Safety Failures Led to Deaths of Three Workers Who Entered a Manhole

A utility contractor has been cited in the deaths of three workers who entered a confined space containing lethal levels of hydrogen sulfide and carbon monoxide.

On Jan. 16, Elway Gray, a 34-year-old pipe layer, entered a manhole in South Florida – a confined space – and quickly became unresponsive. Louis O’Keefe, a 49-year-old laborer, entered the manhole and attempted to rescue Gray. After O’Keefe also became unresponsive, Robert Wilson, a 24-year-old equipment operator, followed to help his fallen coworkers. All three men died.                                                

Post-incident atmospheric testing in the manhole revealed lethal levels of hydrogen sulfide and carbon monoxide. Two other employees and a volunteer firefighter also were exposed to the toxic gases in the manhole during rescue attempts but survived...



Safety Leadership: 11 characteristics of great safety performers

Achieving and sustaining an injury-free workplace demands strong leadership. Here is a quick look at what leaders need to know to guide their organizations to safety excellence.

Across industries, the best performers in safety sustain outcomes others struggle to reach. What sets them apart can be attributed to 11 leadership characteristics that are practiced consistently – regardless of challenges. These characteristics are fundamental in ensuring a culture that supports safety improvement and maintains the right behaviors over time.

  1. Great safety performers are absolutely clear that safety is a personal value to them, even to the point of overriding the company position. To lead safety well, you have to make it personal. People know when you’re going through the motions. If they don’t think you care about safety, why should they? Great safety leaders...



OSHA delays enforcement of silica standard for construction

WASHINGTON, DC - OSHA is delaying enforcement of its updated standard on worker exposure to crystalline silica in the construction industry.

Enforcement was set to begin June 23 but has been delayed to Sept. 23. The delay is necessary for OSHA “to conduct additional outreach and provide educational materials and guidance for employers,” an April 6 press release from the agency states.

Despite the delay, OSHA said it expects employers in the construction industry to take steps toward implementing the standard’s requirements. The rule’s new permissible exposure limit for respirable crystalline silica is 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air averaged during an 8-hour shift, which is what NIOSH recommended more than four decades ago. The updated PEL is 5 times lower than the previous limit for construction.


High Five: Protecting Our Most Important Tool

PENSACOLA, FL - As many as 1 million hand injuries occur in workplaces each year, ranging from cuts and lacerations to amputations and fractures. A hand safety policy, along with the use of appropriate hand protection and safety knives, can reduce or eliminate most of those injuries from your workplace.

"It's hard to peel a banana without your thumb. It's hard to button your shirt without the use of your thumb."

What seems obvious isn't always obvious to employees, says John Bell, EHS operations leader for FMC's Health & Nutrition Business. The employees in his division make up about 20 percent of the 6,000 FMC employees around the world. FMC manufactures a wide variety of products, ranging from herbicides and fungicides to health and nutrition products to the lithium used in the manufacture of ceramics and rubber, pharmaceuticals and batteries.

Starting three or four years ago, safety leaders at the company recognized that there was an uptick in hand injuries. There was one serious hand injury in particular, says Bell, that caught management's attention. One worker lost part of his finger when it got caught in a rotary valve he was able to access through a hatch.


Senate Votes to Eliminate Recordkeeping Update, President Supports Measure

WASHINGTON, DC - A joint resolution nullifying the Department of Labor's recordkeeping rule, published on Dec. 19, 2016, which clarified an employer’s “ongoing” obligation to make and maintain records of work-related injuries and illnesses, now goes to the president for his signature.

On March 22, the U.S. Senate voted along party lines (50-48) to approve House Joint Resolution 83: “Disapproving the rule submitted by the Department of Labor relating to ‘Clarification of Employer's Continuing Obligation to Make and Maintain an Accurate Record of Each Recordable Injury and Illness.’” The U.S. House of Representatives already had passed the measure, so it now goes to the president for his signature. The White House already has issued a Statement of Administration policy announcing that the Trump administration “strongly supports” passage of the bill.

The legislation was authored by Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-AL), chairman of the House Workforce Protections Subcommittee, to block what he called “an unlawful regulation” from OSHA.


OSHA's 'Safe and Sound' campaign assists employers in keeping workplaces safe and healthy

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration launched its "Safe and Sound Campaign" recently, calling on employers to review their safety and health programs to protect workers, and reduce workplace injuries and deaths.

