Thursday, August 16, 2012

Stay safe with OSHA's Heat Safety Tool mobile app

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has reported that July was the hottest month in the United States since modern record-keeping began in 1895. Join the more than 49,000 others who have downloaded OSHA's Heat Safety Tool mobile app, available in English or Spanish, which provides vital safety information in these extreme temperatures — right on your mobile phone. Throughout the country, OSHA is on hand to provide expert guidance to workers and employers about the hazards of working outdoors in hot weather. For example, in recent weeks in Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio, Texas, OSHA compliance officers have operated three phone banks in Spanish on local Univision stations, taking questions from the public and providing information on the campaign. To order any of OSHA's heat illness prevention materials in English or Spanish, call OSHA's Office of Communications at 202-693-1999 or visit OSHA's Publications page.

Protecting workers from mercury exposure in fluorescent bulbs

OSHA has issued two new educational resources to help protect workers from mercury exposure. Fluorescent bulbs can release mercury and may expose workers when they are broken accidentally or crushed as part of the routine disposal or recycling process. A new OSHA QuickCard (PDF*) alerts employers and workers to the hazards of mercury and provides information on how to properly clean up accidently broken fluorescent bulbs to minimize workers’ exposures to mercury. In addition, a new fact sheet (PDF*) explains how workers may be exposed, what kinds of engineering controls and personal protective equipment they need, and how to use these controls and equipment properly. To order these or any other of OSHA's educational materials, visit OSHA's Publications page.

New searchable online course schedule makes it easy to find OSHA Training Institute Education Centers training opportunities

OSHA has added a new, user-friendly online searchable course schedule for OSHA Training Institute (OTI) Education Center courses. The new course schedule allows prospective students to search for OTI training courses by organization, course title, state or date range. The schedule also allows users to search courses that offer professional development opportunities including Continuing Education Units and Certification Maintenance points. A registration link for the courses is provided along with query results. Registration is conducted directly through the respective OTI Education Center. The OTI Education Centers are a national network of nonprofit organizations authorized by OSHA to deliver occupational safety and health training to private sector workers, employers, supervisors, and managers. Training is offered through an open enrollment format and on a contract basis for organizations within OSHA's jurisdiction. The OTI Education Centers offer courses and seminars on a variety of safety and health topics.

OSHA and NIOSH join together to inform employers and workers on safe work practices when using cleaning chemicals

Workers who clean buildings, schools, hospitals, hotels, restaurants, and factories use a variety of cleaning chemicals that can pose health risks. Health effects from chemicals in cleaning products can range from skin rashes and burns to eye, nose and throat irritation, to cough and asthma. Many employers are switching to green cleaning products because they are thought to be less hazardous to workers and the environment. The new OSHA-NIOSH Infosheet, "Protecting Workers Who Use Cleaning Chemicals," (PDF*) provides employers with guidance on choosing safer cleaning products, safe work practices, worker training and better cleaning methods. The accompanying poster, "Protect Yourself: Cleaning Chemicals and Your Health," (PDF*) informs workers of the hazards of cleaning chemicals, symptoms and employer responsibilities. In addition to English, the poster is available (in PDF* format) in Spanish, Chinese and Tagalog.

New educational resources available to prevent falls in construction

Across the U.S. in 2010, more than 10,000 construction workers were injured as a result of falling while working from heights, and another 255 workers were killed. These falls are preventable with three simple steps: Plan. Provide. Train. OSHA is working with its partners at the National Institute for Occupational Safety (NIOSH) and Health and National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) to raise awareness among workers and employers about common fall hazards in construction, and how falls from ladders, scaffolds and roofs can be prevented and lives can be saved.

New to the fall prevention campaign site is a training resources page, with links to training materials produced by OSHA, state and local government agencies, trade associations, and worker representatives. Falls can be prevented when workers understand proper set-up and safe use of equipment, so they need training on the specific equipment they will use to complete the job. Employers must train workers in hazard recognition and in the care and safe use ladders, scaffolds, fall protection systems, and other equipment they'll be using on the job.

OSHA's fall protection fact sheet has now been translated into Polish (PDF*) and Russian (PDF*). The translated materials can be downloaded in PDF format from OSHA’s fall prevention education materials page. To order any of OSHA's printed outreach materials, call OSHA's Office of Communications at (202) 693-1999 or visit OSHA's Publications page.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Water. Rest. Shade.

Tom McCarthy, Compliance Assistance Specialist
OSHA Tarrytown Area Office

Upright, bi-pedal, forward looking, binocular vision, opposable thumbs….these are characteristics we all possess that contribute to Homo Sapiens’ place as an apex predator. Sure, our advanced brains contribute to our evolutionary success, but have you ever considered the role played by the body’s cooling system? Consider ‘Persistence Hunting’: humans are capable of running after prey until the prey succumbs to heat exhaustion. How? Humans ‘thermoregulate’ by sweating; our prey can’t.

Our remarkable cooling system relies on the evaporation of sweat from our skin to maintain our core body temperature at a safe level when ambient temperatures soar. If this cooling system breaks down, we’re in serious trouble! Workers such as construction personnel, excavators, linemen, and mark out technicians* who labor in hot outdoor environments must remember to stay hydrated and get out of the sun for quick breaks during the day.

Water is our body's principal chemical component and makes up about 60 percent of our body weight. Lack of water can lead to dehydration, a condition that occurs when we don't have enough water in our body to carry out normal functions. Fact: If we’re thirsty, we’re already dehydrated. Even mild dehydration can drain your energy and make you tired. In 2010, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 40 workers died due to heat-related causes and that 4,190 workers experienced heat illness.

It’s not just the sun that’s heating you up – it’s the work you do. As you work, your internal temperature rises as your body meets the metabolic demand you place on it. You’re being heated from the inside and the outside. Symptoms of heat illness include thirst, cramps, headaches, nausea, dizziness, weakness, heavy sweating and an increased body temperature. The symptoms of heat stress include confusion, loss of consciousness, seizures, a very high body temperature and hot, dry skin or profuse sweating.

The United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recognizes the hazard, and has launched a National Heat Stress Initiative which is described at OSHA has even provided an app that you can download to your smartphone. The app combines temperature and humidity into a useful, easy to use heat index, so you can better gauge your heat risk.

Water. Rest. Shade. A simple, common sense strategy that could save your life.

References: * for more “at risk” occupations, see Heat Stress at OSHA’s web site Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research , 10/12/2011