Here are 18 hot topics we’re talking about…

Contractor safety

In 2006 ORC Worldwide (now ORCHSE) began looking at the challenge of protecting contract workers on behalf of a client and discovered an astonishing absence of data on contract worker injuries and fatalities. ORC coordinated the National Summit on Contractor Safety to examine a growing concern: that contract workers experience a disproportionately large share of serious injuries and fatalities on the job.

Cell towers

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 13 communication tower workers were killed in 2013 and another 11 were killed 2014, leading to efforts by OSHA to focus inspection resources on the industry and to work with the communications tower industry to address the risks. Most of the fatalities were the results of falls from heights. On August 3, 2016, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) approved A10.48, Criteria for Safety Practices with the Construction, Demolition, Modification and Maintenance of Communications Structures, the first voluntary national consensus standard strictly dedicated to protecting workers in the communications tower industry.


Since 2005 at least 137,000 fracking wells have been drilled or permitted in more than 20 states.

During recent field studies, NIOSH has identified exposure to airborne silica as a health hazard to workers conducting some hydraulic fracturing operations. Other possible hazards: waste fluid left over from the fracking process sits in open-air pits to evaporate, which releases dangerous volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the atmosphere, creating contaminated air, acid rain and ground-level ozone.

Exposure to diesel particulate matter, hydrogen sulfide and volatile hydrocarbons can lead to a host of health problems, including asthma, headaches, high blood pressure, anemia, heart attacks and cancer.

Distracted driving

In 2014, 3,179 people were killed, and 431,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. As of December 2014, 169.3 billion text messages were sent in the US (includes PR, the Territories, and Guam) every month. At any given daylight moment across America, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving, a number that has held steady since 2010.

Healthcare safety

More than 250,000 Americans die each year due to medical errors, according to the Johns Hopkins Medicine analysis of medical data over an eight-year period. The CDC rates heart disease (614,348) and cancer (591,499) as the leading causes of death in the U.S. Medical errors are the third-leading cause of death.

Common medical errors: medication errors, bad communication, infection, falls, surgical errors (wrong site, tools left in patient bodies, etc.), pharmacy errors, lab errors, treatment errors, follow-up care, and birth injuries.

Hispanic workforce

Sparked by immigration and relatively high fertility rates, the number of Hispanics in the civilian U.S. workforce more than doubled, from 10.7 million to 25.4 million workers between 1990 and 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

This 137-percent increase dwarfed the 13-percent increase in the number of non-Hispanic civilian workers, nearly doubling the representation of Hispanics among all civilian workers during this time (from 8.5 percent to 16.0 percent).

By 2020, Latinos are expected to comprise 19 percent of the U.S. workforce. Hispanics comprise a significant percentage of workers in industries considered to be more dangerous than most, such as construction, oil and gas, agriculture/landscaping, and transportation.

Injury and illness prevention  programs

Good old I2P2, OSHA boss Dr. David Michaels’ pet project for years, is dead and never to be resurrected — at least using the I2P2 acronym. OSHA and professional societies such as ASSE and AIHA will continue to tout the benefits of occupational safety and health management systems on a voluntary basis. OSHA claims companies that implement OHS management systems can reduce injury and illness costs by 20 to 40 percent.

In late 2017, ISO 45001, a global voluntary OHS management system standard, is expected to be released. It’s based on OHSAS 18001. By 2009 more than 54,000 certificates had been issued in 116 countries to OHSAS or equivalent OHSMS standards. It’s expected more than 100,000 companies will have complied with ISO 45001 by 2019.

Incentive programs

In recent years OSHA inspectors have scrutinized safety incentive programs for evidence of under- reporting incidents and intimidating workers not to report incidents. There have even been rumors (false) that OSHA will ban all forms of incentive programs.


OSHA’s final rule on the electronic submission of annual injury and illness data takes effect Jan. 1, 2017, and reporting requirements will be phased in over two years. Starting in 2019, organizations will have to submit the required data to OSHA electronically on an annual basis due by March 2 for data collected in the previous calendar year.

OSHA plans to post employer injury and illness rates for public consumption, a move that has some safety pros worried that companies will under-report records to look good.

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs)

OSHA has no plans of trying to come up with a second ergonomics standard. That ship has sailed and sunk. But musculoskeletal disorders are such a problem, many companies have taken matters into their own hands, controlling risk exposures at the working interface.

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) accounted for 32 percent of all injury and illness cases in 2014, according to the BLS. Most were due to overexertion and body strain. Workers who sustained an MSD required a median of 13 days to recuperate before returning to work in 2014, compared to 9 days for all types of cases and up from 11 days in 2013.


About 2.3 million workers are exposed to respirable crystalline silica in their workplaces, according to OSHA, including 2 million construction workers who drill, cut, crush, or grind silica-containing materials such as concrete and stone, and 300,000 workers in general industry operations such as brick manufacturing, foundries, and hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking.

The U.S. Department of Labor first highlighted the hazards of respirable crystalline silica in the 1930s, after a wave of worker deaths. A final rule on silica protections for both construction and general industry was proposed in September 2013, and went into effect June 23, 2016.

Oil and gas extraction safety and health

More than 450,000 workers were employed in the oil and gas extraction and support industries in 2011, according to the BLS. The number has dropped substantially due to the global oil glut and fall in oil prices. Still, from 2003 to 2010, 823 oil and gas extraction workers were killed on the job — a fatality rate seven times greater than the rate for all U.S. industries. Dangerous conditions that can result in fatalities for oil and gas workers include: vehicle accidents, struck-by/ caught-in/ caught-between, explosions and fires, falls, confined spaces, and chemical exposures.

Zika exposure

As of September 2016, a total of 3,176 Zika virus infection cases had been reported in the U.S. Locally acquired mosquito- borne cases reported: 43; travel- associated cases reported: 3,132; laboratory acquired cases reported:

1. New York and Florida reported the most cases. In Puerto Rico, 17,315 locally-acquired cases were reported.

OSHA and NIOSH have issued interim guidance for protecting workers from occupational exposure to Zika virus.

Temporary / contract workers

OSHA has issued seven bulletins covering aspects of temporary worker protection, including recordkeeping requirements, PPE, whistleblower protection rights, safety and health training, hazard communication, bloodborne pathogens, and powered industrial truck training. Think the agency is concerned about the safety and health of temps?

OSHA’s temporary worker initiative launched in July 2014 states numerous studies have shown new workers are at greatly increased risk

for work-related injury, and most temporary workers will be “new” workers multiple times a year. OSHA considers  the staffing agency and host employer to be “joint employers” of a temp worker.

Violence in the  workplace

Nearly two million American workers report having been victims of workplace violence each year, and many more cases go unreported, according to OSHA.

Risk factors include exchanging money with the public and working with volatile, unstable people. Working alone or in isolated areas can also contribute to the potential for violence. Providing services and care, and working where alcohol is served may also impact the likelihood of violence. Time of day and location of work, such as working late at night or in areas with high crime rates, are also risk factors.

Wind energy

Wind energy workers are exposed to hazards that can result in fatalities and serious injuries, according to OSHA. Many incidents involving falls, severe burns from electrical shocks and arc flashes/fires, and crushing injuries have been reported to OSHA.

More than 4,300 utility-scale wind turbines were installed across 64 projects in 20 states in 2015, bringing the total fleet to more than 48,500 operating utility-scale wind turbines in 40 states and Puerto Rico, according to the Department of Energy.