Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Industrious Hygienist Holiday Safety Tip #1: Dogs do not mix well with fireworks.

This is Shadow, my 3.5-year old Alaskan Malamute. 

Shadow at 6 months.
Just kidding, this is Shadow. I just wanted to show a picture of him as a puppy. He's ginormous now. 

Shadow on a walk in Prescott Valley - controlled burn in the background.
Shadow is not a fan of New Year's Eve. He hates fireworks. New Year's Eve and Independence Day rank as his least favorite holidays. Some tips for a pet-friendly New Year's party here.  

My end of year cartoon (doubled as a holiday card for clients, colleagues, friends, and family):

The Industrious Hygienist and Shadow enjoy New Year's Eve together. 

We'll be spending New Year's Eve cuddled up in bed, with Shadow alternating between spastic races around the house and cowering next to us in the bedroom. Fun times in the Bliss household!

Wishing all my loyal readers a safe and fulfilling 2014. 

Monday, December 30, 2013

My (Late) Grown-Up Christmas List

I've been planning this blog post for about a month now, but (of course) couldn't get to it until today. One of my favorite Christmas songs is Amy Grant's rendition of "My Grown-Up Christmas List." (Ignore the fire safety issues in the video if you watch it.) It seemed especially poignant this year, so I decided to make my own list of things I am hoping will occur in the future.

I re-wrote the song to fit my wishes. Yay for creative license! Sort of an open letter to the OSHA and NIOSH Santa or other wish-granting djinn. Since it's by the Industrious Hygienist, there's a slight element of sarcasm mixed with my true wish for all workers to come home safely to their families.

"Grown-Up Christmas List"

Do you remember me 
I worked for you, you see 
I wrote to you on disability

Well I'm all healed-up now 
But still need help somehow 
I'm unemployed
But still so full of dreams

So here's my working wish
My grown-up Christmas list
Not for myself
But for a world in need

No more lives thrown away
That workers have a say
And speak up for their rights
Everyone would be well-trained
And want to do their best
And keep each other safe
This is my grown-up Christmas list

As children we believed
That parents would come home
To happy families
Without injury

Insurance surely sees
That claims and penalties
Can never heal a hurting human soul


What are these concepts called
Prevention and respect
Maybe if we work together now
We’ll learn who we should protect


So that's it...my wishes. Education, training, respect, and proactive approaches to health and safety for every worker. By the way, rhyming with safety terms is surprisingly difficult.

Look for the annual Industrious Hygienist end-of-year cartoon tomorrow!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Industrious Hygienist's Favorite Holiday Safety Tips: FEMA and USFA

So far we've covered general holiday safety from CDC/NIOSH and holiday stress management from CDC and Mayo Clinic. Now let's get down to the exciting stuff - fire safety.

FEMA and the NFPA have partnered this year to create the following infographic for their "Put a Freeze on Winter Holiday Fires" campaign:

NFPA and FEMA infographic for the "Put a Freeze on Winter Holiday Fires" campaign.
The Industrious Hygienist would also like to share the following HolidayFire Safety video from FEMA (although I'm still learning how to embed videos, so click the hyperlink if you want to watch it). 

The Industrious Hygienist decided to take the NFPA "Put a Freeze on Winter Fires Quiz" and test her knowledge of winter fire safety.


Fail. Eeek!
So I feel I should defend myself on some of the wrongly answered questions. See below.

Lit candles should be extinguished when you leave the room.
The place where the Industrious Hygienist currently lives (we don't feel it is right to call it a house) has a "great room" that consists of the entry, family/living room, dining area, and kitchen all encompassed, with a hallway leading down to the bedroom. So if we light a candle, it is usually in the "great room" and therefore extinguished before we walk out the door and leave the home. Semantics. But probably useful information if you have a larger space to live in and lots of candles.

The leading cause of home fires is failure to clean heating equipment and chimneys before use.
I've lived in Phoenix, AZ or Orange County, CA for most of her life and only recently moved to Prescott in beautiful Northern Arizona. So my exposure to cold weather has been limited - I've never lived anywhere with a chimney and never used a space heater before. Now I know that if I happen to move somewhere with a chimney, I should have preventative maintenance done on it. We never used our heater in Phoenix. I did have the furnace checked here in Prescott before it was turned on. Yay for me!

Carbon monoxide alarms should be installed on every level of the home and outside each sleeping space.
Again, with the size of the place we live, we just have one CO monitor in a central location, equidistant from the gas-fired kitchen appliances, laundry room, and bedroom. This whole idea of a multi-level home is intriguing - I should try it sometime. :) Makes sense to have to CO monitor outside the bedrooms, since you'd want to know what the CO concentration is before it is in your sleeping space and you are susceptible to it. 

