According to a December 2023 press release, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) moved further and faster than ever before to deliver on its mission and protect human health and the environment in 2023. These actions—in addition to other trends in business efficiency, employee safety, and sustainability—have given rise to several new (and some ongoing) challenges and opportunities in environment, health, and safety (EHS). As a new year begins, it is important that companies understand their obligations, assess potential impacts, and prioritize efforts to ensure ongoing compliance and business performance.
Here are some of the top EHS trends KTL is keeping watch on in 2024—and some guidance to help you as you set your EHS strategy for the new year.
New OSHA Reporting Requirements
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is focused on increasing transparency regarding workplace injuries with its new reporting requirements, which are effective as of January 1, 2024. The Administration is requiring organizations with more than 100 employees in certain high-risk industries to electronically submit information from OSHA Forms 300 and 301 to OSHA annually. In addition, certain high-hazard industries are now required to submit case-specific information. The data is intended to allow employers, employees, customers, the public, and other stakeholders to make more informed decisions about workplace health and safety. The deadline to submit information via the Injury Tracking Application is March 2, 2024.
Guidance: Maintaining robust occupational health and safety and incident records becomes even more important with these enhanced reporting requirements. Information technology (IT) tools, such as KTL’s OSHA 300 PowerApp with its comprehensive intake form tailored to OSHA 300 and OSHA 300A requirements, make it easier to collect, search, and analyze data—and maintain OSHA compliance. Using a digital format helps ensure no crucial data points are missed and makes it easy to filter, search, and analyze records and data to offer deeper insights into safety performance.
Climate Change and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) Standards
In March 2022, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued a proposed ESG Disclosures Rule that would require companies to 1) disclose how they are dealing with oversight and governance of climate-related risks; 2) identify any material climate-related risks and articulate their impacts on financial performance; and 3) provide comprehensive reporting of Scope 1, 2, and 3 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Leading the way, California passed its Climate Corporate Data Accountability Act (SB 253) and Climate-Related Financial Risk Act (SB 261) in 2023 to address the physical, human, and financial risks associated with climate change by requiring companies publicly disclose GHG emissions and climate change threats. Thousands of organizations that do business in California will now have to provide carbon emissions data by 2026—and companies across the country need to be prepared to follow suit.
Guidance: If it isn’t happening already, facilities need to start gathering emissions data, develop and implement a system to track GHG emissions, and create an action plan for climate disclosure. Accurate carbon accounting and energy management will allow companies to gain a deeper understanding of their emissions profiles and implement changes to improve energy efficiency and sustainability. If managed appropriately, these new disclosure requirements can provide a significant opportunity for companies to demonstrate a commitment to corporate social responsibility and improve brand reputation.
EPA Regulatory Enforcement
According to EPA, enforcement has been revitalized. We saw this trend pick up in 2023 with significant investments being made to enforce compliance with the nation’s environmental laws, including $213 million for civil enforcement efforts, $148 million for compliance monitoring efforts, and $69 million for criminal enforcement efforts. The past year has brought increases in onsite inspections, new criminal investigations, civil settlements, and cleanup enforcement. In 2024, EPA intends to continue its enforcement path, holding environmental violators and responsible parties accountable.
Guidance: Facility audits and assessments offer a systematic, objective tool to assess compliance across the workplace and to identify any opportunities for improvement before they become findings in an EPA inspection. These audits can also present an opportunity for organizational learning and development, particularly related to non-conformances. Conduct a gap assessment to evaluate whether processes and systems are functioning as intended, and then implement corrective and preventive actions to ensure compliance, particularly at the time of inspection. Look at the big picture and consider changes in production and business operations that may also change compliance requirements.
Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)
EPA continues to make significant contributions in research and regulations, according to the PFAS Strategic Roadmap, to confront the human health and environmental risks of PFAS. In October 2023, the Agency finalized two new rules to improve reporting on PFAS. This January, EPA finalized a rule to prevent inactive PFAS from reentering commerce and added seven additional PFAS to Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) reporting. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is further working to understand and limit PFAS in food and food packaging.
Guidance: It is important for facilities to have a good understanding of PFAS and PFAS-containing chemicals used onsite, as reporting requirements now apply regardless of the quantity used. Implementing a chemical inventory management system that documents and manages PFAS data can make reporting more efficient and help ensure the facility meets these new requirements. Proper usage strategies, a comprehensive environmental management system (EMS), and a forward-thinking Emergency Response Plan will also remain vital tools for companies potentially dealing with PFAS to effectively manage the associated risks.
Environmental Justice (EJ)
The focus on EJ remains a top priority for the Biden Administration. In November 2023, EPA announced the largest single investment in EJ history, funded by President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act. The Community Change Grants build on Biden’s Justice40 Initiative and will provide approximately $2 billion in funding for community-driven projects that deploy clean energy, strengthen climate resilience, and build capacity to manage environmental and climate justice challenges. EPA also launched the EJ Thriving Communities Grantmaking Program to expand its technical assistance and project grants for communities, as well as the EJScreen screening and mapping tool, which provides EPA with a consistent approach for combining environmental and demographic socioeconomic indicators.
Guidance: Take the time to understand the communities where you operate—be informed, be prepared, and be proactive. Establish organization priorities and goals and commit the appropriate resources to address EJ concerns. With EPA focused on more regulations, more enforcement, and improved climate change and EJ, environmental management needs to play an integral role in company strategy.
EPA is working to strengthen chemical safety with the long-awaited implementation of the 2016 amendments to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). In addition, the Agency has advanced rules to better protect communities from harmful chemicals like TCE and methylene chloride. These rulemakings align with Goal 7 of the FY 2022-2026 EPA Strategic Plan to ensure the safety of chemicals for people and the environment.
Guidance: Facilities need to have a good understanding of chemicals used onsite so they can take action now to phase out any regulated chemicals (e.g., TCE), as the phaseout period will be quick. Take an inventory of onsite chemicals to determine what chemicals the facility manufactures, distributes, and/or uses. For many chemicals, safer alternatives may be available to eliminate the use of banned chemicals. Be aware of compliance deadlines as you make the transition.
