Flammable and combustible liquids

Flammable and combustible liquids are liquids that can burn. They are classified, or grouped, as either flammable or combustible by their flash points. Generally speaking, flammable liquids will ignite (catch on fire) and burn easily at normal working temperatures. Combustible liquids have the ability to burn at temperatures that are usually above working temperatures.

There are several specific technical criteria and test methods for identifying flammable and combustible liquids. Under the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) 1988, flammable liquids have a flash point below 37.8°C (100°F). Combustible liquids have a flash point at or above 37.8°C (100°F) and below 93.3°C (200°F).

Flammable and combustible liquids are present in almost every workplace. Fuels and many common products like solvents, thinners, cleaners, adhesives, paints, waxes and polishes may be flammable or combustible liquids. Everyone who works with these liquids must be aware of their hazards and how to work safely with them.

Flash point

the minimum temperature at which a liquid gives off vapor within a test vessel in sufficient concentration to form an ignitable mixture with air near the surface of the liquid. The flash point is normally an indication of susceptibility to ignition.

The flash point is determined by heating the liquid in test equipment and measuring the temperature at which a flash will be obtained when a small flame is introduced in the vapor zone above the surface of the liquid.

Definitions

Combustible liquid: any liquid having a flash point at or above 100ºF (37.8ºC).

Combustible liquids shall be divided into two classes as follows:

  1. Class II liquids shall include those with flash points at or above 100ºF (37.8ºC) and below 140ºF (60ºC), except any mixture having components with flash points of 200ºF (93.3ºC) or higher, the volume of which make up 99 percent or more of the total volume of the mixture.
  2. Class III liquids shall include those with flash points at or above 140ºF (60ºC). Class III liquids are subdivided into two sub classes:
    • Class IIIA liquids shall include those with flash points at or above 140ºF (60ºC) and below 200ºF (93.3ºC), except any mixture having components with flash points of 200ºF (93.3ºC), or higher, the total volume of which make up 99 percent or more of the total volume of the mixture.
    • Class IIIB liquids shall include those with flash points at or above 200ºF (93.3ºC). This section does not regulate Class IIIB liquids. Where the term “Class III liquids” is used in this section, it shall mean only Class IIIA liquids.

When a combustible liquid is heated to within 30ºF (16.7ºC) of its flash point, it shall be handled in accordance with the requirements for the next lower class of liquids.

Flammable liquid: any liquid having a flash point below 100ºF (37.8ºC), except any mixture having components with flash points of 100ºF (37.8ºC) or higher, the total of which make up 99 percent or more of the total volume of the mixture. Flammable liquids shall be known as Class I liquids. Class I liquids are divided into three classes as follows:

  1. Class IA shall include liquids having flash points below 73ºF (22.8ºC) and having a boiling point below 100ºF (37.8ºC).
  2. Class IB shall include liquids having flash points below 73ºF (22.8ºC) and having a boiling point at or above 100ºF (37.8ºC).
  3. Class IC shall include liquids having flash points at or above 73ºF (22.8ºC) and below 100ºF (37.8ºC).

It should be mentioned that flash point was selected as the basis for classification of flammable and combustible liquids because it is directly related to a liquid’s ability to generate vapor, i.e., its volatility. Since it is the vapor of the liquid, not the liquid itself that burns, vapor generation becomes the primary factor in determining the fire hazard. The expression “low flash – high hazard” applies. Liquids having flash points below ambient storage temperatures generally display a rapid rate of flame spread over the surface of the liquid, since it is not necessary for the heat of the fire to expend its energy in heating the liquid to generate more vapor.

The above definitions for classification of flammable and combustible liquids are quite complex. The diagram below should aid in their understanding.

Liquid itself burn:

Flammable and combustible liquids themselves do not burn. It is the mixture of their vapours and air that burns. Gasoline, with a flash point of -40°C (-40°F), is a flammable liquid. Even at temperatures as low as -40°C (-40°F), it gives off enough vapour to form a burnable mixture in air. Phenol is a combustible liquid. It has a flash point of 79°C (175°F), so it must be heated above that temperature before it can be ignited in air.

Flammable or explosive limits:

A material’s flammable or explosive limits also relate to its fire and explosion hazards. These limits give the range between the lowest and highest concentrations of vapour in air that will burn or explode.

