New workers, particularly young new workers, often lack the experience to know how closely they can approach a potential hazard without putting their safety in danger.
If they guess wrong, as many inexperienced workers have, it’s incredibly easy to end up in the wrong place at the wrong time, with tragic consequences.
So how close is too close? Bill Dickerson, a senior health and safety advisor for a major Ontario electricity producer who has a passion for young worker safety awareness, has developed an innovative answer to that question. He calls it the Magic Metre or for our readers in the United States, the Magic Yardstick.
“The Magic Metre or Magic Yardstick is a visual image new workers can use to protect themselves from all kinds of hazards,” says the 25-year safety professional. “A Magic Metre is the distance from your nose to your fingertips. It’s almost like a 360 degree bubble all around you, including up and down.”
When delivering high school safety talks or new worker orientations, Dickerson offers the following 11 practical applications for the Magic Metre:
1. Noise: If you have to raise your voice above a normal talking level to be heard one Magic Metre away, you are likely exposed to (a sound pressure level) over 85 decibels and require hearing protection.
2. Moving Equipment: When working around moving equipment such as chain drives, conveyors, etc., if you maintain a Magic Metre from your outstretched fingertips, you are unlikely to fall into the equipment or contact a pinch point. The same concept works for hot pipes, electrical hazards, etc.
3. Biohazards: If you maintain a Magic Metre from a fellow worker with a cough or cold you are likely beyond the “sneeze spray zone.” Maintain the same Magic Metre from blood and body fluids and products unless protected.
4. Tools: Protect yourself and others by maintaining a Magic Metre or “safety bubble” around yourself when using power tools, hammers, axes, etc.
5. Chemicals: From the material safety data sheet (MSDS) determine how many Magic Metres are required between you and chemicals you may be exposed to.
6. Workplace Violence: Maintain a Magic Metre between you and an angry customer or co-worker. Position yourself to minimize your exposure as a target, and protect vital areas.
7. Eye Protection: Wear your safety glasses or goggles within a Magic Metre of any process that could result in flying objects.
8. Fall Protection: A worker may be seriously hurt in a fall or poorly planned jump of even less than a Magic Metre. You require fall arrest protection if your feet are two Magic Metres above the next level.
9. Lifting and carrying: The safest zone for carrying loads is within the Magic Metre from your knees to your shoulders.
10. Call Before You Dig: Don’t dig (including hand digging) within a Magic Metre of either side of a utility location marker (hydro, gas, telephone, etc.).
11. Falling Objects: Almost anything that falls a Magic Metre onto you will hurt!Read More
If you have trouble with workers not wearing required personal protective equipment, you’re far from alone.
A survey conducted by Kimberly-Clark Professional found that 98 percent of the 132 safety professionals who attended the American Society of Safety Engineers’ 2010 conference and expo had observed workers who weren’t wearing PPE when they should have been doing so.
And 30 percent of the respondents said they had observed PPE non-compliance on numerous occasions. Most of the safety professionals who were polled said PPE non-compliance was their top workplace safety issue.
The problem seems to be getting worse. A 2008 Kimberly-Clark poll found that 89 percent of safety professionals had observed workers working without PPE. The figures for 2007 and 2006 were 87 percent and 85 percent respectively.
Gina Tsiropoulos, manufacturing segment marketing manager for Kimberly-Clark, called the growing trend alarming, saying that it was a serious threat to worker health and safety.
“Whether this is a result of economic conditions, a flawed approach to safety programs, younger workers who are more inclined to take greater risks or some other reason, it’s essential that workers wear PPE when it is required,” she says. “PPE protects workers against injury, but it will not work if workers fail to use it and use it properly.”
Forty-two percent of the safety professionals surveyed said that failure to use eye protection was their most commonly observed PPE infraction. The second most common type of non-compliance was lack of hearing PPE.
The top five reasons safety professionals are given by workers who aren’t wearing PPE are:
1. It is uncomfortable.
2. It makes the worker too warm.
3. PPE isn’t available near the work task.
4. It doesn’t fit properly.
5. It looks unattractive.
Asked what solutions they have tried or intended to try to improve PPE compliance, the safety professionals’ top response was “improving existing education and training programs.”