Other Issues to Watch
The following OSHA issues also ones to watch in 2024:
- OSHA Hazard Communications Standard (HCS): In 2021, OSHA proposed to modify the HCS to maintain conformity with the United Nations Globally Harmonized System (GHS) revision 7, align certain provisions with Canadian and other U.S. agencies, and address issues with the 2012 HCS. The proposed updates are intended to increase worker protections and reduce the incidence of chemical-related occupational illnesses and injuries by improving the information on labels and safety data sheets (SDS) for hazardous chemicals. The Agency expects to release finalized changes to the HCS in early 2024.
- OSHA Emergency Response Standard: OSHA has released an unofficial version of its new Emergency Response Proposed Rule and anticipates publication in the Federal Register in January 2024. The proposed rule would replace OSHA’s existing Fire Brigades Standard (29 CFR 1910.156), which covers only a subset of emergency responders. The proposed Rule provides basic workplace protection for workers who respond to emergencies as part of their regularly assigned duties (e.g., fire departments, emergency medical service, and technical search and rescue).
- OSHA National Emphasis Program (NEP) on Warehousing and Distribution Center Operations: Effective July 13, 2023, OSHA announced an NEP for inspections at warehousing and distribution centers, mail/postal processing and distribution centers, and other high-risk retail establishments. The comprehensive safety inspections will focus on workplace hazards common to those industries, including powered industrial vehicle operations, material handling/storage, walking-working surfaces, means of egress, and fire protection.
Set Your Goals for 2024
There is a common need across industry to manage emerging EHS risks with solutions that also provide transparency, security, and sustainability. Heightened EPA enforcement, new OSHA reporting requirements, and pending SEC requirements for ESG are necessitating solutions to help manage business and EHS requirements—and that will continue in 2024.
KTL suggests completing the following early in 2024:
- Get senior leadership commitment. Even with the best EHS personnel, the organization and its EHS system will only be as good as the top leadership and what is important to them.
- Conduct a comprehensive gap assessment to ensure you are meeting the requirements of all applicable EHS regulations, particularly given new environmental, health and safety, and ESG requirements. Think critically about what you have and how overlapping requirements may apply (e.g., your chemical inventory may uncover requirements for air permitting, waste management, Tier II report, etc.). This assessment should be the starting place for understanding your regulatory obligations and current compliance status.
- Seek third-party oversight. Having external experts periodically look inside your company provides an objective view of operations, helps you to prepare for audits, and allows you to implement corrective/preventive actions that ensure compliance. An outside expert can often provide the “big picture” view of what you have vs. what you need; how your plans, programs, and requirements intersect; and how you can best comply.
- Create an integrated management system (e.g., ISO 9001/14001/45001) by finding commonalities between the standards and leveraging pieces of each to develop a reliable system that works for your organization.
- Leverage IT solutions—whether to inventory chemicals and GHG emissions, track OSHA performance, or manage compliance requirements. Technology advancements can help create significant business efficiencies.
Women make up nearly 30% of the manufacturing sector and 78% of all healthcare jobs. The number of women working in construction has steadily increased between 2012 and 2020. And yet, a 2019 report from the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) found acquiring properly fitting personal protective equipment (PPE) is still a challenge for this growing segment of over eight million female workers.
Properly fitting PPE is essential in every industry to help ensure workers can complete their tasks safely. And when it comes to PPE, a one-size-fits-all approach does not suffice.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) PPE General Requirements Standard (29 CFR 1910.132), all PPE must be designed and constructed for the work to be performed, and employers are required to select PPE that properly fits each affected employee. OSHA guidance specifically states that PPE used by women should be based upon female anthropometric data. (See more below on anthropometry.) OSHA is also in the process of developing a proposed rule that may create more robust standards for employers to ensure all workers receive adequately fitted PPE.
In September 2023, ASSP issued a Technical Report: Guidance of Personal Protective Equipment for Women (registered with ANSI: ASSP TR-Z590.6-2023) to provide guidance for the selection, fit, and use of PPE for women. This ANSI-registered report aims to help employers develop tailored PPE programs and/or adjust their existing PPE programs to account for women workers. The guidance addresses fit issues, selection, assessment, and use of such PPE and outlines anthropometric considerations and sizing for:
Focusing on Anthropometry
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the use of anthropometric data is important to ensure adequate PPE fit. Anthropometry is the science that defines a person’s size, body shape, and functional capabilities. There are intrinsic differences in the shape and size of women’s bodies vs. men’s bodies that require PPE to be tailored differently to fit appropriately—not just be sized down. For example, women tend to have smaller wrists, hands, and feet; shorter arms and legs; and wider hips than men.
PPE has historically been designed and manufactured for men based on outdated anthropometric data collected from the military in the 1950s and 1970s, resulting in poor-fitting PPE for women and other individuals who do not fall into the “average” range. A survey conducted by CSA Group in Canada found that of almost 3,000 women who regularly use PPE on the job, over 80% experience some PPE-related challenges (e.g., improper fit, inadequate selection, or discomfort).
Cause for Concern
If PPE is not correctly fitted to the body, it can cause discomfort and increase the risk of workplace accidents and injuries. According to 2020 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports, women experience more fatal injury events than men in the category of exposure to harmful substances or environments. This may be attributed to PPE not being adequate to appropriately reduce exposure to harmful substances. The CSA Group survey further found that injuries and incidents related to PPE were reported among 40% of the women.
Using standard PPE in a smaller size that does not consider anthropometry is not a solution. Ill-fitting PPE may prevent the wearer from moving comfortably, hamper productivity, and cause other significant safety hazards. For example:
- Gloves and clothing: If clothing and gloves are too loose, they are more likely to get caught in machinery and equipment, potentially causing amputations or even fatalities. Improperly fitting gloves can also cause the wearer to drop or mishandle items.
- Footwear: Ill-fitting footwear can cause trouble walking/tripping, create blisters, or provide inadequate toe protection. It may even eventually lead to foot deformities over time.
- Eye protection: Bulky or ill-fitting eye protection may leave gaps in protection and could allow debris to enter the eyes.
