Whistleblower case shows what safety discipline shouldn’t be like

Was worker fired 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. To find out the latest on what OSHA is up to as well as implementing a viable safety culture, click here now.

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.

Next HAZWOPER TRAIN-THE-TRAINER Course in 2019 Aboard the Battleship USS North Carolina

 

We just finished a great class last week here in Wilmington for our HAZWOPER TRAIN-THE-TRAINER Course – and it was the last one for the year.  Excellent students, great participation and an eagerness to learn created the perfect environment for learning.

Anyone involved in environmental clean-up or HAZMAT emergency response will benefit from this intensive, week-long Train-the-Trainer Course held on the Battleship USS North Carolina; the next scheduled class is on April 1-5, 2019.  Stay in Wilmington that weekend for our 72nd North Carolina Azalea Festival.

In addition to covering the various elements of the HAZWOPER standard, you will experience hands-on, practical simulations to meet the experiential requirements of the regulation. Click here to register for the first of these courses held in 2019.

LSP Update

Great News! Our LSP just received a facelift and now has migrated to our new Learning Management System. What does this mean?

  • Up-to-the-minute changes in OSHA regulations and safety trends
  • Interactive modules make learning exciting, challenging and fun
  • New, dynamic videos and rich, engaging graphics
  • Ease-of-use and excellent for recordkeeping requirements

All of the benefits of becoming an LSP have not changed. Not familiar with the LSP professional designation? Our LSP provides the following:

  • 18 different Specialist modules for a comprehensive overview of the profession
  • Continuing Education Units that may be transferred to Academic Credits (up to one year) at Columbia Southern University
  • Professional designation recognized worldwide
  • Ability to train as an Independent NASP Trainer for increased income

As a bonus, we are offering a 10% OFF coupon for purchasing the LSP in our new LMS format now. That’s almost $600 in savings!  Click here now and type in LSPLMS18 in the coupon code for this savings.

If you are not familiar with how a Learning Management System works, click here to sign up for our FREE demo.

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.

Is the National Association of Safety Professionals Legit?

One question we hear quite often at NASP is, ‘Which certifications are actually legitimate in the arena of safety?’ There are certainly a number of certifications available for safety professionals pursuing credentials to increase their knowledge, improve their resume and provide a means for proving competency in a particular area.

Some organizations certify through testing alone; these tests are typically weighted heavily towards those who wish to become safety engineers and focus primarily on difficult math and engineering concepts.  While this may be considered a legitimate test by some, it certainly does not test for knowledge on practical workplace safety.  Therefore, certifications are needed which truly provide training as well as testing on practical applications of workplace safety – the knowledge, skills and abilities of those who must manage safety programs at their facilities, whether it be in industry, construction, oil & gas, maritime, or governmental agencies.

The concepts for a real-world, practical application of providing a safe workplace, regardless of type of industry, are universal. These include basic regulatory compliance, safety management systems, effective training techniques and establishing a viable safety culture.  This is what sets NASP apart from many of the other available certifications available for those seeking to distinguish themselves in the field of safety.

NASP professional certifications provide the necessary training for those who are looking to establish and implement a successful safety program.  The training does not teach one how to pass a test, it trains an individual on the aforementioned elements of a true safety and health program – one designed to actually reduce or eliminate workplace fatalities and injuries, create buy-in from upper level management, change the behavior of employees, lower worker comp premiums, protect the company and its representatives from undue civil and criminal liability and ultimately lead to a safer workplace. Is this not the intended goal for all safety professionals?

We’d love to hear what you think and your opinion as to what constitutes a ‘legitimate’ certification. Feel free to comment and add to the discussion…

AN UNCONDITIONAL COMMITMENT TO SAFETY: THE EDGAR SANCHEZ STORY

NASP Certified Safety Manager- New Orleans 2018

A driven advocate for employee safety, Edgar Sanchez knew years ago that he wanted to further his safety career to better facilitate the language barrier between the company he worked for and its large population of Spanish speaking employees. After finding an advertisement for our CSM class, Edgar eagerly printed it out and asked  for management approval for the trip. Edgar was denied on multiple occasions by his company, but he never gave up. Passion and determination are what drove Edgar to our CSM New Orleans class this early October. Realizing he would have to pay out of pocket for this trip, Edgar saved for years -sacrificing vacations and even small treats like a night out to dinner with his family – but at long last his dreams came to fruition.

