Archive for November, 2010

EPA intends to employ vigorous and targeted civil and criminal enforcement

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

In order to provide effective and consistent enforcement of federal laws nationwide, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is stepping up its civil and criminal enforcement by targeting the most serious hazards that relate to air, water, and chemicals. The EPA summarized the measures it will take on how it plans to use “vigorous and targeted” civil and criminal enforcement in the 2011-2015 EPA Strategic Plan. The plan outlines strategic measures for the criminal enforcement program by taking “aggressive action against pollution problems that make a difference in communities.”

For the first time, the EPA has included the measures it plans to take to enforce these hazards in order to protect human health and the environment, as well as protecting the low-income, minority, and tribal communities which may be disproportionally impacted by these hazards.  The EPA states that in order to achieve these goals, they need both new strategies and compliance to the rules that they already have. This concentrated effort is meant to achieve “increased transparency” so that more of your business’s information will be accessible to the public and the best way to comply would be to become more involved in your facility’s operations.

Some of the specified enforcement maintenance that the EPA will take by 2015 includes:

  • Here are some of the enforcement actions EPA plans to take by 2015:
  • Conduct 105,000 federal inspections and evaluations (FY 2005-2009 baseline: 21,000 annually)
  • Initiate 19,500 civil judicial and administrative enforcement cases and bring 19,000 to a conclusion (FY 2005-2009 baseline: 3,900 )
  • Review overall compliance status of 100 percent of open consent decrees (FY 2009: 100 percent)
  • Increase the percentage of criminal cases with charges filed to 45 percent (FY 2009 baseline: 36 percent)
  • Maintain an 85 percent conviction rate for criminal defendants

For more information, check out the 2011-2015 EPA Strategic Plan.

MSDS Gone Wild!

Friday, November 19th, 2010

“Oh no! We have a serious problem. The plant office manager ran into my office with a frantic look of panic on her face. The company safety inspectors are here and they want to see an MSDS on the Wite-Out. What will we do?”

Although this article written by Greg Klima titled “MSDS Gone Wild!” never explains if you really do need an material data safety sheet (MSDS) on Wite-Out, it’s a side of hazard communication that you don’t see too often, and it’s an interesting insight into an alarming scenario.

The story plays out like this: you are scrambling through your binders or your MSDS database of chemicals (just like about a thousand other safety professionals do every year when safety professionals show up). You are panicking because you have been taught to believe that you need an MSDS on every chemical in your facility, including Sally’s mayonnaise packets, Timmy’s aspirin, and Billy’s cosmetic dental floss, and the author’s advice while this hectic scenario plays out is to:

Relax!

It’s true that the purpose of the hazard communication standard is meant to set rules to inform employees of risks which they are exposed to when working with potentially hazardous chemicals, but while the intentions of this basic rule of haz-com makes us keep our binders and databases updated in the event of an emergency or a facility audit, we have perhaps become almost too good at this practice. We now may have MSDS on items we don’t necessarily need to have them for – the truth is we do not need to have an MSDS on every single chemical in our facility. Once we determine which items not to worry about keeping on file, the easier it may be to maintain records. It’s that simple.

When Do I Not Need an MSDS?

If you check OSHA’s 29 CFR 1910.1200, you’ll see that OSHA is very specific about exceptions to its application and scope. MSDS are only one form of hazard communication. Two additional ways to inform employees about potential risks include container labeling and employee training. Other details include what chemicals are exempt from this rule (29 CFR 1910.1200(b)) and which categories of hazardous chemicals do not apply (29 CFR 1910.1200(b)(6)).  Knowing what to be worried about now might save you some fretting in the future.

At KPA, we can help you maintain and update your facility’s MSDS database and chemical inventory as well as provide training and expert advice to help you support a safe and healthy workplace. With seven EHS services, we can help you comply with DOT and MSDS and hazard communication requirements all the way up to a complete environmental, health, and safety program. Each KPA service consists of a combination of online software, on-site services, function-specific training, and expert consulting necessary for a complete compliance program. Contact us to learn what level of support is right for your business.

OSHA’s Top 10 Most Cited Violations for 2010

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

OSHAOSHA’s Top 10 Most Cited Violations for the 2010 fiscal year was revealed at The National Safety Council (NSC) Congress and Expo in San Diego in EHS Today. Keeping with the trends of previous years, this new top 10 was only slightly different from last year’s top 10. Thomas Galassi, the director of OSHA’s directorate of enforcement programs, listed the 2010 top 10 at the NSC conference and said that OSHA generally sees “a degree of consistency in these violations” and that the “violations relate to falls, contact with equipment and exposure to harmful substances.”

