Monday, December 28, 2015

SeminarFest 2016 Preview: Proactive Steps Help Prevent Workplace Violence:

Carol Fredrickson knows only too well that her phone will start ringing when a tragic workplace shooting takes place. It is a pattern she has seen repeated many times, the latest example being the Aug. 26, 2015, on-air shooting of two television journalists by a disgruntled former station employee. Fredrickson, CEO of Violence Free, a global violence prevention consulting firm, and a 15-year law enforcement veteran, believes the shock of these incidents often shakes people from a state of denial about workplace violence.

“I think people in general are in denial that it could happen to them or at their workplace,” she says. “In our minds, the two places that we are the safest is in our homes and our work, so we just believe that this could not happen, that no one we work with could possibly do this. We may ignore some of the warning signs because we think, ‘It happens someplace else, not here.’”

Seeing & Reporting the Signs
According to Fredrickson, it often takes an accumulation of events for people to report anything to management. By then, it may be too late. “What I usually find is that employees may see a sign on its own, something that they may view as inappropriate behavior, but on its own it is not a significant issue,” she explains. “Individually these incidents may seem unimportant, but collectively they may paint a picture of something much more serious.”

Personal problems such as financial pressures, health concerns, family turmoil and even mental illness often spark the downward spin toward violence. Some of the more telling signs include decreased productivity, a change in work habits, excessive tardiness and frequently missed due dates.

Changes in personality may also signal pending trouble. “Someone who may have been very engaging and fun to be with suddenly becomes quiet and withdrawn and uncooperative or defensive,” Fredrickson says. “They may become a loner and verbally abusive, or they may display unjustified anger.” Often, however, people chalk these issues up to someone having a bad day or a bad week, which only pushes the boundaries of aggressive behavior further, sometimes to the point where the potentially violent person “holds all the power and controls the office.”

Another warning sign is someone who obsesses about a topic and talks about it all the time. “One individual called me about his boss who was talking almost weekly about some of the mass school shootings,” Fredrickson says. “When he said anything to [this boss] about this, the boss would respond, ‘Well you have kids don’t you? I would hate it if something like that happened to them.’”

Unfortunately, Fredickson reports that these signs are often too easily dismissed. She says employers must do a better job of connecting the dots. “If an employee reported this behavior and if someone in human resources or safety got that report and they started to watch for more signs that there is an issue, then the company can intercede early.”

That is why a clear reporting policy is critical. “Every place of employment, no matter the size, needs to have a workplace violence policy that is easily understood and has clear reporting policies,” she says. To illustrate this point, Fredickson shares the story of a small business owner who terminated a long-term employee.

“The owner had cause to terminate this employee,” Fredrickson says, “but he went home and got drunk and started calling some of his buddies and imploring them not to show up for work the next day.” The client received calls from three of the five employees he had called. “If they did not have access to her phone number or didn’t know her after-hours number, who knows what may have happened,” Fredrickson says. In larger organizations, employees often do not know who to call at night, she says.

Not knowing whom to call is only one piece of the equation, however. Fear also plays a role, Fredrickson explains. First, employees may fear retaliation directly from the angry coworker and do not want take the brunt of any further frustration. Second, no one wants to be perceived as the office snitch. “Parents, coaches and teachers have all told us not to snitch on each other,” she says. As a result of this socialization, people may not act on their better judgment. “A common reaction in this situation is ‘Well, I should report this potentially violent person, but I’m worried that it might make me look petty or judgmental or like a goody-goody.’”

Supervisory reaction is another concern, she says. “People have told me they are afraid to report a potential incident because they think their supervisor will either overreact or view them as unable to handle the job. So they just keep quiet.”

Taking Proactive Steps
To begin to better address workplace violence, Fredrickson recommends that employers take three steps: 1) create a threat assessment (or crisis) team; 2) conduct a gap analysis to identify vulnerabilities; and 3) train all employees.

The threat assessment team should include representatives from several groups. This can include human resources, security, facility management, risk management, workers’ union, operations, communications/public relations and in-house legal counsel, with the final makeup based on company size and structure.

