test your knowledge. Preloaded content provides instant access to safety information, even without reception or an Internet connection.

In light of the work facing our neighbors to the north, it might seem counterproductive to look
in our rearview mirrors at the weekend’s devastation. But safety professionals know we can
learn valuable lessons from previous emergencies. Those lessons can help us prepare for future emergencies.

With that in mind, here are a handful of tips for weathering tornados and the secondary hazards that often blow in with them.

The calm before the storm

  • Create an emergency response plan, and practice it regularly.
  • Assemble an emergency kit that includes food, water, blankets, first aid supplies and prescription medications. You should have enough supplies to last at least 72 hours.
  • Learn the key threat assessment terminology. A tornado watch means tornadoes are possible, so stay alert for approaching storms. A tornado warning means a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Take shelter immediately.
  • Make accommodations for people who have special needs. For example, a person in a wheelchair may need help getting to a safe place.
  • Identify a safe room where people can gather during a tornado.

In the eye of the storm

  • Watch for the warning signs, such as dark, greenish skies; large hail; a large, dark, low-lying cloud (particularly if rotating); and a loud roar, similar to a freight train.
  • Get to a safe place away from windows. The safest place to be is an underground shelter, basement or safe room. If no underground shelter is available, a small, windowless interior room or hallway on the lowest level of a sturdy building is the safest alternative.
  • Protect your head. Most injuries associated with high winds are from flying debris.
  • If you are caught outside, get into a ditch or gully. If possible, lie flatly and cover your head with your arms.
  • Remember that a vehicle is the least-desirable place to be during a tornado. If you have to shelter in a vehicle, put your seat belt on, get your head below window-level, and cover it with your hands and a blanket if possible.

All’s quite now

  • Continue listening to local news or NOAA Weather Radio for updated information and instructions.
  • If you are away from home, return only when authorities say it is safe to do so.
  • Report fallen power lines and broken gas lines to the utility company immediately.
  • Tell friends and family you’re safe. the American Red Cross Safe and Well web site offers central location for people in disaster areas in the United States to register their current status, and for their loved ones to access that information. You can also call 1-866-GET-INFO to register.


Texas Mutual’s Work Safe, Texas website

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Occupational Safety and Health Administration

American Red Cross

Deck the Halls…Safely

In the 2006 movie “Deck the Halls,” two neighbors have it out after one of them decorates his house for the holidays so brightly it can be seen from space. Co-stars Danny DeVito and Matthew Broderick masterfully portray the chaos that ensues when grown men turn holiday cheer into a competitive sport.

If you haven’t transformed your home and office into winter wonderlands, what are you waiting for? Decorations – in moderation – create a fun, festive atmosphere. But they also introduce hazards you need to control.

Electrical hazards

Before the industrial revolution, trees were lit with candles. The combination of wood, wax and flame led to unfortunate, yet predictable, results.

We’ve come a long way since then, thanks largely to Ben Franklin, a kite, a key and a nasty storm one day in 1752.

Strands of electrical holiday lights are convenient and attractive. They’re also dangerous. Here are some tips for using them safely:

– Don’t overdo it: Limit your use of holiday lights to what your work area’s electrical outlets can handle. “Daisy chaining” power strips and extension cords to plug in several strands of lights could overload circuits and increase the risk of a fire.

– Hang it up: Use tape or temporary hooks to secure lights to walls, ceilings or cubicle surfaces. Avoid stapling or nailing cords into place. Staples and nails could damage the wiring’s insulation and increase the risk of sparks and electrocution.

– Shut it down: Make sure someone is responsible for turning off additional office lighting at the end of each day. Leaving lights on all night runs up the company’s electricity bill, and it could cause a fire while the building is unattended. Better yet, use timer devices to shut the lights off automatically.

Fire hazards
Following standard electrical safety practices when installing lights will help control your facility’s fire hazards. Still, you should consider additional fire safety issues when making holiday preparations.

All decorations should be made of non-combustible material, and you should never use candles. Make sure your office’s decorations do not interfere with sprinkler or alarm systems, exit signs or evacuation routes. That means you should not hang decorations from sprinkler heads, exit signs or fire extinguishers. Positon large decorative displays so they do not block doors or walkways.

