Important updates from Beakon – November 2017

Beakon continues to evolve to benefit customers new and old. Below we’ve rounded up some of the latest information and updates related to the software.

Software updates

Permit to work

Our modules aim to cover all areas of governance, risk and compliance and we’re always looking to extend the ways we can help you. We now offer an updated Permit to Work module, thanks to modifications made on behalf of Santos oil and gas. Our Permit to Work software can be used alongside our other risk management modules, or on its own.

This module works on all devices, including tablets and smartphones, and helps you to:

  • Issue Permits to Work
  • Complete permit approvals
  • View audit-friendly permit history and access history records

Asset register

Our Asset Register module, which we originally developed for University of Technology (UTS), is now available. This valuable tool helps you maintain a list of the status and value of all fixed assets within your organisation.

A regularly updated electronic asset register will make sure you’re able to instantly view the information you need, from level of depreciation to its current location, whenever you need it. Talk to us today to find out how your organisation can benefit.

Visitor kiosk capability

Businesses used to rely on signing in books to track who visited site, but visitor kiosks, available as part of our Visitor Management module, offer an easy and far more reliable way to keep track of who’s been on site.

Touchscreen visitor kiosks can be installed wherever you need them and, when used with our Visitor Management software, can help ensure you stay in control of access to your premises.

With our Visitor Management software you can:

  • Automate access permissions and provide self-service inductions
  • Log site visitors – including time of arrival and areas accessed
  • Deploy OHS and Facilities Management induction courses and documentation – and automatically adjust access authorization accordingly
  • Synchronise with Staff ID and Card machines, including those with security coding
  • Provide all necessary data for performance, compliance and OHS audits

New functionality within modules

  • It’s now possible to run a compliance report from your dashboard
  • Dashboards now have a ‘filter’ tool, making it easier for you to see the specific data you need, e.g. by department

Mobile app coming soon

We’re always looking to make life easier for our customers, which is why we’ve started work on a Beakon mobile app. This will make it even more simple to manage and improve your business safety while you’re on the move. Stay tuned for more news on the launch date and how to get the app.

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Why Health and Safety Compliance Should be Important for Everyone

When you hear about health and safety compliance, you’re probably thinking to yourself “this doesn’t really apply to me,” but, rest assured that Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) is actually for everyone.

Though OSH strategies may differ across industries, it’s essential for any legitimate business with employees to have a proper safety plan in place. As a matter of fact, it’s stated in the law.

In most countries, an act exists to govern the way businesses operate. In the US, this refers to the Occupational Safety and Health Act, established in 1970. In a nutshell, this act states that employers must adopt certain practices, means, methods or processes that are reasonably appropriate to protect workers while on the job. This means providing employees with an environment free from known hazards such as exposure to mechanical dangers, heat or cold stress, excessive noise levels, exposure to toxic chemicals, unsanitary conditions, and anything else that may be detrimental to a worker’s health or safety.

OSH agencies are responsible for setting the standards for operational requirements and conducting inspections to make sure employers are providing safe and healthful workplaces. So, if your business gets audited by an OSH inspector and the necessary requirements aren’t being met, you’ll be in a world of trouble.

This article will discuss the reasons everyone should take OSH seriously for the benefit of their businesses, and to do right by their employees.

 

Reasons to Address Health and Safety Compliance for Managers

Less turnover and absenteeism

If OSH is not an issue, managers can expect to see less turnover and absenteeism from its employees. These issues add to operational costs and can affect productivity if not addressed accordingly.

Employees have improved morale

When employee morale is improved, they can better cope with stress and change. Improved morale also leads to more productivity and a more functional workplace environment overall.

Increased productivity and job satisfaction

Increased productivity is an obvious advantage because having a more productive workplace is more profitable. Better job satisfaction results in an increased productivity and improved employee morale.

Fewer injuries, less compensation

When workers get injured, they are usually unable to work for a period. On top of that, companies are obliged to cover their medical costs, as well as continue paying their salaries while they recover.

Reduced healthcare/insurance costs, fines, and litigation

When OSH is addressed correctly, the rate of incidents will be reduced, resulting in lowered healthcare and insurance costs for the business. The risk of having to pay fines and litigation fees is also reduced.

Improved corporate image and culture

A company that is “OSH-friendly” generally has an improved image and culture. Not only is this great PR, but it also increases a company’s ability to attract and retain skilled talent and customers.

 

ROI for Safety and Compliance

A fundamental question that employers may ask is: “Does investing in OSH strategies improve the company’s bottom line?” Although the benefits may be difficult to quantify, the answer is still a resounding “Yes”.

In addition to the savings realized from reduced costs associated with OSH failures, there are also the positive impacts on employee productivity and corporate image, which do not appear in a company’s ledger book. Having a great OSH plan in place can also mean the difference between winning and losing business contract bids, as well as government contracts.

Furthermore, the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) has found that there is a direct positive correlation between investment in OSH and its subsequent ROI. This means there’s absolutely no excuse for not addressing OSH best practices with significant investments.

 

Conclusion

Maintaining proper OSH standards is simply the right thing to do, legally and morally. Compliance risk management is important because if workers aren’t complying with OSH guidelines, incidents will continue to happen regularly despite having a proper plan in place, making it redundant.

Safety and compliance go together like a light bulb and electricity, if either fails, the entire system falls apart. Take care of your employees, and in return, they will take care of your business.

How to Develop a Risk Management Plan

Developing an effective Risk Management Plan can help keep small issues from developing into emergencies. Different types of Risk Management Plans can deal with calculating the probability of an event, and how that event might impact you, what the risks are with certain ventures and how to mitigate the problems associated with those risks. Having a plan may help you deal with adverse situations when they arise and, hopefully, head them off before they arise.

