Tagged as safety


Is This OSHA Form Posted At Your Workplace?


Is your workplace safe? Are you and your coworkers being properly protected from harm? Or are injuries and illnesses a common problem?

You can find the answers to these questions every year from February 1st through April 30th. That’s because, in most cases, your employer is required to post Form 300A from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) during this time period. Go to the bulletin board in your store, plant, medical facility or other jobsite and you should find OSHA 300A, detailing the statistics from 2017. If it’s not there, please tell your shop steward or union rep right away.

On this form, you’ll see:

  • whether there were any deaths or injuries due to hazards in the workplace over the past year
  • how many days employees had to miss work as a result of occupational-related injuries or illnesses
  • how many days workers had to be reassigned to different jobs because injuries kept them from being able to perform their regular responsibilities
  • whether there were any skin disorders, respiratory conditions, poisonings, cases of hearing loss, or other illnesses incurred on the job.

Employers are required to fill out a log of work-related injuries to classify incidents and note the severity and extent of each case throughout the year. Form 300A is the annual summary of the log, listing numbers per workplace, but not the names of those injured or their specific ailments. Each form must be specific to each job site, whether it’s an individual store, nursing home, medical center, meat processing plant or other facility.

According to OSHA, “An injury or illness is considered work-related if an event or exposure in the work environment caused or contributed to the condition or significantly aggravated a preexisting condition. Work-relatedness is presumed for injuries and illnesses resulting from events or exposures occurring in the workplace, unless an exception specifically applies.” These are the categories covered:

  • Injuries involve any wound or damage to the body resulting from an event in the work environment, such as cuts, bruises, fractures, burns, and sprains and strains resulting from slips, trips or falls.
  • Skin diseases or disorders are conditions such as contact dermatitis, eczema, rashes or blisters that are caused by work exposure to chemicals, plants, or other substances.
  • Respiratory conditions are illnesses associated with breathing hazardous biological agents, chemicals, dust, gases, vapors, or fumes at work. These can include silicosis, asbestosis and occupational asthma.
  • Poisoning includes disorders resulting from abnormal concentrations of toxic substances in the body, such as lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic and carbon monoxide.
  • Hearing loss involves cases where workers were exposed to noises so loud and for a sufficient length of time that their hearing is impaired.
  • All other illnesses is a broad category that includes sunstroke, heat exhaustion, freezing, frostbite, radiation exposure, and bloodborne diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B and C.

If your workplace has a high number of injuries and illnesses in any of these categories, please bring this to the attention of your shop steward and union representative. Under many Local 400 contracts, shop stewards serve on Safety Committees and are in a position to demand action to remedy problem areas.  As always, the best defense against workplace hazards are active, engaged and vigilant members.

Safety on Your Side: How to Avoid Slips, Trips and Falls

Slips, trips and falls are among the most dangerous hazards we face on the job.

While they may not seem like a leading cause of injury, slips, trips and falls are among the most dangerous hazards we face on the job:

One reason is that the cause is often commonplace objects that are all around us. All it takes is a misplaced box. A slick floor after customers track in the wet weather. Or a spill from a product on the shelf. Many of us work around these hazards all day long without even noticing, which is why paying extra attention could save you or a fellow coworker from serious injury.

To avoid injury, look out for the following hazards your workplace:

  • Walkway surface spills involving oil, water and other liquids.
  • Weather-related hazards such as snow, ice and wet surfaces from rain.
  • The use of inappropriate footwear.
  • Walkway surfaces that are in disrepair.
  • Walking surfaces that are too slick or smooth, not allowing adequate footwear traction.
  • Clutter around workspaces or in walking paths or aisles.
  • Employers failing to train workers about how to avoid slips, trips, and falls.

Your employer is ultimately responsible for maintaining a safe work environment without dangers that can lead to slips, trips and falls. Under the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees.

Your workplace should take the following preventive measures recommended by OSHA:

  • Keep floor surfaces clean and clear.
  • Ensure that wet floor signs are posted as needed, and maintain proper drainage.
  • Maintain clear aisles and prevent obstructions.
  • Ensure that walkway surfaces are in good repair.
  • Report and clean up spills immediately.
  • Provide non-slip shoes and mats in wet surface areas.
  • Minimize carpet and matting trip hazards.
  • Use frequent housekeeping procedures and provide adequate lighting in poorly lit areas such as halls and stairways.
  • Maintain and eliminate uneven floor surfaces.

