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News and Events
The Hazards of Biofuels - December 2016
As a fast-growing part of the energy sector, the biofuel
industry has become an attractive place to work and invest. To protect your
company in the biofuel industry, it is essential to recognize potential
workplace hazards of biofuels and their production processes, and take steps to
protect workers from harm. In addition to common workplace hazards such as
walking and working surface hazards and electrical hazards, biofuels present
three major types of hazards:
- Fire and explosion hazards
- Chemical reactivity hazards
- Toxicity hazards
Types of Biofuels
There are two major types of biofuels:
- Ethanol is a flammable liquid that is readily ignited at
ordinary temperatures. Renewable ethanol is produced through the fermentation
of grains or from materials such as waste paper, wood chips and agricultural
- Biodiesel is a combustible liquid that burns readily when
heated. When it is blended with petroleum-based diesel fuel or contaminated by
materials in manufacturing, it can become more flammable.
Fire and Explosion Hazards
To protect workers, it is essential to prevent unintended
releases, avoid ignition of spills and equip your facility with appropriate
fire protection systems and emergency response procedures. Necessary
engineering controls include:
- Good facility layout
- Proper design of vessels and piping systems
- Proper selection of electrical equipment for use in
- Adequate equipment such as alarms, interlocks and shutdown
Creating and maintaining proper administrative controls is equally
important. These might include the following:
- Operating procedures
- Good maintenance practices
- Safe work procedures
Chemical Reactivity Hazards
Some processes for making ethanol from materials such as
wastepaper and wood chips use concentrated acids and bases, which can react
vigorously with many materials. Failure to control potentially dangerous
chemical reactions could result in rupture of equipment
and piping, explosions, fires, and exposures to hazardous
chemicals. Preventive measures include:
- Controlling the rate and order of chemical addition
- Providing robust cooling
- Segregating incompatible materials to prevent inadvertent
- Creating detailed operating procedures
Biofuels and their components present toxic exposure hazards
that you need to carefully control to protect workers. Consult each chemical
component’s safety data sheet (SDS) to determine the potential for toxic
exposures to feedstocks, products and other chemicals used in biofuel
processes, including caustic, sulfuric acid, ethanol and biodiesel, as well as
hydrocarbons used for blending and alcohol denaturing. Take the following
measures to reduce risk:
- Take release prevention, ventilation and drainage into
consideration during design, fabrication and the creation of maintenance
- Require the use of appropriate personal protective equipment
There are a variety of Occupational Safety and Health
Administration (OSHA) standards that apply to manufacturers of biofuels,
- Process Safety Management of Highly Hazardous Chemicals
- Flammable and Combustible Liquids
- Hazard Communication
- Personal Protective Equipment
- Respiratory Protection
- Permit-Required Confined Spaces
If there are hazards in your workplace that are not covered
by an OSHA regulation, it is still essential that you take steps to control it.
OSHA can fine for violation of the General Duty clause, which states that
employers must provide workers a place of employment free from recognized
hazards that cause or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to
Your workers’ safety must be your first priority. It is not
only right–it makes economic sense. Reducing claims will also reduce your
workers’ compensation insurance premiums. For more resources on loss control
programs, contact the insurance professionals at [B_Officialname].
Nanotechnology - November 2016
A hot topic today in the manufacturing industry is
nanotechnology, which is the control of matter on a molecular scale between one
and 100 nanometers. This intricate methodology involves processing tiny
materials to produce nanoparticles or nanomaterials. To give a measure as to
how small the building blocks are in these materials, a nanometer is about
50,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair and 10 times smaller than
the size of a typical, single germ.
Today, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and
Health (NIOSH) reports that new consumer products manufactured using
nanotechnology are coming on the market at the rate of about three or four per
week. Nanoparticles are already used in paints, car parts, eyeglasses, cosmetics,
tennis racquets and clothing, and their use is expected to increase in the near
However, researchers and employers are not without doubts
about this revolutionary technology. Concerns about the impact of nanomaterials
and nanoparticles on the environment and on workers’ and consumers’ health have
surfaced in the past five years.
Hazards in the Workplace
The biggest risk in using nanotechnology in the production
of materials is that nanoparticles are so small that they can assume different
physical, electrical or magnetic properties than they normally would as larger
particles. According to the American Society of Safety Engineers, nanoparticles
also have a greater ratio of surface area to mass, and thus they have a higher
level of reactivity, combustibility and absorption capacity.
The concern in all these areas is that when ingested,
inhaled or even exposed to skin, scientists are not sure how the tiny particles
will react with the body systems. What is known is that if they get into the
body in any way, the particles are small enough to permeate through tissue.
Some evidence suggests that nanoparticles in the body create free oxygen
radicals, which are atoms, molecules or ions with unpaired electrons and an
open shell configuration. These particles are more likely to bond in unwanted
side reactions, leading to cell damage and possibly cancer.
Situations that present significant (and potentially very
harmful) exposures to your employees include:
- Working with nanomaterials without proper
- Pouring or mixing nanomaterials
- Working with nanomaterials when there is a high
degree of agitation, like in extreme heat
- Generating nanoparticles in the gas phase
- Handling nanoparticles that are powders
- Maintenance of equipment used to produce or
- Cleaning of any dust collection systems.
Researchers are also unsure if the current standards of
ventilation and filtration systems will be 100 percent effective when working
with nanoparticles because of their extremely small size. Because of the
tremendous usefulness and prevalence of nanotechnology, combined with
scientists’ uncertainty of its effects, many compare this development to
asbestos and the government control of its use in the 1980s. The European
Union’s Occupational Health and Safety agency issued a report citing
nanoparticles as the number one emerging risk to workers. So what can your
business do to protect workers from harm?
- Require special protective clothing for your
employees. Research indicates that nanoparticles can probably penetrate
traditional knit clothing. Ironically, clothing weaved using nanotechnology to
prevent the entrance of minute particles could prove to be the most effective.
- Require all employees to wear eye protection
even when not working directly with nanoparticles or nanomaterials. The
particles tend to behave like gasses, settling more slowly than other particles
and dispersing widely while also re-suspending easily.
