OSHA Position Post-Incident Drug Tests & Safety Incentive Programs

November 8th, 2018

On Oct. 11, 2018, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) sent a Standard Interpretation Memorandum to its regional administrators and to state plan designees clarifying its position on post-incident drug tests and safety incentive programs. According to the memo, such tests and programs are permitted if properly written and implemented.

Background

Federal law and OSHA regulations prohibit retaliation against employees for reporting work-related injuries and illnesses. In May 2016, OSHA published a final rule interpreting the retaliation prohibition broadly. The rule stated that some post-incident drug testing and safety incentive programs may deter employees from reporting injuries and illnesses, thus resulting in unlawful retaliation. It left employers uncertain as to when implementing such testing and programs could result in citations by the agency for alleged retaliation.

The October 2018 memo sets out OSHA’s new policy, stating that “[a]ction taken under a safety incentive program or post-incident drug testing policy would” not violate anti-retaliation requirements unless “the employer took the action to penalize the employee for reporting a work-related injury or illness rather than for the legitimate purpose of promoting workplace safety and health.”

Post-Incident Drug Testing

OSHA’s new memo specifically states that “most instances of workplace drug testing are permissible.” According to the agency, examples of permissible drug testing include:

• “Random drug testing”;

• “Drug testing unrelated to the reporting of a work-related injury or illness”;

• “Drug testing under a state workers’ compensation law”;

• “Drug testing under other federal law, such as a U.S. Department of Transportation rule”; and

• “Drug testing to evaluate the root cause of a workplace incident that harmed or could have harmed employees. If the employer chooses to use drug testing to investigate the incident, the employer should test all employees whose conduct could have contributed to the incident, not just employees who reported injuries.”

So employers may lawfully implement not only random drug testing programs, but also post-incident drug testing programs, as long as all employees whose conduct could have contributed to the incident – and not just the employees who were injured in the incident – are tested.

Safety Incentive Programs

OSHA’s new memo further notes that “[i]ncentive programs can be an important tool to promote workplace safety and health.” According to the agency, incentive programs that provide positive “rewards [to] workers for reporting near-misses or hazards” and encourage “involvement in a safety and health management system” are “always permissible.”

The memo also says “rate-based” programs that reward employees “with a prize or bonus at the end of an injury-free” period or evaluate managers “based on their work unit’s lack of injuries…are permissible…as long as they are not implemented in a manner that discourages reporting.” “[W]ithholding a prize or bonus because of a reported injury” is allowed “as long as the employer has implemented adequate precautions to ensure that employees feel free to report an injury or illness.” These precautions can include:

• “[A]n incentive program that rewards employees for identifying unsafe

conditions in the workplace”;

• “[A] training program for all employees to reinforce reporting rights

and responsibilities [that] emphasizes the employer’s non-retaliation policy”; and

• “[A] mechanism for accurately evaluating employees’ willingness to report

injuries and illnesses.”

This means employers may lawfully implement safety incentive programs if steps are taken to ensure employees feel free to report injuries and illnesses.

Bottom Line

OSHA’s new memo recognizes the value of post-incident drug testing and safety incentive programs if applied in a consistent and non-retaliatory manner. Employers should review their drug testing procedures and incentive programs for compliance with the agency’s new guidance.

The content of this blog originally appeared in our November 2018 e-newsletter, ABR HR Insights. It was written by David E. Dubberly, a member of Nexsen Pruet, LLC. See more workplace safety blogs here.

What Do Paint and Jellyfish Have In Common?

July 17th, 2018

paint health hazards

They’re Both Hazardous To Your Health

What do box jellyfish and paint have in common? Both can be hazardous, even deadly. Paint is a chemical, and unprotected exposure over time causes short and long-term health effects. OSHA even created many paint safety and health standards for employers to follow to protect employees against paint health hazards.

So, if you’re a professional painter (think spray gun operator, spray line operator) how can you protect your health?

