Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Learning in the 21st Century: Grow With Technology, Not Against It

People love video. Recent statistics show that people are engaging more with digital video than any
other social media channel. As Ayla Horlick and Kurt Salter noted during their presentation at the 27th Annual Chicagoland Safety Health and Environmental Conference, nearly 300 hours of video content are uploaded to YouTube every minute.

For OSH professionals, digital video presents a wealth of opportunities to engage workers in workplace safety. One great example, according to Horlick and Salter, is to use a video to demonstrate how to conduct a job safety analysis rather than simply presenting a diagram or written instructions.

For many OSH professionals, however, the idea of creating such a video may seem daunting. Yet, with tools like Apple’s iMovie software, which is available for both iPhone and iPad, the process really isn’t that difficult, Horlick and Salter explained. Essentially, you can break down the process four elements: the iPad/iPhone device, the iMovie app, the videographer and an actor. Horlick shared a video she made then asked for volunteers to create one about changing a trash bag in a trash can and offering steps to create a successful video. These included selecting the process, writing down the process steps, filming, compiling the clips, sending the draft out for review, making revisions and finally, uploading the clip.

To be successful, Horlick and Salter recommend the following:

  • Keep it short--80 seconds is a good guide.
  • Make it entertaining. Remember, you want to keep the audience’s attention.
  • Include a voiceover to explain the action in the video.
  • Have the actor to perform the action in the clip.

ASSE Construction Symposium: Leveraging Technology to Enhance Worker Safety

By their nature, construction sites are constantly in flux. That creates a paradox for OSH professionals, who must be on site to note potential hazards and stay aware of changes, but also need to retreat to an office to report findings. Traditionally it has been hard to create reports or job hazards analyses (JHAs) on site, but technology can streamline the process, according to Michael Palmer, CSP, CIH, CHMM, vice president of health and safety services at EnSafe Inc.

Palmer will discuss cost-effective technology solutions that can streamline construction safety operations at ASSE’s Construction Safety Symposium in New Orleans, LA, Nov. 12-13. He says properly applied technology can reduce time spent in offices generating reports and improve the overall quality of work.

“Nowadays with tablet technology, rather than taking a bunch of scribbled notes and some photos and going back to the office you’re able to create that out on the construction site,” Palmer says.

Additionally, well-designed programs promote consistency and immediacy in reports and JHAs. The biggest saving is time, Palmer says.

“Being able to capture right then and there improves quality,” he says. “We have found it reduces time spent 30% to 40% from what it traditionally takes to complete a document or a report for an inspection or JHA.”

Adopting technology can be tough, especially for those with decades of experience getting along with traditional methods. But Palmer is quick to note that he is one of those individuals, so he understands traditionalists leery of technology.

“I grew up with a clipboard and logbook technology, taking Polaroid photos,” he explains. “The last thing I am is a technology person—I’m a 35-year safety and health person.”

But where technology makes a difference is functionality. “If I can reduce time in my day, if I can do something quicker and do a better quality job, that’s what drives me,” Palmer says.

Palmer also notes that implementing technology need not bust a budget. “What I want to convey is that you don’t have to spend 30, 40, 50 thousand dollars,” Palmer says. “You can just take the things you’ve got and convert them.”

Learn more about Palmer’s presentation as well as the rest of the education program on the symposium website.

It's National Preparedness Day. Are You Ready?

Today is National Preparedness Day. Are you ready? According to FEMA, while the long-standing Boy Scout motto, "Be Prepared," sounds pretty straightforward, people often think "that won't happen here" and as a result are caught unprepared when disaster strikes. FEMA offers these five tips to remind us that even some simple steps can keep us from overwhelmed during an emergency.
  1. Take small steps toward building your emergency supply kit. Buy some extra bottles of water and non-perishable food on your next trip to the grocery store. When you buy replacement batteries for the remote control, set aside a few extras along with a flashlight. "Small purchases such as these will eventually help you create a robust emergency supply kit that could be vital to survive on your own after an emergency," FEMA says. To get an idea of the supplies you might need, check out’s recommended supply list. 
  2. Get connected with friends and family. In the face of emergency, people are often at a loss about how to connect with family. Use’s Family Communications Plan to start collecting and sharing the important information your family may need. "Make sure everyone knows where to go and who to contact so you never have to worry about your family’s safety after a disaster," FEMA advises.
  3. Make your smartphone a lifesaving tool. It's true. Smartphones can be used for more than Angry Birds and Facebook. FEMA’s app can can alert you to impending severe weather and provide customized information to help you prepare for potential disasters.  
  4. Know your zone. Do you know whether your home is located in a high- or low- to moderate-flood risk area? If not, FEMA’s FloodSmart page has a risk profile tool to help you find out. Learn about all of the disaster risks unique to your community—and any location you may visit or spend time—so you’re not caught unaware if something were to occur. Visit America’s PrepareAthon! page and get educated about the specific hazards in any area you choose. 
  5. Act. Once you know the type of disasters most common to your community, take steps to reduce your risk. For example, talk to your insurance agent and verify you’re fully covered. Store important papers in a safe place. Elevate mechanicals off the floor of the basement to avoid potential flood damage. Learn about other risk reduction techniques on FEMA’s Protecting Homes webpage

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Six Soft Skills for Safety Leadership

In his article, “Six Critical Soft Skills for Effective Safety Leadership,” Bill Anderson, product manager for DuPont SustainableSolutions, discusses the necessary skills leaders need to be effective in their jobs. Soft skills are nontechnical, transferable abilities that are crucial for effective interaction with others. Anderson says that all employees can benefit from various soft skills training, but for those in a supervisory role, the six most vital skill sets are: communication, conflict resolution, coaching for performance, decision-making, meeting effectiveness and training job skills.

