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Environmental Health and Safety Blog | EHSWire

343 + 2 = Changes in NYC Asbestos Regulations

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Aug 29, 2011 7:22:05 AM

Dale Wilson, CIH, LEED AP, Sr. Project Manager

"343" is a symbol of great sadness to members of the FDNY and their families as 343 is the number of FDNY firefighters who died on September 11, 2001. That staggering figure is remembered quite readily when recalling the events of that day and during the remembrances that have followed.  However, almost six years later, the lives of two additional NY firefighters were claimed during the demolition of the 9/11-damaged Deutsche Bank Building.

The 41-story Deutsche Bank Building stood adjacent to the World Trade Center and was severely damaged by falling debris and smoke when the Twin Towers collapsed. The damage to the skyscraper was so extensive that it had to be demolished. However, as the federal EPA requires, before it could be demolished, all asbestos-containing materials needed to be removed.

By August 18, 2007, demolition was well underway and the building now stood at only 26 stories tall.  Around 3:40 pm, a massive seven-alarm fire broke out as a result of a discarded cigarette in the asbestos decontamination unit on the 17 th floor.  The building had not been inspected by the Fire Department since March, when it should have been inspected every 15 days.  As a result, a crucial but inoperable fire standpipe forced firefighters to raise hoses up from the street to combat the flames.   Inside the building, three firefighters struggled to pull a hose through the deconstructed building. Only one of these men survived. The configuration of the asbestos abatement added to the difficulty of fighting a fire in an already structurally-compromised building.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), an institute within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), completed a description and evaluation of the incident as part of their fire fighter fatality investigation. Several items stand out from the asbestos abatement as contributors to the fire:

  • White plastic sheeting was used to partition the floor area into separate zones.  All these partitions created maze-like conditions for the firefighters.

  • Numerous zones were under negative pressure, as required for asbestos abatement, possibly drawing smoke and fire into localized areas.

  • Stairwell doors were blocked by wooded hatch covers as part of the construction of the asbestos containments.

  • Plastic sheeting, construction debris, and exposed lumber in partitions provided additional fuel.


These contributing conditions created by the asbestos abatement project have been recognized by several authorities, and in an effort to maximize safety, New York City enacted a number of new laws to ensure that asbestos abatement projects are conducted safely.  These laws impact the ways that asbestos projects are filed, approved and inspected, and involve new levels of cooperation among the agencies that oversee asbestos and construction safety:  the NYC Department of Environmental Protection (NYC DEP), the Department of Buildings (DOB) and the Fire Department (FDNY).  Most notably, the NYC DEP created the Asbestos -Technical Review Unit (A-TRU) to ensure that asbestos abatement is conducted safely and a new process for filing for asbestos permits called Asbestos Reporting and Tracking System (ARTS).

ARTS enables applicants to submit applications and/or receive approvals (or objections) electronically.  During the application process, applicants are asked questions to identify if

  • the building’s fire protection systems (e.g., fire alarm or sprinkler system) will be turned off as a result of the abatement work,

  • abatement work will result in blocked or compromised egress or whether any components of the fire protection system are going to be removed as part of the abatement

  • abatement work entails removal of passive fire protection (e.g., fire resistance rated walls, sprayed on fireproofing, or smoke dampers)


If there is an impact to any of these fire protection items then a comprehensive Work Place Safety Plan must be developed for the project indicating abatement containment areas and systems, obstructed and temporary exits, tenant protection and a description of any measures that will be taken to mitigate compromised fire protection systems or means of egress. As a final item intended to promote life safety during abatement projects, the asbestos supervisor must inspect exits daily to ensure that there are no exterior blockages or impediments to exiting. If any blockages or impediments are identified, work must stop until the blockage has been removed.  Essentially, deconstruction and asbestos-abatement work cannot compromise the safety of workers and firefighters.

As Carrie Bettinger noted in a past EHSWire blog, “ In our society and legal system it seems that, yes, someone (or many) has to tragically die before change and regulation are considered.” In this case, the tragedy was 343+2. Hopefully the A-TRU process and increased oversight from NYC DEP, DOB, and FDNY will prevent another similar tragedy from occurring.

Postscript:  The last of the Deutsche Bank tower criminal trials were completed in July, 2011. More information can be found at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/07/nyregion/final-defendant-is-acquitted-in-deutsche-bank-fire-trial.html.
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Topics: Construction H&S, EPA, Emergency Response, Homeland Security, H&S Training, health and safety, worker safety, indoor air quality, regulation, construction, emergency response training, demolition, 9/11, Work Place Safety Plan, asbestos, September 11, Deutsche Bank NYC, A-TRU, 9-11, Fire Safety

Hazard Communication: Do You Know What You Have the Right-to-Know?

