Posts Tagged ‘Investigation’

How Do You Know if Your Safety Program Is Working?

Friday, October 7th, 2011

How do you measure success? You look for things that you can track and measure. These key indicators are pretty standard, and should be documented and communicated as part of your safety program:

•Workplace inspections (KPA audits and your myKPAonline.com account are excellent resources)
•Exposure assessments
•Injury, illness, and incident tracking
•Employee input
•OSHA assessment

A note about injury rates: They’re a little misleading because they are lagging indicators- they do a great job at showing performance under past circumstances and are not reliable for predicting future performance (but you still have to track injury rates for reporting to regulatory agencies- so don’t ignore them).

 

Get a clear picture of where your program is headed: Culture predicts outcomes.

•Track work practices and sustained behaviors that increase or reduce hazards
•The level that culture supports safety objectives and activities
For example, how fast are issues addressed in your myKPAonline account?
•Workers’ interest in safety activities and behaviors
•The value placed on workplace safety by senior leadership compared to other objectives

National Emphasis Program on Recordkeeping (NEP) targets manufacturing, larger worksites, and facilities with high injury rates

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

On September 28, 2010, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a revised directive to its federal pilot National Emphasis Program (NEP). The instruction to NEP to inspect the accuracy of the Occupational Injury and Illness recording and reporting requirements for establishments in selected industries such as manufacturing, larger worksites, and employers with higher injury rates than in the initial criteria, and to ensure appropriate enforcement of these requirements if employers are found to be underrecording injuries and illnesses.

OSHA launched its “National Emphasis Program on Recordkeeping” last year after various academic studies revealed that many companies were underreporting or incorrectly reporting workplace-related injuries and illnesses. Through the NEP, OSHA plans to enforce this type of inaccurate reporting.

The significant NEP changes include:

  • Broadening the industry targeting, with an emphasis on manufacturing.
  • Removing the deletion criterion for establishments that have recalculated days away, restriction, and transfer (DART) rates greater than 4.2. The new DART rate criterion for establishments under the program is greater than 4.2 and less than 8.
  • Increasing comprehensive training of its compliance staff to identify and correct violations of the recordkeeping regulation.
  • on company records from the 2008 and 2009 calendar years.
  • Focusing on company records from the 2008 and 2009 calendar years.

The NEP pilot program will continue through February 2012.

Read more here about this directive.

Acetone – More than Nail Polish Remover

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

Acetone has a low toxicity and is a good solvent, making it as useful for removing nail polish as it is for degreasing and paint cleanup on the shop floor, but it also highly flammable. The acetone vapor (remember that vapor causes burns – not liquid) is heavier than air, can travel a considerable distance and can also accumulate in a confined space. Unfortunately, two workers cleaning a paint booth were not aware of the proper precautions to take when dealing with this highly flammable liquid, and were severely injured. The two Evansville, Tennessee companies involved in this incident are to be fined more than $100,000 by Indiana’s OSHA due to their negligence. The Agency alleges that two workers were mopping a large paint booth with acetone when one of the workers accidentally knocked over a halogen light. As it hit the floor, it ignited the acetone fumes into a flash fire. A flash fire is an unexpected, instant, intense fire that is instigated by the reaction.

The Evansville Courier & Press reports that Guardian Automotive is being fined $22,500 for a set of penalties the state categorized as serious. Team Industrial Services Inc., the agency that supplied the workers and instructed them to use the lamp and the cleaner, faces a steeper $84,150 fine. Of that amount, $63,000 is for a violation which state inspectors categorized as “knowing” — the most serious classification, and one used only several times per year, said Jeff Carter, the deputy state OSHA commissioner. “Knowing” violations are those violations where death or serious physical harm can result from a hazard an employer knew or should have known exists.

When dealing with flammable substance, you simply cannot be too careful. Take a few minutes to review the following tips:

1)   Know your chemicals, read all labels, and consult the MSDS (material safety data sheet)

2)   Remember that vapor burns, not liquid, so always work with adequate ventilation and avoid confined spaces

3)   Eliminate potential ignition sources, any heat source is potential ignition source

4)   Bond and ground when transferring flammable liquids, it only takes one spark

5)   Practice good housekeeping by segregating flammable substances and keeping them covered in closed containers

6)   Always use appropriate equipment to apply, transfer and store flammable liquids

Additional Resources

  1. OHSA www.osha.gov
  2. EPA www.epa.gov
  3. National Fire Protection Association www.nfpa.com
  4. International Code Council www.iccsafe.org

Yet another discrimation lawsuit and settlement in the transportation industry

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

Because KPA offers HR compliance consulting and HR software we monitor all of the lawsuits and settlements brought by the EEOC.   Frankly it is rather depressing to me (as an HR professional and as a person)  that 45 years after the EEOC was established there are still so many claims and settlements for discrimination, harassment and retaliation.    My friends who are  employment attorneys could not be more pleased that there seems to be a never ending source of revenue from employers who can’t be bothered with good HR practices UNTIL the lawsuit lands on their desk.

The latest discrimination and retaliation claim settled by a company involved in the transportation industry involves McGriff Industries. McGriff Industries settled the suit for $100,000 along with required activities involving implementing effective anti-discrimination policies and procedures, and training its employees, supervisors and managers on the prohibitions against racial misconduct in the workplace. The company will also be required to develop a system for reporting, investigating and addressing complaints of workplace racial misconduct; hold all employees accountable for engaging in it; and hold supervisors and managers accountable for tolerating or failing to address such misconduct.  