1- Understand how Risk Management works. Risk is the effect (positive or negative) of an event or series of events that take place in one or several locations. It is computed from the probability of the event becoming an issue and the impact it would have (See Risk = Probability X Impact). Various factors should be identified in order to analyze risk, including:

  • Event: What could happen?
  • Probability: How likely is it to happen?
  • Impact: How bad will it be if it happens?
  • Mitigation: How can you reduce the Probability (and by how much)?
  • Contingency: How can you reduce the Impact (and by how much)?
  • Reduction = Mitigation X Contingency
  • Exposure = Risk – Reduction
    • After you identify the above, the result will be what’s called Exposure. This is the amount of risk you simply can’t avoid. Exposure may also be referred to as Threat, Liability or Severity, but they pretty much mean the same thing. It will be used to help determine if the planned activity should take place.
    • This is often a simple cost vs. benefits formula. You might use these elements to determine if the risk of implementing the change is higher or lower than the risk of not implementing the change.
  • Assumed Risk. If you decide to proceed (sometimes there is no choice, e.g. federally mandated changes) then your Exposure becomes what is known as Assumed Risk. In some environments, Assumed Risk is reduced to a dollar value which is then used to calculate the profitability of the end product.

 

2- Define your project. In this article, let’s pretend you are responsible for a computer system that provides important (but not life-critical) information to some large population. The main computer on which this system resides is old and needs to be replaced. Your task is to develop a Risk Management Plan for the migration. This will be a simplified model where Risk and Impact are listed as High, Medium or Low (that is very common especially in Project Management).

 3- Get input from others. Brainstorm on risks. Get several people together that are familiar with the project and ask for input on what could happen, how to help prevent it, and what to do if it does happen. Take a lot of notes! You will use the output of this very important session several times during the following steps. Try to keep an open mind about ideas. “Out of the box” thinking is good, but do keep control of the session. It needs to stay focused and on target.
4- Identify the consequences of each risk. From your brainstorming session, you gathered information about what would happen if risks materialized. Associate each risk with the consequences arrived at during that session. Be as specific as possible with each one. “Project Delay” is not as desirable as “Project will be delayed by 13 days.” If there is a dollar value, list it; just saying “Over Budget” is too general.
5- Eliminate irrelevant issues. If you’re moving, for example, a car dealership’s computer system, then threats such as nuclear war, plague pandemic or killer asteroids are pretty much things that will disrupt the project. There’s nothing you can do to plan for them or to lessen the impact. You might keep them in mind, but don’t put that kind of thing on your risk plan.

6- List all identified risk elements. You don’t need to put them in any order just yet. Just list them one-by-one.
7- Assign probability. For each risk element on your list, determine if the likelihood of it actually materializing is High, Medium or Low. If you absolutely have to use numbers, then figure Probability on a scale from 0.00 to 1.00. 0.01 to 0.33 = Low, 0.34 to 0.66 = Medium, 0.67 to 1.00 = High.
Note: If the probability of an event occurring is zero, then it will be removed from consideration. There’s no reason to consider things that simply cannot happen (enraged T-Rex eats the computer).
8- Assign impact. In general, assign Impact as High, Medium or Low based on some pre-established guidelines. If you absolutely have to use numbers, then figure Impact on a scale from 0.00 to 1.00 as follows: 0.01 to 0.33 = Low, 0.34 – 066 = Medium, 0.67 – 1.00 = High.
Note: If the impact of an event is zero, it should not be listed. There’s no reason to consider things that are irrelevant, regardless of the probability (my dog ate dinner).
9- Determine risk for the element. Often, a table is used for this. If you have used the Low, Medium and High values for Probability and Impact, the top table is most useful. If you have used numeric values, you will need to consider a bit more complex rating system similar to the second table here. It is important to note that there is no universal formula for combining Probability and Impact; that will vary between people and projects. This is only an example (albeit a real-life one):
Be flexible in analysis. Sometimes it may be appropriate to switch back and forth between the L-M-H designations and numeric designations. You might use a table similar to the one below.
10- Rank the risks. List all the elements you have identified from the highest risk to the lowest risk.
11-  Compute the total risk: Here is where numbers will help you. In Table 6, you have 7 risks assigned as H, H, M, M, M, L, and L. This can translate to 0.8, 0.8, 0.5, 0.5, 0.5, 0.2 and 0.2, from Table 5. The average of the total risk is then 0.5 and this translates to Medium.
12- Develop mitigation strategies. Mitigation is designed to reduce the probability that a risk will materialize. Normally you will only do this for High and Medium elements. You might want to mitigate low risk items, but certainly address the other ones first. For example, if one of your risk elements is that there could be a delay in delivery of critical parts, you might mitigate the risk by ordering early in the project.
13- Develop contingency plans. Contingency is designed to reduce the impact if a risk does materialize. Again, you will usually only develop contingencies for High and Medium elements. For example, if the critical parts you need do not arrive on time, you might have to use old, existing parts while you’re waiting for the new ones.
14- Analyze the effectiveness of strategies. How much have you reduced the Probability and Impact? Evaluate your Contingency and Mitigation strategies and reassign Effective Ratings to your risks.
15- Compute your effective risk. Now your 7 risks are M, M, M, L, L, L and L, which translate to 0.5, 0.5, 0.5, 0.2, 0.2, 0.2 and 0.2. This gives an average risk of 0.329. Looking at Table 5, we see that the overall risk is now categorized as Low. Originally the Risk was Medium (0.5). After management strategies have been added, your Exposure is Low (0.329). That means you have achieved a 34.2% reduction in Risk through Mitigation and Contingency. Not bad!
16Monitor your risks. Now that you know what your risks are, you need to determine how you’ll know if they materialize so you’ll know when and if you should put your contingencies in place. This is done by identifying Risk Cues. Do this for each one of your High and Medium risk elements. Then, as your project progresses, you will be able to determine if a risk element has become an issue. If you don’t know these cues, it is very possible a risk could silently materialize and affect the project, even if you have good contingencies in place.

How to Make Safety Part of Your Company’s DNA

Written safety policies do not ensure a culture of safety at a company. Although putting a foundation of safety policies and best practices in writing is essential to a successful safety management system, a collection of policies alone cannot create an environment where employees feel safe and instinctively make safe choices.

Creating a culture of safety takes time and begins with real commitment from all levels of management—not just a Safety First sign as you enter the building or verbal commitment to safety by the CEO or facility manager, but an active commitment that leadership demonstrates every day in the decisions they make and the actions they take. Frontline supervisors set the tone because they have to make quick decisions throughout the day, including corrective action when a hazard is identified. Their first priority is safety.

