Monday, September 30, 2013

Drive Safely Work Week Campaign Offers Spanish Materials

Drive Safely Work Week 2013 is Oct. 7-11. This year's theme is "Gear Up for Safe Driving - Mind, Body, Vehicle." Campaign toolkits are now available in both English and Spanish. Traffic crashes remain the leading contributor to fatal work injuries, according to the most recent BLS data. "Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS) wants to reach as many employees and employee family members as possible with the safe-driving messages of the campaign," says Jack Hanley, NETS executive director. 

The employer toolkit provides web-based resources that illustrate how maintenance of mind, body and vehicle are connected, vital components to being a safe driver. Actionable steps are provided to help drivers be at their best behind the wheel. NETS' member companies collectively represent a fleet of more than half a million vehicles that travel more than 10 billion miles globally each year.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Everyday Ergonomics Infographic

Best Choice Reviews has released the following infographic to raise awareness about ergonomic issues that affect millions of people every day at home, at work and on the road.

Friday Flashback: EHS Certification

This week's Friday Flashback is "The Need for Certification of the Safety Professional" from June 1970. Written by George L. Gorbell, ASSE’s 1960-61 president, it provides a look at the early history of certification in EHS. Gorbell is credited with helping to establish Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP) in 1969. At the time he wrote the article, he was one of BCSP's directors. He was named an ASSE Fellow in 1964.

"The benefits of certification of the safety professional to the practitioner, the profession, the employer and the public are obvious. The evidence of competency in safety furnished by certification will improve the individual, raise the general level of competency in the safety profession, promote high standards of professional conduct, assure management that it will receive top-quality job performance, and last, but definitely not least, it will enhance the safety profession’s chance to take its rightful place in the sun." --George Gorbell, 1970

Thursday, September 26, 2013

NASA & Homeland Security Test New Disaster Recovery Tool

Photo by DHS/John Price
A new portable radar device that detects heartbeats and breathing patterns of victims trapped in rubble is being tested by NASA and U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The device, Finding Individuals of Disaster and Emergency Response (FINDER), can reportedly find people people buried as deep as 30 ft in debris, hidden behind 20 ft of solid concrete and from a distance of 100 ft in open spaces. It sends out a low-powered microwave signal to detect individuals and/or animals who are trapped.

"FINDER is bringing NASA technology that explores other planets to the effort to save lives on ours," says NASA's Mason Peck. DHS's John Price says that the main goal of the device is to help emergency responders rescue victims of disasters with the utmost efficiency. Visit NASA's website to view a video about how FINDER works and for more information.

OSHA Offers Certificate Program for Public Sector

OSHA has launched Public Sector Safety and Health Fundamentals, a certificate program that aims to provide EHS training to public sector employees training to reduce injuries, illnesses and fatalities among workers in state and local governments. The program is available for construction and general industry, and offers various courses covering topics such as standards, safety and health management, accident investigation, fall hazard awareness and recordkeeping. To earn a certificate, participants must complete at least seven courses (three required, four electives) totaling at least 68 hours of in-class training.

The program will be administered by OSHA Training Institute Education Centers. Use OSHA’s searchable course schedule to find training courses.

Learn to Identify and Eliminate Risks at ASSE's Upcoming Symposium

In November, ASSE’s Avoiding the Worst, Fatality and Severe Loss Prevention Symposium will feature many sessions that collectively create a framework for identifying and mitigating occupational risks, but two courses in particular were designed to work together to give attendees a deeper understanding of human performance fundamentals and pre-task briefs that can help identify and greatly reduce the likelihood of serious injuries and fatalities in the workplace.

In Human Performance Indicators, Rob Fisher, president of Fisher Improvement Technologies Inc., will introduce fundamental human performance concepts and their relationship to fatality prevention, which will lead into Using Pre-Task Briefs to Identify and Eliminate Risks, a presentation by Ron Pryor, owner and principle consultant of Pryor Experience LLC, in which he will discuss using pre-task briefs as a mechanism to identify and eliminate fatality risks.

At the working level, many triggers can indicate the probability of error, Fisher says. Human performance is a science-based approach to aid in understanding the impact of people, programs, processes, work environments and equipment on overall system performance. It is not a new safety and health program, Fisher explains, but rather a process that integrates new concepts, ideas and tools into an existing EHS program. 

“Fatalities and catastrophic events are often the result of unidentified hazards or unanticipated risks associated with the work being performed,” Pryor says. “These hazards or risks may go unrecognized due to a lack of knowledge or experience on the part of the workers involved with the task, or because of external factors such as time pressure or distractive environments, or because of overconfidence on the part of individuals associated with planning, performing, or supervising the work.”

