Compliance drives much of health and safety. Generally speaking, when we talk about compliance, we are referring to regulatory controls put forth by governments. In practice, however, compliance is much more complex – obligations arise from customers via supply-chain requirements, from voluntary programs sponsored by government organizations, from industry, or from management. The fact that these programs are often called “voluntary” suggests that compliance with them might be easy, or that they are less valuable in terms of driving safety excellence. For the safety team responsible for implementing the programs, this couldn't be further from the truth.
When trying to keep office employees comfortable and productive at work, one of the biggest challenges is getting them to change the behaviors that contribute to discomfort and injury. The best way to get them to make these important changes is to ensure that they are actively engaged and participating in ergonomics efforts. Ideally, employees will feel accountable for – and empowered to improve – their own comfort and health.
The world of computer usage in a professional environment is changing rapidly. With the advent of mobile devices, the innovation around better workplace equipment and economic pressure on companies to consolidate office space, employees now work at kitchen tables, airplanes, sit-stand desks, and unassigned or shared spaces. Some of these changes are positive for work-life balance, but they create headaches for EH&S professionals. When you can’t predict your employees’ setup, creating a relevant ergonomics program can be challenging. However, technology can help overcome the challenges of keeping employees safe while working in flexible workplaces.
Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) has employed a successful grassroots ergonomics program for both industrial and office employees since 2006. PG&E's program consists of "internal consultants," non-safety employees selected to be responsible for ergonomics within their department in addition to their regular jobs. These employees are trained to implement all ergonomics efforts across their work groups. These efforts vary by department (allowing for the "grassroots" feel), but include responsibilities such as conducting in-person evaluations and job task analyses.
The research is in – and it unilaterally points to numerous deleterious effects of prolonged periods of sitting on a daily basis. While health and safety leaders have long been aware of the musculoskeletal impacts of a static, sedentary work position, the focus of more recent research is on the correlation between sitting and increased mortality and disease. While the research varies based on how “prolonged sitting” is measured and defined (>6-8 hours per day), or what specific sedentary activity was measured (working, watching TV, etc.), it is consistent in the conclusion that prolonged sitting is positively correlated with increased mortality – by 18-94%, depending on the parameters of the study. To make matters worse, hitting the gym at the end of the day won’t eliminate this increased rate of disease and death.1-3
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that musculoskeletal disorders comprised 34% of worker injury & illness cases in the United States in 2012, resulting in a median 12 lost workdays per case 1. While not all of these cases could have been prevented through improved ergonomics, with the stakes this high, most corporations are aware of the potential impact that a well-run ergonomics program can have on the bottom line.
Given the broad set of responsibilities on safety managers’ plates, understanding how to avoid succumbing to common failures can help to enable the long-term improvement of the program. This article takes seven common challenges of safety programs as outlined in “Why safety fails: When good safety systems go bad,” a piece published by Industrial Safety and Hygiene News (ISHN) online1, and discusses the solutions to each that technology can provide.
Achieving a strong “culture of safety” seems to be the holy grail of health and safety professionals – by improving the reception of safety efforts, it enables the health and safety team to achieve greater outcomes. However, a culture of safety often takes a markedly different form from one company to the next, making it challenging to define clear “to-dos” that will reliably result in the creation of a safety culture.
The photovoltaic industry – also known as PV or solar – is based on a sustainable energy generation model, with the intention of defraying any negative impact of energy generation and consumption on the world’s climate. Based on this foundation, PV manufacturers have a special affinity for the consideration and mitigation of environmental issues. However, as with any key business element of manufacturing, PV manufacturers also face a plethora of employee health and safety challenges, and, as do many industries, often merge the functions into a single EHS function. While health and safety efforts do not always address the same hazards as those addressed by the environmental function, the identification of each set of hazards can often be performed through the same assessment procedures – enabling a more efficient and valuable process. By providing a structured framework that enables not only health & safety assessments, but also environmental assessments, the efficiency and scope of the job hazard analysis (JHA) process can be significantly increased.
Winston Churchill once said, “However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results”. When it comes to the management of health and safety incidents, Churchill’s advice applies – but is not always easy to achieve. This article discusses the importance and challenges of monitoring results in the incident management process, and identifies several strategies for improving incident management programs.