Category Archives: Worker Safety

Violence Research By UW

“In May, the State of Washington awarded $1 million to the UW School of Medicine for the formation of the Firearm Injury & Policy Research Program. The program seeks to answer urgent questions involving firearm risks, injuries, policies and programs in Washington state.” – UW Medicine

Violence research by UW Medicine researchers provides findings that support the contention of ongoing impacts to physical and mental health subsequent to experiencing violence. Workplace violence is increasingly prevalent, with immediate and long-lasting consequences for the victims of this violence.

The lasting effects of workplace violence can require ongoing medical and psychiatric care, can impede the victim’s ability to return to work and, in some cases, can result in permanent impairments. In my experience, the mental health impacts can be the most insidious and difficult to overcome. The difficulties are compounded if an injured worker encounters pushback from the Department of Labor and Industries, sometimes in the form of treatment denials, other times through not recognizing the difficulty in returning to work or not acknowledging the presence of permanent impairment.

UW Medicine recently released the news of the completion and presentation of the researcher’s findings. Violence research findings that span every age and a variety of circumstances, but findings that can be applied to workplace violence cases, as well. The full text of the UW Medicine release can be read here, and is excerpted, below:

Violence has complex, far-reaching impacts on health

A new paper by UW Medicine researchers offers a broad, updated look at the interrelated impacts of violence on physical and mental health across age groups, from infants to elderly people.

The authors compiled recent compelling findings about health effects of child abuse, bullying, youth violence, adult interpersonal violence, and elder abuse, among others.  The paper was published Oct. 7 in Health Affairs. Its authors represent the Firearm Injury & Policy Research Program, based at the Harborview Injury Prevention & Research Center.

“Violence has important consequences for physical and mental health. These consequences vary with the type of violence and age, but all of them can be severe, debilitating and lifelong,” said Dr. Fred Rivara, the paper’s lead author. He is a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine and adjunct professor of epidemiology at the UW School of Public Health.

“The findings of our review point out the need to both treat the victims of violence and prevent these types of violence from occurring in the first place,” Rivara said.

By organizing their findings by age group, the authors highlighted the cumulative, interrelated harms of violence across the lifespan. For example, research has found that victims of child abuse have an elevated risk of depression, suicidality, drug use, and certain chronic illnesses later in life. Because of that risk, they are also more likely to later experience intimate partner violence, which in turn heightens risk of depression, anxiety, asthma, gastrointestinal disorders, chronic pain, and other health issues.

An overview of many types of violence also helps broaden research and policy perspectives beyond the immediate physical trauma, and draws attention to long-term health impacts. These harms affect not only individuals, but also indirectly traumatize family, friends, and communities.

Fall Protection Lifelines Cut

Fall Protection Lifelines Cut by Exposed Edges – DOSH Hazard Alert

Fall protection lifelines cut by exposed edges have occurred in two separate accidents. The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) recently issued an hazard alert directed to all employers and workers who rely on personal fall arrest systems. The following information was provided by DOSH.

DOSH Hazard Alert

This alert was developed by L&I’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) to alert employers, labor groups, and employees to potential hazards associated with work activities. This is not a rule and creates no new legal obligations. The information provided includes suggested guidance on how to avoid workplace hazards and describes relevant mandatory safety and health rules. DOSH recommends you also check the related rules for additional requirements.

Fall protection lifelines cut – a real and deadly risk

In Washington State, two workers fell to their deaths due to their self-retracting lifelines (SRLs) being severed in separate fall incidents. The lifelines had been anchored horizontally (i.e., at a level below the harness D-ring.

One incident involved a steel-cable lifeline that was severed when it contacted the edge of formwork made of steel plates.ƒ The other incident occurred when a nylon webbing lifeline was severed after contacting sharp, abrasive edges along a beveled wall.

Evidence from investigations of each incident indicated damage to lifelines occurred during the fall, not before. In both cases, manufacturers of the lifelines warned about using SRLs around edges that could damage the lifeline or prevent the SRL from effectively arresting the fall. Although the incidents described involved SLRs, non-SLRs (e.g., lanyard and rope, webbing, or cable) have similar risk.

