April 8, 2011

Ergonomic hazards & Chemical Hazards | Facility Audit

Ergonomic hazards

Both work-related and non-work related conditions can either individually, or by interacting with each other, give rise to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), such as tendinitis, tenosynovitis, epicondylitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, bursitis, deQuervain's disease, ganglion cyst, thoracic outlet syndrome, and less precise conditions such as sprains, strains, tears, or even just pain.

The types of activities that are associated with MSDs, include:
  • Awkward postures, which might include: prolonged work with hands above the head or with the elbows above the shoulders; prolonged work with the neck bent; squatting, kneeling, or lifting; handling objects with back bent or twisted; repeated or sustained bending or twisting of wrists, knees, hips or shoulders; forceful and repeated gripping or pinching.

  • Forceful lifting or pushing/pulling, which might include: handling heavy objects; moving bulky or slippery objects; assuming awkward postures while moving objects.

  • Prolonged repetitive motion, which might include: keying; using tools or knives; packaging, handling, or manipulating objects.

  • Contact stress, which might include: repeated contact with hard or sharp objects, like desk or table edges.

  • Vibration, which might include: overuse of power hand tools.

Identifying Ergonomic Issues
There are several approaches that may be used to determine whether conditions in the workplace might be contributing to employees developing MSDs. These approaches can be used individually or in combination.
  • Review and analyze injury and illness records to determine whether there is a pattern of ergonomic-related injuries in certain jobs or work tasks. Look at OSHA injury logs, workers' compensation claims, first-aid logs, absentee and turnover records, and employee complaints. Once all of the records have been examined, categorize MSD cases by job, department, division, work task, shift, and so on, to determine whether patterns or trends exist.

  • Analyze the jobs or work tasks themselves to identify potential ergonomic problems before employee injuries occur. Determine if jobs present ergonomic risks that may contribute to musculoskeletal disorders.

  • Seek employee input about the existence of ergonomic problems related to particular jobs or work tasks.

  • Be aware of common contributing conditions within your industry or job classifications. If other companies in the same industry have ergonomic-related problems, then it is possible these potential problems are also your concern.

Chemical Hazards

Millions of workers are potentially exposed to chemical hazards each year. The nearly 600,000 existing chemical products pose serious problems for exposed workers and their employers.

Chemical exposure may cause or contribute to many serious health effects such as heart ailments, kidney and lung damage, sterility, cancer, burns, and rashes. Some chemicals may also be safety hazards and have the potential to cause fires, explosions, and other serious accidents.

Providing protection from chemical hazards is a challenging task because of the range of hazards and operations in which they are used. Potential hazards arising from chemical exposure may occur during the following:
  • Production operations involving hazardous chemicals

  • Hazardous substance site survey

  • Rescue

  • Spill mitigation

  • Emergency monitoring

  • Decontamination
Protecting workers from chemical hazards primarily occurs through engineering and administrative controls; before personal protective equipment (PPE) is considered.

Forms of Hazardous Chemicals
In order to determine the chemical hazards in your facility, it is important to understand the different forms that chemicals may take. "Chemicals," as defined by OSHA, come in many forms, beyond the traditional "liquid."

  • Liquids — the most common form in the workplace.

  • Dusts — are finely divided particles. Example - wood dust.

  • Fumes — are even smaller particles usually formed when solid metal is heated and vaporized, and then condenses as tiny particles.

  • Fibers — are similar to dusts but are of an elongated shape. Examples - asbestos and fiberglass.

  • Mists — are liquid droplets that have been sprayed into the atmosphere.

  • Vapors — are gases formed when liquid evaporates.

  • Gases — are substances that are normally airborne at room temperature. A vapor is the gaseous phase of a substance which is a normally a liquid or solid at room temperature.

  • Solids — such as metal, treated wood, plastic.

