Friday, August 30, 2013

Aon Hewitt Offers Tips for Helping Workers Manage Stress

Aon Hewitt’s 2013 Consumer Health Mindset report, which surveyed more than 2,800 employees and their families, shows that work-related factors play an important role in worker stress levels. According to Aon, more and more employers are taking steps to reduce employee stress.

According to the report, nearly half of those surveyed characterized their stress level as high or overwhelming. The top four out of five reasons cited by participants were work-related. The causes of stress most commonly cited were:
  • Financial situation: 46%
  • Work changes: 37%
  • Work schedule: 34%
  • Work relationships: 32%
  • Influence or control over how I do my work: 32%

According to other Aon research, 35% of employers offer stress reduction programs, but only 3% of employees participate in them.

“Employees are increasingly feeling stressed by work-related pressures, and this can often be destructive to health, productivity and performance,” says Aon Hewitt’s Kathleen Mahieu. “Employers recognize the impact that high stress levels are having on their workforces and are implementing programs to help employees recognize stress, reframe it in more positive ways and focus on what they can control. Unfortunately, most stress management programs in the workplace today aren’t being implemented in a way that’s effective.”

Aon Hewitt recommends that employers focus on three areas to improve employees’ well-being:
  1. Investigate the causes of stress and potential solutions. When analyzing stress, employers must consider both internal and external factors. Family strains and long work hours can equally contribute to high stress in the workplace. Gathering feedback through surveys and focus groups can give employers a better understanding of stress triggers and help them develop new strategies for reducing stress.
  2. Encourage workers to use stress reduction resources. Employers should show support for stress management initiatives by encouraging workers to participate in stress management training programs and physical activity during the workday. Some examples Aon Hewitt gives: schedule a workspace cleanup day or a bring-your-pet-to-work day, offer relaxation techniques, encourage workers to take advantage of existing resources such as en employee assistance program, work-life services, or on-site wellness coaches.
  3. Promote emotional well-being. Aon says employers should encourage workers to take vacation time and offer flexible work schedules. Other suggestions include sponsoring activities that promote camaraderie such as community walk and run events, company sports teams and group volunteer activities.

Active Shooter in Public Schools, Part 3: Responding

On Aug. 14, 2013, ASSE presented Emergency Management: Active Shooter in Public Schools, a webinar addressing the process of preventing, preparing for, responding to and recovering from active shooter situations in schools.

Speaker David J Akers III, a safety and occupational health professional at Concurrent Technologies Corporation, discussed the three recommended response strategies in the event of an active shooter situation: Evacuate, hide and fight.

If possible, the best response strategy is to evacuate via predetermined evacuation routes. Choose either the primary or secondary evacuation route, depending on which one leads farther away from the shooter.

When evacuating, leave all belongings behind and do not confront the attacker. Do not attempt to move wounded individuals unless you have been specifically trained to do so, because injuries can be aggravated through hasty movements.

Getting yourself and any children for whom you are responsible out of the building safely should be your main priority. Assist others in need only once you have removed yourself from immediate danger.

If evacuation is impossible due to the location of the shooter, hiding is the next recommended response strategy. Make sure that all children for whom you are responsible are out of view, and encourage them to stay quiet.

If possible, lock doors and barricade them with chairs and desks. Get behind heavy furniture, which may protect against bullets, but do not trap yourself or children in spaces that will be hard to escape. Make the room look unoccupied by closing blinds, turning off lights and silencing phones and other sources of noise.

Do not come out of hiding unless it becomes more dangerous to stay hidden or you know safe escape is possible. If you are directed to come out of hiding by law enforcement, make sure the officers are wearing uniforms before following their orders.

This last strategy should be used only as a last resort. If the attacker has discovered you, fighting may be your only option. Make noise and throw items such as furniture and computers. Classroom objects like scissors may be used as weapons. Once you have started fighting, do not stop until either the attacker is no longer a threat or you are no longer able to fight.

Watch for more blog posts with additional tips from Akers. Previous posts have covered Developing a Preparedness Plan and Preparing forActive Shooter Situations.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

NIOSH Report on Overexposures in Firefighter Training

A report by NIOSH suggests that firefighter trainers could be overexposed to chemicals in smoke simulants used in training exercises. The smoke simulants are used to help train firefighters on proper techniques for rescuing victims and attacking the blaze in low visibility conditions.