Just this week, a family in Breckenridge was exposed to high levels of CO and some of the family members were hospitalized. See news story here

Before placing a real cut tree ion the stand, cut 2" from the base of the trunk.
I've never had a real Christmas tree before, we always had an artificial one. Since we got our Alaskan Malamute (Shadow), we haven't bothered to put up a tree the last three years. He likes to try and eat the ornaments. So I'll keep this in mind if I decide to ever use a real cut tree (not likely) for the holidays.

Keep your eyes peeled (that's a weird/gross phrase I should never use again) for the Industrious Hygienist Holiday Card and end of year blog post!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Industrious Hygienist's Favorite Holiday Safety Tips: Mayo Clinic and CDC

The Industrious Hygienist's post yesterday shared holiday safety tips from CDC/NIOSH.

Today, let's discuss stress

Taking part in last-minute holiday shopping blitzes is sort of par for the course for many Americans. The Industrious Hygienist and spouse will be braving a few key merchandisers today to wrap up the holiday shopping. Planning the gift-buying extravaganza can be very stressful. Traveling to and from various family engagements, work functions, and parties with friends can lead to even more heightened stress levels. Finding out how to manage your schedule, pets, family, and work commitments within a ridiculously short time frame is, well, bonkers.

Luckily, with the advent of Spore Consulting, the Industrious Hygienist is able to manage her own schedule and take time off as needed, but few people have that luxury. We gave ourselves memberships to Massage Envy and Lumosity for Christmas and our anniversary in June.

The CDC discussed managing stress in the "12 Ways to Health Holiday Song" and provided the following general recommendations for managing stress
  • "Avoid drugs and alcohol. They may seem to be a temporary fix to feel better, but in the long run they can create more problems and add to your stress—instead of take it away.
  • Find support. Seek help from a partner, family member, friend, counselor, doctor, or clergyperson. Having a sympathetic, listening ear and sharing about your problems and stress really can lighten the burden.
  • Connect socially. After a stressful event, it is easy isolate yourself. Make sure that you are spending time with loved ones. Consider planning fun activities with your partner, children, or friends.
  • Take care of yourself. Eat well, exercise, get plenty of sleep, give yourself a break, and maintain a normal routine.
  • Stay active. You can take your mind off your problems by giving—helping a neighbor, volunteering in the community, even taking the dog on a long walk. These can be positive ways to channel your feelings."
Ways this goes horribly wrong in holiday events? See below.
  • Avoid alcohol? Although many workplaces have "no alcohol" policies at holiday parties, there's plenty of ways to imbibe at after-parties, impromptu gatherings, industry events, etc. Things get said that shouldn't be discussed in polite company, behavior is sometimes less than professional, and you end up spending more money than you have on expensive drinks. Try to rein yourself in and remember that somebody always has a camera.
  • Find support? Everyone's going through the same thing as you. If you reach out to someone, they're likely to talk your ear off about the problems they are having rather than listening. Sometimes this is helpful because you realize your problems are paltry compared to those around you. Be the listener, be the friend and support person. It will make you feel better than just venting to everyone around you.
  • Connect socially? No, they're not talking about sharing your entire life on social media. They're talking about in-person socialization. Put down your phone, stop texting and tweeting, and really listen and connect with someone. Watch their face and learn their personality quirks. Try to remember all the conversations you've had with them. Spouse and I use the drive between family/social events to decompress and vent and listen to music (never Christmas music though).
  • Take care of yourself? Ha. If your family is anything like mine, eating healthy during the holidays is super tricky. My father makes handmade chocolate truffles and fudge, and my grandma sends me a box full of handmade cookies and treats every year. There is no normal routine during the holidays.
  • Stay active? Thanks to the Industrious Hygienist's parents, this is pretty easy. Rather than a gift, they want an act of service (photos and documentation required) for their Christmas gift. Could be a donation to a charity, could be a volunteer event, could be anything that requires us to go out and serve our fellow humans.
This year's act of service was with our local ASSE Arizona Chapter, preparing a community garden at a local elementary school through the USGBC Green Apple Day of Service.


Spouse and the Industrious Hygienist weeding the playground with ASSE Arizona Chapter during the Green Apple Day of Service on 9-28-2013.

We even brought Shadow (nope, that's not our kid), who was tantalized by the little girl's water bottle and watched us work.
The Mayo Clinic also has holiday-specific tips for stress management. The Industrious Hygienist has a few favorites:
  • "Be realistic. The holidays don't have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones. For example, if your adult children can't come to your house, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails or videos.
  • Set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don't live up to all of your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they're feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.
  • Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can't participate in every project or activity. If it's not possible to say no when your boss asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time."
Wish us luck in our last-minute shopping. Gaah. I'll be singing Broadway musicals in my head to drown out the holiday music. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Industrious Hygienist's Favorite Holiday Safety Tips: CDC/NIOSH

In honor of the holidays, the Industrious Hygienist would like to share her favorite holiday safety tips from recognized authorities. Today's tips are from the CDC and NIOSH.

