OSHA | 20 October 2016

OSHA Updates Guidelines for Health and Safety Programs

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on 18 October released its Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs to help employers establish a methodical approach to improving safety and health in their workplaces.

The recommendations update OSHA’s 1989 guidelines to reflect changes in the economy, workplaces, and evolving safety and health issues. The recommendations feature a new, easier-to-use format and should be particularly helpful to small- and medium-sized businesses. Also new is a section on multiemployer workplaces and a greater emphasis on continuous improvement. Supporting tools and resources are included.

The programs are not prescriptive; they are built around a core set of business processes that can be implemented to suit a particular workplace in any industry. OSHA has seen them successfully implemented in manufacturing, construction, health care, technology, retail, services, higher education, and government.

Key principles include: leadership from the top to send a message that safety and health is critical to the business operations; worker participation in finding solutions; and a systematic approach to find and fix hazards.

“Since OSHA’s original guidelines were published more than 25 years ago, employers and employees have gained a lot of experience in how to use safety and health programs to systematically prevent injuries and illnesses in the workplace,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health David Michaels. “We know that working together to implement these programs will help prevent injuries and illnesses, and also make businesses more sustainable.”

Petroleum Connection | 11 October 2016

The New OSHA Standard for Industrial Silica Exposure

The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued a final rule that provides stronger protection for workers against the harmful effects of respirable crystalline silica dust. Silica is a common mineral found in products and materials used in many industries. If your processes produce dust, you may have a respirable silica dust hazard and you need to determine if your facility is at risk.

The New OSHA Standard: What You Need to Know
The percentage of silica in the product will affect the OSHA exposure limit that you need to maintain.

Significant aspects of the new rule include a reduced exposure limit. The new OSHA permissible exposure limit (PEL) for respirable crystalline silica has been reduced to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over an 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA) work shift. This limit is two to five times stricter than the previous threshold limits of 100 micrograms per cubic meter of air for general industry and 250 micrograms for construction. The new, more-stringent PEL is expected to enhance worker protection by sharply reducing both short-term and long-term exposure to respirable silica dust.

OSHA requires employers to use engineering controls such as water to keep the dust down or dust collection (ventilation) to capture airborne particulate and keep worker exposure below the 50 microgram PEL. While engineering controls are the preferred approach, employers are required to provide personal respiratory protection when engineering controls are not able to limit exposures to the permissible level.

Employers are required to develop a written exposure control plan (hazard plan) to show how compliance will be achieved. The plan should also limit access to high-exposure areas and incorporate training of workers on silica risks and basic safety practices so they can recognize how to limit their own exposure.

Medical exams, lung health monitoring, and record-keeping are required for employees who have been identified as “highly exposed workers.” Exposures above 25 micrograms per cubic meter in an 8-hour TWA over 30 days per year represents an action level where the medical surveillance is required. Effective engineering controls are often capable of maintaining silica dust concentrations below this action level.

International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health | 19 September 2016

Personal Exposure to Benzene and 1,3-Butadiene During Petroleum Refinery Turnarounds and Work in the Oil Harbor

Petroleum refinery workers’ exposure to the carcinogens benzene and 1,3-butadiene has decreased during normal operations. However, certain occupational groups or events at the refineries still involve a risk of higher exposures. The aim of this study was to examine the personal exposure to benzene and 1,3-butadiene at refinery turnarounds and during work in the oil harbor.

Work within the petroleum refinery industry, with potential exposure to open product streams containing higher fractions of benzene, pose a risk of personal benzene exposures exceeding the occupational exposure limits. Refinery workers performing these work tasks frequently, such as contractors, sewage tanker drivers, and oil harbor workers, need to be identified and protected.

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine | 19 September 2016

Is Obesity Associated With Adverse Workers’ Compensation Claims Outcomes?

A number of studies suggested the association between obesity and elevated incidences of workplace injuries and longer lost time from work. Although the association of obesity with injury rates has been reported by many studies, the association of obesity with the adverse development of workers’ compensation claims after injury is not so clear.

In a previous study, the authors found that an elevated body mass index was associated with delayed return to work and increased workers’ compensation costs. The study followed 1,107 claimants for 3 years. All individuals sustained a serious injury and lost time from work.

Controlling for gender, age, marital status, and attorney involvement, the logistic regression odds ratio for return to work by the end of the follow-up period for an overweight or obese individual vs. a normal-weight individual was 2.95 and 3.58, respectively. This study includes an additional year of claimant data, thereby increasing the sample size. the authors also controlled for two additional factors, spinal surgeries and spinal injections, which were found in previous studies to be associated with high workers’ compensation cost and claim duration.

