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Confined Spaces Pose Safety Risks for Workers

confined spaces

Fatal injuries in confined spaces average 92 fatalities per year, according to the US Department of Labor. That’s almost two per week. Many workplaces contain spaces that are considered confined. The configuration of these places hinders the activities of employees who must enter, work in, and exit them. A confined space has limited or restricted means for entry or exit.

Confined spaces include, but are not limited to underground vaults, tanks, storage bins, manholes, pits, silos, process vessels, and pipelines. Workers in many industries are required to access them in order to obtain equipment, make repairs, and perform routine maintenance.

The most common risks of working in confined spaces include:

  • Limited entrances or exits
  • Poor air quality
  • Inadequate oxygen
  • Exposure to gases and dangerous toxins (which are more likely to build up to dangerous levels in confined spaces)
  • Extreme temperatures
  • Structural dangers
  • Risk of fires or explosions
  • Electrical hazards
  • Drowning risk in trenches, pipelines, or water tanks

Construction workers often perform tasks in confined spaces. However, the risk is not limited to construction workers. Agricultural workers, electricians, and maintenance workers are also at high risk of being injured in confined spaces. Spaces such as pits, manholes, and crawl spaces are not designed for continuous occupancy. It can be very tricky to exit these. An emergency makes escaping even more difficult. Confined spaces can present life-threatening hazards. Hazards such as toxic substances, electrocutions, explosions, and asphyxiation. Exposure to these hazards can largely be prevented if addressed prior to entering the space to perform work.

By definition, a confined space is not designed for continuous employee occupancy. According to OSHA, it is the employer’s responsibility to evaluate the workplace to determine if any spaces are confined spaces. Indeed, worker training is essential to the recognition of what constitutes a confined space and the hazards that may be encountered in them. For instance, if it is a confined space, the next step is to determine if it is a permit-required confined space.

Permit-Required Confined Space Characteristics:

  • Contains or has the potential to contain a hazardous atmosphere
  • Contains a material that has the potential to engulf an entrant
  • Has walls that converge inward
  • Has floors that slope downward and taper into a smaller area
  • Could trap or asphyxiate an entrant
  • Contains any other recognized safety or health hazard, such as unguarded machinery, exposed live wires, or heat stress

In general, the Permit-Required Confined Spaces Standard requires the employer, to evaluate the workplace to determine if any spaces are permit-required confined spaces. If workers are authorized to enter permit spaces, a comprehensive permit spaces program must regulate employee entry into permit spaces. OSHA provides detailed specifications of the elements of an acceptable permit spaces program.

Further, permit spaces must be identified by signs. Entry must be strictly controlled and limited to authorized persons. An important element of the requirements is that entry be regulated by a written entry permit system. In addition, proper atmospheric evaluation and testing of the space before and during any entry by workers. Further, an entry must be monitored by an attendant outside the space. Additionally, a rescue plan is required in the event of an emergency. In order for a rescue to be successful, the confined space safety plan must be quickly accessible to all employees.

Worker training is vital to keeping workers safe. In fact, OSHA outlines training requirements and specific duties for authorized entrants, attendants, and supervisors. According to OSH Online, Eighty-five percent of fatalities in confined spaces were among people who hadn’t been trained. Therefore, it is clear, proper training can save lives. In the same way, the reality is with proper training and equipment, the loss of workers in confined spaces can be prevented.

Our Confined Space Entry Training Course topics include:

  • Contents of OSHA Standard 1926 Subpart AA
  • Confined space definition
  • Hazards of confined spaces
  • Confined space entry procedures
  • Training for entrants, attendants, and supervisors
  • Acute or chronic effects of working in confined spaces
  • Permit-required confined spaces
  • Emergency rescue from confined spaces
  • Personal Protective Equipment in Confined Spaces

This training is appropriate for any workers who will work in or around confined entry spaces. As a result of completing this training, workers will be certified in the OSHA Standard 1926 Subpart AA and should be able to use sound judgment and work within confined spaces safely. Thus, this training is also suitable for supervisors, and managers. Similarly, it is effective to train the trainer or as a refresher course for seasoned employees.

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Severe Violator Enforcement Program

Last week the US Department of Labor announced an update to OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program. Since 2010, the Severe Violator Enforcement Program has focused resources on enforcement and inspection of employers who either willfully or repeatedly violate federal health and safety laws. Or further, employers that demonstrate a refusal to correct previous violations. In addition to being included on a public list of the nation’s severe violators, employers are subject to follow-up inspections.

“The Severe Violator Enforcement Program empowers OSHA to sharpen its focus on employers who – even after receiving citations for exposing workers to hazardous conditions and serious dangers – fail to mitigate these hazards,” said Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker.

The changes will broaden the program’s scope with the reality that additional industries will fall within its parameters. Previously, an employer could be in the program for failing to meet a limited number of standards. The new criteria include violations of all hazards and OSHA standards. It will continue to focus on repeat offenders in all industries.