The lower flammable limit or lower explosive limit (LFL or LEL) of gasoline is 1.4 percent; the upper flammable limit or upper explosive limit (UFL or UEL) is 7.6 percent. This means that gasoline can be ignited when it is in the air at levels between 1.4 and 7.6 percent. A concentration of gasoline vapor in air below 1.4 percent is too “lean” to burn. Gasoline vapor levels above 7.6 percent are too “rich” to burn. Flammable limits, like flash points however, are intended as guides not as fine lines between safe and unsafe.

Auto ignition Temperature:

A material’s auto ignition or ignition temperature is the temperature at which a material self-ignites without any obvious sources of ignition, such as a spark or flame.

Most common flammable and combustible liquids have auto ignition temperatures in the range of 300°C (572°F) to 550°C (1022°F). Some have very low auto ignition temperatures. For example, ethyl ether has an auto ignition temperature of 160°C (356°F) and its vaporous have been ignited by hot steam pipes. Serious accidents have resulted when solvent-evaporating ovens were heated to temperatures above the auto ignition temperature of the solvents used. Auto ignition temperatures, however, are intended as guides, not as fine lines between safe and unsafe. Use all precautions necessary.

For more information on chemical terms and concepts, enroll in our HAZMAT Train-the-Trainer Course. Click here for details (here will take them to calendar page.

Types of Hazards

 

Hazards exist in every workplace, but how do you know which ones have the most potential to harm workers? By identifying hazards at your workplace, you will be better prepared to control or eliminate them and prevent accidents, injuries, property damage and downtime.

Firstly, a key step in any safety protocol is to conduct a thorough hazard assessment of all work environments and equipment.

In a hazard assessment, it is important to be as thorough as possible because after all, you can’t protect your workers against hazards you are unaware of.  Avoid blind spots in your workplace safety procedures by taking into consideration these six main categories of workplace hazards.

The meaning of the word hazard can be confusing. Often dictionaries do not give specific definitions or combine it with the term “risk”. For example, one dictionary defines hazard as “a danger or risk” which helps explain why many people use the terms interchangeably.

There are many definitions for hazard but the most common definition when talking about workplace health and safety is:

A hazard is any source of potential damage, harm or adverse health effects on something or someone.

Harm – physical injury or damage to health.

Hazard – a potential source of harm to a worker.

Basically, a hazard is the potential for harm or an adverse effect (for example, to people as health effects, to organisations as property or equipment losses, or to the environment).

Sometimes the resulting harm is referred to as the hazard instead of the actual source of the hazard. For example, the disease tuberculosis (TB) might be called a “hazard” by some but, in general, the TB-causing bacteria (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) would be considered the “hazard” or “hazardous biological agent”.

Types of Hazards:

A common way to classify hazards is by category:

  • biological – bacteria, viruses, insects, plants, birds, animals, and humans, etc.,
  • chemical – depends on the physical, chemical and toxic properties of the chemical,
  • ergonomic – repetitive movements, improper set up of workstation, poor design of equipment, workstation design, (postural) or workflow, manual handling, repetitive movement.etc.,
  • physical – Slippery floors, objects in walkways, unsafe or misused machinery, excessive noise, poor lighting, fire. radiation, magnetic fields, pressure extremes (high pressure or vacuum), noise, etc.,
  • Psychological – Shift work, workload, dealing with the public, harassment, discrimination, threat of danger, constant low-level noise, stress.stress, violence, etc.,
  • safety – slipping/tripping hazards, inappropriate machine guarding, equipment malfunctions or breakdowns.

Biological Hazard:

Wastes from hospitals and research facilities may contain disease-causing organisms that could infect site personnel. Like chemical hazards, etiologic agents may be dispersed in the environment via water and wind. Other biologic hazards that may be present at a hazardous waste site include poisonous plants, insects, animals, and indigenous pathogens. Protective clothing and respiratory equipment can help reduce the chances of exposure. Thorough washing of any exposed body parts and equipment will help protect against infection.

Types of things you may be exposed to include:

  • Blood and other body fluids
  • Fungi/mold
  • Bacteria and viruses
  • Plants
  • Insect bites
  • Animal and bird droppings

Physical Hazard:.

Are factors within the environment that can harm the body without necessarily touching it.

