“Fall Protection – What’s Required Where?” – “Scissor Lifts”

scissor-lifts-and-harnesses-fall-protection-or-no-protection

First, I want to start off with the “scissor lift” dilemma and confusion. If you talk to two different people, you’ll get two differing opinions. Here are my thoughts on this:

I have watched while the battle has raged over whether the use of personal fall arrest harnesses by scissor lift operators is appropriate. The rationale on each side of the issue; pro and con, is intelligent, compelling, and complete with opinions from well informed, knowledgeable people.

The core argument from the pro-harness side stems from the assertion that scissor lift operators are more or less subject to the same falling hazards as anyone else working at height, so why not wear a harness?

On the con-harness side of things, some of the many the arguments follow the logic that if a scissor lift operator who is tethered to the unit goes over the guardrail, the resulting force(s) exerted on the machine when his/her weight jerks to a stop at the end of the lanyard’s travel could be enough to cause the unit to topple, sending it and the operator down. In addition, so I’m told, as the unit plummets down with the operator in tow, the lanyard serves to worsen things by “slingshotting” the operator into the ground and possibly under the machine, resulting in even greater injury than if he/she were able to free fall or jump clear.

If that’s not enough, neither OSHA regulations or ANSI/SIA standards require the use of personal fall protection harnesses for operators of scissor lifts. In fact, in many cases manufacturers do not provide an anchor point to connect the snap hook of a lanyard to and, OSHA prohibits tying off to a guard rail as per 29CFR 1926.502(d)(23)); “Personal fall arrest systems shall not be attached to guardrail systems.”

Some other issues that I have heard from the con side have to do with things like how wearing a harness restricts the movement of the operator or that wearing a harness may actually lull the operator into a false sense of security. I could go on, but I won’t.

I am going to go on record here and state that I believe scissor lift operators should be required to wear a personal fall restraint system (PFRS) consisting of a full body harness and non-shock absorbing lanyard provided there is an approved anchor point to connect it to. (In fact, if you dig into the OSHA regulations, you’ll find that “If the scissor lift manufacturer provides tie off anchor points at the base of the guardrail system, and the manufacturer’s user instructions require them to be used, then you need to be tied off with a PFRS”.)

Allow me approach each point of the “con” argument and, for what it’s worth, chip in my two cents.

First of all, take note of the suggestion for using a fall restraint harness rather than a fall arrest harness. Fall arrest systems are designed to stop a fall in progress while fall restraint systems prevent a fall from occurring… big difference. No fall means no excessive force on the unit, therefore no tip-over. The operator stays on the platform and the lift stays upright. Granted, a fall restraint harness may restrict the operator’s motion depending on the type of anchor point and how much mobility is actually required, but this is a fair trade in exchange for preventing a fall and possible fatality.

As for the “slingshot” effect, well, the laws of physics do not support that theory. A few centuries ago, Galileo discovered something we know today as, the law of falling bodies. Without going into great detail here, it basically states that everything that falls accelerates toward the earth at a rate of 32 feet per second/per second, until reaching peak terminal velocity (top speed), which is about 120 mph. So, if a scissor lift tips over, the operator and the platform are going to travel toward the ground at approximately the same speed; there will be no “slingshot” effect and certainly no need to jump from the platform. In addition, an operator wearing a PFRS will not sustain further injury because of multiple impacts with the ground from bouncing after the initial impact with the ground.

On the topic of jumping clear of the unit, there are serious concerns about the practicality of that notion. Even a conditioned athlete that is prepared and ready for the unit to tip would have difficulty picking the right moment to leap clear. When an aerial lift goes over it typically happens unexpectedly and quickly. The average operator is unlikely to have the physical prowess or presence of mind to do the right thing at the right time and even if he/she did, they would still have the actual fall to the ground with which to contend.

That brings us to OSHA regulations which, after all, are the law and the law says you don’t have to wear a harness to operate a scissor lift. I am going to avoid getting wrapped up in reg’s here the same way I do when I train operators, suffice to say that we are not attempting to determine if we have to wear it, but whether we should. Allow me to share a bit of wisdom that I usually impart to operators when they get a bit carried away with the law, which is; when you operate aerial lift devices, the only law you need to concern yourself with is the law of gravity. Respect for occupational safety and health laws will affect your relationship with OSHA while respect for gravity will affect your relationship with the ground!

