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State Safety Officials Narrow Hoisting Regulations

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Nov 17, 2014 2:45:00 PM

The Massachusetts Department of Public Safety has narrowed the scope of its controversial year-old hoisting regulations after agreeing with Associated Industries of Massachusetts that federal rules pre-empt some of the state requirements.

ForkliftThe change means companies that operate industrial lift trucks and forklifts solely on their own property are no longer subject to the state regulations if the area where the equipment is used is not accessible to the public.

AIM objected to the regulations because they were costly and duplicated federal rules enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The state rules forced some employers to comply by reassigning long-term employees who had operated hoisting equipment for years to other jobs.

“The Department of Public Safety (DPS) deserves tremendous credit for an intelligent approach to regulation,” said Robert Rio Vice President of Government Affairs at AIM.

AIM and lawyers representing forklift manufacturers and technicians, prepared a legal memo to DPS outlining the case for pre-emption, citing several similar major national cases. DPS reviewed the memo and, following several discussions, agreed with AIM’s position and released the guidance making the hoisting regulations consistent with pre-emption law. 

Only industrial lift trucks and forklifts are exempt. Operators of other equipment subject to the law must still be licensed, even if the hoisting devices are used in areas where the public is not allowed. 

The exemption does not apply if the public has access to any property in which the equipment is operated. That includes warehouse type stores, where aisles are blocked off for forklift activity, but the public is otherwise allowed to walk freely.

There is also a new exemption for technicians preforming repair.      

Employers should refer to DPS administrative rulings and FAQ prior to making any changes to their forklift licensing requirements.

“Efficient regulation is a cornerstone of AIM’s new Blueprint for the next Century economic plan,” Rio said.

“Public Safety Commissioner Thomas G. Gatzunis, legal counsel Beth McLaughlin, and Tim Wilkerson, Regulatory Ombudsman Director at the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, have created a model for smart partnerships between business and government.” 

Topics: Hoisting, Safety, Manufacturing

A Checklist for Employee Safety in the Winter

Posted by Tom Jones on Jan 21, 2014 10:40:00 AM

The cold bite of winter can put employees at risk and limit their ability to perform their jobs. Although many employees spend their work days indoors in an office, manufacturing or retail setting, many companies have all or a portion of their workers outside, sometimes in bitter cold.

Snow.FactoryAs we await yet another winter blizzard today and given the potential risks to your employees, like hypothermia and frostbite, AIM has developed a checklist to help you and your employees get through the winter safely.

While there are no specific regulations, the General Duty clause of the Occupational Safety and Health law requires employers to furnish employees with a place of employment free from recognized hazards that cause or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.   Cold conditions may pose a safety hazard in some situations.

This checklist may be used as a training tool for employees who encounter these duties/environments during the winter months.

Shoveling snow

Shoveling snow can be a strenuous activity and has the potential to cause exhaustion, dehydration, back injuries, and heart attacks. Reduce the risk by:

  • taking frequent breaks in warm dry places;
  • drinking plenty of fluids (while avoiding ones with caffeine or alcohol);
  • warming up before starting;
  • scooping small amounts of snow at a time;
  • pushing the snow instead of lifting where possible; and
  • using proper form if lifting is necessary - keep the back straight and lift with the legs.

Walking safely on snow and ice

Walking on snow and ice puts workers at risk of slips and falls. Reduce the risk by:

  • clearing walking surfaces of snow and ice and using salt or its equivalent;
  • wearing proper footwear – insulated boots with good rubber treads are a must for walking during or after a winter storm;
  • taking short steps and walking at a slow pace on an ice or snow-covered walkway so you can react quickly to a change in traction;
  • walking against the traffic and as close to the curb as you can if the sidewalk is not cleared and you have to walk in the street;
  • looking out for vehicles that may have lost traction and are slipping towards you; vehicles might have trouble stopping at crosswalks or traffic signals;
  • wearing bright clothing or reflective gear at night – dark clothing will make it hard for drivers to see you; and
  • wearing sunglasses during the day to help you see better and avoid hazards.

Snow on the roof

  • Use standard protections when working at heights and look out for unexpected hazards due to the weather.
  • Ensure the proper use of fall protection and ladders.
  • Use caution around surfaces that have been weighed down by snow, as they may collapse.
  • Evaluate the total weight of snow, workers and equipment used, compared to the load limit of the roof.
  • Whenever possible, use methods to clear ice and snow without workers going on the roof. For example, use ladders to apply de-icing materials and use snow rakes or drag lines from the ground.
  • Additional information with regard to removing snow on roofs can be found at the OSHA Web site.

Cold but no snow

Snow or no snow, working in the cold weather increases the risk of frostbite and hypothermia.

  • Frostbite is a severe reaction to cold exposure that causes freezing in the deep layers of skin and tissue. Frostbite can cause permanent damage. It is recognizable by a loss of feeling and a waxy-white or pale appearance in fingers, toes, nose, or ear lobes.
  • Hypothermia occurs when the body temperature drops to less than 95°F. Symptoms of hypothermia include uncontrollable shivering, slow speech, memory lapses, frequent stumbling, drowsiness, and exhaustion.