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Jul 3, 2011 11:51:26 PM

By John Defillippo, CHMP

Do you have hazardous chemicals in your workplace? If you think the answer is no, are you sure?


OSHA defines a hazardous chemical as one that presents either a physical or a health hazard. Many common and readily available products such as paints, cleaners, and other materials found in the workplace meet this definition. In fact, last year OSHA issued over 6,300 violations to companies that failed to comply with this standard. As we noted in a previous blog, non-compliance with the Hazard Communication standard was the third-largest source of OSHA violations in 2009 and 2010!

If you are an employer, you have a legal obligation to provide a workplace that is free of recognized hazards and to communicate any hazards present to those in the workplace.  In 1985, OSHA established the Hazard Communication Standard ( 1910.1200) to ensure, in part, that all workers have the "right-to-know" about the hazardous chemicals in their workplace.

Essentially, employees have a Right-to-Know about any hazardous substances that they may come into contact with at work and how to protect themselves from adverse affects. Employees, for their part, have a responsibility to follow directions and work safely by using products for their intended purpose and in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions to reduce risk and chance of exposure. This is where the Hazard Communication Standard “kicks in”, as all workplace information about hazardous substances needs to be in a Written Hazard Communication Program.  This "HazCom" program must contain

  • A list of all hazardous chemicals in the workplace and a Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for each chemical (or product) on that list

  • All employees must have access to that list and the MSDS’s during their work shift

  • Methods to communicate hazards of these chemicals to employees, on-site contractors and visitors such as signs and labels

  • Records showing that all employees have been properly trained to understand the hazards, read the MSDSs and understand labeling and signs.


In addition to the federal OSHA requirements for labeling, the State of New Jersey has specific labeling requirements for all vessels, piping and containers that contain hazardous chemicals.

So, do you have hazardous chemicals in your workplace? Are you rethinking your answer?


If you have products that arrive with an MSDS, and you have not implemented a written HazCom Program, you’ll need to get a program in place to be OSHA compliant. If you have been following the standard, consider the following:

  • Are you keeping up with its requirements?

  • When was the last time your HazCom Program was reviewed?

  • Is your hazardous chemical list and MSDS collection up-to-date?

  • Do you know what OSHA considers “Hazardous”?

  • Is every hazardous chemical container labeled properly – even the transfer containers?

  • Are ALL your employees trained about the workings of your HazCom program and the hazards of each chemical in their workplace?


Now do you know the answer? Or, do you have more questions?


If you are confused or intimidated, don’t worry.  A great resource is the Institute of Hazardous Materials Managers which certifies individuals as Hazardous Materials Managers (CHMM) and Hazardous Materials Practitioners (CHMP). These trained professionals must demonstrate various levels of knowledge, expertise, and excellence in the management of hazardous materials. And, there are EHS (Environmental, Health and Safety) experts like Emilcott everywhere – their job is to help companies stay in compliance with state and federal regulations while protecting employees. No matter what resource you find, just ask if they are experienced in developing Hazardous Communication programs. Not only will workers stay health and safety, you’ll see added benefits like prevention of property damage, reduced insurance claims and costs, and, of course, your company will not be cited for OSHA’s third most-common violation!

Have you found any chemicals in your workplace that you didn’t know are hazardous? Does your “right-to-know” increase your job comfort level or concern you? And, have you carefully reviewed the company HazCom plan so that you understand “what to do if…”?
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Topics: OSHA, General Industry H&S, OSHA Compliance, General EHS, H&S Training, Hazardous Waste Management, HazCom, health and safety, Compliance, regulation, General Industry, emergency response training, Exposure, hazardous chemicals, chemicals, MSDS, Hazard Communication Standard

You Better be Qualified if You are a Respiratory Protection Program Administrator!

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Mar 21, 2011 2:31:48 AM

by Paula Kaufmann

What’s the job of a Respiratory Protection Program (RPP) Administrator? 


This individual is officially listed in the site’s written Respiratory Protection Program and is accountable and responsible for the day-to-day operation of the program. Some of those “day-to-day” tasks include

  • Maintaining the site Respiratory Protection Program

  • Assessing the workplace for potential respiratory hazards

  • Defining worker exposure for these hazards

  • Selecting appropriate respirators to provide protection from defined hazards

  • Ensuring

    • Medical evaluations are conducted of employees required to wear respirators PRIOR to fit testing

    • Respirators are fit tested for all required users

    • Proper use of respirators during routine and emergency operations

    • Respirators are appropriately cleaned, disinfected, stored, inspected, repaired, discarded, and maintained

    • Adequate air quality air is supplied if supplied air respirators are used.