Employers are required to address this risk per WAC 296-155-24613(1)(e), “You must protect all safety lines and lanyards against being cut or abraded”.

How to prevent this from happening at your jobsite

Any open side or edge of a floor, roof, deck, platform, or formwork creates a condition in which a lifeline could contact an edge and be severed in the event of a fall. To protect workers who use lifelines:

  • Identify and document all potentially hazardous edges during your walk-around safety inspections at the jobsite.
  • When possible, avoid working in areas where lifelines could contact potentially hazardous edges should a fall occur. ƒ
  • Anchor lifelines vertically overhead, whenever possible, to prevent the lifeline from contacting an edge and to minimize swing falls (or the pendulum effect) that can abrade and cut lifelines. In addition, make sure workers stay within a safe working distance from the overhead anchor point. ƒ

When a fall could occur over an edge:

  • Select and provide lifelines designed specifically for the
    application and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use.
  • Protect lifelines against being cut or abraded by covering the edge with a protective material.
  • Address potentially hazardous edges and protective measures for lifelines in your Fall Protection Work Plan.
  • Routinely inspect lifelines and other fall protection equipment before each use.

Instruct crews on:

  • The use and limitations of the fall protection equipment provided.
  • Where potentially hazardous edges are located.
  • Why they need to protect lifelines when working around exposed edges and how to do that.

Share this alert with crews to reinforce awareness of this safety issue.

Other resources you can access

View the full alert here.

Stand-Down for Safety, May 6 – 10, 2019


Fatalities caused by falls from elevation continue to be a leading cause of death for construction employees, accounting for 366 of the 971 construction fatalities recorded in 2017 (BLS data). Those deaths were preventable. The National Safety Stand-Down raises fall hazard awareness across the country in an effort to stop fall fatalities and injuries.

Join the Washington State Stand Down

Falls cost. Safety pays. Choose to promote fall prevention on your job site during Safety Stand-Down weeks.

 

What is a Safety Stand-Down?

It’s when you take a break from normal work activities so your crew can focus on a particular jobsite safety topic, like training on safe use of ladders or inspection of full body harnesses.

Falls are the leading cause of death in construction, as you can see from this Washington State infographic (753 KB PDF)

Who Can Participate?

Anyone who wants to prevent hazards in the workplace can participate in the Stand-Down. In past years, participants included commercial construction companies of all sizes, residential construction contractors, sub- and independent contractors, highway construction companies, general industry employers, the U.S. Military, other government participants, unions, employer’s trade associations, institutes, employee interest organizations, and safety equipment manufacturers.

Get Involved

Start now. Any construction business in Washington State can choose how to participate and what to address. You’ll find plenty of ideas and ready-to-go resources on various topics. See the Ladder Safety Resource Guide (177 KB PDF).

Ideas for Stand Down

Stand-Down activities can range from short toolbox talks to scheduled, full-day events. Pick what’s right for your company.  Find ideas here.

Share your success stories!

Share your story on social media with the hashtags #StandDown4Safety and #StopFalls.

Image credit: OSHA

Ironworker Falls 80 Feet through Bent Plate Gap

The Washington Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) Program* has published a new Injury Narrative. The new narrative describes an incident where an ironworker fell from a roof into a debris net. 

These are one-page reports that summarize work-related incidents and list some requirements and recommendations that might have prevented the incident from occurring. For your convenience, this narrative is also available as a Slideshow intended to be used as a group discussion and training tool.

FACE is focusing on the construction industry. These narratives provide preliminary information about the incident to the interested community, similar to OSHA’s Fatal Facts and MSHA’s Fatalgrams. FACE hopes that they are used for formal or informal educational opportunities to help prevent similar incidents.

 Ironworker Falls 80 Feet through Bent Plate Gap

 

A 29-year-old ironworker was severely injured after falling through a bent plate gap and landing 80 feet below in a debris net. Coworkers rescued him from the net. He suffered numerous injuries, and still had not returned to work nearly a year after the incident.

