Monday, December 30, 2013

Comments on Chevron Incident Report Due Jan. 3

CSB has released its draft report of the Chevron Richmond refinery pipe rupture and fire incident that occurred on Aug. 6, 2012. The draft will be open for public comment until Friday, Jan. 3, 2014. All comments should be submitted to; all comments received will be reviewed and published on CSB's website.

Friday, December 27, 2013

IPAF's Clunk Click Campaign Hits Singapore

IPAF, with support from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and Workplace Safety and Health Council, has launched Singapore’s first industry-led safety campaign for mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs).  "The campaign rides on the success of IPAF’s worldwide initiatives, such as the Clunk Click campaign, which calls for users of boom-type platforms to wear a full body harness with a short restraint lanyard attached to a suitable anchor point," IPAF states. The group's Raymond Wat adds, "There are still people out there who do not put on a harness in a boom-type platform and who risk being catapulted out in the event of an accident.”

IPAF is also distributing “Are you trained?” stickers that highlight the need for training when operating
an MEWP. In Singapore, all MEWP operators must be trained by MOM-accredited training providers. According to IPAF, its training program for MEWP operators conforms to ISO 18878, Mobile Elevating Work Platforms--Operator (Driver) Training. "More than 100,000 operators are trained each year through a worldwide network of over 550 training centers," IPAF reports.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

NIOSH Releases Updated Nanotechnology Research Strategic Plan

NIOSH has issued “Protecting the Nanotechnology Workforce: NIOSH Nanotechnology Research and Guidance Strategic Plan, 2013-16.”

This plan updates the November 2009 NIOSH strategic plan with knowledge gained from results of ongoing research, as described in the 2012 report, “Filling the Knowledge Gaps for Safe Nanotechnology in the Workplace: A Progress Report from the NIOSH Nanotechnology Research Center, 2004-11.”

Nanomaterials are found in hundreds of products, ranging from cosmetics to clothing to industrial and biomedical applications. Nanotechnology has many potential benefits; however, there is ongoing concern that these benefits may not be realized if research efforts are not undertaken to determine how to best manage and control the potential occupational safety and health hazards associated with the handling of nanomaterials.

NIOSH's Nanotechnology Research and Guidance Strategic Plan is used to advance basic understanding of the toxicology and workplace exposures involved so that appropriate risk management practices can be implemented during discovery, development and commercialization of engineered nanomaterials. NIOSH will strive to remain at the forefront of developing guidance that supports and promotes the safe and responsible development of this technology.

Click here for more NIOSH nanotechnology resources.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Going to the Show: Safety Signs & H2S

Photo ©
Safety professionals often ask about signage and how it is addressed in standards. Clarion Safety and its CEO Geoffrey Peckham, who also chairs the ANSI Z535 Committee for Signs and Symbols, and helps develop international standards for signage systems, recently posted The Case for the Standarization of Graphical Symbols. In the 10-minute video, Peckham and guest experts explain how standardization is boosting universal understanding of graphical symbols, the ISO standards process and how symbols help keep people safe without words.

In addition, the film Left Undone by Express Energy focused new attention on H2S and ANSI/ASSE Z390.1 H2S training standard. "These resources offer significant assistance to SH&E professionals," says Tim Fisher, ASSE's director of practices and standards. "They also build awareness of the voluntary national consensus standards." Watch the YouTube trailer here and sign up to download it here.

Learn more about ASSE's standards-development efforts here and here.

SeminarFest Highlights Using the Safety Principles of High-Reliability Organizations

At ASSE’s SeminarFest in January 2014, T. Shane Bush, president of BushCo Inc., will present “Using the Safety Principles of High-Reliability Organizations.” Commonly exemplified by nuclear power plants and military bases, high-reliability organizations (HROs) are companies with high potential for significant unwanted outcomes that have relatively few incidents in comparison to their amounts of risk. In his seminar, Bush will share how the principles of such organizations can be applied to any organization to improve safety as well as productivity.

“A lot of people say, ‘It sounds good for a commercial nuclear power plant, but what does this have to do with me producing golf carts in the middle of Tennessee?’” Bush says, explaining that a lower-risk organization, such as a factory, can always learn from companies that are continuously faced with the potential of an adverse incident.

Bush will discuss the five principles of HROs (preoccupation with failure, reluctance to simplify interpretations, sensitivity to operations, commitment to resilience and deference to expertise) and how they can be applied to other organizations to create a business model that promotes safety while also enhancing productivity, quality and reputation.