    • Respirator users are trained in respiratory hazards, and the proper use and maintenance of respirators

    • Periodical evaluation of the Respiratory Protection Program implementation

    • Workers who voluntarily wear respirators (excluding filtering facepieces) comply with the medical evaluation, and cleaning, storing and maintenance requirements of the standard

    • All voluntary-use respirator users understand Appendix D of the standard




Yes, these incessant and critical health and safety tasks can be quite overwhelming!  What’s the big deal? For the company or job site or administrator who does not understand why a qualified and empowered RPP Administrator is a big deal, here is a triple-play of Top 5 facts that illustrate the importance of qualified training for Respiratory Protection Program Administrators!

Top 5 OSHA Violation!


Did you know that the Respiratory Protection Standard was in the Top 5 most frequently cited standards by OSHA compliance officers last year?  Why be a part of that statistic?  More about 2010’s Top 10 cited violations can be found in a recent EHSwire blog by Emilcott’s Sarah Damaskos.

Top 5 Reasons YOU need to be “Qualified”



  1. Workers at your site are required to wear respirators for protection from respiratory hazards – and you selected these respirators.

  2. You train respirator users on how to put on and take off their respirator – along with the limitations on their use, and their maintenance.

  3. Implementation of the site respiratory protection program (which you wrote) is just another one of your jobs!

  4. Airline (atmosphere-supplying) respirators are used at your site – and you make sure that an adequate air supply, quantity, and flow of breathing air is available.

  5. You coordinate the medical evaluation of employees who must use respirators.


Top 5 OSHA Compliance Indicators!


If you get a visit from an OSHA Compliance Safety and Health Officer, they review these essential factors to help determine if the Respiratory Protection Program Administrator is “Qualified”:

  1. The written Respiratory Protection Program and interviews with the program administrator reveal an understanding of the familiarity with the respirator standard, site respiratory hazards, and the use of the respirators in the workplace.

  2. Respiratory fit testing is conducting annually or at assignment and the program administrator maintains.

  3. Hazardous airborne contaminants that employees may inhale have been identified.  Reasonable estimates of employee exposures were used in determining the appropriate respirator for employees to use.

  4. Recent changes in the workplace such as new processes have been evaluated for necessary respiratory program changes

  5. The program administrator keeps a written assessment of the program operations and implements changes that may be considered as efforts toward improvement.


How to Become a Qualified RPP Administrator


Focused, hands-on training with experienced health and safety instructors can make the difference for a Respiratory Protection Program Administrator – clarifying the waters by understanding the objectives of the law and how it applies to each work site!

As Health and Safety consultants to many types of companies, Emilcott staff are on job sites each day and see health and safety violations such respirators perched on foreheads or tissues jammed in the sides to ensure a bitter fit. Are these problems an employee violation or a company-wide result of not understanding the importance of a competent Administrator who can develop, maintain and enforce a respirator protection program that reduces occupation risk?

In these cases, we conduct urgent and immediate on-site RPP Administrator training that often includes high level managers to ensure that there is a top to bottom understanding of the importance of proper respirator usage. In addition to our private training, the Emilcott Training Institute offers public enrollment Respiratory Protection Program Administrator training courses in two formats:  an intense 3-hour course with a small class size and an in-depth two-day course.  In both classes, students learn the level of information required for their sites and are taught by an experienced H&S instructor that can answer questions. 

So if you are unfamiliar with your required duties as an RPP Administrator or you want a better understanding of how to encourage better respirator usage by your site personnel, look around for an effective RPP Administrator training class. Once complete and in practice, you should dicover aTop 5 list that looks more like this:

  1. OSHA respirator inspection passed without any problems, fines or additional action.

  2. Site personnel actively wear their respirators – the way that they are supposed to!

  3. Site workers reinforce the importance of respirator use to their colleagues (even when you’re not around)!

  4. Managers understand the need for respirator use and support related site activities such as testing of hazardous airborne contaminants.

  5. Written assessments of program changes are treated as a necessity for business to move forward rather than resented.


You ARE a Qualified Respiratory Protection Program Administrator!

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Topics: OSHA, General Industry H&S, OSHA Compliance, Emilcott, General EHS, Construction H&S, Emergency Response, H&S Training, health and safety, Compliance, worker safety, Occupational Health, Occupational Safety, Lab Safety & Electrical, Personal Protective Equipment, emergency response training, Fire Safety, Exposure, Respiratory, Occupational Training, RPP, respirator protection program, administrator

Hazardous Waste How-To for Manufacturers, Laboratories and other General Industry Companies

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Mar 14, 2011 7:27:43 AM



Carrie Bettinger, CHMM, CSP

As a Certified Hazardous Materials Manager (CHMM) and a Certified Safety Professional (CSP) I often make recommendations to our “General Industry” clients in an effort to lift their game with dealing with hazardous waste.  There are multiple layers of compliance issues related to hazardous waste handling, and, as with most regulations, a little education (TRAINING!!) goes a long way in understanding the game plan!  The intention of this blog is to provide a brief discussion of the key regulations and their associated training requirements.

