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Risk Control Issues NewsBrief - March 2015

March is Workplace Eye Wellness Month

Eye injuries in the workplace are common. More than 2,000 eye injuries occur each day in the workplace with at least 100 of these injuries resulting in one or more days of lost work time (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health). Of the total amount of work-related injuries, 10 to 20 percent will cause temporary or permanent vision loss. Experts believe that the correct eye protection could have lessened the severity or even prevented 90 percent of eye injuries that occur in accidents. (Prevent Blindness America.) Learn more about vision protection on the job at preventblindness.org.

To view our Risk Control Supervisor Talk Personal Protective Equipment – Eyes, log in to the Risk Control Customer Portal and search “150609” in the Keyword Search. The Supervisor Talk is also available in Spanish.

Prepare and protect your business from floods

Each year, the United States suffers hundreds of millions of dollars in flood damage. Flooding can occur anywhere, often with little or no warning, and with devastating consequences. The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), an alliance with Travelers, offers the following precautions:

Understand Your Flood Hazard

First and foremost, it is important to know your property’s flood risk, which is based on FEMA flood maps for your community. You can learn what your flood risk is by visiting FEMA Map Service Center’s website, or by contacting your local building department to look at your local flood maps. Additional information on Determining Your Flood Zone Designation and What the Flood Maps Mean is available on FEMA’s website.

Consider Flood-Proofing Your Property

Sealing a building to prevent water from entering is called “dry flood-proofing” or “flood-proofing.” It is important to determine whether dry flood-proofing will provide the protections your property needs before choosing this option; this also should be done by a professional to ensure it is correctly installed.

There are a variety of dry flood-proofing measures from applying a waterproof coating or membrane to the walls, to strengthening walls to withstand flood water pressures. A professional can help to determine whether any of them are right for your situation.

Protect Your Basement

Even above the BFE or outside the floodplain, basements are prone to floods because water may flow down into them. They also may have an increased hydrostatic pressure exerted upon them when the surrounding ground is saturated. There are a number of additional measures business owners can take to reduce the likelihood and scope of basement flood damage. These include inspecting your basement for water leakage or entry, and correcting potential problems, such as re-grading the land to slope away from the building or caulking cracks. It is important not to store valuable equipment, documents, or inventory in any crawlspace or basement where flooding is possible.

Prevent Contamination

Take steps to reduce health and environmental damage in the event of a flood, such as anchoring fuel and propane tanks to prevent them from being swept away, installing sewer backflow valves, and protecting wells from potential contamination.

For information about business continuity plans, view the Travelers Prepare and Prevent Business Continuity webpage.

OSHA and NIOSH issue hazard alert on protecting workers from silica exposure during countertop manufacture and installation

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) jointly issued a hazard alert about protecting workers from significant crystalline silica exposure during manufacturing, finishing, and installing natural and manufactured stone countertops.

The hazard alert follows reports to OSHA that 46 workers in Spain and 25 workers in Israel who developed silicosis.  The alert describes silicosis as an incurable, progressively disabling and sometimes fatal lung disease. The alert also provides that the development of silicosis in the workers was the result of exposure to crystalline silica in their work manufacturing stone countertops. Ten of the workers in Israel required lung transplants as a result of their condition. OSHA and NIOSH have identified exposure to silica as a health hazard to workers involved in stone countertop operations in the United States, both in fabrication shops and during in-home finishing/installation. The alert jointly issued by OSHA and NIOSH provides that this hazard can be mitigated with simple and effective dust controls.

Crystalline silica is found in granite, sandstone, quartzite, various other rocks and sand. The alert provides that:

  1. Workers who inhale very small crystalline silica particles are at risk for silicosis.
  2. Symptoms of silicosis can include shortness of breath, cough and fatigue, and may or may not be obviously attributable to silica.
  3. Workers exposed to airborne crystalline silica also are at increased risk for lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease.

The hazard alert details what can be done at stone countertop fabrication and installation worksites to protect workers from exposure to silica. This includes monitoring the air to determine silica exposure levels; using engineering controls and safe work practices to control dust exposure; and providing workers with respiratory protection when needed, training, and information about the hazards of silica.

For more information on silica hazards and how to prevent them, visit OSHA's web page on crystalline silica or our silica web pages on the Travelers Risk Control Industrial Hygiene Laboratory website.

OSHA will host second-annual Construction Fall Safety Stand-Down: May 4-15, 2015

According to OSHA, falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry, as hundreds of workers die each year and thousands more suffer catastrophic, debilitating injuries. Yet, lack of proper fall protection remains the most frequently cited violation by OSHA. To recognize this often fatal hazard, tens of thousands of employers and more than a million workers across the country joined OSHA in 2014 for a weeklong Fall Safety Stand-Down, the largest occupational safety event ever held. OSHA hopes to triple these numbers during this year's Fall Safety Stand-Down from May 4-15, 2015.

Building on last year's widespread participation, OSHA has made this year's Stand-Down, a two-week event. From May 4-15, employers and workers will pause during their workday for topic talks, demonstrations and training on how to use safety harnesses, guard rails and other means to protect workers from falls. Underscoring the importance of this effort, industry and business leaders, including universities, labor organizations, and community and faith-based groups, have already begun scheduling 2015 stand-downs in all 50 states and around the world.

The National Fall Safety Stand-Down is part of OSHA's fall prevention campaign, launched three years ago with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, NIOSH's National Occupational Research Agenda and The Center for Construction Research and Training. OSHA and partners would like to encourage all workers and employers that face fall hazards on the job to participate in this year's Stand-Down. The newly launched National Safety Stand-Down 2015 website provides details on how to: conduct a Stand-Down; receive a certificate of participation; and access free education and training resources, fact sheets and other outreach materials in English and Spanish. It will also include a list of stand-down events free and open to the public, as soon as they become available.

For more information about fall protection, view our Fall Management Topic TravSources®. Log in to the Risk Control Customer Portal at the top of this page. Once in the Portal, click on Topic TravSources under Technical Tools.

OSHA’s Safety Pays Program helps show impact of injuries and illnesses on bottom line

If you are looking for an easy-to-use tool to help you demonstrate the impact of workplace injuries and illnesses on your company's profitability, check out the recently updated OSHA Safety Pays Program. This program uses a company's profit margin, the average costs of an injury or illness and an indirect cost multiplier to project the amount of sales a company would need to covers those costs.

OSHA recently updated the program to include more recent workers compensation data from the National Council on Compensation Insurance. The program is now available in a format that can be easily read by mobile devices. For more information on the costs of workplace injuries and illnesses, and the benefits of investing in workplace safety and health, see OSHA's Business Case for Safety and Health page.

OSHA launches redesigned Whistleblower Protection web page

OSHA unveiled a redesigned Whistleblower Protection page that is more user-friendly and features improved navigability that makes it easier to find program information and resources.

The redesign effort is part of OSHA's continuing efforts to strengthen its outreach and provide thorough and accessible information to the public.

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