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Basic Checklist for Electric Security

Electricity-related injuries are possible through the most common currents that exist in day-to-day life. To help you optimize your electric security, Emilcott put together a checklist to guide you through the basics of electrical safety.

Our team consists of CSPs, Building Inspectors, and OSHA-standard experts. If Emilcott can offer any assistance in your efforts to prevent electrocution, shock, burns, and falls, please reach out to info@emilcott.com or 800-866-3645.


HVAC Systems with David Tomsey

With over eighteen years of experience in environmental, health, and safety consulting, David runs Emilcott’s Indoor Environmental Quality practice. He was one of the original leaders who developed our proprietary Greenlight system for real-time air monitoring on construction sites. His experience includes performing hazardous materials surveys, perimeter air monitoring system development and implementation, remedial investigations; performing soil and water investigations, and survey design.

What is an HVAC system? How does it work?

An HVAC system cleans air through a series of filters. This means it basically circulates air through a building to provide comfort to all occupants. Comfort can be thermal (through heat) as well as through cool air. Simply put, it is an air exchange system regulating temperature and contaminants that can be found in the air of an indoor space.

HVAC systems remove moisture all year-round, but they are especially important during the summer months. Without an HVAC system, excessive moisture creates an environment for mold growth.

What is the importance of a clean HVAC system?

As people return to work, it is important to do a deep cleaning of buildings’ HVAC systems, especially those turned off during the past few months.

The Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, also known as MERV, is a measurement scale used for tracking the effectiveness of air filters. Typically, it has been recommended that a building’s MERV number is an 8 or 9. But since the emergence of the coronavirus, the recommended MERV number is now 13 to prevent viruses from forming in the air space.

A lot of buildings will shut their systems down overnight but typically not when temperatures are high outside. It is now recommended that all places keep their HVAC Systems running 24/7 for a greater air exchange rate. Usually, the system is responsible for just filtering indoor air. In today’s world, it is wise to bring in the outdoor air and kill the virus with heat and sunlight.

What issues arise when HVAC systems are not taken care of?

When HVAC systems are not cleaned and used properly, there is a greater chance that indoor aerosols are lingering for a longer amount of time.

Dirt and debris (when not eliminated from the air) harbor environments for bacteria and viruses. A well-functioning system reduces airborne concentrations of viruses.

A properly operated system helps individuals fight colds, flus, and viruses. With the correct amount of humidity in the air, the human body is operating in optimal circumstances. Otherwise, our bodies have to work a lot harder to keep us healthy.

How do you know when you need help?

Buildings that need this type of service include office and retail spaces, healthcare facilities, hospitals, and hotels, among other types of public places. When someone comes to help you with this issue, they should test for general indoor parameters, particulates, dust, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs.) They will also want to ensure there are no issues with odors or allergic reactions as systems are put to use. This type of testing gives clients an understanding of the state of their indoor space.

Emilcott works with other people in order to evaluate the HVAC system at hand. If it is found that people are having issues with odors or allergic reactions, Emilcott can come and investigate.

If you have questions about your HVAC system or any Emilcott services, call us at 800-866-3645 or email us at info@emilcott.com.


How to Recognize Heat Illnesses

As the summer progresses, employers need to remember how dangerous hot and humid temperatures can be. Working outside in 90-degree weather without proper protection can cause discomfort, heat stress, or even deadly heatstroke.

Symptoms of heat stress range widely:

  • Heat rash is a skin irritation caused by excessive sweating during hot, humid weather. In high humidity, the sweat does not evaporate quickly from your skin’s surface. The clothing rubs will rub against the wet skin, causing irritation that can result in a rash.
  • Heat cramps are involuntary muscle spasms within the large muscles of your body. These typically occur in the thigh, core, and arm muscles.
  • Heat syncope is a fainting or dizziness episode that can occur due to dehydration or lack of acclimation.
  • Heat exhaustion is the body’s response t loss of water and salt, usually due to excessive sweating. Symptoms include heavy sweating; extreme weakness or fatigue; dizziness; clammy, moist skin; muscle cramps; elevated temperature, and fast, shallow breathing.
  • Heatstroke is a medical emergency. As the body temperature rises, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body cannot cool down and control its temperature. Beware! This severe reaction can happen quickly – the body temperature can rise to 106 degrees within ten to fifteen minutes! Without emergency treatment, heatstroke can cause death or permanent disability. Symptoms of heatstroke include hot, dry skin; profuse sweating; hallucinations; throbbing headache; high body temperature; confusion or dizziness; and slurred speech.