  Let’s review the 4 things employees really must do to ensure they are not next in the list of companies the EEOC has settled with in 2010. 

1) When in doubt on the right thing to do - don’t do anything (don’t fire, don’t hire,) without consulting the experts (your attorney, a certified HR professional) and then listen to what they tell you.

2) Automate processes for hiring, performance management, training and termination with software so you have complete records, and forced compliance to best practices for essential HR process. With the multitude of HR software programs out there at every price point,  some even specialized by industry, there is no excuse not to automate process and force compliance. 

3) Establish policies and procedures for employees to report issues and concern- and respond to them (ethically, humanely and legally).

4) Train, train, train- never assume your managers and employees know what to do and more importantly what not to do to avoid harrassment, discrimination or retaliation.

 Join the conversation: Are you sure your company would survive an EEOC audit?

Missing face plates on electrical outlets: $52,500 fine

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

Okay. It’s not exactly that. OSHA proposed the $52,500 penalties for four violations: a repeat violation is for failing to provide functioning safety latches on the hydraulic automobile lifts, a serious citation is for missing face plates on electrical outlets, and two other-than-serious violations are for recordkeeping deficiencies and hazard communication deficiencies. The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Two learning lessons from this press release:

(1) OSHA is STILL providing you the opportunity to reduce the fine by complying or contesting. HOWEVER, the damage is to your reputation is already done when a press release like this goes out from OSHA

(2) These violations are just a few in pretty much an end-less, and growing, list of potential violations. You can use EHS checklists but that gets you only so far.These checklists typically don’t cover the  General Duty Clause very well, and makes it virtually impossible to rely on checklists alone. For reference, the general duty clause states that “Each employer shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees”

My advice: stop playing whac-a-mole with regulations, do a risk assessment, and engage in a formal safety program.

OSHA in the news

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

I just posted this blog yesterday about OSHA and then –coincidentally– ABC World News with  Diane Sawyer and Nightline broadcasted an interview last night with OSHA director Dr. David Michaels, saying “I think there are a lot of irresponsible employers who don’t ensure that workers are given safe work places in which to work. Fourteen deaths a day on the job is far too many.” They also aired a dramatic video of a fatal accident on the job. Very shocking and disturbing.

My takeaway for you: many department managers forget to realize they have an obligation to provide a safe workplace, and as such, they can be held personally liable for criminal penalties should an injury occur particularly those associated with the supervisor’s willful intent to not address a known safety issue.

OSHA fine amounts increasing?

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

Just read an article in Tire Review that OSHA fined a Toledo dealer $177,800 as the result of an October 2009 accident in which four employees were injured. OSHA cited the dealer for three violations of worker safety regulations after investigating the accident. The employees suffered injuries when an agricultural tire being worked on exploded. No question that the accident was very serious as an OSHA spokesman said that the dealer did not provide a safety cage or barrier to protect employees working on large commercial tires, failed to ensure employees worked outside the trajectory path, and that the tire’s maximum inflation pressure was exceeded when the employees attempted to seat the tire’s beads. In addition, citations were issued because employees failed to wear safety glasses and not having a required valve pressure gauge.

My point here is only that I’m under the impression that the fines imposed by OSHA are increasing? Do you have similar experiences? What do you think? Please respond below with your comments.

Department of Labor (DOL) investigation and enforcement in 2010

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

Investigation and enforcement is the Department of Labor’s focus in 2010. Despite an overall reduction of $300 million in discretionary spending, the Department of Labor will ask Congress for an increase in workplace enforcement funding of $67 million, or 4 percent, according to the budget it released on Monday, February 1.

In an online video statement and Q&A, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis  emphasized department funding for investigation and enforcement along with training programs. The agency request for fiscal year 2011, which begins October 1, 2010, totals $117 billion.   Secretary Solis indicated that the $1.7 billion allocated in the DOL budget for worker protection programs would allow the agency to restore staffing to 2001 levels. Of the 350 employees that the department expects to add over the next fiscal year, 177 are investigators and other enforcement staff.

For instance, the Wage and Hour Division would receive $244 million in funding, a $20 million increase, and hire 90 new investigators. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration would get $573 million, an increase of about $14 million.  OSHA will add 25 new inspectors in 2011 and reallocate 35 to enforcement from a program that helps businesses comply with safety laws.

“We need to decide whether we will spend our limited resources on supporting those companies who really ‘get it,’ who are doing a great job at protecting their employees,” Solis said. “Or do we spend our scarce resources on companies that disregard workplace safety and allow workers to die in situations that could easily have been prevented?”

The department also indicated that it is going to crack down on employers that define workers as independent contractors rather than employees. Critics say the move allows companies to pay lower wages and benefits. As part of a joint initiative with the Department of Treasury, the DOL budget includes $25 million to target “misclassification” and hire 100 additional enforcement personnel.

Are your HR and OHSA programs in compliance? If not you might want to think about improvements before one of the new investigators comes  knocking at your door.

Join the conversation- do you agree with the emphasis on investigation and enforcement?