1. Preoccupation With Failure
While the first principle’s name may be misleading, Bush explains that HROs are not actually preoccupied with failing but are instead preoccupied with not failing. By constantly looking for ways in which failure may occur, organizations can not only anticipate and mitigate problems, but they can also increase production. Safety professionals must study interactions between people and processes to predict unwanted outcomes due to issues regarding miscommunication, human error and system process breaks. Knowing how failure may occur can allow organizations to plan failure into their processes, eliminating the need to stall operations while finding a solution to a problem when one arises.

2. Reluctance to Simplify Interpretations
“When bad news or anything out of the norm is presented, most people, even in management, tend to want to simplify the interpretation of it,” says Bush. “In other words, they downplay it. But HROs are exactly the opposite.” Safety professionals in HROs often amplify minor concerns, a concept foreign to some based on the high likelihood that a minor problem will never cause significant harm. However, Bush warns that even small issues should be responded to as if they were significant threats. In many organizations, such as at nuclear power plants, a minor problem may not necessarily pose a safety hazard, yet failure to respond to the issue can damage the company’s reputation. By having what Bush describes as “a strong response to a weak signal,” these organizations protect their workers as well as their standing.

3. Sensitivity to Operations
HROs are generally very mindful of their operations. Understanding how every process in a given facility works allows safety professionals to identify how those processes may couple to create a significant event. According to Bush, focusing on things like regulations and requirements can be detrimental to safety professionals if it prevents them from analyzing the operational interactions that often cause serious incidents.

4. Commitment to Resilience
To ensure that an organization can bounce back after an event, it is important to keep operations flexible. Bush notes that managers should ask themselves, “How do I make sure my operations are not so rigid to regulations and requirements that if the least little interruption occurs, it’s not going to throw things into a tailspin?” HROs are always prepared to respond to failures and do not hesitate in developing new response tactics. 

5. Deference to Expertise
“HROs depend heavily on the people who know the system best and that doesn’t necessarily mean the managers, leaders or directors,” Bush says, noting that expertise most often refers to the person who is most familiar with the task at hand. Rather than relying on management to resolve issues, in HROs, the individuals who work directly with the process in which a problem has surfaced are consulted. Similarly, the expertise safety professionals have to offer is valued highly, and safety professionals in HROs often have as much influence in business decisions as do production managers.

Bush notes that because safety, production, quality and reputation are all interrelated aspects of an organization, companies are most successful when they apply HRO principles to every part of their operations. “If you want to implement this only in your safety arena, then you will have limited success,” he says. “Instead, take it on as a business model.”

Involving all employees in the process is also a crucial element of implementing HRO principles in an organization. “Your workers, whether you know it or not, are compensating for inadequacies in your process constantly,” Bush says. “Workers are the only part of the process that can create safety.”

SeminarFest will be held Jan. 25 to Feb. 1, 2014, in Las Vegas, NV. Register today at

Friday, December 20, 2013

Nano-Labeling for Well-Informed Consumers

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has developed a document offering manufacturers, retailers and the packing industry guidelines for the voluntary labeling of their nanoproducts and products incorporating nanotechnology. New product labels will provide harmonized, reliable information on nanomaterials to help end-users make informed purchasing decisions. 

The ISO technical specification, ISO/TS 13830:2013,
Nanotechnologies — Guidance on voluntary labeling for consumer products containing manufactured nano-objects, provides guidance on the format and content of voluntary labels for consumer products containing manufactured nano-objects. Among other things, the document recommends placing the term "nano" on product labels. Such labeling will help clarify, align and harmonize the way information should be delivered to consumers.

For more information, visit the ISO website.

NAE Contests Focus Attention on Engineering

In celebration of its 50th anniversary, the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) has launched two contests to draw attention to the importance of engineering to society. Teachers are invited to use these contests as class assignments or to enhance another project or paper that students are working on. 

The EngineerGirl Essay Contest is open to boys and girls in grades 3 through 12, and offers prizes of up to $500 in each of three age categories. Entries to the 2014 essay contest, "50 Years of Engineering in Society," are due March 1, 2014. Contestants are asked to imagine how engineering might change our lives in the next 50 years in one of five areas: nutrition, health, communication, education and transportation.

Engineering for You (E4U) is a video competition open to those in middle school and up. Contestants are invited to submit a 1- to 2-minute video that focuses on how engineering serves human welfare and the needs of society. Contestants can choose any time period between 1964 and 2064 for their video. One grand prize winner will receive $25,000, while $5,000 will go to the People’s Choice award winner. Category prizes will also be awarded. Entries to E4U are due March 31, 2014.