- Restrict consumption of food and drinks to non-work
areas. Nanoparticles could be just as harmful if ingested as if they are
inhaled due to their ability to permeate through organs and into the
- Provide shower and locker room facilities for
all employees, and require workers to shower and change clothing when leaving
their work area. Be active in preventing the spread of nanoparticles outside the
- Educate your employees. Give them the latest
information on nanotechnology news and trends so they are aware of the dangers
and are sure to use extra precautions.
- Reduce unnecessary exposure. Limit the number of
employees working with or around nanoparticles by using safe handling
procedures or a closed system when working with high volumes of nanoparticles.
Nanotechnology could be a huge opportunity for growth in
your industry. The American Society of Safety Engineers predicts that by 2019,
50 percent of all products produced will be influenced by nanotechnology, which
will provide jobs for more than 1 million workers. In the future,
nanotechnology will likely give rise to items that help prevent risk or danger
in the workplace, such as noise absorption materials, fire retardants, advanced
ventilation control and quick, efficient cleanup of pollutants and hazards.
However, the future could also hold health problems for
workers exposed to nanotechnology, and lawsuits for companies who did not do
enough to protect employees. Because the health hazards are so uncertain, you
should create your safety and protective policies on the side of extra caution
to protect both your employees and your company.
Safety Standards for Cleanrooms - October 2016
The use of cleanrooms is commonly required for manufacturers
of sensitive electronic equipment, pharmaceuticals, sterile medical devices and
in any other critical manufacturing environment where the contaminants present
in outside air could destroy the product’s functionality.
Though cleanrooms are critical parts of the manufacturing
environments in which they are used, they are surprisingly unregulated by the
U.S. government. In fact, the only federal standard that regulated cleanrooms
was canceled in 2001, though manufacturers still widely use the standard as a
guideline. It is important to keep in mind that the Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) does have Quality Systems Regulations in place that
require manufacturers to use structures that ensure their products meet
provisions, and that the business follows good manufacturing practices;
however, this does not specifically address cleanroom conditions.
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO), of
which the United States is a member, covers the classification of air purity in
cleanrooms, and specifies the requirements for testing and monitoring
cleanrooms to prove compliance. But from an employer’s perspective, it is not
ISO 14644-1 and ISO 14644-2 standards that should determine how to treat your
cleanroom facility; rather, it makes the most business sense for you to treat
your cleanroom with the utmost care to ensure that the facility stays up to
What Does Clean Mean?
Individual subsets of industries set their own standards for
just how “clean” companies’ cleanrooms must be. For example, integrated circuit
manufacturers must operate in a cleanroom of no more than ISO 4, which does not
allow any particles greater than 5 micro-meters in size, or one-thousandth of a
millimeter. Depending on the type of manufacturing that is performed at your
workplace, your ISO rating can vary. Check your industry cleanroom standards to
determine the proper ISO rating.
Standards aside, a cleanroom is only useful if it is
maintained properly. Many employers are unaware of the fact that a particle 200
times smaller than the width of a human hair can cause a major contamination
disaster in a cleanroom. Contamination will not only cost your company because
of expensive downtime while the problem is fixed, but it will also result in
increased product costs. For example, many electronic products produced in a
contaminated cleanroom will not function properly and will result in product
recall, while medical devices manufactured in a contaminated cleanroom will not
meet FDA regulations.
Building a cleanroom properly is the first step to saving money
in the long run, since it is much easier to eliminate the possibility of
contamination as the facility is being built. Removing contamination after the
fact is not only extremely difficult, but also enormously costly in both time
and money. It is important to warn your employees that contamination can come
from many unexpected sources, including the following:
- Other elements of the building or facility that
hold the cleanroom, including walls, floors, ceilings, paint, coatings and air
- Equipment and supplies, such as loose particles
from friction, vibrations, brooms, mops, items brought into the cleanroom and cleanroom
- Microorganisms, like viruses, bacteria and
- People are often the largest source of
contamination. This can come from skin flakes and oil, hair, saliva, cosmetics
or perfume, and clothing debris like lint and fibers. However, it can also come
simply from peoples’ presence; a motionless person, standing or seated,
generates 100,000 0.3 micron-sized particles each minute, and a person walking
at a swift pace will generate 10,000,000 particles per minute.
Ensuring that the facility meets the accurate air quality
standards starts with requiring employees to wear the proper equipment while
inside the cleanroom.
To lower your cleanroom’s risk of contamination, take the
- Warn employees about the danger to the company
in bringing personal items—such as wallets and phones—out while in the
- Encourage employees to make as subtle and slow
of movements as possible while in the cleanroom.
- Check periodically for leakages in the shell
enclosing the cleanroom that separates the clean air from the rest of the
- Monitor the cleanroom closely during
- Regularly measure and test the cleanroom to
ensure it is running properly.
Remember that following these
guidelines could save your company hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost
product and in downtime by lessening your risk for cleanroom contamination.
Protecting Your Hands from Injury - September 2016
Ways to avoid ergonomic injury to your hands
in manufacturing, your hands are involved in almost every task you perform,
making them highly susceptible to chronic injuries. Yet, workers rarely make an
effort to protect them against ergonomic hazards, and suffer later because of
it! In fact, these injuries account for many hours of lost work and millions in
workers’ compensation claims and medical bills.
What Causes Injuries?
hazards that trigger injuries to the hands, wrists and fingers include
repetitive motions, placing too much stress on body parts and excessive
twisting. To combat injuries, specifically those from motions causing ergonomic
problems, consider the following.
- Alternate between different activities
throughout the day to vary your body movements.
- Concentrate on cutting down on unnecessary
movements whenever possible.
- Arrange your workstation so that tools are
within easy reach.
- Adjust the angle of your work surface to keep
your wrists straight.
- Try to keep your hands and wrists in a neutral
position (similar to when shaking hands). This limits the strain on your
muscles and tendons, and reduces the temptation to flex or bend at the wrist.
- Give your elbows and wrists a rest periodically
throughout the day.
- Avoid muscle fatigue by shifting work between
your two hands and by varying your routines.
- Stretch periodically throughout the day to keep
your muscles loose.
- Use tools that have smooth or padded handles.
These add-ons will provide additional comfort and will lessen the risk of
pinching. Also, look for tools that are designed to keep your wrists straight
and are long enough so that they extend across your palm.
- Watch out for wire cutters or pliers that spread
your hands too far. The distance between your hands and fingers should only be
approximately four to five inches (for an average-sized hand).
