Workplace Hearing Loss and Prevention – Pt. 2

By Jason Chan on November 24th, 2014 @ 9:43 am

Welcome to part 2 in our hearing loss blog series. If you haven’t read part 1, we recommend doing so now as it has pertinent information regarding OSHA rules.

Sound Prevention and Control

Engineering sits on the highest operating level of sound control. Since this involves direct contact with machinery or a certain degree of control over the area, it’s often the most time-consuming to implement (but frequently the most effective).

The most important and oftentimes simplest form of noise control is proper maintenance. Keeping machinery well-lubricated can make it run smoother and quieter. If machines are properly maintained but still prevent a noise hazard, some might choose to implement a sound barrier. Curtains and walls can be installed at the location of the machinery to prevent noise from bleeding over into other work areas. If it is an option and the machine presents too serious a sound hazard, full enclosure presents the most effective form of sound control.

Because building enclosures and walls is not always an option, supervisory or administrative control is the second best method of sound hazard prevention. A well-informed administrator can use shifts and time to keep the workplace running efficiently while reducing sound exposure.

The most obvious course of action for administration would be to set up separate times for the usage of machinery at high levels. If possible, high-decibel machinery should be run in separate shifts with as few exposed workers as possible. The less people expose to these loud sounds, the more flexibility you have in assigning their shifts.

The second method (and a surprisingly effective one) is maintaining worker distance from these noisy machines. By increasing distance between workers and loud machinery, you decrease the effective decibel count of that machinery. If at all possible, administrators should always be keen to areas away from machinery that can be utilized by workers to reduce their exposure.

Just as distance from the machinery plays an important role, a resting room (sound proof or far from operating machinery) can give workers relief from these loud noises and prevent short and long-term hearing issues.

Finally, there are hearing protection devices like earmuffs or plugs. These are the least desirable form of sound control, as they are an isolated tool that can make communication more difficult between workers and keep users from hearing important warnings. They should only be used in special cases where administrative and engineering controls would not be enough to provide a safe environment for workers.

Maintaining a program for hearing protection helps administration stay ahead of possible issues and hazards. Running hearing tests and recording field samples from workers can help you determine who needs protection devices. A proper training program and careful consideration are all that you need to ensure that your workers keep their hearing in tact. With a hearing protection program, you can help run a safer workplace for everyone involved. For more information on hearing conservation programs, visit OSHA’s HCP webpage.

Categories: Equipment Safety | OSHA


Workplace Hearing Loss and Prevention – Pt. 1

By Jason Chan on November 21st, 2014 @ 8:53 am

When we think of injuries, we usually think of the obvious cuts and bruises, or more serious injuries like broken bones. Many times, we forget about other forces like light and sound that can seriously affect our workers’ safety and lives. Hearing loss happens to be one of the most common and epidemic workplace injuries in the industrial sector. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported a whopping 125,000 (permanent) hearing loss cases since 2004.

Besides the fact that long-term exposure to loud noises can have serious permanent ramifications like irreversible hearing loss, many don’t consider the short term issues that noise-exposure can cause. Noise is a stressor and can actually exhaust workers physically and psychologically. The more noise there is, the harder it is to concentrate on the task at hand, and that means there’s a possibility it’s reducing overall productivity. If environmental noises are too loud, it’s harder to communicate with other workers or hear life-saving warnings. Because communication is such an integral part of the work site, having loud noises come between important messages and warnings can lead to serious issues as work progresses.

If you’ve ever left the workplace with a ringing or hum in your ear or stuffed up hearing, it’s a sign that noise could be a serious problem in your work environment.

 

Exposure Levels and Prevention

            Sound is measured in decibels. On the high end of the spectrum are the pain threshold sounds, which sit at about 140db. The lowest end (the hearing threshold) sits at 0. To put it into perspective, a Jackhammer sits at about 95db from a distance of 15 meters, just above a heavy truck from the same distance away.

Because sound is a very real and very common hazard, OSHA takes it very seriously and has come up with a ratio to safely determine a worker’s time-exposure set against certain decibel levels.

  • For a standard 8 hour day, the highest decibel count  workers should be exposed to is 90db.
  • For every 5db above 90db, OSHA cuts the exposure time in half.
  • Assuming exposure levels were 95db (a jackhammer running at 15 meters away), workers would have a maximum exposure allotment of 4 hours instead of 8 (half the time allotment for every 5 extra db).