The report was conducted via examination of air samples, observations of training exercises, interviews with trainers, review of fire department fire fighter training logs of injuries and illnesses and analysis of medical records concerning a trainer’s exposure to oil-based smoke simulants resulting in acute respiratory injury and hospitalization.

The study found that in certain training environments, levels of mineral oil mist, diethylene glycol, formaldehyde and acrolein often exceeded exposure limits.

To reduce exposure, NIOSH suggests taking the following precautions to employers:

  • Rotate training officer duties during a full day of training exercises.
  • Do not allow trainers to re-enter the training tower without wearing appropriate respirators until the smoke simulant has visibly cleared.
  • Require trainers to wear self-contained breathing apparatus when inside the training tower, even if they are outside the training room.
  • Self-contained breathing apparatus or full-facepiece air purifying respirators must always be used during training exercises that involve smoke simulants. These respirators should feature cartridges or canisters that are effective against oil-based aerosol and formaldehyde.
  • Ensure that all respirators are maintained and fit properly.
  • Create a schedule for changing out respirator cartridges and canisters.
  • Encourage trainers to report any health concerns or symptoms associated with work tasks.

View the complete report here.

Study Examines Workers’ Reasons for Underreporting Injuries

To examine the widespread problem of injury underreporting, a new study sponsored by Center for Construction Research and Training surveyed construction workers to learn why they fail to report work-related injuries. The study found that more than 25% of respondents had suffered a work-related injury but did not report it. Workers gave several reasons for not reporting their injuries:

  • they accept that injury is part of the job;
  • they want to remain eligible for incentive prizes;
  • they wanted to avoid being seen as complainers or weak;
  • they were concerned they wouldn’t be hired again;
  • the claim filing process was too daunting.

The study, “Construction Workers’ Reasons for Not Reporting Work-Related Injuries: An Exploratory Study,” appears in the International Journal of Occupational Safety and Ergonomics.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

New Standard Improves Fire Alarm Systems

Fire detection and alarm systems are intended to save lives and protect property and the environment by detecting a fire as early as possible. However, in the past, fire detection and alarm systems have suffered scrutiny over poor system design and installation, as well as inadequate maintenance. In order to work properly, these systems must be installed and maintained correctly by experienced personnel, which is why ISO’s new standard on the design and installation of fire detection and alarm systems is very important.

The new standard, ISO 7240-14, is the missing piece of the puzzle, says Peter Parsons, chairman of ISO technical committee ISO/TC 21, subcommittee SC 3, which developed the standard.

“For the first time, we have a series of standards dealing with both the equipment and its configuration and installation. This will help ensure that fire detection and alarm systems give building occupants early warning of fire,” he says. “The earlier we can detect a fire, the more chance we have of reducing human and material losses. This standard will help save the lives of building occupants.”

Click here to learn more.

NFPA Confined Space Entry Draft Guidance Document Open for Public Input

NFPA Standards Council has approved the preliminary draft of NFPA 350, Guide for Safe Confined Space Entry and Work, and it is open for public input. The guide incorporates best practices for confined space activities such as hot work and emergency rescue operations. The document offers guidance on how to implement requirements of existing standards, primarily OSHA 1910.146, for example, how to perform tests to verify a safe atmosphere prior to entry. The guide also includes information on equipment selection, calibration and limitations, and explains how to select and locate ventilation equipment in order to eliminate and control atmospheric hazards.

According to NFPA, the guide also incorporates additional information such as adjacent space hazards and personnel competencies, as well as best practices such as management of change and prevention through design.

The committee encourages interested parties to read the document and submit input before the closing date of Jan. 3, 2014.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

How Does Miley Cyrus's VMA Performance Relate to Leadership?

The question posed by the title of this post might seem a bit odd, even if you have seen Miley Cyrus's bizarre performance, which has been widely panned by the media and criticized by fans across social media. I guess that's why I was intrigued by a tweet today from performance management expert Aubrey Daniels. Aubrey's tweet shares a link to this blog post by leadership consultant Scott Williams, who concludes that many leaders are like Miley Cyrus. In his tweet, Aubrey states simply, "I agree with his point." How about you?

