March Safety eNewsletter
Business group releases resources for safety and security
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation has released a free online platform to educate business owners and members of the community on steps to ensure a safe, crime-free work environment.
Published in partnership with Johnson Controls, Inc., Safety and Security Quick Guides are easy-to-use tutorials about how to prevent workplace violence, burglary, and other incidents. The guidance, available at https://www.uschamberfoundation.org/safety-and-security-quick-guides, provides resources and practical steps to help business owners:
Commented Chamber Foundation Senior Vice President Marc DeCoursey, “We understand that the success of a business depends on its safety and resilience, and in turn, how important a role businesses play in promoting health and vitality in their communities.”
Senate votes on contractor safety as new report reveals violations
On the same day that the Senate voted to repeal requirements that large federal contractors reveal safety violations, a U.S. Senator released a new report detailing contractor safety.
On Monday, the Senate narrowly approved a move to repeal an Obama-era rule known as the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order. Signed into law in 2014 and implemented in October 2016, it requires prospective federal contractors to disclose labor law violations (including those cited by OSHA) and gives agencies guidance on how to consider the violations when awarding federal contracts. The Senate voted 49 to 48 to kill the rule, which had already been voted down in the House. It goes next to the president, who is expected to sign it.
The rule first affected all prime contractors under consideration for contracts with a total value of $50 million or more. That threshold would drop to $500,000 this year if the rule is upheld, and would affect subcontractors as well.
Meanwhile, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Monday released a report detailing labor violations by federal contractors. Breach of Contract: How Federal Contractors Fail American Workers on the Taxpayer’s Dime details repeat violations of labor laws by companies that receive billions of dollars in taxpayer-funded federal contracts. According to the report, more than one third of the 100 largest penalties levied by OSHA since 2015 were issued to companies that held federal contracts.
For example, the report singles out the Goodyear Tire & Rubber plant in Danville, Virginia where four employees were killed in 2015-2016. (The plant recently settled with Virginia OSHA for $1.75 million in penalties.) The document states that Goodyear received $8.3 million in federal contracts in 2016. “While many contractors offer good, well-paying jobs and safe working conditions, this is not always the case. Too often these billions of taxpayer dollars fund abuses that endanger workers’ incomes and lives.”
Workplace Eye Wellness Month
When it comes to eye health, the more vision ailments employees have, the more medical care they utilize, increasing healthcare related expenses. Employers are encouraged to contact Prevent Blindness America for information on the Healthy Eyes Vision Wellness Program, promoting vision care services in the workplace.
National Poison Prevention Week
The National Poison Prevention Week Planner below will help you plan and implement activities to raise awareness of poison prevention during the third full week of March each year. Get ready for 2015 National Poison Prevention Week, March 19-25, 2017.
As you begin planning, contact your local poison center at 1-800-222-1222 to learn how you can support existing activities in your community.
Source-Poison Control HRSA
The fact that the top job at OSHA remains unfilled has not deterred house Democrats from seeking to amend the act that establishes job safety laws in the U.S.
Democrats on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce have reintroduced the Protecting America’s Workers Act, legislation they say would strengthen and modernize the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act of 1970. Similar legislation has been proposed in the past but has not been successful.
The measure was introduced by Rep. Joe Courtney of Connecticut during the week marked by the seven-year anniversary of the 2010 Kleen Energy Plant explosion in Middletown, Connecticut. Six workers were killed and dozens more were injured in that catastrophe. Courtney said that incidents like Middletown and a deadly Texas fertilizer plant explosion in 2013 demonstrate that “…the benefits of ensuring a safe and healthy workplace are not just confined to the facility’s property—local communities also have a major stake in the safety of these workplaces.”
Supporters say the proposed bill would give OSHA the tools to ensure that employers promptly correct hazardous working conditions, protect workers from retaliation when they blow the whistle on unsafe working conditions, and hold employers accountable for violations that cause death or serious injury to workers.
The Protecting America’s Workers Act would:
BLR - February 20, 2017
When a group of firefighters got more sleep, feeling rested wasn’t the only benefit. They also reduced their risk of injury and disability.
Extended shifts and long work weeks make sleep deficiency and circadian rhythm problems common among firefighters. The long hours have been shown to increase the risk of burnout, injuries, and errors. Many firefighters suffer from undiagnosed sleep disorders, which can affect safety and long-term health as well.
Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston developed a Sleep Health Program and introduced it at a fire station. The program included sleep education and screening for sleep disorders. After a year, there was a 50 percent reduction in long-term disability days among those who had participated.
The findings were published in the journal SLEEP. Study author Steven W. Lockley noted, “Our program was shown to help reduce injuries and days off due to disability and should be considered for implementation by fire departments nationwide.”
Lockley and his colleagues emphasize the connection between untreated sleep disorders and a high risk of cardiovascular disease, drowsy-driving crashes, and other risks.
Maybe it’s time to look at the impact of insufficient sleep on your employees’ safety and health.
BLR - February 14, 17
The opioid epidemic has found its way into the workplace. Find out what employers are doing to help fight prescription drug abuse.
A new report from the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans finds that employers have implemented a number of initiatives to address the issue. Steps include:
The study, Mental Health and Substance Abuse Benefits: 2016 Survey Results, also found that one in four employers has conducted a prescription drug claims analysis to identify possible abuse.
Julie Stich, associate vice president at the foundation, stressed that addiction is not an easy problem for employers to address. “Employees who are struggling with substance abuse issues are often doing so in secret. They may fear that admitting a problem will cost them their job,” she said.
According to the survey employers are providing support to affected employees by offering substance abuse treatment benefits, prescription drug therapies, inpatient treatment, outpatient telemedicine treatment, as well as through their employee assistance programs (EAPs).
Of the more than 20 million Americans 12 or older with a substance abuse disorder in 2015, two million had disorders involving prescription pain relievers. The American Society of Addiction Medicine calls drug overdose the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S. The group says opioid addiction is driving the epidemic, with more than 20,000 overdose deaths related to prescription pain relievers.
BLR - February 21, 17
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