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New Booklet Helps Employers Set Up Safe Driving Programs

OSHA has published a set of guidelines to help employers reduce accidents among their driving employees.

The document is not a set of new regulations or a new standard. It is only advisory ― the federal agency describes it as “informational in content” ― and is intended to assist employers in providing a safe and healthful workplace.”

Nonetheless, the guidelines are an excellent way to establish a system that can reduce the likelihood of crashes involving your driving workers.

OSHA recommends implementing a safe driving program that includes the following:

Management commitment and employee involvement

Senior management can provide leadership, set policies and allocate resources (staff and budget) to create a safety culture. Actively encourage employee participation and involvement at all levels of the organization to help the effort to succeed. Involve workers in the planning phase of the policy.

Written policies

Create a clear, comprehensive and enforceable set of traffic safety policies and communicate them to all employees. They can cover such things as:

  • A zero-tolerance policy for using smartphones while driving and only using hands-free technology when talking on the phone.
  • A zero-tolerance policy of driving under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs.
  • Requiring all driving staff to wear seat belts at all times.

These policies should be posted throughout the workplace, distributed to staff and discussed at company meetings. Offer incentives for sticking to the rules, and set consequences for disregarding them.

Driver agreements

Establish a contract with all employees who drive for work purposes, whether they drive assigned company vehicles or use their personal vehicles. By signing an agreement, the employee acknowledges awareness and understanding of the organization’s traffic safety policies, procedures and expectations regarding driver performance, vehicle maintenance and reporting of moving violations.

Check driving records

Check the driving records of all employees who drive for work purposes. Screen out drivers who have poor records. Review their moving violation records periodically to ensure that the driver maintains a good driving record. Clearly define the number of violations an employee/driver can have before losing the privilege of driving for work.

Crash reporting

Establish and enforce a crash reporting and investigation process. Require employees to report all accidents to their supervisor as soon as feasible after the incident. Set policies for what driving employees should do after an accident. Also, investigate all crashes and try to identify their root causes, so you can possibly help workers avoid making the same mistakes in the future.

Vehicle maintenance and inspection

Selecting, properly maintaining and routinely inspecting company vehicles is an important part of preventing crashes and related losses.

Review the safety features of all vehicles to be considered for use. Conduct routine preventative maintenance on vehicles as per manufacturer’s recommendations. Also check safety-related equipment and brakes regularly.

Disciplinary action system

Set rules for dealing with employees who are cited for a moving violation or are involved in a preventable crash while driving on the job. Options include:

  • Assigning points for moving violations.
  • Progressive discipline if a driver begins to develop a pattern of repeated traffic violations and/or preventable crashes.
  • The system should describe what specific actions will be taken if a driver accumulates a certain number of violations or preventable crashes in any predefined period.

Reward/incentive program

Develop and implement a driver reward/incentive program that includes recognition, monetary rewards, special privileges or the use of incentives to motivate the achievement of a predetermined goal or to increase participation in a program or event.

Driver training and communication

Provide continuous driver safety training and communication. Even experienced drivers benefit from periodic training and reminders of safe driving practices and skills. It is easy to become complacent and not think about the consequences of our driving habits.


Lockout/Tagout Training Essential in Any Shop with Equipment

A printing shop employee notices a piece of cardboard jammed inside a press. The first instinct is to remove it and continue the work, so he grabs the cardboard and tries to pull it out, while the press is running.

Tragically, in this real-life example, the employee’s arm got caught up in the machinery, resulting in a gruesome injury that resulted in him losing part of the limb.

By following proper lockout/tagout procedures, this employee would not have reached for the cardboard without first powering down the machinery. Unfortunately though, he had never been trained in such procedures.

What your employees need to know

Under lockout/tagout regulations, only authorized employees who have the appropriate level of knowledge and training can perform maintenance on equipment. Those that operate the equipment may not perform maintenance but are allowed to shut the machine down and place a tag on it to warn co-workers that the equipment should not be used.

Tagging the equipment is an important step because if co-workers don’t know why a conveyor belt or other piece of heavy machinery was shut down, there’s a risk one of them might start it back up not knowing there’s a problem or that someone’s performing maintenance.

