June 2017 SDSpro Advisor Newsletter
Retain Instead of Retrain
Can you call it safety “training” when the information provided is not being retained? The definition of training is the act of teaching a particular skill or type of behavior, and for those that tend to sleep or zone out during the presentation, the chances of them recalling what was covered during the session is low. Even for those who do pay attention during the training, the Ebbinghaus’ Forgetting Curve demonstrates how information is lost over time unless something is done to retain it. The curve shows that over half of the information delivered on day one is forgotten within a couple of days.
When you consider the potential differences in outcomes between providing effective and ineffective training it easily becomes apparent that you should invest your time up front to create a learning experience that sticks with the participants.
Let’s say you have 200 people to train on Hazard Communication and you do the bare minimum in providing them with the required information. For example, 10 one-hour classes for 20 people. You stumble your way through the first couple of classes and manage to complete the rest slightly less ineffectively through your live practice sessions with the first few “test subjects.” You tick the box and you’re done.
Except a week later something happens, an employee cannot find a Safety Data Sheet after a chemical exposure occurred. Thankfully nobody was seriously harmed, but it was serious enough that now you have to fill out an incident report and retrain that person, or potentially retrain everyone if this incident, or maybe another subsequent issue, leads you to believe that what you communicated during the training has been lost.
Now, not only has your ineffective training cost you time, money and production delays, it has seriously increased the risk of injury or illness.
How receptive will your participants be when you have to do the training a second time . . . or a third? And how frustrated will you be having to do all of this extra work? Supervisors will become frustrated with the disruption and having to regularly remind people of the proper process. It will also be more difficult to achieve employee buy-in, budget and time from everyone when you try to implement a safety initiative that isn’t required by law. (I could go on and on with all of the downsides and negative outcomes of delivering ineffective training.)
As a trainer, I don’t want to waste my time delivering training to a brick wall. And employees don’t want to sit through the same boring training time and time again. But the good news (for both the trainer and the participants) is that there are ways to improve retention and it’s all in how you present your training.
Before you’re even in the classroom, the first hurdle safety professionals need to overcome is the bad reputation that safety training has earned. Most people don’t like to be told what to do and since safety training is necessary, it often feels like it is being forced onto employees— creating the urge to resist it. Before delivering training, you need to know your audience. Make the training appeal to what’s important to them (their family, their position within the company, their goals, etc.) and don’t focus on the benefit to the company (or spend less time discussing it). The training also needs to be relevant and immediately applicable in order for them to consider the material.
Once you’re in front of your audience, the first thing you need to do is get their attention. Start with an upbeat, dynamic introduction that will demonstrate two things: that this isn’t going to be the same-old safety training class and that you’ve clearly invested some time in preparing something special for them. Show them you’re engaged first, if you have any hope of getting them engaged too. Follow this with some clear objectives and expectations for what they’re about to experience.
Help people focus by minimizing distractions. Ask people to put their cell phones away, turn off the audible alarms and discreetly go out of the classroom if they have to take an urgent call. Don’t have unnecessary materials on their tables and hand out printed resources as they are needed. If applicable, ask supervisors ahead of time to set the example, come early and stay for the whole class.
Next, you want to start building engagement with your audience. I remember my high school history teacher dropping a few well-placed curse words, and every ear in that classroom perked up and paid attention for the remainder of the class. He taught me a lot about keeping people engaged and delivering what the audience doesn’t expect. I often use humor in my presentations because people don’t expect safety training to be funny. Not only does this technique grab their attention, but it keeps their attention and gets them talking about the training after the class is over.
Another effective technique that teachers use includes asking direct questions. By addressing people directly, you set the expectation for them to pay attention to what you’re saying. Or take it to the next level and try reverse teaching. Ask the employees to teach you. This is a great form of hands-on training that goes beyond observing the participants performing a task.
Visuals are a great way to demonstrate what you can’t convey in words. A picture is worth a thousand words, a drawing or chart will illustrate a concept and a video can speak beyond any point you’re trying to explain.
People naturally learn by doing. Active participation is so effective because it gets employees to think through things themselves, and in doing so they begin building new habits and commit information to their long-term memory. For example, get participants to share a story related to the training, relating their personal experience to the training topic is a great way to ensure the topic lasts in the mind. SafeStart uses stories as a key element to training. Most people can reflect in hindsight after an incident occurs and pinpoint what they could have done differently. Telling their SafeStart story puts things into perspective.
Make a game from the topic. Most people, whether they’re competitive or not, want to win. Even if there isn’t a big prize on the table, that sense of accomplishment from winning is prize enough. When it comes to safety training, they need to know the topic in order to win and the best part is—they don’t even realize they’re learning in the process.
Use a bit of neuroscience in developing your message and delivery format. It’s a complex subject I won’t be able to cover here, but there are a lot of resources available to give you a basic understanding of how the brain works, how adults learn and how best to structure your teachings to improve knowledge retention and behavior change.
Break things down into bite-sized chunks of information and teach one learning point at a time or a small series of points relating to one thing. Ask for confirmation of understanding throughout with little questions like, “Does that make sense?” or, “Is that clear for everyone?” and look for head-nods (or at least the absence of confusion on their faces) before moving on to the next point.
Think beyond the classroom as well. Leave them with some clear and simple takeaways that they can apply immediately after the class to help solidify what they’ve learned. Also, ensure that their supervisors are well-versed in the topic beforehand so they can also monitor and help ensure that the knowledge you’ve delivered is being retained and turned into regular practice in their jobs.
Overall, safety training needs the right mix of various elements to keep the training fresh. Use every trick in the book, but only if it makes sense—people aren’t very tolerant of their time being wasted with gimmicks. Planning your training presentation to incorporate these elements is the only recourse to ensure the information will be retained. Avoid relying too heavily on one thing, and be sure to practice the delivery of the presentation until you’re comfortable. It’s easy to spot when someone is winging a presentation, and their credibility is often shot down along with the presentation, which does not bode well for the retention.
This sounds like a lot of work—and it is. A study of instructional designers1 showed a ratio of 43 hours of development per one hour of classroom instruction. Though this depends on a lot of factors relating to the material and the person creating the learning, it is generally understood in all types of presentations that you should be spending far more time developing and practicing the session than the duration of the class itself—starting with clear objectives and finishing with a very critical eye for eliminating unnecessary information and refining your message, visuals and delivery.
But when you consider the amount of risk you’re exposing your workers and your company to and how much more time you’ll spend fixing things afterward, it is well worth the upfront investment of doing things right the first time to deliver an engaging, multifaceted learning experience for your participants.
May 2017 SDSpro Advisor Newsletter
Report: Poorly labeled chemical tanks led to chlorine cloud over Atchison, Kan.
A truck with 4,000 gallons of sulfuric acid pulled up about 7:35 a.m. and began to unload into a tank at the MGP Ingredients plant in Atchison, Kan.
Unfortunately, it was not the sulfuric acid tank but one that was 90 percent full of sodium hypochlorite, or bleach, which is an incompatible chemical. Soon, the lid of the tank blew off — causing a dense green cloud to rise from the plant and drift nearly 6 miles over the town of 11,000 people.
“The two materials combined to produce chlorine gas that sent over 140 individuals, both workers and members of the public, to area hospitals and resulted in shelter-in-place and evacuation orders for thousands of local residents,” according to a preliminary report released Wednesday by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board.
No one died in the Oct. 21 accident, but the cloud caused widespread respiratory distress. At least two people, including an MGP employee, were hospitalized.
The safety board called the accident preventable.
The intake line for the sodium hypochlorite tank was only 18 inches away from the intake line for the sulfuric acid tank, and they looked alike, the safety board said. The labeling was poor.
Further, “emergency shutdown mechanisms were not in place,” the report said.
It took until 10:50 a.m. for the chlorine gas to dissipate sufficiently for authorities to call the all clear.
MGP Ingredients makes alcoholic beverages and food additives and has operated in Atchison since 1941.
The Chemical Safety Board found “a number of design deficiencies that increased the likelihood of an incorrect connection.”
It also found that neither MGP Ingredients nor Harcros Chemicals, which delivered the sulfuric acid, followed proper procedures.
The investigators made several recommendations, including better labeling and a shut-off mechanism that can be remotely activated.
At a news conference Wednesday, a Chemical Safety Board investigator said MGP Ingredients had modified its labeling and other procedures since the accident and was considering valve shut-off improvements.
The company issued a statement Wednesday saying it is “making every effort to enhance our operations so this type of situation does not happen again. As part of this effort, we have hired Burns & McDonnell to provide a comprehensive review of our loading, unloading and chemical storage methods to strengthen the safety of our systems.”
The company also said it had paid the medical bills of 134 people affected by the chlorine gas release.
The Chemical Safety Board is not a regulatory agency and does not have authority to impose fines. But the chairwoman of the board, Vanessa Allen Sutherland, said the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency, both of which are regulatory, are also investigating the incident.
March 2017 SDSpro Advisor Newsletter
Top 10 OSHA Citations of 2016: A Starting Point for Workplace Safety
Eight Tips for Chemical Safety
Chemical hygiene plans are written documents that outline the hazards present in a laboratory and explain the processes, protocols, tools, and equipment that are available to help workers guard against those hazards. Like many safety plans, chemical hygiene plans are living documents that need to be reviewed and updated often.
Although plans are often specific to each laboratory, its chemicals, and its processes, OSHA does specify certain elements that must be contained within the plan. The following tips can help minimize chemical exposure in laboratories, round out a chemical hygiene plan, and promote worker safety.
Use General SOPs
Each chemical has a unique set of hazards and needs to be handled properly to ensure worker safety. However, for laboratories that handle a wide variety of chemicals, establishing a separate protocol for each chemical complicates training and increases the likelihood of mishandling and exposure.
A standard operating procedure (SOP) that addresses the use of correct personal protective equipment, safe handling, safe use, and proper disposal can cover all chemicals in a laboratory. Flip charts, signs, or other literature can then be used to remind workers of specific chemical hazards.
Air quality can quickly become compromised in laboratories, making ventilation an important factor in minimizing exposure. When determining whether the local exhaust system is adequate, a good rule of thumb is that the system should be capable of at least eight to 10 air changeouts per hour when the space is occupied.
In addition to the general exhaust system for the laboratory, exhaust hoods are another tool to increase safety. The National Research Council’s Prudent Practices for Handling Hazardous Chemicals in Laboratories recommends “2.5 linear feet of hood space per person should be provided for every 2 workers if they spend most of their time working with chemicals. Each hood should have a continuous monitoring device to allow convenient confirmation of adequate hood performance before use.”
Keeping floors clean and dry will help prevent slip and fall injuries — the third-leading cause of worker injury and lost work time. Stocking absorbent mat pads and wipers in spill-prone locations helps employees clean up spills quickly, so the chance of a slip-and-fall incident is reduced and exposure is minimized. Providing a proper receptacle for spent cleanup materials also helps to minimize exposure.
Cleaning work surfaces throughout the day keeps work spaces uncluttered, decreasing the likelihood of reactions and spills due to counter space being overcrowded. Likewise, storing excess chemicals on countertops should be discouraged so workers will have adequate space to perform their duties properly.
Waste disposal procedures should also be established, with wastes being removed from labs to a central storage area on a regular basis. Workers should be taught not to pour liquids down drains or use hoods to get rid of volatile chemicals.
A well-organized stockroom promotes safety and is more efficient. Putting one person in charge of the stockroom can help to facilitate proper organization and storage within the area. This person may also help to ensure that proper inventory levels are kept, duplicate orders aren’t being placed, and expired chemicals are disposed of properly.
Even when storage space is at a premium, segregating incompatible chemicals in storerooms and providing containment for shelves are both important factors for worker safety.
Establish a plan for new chemicals. Before a chemical enters a lab, have a plan for properly handling, storing, and disposing of it.
Using damaged glassware can be just as dangerous as using the wrong chemicals. It doesn’t take much for a hairline crack to fail and create a spill. Using containment trays will help to control the mess, but avoiding it in the first place helps save time and money and minimizes exposure.
Checking glassware and equipment prior to each use should be part of the SOP. Workers also should know how to properly handle, tag, or discard of any article that is damaged so it is not reused or put back into service until it has been repaired.
Even seasoned technicians can spill chemicals occasionally, so it’s important to know how to properly handle spilled chemicals. Spill response plans should address spill prevention strategies, containment procedures, proper ventilation, when to evacuate, how to obtain medical care, and reporting requirements. Regular drills will help to reinforce the details of response plans.
Having a spill kit readily available in each laboratory helps trained workers contain and control a spill quickly, further helping to minimize exposure.
Signs and container labels reinforce safety and serve as a constant reminder of specific handling, use, and disposal procedures. It is equally important to properly maintain eyewash stations, drench showers, fire extinguishers, and first aid kits so that workers who are exposed to chemicals can quickly access these tools in an emergency to lessen the effects of their exposure.
Having a chemical hygiene plan and making sure that workers understand the plan and how it helps them to avoid exposure to hazardous chemicals are essential requirements of OSHA’s laboratory standard.
Training is required for all workers prior to their assignment in a laboratory, but education should not stop there. An annual presentation may not be enough to reinforce safety; training should be a regular activity that addresses the many different aspects of avoiding exposure.
Workers should know:
the location of the chemical hygiene plan
the location of MSDS and other educational literature
how personal protective equipment is selected, its location, how to use each piece properly, and how to determine when it needs to be replaced
the hazards presented by each chemical and procedure in the laboratory
how to handle chemicals properly to avoid exposure
how to label containers correctly
proper laboratory hygiene and conduct, such as never eating, drinking, or chewing gum in a laboratory; confining loose hair and clothing; and avoiding horseplay and practical jokes
how to use the “buddy system” to avoid working alone
how to evaluate the procedure or process they’ll be performing so that they take only the amount of chemicals necessary for the job they’re doing
how to handle waste materials
Although each laboratory comes with its own set of unique challenges, addressing known hazards and planning for anticipated ones will help to minimize chemical exposure and ensure a safer workplace for everyone.
December 2016 SDSpro Advisor Newsletter
Top 10 OSHA Citations of 2016: A Starting Point for Workplace Safety
Every October, the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration releases a preliminary list of the 10 most frequently cited safety and health violations for the fiscal year, compiled from nearly 32,000 inspections of workplaces by federal OSHA staff.
One remarkable thing about the list is that it rarely changes. Year after year, our inspectors see thousands of the same on-the-job hazards, any one of which could result in a fatality or severe injury.
More than 4,500 workers are killed on the job every year, and approximately 3 million are injured, despite the fact that by law, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their workers. If all employers simply corrected the top 10 hazards, we are confident the number of deaths, amputations and hospitalizations would drastically decline.
Consider this list a starting point for workplace safety:
Powered industrial trucks
Electrical, general requirements
It’s no coincidence that falls are among the leading causes of worker deaths, particularly in construction, and our top 10 list features lack of fall protection as well as ladder and scaffold safety issues. We know how to protect workers from falls, and have an ongoing campaign to inform employers and workers about these measures. Employers must take these issues seriously.
