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Electrician Safety in Cold Outdoor Environments

Electrical contractors can’t simply pack up and wait out the winter weather; eventually, electricians just have to work in the cold. Extreme temperatures create special hazards, especially for electricians, and staying safe in the depths of winter requires special efforts on the part of employers and employees alike. The Occupational Safety and Health Association breaks down their safety rules for working in cold and snow into three categories: plan, equip, and train. Here’s what that means for electricians working outside on a freezing Midwestern or Northern day: Employers should invest in engineering controls to help limit the risk. As you know if you’ve read any of our previous entries on ergonomics, “engineering controls” are the most powerful way to keep…more

Stacking Pallets: OSHA Regulations

Stacking empty pallets saves space and removes tripping and collision hazards from warehouse floors. But if you stack pallets carelessly or overly high, warehouse managers could be creating an even bigger hazard. To figure out the best practices for pallet stacking, let’s take a look at what OSHA and other regulators have to say. OSHA addresses pallet stacking in standard 1917.14, which reads, “Cargo, pallets and other material stored in tiers shall be stacked in such a manner as to provide stability against sliding and collapse.” That sounds reasonable. But the question now becomes, “How do you stabilize a stack of pallets?” Stabilizing Pallet Stacks for Optimal Safety Never mix sizes when stacking pallets. An odd-sized pallet near the bottom…more

Ergonomics and Pallet Building: Problems and Solutions

Rising worker’s compensation claims and an aging workforce responsible for pallet building tasks are causing warehouse managers to rethink their processes. Add in the fact that industry experts project the use of pallets to increase through 2019, and you can see why it’s necessary to reevaluate the pallet building and unloading process. Even if warehouse managers didn’t care about productivity and preventing injuries to their staff, which is an unlikely proposition, insurance companies are insisting that clients implement ergonomic solutions in warehouses to reduce payouts for injured staff. Worker’s Comp Cases Strain Insurers’ Pocketbooks The issue is complex, but it boils down to this: Material handlers are older and in worse shape than they have been in the past, and…more

Forklift Work Platforms and OSHA Compliance

There’s an inherent risk in elevating staff using a forklift work platform. Given that risk, it’s no surprise that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has quite a bit to say on the matter. In fact, at one point the federal agency even discussed banning the use of forklifts as a support for work platforms. After a lengthy discussion, OSHA decided that, if used properly, the practice could be safe enough to allow. However, they created a list of standards for the use of elevated personnel platforms. Here’s a summary of some of the most important requirements from those standards. Never move a forklift horizontally while a worker is elevated. This is expressly forbidden by OSHA 451(c)(2)(v) and something that…more

OSHA Updates Rules on Work Surfaces and Fall Protection; Will Your Personnel Lifts Comply?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued a final rule on one of its most far-reaching safety standards for general industry. On January 17, 2017, all employers must comply with new standards designed to protect workers from the risk of falling off of work surfaces. This is a serious issue in the warehousing industry. As pallet racks have grown taller and taller, driven by the economics of vertical space and technological advances in high lift trucks, the need to lift staff to the upper reaches of the facility has increased substantially. Here’s what you need to know about the upcoming changes to familiar OSHA standards, particularly as they relate to personnel lift devices that attach to forklifts: The changes…more

The Difference Between OSHA and NIOSH — and How They Work Together

Love it or hate it, every warehouse manager knows what the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does. But OSHA isn’t the only federal organization dedicated to preserving the health of American workers. There’s also the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). So what’s the difference between OSHA and NIOSH? Why does the United States need two separate institutions that seem to have the same mission? The answers to these questions can help every warehouse manager understand the regulations that keep their workers safe. Here are the major differences between OSHA and NIOSH, along with the productive ways the two organizations interact to improve workplace safety in every industry: OSHA and NIOSH are divisions of two separate government…more

Ergonomic Safety Standards for Manual Material Handling: A Global Phenomenon

The United States is unique among industrialized nations in its approach to ergonomics legislation. Many employers abroad are legally compelled to protect workers from the risks of injury associated with manual material handling. Although, in the U.S., the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is left to correct the most egregious ergonomic violations with the General Duty Clause of the OSH Act of 1970, a legal tool that’s blunted by the broadness of its language. (For more on how this came to pass, read our coverage here). Employers who are dedicated to preventing musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) in the workplace can learn a lot from the occupational safety laws of other nations, no matter where they do business. Here’s a brief…more

OSHA Requirements for Testing Industrial Lifting Equipment

You can’t leave anything to chance in an industrial setting. The material handling equipment you need to keep shipments moving in a warehouse, or to send raw materials down the line in a manufacturing facility, has to be tested before it’s put into daily use. That’s not just common sense; it’s also the law. It might not surprise you to learn that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is very clear about material handling equipment in the workplace. Not only must every gantry crane, Lift Table, and forklift battery handling device stand up to strict proof tests, they must be periodically inspected to make sure they remain safe to use, even after years of hard lifting. Here’s what you need…more

How OSHA Uses the NIOSH Lifting Equation to Address Ergonomic Hazards in Manual Material Handling Tasks

Anyone who has a question about a workplace safety standard issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) can go straight to the source for answers. The agency regularly publishes Standard Interpretations, which are responses to the letters they receive asking for clarification on a particular regulation. In 2015, OSHA published 67 of these letters; between January and May of 2016, four more of these documents appeared on their website. A few of these letters concern ergonomics, with a particular focus on the question of safe lifting limits. That makes sense; ergonomic considerations are conspicuously absent from the OSHA regulations, leaving many workers and their employers confused as to the legalities of certain manual material handling tasks. (Learn more…more

OSHA Regulations Don’t Cover Ergonomics — But That Doesn’t Mean They Can’t Issue Fines for Ergonomic Violations

Rosemary Stewart of Elida, Ohio, was convinced that her employers were asking too much. She was frequently required to lift heavy loads, and she didn’t have access to Lift Tables or other material handling equipment. Some of these loads weighed up to 100 pounds, and Stewart rightly worried about the potential for injury. Surely there must be some kind of law about this, she reasoned. So she wrote a letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). A little while later, she received a response — though it wasn’t exactly what she had hoped to hear. “We apologize for the delay in our response to your letter,” wrote Thomas Galassi, Director of Enforcement Programs at OSHA. “You had a…more