December 2000

EDITORIAL: The New OSHA Ergonomic Program Standard

    The new ergonomic standard is effective on Jan. 16, 2001.  There are numerous lawsuits currently filed against the Occupational Safety and Health Administration regarding this standard.  Some of the suits allege that the standard has gone to far, and that it will bankrupt some businesses and industries.  Others, mostly from the labor fields will state that is has not gone far enough.

    WHAT IT IS ALL ABOUT:  "Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSD's) result when there is a mismatch between the physical capacity of workers and the physical capacity of workers in the U.S. report work related MSD such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis and back injuries.  Of these, approximately 600,000 are serious enough to result in workers having to take time off work to recover."


    *  In general, all general industry employers are covered by the standard.  However, the standard does not apply to employers covered by OSHA's construction, maritime or agricultural standards of railroads.
    *  4.6 million MSDs are reported to be prevented in the first ten years after implementation.
    * 102 million workers at 6.1 million worksites are estimated to be protected.
    * A reported $9.1 billion average savings annually is estimated.
    * It is reported that $27,700 savings in direct costs for each MSD prevented.
    * OSHA estimates that it will cost employers $4.5 billion annually, and that fixing an individual work station will average $250.00 per year.

    The standard requires employers to inform workers about common MSDs, MSD signs and symptoms and the importance of early reporting.  When a worker reports signs of symptoms of an MSD, the employer must determine whether the injury meets the definition of an MSD incident--a work related MSD that requires medical treatment beyond first aid, assignment to a light duty job or temporary removal from work to recover or work related MSD signs or MSD symptoms that last for seven or more consecutive days.

    Regardless of the time frames for implementation and the law suits pending against the standard, properly designed ergonomic work stations and sound ergonomic practices are just good business.  In work station design, it is just common sense to know that one size does not fit all because no two employees are the same in height, weight, stature, age and numerous other factors.  The chair that properly accommodates a 4'9", 105 lb. female, will not be appropriate for a chair that would accommodate a 6'2", 275 lb. male.  In addition to physical differences, there are of course American Disibilities Act (ADA considerations) which require specific accommodation based upon physical requirements.

    There are numerous additional factors within the standard that are yet to become clear as an implementation process begins.  This is one of those areas of safety and health where proactive management will definitely pay dividends, and reactive management of ergonomic problems will only create increased cost in both worker compensation and in liability.

The scoop about shoveling

While shoveling snow can be good exercise, it can also be deadly for optimistic shovelers who take on more than they can handle.  The safety and Health Council of Greater Omaha offers the following suggestions to make shoveling safer and more enjoyable this winter:

  • Individuals 40 years of age and older should be careful, especially those who are relatively inactive.
  • If you have a history of heart trouble, do not shovel without a doctor's permission.
  • Take it slow! Shoveling can raise your heart rate and blood pressure dramatically.  Be sure to stretch out and warm up before you start.
  • Shovel only fresh snow since it is easier to shovel than the wet, packed-down variety.
  • Push the snow as you shovel.  It is better for your back than lifting the snow out of the way.
  • Don't pick up too much at once. Use a small shovel, or fill only one-fourth to one-half of a large one.
  • Lift with your legs bent and your back straight. By bending and "sitting" into the movement, you'll place less stress on your spine. Let your shoulder, torso and thighs do the work for you.
  • Do not work to the point of exhaustion.  If you run out of breath, take a break.  If you feel tightness in your chest, stop immediately.
  • Dress warmly.  Remember that extremities, such as the nose, ears, hands, and feet, need extra attention during winter's cold.  Be sure to wear head and face protection, mittens, wool socks and waterproof boots.

excerpt from "Safety and Health Council of Greater Omaha"

Preparing for Winter

Driving in the winter means snow, sleet, and ice that can lead to slower traffic, hazardous road conditions, hot tempers and unforeseen dangers.  To help you make it safely through winter, the Safety and Health Council of Greater Omaha suggests driving defensively and being prepared for an emergency.

An emergency situation on the road can arise at any time, and you must be prepared.  Before the winter season begins, have your car tuned up and have your battery and voltage regulator checked, be sure to switch to a winter-weight oil if you're not already using an all-season oil, and put the following items in your trunk:

  • Snow shovel
  • Ice scraper and snow brush
  • Jumper cables
  • A properly inflated spare tire, wheel wrench and jack
  • Sand, cat litter or another abrasive material for traction
  • Tow chain or strap
  • Flashlight with fresh batteries
  • Flares or reflective triangles
  • Candles or matches
  • Sleeping bags or blankets
  • High-energy foods such as dried fruit and nuts

The driver is the most important component of the car.  Here are some points to remember while driving:


  • Listen to the weather report before going on the road.
  • Bridges and overpasses can be slippery.  Drive carefully over these areas.
  • When driving in heavy snow, turn your wheels from side to side to push snow out of the way.  Remember, starting up on snow and icy roads calls for a gentle touch.  Taking it easy on the gas pedal will help provide the traction needed to get moving on slippery surfaces.
  • If you get stuck, don't spin your wheels.  You will only dig deeper in the snow.
  • Gentle rocking might help get your car loose; however, to avoid transmission damage, check your owner's manual for its recommended procedure.
  • Driving slowly and avoiding abrupt changes in speed or direction will help you move safely on slippery surfaces.
  • Ice is twice as slippery at 30 degrees as it is at 0 degrees.  If you hit an icy spot and start to slide, don't hit the brakes.  Take your foot off the gas and turn your wheels in the direction you want to go.
  • Always leave extra room between you and the car in front of you.
  • Slow down gradually.
  • If you must brake, and don't have anti-lock brakes, pump the brakes by depressing and releasing the pedal a few times.  Do not allow the brakes to  lock up because that will cause you to lose steering control.
  • Don't drive when you are tired.
  • Don't drink and drive.  If you have too much to drink, ask a non-drinking friend to drive.

How you take care of yourself, how you prepare, and how you react can mean the difference between slip-sliding and walking away.

excerpted from "Safety Council of Greater  Omaha"

Phthalate risks

    Most phthalates are used as softeners to make rigid materials flexible.  A new phthalate review commissioned by the National Toxicology Program's Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction (CERHR).   The study focused on compounds which might cause birth defects or reproductive abnormalities.  The panel expressed serious concern regarding di(2-ethylhyxyl) phthalate (DEHP) one of the most widely used phthalates.  Exposure to DEHP in the womb or from chewing on vinyl toys or objects during early childhood has the potential to disrupt boys' reproductive development.

    In girls, premature breast development is seen.  This is particularly prevalent in Puerto Rico, with an incidence of at least 7 or 8/1000 girls.   A study reported in the September issue of "Environmental Health Perspectives", states that the affected girls begin developing breasts at ages from 6 to 24 months.  Carlos J. Bourdony, a pediatric endocrinologist at San Jaun City Hospital, link the problem to phthalates which are ubiquitous pollutants, used in the manufacture of , e.g., plastics, lubricants and solvents.  Although the data does not prove phthalates to be the culprit, the study offers the strongest potential explanation.  An estimated billion pounds of phthalates are manufactured annually.  ---(Chemical Health and Safety; Nov/Dec 2000)

Cops, Kids, and Child Safety Seats

"Why am I putting myself through four days of training for child safety seats?" "How in the world could this take four days?"  As police officers, we asked ourselves these and other questions when we ventured off to become safety seat technicians.

What makes a ticket-writing, report-taking, bad guy-chasing cop want to be a child seat technician?  Believe it or not, cops are people too.  We are parents (some are even grandparents!) We all have a love for kids and really, really hate to see a little person hurt.

We have all been a part of too many car crashes where we had to pull the broken bodies of little kids out of these crashes.  This hurts us! So to be proactive in this area, we have decided to take on the task of protecting these kids when they are passengers.  We figured, this is one way that maybe we might just save the life of a child.  After all, our job is "to protect and serve."  And that certainly includes the children.  As of September, the Bellevue Police Department Community Policing Unit has five officers who are Nationally Certified Technicians.  The Patrol Division of the Police Department has three Certified  Technicians for a department total of eight.  We are proud of this accomplishment.  For these eight officers, there is now a chance to HELP.  That's why we got into this buisness in the first place!

I must stress that we WILL write tickets for violations of the State's Child Safety Seat law.  That, too, is our job.  We have no tolerance for deadbeat parents who fail to properly buckle up their kids.  However, we look forward to meeting the parents who care enough to attend a Child Safety Seat Check-Up and educating these parents while helping make their children safe passengers safe.  ~Captain Herb Evers;  Bellevue Police Dept.

New Year's Safety Resolution

Most of us start the New Year with great hopes and anticipation for the upcoming year.  I for one, am infamous for having my New Year's resolutions last approximately four to six weeks and I am sure not the only one in this category.   But, have you thought about making a resolution to work and play safer in the year 2001?

Many people do not consider the impact of a disabling injury.  How would your family and friends be affected?  How would your quality of life change?
It can quickly become apparent that the independence most of us take for granted can come to a skidding halt in a matter of moments.  Most of our homes are not equipped for handicapped access. Even if the handicap is due to a temporary medical problem, getting a drink of water can become a huge obstacle.

Most of us are in a hurry to get to work, get home, get the yard work done, and probably pride ourselves on being handy in the home, but do we take the time to slow down and do it safely.  How many times do you make that quick trip to the grocery store (just a few blocks away) without a seat belt  or use the weed eater without any eye protection?

In the New Year, remember this one thing... your actions do affect other people! A disabling injury affects not only you, but every life that you touch. So take care and be safe in 2001.

New Fire Safety Specialist

We are pleased to announce the addition of  Bill Worthing  to the EH&S staff  as the new Fire Safety Specialist. Bill is no stranger to the campus community.  He has been a Public Safety Officer for the past three years.  Amongst the long list of duties that Bill will be assigned include:  Live Fire Extinguisher training; review of all fire alarm and sprinkler systems; coordination with the Omaha Fire Department and contractors; physical review and audit of all Creighton facilities (both on and off campus); and  coordination of fire drills.