This year, CDC/NIOSH has posted a "Wishes for Workers" campaign where you can post your wishes for occupational health and safety improvements. The Industrious Hygienist will think on this and post something thought-provoking. Or at least interesting.

The Industrious Hygienist's favorite wish from a CDC representative:

  • "All of our nation’s emergency response workers are prepared and trained to respond effectively and safely to any disaster."
    • CDR Lisa Delaney MS, CIH, Associate Director, NIOSH Emergency Preparedness and Response Office

CDC/NIOSH also developed a "12 Ways to Health Holiday Song" which can be sung to the tune of, you guessed it, "The Twelve Days of Christmas."

Download the audio podcast of the song here

The Industrious Hygienist's favorite pieces of the song are:

  • The fifth way to health, said the CDC to me
    BE SMOKE-FREE, don't drink and drive, manage stress, bundle up for warmth, and wash hands to be safe and healthy.
  • The tenth way to health, said the CDC to mePractice fire safety, monitor the children, get your vaccinations, get exams and screenings, fasten belts while driving, BE SMOKE-FREE, don't drink and drive, manage stress, bundle up for warmth, and wash hands to be safe and healthy.

In 2011 the Industrious Hygienist wrote a three-part comic of the "12 Days of Christmas: Preparation for the Holidays Industrious Hygienist (IH) Style!" If you want to read it again, part 1 is here, part 2 is here, and part 3 is here

Last year's CDC/NIOSH blog post about safety for Santa was probably my favorite post from CDC/NIOSH so far. Highlights below.

No worries, the Industrious Hygienist is working on her holiday/New Year card that will be posted before the end of the year. Look for more tips from FEMA, NFPA, NSC, and others in the days to come.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

No more weekly inspections of mechanical power presses?

Link to full news release here. Link to Federal Register notice here.

OSHA's most recent national news release discusses outdated or obsolete regulations.

On November 20, 2013, OSHA issued a rule with a notice of proposed rule-making to revise the requirement for weekly inspections of mechanical power presses.

These presses are used to punch holes in and form/assemble metal and other materials. When the presses are not properly maintained or damaged, workers operating the presses can experience injuries on their hands, and arms.

Per the Federal Register notice: "OSHA is revising a provision that requires employers to develop and maintain certification records of periodic inspections performed on the presses by adding a requirement that they develop and maintain certification records of any maintenance and repairs they perform on the presses during the periodic inspections. [...] OSHA is removing the requirement from another provision that employers develop and maintain certification records of weekly inspections and tests performed on the presses." 

OSHA believes that removing the requirement for documented weekly inspection and test certifications will save 613,600 hours of unnecessary paperwork time for businesses. Pending no significantly adverse comments, the final rule will become effective on February 18, 2014.

If this raises your hackles, you may submit comments electronically at www.regulations.gov.

The proposed rule-making would modify the existing standard's maintenance and repair requirements to be in line with the ANSI standard for mechanical power presses. ANSI B11.01-2009 requires that
 maintenance and repair be completed before the press is operated, and that the entire machine be "certified" as being maintained and repaired properly prior to use.

Thoughts on OSHA's proposed new rule for improved tracking of workplace injuries and illnesses

See the full news release from OSHA here.

After the release of the 2012 Occupational Injuries and Illnesses report was released earlier this month, OSHA posted a news release about a proposed new rule relating to record keeping.

The 2012 Occupational Injuries and Illnesses report estimated that 3 million workers were injured on the job during 2012. 

In the proposed rule, OSHA wants to add a requirement for businesses with more than 250 employees, who already keep records of workplace injuries and illnesses, to electronically submit their injury and illness records to OSHA each quarter.  OSHA also wants to add a requirement for businesses with 20 or more employees in high-hazard industries to submit their summary of work-related injuries and illnesses (OSHA Form 300A) electronically every year.

These efforts to improve the transparency of government are interesting.

From a faculty/educator perspective, if the government is able to publish the injury and illness data more than once per year, it will allow safety and industrial hygiene students and educators to focus their attention and perhaps lead to some interesting research or meta-analyses.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Telepests and National Safety Council Infographics

I learned a new term today: telepest.

Since launching my new website for Spore Consulting, I have been receiving all sorts of fun calls to the number I listed on my WHOIS domain registration, which is to be expected. Each time I receive one of these calls, I look the phone number up on the internet to make sure it is not a potential client.