1) Communication
Many believe that the ability to effectively communicate is the most important soft skill an employee can have. “Good communication leads to efficient and effective productivity, improves team performance and bolsters workplace safety, Anderson says. Employees must mast four guidelines to effectively communicate in the workplace:
  • Identify the message and its purpose.
  • Choose the appropriate means of communication.
  • Deliver the message.
  • Solicit feedback and respond accordingly.
2) Conflict Resolution
To promote win-win outcomes in the workplace, workers must:
  • Understand their role in managing and resolving conflict.
  • Be aware of the potential sources of conflict in the workplace.
  • Know how to react to conflict in ways that are positive and helpful to everyone.
  • Learn to resolve conflict with collaborative solutions.
3) Coaching for Performance
Organizations must invest in their workforce and leaders must invest in those working under them by supporting and developing their efforts. Anderson says the two main components of effective coaching are to:
  • Create a positive and productive environment. The work environment should motivate everyone to perform at their best. Set realistic goals, encourage self-development, provide timely and meaningful recognition and provide appropriate training.
  • Provide constructive feedback. Delivery of feedback is as important as the feedback itself. “It’s not just what you say, but how you say it,” Anderson says. “That takes a special set of soft skills.”
4) Decision-Making
To be effective in decision-making, one must gather information, identify facts, recognize possible solutions then choose the best solution. In his research, Anderson found that “organizations that fully develop analytic skills in all workers will continue to be the top performers in the coming years.”

5) Meeting Effectiveness
Effective meetings are essential tools for presenting information, assigning workplace tasks and responsibilities, and passing information down the chain of command. Anderson says that leaders should master how to plan a meeting, as well as how to properly execute a meeting. These skills include determining the meeting’s objective, planning accordingly, setting the correct tone and ensuring that the meeting stays on track.

6) Training Job Skills
Job training is a necessary component to ensure that employees are prepared. Whether it be training for new or seasoned workers, managers should understand why training is necessary and how it should be carried out in useful ways. For successful on-the-job training, mangers must understand:
  • how to create effective training;
  • Characteristics of an appropriate learning objective;
  • how to plan relevant an useful training;
  • how to effectively present training.
“Investing in corporate job training that targets soft skills is an effective way to communicate these six skill sets to workers and to help them learn to use soft skills in the workplace,” Anderson says. A workforce that develops soft skills encourages workers’ personal success and creates growth within the organization.

OSHA Releases Top 10 Violations for 2015

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OSHA has announced the preliminary top 10 most frequently cited workplace safety violations for fiscal year 2015. Based on the available data, the list looks much like last year’s with fall protection the most prevalent issue by a wide margin.

Here are the preliminary figures for violations by standard in FY2015:
  1. Fall Protection (1926.501) – 6,721 
  2. Hazard Communication (1910.1200) – 5,192 
  3. Scaffolding (1926.451) – 4,295 
  4. Respiratory Protection (1910.134) – 3,305 
  5. Lockout/Tagout (1910.147) – 3,002 
  6. Powered Industrial Trucks (1910.178) – 2,760 
  7. Ladders (1926.1053) – 2,489 
  8. Electrical – Wiring Methods (1910.305) – 2,404 
  9. Machine Guarding (1910.212) – 2,295 
  10. Electrical – General Requirements (1910.303) – 1,973

Adult Education: Multicultural & Age of Workforce

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Today’s workplaces are more diverse than ever, combining a mix of generations and cultures in ways never before encountered. For OSH professionals, this can introduce a wide range of training challenges.

During a presentation at the 27th Annual Chicagoland Safety and Environmental Conference, Paul Seidlitz, R,N., shared his insight on these challenges and offered some methods for solving these concerns. Seidlitz explained how adults learn, stating that direct participation is key, and listed barriers to learning, such as low self-esteem, lack of confidence, fear of ridicule or failure as well as bad experience with formal education and marginalized societal position..

Experience for individuals is cumulative and varies widely among individuals in groups, Seidlitz said. It can also be broad and narrow in scope, as well as positive and negative. Often, people must constantly unlearn and relearn, which Seidlitz noted is particularly important when dealing with different cultures. Someone may not know the experiences another individual brings with them, but the difference between the two people must be accounted for.

Seidlitz also emphasized using teaching methods that engage people’s senses, and noted that incorporating multiple senses promotes retention. People are motivated to learn by internal rather than external factors, and prefer to evaluate their own achievements and performances. To gain the most from training, OSH trainers and managers should also encourage and affirm workers’ capabilities and skills gained as a result of training.

