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.


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…


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

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.

Safety Improves with Self-Directed Work Teams

Would you like to take safety to the next level? Consider creating self-directed work teams.

We’re social beings, so naturally we do better as a group. If you don’t have formal teams, you probably have some informal ones – we call those cliques.

Self-Directed Work Teams Boost Safety

There are many reasons self-directed work teams are better at promoting safety:

  • We work better and achieve more in groups
  • We are protective of those on our team – we look out for our own
  • We have a stronger sense of ownership in a team environment, including addressing unsafe conditions and behaviors
  • We make use of synergy to multiply our powers
  • It’s more fun to work as a team

Before I explain what makes a self-directed work team, let me give you an example of one. Pick any sports team – soccer, hockey, baseball, football, anything. These are self-directed teams. They must be to influence the game.

I’ll use basketball as my example.

The five players on the court represent the self-directed team. They have rules and parameters they must obey, but they also have the freedom to respond to the conditions of the game and the actions of the opposing team. Players don’t have to ask permission before passing the ball or taking a shot. You will never see a micro-managed sports team. There may be a lesson here!

Team Ownership of Safety

Imagine you have 100 employees. Promoting safety from the top down will be difficult. Telling 100 people to work safe doesn’t quite speak to the individual.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. You need manageable chunks. In the workplace, that means you need teams.

You can create teams from departments or groups that share similar work and tasks. In a restaurant, one team could be the kitchen staff, and the wait staff could be another. For manufacturing, it could be by production cells or departments. In construction, work crews can become teams.

We want to give those teams ownership for driving safety and other key performance indicators such as cost, quality, delivery. We are making everyone a safety leader for their team. This is a decentralized command, and it works through empowerment and self-management.

When a team takes ownership of their area, amazing things happen. We want to succeed at targets set for our team, including safety. People don’t like being told what to do. We would rather be told what the problem is and given the opportunity to solve it. We want to self-manage and not be micro-managed.

Teams can rotate safety responsibilities such as weekly safety monitors, performing hazard assessments, and reviewing safety checks.

A Happy and Healthy Workforce

We have a deeply human need to control our own lives. This is fundamental to our sense of health and wellbeing. Managers need to provide the goals or targets for the teams and provide the needed resources and support for success. Managers should emulate coaches, not bosses. That’s the best way to make sure team members feel valued for their contributions.

The characteristics most expressed by individuals on self-directed teams include:

  • Engagement
  • Sense of Purpose
  • Self-management

It’s no wonder, then, that people find themselves happier, more fulfilled, and more creative in team-based environments.

Building Community in the Workplace

We live in communities and families because we have a deep need to belong, to feel loyalty and trust. So, why not build genuine communities in the workplace? After all, we must feel safe emotionally before we can be safe physically.

How can we accomplish this? Well, we work with our head, heart, and hands. You can teach people to work with their hands, but you must inspire for their heart and earn the engagement of their mind.

Team-building is a great way to inspire the heart. It inspires us to protect others, often better than we protect ourselves. It makes us our brothers and sisters’ keepers.

I know I want the safety that only a team can provide. How about you?

3 Ways Moisture-Wicking, Flame-Resistant Fabrics Can Improve Workplace Safety

Athletes around the world rely on their apparel to improve their performance. They choose clothing and gear made from high-performance, moisture wicking fabrics that allow them to focus on the next pass, kick, or jump without being distracted or hindered by damp, restrictive, sweat-soaked uniforms.

If professional and amateur athletes rely on clothing to help optimize their performance and increase their concentration, why shouldn’t industrial workers do the same?

Here are three ways high-performance flame resistant (FR) fabrics can improve your employees’ focus, performance, and safety.

1. Superior Garments Reduce Distraction with Long-Lasting Moisture Wicking

Advanced moisture wicking fabrics were originally created to improve athletic performance in extreme outdoor situations, since they provide a cooling effect in hot weather and a warming one in the cold.

These early moisture wicking fabrics were crafted with a synthetic fiber, like polyester, which was then coated in a chemical finish that allowed moisture to spread. Eventually, the finish would wash out and the fabric would lose its wicking capabilities. High-quality moisture wicking garments are now created from fiber blends that do not require the same kind of chemical treatment. Look on the garment tag before making a purchase; if it is made with 100% of any single fiber, its moisture wicking capabilities are due to a chemical finish that will eventually wash away from repeat laundering.

A superior moisture wicking garment will never lose wicking capabilities. Industrial workers who are outfitted with these will never need to worry about the performance of their gear, reducing distractions and keeping their mind on task, even in changing weather conditions.

2. The Right Moisture Wicking Fiber Blend Can Improve Comfort

The latest generations of moisture wicking fabrics are made from a blend of fibers that combine hydrophobic (water repelling) and hydrophilic (water absorbing) properties. The big question then becomes: what is the optimal blend to maximize performance?

Fiber blends can range from 90% hydrophobic/10% hydrophilic, all the way down to 55% hydrophobic/45% hydrophilic. Testing has proven that this more balanced blend of fibers (around 55%/45%) does a better job of transporting moisture across the fabric. It really is a balancing act: if you don’t have enough hydrophilic fibers, the fabric won’t absorb moisture, but if you don’t have enough hydrophobic fibers, the fabric won’t push the moisture out to the front of the garment.

Mastering this balance of fibers is what improves comfort and makes a garment a good fit for demanding jobs where temperature changes and work conditions are variable.

3. Moisture Wicking Fabrics Can Improve Layering Capabilities and Safety

High-performance fabrics have some additional criteria that can be evaluated to determine the best type of garment for your team.

  • Vertical wicking rate measures how fast and how far moisture spreads across a fabric
  • Back to front moisture transport rate helps clothes dry more quickly, which will reduce the risk of heat rash for the wearer. This also allows more heat to escape the body, helping with thermoregulation and preventing heat stress
  • Water vapor transmission rate calculates the breathability of the fabric – how much moisture moves through the fabric

Each of these factors is extremely important when selecting the optimal fabric for your workers, but none is more important than the others. Determining which high-performance fabric is better comes from understanding how these various ratios and rates affect the amount of moisture a fabric moves, as well as how the fabric distributes that moisture across the garment. This knowledge becomes critical when workers begin to layer garments during the workday and through the changing seasons.

Layering allows workers to wear lighter weight garments that keep the body drier and either cooler or warmer, depending on the environmental conditions. Several lighter weight garments can be layered to keep the worker drier and warmer than a traditional, single heavy winter garment typically would.

Layering safety improves with high-performance moisture wicking garments because:

  • Worker functionality and mobility increases by wearing multiple, thinner, lightweight garments, the combined weight of which is substantially less than that of traditional winter wear
  • Optimized water vapor transmission is critical for mid-layers, as sweatshirts and outerwear become the conduit to transfer moisture from fabric to fabric and away from the wearer

Improving Safety with the Right Fabrics

A high-performance moisture wicking garment can improve safety by improving comfort and reducing distractions with long-lasting wicking, balanced fiber blends, and improved layering capabilities.

The same high-performance fabrics that the world’s top athletes compete in are available to the industrial athlete as well. Your team will stay focused on doing their job in the safest most efficient way possible throughout the entire workday and won’t be distracted because of the wet and clammy clothes they’re wearing.

How to Layer Flame-Resistant Clothing (And When You Should Do It)

Selecting and using flame-resistant (FR) clothing can be fairly simple. But when you add layering to the mix, it gets a lot more complex.

That’s why we’ve created this mini-guide, which will help you understand why it’s beneficial to layer FR clothing, how to determine the overall arc rating of the layers, and what you should consider before you start layering.

Why Use Layers?

There are a few reasons why workers might prefer layering their FR clothing rather than wearing one heavy piece that meets the required arc rating.

It’s More Comfortable

For jobs that require a high degree of protection, flash suits and heavy outwear usually do the job. But workers often find that these restrict their movement and are far too hot to wear in warm work environments.

Layering fixes this problem by allowing workers to wear several lighter, more breathable garments that wick away moisture, control odors, and allow for greater mobility.

It’s Good for Workers Doing Varied Tasks

About 67 percent of all tasks at typical industrial companies are ranked at HRC 2 or below. This means workers are sufficiently protected by their primary layer of FR apparel. Layering makes it easy for workers to don a coverall that boosts the protection to HRC 3 when moving to a higher exposure task, then remove it again when returning to their regular duties.

Layering Tends to Increase the Arc Rating

When tested together, layered FR garments often have a higher arc rating than the sum of the individual pieces.

If that sounds like we’re saying 2 + 2 = 5, it’s because there’s more than just the clothing itself at work. Layering FR garments creates a layer of air between each item, which tends to boost the overall protection.

Determining the Arc Rating of Layered Clothing

Unfortunately, calculating the total arc rating of your layers isn’t as simple as adding the arc rating of each garment together. For example, if you have a light FR jacket with a rating of 8cal/cm2 and an FR shirt underneath with a rating of 4cal/cm2, the total arc rating isn’t necessarily 12 cal/cm2.

To determine an accurate arc rating, the layered garments must be tested together in the order that they are worn. As mentioned above, in many instances the layered clothing will have a higher arc rating than simply adding the sums together.

Your Guide to Layering Flame-Resistant Clothing

If the job requires an arc rating of more than 4 cal/cm2 (hazard risk category 1), you should consider using layers to achieve the required protection.

Here’s what you need to know to layer your FR clothing for maximum safety.

1. Make Sure the Base Layer Is Non-Melting

If your base layer (the one closest to your skin) is arc rated and made of non-melting fabric (and it should be), then it will contribute to the total arc rating of your layered FR clothing.

This layer can also help you keep cool, so opt for a close-fitting garment that wicks away moisture and controls odor.

2. Consider the Material

There is a wide variety of FR material available now, so workers have some choice when it comes to the fabric their garments are made of. Review the following factors when selecting your flame resistant PPE:

  • Level of protection
  • Whether the flame resistance is inherent or chemically applied
  • Cost
  • Durability
  • Comfort and mobility
  • Care requirements
  • Availability

3. Review Tasks to Determine Layering Needs

In many instances, workers who require PPE with a high arc rating don’t need it all day. In fact, sometimes it’s just necessary for one task. Planning ahead allows you to determine what level of protection workers need and when they need it.

Once you have an idea of this, you can decide what type of layers work best so that workers remain sufficiently protected when they shed layers that are no longer needed. Generally, you want to aim for enough protection that it meets standards, but not so much that it creates discomfort.

4. Always Choose a Flame-Resistant Outer Layer

No matter how many FR layers you have underneath, the outermost layer must always be flame resistant. The outer layer is the first one to be exposed to arc flashes, and flammable fabric will ignite easily and continue to burn, negating the FR effects of the layers underneath.

5. Don’t Forget About Visibility Requirements

Some workers require their protective gear to be both flame resistant and hi-vis. As per the 2015 revision to ANSI/ISEA 107-2015 standard for High-Visibility Safety Apparel and Accessories, apparel that’s labeled as flame resistant must meet one of these recognized standards:

  • ASTM F1506 or ASTM F1891 for electric arc protection
  • ASTM F2733 for flash fire protection
  • NFPA 2112
  • NFPA 1977

A Few Final Words

It’s not difficult to find a garment that will meet your worker’s required level of protection. But things get tricky when it comes to layering.

Safety professionals need to brush up on the standards and verify that layered garments provide the right amount of protection. It’s also important to educate workers, so they know when they know when they can safely remove certain layers and when they need to put them back on.

Though this requires extra effort on the part of safety professionals and supervisors, the increased comfort that comes from layering means an increased likelihood that workers will comply with their protective clothing requirements.

What You Need to Know to Keep Your Hands Safe from Chemical Exposure

Protecting workers exposed to chemicals is critical, and especially when it comes to the hands that come in contact with hazardous chemicals on a daily basis. Employers should know what products are available in the marketplace and how to make the right choice to keep their workers’ hands safe.

Know Your Chemicals

Choosing the best hand protection starts with knowing a thing or two about the chemicals used in your workplace. It’s important to know, among other things:

  • What effect they have when they come in contact with exposed skin
  • How they are used in your workplace
  • How they are transported across the worksite
  • How are stored
  • What gloves will provide the most effective protection for workers who have to handle these chemicals

And it’s important to take all chemicals into account. Chemicals are used in so many business applications that we often forget to take them seriously as a safety hazard, whether it’s the paint used in automotive manufacturing, the chemicals used to create pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, the pesticides and fertilizers used in agricultural operations, the cleaning products used to wipe down surfaces or clean the floors, or the industrial-grade chemicals used in emergency clean-up operations. Just because you’re not dealing with a highly corrosive acid doesn’t mean you can afford to overlook the risks they pose.