The number I received a call from today had a bunch of listings and complaints as a "telepest." Apparently a telepest is informally known as an annoying phone number that calls you frequently (i.e. robot telemarketers and unsolicited/spam calls).

Who knew? There's a word for everything. :)

Have also been catching up on my reading and wanted to share the following National Safety Council (NSC) infographic on the "Top 10 Most Frequently Cited OSHA Violations." Download your own copy off the NSC Blog. There was supposed to be a way to embed the infographic on my blog, but I am not enough of a Blogger ninja to figure that out.

NSC Infographic about the Top 10 Most Frequently Cited OSHA Violations.
In order of least to most citations (per NSC):

10 - Machine Guarding
9 - Electrical: General Requirements
8 - Lockout Tagout
7 - Ladders
6 - Powered Industrial Trucks
5 - Electrical: Wiring Methods
4 - Respiratory Protection
3 - Scaffolding
2 - Hazard Communication
1 - Fall Protection

In other news, my research into coal mining in Lancashire in the 1890's has been super-enjoyable. The character development and storyline mapping for my alternative history/steampunk series fiction that incorporates the history of industrial hygiene and workplace safety is underway.

While preparing for my first OSHA 30-hour for General Industry course, I also discovered the CDC Small Business Resource Guide. This CDC website has documents from Federal OSHA, state OSH programs, and international resources (Ireland and UK) to help small businesses develop an effective safety and health program.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Feeding my indie beast...big changes ahead!

Exciting news: the Industrious Hygienist has decided to take the plunge and venture out on her own in the perilous world of consulting. Meet Spore Consulting, LLC.

Why Spore?

Spore Consulting, LLC ("Spore" for short) embodies the idea of a microbial spore. Bacteria form spores to help them get through tough times and fungi have spores as part of their reproductive cycle. In fungi, spores are small biological particles that contain everything the fungi needs to reproduce when conditions are right. 

So, we figured Spore stands for: small, resilient, everything you need for success. 

In addition to occupational and environmental health & safety consulting, the Industrious Hygienist will be working more on creative (i.e. nerdy) things:

  • Sock Puppet Safety 
    • Safety educational videos featuring sock puppets, to be posted on YouTube
  • Steampunk fiction featuring the Industrious Hygienist 
  • Safety checklists and safety posters that are visually appealing
  • Industrious Hygienist mangas
So stay posted and watch for more fun stories and cartoons. 
Mushrooms = fungi. Photoshop is a dangerously fun thing.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Susan Harwood Grant Recipients for 2013

As of September 16, 2013, OSHA has announced the latest round of Susan Harwood Training Grant recipients. OSHA awarded $10.1 million to the various recipients. There's a few that the Industrious Hygienist is really excited about.

From the "targeted topic" list of recipients:

Alaska Marine Safety Education Association, Sitka, AK
Ergonomics, award of $105,300
"The grantee will deliver training on ergonomic hazards for workers in the commercial fishing and fish processing industry. The goal is to educate workers on the basics of ergonomics including assessing ergonomic hazards in the workplace, redesigning work space for improved ergonomics, prevention of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and exercises for preventing and relieving symptoms associated with MSDs. Training will be offered in English, Spanish and Vietnamese."

Why am I excited? The ergonomics recommendations will be focused on the commercial fishing industry, and Alaska Marine Safety Education Association (AMSEA) seems to have excellent outreach to their target population. Their website is informational and well-organized.
Plus, I have an Alaskan Malamute, so our household is a fan of many Alaska-related things. 

National Jewish Health, Denver, CO
Multiple Topics, award of $105,300
"The grantee will develop and deliver training on multiple topics to automotive industry workers. The training will cover hazards to which automotive repair workers, mechanics and technicians can be exposed to in certain jobs including crystalline silica, asbestos, lead, hexavalent chromium and physical hazards that can cause respiratory disease, neurologic problems, skin disorders, allergies, cancer, hearing loss, eye injuries, and ergonomic injuries."

Why am I excited? National Jewish Health has been rated the leading respiratory hospital in the nation. Their mantra of "Science Transforming Life" is at the core of their research activities, which encompass aspects of mycobacteria, environmental health, occupational health, and allergens, all things which are near and dear to the Industrious Hygienist's heart. Interesting note: National Jewish Health first opened in 1899 as a tuberculosis sanitorium. 

Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health, Dorchester, MA
Work Place Violence, award of $104,196
"The grantee will offer work place violence training for young workers and small businesses employing youth. Training will include an introduction to hazard identification and control; worker rights and responsibilities; and the identification and mitigation of work place violence in the retail and healthcare settings. Training activities will utilize participatory learning methods including interactive discussion, case studies, and role playing."