As far as harnesses giving operators a false sense of security, it shouldn’t. It should give them a real sense of security. It is a simple fact that an operator wearing a PFRS is less likely to be killed by falling from the platform, which in itself is reassuring. It is also a fact that more scissor lift operators are killed by falling from the platform than by tipping the unit over and besides, if the unit goes over for any reason, the effect on the operator will be ugly with or without a PFRS.

The bottom line here is that every situation, or in this case, each use of the scissor lift has to be looked at from a different approach, so good judgment and the use of best practices are imperative.

9-23-2016 – Here is a link to a Scissor Lift Manufacturers letter, requiring the use of Fall Protection while using their product. https://goo.gl/hi2mvw

“Top 10 OSHA Citations of 2016: A Starting Point for Workplace Safety”

OSHAupdate

Every October, the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration releases a preliminary list of the 10 most frequently cited safety and health violations for the 2016 fiscal year, compiled from nearly 32,000 inspections of workplaces by federal OSHA staff.

One remarkable thing about the list is that it rarely changes. Year after year, our inspectors see thousands of the same on-the-job hazards, any one of which could result in a fatality or severe injury.

More than 4,500 workers are killed on the job every year, and approximately 3 million are injured, despite the fact that by law, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their workers. If all employers simply corrected the top 10 hazards, we are confident the number of deaths, amputations and hospitalizations would drastically decline.

Consider this 2016 list a starting point for workplace safety:

  1. Fall protection
  2. Hazard communication
  3. Scaffolds
  4. Respiratory protection
  5. Lockout/tagout
  6. Powered industrial trucks
  7. Ladders
  8. Machine guarding
  9. Electrical wiring
  10. Electrical, general requirements

It’s no coincidence that falls are among the leading causes of worker deaths, particularly in construction, and our top 10 list features lack of fall protection as well as ladder and scaffold safety issues. We know how to protect workers from falls, and have an ongoing campaign to inform employers and workers about these measures. Employers must take these issues seriously.

We also see far too many workers killed or gruesomely injured when machinery starts up suddenly while being repaired, or hands and fingers are exposed to moving parts. Lockout/tagout and machine guarding violations are often the culprit here. Proper lockout/tagout procedures ensure that machines are powered off and can’t be turned on while someone is working on them. And installing guards to keep hands, feet and other appendages away from moving machinery prevents amputations and worse.

Respiratory protection is essential for preventing long term and sometimes fatal health problems associated with breathing in asbestos, silica or a host of other toxic substances. But we can see from our list of violations that not nearly enough employers are providing this needed protection and training.

The high number of fatalities associated with forklifts, and high number of violations for powered industrial trucksafety, tell us that many workers are not being properly trained to safely drive these kinds of potentially hazardous equipment.

Rounding out the top 10 list are violations related to electrical safety, an area where the dangers are well-known.

Our list of top violations is far from comprehensive. OSHA regulations cover a wide range of hazards, all of which imperil worker health and safety. And we urge employers to go beyond the minimal requirements to create a culture of safety at work, which has been shown to reduce costs, raise productivity and improve morale. To help them, we have released new recommendations for creating a safety and health program at their workplaces.

We have many additional resources, including a wealth of information on our website and our free and confidential On-site Consultation Program. But tackling the most common hazards is a good place to start saving workers’ lives and limbs.

Thomas Galassi is the director of enforcement programs for OSHA.

“OSHA’s Wall Of Shame – With Limited Staff, Agency Targets “Severe Violators”

osha-jacket-850x476

Source: FairWarning.org – By Paul Feldman and Stuart Silverstein

Soon after beginning their cleanup of a fume-filled tanker car at an Omaha, Nebraska rail maintenance yard, Adrian LaPour and Dallas Foulk were dead.

An explosion that April 2015 afternoon trapped LaPour in a flash fire inside the car and hurled Foulk out the top to his death.

Six months later their employer, Nebraska Railcar Cleaning Services, was hammered by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration with seven citations for “egregious, willful” workplace violations, along with 26 other charges. The agency proposed fines of nearly $1 million. To top it off, OSHA announced that it was tossing the company into its Severe Violator Enforcement Program, or SVEP.

