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).
As supply chains and businesses become more global, safety professionals must develop and carry out work-based safety programs in cross-cultural settings. Safety professionals work on both sides of these exchanges: companies send safety professionals to oversee operations in a foreign country, and foreign companies employ local safety personnel. In either case, safety professionals must adjust their own approaches to safety, and that of their organizations, to effectively adapt to the global economy.
Safety professionals need both theoretical and practical tools to promote OSH while working cross-culturally. These tools help safety professionals identify the importance of culture and better understand different cultures so they can work effectively with employees they supervise, as well as with those who supervise them. This article discusses key areas that safety professionals should consider when evaluating their individual capacity, and that of the institutions they represent, to promote safety in cross-cultural settings. It highlights common challenges, approaches and mistakes that safety professionals and organizations make when working cross culturally. Finally, it provides a starting point for learning how to identify and avoid these mistakes.
Culture & Safety
The first step to address culture and safety is to understand culture. Although culture is a common concept in our society, people often have an easier time giving examples of culture than defining it. Indeed, even events that promote respect for workplace diversity often focus on outward manifestations of culture, such as food or holidays. However, culture plays a much deeper role in our lives than simply the clothes we wear or the food we eat. To remain effective, competitive and safe, organizations need managers and safety professionals who can understand culture’s role in the workplace and can navigate cultural differences (Kanter, 1995).
Adult learners do not want to be taught.
They want to play a part and need to perceive training as something that will improve them as individuals. “Adult learners like to be in control of their training or at least play a role in it” (Dalto, 2015). They not only seek training in areas that are relevant to them, but find further motivation to learn and feel a greater sense of accomplishment when they are involved in identifying training needs.
A wide range of training modalities can be used, including in-person classroom sessions, virtual live sessions and self-paced e-learning. Many organizations embrace e-learning tools because of their ease of deployment, lower costs and increased learner convenience. “E-learning can be defined as the use of computer network technology, primarily over an intranet or through the Internet, to deliver information and instruction to individuals (in our case, employees)” (Welsh, Wanberg, Brown, et al., 2003).
Simulation-based training has been a staple in industries such as aviation and nuclear energy (Jha, Duncan & Bates, 2001). Virtual-reality (VR)-based systems are also becoming more common. “VR has been recognized as having relevance for training in a wide range of industries including construction, medical and space exploration” (Squelch, 2001).
While all these systems are successful in some ways, the literature does not definitively indicate which training modality is best. That said, Burke and colleagues identify one factor that has a direct and positive impact on knowledge retention: engaging the employee in the training (Burke, Sarpy, Smith-Crowe, et al., 2006). “Our findings indicate that the most engaging methods of safety training are, on average, three times more effective than the least engaging methods in promoting knowledge and skill acquisition” (Burke, et al., 2006). Educating adult learners entails selecting the proper tools and integrating employees themselves into the learning process.
When workers must perform maintenance in hazardous zones of machines, North American regulations require application of hazardous energy control procedures (ANSI/ASSE, 2016; CSA, 2013; OSHA, 1989). ANSI/ASSE Z244.1-2016 presents three different approaches: lockout (the primary approach), tagout and alternative methods. Common alternative methods for lockout/tagout used are electronically interlocked access, trapped key system, presence-sensing device or remote lockout.
These procedures protect workers from risks related to the inadvertent release of hazardous energy on machines, equipment and processes. The release of hazardous energy includes unintended motion of mechanical parts, energization, start-up or release of stored energy. A lockout/tagout procedure requires 1) shutdown of the machine; 2) control of any residual or stored energy source; 3) isolation and control of the machine’s energy source cutoff points; 4) verification; and 5) safely restarting the machine (ANSI/ ASSE, 2016; CSA, 2013). In a lockout procedure, each worker must place a personal padlock on each energy-isolating device to complete the third step. In a tagout procedure, a less preferred method, identified tags are used instead of personal padlocks.