We also see far too many workers killed or gruesomely injured when machinery starts up suddenly while being repaired, or hands and fingers are exposed to moving parts. Lockout/tagout and machine guarding violations are often the culprit here. Proper lockout/tagout procedures ensure that machines are powered off and can’t be turned on while someone is working on them. And installing guards to keep hands, feet and other appendages away from moving machinery prevents amputations and worse.
Respiratory protection is essential for preventing long term and sometimes fatal health problems associated with breathing in asbestos, silica or a host of other toxic substances. But we can see from our list of violations that not nearly enough employers are providing this needed protection and training.
The high number of fatalities associated with forklifts, and high number of violations for powered industrial truck safety, tell us that many workers are not being properly trained to safely drive these kinds of potentially hazardous equipment.
Rounding out the top 10 list are violations related to electrical safety, an area where the dangers are well-known.
Our list of top violations is far from comprehensive. OSHA regulations cover a wide range of hazards, all of which imperil worker health and safety. And we urge employers to go beyond the minimal requirements to create a culture of safety at work, which has been shown to reduce costs, raise productivity and improve morale. To help them, we have released new recommendations for creating a safety and health program at their workplaces.
We have many additional resources, including a wealth of information on our website and our free and confidential On-site Consultation Program. But tackling the most common hazards is a good place to start saving workers’ lives and limbs.
October 2016 SDSpro Advisor Newsletter
Dealer Training for a New Marketplace
Twenty years ago, a young non-profit professional was tasked with convincing the truck tire and wheel service industry that they needed to train their employees in order to comply with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations. It’s just as absurd as it sounds. Employee training has been required by OSHA for almost 40 years so the objective was to make them compliant with laws they should have already been following. And, it still took some convincing!
Fast-forward to 2016 and OSHA training regulations are at the bottom of the list when it comes to the problems facing most of the commercial tire dealers in the U.S. Compliance is met on the first day and the technician receives additional training in order to become certified in most cases. It’s a crystal clear process and virtually guarantees that every technician is properly trained in the eyes of the law.
For the retail industry, the legal obligation is not so cut and dry. The OSHA regulation that requires technician training for truck tires specifically excludes passenger and light truck tires. As a result, a lot of retailers continue with the ancient and indefensible method of providing education with on-the-job-training, also known as OJT. OJT relies on an experienced technician to show the new employee how to do the job. It’s also called “Old Joe” training because Old Joe passes his bad habits to New Joe who eventually becomes the next Old Joe and passes two generations of bad habits to the next New Joe and so on.
While truck tires and wheels haven’t changed much over the past two decades, the passenger and light truck tire industry has experienced a revolution. Between size proliferation, low profile sidewalls, tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) and online sales, the technological impact by itself is a lot to digest. However, there are millions of millennials who need tires now or in the future, and the retailer that finds the sweet spot for this generation of tire buyers will be in a very good position.
The best place to start is with technicians. Future tire buyers know virtually nothing about their automobiles, but they are not going to tolerate mistakes. If they get bad service or think something isn’t fixed correctly, they are going to absolutely bomb you on social media. From ratings pages to your own Web page, isolated instances can appear to be standard business practices for the next generation. If the employees who are responsible for mounting and installing the tires are not properly trained, they are going to keep making the same mistakes, putting your reputation at risk.
I find myself using the online rating service occasionally, but I don’t believe everything I read online. However, the next generation of a tire buyer does.
Another unfortunate truth about the new marketplace is the sudden increase in the number of OSHA inspections that appear to be targeting retail tire dealers. Compliance with all of the applicable OSHA regulations is not something that happens overnight. The truck-tire dealers figured it out a while ago and many are compliant across the board. Retailers aren’t familiar with OSHA so it’s easy for little things – like fire extinguishers past the expiration date, dirty floors or a ground plug that is missing from an extension cord – to slip by and go unnoticed.
One lay-up for the OSHA inspector is hazard communication. By Dec. 1, 2013, every employer in the U.S. was required to train all of their employees on the new label elements and safety data sheets for hazardous materials in the workplace. This means every chemical used in the shop (oil, fluids, aerosol sprays, etc.) must have specific information on the label and correspond to a safety data sheet (SDS) at a designated location. The objective, and a good one, is to make sure that any accidental ingestion, inhalation, exposure or absorption is met with the appropriate medical attention immediately. It’s “Workplace Safety 101,” yet I’m willing to bet that an embarrassing number of tire dealers (both retail and commercial) will have difficulty producing records that show training, and even more difficulty producing an SDS for every chemical in the shop.
For a complete copy of the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard, visit osha.gov.
Next, it’s time to look at training for the sales counter. For the small percentage of people in general who pick up the phone and call a business to speak with a salesperson, that call has to be on the money every time. The phone sales consultants and trainers make some serious claims about how many sales are lost because people don’t know how to sell over the phone. When the phone rings, the person answering it – who either transfers the call or helps the caller – had better be trained to do it correctly or the phone might stop ringing altogether.
In the new passenger and light-truck tire marketplace, getting the customer in the door is the greatest challenge. That explains why our members are telling us that sales training is becoming more important. On the retail side, there is unlimited competition and it’s only growing, so the knowledge and ability of the sales associate has to make a tremendous impact on the tire buyer. Again, it doesn’t happen overnight, so sales training and coaching will become more important as the number of people who actually want to interact with a real person decreases.
The final area where I see the marketplace creating a need for training is social media and everything online. As a stereotypical Gen-X’er, even I catch myself with my eyes glued to my mobile device. Everywhere I look, people have their heads down with their eyes on the screen. I am confident that small to mid-size independent tire dealers (retail and commercial) must have an online presence that is constantly monitored and updated. And don’t hire an old guy like me to manage that project. Find a millennial with an interest in social media and get them the training they need on the tire side and the Internet side to create your online image. It could become a matter of survival in the not-to-distant future.
My golden rule of training at the Tire Industry Association is “change behavior in a positive manner.” That’s the ultimate goal when you think about it. We’re trying to get someone to change the way they do their jobs or do their jobs better. The theme of constant improvement and advancement should become part of the culture so it has a positive effect on safety. That same principle can be applied to the sales counter and the online presence. How can we train our sales people and our social media managers to be more successful? How can we make them better?
From the technician perspective, TIA has programs to help guarantee that every technician is trained and qualified to work on whatever type of tire they happen to be servicing. Unfortunately, we still sell some training only after someone has an accident. In most cases the owner or manager knew they had to do something about training, but it kept getting pushed back for what amounts to excuses. Thankfully, the majority of the accidents don’t result in a fatality or a permanent disability. Those businesses should consider themselves lucky, making sure the necessary training is in place before it happens again.
In a constantly changing economy, the only difference from year to year is the rate of change. Increasing competition, lower margins, regulatory compliance costs and rising wages are just a few of the hurdles facing automotive and commercial tire dealers. Businesses must be able to adapt quickly when the market shifts, so the employees must be competent. The best way for ownership and management to embrace the inevitable changes that lie ahead is to have a trained and qualified workforce at all levels of the organization.
September 2016 SDSpro Advisor Newsletter
GHS chemical labeling requirements
OSHA’s final Hazard Communication Standard deadline around the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals is quickly approaching. That means all customers must be fully compliant with the requirements, including those for Safety Data Sheets and chemical container labels, by June 1 of this year. Because of this deadline, many chemical users need to resolve detailed implementation issues that often get overlooked in GHS presentations or summaries.
One of these situations is determining how to handle the chemicals that have been ordered prior to the past year that are still on your shelves. Do you need to re-label these older chemicals?
To answer this question, you first need to determine if you have chemicals on your shelves without GHS labels. Under GHS, OSHA required all chemical manufacturers to begin shipping their chemicals with compliant labels by June 1, 2015. OSHA also provided distributors with an additional six months (up to Dec. 1, 2015) to make sure their inventories were updated and they were shipping chemicals with compliant labels. With this in mind, it’s entirely possible you may have ordered a chemical from your distributor before December of last year and received containers that have the previously used “right-to-know” or NFPA diamond labels.
Once you determine if you have older chemical containers without GHS labels in your facility, the next step is deciding whether you need to re-label them. The good news is that OSHA provides some guidance on this issue, explaining that “employers are not responsible for updating labels on shipped containers, even if the shipped containers are labeled under HazCom 1994.”
Although you’re not responsible for updating older labels, you do have a responsibility when it comes to damaged labels or undisclosed hazards. OSHA explains that “the employer must re-label items if the labels are removed or defaced. However, if the employer is aware of newly identified hazards that are not disclosed on the label, the employer must ensure that the workers are aware of the hazards as discussed below under workplace labels.”
What might those additional hazards that aren’t disclosed on the label be? NFPA 704 does not address hazards such as carcinogens (cancer causing) or mutagens (causing birth or genetic defects in the unborn child). However, the OSHA 2012 HazCom/GHS regulation does consider those hazards. Therefore, if you have an existing chemical that you know is a carcinogen, you also have to indicate that hazard and appropriate precautions on your label.
As with most regulations, the details are the key to understanding the appropriate actions to take. When it comes to employee safety, particularly with a new regulation, taking the conservative route with over-communication and thorough training is the ideal option. While you’re not required to re-label older chemicals, be sure the presence of the differing labels is made clear to employees to ensure they are safely handling all containers in your facility. As the full GHS implementation takes effect, these older containers will eventually be circulated out with future chemical orders and GHS-compliant labels will be used consistently.
August 2016 SDSpro Advisor Newsletter
Production: Practicing Safe Operations and Compliance in Your Facility
We’ve all done it at one time or another: taking that shortcut or bypassing safety measures to get the job done. Production demands can make us do some unsafe things, often with disastrous results.
I’ve investigated fatal accidents as well as minor scratches and scrapes in the workplace. Most often accidents are the result of equipment failure due to improper maintenance, employees taking shortcuts, or simply a lack of training both in processes and on equipment.
We tend to frown when our regulatory agencies pass through our facilities, but in truth it can be a good thing and keep us honest. Safety should be a primary focus at our properties. We owe it to employees to provide a safe workplace and adequate training on equipment they work with.
Several years ago, I investigated a fatal workplace accident in which the employee bypassed safety measures in order to make the job easier. Unfortunately, the minutes he would have saved cost him and his family quite a bit more.
Where to Start
If your company is one of the few that doesn’t require pre-employment drug screening, I’d advise you to change that policy immediately. I certainly don’t want to work alongside someone on a machine who is impaired and your employees shouldn’t have to either.
I’ve seen employees start-up inserters before others get their hands clear of the machine because they weren’t paying attention, impaired or not. Unless you practice safety in your shop on a daily basis you’re headed for trouble.
When there is an accident in production, even a minor scrape, it should be thoroughly investigated. Step one is getting employees used to reporting accidents. Obvious as this sounds many people are either too embarrassed to report minor accidents, or figure it’s so minor that it’s not worth reporting. Then, a week later, when it’s swollen up the size of a beach ball, it’s a different story. At this point, we have issues with workers comp claims, drug testing after an accident, and what could have been a very minor situation turning into a nightmare.
Of course, the best way to avoid accidents is to take measures to avoid them on the front-end. Setting up safety committees, safety inspections by third party vendors, safety meetings, safety reviews, training and certification, equipment inspections, personal protective equipment, the list goes on.
Let’s start with setting up a safety committee. It’s a challenge to find members who are sincerely interested in doing the work. I’ve found that many employees prefer to let you know what’s unsafe around the building, as long as they don’t have to be part of the solution. Select someone from each department to sit on your committee, someone who truly cares and wants to make the workplace safer. Because often members don’t work directly in production, expect discussions about designated smoking areas, clear paths through editorial, extension cords, etc. in addition to production related safety. Although these can be important to overall safety in your building, most accidents happen in production and this is where the focus should be.
Depending on the size of your operation, meeting monthly or even quarterly should do it. Keep accurate notes on safety issues discussed and responsibility, what has been accomplished since the last meeting, outstanding issues, what goals have not been met, and go over any accidents since the last meeting.
Management may also want to contract third-party vendors to monitor safety. Most of these vendors are up to speed on OSHA regulations, state laws, and can save quite a bit of time and expense trying to put together an in-house committee.
Understanding the Need and Benefits of PPEs
Hopefully, you have a hearing protection policy in your production area.
Many companies measure employee’s hearing at the start of employment and then annually thereafter. This establishes a baseline and issues can be addressed effectively with annual testing. As well as protecting our valued employees, in today’s “litigation happy” environment, this is an extra measure of protection for the organization.
OSHA measures noise exposure on decibels over time. NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) recommends that all workers remain below 85 dBA for eight hours to minimize occupational noise induced hearing loss. Basically, the louder your production area is the shorter employees should be allowed to be subjected to it and the longer your employees are in the area measures should be taken to reduce noise. Many areas of production may not require hearing protection, in other areas it’s a must. It’s a tough thing to understand and many newspapers bring in outside help to ensure compliance. I’ve brought in insurance carriers in the past to take measurements. First, it’s usually free, and second, they’re happy to help because it reduces their exposure as well.
As a side note, management should “practice what they preach.” I’ve seen publishers, directors and department managers hanging around in production areas for hours without hearing protection. If you expect your employees to work safe, you should set a good example.
Of course the easiest way is to just avoid problems in the first place by offering personal protective equipment or PPEs and requiring their use in all areas of production.
Noise protection. Hearing protection comes in two basic forms: in-ear and over ear. In ear protection, typically foam plugs, and over the ear headsets both come in various dBA ratings. The choice usually comes down to what the operator feels most comfortable wearing.
Respiratory protection. PPE can vary in this area as well, from SCBA (self-contained breathing apparatus) to a simple dust mask. It really isn’t often that we need air-supplied respirators in our business, but on occasion if you’re cleaning ink tanks or are exposed to any form of potentially hazardous material, refer questions to your local county hazardous materials division before even starting such a project. Common dust masks (referred to as respirators) are measured by the percentage of airborne particles they filter. They typically come in N95, N99 and N100 categories, depending on the degree of desired protection. Normally, a mechanical filter respirator (dust mask) is all that is needed when blowing out dusty equipment, inserting machines, compressors, etc.
Eye protection. As important as preserving your sight may be, I’ve observed employees doing more crazy things without eye protection than I have any other safety offense. No harm in grinding a burr off a metal bushing; it only takes five seconds, so who needs eye protection for such a quick job, right? Same deal working around parts washers and press solutions. Train your employees’ right and be firm when they bypass safety requirements.
Check your eye wash stations frequently. Keep the caps clean and in place. Check the function, run the water (or solution) and check signage. Maintain a clear path to the unit and make sure everyone knows the location.
Additionally, from a production standpoint, the general eyesight of your press operators is critical. Accurate registration and color matching is essential in printing. Consider implementing requirements for general vision and color blindness testing for your press crew.
Hand protection. Employ common sense here. If you’re handling skids/pallets, use heavy leather gloves to avoid splinters and cuts; if you’re using solutions, ink, etc. use basic Nitrile disposable gloves. Be sure to have employees check for Latex allergies first and if one exists, use only a latex free glove.
Although it may seem obvious, be sure your employees understand how to use PPEs. How to remove soiled gloves without contamination, how to snuggly fit a mask, the right eye protection for the job and how to properly fit ear protection.