OSHA Encourages Construction Workers to Pause for Safety Stand Down, Sept. 3

In a continued effort to boost awareness about the hazards of falls, OSHA is partnering with more than 300 employers and labor organizations to sponsor a safety stand-down on Sept. 3, 2013 beginning at 11 a.m., at construction sites throughout Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska.

According to preliminary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries the construction industry saw a 5 percent increase in worker fatalities in 2012. The focus of the stand down is to encourage empoyers and workers to recognize hazards of falls, which are the leading cause of deaths in the construction industry.

"This stand-down underscores the imperative need to identify and address fall safety hazards," said Marcia Drumm, OSHA’s acting regional administrator in Kansas City. "Fall hazards are preventable and lives can be saved with three simple steps: plan, provide and train."

Click here to learn more or vist OSHA’s Fall Prevention page.

New Climate Change Video Series

EPA has released a series of short videos on climate change, including its causes, effects and what can be done to slow its progression. The videos provide tips on how to reduce your carbon footprint at home, at work and on the road. Other video topics include reducing emissions by changing light bulbs and how addressing climate change can benefit the economy.

Watch the videos here.  

Video Contest Encourages Young Adults to Get Health Insurance

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, along with Young Invincibles, created the Healthy Young America video contest to encourage young people to get health insurance. It also aims to educate them about insurance options available under the Affordable Care Act.

More than 100 prizes are available, and cash prizes will be given to the best videos in three categories (a short film, a music video or a video infographic). All entries must be submitted on the Healthy Young America website by Sept. 23, 2013.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Active Shooter in Public Schools, Part 2: Preparing

On Aug. 14, 2013, ASSE presented Emergency Management: Active Shooter in Public Schools, a webinar addressing the process of preventing, preparing for, responding to and recovering from active shooter situations in schools.

After discussing how to develop a preparedness plan foractive shooter scenarios, speaker David J Akers III, a safety and occupational health professional at Concurrent Technologies Corporation, recommended taking the following steps: 
  • Train staff to ensure that they are aware of the determined strategies for responding to catastrophic events. All staff members should know their roles and responsibilities during such an event.
  • Students, teachers and other staff need to be able to recognize the sound of gunshots, which may sound different from T.V. depictions of gunshots.
  • Students and staff alike should be trained on recognizing and responding to acts of violence and patterns of escalating behavior that may be exhibited by fellow students or staff members.
  • Conduct drills and have periodic meetings to discuss how effective the drills are.
  • Make drills as realistic as possible but avoid creating unnecessary stress. As part of drills, children should be taught where and how to hide. The location of the threat should be varied from one drill to the next to prevent predictability and ensure that everyone can respond to a variety of scenarios.

 Watch for future blog posts with additional tips from Akers.

Complexity at Nuclear Plant Vogtle

Post From Guest Blogger Doug Gray

You may know these facts:

Plant Vogtle, near Augusta, GA, is a new nuclear consortium construction project with three partners: Southern Nuclear Company (SNC), part of Georgia Power, is the utility owner and provider. Shaw Construction group is the fixed bid Engineering Procurement and Construction builder. Westinghouse is the designer of the AO1000 model for units 3 and 4.

Fewer people know these facts:

1) This project is historic. This is the first time in over 32 years that there is a new nuclear construction project in the United States. That fact has tremendous historical impact for many workers. I have heard people state, “I am proud to be working on this site. We are making history. I look forward to telling my grandkids about the work we are doing now.” This is the first project that Shaw and SNC have partnered on. And, for the first time in history, the Shaw and SNC senior leaders have met for construction alignment meetings, offsite in October and onsite last week. These leaders are defining new, different ways to “get it done” while supporting different constituents- the utility owners, and the construction builders.

2) This project is American. Those patriotic values cannot be understated. This project is US owned, and managed. There are 104 operating nuclear plants in the US, more than twice as many as any other country. Nuclear is part of the energy solution throughout the US. Plant Vogtle is backed with federal loan guarantees, but all of the construction risk and reward is on the consortium partners. In contrast, at other countries new nuclear construction is funded by governments including the French (Areva) and Japanese (Toshiba) and Chinese (China National Nuclear Corporation.) At Vogtle, there are American Flag stickers on many hard hats. These workers, both craft and field non manual employees, are proud of their contribution to the US job economy.