"Workplace safety and health incidents hurt workers and their families, and they cost businesses' capital better invested in growing their business and creating jobs," said Kim Stille, OSHA's Regional Administrator in Kansas City. "By identifying and controlling job-related hazards that can lead to injuries and illnesses, businesses can improve their safety and health programs, save money and improve competitiveness."

"With just a phone call, companies can contact OSHA for assitance in achieving safety compliance. Working together with businesses, unions, and employees, we can reduce these sobering statistics and implement and sustain workplace safety and health programs that can help employees avoid preventable injuries and deaths," Stille said.


Engagement Is Key to Improving Safety, Ergonomics & Wellness for Aging Workers

Adjusting focus can reduce injuries, absences and improve productivity.

How effectively is your organization engaging its aging workers? The measures you take to understand and address the emerging needs of workers as they go through the aging process will go a long way to helping your firm meet its productivity objectives and achieve or maintain operational excellence.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, workers aged 45 – 55 now comprise 44 percent of the workforce; more than one in five workers is over 55. While many employers benefit from the knowledge, experience and reliability of these individuals, they need to recognize how aging affects workers and examine ways to enhance worker safety and maintain productivity.


Safety Leadership: Is behavior-based safety really washed up?

Editor’s Note: Achieving and sustaining an injury-free workplace demands strong leadership. In this monthly column, experts from global consulting firm DEKRA Insight share their point of view on what leaders need to know to guide their organizations to safety excellence.

I recently purchased a car I’d had my eye on for some time. It was exciting – making the purchase, picking it up, driving it off the lot. But not long after, the remorse set in. In my determination to get what I wanted, I found myself with a car that didn’t meet my objectives. Had I taken the time to clarify for myself the end state I most wanted from my purchase, I would have ended up with a completely different automobile. By going after what I thought I wanted, I missed the opportunity to get what I really needed.

Many organizations find themselves in a similar position when they implement a behavior-based safety system. They focus on getting the system up and running, or on a specific version of BBS, and think that alone will get them the results they need. Having the system – rather than addressing exposure – becomes the goal. When that happens, the true needs of the organization and its employees become secondary.


A Guide to Eye Wash and Emergency Shower Stations...

Purchasing the best eye wash and emergency shower equipment based on your needs is half the battle when it comes to protecting workers from severe eye injuries. Maintaining the stations and training employees on proper use is the other half.

Chocolate milk. That's what the water resembled to John Eliszewski as it flowed out of an emergency eyewash station.

While assessing eye wash and emergency showers for clients, Eliszewski, a Grainger technical safety specialist, says he periodically comes across companies that have failed to maintain the equipment. For an unsuspecting employee, this could mean the difference between losing his/her sight or experiencing severe burns after chemical exposure.

"These are designed to last a long time, and if they're maintained properly they'll be ready for that employee when he has that mishap and nobody knows when it's going to be," he says.


MIOSHA campaign aims to ‘stop falls, save lives’

Lansing, MI – The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration has launched a public service campaign intended to raise awareness of fall hazards and how to prevent them.

Introduced Feb. 21, Stop Falls. Save Lives reports that falls are the leading cause of workplace deaths in Michigan; in 2016, 22 of the 44 worker deaths that MIOSHA investigated were the result of a fall.

The campaign offers online fact sheets and toolbox talks designed to aid in training employees on fall hazards and prevention, as well as information on MIOSHA standards, training institute courses, and more.

“Whether it’s a fall to a lower level or a slip, trip or fall on the same level, all falls are preventable,” MIOSHA Director Bart Pickelman says in a video posted on the campaign’s webpage. “That’s why MIOSHA has created this one-stop shop to educate and equip Michigan employers and employees with the resources necessary to prevent injuries and deaths by falls.


Minority workers have the highest risk for injury, disability: study

Los Angeles – Latino immigrants and African-American men are most at risk for being injured on the job, according to a study from the University of Southern California.

Researchers examined data on 11.6 million people from the American Community Survey from 2006 to 2013 and 198,000 people from the Survey of Income and Program Participation for 1996, 2001, 2004 and 2008.

They found that foreign-born Latino men 18-64 years old have the highest average rate for workplace injuries, at 13.7 per 1,000 workers. African-American men were second at more than 12, then native-born Latino men at nearly 12, white men at 11.8 and Asian Americans at nearly 10. Other ethnicities have a rate of about 11.


