As the month of June winds to a close, these are the topics and events that will drive conversations in the world of occupational safety and health…
HOUSE HEARING: FATAL KLEEN ENERGY SYSTEMS EXPLOSION
“Examining the Tragic Explosion at the Kleen Energy Power Plant in Middletown, Connecticut” is the title of a House Workforce Protections Subcommittee Hearing set for 10:00 AM, June 28, 2010 City Hall Council Chambers, 245 deKoven Drive Middletown, Connecticut.
The Workforce Protections Subcommittee of the House Education and Labor Committee will hold a field hearing in Middletown, Conn. on Monday, June 28 regarding the Kleen Energy Systems power plant explosion. On February 7, a massive explosion ripped through the natural gas power plant that was under construction killing five workers and injuring dozens.
Shortly after the explosion, Connecticut U.S. Reps. Joe Courtney, Rosa DeLauro, and John Larson requested that the committee hold a hearing into the tragedy. Rep. Courtney is a member of the Education and Labor Committee.
OSHA HOLDS COMBUSTIBLE DUST VIRTUAL STAKEHOLDING MEETING
OSHA has scheduled a first-ever virtual stakeholder meeting June 28, 2010, to seek input about combustible dust workplace hazards.
The virtual meeting format provides quick and easy access to a broader audience, such as small businesses that would otherwise not be able to participate. Comments from the meeting will be used to help the agency develop a proposed standard on combustible dust.
Since 1980, more than 130 workers have been killed and more than 780 injured in combustible dust explosions. This virtual stakeholder meeting is the fourth in a series of stakeholder meetings addressing combustible dust hazards.
"OSHA is committed to expanding the opportunity for the public to engage in its rulemaking activities, and this virtual stakeholder meeting will afford a wide range of stakeholders the opportunity to participate," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA David Michaels. "This is an important rulemaking, and we want to ensure that all interested stakeholders have an opportunity to send us their comments and suggestions."
Combustible dusts comprise fine particles, fibers, chips, chunks or flakes that, under certain conditions, can cause a fire or explosion when suspended in air. Types of dusts include metal (aluminum and magnesium), wood, plastic, rubber, coal, flour, sugar and paper, among others.
Individuals can register to participate in the Web chat by accessing www.dol.gov/dol/chat.htm. The live chat will be held for one hour, beginning at 1 p.m. EDT. After that, individuals will have continuous access to this site through July 7, 2010, to provide feedback and receive additional information. For general and technical information, contact Mat Chibbaro, OSHA Office of Safety Systems, at 202-693-2255. Press inquiries should be directed to Jennifer Ashley, OSHA Office of Communications, at 202-693-1999.
DC MEETING ON “FIND & FIX” MANDATE SOLD OUT
To solicit comments in developing the Injury and Illness Prevention Program (I2P2) proposed rule two meetings already have been conducted in East Brunswick, N.J., and Dallas, Texas. Registration for a third meeting in Washington, D.C., to be held June 29 has reached full capacity.
OSHA has scheduled two additional I2P2 stakeholder meetings, one in Washington, D.C., and one in Sacramento, Calif. These additional meetings are part of a series of five.
The stakeholder meetings are informal discussions to provide OSHA with the necessary information to develop a rule that will help employers reduce workplace injuries and illnesses through a systematic process proactively addressing workplace safety and health hazards.
"With this proposal, we will be asking employers to find and fix the hazards in their workplaces," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels. "This common sense rule will help make the secretary of labor's vision of 'good jobs for everyone' a reality."
EURO SAFETY & HEALTH AGENCY WARNS AGAINST SAFETY CUTS
“Spending on workplace health and safety should be seen as an investment and not a cost”, according to the Director of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA). Along with the publication of the Agency’s Annual Report for 2009, Jukka Takala warned against organisations “abandoning long term benefits for short term gains, by reducing their health and safety budgets in difficult times. With 80 percent of European managers reporting workplace accidents as the main concern, we cannot afford to make cuts in workplace health and safety.”
The 2009 Annual Report acknowledges that the year was a difficult one throughout Europe, with many economies struggling to emerge from recession, and with unemployment rates rising. EU-OSHA has seen increases in many of the health and safety problems that affect European workers, as they have to absorb the work previously done by workers who have been made redundant, and as they suffer from greater stress.
In fact, findings from the recent ESENER survey show that 52 percent of managers in Europe think that time pressure contributes to psychosocial risks in their company. Other influencing factors are job insecurity (26 percent) and long working hours (21 percent).