Fall hazards
Slips, trips, and falls are the second-leading cause of workplace injuries, behind only motor vehicle accidents. Decorating is a non-routine task that can make these types of injuries more likely. To avoid slips, trips and falls while setting up for the holidays:

– Watch your step: If decorating requires you to access elevated areas, stand on a stable platform. When decorating the office, use step ladders to access hard-to-reach areas. Avoid standing on common office objects like desks, chairs or boxes of supplies.

– Watch out for each other: Cords for holiday decorations can be a trip hazard to pedestrians. When decorating your workspace, keep others in mind. Avoid running cords across walkways, and tape down cords that are at or near floor level.

Other seasonal hazards
Holiday decorations are just one of many unique hazards we should all be aware of during the holidays. For other seasonal safety tips, visit these posts from Texas Mutual’s Safety @ Work blog:
Turn up the Heat on Space Heater Safety

The Cold Facts About Winter Driving

Flu Season is Serious Business for Employers

Regulatory Roundup, December 18, 2015

Regulatory Roundup is Texas Mutual’s weekly digest of workplace safety and wellness news.

Texas Mutual News

Lessons from the field: It’s getting crowded in here
With the holiday shopping frenzy in full swing, OSHA reminds retailers to implement a crowd management plan…MORE

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

Tight delivery deadlines drive risky behaviors among long-haul truckers
Semi TruckA new NIOSH survey reveals that 73 percent of long-haul truck drivers perceive their delivery deadlines as unrealistically tight, which may be an incentive for risky driving behaviors such as speeding, hours-of-service violations, and continuing to drive despite fatigue, bad weather or heavy traffic…MORE

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Study highlights health risks associated with prolonged standing
Prolonged standing at work contributes to lower back and leg pain, cardiovascular problems, fatigue, discomfort and pregnancy-related health outcomes, according to an NIH study. Employers can protect employees by providing floor mats, sit-stand workstations/chairs, shoe inserts and hosiery or stockings…MORE

Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA)

Senate committee passes federal pipeline safety reauthorization bill
The bill reauthorizes the PHMSA through fiscal year 2019. One amendment to the bill requires the U.S. Comptroller General to conduct a review of states’ gas leak policies. Another requires the PHMSA’s administrator to provide un-redacted oil spill response plans if requested by three key congressional committees…MORE

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

OSHA, DOJ to hold managers criminally accountable for safety violations
A Philadelphia employer faces up to 25 years in prison after one of his employees fell 45 feet to his death while repairing a roof. The case represents a rare criminal conviction that may become more common under an agreement between OSHA and the Department of Justice…MORE

OSHA issues letter of interpretation on import/export labels for HCS
In the letter of interpretation, OSHA defines a container as any bag, barrel, bottle, box, can, cylinder, drum, reaction vessel, storage tank or the like that contains a hazardous chemical…MORE

15 years in the making, silica rule to debut February 2016
The rule lowers the permissible exposure limit for respirable crystalline silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air calculated as an eight-hour time-weighted average, down from about 100 micrograms for general industry and 250 micrograms for construction and shipyards…MORE

OSHA to focus on complex inspections in 2016
OSHA employs a mere one inspector for every 3,500 workplaces. To get the most out of its limited resources, OSHA will focus on complex inspections in 2016…MORE

Draft injury and illness prevention document targets temp workers
Newly released draft guidance from an OSHA advisory committee recommends staffing firms and host employers implement a safety and health program describing their shared responsibility for protecting temporary workers…MORE

Federal Communications Commission (FCC)

FCC schedules second tower-safety workshop
In 2012, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration recorded two cell tower worker deaths. In 2013, that number jumped to 13, and it grew again in 2014 to 14 deaths. To reverse the trend, the FCC will host a safety workshop on Feb. 11, 2016…MORE

National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)