The ironworker’s employer was a structural steel and precast concrete contractor. He had worked for his employer for over four years and he had been an ironworker for 10 years.

See the full details of the report, including safety requirements and recommendations, here.

 

 

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month

Distracted Driving Awareness Month is observed each April to bring national attention to the hazards of distracted driving. The dangers of distracted driving are serious and the results can be severe. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that in 2016, distracted drivers caused 3,450 fatalities and 391,000 injuries on America’s roads and highways. That’s at least 9 people killed and 1,000 injured every day. Washington State Traffic Safety Council data shows that distracted driving causes 30% of fatalities and 23% of serious injuries in crashes in the State of Washington.

Operating a motor vehicle requires full attention to the road, but it’s easy to become distracted when you are driving and at the same time using a mobile device, changing radio channels, using a calculator, applying cosmetics, smoking, eating or drinking. Looking at billboards, buildings and people also causes major distractions. Texting is among the most dangerous distractions. Typing or reading a text message takes your eyes off the road for at least 5 seconds. At 55 mph, that’s like driving the entire 120-yard length of a football field with your eyes shut. Driving while texting also increases your crash risk like driving with a blood alcohol content of 1.9.

It’s the Law

In 2017, Washington State passed a distracted driving law into the rules of the road. Getting ticketed for distracted driving is expensive. Fines start at $136 and can go up to $234 on repeat offenses. The citations stay on your driving record and increase your vehicle insurance rates. Federal law also prohibits texting by interstate truck drivers and forbids companies from requiring their drivers to text while behind the wheel. In addition to disqualification, civil penalties for truck drivers can reach up to $2,750 for multiple offenses, and $11,000 for companies requiring or allowing drivers to text while driving. Over 150 law enforcement agencies across Washington State participate in the Distracted Driving Awareness Month prevention effort.

The best strategy to prevent a roadway incident is an easy one. Never take your mind off driving and always keep your eyes on the road and both hands on the steering wheel. Put away your cell phones and other handheld gadgets and objects until you are safely parked out of the flow of traffic.

Trucking companies should implement a cell phone policy in their safety program that prohibits drivers from using their cell phones while driving. Drivers also should not handle dispatching devices, maps, or food while driving.

Visit the following links to get more information and resources for distracted driving prevention:

Washington State traffic law:

Using a personal electronic device while driving

Dangerously distracted driving

Keep Trucking Safe:

Smart and safe cell phone use poster

Washington State Traffic Safety Council:

Distracted driving data, training resources and programs

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration:

Rule limiting the use of wireless communication devices

Distracted driving tips and training tools

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

Distracted driving website

National Safety Council:

Distracted Driving Awareness Month website

Distracted driving safety topics website

 

Photo by BC Gov Photos on Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

 

Are Safety Incentive Programs Counter-Productive?

Most companies care about their employees’ safety and sometimes use games like Safety Bingo or signage that reports safety records, like days without an accident, to encourage safe behavior. However, these well-intentioned incentives don’t always improve safety. In fact, using incentive-based prizes that reward employees for working safely may unintentionally lead employees to suppress injury and illness reporting. Underreporting to win prizes has two harmful side effects:

1.Underreporting can slow down hazard identification and resultin misinformed decisions about workplace safety programs andpractices – putting your workplace at risk. A successful safetyprogram may even have a high number of incidents reported.This allows management to target resources and training where itwill do the most good.

2.Discouraging workers from reporting injuries and gettingtreatment early can cause more serious injuries that require timeaway from work to heal. This results in higher workers’ compcosts, injuries that may permanently impact the worker’s return towork and the high cost of turnover.Design a safety program that rewards worker participation and encourages injury and illness reporting.

The following tips may help:

  • Reward employees who identify hazards orparticipate in investigations of injuries, incidents or close calls.
  • Revise your incentive program if any part of it is deterring injury and illness reporting.
  • Create a policy that prohibits retaliation against employees who report injuries and illnesses.
  • Provide gifts to workers serving on safety and health committees.
  • Play games that test employee knowledge of job hazards and safety practices.
  • Offer modest rewards for employee suggestions that strengthen the safety and health program.
  • Throw a recognition party at the successful completion of company-wide safety and health training.