OSHA PPE Requirements

Selecting the right PPE is a complex process and should be made part of your overall safety program. Employers should take into consideration a variety of factors, including:

  • Identifying all known hazards
  • Specifying their pathway for exposure
  • The performance requirements of PPE that is to act as a barrier to chemical hazards

OSHA notes that the specific degree of protection afforded by any given PPE will be material-hazard specific. What this means is that some protective material will be adequate to protect against some substances but could be ineffective at protecting against another. In fact, some chemicals are so strong that manufacturers have yet to discover a PPE material that will last through continued uses. It’s important, therefore, to provide replacement PPE as needed, according to the manufacturer’s guidelines.

Matching the PPE to the employee’s work requirements and task-specific conditions takes into account the durability of the materials, such as tear strength and seam strength, as well as weather, temperature, and other site-specific conditions. In some cases, layers of PPE may be necessary to provide sufficient protection during the work day.

Considerations When Combining Chemicals

When considering PPE choices for handling and transporting chemicals, you will need to look beyond the chemical itself and also consider how it will react with other chemicals used on your job site. Be sure to also consider the PPE itself, since the chemicals might react to the protective gloves’ materials or coating. Nitrile, for instance, provides good protection from lubricating oils but not acetone, a paint remover. Neoprene is a good choice for many pharmaceutical agents but ineffective against methylene chloride, another common paint remover.

Any time you get a prescription from the pharmacy, your pharmacist will tell you what to avoid combining with your medication. It’s the same with chemicals used on the job: potentially mixing chemicals adds increased complexity to your PPE choices, and sometimes pose a serious risk to workers. Consult a qualified chemist to learn the proper use and the right protection for workers.

This same chemist will also be useful in identifying possible reactions to chemicals on the skin and instructing you on how to treat accidental exposure. When dealing with chemicals, have measures in place to quickly and effectively deal with skin irritation, rashes, and chemical burns.

The costs associated with this is serious business. In 2014, there were 33,600 reported incidences of recordable occupational skin diseases, carrying an estimated price tag of $1 billion in the U.S. alone. These incidents range from chemicals being absorbed by the skin and causing damage to it to chemicals attacking the nervous system, reaching the bloodstream, and potentially causing organ damage.

What to Look for in Protective Gloves

Chemical PPE gloves and materials are evaluated and rated on three characteristics:

  1. Penetration: how much chemical moves through the product material on initial contact
  2. Permeation: how much chemical seeps through over time
  3. Degradation: how fast the material physically changes after exposure

If your workers will be handling chemicals frequently or for a long period of time, make sure to get gloves with good permeation ratings. And if the degradation rating indicates that the gloves will not last very long after exposure, keep a stock of replacement gloves on hand.

Improving Comfort

Workers expect comfort, performance, and protection in a pair of safety gloves. Comfort may seem like a frivolous luxury, but it should be treated as a serious safety feature. If gloves are uncomfortable or make it too difficult to do the job tasks required, the worker will to tempted to remove the them or ignore other safety requirements in order to work comfortably.

Some non-permeable gloves can be protective but make the workers’ hands hot, sweaty, and uncomfortable, making it hard to finish work that requires dexterity.

Today’s workers do not have to choose between comfort, performance, or protection. Through new technologies, materials and creative approaches, glove manufacturers are finding new and better ways to address the many needs of the worker without compromising protection from potentially dangerous chemicals.

Significant improvements in moisture management, either with the glove itself or in combination with a liner, add comfort as well as the ability to move and perform work. Gloves that improve grip are always valuable, and layering remains a viable option in many cases. For example, wearing cut-protection gloves under chemical gloves, or thermal management gloves under or over chemical gloves. These simple solutions can address the PPE challenge of protection and comfort.


The list of protective measures in work environments can sometimes get complicated. When faced with uncertainty to questions, employers should reach out to the experts for assistance. The leading manufacturers always offer qualified and professional advice about how to stay compliant and keep your workers safe.