NTSB oversize load safety alert cites Salado, Texas crash
Risk Sign
In March 2015, a truck carrying an oversize load on Interstate 35 in Salado struck the concrete bridge beams of an overhead highway bridge, causing the beams to fall into the travel lanes. Citing the Salado accident, the NTSB issued a safety alert reminding carriers to get permits for oversize loads…MORE

Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

BLS charts illustrate 2014 nonfatal injuries
The charts show the incidence rates and median days away from work broken down by occupation, as well as the causes of injuries and illnesses most commonly suffered by workers in specific occupations…MORE

Mine Safety & Health Administration (MSHA)

With holiday distractions plentiful, MSHA reminds miners to focus on the job to avoid injuries
From preparing for out-of-town guests to buying last-minute gifts, the holidays can consume our time, energy and attention. MSHA reminds miners that losing focus, even for a split-second, can yield deadly consequences on the job…MORE

Studies, news, resources

Wearable does the heavy lifting to prevent back strains
The device’s sensors detect workers’ movements and provide real-time feedback when they perform potentially high-risk activities…MORE

New device alerts drowsy drivers
The device is a Bluetooth headset that detects blinks and head nods, and then transmits the data to a smartphone. If drowsiness is detected, the headset alerts the driver…MORE

Walk this way: Study highlights risks of distracted walking
Distracted walkers veer off course by as much as 61 percent while texting and walking, according to a new study. Digitally distracted walkers are at risk of being hit by a vehicle, falling down stairs, tripping over a curb, walking into a glass door or falling into a fountain or swimming pool…MORE

Lessons from the Field: It’s Getting Crowded in Here

Jdimytai Damour was the type of employee you want on hand if you run a retail store during one of the busiest shopping days of the year. Standing six feet, five inches tall, he was surely an imposing figure.

Damour’s size didn’t stop a crowd of overly zealous shoppers from trampling him to death at an Arkansas Walmart in 2008.

Eager to cash in on post-Thanksgiving day deals, about 2,000 shoppers jockeyed for position outside the store’s locked doors. Shortly before 5 a.m., the doors collapsed under the relentless pressure. Four people were injured, including a pregnant woman whom Damour tried to help. Unfortunately, Damour himself did not survive.

Damour’s family called him a “gentle giant.” His friends called him Jimbo. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) called him a victim of Walmart’s lack of crowd management measures.

OSHA concluded Walmart committed a “serious violation” of rules requiring employers to make sure their workers are safe from hazards. The violation carried a $7,000 fine. Walmart spent seven years and $1 million fighting the fine before agreeing to pay it earlier this year.

As the holiday season picks up steam, retailers are ramping up for another shopping frenzy. OSHA encourages them to take time to put crowd management measures in place and protect their employees. Here are a handful of elements a crowd management plan should include:

  • Post trained security personnel or police officers on-site.
  • Set up barricades or rope lines for pedestrians and crowd control well in advance of customers arriving at the store. Make sure barricades prevent customers from lining up at the store’s entrance.
  • Develop emergency procedures that address potential dangers.
  • Have security personnel or customer service representatives explain the store’s approach and entrance procedures to the arriving public.
  • Do not allow additional customers to enter the store when it reaches maximum occupancy.
  • Do not block or lock exit doors.

For more information on protecting employees during major shopping events, see OSHA’s crowd management fact sheet.

Regulatory Roundup, December 11, 2015

Regulatory Roundup is Texas Mutual’s weekly compilation of EHS-related news.

Texas Mutual News

Work safe, Texas is open for business
December enhancements to include a stress management video, tips for protecting temporary workers, and 10 tips for investigating accidents and near misses…MORE

Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE)

High-risk offshore oil and gas facilities to face special inspections
The BSEE will inspect five facilities as part of a pilot program. Inspectors will scrutinize design, operating and environmental characteristics that may correlate to a greater likelihood of experiencing an incident…MORE

Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)

Following recent train derailments, officials eye worn rails as safety issue
trainU.S. officials have blamed rail wear as the direct cause of 111 derailments causing $11 million in damage since 2000. Currently, each railroad maintains its own rail wear standards. The FRA has its sights set on universal standards…MORE