The updated Severe Violator Enforcement Program criteria include the following:

  • The expanded program criteria now include all hazards and OSHA standards.
  • Program placement for employers with citations for at least two willful or repeated violations.
  • Employers that receive failure-to-abate notices based on the presence of high-gravity serious violations.
  • Follow-up or referral inspections are made one year – but not longer than two years – after the final order.
  • Potential removal from the Severe Violator Enforcement Program three years after the date of receiving verification that the employer has abated all program-related hazards.
  • Employers’ ability to reduce time spent in the program to two years by consenting to an enhanced settlement agreement that includes the use of a safety and health management system that includes seven basic elements.

If an employer agrees to an Enhanced Settlement Agreement they may elect to reduce the SVEP term to two years. In such cases, SVEP removal is contingent on the employer agreeing to develop and implement a safety and health management system. This must be completed within two years. It must include effective policies, procedures, and practices. These should recognize occupational safety and health hazards. As well as protect employees from those hazards. The employer’s SHMS must include at least the seven basic elements outlined. Lastly, the implementation must be verified by an independent third party subject to the approval of OSHA.

Seven Basic Elements in OSHA’s Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs:

  • Management Leadership
  • Worker Participation
  • Hazard Identification & Assessment
  • Hazard Prevention & Control
  • Education & Training
  • Program Evaluation & Improvement
  • Communication & Coordination for Host Employers, Contractors, and Staffing Agencies

Parker further stated, “It is the goal of this administration to maximize all tools available to us to ensure employers comply with their legal obligation to provide safe and healthful workplaces. These changes to SVEP will hold a microscope to those employers who continue to expose workers to very serious dangers and help ensure America’s workers come home safe at the end of every shift.” National Safety Compliance offers many training products to help businesses stay OSHA compliant and avoid ever being included in the severe violator program.

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Personal Protective Equipment: Essential for Workers’ Safety

Recently, the term Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has become fairly common and many Americans immediately think of facemasks and possibly gloves when they hear it. However, PPE has been around the safety industry much longer than our recent challenges. Furthermore, PPE includes much more than a facemask and is a vital component to keep workers safe in many work environments. Hazards exist in every workplace in many different forms. OSHA requires that employers protect their employees from workplace hazards that can cause injury. Controlling a hazard at its source is the best way to protect employees. However, when mitigating workplace hazards does not provide sufficient protection, employers must provide PPE to their employees and ensure its use.

The Requirement for PPE

Specific requirements for Personal Protective Equipment are presented in many different OSHA standards, published in 29 CFR. Some standards require that employers provide PPE at no cost to the employee while others simply state that the employer must provide PPE. In order to ensure the greatest possible protection for employees, employers and employees must cooperate in establishing and maintaining a safe and healthful work environment.

Employers are responsible for:

  • Performing a “hazard assessment” of the workplace to identify and control physical and health hazards.
  • Identifying and providing appropriate PPE for employees.
  • Training employees in the use and care of PPE.
  • Maintaining PPE, including replacing worn or damaged PPE.
  • Periodically reviewing, updating, and evaluating the effectiveness of the PPE program.

Employees should:

  • Properly wear PPE.
  • Attend training sessions on PPE.
  • Care for, clean, and maintain PPE.
  • Inform a supervisor of the need to repair or replace PPE.

Some Types of required Personal Protection Equipment:

  • Eye and Face Protection: safety spectacles, goggles, welding shields, laser safety goggles, & face shields
  • Head Protection: hard hats (Types A, B, & C)
  • Foot and Leg Protection: leggings (with safety snaps), metatarsal guards, toe guards, combination foot and shin guards, & safety shoes
  • Hand and Arm Protection: protective gloves, leather, canvas or metal mesh gloves, fabric and coated fabric gloves, chemical- and liquid-resistant gloves,
  • Body Protection: laboratory coats, coveralls, vests, jackets, aprons, surgical gowns, and full-body suits.
  • Hearing Protection: single-use earplugs, pre-formed or molded earplugs, earmuffs

PPE can help save lives. It can only do this if it is worn. Further, it must be worn properly and worn throughout the job. All PPE clothing and equipment should be of safe design and construction. Employers should take the fit and comfort of PPE into consideration. Selecting appropriate items for each workplace is essential. PPE that fits well and is comfortable to wear will encourage employee use. Most protective devices are available in multiple sizes and care should be taken to select the proper size for each employee. If several different types of PPE are worn together, they must be compatible. If PPE does not fit properly, it may not provide the level of protection desired. This can discourage employee use. Tragically, it also can make the difference between being safely covered or dangerously exposed.