- Select gripping tools such as hammers that have
a handle diameter of no more than two inches to avoid straining to grip the
- Use power tools that allow your middle finger or
thumb to control the trigger as opposed to the index finger. This will allow
your index finger to balance the tool without having to also control the
- Avoid using tools that give off excessive
vibrations. This can cause circulation damage, pinched nerves and stressed
tendons. If you must work with these types of tools, wear insulated gloves to
absorb some of the vibrations.
Machine Safeguarding Basics - August 2016
Machine guards may not always
seem like the most convenient part of your job, but they are a necessity in our
workplace. Guards are designed to protect you from the many dangerous moving
parts throughout the manufacturing floor. In order to keep all our workers
safe, it is our policy that machine guards are always used properly and are
never tampered with or removed.
What Should Be Guarded
Any machine part, function or
process that may cause injury should have a machine guard.
Where Mechanical Hazards Occur
Potentially hazardous moving parts on machines fall into three basic
- Point of
operation: Where the work is actually performed. This is probably the
largest hazard area and where the more sophisticated machine safeguarding methods
will be used.
transmission apparatus: All components of the mechanical system that
transmit energy (power) to the part of the machine performing the work. These
components include flywheels, pulleys, belts, connecting rods, couplings, cams,
spindles, chains, cranks and gears.
moving parts: All other parts of the machine that move while the machine is
working. This can include reciprocating, rotating and transverse moving parts.
Hazardous Motions and Actions
A wide variety of mechanical motions and actions may present
hazards to you while operating a machine. These can include the movement of
rotating members, reciprocating arms, moving belts, meshing gears, cutting
teeth and any parts that impact or shear. These different types of hazardous mechanical
motions and actions are basic to nearly all machines, and recognizing them is
the first step toward protecting yourself from the danger they present.
Familiarize yourself with the hazardous motions and actions on any machine you
are operating or working near, so that you can avoid injury.
- Motions: Rotating motion can be dangerous; even smooth, slowly rotating shafts
can grip ·
clothing and simple skin contact with any moving
parts can cause severe injury. Collars, couplings, cams, clutches, flywheels,
shaft ends, spindles, meshing gears and horizontal or vertical shafting are
examples of common rotating mechanisms that can be hazardous. The danger
increases when projections such as set screws, bolts, nicks, abrasions and
projecting keys are exposed on rotating parts.
Actions: Machine actions are dangerous due to the amount of force generated
at the point of operation where stock is inserted, held and withdrawn by hand.
Specific machine actions include punching actions, such as blanking, drawing or
stamping metal or other materials; shearing actions, such as knife operations;
and bending actions, most commonly performed on power presses, press brakes and
Requirements for Safeguards
What must a safeguard do to protect workers against mechanical hazards?
Regardless of the hazard, there are several goals all machine safeguards have
in common. They are:
contact: The safeguard must prevent hands, arms and any other part of a
worker's body from making contact with dangerous moving parts.
secure: Guards and devices should be made of durable material that will
withstand the conditions of normal use. They must be firmly secured to the
- Create no
new hazards: A safeguard defeats its own purpose if it creates a hazard of
its own such as a shear point, a jagged edge or an unfinished surface, which
can cause a laceration. Having to ”work around” a machine safeguard isn’t
- Create no interference: Safeguards that significantly impede the ability to do work are not helpful safeguards. Safeguards should protect workers but not prevent them from operating a piece of machinery properly.
safe lubrication: Safeguards should allow for the safe lubrication of
machines without the need to completely dismantle the guarding system.
Types of Machine Safeguards
a machine is not always with a physical barrier. Here is a list of the various
types of machine safeguards used today:
- Barrier guards provide a physical shield against
machine hazards. They can be metal, metal-mesh, Plexiglas or other types of
durable materials. Sometimes barrier guards are interlocked so they stop the
machine when the guard is opened.
- Two-hand trip devices keep the hands out of the
point of operation by requiring both hands to activate the machine function.
- Presence-sensing devices (light curtains) sense
when the operator is getting too close the point of operation and automatically
stop the machine. These are very effective.
- Restraining devices, such as pullback devices,
restrain the operator’s hands from going into the point of operation during
machine motion. Other types of restraining devices do not allow the operator’s
hands in the point of operation at any time.
All machine operators should be familiar with the machine
they are using, the machine safeguarding methods, emergency stop buttons and
switches, and how to safely perform routine maintenance functions such as
clearing jams or making other incidental adjustments.
You should be able to identify the various types of machine
safeguarding methods incorporated into the machine you are using. It may be a
combination of light curtains, two-hand trip devices and barrier guards.
Regardless of the type, machine operators must be familiar with the types of
machine safeguards, how to use those machine safeguards and how to make sure
they are functioning properly.
Prior to starting work, inspect the machine to make sure all
machine safeguards are attached and functioning properly. Machines should not
be used if the machine safeguards are not in place or not functioning.
Machine operators must also consider their own personal
effects when operating machinery. Long hair, loose-fitting clothing and hanging
jewelry can get caught in machine operations and cause serious injury. Always
tie back long hair and avoid wearing clothing or jewelry that could get
entangled in a machine.
Put a Stop to Pinch Point Injuries - July 2016
Pinch point hazards are abundant in
a manufacturing environment and can be found on many types of equipment
including metal-forming machines, power presses, conveyors, robotic machines,
powered rollers, assembling machines, plastic molding equipment, printing
presses, powered benders, press brakes, power transmission equipment, powered
doors, covers and hatches.
It is a common misconception that
pinch injuries cannot be serious. In fact, pinch point injuries can be deadly,
and they are one of the most common types of accidents in the manufacturing
To reduce your risk of pinch point
injuries at work, consider the following safety recommendations.
- Before beginning your shift or when working with
new equipment, identify potential pinch point hazards. Pay special attention to
equipment that moves and could come into contact with fixed objects. In this
type of work, some of the most common causes of pinch point injuries are:
- Feedrollers and rollers
- Revolving barrels, containers or drums
- Belts and pulleys
- Blades of fans used for cooling
- Gears, sprockets, shafting and chain drives
- Extractors, parts washers and tumblers
- Be extremely cautious when placing your hands,
fingers or feet between two objects. If you are within a pinch point, consider
alternative ways to get the task done. If there is no other way to complete the
task, make sure that all moveable parts are immobilized before continuing to
- Do not operate machinery without the proper guarding
equipment in place. If you need to perform repairs or adjustments to the guards
themselves, replace them before using the machinery again.
