News & Information Blog

National Stafety Month - 2021 - Feeling Safe In Your Workplace

By Susen Trail | 06/15/2021

The National Safety Council says there were 4,493 "preventable" workplace in 2018.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the number of occupational fatalities were up by 2% in that year for a total of 5,250 dead people who went to work with plans for the weekend, vacations, dancing at their son or daughter's wedding, and never came home.  What the NSC does not say is why 757 employees were fated to die.  Was there nothing that could stop it, or why 4,493 people would not have died if only x, y, or z, had been changed.

As you learned in last week's blog, when you include employees who die offsite, years later, or after retirement, the number of dead employee's per year is around 50,000.  This does not include those who did not die but had their lives permanently impaired due to occupational exposures to chemicals.  If you become sensitized to formaldehyde you can never buy a new car again because all of the components need to off gas, the 'new car' smell can kill.

There is 'feeling safe on the job' because all engineering controls possible have been installed, all safe work practices have been developed, taught, understood, and implemented, any Administrative controls implemented, and, well, you see where I’m going here.

And there is 'feeling safe on the job' because employees have been reassured they are safe because, known or unknown to the employer, job hazards have not been sufficiently identified and explained to them.

It is easy to get fired if a Safety Professional does not know which side of the fence the employer falls into when implementing their safety policies.  For example, I noticed the Safety Data Sheets at a lab were largely made up of N/A, meaning "Not Available", which is not uncommon.  So I did a little research and did the chemical hazard training on what I could find. 

When I had no data and the Safety Data Sheet said something like "No information was found to indicate this substance was a carcinogen (or mutagen, or sensitizer, etc.)" the training included a heads up that we did not, at this time, know if exposure to that chemical would result in one of those adverse effects.  As a result, I had more than a one Principal Investigator (top of the heap for that lab) at my office door following a chemical hygiene training steaming because all of his lab techs were now concerned about their chemical exposures.

From that experience we have added a notes section to our SDS capability in our Safety Data Sheet Management function.  If the SDS is a little short on information, it is possible to list the adverse health effects for the ingredients + the % in the mixture.  We do suggest you contact an Industrial Hygienist, preferably a Certified Industrial Hygienist, to give you a hand with this.  There are relatively few chemicals where this will be necessary for the average business.

There are two reasons we added Safety Data Sheet Management.  First is to set things up for a future capability of mapping where your chemical hazards are used, stored, and other important information that allows you to identify and control chemical hazards easily as you implement your Hazard communication Program.

The second reason is to provide information on chemicals storage to the Fire Department when they come onsite to ensure the Fire Fighters are away of particularly hazardous areas of your facility under an uncontrolled fire condition.

Another handy situation for businesses with multiple sites is you can have your best Safety Professional provide oversight of the chemicals at each site.

When your employees want to review an SDS they can use the following form and provide sorting information such as which site they are at, where on the site the chemical is stored, and look at the actual SDS just by clicking on the document icon on the far right.  The Safety Manager can easily find any SDS with a Revision Date more than 5 years old so that they can check for a more recent version.

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