Governmental Affairs Update for the Association of Reciprocal Safety Councils

By R. Ronald Sokol, CSP
President and CEO of Safety Council of Texas City

Now on to the governmental affairs update. The first thing I’d like to comment on is the monumental change of how things now get done in Washington. It’s called governing by Executive Order (EO). To illustrate my point, let’s look at the governing strategies of the past four President’s as it relates to the use of EO’s during their first 100 days in office. President Bush issued 13 EO’s during his first 100 days. President Obama issued 34 EO’s during his first 100 days and President Trump issued 39 EO’s. President Biden has issued 60 EO’s during his first 100 days and one of the first EO’s was to instruct the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to develop recommendations to modernize regulatory review aimed at reversal of the Trump EO that required two regulations to be eliminated from any governmental regulatory agency before one new regulation could be proposed. I believe the next four years will witness a greater increase in governmental oversight. Speaking specifically in the areas of safety and health, I anticipate a greater emphasis on the enforcement of worker safety and health regulations. Democrats introduced a labor rights bill called the PRO ACT that would allow the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to levy fines against employers who violate workers’ rights, give employees more power to participate in strikes, weaken so-called right to work laws, and offer certain independent contractors the protections held by employees.

New look on OSHA Guidance for COVID-19 Vaccination Side Effects and OSHA’s 29 CFR 1904’s Recording Requirements

By James Hinton
Director, EHS&Q

In the early stages of the vaccination process many employers were not wanting to mandate or participate in vaccinations of employees after hearing of people getting sick or ill after receiving a vaccination. OSHA’s initial response to employees having negative reactions, getting sick or missing work was very detrimental to most employer’s decision not to participate as the initial OSHA response was that anyone who had side effects from a vaccination mandated at work or given at the workplace would require reporting under 29 CFR 1904’s recording requirements. This along with General Council advice to not participate or mandate vaccinations did have some effect on workplace vaccination mandates and participation from some larger employers nationwide. 

Remote Safety Inspections the New Alternative to Conducting In-person Safety Inspections During the Pandemic and Beyond?

By James Hinton
Director, EHS&Q

As we all know under the OSHA ACT the requirement for workplace inspections is a legal requirement. The need for these workplace inspections is also a necessary part of our effective safety programs. The use of routine workplace inspections have been proven over time to have positive impacts on identifying existing and potential hazards in the workplace. As Safety professionals we then take this data and utilize it to correct hazards in house and make sure they do not happen again.

Contractor Prequalification – Safety Metrics

By Trish Ennis CSP, ARM, CRIS
Executive Director, Colorado Safety Association

Managing risk on a large project or energy campus is a critical activity for protecting business assets. Requiring suppliers and contractors to go through a prequalification process is one element of reducing risk. A comprehensive prequalification process will enable an owner to benchmark the financial strength, risk management procedures, and safety performance of a potential contractor against acceptable standards. There are numerous services available to provide these prequalification services to owners, such as ISNetworld, Avetta, PEC Safety, BROWZ, Ariba and many other prequalification systems. 

COVID-19 Vaccine Policy Guidance

By Trish Ennis CSP, ARM, CRIS
Executive Director, Colorado Safety Association

The COVID-19 Pandemic has been a long and challenging experience for people across the globe. The good news is that there are vaccines being deployed in the United States under the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). The challenge facing employers now is the question of whether to make a vaccine policy mandatory. Can employers require a worker to show proof of vaccination before they are allowed to return to work?

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the best source for employers interested in guidance on the question of vaccines in the workplace. The current position of the EEOC is that employers may require workers to obtain a vaccine before they can return to work. There are some limitations that employers must consider however, in order to avoid violating a variety of antidiscrimination laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The following link provides a significant amount of information on this topic. Vaccines are addressed under section K.

Is it Dangerous to Work in or Live Close to Industrial Sites?

By Connie Fabre, President & CEO, Greater Baton Rouge Industry Alliance (GBRIA)

Have you ever heard someone ask this question? Most people working in industry enjoy the prosperity that their jobs have brought to them and their families, however when people claim that industrial jobs are unsafe or that industry is harming our environment, some might wonder whether there is any merit to these claims. Although the vocal few speaking against industry can cause people to question, the data does not support their claims. 

When it comes to safe jobs, industrial plant, maintenance, and construction work fare better than working for many service jobs. The Total Recordable Injury Rate (TRIR) number measures the number of people who sustain a non-fatal injury among 200,000 hours worked. In the U.S. in 2019 (the latest information available from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration), petroleum refiners averaged a 0.4, down from 0.7 in 2018, while manufacturing as a whole averaged 3.3. As a comparison, retailers averaged 3.4, hospitals 5.5, and state and local government 4.6. So, how does the petrochemical industry achieve such a good record? Sharing best practices, tackling common issues through associations and organizations such as ARSC, is a hallmark of this industry, however, it is each company and each employee’s attitude and focus on safety that makes the difference. Companies expend incredible resources to ensure that employees meet daily, complete Job Safety Analyses, Hazard Analyses, and training upon training in every aspect of hazards possible and how to avoid injury.  Companies have pep rallies for safety and are unrelenting in convincing employees to believe that “ZERO incidents” is an achievable goal.

My Experience with Covid-19

by Sylvia Villarreal
Administrator, Association of Reciprocal Safety Councils

I have been that person who did not take Covid-19 as seriously as I should. Because I took every precaution required to keep myself and my family safe from contracting the virus, I thought that I wouldn’t get it. Boy was I wrong! I unfortunately still fell victim to it. Like most everyone else, I had no clue where I could have contracted the virus. This is my story, and how the virus personally affected me.

In mid-December, I started feeling my allergy symptoms again. I am prone to seasonal allergies and can quickly recognize it if it is just simple allergies. These allergies require me to take over the counter medicine. That evening, I began to feel very tired, more so than usual. I brushed it off as just having a long day, and I was simply mentally drained. The next morning, still dealing with the sniffles, sneezing, and coughing, I got up and went to work. I figured my allergy medication should have or would be kicking in at any moment.                                                  

Safety Management During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Implementing a Digital Site Audit/Inspection plan.

by James Hinton
Director, EHS&Q

The COVID-19 pandemic has given way to a multitude of problems and resolutions for the safety professional. One large problem is how to complete safety inspections/audits when we need to reduce travel and limit exposure to the virus at facilities and construction sites?

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced safety professionals to take a very holistic and integrated approach toward site inspections and audits. The safety professional must be able to maintain facility site safety through regular inspections and audits to keep the sites in safe a condition for the employees and the public. Safety professionals have been able to quickly adapt to the pandemic’s resulting issues in many inventive ways.  They have the ability to complete required and needed site safety audits and inspections while still complying with COVID-19 safety recommendations.