Space Heaters: January 2023 Safety & Hygiene Corner

Q: Can our employees use space heaters at work?

A: It depends! Space heaters, AKA portable electric heaters, although not ideal, are often found in the work environments.  Some employers prohibit them, but if you decide to allow, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Your local fire department may prohibit them, so check with your local Fire Marshall first
  2. They must be  approved by a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory  like UL or FM.

OSHA’s Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL) Program – Current List of NRTLs | Occupational Safety and Health Administration

  • They must be listed and labeled for commercial or industrial use (not listed for household use)
  • They should be located so that they cannot be easily overturned
  • If they tip over, they should automatically shut off
  • Because of the amount of electric current drawn by space heaters, they MUST be used only where they can be plugged directly into outlets – NO EXTENSION CORDS OR POWERSTRIPS
  • Must be 3 feet or more away from all combustibles
  • The room must be occupied, turn them off when they leave
  • They should be inspected frequently.  Check the outlet, check the plug and the heater itself.

That’s a lot of requirements, but if you allow them all must occur.  The NFPA has a lot of resources and fact sheets Safety with heating equipment | NFPA and don’t be afraid to call your local fire department or your State Fire Marshal.

It’s a good idea to share this information with your employees because it pertains to home usage as well.  Check out the https://dfs.dps.mo.gov/safetytips/space-heater-safety.php

Stay Warm and Safe!

*Brought to you by the Ohio BWC safety consultants.

GFCI Importance: November 2022 Safety & Hygiene Corner

Question: What is the importance of ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) and where should they be located in my workplace?

Answer:

Ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) are important because they are used to protect people from electrical shock hazards caused by malfunctioning electrical appliances. For example, if a person is using a defective electrical appliance and also touching a wet surface or very conductive surface, the person could become part of the grounding pathway for the fault current. The GFCI would detect this current imbalance and disconnect electricity within 20-30 milliseconds before the dangerous electrical current could pass through the person’s body which could cause serious electrical shock or death.

Depending on the workplace and work being done, GFCIs could be required/needed in several areas. According to OSHA 29 CFR 1910.304(b)(3)(i): All 125-volt, single-phase, 15- and 20-ampere receptacles installed in bathrooms or on rooftops shall have ground-fault circuit-interrupter protection for personnel.

Other areas where GFCI protection should be located in your workplace include: kitchens, outdoor areas, within 6 feet of water sources (sinks, showers, etc.), laundry areas, locker rooms, garages, service bays and any other areas exposed to moisture. Vending machines require GCFI protection regardless of being hard wired, plug and cord connected, voltage current or frequency rating. Additionally, temporary wiring installations (including extension cords) used by personnel doing construction-like activities require GFCI’s protection.

Per equipment instructions these devices should be tested monthly. You can document with logs or procedures, that GFCIs are tested monthly and promptly replace those found defective.

If you need assistance with determining where GFCI protection is needed in your facility, contact your assigned BWC safety consultant.

*Provided by the Ohio BWC safety consultants.

Hand Tool Ergonomics: September 2022 Safety & Hygiene Corner

Question: What are the major ergonomic design considerations for hand tools?

Weight of the tool – Ideally, a worker should be able to comfortably operate a tool without experiencing fatigue or discomfort. The tool’s center of gravity should be aligned with the center of the gripping hand. In other words, tools should feel “easy” to hold in the position it will be used. Use a counterbalance to support a tool that is above recommended weight limits or awkward to use.

Handles – With the exception of tools for precision work, the handles and grips of hand tools should be designed for a power grip.

Handle shape – Select tools that allow you to keep the wrist straight or in a neutral position when using it.

Handle diameter – Handle diameter recommendations vary. In general, cylindrical handles at 1.5 inches offer a better power grip, with a range from 1.25 to 2 inches. For precision grips, a diameter of 0.45 inches is recommended, with a range of 0.3 to 0.6 inches.

Handle length – A handle that is too short can cause unnecessary compression in the middle of the palm. It should extend across the entire breadth of the palm. Handles around 5 inches are generally recommended. Keep in mind that the use of gloves requires longer tool handles.

Separation between handles – Tools such as pliers or tongs are equipped with two handles. The recommended distance separating the handles is between 2.5 to 3.5 inches. Tools with larger or smaller spans will reduce one’s maximum grip strength.

Materials and texture of handles – To ensure a good grip on a handle, sufficient friction must exist between the hand and the handle. Hand tools should be made of non-slip, non-conductive and compressible materials.

Always conduct a risk assessment before making any change. If you would like additional resources or to request ergonomic assistance, please contact your local BWC Ergonomist or request their services on-line at Request a consultation | Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (ohio.gov).

Brought to you by the Ohio BWC safety consultants.

Keyboard Ergonomics: July 2022 Safety & Hygiene Corner

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Q: Is there a recommended way of typing or using my keyboard to prevent sore wrists?

A: Yes.  Keep your wrists straight and use a soft wrist rest or keep your wrist from leaning or resting on a hard surface.  Avoid bending wrist when using keyboard.   The goal is to keep neutral posture, arms should be parallel, not resting on anything.

Also, consider frequent rest breaks and stretches to prevent aches and pains.

Others tips for avoiding injury include, maintain proper posture, set up your workstation correctly, pay attention to the position of your hands, monitor your technique.

The BWC has ergonomists that can come to your facility or consult with you virtually to help you though issues like these or other workstation set up concerns.  Please contact your safety council liaison to get you connected.

*Brought to you by the Ohio BWC safety consultants.