- Never use your feet to brace, force or chock
- Wear appropriate gloves for the task at hand –
ill-fitting gloves may be an additional hazard as they can get caught in a
- Follow all lockout/tagout procedures.
- Do not wear jewelry or loose clothing, and
always tie long hair back. These items can get caught in machines.
- Know how to turn off equipment immediately in
case of an emergency.
you spot an unguarded pinch point, report the situation to your supervisor or manager
Learn How to Handle Chemical Spills - June 2016
Working with chemicals on the manufacturing floor puts all
employees at serious risk for injuries due to explosions. For this reason, the
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires worksites where
hazardous chemicals are used to have an emergency action plan (EAP).
[C_Officialname] takes this requirement seriously, as employee safety in the
workplace is our top priority.
The EAP describes the procedures to follow during an emergency,
such as a chemical spill, leak or explosion, including:
- Who to notify
- Who is in charge and who else has
responsibilities in responding to the incident
- Who is responsible for each task
- How to evacuate the site
OSHA also requires all employees to be trained in EAP procedures,
so that everyone is prepared in the event of an emergency. Notify your
supervisor if you have not yet had training in EAP procedures or if you would
like a refresher.
The first priority when working with chemicals is to try and
prevent a spill, leak or explosion. You can contribute to that goal by:
and understanding the chemicals you’re working with, including any hazards—refer
to the appropriate Safety Data Sheet (SDS) or ask questions if you are unsure
- Following all safety precautions and wear proper
personal protective gear
- Helping to make sure all chemicals are properly
labeled in their container
To determine if a chemical spill, leak or explosion is
hazardous or requires special cleanup procedures:
- Identify the chemical(s) involved.
- Refer to the SDS for any chemical involved to
find out how flammable and/or reactive it is, what protective equipment is
needed and spill cleanup procedures.
- For chemicals resulting in a hazardous fire or
explosion, refer to the SDS also for firefighting instructions.
In the event of a chemical spill, leak or explosion, be sure
- Immediately notify your supervisor.
- Notify other workers on the floor.
- Activate emergency alarms.
- Call 911.
- Keep people out of the area.
- Leave the area if the spill cannot be readily
contained, or if it presents an immediate danger to life or health.
- Follow the evacuation rules in the EAP.
- Leave cleanup to trained personnel, such as a
Hazardous Materials team.
Do not try to:
- Rescue or help injured people unless you are
sure you will be safe
- Clean up a spill yourself, except where
permitted or required by site rules and the EAP
OSHA requires these safety measures, and so do we. It is our
hope that an accident like this never happens, but all employees should be
prepared in case it does. Make sure you learn these precautions and follow them
if you ever must respond to a hazardous chemical spill, leak or explosion, to
help keep yourself and your co-workers safe.
The Basics of Intellectual Property - May 2016
Understanding the complexities of intellectual property is
key for technology companies because a majority of their market position is
based on innovations and expertise. Intellectual property refers to the
intangible assets of a business, including patents, copyrights, trademarks and
trade secrets. These assets are often the most valuable and least understood
assets of a corporation. This article is intended to provide a basic
understanding of these complex assets.
What is a patent?
- A patent is the legal protection granted by the
federal government to an inventor to encourage progress and prevent others from
benefiting from the invention.
- There are three types of patents recognized by
the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO): utility, design and
plant. Utility is the most common and includes any new and useful process,
machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter. In order to obtain
any of the three patent types, the inventor must demonstrate that the invention
is novel and non-obvious. In addition, to obtain a utility patent, an inventor
must also demonstrate utility of some sort.
What does patent protection provide?
- Patent protection involves the right to exclude others from
making, using or selling anything that would fall under the claims of the
issued patent. The duration of the patent protection depends on the type of
patent. Utility and plant patents have a life of 20 years from the date of
filing, where design patents have a life of 14 years from issuance.
Occasionally, these lengths are extended, but not for more than five years.
What factors are considered when determining whether a
patent has been infringed?
- Determining whether a patent has been infringed entails the
court examining the claims of the patent and comparing them to the accused
device or process. This may be more complex in situations where the claims
terms are unclear or ambiguous. The court can determine that infringement
exists even if the accused device or process isn’t identical to the original. If the device performs substantially the
same function in largely the same way to produce substantially identical
results, it is likely that a court would find infringement.
What are my rights if someone infringes my patent?
- You may file suit in a federal district court to enforce
your patent against an infringer. If you are successful, there are many
possible outcomes. Courts look to compensate the patent holder with damages for
lost profits and/or punitive damages for willful infringement.
What is a copyright?
- A copyright is the legal protection granted by the
government to an author. In the case of works created by an employee during the
course of his or her job, the copyright would belong to the employer. No
publication or registration with the Copyright Office is required to secure a
copyright, though there are advantages to registering. Copyrights are secured
automatically when a work is created, such as when the source code of a
software program is completed. A notice of copyright is also not required,
though it can be beneficial.
- To be granted the most protections for your copyright, the
material has to be disclosed to the U.S. copyright office, allowing others to
see the material. While a copyright protects material as it is written, someone
could gain an understanding of the material and use ideas or parts from the
material to create something of their own.
What can be protected by a copyright?
The Copyright Act sets types of authorship to be protected.
A non-exhaustive list of material that may be protected under copyright
- Computer programs
- Books, magazines and advertising copy
- Songs, dramatic works and dance routines
- Paintings and designs
- Motion pictures
- Sound recordings (CD, cassette, digital audio
tapes, MP3 files)
The protection afforded by the Copyright Act is a sliding
scale based upon creativity. The more creative a work is, the more protection
it is afforded. It is important to note that it is not ideas, but expressions
of ideas that are protected by the law.
What does copyright protection provide?
- Copyright ownership grants the following specific rights in
the work: reproduction, modification, publication, performance and public
display of the work. These rights can be limited by the doctrines of fair use
and first sale. The length of protection for newly filed registrations is the
life of the author plus 75 years. If it is a corporately owned copyright, then
the copyright exists for 90 years from the date of publication.
What factors are considered when determining whether a
copyright has been infringed?