The Rules


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has very strict guidelines regarding the generation, transportation, treatment, storage  and disposal of Hazardous Waste, which “ General Industry” businesses (schools, colleges; hospitals; trucking/freight companies; manufacturer; laboratories; …well, just about everyone) needs to know!
OSHA uses the term "general industry" to refer to all industries not included in agriculture, construction or maritime. General industries are regulated by OSHA's general industry standards, directives, and standard interpretations.

Give me an R! Give me a C ! Give me an R! Give me an A! What’s that spell?!  HAZARDOUS WASTE!

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) appeared on the environmental scene in 1976 after Congress decided that people shouldn’t be building homes on top of highly hazardous waste dumps or Farmer Joe shouldn’t have a side business of burying industrial waste on the family farm.   RCRA is a complex law with lots of parts and many industries are affected by its components.  In addition to being complex, the text of the Act with all of its parts and sections is hard to follow.  My primary technical focus tends to be on the Generators of Hazardous Waste (40 CFR Part 262) . RCRA Training requirements for generators can be found in 40 CFR 262.34(a)(4) which conveniently (NOT) refers you to look at 40 CFR 265.16 on Personnel Training.

But the EPA’s RCRA law is not the only player when it comes to the game of shipping hazardous waste off your site.  The other major player is the Department of Transportation (DOT), and its Hazardous Materials shipping training requirements are found in 49 CFR Part 172, Subpart H.   The International Air  Transport Association (IATA) has rules for the air transport of hazardous materials ( http://www.iata.org/) including training requirements.

To simplify, RCRA is all about Hazardous WASTE and the DOT and IATA rules kick in when you’re dealing with hazardous MATERIALS, and guess what hazardous waste is?  That’s right it’s hazardous materials in DOT and IATA eyes.  For those who generate or ship Hazardous Waste, compliance for with EPA RCRA and DOT /IATA rules starts with required and effective training.

The Required Training


So, if you generate hazardous waste and you need to get it off your site, here is a brief summary of the training employees who either generate or handle hazardous waste should have -- per both EPA and DOT/IATA.

All employees at sites that generate hazardous waste need to be trained in how to:

  • Properly identify what qualifies as regulated “Hazardous Waste” per federal (EPA) or your state requirements.

  • Know where to properly dispose of any hazardous waste you may generate (I will give you a hint:   It’s NOT down the sink drain!).

  • Know how to handle and dispose of highly hazardous waste (very toxic, reactive or explosive) to prevent injuries, and who to contact for questions or emergencies.


Employees who are designated as responsible for the management and control of this hazardous waste need additional training. And, depending on the size of the facility, it is prudent to provide this training to a backup employee or two. This additional training includes how to

  • Properly label containers

  • Implement accumulation area requirements and time-on-site limits

  • Inspect hazardous waste accumulation areas for leaking or damaged containers or other problems

  • Complete Hazardous Waste shipping manifests

  • Ensure proper shipping methods and a qualified transporter are used

  • Develop site-specific procedures

  • Know and implement emergency procedures and site contingency plans


Refresher Training


A common point of confusion is when refresher training is needed for employees.  The DOT and EPA have two separate requirements:

  • The EPA requires annual refresher training for their regulations.

  • The DOT requires refresher training every 3 years for their regulations.


And, companies must ensure training for new employees or those newly assigned to the role within 6 months of their new post to be in compliance with both RCRA and DOT regulations .

The Bottom Line

We can all help to ensure clean air, clean soil and clean water in our neighborhoods by understanding and following federal and state hazardous waste/hazardous materials regulations. When accidents happen (and they do), labeling, manifests, emergency plans – everything that DOT/IATA and RCRA training develops for your company – are vital in the cleanup of the environment and protection of employee and public health and safety.

