If you’re a professional mechanic, you still face a risk of exposure to asbestos.
That’s because asbestos still lurks in the clutches and brakes of old cars and trucks, posing a hazard to you, the mechanics around you, and other workers in the shop.
Like everyone else, you’ve probably thought that the days of asbestos were over. Asbestos has been banned from buildings for years now, and most of the asbestos in older buildings has been pulled.
An Maryland worker safety alert has put out a warning about the problem. As a reminder, here’s the danger of asbestos. It breaks into small airborne bits that can be inhaled, and can cause death or serious illness. For example, roughly 10,000 people every year die of asbestos-caused illnesses in the U.S. alone. Some of those diseases are lung cancer, asbestosis, gastrointestinal cancer, and mesothelioma.
Unfortunately, there’s no way you can know in advance which cars or trucks you’ll be working on have asbestos in them. So the best solution is to handle every clutch and brake drum as if it contains the material. Keep in mind that a single employee working on a brake shoe the wrong way can release the hazardous material into the environment, putting other workers and the whole shop at risk.
Here are some tips for controlling asbestos. Wet the material to hold down airborne particles. Keep the asbestos in labeled bags, firmly sealed. To limit the spread of the particles, use the negative pressure enclosure/HEPA vacuum system technique or the so-called low pressure/wet cleaning method. The wet method is allowed only for limited exposure. OSHA calls these the two “best practices.”
Consumers also face a risk if they’re trying to repair their cars themselves. OSHA suggests that any “home mechanics” take the work into a professional when brake or clutch jobs are involved.
OSHA also requires every employer in any industry affected by asbestos to take two measures. The first is to develop a written plan for safe handling of materials containing asbestos. The second is to train every worker in those procedures.
A Maryland unemployment grant would a great announcement for unemployed workers in some parts of Maryland. Northern Indiana was just one region to receive a WIRED grant during the second generation of the program. The grant was very helpful in increasing the area’s employment rates and igniting the local economy.
Recently, US Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao opened the competition for the third generation of WIRED grants. The WIRED initiative began in February 2006, when 13 regional grants were awarded by the U.S. Department of Labor. Each region received a grant to boost the economy and decrease unemployment. WIRED is an apt name, because the goal of the program is to connect, or to wire, individuals to the economy. WIRED is the acronym for Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development Initiative.
The statistics show that unemployment is low in the U.S. as a whole, but isolated areas have higher unemployment. Throughout the nation, the average unemployment rate hovers near 4%. It’s even lower for highly-skilled workers, at 1.9%. Yet, certain areas still have sluggish economies and lower employment rates. These are the problems that WIRED grants address.
Secretary Chao sent a letter to each governor, announcing that the WIRED competition is open. Proposals must be approved by the governor and include private, state or regional funding, in order to be considered. Each WIRED grant can be up to $5million in federal funds.
The second round of grants included a number of awards that offer training to workers in areas with higher unemployment. Among the awards, workers were trained in a number of issues. WIRED grants are unique because they represent a collaboration between local and federal governments to solve a pressing problem.
“WIRED brings together universities, businesses, community colleges, foundations and economic development organizations to help equip regional workforces with the skills needed to succeed in the 21st century worldwide economy,” said Secretary of Labor Chao. “The WIRED Initiative recognizes that local economies often do not neatly conform to geographic boundaries.”
“As with any catastrophe, having a contingency plan is essential.” This is what the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has to say in a recent announcement that addresses creating disaster plans in preparation for a potential flu pandemic, or a global disease outbreak.
According to this Maryland OSHA alert, employers should have a plan in place for an influenza outbreak. This is equally as important as the disaster plans many employers currently have for hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters. Most employers also have also considered what to do if there’s an extended power outage or even a fire.
Influenza pandemics occur when a new strain of the virus emerges that no one has had a chance to become immune to. Since no immunity has been built up against the virus, it quickly spreads from person to person worldwide.
The last influenza pandemic happened around the end of World War I. Fifty million to 100 million people died in just 18 months because of the 1918 Spanish Flu. Deaths caused by World War I weren’t as high. During WWI 9 million soldiers and several million civilians died.