Safety Data Sheets
If an accident occurs, or an employee simply wants to know what type of chemicals/solvents they are coming in contact with, or if an outside agency (Fire, OSHA) wants more information, MSD sheets (now referred to as SDS or Safety Data Sheets) are simply your best insurance.
You are required (and should want to) keep an SDS on almost every product in your shop, from WD40 to blanket wash, penetrating oil, ink, etc. A complete master of all MSD sheets should be kept in a central place within your facility, that everyone is trained and aware of. In addition, keep a complete copy in each area of production in case someone from one area needs information on another area outside their immediate scope. Make certain that everyone knows the location of your booklets and that they are easily accessible to fire departments, local agencies and employees 24/7.
It is also important to stay current on MSD sheets. Never allow a chemical to come into your facility before you have an SDS and have added it to your booklets. Most sheets are now available through the vendor website and can be downloaded and printed before the product arrives.
New Requirements for Globally Harmonized System Training
Starting June 1, 2015, all chemical container labels were required to include pictograms, signal words, hazard and precautionary statements, product identification and supplier identification. OSHA required all affected employees receive training on this new labeling system and SDS policies.
The primary changes to the HazCom standard that apply to newspaper production areas are that SDS now are standardized with a 16-section format to achieve similar standards throughout the world and chemical manufacturers and importers will be required to provide a label that includes a harmonized signal word, pictogram, and hazard statement for each hazard class and category.
Lock Out/Tag Out Programs and Equipment
OSHA’s new standard states that if more than one person is involved in LOTO activity, certain steps need to be taken to guarantee the safety of all involved. One member of the group should be designated as the leader to coordinate the actions of the others. The leader needs to know the hazard exposure levels of each of the employees under his watch.
Each employee involved in the operation must attach his own lock to the lockout device. A group hasp, lock box, or other effective means must be used to accommodate this. Each employee shall have the only key to their lock and only they can remove their own lock.
Be certain to have proper kits on hand to comply with OSHA LOTO requirements.
Kits should be displayed in an area easily accessible 24/7 by all employees and training sessions should be conducted on at least an annual basis. New employees should not be allowed to start work until properly trained in all MSDS and LOTO standards.
Forklift Training and Certification
Most of our production areas have forklifts, electric pallet jacks or clamp trucks in operation on a daily basis. In some shops, individuals who don’t even quality for a driver’s license are allowed to operate a piece of equipment that can kill. We’ve all heard the horror stories and seen the videos. I’m familiar with one case in which an individual with a known medical issue was allowed to drive a forklift, right off the end of a dock.
It is our responsibility to the company, the individual and coworkers to properly train and at the least internally certify operators.
Your company should have at least one trainer who is qualified to instruct others. If you do not have this in your organization, seek third-party assistance. Each individual operating a lift should be required to watch a video and pass a written test. There are many online companies who provide excellent videos and tests you can purchase.
The qualified trainer should sit through the video with employees annually (and all new employees upon hire) to answer any questions, pausing the video at opportune times. Afterward, a written test should be completed by each attendee and a standard should be met.
I have had employees who score 100 percent on the written test that you wouldn’t want to be in the same room with when they start up a forklift. Book smart doesn’t always mean you’re going to have a safe operator.
The final step should be an actual driving test. Explain the controls in detail; don’t assume that just because the driver may have operated a fork truck at a previous job that the controls were the same. Set-up in a safe area; go through a driving “test” yourself in front of the employee to familiarize them with the operation. When it’s their turn, have the driver show that they understand the lift, tilt, side-lay and associated controls before putting the unit in gear. Once you’re comfortable with their basic ability, have a predetermined test in which they pick-up product (pallets or paper rolls) and convince you that they are able to safely operate the equipment. As a final test, have them run through a written safety check of the unit.
Other Areas in Production
Periodic equipment inspections, detailed/documented vehicle inspections, air compressor checks, press guards, pinch point awareness, electrical disconnects, gas and water shutoffs, pressroom maintenance to avoid slips and falls, soiled rags in U/L approved containers, spill prevention and containment, mitigation and abatement, emergency response, CPR, First Aid, AED operation, emergency coordinators, lazar inspection of electrical panels for hot spots, fire/sprinkler systems, etc.
There are simply too many safety related areas to cover in detail here. I believe accident prevention and safety is best achieved through proper training, providing the right equipment and the use of common sense. We create the opportunity for accidents to occur through our action. We also have the ability to prevent accidents by doing our jobs, following procedures, training our employees, maintaining equipment, following established safety guidelines and not taking unnecessary chances.
It’s a simple fact that most, if not all accidents, are avoidable.
July 2016 SDSpro Advisor Newsletter
United States Adopts Major Chemical Safety Overhaul
The U.S. Senate yesterday unanimously approved a major overhaul of the nation’s primary chemical safety law—marking one of the last steps in a decades-long reform effort. The House of Representatives on 24 May overwhelmingly approved the rewrite of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which governs how industrial chemicals are tested and regulated. The legislation now moves to President Barack Obama for signing.
The measure—H.R. 2576, named for the late Senator Frank Lautenberg (D–NJ), a long-time TSCA reform champion—is perhaps the most far-reaching and influential environmental statute passed by Congress since the body updated the Clean Air Act in 1990. The measure aims to make chemical safety reviews more science-based, and includes provisions designed to reduce the use of animals in chemical testing and promote the study of so-called cancer clusters.
“The end result … is a vast improvement over current law,” said Representative John Shimkus (R–IL), who co-sponsored the House bill, on the House floor. The bill, he added, is “a careful compromise that’s good for consumers, good for jobs, and good for the environment.”
“While this is a compromise bill, it is a long overdue step forward in protecting families and communities from toxic chemicals,” said Representative Frank Pallone Jr. (D–NJ), top Democrat on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
Both environmentalists and industry have long agreed that the TSCA, originally passed in 1976, has numerous flaws. It includes legal barriers, for example, that essentially prevent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from acquiring toxicity data on chemicals and imposing new restrictions on them—even on highly toxic substances such as asbestos. Critics say the current legislation also favors economic concerns over scientific findings, and has led to thousands of chemicals entering the market without adequate health and safety oversight.
The reform bill seeks to fix a number of these flaws. It aims to make chemical safety reviews purely science-based, by eliminating a long-time requirement that EPA weigh regulatory costs in the safety review process. It also repeals a long-time requirement that EPA select the “least burdensome” method of regulating a toxic substance. And the bill would require EPA to deem a new chemical safe before it could enter the marketplace; under current law, a chemical can enter the marketplace unless EPA deems it unsafe within a certain time period.
The bill would also make it easier for EPA to order chemical companies to generate any toxicity data that the agency needs to inform its reviews; under current law, EPA can only order these data by going through a lengthy rulemaking process that often ends up mired in litigation. And the bill would require EPA to take tougher action on persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic chemicals, and ensure that chemicals are safe for vulnerable groups such as infants, seniors, and chemical workers.
Animal protection and animal rights groups hailed another provision that aims to reduce EPA and chemical companies’ use of animal-based toxicity testing methods. It would task EPA with using non–animal-based methods “to the extent practicable,” and the agency would have to devise a plan to research, develop, and eventually use more nonanimal methods—including computational modeling, high-throughput screening, and cell-culture testing.
The bill also includes a measure known as Trevor’s law that encourages federal agencies to study “cancer clusters”—areas that appear to have unusually high numbers of cancer cases that may be linked to a shared environmental cause. The Society of Toxicology in Reston, Virginia, although praising the bill, expressed some concern about including the cancer-cluster measure and other topic- or chemical-specific language in the bill. Doing so “detracts from the wider range of priority chemical-specific or analytical issues that, as toxicologists, we address every day,” society President John Morris said in a 23 May letter.
The TSCA reform bill is the result of years of negotiations involving lawmakers in both parties and a wide range of stakeholders. Many previous efforts to overhaul the TSCA failed after lawmakers couldn’t strike a consensus among competing interest groups, such as chemical companies and environmental groups. The current effort succeeded, however, despite the toxic political climate in Washington, D.C., and a government divided between a Democratic-held White House and Republican-held Congress.
To arrive at the current bill, the House and Senate first approved their own bipartisan—but widely different—versions of TSCA reform. Then, lawmakers spent months negotiating a compromise between the chambers.
It wasn’t clear for instance, whether the animal testing provisions—which were in the Senate bill, but not the House’s—would ultimately survive. “But the fact that we are now going to severely restrict the unnecessary cruelty to animals is something that I’m very proud that the leadership helped preserve,” Senator Cory Booker (D–NJ), a proponent of the language, told reporters outside the U.S. Capitol on 19 May in announcing his support of the bill.
A much bigger sticking point was concern, voiced by many liberal Democrats and environmental groups, that the legislation would weaken states’ ability to issue their own chemical regulations. Senator Barbara Boxer (D–CA), the top Democrat on the Senate environment panel, had argued especially forcefully against language in the Senate bill that would have kept existing state chemical regulations on the books, but reduced the states’ ability to issue new regulations in the future.
But Boxer ultimately supported the final compromise. The final bill is far from perfect on that issue, but it’s better than current law, she said in announcing she would support the reform measure. “What a battle that was,” she said. “Well, we no longer have that battle.”
Not all lawmakers were won over. As the House voted 403 to 12 to approve the reform measure, Representative Paul Tonko (D–NY) cited the state preemption provisions as one reason he was voting against the bill. He was one of just nine House Democrats to oppose the bill; three House Republicans also voted against it.
The reform measure led to splits among interest groups. Some environmental and health groups, such as the Breast Cancer Fund, have opposed it, whereas still others, such as the Natural Resources Defense Council, were noncommittal. But many industry groups and some environmental groups support the final product.
And Senator Bernie Sanders (D–VT), who is seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for president, sees both good and bad in the bill, but said that the preemption language would prevent his state from “going above and beyond” federal levels of action. “That makes no sense … federal chemical regulations should be a floor, not a ceiling,” Sanders said in a statement.
May 2016 SDSpro Advisor Newsletter
Understanding the final GHS deadline
After many years, the final effective completion date for the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) nears. As we know, OSHA adopted new hazardous chemical labeling requirements as a part of its revision of the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), 29 CFR 1910.1200, bringing it into alignment with the United Nations’ GHS. These changes will help ensure improved quality and consistency in the classification and labeling of all chemicals, and will also enhance worker comprehension. As a result, workers will have better information available on the safe handling and use of hazardous chemicals, thereby allowing them to avoid injuries and illnesses related to exposures to hazardous chemicals.
Let’s look at how OSHA’s June 1, 2016, requirement actually reads. In short, OSHA says, “Update alternative workplace labeling and hazard communication program as necessary, and provide additional employee training for newly identified physical or health hazards.” This final timeline requirement applies to employers, but what does it mean? Essentially it means that employers must have workplace labeling and hazard communication programs up to date as necessary (this includes having all Material Safety Data Sheet-formatted documents replaced with the newer Safety Data Sheet-formatted documents). It also states that additional training must be conducted for newly identified physical or health hazards.
On June 1, 2016, the three-year transition period ends. This transition period allowed compliance with HCS 2012, HCS 1994 or both.
The GHS label format provides detailed yet easy-to-understand guidance for application of the hazard communication elements on a label. It specifies for each hazard, and for each class within the hazard, what signal word, pictogram and hazard statement should be used. The GHS hazard pictograms, signal words and hazard statements should be located together on the label. I would encourage you to view Annex 7 of the UNECE Rev. 3 (2009) Purple Book, which explains how the GHS pictograms are expected to be proportional to the size of the label text so that generally, the GHS pictograms would be smaller than the transport pictograms.
Employers must ensure the SDSs are readily accessible to employees for all hazardous chemicals in their workplace. This may be done in many ways. For example, employers may keep the SDSs in a binder or on computers – as long as the employees have ready access to the information without leaving their work area when needed, and a backup is available for immediate access to the SDS in the case of a power outage or other emergency situations. Furthermore, it’s a good time to remember that employers should designate a person(s) responsible for obtaining and maintaining the SDSs. If the employer does not have an SDS, the employer or designated person(s) should contact the manufacturer to obtain one.
April 2016 SDSpro Advisor Newsletter
Inside the investigation into US chemical plant explosion
The chemical ammonium nitrate has been linked to several major explosions all over the world, including one at a chemical plant in the U.S. state of Texas that exploded in 2013. More than a dozen people died. The investigation into what went wrong and how to prevent it from happening again was completed just this year.
In 2013, the West Fertilizer company in the U.S. state of Texas caught fire, then exploded.
The explosion destroyed more than 150 buildings, including homes, schools, and a nursing home. 15 people died, including 12 firefighters.
The investigation determined that the explosion was caused when 30 tons of ammonium nitrate exploded.
Ammonium nitrate is a chemical used in agricultural fertilizer. Firefighters arriving on site didn’t know how dangerous it could be.
The Chemical Safety Board is pushing for greater regulation of ammonium nitrate, better firefighter training, and a shift to safer alternatives.
Ammonium nitrate remains popular with many farmers who have never used anything else on their crops, and federal law doesn’t ban the substance or govern how it’s stored and handled.
Until laws are changed the danger to communities across the U.S. will likely remain.
March 2016 SDSpro Advisor Newsletter
OSHA Taking Comments on Chemical Hazards Guidance
OSHA announced it will issue new guidance on how to apply the Weight of Evidence approach when dealing with complex scientific studies and, on Feb. 16, will begin accepting comments on its Guidance on Data Evaluation for Weight of Evidence Determination, designed to help employers consider all available information when classifying hazardous chemicals.
According to the agency, the “weight of evidence” approach helps manufacturers, importers, and employers evaluate scientific studies on the potential health hazards of a chemical and determine what data must be disclosed on the label and safety data sheet in order to comply with the Hazard Communication Standard. This draft is a companion document to OSHA’s recently posted Hazard Classification Guidance.
“It is vitally important that workers and employers be given complete and accurate information about the hazards associated with exposure to the chemicals with which they work. Without that, how can they ensure they are protected?” asked Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels. “This guidance will help educate chemical manufacturers and importers about OSHA’s expectations on how to prepare accurate safety data sheets and labels required to protect worker safety and health.”
February 2016 SDSpro Advisor Newsletter
OSHA and DOJ to Join Forces on Safety Violations/Penalties to Increase
Employers that violate safety-related laws are likely to face more aggressive enforcement and steeper penalties in the future under new legislation allowing the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (“OSHA”) to increase its civil penalties for the first time since 1990. The “Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015” was passed by both houses of Congress and signed into law by President Obama on November 2, 2015. Section 701 of the Budget Act, entitled “Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015,” allows both a one-time increase to account for inflation since 1990, and eliminates the inflation-indexing prohibition that had kept penalties the same for over 25 years. It is expected that when OSHA publishes its new penalty schedule, fines for serious violations will increase from $7,000 to $12,600, and repeated or willful violations will increase from $70,000 to $126,000. The new penalties are expected to be enforced after August 1, 2016.
