Explore topics on occupational safety and how to ensure you're taking all the necessary steps to stay safe.
Chemicals & Contaminants
Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous mineral that is an almost indestructible. Asbestos containing materials (ACM) may be found in many different products and many different places. Examples of products that might contain asbestos are:
- sprayed-on fire proofing and insulation
- insulation for pipes and boilers
- wall and ceiling insulation
- ceiling tiles
- floor tile
Asbestos materials present a potential hazard only if the material can be easily broken up by hand (called friability) and becomes airborne. Non-friable ACM that is in good condition is not a hazard and can be safely managed in buildings.
Breathing high levels of asbestos fibers can lead to an increased risk of:
- lung cancer.
- mesothelioma, a cancer of the chest lining and the abdominal cavity.
- asbestosis, in which the lungs become scarred with fibrous tissue.
Probably everyone has breathed asbestos fibers. It is rare, however, for people exposed to small amounts of asbestos to develop these health problems.
While the newer DU buildings do not contain ACM, some older buildings may contain ACM. Wherever identified ACM is found to be in poor condition or where building renovation is planned, ACM is removed using regulated methods to protect building occupants.
If you see damaged or deteriorated materials, such as floor or ceiling tiles or pipe insulation that may be asbestos avoid contact with the material. Notify the EH&S Director at 303-871-7501 so that the material's asbestos content can be determined.
The Environmental Health and Safety Department should be notified prior to any projects requiring abatement.
Lead is a very toxic material that can enter the body by inhalation (breathing) or ingestion (eating). Lead exposure is perhaps the oldest known occupational health hazard. Long-term exposures can cause disorders such as headaches, poor appetite, dizziness, and muscle weakness. It has the potential to cause irreversible health effects to the nervous system and the reproductive system. Children are at the greatest risk to lead poisoning due to their rapid development of the neurological system.
Just about the only workplace source for lead is in lead–based paint (LBP). The good news is that almost all of the paint used in the industry now is lead-free paint. If LBP is present it does not become a hazard unless the paint material is eaten or the material becomes airborne whereby it could be inhaled. Lead exposures by ingestion have often occurred among workers, such as blasters and painters who inadvertently ingested lead while eating or smoking without first washing their contaminated hands. A lead inhalation hazard occurs if lead dust is created by mechanical means such as sanding or sandblasting. Remember, if your work area contains paint that has lead in it, it is not a hazard if the material is not disturbed.
Using Chemicals & Your Right to Know
Over 30 million American workers are exposed to hazardous chemicals in their workplace. Chemicals can be dangerous, particularly if they are not used properly. Even seemingly non-hazardous chemicals such as cleaning agents can be harmful if high enough concentrations are inhaled. Some chemicals also can cause adverse health effects if absorbed into the skin. Anybody using chemicals in their work should be thoroughly trained on the associated hazards of the chemical and on its proper use.
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has mandated that employees have a right to know of the associated health and safety hazards of chemicals being used at work and that employers implement appropriate measures to protect the worker. Through the Hazard Communication Standard, 29 CFR 1910.1200, OSHA requires (1) the employer to train its employees and (2) manufacturers to evaluate the hazards of chemicals that they produce or import. Additionally, the manufacturer must convey hazard information to its customers by way of labeling and a Safety Data Sheet (SDS). The SDS provides for the user detailed information that includes:
- the properties of the chemical
- the associated hazards
- methods for safe use
- recommended personal protective equipment (PPE)
- emergency protocols
- disposal consideration
Remember while you have a right to know about the hazards of chemicals in your work area you have an obligation to make sure you fully understand such hazards. Prior to working with a chemical, you should be very familiar with its hazards. Make sure you read the container label and the SDS very carefully. Your health and safety as a University of Denver employee is our top priority. If you feel unsafe or even uncomfortable about working with a chemical, you are encouraged to stop work to discuss your concerns with either your supervisor or the EH&S Manager.
All of us use electricity every day, but the risk of an electrical shock is reduced because of the safety measures in place such as insulated wiring, guarding, grounding and electrical protective devices, which include fuses, circuit breakers and ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI). Electrical protective devices are designed to stop current flow when a circuit is overloaded or in the case of the GFCI, when a loss of current occurs. A GFCI, which is specifically designed to protect people from severe or fatal shocks, will switch off power to that circuit if the electrical current escapes from the appliance to the individual.
For most workers, there is very little risk associated with electricity. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that all employees who are at risk of electrical shocks must be trained in electrical safety practices. Additionally, OSHA defines Qualified Workers as persons permitted to work around energized electrical parts. These people are required to have special training determined by the nature of their responsibilities.