The Trucking Injury Reduction Emphasis (TIRES) project was developed by the Safety and Health Assessment and Research for Prevention (SHARP) program of Washington’s Department of Labor and Industries.  

The Trucking Injury Reduction Emphasis (TIRES) project team and the TIRES steering committee are working with the Washington State trucking industry to identify causes for the most frequent injuries to develop effective strategies for preventing them. Free safety training materials are available at KeepTruckingSafe.org.

The TIRES steering committee is made up of a diverse group of professionals that includes: drivers, safety people from large and small trucking companies, labor and business associations, insurers and a representative from a publicly funded truck driving school.

Funded in part by a grant from CDC NIOSH 5 U60 OH 008487. The contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of CDC/NIOSH.

Agriculture Safety Event in Eastern Washington

Agriculture is one of Washington’s largest industries. Unfortunately, it continues to have one of the highest injury rates. The state is working to change that with upcoming workplace safety events geared specifically toward agricultural workers and management.

To meet the growing safety and health training needs, Washington’s 2019 Agriculture Safety Day events will be held in two locations.

This year, for the first time, the Kennewick conference was held at the Three Rivers Convention Center on Feb. 5. It returns to the Wenatchee Convention Center Feb. 27. Registration is now open online for the Wenatchee event.

Reducing hazards is good for workers, and it makes good business sense. The one-day meetings promote workplace safety and health.

The topics covered during the safety day events are specifically geared to hazards that employers and workers say are the most important. The training is cosponsored by the Governor’s Industrial Safety and Health Advisory Board and the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I).

This year’s agenda features sessions on tractor and ATV safety, confined spaces, machine guarding, hazard awareness, sexual harassment prevention, distracted driving and more. Many workshops will be in both English and Spanish.

Some classes qualify for pesticide recertification credits. Check the registration web page for details. Several health and safety exhibitors will also be there with educational booths, product displays and demonstrations.

Online pre-registration is $75 per person or $65 for groups of five or more. Students and apprentices get a discounted rate of only $35. Admission at the door is $85. The registration fee includes the conference and lunch.

Register now for Wenatchee 2/27/2019: https://www.eiseverywhere.com/ehome/376831

For more information, contact Conference Manager Rebecca Llewellyn at 1-888-451-2004.

Photo by ILO in Asia and the Pacific on Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

WA Farm Worker was Severely Burned When a Drum Exploded

The Washington Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) Program* has published a new Injury Narrative. The new narrative describes an incident where a farm worker was severely burned when a drum exploded. 

For your convenience, this narrative is also available as a Slideshow intended to be used as a group discussion and training tool.

These are one-page reports that summarize work-related injury incidents and list some requirements and recommendations that might have prevented the incident from occurring. We are focusing on theagriculture industry. These narratives provide preliminary information about the incident to the interested community, similar to OSHA’s Fatal Facts and MSHA’s Fatalgrams. We hope that they are used for formal or informal educational opportunities to help prevent similar incidents.

*The FACE Program is partially funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH grant# 5 U60 OH008487-11) and the Safety and Health Assessment and Research for Prevention (SHARP) Program at the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries. The contents of the Fatality Narratives are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of NIOSH.

 

Photo by 10b travelling / Carsten ten Brink on Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Multiple Asbestos Violations Result in Nearly $800,000 in Fines

Improper and unsafe handling of asbestos at a Seattle area home-flipping site put workers and neighbors at risk, and has left two business owners and their companies facing numerous citations and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines from the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I).

James Thorpe, Northlake Capital & Development, 3917 Densmore LLC, and Chris Walters have each been cited for 11 willful and serious violations. In total, the fines for the four separate investigations add up to $789,200.

“These two men endangered their workers and people who live nearby this project, including children,” said Anne Soiza, L&I’s assistant director for the Division of Occupational Safety and Health. “On top of that, they tried to avoid responsibility by creating a legal web of confusion over who was responsible. I hope this sends a strong message that we take worker safety and public health very seriously.”

