Study: Workplace Injury Increases Death Risk

March 5th, 2015

hard hat with pathAccording to a new study from the Institute for Work and Health, those workers who are injured on the job are at greater risk of early death than those workers who are not.

The report on the study, which was just released this week, noted that incurring a serious work-related injury has a tendency to raise the worker’s mortality risk, especially for workers who are injured at a young age, and that such risk remains high for at least a decade after the injury. This would seem to contradict the popular belief that young workers are better able to recover from their injuries than older workers.

The research, which was undertaken over 19 years and used data from Statistics Canada and the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, revealed that the overall death rate for men with permanent impairments was 14 per cent, which was significantly higher than the 9 per cent rate for men who were not injured. That means injured male workers face a mortality risk that is more than half again as high as uninjured men. For women, the mortality risk is similar, with injured women seeing a six per cent death rate, and uninjured women seeing a four per cent rate. The higher risk of death peaked after 13 years for the women and after 15 years for the men.

In addition to age, occupational disabilities seem to play a key role with regard to the increased mortality risk, as the workers learn to cope with the impairment. The study seemed to show that such impairments can cause problems with a worker’s sense of self-esteem, and create social stigmas.

Overall, the report noted that it seemed as if the risk of dying from a disabling injury doesn’t pass after a year or two, but actually persists for decades. There is also evidence that such injury can have a negative effect on their long-term worth in the labour market.

Yet another reason why it’s important for employers and workers to do all they can to prevent injury in the first place.

OSHA Finds Michigan Shipyard to be Very Unsafe

March 4th, 2015

ShipyardAfter one of the worst inspection results in the past couple of years, the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited Michigan-based shipyard operator Basic Marine Inc., three willful and 10 serious safety violations, as well as five repeat violations. They have also proposed $242,940 in fines. In addition, because of the seriousness of the repeat violations, OSHA has placed the company in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

According to OSHA’s report on its August 2014 follow-up inspection, workers at Basic Marine’s shipyard were exposed to numerous fall and respiratory hazards, and that they have also been exposed to dangerous amputation hazards while operating press brakes because safety mechanisms were not in place. OSHA inspectors have found similar hazards three times in the past six years at the shipyard, even during an inspection that occurred after a 2008 incident in which a worker’s arm was amputated.

This time, OSHA discovered that workers were exposed to struck-by hazards, machine hazards and potential falls from unguarded manholes and unprotected edges. Those revelations brought three willful violations, which OSHA sees as “committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirement, or with plain indifference to employee safety and health.”

OSHA also found respiratory protection standards violations because workers were not required to wear air-line respirators. In addition, the company was not inspecting crane slings every three months and inspection records were not maintained. Both are required by OSHA regulations.

Basic Marine also exposed workers to dangerous operating machine parts by not requiring that workers use the machines only with adequate protective devices. They also failed to provide specific written lock-out and tag-out procedures and training for workers, so they did not know how to prevent unintentional operation of machinery during service and maintenance.

According to their report, OSHA inspectors also found a total of ten serious violations, including unmarked exit signs and a failure to post fire watches when workers were performing welding tasks.

Quebec Man in Drowsy Driving Crash With Snowplow

March 3rd, 2015

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA grisly crash between an SUV and a snowplow in Ste-Julie, Quebec demonstrates the importance of being careful when driving around snowplows, as well as the importance of drivers pulling off the road and resting whenever they begin to feel a little drowsy.

By all accounts, this particular driver was extremely lucky, and no one should rely on luck to keep them safe.

Thankfully, the driver of an SUV, a 19-year-old man from St-Amable, Quebec, was able to survive the head-on collision with the snowplow, and managed to walk away from the scene uninjured. But it could have easily gone the other way, based on eyewitness descriptions of the accident scene.

According to Beloeil police, though the man walked away, the accident left his SUV totalled, with the front end described as looking as if it had been “smashed like a tin can.” The driver of the SUV had apparently fallen asleep at the wheel when his SUV slammed into the snowplow on a rural road at around 4 a.m. last Wednesday.

Police say the snowplow saw the SUV coming at him and tried to pull over to the right side of the road to prevent the crash, but was unable to do so. The snowplow’s driver was also unhurt.

Once again, this man was very lucky, and no one should ever rely on luck as a method for staying safe.

Ontario MOL to Examine the Modern Workplace

March 2nd, 2015

inspectorBeginning in the spring, the Ontario Ministry of Labour (MOL) plans to begin a series of consultations with regard to the changing workplace in the modern era, including discussions as to how they can amend and change such laws as the Labour Relations Act, the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Employment Standards Act to make them more relevant and provide greater protection to workers in the rapidly changing economy.

