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Risk Control Issues NewsBrief - August 2015

OSHA issues temporary enforcement policy for confined spaces in construction

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is instituting a 60-day temporary enforcement policy of its Confined Spaces in Construction standard. Full enforcement of the new standard, which went into effect Aug. 3, is being postponed to Oct. 2 in response to requests for additional time to train and acquire the equipment necessary to comply with the new standard.

During this 60-day temporary enforcement period, OSHA will not issue citations to employers who make good faith efforts to comply with the new standard. Employers must be in compliance with either the training requirements of the new standard or the previous standard. Employers who fail to train their employees consistent with either of these two standards will be cited.

Factors that indicate employers are making good faith efforts to comply include: scheduling training for employees as required by the new standard; ordering the equipment necessary to comply with the new standard; and taking alternative measures to educate and protect employees from confined space hazards.

OSHA issued the Confined Spaces in Construction final rule on May 4, 2015. OSHA estimates that the rule could protect nearly 800 construction workers a year from serious injuries and reduce life-threatening hazards. For more information, read the news release.

For more information about working in confined spaces, log in to the Risk Control Customer Portal at the top of this page and search “confined space” in the Keyword Search.

Peak hurricane season is here

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA's) Atlantic hurricane season forecast update agrees with earlier forecasts of a season with fewer named storms than historical averages in 2015. While this is good news, the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), a Travelers alliance, reminds residents it only takes one storm to devastate a community, a state or an entire region. History has shown us that devastating hurricanes can still happen in below-average seasons. Hurricane Andrew, which is the second most damaging hurricane in U.S. history, was the first storm in 1992, and the rest of the season was relatively quiet.

The peak Atlantic hurricane season is from mid-August to late October. Make sure you are prepared. Hurricanes can cause catastrophic damage to coastlines and several hundred miles inland. A hurricane can produce strong winds, as well as tornadoes and microbursts. Additionally, hurricanes can create storm surges along the coast and cause extensive damage. Flash flooding also can occur due to the intense rainfall.

Read more about what you can do to prepare before, during and after a hurricane from the Federal Emergency Management Administration. For more information about hurricane preparedness, log in to the Risk Control Customer Portal at the top of this page and search “hurricane” in the search function.

Campus fire safety

Each year college and university students, on- and off-campus, experience hundreds of fire-related emergencies nationwide. There are several specific causes for fires on college campuses, including cooking, intentionally set fires, and open flame, such as candles. Overall, most college-related fires are due to a general lack of knowledge about fire safety and prevention.

For most students, the last fire safety training they received was in grade school, but with new independence comes new responsibilities. It is important that both off-campus and on-campus students understand fire risks and know the preventative measures that could save their lives. Read more about safety tips for students, on- and off-campus fire safety, and safety precautions for colleges and universities from the United States Fire Administration.

To view more Risk Control information about campus safety, log in to the Risk Control Customer Portal and view our Educational Institutions TravSources®.

OSHA proposal would lower beryllium levels, increase workplace protections

The federal government is proposing a new standard that would dramatically lower workplace exposure to beryllium, a widely used material that can cause devastating lung diseases. The proposal would apply to an estimated 35,000 workers covered by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Currently, OSHA’s eight-hour permissible exposure limit for beryllium is 2.0 micrograms per cubic meter of air. Above that level, employers must take steps to reduce the airborne concentration of beryllium. That standard was originally established in 1948 by the Atomic Energy Commission and adopted by OSHA in 1971. OSHA’s proposed standard would reduce the eight-hour permissible exposure limit to 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter. The proposed rule would also require additional protections, including personal protective equipment, medical exams, other medical surveillance and training.

The 1971 limit significantly reduced fatalities due to acute beryllium disease but, over time, it became clear that exposure below that limit also had damaging long-term health effects. OSHA initially proposed to lower the permissible exposure limit for beryllium in 1975.

OSHA estimates that the rule could prevent almost 100 deaths and 50 serious illnesses each year. Workers who inhale beryllium particles can develop a debilitating, incurable illness known as chronic beryllium disease, and are also at increased risk of lung cancer. Dangers arise when beryllium-containing materials are processed in a way that releases airborne beryllium dust, fume, mist or other forms.

The majority of current worker exposures to beryllium occur in operations such as foundry and smelting operations, machining, beryllium oxide ceramics and composites manufacturing and dental lab work. The proposed rule would not cover some workers exposed to trace amounts of beryllium in raw materials, including those employed at coal-burning power plants and aluminum production facilities, and those performing abrasive blasting work with coal slag in the construction and shipyards industries. OSHA seeks comment during the rulemaking on whether these workers should also be covered by the final rule.

The proposed rule was published in the Aug. 7, 2015, issue of the Federal Register. Members of the public may read the proposal and submit written comments here. Comments must be submitted by Nov. 5, 2015. Additional information on the proposed rule can be found here.

Need help conducting air sampling for beryllium? The Travelers Industrial Hygiene Laboratory can help. Using sophisticated instrumentation allows the Lab to provide you with reliable results at low detection limits. In addition, all lab results are peer reviewed. Visit the Travelers IH Lab website for more information.

Updated comprehensive guide to OSHA training requirements now available

OSHA has posted a fully updated version of its guide to all agency training requirements to help employers, safety and health professionals, training directors and others comply with the law and keep workers safe. Training Requirements in OSHA Standards organizes the training requirements into five categories: General Industry, Maritime, Construction, Agriculture and Federal Employee Programs.

The safety and health training requirements in OSHA standards have prevented countless workplace tragedies by ensuring that workers have the required skills and knowledge to safely do their work. These requirements reflect OSHA's belief that training is an essential part of every employer's safety and health program for protecting workers from injuries and illnesses. For a list of educational materials available from OSHA, please visit the Publications webpage.

For more information about Risk Control training resources, log in to the Risk Control Customer Portal at the top of this page and click on the “Education Center” tab.

Legionnaires’ disease: decontamination and proper controls to help prevent an outbreak

According to OSHA, It is estimated that in the United States there are between 10,000 and 50,000 cases of Legionnaires' disease each year. Legionnaires' disease is a bacterial disease commonly associated with water-based aerosols that have originated from warm water sources. It is often associated with poorly maintained cooling towers and potable water systems.

Legionnaires' disease is caused by a type of bacterium called Legionella. The bacterium is named after a 1976 outbreak, when many people who went to a Philadelphia convention of the American Legion suffered from this disease, a type of pneumonia. A milder infection, also caused by Legionella bacteria, is called Pontiac fever. The term "legionellosis" may be used to refer to either Legionnaires' disease or Pontiac fever.

De-contamination of affected water systems

There are many options available for remediation of water systems contaminated with Legionella. Considerations include type of water system (e.g., cooling tower, potable water, hot tub), demonstrated effectiveness, cost, and ease of application. Consultation with an experienced Legionella contractor is recommended, as general guidelines are often difficult to apply to complex and varied water systems. For additional information about remediation, see: American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, Inc. ASHRAE Guideline 12-2000: Minimizing the risk of legionellosis associated with building water systems

OSHA also has a number of resources about Legionnaires’ disease, including the Legionnaires’ Disease eTool: https://www.osha.gov/dts/osta/otm/legionnaires/index.html

For more information about Legionnaires’ disease, log in to the Risk Control Customer Portal at the top of this page and search “legionella” in the search function.

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