Physical Hazards include:

  • Radiation: including ionising, nonionizing (EMF’s, microwaves, radio waves, etc.)
  • High exposure to sunlight/ultraviolet rays
  • Temperature extremes – hot and cold
  • Constant loud noise

Ergonomics Hazards:

Occur when the type of work, body positions and working conditions put strain on your body. They are the hardest to spot since you don’t always immediately notice the strain on your body or the harm that these hazards pose. Short term exposure may result in “sore muscles” the next day or in the days following exposure, but long-term exposure can result in serious long-term illnesses.

     Ergonomic Hazards include: 

  • Improperly adjusted workstations and chairs
  • Frequent lifting
  • Poor posture
  • Awkward movements, especially if they are repetitive
  • Repeating the same movements over and over
  • Having to use too much force, especially if you have to do it frequently
  • Vibration

Chemical Hazards:

Are present when a worker is exposed to any chemical preparation in the workplace in any form (solid, liquid or gas). Some are safer than others, but to some workers who are more sensitive to chemicals, even common solutions can cause illness, skin irritation, or breathing problems.

Beware of: 

  • Liquids like cleaning products, paints, acids, solvents – ESPECIALLY if chemicals are in an unlabelled container!
  • Vapours and fumes that come from welding or exposure to solvents
  • Gases like acetylene, propane, carbon monoxide and helium
  • Flammable materials like gasoline, solvents, and explosive chemicals.
  • Pesticides

Safety Hazards:

These are the most common and will be present in most workplaces at one time or another. They include unsafe conditions that can cause injury, illness and death.

Safety Hazards include: 

  • Spills on floors or tripping hazards, such as blocked aisles or cords running across the floor
  • Working from heights, including ladders, scaffolds, roofs, or any raised work area
  • Unguarded machinery and moving machinery parts; guards removed or moving parts that a worker can accidentally touch
  • Electrical hazards like frayed cords, missing ground pins, improper wiring
  • Confined spaces
  • Machinery-related hazards (lockout/tag out, boiler safety, forklifts, etc

Some safety hazards are a function of the work itself. For example, heavy equipment creates an additional hazard for workers in the vicinity of the operating equipment. Protective equipment can impair a worker’s agility, hearing, and vision, which can result in an increased risk of an accident. Accidents involving physical hazards can directly injure workers and can create additional hazards, for example, increased chemical exposure due to damaged protective equipment, or danger of explosion caused by the mixing of chemicals. Site personnel should constantly look out for potential safety hazards, and should immediately inform their supervisors of any new hazards so that mitigate action can be taken.

What are the Penalties for non-Compliance with the US DOT Regulations in 2019?

Image result for dot label

Like any decent regulatory agency, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration within the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT/PHMSA) issues monetary penalties for violations of its Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR). And wouldn’t you know it, USDOT/PHMSA adjusts those penalties to keep pace with inflation. Below are the increased penalty amounts for 2019:

Note: all penalties are assessed per violation, per day.

  • Maximum civil penalty for a violation of the HMR: $78,976. An increase from $78,376 in 2018.
  • If the violation results in death, serious illness, severe injury, or substantial property damage:  $186,610.  An increase from $182,887 in 2018.
  • The minimum penalty for a violation related to HazMat Employee training:  $481.  An increase of $10 from $471 in 2018.

Whistleblower case shows what safety discipline shouldn’t be like

 

Was worker fire for reporting injuries?

We’ve discussed before that progressive discipline is hard for any manager, no matter what department he or she is in. But safety pros face unique challenges with discipline. Discipline is necessary at times but be careful your actions don’t run afoul of OSHA’s anti-retaliation rules. Here’s a recent case that shows what you shouldn’t do:

Disciplinary policy backfires

Timothy Jacobs was the lead machine operator for Dura-Fibre, a manufacturer in Wisconsin. The company used a progressive disciplinary policy where employees were automatically terminated after accumulating 24 points. The company’s policy was strict and maybe even draconian. On May 20, 2013, a co-worker told Jacobs he “tweaked” his shoulder, but he felt like it was “OK.” The next day, the co-worker told Jacobs the shoulder was sore. Jacobs reported the injury to the safety manager. The manager, upset the injury was reported a day late, assessed him eight disciplinary points. Later that same day, Jacobs twisted his ankle while walking down a staircase, and he promptly reported the injury to the safety manager. A twisted ankle happens, right? Seems like just a bad luck accident. That’s not how the safety manager saw it. He summoned Jacobs into his office the next day, said the worker had committed an “unsafe act,” and assessed four more points on his disciplinary record. Summary: Jacobs racked up 12 points in two days, which put him at the 24 disciplinary point total. The safety manager fired him because he reached the 24-point mark.

