Office Safety Culture

New OSHA Guidance on Returning to Work

On June 18th, OSHA issued Guidance on Returning to Work to assist employers reopening non-essential businesses and their employees returning to work during the Coronavirus pandemic. The guidance supplements OSHA’s previously published Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19. The guidelines are consistent with the requirements outlined in the Massachusetts Mandatory Safety Standards for Workplaces and recommend that employers continue to focus on strategies for basic hygiene, social distancing, identification and isolation of sick employees, workplace controls and flexibilities, and employee training.

OSHA’s Guidance on Returning to Work includes a section on Employer Frequently Asked Questions. Some of the questions asked have been coming up at our clients, so I thought it would be helpful to share a few. The responses below are summaries, and the OSHA guidance document should be referred to for the full responses.

Can employers conduct work site SARS‑CoV-2 testing?

Yes. Employers may consider implementing strategies to reduce risks to the safety and […]

Massachusetts Safety Standards for Laboratories During the COVID-19 Reopening Period

On Monday Governor Baker announced the State’s Plan to safely reopen the Massachusetts economy, while minimizing the health impacts of COVID-19. The guidance includes mandatory sector-specific standards and recommended best practices for sectors that are eligible to open in Phase 1, including laboratories that were not already considered essential. The Safety Standards for Laboratories are applicable to all laboratories (essential and non-essential) and are organized around four categories: social distancing, hygiene protocols, staffing and operations, and cleaning and disinfecting.

Social Distancing

Social distancing requirements include ensuring separation of six feet or more between individuals, unless this distance is unsafe due to the nature of the work or configuration of the workspace. This may require closing or reconfiguring worker common and high-density areas such as eating areas, and redesigning workstations including the use of physical partitions (must be taller than a standing worker). In addition, designated work areas must be assigned to limit movement throughout […]

COVID-19: Hands-on, Customized Guidance for a Safe Return to Full-scale Operations

Safety Partners support during the Coronavirus Pandemic

The Baker-Polito Administration has issued a comprehensive plan to safely reopen the Massachusetts economy, get people back to work, and ease social restrictions while minimizing the health impacts of COVID-19.  As part of this plan, all businesses must develop a written control plan outlining how its workplace will comply with the mandatory safety standards (see the full announcement at www.mass.gov).

Safety Partners can guide you through the process of developing and/or finalizing your plan, with emphasis on the areas highlighted by the Governor:

  • Social Distancing
  • Hygiene Protocols
  • Staffing and Operations
  • Cleaning and Disinfecting

In addition to following the new state guidelines, CDC, WHO, OSHA, and local guidance, let us guide you through the process of developing your customized policy that fits your corporate culture and timeline for returning to full-scale operations by examining issues including:

• Tiered Staffing
• General Health Checks and Guidance for Sick Employees
• Office Cleanliness
• Use of Shared Lab Equipment
• Working Alone
• Enhanced Cleaning Procedures
• Glove, […]

Protect Your Eyes from Blue Light

As I mentioned in last week’s blog, Prevent Blindness has deemed March as Workplace Eye Wellness Month. This non-profit organization is currently promoting awareness about the dangers of blue light exposure from computers, televisions, and device screens including smart phones and tablet screens. Recent studies suggest that long-term exposure to the blue light emitted from these screens can cause digital eye strain with eye fatigue and dry eyes that can in some cases lead to eye problems like macular degeneration from damage to the cornea.

The largest source of blue light is sunlight. However, there is concern over the long-term effects of screen exposure because of the close proximity of the screens and the length of time spent looking at them, both during the workday and after.

So what can you do to protect your eyes from blue light?

  1. Screen time: Try to decrease the amount of time spent in front of screens and/or take frequent […]

How to Protect Your Company From OSHA HazCom Violations

Did you know that violations related to the OSHA Hazard Communication standard ranked #2 in the OSHA top 10 list for most frequently cited violations in 2018? Common citations included not having a written program or safety data sheets (SDS) for all chemicals, lack of employee training, and deficiencies related to secondary container labels.

