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OSHA’s Focus in 2023: An Interview with KPA’s Zach Pucillo

Toby Graham /
On this week’s episode of the Safety Meeting, Erin reconnects with Zach Pucillo, EHS Regulatory Compliance Manager at KPA. We discuss upcoming changes from OSHA and the EPA, as well as safety program tips to start the year off strong.

[00:00:36]
Zach, it’s great to have you back with us on this show. I appreciate you being here.

Thank you. Thanks for having me.

[00:00:38]
I wanted to kick things off by saying congrats on being named a National Safety Council Rising Star of Safety.

I appreciate that. Thank you very much. Yeah, it was definitely a surprise to me when I was honored with it, but you know, taking a look back on everything I’ve been working on, it was just really humbling and nice to be honored in that fashion.

[00:01:02]
One specific achievement that contributed to this honor was the regulatory review program you introduced in 2021. Can you tell us a bit about that?

So the regulatory reviews are something that I kind of resurrected. It’s something that KPA has been doing for a long time. We use it as an internal field training piece, we would take a regulation, and we would break it down, and teach our consultants about just the regulation. I wanted to expand upon that.

So what I did was basically take the regulatory review and not just on the specific regulation, but how does it apply to machinery or a specific operation in the workplace for our clientele, the blue-collared worker. You know, we’ve got people that are working around like table saws, chop saws, shearing machines, power presses, and OSHA does make specific regulations about those.

But how can we take all those regulations and put it into something that applies to what the blue-collar worker does day-to-day, and we can make it stick with them. So we took case studies, we took statistics, we put it all into this document, and now we can take this document and we can use it as an educational piece.

We can have our marketing team pull tidbits out to send out to the public. We can have our training and content team pull out information to create online trainings, onsite trainings. And really it’s a big educational piece that we take from just, you know, we’re not gonna look at just the regulation and you need to do this, this, and this, so you’re compliant.

No, we’re actually gonna take it and we’re going to teach you how to do your job safely so you go home safe at the end of the day. So that’s where the regulatory review process came from.

[00:02:37]
Bringing the regulation into context for people so that it fits with their everyday.

Yes. Because these regulations, they can be like stereo instructions sometimes. You go into it, and that’s the whole thing about educating, you know, the blue-collared worker. They’re not necessarily there to read instructions on how a piece of equipment works. Usually, their training on that piece of equipment is, you know, their supervisor possibly, or maybe one of their peers saying ‘push this button to start, push this button to stop and don’t talk to me again’. And that’s how a lot of accidents ended up happening, is that there is poor training material out there for these employees. They’re not getting what they actually need to know. They’re removing guards, they’re taking the short route, they’re cutting corners, and that’s what gets somebody hurt.

[00:03:26]
So looking ahead to next year, how can companies start the year off strong when it comes to their safety programs?

Actually, there’s a couple of different things I think that companies can do. One would be to look at your culture. I think you should continually, throughout the year, always look at your culture. And the term safety culture is being thrown around our industry, the safety industry, a lot more these days.

I’m not the biggest fan of that term. I think that you don’t necessarily have a safety culture. You’re not striving for a safety culture. You’re striving for a change in your culture, to add safety to be a part of it. If you think about culture, culture is the definition of that. I think it’s like, you know your values, your norms, languages, rituals, everything that a collective group of people do. That’s your culture. And companies should be launching safety initiatives that will be a part of their culture and maybe make a change into that culture as well too. 

So taking a look at what you actually have in place and is it working? You know, if you have a safety initiative out there. Or you try to launch one throughout the year, but you don’t have that buy-in from top-level management or you have coyotes in the workplace.

And coyotes, I term them as you know, that rogue employee that’s not gonna do anything that you say because it’s taking away from their time or they think it’s a bad idea or they’re just not on the same page. A coyote is gonna be outside of the pack and they’re gonna try to pull other people into their pack.

You need to sit down with those people and actually explain what the actual goal and end objective is and say, why aren’t you gonna get on the same page with me here? So trying to change your culture, I think, is definitely one way to make sure that you’re trying to actually have an effective safety program.

Because if you have a bad culture, you’re never gonna have an effective safety program. You gotta make changes from the top down and then also the bottom up when it comes tp that. 

I think another thing is also examining the well-being of your workforce as well too. That is a big initiative right now of OSHA, the National Safety Council, you know, other various agencies is mental well-being of just employees.