Careful with that punishment

Jacobs filed a whistleblower complaint with OSHA, arguing his employer retaliated against him for reporting workplace injuries. The court agreed, and now the company must pay Jacobs $100,000 to settle the complaint. The company’s disciplinary policy was a Catch-22: Either report the injury and possibly face punishment for an unsafe act – or hide the injury and face discipline for not timely reporting it to a supervisor. Like we said, this is a drastic disciplinary program, and we doubt yours is as black-and-white. Discipline should be applied consistently for the breaking of safety rules – whether a worker was injured by an unsafe act or not. Also, remember to document the disciplinary process thoroughly to prove action wasn’t retaliatory.

The Myths Of Lockout/Tagout – Part 2

Myth: Each machine specific procedure must contain lots of detail

OSHA: OSHA concurs with those commenters who stressed the need for flexibility in the standard. For example, the detail into which a procedure may have to go may vary depending upon the type of power the machine or equipment may utilize, or the means used to isolate or block the machine or equipment from the source of power…

 However, whereas the procedure is required to be written in detail, this does not mean that a separate procedure must be written for each and every machine or piece of equipment. Similar machines and/or equipment (such as those using the same type and magnitude energy) which have the same or similar types of controls can be covered with a single procedure.

The written energy control procedure required by this standard need not be overly complicated or detailed

Myth: I’m a lot safer and more compliant if I require Lockout, even for Minor Servicing tasks

OSHA: There are some activities which are properly classified as servicing or maintenance but which are often performed during normal production operations. These activities include lubricating, cleaning, unjamming, and making minor adjustments and simple tool changes. In the proposed standard, OSHA suggested excluding these operations (paragraph (a)(2)(iii) stated, `when it is necessary to perform the activity and if the activity is performed using alternative measures which the employer can demonstrate are equally effective’).

Myth: OSHA does not recognize any alternative procedures to Lockout

OSHA: OSHA recognizes that some servicing operations must be performed with the power on; in these situations, it would not make sense to require lockout or tagout, which apply to deenergized equipment. The proposal contained a requirement that when servicing or maintenance must be performed with the equipment energized, the employer must use an alternative procedure which provides, in the language of the ANSI standard “effective protection.”

Myth: We must always shut down primary power for Lockout

OSHA: In the case of required minor adjustments where this (deenergization) is not feasible, or in the case of normal production operations, these activities shall be accomplished under the protection of specially designed control circuits, control equipment, and operating procedures, that provide proven effective protection for the affected personnel.

Myth: ANSI standards are not regulation; hence they have no value for compliance

OSHA: The concept behind both the proposed and final provisions on normal production operations was taken from the ANSI standard, which attempted to address situations in which it was necessary to keep equipment energized during servicing. It was clear to the ANSI committee, as it was and is to OSHA, that neither lockout nor tagout is possible in a situation when the equipment cannot be deenergized, because these efforts involve assurances that deenergization has been achieved and that the proper procedures and verifications of deenergization have been carried out. However, both ANSI and OSHA believe that even if lockout or tagout cannot be done, the employer must provide alternative measures to lockout/tagout which will protect the employees doing the servicing under those conditions.

Myth: My annual inspection must happen during a given period each year

OSHA:   One method for meeting the performance requirements in this paragraph would be to use random audits and planned visual observations to determine the extent of employee compliance. Another would include modifying and adopting ordinary plant safety tours to suit this purpose.

Myth: Training for Affected Workers cannot take the form of supervisor instruction or a Toolbox talk

OSHA: The training OSHA requires for “affected employees” is less stringent than that for “authorized employees,” simply because affected employees do not perform servicing or maintenance operations which are performed under an energy control procedure…..The instruction needs to be sufficient to enable the employees to determine if a control measure is in use.

Myth: All energy sources must have individual labels

OSHA: OSHA has determined that the marking or labeling of energy isolating devices is not reasonably necessary for the effectiveness of the energy control program. Authorized employees are required at (c)(7)(i)(A) to receive training in and to know that information relating to hazardous energy.