Protect Yourself Against Paint Health Hazards

You can prevent exposure to paint chemicals by wearing the appropriate protective equipment – a respirator designed for painting, coveralls, chemical-resistant gloves, and eye protection.  Use an appropriate respirator when spraying polyurethane paints and other paints in enclosed areas.  Paint in ventilated spray booths, or work in a well-ventilated area.  Change the respirator cartridge according to the manufacturer’s guidelines.

Educate Yourself About Paint Health Hazards

Always read the label before beginning a paint job.  Use your Safety Data Sheet (SDS) as a guide to what hazards your paint contains, what type of protective equipment to use, and whether the paint may easily ignite.  The SDS will also tell you how to contain and clean up a paint spill, and what to do in case of overexposure to paint.

Paint Health Hazards – What They Are

Paint contains pigments, solvents, resins, and other ingredients to give it color, texture, spreadability and durability.  Many of these ingredients are hazardous to your health.  First among them are the solvents, such as mineral spirits, naphtha and turpentine, that evaporate readily from paint exposed to the air.  Even short-term exposure to these chemicals can cause dizziness, eye irritation, nausea, coughing and other symptoms.  In addition, paints containing polyisocyanate hardeners can cause shortness of breath, chills, and fever.  Long-term exposure to paint ingredients, even when no short-term effects are noticed, can damage the kidneys, liver, blood, or nervous system.  Some even cause cancer and birth defects in laboratory animals.

You may work with paints for a long time with no ill effects.  Suddenly you develop rashes, hives, swelling or scaling of the skin, or you begin coughing and having shortness of breath, which often leads to permanent lung damage or severe respiratory stress.  This is sensitization, an allergic reaction to one of the ingredients in paint.  Once you become sensitized, it is virtually impossible for you to work with the sensitizing substance again.  This is why you must avoid contact with the paint in the first place by using the right protective equipment.

Keeping It Safe

The volatile solvents in paint are flammable.  Painting in an unventilated area near an ignition source – such as cigarette, spark or static electricity – can be dangerous.  Paint containers exposed to high heat may explode.  And some paints contain chemicals that may react violently with other substances.

Reporting An Unsafe Work Environment

ABR Employment Services and the companies we partner with to provide people jobs have a joint responsibility to keep our employees safe. If you work with paint on the job, and are unsure whether or not you need to wear protective equipment, contact your ABR Employment Representative immediately. We want to keep you safe and healthy!

Safe Winter Driving: Safety Tips & Reminders

December 26th, 2017

safe winter driving

Winter Driving

Winter in the mid-west means sometimes driving in less than ideal conditions. Although driving in winter can be more hazardous, if we take the proper precautions, safe winter driving can happen. And, we can avoid being in an accident.

The Risks: Injury and Property Damage

Winter conditions make driving more difficult in a variety of ways. Snow and ice decrease the traction our tires have with the road. This problem is magnified on corners and hills. This can result in collisions with other vehicles and ending up in a ditch. Another hazard can come into play when people get stranded in bad weather. Every year, people die trying to get help. They underestimate the effects that the cold weather can have on the body, or they lack the proper winter clothing.

The Solution: Think Before You Drive!

The first questions we should always ask ourselves are, “Is it safe for me to be driving?” and “Do I really need to drive, or can this wait?” Check the local forecast and road conditions. If travel is not advised, or weather conditions are expected to get bad, don’t drive!

Safe winter driving means if you are driving in winter weather, slow down. Leave about three times as much distance as you normally would if you are following another vehicle. When braking, apply the brake gently. Slamming the brakes can cause skidding. Do not assume that if you are in a four-wheel-drive vehicle you can drive on any surfaces. On glare ice, four-wheel-drive just means four wheels will be spinning instead of two.

Pack a car emergency kit. Items to have in your vehicle for winter driving include: cold-weather clothing (i.e. boots, gloves and hat); shovel; flashlight; sand or kitty litter; blankets; water; and food.

If you skid off the road and end up in a ditch, try rocking the vehicle back and forth, especially if your car wheels are spinning. Your best plan if you are stranded is to call for help and stay put. Even if the automobile isn’t running, it will provide shelter from wind and snow.

