May 4, 2020 Safety News

May the Fourth be with you! Construction Safety Week is postponed, OSHA’s Fall Safety Stand Down is postponed. NAOSH Week chugs along, but does anyone really know what it is?? Listen to this week’s news for why you should care, and how you can leverage these observances.

Check out this classic post on leveraging the media and get inspired to share what your organization is doing to be proactive and safety-minded.

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Here’s two social media shareables for this week:

April 27, 2020 Safety News

Today’s quick info is about habits! How to make good ones, how bad ones fall by the wayside, and how you can use habit stacking to reinforce those new habits you want to keep.

Have you made some new habits during this time of isolation and physical distancing?

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April 20, 2020 Safety News

Let’s talk less about COVID-19, ok a little bit, and talk more about training! You may be starting to emerge from reactive communication and training, and able to think more proactively about planning some future training.

If that even remotely describes you, I hope you’ll check out this webinar on Wednesday, I’m talking more about blending technology and innovation with traditional methods for delivering safety training. You can register for that webinar here.

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April 12, 2020 Safety News

Today I’m talking about preventing hearing loss in school age children. I’ll be speaking more on this topic at the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society ergonomics summit on April 15, 2020. 

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N95 Alternatives are a GO per OSHA

OSHA is on board with KN95s and other N95 alternatives. It may still be tough to source KN95s and other options, so you should look into other controls and other respiratory types.


Read more here from OSHA.

April 6, 2020 Safety News

This week’s news is a day late, but it allowed me to see the Monday morning headlines. It’s not “just” COVID-19, but there is still a LOT of COVID-19 topics to discuss. Make sure to layer it on with your other safety messaging with your workers this week.

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The COVID-19 Hierarchy of Controls for the General Public

What if you’re not in an essential role at a critical infrastructure organization?

What if you are isolating at home, and need to go out for some food?

What if you had a plumbing issue and have to call in the professionals?

I’ve found myself in all of these scenarios recently, and even though I have an extensive safety background, I still paused to think. This thought process is natural for me, I’m a risk management and safety professional after all! This thought process may not be natural to you, however. I’ve had family and friends reach out to ask what “people in my industry” think about COVID-19, how long we will have to isolate, and what we are doing at our workplaces.

It’s kind of cool that the general public now knows the term “PPE,” but I also worry that they may think that is all there is to safety – suiting up and putting on protective gear to “stop” something from harming a person. It made me think that the general public might be open to learning about another concept from the safety professional’s toolkit – the Hierarchy of Controls.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has a great landing page on the HoC. NIOSH is a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and was established by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHA). You can learn all about that history here.

To keep things simple and relevant, it’s best to work through the HoC with a task in mind. After you’ve identified a task, you begin to identify the hazards associated with that task. This is the foundation for another safety concept called Job Hazard Analysis (or Job Safety Analysis, Task Hazard Analysis, Activity Hazard Analysis, or other term used at your workplace).

Task: You must go to the grocery store to pickup food for the next week.

Potential hazard: COVID-19

Now let’s work through the HoC to identify controls for the hazard of COVID-19. The HoC is usually presented as an upside-down pyramid to guide you to work through the stuff at the “top” first before the bottom tippy tip which is PPE.


Elimination controls: Usually this means that you eliminate the task completely. So, don’t go out! Seriously, if you’re doing pretty well on groceries and don’t have immediate needs, eat what you have – no need to hoard. I just learned about an app called Plant Jammer that will make up vegetarian-friendly recipes for you based on what you have on hand. This is also a great way to minimize food waste.

Substitution controls: What can you do in place of the actual task? You could order shelf-stable food to be shipped to your home; order a combination of pantry and fresh food for delivery by a local service in which a shopper does the shopping for you; order for drive-up pickup. There are probably more iterations of these substitutions that involve alternate ways of shopping in which you avoid interaction with others as much as possible. You get the point, and your mileage may vary depending on if you live in a city, suburb, or rural area.

Engineering controls: These controls are the type that physically isolate a person from the hazard. This is being attempted at stores with makeshift pickup counters that have plexiglass or other physical surface between the worker and the customer. In a typical non-COVID-19 workplace setting, a great example of an engineering control is a guard on a tool – the worker still uses the tool, but there’s a physical “thing” that is in place to prevent a worker’s finger or other body part (or whole body) from coming into contact with the hazard. Another example is guardrails when there is a hazard of falling.