Federal Legislation

Is U.S. (finally) on the verge of chemical safety reform?
The bill would mandate safety reviews for all chemicals in active commerce; require a safety finding for new chemicals before they can enter the market; replace TSCA’s cost-benefit safety standard with a pure, health-based safety standard; and require protection of vulnerable populations like children and pregnant women. The U.S. adopted the TSCA 40 years ago, and it has never been reformed…MORE

New highway law opens door to 18-year-old big-rig drivers
Semi TruckThe law creates a pilot program to put drivers as young as 18 behind the wheel of a big rig if they have received military training to operate a similar vehicle. It also removes truck safety ratings from a public Department of Transportation website and slows efforts to raise the insurance requirements for big rigs…MORE

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

Slip-resistant shoes reduce food service workers’ compensation claims
A four-year NIOSH study of 15,000 food service workers showed an 80 percent reduction in workers’ compensation claims related to slipping on liquid- or grease-contaminated surfaces…MORE

Local Legislation

Dallas passes mandatory breaks for construction workers
The ordinance requires construction workers to take 10-minute breaks every four hours worked. According to OSHA statistics, there were four heat-related construction fatalities in Texas between Oct. 1, 2014, and Sept. 30, 2015. Austin passed a similar ordinance in 2010…MORE

National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)

NTSB report cites deficiencies in tire recall system
Although dealers and distributors controlled by the tire manufacturer are required to register newly purchased tires on consumers’ behalf, no such requirement exists for independent dealers and distributors, which is where most Americans purchase tires…MORE

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)

NHTSA rule would improve trailer, semitrailer under-ride protection
The rule would require more robust rear impact guards on trailers and semitrailers. The goal is to improve under-ride protection in high-speed crashes…MORE

Holidays bring big risks of buzzed, drunk driving
drunk drivingBetween 2009 and 2013, 3,857 people died during December in motor vehicle crashes involving drivers who had high blood alcohol levels. To raise awareness of the dangers of driving under the influence, the NHTSA will launch its annual Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign on December 16…MORE

NHTSA imposes civil penalty on Harbor Freight Tools for failure to recall trailer kits
The $1 million fine penalizes the company for failing to issue a timely recall of more than 800,000 after-market trailer light kits that violate federal safety standards…MORE

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)

FMCSA proposed rule would require all commercial truck passengers to use safety belts
African American man driving truckThe rule would require passengers in property-carrying commercial motor vehicles to use safety belts. Approximately 275 occupants of large trucks killed in crashes in 2013 were not wearing their safety belts…MORE

FMCSA final rule requires electronic logging devices for truck and bus drivers
The rule will go into effect two years after the Federal Register publication date. FMCSA estimates the final rule will save 26 lives and prevent 562 injuries per year…MORE

Studies, news, resources

Five tips for keeping contractors safe
The temporary and contract worker industry has added more U.S. jobs in the last three years than any other industry. Unfamiliarity with the hazards of the job, combined with lack of training, doubles contract workers’ risk of getting injured. Prequalification, pre-job task and risk assessment, training and orientation, job monitoring and post-job evaluation are critical to keeping contract workers safe…MORE 

The science behind the great multitasking myth
distracted-driver-2If you think you’re a proficient multitasker, you’re probably wrong. Research shows that a mere 2.7 percent of the population can effectively do multiple things at once. When it comes to juggling visual tasks like texting and driving, the great multitasking myth can have fatal consequences…MORE

Ads tout fun flavors, but many e-cigarettes contain harmful chemicals
Many of the best-selling e-cigarette flavors include diacetyl, a chemical that contributes to lung disease…MORE

British authorities confiscate thousands of unsafe hoverboards
Scottish officials examined more than 17,000 hoverboards at entry ports and confiscated 88 percent over concerns such as safety issues with the plug, cabling, charger, battery, or the cut-off switch in the board…MORE

UL workplace health & safety releases free fire and extinguisher safety course
The free e-learning course teaches students to address fires in non-residential settings. Students learn to decide whether to flee or fight a fire, choose an appropriate fire extinguisher, inspect fire extinguishers and maintain them…MORE

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