Holiday Overload or Conversation Starter?

Each issue of ASSE's Professional Safety journal contains a Safety Photo of the Month. Most of the photos depict a hazardous work environment or a risky activity. This one, from reader Jonathan Briley, is a bit more seasonal than many. Talk about holiday overload.

Beyond the disapproving headshakes (and perhaps brief amusement), photos like this are a great way to start a conversation about risk, and they present an excellent opportunity to remind family, friends and colleagues that safety affects our workplaces, our homes and our lives every day.

Check out the journal's complete photo gallery here for more examples, and consider how you might use such information in your efforts to promote the message of safety.

Whatever you celebrate and however you celebrate, please do so safely.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

OSHA Renews Partnership With Electrical Transmission & Distribution Contractors

OSHA announced today that it has renewed a national strategic partnership with employers, workers and professional associations in the electrical transmission and distribution industry. Since 2004, this partnership has worked to decrease injuries, illnesses and deaths among linesmen and other electrical workers, reducing fatalities among those workers from 11 in 2004 to 1 in 2013.

The partnership includes 10 of the nation's largest electrical transmission and distribution contractors, as well as the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Edison Electric Institute and the National Electrical Contractors Association, representing approximately 80% of the industry. The partnership's accomplishments include training more than 33,000 workers and supervisors, as well as developing and implementing best practices addressing key hazards and safe operations within the industry, such as fall protection, the use of specific insulating protective equipment and the implementation of safety checks. OSHA and industry partners are in the process of expanding industry-specific courses to provide industry-wide training.

For more information, click here.

NIOSH Looking for PTD Program Coordinator

ASSE received an e-mail from Paul Schulte, director of NIOSH's Education and Information Division, about the agency's PTD program:
NIOSH plans to recruit an industrial hygienist or safety engineer to coordinate the Prevention Through Design initiative. The position is rated GS-14 and is located in Cincinnati, OH. PTD is a national initiative to design out occupational hazards in facilities, processes, tools, equipment, molecular products and the organization of work. The position will be posted at next week and will be open for 3 weeks. The position job title is interdisciplinary industrial hygienist/safety engineer. The job announcement number is HHS-CDC-D2-1016378.
To learn more, be sure to check for more details next week.

Operation Quick Strike Shuts Down Unsafe Bus Companies

In a recent effort to stop unsafe motor coach operations, DOT's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) shut down 52 bus companies and 340 vehicles that failed in-depth safety reviews. The 8-month long Operation Quick Strike was part of FMCSA's three-phase motor coach safety initiative to "raise the bar for safety" in the industry. U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx says that as bus travel increases in popularity due to more affordable options, it is important that safety remains a top priority. "Through Operation Quick Strike and our regular enforcement efforts, we're shutting down companies that put passengers at risk and educating the public on safe motor coach travel," Foxx says.

FMCSA reports that companies were shut down due to failures to maintain buses, inadequate drug and alcohol driver testing programs, and widespread hours-of-service violations. Visit DOT's website for more information.

OSHA Renews Alliance to Protect Workers from Scaffold Hazards

OSHA and the Scaffold and Access Industry Association (SAIA) renewed their alliance, Wednesday, to provide information and training to protect the safety and health of workers who use scaffolds and lift equipment. Through the alliance, which will remain in effect for five years, OSHA and SAIA will focus on reducing and preventing worker injuries and deaths from fall and caught-in-between risks; address potential hazards associated with mast climbing scaffolds, suspended scaffolds, and aerial lift equipment; and emphasize the rights of workers and the responsibilities of employers under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. 

Visit the OSHA-SAIA Alliance page for more information.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Safe Electricity's Top 5 Gift Picks

Safe Electricity, a public awareness program of the Energy Education Council (EEC), offers consumers its top five safety gift picks this holiday season. "The holidays are a time to let people know how much you care about them," says Molly Hall, EEC executive director. "A practical gift that helps keep loved ones safe continues to say 'I care about you' long after the holidays." The group's top five picks are:

  1. Appliance timer with a safety turn-off. This device is ideal for people who forget to turn off small appliances, such as a curling iron or space heater.
  2. Portable/extension cord ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). A GFCI can help protect people from shock when working with electrical tools outside.
  3. Tamper-resistant outlets or outlet plugs. These outlets are equipped with shutters that stay closed unless a two-pronged plug is plugged in, providing permanent protection for children who may try to insert objects into outlets.
  4. Non-contact voltage tester. An ideal gift for the do-it-yourselfer, this device can detect the presence of voltage without touching a bare wire.
  5. Power strips and smart strips. EEC recommends choosing a power strip with a circuit breaker that trips if the strip becomes overloaded. A smart strip helps prevent electrical equipment from drawing power even when turned off.