Fredrickson recommends that the team meet at least once a year to conduct a vulnerability assessment, adding that most teams also meet when a threat of workplace violence arises or when the company has a high-risk termination. After such events, the group should hold a debrief to assess the company’s response.

The team’s vulnerability analysis will typically reveal several concerns, Fredrickson says, likely including some common gaps that her clients have identified. “Do employees who drive company vehicles know how to handle a road rage incident? Have employees who travel either in the U.S. or abroad received special training? What if the organization is in an inner-city location? What procedures are in place for dealing with a high-risk termination?”

Employee training is also critical. “We have to train everyone on what they are expected to do,” Fredrickson advises. “The procedures about when to call, who to call and related steps must be very clear.” It is also important that employees understand how issues such as domestic violence play out in the workplace. Fredrickson says coworkers often think they are doing someone a favor by not reporting strange behavior, but in reality they do not understand the depth of the issue or the risks involved.

Given the prevailing “it can’t happen here” mentality, who should take the lead in focusing much-needed attention on workplace violence? Fredrickson notes that while it will vary from one organization to another, this responsibility typically falls to human resources and safety/security personnel. What is also needed, Fredrickson believes, is a concerted effort to get the right information to C-level executives. “I think middle management almost cushions the information thinking they can take care of it and it never makes it up to the C-suite,” she says. “We really need a shift in the mind-set that workplace violence cannot be ignored, and this starts at the top.”

In her experience working with companies of all sizes, Fredrickson reports that it usually comes down to money. “Most C-level executives will not buy into it until there is a problem, until they see the dollars going out the door, either for investigation, legal fees or similar. That’s when they jump in and ask, ‘Why wasn’t this done before? Why wasn’t this brought to my attention?’” That is why any program developed must include 60 to 90 minutes of dedicated training for these executives. “This leads to a much better result throughout the organization,” Fredrickson says.

Conflict Resolution at SeminarFest 2016
On Feb. 11, 2016, as part of ASSE’s weeklong SeminarFest in Las Vegas, NV, Carol Fredrickson will deliver a 1-day seminar on preparing for workplace conflict. She promises to provide attendees with a toolbox of resources and strategies that they can use and teach others to deescalate conflict. “It is really about helping people identify behaviors that can be predictive of violence and developing tools to deescalate the situation,” Fredickson says. Through role-playing and discussion, attendees will also learn how to reframe situations, remove personal judgment and stay neutral. Learn more on the SeminarFest website.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Airlines Ban Hoverboards
A new, popular holiday gift has been banned from U.S. airlines. So-called “hoverboards”—essentially scooters without handles, controlled through body movement—will not be permitted on major US airlines including United, American, Delta, and Jet Blue. This follows a precedent set by other airlines such as British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, and Lufthansa.

The devices are under scrutiny by consumer safety agencies on account of an apparently increasing number of fires originating in the unit’s lithium ion batteries. Delta said in a statement that many boards run on batteries above 160 watts, the maximum permitted by law on planes.

Court Allows OSHRC to Seek Enterprise-Wide Abatement

An Administrative Law judge has decided that the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC) may have authority under the OSH Act to order abatement measures beyond the specific violations OSHA identified in citations.

In November 2014, OSHA cited Central Transport LLC for 14 violations of workplace safety and health standards at the freight hauler's Billerica, MA, shipping terminal. The company filed a notice of contest with the OSHRC the following month.

In its complaint to the commission, DOL alleged that Central Transport failed to comply with OSHA powered industrial truck safety standards at locations other than the inspected work site, and requested an order compelling the company to comply with the standard at all locations. Central Transport then filed a motion asking the commission to strike the department’s claim for enterprise-wide abatement, arguing that the OSH Act does not permit it.

On Dec. 7, 2015, Administrative Law Judge Carol Baumerich has denied the company's motion, holding that the OSH Act's provision authorizing the remedy of "other appropriate relief" provides the basis for allowing DOL's claim for enterprise-wide abatement, at all locations where like violations exist, to proceed to trial. Judge Baumerich also denied Central Transport’s request for a discovery and litigation stay of the claim for enterprise-wide abatement, finding that such a stay would jeopardize the litigation of the department’s claim.