And if you think about it, we went through a big pandemic, you know, in the past year or so. We might be coming out of it now, but it’s still going on. And people were finding new ways to work. They had all these new restrictions placed on them. There were masks. There were no masks. There was, you know, remote working from home, getting a home office setup.

And some people, they value that they’re working from home now, but how can we also respect them in the workplace when it comes to your safety programs? Are you factoring in for them? You know, if you have an office setting where everybody is all of a sudden now working from home, maybe you start off with some initiatives about just home office ergonomics or staying safe in the workplace and taking mental breaks as well too.

And then I think another thing to take a look at is technology. You know, I can sit here and spill a bunch of stuff like, oh, you need a safety committee, you need written programs, you need safety data sheets. You need… we know that stuff. That’s the stuff that OSHA has been pounding in our ears for the last 20 years.

But maybe stepping outside of the box and looking at technology as well too. How can we start to use technology to be a better company? We have to be efficient in the workplace. We’re using technology to help us make more money. Why not use technology to also take a look at our data, start to measure different things, look at leading indicators to make sure that people are actually doing what they’re supposed to be doing instead of cutting those corners?

Hazard identification can be done, you know, with auditing procedures that are all, you know, off of an iPhone, just a mobile phone. We’ve got programs and education materials out there that can be used from technology. But at the same point, you have to have a human element to it as well too.

I’m in favor of technology, but when it comes to safety, you also have to have a hands-on experience as well. I think a lot of safety programs are starting to lack that, unfortunately. So if you’re looking at the beginning of the year and you’re thinking to yourself, what can we change to make it a better safety program? Well, if you’ve got all online training modules that you’re requiring everybody to do, all audit is an electronic checklist. All of our programs are electronically done and they’re up to date; that’s great. But how often are you looking at these things? How often are you talking about them? 

If I got a guy that just took an online traingin on how to evacuate the building; that’s great. But where specifically is that employee going to go? Is that actually in your online training module? Probably not. So you have to have an actual hands-on portion to this technology as well too, or else we’re really missing the big picture here about how to keep people safe in this job site specifically.

And I could have somebody take forklift training and they get their operators test and they pass it with flying. But have you taught them about how to go up this specific ramp that has three different blind spots on it at your workplace? Probably not if they’ve done an online training module. So pairing the technology that you’re now using with hands-on experience, I think is another great initiative to look at for the beginning of 2023.

[00:08:54]
Yes. So there are echoes between that and the regulatory review. Again, it’s like making the trainging practical and specific.

Mm-hmm. correct.

[00:09:03]
So also looking at next year, I wanna ask if you have a sense of where OSHA will be focusing its efforts? You mentioned employee well-being as one area. Are there other areas of focus that you see going into the new year from an OSHA perspective?

Yeah. When it comes to mental well-being, they’re putting out educational material about that. They’re not doing anything on the standards about it, but I think it is becoming a hotter topic out there. They want companies to be paying attention to, because obviously if you have employees with mental strain going on, that’s going to lead to potential injuries.

But also on their docket, they still have some stuff from 2022 that’s in the pending process that they’re still working on. We’ve got the final rule on the HazCom standard. So the HazCom standard is about chemicals and labeling safety data sheets, making sure that employees are trained on chemical hazards as well.

This rule came out actually about 30 years ago or so, and then in 2012 they finally did an update to it to add in what they call a Globally Harmonized System. And that got the United States on the same page as the rest of the world when it came to how to label a package correctly so that it had the safety implications of whatever that chemical might be on there when it comes to shipping purposes.

So if we’re doing trade with, you know, somebody over in United Kingdom and they send a chemical back over to us. Then the labeling on there is going to be the same as what the United States has, so we can recognize what the hazards of that chemical would be in that handling process.

So we haven’t updated that since 2012, and we are on the third edition of the Globally Harmonized Standard as what we adopted. That’s a living, breathing rule set, and it is on its seventh edition right now. So, we’re a little bit behind on that. So they’re looking to actually adopt the seventh standard of that beginning of 2023, which brings about a few different changes.

Such as, if you have little small containers, how do you put all that safety information on there? So they’re adding some flexibility into what actually has to go on certain size containers and what some of the actual labels have to be when it comes to bulk packaging as well. 