- Fall protection: Poor fitting PPE used when working from height (e.g., personal fall arrest systems) may not distribute weight evenly and could render such systems ineffective. Improperly sized safety vests and fall harnesses can also increase the severity of fall injuries.
- Respiratory protection: If respirators don’t fit correctly, they could prevent access to clean air and expose workers to respiratory irritants. Bloodborne pathogen exposures could also occur.
When PPE does not fit right, employees may feel inclined to alter their PPE. This can compromise the integrity of the PPE, prevent it from performing as intended, directly impact the employee’s ability to work, and jeopardize the level of protection. Even worse, women just may not opt to wear the ill-fitting PPE, significantly increasing overall accident exposure.
It is crucial that employers provide adequate PPE to all workers to prevent potential safety risks, especially those stemming from wearing ill-fitting PPE. Employers cannot afford to wait for employees to complain about ill-fitting PPE or, worse yet, for an accident to occur. The focus should be on adopting the following best practices to ensure all employees are well protected and productive:
- Review policies and procedures. Employers should regularly assess PPE policies and procedures and revise them, as needed, to comply with current and pending OSHA requirements and industry guidelines.
- Conduct fit testing. Comfort is a major factor with PPE. To encourage usage, PPE must fit comfortably. Employers can ensure this by conducting regular fit testing for employees to ensure the PPE fits and functions as intended.
- Look for better alternatives. Smaller sizes alone do not cut it for PPE. Employers should continually look for alternatives for better PPE that will meet the anthropometric needs of all workers, particularly as new options continually come on the market that are designed specifically for women.
- Promote inclusivity. Recognize that workers may require specific PPE needs based on sex, height, weight, physical abilities, and cultural differences. Addressing the safety needs of all workers goes a long way in creating a more inclusive work environment the values the safety of all employees. The ASSP Guidance provides an excellent resource to help companies consider the anthropometric needs of women when assessing fit. Other PPE options to consider may include maternity PPE, PPE for workers with limb differences, and PPE for workers with cultural or religious needs.
- Train, train, train. Employees need to understand how PPE should fit. They also need to be empowered to speak up if PPE does not fit appropriately to ensure their safety.
Safe + Sound Week
At the most basic level, a root cause is the fundamental reason—or the highest-level cause—for the occurrence of a problem, incident, or event. Getting to the root cause of any problem is important not just for resolving the issue at hand, but for identifying underlying issues to ensure that similar problems do not recur in the future. Importantly, finding the root cause should not focus on placing blame on an individual but rather on finding the systemic cause of an incident. This starts with a process called the root cause analysis (RCA).
What Is the Root Cause Analysis (RCA)?
RCA is a method of problem-solving used to identify the underlying (i.e., root) cause(s) of a problem or incident. It is a systematic process based on the basic idea that effective management requires more than merely putting out fires and treating symptoms. RCA seeks to identify and address the true, underlying concerns that contribute to a problem or event.
Why is this important? If you just treat the symptoms of the problem, that alleviates them for the short term, but it does nothing to prevent the problem from coming back again. Lasting solutions address the underlying factors—the root cause(s)— that create the problem in the first place. Targeting corrective measures at the identified root causes, subsequently, is the best way to alleviate risk and ensure that similar problems do not occur in the future.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) encourages organizations to conduct RCA following any incident or near miss at a facility. RCA can be broken down into a simple six-step process, as outlined below.
Step 1: Identify and Clearly Describe the Problem
The first step is to understand and document the problem/issue/incident that occurred. This might involve interviewing key staff, reviewing security footage, investigating the site, etc. to get an accurate account of the issue. Safety-related incidents might require an immediate fix or prompt action before carrying out the complete RCA. This is always the priority.
Some problems are easier to define than others based on what happened and the extent of the issue. When defining and describing the problem, it is important to be as descriptive as possible, as this will aid in future steps to identify the root cause(s).
Step 2: Identify Possible Causes…Why?
There are several methods for identifying possible root causes, including the following:
- 5 Why Method simply involves asking the question “Why” enough times (i.e., five times) to get past all the symptoms of a problem and down to the underlying root cause of the issue.
- Event Analysis builds a detailed timeline around the target event and analyzes it to see where things went wrong. This method is best for one-time incidents versus a pattern of behavior.
- Change Analysis helps determine the root cause of a general shift in behavior. It looks at all changes in the organization that preceded the change in safety behavior/metrics; defines the relationship between possible causes and effects; and categorizes each organizational change as either unrelated, correlated, contributing, or root cause.
- Fishbone or Ishikawa Diagram is a visual cause-and-effect diagram that encourages you to think of every possible cause by examining a wide variety of aspects of the incident.
Step 3: Identify Root Cause(s)
Where does your questioning lead you? Is there one root cause or a series of root causes that emerge? The root cause(s) of most incidents ultimately fall under one of the following:
- Poor management/supervision
- Lack of company culture
- Insufficient work environment
- Improper training
Again, identifying the root cause should not focus on placing blame on an individual but rather on finding the systemic cause of an incident.
Step 4: Corrective and/or Preventive Action Taken
Based on the identified root causes, it then becomes possible for the facility to determine what corrective and/or prevention actions (CAPAs) can be taken to fix the problem and, just as important, prevent it from recurring in the future.
Step 5: Analyze Effectiveness
The effectiveness of whatever action is taken in step 4 needs to be evaluated to determine whether it will resolve the root cause. If not, another CAPA should be explored, implemented, and analyzed to assess its impact on the issue/problem. If it is a root cause, it should help to resolve the issue and you should move on to step 6 below.
Step 6: Update Procedures, as necessary
As CAPAs are implemented, once they prove effective, related policies and procedures must be updated to reflect any changes made. This step ensures the outcomes of the RCA will be integrated into operations and used to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.
Benefits of RCA
Following these steps will help ensure a thorough investigation that identifies root cause(s) versus just symptoms is conducted. It further ensures that any changes related to the root cause are integrated into the organization to prevent similar events from happening again. In the end, the RCA can help:
- Reduce the risk of injury and/or death to workers and community members.
- Avoid unnecessary costs resulting from business interruption; emergency response and cleanup; increased regulation, audits, and inspections; and OSHA fines.
- Improve public trust by maintaining an incident-free record.