Six years into the severe violator program – arguably the broadest workplace safety initiative launched during the Obama administration – more than 500 businesses are on its list of bad actors. They include corporate giants such as DuPont and International Paper, each with tens of thousands of employees, as well as more than 300 construction firms, many with fewer than a dozen workers.

Just last week an auto parts maker in Alabama, Ajiin USA, was labeled a severe violator and hit with proposed fines of $2.5 million related to the June death of a 20-year old worker. Regina Allen Elsea, who was two weeks away from getting married, was crushed when a robotic machine she was doing maintenance on abruptly restarted. Ajiin, which supplies automakers Kia and Hyundai, said in a statement it will continue to cooperate with OSHA and that “safety has always been our guiding principle.”

Along with subjecting employers to a form of public shaming, the severe violator program helps OSHA work out settlements intended to force companies to clean up their job safety practices. The program, which replaced a George W. Bush administration initiative that an inspector general’s audit derided as ineffectual, also can result in extra inspections, sometimes at multiple sites, and force companies to hire new safety personnel. The effort, though, faces an uncertain future under the Trump administration.

The severe violator list represents an attempt to deal with an overwhelming regulatory challenge. With OSHA and its state counterparts relying on fewer than 1,850 inspectors to monitor about 8 million workplaces, it would take federal officials 145 years to inspect each job site once, union researchers estimate. The aim of the list is to let OSHA’s limited staff zero in on some of the worst offenders.

David Michaels, the assistant secretary of labor in charge of OSHA, said in an interview with FairWarning that “even if we doubled our inspectors, we would still be able to only get to a small portion of employers. And so we need tools like SVEP, which extend our capabilities and encourage more employers to do the right thing even without inspections.”

But the targeted nature of the program creates a Catch-22. The death of a worker is clearly the worst thing that can happen at a job site. Yet with about 4,800 workplace fatalities a year nationally, putting every company with a death on the severe violator list would overwhelm OSHA and defeat the goal of tougher enforcement for a subset of the worst offenders. For that reason, the death of a worker will put a company on the list only if the circumstances are particularly flagrant or reflect a pattern of reckless conduct. In 2015 only one out of every roughly 200 employers with an on-the-job fatality landed on the list.

At the same time, it’s not certain that the program has effectively deterred recalcitrant employers, as OSHA lacks any comprehensive assessment of its performance. For evidence of the impact, OSHA officials point to settlements they have reached with companies on the list. “There hasn’t been a really good objective evaluation,” said MIT Professor Thomas A. Kochan, co-director of MIT’s Institute for Work and Employment Research.

One critic, John Newquist, (a LinkedIn connection of mine) and former OSHA official in Chicago, said his sense is that among employers, “There’s no fear of OSHA at all.”

Michaels, who will leave the agency by the January 20, 2017, presidential inauguration, expressed hope that the Trump administration won’t dismantle the severe violator effort or other enforcement initiatives. He said tough enforcement protects responsible employers because it “levels the playing field” between them and competitors who skimp on safety. Still, the anti-regulation views of Trump cabinet picks including Andrew Puzder, the president-elect’s choice for labor secretary, are raising expectations of cutbacks in workplace enforcement.

Nebraska Railcar –- currently the target, several sources say, of a Justice Department criminal investigation of last year’s explosion –- highlights how long it can take a wayward company to be put into the severe violator program. Jacob Mack, who worked for the company in 2013, says he told OSHA about brutal conditions long before the deadly blast. “Not a day goes by I don’t remember the hell there,” Mack said.

The company wasn’t listed until after the explosion even though it, as well as other businesses controlled by Nebraska Railcar’s majority owner, Steven Braithwaite, had repeatedly been cited by OSHA dating back to 2005. That includes a 2013 citation involving a fire risk from oil storage tanks. Nebraska Railcar stayed off the list, though, partly because its prior violations didn’t involve hazards the agency deemed high-priority, such as falls, amputations, cave-ins and exposure to toxic chemicals.

(Nebraska Railcar is contesting its current OSHA citations, as are other companies cited in this story that haven’t reached a settlement with the agency. Nebraska Railcar and most of the other companies have not responded to requests for comment.)