Why am I excited? The MassCOSH group seems to be extensively collaborative and holds a leadership academy for teen workers to promote job safety. Some of their core initiatives are: "Healthy Schools Initiative," "Immigrant Worker Center," "Teens Lead At Work," and a focus on union education and organization. They have articles, reports, and fact sheets from their educational findings. 

In the "capacity building developmental grant" list of recipients:

Board of Regents of UW System for Univ. Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI
Safety and Ergonomics Follow-On, award of $148,400
"The grantee will provide training on safety and ergonomics to small utility employees and contractors. The training will target small businesses, non-English speaking/limited English proficiency, minority and other hard to reach workers. The grantee will also develop training materials for employees in the green/renewable power-generation (solar, wind and biofuel) sector in English and Spanish."

Why am I excited? The green/renewable power generation sector needs training and hazard assessments for the work being conducted at the generating sites. 

SEIU Education and Support Fund, Washington, DC
Health Care Industry, award of $177,250
"The grantee will present training to workers employed in the home care, nursing home, and hospital sectors of the health care industry. The target audience will include non-English speaking/limited English proficiency, non-literate and low literacy workers, immigrant and minority workers. The grantee will develop and present a Hazard Communication (HazCom) course in English, Spanish, Chinese, and Russian."

Why am I excited? Healthcare health and safety is my specialty, and since OSHA announced its National Emphasis Program on Nursing Homes and Personal Care Facilities in April 2012, I've been hoping for someone to develop this kind of training.

Thanks to OSHA for offering the Susan Harwood Training Grants. 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Emergency Preparedness and Response for Floods (e.g. Colorado)

In response to the incredible flooding in Colorado earlier this month, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) via their National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) published a new web page with information on emergency preparedness and response in flood situations.

See the web page here on floods.

NIEHS emphasized the preparedness factor for responders to flooding, cleanup workers and restoration workers, homeowners, and business owners. The training/information covers safety awareness and post-disaster hazards.

On the page, there's also preparedness information about:

The Industrious Hygienist is always excited to find new references to explore and share with others! Thanks to NIEHS for the useful tools and guidance from a variety of federal departments. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Dangit, I missed "Happy N95 Day" on September 5th from NIOSH!

The Industrious Hygienist likes to stay abreast of interesting things in occupational health and safety. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) celebrated its second anniversary of N95 Day on September 5, 2013. 

NIOSH spent the day promoting its Epidemiological Global Health Project (Supercourse), which it developed with the University of Pittsburgh.  NIOSH also promoted their "Know It's NIOSH" campaign, which is dedicated to helping workers understand how to determine if their respirator is NIOSH-approved. The University of Pittsburgh Supercourse has an presentation about the "Know It's NIOSH" campaign, viewable here

Following my commitment to healthcare occupational health and safety, I quickly downloaded the new (June 2013) "Respirator Awareness: Your Health May Depend On It - Personal Protective Equipment for Healthcare Workers" from NIOSH. In a partnership with California Department of Public Health, NIOSH also developed an online toolkit for respirator program administrators in health care workplaces. 

Thanks to NIOSH for developing these helpful courses, toolkits, and helpful infographics, like the one shown below.

NIOSH N95 Day Infographic (c) NIOSH. 
NIOSH made sure to link to the awesome OSHA training videos on respirator protection.

The Industrious Hygienist looks forward to sharing this exciting new information with health care safety professionals for the next few months. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

A molasses spill in Hawaii? I hearken back to 1919 in Boston.

I was intrigued to see the following news story from Hawaii about the molasses spill that occurred in Honolulu Harbor (or was first noticed, accounts differ) on Monday. According to the article, approximately 224,000 gallons of molasses spilled into the harbor and the United States Environmental Protection Agency is sending two spill experts to help the state characterize the damage and work towards a sustainable solution.

This article from Hawaii News Now explains that the responsible party, Matson Navigation Company, released more than a ton of molasses into the harbor. An investigation was done by Hawaii Department of Health when dead fish started showing throughout the harbor on Monday, about "three days after a faulty Matson pipe discharged 233,000 gallons of molasses into the water, resulting in a mass kill."

According to Reutersthe release was first noticed on Monday after a ship pulled out to sea, loaded with molasses. On Tuesday, Matson discovered a leak in the pipeline used to fill the ship. The Reuters article contained a statement from the Department of Health that the molasses would likely not harm humans, but it was "polluting the water, causing fish to die and could lead to an increase in predator species such as sharks, barracuda and eels."

CNN already beat me to the punch (or some sort of molasses-based beverage) on making the comparison, but this is not the first time molasses has caused such widespread devastation. Courtesy of Wikipedia, in 1919 Boston, a molasses storage tank burst and approximately 2.3 million gallons of molasses were released from the storage area of the Purity Distilling Company into North End Boston. The "wave" of molasses ranged from 8 to 15 feet high and was estimated to had moved up to 35 miles per hour, sweeping buildings off their foundations, damaging railroad girders, and killing 21 people (150 injured).  