The Three ‘P’s’ of Safe Winter Driving: Prepare, Protect, Prevent

PREPARE for the trip; PROTECT yourself; and PREVENT crashes on the road.

PREPARE

  • Maintain Your Vehicle: Check battery, tire tread, and windshield wipers, keep your windows clear, put no-freeze fluid in the washer reservoir, and check your antifreeze.
  • Have On Hand: flashlight, jumper cables, abrasive material (sand, kitty litter, even floor mats), shovel, snow brush and ice scraper, warning devices (like flares), blankets, non-perishable food and water, medication, and cell phone.
  • Stopped or Stalled? Stay in your vehicle! Shine your lights at oncoming traffic, and run your vehicle just long enough to keep warm.
  • Plan Your route. Allow plenty of time (check the weather and leave early if necessary), be familiar with the maps/directions, and let others know your arrival time.

PROTECT YOURSELF

  • Buckle up!

PREVENT CRASHES

  • Slow down and increase distances between cars.
  • Keep your eyes open for pedestrians walking in the road.
  • Avoid fatigue – Get plenty of rest before the trip, stop at least every three hours.

We want you to be safe at work, too, which is why we blog about it. Check out the Workplace Safety category on abrjobs.com and check back monthly for new information. Be safe!

This blog about Safe Winter Driving was written by Safety Management Services Company and edited by ABR. It is being shared with permission. 

I’ve Fallen, and I Can’t Get Up! Slip, Trip & Fall Prevention

November 6th, 2017

slip trip fall

Slip, Trip & Fall Prevention Tips

Slip, trip and fall prevention helps you stay safe at home and on-the-job. Avoid injury by following these safety precautions from ABR Employment Services.

Slips

Slips can be caused by wet surfaces, spills, or weather hazards like ice or snow. Slips are more likely to occur when you hurry or run, wear the wrong kind of shoes, or don’t pay attention to where you’re walking.

• Practice safe walking skills. Take short steps on slippery surfaces to keep your center of balance under you, and point your feet slightly outward.

• Clean up or report spills right away. Even minor spills can be very dangerous.

• Don’t let grease accumulate at your work place.

• Be extra cautious on smooth surfaces such as newly waxed floors. Also be careful walking on loose carpeting.

Trips

Trips occur whenever your foot hits an object and you are moving with enough momentum to be thrown off balance. You can help avoid trips when you:

• Make sure you can see where you are walking. Don’t carry loads that you cannot see over.

• Keep walking and working areas well lit, especially at night.

• Keep the workplace clean and tidy. Store materials and supplies in the appropriate storage areas.

• Arrange furniture and office equipment so that it doesn’t interfere with walkways or pedestrian traffic in your area.

• Properly maintain walking areas, and alert appropriate authorities regarding potential maintenance related hazards.

Falls

To avoid falls consider the following measures:

• Don’t jump off landings or loading docks. Use the stairs.

• Repair or replace stairs or handrails that are loose or broken.

• Keep passageways and aisles clear of clutter and well lit.

• Wear shoes with appropriate non-slip soles.

For more information about slip, trip and fall prevention, please contact your local ABR Representative.

On-The-Job Eye Safety and Protection

October 17th, 2017

 

eye safety

The majority of work-related eye injuries are caused by flying objects, falling objects or sparks striking the eye. Other common eye injury hazards also include fumes, vapors, chemical splashes or extremely bright light. Protect those pretty peepers! If the company you are working at provides, or recommends, a particular type of eye protection, wear it to keep you safe and avoid eye injury.

Work Around Large Flying Objects? Wear Polycarbonate Lens Safety Glasses or Goggles

When we think of eye injury, we usually think of something large striking the eyes from in front—perhaps a board thrown back by a saw, falling object, or flying chunk of rock.  If you are around this sort of hazard, you need high-impact protection–safety glasses or goggles with lenses of polycarbonate, the most impact-resistant material used in safety glasses.  In choosing protective eyewear, remember that while goggles offer overall protection, safety glasses may be the best choice if your job requires plenty of side-vision.

