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Workplace Safety and Health Law Blog

Posts in hazard analysis.

A year of hurricanes, fires, explosions and mass shootings has shown that employers are ill prepared for a new type and volume of catastrophes - and in fact may not even recognize the next big catastrophe coming. It's time to plan, and to be creative.

Location and price generally control office-space decisions. Even if you construct a new building or do extensive build-out, you probably have not devoted much consideration to whether your new space meets OSHA requirements.

Periodically, I blog on the need to avoid knee jerk decisions about whether employees with a disability can perform the essential functions of the job. The employee may or may not be able to perform the essential functions of the job, but if the employer fails to engage in their individualized analysis and document their consideration of accommodation options, how will they defend their decision if challenged? According to the EEOC’s Complaint, the ...

In our competitive environment, every manufacturer struggles to do more with less and to find capital for “nonproduction” areas, such as maintenance, safety, training, housekeeping and HR. If done in a shortsighted fashion, the employer learns through painful experience the sacred law of “unintended consequences.” Plant Engineering magazine (yes, a lawyer can read such stuff) ran a brief instructive story on harm to production and profits resulting from gradually shifting almost all maintenance functions to production employees. You’re probably thinking that “I wouldn’t do that,” but many employers have eliminated certain housekeeping workers and relied upon production employees to clean up their area or machine. One of the contributing factors to the deadly Imperial Sugar combustible dust explosion was accumulation of material in work areas … in part because operators were supposed to clean up after their shift, and did not do so.

Although OSHA's Process Safety Management (PSM) standard may be the most challenging of OSHA's regulations, the PSM standard, along with NFPA consensus standards about combustible dust have raised the importance of management of change (MOC) outside of refineries and chemical plants, and for the HR professional.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Hazard Communication Standard has been changed to now align with the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling Chemicals (GHS). Since the Hazard Communication Standard became effective almost 30 years ago, employers have had to provide “right to know” information to their employees about the chemical hazards in their workplace. The key difference in the revised standard, however, is that it provides a single set of harmonized criteria for classifying chemicals according to their health and physical safety hazards as opposed to the previous standard that allowed chemical manufacturers and importers to convey information on the labels in whatever format they chose. This revised standard, like the original one, requires chemical manufacturers and importers to evaluate chemicals they produce or import and provide hazard information to employers and employees. However, the old standard’s “Material Safety Data Sheets” (MSDS) are now replaced by more detailed Safety Data Sheets (SDS’s) as well as new labeling requirements. Under the new standard, OSHA is requiring that all employees be trained on the new rule and how to understand the new SDS’s and new labels by December 1, 2013.

Many employees work alone at a customer’s site or on the road with no immediate supervision or the presence of a safety professional to check for hazards. Some employees, such as journeymen electricians and certified crane operators are trained to operate with minimal supervision. Other workers may be less trained or less equipped to individually analyze their setting. Unfortunately, both types of isolated workers may violate OSHA standards, and preventing that misconduct is more of a problem when employees are working alone.

Work gloves are so ubiquitous that we may forget that gloves can present as many complex challenges as any type of PPE. The gloves selected may not address site-specific hazards, especially for a mobile workforce, such as construction. Not only does the texture and material affect performance, but so does the way in which the glove works with other PPE and clothing. Some employers find that changing gloves reduces a large number of the minor injuries and strains that plague their workers.

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