What can you do to protect your company from HazCom violations? Employers are responsible for ensuring that the labels and SDSs are readily available to all employees.  They are also responsible for training employees on how to properly recognize the hazards associated with chemicals and how to properly handle the chemicals based on the hazards conveyed.  For laboratories that use chemicals this specifically means that employers must ensure that:

  • Labels on incoming containers of hazardous chemicals are not removed or defaced. Incoming container labels must include the identity of the hazardous chemical(s), appropriate pictograms and signal word, and hazard and precautionary statements.
  • Labels […]

Is an In-House Blood Donation Program Necessary at Your Company?

The use of fresh blood drawn from company employees is sometimes required when timelines in experiments are too tight to use an outside blood supply vendor. That said, it is considered to be preferable from a safety standpoint, and often a logistical one as well, that an outside blood supply vendor be used rather than establishing an in-house program.

When research needs require establishing an in-house blood donation program, there are numerous considerations to take into account including:

  • Involvement of the legal department to develop an informed consent form for voluntary blood donation. This form should include an explanation of the risks associated with participating in the program, confidentiality concerns, and compensation for program participation, if any.
  • An evaluation of the need to establish an Institutional Review Board. If your company receives federal funding and/or the blood collected is being used to support an FDA submission, it’s very important to determine the need for […]

How Will the 2019 Changes to the NIH Guidelines Affect Your Company’s Research?

Local recombinant DNA ordinances, including those of Boston, Cambridge, and Lexington to name a few, require compliance with the NIH Guidelines for Recombinant DNA Molecules (originally published in1986) as well as revisions and amendments to the Guidelines.  As you may know, the scope of the Guidelines was updated in 2013 to include work with synthetic nucleic acid molecules, and the Guidelines were renamed accordingly and are now called the NIH Guidelines for Research Involving Recombinant or Synthetic Nucleic Acid Molecules.  Are you familiar with the more recent changes to the Guidelines that were published in April 2019?

The April 2019 changes streamline the oversight of human gene transfer (HGT) research.  Because of the FDA’s regulatory authority and oversight of gene therapy trials, NIH has removed the duplicative oversight of gene therapy research from the Guidelines.  The revised Guidelines eliminate the NIH Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee (RAC) review, protocol registration, and reporting requirements associated with gene […]

Proposed Changes to the MWRA Regulations

Proposed changes to the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) Sewer Use Regulations (360 CMR 10.000) were published in April 2019 and a public hearing on the changes was held this week on May 13. For those of you who didn’t get to participate in the public hearing and would still like to submit comments, the deadline for written comments to the MWRA is May 20th.

For most Safety Partners’ clients, the proposed changes are relatively minor. The most noticeable impact will likely be for those of you that hold Low Flow/Low Pollutant Permits. The fee for these permits will be increasing from an initial one-time fee of $244.00 for the 5-year duration of the permit to an annual fee starting in 2020 of $100.00/per year, increasing about 3% each year, for a total cost for the 5-year duration of the permit of $532.00.

Those clients holding Category 2 permits will also be seeing an increase in […]

Responding to an Exposure Incident – The Steps to Take

Would you know what to do if an employee at your company had a needlestick injury or other exposure incident?  Other routes of exposure to biological material include accidents with other types of sharps as well as exposure to the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose, mouth, and non-intact skin.

Don’t be caught off guard! The last thing you want to be doing following an incident involving an exposure to potentially infectious material, or material known to be infectious, is figuring out the appropriate steps to take.  Proper incident response is critical to worker health and safety.  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that these steps be followed after an exposure incident:

Step 1, provide immediate care to the exposure site: this includes washing the puncture area for 15 minutes with soap and water.  Remember, do not force bleed the wound!  Splashes to the mucous membranes (eyes, nose, mouth, or non-intact skin) should also be […]

Reconcile Safety Data Sheets

Be sure to reconcile the Safety Data Sheets at your facility to verify that you have an SDS for all hazardous chemicals present on site.

29 CFR 1910.1200 Appendix D stipulates the minimum information required to be contained on a SDS, and specifies each section number and heading.  Hazard identification, first-aid measures, proper handling and storage requirements, appropriate personal protective equipment, exposure limits, and toxicological information are all covered on a SDS.  Information on the likely routes of exposure, symptoms of exposure, and immediate and delayed effects from short-term and long-term exposure are reported.  All of this information should be known by each individual working with a particular chemical.

It is the responsibility of the manufacturer, distributor, or importer to provide a SDS for each chemical.  It is the responsibility of the employer to make a SDS for each chemical in the workplace readily available to all employees.  And it is the responsibility of each individual […]