- More effectively control hazards, improve process reliability, increase revenues, decrease production costs, lower maintenance costs, and lower insurance premiums.
Safe + Sound Week
Most companies have health and safety policies and procedures in place to help ensure the safety and well-being of their employees. At a minimum, it is important to verify implementation of required safety programs at all locations. As a best practice, implementing a safety management system (SMS) provides companies with the opportunity to better manage, control, and improve health and safety performance.
An SMS is the organizing framework that enables companies to achieve and sustain their operational and safety objectives through a process of continuous improvement. The SMS is designed to identify and manage safety risks through an organized set of policies, procedures, practices, and resources that guide the enterprise and its activities to maximize business value. The SMS addresses:
- What is done and why.
- How it is done and by whom.
- How well it is being done.
- How it is maintained and reviewed.
- How it can be improved.
Each company’s SMS reflects its unique safety culture, vision, and values. To be effective and valuable, the SMS must be tailored and focused on how it can enhance the business and safety performance of the organization. It must also be:
- Useful to people in the operations.
- Intuitive—organized the way operations people think.
- Flexible—making use of methods and tools as they are developed and documented.
- Valuable from the outset—addressing the most critical risks and processes.
- A means to better align safety with operational quality, environmental concerns, and overall business operations.
An effective SMS requires senior management commitment and guidance, coupled with employee engagement. Importantly, the SMS involves a continual cycle of planning, implementing, reviewing, and improving the way in which safety obligations and objectives are met. In its simplest form, this involves implementing the Plan, Do, Check, Act/Adjust (P-D-C-A) cycle for continuous improvement.
There are some basic steps to creating a SMS:
- Invest the time to understand the current scope of operations, functional departments, compliance requirements, governance structure, etc. across the entire organization, not just siloed departments.
- Conduct a gap assessment to evaluate the current (“as-is”) condition of any formal or informal SMS against the desired (“to-be”) condition (e.g., ISO 45001, ANSI Z10).
- Create a development and implementation plan outlining tasks and resources required to close any identified gaps and achieve those objectives.
- Determine key components of the SMS required to achieve business objectives.
- Identify common elements to be standardized and incorporated into the SMS (e.g., policies, procedures, processes, metrics, training).
- Determine what information technology can support and streamline the SMS.
- Provide relevant training to all interested parties to truly operationalize the SMS across the organization.
ISO 45001 and ANSI Z10 both offer widely recognized frameworks for creating an effective SMS—one that helps companies to:
- Identify and control health and safety risks.
- Reduce the potential for accidents.
- Aid in legal compliance.
- Achieve greater consistency and reliability.
- Improve overall performance.
The ISO 45001 and ANSI Z10 standards both contain elements that are designed to be compatible with the structures of ISO 9001 and ISO 14001, allowing organizations to more easily align their SMS with other existing management systems (e.g., environmental, quality, food safety, security). An aligned SMS helps companies to achieve improved and more reliable safety performance, while adding measurable business value.
Companies can become certified to each of the standards discussed above. Certification has a number of benefits, including the following:
- Meet customer or supply chain requirements.
- Use outside drivers to maintain management system process discipline (e.g., periodic risk assessment, document management, compliance evaluation, internal audits, management review).
- Take advantage of third-party assessment and recommendations.
- Improve standing with regulatory agencies (e.g., OSHA, state programs).
- Demonstrate the application of industry best practice in the event of incidents/accidents requiring defense of practices.
However, if there is no market or other business driver, certification can lead to unnecessary additional cost and effort regarding management system development. Certification in itself does not mean improved performance—management system structure, operation, and management commitment determine that.
Bringing Value to the Organization
The connection between the SMS and compliance is vital in avoiding recurring compliance issues and in reducing variation in safety performance. In fact, reliable and effective regulatory compliance is commonly an outcome of consistent and reliable implementation of a management system. Beyond that, there are a number of business reasons for implementing an SMS:
- Establishes a common documented framework to achieve more consistent implementation of compliance policies and processes.
- Provides clear methods and processes to identify, prioritize risks, and communicate risks to employees and management—then allocate the resources to mitigate them.
- Allows for development of meaningful objectives to drive ongoing improvements in health and safety performance.
- Empowers individual facilities and departments to take responsibility for processes and compliance performance without waiting to be told “what” and “how”.
- Enables better collaboration and communication across a distributed company with many locations.
- Provides tracking information and reporting on common safety activities and performance metrics across the company.
- Builds company know-how, captures/retains institutional knowledge, and creates consistent processes and procedures that support personnel changes (e.g., transfers, promotions, retirements, new employees) without causing disruption or gaps.
- Allows for more consistent oversight and governance, yielding higher predictability and reliability.
Safe + Sound Week
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), thousands of workers become sick from occupational heat exposure each year—and some of these cases turn fatal. Hazardous heat exposure can occur indoors or outdoors, during any season, and to anyone. This is why it is important that all employers take steps to reduce heat exposure and protect employee health and safety.
Heat-Related Illnesses and Injuries
Exposure to extreme heat (i.e., heat stress) can result in occupational illnesses and injuries, including heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, or heat rashes. Heat can also increase the risk of ancillary injuries due to sweaty palms, fogged-up safety glasses, dizziness, and even deterioration of fine motor performance. Burns may also occur from accidental contact with hot surfaces or steam.
Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related disorder and should be considered a medical emergency. It occurs when the body becomes unable to control its own temperature. Workers suffering from heat stroke may experience dizziness or unconsciousness, disorientation, slurred speech, chills, and headache. If you or another employee are suffering from heat stroke, exhaustion, or fainting, alert a supervisor immediately and call 911.
Workers who are exposed to extreme heat or work in hot environments may be at greater risk of heat stress. This includes both outdoor workers and workers in hot environments (e.g., firefighters, cooks/chefs, bakery workers, farmers, construction workers, miners, boiler room workers, factory workers, and others). Occupational risk factors for heat illness include heavy physical activity, lack of acclimatization, and wearing clothing that holds in body heat. In addition, individuals who may be particularly susceptible to heat-related illness include those who are 65 years of age or older, are overweight, have heart disease or high blood pressure, or take medications that may be affected by extreme heat.