In addition to the higher civil penalties, the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) and the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) have established a joint initiative aimed at more aggressive prosecution of criminal misconduct, particularly in cases involving worker endangerment. The joint initiative is aimed at prosecuting individual officers and managers, instead of naming corporate entities as responsible parties. Also changing is OSHA’s system for evaluating enforcement actions within the Agency, with greater emphasis on significant cases, especially process safety management violations.
Federal prosecutors are being encouraged to utilize the criminal provisions of the U.S. Code (Title 18) and the criminal provisions of environmental statutes when addressing worker-safety crimes, with the goal of enhanced penalties and increased deterrence. Pursuant to their new joint initiative, the DOL and DOJ will enforce provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, and the Mine Safety and Health Act.
The new Budget Act penalties coincide with Congressional efforts to curtail major accidental events also subject to scrutiny by the independent Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, established under the Clean Air Act. The Board has been subject to criticism following several major industrial plant explosions. An investigation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Inspector General found that the Board was not investigating all the events that fell within its legal jurisdiction, was failing to timely close investigations, had retaliated against internal whistleblowers, and had shown disregard for proper Board governance.
January 2016 SDSpro Advisor Newsletter
Senate Votes to Overhaul Chemical Safety and Ban Beads in Beauty Products
In a flurry of year-end legislative activity, the Senate last week approved a bill to overhaul the nation’s chemical safety system, and a separate measure to ban the use of tiny plastic beads in beauty products that can pollute waterways and harm marine life.
The chemical safety overhaul, named for Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, Democrat of New Jersey, would be the first significant rewriting of the Toxic Chemicals Safety Act. Many experts have said the statute, enacted in 1976, is inadequate in protecting the public from dangerous chemicals in an array of consumer products, largely because of weak enforcement provisions.
Mr. Lautenberg, who died in 2013 at the age of 89, had been a driver of the effort to overhaul the chemical safety laws. The push to complete the legislation took on new urgency after 7,500 gallons of a coal processing chemical leaked into the Elk River near Charleston, W.Va., in January last year.
Supporters of the legislation said it would require the Environmental Protection Agency to set clear priorities for assessing the risk of chemicals and would substantially increase the number of chemicals reviewed by federal regulators.
The House has approved a different version of the legislation, and the two measures must now be reconciled. That process is expected to take place early next year.
On Friday, the Senate, by unanimous consent, also adopted a bill banning the use of tiny plastic beads in beauty products, including exfoliating scrubs.
The beads flush through water treatment systems and out into lakes, waterways and the oceans, and attract toxic chemical compounds like PCBs that are then consumed by marine life. The beads, and other microplastic debris, have been identified as a threat to fish and other creatures, and studies have suggested that the chemicals can move up the food chain to humans.
The House passed its version of the bill earlier this month. The new federal law would require manufacturers to begin phasing out the beads in July 2017, and would follow bans passed in several states, including California and Illinois. A similar measure is under consideration in New York. Many major cosmetics companies, under pressure from environmental groups, have already announced phaseout plans.
The two environmental measures were part of year-end legislative activity that largely focused on a sweeping fiscal package, which included a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill, and a $620 billion package of tax breaks for businesses and low-income individuals. Congress approved the fiscal measure on Friday morning, and President Obama signed it that afternoon.
The spending law included an array of provisions in a number of policy areas, which have prompted public debate. Among those provisions is an expansion of the H2-B visa program for seasonal workers that would potentially raise the number of workers admitted under the program to 250,000 from 66,000.
Supporters of the provision, including Senator Barbara A. Mikulski, Democrat of Maryland, said it would benefit businesses, like those in her state’s seafood industry, that face a shortage of workers.
Critics, including Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama, said that the provision to expand the program was dropped into the spending measure without sufficient debate.
“It has been added to this bill without hearings and without an open process in the Senate,” Mr. Sessions said.
December 2015 SDSpro Advisor Newsletter
Chemical Safety Board Prepares to Fire Managing Director
The managing director of the Chemical Safety Board, who has been on paid administrative leave for five months because of an inspector general’s suspicions, got word on Monday that he is being proposed for termination.
Daniel Horowitz, along with general counsel Richard Loeb, was accused of “possible misconduct” last year by lawmakers in the run-up to the March dismissal of the board’s controversial chairman. He received notice on Nov. 16 of a proposed termination after being told to stay home one additional day after his leave was set to end, according to his attorney at the nonprofit Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.
Government Executive confirmed the move independently, but an agency spokesman on Thursday said, “Daniel Horowitz is currently an employee of the CSB. The agency does not comment on internal personnel matters.” Civil Service law gives an employee 30 days to reply to such a decision.
The administrative leave for both Horowitz and Loeb, who could not be reached for comment, was extended as recently as Oct. 29 while Chairman Vanessa Sutherland awaits results of an investigation by an outside firm. Both employees, along with fired chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso, got tangled up in accusations of improper use of private email, low morale, retaliation against whistleblowers and misuse of board governance rules.
On Oct. 23, PEER sought intervention from the Office of Personnel Management to end the extended administrative leave. An OPM spokesman told Government Executive his agency has no such authority. Sutherland has expressed sympathy for the two employees and hopes for not keeping them in limbo.
The cited basis for the termination is “specifications” of “conduct unbecoming a federal employee,” PEER said in a release. Among the specifics are creating the “appearance of a retaliatory act;” improperly accepting a promotion to an interim Senior Executive Service appointment; and failure to create a strategy for attracting new hires.
Those reasons seem rare and “bizarre” to PEER executive director Jeff Ruch. “The real reason for this farce is that congressional GOP members have pressured incoming CSB Board Chair Vanessa Sutherland to oust Dr. Horowitz—and that is precisely what we expect her to do,” he said. “PEER will be representing Dr. Horowitz in fighting this impermissible politicization of the civil service. Civil servants should not be fired for simply doing their jobs.”
Meanwhile, PEER warned, the Chemical Safety Board needs a managing director in part because months have gone by since it last sent investigators to industrial accident sites. Its last deployment, according to the agency’s website, was in March to Torrance, Calif.
November 2015 SDSpro Advisor Newsletter
Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Revised Hazard Communication Standard
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (“OSHA’s”) Hazard Communication (“HAZCOM”) standard was the most frequently cited OSHA standard in the hospitality industry last year. The HAZCOM standard has always been a challenge for hospitality employers, but, thanks to a major overhaul, it has become even more troubling.
In 2012, OSHA revised the HAZCOM standard (which had been unchanged since 1994) in order to align it with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (“GHS”)—a United Nations project aimed at providing a common and coherent approach to classifying chemicals and communicating hazard information on labels and safety data sheets (“SDSs”). Before the GHS project, the information required on warning labels and SDSs varied greatly among different countries and even among different agencies within the same country, causing a great deal of confusion for the regulated community. The deadline for compliance with nearly every aspect of the revised HAZCOM standard was December 1, 2015.
The New Inspection Guidelines
OSHA recently released new inspection guidelines for OSHA inspections reflecting the changes in the revised HAZCOM standard. The new guidelines became effective on July 9, 2015.
The Significance of the Written HAZCOM Program
Perhaps the most notable element of the new HAZCOM inspection guidelines is a tremendous focus on the employer’s written HAZCOM program and related HAZCOM documentation. Inspectors are directed to begin HAZCOM inspections with a review of the employer’s written HAZCOM program to determine whether it meets all of the requirements for the revised standard. Specifically, the revised standard requires that the written program contain details about labels and other forms of warnings, SDSs, and training programs. The written program must include a chemical inventory, which includes a product identifier for each chemical known to be present in the workplace that aligns with the SDS and label. The inventory must include all chemicals present (even if the chemicals are stored and not in use). The program must detail the methods that the employer will use to inform employees of the hazards that they may encounter in both routine and non-routine tasks in their work areas.
If contractors are working at the workplace, the written program must include methods to ensure that all other employers working at the same workplace have immediate on-site access to SDSs for each hazardous chemical that they may be exposed to, methods to inform other employers about any necessary precautionary measures to protect employees, and how to inform other employers about the labeling system used.
The written program must be made available to employees, employee representatives, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (“NIOSH”) and OSHA representatives upon request, and this fact must be included in the written program. And the guidelines require employers to designate specific individuals responsible for certain tasks required by the standard, including the designation of the person(s) responsible for workplace labeling, obtaining and maintaining the SDSs, and conducting HAZCOM training. Once the employer’s written program has been scrutinized, compliance officers must confirm that the employer’s practices match the written information provided in the program.
HAZCOM Citations for Substances That the Employer May Not Realize Are Hazardous
OSHA has determined that the agency’s own standard providing the permissible exposure limits to certain substances is outdated and fails to protect employees from hazards related to those substances. Rather than updating the standard, OSHA has found a creative way to use the HAZCOM standard to permit compliance officers to issue HAZCOM citations, even when the employer is in compliance with OSHA’s permissible exposure limits.
Compliance officers are to investigate substances found in the workplace and determine whether they should be deemed hazardous (and thus subject to regulation under the HAZCOM standard). These officers will be carefully scrutinizing any substance:
for which OSHA has established permissible exposure limits;
for which the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists has a Threshold Limit Value in the latest edition of its annual list and documentation for Threshold Limit Values; and
that the National Toxicology Program has found to be a suspect or confirmed carcinogen or that OSHA regulates as a carcinogen.
Some Things Have Remained Unchanged
Although much has changed under the revised HAZCOM standard, some critical elements remain the same. Employers have always been required to provide immediate access to SDSs (previously known as “material safety data sheets” or “MSDSs”) and that requirement is still in place. And frequent, effective training remains a significant priority under the revised standard. Employers must make sure not only that employees have been trained on the hazards related to every hazardous substance in the workplace but also that the training has been provided in such a way that every employee understands it. When new hazardous chemicals are brought into the workplace, additional training must also be provided.
OSHA has always targeted the hospitality industry for HAZCOM enforcement, and there is no indication that this will change under the revised standard. Accordingly, hospitality employers must be particularly vigilant to ensure that they are in compliance with all elements of the revised HAZCOM standard. A few critical actions will go a long way in reducing or possibly eliminating the chance of receiving a HAZCOM citation. Employers should do the following:
Review all of the chemicals that OSHA and the American Conference of Governmental Hygienists have deemed hazardous, and make sure that those substances are included in the chemical inventory in the written HAZCOM program and in compliance with every other HAZCOM requirement.
Critically review the written HAZCOM program from start to finish, ensuring that new requirements have been satisfied and that individuals designated with particular HAZCOM responsibilities fully understand the entire program and are especially knowledgeable about the areas for which they are responsible.
Make certain that employees have ready access to SDSs.
Ensure that employees are trained on the hazards of the substances that they work with, and quiz employees after they have been trained to confirm that they understood the training.
Be mindful of all of the potentially hazardous substances in the workplace, and make certain that those hazards have been effectively conveyed to employees.
October 2015 SDSpro Advisor Newsletter
OSHA instructs inspectors on enforcing hazcom standard
OSHA compliance officers have a new instruction document that outlines inspection procedures for the agency’s updated Hazard Communication Standard.
The document details the revisions made to the standard, including standardized labeling for hazardous chemicals, and outlines the required format and content for Safety Data Sheets. The instruction also explains how inspectors should enforce the standard during the transition period leading up to June 1, 2016 – the deadline for full implementation of the rule.
Upcoming compliance deadlines for the new standard include:
Dec. 1: Distributors must comply with labeling provisions.
June 1, 2016: Employers must update alternative workplace labeling and hazcom programs and provide additional employee training for newly identified hazards.
During the transition period before the effective dates, employers may comply with either the updated standard or the old rule. Employers found not to be in compliance with either standard could be cited.
To date, employers should have already trained employees on the new standard and be complying with the revised SDS requirements, and manufacturers and importers should be complying with new labeling provisions.
September 2015 SDSpro Advisor Newsletter
Deadly Blasts Expose China’s Work Safety Woes
By: DIDI TANG The Associated Press
Beijing • By official data, China is becoming safer from accidents year after year. But the explosions over the Tianjin port last week are a stark reminder that it has far to go in preventing workplace disasters — from blasts on factory floors to leaks of oil pipes and warehouse fires.
The blasts that started at a hazardous material warehouse in the eastern city of Tianjin and killed at least 114 people in one of China’s worst industrial accidents in years came despite countless pledges by authorities to strictly enforce workplace safety regulations. There have been numerous campaigns — always one after each fatal accident — to eliminate safety risks, and local officials are routinely fired over fatal workplace incidents.
But a deep-rooted business mentality that puts profits ahead of safety seems hard to break in Beijing’s fight against workplace accidents. The latest revelations on Ruihai International Logistics, the operator of the hazmat warehouse, suggest that a common Chinese business model — which heavily taps into connections with people in government — means safety rules can be easily bent for the convenience of the company.
“Companies are taking chances to skimp on safety measures, and regulating agencies are unable to enforce rules,” said Zhong Shengjun, associate professor on industrial explosion and prevention at Northeastern University in Shenyang. “This is consistent with China’s corporate culture, which is most interested in cutting costs and maximizing profits without adequate heed for safety.”
Within days of the disaster, blatant violations of workplace safety have been exposed at Ruihai International Logistics, which was storing too much hazardous material too closely to residential homes and public infrastructure, including a light-rail station.
A detailed report by the official Xinhua News Agency on Wednesday said the company is co-owned by a former executive of the powerful state-owned enterprise Sinochem Group and a son of a late police chief overseeing the port. The union of the two was to leverage their resources into business success, and the connections appeared to have worked in their pursuit for the license to handle hazardous material — but at the cost of safety.
Dong Shexuan, the late police chief’s son, told Xinhua he was able to easily obtain approval from the fire department, which nudged planning officials to overlook the 1,000-meter rule for safety distance. The other owner, Yu Xuewei, picked a safety evaluation firm that was willing to look past the distance rule but endorse the project.
State media also reported that the warehouse was storing the dangerous chemical sodium cyanide in huge amounts 70 times the limit allowed, and questions have been raised about whether residents in the area were suitably informed of the hazardous material.
The critical reports are a departure for state media, which are tasked to be the government’s mouthpiece, touting government achievements, when uncomfortable questions and dissenting voices are suppressed for the sake of social stability.
The country’s overall safety has improved over the past decade and a half. In 2014, China recorded 290,000 accidents with 66,000 deaths — down from 1 million accidents with 140,000 deaths in 2002. But those numbers include not only industrial workplaces, but also mines, car accidents and even plane crashes. China does not publicly say whether workplaces are getting safer or not.
One notable exception: mining. During the economic boom of the early 2000s, China dominated the world in the number of mining fatalities, with annual deaths as high as 6,000-7,000 a year as owners sought to maximize profits by skimping on safety.
Dismayed by the carnage and its effect on China’s reputation, Beijing cracked down on the small, often illegal operations that were the worst offenders, demanded compliance with safety rules, and jailed mine operators whose gross negligence led to fatalities. Those efforts have paid off: According to official figures, mining deaths have dropped below 1,000 last year.
Recent incidents in other workplaces suggest many other industries could use similar scrutiny.
In June 2013, a fire at a poultry plant in the northeastern province of Jilin killed 121 people. Investigators found that exit doors were bolted, a clear violation of Chinese law. An explosion caused by an oil pipe leak in late 2013 in the eastern city of Qingdao killed 62, and the public raised questions why residential homes were allowed to be built near the aging pipelines.