A pandemic will affect travel, trade, consumer buying, food supply and tourism. Employee absenteeism will probably be very high which will affect deliveries and staffing of stores and even healthcare facilities. Healthcare facilities could also become overcrowded.
A pandemic will ultimately affect the investment and financial markets in a stronger way than any single terrorist attack would. It will also cause changes in the patterns of commerce.
Influenza travels from person to person so places where people typically gather will also loose business. Such places include malls, restaurants and movie theaters. People will choose to stay home and download movies instead.
The OSHA says there is currently no new strain of the influenza virus going around, and no pandemic. But the administration still urges every Maryland employer to be prepared. They play a key role in protecting the health and safety of workers and can help prevent or minimize widespread economic disruptions if a pandemic were to occur.
How can an employer safely return workers with drug and alcohol problems back to the workplace? That’s a thorny question for many employers, but now they have help.
With the help of the Maryland Drug Free Workplace Alliance. The program sponsored by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, is a weapon in the battle against alcohol and drug abuse in the workplace. It begins with pre-screening applicants for jobs, continues through drug testing and education, and ends with that safe workplace return that benefits both the business and the community.
With a program like the Maryland Drug Free Workplace Alliance, workers can go safely back onto the job, as long as they have backup continuing care as well as regular treatment and services. Employers, according to OSHA, can have considerable influence in helping to guard their workplaces from the ravages of drug and alcohol abuse through these education and help components.
OSHA calls illegal drug use and alcohol abuse an avoidable hazard. Programs like the Maryland Drug Free Workplace Alliance can raise rates of worker health and safety. It strongly backs such programs especially in what it calls safety-sensitive work environments, like those places where machinery is being operated.
Working under the influence of drugs and alcohol is dangerous, and that danger can be avoided through programs like the Maryland Drug Free Workplace Alliance. The U.S. Department of Labor, for example, notes that drug and alcohol abuse comes at high costs to businesses. Some of the costs are obvious. For example, there is an increase in accidents and mistakes, and absenteeism goes up. But subtler and also serious are lowered worker morale and higher sickness rates. OSHA backs the drug free workplace programs, especially in places where safety issues are paramount – like those where equipment is being operated.
Revised Maryland OSHA standards address the ways employers can prevent slips, trips and falls, the most common form of general industry accidents.
The new standards from OSHA – the Occupational Safety and Health Administration – set out a series of requirements for workplace maintenance to limit the number of slips, trips and falls. According to OSHA, they cause 15% of all fatal accidents. They rank behind motor vehicles only as the leading cause of death.
Most of the frequently ignored guidelines for preventing slips, trips, and falls, involve cleanup, or simple housekeeping. According to OSHA, workplaces – specifically storerooms, service rooms, and passageways, must be kept clean and orderly.
Here are some of the OSHA workplace housekeeping standards:
- The floors of all workrooms must be kept clean, and dry wherever possible. Where the work involves what are called “wet processes,” drainage is required, along with mats, raised platforms, or gratings.
- All passageways, floors, and work spaces generally must be kept free of certain objects – splinters, nails, holes, and loose boards.
- Aisles and passages must be kept repaired and clear. No potentially hazardous obstructions are allowed.
- Permanent passageways and aisles must be appropriately marked.
- Aisles must be wide enough to accommodate mechanical handling equipment.
- There must be room enough for two people to pass.
According to OSHA, narrow aisles and poor housekeeping, along with vehicle traffic, are a source of worker injuries and equipment and material damage. Those problems can also block exits in emergencies. When employees are rushing to leave a building, serious slip, trip, and fall accidents can happen.
A way for employees to cope with these kinds of accidents is to prominently post a Slips Trips Falls Poster – brought up to date to reflect the recent Maryland OSHA standards. The poster reminds employees to clean up after each spill. A solid safety awareness policy is critical.
The revised standards apply to all permanent employment work places. The only exceptions are those used exclusively for either mining, domestic, or farm work.