Training Employees in the Proper Use of PPE

The best way to ensure compliance with the Personal Protective Equipment policy is to train workers. Employers should make sure that each employee demonstrates an understanding of the training as well as the ability to properly wear and use PPE before they are allowed to perform work requiring the use of the PPE. They must know the risks posed by the job, and how PPE can protect them from these risks. Training in the proper use, care, and storage of PPE are equally necessary. Furthermore, the employer must document the training of each employee required to wear or use PPE. This documentation must include a certification containing the name of each employee trained, the date of training, and clear identification of the subject of the certification.

In addition to proper equipment and training, knowing how to inspect PPE to determine when the equipment should be removed from service is vital. A visual inspection is not always enough. When it comes to PPE the rule is: when in doubt; throw it out. It pays to err on the side of caution. It might be time to purchase new PPE.

Appropriate PPE is important in protecting workers it plays a pivotal role in keeping workers safe.

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Preventing Eye Injuries in the Workplace

Eye injuries in the workplace occur daily. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), about 2,000 U.S. workers per day sustain job-related eye injuries that require medical treatment. However, safety experts and eye doctors believe proper eye protection can prevent 90% of these eye injuries.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires workers to use eye and face protection whenever there is a reasonable probability of injury. Personal protective eyewear, including goggles, safety glasses, face shields, and sometimes even full-face respirators must be used when an eye hazard exists.

Chemicals or foreign objects in the eye and scratches on the cornea are common eye injuries that occur at work. Other common eye injuries come from fluids splashed in the eye, burns from steam, and ultraviolet or infrared radiation exposure. In addition, health care workers and other workers may be at risk of acquiring infectious diseases from eye exposure. This can occur through direct contact with splashes of blood, respiratory droplets generated during coughing, or from touching the eyes with contaminated fingers or other objects.

Other occupations with a high risk for eye injuries include:

  • Construction
  • Manufacturing
  • Mining
  • Carpentry
  • Auto repair
  • Electrical work
  • Plumbing
  • Welding
  • Maintenance

It is vital for employees to know the requirements for their work environment. The type of eye protection needed depends on the workplace hazards. Safety glasses with side shields are appropriate for a workplace with particles, flying objects, or dust. However, goggles are required when working with chemicals. In a workplace with hazardous radiation (welding, lasers, or fiber optics) special-purpose safety glasses, goggles, face shields, or helmets designed for that specific task provide better protection for workers’ eyes. It is important to note that side shields placed on conventional glasses do not offer enough protection to meet the OSHA requirement for many work environments. In addition, employers need to take steps to make the work environment as safe as possible.

The type of necessary eye protection depends upon:

  • The type of hazard
  • The circumstances of exposure
  • Other protective equipment used
  • Individual vision needs

Two main reasons for eye injuries at work include not wearing proper eye protection and wearing the wrong kind of protection for the job. A Bureau of Labor Statistics survey of workers who suffered eye injuries revealed that nearly three out of five were not wearing eye protection at the time of the accident. Most of these workers reported that they believed protection was not required for the situation.

Steps for preventing eye injuries in the workplace:

  • Assess: Inspect all work areas and equipment for hazards to the eyes. Identify operations and areas that present eye hazards
  • Protect: Select protective eyewear designed for a specific duty or hazard. Protective eyewear must meet the current standards.
  • Fit: Workers need protective eyewear that fits well and is comfortable. Provide repairs for eyewear and require each worker to be in charge of his or her own gear.
  • Plan for an Emergency: Set up first-aid procedures for eye injuries. Have eyewash stations that are easy to get to, especially where chemicals are used. Train workers in basic first-aid and identify those with more advanced training.
  • Educate: Conduct ongoing educational programs to highlight the need for protective eyewear. Add eye safety to your regular employee training programs and to new employee orientation.
  • Support: Management support is key to having a successful eye safety program. Management can show their support for the program by wearing protective eyewear whenever and wherever needed.
  • Review: Regularly review and update your accident prevention policies. Your goal should be NO eye injuries or accidents.

We offer an Eye Safety Training Course that will familiarize your staff with good eye safety practices. The topics included in our eye safety training class are potential eye hazards, hazard assessment, and implementing an eye safety protection program. Further, this training will cover appropriate OSHA-approved personal protective equipment and how to use it and assess eye danger in various situations appropriately.

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8 Must-Know Fire Safety Tips for the Workplace 

8 Fire Safety Tips

Maintaining a safe work environment for your team members is critical. To keep your employees safe, your business should prioritize fire prevention and response plans, and ensure that the entire workforce is adequately trained in fire safety best practices.  

Each year, workplace fires and explosions are responsible for more than 200 deaths and 5,000 injuries. They also account for more than $2.3 billion worth of property damage. To avoid adding to these numbers, it’s important to communicate fire prevention and protection procedures effectively, to minimize hazards and leave as little up to chance as possible. Doing so could make all the difference in avoiding preventable injuries, damages, and deaths.  

Not sure where to start? Here are eight essential fire safety tips for the workplace, plus helpful NSC resources for putting your fire prevention and protection plan into action.  

