Workplace Safety Terms Glossary

Workplace Safety Terms Glossary

Acute Toxicity: The negative effects of ingestion or skin contact with a single dose of a substance, or multiple doses over a period of twenty-four hours, or inhalation exposure of a period of four hours or more. All forms of acute toxicity are considered a health hazard by OSHA.

Aerosol: A solid or liquid particulate, such as paint spray, smoke, or chemical clouds which can remain suspended in air.

ANSI: The American National Standards Institute coordinates the various voluntary standards established by trade, technical, consumer, and professional groups.

Autoignition Temperature: The lowest temperature at which a substance ignites and sustains combustion in the absence of an ignition source.

Blood Agents: Chemicals that can enter the blood and deprive the body of oxygen.

BLS: The Bureau of Labor Statistics maintains databases on employee hazards and injuries as part of its larger mission to monitor national and international labor markets.

Boiling Point: The temperature needed for a liquid to become a gas.

Carcinogen: Any substance or combination of substances known to increase the risk of cancer.

Catalyst: Any chemical that changes the reaction between two chemicals without affecting the catalyst.

Ceiling: The concentration of a given chemical or substance that should not be exceeded for working exposure.

Chronic: A negative health effect with symptoms which either recur frequently or develop over time, usually due to long-term exposure.

Compliance: Meeting all requirements of the law for workplace safety.

CAS Number: An identification number used by the Chemical Abstracts Service of the American Chemical Society for chemical identification and information retrieval.

CFR: The Code of Federal Regulations is a collection of rules and regulations developed by government agencies. The CFR includes OSHA regulations (29 CFR), EPA regulations (40 R) and Department of Transportation regulations (49 CR).

CPC: Chemical Protective Clothing designed to protect against specific chemical actions. CPC items may resist chemical permeation, penetration, or degradation.

Corrosive: Any substance capable of destroying skin tissue.

Cutaneous Hazards: Any substance capable of causing rashes, irritation or defatting of the skin’s dermal layer.

Degradation: Damage caused to a piece of chemical protective clothing when exposed to chemicals. Includes softening, hardening, partial or full destruction of the item.

 Hazard Category: A measurement of a substance’s hazard potential and severity.

 Hazard Class: Describes the physical or health hazards associated with particulate substances.

 Hazard not otherwise classified: Any substance posing a health hazard that does not meet the criteria for other hazard classes.

 Hazard Statement: A description of the nature of a hazard assigned to its hazard class and category.

 HMIS: The Hazardous Materials Identification System provides a comprehensive overview for working with hazardous materials, including labeling, safety training, and assessing hazard risks.

Ingestion: When chemicals enter the body orally. May have effects throughout the gastrointestinal system or enter the bloodstream.

Inhalation: Exposure to chemicals through the respiratory system. May have effects in the lungs or be absorbed into the bloodstream.

Inhibitor: Any chemical added to a substance to prevent an unwanted chemical reaction.

 Irritant: Any chemical capable of causing reversible damage to the skin.

 Job Hazard Analysis: The assessment of a job to determine potential hazards and improve safety by establishing safety protocols and appropriate protective equipment.

LC50: Lethal concentration 50 data provides an assessment of a substance’s danger as an inhaled substance, and refers to the airborne concentration of a toxin necessary to kill 50 percent of test animals under controlled testing.

LD50: Lethal dose 50 is a measurement of the amount of a toxin that causes the death of half of a test animal population upon controlled exposure. LD50 data may evaluate ingestion or skin contact.

Medical Surveillance: Used when working with chemicals where OSHA requires regular medical checks to ensure employees are working within acceptable limits.

Mutagen: Any substance capable of causing genetic mutations.

Nephrotoxins: Any substance capable of damaging the kidneys.

Neurotoxins: Substances which have toxic effects on the central nervous system.

PEL: The Permissible Exposure Limit measures the maximum air contamination workers can be exposed to that does not cause adverse effects.

Penetration: The ability of a substances to pass through openings in protective material.

Permeation: The passage of chemicals through protective clothing at a molecular level, increasing the risk of skin contact.

Pyrophoric: An adjective used to describe a liquid, gas, or solid likely to ignite either spontaneously or within five minutes exposure to air.

