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  • Senate bill aimed at limiting employer liability during COVID-19 pandemic
    Washington — Legislation recently introduced in the Senate would temporarily limit COVID-19 liability for employers who comply with public health guidelines and aren’t acting with “gross negligence.”Cornell University Law School defines “gross negligence” as “a lack of care that demonstrates reckless disregard for the safety or lives of others, which is so great it appears to be a conscious violation of other people’s rights to safety.” The school adds that “gross negligence” is more than a simple, inadvertent act.The Safeguarding America’s Frontline Employees To Offer Work Opportunities Required to Kickstart the Economy (SAFE TO WORK) Act (S. 4317), introduced July 27 by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and co-sponsored by 19 other Republicans – including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), would provide liability protection to establishments that employ frontline workers such as teachers, doctors and nurses, among others. Additionally, the bill would limit liability from personal injury lawsuits brought against businesses, schools, colleges, nonprofit organizations or churches. These protections would be effective until Oct. 1, 2024.“These protections would apply to personal injury lawsuits stemming from actual exposure to coronavirus as well as feared or potential exposure,” Cornyn says in a July 27 press release. “This legislation would protect those acting in good faith from being sued into oblivion while ensuring bad actors who willingly put their patients, employees or customers in danger will still be held accountable.”

    in a separate July 27 press release, the advocacy group American Association for Justice claims the bill would “give sweeping liability immunity to corporations” and “increase infection rates, make consumers and workers less safe, and prolong the pandemic because businesses will be allowed to act unreasonably knowing they are immune from accountability.”The association adds that the bill “doesn’t address one action that businesses and lawmakers from both parties have been calling for: enforceable, science-based workplace standards to help businesses protect their customers and workers.”At press time, the bill had been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

    from: 
    https://www.safetyandhealthmagazine.com/articles/20229-senate-bill-aimed-at-limiting-employer-liabil...
  • COVID-19 pandemic: Oregon OSHA seeks input on draft of emergency temporary stand...
    Salem, OR — Oregon OSHA is accepting public comment through Aug. 31 on a draft emergency temporary standard intended to protect workers from exposure to COVID-19.The proposed rule contains multiple provisions that would apply to all workplaces, with specific requirements for those that have “close-in” work activities (e.g., tattooing, massage and hair dressing) and health care activities that involve direct patient care. Among the provisions are physical distancing processes, the use of physical barriers and face coverings, and sanitation policies and procedures. Employers must design workplaces and job tasks so employees can maintain 6 feet of distance from others.For example, in office settings, face coverings would be required when workers aren’t at a desk or are seated in a conference room and when 6 feet of distance can’t be reliably maintained. For shared equipment and high-contact surfaces, employers would have to ensure necessary cleaning and disinfecting supplies are available and the items are sanitized before use by another worker and before each shift.Employers would be required to post Oregon OSHA’s “COVID-19 Hazards Poster” in the workplace, notify employees of physical distancing requirements and how they’ll be implemented, and provide opportunities for workers to offer feedback.For workplaces with 25 or more employees, at least one worker would have to be designated to assist the employer with identifying appropriate physical distancing, proper face covering use and sanitation measures, and then ensuring implementation of the procedures.“We look forward to more review and feedback as we seek to further bolster on-the-job protections for workers against this disease,” Oregon OSHA Administrator Michael Wood said in an Aug. 17 press release announcing the publication of the draft document. “This rule proposal reflects the need to provide both clearer and more stable guidance in the workplace than has been possible during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.”The rule could take effect Sept. 14 at the latest and would remain in effect for 180 days.

    Oregon OSHA – which operates under federal OSHA’s State Plan program – announced June 26 it would pursue drafting the temporary standard, which was developed in consultation with the Oregon Health Authority, various stakeholders and technical advisors. The agency is continuing to pursue permanent rulemaking that would provide a structure for addressing potential future disease outbreaks.Virtual public forums are planned to discuss the draft document. To comment on the draft, email tech.web@oregon.gov.