Planning and Prevention
Heat-related illness is often preventable, especially with management commitment to providing the most effective controls. An effective heat-related illness prevention program should be developed and incorporated into every company’s broader safety and health program. Important elements to consider when creating the heat plan include the following:
- Who will provide oversight and heat monitoring throughout the workday as conditions change?
- How will new and/or temporary workers gradually develop heat tolerance (i.e., acclimatization)?
- How will the employer ensure first aid is adequate?
- What is the protocol for summoning medical assistance?
- What engineering controls and administrative work practices will be used to reduce heat stress?
- How will heat stress be measured?
- How will the company respond when the National Weather Service issues a heat advisory or heat warning?
- What training will be provided to workers and supervisors?
Workplace heat stress can be reduced using several methods. Engineering controls involve changing the design of the workplace in ways that reduce exposure to heat. This might include increasing air velocity; using reflective or heat-absorbing barriers; or reducing steam leaks, wet floors, and humidity. Administrative (workplace) practices involve changes to tasks, schedules, and behaviors to reduce heat stress. These may include:
- Limiting time in the heat and/or increasing recovery time spent in a cool area.
- Increasing the number of workers per task.
- Requiring workers to conduct self-monitoring.
- Creating work groups (i.e., workers, a qualified healthcare provider, and a safety manager) to make decisions on self-monitoring options and standard operating procedures.
- Providing adequate amounts of cool, potable water near the work area and encouraging workers to drink often.
- Using a heat alert program whenever the weather service forecasts a heat wave.
Acclimatization— the process of building heat tolerance—is a particularly important control. 50% to 70% of outdoor fatalities occur in the first few days of working in warm or hot environments because the body needs to build a tolerance to the heat gradually over time. Employers should ensure that new workers, temporary workers, and workers who have been on vacation are acclimatized before they work in a hot environment by gradually increasing workers’ time in hot conditions over 7 to 14 days.
Finally, employers should provide training to workers so they understand what heat stress is, how it affects their health and safety, and how it can be prevented. Training should include:
- Signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses and administration of first aid.
- Causes of heat-related illnesses and steps to reduce the risk.
- Proper care and use of heat-protective clothing and equipment and the added heat load caused by exertion, clothing, and personal protective equipment.
- Effects of other factors (drugs, alcohol, obesity, etc.) on tolerance to occupational heat stress.
- Acclimatization process.
- Reporting symptoms or signs of heat-related illness.
- Procedures for responding to symptoms of possible heat-related illness and for contacting emergency medical services.
To avoid becoming a victim of heat stress of any type, wear light-colored, breathable clothing, such as cotton. Gradually build up to more strenuous work. Schedule more breaks on days with extreme heat and humidity. Drink water! Lots of water! Avoid soda, energy drinks, alcohol, or any other drinks that have high amounts of caffeine and sugar in them. And ALWAYS monitor yourself and others who are at risk for heat stress in hot and /or humid conditions.
Safe + Sound Week
In the post-COVID world, working remotely and alone has become much more common. In many industries, particular attention needs to be paid to these lone workers to ensure appropriate practices and procedures are in place to keep them safe.
What Is a Lone Worker?
Lone workers are people who perform their jobs alone—without someone else present and without any supervision. Lone workers cannot be heard or seen by another individual while working. They may work in more remote locations with limited emergency response or perform jobs during nonstandard work hours. Lone workers may also work in the same building or area as others but out of viewing or hearing distance.
Workplace Safety Hazards
A workplace safety hazard is anything that could potentially cause harm or damage to people, property, or equipment. The most common safety hazard for all workers, including lone workers, is slips, trips and falls. Another common safety hazard that lone workers face is from machinery and equipment, which can injure or trap the worker.
To avoid workplace safety hazards, there are certain conditions where lone work is not recommended and/or prohibited, including the following conditions:
- From height
- With electricity or in confined spaces
- During severe weather conditions
- Around avalanche risks
- Near chemical exposure that could incapacitate a worker
- When respirators or air monitoring is required
- Using hazardous equipment (e.g., chainsaws, firearms)
- Where the potential for violence is present
Planning and Preparation
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not have a standard for employees working alone; however, there are several standards that apply to specific lone-work situations (e.g., emergency response, interior structural firefighting). OSHA further recommends that employers develop emergency procedures and provide “a wireless electronic notification device and/or cellphone to those employees.”
As best practice, any company with lone workers should develop and implement a lone worker safety program with specific practices and procedures to minimize the risk of injury. This includes the following:
- Identify, assess, and mitigate work hazards. It is important to identify safety hazards in any work environment but particularly for lone workers who must navigate hazardous situations alone. Each hazard’s level of risk must be assessed. Once this assessment is complete, strategies can then be implemented to remove existing dangers to the extent possible, prioritizing the highest risk hazards. Hazard mitigation should consider physical modifications, safety education and training, and communication to help ensure workplace injuries and incidents occur less frequently.
- Create a lone worker policy. This policy should establish the organization’s rules and practices for working alone. Generally, a lone worker safety policy should include:
- Contact information and location of all lone workers
- General safety guidance
- Roles and responsibilities
- Safety procedures and processes, including predetermined safety check-ins and stop-work guidance
- Methods of communication and available backups (e.g., cell phone, GPS devices, and mobile apps)
- Emergency procedures and contacts
- Lone worker training and continuous education
- Monitor lone workers. Lone workers must be monitored, whether through regular manual check-ins or automated monitoring systems. Both allow the employer to confirm the worker’s safety and well-being. If a worker misses a check-in, an automated system can immediately request help and employ tools such as GPS location tracking to provide necessary assistance.
Don’t forget about your lone workers. They play an important role and special provisions need to be taken to ensure they are monitored and protected.
Safe + Sound Week
When it comes to the characteristics of an excellent safety culture, communication is at the top. It is vital that all levels of management (senior, middle, supervisory) communicate their commitment to safety clearly to workers. It is equally important that workers feel empowered to discuss their safety concerns.