RTECS: The Registry of Toxic Effects of Chemical Substances provides data on the toxicity of over 50,000 chemical hazards.

Reactive: Used to describe substances capable of undergoing chemical changes under specific conditions, either in a pure form, during production, or during transportation.

Reproductive Toxins: Chemicals with negative effects on fertility, sexual function, or fetal development.

Right to Know: An term applied to a variety of laws designed to ensure employees, emergency personnel, and the larger community understand the workplace’s hazards.

STEL: Short Term Exposure Limits measure the amount of exposure to a chemical which cannot be exceeded in a single work day.

TLV: Threshold Limit Values are recommended exposure values designed for worker protection.

Understanding & Preventing Eye Injuries

Understanding & Preventing Eye Injuries

A wood chip flies off a saw. A grinder sends a tiny metal fragment airborne. A chemical process generates airborne fumes. In all three scenarios, a foreign material ends up in an employee’s eye, and suddenly you’re dealing with a potentially life-changing injury.

Eye injuries are some of most common work-related accidents in the USA. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health estimates 2,000 US workers suffer job-related eye injuries requiring medical attention every day. Loss of productivity, medical expenses, and worker’ compensation for eye injuries amounts to over $300 million a year. The effect of eye injuries on quality of life are incalculable.

The bulk of eye injuries are preventable. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports three out of five employees were not wearing safety glasses or other forms of eye prevention at the time of their injury, often because they did not think eye protection was necessary for the task at hand.

Types of Eye Injuries

Workplace eye injuries fall into five broad categories:

  • Foreign particles
  • Chemical contamination
  • Radiant energy
  • Laser exposure
  • Contusions

Of these five, foreign particles cause the majority of injuries, and range in size from small dust particles to nails and other large items. Foreign particles cause three distinct types of injuries: superficial, abrasive, and perforating.

Chemical contamination can irritate, burn, or corrode the eye, depending on the nature of the substance involved. Radiant energy results from flash burns, thermal burns, or ultraviolet light from welding equipment. Contusions result from blunt trauma to the eye.

Treating Eye Injuries

Immediate treatment of eye injuries can save someone’s vision, but before you turn your attention to the injured worker, ensure your own safety. Locate the source of the injury and negate it—chemicals may still be airborne, grinders could still be throwing metal filings into the environment. Rushing in to help a fallen co-worker is admirable, but don’t become a victim yourself.

Seek medical attention as soon as possible, especially if the injured person reports eye pain, loss of vision, or blurred vision. While waiting for medical professionals, coworkers can take some basic first aid steps, which vary depending on the nature of the injury.

For superficial foreign particles, do not rub the eye. Irrigate the eye with a saline solution. Lift the eyelids outward by pressing on the bone around the eye, not the eye itself. A magnifying glass can help locate small particles, while large particles could be gently removed with a cotton swab.

If the foreign object perforated the eye, do not touch the eye or attempt to remove the object. Cover the injured eye with a plastic shield that blocks light without putting pressure on the eye. In an emergency, the bottom half of a paper or plastic cup works as a shield. Cover the other eye as well, as movement in the unharmed eye stimulates movement in the injured eye, which can worsen the perforation. The eye may appear collapsed, swollen, or deformed, and surgery will be required.

Chemical eye injuries can be treated by flushing the eye immediately with saline solution. Immediate flushing is often as important, if not more so, than getting the person to the hospital.

If the chemical substance is an acid, flush the eye for at least thirty minutes. Alkali substances need flushing for forty-five minutes. Don’t worry about removing contact lenses—the saline will likely flush them out, and if not, the lens may actually protect the eye from further damage.

Saline flushing becomes more difficult if the injured person experiences blepharospasms, where the eye spasms and closes tight. The response is uncontrollable, but continue trying to flush the eye until emergency responders arrive.

Contusions can be treated by a cold compress, applied without putting pressure on the eye to reduce swelling. In all cases, seek medical attention.

Preventing Eye Injuries

Prevention is the single best way to avoid work-related eye injuries. Know the risks you face at work, and eliminate any potential hazards before starting your shift. Follow all safety protocols regarding eye protection, and replace safety glasses or other eyewear as soon as it becomes damaged.