"When an employer has hazards occurring at multiple locations, common sense and reasonable worker protection law enforcement both dictate that the employer take corrective action to safeguard the health and well-being of employees at all its work sites," says Kim Stille, OSHA regional administrator for New England.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Listen to Safety Lately 12/14/15

Safety Lately is a look at the past week in the world of OSH. This podcast covers sustainability, tire safety and radon exposure.

You can download this episode here.

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

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Integrated Reporting Will Transform How OSH Is Managed

Center for Safety and Health Sustainability (CSHS) has issued a new report, “The Accounting Revolution and the New Sustainability: Implications for the Occupational Safety and Health Professional.” Designed to advise and educate OSH professionals about emerging trends in sustainability and financial accounting, the report presents a comprehensive analysis of current sustainability policies and practices as well as implications for OSH oversight and management.

Sustainability information helps business leaders identify opportunities for risk mitigation and value creation while helping investors and analysts understand factors that affect investment performance. With integrated reporting, which combines sustainability information with financial information, pushing greater corporate transparency, executives are becoming more attuned to improving performance in material sustainability issues, including non-financial areas such as OSH.

According to CSHS, this trend is transforming how OSH is viewed and managed by organizations, meaning that safety professionals can expect to see an expanded notion of “capitals” in reporting. Essentially, reporting will be extended beyond its traditional focus on financial and physical capital to include natural, intellectual, social and human capitals that are essential to organizational growth.

“By integrating OSH performance into effective sustainability reporting, business leaders and investors will have more interest in OSH as a foundational aspect of human capital,” says CSHS Board Chair Kathy A. Seabrook. “To capitalize on this, OSH professionals should play a leadership role in organizational activities such as horizon scanning, change management, enterprise risk management [and] supply chain management.” Seabrook adds that not recognizing the opportunities that sustainability presents will leave OSH practitioners "behind in reactive, compliance-focused roles."

ASSE will be developing educational materials and other communications around this topic in the coming year. Read the full report on the CSHS website.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

NTSB Report Cites Deficiencies in Tire Recall System

National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has issued an investigative report on tire safety. Among the findings, NTSB says the way tires are currently registered and recalled is ineffective, and tire and automotive industries provide insufficient guidance on the risks associated with tire aging.

“Our investigation revealed that very few tires are actually registered for recall purposes,” says NTSB Chair Christopher Hart. “So manufacturers cannot contact drivers if their tires need to be recalled, which can place the drivers and their passengers at risk of a tire-related crash.”

For the 3.2 million tires recalled during 2009-2013, the recall completion rate was only 44%. According to NTSB, only about 20% of tires affected in a typical recall are returned to the manufacturer. By contrast, about 78% of recalled vehicles are eventually serviced.

Although dealers and distributors controlled by the tire manufacturer are required to register newly purchased tires on behalf of the consumer, no such requirement exists for independent dealers and distributors, which is where most Americans purchase tires, NTSB says.

As a result of the study, the agency made nine recommendations to improve registration and recall processes, to develop better guidance for consumers on tire aging issues, and to promote technological innovations to reduce tire-related crashes.

Read the executive summary, including findings and recommendations.

NIH & NIOSH Host Workshop on Total Worker Health

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), NIOSH and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute are hosting a free workshop Dec. 9–10 called Pathways to Prevention: Total Worker Health—What’s Work Got to Do With It?

According to NIOSH, physical and psychosocial characteristics of the work environment can contribute to health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, sleep disorders and depression. Total worker health (TWH) policies and programs aim to integrate protection from work-related safety and health hazards while also promoting injury and illness prevention to advance worker well-being, but currently little evidence exists to validate the actual benefits of TWH programs. This workshop, which is also available by webcast, aims to clarify common misconceptions associated with TWH programs and identify research gaps and plot the direction for future research.

Click here to learn more.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Listen to Safety Lately 12/7/15

Safety Lately is a look at the past week in the world of OSH. This week’s show covers a new blueprint for the CSP exam, a newsletter on workplace driving and managing carbon dioxide risks.

This podcast also features ASSE Fellow and past president Darryl Hill discussing the value of practice specialty newsletters.

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.

