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PARK RIDGE, IL — Construction and demolition sites are among the most hazardous work environments, especially when multiple contractors and employers introduce operational complexities to a job site. A newly revised standard from the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) and American National Standards Institute (ANSI) helps employers keep construction workers safe by describing best practices they can implement to take safety programs to the next level.

ANSI/ASSP A10.33-2020, Safety and Health Program Requirements for Multi-Employer Projects, identifies key elements an organization should use to create and manage a safety program in a shared construction project. The standard assists project owners, construction supervisors, contractors and equipment manufacturers. ASSP published the new standard as secretariat for the ANSI/ASSP A10 committee focused on safety requirements for construction and demolition operations.

“Risks on construction and demolition sites are dynamic and continuously evolve as conditions, technologies and participants change,” said John Johnson, CSP, who chairs the A10 committee that represents more than 75 organizations. “Enhanced safety performance is achieved when the entire project hierarchy – from the owner to the craft workers – engages in an identified safety process.”

ASSP works to develop standards and educational resources for safety and health professionals, whose mission is to protect workers on the job so they can return home safe and healthy each day.

Voluntary national consensus standards are implemented by safety-minded organizations to promote best practices and prevent worker injuries, illnesses and fatalities. The standards can transform workplace safety programs from compliance-based cost centers to corporate sustainability initiatives by addressing gaps where no regulatory standard exists in today’s rapidly changing environment. Strong safety cultures can reduce claims costs and reputational damage caused by workplace incidents.

ASSP is the secretariat for many standards committees in the United States and worldwide, forming credible groups and ensuring standards are developed and revised in accordance with ANSI and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). The consensus process brings together diverse viewpoints from all levels in public and private sectors. The collective technical expertise ensures that the standards always consider the latest industry developments and best practices in addressing workplace hazards.


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Fire and rescue incident statistics for England, have been released by the Home Office for the year ending June 2020, containing statistics about incidents attended by the services (FRS).

In the year ending June 2020 FRSs attended 231,510 fire false alarms, a 1% increase with the previous year (229,961), and a 7% increase compared with five years ago (215,857), though a 19% decrease compared with 10 years ago (285,368).

Key results

● FRSs attended 549,913 incidents in the year ending June 2020. This was a 4% decrease compared with the previous year (573,776). Of these incidents, there were 156,128 fires. This was a 15% decrease compared with the previous year (182,661) with falls in all types of fires but particularly driven by a 20% fall in secondary fires now that the hot, dry 2018 summer is in the comparator year;
● There were 231 fire-related fatalities in the year ending June 2020 compared with 271 in the previous year;
●Weekly figures during the National COVID-19 Lockdown generally show that incident figures were no higher or lower than typically seen in 2015 to 2019. The only exception to this is Road Traffic Collisions which saw fewer incidents than our analysis would describe as typical;
● Of all incidents attended by FRSs, fires accounted for 28%, fire false alarms 42% and non-fire incidents 30%. This compares with fires accounting for 35%, fire false alarms 42% and non-fire incidents 23% ten years ago;
●FRSs attended 231,510 fire false alarms.

The release also includes data on weekly incident numbers under the lockdown compared against a baseline of the previous five years (2015 to 2019).

It is noted that, generally, the results show that incident figures were not higher or lower than typically seen in 2015 to 2019 and some that could be explained by the weather. The only exception to this is Road Traffic Collisions which saw fewer incidents than our analysis would describe as typical.


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It would be fascinating to travel into the future and see what history will say about 2020 . As the year closes out, we all have experienced life-altering events that will be forever etched in our memories. Time will determine the impact of these events, but certainly “new normals” have and will be formed. Virtually every facet of our lives has changed – socially, financially and professionally.

The same is true of occupational safety and health (OSH) professionals. Throughout our careers, we have used our education and skills to help workers return safely to their families at the end of their workday. During COVID-19, many of us are using technology to perform those tasks from afar. We have had to learn new skills and alter our behaviors. We have all been challenged in new ways.

OSHA has been similarly impacted by the pandemic. Agency personnel have coped with COVID-19 while also working to help employers address hazards arising in essential industries. Like ASSP, during the pandemic, OSHA has had to reflect on how best to pursue its mission in the face of adversity and make many operational adjustments to meet that challenge.

As of this writing, a new administration will be in place in January 2021 and it will likely have a much different approach to OSH. As a result, the agency will be expected to quickly transition to a new operating philosophy.

Here’s a look at four key issues facing OSHA in early 2021:

1. Agency Leadership

OSHA has been without an assistant secretary for this entire Trump Administration. Despite this, thanks to the leadership of an acting administrator, the agency has made progress and engaged effectively with key stakeholders, including professional organizations like ASSP, organized labor groups and employer groups.

What will happen with the incoming administration? The names of several candidates for this position are being discussed, and OSH organizations like ASSP have been contacted for information about them. While the question of the Senate majority remains unknown for now, it’s likely the incoming administration will quickly nominate a candidate and begin the confirmation process.

2. Regulatory Enforcement

OSHA is perpetually challenged about the annual number of inspections performed. It seems to be THE metric against which the agency is gauged. Labor always demands more, while management always wants fewer. Much less focus is placed on the actual depth of the inspections.

At the beginning of the current administration, labor groups voiced concern that the number of inspections would be dramatically reduced. From 2016 to 2018, the number of annual inspections has remained fairly steady at approximately 32,000. Additionally, many inspections have generated relatively high levels of penalties consistent with past practice.

Consequently, there appears to be a relative level of acceptance about to the number of inspections. OSHA has established policies with respect to inspections in industries returning in the wake of COVID-19, although the current resurgence is affecting many of these industries. This will certainly affect the number and type of inspections performed in 2021, and there also appears to be several formal employee complaints generated from COVID activities. And while the agency has a well-structured, sustainable plan for performing inspections given its current staffing levels, it is likely that the new administration will be urged to increase enforcement activities.

3. Federal Safety Regulations

In an effort to obtain a zero-net cost impact to industries, the current administration instituted a “one -in, two-out” order with respect to implementing new federal standards. Despite this executive order, OSHA remained active in rulemaking, promulgated standards and/or compliance guidance on topics such as beryllium, silica, recordkeeping, heat, whistleblowers, medical records and COVID-19.

It is important to note that several executive orders issued in 2020 require all government agencies to identify standards that may inhibit economic recovery and rescind/modify/waive requirements as necessary. Several of these orders urge government agencies to use latitude when enforcing standards that have significant impact on economic recovery. Another recent order requires government agencies like OSHA to post all guidance documents on a website, mandating that anything not posted would be viewed as rescinded for enforcement purposes.

The new administration will likely reverse these orders. It will also likely reinvigorate standards activity on topics such as workplace violence, heat exposures, infectious diseases and possibly even permissible exposure limits (PELs). As these standard activities increase, ASSP will call on its practice specialty member communities to help formulate our response.

4. Potential Developments

A laundry list of other developments could emerge in the near future. For example:

● The Trump administration may issue some “midnight rules,” although time is running out. ● OSHA is celebrating its 50th anniversary this month. Could a “new and improved” version of OSHA be in the making? The new administration could push for renewed congressional attention to the Protecting America’s Workers Act, which would require significant OSHA reform.
● Any actions related to revising the many outdated PELs would be a significant development for OSH professionals and their organizations.
● OSHA might develop an emergency temporary standard for COVID-19 as we have seen in several states.
● Look for renewed support of federal advisory committees such as NACOSH and MACOSH.
● Other activities could address recordkeeping, guidance on using drones for inspections and the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces executive order from 2014 that disqualifies contractors with poor safety records from obtaining federal contracts.

ASSP Is Your Advocate

The ASSP Government Affairs Committee monitors these issues and represents ASSP members and their interests. The committee works closely with ASSP staff and key connections inside the Beltway to advance our positions on emerging regulations, standards and other matters that could affect our members and/or our profession.

ASSP is a well-respected resource regularly sought out by various governmental agencies. Policymakers view us as an “honest broker” thanks to our straightforward, science-based approach to OSH.

In the coming year, the committee will work to develop stronger communications with our regions, chapters and members so we can better represent your interests.


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Even the most safety-conscious companies sometimes have workers that get injured or sick on the job.

Like many non-exempt businesses with 11 or more employees, you’re keeping an Occupational Safety and Health Act-required record of serious work-related injuries (requiring more than first aid) and illnesses via OSHA’s Form 300 — the Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses.

You have seven calendar days to record an injury or illness after receiving word that a recordable incident occurred.

In general, it’s the employer’s call whether an injury or illness is work-related. But if the work environment significantly aggravates an employee’s pre-existing illness or injury, it counts as work-related and should be logged.

For several reasons — including tracking any emergent hazards and developing standards — OSHA monitors occupational injury and illness data across the nation through a no-fault lens so employers are encouraged to record injuries and illnesses truthfully. In other words, simply logging a workplace injury doesn’t automatically mean a citable safety violation or affect workers’ comp eligibility.

If you’re in an OSHA State Plan state, it’s a good idea to check if there are additional recording requirements or exemptions that apply to your company.

A 2019 OSHA Final Rule removed the requirement to electronically file Form 300 each year for establishments with 250+ employees that are already required to routinely keep injury and illness records. But keep in mind the rule to maintain and hold onto these forms for five years still applies. Logs should be reviewed at the end of the year, corrected if necessary, and signed by a company executive.

