OSHA REVISES EXIT ROUTES STANDARD

November 08, 2002

Requirements for exiting buildings quickly during an emergency have been rewritten in a user-friendly format that is easier to understand. The revised Exit Routes, Emergency Action Plans, and Fire Prevention Plans Standard becomes effective on December 7, 2002.

"Having a clear plan and procedure for exiting a building as safely as possible, if necessary, is one of the most basic and important safety precautions," said OSHA Administrator John Henshaw. "OSHA's standard was over 30 years old and in need of updating. The changes to the language in this rule will make it more clear and consistent, and aid workers and employers alike in understanding the requirements of the standard."

The requirements for exit routes have been rewritten in simple, straight- forward, easy to understand terms. For example, "Means of Egress" will now be referred to as "Exit Routes." The text has been reorganized and inconsistencies and duplicative requirements have been removed. The revised rule has fewer subparagraphs and a smaller number of cross-references to other OSHA standards than the previous version.

Employers now have the option of adopting the National Fire Protection Associations' Life Safety Code, instead of the OSHA standard for exit routes. OSHA evaluated the NFPA standard and concluded that it provides comparable safety.

The revised standard, which offers more compliance options for employers, does not change the regulatory obligations of the employer or the safety and health protections provided to the employees of the original standard.

The Exit Routes, Emergency Action Plans, and Fire Prevention Plans standard was published in the November 7, 2002 Federal Register.x


EMF WEB SITE, Q&A BOOKLET UPDATED

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences announces the availability of an updated booklet about the electric and magnetic fields (EMF) associated with the use of electric power. This booklet, "Questions and Answers about EMF" was initially printed in 1995 as part of the EMF Research and Public Information Dissemination (RAPID) Program, a six-year effort aimed at providing scientific evidence to clarify whether or not exposure to EMF associated with the generation, transmission, or use of electric power involves a potential risk to human health. The new Q & A incorporates information from subsequent U.S. and foreign reviews.

EMF exposures exist in the home and workplace as a result of electrical equipment and building wiring, and not only as a result of nearby power lines.

This booklet explains the basic principles of EMF, provides an overview of the results from major research studies, and summarizes conclusions from the various expert review panels that have examined the scientific evidence regarding exposure to EMF and health effects. It includes the findings and recommendations of major EMF research review efforts including those of the EMF RAPID Program and the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer.

The booklet is available on-line at http://www.niehs.nih.gov/emfrapid. A limited number of paper copies are available from: Central Data Management, MD EC-03, NIEHS, P.O. Box 12233, Research Triangle Park, N.C. 27709.


ASSE OFFERS WORKPLACE CRISIS RESPONSE CHECKLIST

The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) has developed a checklist for employers on how to increase workplace safety and security during a time of crisis. Although this is not a one-size-fits-all situation, the following checklist may provide guidance for preparing a safe and secure working environment during a crisis, such as the recent sniper attack. ASSE is taking this action due to the large number of inquiries received from members and the general public In addition to communicating to your employees that their safety and security is a top priority employers should consider:

  1. reassuring employees that safety measures are being taken for their protection;
  2. reporting unusual or suspicious activity or strangers in or near facility areas to the authorities by calling 911 if the situation warrants immediate attention;
  3. urging employees and their families to avoid lingering outdoors, to be aware of their surroundings;
  4. moving outdoor activities indoors;
  5. increasing security and surveillance activities and outdoor lighting, and checking IDs of those entering the building;
  6. updating and reviewing with employees the company emergency response plan (this should be done on a regular basis); update response action and ensure that all current local, state and federal emergency service numbers, as well as updated employee emergency contact information, is readily available;
  7. upgrading the in-house emergency services (EMS) capability to 40-hour First Responder or Emergency Medical Technician-B;
  8. offering employees escorts through parking lots, to public transportation, etc.;
  9. engaging an employee assistance provider (EAP) to council employees and their families on any stress, anxiety, fear and/or depression;
  10. sharing your Emergency Response Plan with local businesses and municipalities to help coordinate incident relief efforts should one occur;
  11. communicating with employees about current events (i.e., make CNN, CNBC, FOX, or other round-the-clock news information networks and radio stations available for them to watch on breaks); and
  12. cooperating fully with the authorities.

ASSE members who are occupational safety, health and environmental professionals developed this checklist. Founded in 1911, the non-profit ASSE is the largest and oldest professional safety organization and is committed to protecting people, property and the environment.


LACK OF FALL PROTECTION A FACTOR IN FATALITY

OSHA cited International Marine and Industrial Applicators, Inc., for failing to protect workers from fall hazards that contributed to the death of a Hispanic worker. The citations carry penalties totaling $103,000.

The fatal accident occurred May 5 aboard a ship docked for repairs at Pier D of the Detyens Shipyard, North Charleston, SC. During repair work on the ship, screening had been removed from an opening in the hull that allowed a large fan on the A/B deck to pull air in or push air out of the ship. The removal of the screening left an unguarded 7-foot by 6-foot hole, 70 feet above the waterline.

Working alone, without any fall arrest equipment, and within inches of the unguarded hull opening, the victim climbed a ladder and began removing rust from the top of the eight-foot-high steel fan and the walls that enclosed it. Evidence from the OSHA investigation suggests that the worker tried to reach a section of the wall, lost his balance and fell 78 feet to his death.

"Lifelines and safety belts --- well named safety equipment --- could have prevented this tragedy," said Jim Drake, OSHA acting area director in Columbia. "The company knew workers should have them, but didn't have enough for everyone."

International Marine and Industrial Applicators received two willful citations with proposed penalties totaling $70,000 for failing to provide workers with safety belts and lifelines and exposing them to falls through unguarded openings. The agency defines a willful violation as one committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirement of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations.

OSHA also issued additional citations with proposed penalties totaling $33,000 for failing to: conduct a hazard assessment prior to beginning repairs; train workers in the proper use of safety equipment and provide them with the appropriate equipment; frequently check on employees working alone in isolated areas; develop and implement written plans to minimize employee exposure to infectious materials and dangerous chemicals.

OSHA, concerned about the large numbers of Hispanic workers being killed and injured on the job, has instituted safety programs across the country for Spanish-speaking workers and employers who hire non-English speaking workers.

The company has 15 working days to contest the OSHA citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.