The increased time span and addition of two variables would allow for better characterization of the role of obesity with relation to lost time and costs in workers’ compensation claims.


University of Missouri | 8 September 2016

Study Finds Potential Harm to Fertility From Hydraulic Fracturing Chemicals

More than 15 million Americans live within a 1-mile radius of unconventional oil and gas (UOG) operations. UOG operations combine directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing to release natural gas from underground rock. Scientific studies, while ongoing, are still inconclusive on the potential long-term effects fracturing has on human development. Researchers at the University of Missouri released a study that is the first of its kind to link exposure to chemicals released during hydraulic fracturing to adverse reproductive and developmental outcomes in mice. Scientists believe that exposure to these chemicals also could pose a threat to human development.


“Researchers have previously found that endocrine-disrupting chemicals mimic or block hormones—the chemical messengers that regulate respiration, reproduction, metabolism, growth, and other biological functions,” said Susan C. Nagel, an associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and women’s health in the School of Medicine. “Evidence from this study indicates that developmental exposure to fracking and drilling chemicals may pose a threat to fertility in animals and potentially people. Negative outcomes were observed even in mice exposed to the lowest dose of chemicals, which was lower than the concentrations found in groundwater at some locations with past oil and gas wastewater spills.”

Read the full story here.

Discuss this story on SPE Connect.


Health Security | 30 August 2016

Public Health Surveillance: At the Core of the Global Health Security Agenda

Global health security involves developing the infrastructure and capacity to protect the health of people and societies worldwide. The acceleration of global travel and trade poses greater opportunities for infectious diseases to emerge and spread. The International Health Regulations (IHR) were adopted in 2005 with the intent of proactively developing public health systems that could react to the spread of infectious disease and provide better containment. Various challenges delayed adherence to the IHR. The Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) came about as an international collaborative effort, working multilaterally among governments and across sectors, seeking to implement the IHR and develop the capacities to prevent, detect, and respond to public health emergencies of international concern. When examining the recent West African Ebola epidemic as a case study for global health security, both strengths and weaknesses in the public health response are evident. The central role of public health surveillance is a lesson reiterated by Ebola. Through further implementation of the Global Health Security Agenda, identified gaps in surveillance can be filled and global health security strengthened.

As the world becomes more interconnected through globalized travel and trade, the international spread of infectious diseases has become an increasing threat. To address these ever-evolving risks to health, dependence on public health surveillance has become more significant. Effective surveillance can respond not only to emergent infectious disease threats, but also to longer term public health concerns, including drug-resistant organisms and potential bioterrorism. In the wake of the recent West African Ebola epidemic, it is clear that, in the pursuit of global health security, all nations must support each other in developing basic public health infrastructure and shoring up their surveillance capacity.

The GHSA seeks to enhance surveillance worldwide, directly support responses to infectious disease outbreaks, and ultimately improve global health security. The emergence of novel infectious diseases is inevitable, but, through participation in the GHSA, the resulting consequences can be minimized. Surveillance is fundamental to global health security, and the West African Ebola outbreak showed both the devastating consequences of surveillance gaps and how effective surveillance could serve as a firewall against further geographic spread of deadly viruses. The GHSA seeks to fill the gaps in surveillance exposed by Ebola, thereby improving global health security.

SHP | 30 August 2016

Effective Health, Safety, and Wellbeing Processes: Maturity Assessment

Within every health, safety, and wellbeing (HSW) process, there has to be an effective culture, driven by individual behaviors (at all levels), and underpinned by an effective management system/framework with clear expectations and goals to ensure effective HSW performance. Achieving this requires a level of HSW maturity within the organization to accept its limitations, solve its problems, and celebrate its success.

Fig. 1

This is expressed diagrammatically in Fig. 1.

  • Policy—Goals and expectations, an effective roadmap and common understanding of where the organization is headed
  • Process and Systems—An effective set of processes to deliver excellence in HSW performance, right first time, every time
  • Behavioral Safety—Correct individual behaviors with everyone looking after themselves and others to keep healthy and safe
  • Cultural HSW—The organization operating as one, with a clear cultural belief and caring for wellbeing of employees and others

To assure this in an organization is difficult because data is not always available and, when it is, extensive verification and validation is required.