Fire safety tips every workplace should follow 

There’s more to workplace fire safety than simply stocking up on fire extinguishers. Implement these additional tips to mitigate fire risks and ensure that everyone is on the same page.  

Tip #1: Implement a fire safety training course 

All employees should receive proper fire safety training, even if they don’t interact with fire or heating elements as part of their job. This will ensure that your entire workforce understands what fire prevention and response entails. 

The easiest and most affordable way to set up a fire safety training course is to utilize existing resources like the NSC Fire Safety Training Video Kit and Employee Training Booklets. These are a great starting point, and include additional printable materials like compliance manuals, quizzes, and fire safety certificates that support your training efforts with current employees and help with onboarding new ones. They can also be purchased as a bundle for added savings and convenience.  

Tip #2: Identify workplace fire hazards 

You don’t need to be working in an oil refinery plant to be at risk of a fire. In fact, there are plenty of common fire hazards in modern workplaces, from cooking and electrical equipment to smoking and general human error.  

As part of your prevention measures, identify the hazards in your place of work and communicate them to employees. You should also offer reminders of the most common hazards to keep them top of mind, such as by hanging up our Faulty Wire Can Start a Fire Safety Poster.  

Tip #3:  Maintain your fire prevention and response infrastructure 

It’s crucial that your workplace is fitted with working smoke alarms, sprinkler systems, and fire extinguishers. Your building’s control panel should also be kept accessible, so that you can shut down power in the event of an emergency.  

Check all of these systems regularly to verify they are working and easy to reach, and cover the basics of how to use each system during your fire safety training course with your team.  

Tip #4: Be smart with your electrical cords 

Overloading your circuits can lead to overheating, which in turn can lead to a fire.  

Use grounded plugs to prevent risky power surges, and always check (and double check) that there are no loose electrical connections. While you’re at it, keep an eye out for noticeable signs of trouble, such as frayed cords, flickering equipment, or darkened outlets, and always unplug any devices that aren’t in regular use. 

Tip #5: Properly store and dispose of flammable materials 

Any flammable materials on site need to be handled with care. Follow all manufacturer instructions for how a particular material must be stored, and do your research on what materials  can and cannot be stored near each other. Highly flammable and/or combustible materials should be stored in a flammable cabinet, with access restricted to only those individuals who need to use the materials for their job.  

Tip #6: Avoid clutter 

A messy workplace isn’t just bad for productivity, it’s also dangerous. Clutter can fuel a fire, and may even start one if it’s in close proximity to flammable materials. And if a fire does occur, clutter can block access to emergency exits and make it difficult for all employees to safely escape the environment.  

Invest in safe storage for workplace items, and maintain good housekeeping protocols in all common and personal areas so clutter never has a chance to build up.  

Tip #7: Put a risk reporting system into place 

Workers are busy, and it can be all too easy to forget to notify the right person about a fire safety hazard. The best thing you can do is take all of the guesswork out of who to report risks to, and how, so that issues get flagged to the appropriate team member at their first sighting. 

Of course, this goes hand in hand with educating staff on what these hazards look like. But by doing so – and by removing obstacles to reporting – you take a key step toward identifying and addressing hazards before they turn into fires.  

Tip #8: Design and communicate an evacuation plan 

The time to work out the specifics of your workplace fire evacuation plan is before a fire event, not during. Mark all emergency exits, and keep a clear path to them at all times. Emergency exit signs should be well lit and always visible, with immediate maintenance if they’re not. You’ll also want to designate a concise exit plan and educate every single employee on what it is, including a safe outdoor meetup spot where everyone should go after leaving the building.  

You can’t always prevent a fire in the workplace, but you can train employees on how to mitigate risks, and coach them on what needs to be done to protect themselves and their peers. Doing so is a core part of broader workplace safety training, and can be instrumental in keeping everyone safe.  

For additional support, check out our Fire Safety Training Bundle, which includes everything that you need to enact an effective training program in your workplace. You can also supplement your training program with other NSC materials, such as first aid training, fire extinguisher training, and other useful resources. 

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Five Ways to Be Safe + Sound At Work



Every workplace should have a safety and health program that includes management leadership, worker participation, and a systematic approach to finding and fixing hazards. Safe + Sound is a year-round campaign to encourage every workplace to have a safety and health program. This nationwide effort raises awareness of the value of workplace safety and health programs. OSHA’s website provides five activities to help businesses focus on safety and participate in this year’s Safe + Sound week.

Safe + Sound Week activities: 

  • Take 3 in 30 Challenge
  • Check on Safety Challenge
  • All in on Safety Challenge
  • Lead With Safety Challenge
  • Eyes on Safety Challenge

Take 3 in 30 Challenge

Management Leadership is a core element of successful workplace safety programs. Take 3 in 30 to accelerate your program and show your commitment to your workplace.