Case Farms, a leading poultry processor with plants in Ohio and North Carolina, finally landed on the list in 2015 after being cited for more than 350 violations over a 25-year period, according to OSHA. The case, which processes nearly 3 million chickens a week for fast food chains and supermarkets, last year was fined $861,500 for 55 violations, including amputation and fall hazards, at its Winesburg, Ohio, plant.

Sometimes disaster has struck even after companies were put in the program. One such case, in October, spurred a public outcry in Boston. Two laborers working for Atlantic Drain Service died after being trapped in a trench that was inundated by water, dirt, and debris after a pipe burst. Atlantic Drain had been on the severe violator list since 2012.

The October deaths “were entirely preventable,” The Boston Globe wrote in an editorial, “had city and state officials taken minimal steps to investigate the construction company before issuing permits.”

Whatever the shortcomings of the severe violator program, labor advocates say, the wide range of companies it snares -– and the number and gravity of their violations -– underscore its importance and the need to protect workers from callous bosses. OSHA’s other options are limited. The agency lacks the authority to shut down dangerous workplaces and its fines generally remain modest despite an increase that took effect in August.

“OSHA is one-eighth the size of the EPA, it has the lowest penalties of almost any government agency – but even though it is small, it is critical that enforcement is maintained,” said Deborah Berkowitz, the OSHA chief of staff from 2009 to 2013. The severe violator list, she conceded, is “not an end-all tool,” but an important tool.

An example OSHA officials point to is Ashley Furniture, the nation’s largest retailer of home furnishings. It was listed last year after being cited for 38 violations, 12 of them willful, and assessed $1.76 million in fines. Inspections showed more than 1,000 work-related injuries in less than four years at its plant in Arcadia, Wisconsin.

Over 100 of the injuries took place on similar woodworking machines, including a July 2014 incident in which a worker lost three fingers. In June, the privately held firm settled the case, agreeing to pay penalties of $1.75 million and to adopt safety measures in Arcadia and at three other plants in Wisconsin and Mississippi.

Some corporate defense lawyers say being labeled a “severe violator” is such a black eye that it strongly motivates companies to avoid trouble with OSHA. However, they criticize the program for lacking due process, because companies are labeled severe violators even as they appeal citations.

“You are dumped into SVEP essentially the day that the citations are issued and a citation is nothing more than an allegation,” said Eric J. Conn, a Washington, D.C.-based attorney who specializes in OSHA defense cases. “Having the federal agency that is responsible for safety and health branding that employer as a bad actor … absolutely has significant consequences to the employer’s business.”

In the meantime, corporate lawyers say, competitors or critics can take advantage of the situation. If residents near a listed site “don’t like your company, to begin with, this is more ammunition they can use to go to a zoning board to block permits for expansion,” said Adele Abrams, a Washington, D.C.-based attorney.

On-the-job deaths can keep companies in the program for years. DuPont was listed after four workers at its La Porte, Texas, chemical plant died of asphyxiation in 2014. The disaster occurred after a supply line released more than 20,000 pounds of deadly methyl mercaptan gas. The company, which manufactures pesticides at the Texas plant, was assessed $273,000 for eight OSHA violations. DuPont said it couldn’t comment because it is appealing its case.

AMF Bowling Centers, Inc. has been on the list since 2011, when a worker at its lanes in Addison, Texas, was fatally pulled into an automatic pin-setting machine while trying to clear a jam. OSHA had previously cited AMF in 2007 and 2008 for failing to provide proper machine guarding on pinsetters. The case was settled, with AMF agreeing to pay more than $90,000 in penalties.

Oil services giant Nabors Completion and Production Services Co. was listed following the death of welder Dustin Payne, a 28-year-old former Marine who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was killed in a 2014 explosion when vapors ignited inside a tank he was welding in North Dakota.

Houston-based Nabors, which boasts of operating the world’s largest land-based drilling rig fleet, was assessed $97,200 in fines and charged with a willful violation for not having thoroughly cleaned the tank of oil residue before sending Payne in.

“Dustin Payne and his fiancée should be discussing marriage and their future together. Instead, she is left stricken and trying to move forward without him,” Eric Brooks, OSHA’s area director in Bismarck, N.D., said in a news release.