Administrative controls: We also call these “work practice controls” nowadays because these are ways that we change the way the worker works through education, postings, and other non-physical controls.

A great example that stores are using all over the US is the placement of markings on the floor and sidewalks to indicate 6-feet of distance. This enables people to maintain social distancing while waiting in line. A store may also put up a sign for people that enter the store to shop to maintain 6-feet of distance from others – of course, signs don’t often change behavior and that’s why your friends are posting on Facebook about people getting too close in the aisles of Target!

Another administrative control is to shop alone if you do go out. Don’t bring your child, spouse, or other adult from your household. Stores are supporting this by limiting the amount of customers allowed into a store at a given time. Many stores have also setup special hours for elderly and immunocompromised people to shop to limit their exposure to others.

If you will be using a shopping cart, bring wipes to wipe down the handle before use, and bring hand sanitizer so you can wash your hands after returning the cart and before getting into your car.

When you get home, you may want to wipe down the food packaging before bringing items into the home. Even if you order food for delivery or shipment, you may still want to wipe down the items before bringing them into your home.

PPE controls: PPE is the last resort when you work through the HoC. The goal is to NOT put a bunch of protective gear on a person to do what they need to do at work. I have the same goal for you if you choose to venture out to shop.

PPE is the last resort because it is the control that is most subject to human error. People often put PPE on incorrectly, use the wrong PPE, or don’t understand the limitations of their PPE. When a construction worker gears up in a high visibility vest, they still must pay attention when working around heavy equipment! If that vest is dirty, or the retroreflective fabric is compromised somehow, the gear may not do it’s job, and the worker has a false feeling of safety…this is not good!

For our shopping example, if you’ve worked through the HoC and have chosen that you will do the shopping on your own, by entering a store and going through the checkout, you may choose to wear PPE because you have not implemented any other controls to this point (for whatever reason). By taking on the responsibility of wearing PPE, think about what you’re going to do with it when you get home… If you have a garage, you should think about leaving yourself a clean set of clothes and shoes to change into, and leave the “store clothes” in the garage or bring into the home in a bag and put them in the laundry right away. If you wear gloves and they are not disposable, they should be laundered too. If you choose to wear a mask, wash or dispose of it after use per its instructions.

Throughout and after this process, wash your hands!

Here’s a nice article that sums up this process, without naming the HoC (but now you’ll see it!), and has more resources links for you to dive down rabbit holes as you would like (or not).

Please share your tips and let me know of any questions. Stay safe and healthy out there!


March 29, 2020 Safety News

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COVID-19 Updates

With respiratory protection becoming increasingly difficult to source, and healthcare providers being told to reuse or clean their N95s, there are options to get over the hump. The FDA issued Emergency Use Authorizations (EAUs) for cleaning procedures and the use of non-NIOSH approved respiratory protection. The cleaning procedures are through the use of the Battelle Decontamination System that employs vaporized hydrogen peroxide to clean N95 masks for reuse.

Healthcare facilities are to collect contaminated N95 masks for shipment to Battelle. There is a chain of custody procedure to follow, detailed here, and the masks are to be disposed after 20 decontamination cycles. Instructions geared towards healthcare providers can be found here, it is important to note that masks with visible contamination (i.e.: makeup, blood, or bodily fluids) cannot be decontaminated by the Battelle process and will be disposed of.

As N95 stashes are donated to healthcare facilities, it leaves construction workers and other industrial personnel left with less options for their protection. PPE like respirators is always looked at as the last resort, but with OSHA regulations like Table 1 of the construction silica standard, PPE like respirators may be specified for tasks a worker usually conducts. Even so, the hierarchy of controls should be worked through to identify ways to protect workers in the interim while respiratory protection resources are diverted to healthcare facilities and the personnel most exposed to COVID-19.