For more information or questions regarding how to handle hazardous waste or where to obtain training, please comment below or contact Emilcott.  As part of  The Emilcott Training Institute, we offer private hazardous communication, hazardous materials and hazardous waste training specific to company or site needs. We also offer public classes for both DOT/IATA and RCRA:
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Topics: OSHA, Emilcott, General EHS, EPA, Emergency Response, H&S Training, DOT, Hazardous Waste Management, Hazardous Materials, Compliance, Lab Safety & Electrical, regulation, General Industry, emergency response training, Occupational Training, IATA, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, Lab Safety, hazwaste, transportation, hazmat, generation, RCRA

Why Proper Respirator Protection Lets You Breathe Longer (and Breathe Easy)

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Nov 1, 2010 12:56:53 AM

Capt. John DeFillippo, CHMP, EMT-B

The health effects from airborne hazards are a frequent topic in many health and safety courses, especially in hazardous substance and hazardous waste training.  This is because so many of these exposures may not show up as health problems for decades! Consider asbestos. While it’s not harmful to the touch, inhalation can be fatal, but it can take 25-30 years before asbestosis or mesothelioma can develop. Both are chronic and often deadly diseases of the lungs.

The lungs are amazing. It surprises most people to learn that the lungs have the largest surface area of any body organ -- about 80 times more area than the skin, or about the size of a tennis court!  As we breathe, our lungs are in constant contact with the outside world and that is a lot of contact area. They need to be protected.

Over three million American workers are required to wear respirators to protect themselves from hazardous airborne contaminants.  Not surprisingly, OSHA has some pretty strict rules when it comes to protecting our lungs . Despite this , it is estimated that more than half of the respirators worn are not worn in accordance with OSHA Standard 29 CFR 1910.134

Did you know that…

  • If workers are wearing respirators, a written program is required?

  • A medical evaluation is required for anyone who wears a respirator?

  • A fit test of each respirator worn must be conducted initially AND annually?

  • The workplace must be evaluated to determine the hazard so that the proper respirator (there are many) can be selected?

  • These rules, and others, apply to what many people refer to as “dust masks”?


Proper respirator usage training is also required. Why? Because wearing the wrong type, wrong size, or an improperly fitted respirator can be more dangerous than not wearing one at all. For example:

  1. Wearing a filtering respirator in an O2-deficient atmosphere, or the wrong cartridge, can mislead you to believe that you are protected…when you are not!

  2. A mask with even the slightest poor fit allows contaminates in and may actually increase exposure levels.

  3. Not everyone can wear a respirator. Because a respirator restricts your breathing, people with certain medical conditions can be seriously harmed by wearing them. This is why being medically cleared prior to use is so important, and required.


Not complying with the rules designed for occupational safety can be costly… and not just in fines and penalties. Too many workers have destroyed their health by failing to protect their delicate, vital lungs. And, it’s not just at work. Working around the home and yard can also present respiratory dangers, too. If you are not sure that you need more than a “dust mask” ask someone who can help.

Have you been properly trained to use your respirator and fit-tested to make sure it is actually stopping hazards from reaching your lungs?Are you confident that you are using your respirator properly and that the respirator that you have selected is the best for the contaminants you are exposed to?  How about the person next to you - are they in compliance?  Hopefully you and your workmates can answerYES! to these questions. If you have any questions about respiratory protection, please ask me!
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Topics: OSHA, General Industry H&S, General EHS, Construction H&S, Emergency Response, Homeland Security, H&S Training, Hazardous Waste Management, Hazardous Materials, Compliance, worker safety, Occupational Health, Occupational Safety, indoor air quality, Lab Safety & Electrical, Personal Protective Equipment, emergency response training, Fire Safety, environmental air monitoring, Respiratory, Occupational Training

OSHA at 40: Taking on a Mid-life Crisis?

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Oct 11, 2010 1:00:07 AM

Bruce Groves - CIH

In July, David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, published a memo to his staff at OSHA highlighting several new approaches that OSHA is using (or planning to use) in its effort to protect workers.  Dr. Michaels is building on the progress of his predecessors and reinforcing some of the weak links in the system created both by Congress and former administrations. In his recent letter, Dr. Michaels reviews some legacy issues that limit OSHA-influence in creating safer workplaces such as

  • OSHA has only 2,000 inspectors responsible for the health and safety of 130 million workers at 7 million worksites

  • OSHA fines are too small to have an adequate deterrent effect

  • OSHA standards provide limited protection to whistleblowers from retaliation

  • OSHA occupational exposure standards have been established for only a small percentage of chemicals used in US workplaces (most of those are based on out-of-date science) with a slow and resource-intensive standard-setting process


Dr. Michaels states that OSHA needs to transform how it addresses workplace hazards, and in its relationship to employers and workers. As such he outlines a new strategy that is a clear shift from recent years indicating that there is a “new sheriff in town” and business (ALL businesses) should take heed.  Here are some of my extrapolations and thoughts regarding 6 of these transformational items -- consider how they will affect your business or workplace.
1.       Stronger Enforcement:  Some Employers Need Incentives to Do the Right Thing

OSHA will have more and bigger sticks.  OSHA is redirecting resources to conduct inspections of high risk industries and tasks including ergonomics.