Workers also face the growing risk that long-term absence from work will result in them never getting back into employment. According to Jukka Takala, ”the more enlightened employers have been introducing more part-time work and job rotation, to try to avoid redundancies among their workforce while still reducing their wage bills – they realise that retaining their experienced staff is an investment for the next upturn.”
Against the background of economic uncertainty, EU-OSHA has continued to emphasise the importance of health and safety for successful organisations. Main projects in 2009 include:
- The European Survey of Enterprises on New and Emerging Risks (ESENER), which provides real-time data from organisations around Europe on the work that they are doing to tackle occupational safety and health risks, and especially psychosocial risks.
- The two-day summit that brought to a close EU-OSHA’s campaign on Risk Assessment (which is the cornerstone of health and safety management). EU-OSHA’s two-year Healthy Workplaces Campaigns are now the largest of their kind in the world.
- A pan-European opinion poll on occupational safety and health, aiming to find out what European workers think about their working conditions.
- A Europe-wide photography competition to promote health and safety at work, which received over 1,600 entries, and
- EU-OSHA’s support for the Healthy Workplaces Film Award at the International Leipzig Festival for Documentary and Animated Film.
Looking ahead, much of the Agency’s work will be focused on organising the Healthy Workplaces Campaign on Safe Maintenance, which will continue into 2011.
Concern about psychosocial risks such as stress, violence and harassment is increasing in European organisations, the first findings of the biggest workplace health and safety survey in Europe show. The new data was released on 3 June 2010 by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) at the mid-term review conference of the Community Strategy for Health and Safety at Work (2007 - 2012).
EUROS FAR AHEAD ON JOB STRESS RISKS (at least in acknowledging them)
You haven’t seen any OSHA stakeholder meetings on the touchy topic of job stress, and the agency has not issued a report anything like this: Four out of five European managers express their concerns about work-related stress, the ‘European Survey of Enterprises on New and Emerging Risks’ (ESENER) reveals, making stress at work as important as workplace accidents for companies (79 percent). Work-related stress is very acute in health and social work (91 percent of companies regard it as of some or major concern) and in education (84 percent).
“With the financial crisis in full swing, 79 percentof European managers voice their concern about stress at work, which is already recognised as an important burden on European productivity,” said EU-OSHA Director Jukka Takala at a conference in Barcelona. “But despite the high levels of concern, it is clearly worrying that only 26 percent of EU organisations have procedures in place to deal with stress. The ESENER survey highlights the importance of providing effective support for enterprises to tackle stress, which will be crucial in ensuring we have the healthy productive workforce needed to boost European economic performance and competitiveness”.
The survey also shows that 42 percent of management representatives consider it more difficult to tackle psychosocial risks, compared with other safety and health issues. The sensitivity of the issue (53 percent) and lack of awareness (50 percent) are the main barriers for dealing effectively with psychosocial issues, according the findings.
Measures to deal with psychosocial risks such as violence, stress and bullying are applied about twice as frequently by enterprises consulting their employees than by those designing their measures without the participation of employees.
EUROS AHEAD ON RISK ASSESSMENTS
Survey evidence released by EU-OSHA shows even smaller companies are able to carry out in-house risk assessment, but need support in the form of expertise, guidance and tools to manage their risk management process effectively and to design and implement successful preventive measures.
Through its campaign and information services EU-OSHA is working to raise awareness on workplace hazards and promote comprehensive and integrated risk management. EU-OSHA makes available a number of products to make this process easier, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). A new ‘Risk Assessment Tools Database’ brings together checklists, handbooks, brochures, questionnaires and interactive tools from across Europe, and is freely available from the website.
An‘Online interactive Risk Assessment tool’ (OiRA) is currently being developed and should encourage and help many thousands of European SMEs across all sectors to carry out risk assessments.
In the context of the Community Strategy for Health and Safety at Work (2007-12), it is important to know how workplace risks can be successfully managed and what the obstacles can be to achieving this, so that future OSH strategies can be better planned and supporting measures are tailored to companies’ needs, according to EU-OSHA. The ESENER survey is a unique pan-European indicator of OSH performance that should assist policy-makers evaluate the progress and implementation of the Strategy.
The full ESENER report and a summary in 22 languages are available from our website.
OIL SPILL'S PSYCH TOLL SURFACES
Speaking of job stress ailments, psychiatrists are warning that the oil spill in the Gulf could have long-lasting effects on coastal residents â€” especially those who lived through Hurricane Katrina, according to an AP report.
Doctors at Louisiana State University and Columbia University are seeing some of the same symptoms that Katrina survivors showed. Those include anger, anxiety, drinking, depression, and suicidal thoughts.
Making matters worse: the spill saga keeps dragging on and people feel like they can't do anything about it.