The decision to make safety a priority must be fully supported, encouraged, and rewarded by managers and executives to consistently reinforce that making safe decisions is most important among all levels of leadership. Taking action to correct unsafe conditions or using a positive approach to coaching team members on safe behavior deepens the internal commitment to following safe-work practices.

Fostering a culture of safety also requires a facility that is clean, organized, and well maintained. It is difficult to expect employees to commit to safe-work practices if the facility in which they work is dirty, unorganized, and in disrepair. On the contrary, employees are much more likely to feel their company values safety and remain engaged to continue to work safely if the environment around them is well-lit, orderly, and properly maintained and if signage clearly indicates safety requirements and expectations and employees are provided with high-quality safety equipment and personal protective equipment, when necessary.

 

Third-Party Evaluation Provides a Benchmark
To begin to understand where a facility is in its journey to provide a safe environment, it makes sense to engage a third party to visit a workplace, provide an unbiased facility safety evaluation, and gauge the safety culture of the organization through safety behavior observation and employee interviews. Too often a company functions under the “we’ve always done it this way” mantra or has become blind to unsafe working conditions or hazards hidden in plain sight.

Safety consultants, insurance representatives, corporate safety teams, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) compliance specialists, industry peers, and other companies that participate in OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) are well equipped to conduct a safety audit to provide a company with a benchmark, indicating where the company can improve or where it excels.

A comprehensive safety analysis should not be limited to the facility. It should also include a review of all tasks and processes, giving priority to such high-risk areas as fall protection, lockout/tagout, confined spaces, electrical safety, lifting and rigging, and heavy equipment use, because failures in those areas can have serious consequences. Evaluate the hazards of each task and develop safe solutions to correct them. This means phasing out “we have always done it this way” processes and replacing them with best practices that use hazard analysis as a guide for development of new work processes. It also means implementing solutions to ensure the right equipment is being used for the right job. For example, if a company is striving to prevent falls, which are consistently one of the most frequently cited OSHA violations and a serious hazard in any line of work, an extension ladder or makeshift scaffold may not be the best choice for workers who need to use hand tools to access a motor or filter high above the shop floor.

 

Employee Engagement is Key
If a company wants to have success in safety, it is critical that it actively engage its employees to ensure that a strong safety culture can survive and grow. This means sharing the vision for safety and inviting and encouraging each employee to participate in shaping and achieving that vision.

Employee engagement can be accomplished in a number of ways, beginning with the establishment of employee-led safety committees and inviting all team members to join the committees. Participating in regularly scheduled meetings puts the pulse of shop floor employees in front of any safety initiative. Companies can also provide employees the opportunity to become voluntary first responders who are trained in emergency first aid, CPR, the use of automated external defibrillators, and other emergency response protocols.

Other employee engagement activities also contribute to a culture of safety, among them safety poster or calendar contests that employees can share with their families, small work teams for identifying and making safety improvements through facility safety audits or safety behavior observations, safety mentor programs that assign mentors to new team members, or, in the case of JLG Industries, Inc., a Safety Action Tracker. This program tracks safety opportunities as employees identify them, providing a description of the item and a photograph if one is available, describing the corrective action to be taken, identifying a target date for completion, and assigning an employee responsibility for taking the corrective action. This information is posted and available to all employees, supporting transparency, encouraging communications, and directing the appropriate resources to make a safety improvement in a timely manner.

JLG Industries also engages employees in activities designed to identify workers performing tasks in awkward postures or positions where ergonomics could be improved. The goal is to recognize these situations and propose solutions to remedy them. Additionally, these small work teams identify opportunities, such as maintaining work material within a self-regulated “power zone” of 15 to 60 inches. Known as the 15/60 rule, this rule ensures no product or materials necessary to perform a manufacturing job require an employee to reach down below 15 inches or above 60 inches. This simple guideline can improve ergonomics, while providing a well-organized and safer workstation.

 

Training Supports a Culture of Safety
Ongoing education and training also support a culture of safety. Although employers can develop their own safety training programs, OSHA offers a number of training resources for both employers and employees. The OSHA Outreach Training Program provides training for workers and employers on the recognition, avoidance, abatement, and prevention of safety and health hazards in workplaces. Through this program, workers can attend 10- or 30-hour classes delivered by OSHA-authorized trainers. The 10-hour class is intended to provide workers with awareness of common job-related safety and health hazards, while the 30-hour class is more appropriate for supervisors or workers with some safety responsibility.

Of even greater value are hands-on training programs that simulate the work environment. Programs like this provide training essentials in a setting that mimics the workplace but eliminates workplace pressures. They are especially useful as part of new employee training programs that teach job skills and ergonomic practices prior to an employee’s introduction to the production environment.

VPP Assesses Safety and Health Systems
Companies that want to be recognized for their commitment to workplace safety can participate in OSHA’s VPP. It sets performance-based criteria for a managed safety and health system, invites sites to apply, and then assesses applicants against these criteria. OSHA’s verification includes an application review and a rigorous on-site evaluation by a team of OSHA safety and health experts. OSHA approves qualified sites to one of three programs:

  • Star: The Star Program is designed for exemplary work sites with comprehensive, successful safety and health management systems.
  • Merit: Merit is an effective stepping stone to Star. Merit sites have good safety and health management systems, but these systems need some improvement to be judged excellent. Merit sites demonstrate the potential and the commitment to meet goals tailored to each site and to achieve Star quality within three years.
  • Demonstration: The Star Demonstration program is designed for work sites with Star-quality safety and health protection to test alternatives to current Star eligibility and performance requirements. Star Demonstration program participants are evaluated every 12 to 18 months.

 

Always Evaluate and Re-Evaluate
Whatever path a company chooses to follow as it strives to create a culture of safety, it is important to constantly monitor and evaluate the programs in place to ensure they are meeting the established benchmarks. It’s all about creating an environment that attracts new employees with the same safety mindset, while ensuring the safety of current employees—an evolving environment where safety is second nature to all employees and leadership, ingrained in their DNA, influencing every decision they make and action they take. In the end, a rigorous, comprehensive safety program, endorsed by management and employees alike and assessed by third-party experts, can help organizations achieve constant, continuous improvement.