For the second year in a row, we have compiled a list of the top ten violations by Auto Dealers for you.

  1. Hazard Communication
  2. Electrical safety requirements
  3. Abrasive wheel machinery
  4. Respiratory Protection
  5. General Duty Clause
  6. Personal Protective Equipment
  7. Walking/Working Surfaces (including stairs and ladders)
  8. Machinery and Machine Guarding
  9. Powered Industrial Trucks
  10. Medical Services and First Aid

Once again, our list was similar to our Top 10 list from last year. Hazard Communication was at the top of the list for a second year in a row and stands out as the most common violation cited by OSHA. Perhaps getting the word out about these haz-com requirements should be at the top of more public relations and association’s top 10 “to-do” lists. “These are very important,” Galassi said. “[They are] lessons learned in the workplace … lessons to take home.”

For more information about the Hazard Communication Standard, visit the OSHA’s Inspection Procedures for Hazard Communication Standards or learn more about OSHA safety, material safety data sheets (MSDS), and employee training.

Hazmat Training – Lives depend on it

Friday, November 12th, 2010

Tech training in service areaYou know how the old adage goes: “Train as if your life depends on it, because it does.” This is especially true when it comes to hazardous materials training – many lives depend on the proper training of Hazmat Employees.

As we have mentioned before, if you have hazardous chemicals in your facility (and remember that acetone and gasoline are hazardous chemicals), you must comply with DOT hazmat rules (Title 49 CFR 172, Subpart H) and OSHA’s Hazard Communication (“Right to Know”) Standard. If you don’t regularly ship hazmat or you are not a manufacturer of hazardous materials, don’t think that your dealership is immune to the regulations. Whether you or ship hazardous materials once per year or every day; around the block or across the country; in a small package or in a tank: You must protect your employees and the public from any potentially adverse effects of the chemicals being handled.

The idea is pretty straightforward: Workers have a right to know about the substances and chemicals with which they come in to contact, and any risks they may be exposed to, as well as the proper protective equipment to use. Under the Hazard Communication Standard, shippers are also required to maintain a database of Material Data Safety Sheets (MSDS) and a facility-specific chemical inventory of the chemical products stored and used throughout their facility.

Every employee who affects the safety of hazardous materials transportation is a Hazmat Employee and must be trained. This definition also applies to the owner or the operator of the vehicle transporting the hazardous materials in commerce or any employee who, during his or her course of employment:

  • Handles, loads, or unloads hazardous materials
  • Manufactures, marks, classifies, labels, packages, or otherwise represents containers, drums, or packagings which are classified for use in the transportation of hazardous materials
  • Prepares hazardous materials for transportation
  • Is responsible for storage and disposal of hazardous materials
  • Is responsible for safety of transporting hazardous materials
  • Operates or owns a vehicle to transport hazardous materials

Take this simple quiz to see if your dealership could pass an OSHA/DOT audit:

  1. Do you have records confirming at least one employee has DOT Hazmat Certification?
  2. Is this training being updated every three years?
  3. Did this training include the newly required “Security Awareness” training?
  4. Are you following the proper procedures for hazardous shipments using the proper labels, classifications, identification numbers, and packing groups according to the DOT’s hazardous materials table?
  5. Do you provide the required 24-hour emergency contact phone number on your shipping papers?

Read more of our EHS DOT blogs.

If you are unable to answer “yes” to every question, contact us to learn more about our new standalone DOT and MSDS service.

Listening to Employee Pays Big Dividends- $6,224 per suggestion!

Monday, November 8th, 2010

Are you failing to leverage the knowledge of your employees to improve and grow your business? In a study by management researchers Kathleen Ryan and Daniel Oestreich, 70%  of people said they hesitated to speak up about problems at work or suggest possible improvements to their firms because they feared repercussions.  The average implemented employee suggestions saves a company $6,224 in operational expenses according to the Employee Involvement Association. So if  you don’t have 100% participation for employees offering suggestions you are missing out on a very real opportunity to improve your bottom line.

Step back and take a look at how employee suggestions are received at your company- is management feedback positive or negative? Do you encourage new ideas and reward innovation?  Are all decisions made at an executive or manager level or do you actively solicit employees impute into process design, work place policies and reward systems?

Having a suggestion box or providing the ability to use the company intranet to log a suggestion is only the first step.  The companies that are taking full advantage of the power of employee suggestions also:

1) Provide timely responses. A committee reviews suggestions within a week of receipt and provides immediate feedback.  Nothing stifles employee suggestions better than having them go into the “black hole” of committee never to see the light of day again.