If you notice that you’re starting to experience any of these symptoms, the first thing you need to do is take a break. Move to a cool, shaded area and drink plenty of non-alcoholic, caffeine-free liquids. If it’s possible, take a cool shower or dip an article of clothing in cold water and place it on your body. If you are suffering from heat rash, DO NOT apply wet clothing. Instead, dry off and remain in a cool area until the sweating ceases. Resume work only after your body has cooled to a normal temperature.

Employers need to keep a close eye on workers – especially in the heat. When employees are subjected to conditions that could induce heat stress, employers need a successful heat stress program in place. OSHA has many resources to help create and develop heat illness prevention plans, but an Emilcott favorite is the OSHA-NIOSH Heat Safety App.

The OSHA-NIOSH Heat Safety App is a great resource to help employers and employees plan outdoor activities based on the heat. It can be downloaded onto any smart device and features:
• Area-specific heat indexes and associated risk levels
• Precautionary recommendations
• Hourly forecasts
• And more!

Emilcott’s team of professionals includes skilled Health and Safety Officers with experience in construction and hazardous waste sites. If you would like your current program evaluated or need help preparing your workforce for possible heat hazards, please reach out to info@emilcott.com or call us at 973-538-1110.


2021 Q3 Regulatory Calendar

Keep track of upcoming regulatory requirements with Emilcott’s Regulatory Calendar for Q3 2021. This document includes essential details for each submission and a list of dates you need to know.

If Emilcott can offer further assistance with your compliance efforts, please email info@emilcott.com or call 973-538-1110.

**To better access the links, download the PDF.

 

Q3 Regulatory Calendar 2021

Understanding Your Ventilation System

By: Allen M. Chung, CIH and Paul Linnartz

As people start to return to office buildings and public areas after more than a year of “pandemic life,” there will undoubtedly be a heightened awareness of air quality in closed spaces.

Certain viruses, such as SARS-CoV-2, are known to spread through aerosolized respiratory droplets at close range. Airborne transmission from exposure to tiny droplets is unlikely over long distances but possible in certain indoor spaces. General ventilation typically addresses common contaminants often found in commercial environments, but many commercial systems have not been designed to protect occupants from contagions like the SARS virus. Therefore, understanding a facility’s general ventilation system is an essential step toward improving indoor air quality (IAQ) as well as moderating the risk of spreading disease at your facility.

To help you moderate the spread of contagious diseases in an indoor space, the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) published an article that recommends the following:

  • increasing air exchange rates above current conditions
  • using high‐efficiency filtration for recirculated air (MERV 13 or higher)
  • verifying that sensitive areas, such as bathrooms and rooms where infected patients are cared for in hospitals and senior homes, are negatively pressurized relative to adjacent areas
  • managing airflow direction and speed to prevent the spread of aerosols across occupants
  • considering additional technological controls, such as UV germicidal irradiation and portable air purification, in areas and situations where typical building‐level controls are not sufficient

Ventilation effectiveness is measured in terms of Air Changes per Hour (ACH). By running the recirculated air through high-efficiency filtration (MERV 13 or higher), possibly adding UV germicidal irradiation and portable air purification units, more “clean” air is provided to the indoor space. The amount of clean air needed can vary widely depending upon building design and occupancy. ASHRAE, which sets ventilation standards and guidelines, recommends ACH levels up to 3x/hr for offices, 6x/hr for schools, and 8x/hr for restaurants.

Do you know what your ACH rate is?

Evaluating air exchange rates (ACH), checking negative pressure at sensitive areas, and mapping airflow direction and speed in your facility can determine whether your ventilation systems promote healthy indoor environmental conditions. This can be a complicated process.  If Emilcott can be of any assistance, reach out to info@emilcott.com.


Summertime IAQ Checklist

June is National Safety Month! For 25 years, the National Safety Council (NSC) has been celebrating National Safety Month as an annual reminder to “keep each other safe from the workplace to anyplace.”

The topic for this week is: Address Ongoing COVID-19 Safety Concerns.

Public spaces are preparing their returns to normal operation as we finally turn the corner on this pandemic. After a year of reduced capacities and heightened awareness of air quality in closed spaces, property managers need to make sure their air handling maintenance is ready.

Using our 30 years of experience with indoor air quality, Emilcott has compiled a checklist to help you verify that your building’s air quality is in peak shape for summer openings.