    from: 
    https://www.safetyandhealthmagazine.com/articles/20232-covid-19-pandemic-oregon-osha-seeks-input-on-...
  • FMCSA awards nearly $80 million in grants
    Washington — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has awarded about $80 million in federal grants to states and educational institutions in an effort to enhance roadway safety.In an Aug. 19 press release, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao says the awards “represent the highest funding level” for the grants, which will be allocated as follows:
    High Priority grants: $45.1 million to strengthen states’ CMV safety efforts, as well as advance technological capabilities.
    Commercial Driver’s License Program Implementation grants: $32.7 million to enhance efforts by states to improve the national CDL program.
    Commercial Motor Vehicle Operator Safety Training grants: $2 million to 20 educational institutions to help train veterans for jobs as CMV operators.
    “This critical funding will support FMCSA’s state and local safety partners, and illustrates the Trump administration’s commitment to reducing crashes and improving safety on America’s roadways,” acting FMCSA administrator Jim Mullen said in the release. “These funds will go directly to where they are needed the most – our states, local communities and educational institutions.”
    Mullen will be stepping down as administrator at the end of the month, the agency recently announced.

    from: https://www.safetyandhealthmagazine.com/articles/20243-fmcsa-awards-nearly-80-million-in-grants
  • Speeding up OSHA’s response to COVID-19 whistleblower complaints: DOL OIG makes ...
    OSHA_OIG.jpg?1389116937Washington — Facing a staffing shortage and an increased number of complaints related to the COVID-19 pandemic, OSHA must improve the efficiency of its Whistleblower Protection Program, an audit report from the Department of Labor Office of Inspector General concludes.The program enforces 23 statutes that prohibit employers from retaliating against workers who report employer violations of various workplace safety, consumer product, environmental, financial reform and securities laws.“When OSHA fails to respond in a timely manner, it could leave workers to suffer emotionally and financially, and may also lead to the erosion of key evidence and witnesses,” DOL OIG states in the Aug. 14 report.An audit conducted by OIG found whistleblower complaints increased 30% during the first four months of the pandemic compared with the same period last year. Meanwhile, the WPP’s number of full-time equivalent investigators dropped to 120 from 126 in 2019. As a result, some investigators have as many as 45 open cases – more than double the “optimal” maximum amount of 20, according to the report. OIG recommends OSHA fill these vacancies.The office also recommends the agency continue to assess a triage pilot intended to speed up the complaint screening process and consider extending the program to all regions. The program, set up before the pandemic in Region 2 (New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands), is designed to reassign older whistleblower complaints from regions with sizeable backlogs to regions with smaller backlogs.“Whistleblower program officials have not utilized a similar approach during the pandemic to more evenly distribute whistleblower complaints,” the report states. OIG recommends the agency develop a caseload management plan to be able do so.In general, whistleblower cases are assigned based on the whistleblower’s location or where the majority of witnesses appeared to be located. However, OIG points out, many investigations are conducted via telephone interviews and with electronic delivery of supporting documentation,

     making distributing caseloads easier.Sign up for Safety+Health's free monthly email newsletters and get the news that's important to you. SUBSCRIBE NOWActing OSHA administrator Loren Sweatt agreed with the recommendations in a response memo dated Aug. 10 and addressed to Assistant Inspector General for Audit Elliot Lewis. She wrote that the agency has processed more than half of the COVID-19-related complaints received to date, with an average screening time of 10 days – faster than the agency’s fiscal year 2020 Operating Plan’s performance measure of 13 days.Sweatt added that the “Whistleblower Investigations Manual” is close to its first published update since September 2011.“In the meantime, the agency continues to issue new guidance to investigative staff, strengthen our collaborative relationships with our partner agencies, and develop new customer service and outreach tools,” she wrote.