- A copyright can be infringed by violating any of the rights
granted: reproduction, modification, publication, performance and public
display of the work. A copyright owner only needs to prove that the
infringement occurred; it is not necessary to show that the infringement was
intentional or malicious.
- However, “fair use” is allowed without the author’s
permission if an individual uses a limited portion of a copyrighted work for
purposes such as criticism or research. This standard is not clear-cut and is
left to the discretion of the court.
What are my rights if someone infringes my copyright?
- If you have a federally registered copyright, you have the
right to enforce your copyright by filing suit in a federal district court. A
federally registered copyright grants the holder more rights than the common
law possession of an unregistered copyright. If the copyright was not federally
registered prior to infringement, you can file for a federal registration prior
to pursuing a legal action in federal court.
What is a trademark?
- A trademark serves to
identify a single source for goods or services, membership in an
organization or approval from a quality assurance program. It can be a
product name, a brand, a slogan, a color and even a scent. Federal law
allows for the protection of trademarks.
What does trademark protection provide?
- The scope of the
protection can vary widely, depending on the strength and fame of a mark. For
instance, many brand names are famous marks that are very strong. The length of
time that a mark can be protected is indefinite because it is based upon use,
but federal registrations have an initial term of 10 years. A mark may be
renewed in successive 10-year increments as long as the mark is still in use.
What factors are considered when determining
whether a trademark has been infringed?
- Whether a trademark has
been infringed is most often dependent upon whether a likelihood of
confusion has been found. In determining whether there is a likelihood of
confusion, courts generally look at factors like the defendant’s intent,
similarity in marketing channels, the overall impression of the two marks
in question and the similarity of goods or services associated with the
What are my rights if someone infringes my federally
- You have the right to bring an infringement action in a
federal district court. After a finding of infringement, the court determines the
appropriate remedies for the trademark holder. These can include an injunction
to stop the infringing or diluting use, damages to cover defendant’s profits or
losses sustained by plaintiff and punitive damages in cases of bad faith.
Are there applicable state or common laws?
- There are state registries
for trademarks, with rights and registration varying by state. Consult an
attorney licensed in your state for specific state requirements and
What is a trade secret?
- A trade secret is any
proprietary information that serves as advantage over competitors and is
kept secret. It is broadly defined and can range from software coding to a
What factors are considered when determining whether a trade
secret has been infringed?
- The owner of the trade
secret must prove that the alleged confidential information provided a
competitive advantage, the information was maintained in secrecy and the
information was improperly acquired or disclosed by the defendant.
What are my rights if someone infringes my trade
- A lawsuit may be brought under federal or state
law depending upon the circumstances. Under the Economic Espionage Act,
individuals can be fined up to $500,000 and corporations can be fined up to
$5,000,000 plus possible jail time for trade secret infringement. Several
states have also enacted laws making it a crime to infringe upon or steal a
Are there applicable state or common laws?
- Many states also have their own trade secret
legislation which should be considered when developing your policy.
Patents, copyrights, trademarks and trade secrets may be
integral parts of your business. It is vital that you understand the laws
associated with these concepts to protect your intellectual property. You also
need to ensure that your behavior does not infringe on someone else’s
intellectual property. This piece is not exhaustive and should be read as an
overview. For more information, consult legal counsel.
Eliminate Electronic Distractions from the Workplace - April 2016
It is a generally accepted fact that the use of cellphones
and other electronic devices while driving present a distraction that greatly
increases the chance for an accident. Unfortunately, what too many people fail
to take into consideration is how distracting these devices can be in other
In an industry of moving machinery and equipment, manufacturing
workers are especially susceptible to workplace injury. They need to be alert
at all times, as even the smallest slip-up can cause an accident. Not only can
an inattentive worker injure themselves but their carelessness can also
endanger others. In this type of work environment it is easy to see the
importance of minimizing the potential distractions faced by your employees.
Whether it’s talking or texting, cellphone use takes the
employees focus off their task. While handheld use compounds the problem, even
using a hands-free device does not allow for full concentration. Studies
indicate that the act of talking on the phone is distracting regardless of
whether the user is physically holding the device or not. It is the
conversation itself that takes an employee’s focus off their work and
While some employees may need to use a work cellphone as
part of their job, it is best to place restrictions on when and where those
phones can be used. Personal cellphones should not be allowed on the
manufacturing floor at all, as even the momentary distraction of a call or
message alert can potentially lead to an accident. Employees should not have
phones on their person during work hours unless they are on a break from their
duties and are in a designated break area.
Mp3 and Other Music
There are a variety of audio cues that alert workers to what
is happening around them. Unfortunately, when an employee’s hearing is impaired
by music, a shout from a coworker, an odd sound from a malfunctioning machine
or the backup alarm on a truck or forklift can be easily missed. Besides
limiting the worker’s ability to hear what is going on around them, there is
also the potential distraction of operating the device. When adjusting volume
or switching songs, not only is the employee’s hearing impaired, but they are
also visually engaged with the device. This greatly decreases the worker’s
awareness of his or her surroundings.
In a manufacturing setting it is not uncommon for there to
be high noise levels that require proper ear protection to prevent hearing
loss. The use of cellphones, hands-free devices and headphones can interfere
with an employee’s proper use of protective equipment. Even though such devices
may cover the ear, most are not meant to provide hearing protection.
In fact, in noisy situations, devices that administer sound
directly into the ear increase dangerous levels of noise exposure as employees
turn up volume levels to drown out background noise. The combination of these
noise exposures greatly increases the rate of hearing loss, which in turn
increases the chance for occupational hearing loss claims.
Attentive, focused employees are essential to creating a
safe work environment, which is why it is important to eliminate possible
distractions. Prohibiting employee use of personal electronic devices can aid
in reducing workplace accidents. To clearly state your company’s rules on when
and where usage is restricted, institute an electronics usage policy. Once
instituted, train your employees in the policy requirements and make sure
restrictions are diligently enforced.
Common Health and Safety Hazards for Printers - March 2016
The printing industry cannot afford any slowdowns in
productivity, customers require accuracy, quality and timeliness. Even a single
typo or small delay can threaten the legitimacy of your customers’ printed
products. Being late by just one day may have disastrous consequences, since
printed products often adhere to rigid printing schedules.