Another rule, the electronic submission of injuries and illnesses, is probably going to change in 2023. So this changed actually about two years ago when they required certain companies to start submitting their injury data electronically to OSHA and this involves the OSHA 300 forms. 

So there’s the OSHA 300, the OSHA 300A, and the OSHA 301. And these forms have to be maintained by every company out there. And then they have to keep those records for about five years. Well, last year or two years ago, they introduced a change where they want to actually get a copy of the OSHA 300A form information submitted electronically. 

Well, now they’re proposing to actually get the 300 and the 301 forms submitted electronically as well. So normally you would just handwrite all this information into your copies that you would keep at your workplace, but now you’re probably going to have to, if you’re subject to this rule, submit electronically all the information from the 300, 300A, and the 301 forms.

Another one that’s in the pre-roll phase, but it is coming, I know this one is coming, is the heat illness prevention for indoor and outdoor workers. I’ve been tracking this one pretty closely because it will be a federal standard, and it’s probably going to affect all companies out there. 

We haven’t had a federal heat illness Injury prevention program or standard ever since the adoption of OSHA. We’ve had some states actually adopt rules when it came to that, but there’s never been a federal one. Well, at the beginning of 2022, in actually April, they created a national emphasis program surrounding heat illness prevention.

It basically directed OSHA compliance officers to go out on pre-programmed inspections during the summer months and take a look at how employees were treated during, you know, the high heat index days. Were they provided shade? Were they provided water? Can they recognize the signs of heat illnesses?

Well, now they’re expanding upon that emphasis program and they’re actually going to make it a standard because Congress has proposed the actual ruling, and I’ve taken a look at it, that OSHA is to actually create a standard based off of their national emphasis program. So it’s probably going to require the employees to complete training on recognizing symptoms of heat-related illnesses. 

It will have a mandate for shade breaks, for water breaks, and then once the heat index hits over a certain number, which that’s the big area that’s up for debate right now, is what will that heat index number be? Once it hits over that certain number, then a policy has to go into effect where you’re giving more frequent breaks to those employees. 

Also with OSHA, COVID-19 is still on the table , at least in the healthcare industry. So they are making a final standard for that. They tried to do it for just general industry as well too. That one was knocked down by the Supreme Court. I don’t think that’s going to go anywhere, but if you’re in the healthcare industry, there will be a standard for COVID-19 in the workplace.

There’s also a couple of proposed rules for some regulations that are also out of date, and I think that’s the theme. Like HazCom was out of date. We haven’t had a heat illness prevention program in the past. Lockout/Tagout is also out of date right now. When it was originally written, it was written for machinery where you pulled a lever, or pushed a button to start a piece of equipment. Now that equipment is usually started up by a computer. 

There’s not really a great way, well, there are good ways to lock out computers, but OSHA has not defined that in their Lockout/Tagout standard. So how do you control that hazardous energy that gets started by simply hitting the Enter button on your keyboard?

Same thing with emergency response. That rule is out of date as well, and they’re looking at doing some updating when it comes to emergency response to provide information about first responders and how they would respond to an emergency situation for companies as well. So lots of items that are on the docket, how much they’ll get pushed through, that’s the question, but it’s a lot of updating of old stuff that has needed to be updated. 

[00:15:36]
Catching the regulation up with the technology.

Yeah. Bringing it to the 21st century pretty much. 

[00:15:45]
Yeah, things were probably not envisioned when those regulations were written.

Nope. Also, the EPA, we can’t forget about them. They also have rulemakings as well, and their big focus throughout the end of 2022, which will roll into 2023, is focused around the air. So the EPA has adopted the National Emissions Source Hazardous Air Pollutants.

I refer to it as NESHAP. And they’re trying to eliminate those as much as possible, these hazardous air pollutants, because these will, if emitted into the atmosphere, it will go up to the ozone layer and will kill that, which then can trap in greenhouse gases, which will cause global warming. And we want to try to reverse that trend as much as possible.

So they’re trying to eliminate these hazardous air pollutants from getting into the environment, and it affects several different industries. And in this actual regulation, they have subsections. For some reason, they go with six letters of the alphabet, and it’s all the same letters. So one industry would be the subset AAAAAA and BBBBBB. I’m familiar mostly with the six H is what I call them. The HHHHHH subset, which is automotive facilities with surface coating, our collision centers. So the EPA is now taking all the NESHAP standards and they want information electronically now. So they are starting to create different databases.

