Facility Safety Frequently Asked Questions

Facility Safety Questions and Answers

When it comes to improving safety in a facility, people have all sorts of questions. In many cases the questions are about specific situations related to their own facility. These questions often require very detailed answers and looking at how the laws or regulations apply to a specific situation. For most questions, however, the answers will be the same for all facilities. The following are some of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to improving facility safety (and safety regulations).

Having the answers to these questions in one convenient place is a great resource for facility safety managers, facility owners and even front line employees. Read through the following questions and answers and make sure your facility is always doing the right thing when it comes to safety.

1. Is Labeling and/or Signage Necessary?

A) This is an excellent question, and one that is very important too. The simple answer is yes, having proper labeling and/or signage is necessary for every employment facility. Some types of safety labeling are required by laws or other official regulations, such as identifying where exits can be found or where fire extinguishers are located. Other types of signs and labels are optional when it comes to the law, but are really necessary in order to keep a facility safe.

2. When doing ArcFlash labeling, do we need all the information or do we just need to warn that the presence of an ArcFlash hazard exists?

A) When creating labels for an area where an ArcFlash hazard exists there are two main documents that you need to be aware of. The first is the NFPA 70E standard for electric safety in the workplace, and the second is the NFPA 70 National Electrical Code. Combined, they list the specific requirements, as well as the best practices which facilities should be following when it comes to alerting people to the risk of an ArcFlash.

In order to avoid any legal or regulatory problems, facilities need to have, at a minimum, a label with a general warning that communicates the presence of an arcFlash, and that personal protection equipment is needed to work in the area. While this will allow you to pass most inspections, it is a good idea to have additional labeling and signage in the area. Industry best practices suggest using a second label which includes information about the severity of the hazard, the distances from which the risk can extend, and exact requirements when it comes to personal protection equipment.

3. How Often should we check the Standards?

A) Safety standards can change over time, so it is important to keep up to date with the latest requirements. OSHA and other regulatory organizations typically publish lists of updates or changes that they have recently made so it is faster and easier to keep up to date with changes. Checking for standard updates quarterly is typically enough to ensure you’re following the latest requirements. In addition, following news sites related to facility safety can also give you and your facility plenty of notice when changes are being made.

4. How Big do the Signs Need to Be?

A) This is a commonly asked question by people who are looking to add or update safety signs in the facility. Unfortunately, there is not a one size fits all answer to this question. The size requirements for safety signs will depend on a number of factors including what hazard the sign is warning of, the distance from the hazard people will be, and a number of other things. In addition, safety signs that consist primarily of text may need to be larger so they are easier to read. Those with symbols and other non-text information may be able to be smaller in size.

A good rule of thumb to follow when creating safety signs is to make sure that everyone is able to read the sign from anywhere that a hazard exists. For example, if you’re putting up a sign warning of falling objects, it should be large enough to be seen from anywhere that the risk of falling objects is present. On the other hand, some chemical warning labels can be smaller since they don’t need to be seen from as great a distance.

5. Do we need to do Confined Space Labeling?

A) Technically the answer to this is no, confined space labeling is not strictly required by OSHA or other safety organizations at this time (though this may change in the future). More and more companies, however, are using safety signs and other labeling to alert employees to potential risks associated with working in a specific confined space. In addition, if a company labels one area as a confined working space, they need to label them all in order to ensure nobody mistakenly assumes an area is not dangerously confined.

It is important to note that while safety labeling is not strictly required for confined spaces, companies are required to keep their employees informed of dangers that exist in confined spaces, and where those areas are. While this may not necessarily be done using labels or signs, the information must be clearly provided to the employees in some way.

6. Do we need big, colorful signs or can we save some money and get two color signs?

A) The vast majority of safety signs or labeling can be made with just two colors. In fact, some of the standard signs are designed with this in mind. In many cases, adding additional colors can actually make the sign more confusing and difficult to read, which is why safety organizations often recommend simple signs that consist of just two colors.

For those signs that do require multiple colors, it may be possible to save money by investing in an industrial label maker, which can print in multiple colors for nearly the same price as a two color option from a third party printer. Many companies choose to go this route because it can save them money over time, without sacrificing on the safety of the facility.

7. Is NFPA going Away?  Is it being replaced by GHS?

A) The NFPA, or National Fire Protection Association, is not going away, nor will the standards they recommend (at least not in the near future). The fact is, however, that OSHA and other top agencies are rolling out new a hazard communication program known as the Globally Harmonized System (GHS), which is becoming effective June 1st, 2015. Many people and industries, including the NFPA itself, are concerned that this is the first step toward phasing out the use of the NFPA standards.

At this point, however, there is no plan to eliminate one set of standards in favor of another. Facilities will simply need to follow both standards in the ways they require. For the most part, the standards do not directly overlap, which means that the new GHS system, once implemented, will simply be a way to provide additional information, rather than replacing existing signage.

8. Is it true that only the first shipment of an item/material needs to contain an MSDS sheet, or does each shipment thereafter also require its own MSDS sheet?