When maintenance is designed to be an integral part of the production process or when conventional lockout/tagout is not feasible or prevents specific tasks from being performed (e.g., energy required), a worker can use an alternative method. It is recommended that the choice of method be supported by means of a risk analysis documented under the responsibility of a qualified person (ANSI/ASSE, 2016; CSA, 2013).
Pay attention is a phrase we have all heard at some point. Yet, despite our best intentions, most of us have likely experienced a distraction that caused a mistake or interrupted the task at hand.
Different forces are continually vying for people’s attention. Trying to focus on one or even a few relevant fluxes of information can be challenging and lead to errors. To add complexity, basic repetition and monotony can also lead to a loss of focus and resulting errors. Thus, combating the potential catastrophic effects of distractions and interruptions is a challenge in many workplaces.
What is at stake? Cognitive distractions tend to decrease productivity and increase the number of errors workers make (Ratwani, Trafton & Myers, 2006). Interruptions can be particularly detrimental to safety because they stretch operators’ attention spans. Many jobs are potentially affected, but the detrimental effects most often occur during time-critical and supervisory-level work activities, such as command-and-control operations, and emergency response (Sasangohar, Scott & Donmez, 2013) in which the limits of human performance may be tested.
Classic research in applied cognitive sciences indicates that attention is a complex cognitive process, not a singular event. Attention is multifaceted since people can direct attention in different ways, often simultaneously (Sanders & McCormick, 1993). In certain situations, one must monitor several information sources and attend to differences using selective attention. Other times, one must focus to block out stimuli including nearby sights and sounds. Monitoring displays for long periods for rare changes in system status relies heavily on sustained attention or vigilance. While performing two or more tasks simultaneously, and attending to both, an individual relies on divided attention.
Fatigue is a risk to worker safety and health. For moderate- and high-risk environments, one can present a strong business case to justify comprehensive management of fatigue risks. OSH management has evolved to a point where proactively managing nonphysical hazards such as fatigue is recognized as good business practice.
So why aren’t more organizations in North America effectively managing fatigue as a hazard? To understand the relative inertia in dealing with fatigue, one must understand current barriers and recognize the importance of managing the hazard of fatigue across all levels of operations. Fatigue is a hazard that can exist at the worker level, due to worker health issues or workers who improperly prioritize sleep, and at an organizational level, when fatigue risks are inherent in the scope of operations. Recognizing the different sources of this hazard allows for comprehensive and effective mitigation strategies.
North America is not the first to have recognized or moved toward managing fatigue issues. Thus, myriad proven best practices exist for effectively managing fatigue. Yet, many companies lack an awareness of the need to assess existing risks to proactively manage fatigue using these best practices. Different strategies are needed for low, moderate and high levels of fatigue risk exposure.
Properly managing fatigue in a high-risk environment typically involves multiple levels of control, implemented with strong education and training, to allow for a cultural shift in existing safety management. This shift requires awareness and knowledge at all levels of the organization. It often starts with OSH professionals who understand fatigue issues and develop comprehensive plans to effectively create change.
Uncertainty is uncomfortable. Within an organization, it can be debilitating when it comes to making decisions and pursuing objectives. The challenge for OSH professionals is not only to adequately identify, and assess operational risks of a targeted uncertainty, but to effectively communicate its potential risk to decision makers. As stated in ANSI/ASSE Z690.2-2011, Risk Management Principles and Guidelines, “Organizations of all types and sizes face internal and external factors and influences that make it uncertain whether and when they will achieve their objectives. The effect this uncertainty has on the organization’s objectives is ‘risk’” (ANSI/ASSE, 2011). The standard further describes risk as “the effect of uncertainty on objectives.”
Successful business leaders realize that to conduct operations and achieve objectives, management must understand and manage the risks associated with the operation. OSH risk professionals who can facilitate risk assessments and effectively communicate risks to management, in essence, reducing uncertainty, will increase their value to the organization.
The Objectives of Risk Assessment
ANSI/ASSE Z690.2 defines risk assessment as the “overall process of risk identification, risk analysis and risk evaluation” (ANSI/ASSE, 2011, p. 12). As shown in Figure 1 (p. 36), risk assessment is at the heart of the risk management process.
Competing views exist on the requirements for how and when to control potentially hazardous energy. On one hand is OSHA’s 29 CFR 1910.147 standard, promulgated in 1989. On the other hand is ANSI/ASSE Z244.1-2016, a voluntary consensus safety standard written by industry stakeholders to address the control of potentially hazardous energy. Although the common goal of both standards is to protect workers from harm, some conflicts arise over how to achieve this goal. Furthermore, significant differences between the requirements in these documents have created confusion as to how to best control hazardous energy to protect employees.
This article, excerpted from The Battle for the Control of Hazardous Energy (Main & Grund, 2016), reviews the history of these standards to help safety professionals understand and appreciate the changes that have occurred over time; explains why the requirements are the way they are; and explores why conflict exists over the interpretation and application of the standards. Understanding the history and developments will help OSH professionals implement effective hazardous energy control solutions.
Why Does This Matter?
An employer has a legal right to contest any citation it receives from OSHA if the employer believes it did not violate a standard. In this regard, understanding the history of the standard can help an employer understand why certain solutions are prohibited under OSHA; support its effort to contest and defend against an OSHA citation(s); and, more fundamentally, apply the current standards to prevent harm in the workplace.
The U.S. manufacturing industry constitutes 8.3% of the workforce, but experiences a higher percentage of workplace injuries (12.6%) and workplace fatalities (7.3%) (BLS, 2016). Manufacturing environments are often characterized by dynamic resources including interactions between mobile equipment and pedestrian workers. The hazardous work environment characteristic of manufacturing facilities is evident in the high ratios of workplace injuries and fatalities compared to other industrial sectors in the U.S. A common problem in this environment is struck-by incidents between forklifts and employees completing tasks on the ground surface (BLS, 2016).
Opportunity exists to decrease the number of injuries, illnesses and fatalities in manufacturing work environments. The authors identified a need to evaluate the capabilities of magnetic field sensing technology to alert manufacturing personnel when hazardous situations exists.
This article reviews an experimental evaluation of the effectiveness of magnetic field proximity-sensing technology deployed in an active indoor manufacturing environment. A test bed and experimental trials were created to assess the effectiveness of a select proximity-sensing system. The research scope involves hazardous proximity situations and conditions between forklifts and pedestrian workers in a manufacturing environments.
Experiments were created to assess multiple variables associated with the successful implementation and operation of magnetic field proximity sensors on a forklift and pedestrian workers in an active manufacturing facility. Metrics were used to evaluate the technology’s effectiveness, including alert range, alert strategy, power source, cost and system complexity. Human-equipment interaction scenarios were created to assess the technology’s effectiveness.
Throughout history building codes have been a means to protect people and property. History provides many examples of catastrophic losses of life and property attributable in part to building codes or lack thereof.
New York City (NYC) offers a classic example of how important building codes are in protecting residents’ safety and health. Regulation of construction operations is an aspect of building codes that is crucial in densely populated areas. NYC residents face increased risks of death or serious injury due to construction operations in areas with high population density, vertical high-rise construction, zero lot line construction and proximity to operations that require heavy materials and equipment.
In response to multiple high-profile incidents, city officials added a code requiring major construction projects to have an approved site safety plan and licensed site safety manager on site during operations. OSH literature supports this approach to increasing safety and health.
To the author’s knowledge, no other jurisdiction worldwide through its building code licenses site safety managers and requires their presence on site during construction operations. The city’s requirements are progressive and urban areas could improve safety and health by enacting similar requirements via their respective building codes.
Codes Borne Out of Disaster
Throughout history, communities have used codes and rules related to buildings to increase the population’s safety and health. For example, the Code of Hammurabi (circa 1772 B.C.) stated that if a builder constructs a house improperly and it collapses and kills the owner, then the builder should be put to death (Gross, 1996).