Other potential solutions to the problem included:
Topping the respondents’ wish list was the development of PPE that automatically adjusts to fit different body types, hands, heads and faces. Next was PPE with customizable style and design options, so that workers could select PPE based on their own individual tastes and safety requirements. Third on the wish list was PPE containing integrated climate control features, providing cooling or warmth as needed.Read More
Listen up. Poor assumptions about hearing protection can ruin your company’s hearing conservation program and expose your workers to hearing loss, says Brad Witt, director of hearing conservation for Howard Leight/Sperian Hearing Protection LLC.
Witt has developed a list of six of the most common bad assumptions about hearing protection for noise-exposed workers. Here’s the list:
False Assumption 1: Hearing protection is selfexplanatory. “Assuming that proper use of hearing protection is fairly intuitive—just put it in your ear—many safety managers provide little or no training in how to use protection properly. Or they generously assume that workers will read the manufacturer’s instructions on the packaging,” says Witt. For proper fit of earplugs, roll down a foam earplug into a small crease-free cylinder, pull the outer ear up and back to open the ear canal, insert the earplug and hold it in place while it expands. For proper fit of earmuffs, move aside any thick hair and seat the earmuff so that it encloses the entire ear.
False Assumption 2: Any earplug in the ear is blocking some noise. An earplug simply sitting in the bowl of the outer ear, without sealing the ear canal, offers little protection from noise. Witt says it may actually increase the noise level by creating a resonance cavity in the ear canal. A proper-fitting earplug is hardly visible when looking at the wearer face to face. A poor-fitting one protrudes from the ear.
False Assumption 3: An earplug inserted halfway into the ear blocks about half the noise. If a well-fitted earplug blocks 30 decibels of noise, one fitted halfway should block about 15 decibels, right? Wrong. It often provides zero noise attenuation. Witt says workers frequently remove their earplugs halfway so they can hear critical sounds such as warning signals, co-workers’ voices, machine maintenance sounds or communication radios. By doing so they are receiving virtually no hearing protection. The solution for being able to hear critical sounds while still protecting one’s hearing is to use earplugs that provide noise reduction ratings lower than 30 dB.
False Assumption 4: Cut the Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) in half to predict real-world protection. Witt says many studies have shown that noise attenuation in real-world conditions is sometimes far below what is measured under laboratory conditions. However, he says that the 50 percent de-rating method defined by OSHA is “arbitrary and usually wrong.” Actual real world attenuation varies widely among workers.
False Assumption 5: There’s no way to measure real attenuation on a worker wearing earplugs. Witt says there are several methods of measuring real-world attenuation on workers wearing earplugs. One method called VeriPRO gives workers a listening test without earplugs, then while wearing the right earplug and finally, the left earplug. The difference in these results is a measurement of how much protection is being offered by the earplugs.
False Assumption 6: There’s no way to measure the noise dose of a worker under the hearing protectors (at the eardrums) throughout the workday. In fact, miniature microphones are available that can be inserted under earplugs or earmuffs to measure the noise dose and if the noise exceeds safe levels, correctionsRead More
High-tech devices from cell phones to iPods, are negatively impacting safety for workers and the public, according to risk management expert Teresa Long, who says employers need to “wake up and smell the risk.”
“Most assuredly, the insurance company and their underwriters are standing downwind and it’s only a matter of time before they start sniffing around to see if employers have language in place prohibiting the use of cell phones while driving,” says Long, director of agency services for the Institute of WorkComp Professionals in Asheville, NC.
She uses the term “intexticated” to describe drivers who are distracted while sending and reading text messages while moving in traffic. Long cites incidents such as that of a Boston trolley driver who, while sending a text message, crashed the trolley into a car, causing several injuries, and a Los Angeles area commuter train operator whose texting activities resulted in a train crash that killed 25 people.
Research conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute revealed that a truck driver looking down while texting for a mere six seconds while motoring at 55 miles per hour (90 km/h) will travel the entire length of a football field without realizing he has traveled so far, so quickly. Long says employers need to be aware of the potential ramifications of having truck drivers, delivery drivers and sales staff using high-tech communication devices while moving in traffic.
“Some businesses have already noted the number of injuries and rising costs associated with workplace distractions by adopting policies on banning cell phones,” she says. “These employers understand the potential liability connected with this behavior.”
In one case, a company had to pay a $16 million settlement after one of its sales employees who was talking on a cell phone while driving was responsible for the death of an elderly person. “Unfortunately, there are still employers who fail to realize the urgency of the matter, because many believe that a salesperson on the road or the local delivery person can’t do his or her job fast enough unless they are multi-tasking,” says Long.
The use of personal music players on the job also puts workers and others at risk. Long says a worker listening to music through headphones may not hear a coworker shouting a warning, or the beeping sound of a reversing forklift. Companies need to realize that they are putting themselves at risk should a distracted employee become involved in an accident. Long says company human resources and safety directors must determine the ramifications of new technology in the workplace and ensure that:
Following those steps will help companies protect themselves from a liability standpoint by showing that an employee knowingly violated a written safety rule.Read More
Sawmills. Machine shops. Bottle recycling depots. Construction sites. These are all hotbeds for potential hearing damage. But here’s another one you might not have considered: call centers.
According to a new British report, two thirds of call centers in the United Kingdom fail to protect their workers from injuries and illnesses caused by acoustic shock – defined as any temporary or permanent disturbance in the functioning of the ear caused by a sudden sharp rise in volume.
Examples of such sounds include a loud fax tone or someone screaming or blowing a whistle over the telephone. Technology, including equipment that filters out high-pitched noise, is available to prevent acoustic shock, but few employers are using it.
Symptoms of acoustic shock include dizziness, a constant ringing in the ear(s), muffled hearing and hypersensitivity to other types of noise.
In recent years, at least 700 employees in the UK have reached out-of-court settlements with their employers for acoustic shock, with settlements totaling the equivalent of $5.7 million US ($6.5 million CAD). Some 900,000 people work in call centers across the UK.
Info to go: Read more about acoustic shock by clicking on the link at www.SafeSupervisor.comRead More
Failure to train employees, develop energy control procedures that render machinery inoperable during repair, maintenance or servicing, and failure to install machine guards on moving equipment is a recipe for disaster.
And in fact, that’s what happened at a Magee, MS, water bottling company, where a worker died after becoming caught in an unguarded palletizer (part of a conveyer system used to move pallets).
Mountain Pure MS is facing proposed penalties of $98,000 after being cited by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) for willful failure to perform the duties listed above. OSHA issues willful citations when, in its opinion, an employer has shown an intentional disregard for, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations.
OSHA says employees were routinely allowed to operate unguarded machinery and to service and repair equipment while it was energized.
In addition, the company is facing potential fines totaling $66,150 for 28 alleged serious violations, including a lack of eyewash stations, a lack of PPE for employees working with corrosives, exposing workers to ozone well above permissible levels, forklift training and certification shortcomings, hearing conservation issues and more.
Info to go: You can read more about machine guarding standards by following the link at www.SafeSupervisor.comRead More
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued new guidance regarding abrasive blasting hazards and control measures. While the information is specifically aimed at the shipyard employment industry, OSHA believes other operations that conduct abrasive blasting will find it useful.
“This new guidance focuses on silica alternatives since most shipyards have moved away from using silica as a blasting agent. However, alternative blasting materials may bring a different set of hazards, so we want shipyard employees and their employers to have the most up-to-date safety and health information possible,” says OSHA Administrator Edwin Foulke, Jr.
The new guidance addresses specific air contaminants that employees may be exposed to during abrasive sandblasting. It discusses engineering controls, the use of PPE, exposure monitoring, medical surveillance and training on OSHA’s Hazard Communication and PPE standards.
OSHA recommends that employers perform workplace inspections to identify additional hazards including excessive noise, static electricity, confined spaces, heat exposure and fall hazards.
In shipbuilding and ship repair operations, abrasive blasting is the most common surface preparation technique used to remove old paint, rust, mill scale, dirt and salts. Compressed air is used to propel abrasive material at 100 pounds per square inch to areas requiring blasting.
Workers risk exposure to toxic dusts – everything from aluminum to zinc – excessive noise levels and other health and safety hazards.
Info to go: To read more about this detailed guidance on abrasive blasting in shipyards by clicking on the link at www.SafeSupervisor.comRead More
Now hear this: The Ontario government is cracking down on noise in the workplace by reducing the noise exposure limit to 85 dBA from 90 dBA effective July 1, 2007.
The lower exposure limit will also be tied to a time-weighted average covering an eight-hour period, which the Ministry of Labour says will provide a more accurate means of determining actual noise levels to which workers are exposed.
“Noise-induced hearing loss is a serious and preventable occupational illness that impacts many of Ontario’s industrial workers. Our government is taking action to protect these workers by making the first significant overhaul of the noise exposure limits in 30 years,” says Labour Minister Steve Peters.
The Ministry of Labour says lower overall daily exposure to noise will help prevent hearing loss in workers, which led to an estimated $100 million in compensation costs being paid out by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) during the past decade.
All workplaces in Ontario that are covered by the Regulations for Industrial Establishments and the Regulations for Offshore Oil and Gas Operators will be expected to abide by the new noise level limit. While other sectors such as the mining and construction industries do not have set noise exposure limits, Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act still requires employers in those industries to protect the health and safety of their workers. That responsibility includes protecting workers from excessive noise levels.
Before implementing the lower noise limit the government consulted with industry organizations, labour organizations, hearing associations, media and Ministry of Labour enforcement team members.
Info to go: Read more about hearing protection by clicking on the link at www.SafeSupervisor.comRead More
As a professor of surgery at the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, Dr. Louis Francescutti is well aware that many surgeons listen to music while performing complicated operations.
But in his other role as injury control expert and founder of the Injury Awareness and Prevention Centre, Francescutti is concerned that workers are using personal stereos and earbuds to tune out repetitive and boring tasks. In the process they may well be tuning out safety.
Leaving aside the potential hearing damage caused by listening to music at loud levels for hours at a time, Francescutti notes that loud music can drown out alarms and warning shouts from co-workers. Approaching machinery that might easily be heard by a worker who was not listening to loud music may not be heard at all.
There’s another problem. Loud music can isolate a worker from his or her environment. Under those conditions, the worker’s mind is very likely distracted from assigned tasks and job hazards.
WorkSafeBC has produced some short videos under the theme Deaf to the Danger. These effective clips show workers listening to loud music through earbuds while walking and being struck by forklifts they cannot hear approaching.
Francescutti said he’s not against music in the workplace, but he noted there’s a big difference between listening to a radio in the background and being immersed in a 120- decibel wall of sound.
If your workplace does not have a policy addressing the use of personal stereos by employees, perhaps it’s time to implement one. At the very least, employees should not be listening to music at levels that will render them unable to hear approaching equipment or warning shouts or alarms. If you talk loudly to an employee wearing earbuds and he doesn’t hear you, his music is playing too loudly and he needs to be told to turn it down.
Info to go: Read more about personal stereos and hearing damage by clicking on the link at www.SafeSupervisor.comRead More
An inspection noted numerous safety hazards including operating equipment without safety guards, operating overhead cranes with hooks lacking safety latches, using defective forklift trucks, allowing emergency exit routes and fire extinguishers to be obstructed, having unsecured compressed gas cylinders, and not marking electrical panels. The company had earlier been cited for a serious safety violation in 1988 after an employee was fatally injured. In all, 28 serious safety and three serious health violations were cited, the latter pertaining to alleged noise exposure and hearing testing issues. [Florida Lumber Co., Miami, FL. Release Number 07-689-ATL (105), May 10, 2007].Read More