2017 Fall Safety Conference
September 21, 2017 IBEW Safety Caucus
Dave Mullen, IBEW International Safety Director gave his report. There is a new award to be given for members of the community who are not IBEW members saving the life of an IBEW member. OSHA is partnering with IBEW to come up with a training program to help IBEW members working in telecommunications who may be exposed to radio frequency near towers. RF can be very powerful and cause internal damage, similar to how microwaves cook food. Loren Sweatt is the new OSHA deputy assistant. Mullen reported that OSHA is still understaffed. Department of Labor is forming a taskforce to expand apprenticeship programs. National Safety Council is trying to reach out to other trades to have them participate in the labor division. VPP (voluntary protection program) bill was proposed in May. VPP uses best practices instead of minimum requirements. There are about 700 local unions around the country that are part of jobsites that participate in a VPP. The bill is trying to make VPP a permanent part of the workplace safety picture under OSHA. Another issue Dave spoke about was distracted driving. There is talk among safety professionals of trying to introduce a new standard but are reluctant to do so because two would have to be removed according to Trump’s 1 in, 2 out rule.
There is a new IBEW initiative called SPARQ. It stands for safety, professionalism, accountability, relationships, and quality. SPARQ will have a quarterly newsletter sent out to the locals.
Confined spaces was discussed at length. Cyanide gas a problem where insulation from wire has burned and can fill confined space. Most monitors do not test for cyanide gas and due to conduit systems, the fire can be far away and the gas can travel a tremendous distance to affect workers that may not have known about the fire to begin with.
Dave Mullen is creating a template on how to set up a joint labor/management safety committee. He also mentioned that filling out form 173 is required according to the constitution. This is an accident reporting form and is only used to collect data and to see what trends are happening in the field.
Chris Cain works for center for construction research and training and he will be spearheading the training program for RF. There are free training resources online on CPWR’s website that anyone can use. There is a big push for more training for new apprentices and younger generation entering the trade. We represent 5% of the country’s workforce but 21% of the fatalities from opioid overdoses. Due to the musculoskeletal problems construction workers face, we are seeing an epidemic with how many people are dying from misuse of painkillers.
There is a new website called stopconstructionfalls.com and has data tracking for all reported construction fatalities related to falls. There is also a new course elective for OSHA 30 called foundations for safety leadership and it is a 2.5 hour elective course. An estimated 70% of safety professionals are expected to retire in the next 10 years and there will be a demand for future leaders in the safety industry.
There is a program called Easy Power Software where you can build a virtual model of an electrical system with all the interrupting ratings and simulate a fault to see which device will open and whether or not it will open fast enough.
Ken Morris taught a LOTO class. He mentioned that a lot of powerhouses only have tags, no locks. Also, he mentioned to block fan blades as part of lock out because if wind blows and fan blades start to turn, it generates electricity which presents a shock hazard. If a company has a LOTO program in place, that does not meet they don’t have to use NFPA 70e.
Dave Mullen reported that OSHA citations are down. There were 469 proposed regulations that have been withdrawn and 391 proposed regulations have been tabled long term. The update to the hazard communication standard is one of these. Also, the silica standard has been delayed another 30 days and is scheduled to go into effect October 22, 2017. This is the 2nd time this standard has been delayed.
OSHA has eliminated the walk around rule. This rule allowed a non-union employee to seek assistance from a union employee during a walk around inspection. Union members are usually better educated in the hazards and were sought out during an OSHA inspection to bring up issues that the non-union employee was not aware of.
There have been changes to the new silica standard. The permissible exposure limit was cut in half, and the contractor is required to provide the employee with a medical exam every 30 days if he is wearing a respirator every day. A brother mentioned that PVC glue has silica in it. There was also talk about Beryllium and we may see a standard proposed about the hazards of Beryllium in the workplace.
Green Beans and Ice cream
Management behavior kills more pound for pound. Most companies are reactive instead of proactive. Zero at risk behavior is better than zero injuries. Activators like signs in the workplace play no role in preventing injuries. Consequences drive behavior, not activators.
OSHA has addressed the safety incentive programs employers have for employees. OSHA’s rule states that an employer cannot take adverse action against an employee for reporting a workplace injury. Taking an employee’s safety points away for reporting an injury is adverse action and will now be punishable if the employee files a complaint.
Pain meds and Marijuana
Substance abusers are 5 times more likely to take off work and if they’re misusing opioids, they miss an average of 29 days a year. They also have much higher medical costs. 35% of accidents are caused by a substance abuser. 50% of workman’s comp claims are due to substance abuse. 41,000 people a day take a prescription that was not for them. 80% of heroin addicts started with painkillers. 10% of all employed people in the country have an opioid abuse disorder. 2 biggest contributors to opiate abuse are sports injuries and workplace injuries. If an employee tests positive contractor can fire or provide counseling and have a rehab agreement.
More than half the states have legalized marijuana. Company policy will comply with federal law. A company can choose to allow medical marijuana. Post accident testing has to be reasonable. If an employee gets hurt on Thursday and waits until Monday to report it, company should not drug test. However, the courts have ruled with the employer in every case of wrongful termination except for one in Connecticut. Medical marijuana is not given by a pharmacy, but a dispensary, so even if an employee is working in a state where it’s legal for medicinal use, the contractor can still terminate an employee if they have a medical marijuana card.
NFPA 70E changes
Before starting each job a qualified electrical person shall fill out a job safety analysis form. There are also changes regarding a human error concept. 54% of arc flash incidents are the fault of the electrician. Under the risks assessment procedure, the risk assessment shall take into consideration for human error and its negative consequences on people, processes, the work environment, and condition of equipment. The safety program also has to include the condition of equipment.