In August 2014, a dust explosion at a metal plant in the eastern city of Kunshan killed 146 people, and a government investigation ruled that safety violations including a failure to routinely remove dust from the floor led to the blast.
The cause of the fire and blasts at Ruihai’s warehouse is yet to be determined, but human negligence is certain to have played a part.
Tianjin officials confirmed the facility contained 700 tons of the toxic chemical sodium cyanide at the time of the explosions — as compared with the allowable limit of 10 tons as reported by state media.
The company obtained a license to handle hazardous material despite being within as close as 1,640 feet of residential complexes and public infrastructure, in clear violation of a national rule mandating a 3,280-foot safe distance for hazmat storage.
Calls to the regulatory agencies, Tianjin Maritime Safety Administration and Tianjin Municipal Transportation Commission, were unanswered on Monday and Tuesday.
State media also have found a survey that polled 130 neighboring businesses and residents who raised no objection to the company’s bid for the hazmat license, even though residents affected by the blasts say they were unaware of the survey and that they had no knowledge of the hazardous material stored in huge quantities in their backyard. The survey was part of the environmental impact assessment required of Ruihai to gain the hazmat permit. On Wednesday, Tianjin officials said the assessment should be open to the public, but the local environmental protection agency has failed to do so. No explanation was provided.
“Had we known about the hazmat warehouse, we would have never bought this apartment,” said Chen Yang, who bought an upscale apartment near the port in late 2014. “We knew of the Tianjin port, but we never knew there was hazardous material there.”
Zhong, the associate professor, said it is possible that such surveys are fabricated as part of the licensing process.
“If the public truly had the right to know, if the licensing process were open and transparent, then many safety issues would not have been bypassed — they would surely have been addressed,” Zhong said.
As if to mend the oversight, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology on Monday ordered a nationwide check on safety, especially in workplaces handling explosive and hazardous materials. It mandates absolute compliance with safety regulations, including keeping a safe distance from residential areas and not exceeding storage limits.
Zhong said it remains to be seen whether the Tianjin blasts will be a turning point for industrial workplaces.
“I hope it would be the case, but it’s unlikely as long as the mentality toward work safety does not change,” he said. “The factory owners are still taking their chances.”
August 2015 SDSpro Advisor Newsletter
Enforcement Guidance for the Hazard Communication Standard’s
The purpose of this memorandum is to provide enforcement guidance on the June 1, 2015 effective date – the date by which chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors and employers must be in compliance with all modified provisions of the HCS, other than the two exceptions for distributors and employers at 29 CFR 1910.1200(j)(2)(i) and (ii). This enforcement guidance applies only to HCS 2012 compliance inspections of chemical manufacturers, importers, and distributors in their classification of hazardous chemicals and development of safety data sheets (SDSs) and labels for chemical mixtures.
This memorandum describes the Agency’s enforcement position on the HCS June 1, 2015 effective date for manufacturers and importers, including product formulators, that have exercised reasonable diligence and good faith to classify their chemical mixtures according to HCS 2012 and consequently develop HCS 2012-compliant SDSs and labels. However, due to circumstances beyond their control, they have not received classifications and SDS information from upstream suppliers of raw materials. In addition, this enforcement guidance addresses when manufacturers and importers must develop HCS 2012-compliant SDSs and labels after receiving upstream supplier SDSs, as well as how this guidance affects distributors.
June 1, 2015 Effective Date
The June 1, 2015 effective date applies to manufacturers and importers developing HCS 2012-compliant SDSs and labels. In classifying mixtures, manufacturers and importers are permitted to rely on information provided on each SDS of the individual ingredients or components from the upstream supplier, except where the chemical manufacturer or importer knows, or in the exercise of reasonable diligence should know, that the SDS misstates or omits required information. 29 CFR 1910.1200(d)(3)(ii). For inspections occurring after the June 1, 2015 compliance date that involve a mixture that does not have an HCS 2012-compliant label or SDS, CSHOs shall follow the instructions herein.1 Where a manufacturer or importer has asserted that it was unable to comply with the June 1, 2015 compliance date, the CSHO must determine if the manufacturer or importer has exercised reasonable diligence and good faith to comply with the terms of the standard. CSHOs shall not cite a manufacturer or importer for failing to meet the June 1, 2015 deadline to have updated labels under 29 CFR 1910.1200(f)(1), or updated SDSs under paragraph (g)(1), if the chemical manufacturer or importer exercised reasonable diligence and good faith in attempting to obtain HCS 2012-compliant SDSs and classification information from its upstream raw material supplier(s). This guidance only applies where the mixture’s material safety data sheet (MSDS) and label comply with HCS 1994.
When necessary, OSHA will exercise its enforcement discretion to allow for a reasonable time period for manufacturers or importers to come into compliance. In contrast, on or after June 2, 2015, upstream raw material suppliers that do not have an HCS 2012-compliant SDS or label available for downstream manufacturers or product formulators of mixtures will not be in compliance. Upstream raw material suppliers must provide HCS 2012-compliant SDSs to downstream manufacturers or importers with the first shipment and after an SDS is updated. 29 CFR 1910.1200(g)(6)(i). If a downstream manufacturer or importer requests an updated SDS prior to receiving a new shipment, the upstream supplier must provide it immediately. 29 CFR 1910.1200(g)(6)(iv). If the Agency is made aware of a manufacturer or importer requesting but not receiving a revised SDS from an upstream raw material supplier, the matter shall be referred for further enforcement action to the appropriate Area Office with jurisdiction over the employer. A citation for a violation of 1910.1200(g)(6)(iv) shall be considered.
“Reasonable Diligence” and “Good Faith Efforts”
In order to determine if a manufacturer or importer has established “reasonable diligence” and “good faith efforts,” the CSHO must review its overall efforts, attention, and action(s) taken to comply with HCS 2012. Upon request from a CSHO, a manufacturer or importer must provide documentation of its substantive efforts to:
- Obtain classification information and SDSs from upstream suppliers;
- Find hazard information from alternative sources (e.g., chemical registries); and,
- Classify the data themselves.
Establishing reasonable diligence and good faith effort requires that the manufacturer or importer demonstrate attempt(s) to obtain the necessary SDSs through both oral and written communication directly with the upstream supplier. For each mixture shipped by a manufacturer or importer after June 1, 2015 that does not comply with HCS 2012, the CSHO shall consider whether the manufacturer or importer:
(a) Developed and documented the process used to gather the necessary classification information from its upstream suppliers and the status of such efforts;
(b) Developed and documented efforts to find hazard information from alternative sources (e.g., chemical registries);
(c) Provided a written account of continued dialogue with its upstream suppliers, including dated copies of all relevant written communication with its upstream suppliers;
(d) Provided a written account of continued dialogue with its distributors, including dated copies of all relevant written communication with its distributors informing them why it has been unable to comply with HCS 2012; and,
(e) Developed the course of action it will follow to make the necessary changes to SDSs and labels.
Although the CSHO must consider all of the above factors, any combination of these efforts may, depending on the circumstance, be consistent with reasonable diligence and good faith efforts. The CSHO shall always consider whether the manufacturer or importer attempted to obtain the hazard information in a timely manner (i.e., in a manner that would have enabled it to comply with the June 1, 2015 effective date) in determining whether a manufacturer or importer exercised reasonable diligence and made good faith efforts to comply. Reasonable diligence and good faith also requires that the manufacturer or importer provide a clear timeline for when it expects to comply with HCS 2012.
Time Period to Develop HCS 2012-Compliant SDSs and Labels for Mixtures
SDSs – A manufacturer or importer must create HCS 2012-compliant SDSs within six months from the date it receives all of the hazard information for the ingredients in a mixture. OSHA provides this timeframe as an accommodation to the requirement under 1910.1200(g)(5) to update SDSs within three months after receiving new information. The manufacturer or importer must then provide the HCS 2012-compliant SDS downstream with the next shipment of the mixture and when requested by a distributor or employer. Where a chemical manufacturer or importer has not developed an HCS 2012-compliant SDS within six months of receiving the necessary hazard information, a citation for a violation of 1910.1200(g)(2) shall be considered. Related violations of 1910.1200(d)(1), (d)(2), and (d)(3)(i) may also be considered.
Labels – A manufacturer or importer must create container labels to comply with HCS 2012 within six months from the date that it has developed HCS 2012-compliant SDSs. This accommodation is provided as a reasonable relief to the requirement under 1910.1200(f)(11) that container labels be revised within six months after learning of new hazard information. Containers shipped after the six months period must be labeled with an HCS 2012-compliant label. Where a manufacturer or importer has not developed an HCS 2012-compliant label within six months of the date it developed its HCS 2012-compliant SDS, a citation for violation of 1910.1200(f)(1), (f)(2), and (f)(3) shall be considered.
Use of HCS 1994-compliant MSDSs and labels – Manufacturers and importers that have exercised reasonable diligence and made good faith efforts to obtain and integrate the required information but have not received all the necessary classification and SDS information from upstream suppliers to classify the mixture under HCS 2012 shall continue to use MSDSs and labels that conform to HCS 1994. No citation will be issued where sufficient documentation is provided to address this situation. Once the manufacturer or importer has developed an HCS 2012-compliant SDS, it must be provided to downstream users with the first shipment after the SDS was created or when requested.
Time Period for Distributors
The HCS 2012 permits distributors to continue to ship chemicals with HCS 1994 labels until December 1, 2015. 29 CFR 1910.1200(j)(2)(i). However, due to the situation described above – where a manufacturer or importer cannot comply with the June 1, 2015 effective date despite its reasonable diligence and good faith efforts – there may be distributors that are consequently unable to comply with the December 1, 2015 compliance date. In that situation, a CSHO will determine, again on a case-by-case basis, whether a distributor exercised reasonable diligence and good faith to comply with the December 1, 2015 effective date. In making such determination, a CSHO shall consider whether the distributor is able to document its communication with the manufacturer or importer about the circumstances for the noncompliance with HCS 2012. Distributors must provide HCS 2012-compliant SDSs to downstream users with the first shipment after the SDSs are provided by the manufacturer or importer. If a downstream user requests an HCS 2012-compliant SDS that is available prior to receiving a new shipment, the manufacturer, importer, or distributor must provide it immediately.
After having received HCS 2012-compliant SDSs, a distributor’s failure to provide the updated SDSs to other distributors or employers along with the first shipment or upon request would be a violation of 1910.1200(g)(7)(i), and a citation should be issued.
In the limited situation described in this memorandum, distributors will be allowed to ship chemicals permissibly labeled with HCS 1994-compliant labels until December 1, 2017.
Duration of Enforcement Guidance
The policy provided in this enforcement guidance shall not exceed two years.
For further information, we are providing a few questions and answers for CSHOs (attached) to assist in responding to specific inquiries. Please share this guidance and the attached information with the State Plans and On-Site Consultation Projects in your region. If you have any additional questions, please contact the Office of Health Enforcement at 202-693-2190.
Attachment: Questions and Answers for CSHOs
June 2015 SDSpro Advisor Newsletter
U.S. House panel proposes version of Lautenberg chemical safety legislation
By Jonathan D. Salant | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
The House Energy and Commerce Committee leaders, including ranking Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., on Wednesday offered their own version of legislation to update the way the government regulates toxic chemicals.
The Senate is considering a similar bill named for the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), who championed such legislation when he served on Capitol Hill. Like the House version, the Senate bill has support from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, including Lautenberg’s successor, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.).
Pallone (D-6th Dist.) is to highlight the House proposal Thursday during a tour of the PQ Corp. facility in Avenel.
The legislation “would be a significant and positive step in ensuring that toxic chemicals are removed from everyday products,” Pallone said. “I am proud to work to continue Senator Lautenberg’s legacy of leadership on chemical safety, and I look forward to continuing our hard, bipartisan work to advance the bill through full committee and the House.”
Both bills are designed to update rules for regulating toxic chemicals, and can prevent states from implementing more stringent requirements once the federal government has evaluated the safety of a chemical. Current state regulations could remain in place.
The measures would replace an outdated 1976 law, which failed to ban such chemicals as asbestos.
The House version provides that an Environmental Protection Agency ruling would apply in all states. Manufacturers of existing chemicals can pay a fee to the EPA to evaluate the safety of their products. The EPA also can act on its own. The agency would have three years to complete any evaluations and 90 days afterwards to propose new rules.
Besides Pallone, the bill is being sponsored by committee chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Environment and the Economy Subcommittee Chairman John Shimkus (R-Ill.), and the subcommittee’s ranking member, Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.).
May 2015 SDSpro Advisor Newsletter
Fix Chemical Safety Bill to Honor Lautenberg, Protect the Public
By Star-Ledger Editorial Board
Few people realize that while pharmaceuticals have to go through rigorous testing before being introduced to the public, that’s not true of the chemicals in your household cleaners, furniture and baby toys.
They’re not even tested to make sure they don’t cause cancer or birth defects before they’re released into your home. That’s why it’s essential that we pass a stronger federal law to protect the public.
Everyone agrees the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 has been a failure and desperately needs an update. Currently, the burden of proof is so high that the government has only succeeded in banning a handful of industrial chemicals on the market.
The late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) was a real champion of this issue, but the “compromise” bill now being peddled in his absence by Senators David Vitter (R-LA) and Tom Udall (D-NM) is still too deeply flawed to honor his legacy.
In some respects, the latest version does strengthen federal law. It makes it easier for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to require companies to conduct testing on their chemicals. It requires the EPA to decide whether a chemical needs to be regulated by looking solely at its impact on health and the environment — not cost considerations. And the agency will now have to examine the effect on particularly vulnerable populations like kids or pregnant women. All good.
But for states like New Jersey, which are already proactive about safety standards, this bill would actually be harmful, because it takes away our existing authority to protect ourselves from dangerous chemicals.
Under this draft, if the EPA has said a chemical merits further analysis because it could be dangerous, but hasn’t actually done that research yet, a state can’t take its own regulatory precautions. It might take years before any restrictions are imposed by the EPA, and in the meantime, the public is protected by no one.
That’s unacceptable, and one of several ways this bill in its current form is worse than existing law.
Another problem is that it allows EPA to say chemicals are relatively safe without doing any full analysis, and there’s almost no way to challenge that decision. If industry is able to sue over EPA decisions to declare a chemical unsafe, why shouldn’t public health groups be able to do the same if a chemical is declared safe without a full review?
Suspiciously, the bill also makes it harder to regulate imports containing chemicals that EPA has decided are dangerous. Considering how many of our toys and products come from China, that’s clearly not in the public’s best interest.
Sen. Cory Booker, who sits on the Environment and Public Works committee, is part of an effort to improve this bill, and neither he nor Sen. Bob Menendez should sign on to it until its major problems are fixed. Yes, imperfect legislation that has a chance of passing is better than a perfect bill that won’t.
But this proposal is worse than imperfect — it could actually put people at greater risk.
