Monday, October 19, 2015
Trench and excavation work are among the most hazardous operations in construction. Because one cubic yard of soil can weigh as much as a car, an unprotected trench can be an early grave. OSHA's updated guide to Trenching and Excavation Safety highlights key elements of the applicable workplace standards and describes safe practices that employers can follow to protect workers from cave-ins and other hazards. A new section in the updated guide addresses safety factors that an employer should consider when bidding on a job. Expanded sections describe maintaining materials and equipment used for worker protection systems as well as additional hazards associated with excavations.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has updated its Agricultural Worker Protection Standard to better protect the nation's two million agricultural workers and their families from thousands of preventable pesticide exposure incidents reported each year. Changes to the standard will reduce the risk of illness resulting from contact with pesticides on farms and in forests, nurseries and greenhouses. The updated standard requires annual safety training for farmworkers, expands mandatory posting of no-entry signs for the most hazardous pesticides, and for the first time, sets a minimum age of 18 for those who work with pesticides. In addition, the EPA's updated standard for personal protective equipment is now consistent with OSHA's respiratory protection standards. This includes mandatory fit-testing, medical evaluation and training to ensure respirators are being used effectively. Additionally, the updated standard establishes anti-retaliation provisions that are comparable with those enforced by OSHA.
Today, OSHA moves to a new enforcement weighting system that assigns greater value to complex inspections that require more time and resources. The new system will allow for more strategic planning and measurement of inspections, and ensure that all workers are equally protected, regardless of the industry they work in. The system assigns "Enforcement Units" to each inspection. Routine inspections count as one unit, while those requiring greater resources — such as those involving musculoskeletal disorders,chemical exposures, workplace violence, and process safety management violations — count as up to nine units. The values are based on historical data and will be monitored and adjusted as necessary.
OSHA Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels announced the change at the National Safety Council conference in Atlanta earlier this week. "All inspections aren't equal — some are complex and require more time and resources — and many of those inspections have the greatest impact," he said. "This new system will help us better focus our resources on more meaningful inspections."
Inspections are one of the fundamental tools OSHA uses to encourage employers to abate hazards. Strong evidence from several recent studies shows these that injury rates decrease at an establishment in the years following an OSHA inspection.