OSHA Clarifies Drug Testing, Incentives

Agency Says Post-Incident Drug Testing, Safety Incentives OK

Good news: OSHA is pulling back its previous stance on safety incentive programs and post-incident drug testing – the guidance that left many safety pros confused. OSHA issued anti-retaliation guidance in 2016 that gave examples of safety incentives and post-accident drug testing as unlawful retaliation. The agency’s stance was safety incentive programs that rewarded employees for time periods without injuries, and blanket post-incident drug testing, could discourage workers from reporting injuries.

Memo reverses OSHA’s stance

A newly released OSHA memo intends to “clarify … that (the agency) does not prohibit workplace safety incentive programs or post-incident drug testing.” Post-incident drug testing and safety incentive programs will only be considered retaliatory when they seek to penalize a worker for reporting a work-related illness or injury. Bottom line: If you follow a few basic guidelines set by OSHA, you can still have incentive programs and post-incident drug testing without fear of facing OSHA citations.

Remember the small print

OSHA says, “most instances of workplace drug testing are permissible.” That includes testing to evaluate the root cause of workplace safety incidents. The caveat: Testing must be conducted consistently on any worker whose conduct may have caused the accident, not just the worker who was injured in the accident. OSHA now also permits safety incentive programs that offer a prize or bonus at the end of an injury-free month or time period. However, employers must use “adequate precautions” to ensure workers feel free to report injuries. Precautions include adding features to a program like rewards for workers who identify unsafe conditions, training that emphasizes anti-retaliation policies and evaluating workers’ willingness to report injuries.

The Myths Of Lockout/Tagout – Part 1

Myth: I have to lockout energy whenever I do any service or maintenance

OSHA: When such servicing may expose the employee to the unexpected activation of the machinery or equipment, or to the release of stored energy, this Final Rule will apply.

Myth: There is no alternative to lockout when doing service and maintenance

OSHA: …lockout or tagout is not required by this standard if the employer can demonstrate that the alternative means enables the servicing employee to clean or unjam or otherwise service the machine without being exposed to unexpected energization or activation of the equipment or release of stored energy.

Myth: My workers insist they need power, but we have a zero tolerance policy on doing lockout

OSHA: The Agency recognizes that there are certain servicing operations which, by their very nature, must take place without deenergization

Myth: It is not necessary to consider exposure to a hazard when requiring lockout.

OSHA: Some servicing operations do not expose employees to hazards which would necessitate that a machine, equipment or process be deenergized and locked out or tagged out…

If no such exposure will occur, either because of the method in which the work is performed or because special tools, techniques, or other additional protection is provided, lockout or tagout is not requiredIf there is such exposure, the lockout or tagout requirements of this standard apply. However, if the servicing operation is routine, repetitive and must be performed as an integral part of the production process, lockout or tagout may not be necessary, because these procedures would prevent the machine from economically being used in production.

Myth: Lockout must be done, even if it is not feasible

OSHA: Based upon an analysis of the rulemaking record, OSHA believes that the safe performance of activities such as repair, maintenance and servicing, requires the deenergization of machines or equipment whenever feasible.

Myth: Use of a lock is the most important issue to comply with CFR 1910.147

OSHA: It should be noted that locks and tags by themselves do not control hazardous energy. It is the isolation of the equipment from the energy source and the following of the established procedures for deenergization and reenergization of the equipment that actually controls the energy.

Myth: CFR 1910.147 does not apply to process safety management

OSHA: However, the Agency considers the basic approach of this standard to be appropriate for the control of all hazardous energy sources, including those discussed by API. (American Petroleum Institute)

How Can Businesses Eliminate Worker Injuries to Reach a Goal of Zero Incidents?

 

 

 

 

The Zero Incidents Vision

Over the years, businesses have implemented many unique procedures and policies to eliminate worker injuries and workplace incidents. Today, Health & Safety professionals are promoting Zero Incidents as the benchmark for safety management excellence.

A Zero Incidents goal aims to eliminate all events that result in injury, property damage, and have the secondary consequences of:

  • Damaging your brand.
  • Prompting legal action.
  • Halting production.

This Zero Incident philosophy is somewhat polarizing, with some safety professionals who perceive Zero Incidents as the new standard and others who say it is an unrealistic goal. Regardless of whether you’re aiming to reduce your reportable incidents to zero or just reduce your overall incident count, this article will outline some of the fundamental processes that need to be in place to achieve your health and safety goal.

The Journey to Zero Incidents Requires Training

The most proactive way to achieve Zero Incidents is to train your workers—there is a measurable relationship between the amount of pre-emptive training you deliver to employees and the rate of workplace incidences. It’s no secret that staff given proper training about a process and its safety measures are significantly less likely to experience an incident or injury.

