Author Archives: Stefanie Valentic

2017 EHS National Safety Survey

Safety leadership from the top down is one of the keys to employee engagement and positive safety culture, and 2017 National Safety Survey respondents indicate that executives are taking an active role in keeping workers safe. Click the button below to download the survey (pdf), as published in the August 2017 issue of EHS Today. Let's block ads! (Why?)

What Keeps a Safety Leader Up at Night?

Challenges in the safety industry are abundant, and EHS professionals have to adapt to remain in compliance and reduce injury risk. In EHS Today's 2018 National Safety Survey, 870 safety leaders commented on the biggest obstacles facing the industry today, and what they're doing to overcome them. While 80% of survey respondents indicated that top management supports safety efforts, many respondents believe executives don't fully understand the value of keeping workers safe. Here are the challenges they said arise when it comes to executives understanding safety culture: • "For EHS professionals, the lack of emotional intelligence (EQ) skills and the disconnect of EHS value integrating/supporting business goals." • "Adequate training [is needed]. Too many companies pile employees into a room full of computers, where they fly through safety training. The supervisor just sits and reads the paper." • "Doctors are prescribing drugs to employees after a workplace incident when not needed, which then requires documentation on the OSHA log. This makes your safety program look much worse than it really should, which in turn requires you to try to explain why there are so many OSHA recordables to management. Then management ends up making kneejerk decisions to drive down the number of minor injuries vs focusing on the risk for the more severe ones that haven't happened yet." • "Too much influence is wielded by people who only care about next quarter's numbers. Employees are an expendable supply." • "Our corporate culture assumes one-size-fits-all when it comes to worker safety and facility safety requirements. Different facilities are at different places in their safety journey so you can apply the same logic to all." • "I work for a large global corporation. The biggest frustration is the development of 'global' standards by people who do not have interaction with the plants and try to do the one-size-fits-all approach. They don't look at the sites and allow them to do what makes sense for the specific situation at the individual sites." Data could be the key to proving how effective a robust safety program could be to a company's culture and bottom line. EHS professionals increasingly are using technology to identify and reduce workplace hazards through recording and using data, according to survey results. About 58% of respondents said they are using software to track, manage, analyze and report data about their facility's safety performance.We also asked survey respondents how they plan to use safety data within their operations: " We are going through a mobile data initiative, so field inspections, PPE needs and good catch/close call cards are all being tracked and managed real time as they are entered and stored in databases. This also allows us to share with other companies in hopes of preventing similar incidents elsewhere." " Expand the data mining to begin tracking leading indicators and determine key programs on which to focus messaging and informational empowerment efforts." " To provide the information to educate our employees on how well they are doing with our company safety polices. They need to hear some praise from someone." " Identify problem areas and opportunities for improvement. Also to identify areas where action items are not being closed and where we need to focus more of our efforts and time." " It's easier to track and, with a click of a button, send out to all of management and allow them to observe what I have found. Without them knowing all details and evidence to back it up, things can't get resolved." " The data collected from the software will be visible to management and give them more of an understanding of the necessity of the safety program and hopefully gain more support." Despite having to prove the value of safety to top management, survey respondents indicate overall satisfaction with their roles, with 85% saying they were either 'very satisfied' or 'satisfied' with their choice. Here is what survey takers had to say about their careers: " I love my job. It affords me the ability to use most of my skills and gifts."" After 21 years and retiring from my previous employer as a safety professional, I have seen the ups and downs with the safety profession. It has been a challenging career, yet rewarding. Now I am a safety professional for a government entity carrying the safety torch. I enjoy seeing our profession expand with new ideas and technology that help us keep our employees safe." " I am very fortunate to have senior management support for our growing safety program. We had only one recordable injury in 2017 and zero in 2018. It's been almost 27 years since we had a lost time accident, which is rare in manufacturing! That is due to the commitment from all levels of management." " I love EHS, although it isn't for the faint of heart. Energy, passion and vision are characteristics that elude many EHS professionals and are absolutely necessary for the success of industry and culture." Safety Industry Challenges • "Small companies need to understand there is more to safety than just having a safety professional on board. It takes an honest commitment from executives to be positively involved in company safety and to involve safety in everything from the bidding process to project completion. Safety shouldn't start at the signing of the contract."• "The biggest challenge is the do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do attitude from the general contractors I've worked with. They say they are all about safety and then let their own workers get away with and do whatever they want to do. It's a frustrating thing to be in a 10-story building with only one stairwell that is operational, and no matter how many times I've tried to fix it, the GC says that it won't be long, yet it's been two months." • "Besides expecting to do more with less, lack of leadership accountability for production leadership. My staff and I are held accountable for accidents/injuries as to why accidents continue to occur, repetitive types of injuries continue to occur, and why work areas with high injury rates are not decreasing."• "EHS responsibilities are being fanned out to folks who have many responsibilities, and the focus on safety gets lost. This is particularly true for small sites/offices, of which there can be many in a large corporation. It is often the small sites that have the worst practices for chemical storage, labeling, electrical power loading, fire protection, facility infrastructure (even floor loading!)."• "More integration and collaboration between the environmental, safety, accessibility and industrial health fields would benefit the industry as a whole. In many companies, and especially in the federal government, these fields are still separate or are not working together effectively. Lapses of protection, lack of comprehensive workforce support and knowledge transfer occur when these fields are not functioning as an integrated partnership. Duplication of inspection and compliance reviews also occur when these fields are not collaborating. More acceptance and inclusion of environmental and accessibility professionals in our industry is one solution to this challenge." Let's block ads! (Why?)