Routes of Entry
Another important task when assessing the workplace for chemical hazards is to determine the route(s) of entry the chemicals may take. The four common routes of entry are:
  1. Ingestion — Do workers eat or drink it?
  2. Inhalation — Do workers breath it in?
  3. Absorption — Does it pass through the skin, eyes, or other membranes?
  4. Injection — Does it enter through a puncture or cut?

Assessing and Analyzing the Workplace for Chemical Hazards
Oregon OSHA recommends a simple two step process for assessing and analyzing the workplace for chemical hazards:
  • Assess the workplace to see which hazardous chemicals are currently being used. Do this by conducting a walkaround inspection and checking records. Use the results of your assessment to create a list of hazardous chemicals. With chemical list in hand, obtain a MSDS for each chemical in preparation for the next step.

  • With each MSDS analyze the hazards presented by each chemical in the workplace. The MSDS is your primary tool to determine the physical and health hazards, routes of entry, toxicity, and other information about each chemical in your workplace.

Reactivity Hazards
And just because you understand the hazards of a given chemical, it doesn't mean there can't be additional hazards if the chemical is mixed or exposed to other chemicals. Chemicals have the ability to react when exposed to other chemicals or certain physical conditions. The reactive properties of chemicals vary widely and they play a vital role in the production of many chemical, material, pharmaceutical, and food products we use daily. When chemical reactions are not properly managed, they can have harmful, or even catastrophic consequences, such as toxic fumes, fires, and explosions. These reactions may result in death and injury to people, damage to physical property, and severe effects on the environment. Process safety management is used to prevent and mitigate chemical reactivity hazards.

April 5, 2011

Types of Hazards

Whether you are working on a hazardous waste site or operating a forklift in a warehouse, the hazards you are being exposed to pose a multitude of health and safety concerns, many of which could result in serious injury or death. These hazards are a function of the nature of the site and equipment as well as a consequence of the work being performed.

They can include:
  • Ergonomic hazards

  • Chemical hazards

  • Compressed gas and equipment

  • Fire and explosions

  • Ionizing radiation

  • Biological agents

  • Machine hazards

  • Heat hazards

  • Cold hazards

  • Noise and hearing hazards

  • Confined space hazards

  • Walking-working surfaces

  • Electrical hazards
General categories of hazards are described later. You may require more information on certain topics that apply to your operations. There are many sources of information that can provide this. Material safety data sheets, for instance, are an excellent place to start.

April 3, 2011

OSHA Plant Safety Audit Checklist Self-Inspection

The most widely accepted way to identify hazards is to conduct safety and health inspections. The only way you can be certain of the actual situation is for you to look at it from time to time.

Make a Self-Inspection of Your Business

Begin a program of self-inspection in your own workplace. Self-inspection is a must if you are to know where probable hazards exist and whether they are under control.

Later, you will find checklists designed to help you in this fact-finding. They will give you some indication of where you should act to make your business safer and more healthful for your employees.

Note:Applicable regulatory citations appear after most checklist items. These references are provided so that you may look up the actual wording or context for an item in the regulations.

These checklists are by no means all-inclusive. You may wish to add to them or delete portions that do not apply to your business. Consider carefully each item as you come to it and then make your decision.
Don't spend time with items that obviously have no application to your business. Make sure each item is seen by you or your designee, and leave nothing to memory or chance. Write down what you see, or don't see, and what you think you should do about it.

When you have completed the checklists, add this material to your injury information, your employee information, and your process and equipment information. You will now possess many facts that will help you determine what problems exist. Then, if you use the OSHA standards in your problem-solving process, it will be much easier for you to determine the action needed to solve these problems.

Once the hazards have been identified, you can institute the control procedures and establish your four-point safety and health program.

Technical assistance in self-inspection may be available through your insurance carrier, the local safety council and many local, state, and federal agencies, including the state consultation programs and OSHA Area Offices. Additional checklists are available from trade associations, insurance companies, and other similar service organizations.

Self-Inspection Scope

Your self-inspections should cover safety and health issues in the following areas:
  • Processing, Receiving, Shipping and Storage — equipment, job planning, layout, heights, floor loads, projection of materials, material handling and storage methods, training for material handling equipment.

