Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Offshore O&G Companies Need to Update Risk Reporting

Safety and Environmental Management Systems (SEMS), viewed by many as a landmark regulation from the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), requires oil and gas operators on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) to comply with 13 different program elements to ensure the safety of their employees and the environment. According to BSEE, SEMS will help companies meet four principal objectives:
  1. Focus attention on how human error and poor organization affect incidents. 
  2. Drive continuous improvement in the offshore industry's safety and environmental records. 
  3. Encourage use of performance-based operating practices. 
  4. Collaborate on efforts that promote the public interests of offshore worker safety and environmental protection. 
Are operators prepared and ready to comply? Many likely will need help, says Scott Lockhart, vice president-EHS & Sustainability Solutions, for IHS. “This is the most significant change to safety regulations impacting offshore operations in a decade. While many companies with operations on the OCS maintain strong risk management programs, SEMS requires them to establish an even higher standard for documenting their critical safety indicators.”

According to Lockhart, SEMS is modeled after voluntary guidelines developed by American Petroleum Institute in Recommended Practice #75, which addresses safety work practices, hazard analysis, change management, auditing, incident investigations, training and operational procedures.

“To control unwanted events, offshore operators need to develop the necessary expertise, experiences, judgment and proactive initiative within their workforce to properly implement and maintain an effective operational risk management program,” continued Lockhart. “BSEE has pushed accountability for controlling risk higher up the chain of command.”

Learn more about SEMS here.

Nominate Someone for OSHA Construction Panel

OSHA is accepting nominations for its Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health. Members serve a 2-year term, are appointed by the secretary of labor and advise the agency on construction-related issues. The open positions are for:
  • three representing construction businesses;
  • two general public members;
  • three employee representatives;
  • one member from a state-level worker safety agency.
Submit your nomination online or fax to the OSHA Docket Office at (202) 693-1647, referencing OSHA Docket No. OSHA-2011-0124.

Study Suggests Link Between Occupational Chemical Exposure and Parkinson’s Risk

Findings of a research report suggest that repeated occupational exposure to certain chemical solvents increases the risk for Parkinson’s disease. In a study that analyzed the occupational histories of twins in which one developed the disorder, researchers concluded that two common chemical solvents, trichloroethylene (TCE) and perchloroethylene (PERC), are significantly linked to development of Parkinson’s. The study, supported in part by National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), appears in the Nov. 14, 2011, issue of Annals of Neurology.

“The potential importance is great, since both solvents persist in the environment and are commonly used,” says researcher Samuel Goldman, M.D., M.P.H. “Parkinson’s was sixfold more common in twins exposed to TCE, and ninefold more common in twins exposed to TCE or PERC.” There was also a trend toward a tenfold increase in Parkinson’s disease in twins exposed to PERC alone.

OSHA Launches NEP for Chemical Facilities

OSHA has started a national emphasis program (NEP) for chemical facilities. This NEP replaces OSHA’s 2009 pilot chemical facility NEP. It establishes policies and procedures for inspecting workplaces that are covered by OSHA’s process safety management (PSM) standard. The program’s inspection process includes detailed questions designed to gather facts related to PSM requirements and verification that employers’ written and implemented PSM programs are consistent.

“During the pilot NEP, we found many of the same safety-related problems that were uncovered during our NEP for the refinery industry, which is also covered by the PSM standard,” says OSHA Administrator David Michaels. “As a result, we are expanding the enforcement program to a national level to increase awareness of these dangers so that employers will more effectively prevent the release of highly hazardous chemicals.”

Learn more about PSM for general industry and construction, guidance on how to develop a process hazard analysis, and OSHA requirements for preventing the release of hazardous chemicals here.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

ASSE Visits Regulators in DC

ASSE President Terrie Norris (center)
with OSHA's David Michaels (left)
and Richard Fairfax (right).
Just before the Thanksgiving holiday, ASSE President Terrie Norris, CSP, ARM, and ASSE Government Affairs Manager Dave Heidorn visited with officials in Washington, DC. OSHA was among their stops, where they met with Assistant Secretary of Labor David Michaels and Deputy Assistant Secretary Rich Fairfax. According to Heidorn, the group had “a very good, positive discussion over a wide range of issues.”

Aon Report Identifies Greatest Risks for Construction Industry

Aon Risk Solutions has published its 2011 Construction Industry Report, which reflects the input of 60 global construction industry respondents to the firm’s Global Risk Management Survey. The report underscores the importance for organizations to embrace an enterprise-wide risk management approach that is globally optimized.