Eye Protection From Fast Moving Particles

The most common eye hazards, and causes of eye injury in the shop, are fast-moving, small particles, such as dust and debris from sanding, grinding, chipping, and similar operations.  A fast-moving particle, smaller than a grain of sand, can cause a great deal of damage to an unprotected eye.  Even relatively, slow-moving, fine particles, such as dust, can scratch the eye’s surface.  When choosing safety glasses or goggles for this type of hazard, you have to weigh impact-resistance against scratch-resistance.  Plastic and polycarbonate lenses are highly impact-resistant, but less scratch-resistant than glass lenses.  Glass lenses will shatter on high impact, but resist scratching from dust and grit better than other lenses do.  Some polycarbonate lenses are coated with a scratch-resistant surface to protect against both high-impact and fine-particle hazards.

Eye, Head & Face Protection from Chemicals, Fumes, and Heat

If you are working around dangerous chemicals, you need goggles that form a snug seal around your face and have hooded ventilators or, in extreme danger, no ventilators.  Such goggles need to be specially coated to prevent fogging.  The best protection against heat is a face shield that covers the face and neck, and typically made of acetate or other flexible, plastic materials.  Extreme heat or concentrated light may require the protection of a welding helmet.  Face shields should be used with other eye protection, never alone.

Do You Need To Wear Eye, Face or Head Protection At Work?

If you’re not sure, check with your supervisor. If you know your job requires you to wear safety equipment like a eye, face or head protection while on assignment with ABR and you do not have it, report it to your supervisor and your  local ABR Employment Services office immediately.

This blog about Eye Safety was written by Safety Management Services Company and edited by ABR. It is being shared with permission. 

Safe Knife Use Tips from the Safety Team at ABR

July 17th, 2017

Be aware.  If a tool is intended to cut whatever you are working on, it will likely cut you as well.

Follow these Safe Knife Use tips from ABR’s Safety Team to prevent injury.

If you are injured while on assignment with ABR, report it to your supervisor or  local ABR Employment Services office immediately.

OSHA Young Worker Safety Campaign and the Temporary Worker Initiative

June 19th, 2017

young worker safety

“Young Workers! You Have Rights!”

The motto of the new OSHA Young Workers Safety Campaign says volumes about the concern over the well-being of earnest young workers. If you have young workers on staff — whether full-time, part-time, or as a temporary employee at a call center, in an office, or manufacturing environment — it is essential that you understand the key points of this vital campaign.

What Are Your Responsibilities When It Comes to Complying with OSHA’s Young Worker Safety Campaign?

You likely already do your best to make sure your young workers stay safe while working for you. OSHA’s new campaign can actually help make your efforts easier, giving you a guideline about this vital segment of the workforce.

JD Supra recently reported that, per OSHA’s guidelines, “Young workers are those new to the workforce, even up to age 24. Young workers can be an asset to your workforce. However, it may be their first job or the first time they are operating equipment.” Additionally, if you do employ people under the age of 18, you must observe child labor laws, which restrict types of jobs, equipment used, and hours worked.

Inform and Equip Your Young Workers

It is important that, once you enlist a young worker, you give them all the information and safety gear that they need to stay safe and healthy during their shift and on your grounds. OSHA has provided several resources that you can use to supplement the training you already have in place, including construction hazard videos, restaurant safety modules, “how-to” safety videos for landscaping and construction, and guides to avoid special risks for warehouse workers. Remember to equip young workers with safety gloves, goggles, hard hats, and anything else to keep them protected in your specific work environment.

Give Your Young Employees the Voice to Raise Safety Concerns

An important dynamic of this campaign involves giving young workers a voice while working at your business. Young employees may hesitate to ask questions about safety, worried that you will think they are questioning your management’s authority, or that they were not listening. They may not ask questions out of sheer work inexperience, insecurity and shyness. Let your young employees know that they can, and should, ask questions any time they have them without fear of judgment or any sort of backlash.

How Does OSHA’s Young Workers’ Campaign Affect the Temporary Worker Initiative?

Time Doctor reports that, since 1997, young people have become the largest demographic to become involved with the temporary staffing phenomenon.