Here's a picture courtesy of the Boston Public Library Flickr account:

Firemen in Boston's North End standing in sometimes knee-deep molasses. (c) Boston Public Library.
The Wikipedia article notes that the "harbor was brown with molasses until summer" (spill happened in January 1919). I couldn't find any information on whether the molasses spill into the Boston harbor also resulted in a large fish and other marine life die-off.

Many news companies ran articles with indirect quotes from a senior executive for Matson stating that Matson had not really planned ahead of time for the possibility of a spill. The Honolulu Star Advertiser ran a story that Matson "did not have a response plan for a molasses spill, even though its vessels export as much as 2,000 tons of the viscous liquid each week to the mainland from a pipeline at Hono­lulu Harbor."

The response plan they're talking about would likely be similar to a Spill Countermeasures and Control Plan (SPCC). An SPCC Plan requires companies with the potential to release oil discharges (and possibly other toxic substances, I am not an SPCC expert) to prepare an SPCC Plan, amend the plan when conditions change, and of course implement the plan, so that prevention of spills is the primary objective. SPCC Plans also cover preparedness activities and response to spills. SPCC is intended to protect navigable waters and their adjoining shorelines. There's probably a maritime equivalent, but the Industrious Hygienist lives in Arizona, so my knowledge of maritime standards is limited.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Yay! for NIOSH's First Comic: "Straight Talk About Nail-Gun Safety"

So, no surprise, while surfing the 'net for something neat to post about, I came upon some exciting news: NIOSH released their first (ever) comic in June 2013

The comic is titled "Straight Talk About Nail-Gun Safety" and discusses pneumatic nail guns. FYI, careful while searching for images on Google re: "pneumatic nail gun" and "movie" - I tried to find a movie reference/still for visual emphasis, but all that showed up was "Nail Gun Massacre." Not hyper-linked since I am not overly fond of horror movies. 

According to the CDC NIOSH Science Blog, this comic is intended to raise awareness of nail gun safety measures, prevent injuries, and dispel some myths about nail guns circulating around the internet.

CDC NIOSH / Nick Thorkelson comic, "Straight Talk About Nail-Gun Safety"
The comic has a middle section with a nail gun safety checklist that explains nail gun trigger safety, nail gun use, concerns about lumber and building materials, and reminders about compressors and hoses.

It seems they're going for a "those crazy cowboys in the wild west" feel:

Nice 'stache there, buckaroo. :) "Straight Talk About Nail-Gun Safety" CDC NIOSH / Nick Thorkelson
I liked the CDC NIOSH Science Blog's authors' discussion about trying to find a scientific reference for the velocity of a nail shot from a nail gun:

"Most sites that appeared immediately were legal or medical, though they quickly digressed to include ‘theatrical’, paranormal, and vampire-hunting (using silver nails, we presume) interests.  Narrowing the search to “scholarly” sources, we found several peer reviewed papers that referenced a nail firing velocity of 1400 ft/sec and others that reported different velocities.  (Just to note, no articles were found using these search terms in PubMed or MedLine). All articles except one were medical journal case reports of nail gun injuries."

The CDC seems to be more interested in visual media, since the release of the CDC public health graphic novel, "Preparedness 101: Zombie Pandemic." Comics and graphic novels are a great way to engage the public and workers - telling a story in a way that can help memory retention while entertaining. Nice job, Nick Thorkelson (artist).

Sunday, August 4, 2013

New Manga! Re-branding The Industrious Hygienist

Hiyo, loyal readers! Per the request of several of you, I bring you a new manga of the Industrious Hygienist. I haven't had a chance to learn my Anime Studio software or Bamboo Splash tablet yet, so this one is old-fashioned, hand-drawn goodness. 

I was going for spunky, but she turned out a little sassy. :)

The Industrious Hygienist - latest character art (manga) for rebranding!
Hope you like it - next time I get another four to six hours of free time, I'll draw another action-oriented and funny manga. This one only took about three hours. I'm trying to re-brand the Industrious Hygienist into the hero of the manga rather than the "person who things happen to" in the manga. As always, eternal thanks to Hiromu Arakawa for creating Fullmetal Alchemist and the style of manga I imitate. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Settlement Agreement Between USPS and OSHA - Electrical Safety

July’s been a bit busy – lots of traveling for work – but I wanted to post about the settlement agreement between the United States Postal Service (USPS) and OSHA in July. Thanks to Fierce Government for the initial information and link to the settlement document.