After hearing his heartfelt story, NASP quickly realized that his hard work and perseverance should not go unrewarded. Upon finishing the class, the Executive Director, Eric Gislason, awarded Edgar with the Gary Wilson Borders Scholarship, covering 100% of his tuition costs for his Licensed Safety Professional (LSP) certification. Congratulations, Edgar!

5 Key Sustainability Initiatives That Give Us Great Hope for a Greener Future

As the debate about climate change continues, more creative examples, technologies and initiatives of how to fight it are popping up around the world. Over the last decade or so, the U.S. has watched many countries and communities significantly reduce their negative impact on the environment by integrating modern technologies and clean energy strategies within their various industries. Not to the mention, of course, the great deal of work that has gone into the field of waste management, recycling, reduction of greenhouse gases, reclamation of precious metals and many more.

Continuous technological improvements have led to a rapid fall in the cost of renewable energy in recent years, meaning some forms can already comfortably compete with fossil fuels. Many of the organizations initiating these technologies have gone on to become profitable ventures of their own, a far cry from the old stigma of the last decade that it does not pay to be green. These programs have now also begun to attract such interest that has resulted in them building whole new industries, employing hundreds of thousands of people worldwide.

1 Wind Energy

The most established and probably one of the ones that has been around for a while now. The industry has grown so much in recent years that the role of a “wind turbine technician” has become one of the most popular jobs over the last decade. In the United States alone for example, a country in which 4% of its energy is provided by wind turbines the industry is predicted to employ over 600,000 personnel (Wind Vision Report) by 2050.

Critics have argued that wind energy does not always provide the best cost benefits and as a result cannot compete with fossil fueled generators. While this may be true, advancement in technology in recent years has seen such models become competitive as a result of utilizing lands in more secluded areas and constructing these facilities in offshore locations providing a more consistent wind flow.

A recent report by the Renewable Energy Agency (IREA) suggests that as this trend continues, by 2020 wind power generation technologies that are now in commercial use are expected to fall within the fossil fuel-fired cost range.

2 Waste to Energy Initiatives

After this process was initially introduced in Japan and China in the early 2000’s, the technology is constantly developing and has now evolved into fully sustainable business models prevalent in many countries and communities across the globe.

As the title suggests, the technology uses waste that is normally consigned for landfill, through a combustion process, to produce electricity, heat or converted to other forms of synthetic fuels.

Sweden as an example has used these initiatives in such an effective way that they have actually ran out of their own waste. In fact, over the past 10 years they have started importing waste from other countries making the enterprises exceptionally profitable.

A win-win-win situation for the country, nations exporting the waste, and of course, the environment!

3 Solar Energy

The idea is impressive and probably one of the cleanest ways of producing energy. The issue in the past had always been obtaining enough space to place high numbers of panels to produce the adequate amount of energy to make the initiative commercially viable.

This has now changed, and the technology is constantly evolving. Scientists and tech companies are constantly competing for the best solar panel and PV cell efficiency results enhancing the performance to area ratios of these systems.

Solar panels are even becoming more and more common with individual home owners worldwide providing much lower electricity prices and, on many occasions, negative power consumptions where the individual home panels have fully satisfied the residential electricity consumption needs and provide power back to the main grid.

On an industrial scale, countries within the middle east and Africa have begun taking notice and many plans and projects are now afoot with goals of utilizing solar energy as the main source of energy by 2050.

In September 2017, the United Kingdom opened the first ever solar power plant that was not subsidized by the government in Bedfordshire proving that sustainable business models could be achieved.

A recent report from January 2018 by the Renewable Energy Agency (IREA) also highlighted that Turning to solar energy for power generation is not only an environmentally conscious decision anymore, it is now, overwhelmingly, a smart economic one.

