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Occupational Safety Blog

By Fred Rine, CEO of FDRsafety and former long-time Managing Director of Safety and Health at FedEx, Jim Stanley, President of FDRsafety and former No. 2 at OSHA headquarters and Mike Taubitz, Senior Advisor to FDRsafety and former Global Safety Director for General Motors.

Archive for March, 2012

Safety rewards programs may violate OSHA rules

March 29th, 2012 posted by Jim Stanley

Jim Stanley

OSHA is warning employers to be careful about rewards programs that could unintentionally – or perhaps even intentionally – encourage employees not to report injuries.

In a recent communication, OSHA cited as an example a program in which employers created a prize-drawing for all employees who had not been injured in the previous year. Another example of a bad practice in OSHA’s view is giving a team of employees a bonus if no one from the group was injured in a given period of time.

So what can employers do to reward safety oriented behavior?

Here are examples of activities for which OSHA believes rewards are appropriate:

· Identifying hazards or participating in investigations of injuries, incidents or “near misses”
· Serving on safety and health committees
· Suggesting ways to strengthen safety and health
· Completing a company-wide safety and health training program

OSHA warns that failure to structure rewards programs in an appropriate way could result in violations of rules requiring an employer not to discriminate against an employee who exercises their right to report an injury. An improper rewards program could also lead to violations of recordkeeping rules, OSHA said.

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Do you know the leading cause of non-fatal workplace injuries?

March 26th, 2012 posted by Jim Stanley

Jim Stanley

Dramatic accidents involving long falls or amputations in machines are often what makes headlines when it comes to non-fatal safety issues. But the costliest disabling injuries for industry, at least when it comes to Workers Compensation, involve something much more routine – overexertion.

That’s the conclusion of the2011 Liberty Mutual Safety Index, which found that about 25 percent of total direct workers compensation costs from injuries that kept workers off the job for six days or more stemmed from overexertion, which includes lifting, pushing, pulling, holding, carrying or throwing. That amounted to $12.75 billion in costs of an estimated $50.1 billion total in 2009, the most recent year for which data is available.

Others in the top 10, and their estimated cost:

• Fall on the same level — $7.9 billion
• Fall to lower level — $5.4 billion
• Bodily reaction — $5.3 billion
• Struck by object — $4.6 billion
• Highway incident — $2.2 billion
• Caught in/compressed by — $2 billion
• Struck against object — $2 billion
• Repetitive motion — $2 billion
• Assault violent act — $0.6 billion

The path to reducing these injuries? Skills training of course is helpful. But the truth is that for overexertion and many of the other items on the list, most workers know perfectly well how to act more safely – they just have to want to do it. Safety awareness training can help workers realize just what is at stake when they venture into behavior they know is unsafe.

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Nevada OSHA’s elephantine actions at the Las Vegas Zoo

March 5th, 2012 posted by Jim Stanley

Jim Stanley

There are more than a few old jokes featuring an elephant and an ant and often they’re about the little guy winning against all odds. But the following story about another kind of elephant (Nevada OSHA) and an ant (a tiny zoo in Las Vegas) unfortunately goes poorly for the ant.

As related by columnist John L. Smith of the Las Vegas Review-Journal it all started with an inspection of the Southern Nevada Zoological-Botanical Park by the state’s OSHA.

When you think about this zoo, don’t think San Diego – think a small collection of 50-year-old buildings on three acres that mostly attracts local schoolchildren. So it’s probably no surprise that Nevada OSHA found outdated electrical plugs. The fines for that violation and others amounted to $13,200, which for this tiny non-profit is quite significant.

According to Smith’s column, the zoo offered to correct the violations, but asked Nevada OSHA to forgo the fines. The agency refused.

Smith said the fines could have a real impact on the zoo, which manages to stay open on a shoe-string budget.

“It creates a real emergency, which we don’t have funds for,” zoo director Pat Dingle was quoted as saying. “It’s never been an issue with the city of Las Vegas or the Las Vegas Fire Department. It’s only an issue now with OSHA saying somebody could be shocked some day.”

The column also quoted Nevada OSHA chief administrative officer Steve Coffield as saying that the agency is “sensitive” to the impact that fines can have on small organizations like the zoo. But he said the fines are moving forward because an informal conference with the zoo failed to resolve differences over the fines.

The elephantine response of Nevada OSHA in this case is particularly ironic given that the agency is still trying to live down accusations that lax enforcement helped lead to a slew of deaths during construction on the Strip in 2007-2008.

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