OSHA recognizes the value of this segment of the U.S. workforce and wants to ensure their safety and health while gaining experience to become a permanent fixture in the American workforce, whether permanent or temporary. OSHA thought of everything when it came to this campaign for all workers, including temporary workers, drawing from the Temporary Worker Initiative.

As the host employer for your temporary team, we know how important it is to you to follow the proper guidelines to keep your young temporary workers safe. At ABR Employment Services, we can help you stay in compliance to keep your young team safe, healthy and on the clock. Our team has learned both the Young Worker’s Campaign and the Temporary Worker Initiative, inside and out, and we can help you in the following ways so you can feel at ease when welcoming young temporary employees:

  • With your agreement, we visit your workplace to go over OSHA’s requirements before sending young workers your way.
  • We provide training for young employees on safety matters that apply to your workplace.

We can do so much more to help you keep young workers safe while they are at your company. Contact us for more information about what you can do on your own to ensure workplace safety for your young and eager workers.

ABR Supports OSHA Safe and Sound Week June 12 to 18

June 12th, 2017

safe and sound week

Safe and Sound Week

ABR Employment Services supports  OSHA’s Safe and Sound Week. We are committed to the value of workplace safety and the importance of identifying and fixing workplace safety hazards to prevent workplace injury.

Each month, ABR’s Safety Committee meets to foster the committees goals of:

  1. Providing our employees a safe work environment and
  2. Educating our clients about their role and responsibilities in preventing workplace accidents

During this week long Safe and Sound event, ABR encourages:

  • Companies take a systematic approach to finding and fixing hazards
  • Establishing procedures to collect and review information about known or potential hazards
  • Investigating the root cause of hazards and prioritize hazard controls
  • Correcting identified hazards to prevent workplace injury
  • Employees to communicate with management about hazards on the job

The Temporary Worker Initiative calls attention to the protection of temporary workers. ABR is committed to keeping our employees safe so they can return home safe and sound after each shift.

OSHA  provides workplace safety help to employers. OSHA’s On-site Consultation Program offers free and confidential advice to small and medium-sized businesses in all states across the country, with priority given to high-hazard work sites. For more information, or for additional compliance assistance, contact OSHA.

Respirator Safety: When You Need One and Respirator Types

May 22nd, 2017

respirator safety

Respirator Safety and Protection

Your body works hard to protect your respiratory system from airborne contaminants.  Your nose begins the job by filtering out large particles and warming and moistening the air as it enters your body.  A blanket of mucus lining the tubes to our lungs traps smaller particles, which are moved back up toward your throat by the action of tiny hairs, called cilia that line your air passages.  Your cough reflex completes the task of getting rid of contaminants.  That’s why smoke and dust make you cough – your body is just doing its job.  Your lungs then move the 20% of the air that is pure oxygen into your bloodstream where your body can use it.

When You Need a Respirator

But what if your body’s air filtration system is attacked by too many contaminants?  When your air passages are overloaded, they will not be able to prevent this material from getting to your lungs.  Contaminants can have an immediate and noticeable effect when they irate your lungs, but much more dangerous are the long-term effects of a buildup of contaminants over time.  Often, a victim of this sort of hazard is not aware of the problem until the lungs are permanently damaged.  Fortunately, respirators can prevent this kind of damage by filtering out these particles for you.

Air-Purifying Respirators

If you are working in an environment that produces dusts, fumes or harmful mists, you should be using an air purifying respirator containing a filter designed for screening out these contaminants.  These may be simple disposable face masks or rubber masks fitted with disposable or cleanable filters.

 Cartridges and Canisters

Gases and vapors make up another group of health hazards.  These substances are not really particles – they are dissolved in the air, so your air passages have no way of getting them out.  Furthermore, such gases can pass through your lungs to enter your bloodstream, damaging your body and brain.  When working around these hazards, you need an APR fitted with a cartridge or canister that absorbs or chemically reduces dangerous gases.  The type of cartridge or canister you use must be specific for the gas in your work area – the wrong one will have no safety effect at all.  And it must be replaced according to manufacturer’s guidelines when it is used up.