Research shows that there are 10 human-error traps (including time pressure, distractive environment, high workload, first time task, first working day after days off, one-half hour after wake-up or meal, vague or incorrect guidance, over-confidence, imprecise communication and work stress) that can significantly increase the likelihood of errors in a facility. By learning to recognize what the precursors of these errors look like, they can begin to be identified and corrected.

Fisher’s goal is to teach managers, supervisors and workers what these traps look like, how to recognize the signs that indicate these errors are imminent and give them the tools to reduce the likelihood of human-error related incidents. Understanding and implementing human performance concepts and tool, he says, can reduce the probability of error by a factor of 10.

Using pre-task briefs is among the first tools recommended. Applying this model, workers assess a task through a series of steps that encourage analysis and conversation before work begins to reduce the likelihood of human error. So while Fisher’s introduction will give attendees a basic understanding of the science and concepts behind human performance, Pryor’s presentation will provide practical applications. Pryor will pull concepts from Fisher’s presentation and explain how to utilize and assess those concepts in a pre-task brief and plan for either an elimination or avoidance of those issues before the task begins. 

For more on human performance tools, look for Fisher and Pryor’s presentation at ASSE’s Avoiding the Worst: Fatality and Severe Loss Prevention Symposium.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

New MSHA Miners' Representative Guide

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has released a guide for miners' representatives. The guide, which is available as a handbook and an online resource, provides detailed information about a number of safety issues currently affecting the mining industry, including the following:

  • Reporting hazardous conditions and imminent dangers.
  • Conducting incident investigations. 
  • Understanding the elements of discrimination under Section 105(c) of the Mine Act.
  • Safety and health training for mine workers.
  • Petitions for modification of safety standards.
  • Rights to information and records, civil penalties and requests under the Freedom of Information Act.
Additionally, the guide discusses at length MSHA's purpose and organizational structure, the roles and responsibilities of miners' representatives and new and recently revised standards and regulations.

View the new guide here

Cold Crew Contest Is Open for Entries

Cintas Corp. and Carhartt announce their third annual Cold Crew Contest, an online contest in search of the "toughest cold weather workers" in North America. The contest recognizes workers who endure some of the toughest winter weather conditions, and entrants can share personal stories of how their Carhartt PPE is helps protect while working. Participants should submit an essay and photo or video, and have until Feb. 28, 2014 to enter. Finalists will be selected, then the public will vote online for a winner.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

EPA Proposes Standards to Reduce Power-Plant Pollution

EPA recently proposed Clean Air Act standards to reduce carbon pollution from new power plants to fight against climate change and to improve public health. The agency is also working with other organizations to create carbon pollution standards for existing power plants. EPA reports this is a first step that addresses U.S. President Barack Obama's Climate Action Plan.

"By taking commonsense action to limit carbon pollution from new power plants, we can slow the effects of climate change and fulfill our obligation to ensure a safe and healthy environment for our children," says EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. "These standards will also spark the innovation we need to build the next generation of power plants, helping grow a more sustainable clean energy economy."

According to the agency, the proposed standards will help ensure that new power plants are built with clean technology, such as efficient natural gas, nuclear power, wind and/or solar power, or advanced coal technology. EPA welcomes public comment on the proposed standards, which will be open 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

Study: Culture of Health Creates Competitive Advantage

Companies that build a culture of health by focusing on worker safety and well-being may yield greater value for their investors. That's the key finding of a study published in the September 2013 issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (JOEM), official publication of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM).

The stock market performance of companies that had received ACOEM’s Corporate Health Achievement Award (CHAA), which annually recognizes the healthiest and safest companies in North America, was conducted at HealthNEXT LLC and analyzed by lead authors Raymond Fabius, M.D., and R. Dixon Thayer, and colleagues. According to ACOEM, companies that receive the award must be engaged in demonstrable and robust efforts to reduce employee safety and health risks.

Researchers found that award-winning CHAA companies outperformed the S&P 500. Four investment scenarios were created, using a combination of simulations and past market-performance to create investor portfolios for comparison. While the margin of return varied, CHAA recipients outperformed the market in each scenario, ACOEM reports. In the highest-performing scenario, CHAA companies had an annualized return of 5.23% vs. −0.06% for the S&P 500. In the lowest-performing scenario, CHAA companies had an annualized return of 6.03% vs. 2.92% for the S&P 500.

“Our results strongly support the view that focusing on health and safety of a workforce is good business,” the study's authors explain. “Engaging in a comprehensive effort to promote wellness, reduce the health risks of a workforce, and mitigate the complications of chronic illness within these populations can produce remarkable impacts on health care costs, productivity and performance.”