What your employees need to do

Your employees serve as extra sets of eyes and ears at the workplace. They can listen for strange sounds that might indicate a machine is not working properly. They can also inspect the equipment throughout the day looking for frayed cords, jams or any other physical signs that could lead to trouble.

When a malfunction occurs or something is jammed inside a machine, the first step should be to shut it down and disconnect the power source, if possible. Next, the worker should tag the machine (tagout) and notify their supervisor, who contacts an authorized repair person.

A padlock or other locking device (lockout) is then used to further secure the machine and prevent anyone from starting it up without authorization. After that, repairs can commence.

What to tackle at your safety meetings

To prevent serious injuries, your team should be well-versed in lockout/tagout procedures, which they should learn in safety meetings. Here are some tips:

  • Make sure your team knows who is authorized to perform repairs. No matter how easy a repair or fix seems, it’s not worth the risk of injury like the one suffered in the printing machine mentioned above.
  • Train them on how to shut down equipment and disconnect the power source.
  • Train them in where the tags can be found to place on malfunctioning equipment.
  • Train them in the protocol for notifying a supervisor of any jam or malfunction.

Also, make sure to ask your workers the following to ensure they understand:

  • Do you have any questions about lockout/tagout procedures in this shop?
  • Are there times when you aren’t sure when to utilize lockout/tagout procedures?
  • How can we make sure that everyone is following our lockout/tagout procedures?

The Difficulty of Dealing with Workers with Substance Abuse Problems

With the opioid epidemic continuing to sweep the nation, more and more workers are battling addiction than ever before.

But if you as an employer suspect or know one of your staff has a substance abuse problem, you need to be careful about how you approach them and try to deal with the issue.

Even if many employees can keep their addictions under wraps in the workplace, not all of them can. According to a survey conducted by the website drugabuse.com, which offers educational content and recovery resources to people dealing with addiction:

  • 23% of workers surveyed said they had used drugs or alcohol on the job.
  • 60% said they had used alcohol on the job work (not including office parties or functions).
  • 23% said they’d smoked marijuana on the job.

On top of that, 75% of U.S. employers say they’ve been affected in some way by an employee’s substance abuse. That can include:

  • Employee theft to support the habit.
  • Mistakes that cost the company money and lost business.
  • Workplace accidents.
  • Accidents that injure third parties.
  • Reduced productivity because of presenteeism.

While you can have policies in place that bar employees from working under the influence – under threat of firing – it’s a trickier matter if one of them comes to you to tell you they have a problem.

The Americans with Disabilities Act protects workers who:

  • Have successfully completed a rehab program and have stopped taking the drug that caused them to enter the substance abuse program,
  • Who are currently in a rehab program, or
  • Who have been wrongly accused of having a substance abuse problem.

It’s also a challenge for employers to know the difference between an employee who may have been taking one Vicodin every day for years for pain but continues to do a great job, or someone who needs treatment. Taking the wrong action can set you up for being sued, and it’s hard to win a case if the employee is taking medication as prescribed by a physician.

What you can do

There are ways that employers can legally find out if employees are taking opioids. You can set a policy that requires employees to disclose if they are taking prescription medications that may cause impairment or come with warnings about drowsiness.

This is legal under Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regulations as long as the policy is companywide.

But if you think you have a worker on staff who has a substance abuse problem, you need to go through an interactive process as prescribed by the ADA.

Steps under the interactive process start with talking to a worker you think has a substance abuse problem or is taking medication that could create a safety risk, to see if there is some way you can accommodate them. That could include:

  • Restructuring their job.
  • Offering a leave of absence to let them get treatment.
  • Modifying their schedule so they don’t have to work after they have taken their medication.
  • Reassigning them to a vacant position that will not put them or others at risk.

If you have an employee who has been on leave to get treatment for their substance abuse, you can ask them to take a fitness-for-duty exam to make sure they are up for resuming their old job.