    from: 
    https://www.safetyandhealthmagazine.com/articles/20249-speeding-up-oshas-response-to-covid-19-whistl...
  • Powder Coating company fined after worker suffers serious back injury
    A powder coating company has been fined after a worker in a factory in Poole, Dorset suffered shattered lumbar vertebrae and had to be kept in a lying down position on his back for two weeks in hospital.Southampton Magistrates’ Court heard how on 27 July 2017, the worker was checking the straps on a wheeled A-frame trolley containing ten 6m long twin wall polycarbonate sheets weighing 34kg each, when the load unexpectedly toppled onto him pushing him to the ground. Colleagues had to lift the sheets off the worker and call for an ambulance.An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that C & R Powder Coating and Welding Fabrication Ltd had failed to ensure the safety of workers, engaged in the transfer and storage of plastic sheeting on a trolley. The investigation found that the trolley was not suitable for the storage and transport of the plastic sheets because it was not sufficiently long enough and had no means for ensuring the straps being used would stay in place.C & R Powder Coating and Welding Fabrication Ltd of 4 – 6 The Wharf Centre, Wharf Street, Warwick, Warwickshire, CV34 5LB pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 4 of The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER). The company has been fined £20,000 and ordered to pay costs of £10,338.20.Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Berenice Ray, said: “This incident could so easily have been avoided by simply carrying out safe working practices and ensuring work equipment is suitable for the purpose for which it is to be used.“Accidents like this can happen with plastic sheets but equally with wood board, steel plate or stone slabs. Any flat profile material should be secured against falling or slipping out as the consequences can be a serious injury or even a fatality.“Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards.”

    from: https://press.hse.gov.uk/2020/08/07/powder-coating-company-fined-after-worker-suffers-serious-back-i...
  • HSE is making sure businesses in Greater Manchester are COVID-secure
    The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is contacting businesses in Greater Manchester to make sure workplaces are COVID-secure to help tackle the local outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases.HSE is working alongside Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) and local public health authorities to support the understanding of any patterns in the confirmed coronavirus cases in the area. Inspectors are out checking workplaces across Greater Manchester, putting duty holders and employers on the spot and ensuring that they are complying with the latest Safer Workplace guidance relevant to their sector.Being COVID-secure means that businesses need to put in place workplace adjustments to manage the risk and protect workers and others from coronavirus. Businesses can do this by following five practical steps:
    • Step 1. carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment
    • Step 2. develop increased cleaning, hand washing and hygiene procedures
    • Step 3. take all reasonable steps to help people work from home
    • Step 4. maintain 2m social distancing where possible
    • Step 5. where people cannot be 2m apart, manage transmission risk.
    Jane Carroll, HSE Regulatory Inspector in the North West, said: “The number of confirmed cases of the disease is currently high in the area. We are talking to local businesses and inspecting sites in and around Greater Manchester to understand how they are managing risks in line with their specific business activity.“Becoming COVID-secure needs to be the priority for all businesses in Greater Manchester to tackle the rise in the number of cases. It is a legal duty for employers to protect their workers and others from harm and this includes taking reasonable steps to control the risk and protect people from coronavirus. This means making workplace adjustments to become COVID-secure. We advise employers to work with their employees when implementing changes, to help increase confidence with workers, customers and the local community.”As inspections across the country are on-going, HSE has been utilising a number of different ways to gather intelligence and reach out to businesses across the UK with a combination of site visits, phone calls and through the collection of supporting visual evidence such as photos and video footage.HSE and local authority inspectors are finding some common issues across a range of sectors that include: failing to provide arrangements for monitoring, supervising and maintaining social distancing, failing to introduce an adequate cleaning regime – particularly at busy times of the day – and providing access to welfare facilities to allow employees to frequently wash their hands with warm water and soap.To support businesses, HSE is providing advice and guidance to manage risk and protect workers. Where some employers are not managing the risk, HSE will take action which can range from the provision of specific advice, issuing enforcement notices and stopping certain work practices until they are made safe. Where businesses fail to comply, this could lead to prosecution.Phil Strickland, Principal Inspector of Construction for Greater Manchester, said: “All businesses are in scope for inspections that means any size business in any sector can receive an unannounced inspection to ensure they are COVID-secure. By making sure that businesses have measures in place to manage the risks, we can benefit the health of the local community as well as support the UK economy.”For the latest information and Safer Workplaces guidance, see www.gov.uk