The industry’s top four risks, as identified by survey respondents:
  1. economic slowdown;
  2. increasing competition;
  3. damage to reputation/brand;
  4. failure to attract or retain top talent.
Regulatory/legislative changes and third-party liability were tied for the fifth spot.

“The construction industry is expected to grow 67% by 2020,” says Aon’s Mary Ann Krautheim. “Business leaders who use an enterprise-wide approach to identifying and assessing risks today will emerge from the economic storm in a stronger position with a larger market share.”

Bechtel Recognized for Green Practices

Bechtel Corp. received an Office Depot Leadership in Greener Purchasing Award, which recognizes its efforts to incorporate sustainability into its procurement practices. The award recognizes Bechtel’s commitment to environmental sustainability through purchasing greener products.

In 2010, Bechtel began collaborating with Office Depot as part of its responsible procurement program, an effort to integrate environmental and social sustainability into Bechtel operations and its supply chain. The collaboration, which included developing an internal system to make it easier to purchase green products, has increased Bechtel’s procurement of green office supplies for its U.S. operations.

NIOSH’s FACE Program Benefits ASSE Members

NIOSH’s FACE program, designed to study fatal occupational injuries, identifies and investigates work situations at high risk for injury then formulates prevention strategies to those who can intervene in the workplace. “FACE investigations differ from those conducted by OSHA and regulatory agencies in that the purpose is to learn from the event rather than find fault or place blame,” says Dawn Castillo, Director of the Division of Safety Research at NIOSH. “The primary product of FACE is a narrative report for each investigated fatality that describes the event and contributing factors and makes recommendations for preventing future deaths and injuries under similar circumstances.” NIOSH and state partners develop a variety of other products as well, including documents that summarize findings across multiple investigations, she adds. The program also tells the stories behind the statistics, providing contextual information to help understand what factors lead to occupational injury deaths. ASSE members can use FACE reports to assess if there may be relevant lessons for their workplaces. “ASSE members may also find the individual reports and stories useful in their communications with management and worker training, as they describe real-life situations involving real-life workers that went tragically wrong, and they identify preventive measures that if taken might prevent future deaths and injuries among similar circumstances,” Castillo says. FACE is a flagship program of the Division of Safety Research.

New Whole-Body Vibration Report

Whole-body is a common hazard in many occupational settings--yet it's a subject unfamiliar to many SH&E professionals according to this article published in the April 2011 issue of Professional Safety.

IRSST, a Quebec-based organization that, through research, aims to prevent industrial incidents and occupational diseases, has published an evaluation of whole-body vibration (WBV) exposure of operators of soil compactors, which are commonly used to compact soil and during road building.

This study investigates vibration properties and operator exposure to WBV and presents spectral classes of vibration that could be applied for identifying desired interventions. According to IRSST, the goal of this project was to determine the vibration behaviors of vehicles in terms of dominant ride frequencies and probable vibration modes. "The results suggest that the use of an adequately tuned suspension seat would be vital for limiting the exposure below the action value, particularly for the 10-ton machine." IRSST reports that most compactors used in Quebec do not employ a suspension at the seat and the cabin suspension is limited only to rubber mounts. 

Download the report here. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Homeland Security & Standards

Earlier this month, ANSI’s Homeland Security Standards Panel met to examine progress over the past decade and discuss a path forward. Over the last decade, the panel has collaborated with Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the 9-11 Commission, national standards bodies and ISO, among others. “Standards . . . play [a key role] in enabling first responders to coordinate activities in emergency environments,” said keynote speaker Adam Theil, fire chief for Alexandria, VA.

During panel discussions, the group discussed standards developed to respond to potential terrorist threats, others on the horizon and gaps that remain. The group also discussed hazards standards, such as biometric identification standards, the Digital Imaging and Communications in Security standard and initiatives to protect the nation's water supply.

The group also focused on topic that is gaining traction within the SH&E community: risk management. Panelists noted that organizations must to invest in proactive, preventive controls for risk management to ensure business continuity.

As for the future, the panel believes that international harmonization on standards and conformity assessment activities are vital, as is engaging the insurance industry, small business community and other stakeholders less represented in the standards development process.

Find copies of meeting presentations here.

New PSA Warns Teens About Distracted Driving

A new public service announcement (PSA) geared toward teen drivers will appear in movie theaters and gas station pumps across the U.S. during this holiday season. DOT teamed up with Regal Cinema and Outcast Media to raise awareness against distracted driving. The PSA will air nationwide on Regal Cinema theater screens this week as well as on gas station pump-top screens owned by Outcast's PumpTop TV during the month of December.