Safety glasses are available in both prescription and nonprescription styles, and provide protection for general working conditions. For protection against blunt trauma, chemical splashes, flying objects, and dust, well-fitted safety goggles are recommended. Face shields offer protection against heat, chemicals, and contaminants, but should never be used alone. Face shields and helmets must be used in conjunction with safety glasses or goggles for optimum protection.

To provide the maximum protection, safety glasses, goggles, and face shields must be carefully fitted for the individual worker. A comfortable fit also encourages safety compliance.

Eye injuries can happen in an instant. Protect yourself properly.

ANSI for All: Explaining ANSI Standards

ANSI for All: Explaining ANSI Standards

High visibility safety apparel is vital for work sites where traffic, weather conditions, lighting, or complex environmental backgrounds reduce visibility. A number of government agencies have specific standards regarding the visibility of personal protection garments to ensure maximum on-the-job safety. Chief among these organizations are the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the U.S. Federal Highway Administration (FHA).

Having to adhere to multiple agencies’ standards could quickly become confusing, but fortunately both the OSHA and the FHA use industry standards created by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA). To properly outfit your employees in high visibility gear, you need to understand the ANSI/ISEA 107 Standard and ANSI A10.

ANSI/ISEA 107 Criteria

The ANSI/ISEA 107 Standard outlines the type of materials used in the manufacture of high visibility personal protection equipment (PPE), the minimum area of high visibility material on the garment, and the placement of such material. Color, garment brightness, and minimum use of fluorescent and retroreflective materials are all governed by ANSI/ISEA 107, resulting in four garment performance classes to ensure visibility in all light conditions and work environments.


The ANSI A10.47 standard sets criteria for high visibility garments and clothing specifically for highway construction workers. To meet ANSI A10.47 requirements, workers may use ANSI/ISEA Class 2 garments during the day and Class 3 garments at night or in any situation that severely reduces visibility.

ANSI Garments by Class

ANSI/ISEA 107 Standard offers three performance classes—Class 1, 2 and 3—and a special class for pants—Class E. The garment class your workers require depends on environmental hazards, worker tasks, the work environment itself, and vehicle speed and behavior. Remember, for highway work high visibility clothing must be at least Class 2

Class 1

Class 1 garments are suitable for a workplace that meets the flowing conditions:

  • Workers can give traffic undivided attention.
  • Workers are separated from traffic by an ample distance.
  • The workplace background is not complex.
  • Vehicles do not exceed 25 mph.

Class 1 high visibility garments may be worn by warehouse workers, workers on sidewalks, parking attendants, and those in similar occupations. As noted above Class 1 garments do not meet the FHA’s requirements for highway construction work.

Class 2

Class 2 ANSI garments are appropriate PPE for the following conditions:

  • Close proximity to traffic.
  • Complex work backgrounds.
  • Inclement weather.
  • Situations where workers’ cannot give their full attention to traffic.
  • Vehicles or equipment moving at speeds in excess of 25 mph.

Class 2 garments are commonly used by roadway construction crews, survey crews, and utility workers. Note the conditions above are guidelines only. Addition factors unique to the work site might make Class 3 PPE more appropriate.

Class 3

Class 3 garments offer maximum visibility for workers when any of the following conditions are present:

  • High traffic speeds.
  • Reduced visibility due to lighting conditions, time of day, or weather.
  • Pedestrian workers performing duties close to active equipment.

To qualify as Class 3, garments must allow for easy identification of the wearer as a person from a minimum distance of 1,280 feet. Clothing must allow the wearer to remain visible through a full range of body motions.

Class 3 garments offer suitable high visibility gear for flaggers, utility workers, road construction crews, surveyors, and emergency responders.

Class E

Class E is a special classification, where Class E high visibility pants create a class 3 ensemble when combined with a Class 2 or Class 3 vest. For instance, an employee may wear a Class 2 vest during the day, and add Class E pants at night to meet Class 3 requirements.

Avoid Inferior Garments—Check the Label

It’s important to remember some manufacturers offer “high visibility” clothing that does not meet ANSI standards. To be sure your workers have the correct level of visibility protection, check the garments’ label. An ANSI/ISEA-certified garment will include the specific ANSI/ISEA Standard the garment meets, as well as a pictogram displaying the garment’s performance class.

Understanding ANSI/ISEA standards helps you make the best possible choices for your work force—choices that could well save lives.