General tips for employers whose employees work outdoors in the winter include:

  • Attempt to schedule work during the warmest part of the day.
  • Ensure that employees in cold conditions work in pairs or groups.
  • Do not permit an employee to overwork him/herself or to work to exhaustion, because a person may expend all of the energy needed to keep his/her muscles warm.
  • Ensure proper clothing for the conditions. Employers must provide personal protective equipment (PPE) such as fall protection gear when required by OSHA standards to protect worker safety, and health. And though there is no OSHA requirement for employers to provide workers with ordinary clothing, skin creams, or other items, used solely for protection from weather, such as winter coats, jackets, gloves, parkas, rubber boots, hats, raincoats, ordinary sunglasses, and sunscreen (29 CFR 1910.132(h)(4)), AIM urges companies to do so as a sound business practice.
  • Train employees on the symptoms of cold stress (see above) and what to do/who to contact when there are concerns.

Taking preventive action is your best defense against having to deal with injuries resulting from extreme cold-weather conditions.  Putting a plan in place to address the concerns unique to your business is an essential strategy.

If employers have questions about this or other HR related matters please contact the AIM Hotline at 800-470-6277.

Topics: Employment Law, Safety, Human Resources

Massachusetts Revises Burdensome On-Site Hoisting Rules

Posted by Robert Rio on Nov 22, 2013 2:32:00 PM

The Massachusetts Department of Public Safety has released final regulations that will exempt some manufacturing and warehouse companies from burdensome rules for licensing people who operate forklifts, overhead cranes and other hoisting equipment on company property.

HoistingState law previously required individual licenses for every operator of even small pieces of hoisting equipment commonly used in manufacturing facilities, retail outlets, warehouses and warehouse- type stores. AIM worked with state regulators two years ago to pass a law - signed by Governor Deval Patrick on October 14, 2010 – to allow the Department of Public Safety to streamline the regulations.

The proposed new regulations would expand the current exemption from the licensing and permitting requirements for public utilities to include companies operating certain hoisting equipment solely on company property, provided certain conditions are met. One key condition is that a company must maintain an employee training program approved by the commonwealth.

Individuals or organizations seeking to offer continuing education courses for individuals to be licensed to operate hoisting machinery must submit an application to the Department of Public Safety. All courses must be monitored by a Massachusetts hoisting license holder and must offer a curriculum that, at a minimum, complies with detailed requirements for each class of hoisting machinery, as outlined in the proposed regulation.

The state regulations are in addition to any federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements that cover hoisting equipment. The rules also impact temporary permits that may be issued by a short-term rental entity for the operation of compact hoisting machinery.

If a company is not able to take advantage of the new exemption, then traditional licensing requirements will apply.

Employers need to pay attention to these new rules and carefully understand their applicability. Because state officials have rarely enforced the hoisting rules over the years, many companies will find themselves confronting the regulations for the first time. These companies may have no idea what the hoisting regulations are all about or why they may apply to their business.

You may comment below or email me at rrio@aimnet.org with questions.

Topics: Regulation, Hoisting, Safety

Employers Face Deadline on Chemical Standards Training

Posted by Wendy Rosati on Nov 18, 2013 8:20:00 AM

Editor's Note - Wendy Rosati is Consultant, Injury Prevention & Worksite Wellness, for A.I.M. Mutual Insurance Company in Burlington.

Manufacturers and other employers who use chemicals in the workplace have until December 1 to train employees about a significant revision by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to its hazard communication standard.

HazardCommOSHA’s changes to the standard will align it with the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS).  The shift marks one of the agency’s most significant rulemaking efforts in more than a decade.

The rule, released on March 26, 2012, is expected to affect more than five million businesses across the country. An estimated 40 million employees will need to be re-trained on hazard communication.

The UN maintains that aligning U.S. hazard communication standards with those of the rest of the world will eliminate what has been a patchwork system and establish in its place a common process for identifying hazardous materials and warning users.  Supporters say that adoption of the GHS classification system will streamline international shipments and sales of chemical products, ensure that people worldwide receive the same basic standards of protection when using products, facilitate training and literacy concerns, decrease supplier costs and improve overall workplace injury rates.

GHS has specific criteria for the classification of chemicals, including standardized language for health, physical and environmental categories and chemical mixtures. New labeling provisions include nine pictograms, which include a symbol and graphical elements, such as borders and background colors.

 Eight of the nine pictograms will be regulated by OSHA. The signal words "DANGER" or “WARNING" will be required on labels, dependent on hazard severity. Labels will also require hazard and precautionary statements, which describe the chemical hazards and recommended measures to protect against exposures.

Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) are now referred to as Safety Data Sheets (SDS) under the revised standard. Safety Data Sheets have 16 sections, and new requirements will include identification, hazard identification, composition and ingredient information, first aid and fire-fighting and accidental release measures, handling and storage, exposure controls, personal protection, physical and chemical properties, stability and reactivity, toxicological information, the date of preparation and last revision.