This unwavering devotion to speed and promptness makes the
printing industry very efficient, but also particularly susceptible to
overlooking its numerous health and safety hazards. The most common types of
hazards in the printing industry are manual handling, slips and trips, and
As an employer in the printing industry, you are responsible
for preventing accidents and managing overall employee health and safety. Do
not sacrifice health and safety for expediency—you can have both. Read through
the following common health and safety hazards for printers and find out how
you can protect your employees.
Manual handling activities—such as lifting, carrying,
pushing and pulling—cause the majority of injuries in the printing industry.
All employers should avoid manual handling when possible; assess and limit the
risks from manual handling, and provide training to avoid injuries.
After identifying and assessing manual handling risks, work
to reduce those risks. Do this by providing your employees with mechanical
handling aids such as aerial lifts, pile turners, reel conveyors and hand
trucks. You can also reduce manual handling risks by reorganizing tasks to
decrease the size and weight of everyday loads.
Finally, train employees on appropriate handling techniques,
the correct use of handling aids, how manual handling causes injury and how to
identify unsafe practices.
Slips and Trips
The potential for slips and trips in printing firms is
widespread, especially in production areas. Accidents are usually caused by
poor housekeeping, shoddy maintenance and inclement weather. You can limit slip
and trip hazards in your workplace by doing the following:
• Keep walkways well-marked and clear of pallets and other
• Identify specific places for pallet loading and unloading.
• Provide suitable containers for disposing of strapping,
wrapping and paper.
• Designate storage areas for equipment such as hand trucks
• Avoid trailing cables, and provide cable covers for
• Repair potholes in floor surfaces.
• Prevent oil leaks by maintaining equipment.
• Clean up spills immediately.
Most printing machinery accidents occur during an unsafe
intervention with an operating press. Common causes of accidents include being
drawn into in-running nips of rollers, contact with dangerous moving parts and
entanglement with rotating parts. Take the steps listed below to prevent
• Choose the right machine for the job.
• Train employees on the proper use of machine safeguards.
• Maintain machine guards.
• Establish a lockout/tagout program for shutting down
machines and equipment for cleaning, repairing or emergencies.
• Prohibit employees from wearing loose clothing, jewelry or
untied long hair when operating machines.
• Have machines routinely inspected by a qualified
Fires and Explosions
Printing firms are often full of flammable materials that
create significant fire and explosion risks. Specific risks in printing include
paper fires in infrared dryers and UV curing units, explosions in dryers due to
high levels of blanket wash solvent vapor, and fire and explosion due to
You should assess the fire and explosion risks from any
dangerous substances used or produced in your workplace. Consider the hazardous
properties of each substance, how your employees use that substance and the
likelihood of creating and igniting an explosive atmosphere.
Lessen the risk of fire and its ability to spread with the
• Segregate printing, storage and other areas.
• Ensure the mixing of solvent-based inks is carried out
only in dedicated fire-resistant rooms.
• Install fire-detection and extinguishing systems.
• Provide dampers to isolate solvent recovery units in the
event of a fire.
The printing industry relies on a host of potentially
harmful chemicals. The substances your business needs, such as inks, lacquers,
adhesives and cleaning solvents, could cause illness. Employees may breathe in
damaging vapors and mists or absorb dangerous chemicals through their skin.
Due to the variety of chemicals they handle, many workers in
the printing industry experience dermatitis, or skin inflammation. Dermatitis
may develop on their hands, wrists, forearms and elbows. Prevent dermatitis by
identifying the materials that could cause it and encouraging employees to
avoid them. Provide gloves, cleansers, cream and training and check for signs
of dermatitis, such as dryness, itching and redness.
You can also promote a safe workplace by heeding this advice
about harmful chemicals:
• Identify which harmful substances may be present in the
• Consider how workers might expose and consequently harm
• Assess the measures you currently have in place to prevent
• Provide information and training to workers.
Noise, one of the most insidious health and safety hazards
in the printing industry, can cause permanent hearing loss. Often, workers do
not perceive that their hearing is being damaged until some hearing loss has
already happened. Some effects of excessive noise exposure are more obvious,
like tinnitus, which is a ringing or whooshing sound in the ears.
If you cannot eliminate noise, lower it as much as possible.
Daily noise exposure should be 85 decibels at most, and preferably 80 decibels
Noise can be an easy hazard to avoid—just follow these
• Alter machines or processes to produce less noise.
• Enclose noisy machines with acoustic enclosures or hoods.
• Separate noisy machines and processes.
• Implement a system for equipment maintenance which muffles
• Provide refuges for employees to escape exposure.
• Offer hearing protection that stifles sound to below 85
Never Stop Improving
While this list is not exhaustive, it is a good start to
identifying and combating the hazards in your printing firm. Be sure to create
a proper risk assessment for your specific business and implement controls to
safeguard your employees. Regularly review your risk assessment to ensure it is
still appropriate and never stop improving. Rely on the insurance professionals
at CMR Risk & Insurance Services, Inc. for more ways to overcome hazards in
the printing industry.
Effects of Air Quality on the Floor - February 2016
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),
indoor air has higher levels of pollutants than outdoor air, and consequently
can pose environmentally related health problems. This has increasingly become
a concern for business owners, as indoor air quality (IAQ) has a direct impact
on the health, comfort, well-being and productivity of employees. Furthermore,
a report from the EPA to Congress reveals that when businesses improve indoor
air quality, they can also increase productivity, decrease the number of days
that employees miss work and save money on medical care.
IAQ has been a hot topic since the 1970s, as employee health
complaints became more prevalent for two main reasons. First, to reduce heating
and cooling costs, businesses made their structures airtight with insulation
and sealed windows. Consequently, the amount of outside air introduced into buildings
was greatly reduced. Second, more chemical products, supplies, equipment and
pesticides began to be used in the work environment, increasing employee
exposure to poor air environments. In some cases, employees were subjected to
excessive tobacco smoke, which can cause secondhand smoke health problems in
addition to sick building syndrome (SBS) or building-related illnesses (BRI).
What is SBS?
A workplace is characterized as having problems with SBS
when a substantial number of its occupants experience health and comfort
troubles that can be related to working indoors. The reported symptoms do not
follow the patterns of any particular illnesses, are difficult to trace to any
specific source and relief from the symptoms tends to occur when leaving the
facility. Employees may experience headaches, eye, nose and throat irritation,
dry or itchy skin, fatigue, dizziness, nausea and loss of concentration.