When is EHS Online Training Not Enough? A Conversation with Bruce Groves, CIH and former OSHA Officer

Proponents of online training argue that it is cheaper and easier to implement in a world of busy schedules than classroom training. Why WOULDN’T you opt for online safety training?

Many people feel safety is nothing more than common sense. My experience has been that it is much more than common sense. You really have to learn how to identify hazards and how to protect yourself.

Safety training requires individual engagement, and it is most successful when there is good group interaction. For example, effective safety programs are a series of problem-solving scenarios. When you have a group of employees trained as a group, this gives everyone an opportunity to interact and solve problems not as a class full of individuals but as a team. Safety often requires a group of people to figure out how to respond to an emergency where you have to not only solve the emergency you are facing, but you have to make sure everyone is protected during the process. There is no cookie-cutter approach. You are essentially helping people practice good communication and teamwork in addition to using their experience and training in order to have the best outcomes.

For example, something as small as a fuel spill could create a hazard for fire in an environment, as well as a toxicity issue. To understand how to control the spill and reduce the hazards, someone has to exercise good judgment and decision-making quickly. Having rehearsed this in a group setting is preferable to individual learning.

What about online training over some of the newer platforms like Zoom where there can be interaction rather than just playing a video?

I think this type of online training can work in certain circumstances. Especially as we have seen technology like Zoom and Webinars being adopted by employers, instructor-led training over an interactive platform can be very effective. However, you do want to make sure your trainer places a limit on the amount of attendees so that the instructor can go through the curriculum, have sufficient Q&A, facilitate discussions and even breakout rooms, and especially lead problem-solving scenarios.

What I do not think is sufficient is the pre-recorded online training, or what is often referred to as “asynchronous” or on-demand training.

If online training isn’t sufficient, why hasn’t OSHA disallowed it?

There is a conflict between OSHA requirements that call for a set amount of time for training, whether it is online or classroom. OSHA requires many classes like the 40-hour training, the 30-hour training, and the 8-hour refresher. It was originally designed for a training course that had a maximum amount of hands-on demonstration, group exercise, problem solving… which was regularly scheduled into classroom training. These requirements weren’t necessarily developed with the technology options in mind that exist today.

Unfortunately, the push to substitute online training for classroom training still requires the person to sit in front of a computer for a specified amount of time. Even if you can complete a module in seven minutes, you still have to sit and wait until the next module starts. This is not only less engaging but also misses out on the opportunity for group discussion and scenario practice.

Are there any types of training where you would consider online training effective?

Certain administrative aspects of safety, such as hazard communications, can be taught effectively online. We have also seen where blended training works well. Here the classroom portion of many training courses like forklift training, electrical safety, and fire protection can be taught online as long as they are supplemented by hands-on, face-to-face training in order to determine competence.

Blended training works with online training. Unfortunately, many people just use online training without any sort of practical aspect, which is where safety training falls short.

What happens if an employer does not provide sufficient health and safety training?

OSHA clearly requires training at many levels. It is the employer’s responsibility to determine what training is required for each employee depending on their job responsibilities. They also must determine the competence expected from that training. Most importantly, the employer must determine the employee successfully passed the course and shows competence in doing their job.

The lack of training or inadequate training could receive a citation from OSHA. Depending upon the standard, the fines can range from up to $7,000 for serious citations to $70K for willful citations (doublecheck.) Serious citations are violations that could lead to serious injury or death (e.g., electrocution, falling, exposure to toxic chemicals or viruses). A willful violation is typically a serious citation where the employer knew there was a training requirement and wantonly disregarded the step to train their employee.

Have you ever responded to an emergency that was caused because people weren’t trained correctly?

Yes. I was called in to negotiate with OSHA on behalf of a client that was being investigated for a fatality at a job site. Workers at this facility had to clean large diesel fuel tanks. They had to enter these tanks, and they were used to having diesel fuel in these tanks. In this one case, someone had placed chemicals instead of the diesel fuel in the tank. Unfortunately, there were no standard procedures that were followed and employees had not received ample training to prepare them to enter a tank.

A person entered the tank with chemicals and immediately fell to the bottom of the tank and died. The company had not conducted an adequate hazard assessment, nor did the worker have the appropriate PPE. There were no instruments to measure air quality, and there was no way to rescue the guy when he went down.

Ultimately, we developed standards, protocols, and training to rectify this situation, but not before it cost a life. With the appropriate training, the individual might have been spared.

