The machine shops at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) play a critical role in enabling its mission of world-class ocean science through the design, fabrication and maintenance of ships, vehicles and facilities that are used to work anywhere in the world’s oceans. WHOI has approximately 25 machine shops in all major laboratory buildings on two campuses located in Woods Hole, MA.
The machine shops range in size and type, from a larger than 900 m2 facility operated by professional machinists to one smaller than 20 m2 operated by research personnel. These machine shops use various large floor-type and small tabletop machinery, including water jet cutters, press brakes, lathes, milling machines, table saws, band saws, drill presses, laser cutters and grinders. The machine shops perform maintenance, repair, fabrication and installation work on scientific instruments, shipboard equipment, hoisting equipment, physical plant and other mechanical systems.
WHOI has experienced serious injuries in its machine shops, including a 2015 incident involving a waterjet machine that cuts thick metal parts. The incident led to enforcement action from OSHA, which served as a wake-up call for WHOI to comprehensively review and enhance the safety of its machine shops. This article describes WHOI’s machines shops and their purpose, hazards, controls, key elements of a comprehensive safety program, fire prevention and waste management.
Consider the following descriptions of three incidents in which work zone intrusions resulted in injuries and fatalities of construction and transportation workers.
Case 1: On March 13, 2017, two construction workers were killed in a work zone by a hit-and-run driver. A third was severely injured. The workers were conducting a ditch inspection when a car veered off the lane and crashed into the work zone (Johnson, 2017).
Case 2: On April 7, 2017, at approximately 3:00 a.m., a vehicle drove into a cut-off emergency lane and struck four DOT employees who were sanding and painting metal structures beneath an overpass. One worker was declared dead at the scene of the crash while two workers were severely injured (Park & Clark, 2017).
Case 3: Following some erratic driving upstream, a vehicle entered into a highway work zone and hit a company vehicle parked in the work zone, then ran over several barrels before coming to rest. Prior to crashing into the stationary company vehicle, a worker was hit and killed (Reese, 2016).
A consistent undertone in the three cases is the cause of the fatality: a motorist intruding into a predetermined and closed-off work zone. To keep the roadway open to the public during construction, highway construction workers are often exposed to the hazards of working in close proximity to live traffic. According to CDC (2016), 1,435 workers died on duty between 2003 and 2014, averaging about 115 fatalities per year. Vehicles intruding into a work zone are considered a primary source of worker fatalities. In addition, CDC (2016) reports that approximately 50% of fatalities recorded between 2011 and 2014 were attributed to vehicles hitting a worker in a work zone. The results from a survey conducted by Associated General Contractors of America (AGC, 2015) indicate that approximately 50% of all U.S. roadway contractors witnessed a work zone intrusion in 2014.
This article is part of an ongoing collaborative effort to promote learning and innovative engagement in the risk space. The initiative includes ongoing research, bringing industry’s perspective to the classroom as well as educational publications and student mentoring initiatives.
The study presented aims to deconstruct the challenges and opportunities in the risk and insurance industry from the perspective of the large employer. The large employer space has been selected as a focus of study due to the collective baseline of knowledge and resources that this sector of industry offers. Large employers attract some of the best and most forward-thinking professionals who are continuously making advancements through working in larger, more complex environments that allow for accelerated industry learning and evolution of trial and error.
The study focuses on what large employers do best-in-class and where they struggle. Best-in-class practices provide industry learning that is transferable at all levels and sizes of organizations. Struggles are transitioned into development to explore better, more efficient and innovative ways for risk teams to operate. To this end, the article explores the differences, connections and opportunities between traditional risk management and enterprise risk management.
TRM & ERM
Risk management breaks down into traditional risk management (TRM) and enterprise risk management (ERM), which are two different methods used to achieve some of the same goals. Dionne (2013) defines TRM as a system that focuses on pure risks and views each risk separately.
When confronted with change, autopilot automatically drives people to think, “what’s in it for me?” Realistically, most want to understand the context of what is being asked of us, and personal context is typically the greatest concern. That is not to say people are necessarily selfish by nature, rather that they try to determine how the suggested change can provide some benefit to their career, business or personal life. The motto, “What’s In It For Me (WIIFM)” has been the basis for helping implement change in business for many years. If an OSH professional can show how an individual (or group) can benefit from the request, they are more likely to accept it. Whether change must be implemented on the production line or to policy, procedure or roles, one of the first filters used to consider the change request is to determine WIIFM.
The term WIIFM was initially coined from a marketing perspective, that a salesperson should always address the benefits that customers would get from the product or service (Doyle, 2011; Jordan, 2016). More recently, the term has come to be used as a concept in integrating change management. It is a shift from the traditional way of thinking in which employees are expected to do what they are told to a more fetching approach in which employees make the decision to adopt the change on their own.
OSH professionals may experience an increased interest in and concerns about providing gender equal protection from their employer’s management team, occupational medicine providers and human resources partners. The protection of reproductive health for all genders must be ensured in the workplace. There have been significant changes to regulatory and legal aspects of gender equal protection in recent years (Pisko, 2016). International conversations have re-energized the discussion about providing inclusive and gender equal protection in the workplace.
In the U.S., state-based laws have generally been termed a Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) or similarly named acts. As of November 2017, 22 states, the District of Columbia, and four municipalities have enacted PWFA legislation, including: Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia (National Partnership for Women and Families, 2017). A PFWA has been proposed at the federal level (S.1512), but progress in passing the act is slow. Congress has “attempted multiple times to pass” the federal PWFA, but the law has been opposed by several sessions of Congress (Pisko, 2016).
