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The Risk Factor 3rd Quarter 2004

Thursday, July 15, 2004
The Risk Factor 3rd Quarter 2004

OSHA’s VPP Benefits Employers and Workers

If you want to excel professionally, lead your industry in the health and safety field, and have a strong positive impact on your company’s bottom line, you should consider being part of the OSHA Voluntary Protection Program (VPP). VPPs promote effective worksite-based safety and health. In the VPP, management, labor, and OSHA establish cooperative relationships at workplaces that have implemented a comprehensive safety and health management system. Acceptance into the VPP is OSHA’s official recognition of the outstanding efforts of employers and employees who have achieved exemplary occupational safety and health.

How Does VPP Work?

In practice, VPP sets performance-based criteria for a managed safety and health system, invites sites to apply, and then assesses applicants against these criteria. OSHA’s verification process includes an application review and a rigorous onsite evaluation by a team of OSHA safety and health experts. Sites that make the grade must submit annual self-evaluations and undergo periodic onsite reevaluations to remain in the program.

How has VPP improved worker safety and health?

Statistical evidence for VPP’s success is impressive. The average VPP worksite has a lost workday incidence rate 52 percent below the average for its industry. These sites typically do not start out with such low rates. Reductions in injuries and illnesses begin when the site commits to the VPP approach to safety and health management and the challenging VPP application process.

How does VPP benefit employers?

Fewer injuries and illnesses mean greater profits as workers’ compensation premiums and other costs plummet. Entire industries benefit as VPP sites evolve into models of excellence and influence practices industry wide.

The benefits far outweigh the costs.

1Source Safety and Health has helped a wide range of companies in a variety of industries improve their safety and health management systems and performance. 1Source Safety and Health’s team of professionals, including nine Certified Industrial Hygienists (CIH), two Certified Safety Professionals (CSP), two Certified Professional Environmental Auditors (CPEA), and one Certified Professional Ergonomist (CPE), have performed hundreds of safety and health audits.

Becoming a participant in the VPP typically starts with a “gap analysis.” The gap analysis helps to identify and prioritize your company’s needs. A skilled team then helps build and implement a program and process that will lead to OSHA VPP participation.

Some results of achieving OSHA VPP participant status include

  • Keeping workplace injury and illness rates below the industry average for over 20 years in a row (ALSTOM Power)
  • Combined improved quality, safety, and productivity records over a 7-year period (Potlatch Consumer Products Division)
  • Fifty-percent reduction in workers’ compensation costs over a 4-year period and customer recognition for commitment to safety and health (Curtis Lumber)

If you have questions or would like more information on how your company can participate and benefit from this program, please contact Colin J. Brigham, CIH, CSP, CPE, CPEA, Vice President Safety Management and Ergonomics at 610.524.5525, ext. 24, or email.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

A Concern in a Variety of Occupational Settings

Have you ever been working at your desk trying to ignore the tingling or numbness you have in your hand and wrist? Then, a sharp, piercing pain suddenly shoots through your wrist and up your arm. This may not be just a passing cramp. More likely, you have carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), a painful progressive condition caused by compression of a key nerve in the wrist.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that over 31,000 workers developed this disorder from occupational exposure in 1997, up from 23,000 in 1988.

What is carpal tunnel syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the hand, becomes pressed or squeezed at the wrist. The median nerve controls sensations to the palm side of the thumb and fingers (although not the little finger), as well as impulses to some small muscles in the hand that allow the fingers and thumb to move.

What causes carpal tunnel syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome is typically the result of a combination of factors that increase pressure on the median nerve and tendons in the carpal tunnel, including repeated motions performed in the course of normal work or other daily activities.

What can be done to prevent it from developing?

A good prevention program can be compared to the two hands of the body; the right hand represents the overall program, and the left hand represents the engineering aspects. The five facets of the overall program include:

Screening: Medical screening is one way to determine the condition of prospective or current employees. 

Training: An informed workforce is generally a more responsive workforce.  Teaching employees what constitutes safe and unsafe work practices, and the role of other factors will help them to reduce the potential for occurrence of CTS.

Exercise: The importance of both rest and exercise as methods of relieving the restriction should be stressed. There is good information available regarding specific exercises that can be used to help prevent CTS.

Administrative: One example of an administrative approach is to rotate employees, thereby reducing the duration of exposure.  A second is the provision of wrist supports, for use during sleep when medically prescribed.

Engineering Aspects: This last area of the overall program is engineering, which addresses the following five specific facets that must be reduced, or preferably eliminated, in order to prevent harm:

  • Frequency
  • Force
  • Deviation
  • Duration
  • Restriction

Two “environmental” factors that also play a role in carpal tunnel syndrome development are temperature and vibration. The presence of temperatures below 70 degrees Fahrenheit increases the potential for CTS development, as does significant vibration. Eliminating these factors results in the reduction of the potential for CTS development. While only a “thumbnail” sketch, the use of these guidelines can help you to “get a good grip” on controlling the occurrence of CTS in your company.

Next Step: If you have questions about CTS and what steps can be taken to prevent and treat CTS, contact Colin J. Brigham, Certified Professional Ergonomist at 610.524.5525, ext. 24, or www.1ssh.com.

– Portions adapted from the National Safety Council’s Trade and Services Newsletter

Tips for Writing a Job Safety Description

The main goal of a job safety description is to give workers information about potential hazards of a specific job. Each task that must be done to accomplish the job must be determined, and then the potential risks, (physical, chemical or energy) to the worker must be considered. When you actually get down to writing the description, follow these four steps:

  1. Write out the information from the job evaluation that has determined the sequential steps and tasks that must be accomplished.
  2. Write up the hazards that potentially could be faced in each step.
  3. Write up correct safe job procedures and safety measures workers are expected to take.
  4. Organize the information so that it is easy to read and understand.

– Adapted from Safety+Health

Mold – What You Need to Know

What causes mold growth and what kinds of problems can result from mold growth in a building?

Mold growth in buildings is caused by moisture: liquid flow (a leak), high humidity/condensation, and/or capillary action (moisture through a block wall). Excess moisture can deteriorate structural components, adversely affect HVAC systems, and cause mold (fungal) and bacterial growth. The mold and bacterial growth in structures and within HVAC systems is not hygienic and can cause health problems and impact building systems operations.

What are some of the common health symptoms associated with mold and bacterial exposure in buildings?

Health effects associated with mold (fungi) include infection, allergy, and toxic and irritant effects. Common complaints from occupants in problem buildings include headache, sinusitis, upper respiratory infections, skin rashes, asthma, general malaise, and central nervous system effects. Some molds are pathogenic and actually grow in and on people.

What should be done if musty, earthy, mushroom, and other mold like odors are perceived?

1Source Safety and Health (1Source) can conduct a survey to check for recent moisture intrusion and materials that have been wet. Mold growth can be hidden in the structure of the building. 1Source will perform a visual inspection and sampling survey for the presence of microbiological contamination or growth and recommend a strategy and program to effectively solve the problem.



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