    from: 
    https://press.hse.gov.uk/2020/08/10/hse-is-making-sure-businesses-in-greater-manchester-are-covid-se...
  • HSE is checking businesses in Swindon are COVID-secure
    Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspectors are busy contacting and visiting businesses in Swindon to make sure workplaces are COVID-secure and help tackle a local outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases.After a rise in workplace Covid-19 outbreaks in the town, the government moved Swindon on to its coronavirus watch-list.HSE is working alongside Swindon Borough Council to support the understanding of any patterns in the confirmed coronavirus cases in the area while reassuring the local community.Inspectors are out checking workplaces across Swindon, putting duty holders and employers on the spot and ensuring that they are complying with the latest Safer Workplace guidance relevant to their sector.Being COVID-secure means that businesses need to put in place workplace adjustments to manage the risk and protect workers and others from coronavirus. Businesses can do this by following five practical steps:
    • Step 1. carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment
    • Step 2. develop increased cleaning, hand washing and hygiene procedures
    • Step 3. take all reasonable steps to help people work from home
    • Step 4. maintain 2m social distancing where possible
    • Step 5. where people cannot be 2m apart, manage transmission risk.
    Simon Chilcott, HSE Principal Inspector, said: “As confirmed cases of the disease are on the rise in Swindon, we are talking to and conducting spot inspections on local businesses in the area to gauge and understand how they are managing risks in line with their specific business activity.“Our visits are not just located on the town centre; we are conducting spot inspections and telephone inspections across businesses in the wider area to ensure becoming COVID-secure is their current number one priority.“While reassuring businesses, we are also reminding them that it is a legal duty for employers to protect their workers and others from harm and this includes taking reasonable steps to control the risk and protect people from coronavirus. This will entail making often simple but effective workplace adjustments to become COVID-secure.”As inspections across the country are on-going, HSE has been utilising a number of different ways to ensure organisations and businesses are COVID-secure and complaint with the guidance.HSE and local authority inspectors are finding some common issues across a range of sectors that include: failing to provide arrangements for monitoring, supervising and maintaining social distancing, failing to introduce an adequate cleaning regime – particularly at busy times of the day – and providing access to welfare facilities to allow employees to frequently wash their hands with warm water and soap.To support businesses, HSE is providing advice and guidance to manage risk and protect workers. Where some employers are not managing the risk, HSE will take action which can range from the provision of specific advice, issuing enforcement notices and stopping certain work practices until they are made safe. Where businesses fail to comply, this could lead to prosecution.Simon Chilcott added: “If you are a business or organisation that is open anywhere in the UK you must ensure you have the right workplace adjustments in place to safeguard your workers from Coronavirus infection. HSE are combining a range of tactics to ensure they can check as many businesses as possible so if you get a phone call or a visit from HSE you must engage in the spot inspection process.“We are also encouraging all employers to work with their employees when implementing changes to become COVID-secure and guiding them to the right information on how to do this.“Our inspectors could call unannounced at any business in any sector so please make sure your workplace is COVID-secure and measures are in place to manage any risks.“That way it will benefit the health of workers, customers and the local community while supporting the regional and national economy.”For the latest information and Safer Workplaces guidance, see www.gov.uk

    from: 
    https://press.hse.gov.uk/2020/08/12/hse-is-checking-businesses-in-swindon-are-covid-secure/?utm_sour...
  • A Building Contractor was sentenced after a subcontractor sustained significant ...
    Brebner and Williamson Limited has been fined following an incident where John Niven, a self-employed subcontractor fell 15 feet from a youngman board, which had been used to create a temporary platform. He sustained multiple fractures and a brain injury. 

    Perth Sheriff Court heard that on 29 July 2016 Mr Niven was working on a new build at Plot 1, Station Road, Crook of Devon, Kinross. A youngman board was used to create a temporary platform to give access to the roof in an area without scaffolding. Mr Niven was standing on the youngman board when it slipped, causing him to fall onto a concrete floor slab below.

    An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found Brebner and Williamson failed to properly supervise the work at height, to ensure scaffold surrounded the full perimeter of the house under construction, and to ensure a suitable working platform and fall protection measures were in place. 

    Brebner and Williamson of St David’s Drive, St David’s Business Park, Dalgety Bay, Fife pleaded guilty to breaching the Work at Height Regulations 2005, Regulation 4 and Section 33(1)(c) of the Health and Safety at Work Etc. Act 1974 and were fined £5,000.