An Introduction to Incident Management

Incident management is one of the most critical IT support processes that an IT organization needs to get right. Service outages can be costly to the business and IT teams need an efficient way to respond to and resolve these issues quickly. According to a 2015 HDI study, incident management remains a top priority for 65% of IT teams around the world.

Incident management 101

Here’s how the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) defines an incident: “An unplanned interruption that causes, may cause, or reduces the quality of an IT Service.” Incident Management is an IT service management (ITSM) process that aims to restore normal service operation as fast as possible, minimizing the impact on the business and end user. A business application going down is an incident. The printer not working is also an incident.

A crawling-but-not-yet-dead web server can be an incident, too. It’s running slowly, and interfering with productivity. Worse yet, it poses the even greater risk of complete failure.” – Nick Wright, Service Operations Manager at Atlassian

Incident Management vs. Problem Management: A problem is just the not-yet-known root cause behind one or more incidents. In the incidents above where the printer is down and the network is creeping, a misconfigured router could be the underlying problem behind both. Incident management focuses on short-term solutions (not completing a root cause analysis to identify why an incident occurred) and on doing whatever is necessary to restore the service. We’ll talk about managing re-occurring incidents (underlying problems) in the problem management blog.

Mean time to resolution (MTTR)

Mean Time to Resolution (MTTR) is a service-level metric that measures the average elapsed time from when an incident is reported until the incident is resolved and is typically measured in business hours. MTTR is one of the key drivers of customer satisfaction, as users may be either completely down or forced to use workarounds until their incidents have been resolved.

Consequently, improving major incident response is one of the number one goals for IT teams, specifically around finding ways to lower MTTR and streamline the process of finding the root cause to prevent future outages. The below diagram outlines what’s included in the MTTR. A Forrester study found that most of the time is spent within the Investigation and Diagnosis phase. In fact it takes 70% of the time because IT teams find it difficult to collaborate and share valuable insights to quickly find an incident resolution.

Incident management priorities

So what are the key areas and priorities for incident management for IT teams?

  • Respond effectively so they can recover fast to define who is accountable for it.
  • Communicate clearly to their stakeholders, both service owners, those within the organization, but ultimately their customers.
  • Collaborate effectively to solve the issue faster as a team and remove barriers that prevent them from sharing and collaborating.
  • Continuously improve to learn from these outages and apply these lessons to improve a service or even refine the process in the future.
StatusPage: While every team uses different solutions for communication, we recommend a dedicated tool like StatusPage for incident communication. This provides a central source of truth for the current status of an incident as well as a record of past incident communication. Stakeholders can customize how they want to receive StatusPage updates; whether it’s over email, text message, or a ChatOps tool like HipChat.

 

Incident management process

An incident management process helps service desks investigate, record, and resolve service interruptions or outages. An Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) incident management workflow aims to reduce downtime and negative impacts. The IT Service Desk template comes with an incident management workflow, which ensures that you log, diagnose, and resolve incidents. We recommend you start with this workflow and adapt it to your business needs. When managed well, incident records can identify missing service requirements, potential improvements and future team member training.

The ITIL incident management process, in brief:

  1. Service end users, monitoring systems, or internal IT members report interruptions.
  2. The service desk describes and logs the incident. They link together all reports related to the service interruption.
  3. The service desk records the date and time, reporter name, and a unique ID for the incident. JIRA Service Desk does this automatically.
  4. A service desk agent labels the incidents with appropriate categorization. The team uses these categories during post-incident reviews and for reporting.
  5. A service desk agent prioritizes the incident based on impact and urgency.
  6. The team diagnoses the incident, the services effected, and possible solutions. Agents communicate with incident reporters to help complete this diagnosis.
  7. If needed, the service desk team escalates the incident to second-line support representatives. These are the people who works regularly on the effected systems.
  8. The service desk resolves the service interruption and verifies that the fix is successful. The resolution is fully documented for future reference.
  9. The service desk closes the incident.

Building a Climate for Culture Change: 3 Key Concepts for Your Safety Evolution

sbn-workplace-safety-compliance-header

An organization is a complex set of dynamically intertwined and interconnected elements (inputs, processes, outputs, feedback loops and environment) in which it operates.  These elements are continuously changing, interacting, ebbing and flowing (Katz & Kahn, 1978).

Many safety initiatives fail to reach their potential because they are introduced and left to fend for themselves. Without the forethought to plan for sustaining new initiatives in this complex web of interconnectivity, companies often miss this valuable opportunity to make tremendous differences in peoples’ lives. When EHS professionals plan for their organizations’ safety evolution, they first need to build the climate for culture change.

Safety Climate vs Safety Culture

Organizational culture is a socially created construct. As a construct, culture is not easily quantified or measured. However, culture functions as a “control mechanism,” informally reinforcing or inhibiting some patterns of organizational assumptions or behaviors. These patterns of assumptions are so basic, so pervasive and so completely accepted as “the truth,” that no one thinks about or remembers them. They become “the way we have always done things around here.” (Schein, 2000)

Organizational climate, on the other hand, is what people see and report happening to them in organizational situations (Schneider, 2000). Safety climate focuses on the situation and on the perceptions of what the organization is like in terms of practices, policies, procedures, routines and rewards.

Climate describes “what” happens, whereas culture explains “why” people do the things they do. Thus, changing culture is more of a long-term process, where impacting climate can happen relatively quickly. Giving people year-end bonuses may influence the short-term climate, but fail to impact the long-term culture.

So, to create safety culture change, organizations first must positively influence their climate to ensure a long-term impact. With this clarification, to produce lasting change, EHS professionals need to focus on climate elements of new initiatives that will in the short-term influence the characteristics that need changing while at the same time, reinforce safety cultural norms that are maintaining the beneficial assumptions and behaviors that are keeping people safe.