Form 300A

The OSHA 300A form — the Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses — must be filed electronically each year by employers with worksites of 250 or more employees and employers with worksites of 20-249 employees in high-hazard industries (check the North American Industry Classification System number on your insurance documents), such as:
● agriculture
● auto parts
● building supplies
● construction
● delivery services
● dry cleaning and laundry services
● fishing
● forestry
● freight and transport
● furniture, home furnishing and department stores
● grocery stores
● hospitals and nursing homes
● lawn and garden equipment and supplies
● manufacturing
● utilities
● warehousing and storage, and
● waste collection, treatment and disposal

A complete list of high-hazard industries can be found here.

Public record

The days are over when the only public place your annual injury and illness summary was posted was in an employee common area. The Center for Investigative Reporting and the Public Citizen Foundation successfully challenged OSHA’s stance in court that Form 300A data is confidential and would interfere with enforcement if made available to the public.

As a result, the agency has posted Form 300A data for 2016, 2017 and 2018 online. It’s downloadable in a spreadsheet form that’s searchable by company name and location. Public Citizen shared the OSHA webpage link on its site as well.

Previously withheld information that’s now publicly accessible in more than one place online includes company number of deaths, Days Away From Work cases, Days Job Transfer or Restriction cases, and totals for skin disorders, respiratory conditions, poisonings and hearing loss.

The records stop short of getting into specific numbers of certain injuries (e.g., amputations), illnesses (e.g., tuberculosis, silicosis, lead poisoning, COVID-19) or how a company’s injury numbers compare to their industry’s average.

Avoiding legal issues

Occupational health and safety attorney Adele Abrams said in a Premier Learning Solutions webinar that accuracy in Form 300 and 300A recordkeeping is crucial — especially with work-related injury and illness details that employees, prospective employees, competitors, and local, county and state government officials can now see online.

She noted that falsifying OSHA log data carries criminal penalties harsher than violations linked to an employee fatality and log omissions can become expensive willful violations.

At the same time, great care should be taken in describing incidents related to any serious workplace injury on Form 300A because admissions of violations in the log can be admissible in court. Also, recording “occupational illness” can lead to unwanted liability, unless the employer can demonstrate no over-exposure to toxic substances in its workplace.

In addition, employers are responsible for training employees on their right to report work-related injury or illness without fear of retaliation and having a “reasonable” reporting procedure in place. Not doing so is a violation. This obligation can be satisfied by posting the OSHA “Job Safety and Health – It’s the Law” poster.

Some incentive programs (employees lose an award based on injury) or disciplinary programs (employees are penalized due to injury) violate OSHA retaliation protection guidelines. So now may be a good time to make a compliance review of these programs.

Speaking of disciplinary programs, post-incident drug testing can have a negative impact on employee willingness to report injuries. OSHA policy clarifies that drug testing is permissible if it’s:

● unrelated to reporting of work-related injury or illness
● required by state workers’ comp law
● required under federal law (e.g., DOT), or
● to evaluate the root cause of an incident that harmed, or could have harmed, employees. In this instance, all workers whose conduct could’ve contributed to the incident must be tested.

Regarding contract workers not on the payroll, if they don’t have a crew chief and your company supervises them on a day-to-day basis, any of their work-related injuries or illnesses must be recorded.

You don’t have to log injuries or illnesses if an employee:

● is in the workplace as a member of public
● is engaged in a voluntary fitness program at work
● gets into a motor vehicle accident in your parking lot or while commuting
● has a cold, flu, etc. that’s not a work-related contagious disease
● has a mental illness undiagnosed by a trained healthcare professional
● gets sick from food they brought in from an outside source
● is engaged in personal tasks during working hours, or
● is self-medicating or intentionally injuring themselves.


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Working in a confined space can be hazardous but working in a permit-required confined space (permit space) is often downright dangerous. That’s why it’s important that employers ask the question: Is the work done in the permit space considered a maintenance or construction activity? The answer to that question will determine if OSHA’s 29 CFR 1910.146 general industry standard or the 1926 Subpart AA standard must be followed.

There are several OSHA Letters of Interpretation (LOI) that will help an employer answer the maintenance or construction question.

11/18/2003 - Clarification of maintenance vs. construction activities

This letter of interpretation states that “Construction work is not limited to new construction but can include the repair of existing facilities or the replacement of structures and their components. For example, the replacement of one utility pole with a new, identical pole would be maintenance; however, if it were replaced with an improved pole or equipment, it would be considered construction.”

02/01/1999 - The difference between maintenance and construction

This letter of interpretation defines maintenance as “… keeping equipment or a structure in proper condition through routine, scheduled or anticipated measures without having to significantly alter the structure or equipment in the process. For equipment, this generally means keeping the equipment working properly by taking steps to prevent its failure or degradation.”

02/01/1996 - Contractors and the criteria for applying the Construction Work Standard

In 1993, OSHA per 1910.12(a) required that all employers and employees engaged in construction work follow the regulations in 1926. 1910.12(b) defines construction work as “… work for construction, alteration, and/or repair, including painting and decorating.”

Know the difference

Confined spaces are different from permit-required confined spaces. A confined space is a space that:

● Is large enough and so configured that an employee can bodily enter and perform assigned work, and
● Has limited or restricted means for entry or exit, and
● Is not designed for continuous employee occupancy.

A permit-required confined space (permit space) is a confined space that has one or more of the following characteristics:

● Contains or has a potential to contain a hazardous atmosphere;
● Contains a material that has the potential for engulfing an entrant;
● Has an internal configuration such that an entrant could be trapped or asphyxiated by inwardly converging walls or by a floor which slopes downward and tapers to a smaller cross-section; or
● Contains any other recognized serious safety or health hazard, such as unguarded machinery, exposed live wires, or heat stress.

If the work employees are performing in the confined space is considered construction, then the 1926 Subpart AA standard must be followed. Subpart AA is generally considered more stringent than general industry’s 1910.146.

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Kata is a methodology that empowers team members to solve problems themselves.

In EHS, the state and federal regulations must be met. The question is what tools/methodology are you using to create a culture that is effective and efficient? A safety culture can provide great value—injury prevention, minimized risk and fatalities, a culture of care and team engagement, not to mention a reduction in costs and fines. The key is to focus on the process or system which may not be fully understood due to the varying situations of the specific process, machine, or task.

One team-based methodology that I have had positive results with while solving problems is Mike Rother’s Improvement Kata. The Improvement and Coaching Kata has been proven to be an amazingly effective systematic and scientific methodology. The four steps, according to Rother, are:

1. Understand the direction.

2. Grasp the current condition.

3. Establish the next target condition.

4. Iterate toward the target condition.

The 4-step methodology begins with understanding the challenge or vision, and asking the questions, “Where are we? Where are we going, and what do we what to aspire to be?”

Here is an example, so we can all follow along. The first part of the Kata process is to understand your direction or vision. In safety, the company may have a safety vision statement, or it may be part of the company policy safety statement. Here’s an example:

• Home and workplace accidents are preventable.

• We will lower our injury rate by 20% each year, in 2020 our recordable injury rate goal is 2.7 or less.

• We will be OSHA compliant.

• Every employee’s job has safety improvement work as part of their job responsibility.

Remember that step one provides the direction to strive for, as you will see as we work through this safety-focused Improvement Kata.

Understanding the Current Condition

Observe the process with a cross-functional team, to be sure that one of the members of the team is familiar with the operation or process and how it is currently operating. Refrain from making judgments and ask questions about the process. The goal is to just observe and understand how the current process works. Again, do not go into problem-solving mode as this is not the time for solutions yet.

As a ten-plus year veteran of the Kata process I have learned insightful details about the people and processes just by actively observing the activities and actions of the team members that are involved in the Kata process.

Yes, starting with a picture is critical to communicate the current condition as a picture says a thousand words. Depending on your risk tolerance, you can see what will potentially happen before it occurs.


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Through the combined efforts of subject matter experts, investigative journalism and, sometimes law enforcement, issues such as bad ethics, criminal acts, lessons-learned and worst-case scenarios have been consistently reported over the years. Many are reported after the incident with investigations completed while others have been fortunately reported proactively so the issue in question could be resolved before an injury, exposure or even death.

Some of these situations are more well-known than others such as the Bhopal disaster, the pesticide leak that exposed over 500,000 to methyl isocyanide (Banjeree, 2013) and NASA’s Challenger and Columbia spaceflight disasters; when viewed in conjunction with other disasters such as Chernobyl and Three-Mile Island, the basis for the proactive hazard identification, communication, leading indicators and continual improvement forming high reliability theory and operations was born (Boin & Schulman, 2008). With this, for high reliability operations to be realized and sustainable, mechanisms are needed for reporting hazards, persisting unsafe conditions or practices and situations requiring resolutions or even justice. This created the role of the need for whistleblowers, those with the ability and will to report these types of situations.

The whistleblower

With applications in many capacities including consumer products, government employment and more, whistleblower protections certain extent to safety issues and are specifically addressed by OSHA (OSHA, n.d.). In this, OSHA condemns any reprisal, ‘blacklisting,’ firing or laying off, intimidation or other negative consequences for bringing forth a safety concern. Complaints must be filed within certain time frames following the alleged reprisal depending on the safety issue or regulation originating the issue and certain stipulation apply to the protections. For example, for an employee to be found to have been wronged for his or her status as a whistleblower, a resulting investigation must show that the employee reported a protected concern, the employer knew about the concern and the report, the employee was reprised against and that the reprisal was correlated to the report (OSHA, n.d.).

Differing safety reports

For a whistleblower situation to exist, a safety concern must first exist to be reported. Like all leading and lagging indicators, these reports may involve unsafe working conditions such as facilities or environmental issues, equipment issues, training deficiencies or other concerns that can be often located during an inspection. Otherwise, they may involve unsafe work practices, real-time actions that may involve practices leading to potential injuries, exposures, contamination, or other negative consequences; these unsafe practices can often be identified during observations (Worden, 2015).

Unsafe working conditions

Unsafe working conditions can often be felt, heard, touched, or otherwise sensed. They can be found during inspections. At times, they can be mitigated by passive hazard controls such as barriers, specialized facilities (such as negative pressure isolation rooms or noise-controlled areas) and at times require active hazard controls requiring employee action such as Personal Protective Equipment use. In some cases, notably the NASA Challenger and Columbia tragedies, unsafe conditions with the spacecraft – faults with equipment and processes eventually labeled ‘normalization of deviance’ in that the safety bypasses had existed so long they became normalized in the operational culture – directly led to losses of life (Cook, 2016).

Passive versus active controls

With COVID-19 being a major factor in 2020, there have been many situations of confusion regarding what unsafe conditions are. In some cases, employers have determined their hazard control to be keep all employees in different workspaces with complete social distancing and barriers, provide hand hygiene materials, provide face covers and provide proper ventilation and air filtration. However, because the organization did not offer N95 respirators, employees complained that they were being forced to work in unsafe conditions. In this case, however, the combination of controls the organization developed mitigated the need for N95 respirators that would be required if the employees were working within 6’ of potentially infectious persons for more than 15 minutes compiled over 24 hours. Had the organization directed its employees, such as nurses, to work within proximity to infectious persons without a proper respiratory protection program, this would be an unsafe condition (Worden, 2020).

Unsafe work practices

While unsafe working conditions can generally be sensed and then controlled by a combination of passive and active controls, unsafe work practices require behavioral changes by employees. For example, if a respirator is required to protect against inhaling a contaminant (chemical, biological, radiological, or other), but an employee does not don it prior to an exposure, this would constitute an unsafe work practice. An unsafe working condition would be if the respirator was not provided, or if the employee did not have a clear medical evaluation, or if the respirator was not fit tested, or if the respirator that passed the fit test was not available for operational use; instead, the unsafe work practice would occur if the employee did not don the respirator. This may be because he or she chose not to, it may be because of a lack of training, it may be because of a lack of resources or another reason, each requiring its own causal analysis and control. Some causes of unsafe work practices can be traced back to unsafe working conditions, such as training deficiencies or inventory shortages. However, if the unsafe work practice was a choice, this now requires resetting of expectations, retraining and review of performance; if the situation persists after due diligence, accountability may be necessary.

Unsafe practices affecting others

Unfortunately, in some cases, unsafe work practices can affect others. Aside from examples such as those where supervisors encourage employees to bypass safety procedures to create more production (Worden, 2018), some duties, notably public servants such as law enforcement, require applications of procedures with active communication and emotional intelligence in potentially volatile situations. Should unsafe practices, miscommunication or other potentially harmful situations arise in an already volatile situation, loss of life, civil unrest or other outcomes could arise such as the outcomes from George Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis in 2020 (Hill, Tiefenthäler, Triebert, Jordan, Willis & Stein, 2020). Unfortunately, situations as such have occurred through time, as Hersh (2018) reports a direct confession of a racially motivated killing from a police officer during his earliest days as a reporter in the 1950s.

‘Whistleblowers’ who are not actually blowing whistles at all

Interestingly, a different variety of whistleblowers have gained notoriety in 2020 in that they may not be whistleblowers at all. While, over the years, conspiracy theories of many varieties have existed including the President Kennedy assassination conspiracy theory, supposed ‘Illuminati’ elites and more (Aaronovich, 2011), the ‘Q’Anon’ online community, a broad conspiracy theory led by an unknown, assumed intelligence community insider and claiming there to be a cabal of elite pedophiles hatching global conspiracies, has gained enough worldwide traction to be supported by multiple political figures and indirectly supported by President Donald Trump (Liptak, 2020). This situation presents a unique variance on the history and norms of whistleblower situations in that Q’Anon supporters claim to be “blowing the whistle” on something entirely assumed or speculated. When compared to the reality of whistleblower situations both past and present, these speculations create a complete variance.


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The Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF/FCE) recently released results from a survey conducted in October on mental health among teachers amid the current COVID-19 pandemic. The Teacher Mental Health Check-In survey, which received almost 14,000 responses, found “unbearable” levels of stress anxiety, and a struggle to cope with the demands of teaching during the pandemic. The results show that almost 70 per cent of respondents are concerned with their own mental health and well-being.

During a virtual press conference, Shelley Morse, president of the CTF said that “no matter how tired we may be of it, it is far from being tired of us…COVID-19 continues to take a toll and leaves no one behind.”

Morse said that the demands placed on teachers are “utterly unreasonable” and that the people we entrust to teach and take care of our children have been left to their own devices. This is the “grim reality” that teachers are facing. Morse said that the current conditions are “unsafe” for students as well as teachers. She said that through the survey, 14,000 teachers made it clear that working conditions are untenable; the current system is on the verge of collapse due to a lack of consultation and planning for schools.

Shelley also mentioned how much COVID has had an effect on gender inequality and said that the pandemic has laid bare the persistent gender gaps in this country.

Suggested measures

Sam Hammond, president-designate of the CTF and current president of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), added that the survey clearly shows how much worse teachers’ mental health is today compared to the spring. He said that teachers continue to go above and beyond, that for teachers the job doesn’t stop when they get home, and that teachers’ passionate work with students is taking a hefty toll.

Hammond said that measures need to be taken now, and that we need to take mental health more seriously than we have previously.

To face the current situation, the CTF has three asks:

● Allocate more resources to mental health sources for the unique workplace of teachers and other frontline workers during and after pandemic;
● Implement the same health and safety guidelines in schools that are already mandatory outside of education, including the use of masks and physical distancing;
● Start consulting the people who best know how to address these challenges: teachers. Their experiences as frontline workers are essential in helping us develop policies, said Hammond.


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Secure tools at hand

12/7/2020 9:35 AM

My first recollection of the harm a dropped object can cause was in my youth when touring the Empire State Building in New York City. I remember over-hearing, “If you drop a penny or pen from the Empire State Building and it lands on someone, it could kill them.” You may have heard this anecdote too.

For some reason, that stuck with me — how something so small, like a penny or ballpoint pen, could turn into a dangerous weapon when dropped from a height.

The Empire State Building is 1,250 feet tall, so it was easy to believe what I overheard. I have since learned that because a penny’s lightweight, flat round shape, and the fact that it experiences a lot of air resistance would most likely not kill someone if tossed from the Empire State Building.

However, according to Louis Bloomfield, physicist at the University of Virginia, “falling ballpoint pens are the real danger. If someone nonchalantly tossed one of those off the top of the Empire State Building, it could kill.”

Depending on their design, pens will either spin and flutter, or shoot down like an arrow. In the latter case, "it might well come down at 200 mph," Bloomfield said. "When it hits, it will hit a small area with a lot of momentum. It will chip the sidewalk. It could punch into a wooden board. You wouldn't want it to hit your head."

Lots of shapes and sizes

In addition to ballpoint pens, hand-held radios, cell phones, or tape measures can also injure people below if dropped from a height. Heavier objects like a sledge-hammer, wrench, or drill are even more problematic. Then there are tool buckets, paint cans, bricks, boards, and wire spools that can easily fall and hurt workers and pedestrians walking below, especially at high-rise construction sites.

Both the object’s weight and shape and the height from which it was dropped contribute to the severity of a potential injury. The severity of injuries and damages is increased if the object is aerodynamic, heavier, or higher up. Sleek, thin objects pose a problem because of their aerodynamic nature, compared to objects that are flat or have several edges.

Dropped objects come in lots of shapes and sizes and are divided into two types: (1) Static and (2) Dynamic.

A Static dropped object falls without any applied force because it falls from its previous position under its own weight. Corrosion, vibration, or lack of proper maintenance are often the culprits in a static dropped object.

A Dynamic dropped object falls from its previous position due to applied force. This force could come from moving equipment that bumps into scaffolding, stacked items, or dislodged tools or equipment.

Bottom line, if an item falls from a height and causes equipment damage, personal injury, or a fatality, it is considered a “dropped object incident.”

Common injuries

Falling objects can cause devasting and catastrophic injuries, such as:

● cuts and gashes
● eye injuries
● crushed and broken limbs
● paralysis
● head trauma like a fractured skull
● brain injuries
● neck, back, and spinal cord injuries
● death

The cost of drops

Mitigating dropped object risks can be challenging but should be proactively pursued, especially in industries where the risk of objects falling from height are an ever present danger. These include utility, construction, oil and gas, mining, marine, offshore industries, power generation, and renewable energy. Big-box stores and warehouse retailers have seen increases in dropped object injuries from the nature of their set-up with boxes stacked several feet in the air on both sides of the aisles.

Pursuing dropped object solutions is important because it protects people, but it also protects a company’s financial performance and reputation.