In addition, if you have to work outside, OSHA requires employers to ensure that snow and ice are cleared from walking surfaces — and that deicer is spread — as quickly as possible after a winter storm. When walking on snow or ice is unavoidable, your employer is required to train you and your coworkers to wear footwear that has good traction and insulation, and to take short steps and walk at a slower pace.

If you see a safety hazard in your workplace, please contact your shop steward or union representative and inform your supervisor of the safety hazard right away before anyone gets hurt.

Shop Stewards Save Members from Dust Exposure

Local 400 shop stewards from several plants in Virginia, including DanChem Technologies, pose for a photo at a seminar in May 2017.

Banks Stamps, Jr., has worked at DanChem Technologies in Danville, Va., for 42 years, and he became a shop steward in 2004 after a 10-month-long strike. One of his top priorities ever since has been to build a worker-run safety program to better protect members’ health. Recently, Banks and two fellow shop stewards, Mike Barker and Eddie Dalton, put that program to the test.

The shipping & receiving lead person at DanChem, Banks knew something wasn’t right when UFCW International Vice President Robin Williams came to the plant for a tour. “There were certain areas that management didn’t take her around to,” Banks said. “But I’ve been here so long, I knew what processes were going on.”

It turns out that one particular room was being used to package a newly-produced material for a customer that was demanding a lot of this product. (The specifics can’t be revealed because it’s proprietary information.)

“The product’s put in large tote bin,” Banks explained. “It comes out of a shoot. Then it’s put through a sifter, which vibrates, turning larger granules into a powder. The problem is it leaves plenty of dust in the air. It’s dangerous to inhale and it actually has explosive properties. Making matters worse, there was no ventilation in the room where the packaging was taking place.

“So we’ve been working on eliminating or reducing the dust to safe levels,” he said. “Mike [Barker] and I had a meeting with management. We let them know our concerns and that we expect them to do what’s needed to minimize the dust. We also told them they need to address the heat and lack of ventilation in that room.”

In response, DanChem management acted to make some temporary fixes to the problem. “The company said they would make some adjustments on the machine used for packaging,” Banks said. “They would transfer the product into smaller drums and sift it into smaller packages. They would blow in cooled air on hot days. The people doing the packaging would rotate in and out, rather than doing full 12-hour shifts in the one room.

“We made clear to them that these actions need to be followed by a permanent fix,” he added. “Among other steps, they promised to install a permanent air conditioning system. We’re going to hold them to it and we’re going to have follow-up meetings, getting employee participation to improve on the design of the safety solutions. If they had done this from the start, we wouldn’t have had these problems.”

Banks emphasizes that the positive results so far are, “A result of our activism. Our members have an employee-driven safety program. And we have subcommittees dealing with specific parts, like ergonomics. Management is only looking at the bottom line of their profits, so it’s up to us to bring these issues up and demand action. So far we’ve had some success and if management drags its feet, we have the grievance process, which is often enough to move things forward.

“It’s a constant battle, but we’re going to see this through to stop the dust and every hazard our members face,” Banks said.

UFCW Members Make Safety A Priority at Tyson Poultry Plant

On a typical day at the Tyson Foods Processing Plant in Glen Allen, Virginia, Local 400 Shop Steward Aleta Johnsons was operating the Packmat bagging machine. All of a sudden, she heard a co-worker yelling, “Stop, stop, stop! Please help — stop the line!”

She ran to the conveyor belt, where she saw five-pound bags of wingettes piling up and falling on the floor. Then, she immediately pulled a switch and stopped the line.

Just 10 days earlier, this would not have been possible. Only managers had the power to stop the line. But thanks to a recently instituted reform worked out between Local 400 members and Tyson management, any worker has the power to halt the entire production line if he or she witnesses a safety hazard, as Aleta did.

“We’re supposed to have 10 to13 people on our line, but since I’ve been working there, we’ve only had six,” Aleta said. “On that day, there were just four and one was a new person being trained while the line was running. It was too much too fast for too few people. That’s why the chicken was piling up and why I stopped it.

“A manager came back, asked what was going on and I explained what happened,” she recalled. “He said, ‘take your time—I’ll try to get two more people for your line.’ They never came, but he told us to work at our own pace. So about 10 minutes later, we were able to get things back up and running, and we adjusted the speed so we weren’t overwhelmed.”

Aleta makes a point of being safety conscious. “One day several months ago, I was rethreading the Packmat machine,” she said. “It’s not supposed to turn on when the door’s open but the trip wire was blown and that’s what happened. It ripped the sleeve off my smock and could have taken my arm off. It scared the living daylights out of me. We had a standing room only emergency meeting afterward to address the problem.”