However, it’s not enough to simply give good training to your team; these efforts are only effective when you closely monitor employee training performance with the aim to continuously improve the safety record of your organization. Zero Incidents as a target creates the necessity for efforts to establish better management and procedures for training. Being able to create more effective training programs to combat common incidents for your workplace means having an understanding (and way of measuring) both your leading and lagging indicators.

Leading indicators are the measurable factors that contribute to the root cause of an event and can help predict where and when an event is likely to happen – for example, was the employee trained in safe operating procedures, and what safety audits did you do before beginning work? Lagging indicators are the measurable details of an incident that can be observed after the fact, including the type of injury or number of hours of process shut down.  Businesses can use lagging indicators to create a baseline to assess management training practices to make improvements. On the other hand, leading indicators focus on future health and safety outcomes with the goal of improving overall safety and reducing injury. Health and safety managers use leading indicators to create new procedures and monitor compliance and lagging indicators to adjust activities and training to avoid injury and reach the goal of lower incidents.

Being able to measure and compare leading and lagging indicators is essential for building a better training program and getting on track to reach a Zero Incidents goal. Some indicators you should monitor include:

  • Employees taking training compared against employees involved in incidents.
  • Rate of refresher courses versus rate of incidents (per process type).
  • Employee wellness programs (for example, ERA provides our staff with an employee gym for physical health and ergonomic sit/stand desks).
  • Frequency of safety audits against near misses.

It is important that businesses aim for proper training and fewer incidents without pressuring workers to under report minor injuries. In aiming for fewer incidents, one should also create a workplace culture that is open to (and potentially rewards) reporting from employees rather than an atmosphere of fear and silence. Incentives for training, such as bonuses for employees who participate in safety programs, can promote a no-incident culture by promoting workers who prioritize safety. OSHA’s VPP Guidance materials suggest several positive incentives offering modest rewards for successful company-wide safety and health training. Zero Incidents serves as an opportunity for businesses and employees to learn how to achieve the highest results in workplace safety.

Benefits of Risk Assessments and Root Cause Analysis for Employers

A risk assessment involves the process of evaluating risks to workers’ health and safety from workplace hazards. Risk assessment plans collect vitally important information which can be used to create a no-incidents culture for workers. A proper risk assessment methodology aims to identify:

  1. Hazards that have the potential to harm any person at a facility.  This process, known as hazard identification, consists of recording actual physical hazards that can take any number of forms – from fall hazards, to proximity to dangerous machinery, to injuries from carrying heavy objects, etc.
  2. The actual level of risk posed to staff and site visitors by any identified hazard, a process commonly referred to as risk analysis.
  3. Risk evaluation levels or ascertaining the significance of the risk in a broader context.  

Health and Safety managers should combine a risk assessment with a root cause analysis to eliminate workplace hazards and achieve low incidents. The Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) defines a “root cause” as “a fundamental, underlying, system-related reason why an incident occurred, that identifies one or more correctable system failures.” OSHA explains that “by conducting a root cause analysis and addressing root causes, an employer may be able to substantially or completely prevent the same or a similar incident from recurring.”  Employers conducting a root cause analysis seek to discover the underlying and systemic causes of an incident that will help prevent similar events from happening again rather than simply correcting the problem itself. In taking actions to identify and correct underlying system management shortfalls, employers can avoid unnecessary fines and litigation.

Interviews, checklists, event trees, and other tools assist employers in identifying root causes for incidents ranging in complexity. A root cause analysis combined with a risk assessment creates a clear, guided course to the goal of less incidents. Employers benefit from reduced failures and prevented incidents resulting in improved process reliability, increased revenues, decreased production costs, lower maintenance costs, and lower insurance premiums.

Conclusion

The most successful improvements in health and safety are based on training and measurements of risk assessments and root causes. Risk assessments and root cause analyses serve to provide “early warnings” about potential hazards to avoid incidents. Once issues in your process are uncovered, training staff on the new procedure is the best way to zero incidents. Zero workplace incidents can be achieved once companies invest time and resources in the right processes.

The aim for zero represents perfection, however employees cannot operate perfectly all the time. Zero is rather a target for employers to demonstrate commitment to reducing workplace incidents to achieve safety for everyone. Employers work alongside employees to reach safety goals; however, employers send the message through company health and safety goals to communicate that incidents are not acceptable. Rather than a numerical goal of zero, Zero Incidents allow companies to show their underlying philosophy—that safety must be emphasized and that human life and injury is of the highest priority.