Make Sure Your Safety Equipment Fits Women on Your Team

Perhaps you remember the embarrassing scenario for NASA in early 2019, when the space agency was forced to cancel its first-ever all-woman spacewalk because they didn’t have two suits on the International Space Station that fit them. While most people were shocked, women in professions that require them to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) know the challenges they face in getting equipment that fits properly. The problem has really come to the fore as more and more women enter professions that have traditionally been jobs that men gravitate towards. For example, nearly 10% of construction jobs in the U.S. are now held by women. It’s not uncommon for women in those types of work to have to use equipment that is made for men, forcing them to don overalls, gloves, vests, footwear and more that are too large,If you have jobs that require specialized protective equipment, now is the time to also make sure that you have items in smaller sizes if you have women on your team. It may not always be easy to find everything in smaller sizes. It’s usually not too difficult to find protective shoes in women’s sizes, but coveralls and tools for smaller hands are rare. Getting the right fit for your workers is imperative because loose-fitting items can lead to accidents that cause injuries or worse, especially if loose coveralls get caught in machinery. Items that you should consider having in smaller sizes include:

  • Safety glasses
  • Hard hats
  • Protective shoes
  • Coveralls
  • Safety harnesses
  • Safety gloves
  • Ear plugs

You should also not ask your female workers to take shortcuts, like rolling up sleeves or pantlegs that are too long. If they are rolled up, they’re not providing protection to parts of the arms and legs, experts say. And it’s not just women who are small. Clearly, many men are also smaller than average, and they often have the same issues with ill-fitting protective equipment as women do. The problem is that most employers that buy protective equipment for workers order it in bulk, and they will usually opt for large or extra-large sizes.

Apply standards uniformly

If you have women in your workforce, you should apply the same standards to their PPE as you do for men. To make sure that you have equipment that fits all of your workers:

  • First, talk to your employees and ask them to give honest assessments of how the PPE they have been issued fits.
  • Don’t ask women to wear equipment that is too large. It can create a safety hazard and may not protect them properly.
  • Don’t alter equipment yourself. Safety equipment is manufactured to provide safety if it fits properly. Altering the equipment can make it unsafe and noncompliant with safety standards.
  • Don’t criticize, ignore or retaliate against employees who report ill-fitting PPE.
  • When selecting safety equipment, consult with your employees to make sure you order items that will fit them.
  • Provide the same range of sizes for women as for men and ensure that suppliers have properly assessed the appropriateness of their equipment to women and men.
  • Require your workers to try on different sizes of equipment before choosing the ones that fit best.

Protecting Your Workers in the Rain

Employees working in the rain face specific hazards, such as poor visibility and wet, slippery surfaces.

When it’s wet and windy, potential hazards at a worksite can be exacerbated. Working in the rain can cause slippery surfaces and limited visibility. It’s also riskier to use heavy equipment in the rain, particularly when moving heavy loads, putting workers on the ground – and even the public – in danger.

However, steps can be taken to mitigate such hazards.

It’s imperative that you as an employer ensure your employees’ safety, especially during this heavy year for rain. When working in the rain, train your employees to:

  • Move cautiously – While workers may be tempted to move fast in the rain to avoid getting wet, this can be dangerous, especially on slippery surfaces. If anything, they should work more slowly and deliberately in all of their tasks.
  • Use the correct equipment – If workers must use electrical tools or equipment, they need to check that they are specifically rated for outdoors. Also, the tools should have textured, no-slip grips and handles.
  • Don proper footwear – Workers should wear footwear with heavy treads that can reduce the chances of slipping.
  • Remember rain gear – Proper rain gear includes rain pants and a raincoat. The best clothing is ventilated to help your workers stay comfortable. If it’s cold and rainy, they should also wear wool or synthetic materials that can stay warm even when wet.
  • Wear non-slip gloves – Workers should wear gloves that provide a sticky grip even when wet. Gloves should be snug and long enough for a jacket sleeve to prevent water from entering.
  • Keep vision clear – Workers who wear glasses (if they must wear goggles for certain jobs) should apply anti-fog spray to them. It’s also advisable to wear a hat to keep rain from their eyes. They shouldn’t use headgear that narrows their field of vision.
  • Work in proper lighting – When working at night, workers should make sure lighting is adequate and the lights used are rated for outdoor use.
  • Ensure visibility – When it’s raining, visibility decreases and it’s easy for motorists and machine operators to have trouble seeing properly. Workers should wear high-visibility clothing, especially in areas with vehicle traffic and heavy machinery. Don’t wear rain gear or vests that have become dull or are no longer reflective.