L&I opened the inspection following a complaint from an alert neighbor living near the residential renovation project on Densmore Road in Lynnwood. Several workers were improperly removing exterior asbestos tiles from the home over a weekend. When a neighbor confronted Chris Walters, the man who said he was the homeowner, Walters promised to remove the asbestos correctly. However, two neighbors took videos that showed the workers committing several violations.

An extensive investigation by L&I revealed that Walters was actually part of a complex corporate partnership created to renovate and flip the residence.

The home was initially purchased by Seattle company Northlake Capital & Development, owned by James Thorpe. Northlake is a real property company that primarily focuses on house flipping. After the purchase, Thorpe created 3917 Densmore LLC and established Walters, a Northlake employee, as the sole member of the new corporation, claiming that Walters was the homeowner, and that he intended to live in the home.

During parts of the investigation Walters and Thorpe shifted responsibility from LLC to LLC and from person to person. Eventually, L&I cited both men and the companies they oversee for the same violations. The fines vary, primarily due to the number of workers each entity was responsible for. Thorpe and Northlake each received $214,100 in fines and Walters and 3917 Densmore each receive $180,500.

The violations included using uncertified workers to remove asbestos; not using a certified asbestos supervisor; and not obtaining an asbestos good faith survey prior to beginning work. They were also cited for not using water and not keeping the shingles intact during removal (the workers were breaking the tiles with hammers); for the lack of proper personal protective equipment for workers; not monitoring the air during removal; and for not having a written accident prevention program.

Asbestos is extremely hazardous and can cause potentially fatal diseases like asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer. Only a certified abatement contractor that follows the specific asbestos related safety and health rules may remove and dispose of asbestos-containing building materials.

An employer has 15 business days from the time a citation is received to appeal, and each of these citations is currently under appeal.

Penalty money paid as a result of a citation is placed in the workers’ compensation supplemental pension fund, helping injured workers and families of those who have died on the job.

For a copy of the citations, please contact Public Affairs at 360-902-5413.

Washington One of the Top States for Workplace Safety

Washington remains one of the best states for workplace safety and health according to a report from the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. For 2017 our state had the ninth lowest fatal occupational injury rate in the nation.

According to the report, there were 84 workplace deaths in Washington in 2017, which comes out to 2.5 deaths per every 100,000 fulltime workers. That’s a slight increase from 2016 when Washington’s rate was 2.4 per 100,000.

“Every workplace death is tragic. Employers, workers and the state must continue to work together and learn from each serious injury and death, so we can continue to improve Washington’s workplace safety culture,” said Anne Soiza, L&I Assistant Director for the Division of Occupational Safety and Health. “This report shows we’re on the right track, but there’s always more to do to keep workers safe and healthy. We all need to continue our focus on preventing falls and the disturbing rise of workplace violence.”

As part of the state’s focus on prevention L&I partners with industry and labor on campaigns, provides free onsite consultations to public and private employers to help them find and fix workplace safety and health hazards. The agency also works closely with high-risk industries to alert them to dangerous work situations and activities so they can prevent them.

Washington’s workplace fatality rate is 30 percent below the national average. The numbers vary from year to year, but Washington consistently demonstrates one of the lowest fatal occupational injury rates in the country.

Construction is always one of the most dangerous occupations here and nationally. Washington had 15 construction fatalities in 2017, one more than in 2016. That’s a rate of 6.2 per 100,000 full-time workers; six other states had a lower rate.

Other industrial sectors that rank high on the national list for dangerous workplaces include the category of farming, fishing and forestry with a rate of 20.9 fatal injuries per 100,000, and transportation with a rate of 15.9. Each of these rates is meaningfully higher than the respective rates in Washington of 11.7 and 5.8 per 100,000 full time workers.

The bureau’s report contains several charts and graphs that break down the data by type of incident, occupation, industry, state, etc. For a more detailed look follow the links on the bureau’s news release.

 

Photo by TranBC on Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC-ND