  • Take 3 actions in 30 days
  • Share in your workplace
  • Accept your challenge Coin

Check on Safety Challenge

Finding and fixing hazards is another core element of effective workplace safety programs. This can help you move your business forward to prevent workplace injuries and illnesses. Start building your approach by taking this Check on Safety Challenge. 

  • Identify: Review your workers’ compensation claim records and OSHA injury logs to prioritize areas for improvement. Conduct a safety walk-around to inspect your workplace for hazards. Focus on hazardous tasks by doing a job hazard analysis. 
  • Involve: Offer workers a way to report hazards they find on the job. Provide training on hazard awareness and control.
  • Plan: Make a plan to control hazards and review regularly. Prepare your workplace for non-routine operations and emergencies. 
  • Control: Select controls that are the most feasible, effective, and permanent.
  • Start building your approach by taking this Check on Safety Challenge. Do this activity and earn your challenge coin.


All in on Safety Challenge

Another core element of a workplace safety program is worker participation. It’s important to create an environment where all workers feel included, heard, and respected. Accelerate your program and encourage your workers to be all in on safety!

  • Identify a workplace safety activity that helps build a more diverse and accepting workplace. Advance workplace safety and health by involving your workers in a significant way.
  • Recognize workers who participate. It is important for your workers to see that their participation makes a difference. Give workers who participate a certificate, personalized appreciation card, or other types of recognition that is meaningful in your workplace.
  • Download your challenge coin.

Lead With Safety Challenge

In a workplace, management provides the leadership, vision, and resources needed to implement an effective safety program. Managers, we challenge you to show how you Lead with Safety. Identify a safety or health issue in your workplace and take steps to address it today to earn your challenge coin.

  • Identify a pressing safety or health issue in your workplace.
  • Take one or more steps to address the issue in your workplace.
  • Download your challenge coin and share how you Lead with Safety.


Eyes on Safety Challenge

Workplace inspections are an important tool for identifying hazards and resolving them. Whether you inspect your workplace on a regular basis or are just getting your workplace safety program started, conduct a safety walkaround to show how you have Eyes on Safety today to earn your challenge coin.

  • Plan your safety walkaround. You’ll need to familiarize yourself with the workplace, its operations, and the most hazardous work areas, tasks, or activities. 
  • Make an inspection checklist using examples from the OSHA small business handbook or other published sources. 
  • Determine what Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) you’ll need. 
  • Conduct your Safety Walkaround. 
  • Inspect each work area starting with easily identifiable hazards, talk to workers, including new hires, and note hazards that need to be evaluated further. 
  • Follow up on what you found. Prioritize the hazards you found based on how severe an injury could be and how likely an injury is to happen. Share this information with management and ask for their commitment to fix hazards. 
  • Download your challenge coin and share that you have Eyes on Safety.

These are five simple yet effective challenges to help communicate your commitment to a safe workplace for all employees. Upon completion of each challenge, employers are encouraged to download a virtual challenge coin and proudly display it as a way to encourage other businesses to focus on safety too.

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Back & Lift Safety Tips 

Back Safety & Safe Lifting is Key

From labor-intensive construction jobs to digitally oriented office work, employees may face a daily risk of back injury. Various work hazards, including heavy loads and poor posture, can injure and hinder employees in any field. Workers should be well-informed about the potential health and safety hazards they may encounter daily. 

Workers with healthy backs can remain productive and effective in the workplace. NSC offers easy-to-use, OSHA-compliant safety solutions and packages for back safety and proper lifting procedures in any industry. 

Back Safety 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than one million workers suffer a work-related back industry each year. Back-related injuries can occur in manual labor-heavy work environments, such as construction and warehouse work. Workers in any industry may be at risk for back injuries due to poor posture. 

A work-related back injury can cause workers to miss time and hurt their productivity. Their place of work may struggle to replace them in the meantime, further hurting efficiency. 

Help your employees avoid back injuries and stay productive with our Back Safety Training Course. This training program can educate workers on the causes of back pain, safe lifting procedures, proper posture, and back anatomy to ensure safe transport of both worker and patient. 

Lift Safety 

Heavy items can be a significant occupational safety hazard. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported over 86,000 lifting-related work injuries in 2019. Like general back injuries, lift-related injuries can severely inhibit a company’s profitability. 

Proper lifting procedures are especially crucial when carrying and transporting heavy loads. Our Back Safety Training Bundle offers comprehensive video training and convenient booklets about safe lifting procedures. Minimize the risk of back injury in your workplace when handling heavy loads with our safety resources.  

Additional Materials 

Supervisors and managers can utilize various materials to implement safe lifting procedures in the workplace.  Video kits and training booklets can serve as comprehensive safety resources, while posters and handbooks can offer convenient, valuable reminders for your workers. Together, these pieces of media can promote and engender a safe, OSHA-compliant environment. 