What are the causes of electrical accidents? There are basically three factors that contribute to an accident or injury in working with electricity:
- unsafe equipment and/or installation
- unsafe workplaces caused by environmental factors
- unsafe work practices
Listed below are some basic rules to follow regarding electricity:
- Only authorized, qualified electricians shall install, service or repair electrical equipment or wiring.
- All electrical equipment, including wiring, must be tested and approved by a recognized testing laboratory, e.g., Underwriters Laboratory (UL).
- Use power tools and appliances that are free of cracks, fraying, and insulation damage.
- Use only electrical equipment that has grounded three-pronged plugs.
- Stay at least 10 feet away from overhead power lines.
- Use non-conducting or insulated tools and equipment when working near electricity.
- Do not touch electrical tools, equipment, or cords that are wet, or with wet hands.
- Use only outdoor receptacles that have a weatherproof cap installed.
- A Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) must be used whenever work is outdoors, in damp areas, or located within 6 feet of a water source.
- Do not run cords through puddles of standing liquids, such as water or oils.
- Electrical panels must have a minimum of three feet of clearance. Circuit breakers must have a current legend identifying each breaker switch’s area of control and have no exposed wiring.
- Extension cords must always be used in accordance with manufacturer’s guidance and applicable codes. Specifically, the use of extension cords as permanent wiring is prohibited.
Hazardous energy is any electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, chemical, thermal or other energy source that could cause injury to personnel. If any work will be performed on systems that contain these energy sources, steps must be implemented that ensure the energy is isolated and secured before work continues.
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has implemented an extensive Standard called Control of Hazardous Energy, also referred to as the Lockout Tagout or LOTO Standard. In summary, the Standard mandates the following:
- identification of systems or equipment in which lockout/tagout procedures are required
- personnel training for persons affected by the LOTO and persons authorized to perform LOTO
- annual audit inspections performed by the EH&S Manager to review and verify procedures are in place
- a written program establishing the procedures to be followed for control of hazardous energy.
The following specific steps must be performed when work will be performed on hazardous energy:
- notification to all affected employees that work will be performed on certain equipment
- shutting the machinery or equipment down
- isolation or disconnection of the machinery or equipment
- release of the energy from the equipment by methods such as grounding, repositioning, blocking, bleeding down, etc.
- lock out the equipment with individual locks to physically secure the equipment
- testing the equipment to make certain the equipment will not operate
- performance of the work
- removal of the lockout devices and restore energy system.
It is imperative that lockout/tagout procedures be in place whenever hazardous energy systems are serviced. In accordance with OSHA, the university has implemented an Energy Control Program that provides for the necessary control of hazardous energy. Please contact your supervisor or the EH&S Manager, at 303-871-7501, if you have any questions about work on hazardous energy systems.
Oftentimes work is required to be performed in crawlspaces, manholes, tankers, vaults, etc. Confined spaces such as these may contain hazards that can be deadly to the worker and, therefore, require strict procedural requirements to protect the health and safety of the worker. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has established a Pemit-Required Confined Space Standard in 29 CFR 1910.146. The Standard establishes that a permit must be completed for entry into certain confined spaces to establish that the confined space is safe to enter and that the necessary precautions have been implemented prior to entry.
As stated above, certain confined spaces require a permit, meaning that some confined spaces do not require a permit. A distinction must be made between a nonpermit confined space and a permit-required confined space. First, let’s look at OSHA’s definition of a confined space. For a space to be determined to be a confined space, all three of the following must be true:
- It is large enough for bodily entry.
- It has limited or restricted means for entry or exit.
- It is not designed for continuous employee occupancy.
Once a confined space is identified it must be determined if it is a permit-required confined space. A Permit-Required Confined Space is a confined space which:
- has an existing or potential hazardous atmosphere (such as toxic materials or a lack of oxygen) or
- has material that may cause engulfment or
- has walls that may collapse or flooring that may cause entrapment; or
- contain any other recognized serious safety or health hazard.
Remember, a confined space exists if all three above parameters are true. It becomes a permit-required confined space if any one of the above four conditions exists. A Permit-required confined space is basically a confined space that contains hazards. Therefore, once a confined space is identified it must be determined if it is a non-permit confined space or a permit-required confined space.
OSHA requires that all permit-required confined spaces must be posted as such, informing workers that the space requires a permit for entry. OSHA also says that personnel must be trained on confined spaces and the associated hazards. If you need to enter a confined space make sure that:
- the space has been adequately identified
- you have received confined space training
- a permit is properly completed.
If you have any questions about confined spaces contact your supervisor and the EH&S Manager, at 303-871-7501.
Over two workplace fatalities occur each day from a fall from above. Additionally, fall protection was the third most frequently violated Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) Standard in 2005. Most of these falls occurred from a roof, a scaffold or a ladder. The cause of fall accidents can be attributed to many different factors, including having no fall protection or insufficient type of fall protection, inappropriate work activity, i.e. doing work on a ladder when a scaffold should have been used, and just plain carelessness. No matter the primary cause just about every fall accident is preventable.