April 2015 SDSpro Advisor Newsletter
TSCA Reform: Senate Committee Holds Hearing on Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act
By Bergeson and Campbell, P.C. of jdsupra.com
On March 18, 2015, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing on the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (S. 697). A detailed analysis of S. 697 is available in our March 13, 2015, memorandum. There were a number of references to the late Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), who introduced several bills intended to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), and whether the current bill would accomplish his goals. Throughout the hearing, there were many comments regarding allowing the perfect to be the enemy of the good. Supporters of S. 697 maintain that it significantly improves TSCA, providing more authority and funding to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate new and existing chemicals. Critics of the bill argue that while the perfect may be the enemy of the good, S. 697 is not a good bill.
Mrs. Bonnie Lautenberg, Senator Lautenberg’s widow, spoke at the beginning of the hearing, describing Senator Lautenberg’s work on TSCA reform. She stated that Senator Lautenberg wanted TSCA reform to be his final, enduring legacy, and that he understood that it required the art of compromise. According to Mrs. Lautenberg, Senator Lautenberg chose to work with Senator David Vitter (R-LA) to introduce the Chemical Safety Improvement Act (S. 1009) (CSIA), which was a compromise bill rather than a “winner take all” bill, and this compromise bill set the stage for S. 697. Mrs. Lautenberg noted that some are still waiting for a winner-take-all bill, but urged Congress not to let the interests of a few states undermine the interests of the rest of the country.
Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), who continued to work with Senator Vitter on revisions to the CSIA and in preparing S. 697, noted that an earlier bill from Senator Lautenberg, the Safe Chemical Act, which received no Republican support and had no Republican co-sponsors, failed to move out of Committee in 2011. Senator Udall described Senator Lautenberg’s efforts, in his final days, to put his idea of perfection aside and find compromise. Senator Udall noted that New Mexico and many other states have very little protection from toxic chemicals, and with an estimated cost of $2.5 million to assess and regulate a chemical, lack the resources to do so on their own.
Witnesses at the hearing included:
- Mr. Jim Jones, Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA);
- Mr. Ken Cook, President and Co-Founder, Environmental Working Group (EWG);
- The Honorable Brian E. Frosh, Attorney General, State of Maryland;
- Dr. Lynn Goldman, Dean, Milken Institute School of Public Health, The George Washington University;
- Dr. Edward McCabe, Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, March of Dimes Foundation; and
- Dr. Richard Denison, Senior Scientist, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).
In his testimony, Jones noted that there is no mandatory program under TSCA for the review of existing chemicals. The Obama Administration is committed to using its authority under TSCA to the fullest extent possible to regulate existing chemicals. Jones stated that the Obama Administration has not yet developed a formal position on S. 697, but continues to support EPA’s September 2009principles for reform of chemicals management legislation. Jones acknowledged that the principles do not address the issue of state preemption but that the Obama Administration will look hard at how state preemption is addressed in whatever bill Congress considers.
After Jones testified, Senators had a number of questions concerning issues such as:
- The length of time it would take EPA to complete its review of the first 25 chemicals — Jones cited statistics from his Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) experience in implementing the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA), showing it could handle about 40 actions/year and thought this likely the maximum on the chemicals side.
- Whether S. 697 would allow industry to “buy” its way out of state regulation by paying EPA to conduct reviews — Jones noted that the bill did not accord such reviews the same preemption treatment as for other EPA actions.
- State co-enforcement and preemption — Jones noted the bill would have some preemption effect and that these issues were handled differently under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).
- Whether state regulations such as Proposition 65 would be prohibited — Jones indicated that Proposition 65 was unaffected.
- Whether cost-benefit is out of the safety assessment and determination — Jones agreed it was.
- Whether there is a deadline for industry to apply a given control action — Jones agreed this was not included.
- Whether the approaches in S. 697 meet all of EPA’s principles — Jones agreed that most were met, although there are technical issues regarding treatment of articles and there is not a timely requirement for control measures to enter into effect.
- Whether the principles are EPA’s only considerations — Jones indicated that other issues were also being considered.
- Are accidental spills covered by “conditions of use”? — Jones agreed they are covered.
- Does S. 697 allow EPA to share confidential business information (CBI) with states? — Jones stated that it does.
- Should low priority designations be subject to judicial review as final agency actions? — Jones agreed these types of decisions are typically reviewable.
- Does S. 697 protect CBI as well as TSCA? — Jones indicated TSCA allowed too much information to be claimed as CBI and S. 697 requires substantiation and other steps that should limit such claims, and that S. 697 otherwise protects CBI as did TSCA.
- Are the deadlines for EPA development of policies and procedures reasonable? — Jones agreed EPA could meet the requirements with the fee provisions included.
- Are vulnerable populations covered? — According to Jones, yes.
- Does EPA support use of cost-benefit analysis? — Jones indicated that EPA does support cost-benefit analysis, although it is frequently difficult to monetize benefits.
In his questions to Jones, Senator Vitter emphasized that S. 697 would grandfather permanently all current state chemical regulations enacted as of January 1, 2015, including Proposition 65. Jones agreed with Senator Vitter’s assessment that S. 697 would provide EPA the authority to reject any industry request to prioritize a chemical, and limit the number of chemicals prioritized at the request of industry. Senator Vitter also clarified when a chemical is prioritized this way, the preemption rules are different.
The second panel briefly summarized their written testimony and then took questions. Among the points made during this panel were the following:
- Cook did not support the bill and criticized the preemption approach particularly. Cook criticized S. 697 for allowing chemicals to be used so long as they pose “no unreasonable risk of harm,” rather than ensuring that the chemicals pose a “reasonable certainty of no harm.” According to Cook, this second standard has been used successfully in evaluating pesticides, and has not resulted in banning them all.
- Frosh, while agreeing that TSCA needed an overhaul, indicated strong concerns with the preemption provision. According to Frosh, S. 697 would put states out of the business of protecting their citizens from poison by, among other ways, prohibiting new state restrictions from the moment EPA begins consideration of high priority chemicals with a seven-year timeline before regulation is required, and no state can take action in the interim regardless of how toxic the chemical is. Frosh stated that priority is upside down — if a chemical is dangerous, EPA should be required to act as quickly as possible.
- Goldman, former EPA Assistant Administrator for Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances, recounted her experience of testifying in support of TSCA change in the 1990s and supported S. 697 as dealing with many of the issues presented by TSCA even though the bill could be improved. She noted that S. 697 provides EPA with strong authority to require testing; deletes “least burdensome requirement” in taking Section 6 action; and has CBI provisions that would open up vast quantities of information that never should have been confidential or are outdated and would allow sharing CBI with states. The deadlines under S. 697 include fees that would be used to support EPA in its chemicals work. Goldman noted that S. 697 does not freeze the science by injecting 2015 science into a law that will need to work for a number of years. California’s Proposition 65 and certain other state efforts would not be preempted; rather, S. 697 would allow EPA to protect all citizens, not just residents of certain states that take action. Regarding the issue of new chemicals, an area which no one else had raised, she stated that the bill was a strong improvement over TSCA. In an interesting exchange with Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Goldman agreed to review and offer a response to the letters submitted by legal experts who had argued that the bill was worse than current law.
- McCabe testified that S. 697 is a critical step towards a bill that will be protective of maternal and children’s health, and that the bill represented a starting point.
- Denison testified that he and his organization, Environmental Defense Fund, support S. 697 as it fixes the biggest problems in TSCA, has strong bipartisan support, and represents a culmination of a decade of work by Senator Lautenberg, all while acknowledging that the bill is less than he would want. Denison agreed that preemption had proven to be an exceedingly difficult issue, and that S. 697 is more preemptive than current law, but less so than the original bill. He also noted that while he strongly supported their efforts, state actions have restricted only about a dozen chemicals or classes of chemicals and that it was clear that a broad and effective federal effort such as in S. 697 was needed.
March 2015 SDSpro Advisor Newsletter
OSHA Exercising Enforcement Discretion for HCS Compliance
By Christopher Bryant of Jdsupra.com
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on February 9, 2015, issued enforcement guidance on the June 1, 2015, effective date for the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS). The guidance states that OSHA will not pursue enforcement actions against chemical manufacturers or importers who were unable to update their Safety Data Sheets (SDS) and labels by June 1, 2015, because they were not able to obtain updated information from their upstream suppliers, provided the manufacturers and importers exercised due diligence and good faith efforts to obtain the information.
By June 1, 2015, chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors and employers must develop SDS and labels that are in compliance with the HCS issued by OSHA in 2012. 77 Fed. Reg. 17574; March 26, 2012. OSHA recognizes, however, that some manufacturers and importers, including product formulators, are dependent upon receiving accurate and timely data and information on chemicals from their upstream suppliers before they can develop compliant SDS and labels. The guidance thus helps clarify OSHA’s enforcement discretion policy in cases where downstream members of the chemical supply chain are unable to meet the June 1, 2015, deadline to have updated SDS and labels because they have not received information from their suppliers despite making good faith efforts to obtain the data.
The guidance states that “When necessary, OSHA will exercise its enforcement discretion to allow for a reasonable time period for manufacturers or importers to come into compliance” if a manufacturer or importer has established “reasonable diligence” and “good faith efforts” to obtain information from its upstream suppliers. The guidance states that OSHA may choose to not pursue enforcement actions if a manufacturer can document that its “substantive efforts” to obtain classification information and SDS from upstream suppliers; find hazard information from alternative sources (such as chemical registries); and classify the data themselves.
Factors cited in the guidance that OSHA will consider when determining whether to defer enforcement actions with non-HCS-compliant SDS and include a demonstration that the manufacturer or importer attempted to obtain the necessary SDS through both oral and written communication directly with the upstream supplier. If that information is not obtained by June 1, 2015, OSHA states in the guidance that it will consider several factors when deciding whether to defer enforcement for non-compliant SDS and labels. These factors are whether the manufacturer:
- Developed and documented the process used to gather the necessary classification information from its upstream suppliers and the status of these efforts;
- Developed and documented efforts to find hazard information from alternative sources;
- Can provide a written account of continued dialogue with its upstream suppliers, including dated copies of all relevant written communication with upstream suppliers;
- Provided a written account of continued dialogue with its distributors, including dated copies of all relevant written communication with its distributors informing them why it has been unable to comply with the HCS; and
- Developed the course of action it will follow to make the necessary changes to SDS and labels.
The guidance states that OSHA will consider all of these factors, but that “any combination of these efforts may, depending on the circumstance, be consistent with reasonable diligence and good faith efforts.” Moreover, the guidance states that “Reasonable diligence and good faith also requires (sic) that the manufacturer or importer provide a clear timeline for when it expects to comply” with the revised HCS requirements for SDS and labels. Emphasis in original. For manufacturers or importers that have met these factors and exercised reasonable due diligence and made a good faith effort to obtain and integrate the required information but have not received all the necessary classification and SDS information from upstream suppliers, the guidance states that “No citation will be issued where sufficient documentation is provided to address the situation.” The enforcement guidance is available online.
February 2015 SDSpro Advisor Newsletter
OSHA cites MFG Chemical Inc. for repeated safety hazards after 2 workers injured, 1 killed
By the Northwest Georgia News
DALTON, Ga. – An MFG Chemical Inc. worker died after hazardous chemical vapors released from an overpressurized reactor burned his respiratory system. A second employee was treated at a hospital and released. A July 2014 inspection by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration resulted in citations for MFG for 17 safety and health violations. OSHA initiated the inspection after a media referral alleged that a chemical release at the manufacturing facility had occurred.
“MFG continues to violate OSHA standards, exposing workers to serious hazards associated with process safety management,” said Christi Griffin, director of OSHA’s Atlanta-West Area Office. “Allowing repeated violations demonstrates the company’s lack of commitment to worker safety and health.”
MFG was inspected by OSHA previously in 2012 and received 19 serious citations related to process safety management standards.
OSHA’s Process Safety Management standard contains specific requirements for the management of hazards associated with processes using dangerous chemicals and establishes a comprehensive management program integrating technologies, procedures and management practices.
OSHA issued repeated citations for MFG’s failure to ensure that the reactor system alarm provided early warning for worker evacuation; not training workers on the hazards of permit-required confined spaces; and failure to ensure equipment used for manufacturing had an adequate pressure-relief design. A repeated violation exists when an employer previously has been cited for the same or a similar violation of a standard, regulation, rule or order at any facility in federal enforcement states within the last five years. MFG was cited previously for similar violations in 2012 at this facility.
Serious citations were issued for the company’s failure to ensure guarded floor openings and pits; establish and implement written changes to the chemical manufacturing process; and identify previous workplace incidents that had the potential for catastrophic results. Other violations included failure to provide medical examinations for workers required to use respirators and not conducting fit tests for respirators. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.
Bureau of Labor Statistics data from the preliminary Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries shows fatal work injuries in Georgia accounted for 70 of the 4,405 fatal work injuries reported nationally in 2013. Additional details are available at http://www.bls.gov.
MFG manufactures a range of specialty chemicals for the water treatment, agriculture and pulp, and paper industries. The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. Proposed penalties total $87,780.
To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA’s toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency’s Atlanta-West Area Office at 678-903-7301.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.
January 2015 SDSpro Advisor Newsletter
Hand sanitizers—you know you need them, but what do you know about them?
By Elaine Quayle, Editor
It’s that time of year again. You probably had your flu shot clinic already and/or have encouraged employees to get their shots offsite. But you know you are facing the headache of numerous absences when colds, stomach bugs, and influenza really hit your facility. Hand sanitizers can be an important element in fighting workplace illness, but just what do you know about them?
You certainly have heard that hand hygiene is an important adjunct to immunization to fighting the flu in the workplace. In fact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that hand hygiene is one of the most important ways to prevent the spread of infections. Dr. William Schaffner, past-president, National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) and moderator of the NFID Influenza/Pneumococcal News Conference, has said, “In addition to an annual flu vaccine, everyday hand hygiene is an important step to help reduce the spread of infections that cause illness.”
Hand sanitizers can fight workplace illnessSamantha R. Williams, spokesperson for GOJO, inventors of PURELL® Hand Sanitizer, told BLR® that scientific studies conducted in real-world settings underscore the recommendations of experts that good hand hygiene is an important strategy to help prevent the spread of germs. “Access to PURELL Hand Sanitizer and hand hygiene education led to 20 percent reduction in absenteeism in a workplace setting,” she says.
Practicing hand hygiene is important every time a worker’s hands have contacted a potentially contaminated surface, such as:
- Hands of others (a handshake is a significant infection pathway)
- Handles (including microwaves, refrigerators, water dispensers, and material handling equipment)
- Copier, printer, or telephone buttons or parts
- Coffee pots and vending machines
- Elevator buttons and stair railings
- Bathroom fixtures (Note, bathroom door handles are actually not the most contaminated object in a restroom, and have less
- germs and viruses than desk tops. Since restroom doors push out, this is usually not a problem.)
- To get employee buy-in and establish a culture of hand hygiene, establish norms and etiquette in your workplace, says Williams.
- Publicize these efforts through the use of posters, department meetings, the company intranet, and in other employee communications.
Soap and water
Experts agree that hand hygiene primarily means hand washing! Hands should be washed with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, then dried with a paper towel or hot air dryer. Williams advises companies to make sure that all hand soap dispensers are always clean, in good working order, and filled.