4 Electrical Vehicle Initiatives

Passenger vehicles are a major pollution contributor, producing significant amounts of nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and other pollutants. In 2013, transportation contributed to more than half of the carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides, and almost a quarter of the hydrocarbons emitted into our air.

As well as the environmental impact, health risks of air pollution are extremely serious. Poor air quality increases respiratory ailments like asthma and bronchitis, heightens the risk of life-threatening conditions like cancer, and burdens our health care systems with substantial medical costs.

Governments worldwide are beginning to recognize the threat and have made a number of bullish commitments to minimize the impact. Theresa May recently in a Zero Emission Vehicle Summit in Birmingham announced a 106-million-pound funding boost to help meet a target for UK roads to be free of petrol and diesel cars by 2050. Similar announcements have been made by numerous European countries in recent months.

A recent milestone in the industry saw Europe reach a million electrical vehicle sales in August 2018. As a result, VW have announced plans to build their first plant with a capacity to produce 100,000 electrical cars per year at a time when electric vehicle sales worldwide are rocketing.

Of course, building the vehicles is only half the story, as people must be sufficiently motivated to move away from a technology that has defined our lives for a century. Governments still have a vital role to play through making vehicles affordable and by joining forces with businesses to invest in charge points across transportation routes.

5 Production of Clean Fuels

Although such initiatives, specifically during their production phases, still present a slight concern for the environment in terms of flaring and the creation of greenhouse gases, they do represent a significant upgrade to traditional polluters such as petroleum or coal products.

Realizing the necessity to diversify and develop environmentally “friendlier” products, many major worldwide Oil and Gas organizations have moved to produce products such as low sulfur diesel, methanol and bio fuels.

Such options remain highly profitable as in many cases, given some minimum alterations, can replace traditional fossil fuel driven combustion engines. This has seen a rise in technologies such as gas to liquids where natural gas can be converted to clean diesel fuel through a process of air separation, chemical reactions involving a hydrocarbon and various catalysts.

Some of these processes have been around for a number of years now and technologies such as the Fischer-Tropsch reaction first discovered in the 1920’s have only been utilized on an industrial scale in the last couple of decades.

The only issue with such processes remain that a hydrocarbon (Carbon Monoxide) is required to yield the final product. Gas remains the cleanest option, although recent technologies in Canada and Germany have seen successful project where Carbon Monoxide has been successfully separated from air on an industrial scale. The process works by sucking air into a modified cooling tower with fans, where it comes into contact with a liquid that reacts with the CO2.

Advancements in such a technology will surely have an astronomical impact on producing cleaner fuels in the future.

Marijuana and the Workplac

Under the Federal Controlled Substances Act marijuana is a Schedule I substance which means it has a high potential for abuse and does not have any legitimate medical use.  The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has considered reclassifying marijuana as a Schedule II drug but since has decided not to do so.  Despite the fact marijuana is still illegal under federal law, states are passing laws legalizing it within that state.  Currently 30 states and the District of Columbia have passed medical marijuana laws permitting people with certain illnesses or diseases to seek recommendations from their doctor to be permitted to use marijuana in some form.  Nine states have passed laws which permit marijuana for recreational use.  With the number of states passing laws for marijuana use whether for medicinal and/or recreational purposes increasing, it’s evident that using marijuana is becoming more acceptable by society.  These laws have resulted in a rapid rise in the number of people across the nation who are using marijuana creating challenges for US employers.

As use increases, so have the number of positive drug test results for marijuana use over the last five years. Marijuana has a higher positive test rate than any other drug category.  The most prevalent positive rates are in states in which the use of recreational marijuana has been legal for the last couple of years.  This is causing havoc for employers as they try to hire and retain employees who are drug free.  Some employers are choosing to remove marijuana from their drug test panels just to have a larger pool of candidates.  Employers who do not have employees regulated under federal, state or local laws or, are not otherwise contractually required to test, can choose if they want to drug test their employees and if so, which drugs to test for.  If an employer does drug testing it is important for them to conduct testing consistent with the company substance abuse policy.  In addition to their policy, employers should stay up-to-date with case law pertaining to their state laws to avoid liability for refusing to hire or discharging an employee based on a positive marijuana test as these laws vary from state to state.