According to ACOEM, the authors acknowledge that the study focuses on a small sample for a limited number of years, adding that more research is needed before a strong causal relationship can be established between safety and health programs and market results. That said, the authors conclude that the study adds new evidence-based data to a growing body of literature that “healthy workforces provide a competitive financial advantage in the marketplace.”

Monday, September 23, 2013

Improve Your Business Skills: Free E-Learning for ASSE Members

ASSE's Members-Only section features new free e-learning modules designed to help bolster your business acumen. ASSE’s Business and Professional Skills site is an ever-growing collection of e-learning sessions on topics relevant to the business of safety.

Need a 30-minute business refresher on finance before you meet with your manager? How about a tool that helps you plan your next job negotiation? This site is for you. These sessions, free to all ASSE members, are available to view as often as you like. All sessions can be viewed online, on a tablet or smartphone. They can even be downloaded to a tablet for offline viewing. Topics include leadership skills, communicating effectively, problem solving, social media, engaging trainees, negotiation skills and finance basics.

To access the sessions, visit ASSE's Members-Only section. After logging in, click on the Business and Professional Skills E-Learning Sessions under “Resources.”

Not an ASSE member? Click here to join.

Fall Hazard Risk Assessment & Ranking

On Wednesday, Sept. 18, LJB Inc. presented Understanding Risk Assessment & Ranking, a webinar on how best to identify fall hazards and prioritize preventive actions. Speaker Thom Kramer, P.E., CSP, the managing principal at LJB Inc. and chair of ASSE’s PDC Planning Committee, explained that to abate fall hazards, safety professionals need to both evaluate their current methods of risk assessment and identify the top ten risks found in their facilities.

According to Kramer, many fall hazards go undetected because workers may believe that a lack of incidents indicates that no risks are present. He warns that some safety initiatives, such as use of PPE and safer equipment, may lead workers to take more risks because they perceive their workplace as being safer than it really is.

To effectively assess risks, safety professionals must seek to identify all risks rather than focusing on a few categories of risk. For example, while hazards associated with edge distance and slippery conditions are most often taken into consideration, some personnel may overlook more unusual hazards, such as a loose bolt holding a ladder in place on a structure.

Once all hazards have been identified, lists of those hazards must be kept for use in prioritizing concerns and alerting workers to risks they may encounter. Kramer says that just like a grocery list, a list of hazards is necessary for remembering what the hazards are, where they are located and how quickly they need to be mitigated. He suggests using a risk matrix (see below) to help determine which hazards require immediate attention. Such a matrix measures the severity of the potential incident against the probability that workers will be exposed to the hazard and can be used for assigning a numerical ranking to every hazard. For example, a hazard that workers have probable exposure to that would result in a total temporary disability (TTD) would receive a ranking of 2, meaning that it requires immediate attention but is not as urgent as a hazard that receives a ranking of 1.

Simple risk matrixes have some limitations in their accuracy, so it is important to also calculate the maximum risk reduction possible in respect to the hazards identified and funds available for risk reduction strategies. Kramer stresses the need to identify all risks before mitigating according to a budget because companies run the risk of spending all their available funds on the first risk they find, which may not be the most critical hazard to address.

For more information on fall protection webinars and recordings of earlier presentations, visit LJB’s website

Friday, September 20, 2013

Is Your Workplace at Risk? Find Out at ASSE's Symposium

At ASSE’s Fatality & Severe Loss Prevention symposium this November, several presentations will address workplace vulnerability to risk and how to identify and mitigate those vulnerabilities.

Organizational psychologist Thomas R. Krause, Ph.D., will discuss how an organization’s culture and leadership affect risk in his presentation, Signals of Vulnerability to Catastrophic Loss. Krause believes that these organizational attributes can be determinants of risk and that during risk assessment, safety professionals need to ask themselves, “Does the leader have a deeply felt value for safety? Or is it just another part of the job?”

“A great safety leader is someone who has a view of safety that is really deeply held,” says Krause, adding that safety must be viewed as the basis for everything that is done in the workplace. In his presentation, he will examine how positive attributes of leadership and culture can be identified and made more prominent, as well as how leaders who feel passionately about safety can encourage their workers to adopt a similar philosophy.

According to Krause, in some workplaces, assessment of leadership and culture may reveal significant vulnerability to catastrophic loss. “If the feeling is that you really have to watch out for yourself, that you can’t believe what others say, that communication is poor . . . . That kind of an environment is where it’s likely that you will have higher than average risk.”