Having a safety culture where workers do not feel like they can speak up at work when it comes to their safety can present significant threats to workers and the overall well-being of the company. A high percentage of workplace injuries occur when a worker witnesses unsafe behaviors or conditions but chooses not to say anything. Those injuries are 100% preventable. However, it requires creating a culture of transparency and openness that encourages staff to look out for each other and speak up when concerns arise—and a culture where team members are not afraid of voicing their safety concerns, no matter how big or how small they may be.
How to Effectively Speak Safety
Workers may be reluctant to accept safety advice for many reasons:
- They don’t like being told what to do.
- They don’t believe they are in danger.
- They perceive safety conversations/assistance as punishment or aggression.
The challenge is to have productive conversations about safety despite these barriers, considering not only what you say but how you say it. For many, this does not necessarily come naturally, which is why effective safety conversations should be taught and practiced.
These tips can help make speaking about safety easier:
- Take a persuasive approach versus a punitive one. Safety conversations shouldn’t be about catching someone doing something wrong. The goal should be safety, not punishment.
- Demonstrate care and concern. It is much more meaningful to show concern for the personal safety of individuals than to reinforce compliance with rules.
- Speak the worker’s language. Think about who you are speaking to and what is important to them. Delivering a safety message to senior management will differ than communicating with field staff.
- Focus on specifics. Avoid expressing judgment or disapproval. When addressing a specific safety behavior or situation, limit comments to that rather than making general statements.
- Listen. Good communication goes both ways. A respectful conversation will involve both expressing yourself and listening to the other person.
- Don’t be intimidated. The fear of a negative reaction is common, particularly when a less experienced person must deliver advice to someone more senior. Remember, no one is immune to safety concerns.
- Lead by example and encourage others to do the same. It is one thing to say that safety is a priority; it is another thing to show that it is.
Sometimes, relying on those around us to help notice and communicate when something isn’t right can provide the best form of safety protection—because no one is immune to safety concerns, safety errors, distraction, or complacency. Improving an organization’s overall safety culture and the atmosphere around safety conversations can make it easier to both give and receive advice in a constructive way and, best-case scenario, save lives.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), successful safety and health programs can proactively identify and manage workplace hazards before they cause injury or illness, improving sustainability and the bottom line. An organization’s safety culture is ultimately reflected in the way that safety is managed in the workplace, and having a strong safety and health program can help create:
- Fewer accidents, losses, and disruptions by preventing workplace injuries and illnesses.
- Engaged employees and improved morale.
- Increased productivity and enhanced overall business operations.
- Lower workers’ compensation and insurance claims.
- Improved compliance with OSHA regulations.
- Improved reputation to attract new customers and employees and retain existing ones.
- Better brand and shareholder value that tie to social responsibility.
The National Safety Council (NSC) cites that more than 4,400 preventable workplace deaths and 4.26 million injuries occurred in 2021. Raising public awareness about workplace safety can significantly decrease the number of preventable injuries and deaths. Every June, NSC observes National Safety Month to do just this by encouraging employers and individuals alike to be safety role models.
Much like NSC, OSHA created Safe + Sound Week (August 7-13, 2023) as a year-round campaign to encourage America’s workplaces to commit to workplace safety and health by starting a health and safety program, energizing an existing one, or recognizing health and safety successes.
Taking the Pledge
This year, both NSC and OSHA are encouraging companies to reaffirm their commitments to safety and health by taking a pledge:
Safe + Sound pledge: I pledge to make safety a core workplace value. Everyone has the right to a safe and healthy workplace, and I will work to ensure everyone goes home safe and sound every day. My workplace will be taking action to improve our safety and health program during Safe + Sound Week 2023.
NSC SafeAtWork pledge: I commit to:
- Actively help my employer improve our safety programs.
- Report hazards promptly and suggest solutions.
- Be a good safety role model for my friends and family, even off the job.
Core Elements of Workplace Health and Safety
OSHA reiterates that the core elements of a workplace health and safety program include the following elements:
- Management leadership. Management must provide the leadership, vision, and resources needed to implement an effective safety and health program.
- Worker participation. Engaging workers at all levels in establishing, implementing, evaluating, and improving safety and health in the workplace creates buy-in.
- Systematic approach to finding and fixing hazards. Finding and fixing hazards in the workplace is an ongoing process to better identify and control sources of potential injuries or illnesses.
KTL’s Series on Investing in Safety
Throughout OSHA’s Safe + Sound Week (August 7-13, 2023), KTL will be featuring a series of articles and posts on our blog and social media (i.e., Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter) reinforcing these concepts from OSHA and NSC and discussing why businesses should invest in safety. Topics will include the following:
Watch for these articles! For more information on what your organization can do to participate and promote a strong safety culture, visit the websites for OSHA Safe + Sound Week and NSC National Safety Month.
The most effective way to respond to an emergency is to properly plan for it before it happens. That’s precisely why so many federal, state, and municipal laws and regulations require many facilities to develop and implement some sort of Emergency Response Plan (ERP).
Effective Emergency Response
An ERP is intended to outline the steps an organization needs to take in an emergency—and after—to protect workers’ health and safety, the environment, the surrounding community, and the business itself. The requirements developed by various agencies are important, as they establish the components that must be included in an ERP to comply with regulations and respond effectively.
Most ERPs contain the same basic information. However, it can get complicated when a facility is subject to more than one regulation requiring an ERP, because even though the various regulations share many similarities, they also contain important differences (e.g., command structures, training requirements, equipment needs, operating protocols). Often, facilities end up creating a different ERP to respond to the different regulatory requirements. In an actual emergency, this can create inconsistencies or, worse yet, an implementation nightmare trying to figure out which ERP to follow.
Importance of Integration
The solution lies in integration. For example, consider an integrated management system that allows organizations to align standards, find common management system components (e.g., terminology, policies, objectives, processes, resources), and add measurable and recognizable business value. The same can be done with the various ERPs required within a facility.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that in 1996, the U.S. National Response Team (NRT) published initial guidance for consolidating multiple ERPs into one core document. The Integrated Contingency Plan (ICP or One Plan) is a single, unified ERP intended to help organizations comply with the various emergency response requirements of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Coast Guard, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Department of Transportation (DOT), and Department of Interior (DOI). The ICP Guidance does not change any of the existing requirements of the regulations it covers; rather, it provides a format for consolidating, organizing, and presenting the required emergency response information.