Our Get Some Help Safety Poster is packaged with other back safety materials. Remind your workers to share the load while lifting, moving, and working with heavy items. Display this poster in a visible area, such as the breakroom, for best results. 

Rely on National Safety Compliance to build a thorough, OSHA-compliant, and safe work environment. Our Back Safety Training Bundle offers in-depth information on the back-related hazards discussed above. These materials can serve as a valuable resource for new hires. Use these resources to start building a safe workplace today. 

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Trench-Related Fatalities Prompt Enhanced Enforcement

Tragically, in the first six months of 2022, twenty-two trench-related fatalities occurred, surpassing the 15 fatalities in all of 2021. These workers fell victim to the deadly hazards present in trenching and excavation work. Prompting the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration to launch enhanced enforcement initiatives to protect workers from known industry hazards.

With the hope of saving lives, OSHA enforcement staff is considering every available tool at the agency’s disposal in order to stress the dangers of disregarding federal workplace safety requirements for trenching and excavation work. This will include placing additional emphasis on penalties for trenching and excavation-related incidents. In a worst-case scenario, this may include federal or state prosecution. Therefore holding employers and others accountable when their actions or inactions kill workers or put their lives at risk.

Because of the continuing incidence of trench collapses and loss of life, the agency has determined that these worksites continue to warrant an increased enforcement presence. Employees exposed to potential cave-ins must be protected before the excavation face is in imminent danger of collapse. Furthermore, OSHA believes that there is a potential for collapse in virtually all excavations. OSHA compliance officers will perform more than 1,000 trench inspections nationwide where they may stop by, and inspect, any excavation site during their daily duties.

OSHA Training and Compliance Saves Lives

Trenching and excavation work exposes workers to extremely dangerous hazards. OSHA believes that the rate of deaths and serious injuries resulting from trenching and excavation incidents (mostly collapses) can be significantly reduced if OSHA concentrates resources to effectively engage in trenching and excavation operations through both enforcement and compliance assistance activities.

“Every one of these tragedies could have been prevented had employers complied with OSHA standards,” said Assistant Secretary for Occupational Health and Safety Doug Parker. “There simply is no excuse for ignoring safety requirements to prevent trench collapses and cave-ins, and leaving families, friends, and co-workers to grieve when the solutions are so well-understood.”

“The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is calling on all employers engaged in trenching and excavation activities to act immediately to ensure that required protections are fully in place every single time their employees step down into or work near a trench,” Parker added. “In a matter of seconds, workers can be crushed and buried under thousands of pounds of soil and rocks in an unsafe trench. The alarming increase in the number of workers needlessly dying and suffering serious injuries in trenching incidents must be stopped.”

Trench Shields Unused in Fatal Accident

A recent incident in Texas highlights the dangers of trenching and the importance of following safety standards. On June 28, 2022, two workers suffered fatal injuries when the unprotected trench more than 20 feet deep collapsed upon them as they worked. Trench shields, which could have saved their lives, sat unused beside the excavation.

Trenching and excavation operations require protective systems and inspections before workers can enter. Workers are exposed to serious hazards when trench protection systems are not installed. Furthermore, failing to properly inspect the trench, puts everyone at high risk for injury. These hazards include the risk of being buried under thousands of pounds of soil. Following safety requirements helps protect workers from tragic injuries and possibly death.

Excavation and Trenching Safety Training Includes:

  • Overview of OSHA Standard on Trenching and Excavation
  • Hazards of trenching and excavation
  • Competent Person Roles and Duties
  • Safety Precautions
  • Access & Egress
  • Excavated Materials (Spoil)
  • Confined Spaces
  • Mobile Equipment
  • Surface Crossing

Vital trenching standards require protective systems on all trenches 5 feet deep. In addition, soil and other materials must be kept at least 2 feet from the edge of a trench. Furthermore, trenches must be inspected by a knowledgeable person. Equally important, they must be free of standing water and atmospheric hazards. As well as have a safe means of entering and exiting prior to allowing a worker to enter. Without proper training keeping workers safe is impossible but carefully following OSHA regulations gives everyone the best chance at a safe work environment.

“OSHA stands ready to assist any employer who needs help to comply with our trenching and excavation requirements,” Parker added. “We will conduct outreach programs, including safety summits, in all of our 10 regions to help ensure any employer who wants assistance gets it. The stakes are too important.”

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Driving Safety: How to Train Employees on Better Driving Practices

Safe Driving

Whether you have one employee on the road or one thousand, promoting a culture of driving safety should always be a top priority for your organization.

The number of trucks involved in fatal crashes has increased 5% since 2016, and a total of 107,000 large truck crashes resulted in an injury in 2020. And while this number still accounts for a low percentage of total vehicular crashes, it’s essential that you’re doing everything you can to ensure your drivers are set up for safety.