3 Keys for Creating a Safety Evolution

Very seldom is a safety culture completely broken. Most of the time, companies either organizationally are complacent (few injuries, incidents, property damage, etc.) or have latent deficiencies and “drifted” but have not experienced any indicators. In either case, this is an ideal time to attempt organizational change, instead of waiting for someone to get hurt and risk looking reactive.

There are many methods for creating and sustaining organizational change (see Kotter, 1996, for one example). To create a safety step-change, however, there are three keys to ensure long-term success:

1) Make safety personal – Too often, organizations dehumanize safety by focusing on numbers or the recordable rate. The OSHA recordable rate, for instance, is one frequently used method of assessing safety performance. Whereas this recordable rate is an indicator, for high-performing organizations, it is an inadequate means for assessing safety culture because there are far too few instances to truly get a picture of performance.

Many companies only focus on injury statistics and not on safety statistics. To impact the safety climate, organizations never should quote the recordable rate to their employees. This reduces their experiences to numbers and minimizes the impact on the people with whom we work.

Furthermore, as we get closer to zero injuries, and the more the organization emphasizes these numbers, the more likely employees are to feel pressure to not report their injuries to avoid spoiling a perfect record. Achieving a safety milestone such as a zero recordable rate may positively influence the safety climate, but may negatively impact the culture if employees feel they must hide their injuries to receive recognition.

Safety is about people. To create the next safety step-change, organizations need to make safety personal again. When someone gets hurt, has a near miss, identifies property damage or makes a mistake, organizations have to respond in such a way that employees perceive this as a learning event and not an opportunity to shame and blame their coworkers.

This requires a change in our verbal behavior and how we communicate; we must portray these incidents as opportunities for system/process improvements. Using a one-on-one safety coaching, for instance, leaders should focus on the impact to the employee, their welfare, family, and livelihood, and not discuss if this would be considered a recordable incident. For organizations to move to the next level of safety performance, a focus on achievement-oriented safety statistics is essential.

2) Use safety analytics – As we move closer to cultures where injuries are rare occurrences, companies need to focus on achievement-oriented safety statistics to assess progress. This leading-indicator mentality has been the hot topic in safety for decades. However, few organizations know what to do with their leading indicators once they obtain them.

Counting the frequency and quality of leading indicators will not change the climate around safety.

To make lasting change, organizations need to use their safety intelligence to make proactive changes. These proactive changes can strengthen your initiative and thus strengthen your safety climate.

The safety field collects a plethora of safety intelligence, from training records to safety observations. Unfortunately, after an initial assessment, this critical safety analytics often is stored away and goes mostly unused. So, to impact our safety climates, we need to gather all our safety “big data,” put our safety analytics to use and get our leadership teams to become truly engaged in acting upon our valuable safety indicators.

Much of the safety data gathered by organizations comes from some sort of safety audit, inspection or observation. These processes are used to gather intelligence on the effectiveness of safety management systems. However, this information often is not trusted, is misused or is ignored.

Using safety analytics on the audits demonstrates to the organization that its participation in the safety process is needed and valued. Without using it, the collected data negatively can impact the long-term culture and lead to indifference and pencil-whipping.

To improve the climate for using observational data, organizations should develop a data usage plan to ensure safety intelligence is being reviewed, acted upon and communicated. A successful data use plan outlines who is going to get which report, at what frequencies, how they will share the information and what the value-add is for the organization.

The data usage plan should be rolled into a pre-existing leadership meeting, along with a week-look-back/week-look-ahead to help diagnose where the week’s inspections/observations should focus. These safety analytics help drive proactive change, demonstrate that safety gets a seat at the leadership table and help create a climate of continuous learning.

3) Build trust – By following the first two suggestions, the level of trust greatly should improve.

However, in many cultures where the primary focus only is on counting the number of inspections (checking off a box) – and failing to act upon the data is the norm – organizations begin to lose trust in their data. This “venomous cycle” often happens to the cultures that focus more on the numbers and less on the people-side of safety.

If employees do not trust that their safety audits are being reviewed, for instance, they may not put much effort in completing a quality observation. The leaders, in turn, receive safety data they do not trust and are hesitant to act upon it. This inaction leads to further pencil-whipping, more mistrust, and more inaction. To reverse this cycle, organizations need to act upon their safety analytics.

By using a data use plan, organizations can create a “virtuous circle” by acting on the observation intelligence provided and demonstrate the value of the information. This action and follow-up communication creates momentum that can produce a climate of discovery that eventually will lead to a culture of a learning organization.

Once your employees trust that the data they provide will be used to help their coworkers stay safe, the trust in the organizational processes grows and a cultural evolution begins to take shape. This empowering safety step-change can help organizations lay the foundations for decades of improvements, and eventually eliminate death on the job.

Why Do Safety Inspections?

Most companies conduct periodic worksite safety inspections. This process is part of the traditional landscape of a comprehensive health and safety plan. At regular intervals, someone within the organization sets out to critically observe in an effort to identify and rectify hazards. But why are they done? Therein lies the interesting question.

Work site safety inspections can be a vital part of your injury prevention efforts if done well.

safety inspections

“Because we have to.”

Safety is often driven by compliance—either to a regulation or a company policy. Certainly, compliance is a factor and one that is often developed with a specific purpose in mind. OSHA has a clear imperative that employers are required to provide their employees with a place of employment that “is free from recognizable hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious harm to employees.” Worksite inspections serve as the vehicle to record hazards and document abatement.

As the saying goes—if it’s not documented, it didn’t happen. With that in mind, can companies meet the regulatory requirement by simply walking about every once in a while and fix what is found? Perhaps. While this satisfies a basic requirement, simply walking around and checking a box does not necessarily offer assurance that the workplace is free of recognizable hazards and meet the spirit and intent of the purpose the regulation is trying to express.

“Because we care.”

Conducting workplace safety inspections can serve a greater purpose than simply meeting a compliance requirement. In fact, work site safety inspections can be a vital part of your injury prevention efforts if done well. They can help reassure workers that the workplace is safe and help the company demonstrate that it cares.

In order for this to happen, a more robust process is necessary. The best methodology for this process is also one that is time tested and rooted in continuous improvement—the Deming cycle.

Plan:

Define the purpose and set expectations.