    After the hearing, HSE Inspector Gillian Anderson said: “Falls from height remain one of the most common causes of work-related fatalities and severe injuries in this country and the risks associated with working at height are well known. 
    “Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards.”

    from: 
    https://press.hse.gov.uk/2020/08/14/a-building-contractor-was-sentenced-after-a-subcontractor-sustai...
  • Company fined after worker suffers serious crush injuries
    Leeds and Bradford Boiler Co Ltd was sentenced for safety breaches after a worker broke his upper arm and suffered crush injuries to his lower arm in a workplace incident.

    Leeds Magistrates’ Court heard that on 2 November 2018, Paul Madarasz was machining a two-tonne metal plate on a vertical borer machine. The metal cover plate was not sitting flush on the table due to some dirt or debris. He raised one side of the metal plate above the machine table using an overhead crane with C shaped hook so that he could clean the machine table underneath with a rag. 

    While he was doing this the cover plate slipped off the lifting attachment trapping his arm underneath. Mr Madarasz has had to undergo several long operations on his lower and upper arm and is unlikely to regain full function in his right arm. 

    An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that there was no safe system of work for this activity. This specific lifting operation and cleaning activity had not been assessed, which resulted in employees using a variety of unsafe methods. 

    Leeds and Bradford Boiler Co Ltd of Beechwood Street, Stunningly, Leeds pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company has been fined £120,000 and ordered to pay £7,692 in costs. 

    After the hearing, HSE inspector Andrea Jones said: “Lifting operations and foreseeable activities including cleaning should be properly assessed and planned. “Other employees were also at risk of injury by falling metal plates. 
    “This incident could so easily have been avoided by using suitable lifting accessories, implementing safe working practices, and ensuring these are followed through appropriate supervision and monitoring.”

    from: 
    https://press.hse.gov.uk/2020/08/19/company-fined-after-worker-suffers-serious-crush-injuries/?utm_s...
  • The risk assessment trap: Are risk assessments encouraging unsafe behaviours?
    Are risk assessments encouraging unsafe behaviours? Tony Roscoe, Head of Consulting Services at Anker & Marsh, looks at human behaviour and whether people take greater risks because a risk assessment has been completed.Tony-Roscoe-300x300.jpgWorking with SHE professionals, almost daily I meet people who are frustrated with other people’s behaviour, especially when it comes to safety. They feel that they have done everything to keep people safe and that ‘they’ won’t follow basic instructions and stop taking risks.There are many reasons that people take risk at work, I want to explore one that is not often discussed.The idea for this article came from a recent discussion on LinkedIn about risk and risk assessment. As with many things in safety, risk assessment is a logical process that is then applied by less than completely logical people.

    Are risk assessments encouraging unsafe behaviours?

    One of the ways in which risk assessments break down is when it comes to human behaviour and people taking greater risks because a risk assessment has been completed.This sounds like an oxymoron. People take more risks because we’ve done risk assessments!Yes, unfortunately this is true. The answer isn’t to not do risk assessments, but to understand why they are taking the risk.Many years ago, I remember watching an episode of CSI Las Vegas, which involved a car crash and as this show tended to do, they wove some science into the storyline. In this case the science was The Peltzman Effect. This made me curious and I started to look into it, to understand its implications for safety.The Peltzman Effect is a theory which states that people are more likely to engage in risky behaviour when security measures have been mandated.Sam Peltzman is an economist who noted that the more safety that was mandated in cars e.g. mandatory seat belts, the more unsafe behaviours people performed in cars.So, in effect, the safer we make people feel, the more risk that they take.Safety cultureThis is the conundrum I see every day in safety. It is at the core of the frustration of pretty much every SHE person I have ever met.We take a person and make them feel invincible by covering them head to toe in PPE and giving them a mountain of paperwork, and their response is to take greater risks. In effect, the risk assessment has made it a little more likely that people will take a risk.How do we overcome this?Much of this, as with most things, comes down to culture.The key word in the definition is ‘mandated’. This is where safety is seen as something that is done to people, something that they have little or no control over.It is no surprise then that organisations with mature cultures based on communication, servant leadership and continual improvement have excellent safety records, because safety is not seen as being done ‘to’ people, but ‘with’ people.Whilst we continue to do safety to people, then the harder we work as SHE professionals, the more risk that they take, and around and around we go.

    from: https://www.shponline.co.uk/culture-and-behaviours/are-risk-assessments-encouraging-unsafe-behaviour...