Though this ratio helps keep workers from being over-exposed to these sound hazards, it doesn’t necessarily solve the issue of sound itself. If there happens to be high decibel counts and a worker has an 8-hour shift, there have to be other ways in which the sound sources are mitigated.

To find out the best ways to prevent sound hazards in the work place, check out part 2 of this blog series. In part 2, you’ll find some of the most common ways to control or reduce the impact of sound in the workplace.



Massey Energy Indictment Brings Focus to Mining Safety

By Jeffrey Ling on November 19th, 2014 @ 9:14 am

Last week it was reported that Don Blankenship, former CEO of Massey Energy, had been indicted for, amongst other things, violating mine safety laws related to the Upper Big Branch (UBB) South Mine explosion in 2010. The explosion killed 29 workers at the West Virginia coal mine and has reignited interest in the mining mantra of “safety first, production will follow.”

Whether Blankenship and Massey Energy did or did not put the safety of their employees first will be settled in court, but the story brings attention to something else: The need for high-tech tools that can ensure safety procedures are being followed at facilities and operations where equipment and energy need to be accounted for or contained.

That sounds like a monumental task. How can compliance and safety managers ensure their equipment, machinery and energy sources are safe at all times? One important part of the equation is Lock Out Tag Out (LOTO), the process in which practices and procedures safeguard workers from the release of hazardous energy. Now, thanks to the adoption of cloud technologies and mobile devices –  the LOTO process has become simpler. Consider what Field iD can provide when it comes to LOTO:

  • Gone are the days of pen and paper reporting. From a mobile phone or an iPad, it’s fast and easy to manage safety and inspection/audit tasks.
  • The cloud’s highly scalable nature means that businesses can house all data about their LOTO equipment in a centralized place where they can be updated in real-time. If a lanyard or harness has been used or inspected, it’s noted immediately and available for reporting ASAP.
  • Safety and compliance managers have a lot to do and not much time to get it done. Efficiency, while still maintaining top-level accuracy, is critical to keeping employees incident free, avoiding fines or even shut downs. Because with Field iD they can use mobile technologies such as smartphones or tables, as well as Web-based interfaces, these professionals can get their work done in the office, on site or in other remote locations.
  • Mines like UBB have to contend with Federal inspections (OSHA, MSHA), as well as state-level officials. By centralizing audit and compliance information on all equipment, machinery and energy sources via a LOTO tool, operations are always audit-ready with up to date information without scrambling for paper records.

It’s not been reported whether LOTO procedures had a part to play in the UBB mining disaster, though reports shortly after the explosion suggest malfunctioning equipment was one of many problems. This disaster and the ripple effects it has remind us that a culture focused on safety, combined with securing equipment, machinery and energy sources each and every time, must be constant priorities.

Categories: Inspection Software


Dress for the Weather: Staying Safe This Winter

By Jason Chan on November 17th, 2014 @ 10:51 am

It’s autumn already, and winter’s coming around sooner than you think. There’s still work to be done out there, but you should be prepared for the change in weather. There’s so much to consider in the workplace for these changes, but we won’t be going over specific OSHA standards. We’ll just be giving you some tips that can prevent you (or others around the work site) from getting hurt.

 

The most important thing to consider this season is if your shoes or boots are up to scratch. A worn sole is a gamble, and if you’re working on heightened surfaces or roofs, you could be in big trouble during wet winter mornings.  What you want is a strong rubber sole with a ton of grip. The deeper the grooves, the better chances you have of getting traction between you and your work surface. Spend as much as you can on these. A good pair of boots is an investment and insurance.

 

If you’re doing a lot of work outside, don’t neglect your upper body. Having a non-intrusive jacket or coat can keep you from getting hypothermia in cold rains and even prevent some injury if you take a fall or slip. Make sure that the jacket or coat you’re using gives you a full range of motion on the work site. If they’re provided to you by your company, assure that the size is the right fit. You want to be able to move around freely and work just like you would in your normal work clothes.

 

Don’t neglect pedestrians or other passersby this season. If you’re laying walkways near a sidewalk or working along a site progressively, chances are someone might have access to some part of the work site. Make sure that any other workers from a different area know of any slipping hazards and that pedestrians are either warned or prevented access to hazardous or wet areas.