EPA Action Plan to Reduce Radon Risk

EPA and several partners including American Lung Association have outlined a strategy for preventing lung cancer deaths due to radon exposure. Exposure to radioactive radon gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. EPA aims to reduce high radon levels in 5 million homes, schools and childcare centers to prevent 3,200 lung cancer deaths annually by 2020.

The National Radon Action Plan sets out strategies including requiring radon testing and reduction systems as standard practice in housing finance and insurance programs, and institutionalizing radon risk reduction through building code requirements. According to EPA, the strategy builds on the successes and broadens the scope of early federal action that generated baseline progress by including the health, scientific and technical expertise of the partners.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Onset Publishes White Paper on Managing Carbon Dioxide Risk

© Grantham
Onset has published a white paper, “Managing Carbon Dioxide Risk: What You Should Know.” The datalogger company developed the white paper with Greg Lowitz, CEO of Buildera, a structural forensics firm.

Poor indoor air quality and elevated CO2 levels, the white paper says, have been correlated to occupant discomfort and loss of productivity. The guide explains the risks associated with elevated CO2 levels and discusses how datalogging can indicate degraded indoor air quality. The guide offers practical information and tips to help facility managers and building engineers make informed decisions about CO2 datalogger selection, calibration and deployment.

Click here to download the white paper.

New NIOSH Vehicle Safety Newsletter
NIOSH’s Center for Motor Vehicle Safety (CMVS) will soon release the first issue of its newsletter, Behind the Wheel at Work.

“At the NIOSH CMVS, we’re committed to research and outreach to prevent work-related motor vehicle crashes—the leading cause of workplace fatalities,” says Stephanie Pratt, Ph.D., director of the CMVS.

Behind the Wheel at Work will feature quarterly updates on research in progress, links to motor vehicle safety resources, practical tips on workplace driving and a closer look at the CMVS. Sign up here.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

New CSP Exam Blueprint in 2016

Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP) has published a new blueprint for its CSP exam. It will apply to exams in the second half of 2016. BCSP's validation study of the CSP, which assessed whether the exam's subject material is relevant to current practice, was completed in 2015.

According to BCSP, a great deal of material from the current version (CSP8) was carried over to the new version (CSP9). In addition, CSP9 contains nine domains, up from the three domains contained in CSP8.

The following items are considered as new focuses or clarified elements:

Domain 1
  • Core research methodology concepts 

  • Domain 2

  • Applicable requirements for health plans, programs, and policies
  • Applicable requirement for safety plans, programs, and policies
  • Documentation retention or management principles (e.g., incident investigation, training records, exposure records, maintenance records, environmental management options)
  • Management leadership techniques (e.g., management theories, leadership theories, motivation, discipline, communication styles)

  • Domain 4
  • Common workplace hazards (e.g., electrical falls, confined spaces, lockout/tagout, working around water, caught in, struck by, excavation, welding, hot work, cold and heat stress, combustibles, lasers)
  • Unique workplace hazards (e.g., nanoparticles, combustible dust)

  • Domain 7
  • Sustainability principles

  • Domain 9

  • Legal issues (e.g.. tort, negligence, civil, criminal, contracts, disability terminology)
  • Ethics related to conducting audits
  • BCSP Code of Ethics

  • BCSP plans to conduct a statistical analysis via a beta test of the new blueprint and will invite certification candidates to participate in that test in early 2016.

    Tuesday, December 1, 2015

    Amp Up Machinery Safety With ANSI B11

    Machinery safety is an issue faced by most OSH professionals at some point during their careers. The ANSI B11 standards are one of the most widely recognized and implemented series of voluntary national consensus standards today, and many of the standards are recognized by governmental agencies at the local, state, national and global level.

    ASSE recently published a tech brief that is a guide to all of the ANSI B11 standards. It includes titles, versions by year, and their applicable scope statements. Any safety professional working with machinery safety hazards and exposures should find this material valuable.

    In addition, ANSI B11.0 was recently revised, and ASSE is working with the B11 Committee to raise awareness, use and implementation of this critical safety standard. ASSE has posted some information about the scope of this standard. Of particular interest are the methodology for achieving safety in the design and the use of machinery, explanation of procedures to identify hazards and estimate/evaluate risks during relevant phases of the machine life cycle, and guidance for hazard elimination and risk reduction.