While the ICP does not currently incorporate all federal regulations addressing emergency response, it does establish a basic framework for organizations to pull in ERPs for any applicable regulations. And the benefits of doing so are many:
- Streamlined planning process. A single document simplifies the planning, development, and maintenance process. When plans are integrated, it minimizes duplication of effort, eliminates discrepancies and inconsistencies, and helps the organization identify and fill in gaps.
- Improved emergency response. It is much easier—and faster—for emergency responders and employees to navigate one plan rather than multiple separate ones. One plan allows for a single command structure with defined roles rather than potentially conflicting responsibilities. This all allows responders to act quickly and decisively to minimize potential disruption to the organization and public.
- Greater compliance. An integrated ERP provides improved visibility to all parts of the organization’s emergency response and helps reveal gaps that could prove costly and/or dangerous. This is especially important for organizations that must comply with several regulations.
- Potential cost savings. Streamlined and simplified planning reduces the resources required to build the plan. An integrated ERP may also help eliminate regulatory fines and minimize the need for and associated costs of emergency response/cleanup efforts.
Find Your Format
The goal of an integrated ERP is not to create new requirements but to consolidate existing concepts into a single functional plan structure. Regardless of what the plan looks like, it should start with:
- An assessment of the facility’s vulnerabilities to various emergency situations.
- An understanding of the various applicable emergency planning laws and regulations to determine which specific requirements must be incorporated. For example, food emergency response has different implications that must be integrated, particularly when it comes to recovery. A food production facility that is ordered or otherwise required to cease operations during an emergency may not reopen until authorization has been granted by the regulatory authority. Food facilities also have strict guidelines to follow for salvaging, reconditioning, and/or discarding product.
With this understanding, the ERP should then comprise step-by-step guidelines for addressing the most significant emergency situations. The core plan should be straightforward and concise and outline fundamental response procedures. More detailed information can be included in the annex. Most ERPs should include the following basic elements:
- Facility information. Consolidate common elements required in various plans, including site description, statement of purpose, scope, drawings, maps, roster of emergency response personnel, emergency response equipment, key contacts for plan development and maintenance, etc.
- Steps to initiate, conduct, and terminate a response. Outline essential response actions and notification procedures, with references to the annex for more detailed information. Provide concise and specific information that is time-critical in the earliest stages of the response and a framework to guide responders through key steps to deliver an effective response.
- Designated emergency responders. Develop a single command structure for all types of emergencies. Assign qualified, high-level individuals who are familiar with emergency procedures to fill emergency roles. In addition, list the appropriate authorities for specific emergencies, as well as their contact information.
- Evacuation plan/routes and rally points. Clearly mark evacuation routes and identify rally points where employees should meet upon exiting. Do not allow employees to leave designated rally points until it has been documented they have safely left the building.
- Data and information backup technology. Develop provisions for data backup to secondary/off-site systems, as well as alternate options for communications and power.
- Designated plan for communication. Outline who is communicating what, when they are communicating it, and how it is being communicated. This includes internal communication, as well as communication to customers/clients/suppliers/vendors that may be impacted, the media, and the appropriate regulatory authorities.
- Supporting materials. The annex should provide detailed support information based on the procedures outlined in the core plan and required regulatory compliance documentation. Importantly, facilities should create a table that cross-references individual regulatory requirements with the plan to ensure there are no gaps and to demonstrate compliance.
The goal of emergency response planning is to minimize impacts to the environment and workers’ health and safety, as well as disruptions to operations. An integrated ERP has the potential to significantly reduce the number of decisions required to respond in an emergency, eliminate confusion and disagreement regarding roles and responsibilities, and enable a timelier, more coordinated response.
That all being said, an integrated ERP will only be effective if it is thoroughly and consistently communicated to all employees. These best practices will help ensure that the integrated ERP functions not only on paper, but also in practice:
- Periodic training is vital to ensure employees understand the ERP and are fully aware of emergency response procedures. It is especially important in an integrated ERP that first responders are trained to handle all potential emergencies rather than more narrowly trained on response for a single regulation.
- Routine drills significantly improve understanding of the ERP, clarify employee roles, test procedures to ensure they work, and diminish confusion during an emergency.
- Posting an abbreviated version of the ERP throughout the plant provides easy access to all employees if an emergency occurs. This summary version of the ERP should highlight the most vital information for quick response: recognized hazards, high-level emergency procedures, evacuation routes, and key contacts.
Every year, we see a number of environmental, health, and safety (EHS) trends rise to the surface that have the potential to impact many industries. Some challenges and opportunities in EHS remain ongoing; some are just gaining traction with impacts yet to be known. Regardless, the start of a new year provides the opportunity to plan for EHS issues and trends on the horizon and prioritize efforts to ensure ongoing compliance.
Here are some of the top EHS trends KTL is keeping watch on in 2023—and some guidance to help you as you set your EHS strategy for the new year.
Resource Constraints and Technology Solutions
EHS personnel are being asked to manage a lot—and often in growing areas that may be outside their education, expertise, and/or experience. Resource constraints—particularly related to staffing—remain a significant concern across industry, and EHS is certainly not immune. Impacts from the “Great Resignation” of November 2021 and beyond continue to leave many companies without the resources needed to effectively manage EHS requirements.
Achieving and maintaining EHS compliance requires great management and expertise to ensure all aspects of a company’s technical compliance have been identified and are being actively handled. KTL has been working with more and more EHS departments to fill these gaps—either with outsourced personnel or compliance efficiency tools—as companies look to recruit EHS staff and meet compliance obligations.
- Develop a relationship with someone you trust to do things in your best interest, understanding that EHS should be a process of continuous improvement. Use them to help you understand what regulations apply. Let them help you prioritize your compliance plan. Use them to do your annual training. Rely on them as a part of your team.
- Employ information technology (IT) solutions to create compliance efficiencies. A well-designed and executed compliance information management system brings IT and management systems together to coordinate, organize, control, analyze, and visualize information in such a way that helps organizations remain in compliance and operate efficiently. A system like this will help provide operational flexibility, generate business improvement, and prepare organizations to address these and other EHS compliance challenges that will continue to surface.