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Topics: OSHA, General Industry H&S, Emilcott, General EHS, Construction H&S, H&S Training, health and safety, Compliance, worker safety, Occupational Health, Occupational Safety, indoor air quality, Lab Safety & Electrical, emergency response training, Occupational Training, Safety Training in Spanish, water safety, small business

Safety Leadership: A Message to Owners and Managers

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Sep 27, 2010 3:04:31 AM

Capt. John DeFillippo, CHMP, EMT-B

Every organization develops a “safety culture”, be it good or bad. It is immediately observable to anyone who cares to look, and more people are – particularly prospective clients and business partners.  When evaluating vendors and business partners, companies with strong safety cultures will steer clear of doing business with companies with poor safety records; the risks and exposures are too great.  In addition to the obvious reasons of possible injury or death to workers or the public, there is the potential for serious damage to a company’s image and reputation should their vendor or subcontractor have an incident or accident.  We’ve all heard some of the stories recently in the news; reporters will highlight a major construction accident and all the players are named, regardless of their culpability.

Government agencies also use strong criteria to evaluate potential vendors. The State of New York has severely tightened up its safety and health requirements following the series of construction accidents that have plagued NYC in recent years.

A company can develop a comprehensive health and safety programs. It can post attention-getting signs and posters warning workers of hazards. It can also provide all manner of safety and personal protective equipment and conduct training for employees. These measures are good, but as soon as a supervisor or company owner walks onto a site ignoring the PPE requirements, all this good goes out the window. “Do as I say, not as I do” is not the way lead. The rules must to apply to all, without exception. Even more importantly, owners and managers should set a proper example. Professional experience has shown me that when management creates and “lives” a proactive safety culture, it will get the best results. It’s the front-line managers and supervisors that make the difference.

And it’s a never ending task. Maybe your company has a few workers who constantly violate the safety rules without any real consequences or discipline. The message being sent is pretty clear: the company doesn’t take safety seriously. Most people realize that the rules are there for a reason; their protection and it’s the law.  However, there will always be a small percentage of people that just don’t get it. Without enforcement of the policies, there is not only the risk of worker injury, but an erosion of the “safety culture” of the organization and a negative impact on morale. Plus, it is the employer and management who will be responsible for any fines or penalties handed out as well as increased insurance premiums, particularly workman’s compensation. Often, they are found personally responsible. Why would anyone risk this?

The point is that paying lip service to safety won’t fly anymore -- proactive is best. There are all kinds of resources to help your company succeed. OSHA even offers free services:    http://www.osha.gov/dcsp/smallbusiness/consult.html and http://www.osha.gov/dte/outreach/construction_generalindustry/index.html.  You may also get help from a trade or professional association that you belong to. Health and safety consulting services from companies like Emilcott who are experienced in honing in on risk and compliance can be a great investment to shift your company onto the right track.

Have you ever worked for a company that has an ineffective or sham health and safety policy? How did it make you or fellow employees feel? Was there a tipping point event that made them switch to being proactive and how did they implement a new, comprehensive program (that worked)?

Image Credit:  www.lumaxart.com

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Topics: General Industry H&S, General EHS, Construction H&S, Emergency Response, H&S Training, health and safety, Compliance, worker safety, Occupational Health, Occupational Safety, Lab Safety & Electrical, Personal Protective Equipment, emergency response training, Fire Safety, Occupational Training, Safety Culture, Leadership

Industrial Hygiene…It’s a 24 Hour Job!

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Sep 20, 2010 4:12:14 AM

Paula Kaufmann, CIH

I just read an article in the New York Times ( Hazards: Watch Where You Point That Laser) about a 15-year boy who bought a laser pointer on the Internet.  He selected this particular model as the light was supposed to be powerful enough pop balloons and burn holes in fabric.  And, it was all he had hoped for and more.  He popped balloons from a distance and burnt holes in his sister’s sneakers.  However, he literally got burned by the “and more” features of his new toy. Tragically, he shined the pointer in a mirror and the light beam reflected back onto one of his eyes causing major damage. 

My first thought was, “How stupid was that”.  My second thought was more balanced, “I guess he wasn’t properly trained or didn’t read the instructions”.  I’ve been told by loved ones that I can be a bit intrusive (if not annoying) with my unconscious monitoring of unsafe behavior in my constant role of “health and safety inspector”.  So be it!  According to the Home Safety Council, every year there are millions of preventable home-related incidents and accidents “ that result in nearly 20,000 deaths and 21 million medical visits”.  

Here are some examples of what I consider stupid (or let’s say shortsighted) actions -- some at work, some at home. Yes, I make these observations all the time to family and friends and, as you can imagine, that can be a bit trying for them but I feel it’s worth the price.