Workplace Drug Overdoses Drive Need for Action

In 2016, 90% of Kentucky overdose deaths involved opioids. As the substance abuse rates rise due to increased opioid use, preventing workplace overdose fatalities is increasingly becoming a reality for employers. The Kentucky Fatality Assessment & Control Evaluation (FACE) Program has issued a hazard alert after 2017 data showed five employees overdosed in the workplace, or 7.4% of the state’s 68 workplace fatalities. The organization, which is tasked with researching and preventing occupational fatalities, highlighted the following three fatalities in its bulletin: Case 1: At 8:50 am, a mason working on a construction project left the worksite and entered his personal vehicle located in a temporary employee parking lot. When coworkers searched for him, he was found in his vehicle with his head leaning against the driver side window. The employee was transported to the local hospital where he died. The cause of death was a combined (Fentanyl/Methadone) drug overdose. (2017) Case 2: An ironworker did not return from a scheduled break that ran from 8:30-8:50 am. At approximately 11:00 am, coworkers found the employee unresponsive in a break room and he was transported to the hospital where he died. The cause of death was an acute methamphetamine overdose. (2017) Case 3: A residential construction worker was found unresponsive by a coworker in a worksite bathroom. The employee was found with a needle and a spoon near his body. He was transported to the local hospital where he died. The cause of death was a combined (Fentanyl/Heroin) drug overdose. (2017) Drug use is contributing to an increase in worker turnover, reduced productivity, and increased injury and death rates. The most frequent industries affected as a result of drug overdoses in Kentucky include construction, restaurants/food service and manufacturing, according to Kentucky FACE. Kentucky FACE also provided recommendations for implementing a drug-free workplace program, which are available in the slideshow. Let's block ads! (Why?)

5 Tips to Prevent Slips, Trips and Falls [Infographic]

Employers can significantly reduce common slip, trip, and fall hazards by implementing cost-effective safety solutions and OSHA best practices.  “It’s extremely important for all supervisors and staff to learn what they can do to prevent slips, trips, and falls in the workplace,” said Elena Sylvester, product manager at Graphic Products. “This guide and infographic illustrate the top hazards, regulations, and more, all in an eye-catching and understandable way.” Graphic Products recently released a guide with the following infographic to preventing slips, trips and falls: Graphic Products Let's block ads! (Why?)