Hearing loss increase found in oil, gas workers

Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) among Canadian oil and gas drilling sector workers has increased by 12 per cent, from 33 per cent in 2012 to 45 per cent in 2017, according to hearing-test data collected by employers. Even more alarming: out of the 294 oil and gas drilling workers with NIHL, 194 — 65 per cent — were under the age of 35.

WorkSafeBC, a workplace safety and health agency in British Columbia, is alerting employers to the problem with a new safety bulletin.

While the percentage of workers with NIHL has increased in the drilling sector, the percentage of workers who reported wearing a hearing protection device has also increased, from 94 to 98 per cent, with a heavy reliance on A plugs, commonly known as foam earplugs.

“There are a number of reasons why workers may be diagnosed with noise-induced hearing loss even though they are wearing some form of hearing protection,” says Sasha Brown, WorkSafeBC occupational audiologist. “The earplugs or earmuffs might be the wrong size, inserted or worn incorrectly, not worn for long enough, or they may not be providing enough protection for the duration and intensity of noise exposure.”

Employers can take measures to prevent noise-induced hearing loss: 

  • Ensure all workers who are at risk are wearing sufficient hearing protection that fits, and that they understand how to properly wear it.
  • Make sure workers insert or wear the correct hearing protection prior to entering a noisy environment and wear it until after exiting the noisy location.
  • Rotate workers to different positions so they spend less time in noisy environments.
  • Identify potential engineering controls to mitigate risk of exposure.
  • Ensure workers have their hearing tested and are aware of their hearing-test results.

According to the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation and Guidelines, employers are required to provide hearing-loss prevention programs, monitor noise levels and conduct annual hearing tests for workers exposed to hazardous noise levels to prevent permanent hearing damage.

Hazardous noise levels are defined as 85 decibels in the A scale for eight hours or the equivalent; the A scale is used for measuring environmental noise. All workers are responsible for wearing appropriate hearing protection and taking part in their employer’s hearing-loss prevention program. Since 2006 there have been more than 41,000 accepted claims for NIHL in B.C.

Using TaBRA For Culture Change

TaBRA (Task Based Risk Assessments) is a topic about which FDRsafety has written several times.

How It Works

Many workers don’t take proper steps during tasks. In our experience, our methodology leaves workers shaking their heads at the number of steps that they forget to identify on a regular basis. System accomplishes this through two phases:

Place workers in the lead roles and have them identify all the steps to a task:

  • Before identifying hazards and risks, workers step through each element of the task, allowing them to get into the “cadence” of how the work is performed. They relax because they are the only one who knows how the task is performed.
  • Missing steps could result in missing things that create hazard and risk as well as impact operational performance
  • If an Alternative Method to LOTO is required, the operator steps are already defined with TaBRA

       After they identify all the steps in the task, they:

  • Identify the hazards and risks,
  • Validate that the proposed risk reduction method(s) actually work in their real world, and
  • Provide final validation of the final Alternative Method or SOP works. Remember, it is the worker who will train other new workers. The final procedure should be what they need.

Why It Works

The entire FDR TaBRA process is built around “respect for the worker.” When that happens, the worker knows it and “buy-in” is relatively easy. The team approach and outcome of the TaBRA System is not something that the worker “has to do.” Results have proven that moving workers from “Have to” to “Want to” is a proven formula for changing behavior. The dilemma that management and workers face are the tasks where existing safety policies and procedures make the worker “fight the system” to accomplish their work.

An Example

An FDR safety team just finished a risk assessment where the highest element of risk for the defined task was getting to the local disconnect for LOTO. That was an eye-opener for the client who had been “putting up” with this hazard for two decades because the focus on LOTO overshadowed the issues of what it takes to actually lockout the equipment. TaBRA brings to life the adage “ the devil is in the detail”

Final Thoughts

If you want culture change, you must align worker and leader behavior for both safety and production. If you want to change behavior, you must first change attitudes. If you don’t get to the worker’s heart and mind, you will keep fighting the same battles over and over. If you want a change in attitude, you need to assure that your safety policies and procedures facilitate workers, management and union personnel dealing with real world issues to achieve both acceptable risk and compliance with OSHA.