When to use sanitizers
Of course, employees cannot run to the restroom to wash their hands every time they touch something or someone. Hence the practicality—and convenience—of alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Williams says the benefits of alcohol-based hand sanitizers for safeguarding public health are well-documented in many settings, because they are effective at killing germs on hands within 15 seconds of proper use, especially after sneezing and coughing and before touching food. In fact, alcohol is the most proven effective germ-killing agent.
Where to place sanitizers
“Hand hygiene needs to be accessible,” said Casey Krysiak, product manager, dispensing systems at GOJO, adding that GOJO recently unveiled its newest dispensing system, the PURELL ES Everywhere System, which is designed to fit in places that are unable to accommodate traditional dispensers, such as the breakrooms, reception areas, and other high traffic areas. Williams says businesses should also place hand sanitizer dispensers near restroom exits to help prompt the one in four people who typically don’t wash their hands after using the restroom.
Facilities experts also stated that in some instances hand sanitizers can be placed on stands, such as in a lunchroom, where they may be more visible.
What type to use
Moisturizing nonalcohol sanitizers may feel more skin friendly, especially since sanitizers are left on the skin and are not rinsed off. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are also formulated with moisturizers to be used repeatedly without damaging the skin and are recommended by many leading health organizations including the CDC the World Health Organization, and Health Canada.
Note that hand sanitizers have expiration dates, usually 2 to 3 years, after which time the percentage of alcohol and other antibacterial agents decreases enough to diminish effectiveness, so be sure to inform your facilities staff.
What else you should know
You may have read some things on the Internet about hand sanitizers that have caused you concern, such as:
Can sanitizer use cause skin conditions? The CDC reports that frequent use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers can lead to skin conditions such as chronic occupational dermatitis, however formulation matters. PURELL Advanced Hand Sanitizer has been developed to be used repeatedly without damaging the skin, and studies show that its use, even in high frequency conditions like healthcare settings, does not dry the skin out.
Certain types of industries, of course, are more prone to this situation, including food preparation, healthcare, and cleaning/maintenance. Use of harsh soaps during regular hand washing can also cause this condition, so choice of product is important.
When skin dries to the point that it splits, the protective aspect of the skin can be compromised, leading to increased chance of germs and viruses entering the body. Some industrial sanitizer manufacturers have begun producing companion products to prevent dryness from occurring.
Are hand sanitizers dangerous? You may have read on the Internet that hand sanitizers that contain alcohol, as recommended by the CDC, are flammable and hazardous, and thus it is a good idea to have a SDS (safety data sheet).
A SDS is a written description of a hazardous chemical and a source of information about it for employers and their workers.
According to Safety.BLR.com, SDSs are part of federal OSHA’s hazard communication standard, and employers with workers exposed or potentially exposed to hazardous chemicals must comply with their requirements, including safe handling and control measures.
Williams explains, that “manufacturing facilities and other large companies typically have controlled processes and require safety data sheets for all hazardous chemical products that they bring into their facilities. As standard procedure, GOJO provides SDSs for all of its products in order to meet those requirements. Having an SDS for a product does not mean that it is unsafe in any way when used as directed.”
Therefore, she adds, that the use of formulations such as PURELL are safe and effective when used properly.
To lessen any concerns about flammability, keep dispensers away from sources of heat or ignition and monitor dispensers with drip-pans so that pools of sanitizer do not collect.
If you would like to learn more about hand sanitizers, visit the PURELL website.
December 2014 SDSpro Advisor Newsletter
AG sends Notice of Endangerment and Intent to Sue to U.S. Dept. of Energy and its contractors to protect workers from hazardous Hanford tank vapors
By the Washington State Office of the Attorney General
After 20 years and many reports and studies, federal government still not adequately protecting Hanford workers
SEATTLE — Attorney General Bob Ferguson is sending the U.S. Dept. of Energy, and its contractor, Washington River Protection Solutions (WRPS), a Notice of Endangerment and Intent to Sue. Ferguson seeks to protect workers at the federal Hanford Nuclear Reservation from hazardous chemical vapors that continue to jeopardize worker health and safety.
On Oct. 30, 2014, an independent panel of experts issued the federally-funded Hanford Tank Vapor Assessment Report which determined that “ongoing emission of tank vapors, which contain a mixture of toxic chemicals, is inconsistent with the provisions of a safe and healthful workplace free from recognized hazards.” They further found that the data “strongly suggests a causal link between chemical vapor release and subsequent adverse health effects experienced by tank farm workers.”
The report was the latest in a series of reports assessing the problem of tank workers falling sick after exposure to chemical vapors from on-site waste holding tanks. Dating back to at least 1987, workers exposed to vapors have experienced nosebleeds, headaches, watery eyes, burning skin, contact dermatitis, increased heart rate, difficulty breathing, coughing, sore throats, expectorating, dizziness and nausea. Several of these workers have long-term disabilities, including permanent loss of lung capacity.
Despite the 20 years of study and multiple reports, there is no lasting solution and workers continue to get sick.
“Hanford workers face a very real and immediate health risk,” said Ferguson. “The federal government has a responsibility to keep these Washington workers safe and I intend to hold them accountable.”
“The report from this independent panel clearly signals a need for further action to protect workers at the Hanford tank farms,” said Governor Jay Inslee. “I have spoken with U.S. Energy Secretary Moniz who has assured me that the federal government’s response to this situation will be vigorous and that steps have already been taken to better protect workers.”
The federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) allows persons, including the attorney general, to bring actions against a party whose hazardous waste practices “may present an imminent and substantial endangerment to the public’s health or the environment.” RCRA first requires a notice of intent to sue be sent to the party. A lawsuit can be filed 90 days after the notice of intent to sue. The AGO’s primary focus is to secure lasting abatement of the dangers posed by the Hanford vapors through an effective, legally enforceable agreement or order with the federal government.
The Hanford site in eastern Washington is a nuclear reservation operated by the U.S. federal government. Currently, Hanford houses roughly 56 million gallons of nuclear waste in 177 underground tanks — enough to fill roughly 88 Olympic-sized swimming pools. Most of these tanks are of single-shell construction, many of which have leaked.
A federal court consent decree and the Hanford Tri-Party Agreement require Energy to retrieve and treat Hanford’s tank waste and safely close Hanford’s unfit-for-use single-shell tanks. Workers are primarily exposed to hazardous Hanford tank vapors while working around these single-shell tanks, especially during retrieval operations. Energy and its contractors have a 20-year history of studying the tank vapors problem, but problems persist and workers continue to experience adverse health impacts.
On June 20, 2014, in response to increasing reports of workers falling ill after vapor exposure, Governor Inslee and Ferguson wrote to the Secretary of Energy urging an independent assessment of the safety of workers who may be exposed to chemical vapors or fumes emitted from tanks at Hanford.
Energy, through the Savannah River National Laboratory, commissioned an independent expert panel to prepare such an assessment. This resulted in the Oct. 30, 2014 Hanford Tank Vapor Assessment Report.
November 2014 SDSpro Advisor Newsletter
Chemical Accidents: Speak Up for Our Right to Know What is Happening in Our Communities
By Andrew Rosenberg, director, Center for Science & Democracy
In this rich and powerful democracy that is the United States, the statistics on chemical accidents are more than shocking—they should be a wake-up call. There have been around 30,000 documented accidents per year for the last two decades at least. More than 1,000 people per year have died in these accidents. Nearly half of our population live, and one in three children in this country go to school, near the 3,400 facilities that store or use dangerous chemicals within areas described by industry as “vulnerable.” The families that live within vulnerable zones are disproportionately poor, African-American, or Latino.
Even with these horrifying numbers, press reports have found that the data that is collected by government concerning chemical safety are appallingly inaccurate, underestimating the real number of vulnerable areas and accidents. To understand how pervasive the risks of chemical accidents really are, watch the newsfeed for the US Chemical Safety Board. Every day there is an accident reported, sometimes as many as six a day! And as the chairman of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board has pointed out in the New York Times, without reform, the next accident is just waiting to happen.
We, citizens and scientists in our democracy, need to ask why. Surely we have the resources and a governance system that can do better. One element of that system is the Environmental Protection Agency’s Risk Management Program (RMP), which covers one-third of the facilities in the country. Other agencies, both state and federal, are also responsible for working with industry and communities to reduce risks.
Recent high profile accidents, such as the tragedy in West, Texas, have prompted the EPA to ask for public comment while they consider changes to their RMP. It isn’t easy to comment on such a complex program, but the EPA needs to hear from concerned scientists and citizens. The comment period is open until October 29.
While the Request for Information (RFI) concerning the Risk Management Program has a lot of technical detail that may be hard for all but those with specialized expertise to comment on, we can all provide feedback to the agency. Some important parts of the program concerning public information and transparency (Section II, Part D) afford all of us this opportunity:
- Compliance with Emergency Response Program Requirements in Coordination with Local Responders (Section D-5): The current RMP gives owners and operators of covered chemical facilities a choice with regard to emergency response—either to have their own emergency response plan and employees respond to accidents, or to leave it to the surrounding community to accept the burden of responding. Even as I write this, I find it hard to believe. The companies that are storing or using chemicals can just abdicate responsibility for responding to accidents that endanger the community to local authorities? And, the EPA notes, the majority of facilities have decided not to respond but to leave it to the local government and community. Why take on the cost if you can shift it to local taxpayers? Even worse, the EPA reports that most facilities are not coordinating with community emergency response plans or providing basic information for responding to accidents. They even note cases where the facility prevented information from being communicated to local officials during a serious accident. The EPA is asking for comment on whether owners and operators must accept responsibility unless local public responders have the capability AND AGREE to respond to accidents, as well as clarify the requirement to share information in a timely manner.
- Incident Investigation and Accident History Requirements (Section D-6): One would think that accidents would be investigated and documented thoroughly to gather information and lessons learned to improve safety in the future. Not so, unfortunately. It seems that many accidents are not investigated, particularly if there were no deaths or serious injuries or other impacts resulting. Referred to as near-miss catastrophes, they are described as one step away from a major release of dangerous chemicals. The EPA is now asking if they should strengthen the reporting requirements for accidents including near-misses.
- Public Disclosure of Information to Promote Regulatory Compliance and Improve Community Understanding of Chemical Risks (Section D-8): Public information is at the heart of enabling communities to be ready should an accident occur, and holding owners and operators accountable for reducing risks as much as possible. But in too many cases, information is not available to community planners or even first responders in the event of an emergency. The EPA is asking for comments on the requirements to provide public information including providing information online. As they note, since the rules were last revised, there are many new channels for communication including social media and mobile apps that could increase awareness, preparedness, and responsiveness.
All of these sections of the RFI highlight fundamental issues of transparency and the public’s right to know what is happening in their communities that directly affect the health and safety of their families. With any computer or smartphone, it is possible to find out where to buy virtually any product produced in these facilities around the country. Shouldn’t we also have the ability to know what, where, and how chemicals are produced and stored, and what do to if there is an accident?
September 2014 SDSpro Advisor Newsletter
Chemical reform bill faces uphill battle in Senate
By FREDERIC J. FROMMER, Associated Press
Efforts to come up with a new chemical regulation bill face an uphill battle in the Senate.
Over the summer, Sens. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and David Vitter of Louisiana, the top Republican on the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee, provided a revised draft of their chemical regulation bill to committee chairwoman Barbara Boxer, who told The Associated Press this week that the draft still falls short.
The original bill had been panned by some environmental groups, such as Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, who assailed it as “phony reform,” although the Environmental Defense Fund supported its introduction as a chance for an eventual breakthrough.
At stake is a rewrite of the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act, known as TSCA, which is widely seen as an ineffective law to protect Americans from harmful chemicals.
While the new Senate draft hasn’t been released publicly, Udall told the AP that it makes “big progress” in the safety standard; protections for vulnerable populations, such as pregnant women, infants, children and workers; and strong deadlines for the EPA to work through chemicals.
One area that remains outstanding, Udall said, is how much federal law should take precedence over state regulations, which negotiators will turn to next. States such as California, which have come up with their own regulations in the absence of federal action, have warned that the language in the bill could jeopardize dozens of California laws and regulations.
Boxer, a Democrat from California, said that the latest draft is still too sweeping in its nullification of state regulations. Udall agreed that the pre-emption language in the original bill is much too broad and needs to be narrowed.
The attempt to come up with new chemical regulation legislation has shifted from a Democratic bill, the Safe Chemicals Act in the previous session of Congress, to the industry-backed bipartisan Chemical Safety Improvement Act. The American Chemistry Council, a trade group which represents such chemical powerhouses as Dow, DuPont, BASF Corp. and 3M, says that reforming TSCA is its top legislative priority. The ACC spent nearly $6 million in lobbying expenses in the first half of the year.
Udall said that while he supported the Safe Chemicals Act, “without any bipartisan support and (with) wholesale industry opposition it simply couldn’t move forward. A new approach was needed that could get the support needed to actually get it to the president’s desk.”
“The new draft is a giant leap forward from the last one,” Udall added. “And most important is that it is a huge improvement compared to the law as it stands now, and as it has stood since 1976.”
But Boxer, in her first public comments on the draft, said the draft doesn’t make the changes needed to improve current law.
“The proposed safety standard does not clearly reject the ineffective standard contained in the original TSCA law that has resulted in very limited protection,” she said. Boxer said timelines in the draft “remain extremely long — it is expected to take at least seven years before even a tiny fraction of the chemicals of concern are reviewed. This could leave nearly a thousand chemicals of greatest concern unaddressed.”
Regulation of chemicals took on new urgency after a crippling spill in West Virginia last January contaminated drinking water for 300,000 residents. The chemical in the January spill, crude MCHM, is one of thousands not regulated under current law.
Boxer said she’ll be proposing a provision that will specifically address toxic chemicals that could threaten drinking water supplies.
The director of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, Andy Igrejas, said that there’s been progress made to improve the bill over the past few months.
“We have not seen a version that resolves all the issues leading to a clear improvement for public health and safety,” he said, but added he was hopeful that negotiations among key senators could lead to such a bill.
Richard Denison, lead senior scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund, said that there are incentives for both sides to have a stronger system.
“We’re still optimistic that even if doesn’t happen in this Congress, that all of that work that’s been done provides a path forward to actually getting a bill passed,” he said.
May 2014 SDSpro Advisor Newsletter
Medical News Today
Past research has associated exposure to solvents with liver and kidney damage, respiratory impairments, reproductive damage and even cancer. Now, a new study suggests that individuals exposed to solvents – such as paint, glue and degreasers – at work may be at increased risk of memory and thinking problems later in life.
The research team, including Erika L. Sabbath of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, MA, recently published their findings in the journal Neurology.
Health problems as a result of chemical exposure is something of a hot topic at present. Earlier this year, Medical News Today reported on a study associating low-level pesticide exposure with Parkinson’s disease. Other research found that food packaging chemicals may impact long-term health.
For this latest study, researchers wanted to see how certain solvents impacted the health of workers who were frequently exposed to them.