EPA Inspections and Enforcement
EPA intends to continue its enforcement path, holding environmental violators and responsible parties accountable. Significant investments are being made to enforce and ensure compliance with the nation’s environmental laws, including $213 million for civil enforcement efforts, $148 million for compliance monitoring efforts, and $69 million for criminal enforcement efforts. The Agency also has plans to improve inspections by sending 75% of EPA inspection reports to facilities within 70 days of inspection and conducting 55% of annual EPA inspections at facilities that affect communities with potential environmental justice (EJ) concerns (see more on EJ below).
- Design and maintain a safe facility to prevent accidental releases and minimize the consequences of accidental releases that do occur. Conduct a gap assessment to ensure the required processes and systems are functioning as intended.
- Establish a quick response internal inspection team that can evaluate all areas of risk in your facility to ensure you are in compliance, particularly at the time of inspection.
- Understand the hazards posed by chemicals at the facility and assess the impacts of a potential release. Complete a waste characterization for all hazardous and solid waste streams to make sure you are appropriately managing your universal waste and hazardous waste.
- Check your Emergency Response Plan to ensure it has identified emergency contacts for your facility and that the contacts are current. Coordinate with local emergency responders.
Environmental Justice (EJ)
EPA’s Strategic Plan includes a goal that EJ and civil rights will be embedded into EPA’s programs, policies, and activities to reduce disparities in environmental and public health conditions. This focus on EJ has continued to gain momentum with a slew of additional significant actions taken in 2022 to further elevate EJ priorities and deliver on the Administration’s promises to advance justice and equity when it comes to ensuring clean air and water for all communities; safeguarding and revitalizing communities (i.e., Superfund and RCRA); and ensuring safety of chemicals through civil rights and compliance reviews, audits, and community outreach.
- Take the time to understand the communities where you operate—be informed, be prepared, and be proactive. Establish companywide priorities and goals and commit the appropriate resources to address EJ concerns.
- There are a number of EJ grants, funding, and other technical assistance available. EPA’s new Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights is positioned to deliver new grants and technical assistance to meet EJ goals.
Sustainability and Climate Change
The Biden Administration previously committed to a net zero economy by 2050. EPA is focused on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by promulgating rules to reduce pollution from the power sector, setting vehicle emission standards, and partnering with the public and private sectors communities (especially those underserved and disproportionally at risk) to increase energy efficiency in the residential, commercial, and industrial sectors. In addition, there is $100 million in grants to support efforts to reduce GHG emissions and increase resiliency in the nation’s infrastructure and $35 million to implement the American Innovation in Manufacturing Act to continue phasing out GHGs.
- Conduct a lifecycle analysis (LCA) to identify and quantify the inputs and outputs in a process and use data to assess the potential environmental impacts across the lifecycle.
- Have an energy audit completed of your facilities.
- Get input from employees on what initiatives are important to them by enacting a sustainability committee or adding sustainability to your EHS agenda.
Safer Communities by Chemical Accident Prevention (SCCAP)
EPA proposed on August 31, 2022 to strengthen the Risk Management Program (RMP) regulations with the SCCAP proposed rule. The proposed SCCAP amendments include a number of requirements that were originally promulgated by the Obama Administration EPA in 2017 and subsequently rescinded during the Trump Administration in 2019, plus several new requirements considering impacts of climate change, EJ concerns, employee participation, and enhanced community notification. Proposed changes would require RMP-regulated facilities to better consider surrounding communities and the consequences of potential chemical accidents that could have significant impacts on industry requirements going forward.
- Identify/understand/prioritize your compliance risks and develop strategies to minimize them to the extent possible.
- Outline steps to improve performance and safe operations, including defining organizational roles and responsibilities. Plan and conduct required tabletop exercises and coordinate with Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs) to ensure your plans work in practice.
- Streamline compliance methods and improve operational efficiencies by implementing IT solutions and compliance management systems that coordinate, organize, control, analyze, and visualize information.
More and more facilities are going to be directly impacted by mitigation efforts and future regulatory action related to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). PFAS contamination is an extremely complicated issue—and concern is mounting over its impacts and how to regulate these chemicals going forward. EPA has set aside $126 million to increase its understanding of human health and ecological effects of PFAS contamination, restrict its uses, and remediate PFAS that have been released. Over the course of 2022, EPA took several actions to further protect individuals and communities from the health risks posed by these forever chemicals and more is on the way.
- Evaluate your current environmental risk level and develop strategies to minimize risks to the extent possible. Proper usage strategies, a comprehensive environmental management system (EMS), and a forward-thinking Emergency Response Plan will remain vital tools for companies potentially dealing with PFAS to effectively manage the associated risks.
- Work with LEPCs to coordinate emergency response efforts and exercises to keep communities informed and safe.
Set Your Goals for 2023
With these trends toward more regulation, more enforcement, and more focus on EJ and sustainability—but with fewer resources to manage it all—companies need to accurately assess compliance requirements and create a plan for how to meet them. KTL suggests completing the following early in 2023:
- Get senior leadership commitment. It is often clear how an organization prioritizes EHS with little digging. Even with the best EHS personnel, the organization and its EHS system will only be as good as the top leadership and what is important to them.
- Conduct a comprehensive gap assessment to ensure you are meeting the requirements of all applicable EHS regulations. This should be the starting place for understanding your regulatory obligations and current compliance status.
- Perform a comprehensive onsite risk assessment with associated risk minimization planning and plan/conduct annual spill drills to practice emergency response for hazardous chemical incidents.
- Organize your records. Know what records you need. Document your inspections and your training. Develop standard operating procedures (SOPs) so people know what to do.
- Create an integrated management system (e.g., ISO 9001/14001/45001) by finding commonalities between the standards and leveraging pieces of each to develop a reliable system that works for your organization. Implement IT solutions to streamline compliance and create business efficiencies.
- Seek third-party oversight. Having external experts periodically look inside your company provides an objective view of what is really going on, helps you to prepare for audits, and allows you to implement corrective/preventive actions that ensure compliance.