Monday, December 16, 2013

NIOSH Video Series Provides Insights for Future Professionals

NIOSH's new video series "Women in Science" features seven NIOSH scientists who provide insights for future occupational safety and health professionals. "We hope these stories of these women will serve to encourage aspiring young scientists in their search for a field with which to serve," says NIOSH Director John Howard. Although the series features women, the videos are meant to reach out to both male and female future professionals. The videos highlight each woman's journey into her career and provide insights into their careers, work-life balance and challenges they have faced.

Visit the Workplace Safety and Health topics webpage to access the videos.

Managing Distracted Employees

From Guest Blogger Marty Martin, Psy.D.

Workday distractions are everywhere, stealing employees’ time and productivity. Between new technologies that beg for people’s attention to the prevalence of shortened attention spans, everyone on a work team has the opportunity to be more distracted today than in the past. Being distracted at work creates numerous problems from missed opportunities to strained business relationships. Therefore, a manager needs to effectively manage employees so their distractions are minimized.

First, recognize the two categories of distraction. One is internal distraction, the other is external distraction. Internal distractions include physiological, emotional, attitudinal, biological or physical discomfort. Examples include having an upset stomach or a headache, worrying about a personal or professional matter, feeling overwhelmed with tasks, sitting in an uncomfortable chair, experiencing anger toward a co-worker and grieving a loss. Any of these things can quickly take an employee off track. External distractions include other people and technology. Examples include co-workers who stop by to chat, social media and text alerts on a smartphone, e-mail notifications popping up on a computer screen and people who talk loudly in the office. These seemingly innocuous items easily divert people’s attention.

The real challenge is that most employees aren’t experiencing just one or two of these distractions. They’re facing multiple distractions each day. In addition, organizational structures have changed over the years, adding more duties and responsibilities to every job description. That means employees must spread their attention thin just to complete their expected workload. With all of these factors, it’s no wonder so many people feel distracted at work.

Fortunately, most distractions can be managed in the workplace. Here’s how.
  • Design or redesign a job from a distractibility point of view. When a manager has a distracted employee, it’s natural to blame the person and say things like, “He’s not a team player,” “She’s not motivated,” or “He doesn’t work well here.” The manager may even reprimand the individual for poor performance. Before taking that route, examine the job and environment to see whether they are distracting to employees. What are the job duties, both those stated explicitly in the job description and those that employee just always seems to do? What’s the working environment like? What visual or auditory distractions are present? How is the office set up? How are the lighting, the chair and the desk layout? What other factors affect employee efficiency, effectiveness and performance? Realize that if the work environment and the job are poorly designed, highly talented individuals may continue to underperform. So, before reprimanding, analyze. 
  • Create a distraction elimination plan for your distracted employees. Remember elementary school and the kids who always bothered others, threw spit balls or just stared out the window? What did the teacher do? She had a plan. She moved disruptive kids to the front and moved window gazers' desks so they could no longer see the window. The teacher knew what to do because she had a plan in mind. Good managers do the same. They work with the distracted worker to create a distraction elimination plan (DEP).  It may identify some physical changes to the office, such as moving to a new cubicle or changing the lighting, or it may include strategies to help the employee focus, such as closing an e-mail program or disabling smartphone alerts. A plan gives all involved something concrete to reference and use as a benchmark to gauge progress. Distractions rarely self-resolve, so the better the plan, the better the results. 
  • Offer other resources as needed. Sometimes, even with a manager’s help and a solid DEP in place, the employee is still distracted. In these cases, the manager must know when to offer additional resources. For example, if the organization has an employee assistance program (EAP), consider making a recommendation to an appropriate resource or service. If the organization has no EAP, then present the idea of additional help in a supportive and neutral fashion. For example, suggest it as a step in the DEP: “If the outlined steps in this plan don’t resolve the issue, then the employee will seek outside assistance in the form of a counselor or therapist.” The key is to help the employee find the needed resources to determine whether the situation is more serious than simple distractions.
No More Distractions
The next time you notice some employees are underperforming, don’t immediately reprimand them. Instead, take the time to determine whether there’s something you or the company can do to remove workplace distractions. Distractions don’t have to be a major part of the workday. Good mangers can help minimize them. Remember, the fewer distractions people have, the more productive they’ll be.