Supplied-Air Respirators

Remember how much oxygen there is in pure air?  About 20%.  If the atmosphere in your workplace has such a high level of contaminants that there is not enough oxygen left in the air to support life, it will not do any good to filter the air.  You need to replace that air with an outside source.  Supplied-air respirators (SARs) connect the user, by means of an air hose, to an outside source of clean air supplied by a compressor or compressed-air cylinder.  You may also need this type of respirator if the contaminant in your workplace cannot be filtered or absorbed by ordinary APRs.  Other situations requiring SARs are oxygen deficient environments and environments that are dangerously hot or cold or so toxic that they have been identified as “immediately dangerous to life and health” (IDLH).  Under IDLH conditions, you must use a respirator that provides positive air pressure so there is no chance of contaminants being drawn into the mask when you inhale.

Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus

Sometimes, working conditions do not permit the use of air lines.  With a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), you carry a supply of air in a portable tank on your back.  Use SCBAs when you need great mobility, when falling objects or machinery can damage an air hose, or when the job to be done takes 30 minutes or less.  They may also be used when you are first entering an environment in which the air quality is unknown.

Do You Need To Wear A Respirator?

Do you need respiratory protection? If you’re not sure, check with your supervisor. If you know your job requires you to wear safety equipment like a respirator while on assignment with ABR and you do not have it, report it to your supervisor and your  local ABR Employment Services office immediately.

This blog about Respirator Safety was written by Safety Management Services Company. It is being shared with permission. 

 

Making Good Safety Decisions On The Job

April 13th, 2017

Making Good Safety Decisions

Have you ever done anything that you know puts you at increased risk of injury?  When you realize whether you (or a co-worker) could have been hurt, do you ask yourself, “Why did I ever do that?”  For your own future preservation, this should be a very important question for you to answer.

Consider the fact that:

20% of injuries are due to unsafe conditions and 80% are caused by unsafe acts.  

If you realize that most unsafe conditions are brought about by human failure, then virtually all accidents are brought about by unsafe acts.  Why did you do something in an unsafe manner?  To answer this question, you will need to put personal defenses aside and know that the blame may lie within yourself.  Also realize that there may be more than one reason for your actions and that others may be involved.

If you know the proper, safe way to the do the job, then you cannot claim ignorance.  What is left, whether you like it or not, is carelessness.  So what can cause you to temporarily disregard your own safety?

 Don’t Cave To External Pressures

“Let’s get this job done!”  Usually, this pressure comes from someone you work with.  Disregarding safe practices is not going to save enough time to make a significant difference.  However, any accident or injury is guaranteed to have an effect.  As a matter of fact, when the pressure is applied, it is worthwhile to pay more attention to safety because we know from experience that such situations frequently lead to more accidents.

Avoiding Bad Habits

You fail to follow the established procedure and you don’t get hurt (or you were not caught) this time.  Psychologically, this is a reward and so you do it again and again and again.  But it is also Russian roulette.  How many times can you pull the trigger before a round is in the chamber?  You know, sooner or later, something is going to happen.  There is only one way to stop it – stop pulling the trigger.  Do yourself a favor and follow the established procedures.

Internal Pressures

There is just so much to do and not enough time!”  Are you self-motivated and self-directed?  Most employers love this type of individual, but your single-minded determination to get the job done may cause you to lose sight of the dangers around you.  Think of it this way, you will not finish the job if you get hurt.  You may finish the job if you don’t get hurt.  Therefore, first prevent injury.  Second, work to complete the job.

Attitude

“This safety stuff doesn’t apply to me!”  So what makes you so special?  A study of accidents involving foremen showed that the foremen were injured when they personally failed to apply the safety standards that they enforced every day.  Did the fact that they were foremen protect them from injury?  No.  Humans are humans.  There is nothing that will protect you from injury except following safe procedures.

Report Workplace Safety Concerns

If you have workplace safety concerns while on assignment with ABR, report it to your supervisor or  local ABR Employment Services office. Our goal is to keep you safe!