It used to be we fill out a form, mail it to the EPA area administrator. They would supposedly file it. I don’t think that’s actually been happening. And so they’re creating an electronic database to capture  ll this information to make sure that they have it on file for their compliance officers as well.

[00:17:38]
Got it. Speaking of seeing changes over time, you’ve been in the field for 16 years; what keeps you motivated and committed after all this time?

Yeah, I think it’s just when I realize that I’ve trained and educated somebody. I mean, I’ve done several different, I mean, thousands of classes now on, you know, fire prevention or emergency procedures. But when I have somebody come up to me after a class and say, You know, I didn’t know that before. Thanks for sharing that with me. You know, something about a fire extinguisher. That keeps me going. 

I mean, I remember when I was little before I got into the safety world or anything. I mean, we’re talking like maybe junior high, maybe middle school, somewhere around there. So I was a latchkey kid growing up, and I would come from school, and get into the house.

My parents were still at work. And there was one day where I was like, oh, maybe I’ll do something nice. I’ll start making dinner for mom and dad. And I knew that mom planned to make hamburgers and fries that night. So I was like, I can handle this. So I go to the kitchen, and I’m like, all right, I’m gonna go ahead and get the oil going for the french fries.

Because that’s what we did. We had a stovetop burner. I’m like, I’m gonna fill a little pot here with a little bit of oil and I’m going to basically get that going to put the french fries in there. Of course, I turn on the stove, put the oil in the pot, and the dog starts barking outside. So I go to check on the dog, and she’s chasing after a squirrel, and the squirrel of course, runs up the tree, and the dog is barking up the tree.

And so I’m trying to get her under control because she’s just going nuts. And finally Ido, and then I turn around to walk back inside and I see a little bit of a glow. I get all the way to the kitchen, and we’ve got a towering inferno going on right there where that pot of oil is at. And so of course, I’m in shock, but my wits finally come back to me, and I’m like, I have to put this out.

So I go, and immediately I start to go for the sink in the water sprayer. But I quickly changed my mind, and I knew that there was a fire extinguisher underneath the cabinet. And I grabbed that. I pulled the pin, sprayed the fire extinguisher on the fire, that puts it out; hit it a few more times just to make sure, and turn off the stove.

You know, hearts racing, and I put the fire extinguisher down. And you know, the first thing I thought of was, oh man, I’m glad I went for the fire extinguisher, because there was a class that I took earlier that year. There was a fire deputy that came to our school and was talking about fire prevention.

He said, if you ever have a cooking fire, don’t throw water on it. The oil and grease will actually, with water, it’ll cause the fire to get much worse, and you’re just gonna spread the flames around. You won’t put it out. And so I put the fire out with the fire extinguisher and you know, just thinking things could have been a lot worse that day.

We could have completely lost our house. You know, somebody could have gotten really hurt. And so I look back on that and I’m like, you know, that little educational piece that the fire deputy taught me stuck with me. And I was able to use that in that situation. So when I have somebody come up to me after a class and say something like, I never knew that, it takes me back to then. It’s like, maybe, just maybe I might have helped them prevent a fire in their own home. Or you know, save them somehow, in some way just with a little piece of information.

[00:21:12]
Wow, that’s incredible. I’m sure sitting in that class you had no idea you would

No, no, never. You know, a little middle schooler never would think about, you know, just sitting there listening to Deputy Steve, I’m sure, whatever his name was, and I’m sure I’m rolling my eyes, but hey, I picked up on something and it potentially saved my life, so I just wanna return that favor.

[00:21:38]
Well, so that actually rolls into my next question. I’m sure you’ve collected a lot of stories over the years. Are there any that are particularly notable, whether that’s cautionary or humorous, or otherwise?

I’ll share two with you here. One is probably more of a cautious one. So I go into workplaces all the time and part of that HazCom standard is that all chemicals have to be labeled for what their contents are. And I teach that, and a lot of people are like, oh, why do we gotta label all of our bottles?

Well, that came to fruition one day when I was at a site recording an injury, and I was interviewing an employee and a manager, and they were telling me the employee was working in an automotive shop. He was working on a used car, had the hood up, and he was messing with something in the engine component, and the engine ignited all of a sudden and caught fire.