  • Using an electric lawn mower on a damp lawn with damaged extension cords repaired with electrical tape AND with the ground prong clipped. Worse yet – asking my child to use this dangerous setup!

  • Removing the guard from a circular saw.

  • Cutting overhead branches without wearing a hard hat or eye protection.

  • Smoking a cigarette, cigar or pipe while filling a car with gas. Worse yet – a gas station attendants smoking cigarettes while pumping gas.

  • Construction or utility workers using a jack hammer on a concrete sidewalk and not wearing safety glasses or hearing protection while wearing a hard hat.

  • Police directing traffic without wearing a traffic safety vest. Worse yet – doing this after dark in a dark uniform without white gloves.

  • Mowing the lawn in sandals and shorts without eye protection while listening to music at full volume (using earphones not noise reducing hearing protection).

  • Eating snacks while removing paint from old furniture or woodwork in a house built before WW I, which makes the lead content highly probable.  Worse yet – having your kids help you while you dry sweep or use a regular household vacuum to “clean up” the area.

  • Utility worker serving as a confined space watch (at the ground level of an underground manway) talking (and laughing) on a cell phone and drinking coffee (usually about 10 feet from the manway).

  • Nail salon workers wearing dust masks while applying acrylics to customers’ nails -- dust masks don’t reduce exposure to the chemicals used during acrylic application. Worse yet - acrylic nail services happening in a tiny storefront with limited ventilation.

  • Being “careful” when installing an electrical light by shutting off the switch to the power but not the circuit breaker to the line.

  • Applying insect repellant from an aerosol can while sitting by a bonfire.

  • Removing a bicycle helmet as soon as your mom can’t see you as it is just too hot to protect your brain.


And, finally, one of my favorite tales is the time that I was away from home on a business trip, and while I was gone, my husband renovated my home office space.  He did a beautiful job, but when I asked him why he went through the effort to surprise me, he said “It is so much easier to get work done when the OSHA inspector is not home”.  I just wish I could have given him a citation.

If you’re interested in home safety, September – National Preparedness Month -- is a good time to begin.  You can start with a visit the website of the Home Safety Council® (HSC), a national nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing home-related injuries. You’ll  find dozens of tips, stories and videos and information about Safety Saturday (September 25) at participating Lowe’s stores.

What are some of your favorite observations of “stupid” health and safety practices outside of the work environment? And, if you’re a health and safety professional, how do you balance maintaining a safe home life without driving your friends and family crazy?
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Topics: General Industry H&S, General EHS, Emergency Response, health and safety, worker safety, Occupational Safety, emergency response training, Fire Safety, Public Safety, water safety, industrial hygiene, home safety

Why We Need More than Common Sense Safety for Natural Gas Pipe System Cleaning and Purging Operations

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Jul 20, 2010 2:22:39 AM

By Don Hoeschele, MS, CHMM

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) recently approved recommendations to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and other organizations to help prevent explosions and fires during pipe cleaning and purging operations.  As recently as February 7, 2010 at the Kleen Energy power plant in Middletown, CT, an explosion caused six fatalities and numerous injuries during the cleaning of a natural gas pipe system. Another similar explosion occurred at the ConAgra Foods Slim Jim plant in Garner, NC on June 9, 2009 and caused the death of four workers. In both instances, an operation termed “natural gas blow” was utilized to force natural gas under pressure through a piping system during construction and prior to startup of the plant’s turbines to rid the pipe system of non-natural gas impurities and debris. The gas was vented to the ambient atmosphere at open pipe ends less than 20 feet from the ground, and in worker areas where the gas easily found a source of ignition.  It seems that common sense would lead one to never vent natural gas near sources of ignition.

  • At Kleen Energy the potential ignition sources included electrical power to the building, welders actively working and diesel-fueled heaters running in the vicinity.

  • Approximately TWO MILLION cubic feet of natural gas were released at Kleen Energy on February 7, 2010 during the “natural gas blow”, enough natural gas, according to the CSB, to provide heating and cooking fuel to the average American home every day for more than 25 years.


The CSB determined that no specific federal workplace safety standard exists that would prohibit the intentional release of natural gas into the workplace. Yes, I was shocked when I read that, too! Eighteen urgent recommendations were provided and voted on by the CSB to prevent future disasters. Some of the recommendations include – Prohibiting the use of natural gas for pipe cleaning and using alternatives such as compressed air, steam and other chemical substitutes, and upgrading the current gas safety standards for general industry and construction that are considered by the CSB to contain “significant gaps” that threaten the safety of workers at such facilities.