USPS received seven willful violations for a facility in Providence, RI, but the remainder of the violations from inspections over the last few years at 42 facilities were re-classified as part of the settlement agreement from “willful” to “serious.” USPS has entered into an “enterprise-wide” compliance agreement with OSHA regarding its electrical safety work practices and written programs.

As part of the settlement agreement, USPS was provided with a Training Implementation Plan and required to develop a new and improved Electrical Work Plan (EWP). According to the settlement document, published on the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) webpage, “No employee shall be permitted to perform unsupervised electrical work until he/she has demonstrated knowledge, skills, and competency appropriate to the facility, task and equipment where the work will be performed.”

Energized electrical work includes troubleshooting and voltage testing, but these can only be conducted when equipment is energized, so the prohibited work does not include these tasks. According to Fierce Government, “USPS will assign a trained electrical work plan coordinator at each facility and require the use of electrically protective gloves and full body arc flash protection for energized work, including voltage testing.” Only qualified USPS employees are permitted to conduct energized work using the proper personal protective equipment (PPE).

Affected USPS employees (i.e. those not qualified to do electrical work but will be working in close proximity to someone who is conducting energized electrical work) are also required to receive OSHA compliance training for recognition of electrical safety hazards and other topics as identified in the Training Implementation Plan.

The abatement of hazards throughout USPS facilities consisted of the following:

  • Training
  • Obtaining necessary PPE (i.e. electrically-protective gloves and full-body arc flash protection) 
  • Labeling electrical hazards
  • Full implementation of the EWP

The settlement agreement requires audits of 25% of facilities with automated mail-processing equipment where maintenance regularly takes place. These are listed to include Processing and Distribution Centers, National Distribution Centers, and International Service Centers. The audits must consist of the following per the settlement agreement:

  • Physical observation of the facility
  • Observation of employees doing work subject to the EWP
  • Assessment of the knowledge, skills, and understanding of employ

Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution's National Postal Museum, enjoy some pictures of how mail processing was done circa 1945 and how it is done now.

Mail processing circa 1945 in the Post Office Department - image courtesy of Smithsonian Institution.
Mail processing as it occurs today in Processing and Distribution Centers throughout USPS - image courtesy of Smithsonian Institution. 
It's amazing to see what technology can do, as far as improving processes and. Courtesy of the University of Delaware Physics Department, here are some intriguing quotes about technology and its effect on modern life.

"Technology and production can be great benefactors of man, but they are mindless instruments, and if undirected they careen along with a momentum of their own. In our country, they pulverize everything in their path -- the landscape, the natural environment, history and tradition, the amenities and civilities, the privacy and spaciousness of life, much beauty, and the fragile, slow-growing social structures that bind us together." CHARLES A. REICH, The Greening of America, 1970. (S&S)

"Technology was developed to prevent exhausting labor. It is now dedicated to trivial conveniences." B.F. SKINNER. (Citadel)

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Dear Aflac, a note about your advertising.

Dear Aflac –

I stumbled upon this advertisement on Thursday in a business magazine, and it caused me to become confused. My first thought was “Aflac doesn’t do worker’s compensation!” and my second thought was “I need to fix this advertisement.” I immediately went to your Aflac.com/business website as the advertisement instructed me to. There I learned that no, you don’t provide worker’s compensation, but yes, you do provide voluntary insurance to cover accidental injury that happens off-the-job.

Reads: "When your star employee gets hurt, Aflac will see him through."

Okay, also, why do you assume that the "star employee" is a male? Grrrr. Hear my inner feminist roar. 

Then I decided to learn more about your services (out of curiosity) and discovered your “AFLAC WorkForces Report – Executive Summary” from March 2012. I liked what you had to say about the state of the U.S. workforce and am paraphrasing or quoting pieces below.

Businesses need to recognize “the reality of a large number of workers simply biding their time before jumping ship at the first signs of economic stability.” You state that “business leaders need to be in prevention mode.” With this focus on prevention, why, oh why, did you use the phrase “When your star employee gets hurt” in your advertisement (emphasis added)?

Is it because you know that, according to the National Safety Council (NSC), U.S. workers work safer on the job than they do in their homes or communities?  The injuries or deaths that occur off-the-job in the home and community are due to poisoning, falls, mechanical suffocation, and drowning. According to the 2011 edition of the NSC Injury Facts:
  • Nine out of ten deaths occurred off the job (90%!)
  • Nearly 3/4 of medically consulted injuries occurred off the job

In the “AFLAC WorkForces Report – Executive Summary” you continue to focus on prevention and wellness programs – I believe that off-the-job safety should be a more prominent piece of wellness programs. You state that:

“Impactful wellness programs are not just hosting a company fun run, or hanging a few health-related posters around the office. Wellness programs must be comprehensive, engaging and holistic, encompassing key areas of employees’ everyday lifestyle and include a focus on a healthy workplace and community, education about eating well and exercise, and the ability to manage stress and focus on prevention.”

