Archive for February, 2011

Heating Water at the Office: Do You Know Your Microwave?

Posted by proforma on February 25, 2011  |  No Comments

waterCan simply heating a cup of water in a microwave pose a hazard? Yes, when the water becomes superheated and boiling bubbles can’t form. Superheated water can “explode” due to the buildup of energy when the cup is moved, or a spoon of sugar, coffee, or other substance is poured in. Here are the facts:

Water can overheat above the boiling point when it cannot release thermal heat through the gas bubbles that would cool it. (How Everything Works) The situation becomes worse if the water is in a clean cup or glass container, because boiling can be hindered by the lack of “nucleation sites” to form the bubbles. (Richard Barton, New Scientist). Adding a soluble powder to the water can produce an explosion of steam bubbles.

The simple solution is to put something in the water such as a stirrer, a wooden spoon, or a tea bag. Don’t use water that has been already heated or sat out overnight. And avoid excessive time heating water in the microwave. Learn how long it takes to boil a liquid in your microwave, and don’t heat it to that point. Sounds simple enough, but we use microwaves in offices and public areas where we are not familiar with the heating capacity of the unit and may not have access to the manufacturer’s user manual. But even reading the manual may not help (“do not overheat liquids”).

Taking time to explain the potential for danger — and posting the recommended settings for heating water near your office microwave — can avoid unpleasant surprises. For additional information, see the FDA’s consumer advisory on microwaves.

Which Regulations Help Or Hinder?

Posted by proforma on February 3, 2011  |  No Comments

Do you have an opinion about government regulations hindering job growth? House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa wants to hear from you, and has launched this website where you can submit your thoughts.

Don’t Trust Your Nose to Detect Propane

Posted by proforma on February 2, 2011  |  No Comments

Count yourself lucky if you smell mercaptan. Unfortunately, not everyone can. Even worse, sometimes the mercaptan odor fades when it reacts chemically or is absorbed by other materials. Mercaptan can react with the material of the tank, with rust or water. “Odor fade” also can occur when a propane tank is new, partially filled, or is not in continuous use. And it can occur when propane is in proximity to masonry. Odor fade was attributed as the cause of a fatal explosion last year at a condominium project in Massachusetts.

While odor fade has been known in the industry for several decades, it is still not generally known among the general public, so it’s helpful to inform employees and their families of the dangers associated with propane use and proper use and maintenance of tanks. In spite of the cold weather, consumers continue to pursue outdoor gas grilling, and the use of patio heaters and fire pits are becoming increasingly popular. According to this report by the U.S. Fire Administration, gas grills are involved in four times as many outdoor fires as structure fires. The leading ignition factor is a result of some mechanical failure, such as a part failure, leak, or break and lack of maintenance (43%). And you might not even smell it until it’s too late.

There is lots of good information available on this page published by the National Propane Association, and a fun site to teach children safety around propane at http://www.propanekids.com/.  Science author and teacher Steve Spangler offers practical guidance for leak testing and cylinder storage here.

Lack of Barriers, Incautious Behaviors, Result in Fatality

Posted by proforma on February 2, 2011  |  No Comments

An accidental slip and contact with the sand-line drum clutch lever triggered a sequence of actions that resulted in the death of a rig crewman.

Without any barriers to prevent falling into the sand-line drum area, workers standing on the live equipment were exposed to any potential hazard — which occurred when the rig operator accidently hit the clutch lever. The drum revolved several turns, trapping the rig crewman.

Click here to read about the causes and corrective actions taken to prevent such a tragedy from happening in the future.

Filed Under: Workplace Safety

Businesses Concerned About OSHA’s Proposal for Musculoskeletal Disorder Reporting Requirement

Posted by proforma on February 2, 2011  |  No Comments

HSE professionals are watching for further developments in possible reporting requirements on musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) related to workplace injury or illness. OSHA proposes to require employers to disclose in federal surveys whether a worker’s injury is musculoskeletal in nature.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce (see history on this issue) says this move indicates interest of the Obama administration to adopt sweeping regulation of ergonomic safety. According to Marc Freedman, director of labor law policy for the Chamber, their concerns center on how OSHA will define MSD and whether the injuries actually occurred in the workplace.

On January 25, OSHA announced it was temporarily withdrawing its proposal that a column be added to employer injury and illness logs to record work-related musculoskeletal disorders, citing the need for active dialogue between the agency and the small business community.”

Be Aware of Factors that Contribute to Hearing Loss

Posted by proforma on February 1, 2011  |  No Comments

People often accept hearing loss as an unwelcome development as they age, but few are aware of the many health conditions that can contribute to hearing loss, or the ways in which they can minimize it.

For example, a recent study appears to indicate a link between heart disease and hearing loss. Interesting to note is a finding that those who exercise saw a 32% reduction in risk for suffering a hearing loss. And this study showed diabetics are twice as likely to develop hearing loss. Cholesteral, blood type, chemotherapy and even tooth decay have demonstrated links to hearing loss. On a positive note, B-vitamin has been linked to preventing it.

If you’re interested in learning more about the various contributing factors, go here. And there’s also an online hearing test offered by the Better Hearing Institute that can give you feedback on how serious your hearing condition may be.

OSHA Hazard Communication Standard

Posted by proforma on February 1, 2011  |  No Comments

OSHA has slated final action for its  Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) in August 2011. For details, go to  http://www.dol.gov/osha/regs/unifiedagenda/fall2010/1218-AC20.htm. OSHA intends to conform the existing HCS with the United Nations’ (UN) Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS).