You’re Proactive About Workplace Safety – But What About Your Career?

Being proactive is preached constantly when discussing how to create a safe workplace. As a safety professional, you take countless proactive steps to prevent injuries in your workplace. You do everything from selecting the right tools to creating safety initiatives and establishing best practices.

But can you confidently say you are taking the same proactive approach with your career?

EHS Professions Are About to Face Massive Changes

It’s no secret that almost every single industry will be disrupted over the coming years. This really should be no surprise, given the massive changes that have already taken place in the workplace over the last few decades. Relatively recent technologies like email and smartphones alone have flipped most professions (and the economy as a whole) on their heads.

If you think being a safety professional will shelter you from massive change and joblessness I only half-heartedly agree with you. The saving grace for many safety jobs is the necessity of the human element. The problem-solving skills used in hazard mitigation and the face-to-face interaction with employees will not easily be replaced by technology or robots. New technology and robots can, however, completely change how the safety professional’s work is done, leaving some professionals without a position.

What Disruptions Are Looming Around the Corner

Below are some examples of technological advancements that could disrupt safety management in the foreseeable future.

Safety Training Using Holographic Telepresence

If you’re a safety consultant or training firm that depends on local businesses that want to use your onsite training services, you could be at risk of losing business to safety training companies that complete training remotely by using holographic telepresence or virtual reality. Sounds a little too sci-fi? It won’t for long: holographic telepresence is already being developed.

Virtual Reality for Location-Specific Training

Virtual reality and augmented reality will get to a point where trainees will be able to get experience on equipment, machines, and work stations without having to be in a given location. This will effectively put some training centers out of business.

Safety Inspections Completed Remotely

I have been giving more and more thought to the possibility of companies offering safety inspections remotely.

How can this be achieved? It’s simpler than you might think. Drones with mounted cameras is one obvious method and it’s already being used in various industries.

Another option is having an employee walk the site with live feed technology. Even that can be outsourced to technology by mounting cameras on a small wheeled vehicle or robot with live feed capabilities.

These developments could easily replace boots-on-the-ground safety management at some workplaces. Once this technology is available, can you imagine the cost and time it would save for companies that oversee various job sites?

What You Should Be Doing to Prepare

Change is inevitable, but there’s no reason to fear it unless you plan on doing absolutely nothing.

If you still have a chunk of your working life ahead of you, start adjusting to these new and coming realities. Begin planning out ways to stay ahead of what companies are looking for in job openings.

As a starting point, ask yourself these two basic questions: “What do I want to do?” and “What do I need to do?”.

What Do You Want to Do?

I am a big proponent of learning the skills or gaining knowledge about the topics that interest you and turning that into a career. it sure beats taking any job that comes your way just for the sake of a paycheck. If you don’t want to be a business owner then at least parlay what you’re interested in into a career working for a company you love.

I write a lot of content on different platforms and I have my own websites where I share information with other safety professionals. One of the main reasons I do this is because my interests are in content creation, online business, entrepreneurship, and marketing. While I am a full-time health and safety officer during the day, I use my free time to pursue those interests and have found ways in which they intersect with my full-time career.

Learning these skills outside of my day job and putting myself out there provides me with the opportunity to pursue careers or side jobs outside of safety – or outside of the traditional safety route, at least. By continually exploring and developing these skills, I could eventually develop my own safety-related business or work for a company in a completely different capacity than I am in now.

This will leave me with more career options down the road and, more importantly to me, options I am interested in pursuing – not just opportunities I have to take for the sake of a paycheck.

What Do You Need to Do?

Unfortunately, what we want to do might not happen for numerous reasons, at least not in a timely manner. If you are more just focused on job security or securing your career path over the long term, then you have to focus on what you need to do.

What skills, industries, and positions do you see becoming in demand over the foreseeable future? What experience, knowledge, and skills do you have right now that line up with those long-term, in demand ones?

The differences between the two are the gaps you need to address. If you see that a bachelor’s degree is the only way to land a job or advance in the career field or industry you want to work in, then you need to figure out a way to earn that.

Similarly, if you are an experienced, certified, and degreed professional but you see that the industry you have most of your experience in is dwindling down, you probably should be thinking of making the jump to a more promising industry as soon as possible.

What you need to do will depend where the profession as a whole is going, but it will depend even more on where you are currently at in your career and what gaps you need to address.

Conclusion

Safety professionals are constantly pushing the idea that we need to be proactive. You are probably the one pushing that message to employees so they get to go home safe and healthy at the end of every work day.

But are you taking your own advice? How proactive are you in your career?

Professionals in any field should be looking at what gaps they have when it comes to the skills, experience, and knowledge the job market is looking for. Taking a proactive approach to addressing the gaps can make the difference in whether you have a job or not in five years.

It is difficult to accurately predict changes and larger trends in entire professions over long periods of time. But unless you give it careful thought and take calculated action, it will be more difficult to make transitions when needed.

Safety Around Power Lines:

Working around energized equipment can be very hazardous, it is good to know these helpful tips to prevent yourself from becoming the path to ground electricity is always searching for.

Overhead lines:

One thing to pay attention to when you are at your job site is your location and proximity to overhead lines or utility poles. Electricity always tries to find the easiest path to ground. If you are operating tall equipment or removing trees that may be in contact with an overhead line you may become that easiest path to ground. We ask that you remain at least 10 feet away from all power lines and 30 feet away from larger transmission structures. The power lines do carry enough energy to hurt you and the electricity will attempt to travel through you or your equipment to the ground. Although the lines look like they may be insulated the coating you see is to protect them from weathering not insulation for human protection.

If you are about to start a project and may be working in the proximity of power lines use a spotter and warning flags. You may contact your local utility and they can correctly identify the nominal voltage and necessary clearances you need at no cost. If they need to, the utility can install protective barriers to avoid contact with the line. There are no repercussions for contacting your local utility for guidance, however, if you don’t contact them and you come in contact with their lines or equipment there may be repercussions. You can never assume lines are de-energized, always assume they are hot.

Underground lines:

Anytime you may be digging or excavating underground you must call Miss Utility (811) two business days prior to your job. Cutting into an underground power line can have the same reaction as coming in contact with an overhead power line. A shovel or other piece of equipment could easily cut through the insulation jacket of the cable and the electricity will still try to find the easiest path to ground. All local utilities will mark their underground service lines. To avoid coming in contact with an underground line carefully hand dig within 18 inches on both sides of the marks, you could still come in contact if the line is damaged.

Collision with utility pole/equipment:

If one of your construction vehicles strike a utility pole and lines fall onto the vehicle, know that the lines are energized. The same applies if you are operating a piece of equipment and it comes in contact with energized lines (cranes, excavators, etc.). The vehicle or equipment has now become energized and as long as you do not touch the ground and your vehicle or equipment at the same time you will not become a path to ground. If you can drive away from the power lines, do so. If you cannot and there is no immediate danger to get out of the vehicle or machine, stay inside until emergency personnel arrives and the lines can be de-energized.

If you must get out of the vehicle or machine try to position yourself on a flat surface that you can easily leap from as far as possible. Land with both feet together without stumbling and shuffle your feet without lifting them from the surface until you are at least 30 feet from the vehicle or equipment. Remain far away and do not go back to the vehicle or piece of equipment until the local utility de-energizes the line.

How to protect workers against the risk of electric shock by direct lightning strike

Lightning bolts are static electricity discharges, with which their formation is impossible to avoid. However, we can take measures to protect and prevent workers against the risk of electric shock by direct lightning impact.

In the Technical Note of Prevention (NTP) 1.084, published by the Spanish National Institute of Safety and Hygiene at Work and written with the assistance of Aplicaciones Tecnológicas, the main risks related to storm phenomena with electrical device are explained.

The electric shock by direct lightning impact on workers located in open areas can occur when work is carried out in open spaces in the presence of electrical storms, such as: agricultural or livestock tasks, installation of equipment on roofs, works on oil platforms, airports, ports, maintenance of power lines or wind turbines, edification during its construction, etc.

 

To protect against the risk of electric shock from direct lightning impact, according to the NTP 1.084 for the prevention of occupational risks caused by lightning strikes, there are permanent and temporary protection measures. Within the permanent protection measures are lightning rods andsurge protection devices, which require a fixed installation to the structures and equipment to be protected. Temporary measures, on the other hand, are those that are adopted when a local storm detection system warns of the imminent risk of lightning strike, but are then deactivated when the risk has disappeared. These temporary protection measures can complement the permanent ones, but never replace them.

 

In parallel to these protection measures, safety standards must be set and followed by all workers that are potentially exposed to the risk of electric shock by direct lightning strike.

INVESTING IN SAFETY AT WORK: 5 KEYS

 

Achieving the expected results, being efficient, improving productivity, meeting customers’ expectations and generating growth are some of the many challenges we face whether working in the industrial sector or in any other type of organization for that matter. However, this daily dynamic should not make us forget something as important as investing in prevention and concerning us with better job safety.

That’s why today we would like to share 5 key elements that will allow us to better understand the importance of approaching this issue from the correct angle:

  1. First, it’s important to clarify that when we talk about investing in prevention – when we refer to the positive aspects of improving safety at work – we are not only talking about an economic investment. What we mean is that it’s necessary to dedicate time and energy to ensure that it becomes one of the pillars of our organization and it extends professionally and globally throughout our business.
  2. Then, it’s important to consider that the correct implementation of occupational safety and prevention measures should define the potential risks of workspaces, take appropriate measures, explain the issue to the workers in that space, and follow-up the matter ensuring it does not generate later complications.
  3. Similarly, it’s vital to understand that work in occupational safety must be “transversal “: that is, it must cover all areas and levels of the company. All members of the organization must also incorporate the established parameters to their work.
  4. Safety at work policies must continually be updated. The work environment is a dynamic space in a constant state of change and where operating parameters can vary or be affected. Therefore, it is essential to keep our safety practices and policies up to date and adjust or correct everything necessary to ensure compliance with the standards established. In this sense, the correct training of employees is also key, as well as the tests of maintenance of competences and the training of the new members of the organization.
  5. Finally, we can assure that once we integrate quality policies pertaining to job safety, we will not only be protecting the most important thing in our business – which is the integrity of the members of the organizations, but we will also be adding efficiency and quality to the firm, which will end up having positive effects in the areas of results and productivity mentioned at the beginning of this post.

When safety becomes BORING!

We have attended thousands of safety meetings where the body language of the people coming in clearly indicates they don’t want to be there and that they have more important things to be doing.

Experience has told them that safety meetings are more TELL than share and more LISTEN than engage, more POWERPOINT than powerful, and sadly they are often right! Safety meetings should be an opportunity to inspire people, to show them how much we care for them AND to leave them thinking about being safe and helping those around them to be safe too.

When we think about it, any safety culture can be boiled down to one simple word, CARE. We want colleagues who genuinely care for their own safety and the safety of each other. So every safety meeting should have that as its focus. A great question to ask is “How can we inspire people to take good care of themselves and each other?” And if you don’t have the answer, ask your people. They will give you some great ideas.

Leaders, spend time going out meeting your teams on their worksites. Chat with them, engage with them and you will hear of how safety can be improved. Don’t just drag people into compulsory safety meetings, engage with them and see safety improve.

Remember, behind every safety statistic or trend, a person, a family and a community has been hurt.

Identify, Verify, and Comply: The 3 Pillars of a Successful Electrical Safety Program

Electrical power is no longer a convenience but an absolute necessity. It’s how businesses keep the lights on, industries keep running, and households keep food rooms warm and food fresh.

This dependence, along with economic growth, technological advancement, and population increase, has driven a high demand for electricity. And as the size of the electrical market grows, so do the dangers of workplace exposure to electrical hazards.

In reality, almost every single facility has a need for electrical safety, since everyone from maintenance workers, janitorial staff, facilities staff, and equipment operators regularly interact with electrical equipment.

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In this article, I’ll go over the three pillars of a successful electrical safety program. If your workers face electrical hazards, ensuring their safety will require you to:

  • Identifythe need for electrical safety
  • Verify electrical protective equipment before use
  • Comply with equipment testing standards

Identifying the Need for Electrical Safety

Arc flash and electrical shock injuries continue to pose a significant threat to workplace health and safety. Anywhere from five to ten arc explosions occur in electric equipment every day in the United States, and as many as ten U.S. workers are killed or injured according to CapSchell Inc., a Chicago-based research and consulting firm.

Moreover, the risks associated with shock and electrocution from inadvertent contact with energized parts have also long been recognized as a danger to workers, and they aren’t going away anytime soon (if ever). According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), electrocution is the fifth leading cause of workplace fatalities in the United States, with more than 2,000 fatal and more than 24,000 non-fatal electrical injuries reported in the last 10 years. Since the BLS counts arc flashes as burns rather than in its electrical shock statistics, the true rate of electrical shocks is even higher. Furthermore, OSHA estimates that 80% of electrically-related accidents and fatalities involving “Qualified Workers” are caused by arc flash or arc blast.

OSHA rules and the NFPA 70E standard make the use of rubber insulting products mandatory when even the smallest probability of contact with 50 volts AC or higher exists. Regardless of the heavy fines, serious injuries, and deaths that occur from arc flash and electrical incidents, compliance continues to remain an issue. What’s even more shocking is that many workers are not using rubber insulating equipment because they simply don’t know they need it.

Electrical Safety PPE

While the best way to prevent arc or electrical incidents from happening is to de-energize equipment before beginning work, there are instances where turning off the power could create an even greater hazard. As such, employers and facility owners must establish safe practices to protect their workers against arc flash incidents, including guidelines for the proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE).

Rubber insulating products, such as the gloves, blankets, sleeves, line hoses, and hoods used by electrical workers today, are manufactured in accordance with industry consensus specifications under the auspices of the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). These ASTM standard specifications are referenced in the OSHA regulations dealing with electrical safety, specifically 29CFR1910.137 covering Electrical Protective Devices, and 29CFR1910.269 covering Electric Power Generation, Transmission, and Distribution.

Bear in mind that rubber gloves are the only protective gear designed for constant contact with, and protection from, energized conductors and equipment. All of the other items are designed for protection from accidental, incidental, or brush contact.

Choosing the Right Rubber Insulating Gloves

Take care to choose the correct rubber insulating glove for the task at hand and level of electrical exposure. Rubber insulating gloves are typically manufactured in sizes 8 to 12 (often in half sizes), although options in sizes 7 and 13 are available from some manufactures. In addition, rubber insulating gloves are available in different cuff lengths of 11, 14, 16 and 18 inches depending on the glove class.

Rubber insulating gloves are available in six specific voltage classes (Class 00 to Class 4). Other rubber insulating products are available in different voltage classes as well.

Class

Color

Proof Test Voltage

AC / DC

Max. Use Voltage

AC / DC

00

Beige

2,500 / 10,000 500 / 750
0

Red

5,000 / 20,000 1,000 / 1,500
1

White

10,000 / 40,000 7,500 / 11,250
2

Yellow

20,000 / 50,000 17,000 / 25,500
3

Green

30,000 / 60,000 26,500 / 39,750

 

There is a significant margin of safety between the proof test voltages and the maximum working voltage. Gloves\a and other rubber insulating products must be permanently marked to indicate the voltage class, and the gloves and sleeves must also have a color-coded label identifying the voltage class.

Verifying Product Integrity with Visual Inspections

OSHA and ASTM standards also require regular inspection of in-service electrical protective equipment in order to maintain compliance and ensure the products’ safety and integrity when exposed to a wide range of voltages.

Visually inspecting rubber gloves and sleeves identifies physical, chemical, or ozone damage. Inspecting under direct light is recommended because it enhances the ability to see surface imperfections on the rubber. Inflating the gloves with air or otherwise stretching the surface helps identify age and ozone damage as well as other physical damage such as snags, rope burns, deep cuts, and punctures.

Expand the gloves no more than 1.25 to 1.50 times their normal size. Listen for escaping air to detect holes. If a portable inflator is not available, use a rubber glove inspection tool or roll the glove cuff tightly to trap air inside. Then, apply pressure to areas of the glove to inspect for escaping air. Repeat the procedure again with the rubber gloves turned inside out.

All rubber insulating equipment should be thoroughly inspected prior to use. Common problems to look for include the following:

  1. Cracking and Cutting– Prolonged folding or compressing can cause this type of rubber damage.
  2. UV Checking– Storing in areas exposed to prolonged sunlight causes UV checking.
  3. Chemical Attack– Oils and petroleum compounds can cause swelling of the rubber.
  4. Avoid Folding– The strain on rubber at a folded point is equal to stretching the rubber to twice its length.
  5. Snags– Wood, metal splinters and other sharp objects can snag or tear rubber.
  6. Physical Damage– Rope burns, deep cuts, and puncture hazards are cause for rejection.

Perform Electrical Testing for Continued Compliance and Cost Savings

Various ASTM Manufacturing and Acceptance standards mandate the testing of the rubber insulating products by the manufacturer or supplier prior to the first delivery to the end user.

Users also have the option of performing or requiring an acceptance test upon receipt of the goods and prior to placing rubber insulating products into service. Once placed in service, there are periodic re-test intervals specified in the following ASTM standards:

  • ASTM F496 Rubber Insulating Gloves– 6 months (under very limited conditions this can increase to 9 months)
  • ASTM F496 Rubber Insulating Sleeves– 12 months
  • ASTM F479 Rubber Insulating Blankets– 12 months
  • ASTM F478 Line Hose & Covers– when field inspection or company policy warrant

Note that these in-service re-test intervals are the maximum permitted and must be performed in addition to daily field care and inspection. It is quite common for users, including power utilities and contractors, to specify shorter intervals. Do not, however, place rubber insulating products into service unless they have been electrically tested within the previous 12 months.

Rubber goods should be electrically tested at their rated test voltage using specialized equipment designed to gradually increase the voltage to the desired test level. The dielectric test is two-fold:

  • Pass/failon the ability to withstand the rated test voltage
  • For gloves, quantitativeon the ability to prevent electric current from passing through the rubber gloves above the maximum listed in the specifications

Products that pass the inspection and test procedures can then be returned to service.

Testing is a critical component to electrical safety – not only does it help maintain compliance, but it also increases savings. Rubber insulating products are costly, and these costs are often unnecessarily increased by purchasing replacements for products that could have remained in service with the proper testing and re-certification.

If you don’t have the equipment required to perform these electrical tests, there are independent testing facilities that can perform the acceptance and in-service testing on behalf of end users. ASTM standards recommend that the inspection and testing process include the following steps:

  1. Check in
  2. Removing previous testing markings
  3. Washing with cleaning agents that will not degrade the insulating properties
  4. Visual inspection (inside and out)
  5. Electrical test
  6. Final inspection
  7. Record-keeping
  8. Marking
  9. Packing in appropriate containers (to prevent folding, creasing, or similar stress on the rubber) for storage or shipment

When selecting a test lab for use, make sure it is NAIL (National Association of Independent Laboratories for Protective Equipment Testing) accredited. NAIL provides the only Laboratory Accreditation for electrical equipment test labs in North America.

Conclusion

Nearly all industrial workplaces have a need for electrical safety, and failure to comply can result in heavy fines, serious injuries, and even death.

OSHA and ASTM standards also require regular inspection and testing of in-service equipment in order to maintain compliance and ensure the products’ safety and integrity when exposed to a wide range of voltages.

Fortunately, there are practices that you can easily implement into your electrical safety program to help you prevent injuries, avoid citations and penalties, and curb superfluous spending. It starts with awareness of the need for electrical safety, and includes visual inspection as the first line of defense for your electrical safety products with periodical re-testing for continued confirmation of the equipment’s effectiveness.

How to Keep Hands Safe from Cuts and Impact

It’s often said that our hands are the most important tools we have. And no wonder: their flexibility, strength, coordination, and sensitivity are unparalleled.

Since we use them in so many tasks, however, they are also one of the most vulnerable parts of our bodies.

Accidents due to cuts, lacerations, bumps, and impact cause painful injuries every year in a growing number of industries. And not only do they cause physical harm, but they are costly as well. Proper hand protection is crucial to keeping your workforce on the job instead of the emergency room.

Given the high cost of accidents, loss of productivity, and the pain and recovery that come from injuries, your hand protection plan can provide great benefits to you and your employees.

Know the Hazards

Before you can select the right hand protection, it’s important to know the hazards you’re dealing with and the level of protection you need.

hazard identification assessment provides critical information for safety managers as they decide what kind of hand protection to choose. By taking an inventory of the work environment, lighting, tools, equipment, and materials that the worker uses and touches, you can learn a great deal about the safety gear they’ll need.

Engaging in open communication with workers also increases awareness of the hazards. For example, observing where both of the worker’s hands are placed when working with tools and machinery yields great information about cut hazards. Crew members can also share their experiences with supervisors about how they’re using the tools and machinery, and supervisors should be open to listening to and learning from them.

Choosing Cut-Resistant Hand Protection

With the information from the hazard assessment in hand, safety managers can begin to implement a plan to prevent cuts and lacerations, including choosing the right cut-resistant gloves for the task.

What is cut resistance? It’s the ability of a material to resist damage when challenged with a moving sharp-edged object. Cut resistance is measured using standard testing equipment, and is often used when comparing the safety of various styles of gloves. The ANSI/ISEA 105-2016 Hand Protection Selection Criteria provides cut-resistant guidelines, including a numeric scale, to help supervisors and users choose suitable gloves (see A Guide to Cut Resistance Levels for more details).

It’s important to note that cut resistance in gloves isn’t the only factor in preventing cuts. Tear strength, abrasion resistance, grip, and dexterity all contribute to cut protection as well.

Impact Protection

Because our hands move quickly and frequently, painful blows can happen easily. Accidents from impact and pinching can be caused by tools, machinery, striking hard surfaces, heavy equipment, and more.

Impact-resistant gloves play a major role in preventing accidents. Innovative materials like Thermoplastic Rubber (TPR) protect vulnerable areas of the hand and the full length of the fingers. Strategically-placed dense padding can also deflect blows.

The back of the hand is particularly susceptible to injury. This part of our anatomy is just as important to keeping our hands functioning as the palms, but unfortunately, it lacks the natural padding the palm gets from bigger muscles and thicker skin. Using TPR to absorb and disperse impact is especially helpful for preventing pain from blows to this vulnerable area.

Innovations in Glove Manufacturing

An uncomfortable, ill-fitting glove is far more likely to be left on the work bench, unworn. But, the good news is that glove comfort has come a long way. Advancements in materials and design are giving supervisors more choices than ever to provide their employees with the protection, comfort, fit, and dexterity that leads to better compliance and reduced accidents.

Today, cut-resistant gloves are made from Kevlar, High Performance Polyethylene (HPPE), steel, fiberglass, and new engineered composite yarns. They are softer, lighter, and cooler to wear than the work gloves of yesteryear.

Beyond Gloves

Providing hand protection is more than just handing out gloves.

When possible, administrative and engineering controls, including machine guards, should be used to eliminate hazards. After all, if hands are out of harms’ way, accidents can be prevented.

When gloves are required, workers should be trained by someone knowledgeable in the employer’s safety policies and processes. Some important ongoing training topics include recognizing hazards, safe practices, and the gloves’ use, fit, and care, including recognizing when gloves are no longer providing adequate protection. Employers must regularly reinforce the value of wearing gloves and practicing safe work methods.

Other factors not related to gloves but not to be overlooked include workplace set-up, working conditions, and better lighting.

Another rising workplace policy is the restriction from wearing jewelry. One of the reasons behind this restriction is that rings, watches, and bracelets can get caught in machinery or pinch points and cause accidents. Having a clear policy in place and reinforcing the potential dangers can help workers feel more comfortable removing something as special or sentimental to them as a wedding ring.

A Look Into the Future of Health and Safety

One of the common topics that come up when general health and safety discussions are taking place is the future of the profession and what health and safety practitioners will likely be doing in say twenty or even thirty years’ from now.

From the start of the profession in the early 1800’s when the Factories Act led to the deployment of the first safety inspectors, through the industrial revolutions of the early 1900, fast forward to the establishment of 1974 health and safety at work act until our current times where the first International Health and Safety Management System (ISO 45001) was recently released; the health and safety profession has gone through many major transformations over the years.

As human beings, we are all to an extent, relatively wary of what the future may hold. As organizations we analyse trends, benchmark ourselves against the leading companies in our industry and spend millions on consultants who we hope can provide us with the know-how of where we are likely to be in years to come.

The rise of health and safety as a value rather than a priority is something that we are steadily experiencing among leaders of major organizations as they better recognise their duty of care and the importance of their support in ensuring worker welbeing is never compromised.

I am going to discuss four key elements which I believe can shed a light on the possible future of our industry as a result of some of the current early trends taking place within the health and safety profession. Trends that are likely to guide us into a future that is very different from what we are used to today.

  1. The search for “Generalists” begins

As the health and safety profession matures, professional standards within the various industries are being established at a phenomenon pace. Many of these standards also become obsolete very quickly as new technologies emerge and organizations take proactive measures by developing their own standards that may surpass those of the regulation.

Health and safety is now a common area of education in many of the world’s best educational institutions, professionals are better educated and must learn the fundamentals of safety and health which, each year becomes broader in scope. Health and safety professionals now need to know about engineering concepts, workplace and general organization cultures, human behaviours, statistical analysis, fire safety, emergency response and crisis management, security, occupational health, ergonomics, human resources, industrial hygiene and many many more.

It is also becoming very clear that knowledge of environmental aspects of the business, sustainability, compliance and quality control are beginning to also fall into the same remit. Work titles such “safety managers” or “Environmental Manager” are slowly becoming more and more obsolete and being replaced by overall QHSE professionals in the higher management positions. On the other hand, with regards to less senior positions, as new fields are always emerging, the profession at that level will likely become broader and so will the rise of specialists occur in the fields of quality, health, safety, environment and emergency response. In some of the larger organizations, the field of health and safety will simply be too large for a single person to manage and a need for more specialists will become necessary.

The likelihood is however, that Generalists, who can put everything all together at the end will become more influential.

  1. It’s now all about Welfare!

When I think of health and safety in the past, for some reason the above famous photo always comes to my mind. It also works as a strong reminder of how far we have come from the years when such workplace behaviours were considered completely normal. We have now become so much more proactive when it comes to employee welfare and this does not just stop at the physical injury realm. The majority of our work now is looking at eliminating the situations and behaviors that could lead to injuries. A complete shift in paradigm to practices we used to see back in the early 20th century!

I strongly believe that employee health and overall welfare is the next big shift in general perspective. Stress is becoming a big workplace issue. Statistics show that mental illness is now one of the biggest causes of workplace absenteeism. Safety professionals need to be educated to spot the early signs and symptoms of conditions such as anxiety, depression, sleep deprivation and the overall effects they have on workplace morale and efficiency.

Psychological issues such as bullying, harassment, racism and workplace violence are growing issues and are areas that safety professionals are likely to find themselves getting involved in as part of incident investigations. As entrepreneurship is being strongly promoted within the new generation of employee arriving into our work market, alone working and working from home will become more common and organizational policies will likely need to keep up in order to account for their well-being.

Health initiatives are also now becoming more common in our workplaces with many organizations integrating health campaigns for their employees and their families as part of these programs.

The stronger focus on health could also affect the employee hiring process, an area which is likely to add to the responsibilities of the occupational health practitioner in particular. Psychological tests are now more commonly being used to select employees. In high risk industries, personal attitude towards safety and risk taking may be strong factors in selecting the correct candidates. There is always a likelihood that genetics and behavioral characteristics could have a strong impact on future employ-ability.

  1. Behavioural change will be the focus

If they’re not used to hearing them already, health and safety professional will be getting used to hearing the words “Organizational Behaviours”, “Cultural Change”, “Employee Empowerment” pretty often from now on. The profession has already seen a strong influence from organizational physiologists mostly through services provided by external consultants and experts. The likelihood, in the near future, is that more of the expertise in the areas of leadership diagnostics and organizational culture applications would be expected to come from within.

It is expected that behavioural safety will become increasingly more sophisticated but relatively easier to manage as much of the observational processes and the background analysis would be done through already existing applications and software. Health and safety professionals are expected to more and more be involved with coaching and motivating their fellow employees as the relationship between safety and psychology increases and becomes a core subject for any safety practitioner.

The behavioural aspect will also see rise to greater focus on training. Computer based training and communication methods such as video-conferencing and the use of tablets will play a big role in health and safety training and overall cultural change.

Health and safety training can be accessed anywhere, anytime. In one of the previous companies I worked for, plant health and safety orientation for engineers could be done online prior to their arrival on the site for the first time. We were one of the very first organizations to start that a few years ago. It worked extremely well and I suspect that will become the norm in the near future. Individual course certificates and training cards will become a thing of the past as training information will be stored on network clouds and accessible to required personnel.

  1. The bots WILL take over!

As a result of swift advances in technology, Workplace processes can change every few years or even months. Risk assessments, the way we know them now, can become irrelevant very quickly after being developed, introducing more risks to workers as a result of toxic materials or unfamiliar machinery.

Robotics, for example, have vastly changed the landscape in manufacturing. As a result, assembly lines are so much faster and more efficient than what they were at the turn of the century. Safety professionals will likely take a more proactive approach in the design process to create the necessary safeguards preventing injury to workers.

Wearable technologies; already introduced in multinational organizations such as DHL, Hitachi and BP, allow for better vital signs monitoring and better emergency response. Portable smart devices allow workers to stay in contact with other crew members and record observations or incidents in a safety management system. These systems have allowed organizations to standardize safety practices across their organizations, independent of language or cultural barriers.

Safety meetings for workers who spend many hours of their day on the road or work in remote locations will become easier as virtual meeting will become common place. Similarly, accident investigations will have digitally enhanced photographs and videos as evidence to establish the root cause. As the availability of CCTV around the workplaces becomes more common, videos can be studied to determine how and when an accidents occurred, providing greater learning opportunities from incidents.

In summary, with the support of governmental organizations, the above discussed areas are shaping the future of health and safety. The rise of common, internationally recognized standards and management systems will go a long way in supporting future changes. As we continue to explore the new digital age, it is paramount that employers weigh the risks and the benefits of the new technologies and best practices being introduced to make the best decisions for their businesses and people.

Ways to Foster Accountability and Improve Safety Culture

What Is Accountability?

People often think accountability means placing the blame on someone or enforcing a punishment after an incident occurs. If we take an individualistic view, that’s how we’ll see it, but it’s not what I’m talking about here.

Accidents don’t happen single-handedly. Behind every accident, there are a number of direct and indirect causes, often made up of many (often small) unsafe acts and unsafe conditions.

So when we talk about accountability for workplace safety, what we really mean is ensuring open communication about any and every problem in the workplace. When workers are encouraged to bring up issues in order to help the company and its workers, that’s accountability in action.

How Do I Foster Accountability in My Workplace?

If you’ve got employees who keep mum about the issues they face, either because there’s no precedent for speaking up or they fear losing their jobs if they do, it might seem like you’ve got a losing battle on your hands.

 

Far from it.

Here are five steps to (slowly but surely) give your workers a sense of accountability and improve the safety in your workplace.

  1. Define Expectations

Workers sometimes don’t do what we hope they will simply because no one has asked them to do it. It happens more often than you think. It’s easy to assume that everyone will know that a near miss should be reported, that machinery that makes a funny noise should be stopped and inspected, or that they should probably stay home if they have a contagious illness – but you know what they say about assumptions…

Make sure to communicate exactly what is expected of workers. What sorts of things should they report? Who should they report it to? If they have a suggestion to make the workplace even a tiny bit safer, who should they tell?

Making sure there is open communication in the workplace starts with you. So, let workers know exactly what you expect from them.

  1. Make Sure Management Is Approachable

Even if you’re open and available, it will be hard to promote a climate of accountability if everyone in management stays shut off behind closed doors and never greet the workers on the ground floor.

Workers need to know that they can approach management with an issue. But that openness needs to be reciprocal: management can’t ignore or reprimand workers for coming to them with concerns.

Your success here will depend in part on who you work under (some management teams aren’t as open as others). But you can do your part to encourage the right attitude. Start by showing them the value of an accountable workforce, and that they can get those benefits with a bit of approachability.

  1. Be Flexible

Business isn’t the way it used to be. Most workers don’t land jobs for life anymore, and if they stay with the same company for years, they will likely be shifted around from position to position.

When someone’s work gets reassigned, they move to a new post at the company, or their responsibilities change, it comes with new challenges. These workers will need more assistance and have more concerns than usual. Prepare for this and be ready to give them a bit more of your time than usual while they adjust.

  1. Be Positive

Accountability is all about taking responsibility for workplace safety.

Often, we approach this negatively, by looking for someone to blame when things go wrong. But it’s far more effective to take a positive attitude toward accountability. Workers need to know that every day, they’re doing their part in keeping the workplace safe.

That kind of positivity helps every worker take safety seriously instead of just worrying that they’ll get in trouble if an incident happens.

  1. Stay on Top of Things

Accountability isn’t a fire-and-forget solution; it’s a fire you need to keep burning.

Check in with workers regularly. Asking them how things are going, if they have suggestions to improve the work, or if they have any questions or concerns will keep safety at the top of their minds. It will also send a strong signal that you’re ready and willing to hear their concerns and give them the help they need.

Again, accountability starts with you. Don’t just give workers a pep talk and spend the rest of the year holed up in your office. Show them that you’re still thinking about their safety throughout the year.

Summary

Accountability can take time and determination, but it’s worth cultivating. Open communication is the key to ensuring everyone gets to punch in the clock and go home at the end of their shift.

Fall Protection Safety

Creating an effective Safety Culture is something we preach daily to our clients, partners, friends, and family. Through our decades of experience, we have learned that an effective Safety Culture is something that is developed through individuals buying into the idea that safety is the top value at home and work. Here are two main obstacles we must overcome to change the view of fall protection.

Obstacle #1: “Fall Protection equipment is uncomfortable.”

We as safety professionals consistently face two adversaries when changing workers’ mindsets towards safety. One of them is the idea of comfort, a luxury that almost all of us enjoy and appreciate regardless of the setting. It’s hard to argue that being comfortable is more pleasant than being uncomfortable, and workers agree. Fall protection harnesses are designed to be snug and tight, making them a point of contention for workers across numerous industries. It can be challenging to convince them of the necessity of fall protection simply due to their preferred level of comfort.

Obstacle #2: Poor Planning & Time Management

Another excuse as to why fall protection regularly gets neglected stems from poor planning and a misconstrued value of time. Workers fail to plan their days and can forget potential environments where fall protection is needed, often times leaving their harness and other necessary equipment away from the job site. This leads to the excuse from workers of not wanting to “waste time” by retrieving their harness, citing that they “have done the job a million times and haven’t fallen once”.

Addressing The Issues

Changing the mindset of workers is a difficult task that only gets more difficult the longer bad practice continues. In order to see a significant change amongst attitudes toward Fall Protection safety and equipment, a significant investment of time and persistence is needed. Employers and leaders need to take the time to encourage their workers to consistently think about why they should be safe in addition to how. Remind them that the purpose of safety is to get them back to their families in one piece and a few hours of discomfort of Fall Protection equipment is worth the reward.

Source: fdrsafety.com