  • Building and Grounds Conditions — floors, walls, ceilings, exits, stairs, walkways, ramps, platforms, driveways, aisles.

  • Housekeeping Program — waste disposal, tools, objects, materials, leakage and spillage, cleaning methods, schedules, work areas, remote areas, storage areas.

  • Electricity — equipment, switches, breakers, fuses, switch-boxes, junctions, special fixtures, circuits, insulation, extensions, tools, motors, grounding, national electric code compliance.

  • Lighting — type, intensity, controls, conditions, diffusion, location, glare and shadow control.

  • Heating and Ventilation — type, effectiveness, temperature, humidity, controls, natural and artificial ventilation and exhausting.

  • Machinery — points of operation, flywheels, gears, shafts, pulleys, key ways, belts, couplings, sprockets, chains, frames, controls, lighting for tools and equipment, brakes, exhausting, feeding, oiling, adjusting, maintenance, lockout/tagout, grounding, work space, location, purchasing standards.

  • Personnel — training, including hazard identification training; experience; methods of checking machines before use; type of clothing; PPE; use of guards; tool storage; work practices; methods for cleaning, oiling, or adjusting machinery.

  • Hand and Power Tools — purchasing standards, inspection, storage, repair, types, maintenance, grounding, use and handling.

  • Chemicals — storage, handling, transportation, spills, disposals, amounts used, labeling, toxicity or other harmful effects, warning signs, supervision, training, protective clothing and equipment, hazard communication requirements.

  • Fire Prevention — extinguishers, alarms, sprinklers, smoking rules, exits, personnel assigned, separation of flammable materials and dangerous operations, explosion-proof fixtures in hazardous locations, waste disposal and training of personnel.

  • Maintenance — provide regular and preventive maintenance on all equipment used at the worksite, recording all work performed on the machinery and by training personnel on the proper care and servicing of the equipment.

  • PPE — type, size, maintenance, repair, age, storage, assignment of responsibility, purchasing methods, standards observed, training in care and use, rules of use, method of assignment.

  • Transportation — motor vehicle safety, seat belts, vehicle maintenance, safe driver programs.

  • First Aid Program/Supplies — medical care facilities locations, posted emergency phone numbers, accessible first aid kits.

  • Evacuation Plan — establish and practice procedures for an emergency evacuation, e.g., fire, chemical/biological incidents, bomb threat; include escape procedures and routes, critical plant operations, employee accounting following an evacuation, rescue and medical duties and ways to report emergencies.

Who Should Inspect?

Ideally, medium and large worksites will have more than one type of regular site inspections.
Many employers make it the supervisor's responsibility to inspect his/her work area at the beginning of every shift to ensure that equipment and personnel are ready to work safely.

This can be particularly helpful when other shifts use the same area and equipment or when after-hours maintenance and cleaning are routinely done. Supervisors' inspections of their own areas should not substitute, however, for broad general inspection. There are two reasons for this:
  • Those who work in an area can start "not seeing" things that they get used to. It is always good to have cross-inspections where supervisors or employees from one area look at another area.
  • A general site inspection will encompass areas not assigned to individual supervisors, for example, outdoor and other common areas.
OSHA recommends involving employees in the safety and health program, in both problem identification and resolution. One way to do this is to have the employee committee or the joint employee-management committee conduct routine inspections. By employing this method, you:
  • Expand the number of people doing inspections, and therefore, improve the odds of finding hazards; and
  • Increase employee awareness of the safety and health program.
Safety and Health Staff
It is most common and most logical for the staff personnel who specialize in safety and health to conduct the inspections. Even when other employees conduct inspections, it is wise also to involve the specialists. In a small business, the specialist may be the Human Resources Director or another member of management with many important duties in addition to safety and health. By having the safety and health staffer conduct inspections, you keep the person responsible for safety and health in touch with the successes and/or problems in the hazard prevention and control program, and use your greatest in-house source of expertise.