 

Remember that it gets darker at an earlier hour this time of year. Prepare your workplace with any lights prior to beginning work and be prepared at sundown to illuminate the area. It is extremely dangerous to work in wet conditions, especially when you can’t see what areas are slippery. Keeping the entire work site well-lit will help you prevent injury to yourself and your co-workers.

 

Our work environments are constantly changing during this time of year. Days can be sunny and dry or dreary and wet from one to the next. Being prepared with the proper attire and keeping ahead of the weather by dressing appropriately can keep you safe this Autumn and Winter half. If you see someone at your workplace whose soles are looking too smooth or doesn’t look appropriately outfitted for the job, don’t be afraid to let them know. Looking out for your coworkers is a part of keeping your work site safe and you can save a life just by giving them a few tips here and there. We hope you, your families, and your coworkers stay safe this holiday season.

Categories: Equipment Safety


How to make Inspections, Lock Out Tag Out, and Audits Easier than Ever

By Jason Chan on November 12th, 2014 @ 9:20 am

If your workplace is drowning in paperwork, constantly at odds with OSHA standards, and difficult to manage: we hear you! It can be a mire out there. Messages get lost along the way, we miss small details during inspections, and suddenly things go very wrong very fast. With all that’s going on at the job site, (Lock Out Tag Out, asset assignment, improper use of equipment) it can be  difficult to keep operations running safely.

The paperwork alone can be time-consuming and difficult to organize. With all that’s constantly happening on the job, keeping track of everything on paper can be a massive time-waster and mistakes are bound to happen if you accidentally overlook something. So when we got together to create a better way to for keep the workplace safe, we wanted something that was easy, paper-free, and all-inclusive.

 

Field iD Will Change the Way you Run Your Worksite

Field iD is a software application that connects you to a powerful safety solution for all types of industrial work. With Field iD, you can manage assets like safety equipment, conduct one-click  inspections and audits, and even have full control of Lockout/Tagout procedures on a connected network.

In order to be compliant with OSHA standards, inspections and audits of machinery and equipment must be conducted once yearly. Consistency with these standards helps you ensure that your equipment will be in working condition and safe for usage. However, keeping up with scheduled inspections and conducting them properly can be difficult when there are more pressing deadlines to worry about.

With Field iD, you can schedule your inspections from top to bottom, including the where, when, and how. With the built-in email notification system, you’ll always be on schedule with time-sensitive reminders.

 

Field iD is an Invaluable LOTO Tool

With Field iD, you can author complete LOTO procedures and keep all the documentation recorded and prepared for any inspections or audits. The Field iD Lock Out Tag Out feature is a deep and simple software solution for managing proper LOTO procedures.

From details about the machinery to the locks and procedures needed for the locking method, you can keep every part of the process in your Field iD network and have workers update directly from the Field iD mobile platform. With Field iD, you and your employees will never be in the dark about LOTO again.

The biggest questions we face as supervisors, workers, and management is how we can stay safer and more efficient. That’s exactly what Field iD helps you do. With its robust features and connected architecture, everyone involved has a way to stay on top of the latest inspections, audits and lockouts. That leads to a safer and more organized workplace.

For more information on Field iD compliance management software or to try it for yourself, head to the fieldid website today.



Safety Series: The Importance of Training for Lock Out / Tag Out pt 2

By Jason Chan on November 10th, 2014 @ 9:21 am

This is part two in our series of LOTO training blogs. If you haven’t read the first part, click here to get a refresher about basic training regulations and the differences between locks and tags.

 

Retraining for Consistent Safety

On our last blog, we covered a bit about the importance of training your employees on Lock Out Tag Out procedures. Just as training is important, keeping your employees informed over prolonged periods is just as important. Though many can retain information from constant practice, standards and devices change each time the worksite does.

Though training isn’t an annual requirement, it’s required under several other circumstances that are likely to come up sooner than later. These include: any changes in job assignments, new machinery that presents a new procedure or hazard, changes in procedures for the control of energy, and deviations in the energy control procedures.

That last rule is a very important one. Inspections must be conducted over time and when certain factors change (machinery, procedures). If an inspection shows that an employee’s practice of the procedures is inadequate or incorrect, it’s absolutely crucial to retrain them as soon as possible. The last thing you want is one employee’s mistakes leading to several injuries.

OSHA requires that certification of employee’s retraining is kept on record. It’s important that you always keep records of training and certification as it can keep you safe in a case where something goes awry that was out of your control.