Effective safe driver training helps protect your employees and other drivers on the road. This means fewer accidents, as well as reduced overall spending on things like vehicle repairs, insurance premiums, and workers’ compensation premiums. Simply put, investing in driving safety is good business — and one of the best things that you can do for your organization’s fleet.

So, where do you start? We’re sharing some of our top tips for training employees on driving safety, including NSC products that can help you make safe driving a central part of your company culture.

The importance of training employees on safe driving

Educating on and promoting driving safety at your workplace is a must if you have employees operating vehicles on your behalf. We’ve already touched on a few of the reasons why, but here’s a more complete look at the many potential benefits of safe driver training:

  • Decreased rates of collisions and traffic violations
  • Reduced spending on vehicle repairs and replacements
  • Reduced spending on insurance premiums, workers’ compensation claims, and legal costs
  • Reduced liability exposure
  • Enhanced protection of organizational interests and brand identity

It doesn’t end there. Prioritizing safe driving practices helps you attract and retain the type of employees that you want representing your organization on the road. And the more predictable you make your safety expectations, the less you’ll have to worry about mistakes, miscommunication, and missed opportunities for safer driving.

Building blocks of a safe driving culture

It’s not enough to just cover the basics of highway safety and send your drivers on their way. To be truly impactful, your organization must provide employees with useful, evidence-backed safety training and maintain this training year-round. This requires a purposeful investment of time and resources, which can pay you back tenfold by resulting in fewer driving incidents.

As you look for ways to build or improve on your current safety culture, make sure that you’re incorporating these important building blocks into your strategy.

Tailored training programs

Provide all of your drivers with a comprehensive training program that is industry-specific and based on up-to-date OSHA compliance regulations. Your employees wouldn’t have gotten the job if they didn’t know the basics of safe driving, so the purpose of your training program is to go deeper into what they need to know in regards to the vehicle(s) they’ll be responsible for and the real-life challenges that they might face on the road.

Defensive driving protocols

Safe driving starts with defensive driving. These practices have been instrumental in reducing accident rates and saving the lives of drivers, and we strongly encourage all organizations to utilize NSC defensive driving course materials when designing their training programs.

Qualified trainers

Who you choose to lead your program can make all the difference. Employees tend to learn the most when they’re engaged with the material, and when they are given ample opportunities for interaction. A great instructor, then, is someone who can keep employees interested and open up the floor to participation. Of course, they should also be someone who has a strong grasp on the materials themselves, with the ability to supplement the material as needed whilst also conveying core safety messages with competence.

Appropriate materials

You’re not on your own when it comes to teaching employees about driving safety. We highly recommend the use of NSC Driving Safety Training Booklets and/or the NSC Driving Safety Training Course Video Kit to ensure that your program is based on the most relevant OSHA regulations and requirements. Instructors will still be able to adapt material to include relevant industry use cases, but you’ll know that your bases are covered in terms of the most effective ways to prevent driving accidents and injuries.

Regular reminders

Check-in with your drivers regularly to see if there are any questions or issues about safe driving expectations. This is particularly important if you are adding new types of vehicles to your fleet or making other changes that may impact how your employees drive. You can also hang posters at your workplace that act as casual reminders, such as the NSC Texting & Driving Safety Poster.

Setting your employees up for safety

Your organization’s safe driving program should be specific to the needs of your workforce. It should also include all of OSHA’s basic safe driving practices for employees, which cover things like how to stay focused and how to avoid aggressive driving.

Some of the general guidelines—such as always wear a seatbelt, never drive under the influence of drugs and alcohol, and avoid distractions like texting or talking on the phone—are probably already part of your driving instructions. But some guidelines do require company-specific policies, and will need to be discussed internally prior to training so that you can get everyone on the same page.

  • Set a realistic goal for the maximum amount of miles your drivers can safely cover in a day. You should never sacrifice safety in favor of faster logistics, nor should you encourage your drivers to operate a vehicle without being sufficiently well-rested. 
  • Also necessary is to plan out optimal routes and driving times in advance, providing your drivers with pre-approved instructions for the task ahead.
  • Finally, have policies in place for what to do in an emergency situation. This includes what your drivers should do if inclement weather hits and the exact steps they should take if a vehicular incident happens. Being clear about these policies up front takes guesswork out of the equation and eliminates the risk that drivers will unknowingly put themselves or others in additional danger.

Work with NSC to organize effective safe driving training

We’ve made it our mission to help organizations of all scopes and sizes improve their safe driving practices and build a culture of safety for their employees. This includes educating employees and professional drivers at Fortune 100 companies, small business, non-profits, and community service agencies. And we would be happy to work with you, too.

Explore our website to learn about our Safety Training courses, including defensive driving courses. Or contact us directly to discuss options for your organization. We also recommend the use of NSC products, including training materials and course supplements.