A combination of union activism and management concerned about the company’s reputation elevated the importance of safety and the need to empower workers to take action. Tyson launched a national program called “We Care,” with the direct input of UFCW. The first plant to implement the program was Glen Allen, thanks to monthly meetings between workers (including Aleta) and plant managers—meetings required by the collective bargaining agreement between Local 400 and Tyson.

“I’ve seen a difference in management since we’ve had these monthly meetings,” Aleta said.
“The atmosphere is a lot different. They’re taking us seriously when we make recommendations and following through. And not just on safety—the meetings also led to improvements in the pay process and our ability to schedule personal days. There are things we need to work on—like better-staffed lines and an end to 10-hour work days—but it’s coming along. And our union has been so helpful in all of this.”

Thanks to these efforts—and the courage and decisiveness Aleta showed—safety protections for Tyson workers are getting stronger every day.

Safety Quiz Answers

Now that you’ve taken the safety quiz to text your knowledge, how many did you get correct?

1) Grocery and retail stores, and barber and beauty shops
The correct answer is C) Slips, trips and falls.
There are more than 540,000 injuries from slips, trips and falls every year in grocery stores across America, though injuries from heavy lifting and cuts are also significant. To prevent slips, trips and falls, make a point of cleaning up spills right when they happen. Keep your workspace from getting cluttered with trash and debris. And use slip mats in the deli, meat and seafood depart- ments and any other areas with wet surfaces.

2) Hospitals, nursing homes and medical facili- ties
The correct answer is A) Sprains, strains and tears.
These account for 73 percent of health care industry workplace injuries, usually as a conse- quence of having to lift patients or products. The key to avoiding problems is to ensure you always use proper lift procedures. If a patient has fallen or passes out and is too heavy for you to handle based on your own strength, use the buddy sys- tem and get help from a co-worker. In some cases, a lifting machine may be necessary to move immobile patients. Do not hesitate to use this if needed to prevent harm to you or the patient.

3) Police departments
The correct answer is B) Car accidents.
While police officers do face the risk of violence in the line of duty, many spend most of their time in the car, and often have to rush to the scene of a crime or give chase to a fleeing sus- pect. This is when officers face the greatest risk to life and limb. That’s why it’s critical that all police officers receive proper training under all kinds of road conditions. It’s hard enough to con- trol a car in a high-speed chase, but it’s far worse if the pavement is wet or icy. Perpetrators are betting on the odds that you’ll crash before you catch them. It’s also essential to always buckle up, and to make sure all lights are on and flash- ing when pulled over by the side of the road.

4) Meat and poultry processing plants and factories
The correct answer is D) Back disorders.
Since plant and factory work usually involves hard physical labor, back disorders are a com- mon problem, though repetitive motion inju- ries such as carpal tunnel syndrome are aslo an issue. To prevent them, workers should be prop- erly trained in lifting procedures. Repetitive twisting can also account for back strains and muscle pulls. If you are working on the job and your back becomes stiff, your body is telling you that you’re at risk of a muscle pull or tear, or worse, a herniated disk. If this happens a lot, your employer should conduct an ergonomic study to see how these kinds of strains can be eliminated.

5) The fishing industry.
The correct answer is B) Boat disasters, but A) Falls overboard is a close second.
That’s why it’s essential that fishing boats are properly maintained and kept sea-worthy at all times. The smallest repairs must be attended to, because they can turn into big, life-threatening problems on the open waters. All workers must wear life preservers and other personal pro- tective equipment, including harnesses when necessary. Fishermen should also take extra pre- cautions when walking on deck at night — one never knows when an errant wave might come crashing over the boat’s side.

6) Lumber mills
The correct answer is C) Struck by, caught in, under or between, cut.
Huge, heavy objects and massive machines all present threats in lumber mills. To avoid being struck, cut by, or caught in or under large objects, make sure that where you work is free from swinging cables and hoists. Use proper lock out and tag out procedures when unclogging machines. Make sure all machines are properly guarded and maintained. Don’t take unneces- sary risks and follow proper safety procedures.

If you feel workplace is unsafe in any way, please contact your shop steward or Local 400 representative immediately!

Safety on Your Side: Test Your Knowledge

What is the number one cause of injuries in Local 400 members’ workplaces? It pays to know the answer, because the more you’re aware of the risks you face, the better able you are to protect yourself, prevent accidents and hold managers accountable for providing a safe work environment.
To test your knowledge, please take the Local 400 safety quiz below. Then turn the page to find the answers, see how well you did, and learn more about how to keep yourself safe and healthy on the job. Test your knowledge and take the quiz now! 