Monday, September 28, 2015

EPA Strengthens Pesticide Protection for Agricultural Workers

EPA has revised the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard to improve protections for farmworkers and their families against overexposure to pesticides. The provisions will help ensure that farmworkers receive annual safety training, that children under 18 are prohibited from handling pesticides, and that workers are aware of the protections they are afforded under the revised standard and have the tools they need to protect themselves from pesticide exposure.

Revisions will be published in the Federal Register within 60 days. Read about the major changes to the standard here. Download the standard’s fact sheet here.

Identifying & Preventing Hazards During Planning Phases of Construction Projects

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During ASSE’s upcoming Construction Safety Symposium, Rebecca W. Shultz, CSP, CIH, president of Apex Environmental Management Inc., will share her insights on how to identify and prevent health hazards during the planning stages of construction projects. ASSE recently spoke with Shultz about the health and environmental hazards that can present themselves during construction projects and how to address these hazards to avoid major project delays and unexpected costs.

ASSE: What are some health hazard that can be found during demolition, construction or renovation and how do these hazards affect employees, projects and the bottom line? 
Rebecca: In demolition and renovation we are particularly concerned about asbestos, lead-based paint, PCBs and underground storage tanks. All of these issues can effectively halt a project in its tracks and cost major money to correct under time constraints. With newer construction, it’s wise to be aware of the hazardous materials used and how they may apply to new construction. 

ASSE: What are some benefits of looking for these hazards and planning before you start construction? 
Rebecca: We address two sides of construction: renovation/demolition and new construction. From the renovation/demolition standpoint it’s pretty straightforward. If issues are not identified, they can present major health concerns and problems moving forward with the project can be immense. Asbestos, for example, is a common problem. When contractors fail to conduct an asbestos inspection, it can end up delaying the project and causing a huge change in budget. On the new construction side, we want to ensure that we are able to deal with whatever issues may arise. We consider different variables. For example, are contractors using an adhesive that contains methylene chloride? Are they prepared with appropriate respirators and the appropriate ventilation? Are substitutions available? These are the types of things we like to help construction managers look for a plan for ahead of time. Construction deadlines are extraordinarily tight so we never like to jump in in the middle to make changes.

ASSE: What are some concerns associated with finding any of these health hazards mid project? Rebecca: Other than cost and timeline, employees can be exposed to materials and chemicals with both acute and chronic health effects. 

ASSE: What are the costs and timelines of the preplanning that you must account for?
Rebecca: Larger construction projects usually have a large planning phase for the engineering and construction side of things. If given enough notice, the safety and healthplanning can usually get done well before a project is ready to kick off. I would say it usually takes a good month of planning. If you have situations where you have to go in and remove things like tanks and asbestos or lead-based paint, it will take longer depending on how much there is and how long it takes to remove. The cost will also vary depending on when the issues are found and how much removal must be done. If inspections are performed early to allow the appropriate amount of time to resolve the issue it could easily be four or five times cheaper. If issues are discovered mid-project, it can be very expensive and it can bring a job to a crushing halt. 

ASSE: How can employers and OSH professional identify and prevent health hazard during the planning stages of a project?
Rushing to meet client-imposed start dates and hurried timelines are typically the biggest issue in the planning phase that allows items to go unnoticed until mid-project. Luckily, several types of inspections and awareness training for estimators and project supervisors are available.

ASSE: Could you provide any examples on how not planning have led to major project delays, injuries and illnesses?
About 2 years ago, we had been involved in the front end with the planning phases of the demolition and redevelopment of a 14-story high-rise. At the time we told the project managers an inspection was needed to test for asbestos and lead, but then the project got put on hold for nearly a year. When new management came in, it failed to follow up on the inspection. The contractors refused to move forward on the project without a proper inspection, which ended up finding a huge amount of materials that had to be removed from the building. It took nearly 7 months to get all of the asbestos out of the building, stretching their timeline by the better portion of a year and increasing costs dramatically.

It is important to prepare for the fact or at least know that these issues exist and that your timeline could be extended so that you won’t be completely blind-sided. Asbestos, soil and groundwater contamination and lead-based paint are so heavily regulated that there is no room for getting it done quickly. It’s going to be by the book. You cannot rush the process simply because you forgot to plan ahead of time. Similarly, there is a 10-day notification period for asbestos abetment. So you are at a standstill for 10 days when identifying asbestos material just because that is what the regulations say.

Rebecca W. Shultz, CSP, CIH, will deliver her presentation, "Identifying and Preventing Health Hazards During Planning Phases of Projects," on Thursday, Nov. 12, during ASSE's Construction Safety Symposium in New Orleans, LA.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Listen to Safety Lately 9/25/15

Safety Lately is a look at the past week in the world of OSH. This week’s show covers two presentations from ASSE's upcoming Construction Safety Symposium as well as handwashing habits in the U.S.

You can download the podcast here.

Like what you heard? Look for more podcasts at You can also connect with ASSE on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.