Together, we can make safer roads a reality. Optimize your safe driving training program today, and don’t risk another minute of your employees’ safety behind the wheel.

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Heat Related Illnesses: Heat Stress, Arc Training, Flammable, and Welding Safety

Heat Stress Safety Training

Each year, more than 650 people succumb to a heat-related illness. According to the Center for Disease Control, heat-related illnesses are one of the deadliest weather-related health outcomes affecting Americans. However, the most devastating part of this equation is that all deaths from heat-related illnesses are preventable with the proper training and safety tools.

Learn here how to keep yourself and others safe while working in the heat.

What Are Heat-Related Illnesses?

Heat-related illnesses are those that occur after exposure to abnormally high or prolonged amounts of heat and humidity. There are three primary types of heat-related illnesses, including:

  1. Heat Cramps: A condition causing painful and often intense cramps or spasm of the muscles, usually after exercise or extreme exertion.
  2. Heat Exhaustion: Resulting from a loss of water and sodium in the body, heat exhaustion causing a range of bodywide symptoms. Left untreated, this can lead to heat stroke.
  3. Heat Stroke: The most severe form of heat-related illness, heat stroke can cause coma, seizures, and altered mental status. If left untreated, heat stroke can lead to death.

Learn the Signs of Heat-Related Illnesses

Identifying the signs of heat-related illnesses like heat stroke or exhaustion should be a crucial part of your safety strategy. A few common symptoms of heat related illnesses include:

  • Headache
  • Muscle aches or cramping
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • High body temperature
  • Skin that is red, hot, and dry (no sweating)
  • Rapid pulse
  • Nausea, with or without vomiting
  • Confusion or altered mental state

Companies in industries that require employees to work outdoors or inside high-heat environments should implement training programs. Excellent examples of training materials include The National Safety Compliance’s Heat Stress Training Course Video Kit and Heat Stress Training Booklets.

Use Signage to Refresh Employees on Heat-Related Illnesses

Using signage like this Heat Stress Safety Poster can help keep heat safety at the forefront of an employee’s mind. Place posters and other visual aids in high-traffic areas like break rooms, offices, and workshops. In addition, include signage in areas where heat-related illnesses are more likely to occur.

Recognize Those Most at Risk for Heat Stress

Certain people are at a greater risk for heat-related illness. Learning to identify them can help prevent many tragedies from occurring. People who are at greater risk include:

  • Anyone over age 65 or under age five
  • People with autoimmune disease, heart disease, or breathing problems
  • Those who are overweight
  • People taking certain medications
  • Anyone who drinks heavily
  • Those exposed to high heat for extended periods
  • People recovering from illnesses

Know the Precautions to Take

A comprehensive overview of precautions to take during heat waves and inside high-temperature areas is crucial to your training efforts. The best heat stress training courses will include this information. To stay safe in high-heat environments, you should:

  • Wear loose, lightweight clothing
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Avoid dehydration beverages (like alcohol, coffee, or energy drinks)
  • Take frequent breaks in cooler areas (preferably in air conditioning)
  • Apply sunscreen when working outdoors
  • Use a buddy system, so nobody works in the heat alone
  • Try to avoid working during the hottest parts of the day, if possible
  • Avoid hot and heavy meals that can raise your internal body temperature
  • Use sports drinks to replace electrolytes lost when sweating

Companies should keep a close eye on the weather during warmer months to be aware of dangerous heat wave events. If possible, people usually working outdoors should stay home during these events. However, if staying home isn’t possible, companies should implement additional precautions like more frequent breaks or shorter work days until the heat wave has passed.

Additional Precautions for Working Around Fire or Electricity

People working around electricity, fire, or flammable materials should undergo additional heat stress and general safety training. Individuals working around these materials are more prone to injury and should be given training on:

You can also find valuable training resources for individual sectors or industries, such as welding. Certain professions have industry-specific training they need to perform their jobs safely and effectively.

What to Do If Someone Is Experiencing Heat Stress

If someone is experiencing heat stress, the most critical thing is to call 9-1-1 right away. While waiting for emergency first responders to arrive, try moving the affected individual to a shady or cool area. Do not dump cold water or offer ice water to drink if someone is experiencing heat stress, as this could cause the body to go into shock.

Companies should include first aid training as part of their onboarding procedures so everyone understands what to do should a heat-related event occur. An excellent education option is this First Aid Safety Training Course Video Kit, which includes segments on:

  • Basic first aid procedures
  • Proper handling of bloodborne pathogens
  • Treating cuts, scrapes, and burns (including chemical burns)
  • Broken bones and fractures
  • Heat stress events (including heat exhaustion and stroke)
  • Choking emergencies
  • CPR

The National Safety Compliance has the tools and information you need to keep yourself and others safe from heat-related illnesses. For more information, visit our heat stress safety product page. If you need help assessing your safety training needs or have questions, fill out our online contact form, and we’ll be in touch as soon as possible.