Looking for the answers post-quiz? Here they are.

Safety on Your Side: How High Can a Pallet Be Safely Stacked?

How high can a pallet be safely stacked?ThreatstoSafety

That’s a question Local 400 members find themselves asking all too often.

When goods come into supermarkets and grocery stores, they are supposed to be safe to unload, move and unpack. Yet members frequently find overloaded stacks that are nine feet high, leaning to one side and straining against their shrink wrap.

This presents a number of obvious problems and threats. If the boxes on top are not secured properly, they can slide off and hit a worker on the head, potentially causing serious injury. If the stack is leaning, it could tip over and crush someone. Plus, an employee moving the pallet cannot see over its top—or around it if it’s in a backroom hallway—presenting a clear danger to anyone inadvertently in the way.

One common dilemma is the need to remove the top two layers of a stack so it can fit in a cooler door. If doing so requires a worker to climb on top of an unstable load, that is clearly a safety threat. If it means that a worker will subject himself or herself to great physical strain, that is also unacceptable. Too many workers suffer back, leg and arm injuries as a result of material handling.

Under U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations, employers are obligated to provide safe work environments for all of their employees at all times. When workers have to move and deal with pallets that are stacked too high or are unstable, their safety is at risk and their employer is in violation of OSHA regulations.

If you encounter this kind of situation, notify management and your shop steward immediately. It’s management’s job to notify the warehouse about unsafe loads coming from another destination. It’s the company’s obligation to keep you safe at your workplace. And if your employer fails to take corrective action, call your Local 400 representative right away. Your health is too important to be put at risk.

Safety on Your Side: Don’t Get Sick from Propane Floor Buffers

floorbufferOver the past year, an unusually large number of Local 400 members called their union to report that they were feeling dizzy and suffering from headaches. This was cause for great concern, so Local 400 conducted an investigation.

The results were crystal clear—in each and every case, a propane floor buffer was involved.

When they are serviced properly and the filter is clean, propane floor buffers are supposed to be safe, according to U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations. But if not, they are a carbon monoxide risk. And the symptoms of carbon mon- oxide poisoning are headache, dizziness and nausea—exactly what our mem- bers were suffering from. Worse yet, too much carbon monoxide is lethal.

The maximum tolerable level of exposure to carbon monoxide is 50 parts per million over the course of an eight hour day under OSHA regula- tions. A clean, well-serviced propane buffer produces less than 10 parts per million of carbon monoxide, which dissipates in the air. But an improperly maintained propane buffer can emit well over the OSHA standard, putting your health at risk.

Another risk involves overfilled cylinders, which are a fire hazard.

The problem is that most of our members’ employers subcontract out their floor care operations. This allows management to try to evade accountability for this threat to their workers’ health. We cannot and will not let them get away with it.

The fact is this: Management is responsible for your safety, not only as a matter of morality, but according to the law of the land. Management chooses its subcontractors and is responsible for their performance, including any failure to follow OSHA regulations governing propane floor buffers.

Management should ensure that all propane floor buffers used by subcontractors are properly maintained. This means that:

  • All nuts and bolts are tightened and all hoses are snug and free from defect.
  • Fuel cylinders are stored outside away from buffer when not in use.
  • The buffer is checked by a certified technician including emissions every three months.
  • The dust filter is checked and cleaned or replaced after each use or after each hour of operation.

If you feel nauseated, have a head- ache or feel dizzy while being near a propane buffer, go outside and get fresh air immediately, and then get checked out by a medical professional right away, because you could be a victim of carbon monoxide poisoning. In addition, talk with your shop steward or representative, so we can get the problem solved and hold management account- able for your health and safety.



Safety on Your Side: Film Wrapping Machine

After completing numerous spot safety checks in grocery stores located in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia, one thing stands out more than the rest. The safety covers on the film wrapping machines that are used in several departments throughout the store are often cut, cracked or covered in residue. The safety cover is often mistaken to protect the user’s hands from the heat when the film is melted down, but in reality it is there to prevent the user when sealing a package from breathing in the fumes from the burning film. In a time weighted average prolonged exposure to these fumes could cause cancer. So be sure to protect yourself and your coworkers. When you notice a safety cover that is worn let your manager know so they can put in an order. Why take the chance? Click here to view what a film wrapping pad should NOT look like.

For more safety tips visit our Safety on Your Side page