And so the employee turned around and looked on his workbench and saw a bottle of water right there. You know, like one of those normal like plastic bottles of water that you can buy from the store. And so he grabs that, unscrews the cap, and starts dumping it on the fire. Well, the fire gets much worse. Come to find out, what he was storing in there was brake cleaner and brake cleaner is a very flammable substance.

And so when the fire erupted more, he jerked back, and a little bit of that fluid got onto him, and then his shirt caught on fire. He immediately stopped, dropped, and rolled, which is what you’re supposed to do when you’re on fire. That got the fire put out. Then somebody else came over with an extinguisher and put the fire out.

And of course, during that whole interview process, I’m like, well, what do we learn from this? We don’t put chemicals and beverage containers. We label everything that we put into a container because we want to prevent stuff like this from happening. He admitted that, yes, he should have listened to me in the first place. So it’s little things like that can all of a sudden lead to a domino effect of something that causes a catastrophe in the workplace. 

And a little tongue-in-cheek one here, I was at a facility one time, and it was a paint-coating place. And so they had a paint booth, and they had a guy that would go in there. He would basically spray paint cars using a spray gun. And to do so, he had to have protective clothing on and also protect his breathing as well, to protect his lungs. And so he goes into the booth, and the he sees me. So I was like, okay, something’s up here because he quickly got out of my vision.

Then he comes out of the booth, and he’s got his respirator on, and all of a sudden I see something coming from his respirator. And I’m like, that doesn’t look normal. I’m like, what do you have there? Turnaround. And his respirator, he had taken the face piece of it, drilled a hole through it, and stuck a cigarette through it.

So he can smoke a cigarette while painting the car if you wanted to. We had a little conversation about how we don’t modify personal protective equipment and what’s the point of a respirator if you’re going to do something like that, and try to smoke through it. There’s been lots of different things I’ve seen out there.

[00:25:00]
Well, I have to imagine incorporating stories like that into training is helpful because it helps make it real beyond what you’d get from your typical online training module.

Yeah.

[00:25:11]
So on a last note for the day, I hear you recently started a new role as the EHS Regulatory Compliance Manager. In that new role, what would you say you’re most looking forward to?

I think it’s been the theme of the whole conversation, but obviously learning and educating. So my role is basically to take all the information out there, funnel it through me, but then channel it back out in an organized fashion to multiple outlets like our marketing teams, our content team, our field consultant team, and directly to the public as well through, you know, channels such as like podcast and webinars.

I mean, educating, like I said earlier, it’s the main way for people to have a safe work environment. And I’m not trying to make, you know, like a little PSA announcement, but honestly, the more you know, the safer you are going be in whatever it is that you’re doing, the workplace, at home. You know, one of the things that I also talk about, and this probably goes back to the little story I told about me and my fire incident, is whenever I do a training class, I always talk about, hey, we’re talking about fire extinguishers here, but how many of you have actually gone home and had this conversation potentially with your significant other, your kids as well too. 

You know, do you live in a two-story house? Do you have an escape plan? You know, if you got like a rollout ladder, do the kids know where that’s at? Do the kids know where your fire extinguisher’s at? If they even grab the fire extinguisher, do they know how to even use it?

Now, when was the last time you checked your smoke alarms? All this type of information. I tried to pass that along as well too, to think, hey, we can’t just think about this stuff at the workplace. This is also at home as well. You know when you’re in your garage working on something, put on the safety glasses. I used to be the Superman type of guy where it’s like, oh, nothing’s going to harm me.

Well, guess what? When I go out and mow the lawn anymore, I’ve got my sun hat on, I’ve got my sunglasses on, I’ve got all the sunscreen on, I’ve got my hearing protection on. I mean, I’ll probably look like I’m wrapped in bubble wrap compared to my neighbors, but honestly, I’m trying to protect myself for the future and be there later on in the future.

So taking all this information and spreading it out to the public through various different forms that’s what I’m probably looking forward to the most.

[00:27:39]
That’s fantastic. Like you said, it’s a culture and a lifestyle at that point.

Yeah, it truly is. And if you can change your culture to adapt safety into it and just make it, you know, make it a culture about thinking about each other, safety naturally folds in at that.

[00:27:57]
Well, I think that’s an excellent note to end on. I really appreciate your time today, Zach. Thanks for joining.

Thank you very much. I appreciate being on today.

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