A) When shipping multiple shipments of the exact same items or materials, only one MSDS sheet is necessary. In the event that different shipments contain different items and/or materials, however, a separate MSDS sheet is required. Keep in mind that there are no limitations to including the MSDS sheets, so if a company is not sure whether or not it is required, it is a good idea to include one to avoid any problems with the delivery.

9. What are the standard OSHA formats for the following areas?

  • Lockout/Tagout – When working on potentially hazardous equipment, it is required to remove the power source to ensure it does not accidentally start up. According to OSHA standard 29 CFR 1910.147, it is necessary to protect against unexpected ‘energization’ of mechanical systems, which can cause severe injury. This is done by using some sort of lockout device, such as an energy isolating device (electrical circuit breaker or a disconnect switch). OSHA requires employers establish an effective lockout/tagout standard to keep employees safe.
  • MSDSMaterial Safety Data Sheets are an important safety item that all facilities need. OSHA has some specific information that needs to be on these sheets whenever they are used. These sheets are broken down into different segments which have specific requirements as far as the information they contain. A sheet should include the following:
    • The product and its formula, as well as the use, manufacturer and known vendors need to be located in the first section.
    • The chemical composition of the product must be listed, and any hazardous components must also be present (with the chemical identity and common name) should be in the second section.
    • The third section will contain information about specific hazards associated with the chemicals or other materials
    • Next, in the fourth section, any first aid instructions or information is required
    • In the fifth section it is essential to have details related to preventing fires, or how to respond to fires should they break out in the area around the chemicals or other products.
    • The sixth section details all the procedures related to accidental releases or spills, including how to contain them and clean them up safely.
    • The seventh area of an MSDS label will cover any handling or storage requirements.
    • The eighth section goes over any safety equipment that is required for handling the chemical, including personal protection equipment such as respirators or ventilators.
    • The ninth section goes over all the physical properties of the chemical, and describes its physical state (appearance/odor/freezing point, ect).
    • The tenth section requires details about the stability and/or reactivity of the chemicals.
    • The eleventh section has information about what effects exposure to the chemical may produce, including toxicity related to repeated exposure.
    • Section 12 covers how the chemical can affect the environment (soil absorption, etc).
    • Section 13 contains information related to the safe disposal of the chemical
    • Section 14 lists the chemical’s hazard class as well as any shipping names and symbols required by the Department of Transportation.
    • Section 15 contains any EPA or OSHA regulations related to the product, or its handling.
    • The 16th, and final, section contains any miscellaneous comments that may not fit in other areas of the MSDS.
  • Confined Spaces – OSHA does have some requirements for how to identify a working area as a confined space. It is important to realize that a confined workspace is not strictly determined by the amount of room an employee has while in the area. In addition, OSHA has two different types of confined areas. The first one is simply called a confined space, and it is defined as an area large enough for a person to fully enter and perform work. These areas are not designed for continuous occupancy, and they have a limited or restricted means of entry and exit.The other type of area is a permit-required confined space, which has all the characteristics of the normal confined spaces, plus one or more of the following items:
    • Has the potential to contain a hazardous atmosphere
    • Contains a material which has the potential to engulf someone
    • The configuration of the confined space makes it possible for the employee to become trapped or asphyxiated.
    • The workspace has any other recognized serious safety or health hazard

When a workspace meets the requirements for a confined space, or permit-required confined space, employers must do one of two things. First, if the confined space is not an area people are supposed to enter, the employer must effectively prevent entrance into the areas. The second option is for confined spaces where people need to enter, in this case the employer must develop a written confined space permit program, and have it available to employees and their representatives.

  • NFPA/GHS – OSHA requires employers follow the formats listed for both the NFPA and the GHS. When working with, shipping, storing or otherwise using chemicals or other materials covered by either the NFPA or the GHS, it is important to have them properly labeled. The NFPA and the GHS have industry recognized formatting and designs for a wide range of different chemicals and other products. In situations where there is an overlap of the NFPA and GHS standards, OSHA typically recommends following the GHS labeling standards.

10. Can we just put up plain labels and write on them or do we need to have printed labels?

A) Any mandatory labels that are required by OSHA or other safety organizations have a specific formatting that must be followed. Labels often include detailed images as well as text that conforms to a specific font and size. For this reason, it is not permitted to simply have a plain label with hand written notes on them in place of printed labels.  Of course, having hand written labels is acceptable for certain non-required information, but it can’t be used in place of any regulated label or safety signs.

Many facilities that are looking to save money on their safety signs and labeling have found that an industrial label printer can provide significant savings over time. Rather than ordering custom signs or labels from a third party printer, facilities can create their own labels and print them off in-house. This saves a lot of time, and can drive the average cost per label down by more than 50% in almost all cases. In addition, being able to print off labels and signs allows facilities to quickly respond to the needs of the facility.

Anyone who is responsible for the safety of a facility, and the employees working within, knows that keeping up with labeling and safety sign requirements can be difficult. It is essential to take the time to ask questions and get the right answers to keep everyone safe. The above questions and answers are some of the most common in a wide range of different industries, but you may have some that are specific to your location or industry. Finding resources you can trust, and taking the time to ensure you are following all rules and regulations will not only help you avoid fines or other problems, but it will keep everyone safe as well. If you have any questions related to labeling, signage, or other safety needs, please contact Creative Safety Supply.

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