They analyzed 2,143 retirees from the French national utility company Electricite de France/Gaz de France (EDF-GDF) and assessed their lifetime exposure to:
- Benzene – used in plastics, rubber, dye, detergents and other synthetic materials
- Chlorinated solvents – used in dry cleaning products, engine cleaners, paint removers and degreasers, and
- Petroleum solvents – used in carpet glue, furniture polish, paint, paint thinner and varnish.
Researchers say that high exposure to certain solvents at work, such as paint and glue, may increase the risk of cognitive decline later in life.
They found that 26% of the participants were exposed to benzene, 33% were exposed to chlorinated solvents, 25% were exposed to petroleum solvents and the remaining 16% had no solvent exposure.
An average of 10 years following retirement and when participants were an average age of 66 years, they were required to take eight memory and thinking skills tests. The team found that 59% of participants had impairments on up to three of the eight tests, 23% had impairments on four or more tests and 18% had no impairments.
The researchers calculated each participant’s lifetime exposure to the solvents using company records. Subjects were then divided into three groups; no exposure, moderate exposure and high exposure.
Participants were also divided dependent on their last chemical exposure. Recent exposure was associated with those who had worked with the chemicals in the previous 12 to 30 years, while those who last worked with the chemicals 31 to 50 years previously were considered to have distant exposure.
High solvent exposure affects cognition ‘regardless of time interval’
Results of the study revealed that participants with high, recent exposure to solvents were most likely to have impairments in all areas of memory and thinking – even areas that are not usually linked with such exposure.
They found that those with high, recent exposure to chlorinated solvents, for example, were 65% more likely to have impaired scores on memory, visual attention and task switching, compared with those with no solvent exposure.
However, the team notes they were surprised to find that even individuals with high, distant exposure to solvents showed some cognitive impairments. Sabbath says:
“This suggests that time may not fully lessen the effect of solvent exposure on some memory and cognitive skills when lifetime exposure is high.”
She adds that the team’s findings could have ramifications for workplace policies regarding solvent exposure levels. Protecting workers from such exposure may not only protect their cognitive health, Sabbath notes, but it could also reduce post-retirement health care costs and allow them to work longer.
She adds that individuals who have already experienced prolonged exposure to solvents throughout their career may benefit from “regular cognitive screening to catch problems early, screening and treatment for heart problems that can affect cognitive health or mentally stimulating activities, like learning new skills.”
Medical News Today recently reported on a study from researchers at the University of Florida, which detailed the discovery of a drug that may reverse age-related cognitive decline.
April 2014 SDSpro Advisor Newsletter
By Jason Stahl
A representative of GMG Envirosafe warned attendees of the Collision Industry Conference held April 9-10 that OSHA is cracking down on body shops to ensure workers are protected from isocyanate exposure.
Brandon Thomas, chief operations officer of GMG, a company that offers OSHA, EPA and DOT compliance solutions, said a study done by OSHA’s counterpart in Britain found that painters in a body shop environment have 80 times the risk of occupational asthma from isocyanates than industrial workers. It’s precisely for that reason, Thomas said, that OSHA is targeting the collision industry more aggressively than others.
According to Thomas, OSHA has fined body shops $1.6 million over the last three years. OSHA’s enforcement division has increased inspections 25 percent over the last four years because, Thomas said, they have a bigger budget, and there is an average of 4.33 citations per inspection.
OSHA’s goal, Thomas said, is to eliminate isocyanate exposure altogether in two ways: engineering controls (spraybooth, mixing rooms, ventilation, gun washers, etc.) and administrative controls (personal protection equipment [PPE] training and processes).
What Are Isocyanates?
According to Thomas, isocyanates are highly reactive chemicals found mostly in clearcoats but also in some primers, sealers and basecoats that have been tied to respiratory disease in workers for the last 60 years. They are not currently known to cause cancer in humans, but Thomas said there are “potential links” and are known to cause cancer in animals.
“Isocyanates are powerful irritants to the respiratory tract and mucous membranes and can lead to long-term respiratory disease and chronic bronchitis,” said Thomas. “You will see symptoms such as allergies, rashes, itching, hives, convulsions and shortness of breath – and that’s known as isocyanate sensitization.”
Thomas said anyone who has fixed a car or painted a car previously or been around these chemicals for a long time may have isocyanate sensitization.
“Initially, the body develops an allergic reaction to these chemicals, but with repeated exposure, the threshold gets lower and lower,” he explained. “So before it might have taken a significant amount of exposure for a person to have a physical reaction, but 10 years later that person may not be able to walk into a shop anymore without having a severe bodily reaction.”
Isocyanate exposure can occur in two ways: a large dose hitting a person in a short amount of time via spills, spraying continuously without any respirator protection or – most common – low levels of exposure over a period of time. An example of this is a painter not changing out their respirator cartridges frequently enough and therefore breathing in a little dose of isocyanates every day until they change the cartridge.
Gun cleaning also subjects painters to high levels of exposure, too.
“Imagine a painter who has been spraying all day who goes to lunch, takes off his PPE, hangs his respirator in the mixing room or puts it in a bag, and goes to wash his gun with no PPE on,” Thomas said. “He is now handling that liquid paint that has uncured isocyanates.”
One thing that concerns OSHA, Thomas said, is that these chemicals cannot be washed off your skin or clothing.
“If you get something in your eye, you can go to the eye wash station,” said Thomas. “If you get isocyanates on your person, there is no good solution to eliminate this health hazard.”
One misconception Thomas hears about often from collision personnel is that having a downdraft booth eliminates their exposure to isocyanates.
“When the painter is spraying, they’re looking at the color coming out of the gun and onto the panel in front of them and thinking, ‘OK, the chemicals are mixed in with that paint, so as long as I don’t come out of the booth with paint all over me, the chemicals never actually enter my person,’” said Thomas.
But smoke tests his company conducted revealed that isocyanates do not get sucked up the booth exhaust immediately but actually linger and do not get cleared instantaneously.
Misconception No. 2, said Thomas, is that a half-faced respirator and supplied air and the booth all combine to protect painters from isocyanates because, with that protection, they can’t smell or taste anything. There are two problems with that logic, however, he said.
“If there was any issue, they’re likely not going to smell or taste anything (because isocyanates are odorless and tasteless). Second, those isocyanates circulating in that vortex can be absorbed through the bloodstream, so if it’s a hot day in Texas and you’re wearing jean shorts and a t-shirt and no protection on the top of your head or back of your neck, isocyanates can be absorbed at those points as well.”
Thomas explained how the OSHA inspections work. Each area office will pull any business that has an SIC code tied to collision repair that has one or more employee, put them in a spreadsheet, pull them at random and go knock on doors.
There will be an opening conference with the owner where they’ll ask to see their chemical inventory. After that, they’ll look at the hazard assessment that the business owner has conducted and what PPE, processes, training and documentation go along with that assessment.
Thomas said shops should be documenting injuries and occupational illnesses that have occurred over the last 12 months via OSHA 300 logs, keeping it on file for five years and posting it from Feb. 1 to April 30 in a common workplace area so employees can see it.
“If you don’t have one of these, that’s a serious citation,” Thomas said. “If you do have one and [OSHA] thinks there are unreported illnesses, they make look at employee medical records and interview employees themselves.”
Sample questions they might ask include:
• What PPE do you use when working? (Respirators, suits, gloves, eye protection, etc.) Not just when you’re in the booth but when you’re masking, buffing, mixing, cleaning guns, sanding primer, etc.?
• Do any of these symptoms (shown on a grid) occur when you’re working? “A person may say yes, I cough because I smoke, but they will ask, ‘Do these ever get better when you’re on vacation or at home?'” Thomas said.
After the interview and review of paperwork, they will look at the engineering and administrative controls of the shop – booth, mixing room, ventilation, equipment, air movement, PPE, processes, work operations, layout, etc. They’ll take a sample of the air to determine the isocyanate exposure level and how it compares to the threshold. They’ll also do wipe sampling on toolboxes, gloves and even forearms and hands. They will check out lockers, break rooms, bathrooms, offices, etc., because of the fact that isocyanates can’t be washed from clothing.
“An example is a painter who has sprayed all day without adequate protection who leaves the paint department, goes to the break room, opens the fridge, gets his lunch out, grabs the remote, puts on his favorite soap opera and puts his feet up on the table,” said Thomas. “Now we have other employees from other departments exposed.”
According to Thomas, if a shop is inspected, it’s subject to up to two years of follow-up inspections depending on how it performed.
“If the shop performs well, they might just get a hazard alert letter. The scrutiny will stop once the documentation of whatever corrective action has occurred verifies that workers are no longer exposed to isocyanates in the workplace.”
“Serious” citations include if the exposure is higher than the limit, if there are no engineering controls in place, improper personal hygiene and not using or misusing PPE.
The average cost of a serious citation is $5,000, Thomas said. And it’s not per event or per facility but per occurrence. For example, if you’re a large shop with four painters and OSHA sees them all spraying without protection, it’s a fine for each that is cumulative.
“Once they assess the fine, it’s a negotiation, and you may or may not pay that amount, but it’s not, ‘Oh, this one thing happened, here’s your penalty.’ It’s how many times did I see it, and how serious is it? And how many people aren’t following it?”
Some states have programs where shops with a certain number of employees can ask OSHA to come in and do a free audit and consultation. But even this, Thomas says, may not guarantee shops won’t run into trouble.
“There was a shop that participated in this program for 15 years, and every three years, the inspector would do a free audit and consultation and the shop never had any issues, But then that inspector retired and a new one came in and gave the shop a 30-day cease-and-desist order because they didn’t have sprinklers in their mixing room booths. They had to spend $40,000 to correct it so they wouldn’t be shut down. So every shop has to decide whether they want to invite that kind of scrutiny.”
March 2014 SDSpro Advisor Newsletter
Is a Product Safe if it Carries a California Proposition 65 Warning?
Proposition 65, the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, was enacted as a ballot initiative in November 1986. The Proposition was intended by its authors to protect California citizens and the State’s drinking water sources from chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm, and to inform citizens about exposures to such chemicals. The purpose of Proposition 65 is to notify consumers that they are being exposed to chemicals that are known to cause cancer and/or reproductive toxicity. Consumers can decide on their own if they want to purchase or use the product. A Proposition 65 warning does not necessarily mean a product is in violation of any product-safety standards or requirements. For additional information about the warning, contact the product manufacturer. This page includes links to the most recent postings related to Proposition 65 activities. Contact us today to learn how YOU can track CA Prop 65 warnings and other hazardous chemicals with SDSpro.
February 2014 SDSpro Advisor Newsletter
As chemical manufacturers, we have a strong interest in the safe storage of the products we make.
Last month’s chemical spill into West Virginia’s Elk River was a troubling incident that should have never occurred.
Based on media reports and testimony before Congress and the state legislature, it appears that several compliance and communication breakdowns contributed to the spill and the confusion that followed.
OUR VIEW: Huge gaps in oversight
It’s clear that to protect against and prepare for future incidents, we need clarity about what occurred, whether information sharing and inspection requirements were met, and what enforcement actions could have been taken.
Several legislative proposals have been introduced to increase the regulation of chemical storage. As chemical manufacturers, we have a strong interest in the safe storage of the products we make. That is why we fully support efforts to thoroughly investigate the incident, and to address any regulatory gaps that have been identified.
Although we might have questions about bills introduced recently in the state and in Congress, we hope to work with lawmakers to ensure that any new law does not create confusing or redundant programs that could hinder future oversight and response efforts, rather than improve them.
The Elk River incident appears to raise issues about storage operations, secondary containment and information sharing. The incident has also raised the profile of efforts to reform the overall regulation of chemicals. While important protections exist, there is widespread agreement that the primary law regulating industrial chemicals should be updated.
The Chemical Safety Improvement Act is pending in the Senate. It regulates chemical manufacturing and use, and will help ensure that more information on chemicals in commerce is available. As with any legislation in today’s Congress, it is a compromise, and a very good one with support from Republicans, Democrats, industry and organized labor.
The bill would go a long way toward addressing questions about chemical safety and giving consumers and public health officials more information and more confidence about chemicals in commerce. Congress should pass this measure for the people of West Virginia and for the country.
Cal Dooley is president and CEO of the American Chemistry Council.
End of January 2014 SDSpro Advisor Newsletter
Listening Sessions Seek Public Input on Chemical Safety (Source: OSHA QuickTakes)
As part of executive order 13650, Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security, the Department of Labor is partnering with the Department of Homeland Security, Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agencies to host a series of public listening sessions and webinars to solicit comments and suggestions from stakeholders to reduce safety and security risks in the production and storage of potentially harmful chemicals. More than seven hundred individuals have attended the sessions, which have been held in Texas City, Texas, Washington, D.C., Springfield, Ill., Orlando, Fla., and Sacramento and Los Angeles, Calif. On Jan. 14, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels chaired a listening session in Washington, D.C.
“These listening sessions are an important step in an ongoing dialogue between agencies, communities and stakeholders about how we can help make chemical facilities and our hometowns safer places,” Michaels said at the listening session. “One of our main goals in engaging stakeholders is to identify, develop, and put in place best practices. We strongly encourage you to provide us with comments on the options at this meeting and subsequent stakeholder meetings, and as written comments that can be submitted to the docket on the webpage.”
OSHA put out a request for information seeking public comment on potential revisions to its Process Safety Management standard and related standards, as well as other policy options to prevent major chemical incidents. The public will have until March 10, 2014 to submit written comments. For more information, visit the Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security Web page.
The next listening session is scheduled for 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Jan. 24, 2014, at the Harris County Department of Education’s Training and Conference Center, Room 502, 6300 Irvington Blvd., in Houston, Texas. To attend the public listening session or to make a comment or presentation, participants must register at www.govevents.com. For more information, see the Federal Register notice.
Early January 2014 SDSpro Advisor Newsletter
Announced at National Safety Council Congress & Expo Chicago – Yet again, Haz Com is second on the list of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s most-cited workplace safety violations. The top 10 OSHA violations for 2013 revealed a 45% increase in citations over the same list the year before. Although there are no surprises to which violations they are, the top 10 violations for 2013 totaled 42,502, which is 13,323 more than the 2012’s tally of 29,179.
Every regulation on the list received more violations for this past fiscal year, than in 2012.
The top four violations remained the same: construction’s Fall Protection regulation (1926.501) topped the list at 8,241 violations. Hazard Communication (1910.1200) was second with 6,156 violations, followed by Scaffolding for Construction (1926.451) with 5,423 and then Respiratory Protection (1910.134) with 3,879 violations.
After that, the General Industry regulation for Electrical Wiring (1910.305) moved into fifth place from eighth with 3,452 infractions, up from 1,744 in 2012. Powered Industrial Trucks (1910.178) moved up from seventh place to sixth with 3,340 offenses.
Citation for improper use of Ladders (1926.1053) fell from fifth place to seventh, but at 3,311, still accounted for 1,001 more than the 2012 tally of 2,310.
Lockout / Tagout (1910.147) 3,254 violations, and General Electrical (1910.303) 2,745 both moved eighth and ninth position respectfully, from the ninth and 10th place.
Machine Guarding (1910.212) rounds out the top 10, with 2,701 violations. In 2012 it was the sixth most common violations with 2,097.