Indoor air quality,
inasmuch as it has a direct impact on health, has become a serious concern for
What is BRI?
A workplace is characterized with BRI when a relatively
small number of employees experience health problems. The symptoms associated
with BRIs are similar to those of SBS and are often accompanied by physical
signs identified by a physician or laboratory test. Sufferers of BRI may also
experience upper respiratory irritation, skin irritations, chills, fever,
cough, chest tightness, congestion, sneezing, runny nose, muscle aches and
pneumonia. These symptoms may be caused by the following conditions brought on
by indoor air pollutants: asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, multiple
chemical sensitivity and Legionnaires’ disease. Employees may not experience
relief from symptoms when leaving the facility.
What Causes These Diseases?
The IAQ problems that may cause SBS and/or BRI may include
insufficient fresh air is introduced into occupied areas of the workplace, the
environment can become stagnant and odors and contaminants can accumulate. This
is the primary cause of SBS.
maintained or poorly operated ventilation systems
ventilation systems must be properly maintained and operated based on the
original design or prescribed procedures. If systems are neglected, their
ability to provide adequate IAQ decreases. For instance, when systems are
missing or have overloaded filters, this can cause excess dust, pollen and
cigarette smoke to enter occupied spaces, and can cause health problems.
of air circulation throughout occupied spaces
quantity of air depends on the effectiveness of air distribution. If it is
disrupted, blocked or otherwise cannot reach occupied areas, air can become
stagnant. Walls, dropped ceiling tiles and other obstacles can divert the
supply of air in occupied spaces.
regulated temperature and relative humidity levels
- If the
temperature and/or relative humidity levels are too high or too low, employees
may experience discomfort, loss of concentration, eye and throat irritation,
dry skin, sinus headaches, nosebleeds and an inability to wear contact lenses.
If relative humidity levels are too high, microbial contamination can build up
and cause BRI.
and outdoor sources of contamination
emissions can contribution to BRI and SBS from cigarette smoke, machinery,
insulation, pesticides, wood products, synthetic plastics, new carpeting,
glues, furnishings, paints, cleaning agents, boiler emissions, roof renovations
and contaminated air from exhaust stacks. Indoor contaminants may include
radon, ozone, formaldehyde, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), ammonia, carbon
monoxide, particulates, nitrogen and sulfur oxides and asbestos.
Improve Air Quality
To determine if your facility has poor IAQ, follow standard
investigative procedures including:
employee interviews to obtain pertinent information regarding the number of
employees affected, location and position of affected employees in the
building, and employee symptoms.
building operations and maintenance procedures to determine when and what types
of chemicals are being used during cleaning, waxing, painting, gluing, roofing
operations, renovation, etc.
- Conduct a
walk-through inspection to evaluate possible sources that may contribute to IAQ
the HVAC system to determine if it is working properly and is in good
building blueprints of the ductwork and ventilation system to determine if it
is adequately designed.
air sampling to detect specific contaminants and their levels.
Correcting and Preventing Problems
Adequate Fresh Air Supply
o Create a
preventive maintenance schedule and follow it according to manufacturer’s recommendations
or by accepted practices to ensure that ventilation systems are properly
checked, maintained and documented. Preventive maintenance schedules should
include inspections of equipment by assuring the following:
air supply dampers are opened as they were originally designed and remain
- Fan belts
are properly operating, in good condition and replaced when necessary.
parts are lubricated.
are properly functioning and in good operating condition.
are open and unobstructed for adequate air mixing.
system is properly balanced.
are properly installed and replaced at specific intervals.
components are replaced or repaired.
pans are properly drained and are in good condition.
achieve acceptable IAQ, outdoor air quality must be adequately distributed at a
minimum rate of 20 cubic feet per minute (cfm) per person OR the concentration
of all known contaminants should be restricted to specified acceptable levels
as identified in the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and
Air-Conditioning Engineers, Inc. (ASHRAE) “Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor
Air Quality” Standard. For more information, visit www.ashrae.org.
determine if the ventilation system is effectively providing adequate fresh
air, carbon dioxide levels should be measured. ASHRAE sets the standard of 1,000
ppm of carbon dioxide as the maximum recommended level for acceptable IAQ.
possible, gauges should be installed to provide information on air volumes
delivered by supply and return fans.
sufficient supply of outside air should be provided to all occupied spaces. If
this is not the case, buildings can be at a negative pressure, allowing
untreated air and/or contaminants to infiltrate from the outside. To determine
if this problem is prevalent, observe the direction of air movement at windows
system filters should have moderate efficiency ratings of 60 percent or more as
measured by ASHRAE atmospheric dust spot tests and be of an extended surface
type. To determine if the filters have the appropriate efficiency rating, check
with the manufacturer. Pre-filters should be used before air passes through
higher efficiency filters.
overcrowding employees or patrons in one area or another, and make sure that
the proper amount of outdoor air is provided based on the number of occupants.
or Control Known and Potential Sources of Contaminants
control chemical contamination:
- Use local
exhaust ventilation to capture and remove contaminates generated by specific
processes, when appropriate. Local exhaust does not re-circulate the
contaminated air; instead it directly exhausts the contaminant outdoors.
- Check to
be sure that your HVAC fresh air intakes or other building vents or openings
are not located in close proximity to potential sources of contamination.
or reduce cigarette smoke. Smoking restrictions or designated smoking areas
should be considered, and the air from these areas should not be re-circulated
to non-smoking areas of the building.
control Microbial Contamination:
and repair all areas where water collection or leakage has occurred.
relative humidity levels at less than 60 percent in all occupied areas and
low-velocity plenums. Cooling coils should be run at a low temperature to
properly dehumidify conditioned air in summer months.
- Due to
dust or dirt accumulation, additional filtration downstream may be necessary
before air is introduced into occupied spaces.
exchange components and drain pans should be accessible so maintenance
personnel can easily inspect and clean them. Access panels and doors should be
installed, when needed.
- Clean and
disinfect non-porous surfaces where moisture can collect.
CMR Risk & Insurance Services, Inc. knows how much you
depend on your employees, and can help you ensure their health by taking
measures to prevent employee illness. Contact us for more information on health
insurance and how to maintain a safe and healthy workplace.