The negative publicity from a dropped object fatality can quickly soil a company’s reputation. Plus, the legal battles that can erupt can drain financial resources, especially when the public is involved. Should a fatality occur at work, its emotional impact carries over to employees who worked with the deceased possibly creating psychological challenges among the crew.

Productivity also suffers when tools or equipment need to be retrieved. If a tool can’t be retrieved because it has fallen into other machinery or if it becomes damaged, the job may not be completed on time.

An injury every 10.5 minutes

OSHA says there are over 50,000 “struck by falling object” incidents every year in the United States. It’s hard to believe it, but that means someone is injured by a dropped object every 10.5 minutes, which means almost 140 people are struck by a falling object every day in the US. Here is the math.
● 60 minutes x 24 = 1440 minutes in a day
● 1440 x 365 days = 525,600 minutes in a year
● 525,600 minutes divided by 50,000 injuries = one injury every 10.5 minutes
● 1440 minutes divided by 10.5 minutes = 137 people who are struck by a falling object every day in the US.

Because objects falling from heights are a major safety risk, a new standard was launched in 2018 for dropped object prevention.

The ANSI/ISEA 121-2018 Standard for Dropped Object Prevention

ANSI/ISEA 121-2018 is a voluntary consensus standard launched in the summer of 2018. It establishes:

● Minimum design requirements
● Performance and labeling requirements
● Guidelines for testing

Since it is a voluntary consensus standard for safety products, it is not directly enforceable by regulatory bodies like OSHA. However, OSHA does require that employers address falling/dropped objects hazards on the job. OSHA mentions this in General Industry (1910.23; 1910.28) and Construction (1926.451; 1926.501; 1926.759) standards. This establishes that OSHA does require mitigation of falling/dropped objects risk and can cite a company via:

● ANSI and other consensus standards
● the General Duty Clause
● a Letter of Interpretation

Drawbacks to the standard

The standard does not specify what needs to be tethered or when it needs to be tethered. These are usually specified by a company or a regulatory body. Plus, the standard does not specify proper use of the equipment because proper use is specified by the manufacturer.
Despite these drawbacks, the standard guides manufacturers, employers, and workers toward safer solutions and increases the awareness that string and duct tape aren’t good choices for tethering objects.

ANSI/ISEA 121-2018 is considered a groundbreaking standard and is just as important to dropped object prevention PPE as the ANSI Z359 standard is to fall protection equipment.

What types of equipment does the standard cover?

The adoption of ANSI/ISEA 121 as a general standard provides concrete definitions of the equipment the standard covers. The terms below promote clarity and consistency in the workplace when discussing dropped object prevention. The major equipment categories are:

● Anchor attachments: These allow a tool to be tethered to someone or something. They’re also retrofitted attachment points, but to a fixed anchor location (such as a structure) or a worker.
● Tool attachments: Defined as any retrofitted attachment points that are fitted to tools or other equipment to enable them to be tethered.
● Tool tethers: The tool lanyards that tether the equipment to an anchor point.
● Containers: Any container that can be used to transport tools, equipment or parts to and from work areas at height. This can include bags, buckets, and pouches.

Integrated tool tether and anchor system

Although not widespread in the industry yet, one emerging solution that helps prevent tool drops is using an integrated tether vest and retractor system for smaller tools.

This type of system prevents objects from dropping but also secures the tool and the tether in heavy-duty grommeted anchor pockets inside the vests when tools are not in use. This prevents the tether from entangling and possibly causing a worker to lose his or her balance, which could result in the worker falling or tripping. This type of system is ideal for tools and accessories that weigh three ounces to two pounds.

“Since the tether and tool disappear when contained in the pocket, workers won’t drop tools. Plus, the tether won’t snag or catch on nearby items, causing workers to lose their balance, which is often the case with fixed-length tethers,” said PPE product manager Nicole Novick, who is actively involved with the ISEA task force on dropped object prevention.

There is a learning curve with retractable tool tethers. Employees will need to be properly trained on how to use them. They will need to learn how to attach the tools, use the lanyards correctly, and respect the weight rating of the lanyards. Most manufacturers who supply tethers have videos and training aids to help with employee training.

Why are dropped objects under two pounds a problem?

Perhaps a tool under two pounds seems insignificant when workers are already overwhelmed from the hazards of operating heavy machinery or from working in elevated or tight spaces.

Is it because tool drops of objects two pounds or less are not the obvious risk, so the prevention of them stays on the back-burner?

No matter the reason, just as numerous precautions are taken to keep workers from falling off forklifts and scaffolding, there needs to be more focus on preventing their every day work tools and accessories from falling on others.

Wherever people are working on elevated surfaces and other people are walking below, there is the potential for a falling object accident. But there is also an opportunity to use an integrated tool tether system to help prevent the incident from occurring in the first place.