The public consultations will examine such crucial issues as:

  • Greater diversity in the workforce;
  • The increased importance of the service sector;
  • Globalization;
  • Free trade agreements and their impact on labour; and
  • Technological changes.

The ministry is currently in the process of developing the plan for the consultations, which will include regional public meetings. They are also developing a plan for the research and analysis that will take place. They hope to be able to announce the final schedule within the next few weeks on the MOL website.

Leading the consultations will be C. Michael Mitchell, who has been a lawyer for 37 years, and who is now a full-time arbitrator and mediator, and John Murray, who was once a justice with the Superior Court of Justice and who just became a full-time mediator and arbitrator last month. Murray has often provided legal advice to major corporations, both public and private, as well as to hospitals and universities. The two of them will coordinate and lead the consultations, and then provide the MOL with a written report, complete with recommendations.

OSHA Investigating Tree Trimmer – Again

February 27th, 2015

OSHAOfficials with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) are investigating a fatal accident involving a bucket truck that occurred last week in North Versailles, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Pittsburgh.

According to reports, 48-year-old worker for The Davey Tree Expert Co., Charles Shahan, was clearing tree limbs from power lines owned by Duquesne Light on Feb. 17 when he suddenly fell 30 feet. According to the Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office, Shahan died of blunt force trauma to the head and body.

One of the most troublesome aspects of this accident, however, is that it’s not the first involving the company. Less than two months ago, in Dec. 2014, OSHA cited Kent, Ohio-based Davey for a willful violation after an investigation into the death of a 21-year-old tree trimmer in June 2014 at a worksite in Claysburg. In that incident, the tree trimmer was killed when a vehicle rolled over him.

The OSHA investigation of the earlier incident showed that the company had failed to follow the manufacturer’s instructions that time, and operated the utility task vehicle on a slope that was steeper than the 15-degree limit permitted by the manufacturer. This, despite having been cited for a similar rollover accident involving a utility task vehicle that occurred in July 2012.

OSHA proposed a $70,000 fine for the June 2014 incident and they placed the company into their Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which means more inspections and closer scrutiny.

OSHA, NIOSH Issue New Silica Hazard Warning

February 26th, 2015

Silica ExposureFollowing numerous reports that a lot of workers in both Spain and Israel have developed silicosis doing this sort of work, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) have issued a new hazard alert that is aimed at protecting those workers who face significant exposure to crystalline silica during every step of the process of  manufacturing and installing any sort of stone countertop.

Silicosis is an incurable lung disease that is progressively disabling and often fatal. Ten of the Israeli workers who were stricken required lung transplants because the silicosis had progressed to such a degree that it became necessary. With this hazard alert, OSHA and NIOSH have identified silica as a health hazard to workers in stone countertop manufacturing and fabrication shops, as well as when they are being finished and installed in the home.

The alert explains the danger to employers and workers and gives detailed instructions as to how they can mitigate the risk of exposure with simple and effective dust controls. These can include monitoring the air and determining silica exposure levels in the workplace; using engineering controls and safe work practices to control exposure; and providing workers with respiratory protection in those situations when there are high exposure levels. They also recommend providing all workers with sufficient training to understand and control the silica hazard.

Slips, Trips and Falls Safety Blitz Continues

February 25th, 2015

The Ontario Ministry of Labour is in the midst of a safety blitz, in which it is specifically targeting slip, trip and fall hazards at workplaces in the industrial sector, so you should keep an eye out from now until March 15.

Ministry inspectors will be paying special attention to make sure that employers are properly assessing such hazards and addressing then sufficiently when they find them. They will expect that employers who own plants that manufacture food, wood and metal products across the province, among others, will have policies and programs in place designed to protect workers from slips, trips and falls and that safe work practices are being followed. They will also make sure workers have appropriate access and egress to work areas.

In addition, inspectors will check to see that employers have performed proper hazard assessments on ladders, stands and platforms, and that they have been maintained properly and are being used properly. They will also make sure that all floors and other work surfaces are hazard- and obstruction-free, and that all workers in the workplace have been supplied with and have been trained in the proper use of appropriate fall protection systems, personal protective equipment and other safety devices, especially when they work at heights.

Slips, trips and falls are major hazards in industrial sector workplaces. In 2013, Ontario saw 11 work-related deaths from falls in that sector alone. With these safety blitzes, the Ministry of Labour hopes to cut that number by preventing problems before they occur. Since 2008, inspectors have made more than 345,000 field visits and issued more than a half million compliance orders. This marks their 69th inspection blitz they’ve conducted in that time.

Supervisor Facing Jail Time for Young Worker Fatality

February 24th, 2015

Fall Arrest HarnessThe Nova Scotia Department of Labour’s Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) division has lain six charges against a Halifax-based Parkland Construction for an accident in which a 21-year-old worker fell to his death. In addition, a company supervisor is also in a bit of trouble, as well.