In a concurrent session, John W. Mroszczyk, Ph.D., P.E., CSP, will present Checklist For Sources of a Fatality or Severe Loss in Your Workplace, a lecture focused on assessing risks around energy sources and hazardous substances in the workplace. “You want to focus on areas that have potentially high energy release,” says Mroszczyk, noting that those may include any work stations where flammable liquids or vapors, fall hazards, chemical energy, radiation energy, electrical hazards or moving machinery are present.

Mroszczyk suggests examining how various work activities interact and whether those interactions could result in a catastrophic event. Attendees will leave his session with a checklist containing sources of risk in the workplace. He will provide insight on how to identify additional sources of risk as well as how to prevent incidents once hazards have been detected.

ASSE’s Fatality & Severe Loss Prevention Symposium, Avoiding the Worst, will be held Nov. 21 and 22 in San Diego, CA. Find a complete listing of seminars and more information at

ASTM Approves New Standard for Arc Rated Gloves

A new standard from ASTM International will provide arc rating thermal protective values for gloves, which will allow more gloves to be used inside an arc flash zone when there is no shock hazard. ASTM F2675/F2675M, Test Method for Determining Arc Ratings of Hand Protective Products Developed and Used for Electrical Arc Flash Protection, will be used to determine the arc rating of hand protective products in the form of gloves, glove material, glove material systems or other hand protective products and specifically intended for electric arc flash protection.

"The electrical industry wanted to have the same type of rating on gloves as for clothing and face shields, since the hands are generally closer to the hazard than any other part of the body," says Hugh Hoagland, a member of ASTM's F18 Committee on Electrical Protective Equipment for Workers.

The standard will be primarily used by those in heavy manufacturing, petrochemical and the electric utility industries to protect the hands of workers exposed to potential electrical arc hazards. Many of the products rated by the standard will have applications for flash fire, cut and chemical applications when rated with other standards.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

DOL Urges to Use Caution During Flood Recovery

U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is reminding employers and those helping with flood recovery and cleanup to be aware of dangers and hazards they may encounter during their efforts. In its Twitter feed, @DOL writes, "Employers: Protect workers during #flood response & recovery." DOL provides its Floods website that offers information and resources on flood preparedness and response/recovery.

New MSHA Alert on Roof Falls

Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) reports that between Sept. 8, 2013 and Sept. 15, 2013, seven roof falls occurred in the mining industry on working sections after the roofs had been bolted. MSHA warns that these types of roof falls are especially dangerous because they occur where most miners are working.

To reduce the risk of falling in these situations, MSHA offers the following tips: 
  • Make frequent examinations and be aware of changing conditions and their effects on safety.
  • Know and follow the approved roof control plan.
  • If adverse conditions are detected or anticipated, install additional roof and/or rib support.
  • Use supplemental support for immediate roof control. Examples include screen, steel straps, header boards and larger roof bolt plates.
  • When retreat mining, withdraw equipment immediately if the roof becomes unstable.
  • Use test holes to check for cracks and other hazards above the roof bolts.
  • If unusual roof or rib conditions are found, tell mine management and other miners.
  • Never travel under an unsupported roof. 

Find more MSHA information on roof and rib safety here

AHMP Stages Emergency Response Scenario for Attendees

Emergency responders from the Reedy Creek Fire Department rushed to the scene of a chemical spill on Disney properties early Tuesday morning to avert what could have been a major crisis—if it hadn’t been all part of an elaborate emergency response scenario set up by the Alliance of Hazardous Materials Professionals’ (AHMP) for their 26th national conference in Orlando.

Emergency responders never quite know what they may find when they arrive at the scene of an incident, but being prepared for anything and knowing the best practices for any event can significantly lower risk of injury when an incident occurs. This year’s emergency response scenario gave AHMP attendees the opportunity to share knowledge, and learn new techniques and best practices for handing a chemical emergency.

Volunteers from the Reedy Creek Fire Department’s Special Operations and Response Team (SOAR) partook in an emergency response scenario involving a diesel spill, which lead to a fire and near explosion of two 300-gallon sodium hypochlorite tanks. The team elected to go into the situation blind, to give themselves and conference attendees a chance to see the situation develop in real time, says Steve Laughlin, coordinator for the emergency response scenario for the AHMP.

Spectators watched as first responders demonstrated the resources, equipment and techniques needed to effectively put out the fire and decontaminate the area. A tabletop exercise on Monday gave conference attendees a chance to hash-out any details that could not be covered in the simulation, and a Q&A afterwards gave them an opportunity to take a closer look at equipment and learn how they can might bring these concepts back to their own community.

The AHMP National Conference was held Sept. 15-18. Next year's conference will be held in New Orleans.