If you could modify this statement to include education about off-the-job safety, it would make me happy.

You also discuss workplace mental health, and how workers’ personal lives directly impact their productivity:

“Employers are also feeling the effects of worker anxiety. Individuals with stress caused by large outstanding debts and unstable financial situ­ations report incidences of ulcers and digestive problems, migraine and other headaches, anxi­ety, depression and even heart attacks at rates between two and three times the national aver­age. This stress translates into higher health care costs and other negative effects on the workplace. Financially-stressed employees experience high­er absenteeism and turnover, lower levels of job satisfaction and lower productivity.”

Another statement on personal distractions was the following:

“Companies are also experiencing higher produc­tivity losses due to distracted workers. Nearly half (46%) of workers who have experienced a personal issue that impacted their ability to get their work done, say it was due to a health is­sue specifically. Additionally, the Aflac study finds that nearly half of companies (43%) esti­mate their average productivity loss stemming from employees’ concern over personal issues is between 11 and 30 percent. Productivity losses related to personal and family health problems cost U.S. employers $1,685 per employee per year, or $225.8 billion annually.”

I appreciate that you didn’t blame the Internet or the various social networks for the worker distraction issues. Since many workers spend the majority of their waking hours a) away from their families, and b) at work trying to be productive, when family issues occur, workers are not able to just “turn off” their family responsibilities the second they walk in the door. The various social networks allow workers to maintain contact  and *hopefully* healthy relationships with their friends and families, on their terms, rather than taking unnecessary vacations, long phone calls, long lunches, personal days, etc.

I also appreciated your comments on communication of benefits in the workplace. Too often, employers just send an email or have a link on the company intranet that says “click here to learn about your benefits” leading to a gazillion-page document that is overwhelming to mentally digest. When employees go to Human Resources (HR) in this situation, telling them that they aren’t sure what to pick, they are often not helped by HR. You state that:

“Unfortunately, feedback from U.S. workers indicates most companies’ communications and education about benefits isn’t up to par. In fact, the Aflac WorkForces Report finds that only nine percent of workers say their HR de­partment communicates extremely effectively about benefits packages offered. Another 22 percent say their HR department communi­cates not at all or not very effectively.”

I especially appreciated your comments on employee loyalty to employers:

A more confident workforce, combined with more job openings, can lead many workers, who may be on the fence about job change, to move forward and make their exit. The recessionary environment has caused workers to reassess the employer-employee value proposition. They are now taking a closer look and asking, ‘What is my employer providing me, in both hard and soft benefits, that makes me loyal to them?’”

There have been a number of studies on declining employee loyalty, which seem to boil down to these key points:

  •           Employees feel their jobs are in constant threat due to massive layoffs during the recession.
  •           Employers have reduced benefits (at higher cost to employees), to fatten the bottom line and please shareholders; this places all the risk for rising health care costs and pathetic 401k returns on the employee rather than the employer.
  •           The Millennial generation (I am one!) has a different expectation for their careers. In short, we want to get back what we put into ANY relationship.
  •          Employers have decreased the opportunities for growth and training while asking/forcing employees to take on job responsibilities they may not be prepared for.

So, in short, I am no longer confused by your advertisement and believe you offer a useful service. Voluntary benefits for employees at little to no cost for the employer – sounds good. 

I skimmed through the 2013 "Aflac WorkForces Report – Executive Summary” and appreciated the summary of findings relating to the Affordable Care Act and it's impact on employee benefits:

"Aflac’s third annual employee benefits study discovered:
  • While more business leaders are embracing cost-friendly consumer-driven models, consumers are largely unequipped and unprepared to effectively take the reins.
  • There are long-term implications for businesses taking a short-term approach of shifting control and responsibility of health insurance decisions to workers.
  • An organization’s degree of health care benefits engagement and knowledge factors heavily into its HR metrics – attraction, satisfaction, productivity, and retention of talent.
  • Amid massive changes in health care, what remains unchanged is the unequivocal role benefits satisfaction plays in the welfare of the workforce.
  • The growing importance of voluntary products in a consumer-driven health care environment characterized by a largely financially fragile population."

I think your findings were well-portrayed in this image from the 2013 Executive Summary.

Aflac's portrayal of the cycle: Corporate Disengagement from Benefits Initiates Cycle of Difficulties.

BUT, I would like you to revise your future advertisements to focus on prevention and the services you actually offer. The advertisement shown previously is slightly misleading.

Something like this:

The Industrious Hygienist's revision of the Aflac advertisement: "If your employees get hurt off the job, Aflac will see them through."

Yours truly –

The Industrious Hygienist