How to Prepare Your Workplace for Hurricane Season

In 2017, Hurricane Harvey battered the Gulf Coast causing an estimated $125 billion in damage, according to the National Hurricane Center. Plastics manufacturer Inteplast Group was caught in the storm's path, but it was not the company's first experience with a natural disaster. After 25 years in manufacturing, all 2,000 workers were aware of site evacuation, company-provided transportation availability and post-storm shift arrival times.   “Once we have a storm warning in effect, we start thinking about what needs to be done. It’s second nature for us now," said Peter Zamarripa, general plant manager. Preparation for the category 4 storm began 72 hours prior to landfall. The following procedures helps Inteplast Group secure equipment in the case of natural disaster: Have plastic tarps, tape, and rope on hand to cover the equipment. Cover windows. Have flashlights and batteries. Have diesel for generators. Secure all loose equipment and materials that are outside on site. Back up all digital files. Make sure silos are full. Have enough resin* on hand in case there is a shortage or delivery issues post-hurricane.*or relevant product resources After the Storm Inteplast management returned to the site to assess Harvey’s impact as soon as storm conditions subsided.  “It is critical that needs are identified as early as possible so that a recovery plan can be created, and the resources needed can be retained,” said Senior Director of Texas Administration Dan Martino. Assessing structural damage is crucial to keep business operations intact. Management identified power issues so that emergency generators are put in place and the company can rent others as needed. Then, they determined what was needed to get power back online. Building structure is paramount to protecting equipment. Once repairs were completed, employees were able to re-enter to begin clean-up and start-up activities. The key overall was to prioritize issues. Waiting too long jeopardizes the timeline for normalcy, according to the company. Communication is a Must During the recovery period, communicating via phone, email, or texting was near absent, Martino said. Inteplast's radio system allowed for effective on-site communication during the recovery process. “Information management remains as integral to the process as anything else," he added. The company initiates five steps to maintain communication in an emergency: 1.     Update contact lists. 2.     Communicate any sales- or marketing- specific updates. 3.     Use a digital communication tool. Inteplast’s ITV system provides plant-specific information on monitors in its plants’ breakrooms and lobbies. 4.     Utilize an emergency update hotline with prerecorded information for staff. 5.     Telephone numbers for expedited health insurance-related needs were distributed. Company-Wide Fundraising A positive company culture can make all the difference when a natural disaster occurs. Martino, whose home was undamaged, helped to coordinate recovery efforts for workers and the community in need. Staff members who were not negatively impacted by Harvey helped others through volunteer efforts. In addition, human resources set up an online portal for company-wide donation funds.  Should a company chose to go this route, Inteplast suggests the following: 1.     An online portal for funds should be established, if possible, and determine what, if any, the company will match.  2.     Keep staff abreast of donation totals throughout drive. 3.     Create a physical location on site for storing and distribution of clothing and food. This should be where family members can access the donations when employees may be working. 4.     Allow donation recipients their privacy. Do not post names or items/amounts received. Let's block ads! (Why?)

July/August 2018 Product Innovations [Photo Gallery]

View the latest products from EHS Today's July/August issue. EHS Today's print edition highlights the latest personal protective equipment, software and safety products ranging from footwear to training. Our July/August issue features innovations from Haws, Ergodyne, MSA Safety, LifeDesk, Night Shift and Gateway Safety. To view product descriptions and photos, use the arrows to move back and forth through the slideshow. Let's block ads! (Why?)

Sincerely Stefanie: Overcoming Overdose

    While walking to grab lunch one day, my coworker and I came across a homeless man lying on the ground. The man clearly was under the influence and was not responsive. Most bystanders were on their phones, more concerned about telling their contacts about what they were witnessing.     My coworker and I looked at each other, and I told him that I was CPR certified. We stopped, and I asked if anyone had checked to see if the man had a pulse or knew CPR. No one responded, but at this point someone was on the line with an emergency operator.     I knelt down to see if the man was breathing, and the person who was on the phone with the 911 operator communicated the message. After a couple minutes, responders arrived and my coworker and I left.    The link between the homeless man and employers is not far off. Few people stopped to help the man or didn’t know how to handle the situation. In a 2017 substance abuse survey, the National Safety Council (NSC) indicated that there is "a persistent gap between employer perceptions of impact and the actual human and business costs of substance use."   This comes despite 71% of survey takers saying they’ve experienced issues with prescription drug use.     With the opioid epidemic paving the way for unintentional poisonings to remain the number one cause of death in the United States, employers, legislators, organizations and law enforcement officials continually are looking for ways to stop the spread.    For EHS professionals, the issue is a delicate problem to face. Despite drug-free workplace policies, workers still are falling victim to substance abuse, whether they are legally or illegally obtaining opioids. And for workplace safety, managing employees who are addicted or in recovery could be the difference in reducing injury rates and costs.     The CDC Foundation estimates lost productivity for people with opioid use disorder totaled $20.4 billion in 2013. So, what can be done? In April 2017, legislators in Ohio approved a bill which gave employers permission to administer naloxone, or Narcan to save worker lives. Unfortunately, with today’s epidemic, having Narcan on-hand should be as common as providing first aid such as bandages. The Lake County (Ohio) Health District described the contents of the bill, which provided a solid outline to how Narcan can be safely administered: A description of the clinical pharmacology of naloxone Precautions and contraindications concerning the administration of naloxone Any limitations concerning the individuals to whom naloxone may be administered The naloxone dosage that may be administered and any variation in the dosage based on circumstances specified in the protocol Labeling, storage, recordkeeping, and administrative requirements Training requirements that must be met before an individual can be authorized to administer naloxone     The sad fact is opioid abuse impacts everyone, and it is a lifelong battle for those who become addicted. After six years of sobriety, Demi Levato overdosed on opioids on July 24, 2018. She was given Narcan to revive her before being transported to the hospital. Following media reports about the singer, National Safety Council (NSC) released the following statement: Pop star Demi Lovato’s reported overdose is a painful reminder that our nation’s drug epidemic hurts both those closest to us and those we admire from afar. However, her reported revival with Narcan, an overdose reversal medicine, tells us that substance misuse stories can end with hope rather than tragedy.While Ms. Lovato was reportedly given Narcan by emergency responders, our law enforcement and emergency professionals are not the only people who can administer it. The National Safety Council echoes Surgeon General Jerome Adams in his call for increased access to naloxone, understanding that anyone can administer it without fear of an adverse outcome. It poses no threat to someone who might not be overdosing. The only thing naloxone will do is save a life. There is no silver bullet for ending our country’s opioid crisis. But naloxone provides a silver lining. If you or someone you love uses opioids, NSC urges you to keep this medicine on hand and be prepared to use it if needed.     As safety professionals, judgement about how the person came to be addicted always should be left to the wayside when a worker’s life is top priority. Whether they’re homeless, a pop star or a construction worker, they’re still human beings. So, providing the medicine and the training needed to reduce the effects of an overdose is just one more step to a positive workplace culture along with the support needed to overcome the epidemic.     NSC President and CEO Deborah A.P. Hersman said it best:  "The most important thing about this crisis is not the statistics, but the faces. The data speak to our head but the individual stories speak to our hearts.” Let's block ads! (Why?)

