Archive

Archive for July, 2010

Jul
30

This week, OSHA released its final rule on cranes and derricks in construction.  There are some fall protection provisions in the rule, but there’s more focus on inspection, operator certification and electrical hazards.  Significantly, one part of the rule shows how outdated OSHA’s construction standards still remain.  It adds a new section 1926.6, listing voluntary standards incorporated by reference in the OSHA construction standards.  The includes references to ANSI Z87.1-1968 for eye and face protection (the current version is 2010), ANSI Z89.1-1969 for head protection (current version is 2009) and ANSI Z89.2-1971 for “protective helmets for electrical workers,” which hasn’t existed since the electrical protective requirements were added to Z89.1 in 1981. 

OSHA has done a better job updating references to these consensus standards in its general industry regs.  Last year it revised the PPE standards at 29 CFR 1910.132 to incorporate the last three editions of consensus standards for safety eyewear, hard hats and safety footwear.  Similar revisions were made to PPE standards for shipyards (part 1915), marine terminals (part 1917) and longshoring (part 1918).  Most significantly, the agency declared in its Federal Register notice that it will streamline the process for making future revisions, using direct-final rules or other appropriate methods to add a new standards and delete outdated editions.  

This process may seem cumbersome, and people frequently ask why OSHA can’t just accept the latest edition of any voluntary standard that it incorporates by reference.  Good idea, but it can’t be done.  Because consensus standards are developed outside of government, accepting the latest edition, without going through a notice-and-comment relemaking, would be delegating rulemaking authority to a non-government body. 

ISEA is working with OSHA now to incorporate references to the current editions of the head protection (ANSI/ISEA Z89.1-2009) and eye and face protection (ANSI/ISEA Z87.1-2010) standards.  While we’re at it, we will continue to press the agency to take similar steps to bring its construction standards up to date.  Find more information on these standards on ISEA’s Web site.

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Jul
09

The name’s been around for a while.  Safety Signals is the name of several generations of ISEA newsletters – print, fax, e-mail and now online. 

The new form is a blog, but the purpose is the same: to provide up-to-date news and information about the personal protective equipment industry and marketplace, product technologies and standards, regulations and legislation that affect this industry and are affected by our efforts, and the association that serves the companies that make and sell equipment that protects workers.

Our pledge is to keep our posts current, informative and readable.  You can also be part of the conversation, by posting comments and observations.

A few points at the start.  ISEA, for those of you who don’t know, is the trade association for manufacturers of personal protective equipment (PPE).  We’ve been around for 76 years, and our members are global companies making and selling clothing and equipment worn and used by workers for protection on the job. 

Our specialties are developing voluntary consensus product standards, interacting with Congress and government agencies on product-related issues, and keeping information flowing about PPE technologies and markets.  You can find more information about the association on our Web site – just follow the Home Page link at the top of the page. 

There are also some direct links on the right, to take you to the ISEA buyers guide, calendar of meetings and events, and the online store where you can purchase ISEA standards publications.  You can also check out our online employment board and the Qualified Safety Sales Professional training course.

This is a new venture for us, and we’ll probably be in a learning curve for a while.  But we will try to make it a valuable resource for everyone involved in the important mission of keeping people safe and healthy at work.  We welcome your comments.

Jul
08

ISEA has joined with a group of public health organizations urging Congress and the Administration not to divert funding for pandemic flu preparation to meet other budget demands.  Congress requires that new spending be balanced by recissions from other programs, and there’s $2 billion that’s been appropriated for pandemic preparation but not spent.  Those dollars were among the funds listed as available to offset spending in the 2010 Supplemental Appropriations Act, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, funds for the Gulf cleanup, and other programs.

The problem, of course, is that this really isn’t extra money.  Up-front funding is essential to plan and prepare for a pandemic, including development of new vaccine production capacity and replenishing stockpiles of antivirals and PPE that were drawn down during the H1N1 flu outbreak.  Failure to prepare, by depleting contingency funding, could seriously affect the country’s ability to manage the next flu outbreak.

Fourteen organizations, coming together as the “Working Group on Pandemic Influenza Preparedness,” signed the letters.  They were sent to the chairman and ranking minority member of the House Appropriations Committee, the Secretary of HHS and the Director of OMB.

The House passed the supplemental appropriations bill on July 1, before adjourning for the July 4 recess.  Members of Congress and Administration officials are loudly trumpeting the survival of programs important to their constutiencies.  But there is also a noisy chorus of dissent over the level of increased funding in the measure, and it won’t die down any time soon.

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Jul
08

Pressure is building on BP, OSHA and others coordinating the Gulf oil cleanup to supply workers with respirators.  OSHA maintains that respiratory protection is needed only where air monitoring shows a hazard, and only for certain types of work.  But now there’s a collection of environmental and activist groups gathering support for a simple message:  “Tell President Obama to demand that BP stop blocking clean-up workers from using life-saving respirators.” 

It isn’t clear whether there are any industrial hygienists in the “BP Makes Me Sick Coalition,” but that may not  matter as the political pressure builds.  The coalition’s website is collecting online signatures, and citing persistent respiratory problems among workers from the World Trade Center pile as a reason to take action.   Their goal is to force the government to make BP allow any worker who wants to wear a respirator to do so, and provide the proper equipment and training. 

The NIOSH/OSHA guidance document sets a higher standard for use of respiratory protection: 

  • A decision to use respiratory protection should be based on the best available qualitative information using the expert opinion method and on the best available comprehensive quantitative information about the type and level of exposure to toxic chemical and physical agents by the inhalational route.

Under OSHA regulations, an employer may allow voluntary use of respirators even when there is no airborne hazard identified, as long as the respirator use itself doesn’t create a hazard.  Given the large number of workers involved in the cleanup and the uncertainty about their training and medical condition, BP’s caution in insisting on by-the-book respiratory protection is understandable, but may not be sustainable in a highly charged media and political environment.

No respiratory health issues are listed in the NIOSH analysis of BP injury and illness data from April 23- June 6.  These reports show predictable incidents:  cuts and abrasions to the hand and fingers lead the injury tally, and heat stress is identified as the main health problem. 

Suppliers of respiratory protection understand the need for medical monitoring, training and individual fit testing, as well as selection of the proper respirator for the hazard.  Anyone providing respirators to workers needs to make sure they’re getting them from sources that can supply this technical assistance.  The ISEA Buyers Guide is an excellent source for manufacturer contacts.  In addition, it’s vital to insist that workers be fit tested, and actually wear the respirators when required.

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