The new PSA is titled "OMG" and uses other popular shorthand text messages such as "LOL" and "L8R" to show how sending text messages while driving can be dangerous. The PSA can be found on DOT's distracted driving website, along with other educational resources for teen drivers.

Free Guide for Lean Manufacturing

Graphic Products, Inc. has released a free guide to help facility managers eliminate waste and improve efficiency. Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize and Sustain (5S) are the key components of lean manufacturing and can result in improved profitability, efficiency, service and safety. The guide provides in-depth information on how a 5S System can improve any facility, with a focus on effective workplace organization. The guide uses a systematic approach to cleaning up and getting organized, as well as standards to reduce waste and improve productivity, safety and quality.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Geospatial Website Launched for the Public to Create Maps and Share Info

A prototype website for the "Geospatial Platform" has been launched by U.S. Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC), a partnership among member federal agencies. The prototype version combines map-based data and tools with Internet technology to deliver geospatial information. Users can create their own maps by combining their data with public domain data. Maps assembled through the tool can be shared through web browsers and mobile technology.

Examples of the information available on this initial version include environmental cleanup data from EPA, and coastal environmental sensitivity data and historic hurricane data from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. According to FGDC, these data sets could be combined on a topographic map to assess hurricane vulnerability in coastal areas.

Final Rule Bans Handheld Phone Use for Bus & Truck Drivers

To help end distracted driving, DOT announced a final rule that prohibits commercial interstate truck and bus drivers from using handheld cell phones while driving. The rule was finalized in conjunction with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. According to DOT penalties for violations will include:
  • federal civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense; 
  • disqualification from operating a commercial motor vehicle for multiple offenses;
  • state suspension of driver's commercial driver's license after two or more serious traffic violations;
  • a maximum penalty of $11,000 for commercial truck and bus companies that allow their drivers to use such devices while driving.

Thanksgiving: Family Health History Day

This Thanksgiving holiday, U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin is encouraging family members to share their health history with each other. This marks the nation's eight annual Family Health History Day. Family members can use the My Family Health Portrait website to gather their family's health history, which increases awareness for possible health conditions that may run in the family. Once information is added, the website tool creates a "family health tree" that is unique to your family.

"Discussing health information with other members of your family can often uncover conditions and explanations for health problems which your never knew about, simply because no one ever asked," says Benjamin.

Get Involved with NIOSH Programs

Dawn Castillo, Director of the Division of Safety Research at NIOSH, tells ASSE members how to get more involved with NIOSH and its programs: “NIOSH truly values stakeholder engagement and input, and routinely provides opportunities for interested parties to provide their input. Examples are NIOSH science blogs that invite comments on hot topics and emerging issues, and public dockets that seek document review and programmatic input. The NIOSH home Webpage includes links to the blog and docket, as well as links to NIOSH social media sites that include Facebook, Flickr, MySpace, Twitter and YouTube. My recommendation to ASSE members who would like to stay abreast of NIOSH work and products, and opportunities to be involved with NIOSH, is to subscribe to NIOSH’s monthly electronic newsletter, eNews.” Castillo adds that she plans on working more systematically with ASSE leadership to ensure that members are aware of new and useful safety publications and guidance.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

2012 Fuel Economy Guide Available

EPA and Department of Energy (DOE) produced the 2012 Fuel Economy Guide to help car buyers decide which fuel-efficient vehicle is best for them and can save money and greenhouse gas emissions. According to DOE, the vehicle listings provide an estimated annual fuel cost, as well as information about the top fuel economy leaders within each car category. The guide is available online or in print. The online version allows users to input their local gasoline prices and driving habits to receive a more accurate, personalized fuel cost estimate.

MSHA Wants Your Opinion

MSHA wants your feedback. The agency's Rules to Live By program began in March 2010 as a way "to target the prevention of conditions that cause or contribute to fatal accidents in mining," MSHA wants to know what you think of its program. Is it working? Is it improving mine safety? What can make it more effective? Submit your comments or ideas today.

NASA Is Hiring

You don’t have to be an astronaut to work for NASA (although, the agency is currently accepting applications for the astronaut candidate program). NASA is more than just astronauts—it’s also scientists, engineers, human resources specialists, technicians and accountants. In fact, you might be surprised to learn what types of jobs the agency is looking to fill right now. And why not? NASA remains one of the top federal government places to work according to a survey by the Partnership for Public Service.

“Those of us at NASA know it’s a great place to work,” says NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “We are the world leader in space exploration and cutting-edge science missions, and contribute to the economic vitality of our great nation. We reach for new heights and challenge our employees to carry out missions to benefit humankind. What job could be better than that?”