Comments | Posted in News Archive By admin
Investing in machine learning, the internet of things (IoT), and artificial intelligence (AI) to improve operational excellence, provide better customer experience, and ultimately grow a company’s bottom line isn’t a new idea. But applying these technologies to safeguarding the most important asset a company has – its people – is well overdue. Technology can transform the way a company mitigates risk, develops EHS strategies, and increases worker productivity and overall satisfaction while keeping employees safe and healthy. With nearly 40 years of experience in this industry, I believe we’re beginning a new era in safety, allowing companies to reach the ultimate goal of zero accidents.

If you’re a safety professional ready to improve your current safety program, I’ve got news for you. It’s time to become a technologist.

Investing in An Exciting, Safer Future

The evolution of technology in safety can be thought of in two phases: B.T. (before tech) and A.T. (after tech). In B.T., safety programs had to rely entirely on humans to keep employees safe. Many operated with a “the more, the merrier” mentality, needing as many boots on the ground as possible to act as points of contact, monitor potential hazards, and pass information down the pipeline to communicate issues and mitigate risks. Gathering data required manually going out into the field and using a pencil and paper to track data. Communication was very unidirectional.

Fast forward to A. T. and you’ll see technology in safety today can transform not only the way we work but also the way we think. New technologies have opened bi-directional communication for safety professionals, giving employees opportunities to engage and respond, not just absorb. AI-feeding technologies like computer vision (CV), real-time location services, and sensor fusion allow for data gathering without the need for a full safety team on the floor 24/7. Safety professionals no longer rely on a pencil and spreadsheet. Instead, they use a portal fed by multi-input devices that gather and analyze data, and the best solutions provide an intelligent decision within a second. Those same portals offer a new mechanism for streamlining training and employee coaching. No old safety videos and VCR are required! Most importantly, safety professionals can use the latest AI-powered safety technologies to proactively prevent near-misses and accidents, actively moving their companies toward the goal of zero accidents.

These new technologies didn’t emerge overnight, and adoption won’t be immediate either. Like many new technology deployments, technology in safety is sometimes met with reluctance.

“We’ve used the same process for years, and it works” is a favorite refrain from safety professionals more comfortable in the before technology (B.T.) world. If that process includes using spreadsheets in Excel to manage data and base decisions on, it could lead to fatal consequences. Research shows that up to 90% of all spreadsheets have errors that affect their results. By investing in technology, you’ll be decreasing the chance of computing errors, and thus workplace accidents.

If cost is a limiting factor to your transformation into a technologist, remember that technology is an investment in the company’s risk avoidance and not an expense. Beyond the human costs that can’t be calculated, workplace injuries and deaths are costly to both employers and fellow employees. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates a fatal injury carries an average cost of about $991K. The lost wages due to a workplace injury can put an immense strain on employees and their families. But this is preventable. According to The National Safety Council, just $1 invested in injury prevention returns between $2 and $6.

Tips for Safety Professional Technologists

1) It’s more than just inputting data

A safety system for inputting and reporting data is pretty standard these days. But what if you could find a system that is more than just a tool for data, but a tool that proactively makes your employees safer? Instead of reporting on data after an incident, new technology, like Everguard’s Sentri360™, is able to prevent accidents before they happen. When their actions put them in a potentially dangerous situation, workers receive alerts instantaneously so they can modify their activities to prevent injury or avoid an accident. At the same time, managers have access to alerts and data to provide behavior management and training. The future of safety depends on shifting our thinking about safety from reactive to proactive, and leveraging new technology can help us do just that.

2) Don’t forget mobile

Unfortunately, safety incidents don’t only occur when you’re conveniently seated at your desk in front of the computer. When you’re in the market for a new safety system, make sure “mobile interface” is one of the boxes it checks. A mobile application that lets you stay plugged in, even when out walking the floor, keeps you proactively engaged and helps keep workers safe.

3) Make integration easy

If you’re already using software to improve your safety program – kudos to you, technologist! When adding more into the mix, keep in mind that you’ll want to find systems that will allow for easy integration. Having the ability to share data between systems provides a better opportunity for your program to do more to keep employees safe. It also provides a better analysis for you to utilize when making important decisions about workplace safety.

The Bottom Line

Every safety program is working towards the same goal: zero-accidents. Safety professionals who are also technologists can transform EHS departments and help reach that goal by preventing injury, increasing productivity, uncovering where additional training is needed, and assisting managers in making smarter, more informed decisions. Safety tech allows you to use technology to do what safety professionals like us have always dreamed of: Prevent accidents, not just report on them. I’m excited to see what the future holds for safety technology. This new era of safety makes it a great time to be a safety professional and a technologist. Are you ready?


Comments | Posted in News Archive By admin
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