In February 2010, the CSB issued a safety bulletin titled “ Seven Key Lessons to Prevent Worker Deaths During Hot Work In and Around Tanks”.  This bulletin highlights another gap in the OSHA standards, “While the OSHA standard prohibits hot work in an explosive atmosphere, it does not explicitly require the use of a combustible gas detector”. 

It is an unfortunate fact that such regulatory “gaps” can be found in many industries. We are reminded of these gaps while reading of disasters such as these, or more currently, watching the daily updates of oil washing ashore in the Gulf of Mexico.  It is certainly welcome news that these CSB draft recommendations were quickly approved without amendments to help prevent future explosions during pipe cleaning operations.

Do you know of other examples of what would seem to be ‘common sense’ safety measures that are not utilized because “this is the way we have always done it” wins over common sense?
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Topics: OSHA, General Industry H&S, Emergency Response, Chemical Safety Board, health and safety, Hazardous Materials, Compliance, worker safety, emergency response training, Fire Safety, NFPA

Could a Bhopal Disaster Happen Here?

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Jun 21, 2010 1:00:36 AM

Dian Cucchisi, PhD, CHMM

The Bhopal Disaster has been in the news again with the eight former company executives getting convicted of negligence.     A court in the Indian city of Bhopal returned the verdict on June 7, 2010, more than 25 years after the incident

What was the Bhopal Disaster?

For those of us old enough to remember, the words “Bhopal, India” brings to mind the very tragic events of December 2, 1984.  On that day a Union Carbide facility had an accidental release of approximately 40 tons of methyl isocyanate, a chemical used in pesticides.  The chemical plume killed 3,000 people and left an estimated 500,000 people with long-term, damaging health effects.  Amnesty International reports that approximately 15,000 people died in the subsequent years as a result of this incident.  As a result the Union Carbide Bhopal accident is often considered the world's worst industrial disaster.

And then a smaller, but similar event occurred in the USA…

In August 1985 a Union Carbide facility located in Institute, West Virginia experienced an accidental release of toxic chemicals causing more than 100 residents of the area to seek medical treatment.

US Regulators Respond to Community Concerns

In response to these incidents and the growing concern by the American public that this could happen in their backyard, regulatory agencies enacted laws for facilities that manufacture, store, or use certain chemicals above designated threshold quantities.

In 1986 the United States Congress passed the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA). The law requires facilities to annually report the quantities of “extremely hazardous substances” to the facility’s state and the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC).  This information is available to any member of the public upon request to the LEPC.

In late 1985, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) created the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) (29 CFR 1910.1200) also known as “Right to Know.”  The HCS requires manufacturers and distributors of hazardous materials to communicate to employees the hazards of the chemicals in their workplace by providing Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) and ensure that hazardous materials are labeled according to certain requirements.

The Clean Air Act was amended by Congress in 1990, including some regulatory changes intending to create safer workplaces and mitigate the risk of a Bhopal-like disaster in the US, such as:

  • Charging the EPA and OSHA with more authority over the chemical industry.

    • OSHA created the Process Safety Management Standard (29 CFR 1910.119), a program that looks in depth at process technologies, procedures and management practices.

    • The EPA codified Chemical Accident Prevention Provisions (40 CFR Part 68) which requires facilities to conduct a hazard assessment, develop a prevention program, and implement a risk management plan.

    • Other laws that regulate the use of hazardous materials were enhanced.  These include the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA); the Resource, Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA); and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA).



  • Creating the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB). 


The Senate legislative history states: "The principal role of the new chemical safety board is to investigate accidents to determine the conditions and circumstances which led up to the event and to identify the cause or causes so that similar events might be prevented." Congress gave the CSB a unique statutory mission and provided in law that no other agency or executive branch official may direct the activities of the Board. Congress directed that the CSB's investigative function be completely independent of the rulemaking, inspection, and enforcement authorities of EPA and OSHA. The CSB became operational in January 1998.  

Accidents in the U.S. STILL OCCUR

In spite of this, accidents continue to happen.  In 2002, the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) examined 167 chemical accidents that occurred between 1980 and 2001.  More than half of those accidents involved chemicals not covered by the regulations mentioned above.  The CSB recommended that the EPA and OSHA expand their regulations.  The Agencies did not agree with the recommendation stating they feel the best approach is worker education.  In 2004, OSHA formed an alliance with the EPA, the American Chemistry Council (ACC), and others to develop and provide worker education on chemical reactivity hazards. 

How do you feel about the expansion of regulations to include chemicals currently not covered by regulations designed to prevent accidents and reduce health risk?
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Topics: OSHA, General Industry H&S, EPA, Emergency Response, H&S Training, health and safety, Compliance, TSCA & R.E.A.C.H., Air Sampling, emergency response training, Exposure, environmental air monitoring, Respiratory, Public Safety

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