International Paper Co. was added to the list last year after a 57-year-old mechanic was killed in a fire while replacing filter bags in machinery at its Ticonderoga, N.Y., plant. The bags contained combustible dust that ignited.

In assessing $211,000 in fines, OSHA said the company had failed to supply fire-resistant clothing or adequate training. The firm had previously been cited for failing to conduct annual inspections of ignitable equipment at company sites in Chicago and Newark, Ohio.

Although big companies draw the most widespread attention, the employers most commonly labeled severe violators are small construction firms with high emphasis hazards related to falls or excavation cave-ins. Yet small construction firms often elude the follow-up inspections that are supposed to be a key feature of the program.

A FairWarning analysis of the current list of 523 severe violators found that 167 had not been re-inspected, and almost all were construction firms. In many cases, the firms had shut down their worksites or went out of business before inspectors could return.

Eric Frumin, safety and health director of the union coalition Change to Win, said given the way the industry operates, OSHA can be “powerless to find and vigorously confront the worst actors.”

A trench collapse last year in New York that put a construction firm on the list also led to criminal charges. The cave-in collapse in lower Manhattan buried Carlos Moncayo, 22, under tons of dirt. His employer, Sky Materials Corp. of Maspeth, was fined $140,000 and listed for willfully failing to provide cave-in protection

Last month, Sky’s site foreman was convicted of criminally negligent homicide in the death of Moncayo, one of at least 18 New York City construction workers who died on the job in 2015. The project’s general contractor, Harco Construction LLC, was convicted of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide in June.

Deadly incidents also have brought rail tank car cleaning companies into the program. At Nebraska Railcar, the disaster came soon after the workers returned from a lunch break and started digging out thick residue from an oil tanker. The lone survivor among the three employees working on the tanker, Joe Coschka, 36, said he was just outside the car, lowering buckets of the blacktop like material into a 55-gallon drum.

Coschka said the odor from inside the tanker was powerful, and that an air monitor was beeping. Even so, he said he assumed a supervisor who should have known better than him whether the air was a hazard, should have informed workers to evacuate the tank car immediately.

Soon Coschka heard a loud hiss, and then sparks started shooting out of the tanker. The next thing he remembers is dangling from the side of the car, still attached to his safety harness, with a fire raging inside. “And I knew Adrian was in there, and Dallas was looking pretty bad on the ground. I just knew I had to get out of there,” said Coschka. He managed to scramble to safety despite suffering back and shoulder injuries.

Coschka remains haunted by the disaster. Although he sometimes blames himself for not questioning the foreman who sent the workers into the tanker car, most of his anger is aimed at Braithwaite, the main owner of the business. He said he wishes the tougher OSHA actions had come sooner. Referring to the years of citations against Braithwaite’s companies, Coshka added: “It’s just sad because this guy dropped the ball so many times and he just keeps getting away with it.” Coschka had started at Nebraska Railcar only a month earlier.

Source: FairWarning.org – By Paul Feldman and Stuart Silverstein

“Top 10 OSHA Citations of 2016: A Starting Point for Workplace Safety”

OSHAupdate

Every October, the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration releases a preliminary list of the 10 most frequently cited safety and health violations for the 2016 fiscal year, compiled from nearly 32,000 inspections of workplaces by federal OSHA staff.

One remarkable thing about the list is that it rarely changes. Year after year, our inspectors see thousands of the same on-the-job hazards, any one of which could result in a fatality or severe injury.

More than 4,500 workers are killed on the job every year, and approximately 3 million are injured, despite the fact that by law, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their workers. If all employers simply corrected the top 10 hazards, we are confident the number of deaths, amputations and hospitalizations would drastically decline.

Consider this 2016 list a starting point for workplace safety:

  1. Fall protection
  2. Hazard communication
  3. Scaffolds
  4. Respiratory protection
  5. Lockout/tagout
  6. Powered industrial trucks
  7. Ladders
  8. Machine guarding
  9. Electrical wiring
  10. Electrical, general requirements

It’s no coincidence that falls are among the leading causes of worker deaths, particularly in construction, and our top 10 list features lack of fall protection as well as ladder and scaffold safety issues. We know how to protect workers from falls, and have an ongoing campaign to inform employers and workers about these measures. Employers must take these issues seriously.