Bruce Groves is the CEO of Emilcott Associates, an environmental health and safety consulting firm with offices throughout the east coast.

Please reach out to info@emilcott.com if you need assistance developing and implementing proper safety training programs.


Interview with Nupur Patel: Noise Monitoring

What is noise monitoring?

A facility that generates a lot of noise can be harmful to the workers if they are exposed to the noise. At Emilcott, we are often called in to measure and monitor this noise to make sure it doesn’t exceed certain thresholds that could be harmful to workers. We use a sound level meter that measures sound levels in work areas, which allows us to map sound levels across a facility’s floor plan. We’ll also equip individual employees with dosimeters (used to measure noise exposure over a period of time – often 8 hours), and measure their personal exposure as they go about their day-to-day activities. This allows us to see exactly how much noise they exposed to under normal circumstances.

Why is it important to measure noise?

Over time, exposure to loud noises can cause irreversible damage to ones hearing. There are short-term and long-term effects when it comes to excessive noise exposure.

How long before effects take place?

Noise is interesting. For example, when we monitor airborne hazards (for example, chemical exposure), there are standard limits and amounts of time that people can safely be exposed. However, exposure to very high decibels (if you hear something really loud) can have an immediate effect on your hearing. It doesn’t necessarily have to be over a certain period of time.

Does this impact only workers, or are those in the area also affected?

We do noise monitoring mainly for the workers within the facility (OSHA only regulates worker safety), but noise does travel. Still, there is a drastic difference between a loud noise within the building, compared to when you’re across the street.

Does every site need noise monitoring or are you called in for specific noise issues?

If a facility has a reason to be concerned about noise exposure, then Emilcott is called in for a site walk-down. From this qualitative assessment, we are able to identify if they need some sort of monitoring.

Are some facilities noisier than others?

Noise exposure can occur on a variety of sites. We see the majority of noise surveys and noise dosimetry in manufacturing facilities, but construction sites have many sources for noise exposure as well.


The Importance of a Quality Fit Testing Program

One of the simplest things managers can do to prepare employees for success in a hazardous environment is to provide access to the proper personal protective equipment (PPE).   Selecting the right equipment is essential, and knowing how to put on and take off (‘don’ and ‘doff’) that equipment is critical for the health and safety of the staff.

A good fit testing program follows OSHA standard and guidelines. Due to the fact that fit testing can be life-saving, there are strict rules in place that should be followed when teaching the proper “donning and doffing” technique. Here are some questions we thought might help you prepare your staff for this critical training.

What exactly is “fit testing”?

Fit Testing is the test of the actual skin to mask fit to make sure no particles or contaminants are getting through your respirator. The goal is to make it air-tight so you are breathing clean air.

Is it a one-time test?

No. Individuals need to be tested annually. Interestingly, facial features are constantly changing. Therefore, the mask that fit you a year ago might not be the right fit this year. This is why when fit testing occurs, you are not allowed to have any facial hair. Other features like scars, plastic surgery, dentures, and certain oral surgeries are reasons to fit test again.

How does the process work?

There are seven steps when it comes to fit testing, each of which takes about seven minutes to do. There is a sensitivity test, exercises, and the rainbow passage you must read after every yearly test. The rainbow passage is a passage used by OSHA that goes through all the movements and motions of your mouth. It is essentially a speech pathology passage. Exercises include jogging in place, bending over, and moving your head side to side and up and down.

How do I choose a fit test company?

Fit Testing, while simple, is not something that should be shortchanged. Whoever is providing the testing protocol should plan on spending at least 15-30 minutes per person.  They should also provide proof that they follow the steps outlined in OSHA guidelines.  Having fit testers that also use the equipment themselves is also a good practice since they have personal experience using this equipment.

Are there different types of Fit Tests?

Yes. There are two types of fit tests: quantitative and qualitative. Qualitative fit testing relies on your sense of taste and smell. Qualitative tests do not measure the amount of the irritant sprayed, it only tests whether or not your mask is protecting you from leakage. Quantitative tests are normally used for half-mask respirators. They only cover your nose and mouth. During this test, a machine is used to measure the amount, if any, of leakage into the mask.

What if my staff is too busy to leave our location to receive their fit testing?

Emilcott can arrange to come onsite to fit test for larger numbers of employees. We even have a bus that can provide fit testing to employees in the field.

How do I sign up?

You can call and make an appointment with us at 973-538-1110 or contact us at info@emilcott.com with a question.


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