Upcoming regulatory changes associated with revisions to EPA’s Toxic Substances Control Act are also relevant. As part of the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act (2016), a definition for “potentially exposed or susceptible subpopulation” has been established to include a group of individuals with greater risk than the general population for adverse health effects relating to chemical exposure. This greater risk is further explained to be either from greater susceptibility or greater exposure, and includes infants, children, pregnant women, workers and the elderly.
Most successful businesses are beginning to understand that the reactive approach to employee health, providing group health insurance to cover employees when they get sick, is far less effective than one that combines preventive efforts with transparent/reactive medical services. In the past, adding a traditional wellness program to group health benefits was the first step for employers that sought to proactively reign in their increasing group healthcare costs. This approach is slow, sometimes ineffective and makes measuring success difficult. More importantly, this philosophy is becoming obsolete.
By adding new, nontraditional wellness programs to existing healthy workforce strategies, employers can take their programs to a new level. Employers can look to a new generation of comprehensive healthy workforce programs to address not only nutrition, cessation education, exercise and disease management, but also disease prevention, functional employment testing, job analysis, ergonomic assessment and injury prevention.
Auditing: The word can scare the most seasoned safety professional. The fear of finding the unknown has kept many people from performing the necessary task of reviewing and examining the policies and procedures put in place to keep people safe. Compare this to not seeing a doctor for fear of the diagnosis.
An audit is defined as a systematic, methodical review of safety policies, procedures, rules and regulations. The goal is to determine how current systems are working and whether they can be improved through revision, reworking or revocation. An audit is not simply:
A checklist is a tool, often used during an audit to ensure that the auditor remembers everything s/he needs to assess. For example, a checklist may be used to determine whether the site has enough fire extinguishers or whether safety meetings were conducted. An inspection is another tool to evaluate things and behaviors. An inspection provides a snapshot of current conditions but does not validate whether systems and procedures are working properly and if not, why they are not.
When performed correctly, audits provide an assessment of the overall management system in place to manage the fleet and fleet risk. Audits may be formal or informal, and may be conducted by external or internal auditors. An example of an informal audit is one performed routinely by a supervisor with oversight responsibilities. By design, formal audits yield a final written work product that should be reviewed by those held accountable for policy implementation. Once language is agreed on, the report should guide corrective and preventive action plans.
Conducting an OSH risk review is a common safety management practice, allowing to systematically recognize, evaluate, prioritize and control OSH risks for a particular industry, organization or project. OSH system deficiencies such as lack of leader commitment to safety, lack of management and employee participation in safety programs, nonexistent or not followed management of change procedures, inadequate hazard analysis and design for safety, flawed communication and reporting systems, and inadequate learning from prior events constitute significant OSH risks (Leveson, 2011). Engineering, management and PPE controls are applied to avoid or mitigate the risks to acceptable levels.
The aforementioned OSH risks are known and discussed in the OSH profession. This article reviews several less frequently discussed risks related to nonoptimal OSH models:
This noncomprehensive list of conceptual deficiencies provides an additional perspective on improving the effectiveness of OSH programs.
The public looks to safety professionals for guidance as experts in risk avoidance and hazard mitigation. This is reasonable as they are ostensibly trained in that area and, thus, in a better position to evaluate the risks inherent in different activities and to assess what can and should be done to alleviate or reduce those risks to an acceptable level. As such, it behooves safety professionals to be aware of not only safety-related heuristics that are presented to the public, but also the research that underlies that guidance to assess the appropriateness of the various safety rules that are promulgated to address potential hazards. In the real world, however, ostensible safety experts often simply accept these rules as representing appropriate, normal or typical behavior based on longevity, common sense or the simple frequency with which they are expressed.
One example of this (with which most parents are likely familiar) is the “5-second rule”: the idea that food dropped onto the floor and quickly retrieved is still safe enough to eat. The rationale seems to be that bacteria requires a longer time to transfer from the floor surface to the food. In a study by researchers at Rutgers University involving multiple foods, surfaces and contact durations over 2,500 measurements, it was discovered that, while longer contact times result in more bacteria transfer, other factors (e.g., nature of the food, surface onto which it is dropped) are of equal or greater importance (Miranda & Schaffner, 2016). The study concluded that bacteria were found to instantaneously contaminate the dropped food, debunking the idea that eating food quickly retrieved from the floor was safe.
The use of PPE remains an important control measure for reducing occupational injuries and illnesses. PPE includes various protective devices used to create a barrier between the individual worker and a potential hazard. Employers are required to pay for and provide employees PPE and train them on its proper uses and limitations (OSHA, 2016a).
The New Jersey Safe Schools (NJSS) program offers an online career-cluster-specific PPE course to increase awareness of fall, electrical, transportation and public safety hazards in the construction, transportation and law enforcement careers. Delivering the training in an online, asynchronous format, with information available anytime, allows participants to work at their own pace (e.g., in one sitting, in multiple 40- to 45-minute schoolday class periods). Contrary to classroom-based in-person training, online training differs as the content is delivered through the use of online platforms on multiple types of hardware (e.g., desktop and laptop computers, tablets, smartphones) without any face-to-face interaction (Shendell, Apostolico, Milich, et al., 2016).
Initial and refresher training with mandated curriculum and contact hours are required for workers in many high-hazard industries (City of New York, 2008). Such courses including the OSHA outreach training and hazardous waste training are offered online; therefore, participants must understand the awareness nature of this training, and how it would not meet regulatory requirements for PPE use at the work site (OSHA, 2016b).