Every employer will be required to re-train their employees on the elements of the new standard.  By December 1, affected employers are required to provide employees awareness training, which includes GHS formatting.

Chemical manufacturers and distributors assume significant workload under the new standard, and must gather relevant chemical data and review to determine hazards using GHS criteria, produce/author/re-author safety data sheets and labels in GHS format, and ensure that SDS and labels address specific standards of each country to which they ship by June 1, 2015.

By December 1, 2015, distributors must send only updated SDS and labels. By June 2016, employers must have compared old safety data sheets to new ones, noted any new hazards requiring new employee safety training, secured missing SDS sheets and archived older ones, updated written hazard communication programs, relabeled secondary containers using GHS format, and trained employees on new hazards.

AIM members with questions about the new standards may email Bob Paine (rpaine@aimnet.org), Senior Vice President of Membership.

Topics: Issues, Environment, Safety

Proposed Rules Could Ease Burden on Licenses for Forklifts, Cranes

Posted by Robert Rio on Oct 19, 2012 2:04:00 PM

The Massachusetts Department of Public Safety has developed proposed regulations that could exempt hundreds of manufacturing and warehouse companies from burdensome rules for licensing people who operate forklifts, overhead cranes and other hoisting equipment on company property.

HoistingState law requires individual licenses for every operator of even smaller pieces of hoisting equipment commonly used in smaller manufacturing facilities, retail outlets, warehouses and warehouse- type stores. AIM worked with state regulators two years ago to pass a law - signed by Governor Deval Patrick on October 14, 2010 - allowing the Department of Public Safety to streamline the existing regulations.

The proposed new regulations would expand the current exemption from the licensing and permitting requirements for public utilities to include companies operating certain hoisting equipment solely on company property - provided certain conditions are met. In order for the exemption to apply, the company must, among other requirements, have an employee training program approved by the commonwealth that meets the specifications of the new regulation.

The rules also impact temporary permits that may be issued by a short-term rental entity for the operation of compact hoisting machinery.

Individuals or organizations seeking to offer continuing education courses for individuals to be licensed to operate hoisting machinery must submit an application to the department. All courses must be monitored by a Massachusetts hoisting license holder and must offer a curriculum that, at a minimum, complies with detailed requirements for each class of hoisting machinery, as outlined in the proposed regulation.

The Department of Public Safety will be hold a public hearing to solicit comments on the proposed regulation on December 3 at 10 am at One Ashburton Place,  Boston. Written comments are due by December 3. These new regulations may offer significant relief for entities using this equipment solely with the confines of their own property, but AIM urges all employers to review the proposed rules and contact us with comments.

The proposed regulation can be found here.

You may comment below or email me at rrio@aimnet.org.

Topics: Issues, Safety, Manufacturing

Are You On OSHA's 'List' for 2012?

Posted by Tom Crupi on Feb 14, 2012 8:42:00 AM

Federal safety regulators are making a list and checking it twice.

SafetyBut this is no holiday list and you don’t want your company to be on it.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) each year compiles a list of employers with elevated incident rates that the agency intends to inspect under its Site Specific Targeting Program (SST). OSHA identifies potential unsafe work locations using two oddly named measures - the Days Away Restricted Transfer Rate (DART) and “Days Away from Work Injury and Illness Rate” (DAFWII).

These lists have real consequences for Massachusetts employers now that OSHA is stepping up enforcement activity and moving away from cooperative compliance programs. The number of OSHA inspections has increased substantially during the past several years and assessed penalties are two to three times what they would have been three years ago.  It is not uncommon for a small employer to be assessed a total penalty for $15,000-$20,000 for a half-dozen relatively minor violations.

How can you determine your risk of inspection?

If your DART or DAFWII rates exceed the following, and you were requested by OSHA to provide your 300A log information, you can expect an OSHA visit in 2012.
                                                                                              DART          DAFWII
Manufacturing                                                                           7.0              5.0
Non-Manufacturing, Except Nursing & Personal Care        15.0            14.0
Nursing & Personal Care                                                          16.0            13.0

DART Rate is computed by totaling all injuries and illnesses that result in lost time, restricted duty or job transfers and multiplying the number by 200,000 and dividing by the total number of hours worked.  The DAFWII is calculated the same way using only cases that resulted in lost work time. 

OSHA also plans to target specific hazards under National and Local Emphasis Programs.  These inspections will focus on chemical exposures, lead, combustible dusts, hexavalent chrome, silica, amputations and other hazards.

Many employers still do not understand how OSHA operates, what the OSHA standards mean, or what their rights are when OSHA shows up at their door.  Employers need to know the OSHA process, focus on correcting deficiencies, and reduce incident rates to avoid an inspection and costly penalties.
 
If you need some assistance to determine your inspection risk, please feel free to contact me at tcrupi@aimmutual.com. Better yet, look into the upcoming AIM OSHA/Safety Certificate series that I will be teaching in May. It’s a great way to begin improving your safety program and compliance activities.

Tom Crupi is Vice President of Loss Control at A.I.M. Mutual Insurance Company in Burlington. 

Topics: OSHA, Regulation, Safety

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