Use of marijuana in the workplace continues to create serious safety concerns for employers and has the potential to cost the company money in loss of productivity, missed work, injury cost & civil liability.  According to the Drug and Alcohol Testing Industry Association (DATIA), studies show that employees who use marijuana had 85% more workplace injuries and 75% more absenteeism than employees who don’t use marijuana.  Whether it’s an employee who reports to work impaired or an employee who exhibits other signs of abuse, it places that person, their co-workers, clients/customers and others in hazardous, unsafe situations.  It’s inherently necessary for companies to specifically identify in their policies how they are meeting the requirement of providing a safe work environment.  For this reason, supervisors should be trained to identify indicators of impairment and have a protocol in place for testing.  Companies who don’t do pre-employment testing may conduct “reasonable suspicion” testing and “post-accident” testing according to their policy.  However, in order to further deter employees from using marijuana or other controlled substances, a policy should also include “pre-employment” and “random” testing.  Employers who choose to permit medical marijuana use or, are required to permit such use under state statute can still hold those employees to the same work standards that employees who do not use marijuana are held to.  Employers are not required to tolerate poor performance due to an employee’s use.  It’s imperative that employers ensure the substance abuse policy is up-to-date to maintain a safe environment for the employees, clients, vendors, customers and visitors to their facility.  The policy should be designed to allow the company to operate as a drug free workplace and, to ensure the workplace is free of the negative effects of drug abuse.

Daniel S. Tickerhoof, CSM

On Demand Drug Testing & Work Solutions

Youngstown, OH

www.ondemanddrugtesting.com

This article was recently written by one of our CSMs. This is his opinion… we’d love to hear yours.

What is Safety Differently?

Safety Differently is the name given to a movement within the safety industry that challenges organizations to view three key areas of their business differently – how safety is defined, the role of people, and the focus of the business.

The term ‘Safety Differently’ was first coined in 2012 by Griffith University professor and best-selling author, Sidney Dekker. Since then, the movement has continued to gain traction, and is now backed by its own research lab, along with multiple books, and a documentary.
How do we currently approach safety?

In order to understand the theory behind Safety Differently, we must first consider how modern organizations currently approach health and safety. Dekker argues that traditional safety thinking is underscored by three main principles.

  • Workers are considered the cause of poor safety performance. Workers make mistakes, they violate rules, and they ultimately make safety numbers look bad. That is, workers represent a problem that an organization needs to solve.
  • Because of this, organizations intervene to try and influence workers’ behavior. Managers develop strict guidelines and tell workers what to do, because they cannot be trusted to operate safely alone.
  • Organizations measure their safety success through the absence of negative events.

So is there a problem with this approach? Well, Dekker says yes. He says this line of thinking has led to a growing safety bureaucracy that is responsible for injury rates/fatality rates plateauing in recent times. And with such a heavy focus on low safety numbers, it’s possible that organizations are measuring and managing the wrong risk (Deepwater Horizon famously had a great safety record before an incident in 2010 that killed 11 people). As Dekker puts it, “if you keep people accountable for low numbers of negatives, that is what they will give you”. That is, organizations will find a way to underreport and reclassify incidents to fit the ‘Zero Harm’ agenda.

All this, Dekker says, has led to a world where people have become disengaged with health and safety at its core, where people fail to see its value. A common analogy for this problem is coaching a competitive swimmer. As we focus on teaching the swimmer not to drown (stay near the edge, wear a life-vest), we conflict with the overall goals of the swimmer. Rather than competency and common sense, we value compliance and control.
Safety Differently

Safety Differently flips traditional thinking on its head, and encourages organizations to grow safety from the bottom, up – rather than impose it from the top, down.

  • People are not the problem to control, they are the solution. Learn how your workers create success on a daily basis and harness their skills and competencies to build a safer workplace.
  • Rather than intervening in worker behavior, intervene in the conditions of their work. This involves collaborating with front-line staff and providing them with the right tools and environment to get the job done safely. The key here is intervening in workplace conditions rather than worker behavior.
  • Measure safety as the presence of positive capacities. If you want to stop things from going wrong, enhance the capacities that make things go right.