 

Tagout Safety

            Under tagout standards, employees are entitled to full protection just as with lockout procedures. This obviously requires a great training program and well-informed employees, but it also requires that other measures be taken to ensure that machinery isn’t reenergized during procedures. Any  safety precautions that can be taken to prevent startup or energizing should be taken when the tagout device is placed. That means that disconnection, blocking of switches, and even removing valves are important parts of using tagout properly.

 

Releasing LOTO and Training for Release

Just as crucial as beginning Lock Out Tag Out, employees must know when it is safe to resume operation of the machinery. After maintenance is completed, a pre-startup inspection must be conducted on the machinery to ensure that all risks have been mitigated. After the inspection, employees are required to either clear the area (depending on the energy hazard) or position themselves in a place where startup does not present a hazard. All employees must be well-informed about start up procedures and inspection standards, and this falls in line with the training we discussed in part one.

Though the authorized employee that placed the device is nearly always in charge of that device, there are some situations in which someone else may remove it. If the authorized employee is not available to remove the device, the employer may direct that the device be removed by someone else. For the safety of the authorized employee, he or she should be informed as soon as possible that the device has been removed by someone else. That means that before the original authorized employee enters the facility for work, he or she must be informed of the machines operating status.

Read and Stay Informed

Technologies and procedures are constantly changing, and that means that OSHA standards go with them. To stay informed is the best preventative action you can take to assure worker safety. Inspections and audits are not only necessary, but prevent sometimes deadly accidents. Don’t forget to read up on safety standards and stay informed with OSHA to keep your work site in line with the latest standards.



Safety Series: The Importance of Training for Lock Out / Tag Out pt 1

By Jason Chan on November 7th, 2014 @ 10:29 am

Like all other OSHA standards, Lock Out / Tag Out is an important piece of the safety puzzle. In order to run a safer work site, employees must be in the know about all of the standards and procedures that LOTO encompasses. The main issue with LOTO is that it covers a very strict set of procedures and review processes, and things can go wrong if even one step is overlooked. In two-part series, we’ll be covering some of the basics of Lock Out Tag Out training and why it’s so important. As always, you should look into the standards directly from OSHA’s website if you have any questions or want more in-depth information. These blogs will serve you well as introductions or refreshers.

 

Why LOTO?

If you could condense LOTO into only two words, they would be “energy control.” When you look at it that way, it simplifies so many of the important principles of the standard. When we say energy, we mean things like running machinery, electrical currents, and stored energy. So, anything that can unexpectedly start up, unleash electrical currents, or release stored energy falls under the LOTO standard.

Take, for instance, a machine that uses a conveyor belt. If an employee must repair or maintain any part of the machine that can move or cause harm, it must be rendered inoperable and free of energy. If the conveyor belt were to turn on during operation when an employee was working with it, it could lead to serious and even lethal injury. That’s why lockout/tagout serves as one of the most important workplace practices.

 

Lockout and Tagout

“Lockout” refers to energy-isolating devices. These devices can be placed on machinery and locked in order to prevent the sudden startup or activation of the machinery during repair or maintenance. These locks are used to ensure that no one (but the person that placed the lock) can remove the device.

 

“Tagout” refers to the usage of a clearly visible warning tag on machinery that must NOT be operated until the tag is removed from the machinery. Though Tagout remains a less technically safe form of prevention, properly trained employees can utilize tags just as safely as lockout procedures. That’s why training for these specific standards plays a massive role in the safety of your work site.

 

Training your Employees

           

Under OSHA, employers must  provide training in Lock Out Tag Out procedures to all employees required to work within these energy control programs. Employees must be knowledgeable about the types of hazardous energy in the workplace, the magnitude of energy, and procedures necessary for the control of those energy sources.

 

Employees must be trained to use each specific device used in these procedures. Whether it’s a valve-lockout or an electrical box, different devices serve different purposes depending on the energy-source. Anyone working within an area which utilizes lockout or tagout devices must be instructed on lockout/tagout methods and expressly prohibited from reenergizing any machinery using said devices. OSHA states that sometimes, tags provide a false sense of security to employees. Re-iteration of a tag’s purpose must be stated clearly to employees. Tags do not prevent the activation of machinery. Only properly trained employees can prevent accidents.

 

Remember that training is not a one-time process. Employees should come to you, should they have any questions, and should always feel in control of any machinery they are repairing or maintaining. In part two of this series, where we’ll talk about retraining and release procedures.