Category: risk management

OSHA’s Walking-Working Surfaces Standard and Fall Prevention

At the end of May, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) proposed updates to its stair rail system requirements related to walking-working surfaces and protective equipment.

As is often the case with new safety standards, many employers have asked for clarification. At Cornerstone Insurance Group, we want you to have peace of mind about your risk management strategies. Here is what you need to know about the latest in walking-working surfaces and general fall prevention standards.

What is New in the Walking-Working Surfaces Standard?

The biggest change in the Walking-Working Surfaces requirements is related to new handrails and stair rail systems with a width of less than 44 inches (found in Table D of this standard). The previous stair rail provision was unclear, stating:

“One stair rail system each open side”

But OSHA intended it to say:

“One stair rail system with handrail on each open side”

They hope that the new language clarifies any confusion in this particular safety standard. In addition, OSHA has eased restrictions on previously installed stair rail systems by allowing the top rail of those systems to act as a handrail if it’s as low as 30 inches.

What Do I Do if I’ve Abided by the Old Wording?

OSHA does recognize that many employers may have implemented stair rail safety standards that follow the previous language (i.e. stair width that’s less than 44 inches and open on both sides). 

However, there’s no need to worry. You do not have to modify your stair rail system if it was installed before the effective date of the new final rule as long as it was in compliance with OSHA standards at the time of installation.

OSHA now has two separate provisions for stairs with two open sides and a width of less than 44 inches. Flights of stairs that have two open sides, are less than 44 inches and installed before the effective date of a final rule would be required to have a stair rail system on each open side but do not need to have a handrail. 

Are There Other Revised Standards I Should Know About?

OSHA is also proposing provisions to Section 1910.29 called “Fall Protection Systems and Falling Object Protection-Criteria and Practices.” Many have expressed confusion over whether or not the top rail of a stair rail system can also serve as a handrail. 

The new proposed standard states that the top rail of stair rail systems installed prior to January 17, 2017 (the date of the final rule) can serve as a handrail if the top rail is 30 to 38 inches tall and meets OSHA’s other handrail requirements. Employers are not required to modify their stair rail systems if they complied with the previous ruling.

Cornerstone’s Risk Management team wants to ensure your workplace is as protected as possible from falls and other injuries. If you’re looking for a specialist to walk you through OSHA’s standards or want to create a risk management plan that works for you, contact Cornerstone today.

Firework and 4th of July Safety

I am sure you don’t need to be told how dangerous fireworks are. As we approach the 4th of July weekend, many of us are planning to include fireworks at our BBQ’s and family get-togethers. Since there are inherent dangers using fireworks let’s review some safety tips to keep you and those around you safe this 4th of July!

Be Aware of the Laws in Your Area

Before you start planning your fireworks block party, you should check your local municipality’s laws on fireworks. St. Louis city, county and Illinois have outright bans on the use of fireworks. Violators can face a $500.00 minimum fine or jail time for breaking these laws. Missouri statutes also detail that no person under the age of 17 should be in possession, handle, or ignite any fireworks.

Check Your Shopping List

The first thing to consider is the size of the fireworks you are purchasing. If you live in a residential area, it’s best to stick to smaller fireworks and fountains. Talk with the experts at the place of purchase and be conservative in the size and weight of each firework. The number of grams you buy determines the power of the explosion. Also, consider doing a ground show rather than launching explosives into the air, With a denser population, the risk of the fireworks hitting power lines, houses, trees or even people is higher.

Be Prepared for Safety

You’ve checked your local legislation and have chosen appropriate fireworks for your location — What’s next?  Be prepared in case things go awry! Fireworks are known for their unpredictable nature which increases the risk of misfires and explosions. Have a fire extinguisher and running water readily available in case a mishap occurs. Fireworks start an average of 18,000 fires each year. Most accidents and injuries occur when inexperienced individuals ignite them or the fireworks are too large for them to safely deploy.

Protect Yourself

Many fireworks, when discharged, produce sounds at 150-170 decibels. Hearing damage can occur at only 110 decibels. Some of these effects may only last 24-48 hours, however it’s common to have lasting hearing damage or permanent tinnitus caused by the excessive levels of sound that fireworks produce. Ear protection is always recommended whenever you will be near a firework display especially for young children. To be safe, adults need to be at least 50-65 feet away from the blast, and children need a distance of at least 150 feet away.

Remember even sparklers can be dangerous! These seemingly innocent fireworks burn at 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit and account for 25% of the emergency room visits due to firework mishaps! Remember that before you hand them to children this 4th of July!

Drink After the Show, Please!

Another factor that causes higher volume of patients in the ER each year, are individuals who have gotten injured using fireworks while impaired. Using fireworks responsibly also means abstaining from alcohol before taking part in setting off fireworks.

Quick Tips and Facts

  • Never hold lit fireworks in your hands
  • Always have water or a fire extinguisher nearby
  • Do not use fireworks while impaired
  • Never try to relight a dud or un-exploded firework
  • Spent fireworks should be soaked in water for several hours before discarding
  • Never try to light more than one firework at a time

For more information on firework safety, take a look at the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission‘s site. Have a great 4th of July weekend and be safe!

Risks to Consider When Developing a No-Smoking Policy

Blog Heading 2 (15)-1.jpgWe’re all familiar with the down-sides of cigarette and tobacco use – it increases health risks, raises medical costs, and it often lowers productivity in the workplace. It’s costly for the employer and the individual smoking, so many companies are implementing no-smoking policies and even minimizing the number of smokers they hire. As a risk management and human resources company, Cornerstone Insurance Group decided to weigh in on this important topic.

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Cyber Attacks – Are You Prepared?

Cyber AttacksThe New York Times just reported that the Equifax breach was caused by the negligence of one employee. Despite the risk management and security measures the consumer credit reporting agency had taken to protect the sensitive data of its more than 800 million customers, it took only one person to make a single devastating mistake that would jeopardize the company’s entire operation.

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