Five Summer-Related Accidental Deaths [Photo Gallery]

Summer is a deadly time, especially the months of July and August, according to the National Safety Council (NSC). The organization indicates that more accidental deaths occur in the two-month period than during any other two-month period of the year."“Unfortunately when we look at accidental deaths, summer is not the carefree period we’d like it to be,” said Ken Kolosh, NSC manager of statistics, in a statement. “The numbers underscore the need for public awareness. We hope Injury Facts can help people understand the biggest risks to their safety and take the steps needed to ensure no one gets hurt. View the slideshow to view "noteworthy" issues to pay attention to for the next few months, according to the NSC. Let's block ads! (Why?)

Florida Utility Contractor Faces Fines After Worker Deaths

A South Florida utility contractor familiar with workplace fatalities is once again facing OSHA citations. Douglas N. Higgins Inc. exposed employees to cave-in and other hazards at a Naples, Fla. worksite, and is now facing $18,659 in penalities after an inspection. “Despite being recently cited for violations that contributed to four worker fatalities, this employer continues to disregard well-known safety and health requirements,” said Condell Eastmond, OSHA Fort Lauderdale area office director, in a statement. “Employers involved in excavation work must follow safety procedures to ensure that workers are properly protected from a trench collapse and other trench hazards.” The latest citations come after OSHA inspected the worksite as part of the Agency’s National Emphasis Program on Trenching and Excavation. Inspectors found Douglas N. Higgins Inc. allowed employees to work in a trench without cave-in protection and failed to maintain a safety and health program on excavation hazards. The company is no stranger to agency investigations. On Jan. 16, 2017, 34-year-old Elway Gray, 49-year-old Louis O’Keefe, and 24-year-old Robert Wilson, died after succumbing to noxious gases while working for Douglas N. Higgins, according to the Miami Herald. Higgins and a subtracting firm racked up citations totaling $119,507.  In May 2018, a steel plate fell and fatally injured another Douglas N. Higgins worker while the employee was trenching sewer lines. OSHA proposed $162,596 in fines after completing an investigation into the incident. “This company's continued failure to protect and train their employees on well-known hazards resulted in another preventable tragedy," Eastmond said to the media.  Let's block ads! (Why?)

Current State of the Construction Industry [Infographic]

As the market for construction jobs rises, the construction industry continues to be plagued by four major preventable hazards, according to a new infographic from Graphic Products. The agency states that 631 workers' lives per year in America could be saved if accidents caused by falls, struck-by objects, electrocutions and caught-in/between were eliminated. View the infographic to get a deeper glimpse into the current trends and statistics in construction.   Let's block ads! (Why?)