Dr. Marty Martin is the author of Taming Disruptive Behavior, published by the American College of Physician Executives (ACPE). Martin is director of the Health Sector Management MBA Concentration and an associate professor in the College of Commerce at DePaul University. Learn more here.

85-3 Coalition Calls on Organizations to Adopt Stricter Exposure Limits for Noise

Thursday, Dec. 5, ASSE’s Virtual Classroom hosted, The 85-3 Coalition and Dangerous Decibels Program a webinar comparing the differences between OSHA permissible exposure limits (PEL) for noise and the 85-3 Coalition’s more conservative means of calculating noise exposure. Speaker John C. Ratliff, MSPH, CSP, CIH, senior code analyst for Code Unlimited, suggests that OSHA's current standards for occupational noise exposure, written in 1979, have fallen short, leaving thousands of workers vulnerable to excessive, damaging on-the-job noise. In this webinar, Ratliff introduces the 85-3 Coalition, details the differences between the two and stresses the need for change.

Current OSHA standards use a 90 dBA, 8-hour noise exposure limit with an exchange rate of 5 dB, which allows workers to work within an area with a noise level that measures 90 dBA for up to 8 hours, 95 dBA for up to 4 hours, 100 dBA for up to 2 hours and so on. The 85-3 Coalition sets its exposure limit at 85 dBA for up to 8-hour with a 3 dB exchange rate for its hearing loss prevention programs, and encourages others to adopt this strategy. 

According to Ratliff, the 85-3 concept, which follows the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) Threshold Limit Value for noise exposure, offers more protection for those exposed to occupational noise, which affects more than 22 million Americans every year. Click here to read more about the campaign.

This webinar was part of ASSE’s Virtual Classroom presented Hearing Loss Prevention - An ASSE Webinar TRIPLE Header! Wherein two live webinars and one On-Demand webinar tackled some of the largest issues in hearing loss prevention. Watch for future blog posts with additional information from the Hearing Loss Prevention webinar event.

New Online Tool Assesses Safety Maturity

Rockwell Automation has released the Safety Maturity Index(SMI), a free online tool that can be used to assess a facility’s safety in regard to culture, compliance and capital.

According to Steve Ludwig, a safety program manager for Rockwell Automation, the tool was developed in response to the findings of several Aberdeen Group studies, which show that safety and productivity go hand-in-hand. One study revealed that 74% of manufacturers have used safety technologies to improve diagnostics and reduce unscheduled downtime, combatting a common belief that safety systems slow down production.

“The function of the tool is to give a company an understanding or baseline of where they stand in each of the three Cs,” says Mark Eitzman, the safety market development manager at Rockwell Automation, referring to culture (attitudes and behavior throughout an organization), compliance (policies and procedures) and capital (investment in safety technologies and techniques) as three critical elements of safety.

The tool is easy to use and only requires customers to add demographic information before answering 15 questions, five about each of the three elements. “Safety is not a single element,” says Ludwig, which is why users receive four scores: One for overall safety and one each for culture, compliance and capital.

Scores are based on a scale of 1 to 4, indicating differing levels of safety maturity:

·      SMI 1 companies tend to minimize their investment in safety, avoiding safety because of its added cost.
·      SMI 2 companies invest in safety but only minimally for compliance to regulations.
·      SMI 3 companies understand the direct and indirect costs of incidents and invest in safety as a means of cost avoidance.
·      SMI 4 companies understand that safety is a barometer of operational excellence and value safety throughout the supply chain.

"Many companies stop at SMI 3, thinking they’ve arrived at the end of the safety journey,” says Eitzman, adding that the SMI allows users to see which of the three key elements are their strengths and which are their weaknesses so that they can better identify areas for improvement. Often, companies that invest large amounts in culture and compliance cannot achieve SMI 4 without also investing in capital.

Rockwell Automation will use the demographic information provided by users as well as their scores to populate a database allowing assessors to compare themselves to others of similar demographics. For example, customers can compare their scores to others in a similar region or others within the same industry. All data will remain anonymous.

Users can utilize the tool an unlimited number of times for as many facilities as necessary. “What we hear is companies saying, ‘I want to see where my best and worst plants are’,” says Eitzman. Not only can the tool be used to compare safety at two or more facilities, but it can also be used to assess the success of recent improvements by comparing old scores to new ones.

The tool is applicable to plants of any size and location in all manufacturing industries that rely on the use of machinery. Rockwell Automation also plans to develop a similar tool to address process safety in the future.

Click here for more information and to access the tool.