Any DU personnel who are performing any kind of elevated work above six feet must:
- have fall protection and
- attend training on fall protection including the proper use of fall protection equipment.
Fall protection is a system designed to control fall hazards through the use of:
- a fall arrest system which includes anchorage, a body harness, a lanyard, and a connector whose function is to stop a fall safely
- a fall restraint system which consists of a body belt and lanyard that is designed to physically prevent a worker from worker near the fall hazard
- guardrails which consist of a top rail, 42 inches above the floor, a mid-rail
- safety nets
- warning line systems
- controlled access zones.
In summary, if you are doing elevated work above six feet you need to use adequate fall protection and you must be trained. If you have any questions about Fall Protection, contact the EH&S Manager, at 303-871-7501.
Slips, Trips & Falls
One might not think that slipping, tripping or falling is that serious, especially when you think of comedy routine in which someone takes a plunge.
In reality, Slips, Trips, & Falls (STF’s) are the #1 leading cause of injury. Let’s look at the common causes of each of these and ways to prevent them.
A Slip is a loss of balance caused by too little friction between a person’s foot and a walking surface. Common causes include:
- wet or oily surfaces
- occasional spills
- weather hazards
- loose, unanchored rugs or mats
- flooring or other walking surfaces that are worn.
A Trip is where you hit an object, lose your balance and fall. Common causes include:
- obstructed view
- poor lighting
- clutter in your way
- wrinkled carpeting
- uncovered cables
- drawers not being closed
- uneven (steps, thresholds) walking surfaces
A Fall is when you lose your balance & drop to the floor. There are three types of falls:
- Falls on the same level - Slip or trip immediately precedes fall to floor or walkway
- Falls to lower level - Falls are from platforms, docks, ladders, steps or stairs
- Jumps to lower level - An intentional jump from one level to another or off ladder, dock or equipment.
What can you do to prevent slipping, tripping, or falling?
1. Maintain good housekeeping:
- Clean up spills immediately.
- Mark spills and wet areas.
- Mop or sweep debris from the floor.
- Remove obstacles from walkways.
- Keep walkways free of clutter.
- Secure mats, rugs and carpets.
- Close file cabinet or storage drawers.
- Cover cables that cross walkways.
- Keep working areas and walkways well lit.
- Replace burned-out bulbs.
2. Maintain the quality of walking surfaces (flooring). This can be achieved by changing or modifying walking surfaces by:
- recoating or replacing floors
- installing mats
- using pressure-sensitive abrasive strips
- applying abrasive-filled paint-on coating or metal or synthetic decking.
3. Selection and use of proper footwear, which is dependent upon conditions (i.e. wear safety shoes when applicable safety hazards exist or don’t wear high heels when icy conditions exist).
Here are some general tips to avoid Slipping, Tripping, or Falling:
- Pay attention. Watch where you are walking.
- Take your time (react to a change in traction during icy conditions).
- Adjust stride to the task.
- Wear slip-resistant shoes or overshoes.
- Walk with feet pointed slightly outward.
- Make wide turns at corners.
- Treat walking surfaces.
What do you do if you see a hazard?
- Try to fix it yourself.
- If you can’t fix it, immediately report the hazard to your supervisor, to Facilities Management to initiate a work order, or to the EH&S Manager at 303-871-7501.
- Protect the area, i.e. use barricade tape or safety cones, to keep people from getting hurt.
General Safety Tips
Heat stress is a potentially serious phenomenon that can cause different types of heat illnesses ranging from simple cramping or fatigue to death. The sum total of the external heat from the environment and the internal heat from the body determines your Heat Stress. As the temperatures increase and you start working harder your risk of a heat illness increases.
Living in Colorado, one might think that heat stress is not a concern. It’s true that it’s hotter and much more humid in our southern states. A significant difference, however, is that workers in southern climates are usually acclimatized to hot weather, which means their bodies have the capability to effectively cool themselves. A Colorado worker, who is not used to hot temperatures and therefore not acclimated, may be at a higher risk for heat illness.
The best way to avoid heat stress is to drink plenty of water before you start work, wear light clothing and make sure that you are feeling well enough to work. Some signs that you may be experiencing heat stress, during hot weather work, include fatigue, weakness, nausea, dizziness, headache, red face and skin and disorientation. If you are not feeling good while working in hot weather it is highly recommended that you stop work, find a cool place to rest, and drink cool water. For concerns about heat stress contact the EH&S Manager, at 303-871-7501.
Personal Protective Equipment
Every workday over 1000 people are injured on the job in the United States. These injuries range from relatively minor lacerations or sprains to serious accidents with multiple days off of work to fatalities. The seriousness of an accident may be significantly reduced by the use of personal protective equipment or PPE.
