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Author Archive: Matthew Kane

Keep Confined Spaces Safe With Air Ventilation Systems

air ventilation systemsBy definition, confined spaces come with a number of hazards, and one common hazard is air. If the air in a confined space is toxic, combustible or low in oxygen, it can be extremely dangerous.

Consequently, OSHA has standards, fact sheets and bulletins on the topic, including Procedures for Atmospheric Testing in Confined Spaces, Asphyxiation Hazard in Pits and Suffocation Hazards in Flat Storage Building and Tanks. OSHA standard 20 CFR 1910.146 applies to confined spaces and includes specifics on forced air ventilation.

Note also that OSHA recently issued its Final Rule on Confined Spaces in Construction (May 4, 2015). You can learn more about managing confined space hazards on our blog.

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Home and Emergency Thermostatic Mixing Valves: A Comparison

thermostatic mixing valvesIf you search for thermostatic mixing valves, you might be surprised at the huge divergence in price. While thermostatic mixing valves designed for emergency use are priced anywhere from $400 to $3000, you can pick up a thermostatic mixing valve for home use at any hardware store for around $100-$200. What gives?

What Are Thermostatic Mixing Valves?

Before we get into price, let’s review what a thermostatic mixing valve is. Whether used at home or with an emergency shower or eyewash station, thermostatic mixing valves serve the same purpose: to mix hot and cold water to make the output a comfortable temperature.

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Should You Choose Portable Eyewash Stations?

portable eyewash stationWe’ve written about eyewash stations before, specifically choosing the right eye wash station for your workplace and how to operate emergency eyewash stations.

In this blog post, we review the many reasons why you might choose portable instead of a plumbed unit (tied into your water supply) for your workplace.


Portability is an obvious benefit of portable eyewash stations. You can easily move them from place to place because they don’t require plumbing or drainage pipes.

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What Kind of Gas Detector Do You Need?

gas detectorIf you’re only familiar with home and office carbon monoxide (CO) detectors, you might be surprise at the wide variety and sophistication of gas detectors on the market. In this blog post, we’ll quickly review where gas detectors are typically deployed as well as some of the more popular options.

Does Your Workplace Need Gas Detectors?

Generally, gas detectors are used anyplace with potential gas hazards. This includes plants where hazardous vapors are produced, such as wastewater treatment plants. It also includes welding shops and other facilities where combustible gases could be present. Less obviously, it also includes confined spaces where gasses can accumulate.

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What Spill Control Products Does Your Workplace Need?

spill control productsIs there anything less exciting than spill control products? How much can you say about sorbent materials? Well, more than you’d expect, actually.

Today, spill control products are more sophisticated than ever. They’re much more than the oversized, oddly shaped cotton balls they appear to be.

In fact, spill control products are tailor made to absorb different kinds of spills. Understanding what kind of spill control product you’re using is important because choosing the wrong kind of spill clean up product can be dangerous.

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Think You Know FR Clothing? Think Again

FR clothingIf you think flame resistant (FR) clothing is by necessity thick, stiff and uncomfortable, think again. Today, innovations in fabric manufacturing has made FR clothes virtually indistinguishable from regular street clothes.

What is FR Clothing?

But before we get into how FR clothing has changed, let’s review what it is. Contrary to common belief, FR clothing isn’t flame proof. You can’t, for example, put on FR clothing and expect to emerge unscathed from a fire.

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Bloodborne Pathogens at Work: Are You at Risk?

bloodborne pathogens at workBloodborne pathogens are a risk in many professions, some expected (e.g. doctors, nurses) and some not (e.g. janitorial staff). In this blog post, we’ll look at bloodborne pathogen exposure risks in different professions and provide links to additional resources.

What are Bloodborne Pathogens?

Bloodborne pathogens are infectious microorganisms found in human blood. Common pathogens include hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV. Pathogens are transmitted when blood or body fluids from an infected person come into contact with another person through eyes, nose, mouth or broken skin.

Healthcare Workers and Hospitals

As you might expect, those employed in patient care, such as doctors, nurses and paramedics, are at risk of exposure to bloodborne pathogens. Here, the greatest risk of exposure is from accidental pokes or cuts from needles or other sharp instruments. For example, if a healthcare worker administers a needle to an infected patient, then accidentally pokes him- or herself, the pathogen can transfer. That’s why hospitals and other healthcare facilities have detailed procedures for safe handling of sharps. (For more on this, see the CDC’s Sharps Safety for Healthcare Settings and the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act.)

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Who Pays for PPE?

PPEMost of us know employers are responsible for ensuring their employees use personal protective equipment (PPE). But did you know employers are also responsible for providing PPE at no cost when it’s required under an OSHA standard?

Final Rule of Employer Payment for Personal Protective Equipment

The “employer pays” Final Rule has been in place since May 15, 2008. The Rule makes explicit what was already implied in many OSHA standards: employers have to cover the costs of PPE. This includes common items such as:

  1. Goggles
  2. Hard hats
  3. Chemical resistant gloves/aprons/clothing
  4. Respiratory protection
  5. Fall protection
  6. Reflective work vests
  7. Fire fighting PPE
  8. Welding PPE.

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A Lockout/Tagout Equipment Primer

lockout/tagoutYou probably already know the basics of logout/tagout procedures and purposes. (If not, see the OSHA page Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout) and the 2008 OH&S Online article, Lockout Basics.)

As suggested in the OH&S Online article, lockout and tagout equipment occasionally undergoes design improvements. If your lockout/tagout equipment has never gone beyond keys and padlocks, you might be surprised at the variety of lockout/tagout equipment on the market.

To that end, here’s a quick primer:

  • Padlocks. The classic lock and key set we all know. Still used to lockout industrial machinery and secure high school lockers.
  • Plug lockouts. Ever tried to apply a common padlock to a power cord plug? It doesn’t work so well. What you need is a plug lockout. A plug lockout encompasses the electrical plug in a plastic cover that can only be removed with a key. They come in a variety of sizes and shapes to fit different plugs.

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Stone Countertops and Silica Dust Hazards

silica dust hazardsWhen you chop vegetables on your beautiful stone kitchen countertop, the last thing you think about is silica dust.

Yet, silica dust hazards are real for masons who craft natural or engineered stone countertops. In fact, OSHA and NIOSH recently released a Hazard Alert on worker exposure to silica during countertop manufacturing, finishing and installation.

What is Silica Dust?

To understand the hazard, you need to understand silica. Silica is a mineral often found in quartz, sandstone and other rocks. Silica dust is created when silica is manipulated in a way that generates fine particles or dust that can be inhaled.

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