Do:

Define an inspection strategy, collect observations, and perform the initial correction.

Study:

Periodically review data collected; identify gaps and trends.

Act:

Give feedback, develop action plans, and make data-driven decisions.

Let’s break this down by component:

Plan

The purpose of conducting work site safety inspections should be more than mere compliance. The purpose should be to prevent injuries. With that in mind, the expectations should be those inspections that detail critical observations of all areas should be conducted at a frequency that allows for sufficient trending of patterns.

With the expanded purpose and expectations, it may become clear that the frequency and breadth of current inspections are insufficient and may need to be expanded in order to meet the new requirements. In addition, a plan must be put in place to actually use the data collected, beyond checking the box and counting the “cards” submitted. Tracking and trending of findings are essential to meet the revised purpose of injury prevention.

Lastly, the planning elements must be communicated to everyone so that the purpose is clear.

Do

The first step in this phase is the development of a comprehensive inspection strategy. This strategy should define who does inspections, when they occur, what is to be observed, and where they are to be done.

  • Who does inspections?
    A study was conducted that shows the probability of having an incident declines as the number and diversity of the people performing inspections increases. In fact, the study shows that having a large number of diverse inspectors doing a few inspections each is better than having a few inspectors doing a large number of inspections each, even if those inspectors are highly trained safety professionals. This inclusion helps to shift the ownership of safety away from the “safety” team and onto the entire organization.
  • When do they occur?
    An inspection is a snapshot in time. As the saying goes, if a tree falls in the woods and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound? The same goes for safety inspections—if work occurs and there is nobody to evaluate it critically for safety, was the work done safely? It is best to schedule inspections to ensure good coverage across many days and shifts, as well as when infrequent work occurs, such as entering a confined space or performing lockout on energized equipment.
  • What is to be observed?
    This involves the task or category of hazard, such as PPE or fall protection. If the purpose is to prevent injuries, as defined in our Plan phase, then it is important to ensure each risk is observed enough to allow for trending and ultimately evaluation of risk. Typically, observers focus on the easier things to see, such as PPE, while the more difficult categories to evaluate, such as fall protection, receive fewer inspections. The fewer the inspections, the harder it is to evaluate risk, which ultimately leads to a diminishing ability to prevent those types of injuries.
  • Where is it to be done?
    Each project or location should be broken up into manageable areas and work groups to ensure each unique entity is observed. Ideally, each observation should be linked to both a location and a work group. In addition, each location and work group should have an expected number of inspections and/or observations within a given time period based on manpower and risk—the more manpower and the higher the risk, the more inspections necessary to ensure a safe working environment.

Study

Collecting data in the previous stage is simply the beginning. Once data has been collected, the next step is to review the data. A data use plan is necessary to ensure that data are reviewed on a frequent and periodic basis and actions are taken to drive improvement. Think of it like this—if I stand on a scale and collect my weight each day and record it, will I lose weight? No! I must take the data, compare it against expectations, and then drive actions that will help improve the risk.

The idea is to look for gaps and trends in the data. A gap is something that is not being done that should be, such as observations in a particular category (e.g., electrical, confined space) or in a particular area. A trend is something that is seen over and over and will continue to repeat until the causal factors for the system are identified and remedied.

 

Act

The last step in the continuous improvement loop is action. Without it, this is all simply wishful thinking or worse—a lesson in futility.

Action drives accountability. Action can include simple things, such as providing feedback or sharing information on trends that have been seen. It can also involve more complex solutions, such as a revision to the way in which work is performed or a pre-incident investigation based on at-risk trend information. It could even drive utilization of data as evidence in a data-driven decision, such as a request for a large capital expenditure.

Creating a Continuous Improvement Cycle

Too often safety programs have elements that are done because “That’s the way we’ve always done it” or, worse, “Because we have to.” Build into your program elements a noble purpose, and people will do them because they want to. Your inspections and observations allow the continuous improvement cycle to keep going, making your safety program that much better each time and ultimately helping to make sure that the entire workforce goes home safely at the end of the day.

Office Safety Part 2: 15 More Tips for a Safer Office

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In our last post we listed 10 tips to keep your office environment safe for employees, and in this article we continue with 15 more tips and common work-safety issues that employers and safety officers need to keep in mind to maintain a safe workplace.

Vision problems

Although looking at a computer monitor cannot damage your eyes, spending a large portion of your workday at the computer can cause eyestrain, according to Chicago-based Prevent Blindness America. Eyes can become dry and irritated, and workers may begin having trouble focusing. A few work area adjustments can help alleviate some of these issues.

1- Dim the lights and use task lamps
Florescent lights in office buildings often are too bright for optimal vision. According to the American Optometric Association, light that is at about half-normal office levels is preferred. This can be achieved by removing some bulbs from overhead fixtures. If more light is needed for a particular task, the British Columbia Public Service Employee Relations Commission recommends providing individual task lamps rather than increasing overall lighting. The commission cautions that lightbulbs in task lamps should be fully recessed to avoid the creation of a bright spot in the worker’s line of vision.

2- Correctly position monitors
Prevent Blindness America recommends workers place their computer monitors slightly below eye level and 20-26 inches from their eyes. Screens that can tilt or swivel are especially beneficial. “Your eyes’ resting position is a few degrees below the horizon when you’re looking straight ahead,” Paquette said.

3- Minimize screen glare
The American Optometric Association points to screen glare as a major cause of eyestrain in the office. To minimize strain, avoid positioning monitors opposite open windows, or be sure to always close shades or blinds. A glare reduction filter also can be used.

4- Wear the right glasses
Workers should tell their eye doctor if they spend a large portion of the day working on the computer, the association recommends. The doctor can check the efficiency of vision at 20-30 inches – the typical distance a computer monitor should be placed. Glasses are available for computer use that allow the wearer to see the full monitor without having to excessively strain the neck.

5- Increase font size on computer
Small font sizes on the computer can strain both your vision and your neck, as workers tend to pull the head forward to view smaller print. A simple adjustment to the font size on the computer screen can eliminate the need for this. “In many software programs, you can use the CTRL-scroll up or down or CTRL+ or CTRL- to increase or reduce the size of the page you are looking at,” Paquette said.