What exactly is PPE? PPE includes various types of equipment that protect the whole body or parts of the body exposed to a hazard. Examples of PPE include hard hats, gloves, safety shoes, safety glasses, earplugs and respirators.
The use of PPE will not reduce the chance of an accident happening. It can, however, reduce the consequences that may result. Consider the use of seatbelts. Statistics show that vehicle accident victims who wore seatbelts fared significantly better than those who did not wear seatbelts. Similarly, consider the work involved in a metal shop where grinding and sanding occur. Those who wear safety glasses will be much safer and are less likely to receive a serious eye injury.
The use of PPE is extremely important. If you are working a hazardous job:
- Identify the hazard. (see JHA above)
- Determine what PPE should be worn. Know its limitations.
- Take care of your PPE. Store it properly.
- Make sure your PPE is not malfunctioning or damaged.
One final note: while some PPE can be uncomfortable, take steps to make sure that your PPE is reasonably comfortable and does not cause additional problems.
Noise is unwanted sound. If the noise is loud, it can be damaging to your ears. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has established a Standard called “Occupational Exposure to Noise”. The purpose of the Standard is to preclude occupational exposure to high noise through the identification and control of high noise sources, personnel training, and audiometric testing & evaluation of personnel. The Standard also has established Personal Noise Exposures which are based on two things: (1) the noise level that you hear and (2) the length of time you’re exposed to that noise.
The university, therefore, is required to identify and control high noise sources. After high noise sources are identified it must be determined what a worker’s exposure is. If a worker’s noise exposure exceeds the action level (basically half the exposure) of the Permissible Noise Exposure then the person must be enrolled in the University Hearing Conservation Program.
The Hearing Conservation Program includes the following:
Audiometric testing - Testing, which will be at no cost to the employee, will include a baseline audiogram and subsequent annual audiograms. The baseline audiogram will be used to compare all other audiograms. Personnel must be advised to avoid high noise (occupational or non-occupational) for 14 hours prior to the test (see Appendix D Memorandum).
Employee notification – Notification to employees of their audiometric test results and the results of any personal noise monitoring.
Hearing protection – Protection provided by the applicable department, at no cost to the employee.
Training – Training required for all employees in the Hearing Conservation Program providing the following information:
- the effects of noise on hearing
- the use of hearing protectors including the purpose, advantages, limitations, the attenuation of various types, fitting, and care
- the purpose of audiometric testing.
If you believe you are exposed to high noise please contact the EH&S Manager, at 303-871-7501. If you believe you have a hearing impairment that is due to your work environment you can complete a First Report of Injury and contact the DU Loss Control Manager at extension 12354.
Did you know that …?
- more than one million workers suffer back injuries each year.
- Back injuries account for one of every five workplace injuries or illness.
- one-fourth of all worker compensation paid claims involve back injuries to the lower back.
As you can guess, back injuries are a national workplace safety problem. So, you might ask, how do these injuries occur and how can I protect myself? The answer to the first part of the question is that injuries are basically caused by:
- lifting or moving a load that is too heavy and/or
- lifting or moving a load the wrong way.
The answer to the second part of the question is not always easy. Essentially you should know your capabilities and the approximate weight of the load. You should also know how to properly lift. It may take a co-worker’s help or it may take a mechanical device such as a hand truck.
Prior to doing the work ask yourself the following questions:
- Am I physically & mentally prepared?
- Can I use a mechanical device, such as a hand truck?
- How heavy is the load?
- Is it packed correctly?
- Is it easy to reach to load?
- Should I get help to lift the load?
- Should I make the load smaller?
- Is there a better way?
Follow these tips for a lift:
- Place feet correctly; firmly apart.
- Maintain neutral body posture; squat down bending at the knees.
- Get a firm grip.
- Begin slowly; avoid sudden movement.
- Keep load close to you.
Each year, there are about 18,000 amputations, lacerations, crushing injuries and abrasions associated with machine operations. These incidents involved moving parts of machines or equipment such as saws, presses, fans, pulleys and rotating shafts. When a part of the body contacts these moving parts the result can be horrific and often deadly.
These accidents could have been prevented with proper machine guarding. What exactly is machine guarding? Machine guarding is safeguarding equipment to protect you from moving parts. Safeguarding is done by many ways. Some safeguards include permanent immovable barriers such as screening around fan blades. Another type includes an interlock system that prevents a machine from operating when the guard is open. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says that “Any machine part, function, or process that may cause injury must be safeguarded”.
If you encounter any machine that is not properly guarded, contact your supervisor or the EH&S Manager at 303-871-7501. Things to look for are unguarded fans, openings on fans guards too big, unguarded blades, or unguarded pulleys.