Cold stress

When it rains, it’s often cold, too – and wet clothing can exacerbate the cold.

Employees working outdoors for prolonged periods of time when it’s cold must be protected from cold stress. Cold stress can cause frostbite, hypothermia and trench foot.

OSHA advises that cold stress is not limited to freezing temperatures, but can occur in outdoor temperatures in the 50-degree Fahrenheit range when rain and wind are present.

OSHA requires addressing this hazard by using protective clothing, in particular the use of layers with an outer material that protects against wind and rain. Although OSHA generally requires employers to pay for their workers’ protective equipment, employers are not required to pay for ordinary clothing such as raincoats.

Heavy-work dangers

Rain makes operating cranes, derricks and hoists more dangerous as well, particularly when moving large and heavy objects. Heavy rain combined with wind speed can make loads difficult to control.

Also, if a rainstorm is accompanied by lightning, equipment such as a crane can become a lightning rod.

If you feel you cannot adequately protect your workers during a storm, you should not conduct operations in the rain.


OSHA Stays Serious About Temp Worker Safety

While the Trump administration has eased off a number of regulations and enforcement actions during the past two years, Fed-OSHA continues focusing on the safety of temporary workers as much as it did under the Obama presidency.

This puts the onus not only on the agencies that provide the temp workers, but also on the companies that contract with them for the workers.

As evidence of its continued focus on temp workers, OSHA recently released guidance on lockout/tagout training requirements for temporary workers. This was the third guidance document released in 2018 and the 10th in recent years that was specific to temp workers.

One reason OSHA is so keen on continuing to police employers that use temporary workers, as well as the staffing agencies that supply them, is that temp workers are often given some of the worst jobs and possibly fall through the safety training cracks.

OSHA launched the Temporary Worker Initiative in 2013. It generally considers the staffing agency and host employer to be joint employers for the sake of providing workers a safe workplace that meets all of OSHA’s requirements, according to a memorandum by the agency’s office in 2014 to its field officers.

That same memo included the agency’s plans to publish more enforcement and compliance guidance, which it has released steadily since then.

Some of the topics of the temp worker guidance OSHA has released since the 2014 memorandum include:

  • Injury and illness record-keeping requirements
  • Noise exposure and hearing conservation
  • Personal protective equipment
  • Whistleblower protection rights
  • Safety and health training
  • Hazard communication
  • Bloodborne pathogens
  • Powered industrial truck training
  • Respiratory protection
  • Lockout/tagout

Joint responsibility

OSHA started the initiative due to concerns that some employers were using temporary workers as a way to avoid meeting obligations to comply with OSHA regulations and worker protection laws, and because temporary workers are more vulnerable to workplace safety and health hazards and retaliation than workers in traditional employment relationships.

With both the temp agency and the host employer responsible for workplace safety, there has to be a level of trust between the two. Temp agencies should come and do some type of assessment to ensure the employer meets OSHA standards, and the host employer has to provide a safe workplace.

Both host employers and staffing agencies have roles in complying with workplace health and safety requirements, and they share responsibility for ensuring worker safety and health.

A key concept is that each employer should consider the hazards it is in a position to prevent and correct, and in a position to comply with OSHA standards. For example: staffing agencies might provide general safety and health training, and host employers provide specific training tailored to the particular workplace equipment/hazards.

Successful joint employer relationship traits

  • The key is communication between the temp agency and the host to ensure that the necessary protections are provided.
  • Staffing agencies have a duty to inquire into the conditions of their workers’ assigned workplaces. They must ensure that they are sending workers to a safe workplace.
  • Ignorance of hazards is not an excuse.
  • Staffing agencies need not become experts on specific workplace hazards, but they should determine what conditions exist at the host employer, what hazards may be encountered, and how best to ensure protection for the temporary workers.
  • The staffing agency has the duty to inquire and verify that the host has fulfilled its responsibilities for a safe workplace.
  • And, just as important, host employers must treat temporary workers like any other workers in terms of training and safety and health protections.

For a look at all 10 of the guidance documents OSHA has issued in the last few years, visit the agency’s temp worker page: www.osha.gov/temp_workers/


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