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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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Protecting Your Skin From Hazardous Chemicals in the Workplace

skin protection from hazardous chemicalsMany workers are exposed to hazardous chemicals in the course of their work. While you might expect chemical exposure in some industries (such as agriculture, manufacturing and construction), hazardous chemicals are also often unexpectedly present in other workplaces, such as salons and funeral homes.

Wherever you’re exposed to hazardous chemicals—whether pouring concrete or coloring hair­—it’s important to protect yourself. Hazardous chemicals can enter your body in a variety of ways, but perhaps the most common is the skin.

Normally, the skin keeps bad elements (e.g. harmful bacteria and dirt) from entering the body and good elements (e.g. water) from leaving. When skin is damaged, its ability to perform these roles is compromised and, consequently, can lead to damage at the site of contact and elsewhere in the body.

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Why Your Funeral Home Needs an Eye Wash Station and Emergency Shower

eyewash station and emergency showerFor many funeral home operators and morticians, caring for the deceased and their families is a labor of love. With their skills, they help families come to terms with the passing of a loved one and ensure the dignity of the deceased.

While working in a funeral home or mortuary has many challenges, it also has some hazards. In fact, many funeral home operators and morticians are regularly exposed to toxic chemicals, especially formaldehyde, in the course of performing their duties.

What is Formaldehyde?

Formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable, odorous chemical. It’s used in building products and household items, including some adhesives, coatings, pressed-wood products and insulation. It’s valued for its properties as a fungicide, germicide, disinfectant and preservative.

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Why You Should Take OSHA Authorized Online Training

online OSHA trainingWorkplaces accidents are costly—not only in terms of injuries, illnesses and lives lost—but also property damage, legal liability, worker compensation claims and time off work. In fact, the Center for Construction Research and Training estimates that if we could reduce workplace injuries by just two percent a year, the savings would be $336 million!

As it happens, one of the best ways to reduce the rate of workplace injuries is safety training.

OSHA Authorized Training

Of the many workplace safety training programs available, it makes sense to choose OSHA authorized training if your industry is subject to OSHA regulations (and most are). After all, you don’t want to learn a work practice that might be okay overseas but is not acceptable here.

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The Cost of OSHA Financial Penalties

financial penalties OSHASafety for it’s own sake should be a strong enough reason for safety compliance. But sometimes taking a look at the many financial penalties OSHA can assess also helps. Here are just a few:

  • Serious violation: A violation with substantial probability of death or serious physical harm: $1,500 to $7,000.
  • Willful violation: $5,000 to $70,000. Some of these fines can multiply rapidly. For example, if OSHA finds that violations are “egregious,” they can apply a penalty to every violation found or every employee exposed to the hazard.
  • Willful death conviction: Conviction in court of willful violation leading to death of employee: $250,000 for individuals; $500,000 for corporations, plus six months imprisonment.
  • Failure to correct a prior violation: $7,000 for every day past the abatement deadline.

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What Should You Put in Your First Aid Kit?

first aid kitOSHA requires employers to provide “adequate” first aid supplies for their employees. While OSHA doesn’t define what “adequate” is, many employers use ANSI first aid kit standards as a guide.

ANSI First Aid Kits

ANSI standard Z308.1-2014 lists first aid supplies for two types of first aid kits: Class A for common workplaces and Class B for more complex or higher risk environments. Kits are further divided into different types based on other factors, such as indoor or outdoor use.

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Real Life Workplace Injury and Injury Prevention Stories

workplace injuryIt can happen in an instant. A young worker gets entangled in a mortar mixer. A farm worker is thrown from a truck. A construction worker falls from second floor scaffolding. Sadly, all of these accidents could have been prevented through the implementation of better safety procedures and use of safety equipment.

Sometimes it’s hard to change an “it won’t happen to me” attitude. Training, reminders and enforcement penalties are important, but sometimes, real life examples of workplace accidents do more to convince workers to comply with safety regulations.

In this blog post, we’ve assembled a few sources of real life workplace injury stories. These stories—heartbreaking when an injury occurs; inspiring when an injury is prevented—serve to remind us of the continued importance of workplace safety.

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