6- Take a break
Giving your eyes a rest and allowing them to focus on things at varying distances can help reduce strain and fatigue. OSHA recommends workers take a 10-minute break for every hour spent on the computer. These breaks can include working on tasks that require your eyes to focus on objects at a further range.

Fire safety

Local fire departments responded to approximately 3,830 office fires each year between 2004 and 2008, according to the Quincy, MA-based National Fire Protection Association. On average, these fires caused four civilian deaths and 37 civilian injuries annually. Some routine inspections around the office can help reduce the likelihood of fire causing such devastation.

7- Maintain cords in good repair
According to the Office of Compliance, damaged and ungrounded power cords pose a serious fire hazard and violate safety codes. Cords should be inspected regularly for wear and taken out of service if they are frayed or have exposed wire. Further, cords should never be used if the third prong has been damaged or removed. Make sure cords are not overloading outlets. The most common causes of fires started by extension cords are improper use and overloading. Extension cords should be approved by a certifying laboratory such as Underwriters Laboratories, and only used temporarily to connect one device at a time.

8- Inspect space heaters
If employees use space heaters, verify the devices are approved for commercial use and have a switch that automatically shuts off the heater if the heater is tipped over, the Office of Compliance suggests. Further, make sure space heaters are not powered through an extension cord or placed near combustible materials such as paper.

9- Never block fire sprinklers
Furniture and tall stacks of materials can block the range of fire sprinklers, reducing their effectiveness in the event of an emergency. Objects should never be placed higher than 18 inches below sprinkler heads to allow a full range of coverage, according to the Office of  Compliance.

10- Do not block escape routes or prop open fire doors  
Items never should be stored along an emergency exit route. These paths should remain free of clutter, according to OSHA. Fire doors should not be held open by unapproved means (such as with a garbage can or chair), as this creates a significant fire hazard.

Administrative controls

In addition to employee training and improved equipment, certain administrative controls can aid hazard recognition and the elimination of potentially dangerous situations.

11- Conduct walk-throughs
Periodically walking around the office can help with hazard recognition and maintenance of ergonomic task design. Turina recommended employers conduct an ergonomics screen of every workstation at least once a year. “Employee complaints are invaluable in the process, but yearly reassessments can help to ensure that a good fit is maintained between employee and workstation,” he said.

12- Monitor signs of musculoskeletal disorders
Recognizing the symptoms of musculoskeletal disorders can alert employees of the need to make an ergonomics alteration to their workstation. But workers need to know what those warning signs are. “Lots of musculoskeletal injuries developing from poor ergonomics start out asymptomatically and can become quite severe by the time an employee starts to experience symptoms,” Turina said. Pay attention to any pain, fatigue, numbness or weakness, as these may be signs of an ergonomics problem and the start of a more serious MSD.

13- Talk to employees about their concerns
Simply asking workers how they are feeling can go a long way toward recognizing hazards. “Employers need to take advantage of the cases where employees are experiencing symptoms like discomfort and fatigue early on, when quick, inexpensive interventions can usually solve the problem,” Turina said. “Ignoring these early warning signs can lead to employee suffering and astronomical cost in some cases.”

14- Establish employee reporting systems
Establishing an employee reporting system can be the best way for organizations to get a handle on potential hazards before they cause injury. Consider creating an anonymous reporting process that encourages workers to come forward with their concerns. “Research shows that early intervention yields the most cost-efficient results in all areas,” Paquette said.

 

15- Correct mouse placement
Paquette often sees workstations where the computer keyboard is on a tray, but the mouse remains on the desk. “That spells disaster for the neck and shoulder on the side of that mouse,” she said. She recommends that the mouse always be placed beside the keyboard.

Office Safety: 10 steps to a safer office

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A job where most of the work tasks are completed while sitting in a chair in a climate-controlled office building would seem less fraught with danger. However, a surprising number of hazards can be present in an office setting.

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 80,410 private-industry office and administrative workers suffered on-the-job injuries in 2008. Many of these injuries could have been prevented had workers or supervisors recognized the risks and implemented simple workplace modifications to help mitigate them.

Here are 25 steps you can take to reduce the risk of injury among your office staff.

Falls

Slips, trips and falls, the most common type of office injury, sidelined 25,790 workers in 2008, according to BLS. The National Safety Council says employees are 2.5 times more likely to suffer a disabling fall in an office setting than anywhere else. Several hazards contribute to these injuries, although most can be significantly reduced, often by raising awareness among employees.

1- Stay clutter-free
Boxes, files and various items piled in walkways can create a tripping hazard, according to OSHA. Be certain that all materials are safely stored in their proper location to prevent buildup of clutter in walkways. Further, in addition to posing an electrical hazard, stretching cords across walkways or under rugs creates a tripping hazard, so ensure all cords are properly secured and covered.

2- Step on up
Standing on chairs – particularly rolling office chairs – is a significant fall hazard. Workers who need to reach something at an elevated height should use a stepladder. The Chicago-based American Ladder Institute cautions that stepladders must be fully opened and placed on level, firm ground. Workers should never climb higher than the step indicated as the highest safe standing level.

3- Maintain a clear line of vision
Workers can collide when making turns in the hallways and around blind corners or cubicle walls. The National Safety Council suggests installing convex mirrors at intersections to help reduce collisions. If workers can see who is coming around the corner, collisions are less likely to occur.

4- Get a grip
Carpeting and other skid-resistant surfaces can serve to reduce falls. Marble or tile can become very slippery – particularly when wet, according to the National Safety Council. Placing carpets down can be especially helpful at entranceways, where workers are likely to be coming in with shoes wet from rain or snow.

Struck/caught by

Another major type of injury in the office setting comes from workers being struck by or caught by an object. Incidents of this nature accounted for 15,680 injuries in 2008, according to BLS.

5- Shut the drawer
File cabinets with too many fully extended drawers could tip over if they are not secured, the council warns. Additionally, open drawers on desks and file cabinets pose a tripping hazard, so be sure to always completely close drawers when not in use.

6- Safe stacking
According to the Office of Compliance, which oversees the safety of U.S. congressional workers, proper storage of heavy items can help reduce the number of office injuries. Large stacks of materials and heavy equipment can cause major injuries if they are knocked over. OOC recommends storing heavy objects close to the floor, and warns that the load capacity of shelves or storage units should never be exceeded.

 

Ergonomics injuries

Perhaps the most prevalent injuries in an office setting are related to ergonomics. Because office workers spend the bulk of their day seated at a desk and working on a computer, they are prone to strains and other injuries related to posture and repetitive movement. Ergonomics hazards can be difficult to detect. “Most office conditions that can be described as hazardous from an ergonomics perspective would appear quite innocuous to the everyday observer,” said Marc Turina, principal consultant for ErgoSmart Consultants in McKees Rocks, PA.

7- Provide adjustable equipment
One size does not fit all in an office workstation. “Adjustability is the key,” Turina said. “Chairs, work surfaces, monitor stands, etc., should all be adjustable in order to accommodate the widest range of employees.” He recommended presenting a variety of options to employees. Although employers may be reluctant to pay for expensive ergonomic equipment, experts insist the equipment is a wise investment. “A good keyboard tray may retail around $300; a good chair may retail around $500 to $700,” said Sonia Paquette, professional ergonomist and doctor of occupational therapy. She points out that the cost of the health claims that stem from not having these devices is much higher. “Some of these hard claims cost many tens of thousands of dollars just of medical treatment, let alone cost of replacement, absenteeism, loss of work production, etc.”

8- Train workers on how to use equipment
Providing adjustable furniture and equipment is only the first step in creating an ergonomically sound workstation. “A big issue that I have encountered a lot lately is employee inability to properly adjust their own office chairs,” Turina said. “Many times, employers can invest $500 in an excellent adjustable chair, but employees still experience a bad workstation fit.” The problem often is twofold: Workers do not know how to adjust their equipment, and they do not know the most ergonomically beneficial way to set up their workstation. Train workers on both the ideal setup and how to operate adjustable equipment accordingly.

9- Keep your feet on the floor
One of the first questions Paquette asks workers is whether their feet touch the floor when seated at their desk. “It sounds like an incredibly simple question,” she said, “but very often workers have their keyboard tray on the desktop, so in order to reach it, they need to jack up their chair so high that their feet can barely touch the floor.” She added that unless an employee’s feet are on the floor, a chair will not be able to reduce pain and discomfort. She recommended options such as adjustable keyboard trays or rolling tables adjusted to the proper height to eliminate this problem. Although footrests are a “second-best option,” their small surface may impede some of the worker’s movement.

10- Provide document holders
Frequently typing from hard copy can lead to neck strain if a worker is forced to repeatedly look down to the desk and back to the computer screen. Turina recommends providing document holders to reduce this strain. “These document holders are reasonably priced, and eliminate excessive cervical motion and help to prevent muscle imbalances,” he said. Document holders also are good for the eyes, according to the St. Louis-based American Optometric Association. Keeping reference materials close to the monitor reduces the need for your eyes to change focus as you look from the document to the monitor.

How training and orientation are crucial to keeping new workers safe

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Imagine you’re starting a new job.

You have to meet your co-workers, learn the ins and outs of the company, and begin performing your duties.

Meanwhile, you have to stay safe. This can be a challenge for new workers: Employees in their first month on the job have more than 3 times the risk for a lost-time injury than workers who have been at their job for more than a year, according to research from the Toronto-based Institute for Work & Health.

Possible reasons for this? Peter Smith, IWH scientist, points out that new workers may be performing unfamiliar tasks – some of them hazardous. In addition, the workers may be unsure about their safety rights and responsibilities, and might feel uncomfortable speaking up about a hazard.

“We can only speculate on the ‘why,’” said Curtis Breslin, another IWH scientist who has collaborated with Smith on research about new worker safety. “One thing studies have shown is that there’s a lack of familiarity. That’s a common theme that could be contributing to new workers’ increased risk. The other possibility is that new workers might be encountering more hazards. Or their risk perception – they don’t have the knowledge and awareness, so they’re underestimating the risks. It could be issues with training, maybe they’re not being trained [or receiving] on-the-job, hard-knocks-type training that happens in the first or second month.”

IWH research has found that few new workers receive safety training – 1 out of 5 among a sample of Canadian workers, according to a 2007 study.

“The fact almost 80 percent of workers who were in their first year of employment could not remember receiving any workplace safety or orientation training is worrying for a few reasons,” Smith said. “This likely results in these workers being without important knowledge that could prevent them, or one of their co-workers, [from] getting injured.”

However, according to IWH, as novice workers gain job experience, their risk declines.

Looking at the numbers

In 2013, nearly one-third of the nonfatal occupational injuries or illnesses that involved time away from work were suffered by workers with less than one year of service, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nearly one-quarter of these cases resulted in 31 or more days away from work, said Ken Kolosh, statistics manager at the National Safety Council.

Certain subgroups of new workers are at heightened injury risk. In the agriculture, forestry and fishing industry, 45.4 percent of the injuries and illnesses in 2013 occurred among workers with less than one year of experience. In the construction and extraction industry, it was 34.9 percent.

“That makes sense because a lot of those industries are cyclical; they’re seasonally employed,” Kolosh said. “Almost by definition, many of those workers are always going to be new employees. The construction industry has a lot of seasonal employment. It has a lot of contractor-type workers, so a larger proportion of that population by definition is going to have less than three months of service.”

Construction workers frequently change jobsites as well, which can present problems.

“Every day, you have to be aware of what’s going on. You have to have good communication,” said Scott Schneider, director of occupational safety and health at the Washington-based Laborers’ Health and Safety Fund of North America. “It’s less an issue on unionized sites, where people have a substantial amount of safety training in apprenticeship programs. They also, as apprentices, get mentored along the way. It’s still an issue in the sense you’re going to a different jobsite, and you may not be familiar with that jobsite.”

IWH research published in 2012 concluded that risk was higher among new workers who were older, men and workers in the “goods sector,” including construction and manufacturing. This may be because these jobs have more physical demands, and older workers might be more physically susceptible to injury, Breslin said.