The incident that led to the charges occurred on Nov. 7,  2013, when Halifax Regional Police say a Parkland worker Alan Fraser fell from the edge of the sixth floor of a Clayton Park apartment building that was under construction. At the time of the fall, he was cleaning up the area.

After an OHS investigation, the company has been charged with numerous violations of occupational health and safety regulations, including; failure to provide a safe work plan; failure to provide fall protection training; failure to provide adequate fall protection when working at a height of three metres or more; and failure to ensure a chute or other safe method is used to lower debris. If convicted, the company faces a potential fine of $500,000.

That’s a half million dollar fine for a company for not taking worker safety seriously, but that’s not all. In addition to the charges against the company, a company supervisor also faces two charges; one for his failure to take every precaution to protect an employee’s health and another for failing to provide fall protection to a worker at a height of more than three metres. If he is convicted, the supervisor could face as much as two years in jail. This is more proof that worker safety doesn’t cost your company money, it pays.

Arraignment for both the company and the supervisor has been scheduled for March 25.

Prevent Snowplow Operators from Driving Drowsy

February 23rd, 2015

snowplowIn a winter like the one we’re experiencing this year, in which municipalities are hit with one large snowstorm after another, everyone should be concerned about the long hours snowplow operators sometimes have to work just to keep up. Working long hours, especially without sufficient breaks, can lead to a very tired operator driving drowsy, which can result in serious risk to the driver of the plow, as well as to everyone else on the road.

The danger of falling asleep behind the wheel is a very real one, especially in the case of a storm that lasts awhile, or when there is a series of several storms in a row. According to several studies involving truck drivers, driving for 10 hours straight without  sufficient breaks results in a significant reduction in driving ability, while driving for 24 hours straight results in a driver who may as well be drunk, because their ability to drive is about equal to someone with a blood-alcohol content of 0.10. And those studies didn’t even take into account the stress and monotony of driving slowly under the worst weather conditions and having to deal with the occasional aggressive driver, and pedestrians and everything else they encounter.

When supervisors schedule snowplow operators during a major snowstorm, they should be aware that planning 12-hour or 16-hour shifts has the potential to put everyone on the road at risk because of possible fatigue and sleepiness. They should also be sure operators are highly trained and educated enough to recognize the signs of fatigue, and know when to let supervisors know  they’ve had enough and need a break. It would also be helpful to train operators to specially prepare for the long shifts by getting extra rest beforehand.

Supervisors should stay in constant contact with the plow operators on the road during the storm, and they should make an effort to routinely check each one’s level of alertness. Once an operator becomes drowsy, rest is the only solution. Encourage regular breaks at least every two hours, in which the operator gets out of the vehicle to stretch and walk around because doing so reduces muscle fatigue and improves circulation. The break in the monotony will also serve to keep the driver awake and more alert.

Taking the right steps to avoid drowsy driving among snowplow drivers working some of these big storms can be good for your employees health, as well as the health of the general public, and even reduce those risks and liabilities that can be associated with drowsy driving.

Trucking Company Fined $119,000 for OSHA Violations

February 20th, 2015

Propane ForkliftThe U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has assessed Saia Motor Freight Lines with numerous citations and $119,000 in fines in the wake of its investigation of an explosion and fire at one of its terminals in St. Louis last August. The explosion left two workers critically injured.

According to OSHA, the accident happened when two forklift operators were inside a freight trailer changing a propane tank on a forklift powered by liquefied petroleum gas. They discovered that a loose coupling connection allowed liquid propane to leak, vaporize and cause a flash fire to ignite.

The two workers who received critical burns were a 54-year-old lead forklift operator and a 25-year-old worker who had just been hired and had only been using propane-powered forklifts for about a month. In addition, a third worker suffered burns to his legs as he attempted to put out his co-workers’ burning clothing, and a fourth worker who just happened to be operating his forklift nearby also received burns.

During their inspection OSHA found numerous other problems, including industrial trucks that were being used despite having defective or bypassed safety switches. That resulted in a willful violation. In addition, they found a total of 11 serious violations, many of them having to do with propane hazards. For example, OSHA discovered that Saia had failed to evacuate the work area after the release of the flammable gas during the explosion, and they failed to require workers to exchange propane containers in an area with adequate ventilation. They also cited the company for failing to train workers on flammable gas hazards and to require that workers use hand and eye protection when changing propane cylinders. They also found a number of hazardous chemicals in the maintenance shop that were not properly labeled and that the company had failed to train truck operators.

Saia Motor Freight Lines, which is based in Duluth, Georgia, has 8,000 workers in 147 terminals in 34 states and Canada. There are about 150 workers at the St. Louis terminal.