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NIOSH: Some sound-measurement smartphone apps are accurate

Certain smartphone and tablet applications designed to measure sound levels are accurate and reliable enough to assess occupational noise exposures, according to a new NIOSH study.

While researchers evaluated almost 200 apps only 10 iOS apps and four Android apps met the selection criteria for testing. Of the apps tested, researchers determined that some of the Apple apps had sound level measurements within plus or minus 2 dBA, which fall within national standards and occupational guidelines for accuracy but the Android apps did not demonstrate the functionality needed for occupational noise assessments.

In a NIOSH blog post, the study's lead researchers suggested industrial hygienists and other occupational safety and health managers could use smartphone sound apps to make quick spot measurements to determine if noise is at hazardous levels.

Ladders play major role in occupational fall injuries - NIOSH

Falls - many involving ladders - are a leading cause of workplace injuries, according to a NIOSH study. Researchers found that ladders are involved in 20 percent of fall injuries among workers - and 81 percent of construction-worker fall injuries. Ladder fall injuries increased with worker age, the researchers noted, with the exception of injuries treated in emergency departments. Self-employed workers had a higher rate of fatal ladder falls than salary/wage workers - 0.30 per 100,000 workers compared with 0.06.

Updated COBRA notices and proposed guidance issued

On May 2, 2014, the Department of Labor (DOL) released a new model general notice (.doc) form and model election notice (.doc) form for providing COBRA notices to employees, and a related notice of proposed rulemaking on the COBRA notice requirements.

The updated notices make it clear to workers that if they are eligible for COBRA continuation coverage when leaving a job, they may choose to instead purchase coverage through the Affordable Care Act's Health Insurance Marketplace, which may cost less. The model notice clarifies the role of the exchanges and may be helpful to administrators who need to explain the options.

Until the proposed regulations are finalized and effective, the DOL has stated that it will consider use of the newly revised model notices as good faith compliance with any COBRA notice content requirements.

Only medical examiners on federal registry can certify driver fitness

The regulation that interstate truck and bus drivers must use only government-approved medical examiners to certify that they meet the physical fitness requirements for operating commercial vehicles became effective May 21, 2014.

Drivers can search the registry for examiners by city and state. Medical examiner certificates must be renewed annually or every two years, depending on the driver's health status.