House passes resolution to block OSHA’s ‘ongoing obligation’ recordkeeping rule

Washington – Lawmakers have moved one step closer to overturning a final rule from OSHA that addresses employers’ “ongoing obligation” to make and maintain accurate records of work-related injury and illness data.

On March 1, the House of Representatives passed a resolution of disapproval to block a final rule that OSHA issued in the final days of the Obama administration. The resolution, which was introduced Feb. 21 by Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL), would prevent the so-called “Volks” rule from going into effect and prevent future administrations from promulgating a similar rule. The House passed the resolution by a vote of 231-191.

Byrne is the chairman of the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections. He said the “Volks” rule, which is named after a legal case involving Volks Constructors, created unnecessary burdens for employers without doing anything to protect workers..


Construction Co. Fined More Than $200k For Repeated Safety Violations

A Washington State Construction Company faces a large fine for numerous repeated safety violations that exposed workers to potential falls and other hazards at a residential construction site in Olympia.

The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) has cited J & I Construction for 13 violations, including several that are considered willful and repeat-serious. The findings include penalties totaling $203,420.

The three willful violations, each with a penalty of $42,000, were for not providing proper fall protection to three employees who were working on the top edge of a wall nearly 20 feet off the ground. The company has been cited two other times for the same issue.

J & I was also cited for three repeat-serious violations for not having a plan outlining the fall hazards on the specific job, exposing workers to unguarded wall openings that they could fall through, and for not ensuring that workers didn’t stand or step on the top of a self-supporting ladder. Each violation carries a penalty of $21,000.


National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls set for May 8-12.

Employers and workers are invited to participate in the fourth annual National Safety Stand-Down to prevent falls in construction, to be held May 8-12. Sponsored by OSHA, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and CPWR — The Center for Construction Research and Training, the weeklong outreach event encourages employers and workers to pause during the work day to talk about fall hazards and prevention.

Falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry – accounting for 37 percent of fatalities industry-wide. In past years, more than 1 million workers participated in events. They have worked for public and private sector employees and small and large businesses. The event has recently expanded to include industries beyond construction.

For more information on how to join in this year’s stand-down, access free training and education resources in English and Spanish, and receive a personalized certificate of participation, visit the OSHA site by clicking the "read more" button below.


Courageous Safety & Health Leadership Training Course Now Available.

Everyone, from the company owner to the experienced foreman and the new trainee/apprentice, needs to own safety and be a "The Safety Leader". The Valericela "Courageous Health & Safety Leadership Training Program" is designed to introduce construction workers, particularly those with supervisory responsibilities such as a foremen, to safety leadership principles and give them the skills to be a safety leader who can create and sustain safe and productive jobsites.

Your behaviour, as a leader and the guidance and expectations that you set has to be consistent to ensure that every worker goes home safe and healthy every day.

As managers in organizations, we often have high expectations for changes we want to make to get to this "ZERO HARM / INCIDENTS" state, but most of us are not willing to take it seriously enough to make all the changes in ourselves first.

Ask yourself, “If everyone in my organization behaved exactly as I do, how safe would my organization be?



Personnel that that are Working at Heights have a lot to think about like the weather, the equipment they are using to perform the task, the pressures they feel to accomplish the task in a timely fashion. So many things to think about right?

We as safety professionals really need to help out our work force by reminding them that they need to slow down and think about something very important "What is your rescue plan"? In the past I have reviewed many rescue plans and I have been shocked to see that people have written on their "JHA" form a rescue plan that simply stated "Call the Rescue Team". When I see that I stop them and coach them. I explain to them that calling the rescue team is vital but it is only a piece to their plan not all of it.

All personnel working at heights and the crews working with them have to be trained to understand that THEY are one of the most vital parts to that rescue plan.


The Valericela Supervisor Safety Program - Training Course Now Available.

The Valericela "Supervisor Safety Training Program" (SSTP) trains supervisors, superintendents and managers to incorporate best safety practices into their daily management activities. This course will help attendee's to develop the tools and skillset need to become an effective supervision of workers and improve the supervisor’s ability to safely lead and motivate others.

A key feature of the program requires participants to demonstrate they have acquired the knowledge and skills from training and are prepared to implement them in the workplace.

An effective supervisor training program is crucial to every company in today's world. Bad supervisors or even a bad decisions by an otherwise good supervisor have haunted countless employers, whether it comes in the form of safety concerns, (incidents/injuries), lower employee productivity or employee lawsuits.