2) Have executive support for the program with a member from the highest level of management sitting on the committee to review suggestions.

3) Require employees to complete a simple form that outlines the reason for the suggestion, what is the desired outcome, any cost savings or operational improvements and how success will be measure.

4) Provide encouraging feedback in private and in-person for suggestions not implemented.  The employee took a risk in putting the suggestion out there so they deserve 10 minutes of personal attention.

5) Appropriate rewards for implemented suggestions.  Public recognition is always nice but a bonus tied to a percentage of the cost savings or another form of compensation tends to increase employees willingness to offer suggestions.

6) Track and report on how effective employee suggestions are to the business.

Employee engagement is critical to the success of your business- and effective suggestion programs are a good first step in improving employee engagements.

To leverage the full power of your employees and create a climate of trust in your workplace read Driving Fear Out of the Workplace, winner of numerous awards including SHRM Book of the Year or check out “Improving Employee Engagement Will Improve Your Bottom Line” in KPA’s November Newsletter.

Getting Started Resources:

Free software at  http://ideascale.com/employee-suggestion-box.html

The traditional black box at http://www.staples.com/Safco-Steel-Suggestion-Box-Black/product_648146

Beyond “Right To Know” for MSDS information

Friday, November 5th, 2010

Your employees have the “right to know” about hazardous chemicals in the workplace under OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) which states “employers with hazardous chemicals in the workplace must have label and material safety data sheets (MSDS) for their exposed workers and train them appropriately.” The HCS allows for MSDS to be kept hard copy format or online – but in the event of an emergency, do you really want your employees scrambling for a binder full of MSDSs and then frantically looking for the right sheet among many? Online systems provide search tools, index, and immediate access making critical information not just available but “easy to find.” Online systems with a backup CD-Rom option give you “peace of mind” if your internet connection goes down during an emergency. When seconds count in the event of an emergency that involves hazardous chemicals “easy to find” and “peace of mind” is just as important as the right to know.

Don’t Forget to Send Required Retirement Plan Notices This Month

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

For HR professionals  this is the time of the year we have to remember to issue various notices regarding our benefit plans, finish up open enrollment activities and update processes to deal with the onslaught of regulations changes effective January 1.

For those employers providing a defined contribution qualified plan don’t forget you must send one or more annual notices to participants before the end of each plan year.  Your goal is to send the notices by December 1st since most plan years are January through December. If your plan year is different then you will send the notices at least 30 days prior to the beginning of the plan year.   Failure to issue a required annual notice can have a significant impact. For example, if a plan sponsor forgets to issue the annual 401(k) safe harbor notice, the plan could lose its safe harbor status and be forced to limit (or refund) contributions by highly compensated employees.

The most commonn notices that must be distributed (confirm with your plan provider, agent or broker) are:

Traditional Safe Harbor 401(k) Notice
Qualified Automatic Contribution Arrangements for a Safe Harbor 401(k) Notice
Eligible Automatic Contribution Arrangement Notice
Qualified Default Investment Alternative Notice (QDIA)
Non-Safe Harbor Automatic Contribution Arrangement Notice

Take a few minutes this week and create your end of the year “do to list”- include necessary communications to employees, changes to processes brought on by new regulations and don’t forget the holiday party!

Join the conversation:  What is the busiest time for the year for HR?

Announcing the latest KPA services!

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

Here at KPA, we have good news to announce about our latest and greatest software and services! We have taken our Environmental, Health, and Safety services product line and we have more than (drum roll please…) doubled what we offer!

We have expanded our three levels of service to seven levels to accommodate all of the many different types of auto dealers, auto service shops, heavy equipment dealers and manufacturers. We now have more options and competitive pricing for the smaller, independent dealers in the marketplace as well as the many other size dealerships, so that we are able to be of help to any size or shape business.

Our latest offer includes a standalone DOT and MSDS service, the next level is Elements service, our Fundamental and Fundamental Plus, Core and Core Plus, and Pro service. In addition to these, we are excited to have incorporated a self-inspection and survey tool that is available on our online software, MyKPAOnline, so you don’t have to use other generic surveys to audit your site. Our other latest special feature which adds to our “Plus” services is the addition of “online conference and audit reviews.” These online, webinar-style audit reviews are a convenient and practical way to have your safety issues reviewed with your KPA safety professional from the comfort of your desk.

Read the latest news release and go to our EHS Software and Services.

Keep the great ideas coming; we are listening!