We also see far too many workers killed or gruesomely injured when machinery starts up suddenly while being repaired, or hands and fingers are exposed to moving parts. Lockout/tagout and machine guarding violations are often the culprit here. Proper lockout/tagout procedures ensure that machines are powered off and can’t be turned on while someone is working on them. And installing guards to keep hands, feet and other appendages away from moving machinery prevents amputations and worse.

Respiratory protection is essential for preventing long term and sometimes fatal health problems associated with breathing in asbestos, silica or a host of other toxic substances. But we can see from our list of violations that not nearly enough employers are providing this needed protection and training.

The high number of fatalities associated with forklifts, and high number of violations for powered industrial trucksafety, tell us that many workers are not being properly trained to safely drive these kinds of potentially hazardous equipment.

Rounding out the top 10 list are violations related to electrical safety, an area where the dangers are well-known.

Our list of top violations is far from comprehensive. OSHA regulations cover a wide range of hazards, all of which imperil worker health and safety. And we urge employers to go beyond the minimal requirements to create a culture of safety at work, which has been shown to reduce costs, raise productivity and improve morale. To help them, we have released new recommendations for creating a safety and health program at their workplaces.

We have many additional resources, including a wealth of information on our website and our free and confidential On-site Consultation Program. But tackling the most common hazards is a good place to start saving workers’ lives and limbs.

Thomas Galassi is the director of enforcement programs for OSHA.

“What Do You Really Need In Your First Aid Kit?”

First Aid Cabinet

First Aid Cabinet

When it comes to first-aid kits, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is not a micro-manager.

The agency doesn’t tell you what supplies to include in your kit or even how many kits you should have. OSHA only says at 29 CFR 1910.151(b), that “adequate first-aid supplies shall be readily available.”

OSHA, in a 2007 letter of interpretation (LOI), tells you that “If the employer has persons who are trained in first aid, then adequate first-aid supplies must be readily available for use.”

What does OSHA mean by “adequate” supplies? The LOI went on to explain that “employers are required to provide first-aid supplies that are most appropriate to respond to incidents at their workplaces.” The most appropriate supplies can be different for each work-site.

Which begs the question, what does “most appropriate” mean?

Review your OSHA logs and reports

To determine the supplies and the amounts that are “most appropriate” for your workplace, you can review your OSHA 300 logs of injuries and Illnesses and your 301 incident reports. You can also seek the advice of your medical professional, or you can consult the local fire and rescue service or emergency medical services.

Appendix A to §1910.151 refers employers to the American National Standard (ANSI) Z308.1-1998 “Minimum Requirements for Workplace First Aid Kits,” saying the contents of the kit listed in the ANSI standard should be adequate for small worksites. For larger operations or multiple operations, employers should determine the need for additional kits, additional types of first-aid equipment and supplies, and additional quantities and types of supplies and equipment in the kits.

When stocking your kit, keep in mind the number of employees who may use the kit, and make sure it is easy to access.

While OSHA does not prohibit employers from locking up first-aid supplies, a lock cannot keep the first aid supplies from being “readily available.” Because a lock may limit accessibility in an emergency situation, employers who secure first-aid supplies need to train employees on how to access those supplies, and must ensure that someone is always available to provide access to the supplies.

First-aid kits might not be enough

It some cases, first-aid kits aren’t enough to meet OSHA’s requirement to provide medical supplies that match the hazards of the workplace. For instance, OSHA’s standards for logging operations, permit-required confined spaces, and electric power generation, transmission, and distribution require training in first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) for certain employees.

In addition, §1910.151(c) requires you to provide “suitable facilities for quick drenching or flushing of the eyes and body” when employees may be exposed to injurious corrosive materials.

Some state-plan states may have slightly different or more stringent requirements than those of federal OSHA. In California, CalOSHA requires that a physician approves the contents of workplace first-aid kits. If you are in a state-plan state, be sure to check your state’s requirements.

OSHA also refers to ANSI/ISEA Z308.1-2014 as an additional, but not a mandatory guide for First Aid Kits and types as noted  in the link here: https://is.gd/m2zBGf

 

 

“2016 Training Survey – How Much Does Your Organization Spend On Worker Safety Training?”

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