Health & Safety Middle East | 30 August 2016

The High Costs of Hearing Loss

Exposure to excessive noise also entails largely unrecognized costs to organizations by way of increased employee turnover and absenteeism, lowered performance, and possible contribution to accidents. As well as the economic cost for employers, NIHL imposes a severe burden on health and social services and the economy as a whole. Noise exposure is one of the more common health risk factors.

Millions of laborers worldwide are exposed to sound pressure levels capable of producing hearing loss.

Occupational exposure to loud noise can damage the hair cells of the organ of Corti, akin to the body’s microphone, causing progressive and irreversible hearing loss, a condition known as noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).

To the individual affected, the social handicaps of NIHL are also severe. NIHL is irreversible and leads to communication difficulties, impairment of interpersonal relationships, social isolation, and a very real degradation in the quality of life. The family and others close to the affected person often experience secondary consequences of the condition. While NIHL cannot be fully reversed, the advancement in hearing aid technology can overcome some of the problems. Of those people affected, 20% or more also suffer from tinnitus (ringing in the ears).

The International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine | 15 August 2016

Sickness Absence and Precarious Employment: A Comparative Cross-National Study of Denmark, Finland, Sweden, and Norway

Precarious employment is a major social determinant of health and health inequalities with effects beyond the health of workers. The objective of this study was to investigate the association between precarious employment and sickness absence in four Nordic countries, Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden.

The prevalence of sickness absence was lowest in Sweden (18%), and highest in Finland (28%). Three precarious employment indicators were positively associated with sickness absence; the pattern being largely similar in the total sample. In the sex-disaggregated sample, five precarious employment indicators increased the likelihood of sickness absence; the pattern was heterogeneous, with women generally having significantly higher odds of sickness absence than men. “Low household income” and “sickness presenteeism” were strong predictors of sickness absence among both sexes in most of the four studied countries. Sickness absence varied between the Nordic countries in the sex-disaggregated analyses.

Precarious employment indicators predicted sickness absence in the Nordic countries. Findings emphasize the need to prioritize informed and monitored collective bargaining for all workers, increase working time flexibility, and improving work conditions.

International Journal of Occupational Medicine and Environmental Health | 15 August 2016

Lost-Time Illness, Injury, and Disability and Its Relationship With Obesity in the Workplace: A Comprehensive Literature Review

The objective of this study was to conduct a literature review examining predictors of lost-time injury, illness, and disability (IID) in the workplace, with a focus on obesity as a predictor, and to evaluate the relationship between obesity and lost-time IID. The study objective was also to analyze workplace disability prevention and interventions aimed at encouraging a healthy lifestyle among employees and reducing obesity and IID, as well as to identify research gaps.

The search was conducted in several major online databases. Articles included in the review were published in English in peer-reviewed journals between January 2003 and December 2014 and were found to be of good quality and of relevance to the topic. Each article was critically reviewed for inclusion in this study. Studies that focused on lost-time IID in the workplace were reviewed and summarized. Workers in overweight and obese categories are shown to be at a higher risk of workplace IID, are more likely to suffer from lost-time IID, and experience a slower recovery compared to workers with a healthy body mass index.

Lost-time IID is costly to an employer and an employee; therefore, weight reduction may financially benefit both workers and companies. It was found that some companies have focused on developing interventions that aid reduction of weight and the practice of active lifestyle among their employees.

Occupational & Environmental Medicine | 15 August 2016

Biomechanical and Psychosocial Exposures are Independent Risk Factors for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Assessment of Confounding Using Causal Diagrams

Between 2001 and 2010, six research groups conducted coordinated prospective studies of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) incidence among US workers from various industries to estimate exposure–response relationships. This analysis examined the presence and magnitude of confounding between biomechanical and workplace psychosocial factors and incidence of dominant-hand CTS.

Although attenuation of the relationships between CTS and some biomechanical and work psychosocial exposures was observed after adjusting for confounding, the magnitudes were small and confirmed biomechanical and work psychosocial exposures as independent risk factors for incident CTS.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration | 15 August 2016

NIOSH’s Engineering Controls Database Can Help Employers Reduce Risk of Workplace Illnesses and Injuries

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s (NIOSH’s) new Engineering Controls Database provides information on effective engineering controls that can protect workers by eliminating or reducing hazardous conditions. It is based on a hierarchy of controls ranked in order of effectiveness. Well-designed engineering controls can be highly effective in protecting workers and frequently lower operating costs over the longer term. The database can be searched by occupation or work process to find a solution that may work to control the exposure in your workplace.

Read more about the database here.