3) This project has huge financial stakes. On February 16, 210, President Obama announced $7.6 billion in federally backed loans. He spoke beside the CEO/founder of Shaw Power, Jim Bernhardt, and several union workers. Georgia Power, in response to requests from citizens, has added a line item on all Georgia Power utility bills so that energy consumers can know their level of their contribution to the Vogtle project. One estimate of the financial contribution to the Augusta, Ga and Aiken, SC region is at least $5MM. Some estimates cite over 7,000 jobs averaging $70,000 over 7 years.

4) Careers are being defined by the Vogtle Project. There are currently 2,000 people on site, and that number will swell to over 5,000 once the Combined License is awarded by the Nuclear Regulatory Committee. This construction job is a fixed bid, slated to be completed in 6 years. One construction schedule is 48 months. That fact creates a sense of urgency, expectation. Yet the NRC and regulatory culture requires caution, and compliance. So there is a designed tension of “starts and stops” that is often stressful to all leaders.

5) Despite these challenges, everyone chose to be on site. Yes, there are other job sites. And there may be future jobs that attract these workers. However, each of these 2,000+ workers has chosen to be at Plant Vogtle. Many have recently lost their living allowances, because of company policy changes, which may mean a 30-40% reduction in individual compensation. Many have been reassigned. Yet these are people who love to fix things. As one coaching client recently told me, “We are guys who like to fix stuff. That is why we picked the construction industry.”

Imagine the stage at Plant Vogtle: In the past 3 years, acres of land have been carved into nuclear grade soil, thousands of cubic feet of concrete and steel rebar foundations have been poured to support the largest cranes in the world, and the nuclear island. Hundreds of people have come and gone. Thousands of people are on site. Many craft were non union, and now most are union workers. Imagine the complex levels of individual and organizational action. Then imagine a work stoppage because of safety concerns. Or a compliance concern.

Now imagine the stage ahead: Can you even imagine over 5,000 workers working in harmony? Now imagine them building a nuclear grade reactor, and scaffolding, with a new modular construction process, with unknown or changing regulatory concerns, amid a culture that invites open exchange of information, amid technological constraints that lead to delayed design drawings, or unclear compliance patterns.

Imagine those 5,000+ committed people getting the work done on time, under budget, according to their contractual agreements. Thankfully, they share those goals.

I love the quote, “Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed, they are the only ones who have done so.”

Working with these leaders at Shaw Power Group and at Southern Nuclear Construction is an honor. Despite their stresses and 15 hour days, they are committed to “getting it done.”

These are leaders who rarely “toot their owns horns.” However, they are determining many new solutions to complex challenges. (More on that later.)

So, how well do you think these leaders are responding to the complexities?

Spread The Word!

Friday, August 23, 2013

OSHA Proposes Rule on Exposure to Crystalline Silica

OSHA has published a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPR) designed to curb lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease in America’s workers. According to the NPR, the agency is proposing to lower worker exposure to the NIOSH REL (0.05 mg/m3 TWA).

Crystalline silica kills hundreds of workers and sickens thousands more each year. The public will have 90 days to submit written comments once the NPR is published in the Federal Register, followed by public hearings. “Exposure to silica can be deadly and limiting that exposure is essential,” says OSHA Administrator David Michaels. “This proposal is expected to prevent thousands of deaths from silicosis—an incurable and progressive disease—as well as lung cancer, other respiratory diseases and kidney disease. We’re looking forward to public comment on the proposal.”

Exposure to airborne silica dust occurs in operations involving cutting, sawing, drilling and crushing of concrete, brick, block and other stone products and in operations using sand products, such as in glass manufacturing, foundries and sand blasting.

The agency's website now features five fact sheets:
The site also contains background documents the agency has produced on health effects and risk assessment; a preliminary economic analysis; and an employment analysis.

According to the agency, the proposal is based on extensive review of scientific and technical evidence, consideration of current industry consensus standards and outreach by OSHA to stakeholders, including public stakeholder meetings, conferences and meetings with employer and employee organizations. The proposed rulemaking includes two separate standards—one for general industry and maritime employment, and one for construction.

Working with members of ASSE’s Construction and Industrial Hygiene practice specialties, ASSE’s Government Affairs Committee will be developing a comment in response. You can read ASSE President Kathy Seabrook's statement here