Preparing for a Product Recall - January 2016
From vehicles to
pharmaceuticals to food products, what might risk managers learn from mass
media coverage of product recalls? For manufacturers of all types of consumer
goods, they might serve as a wake-up call to the potential impact of a product
recall event and a lesson in what should be done immediately to prepare for
potential exposures. According to data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety
Commission (CPSC), there are an average of 35,000 consumer product-related injuries
Costs from a
product recall or contamination can easily become many millions of dollars. In
addition to the physical expense of a recall, falling sales due to poor
consumer confidence, brand rehabilitation expenses and potential shareholder
lawsuits may also contribute to long-term losses.
frequency and the potential for extraordinary costs, most companies don’t
adequately plan, prepare and practice for—or buy insurance to protect against—product
recall events. In addition to proper insurance coverages, careful planning is
essential in managing the risk of a recall.
There are two
categories of exposure for a company faced with a product recall incident:
first-party operational losses to the company and third-party liability losses
to injured persons.
Unlike third-party losses, first-party loss is often
overlooked. In addition to initial recall expenses, the potential long-term
losses from the damage to a company’s
reputation and loss of sales may continue for months or even years. Since these
losses can be catastrophic, this article focuses on ways to manage first-party
It is a common misconception that product recall is covered under a
general or product liability policy. Those coverages do a good job of covering
bodily injury and property damage but generally exclude contamination and
recall events. The addition of a product contamination or product recall policy
protects your bottom line by covering the direct costs of recall, but
transferring the risk is only one part of closing the recall exposure gap.
Despite recall frequency and the potential for extraordinary
costs, most manufacturing companies do not adequately plan and buy insurance to
protect against product recall events.
size, every company offering consumer products—and sometimes those that offer
products intended for commercial and industrial use—should establish solid
product risk management policies and procedures for handling a recall or
It’s helpful to understand the three basic
designing a risk management program that provides the best protection for the
- Malicious tampering
(intentional contamination) is prone to publicity, so it may seem common. In
reality, malicious tampering is rare, but when it strikes, it tends to be a
very severe loss. Managing this risk exposure can be difficult, as motives vary
contamination is an unintentional error in the manufacturing, packaging or
storage of a product. This includes mislabeling of ingredients, contamination
by a foreign object or chemical, etc. This peril is the most common, but the
majority of incidents are discovered prior to shipment. Therefore, these events
receive very little publicity. As opposed to malicious tampering, this peril
has very high frequency but usually relatively low severity. While most
accidental contaminations are small events, historically the largest losses
have been due to accidental contaminations.
- Product extortion is
the most difficult peril to characterize. Its frequency is between that of
malicious tampering and accidental contamination. Its severity, however, is
more difficult to quantify. Most extortions are amateurish hoaxes but may
evolve into outright tampering cases, which can be very costly.
of your risk management plan as a pyramid that outlines a series of defenses to
counter the threat of a product incident. The first line of defense is the base
of the pyramid. What actions can be taken to eliminate the majority of threats,
such as unwanted bacteria, disgruntled employees, malfunctioning equipment,
sloppy suppliers or lax testing? Put that in the first tier (bottom) of the
pyramid. Any threats that escape being eliminated by the first tier should be
addressed by the second, and so on. As the pyramid rises, the plan becomes more
specific and more effective at isolating and eliminating product
- Tier 1 - Total
commitment to quality. The good news is that most of what can be done to
protect against a product incident occurs in the area of product quality
assurance and control. Commitment to turning out the highest quality products
day after day is the best countermeasure to the threat of a product recall
crisis. This dedication to quality should be evident in every aspect of
business, from manufacturing to marketing. The logic is simple: If the product
can’t leave the plant in a contaminated state and the packaging is designed so
that tampering is difficult to accomplish or obvious once done, the odds of
experiencing a major incident are considerably reduced.
- Tier 2 - Prepare with
a contingency plan. It is essential to have a plan in place before a crisis
arises. Research indicates that the first 48 hours of a major product incident
are more crucial than the next 48 days. Every company should have a workable
product recall and crisis management plan.
- Tier 3 - Focus with training. Contingency plans aren’t
of much use if they haven’t been tested and honed under simulated
conditions to ensure the plan works.
- Tier 4 - Respond
with expertise and decisiveness. Even with a good team and a good plan, there
is a place in a recall crisis for professional consultants.
- Tier 5 - Transfer
risk where possible. Even the best companies who are prepared for a recall can
suffer substantial financial losses. In spite of all precautions, a large-scale
public recall may cost millions of dollars in extra expense, lost profits, lost
inventory, lost shelf space and lost market share. If it comes to this, the
last line of defense is a solid product recall insurance program—one that
indemnifies for the host of extra expenses and losses in revenue that come with
first-party losses caused by product tampering and contamination incidents are
broadly labeled as product recall insurance. Product recall policies help to
cover the additional costs of a recall, including product loss, costs to
withdraw the product from market, product disposal, product testing, overtime
wages and crisis management—costs that can be devastating because they arise at
a time when a company's revenues are typically hardest hit.
several coverage forms, each designed to isolate some component of first-party
product exposure. Work with CMR Risk & Insurance Services, Inc. to ensure
your product recall policy provides indemnity for:
- Recall expense. This
out-of-pocket expense is associated with executing a large-scale product
withdrawal. It includes costs like extra temporary employees, overtime, public
safety messages, special testing and handling, destruction and disposal costs
and crisis management and/or PR consulting fees.
- Replacement cost. As the name implies, this is the
cost of replacing any product that had to be destroyed. This
includes the cost of materials, labor and overhead directly associated with
producing the product.
- Lost profits. This
indemnifies the insured for profits which would have been earned on the
withdrawn products and also for profits that would have been earned on future
product sales but which were not earned because of resultant future sales declines.
This is usually limited to a specified time period.
- Brand rehabilitation
expense. Most underwriters will also indemnify the insured for necessary
rehabilitation of the recalled product’s consumer image. This includes costs
like extra advertising, extra expense to rush a new product to market and
special promotions to rebuild public trust in the manufacturer and its
In addition to
transferring risk, thorough risk management practices are essential to minimize
the exposure and the cost of a recall event. The product recall insurance
marketplace is highly specialized. Our team of experts can help secure the
coverage you need and collaborate with you develop a business contingency plan
that meets your specific needs. Contact us today at (619) 297-3160.