Everything else…

  • For those in industries considered Critical Infrastructure, this does not mean all hands on deck! Consult your local, county, or state shelter in place orders and identify personnel that are critical to your onsite operations. Take into account that schools and child care facilities are closed in many areas, and working parents are taking on more responsibility for child care than usual.
  • Utilize administrative controls to minimize the amount of personnel are at a site, operation, office, and other specified areas at a given time. Consider adding more shifts, flexible hours, and other options to work with those who are immunocompromised and can’t be around potentially infected persons at this time, and again, for those working parents who are juggling a lot right now.
  • Ensure that workers have the training they need to do their jobs safely while keeping hygiene in mind. Workers may be tasked with new responsibilities based on what is considered critical to your operations. Many facilities may be changing their production to something that supports current needs, like distilleries making hand sanitizer, and industries shifting production of widgets to medical devices and PPE. Just because we are in emergency response mode does not mean the usual best practices for worker communication and training go out the window! Job Safety Analysis, pre-task planning, toolbox talks, tailgate meetings and other connections with the workers are more important than ever. You may need to conduct them differently to maintain at least 6′ of physical distance, but you MUST still communicate – use other pathways like postings, printed handouts, text messages, emails, and videos.
  • Take this time to review your emergency and disaster plans. We are living in interesting times where we can conduct a debrief after almost every working day. There’s news like this weekend’s FDA EUAs breaking frequently, as well as shelter in place and other orders changing to meet the demands to flatten the curve of the virus’s impact.
  • Take care of yourself. With schedules changing, responsibilities changing and expanding, make sure you’re well fed, hydrated, and rested to be able to take on the work day – wherever and whenever that is.

March 23, 2020 Safety News

This week’s safety news is for those in construction! Whether you’re an AGC member or not, check out their COVID-19 landing page with information geared towards construction sites, it is updated frequently.

Stay safe and healthy out there!

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The COVID-19 Wisdom of Frozen II

Disney released Frozen II to their Disney+ streaming platform last weekend, and it was just in time! Schools in the US closed, and students of all ages have been at home all week in addition to their (some newly) teleworking parent(s). 

Frozen II came up several times this week, mostly because it was a fantastic treat, carrot, or distraction for parents with kiddos of Frozen-enjoying ages. For parents, it’s a tool:

“if you finish this worksheet, you can watch Frozen II”

“just read for 20 minutes and you can un-pause Frozen II”

“if you don’t finish that worksheet, I’ll put Elsa on top of the refrigerator again!”

And that was just at my house… fill in your own Frozen II based threats and motivators! 

This week, I found Frozen II coming up in conversation because of it’s accidental wisdom and calm for these times of lockdown, quarantine, and general uncertainty. 

I’ve been a HUGE FAN of the Frozen II soundtrack since seeing the moving in the theater, my daughter and I had all the lyrics memorized within days. The soundtrack and its lyrics hold wisdom for our times, if you just listen closely… 

All Is Found

The movie’s opening scenes include flashbacks where we learn this lullaby. Why do lullabies often involve sudden death? Anyway… The song is haunting, and tells the tale we’ve heard before about chasing after answers, hoping for all to be revealed, but as the song cautions, “Dive down deep into her sound, But not too far or you’ll be drowned.” 

The song is sung by Anna and Elsa’s mother, voiced by Evan Rachel Wood, who plays an android on HBO’s Westworld. If anyone else finds meaning and symbolism in that, we can nerd out further, but I digress…

As we seek answers from the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control, and heck, Joe Rogan, I urge you to not dive too deeply, or at least not for too long. It is easy to get overwhelmed, and drown in information. It is exhausting, even for the past 2-3 weeks that COVID-19 has been a reality in the US, to repeat this diving, drowning, and waking up the next day to do it all again, in your home, with more and more distractions and challenges. 

Some Things Never Change

This song I am choosing to interpret as reassurance and a battle cry for safety and risk professionals right now. Someone very wise once said, “the only constant in life is change,” and safety pros know this all too well. But we have tools and systems for this! This is our time to shine! When Ana sings “that’s why I rely on certain certainties,” I think of our tools for training, communicating, and job and risk analysis. Use your foundational skills, and you’ll shine during these uncertain times. And it never hurts to do all of this with beautiful grand piano accompanied lyrics in your head. Safety friends, “I’m holding on tight to youuuuuuu” 🙂 

Into the Unknown

I really enjoyed the emotional quality of this song and Idina Menzel’s voice in the theater, and then enjoyed a completely different vibe hearing the Panic at the Disco version of this on the soundtrack. As safety pros, we know we are DEFINITELY going into the unknown right now, but I can’t help feel a bit of positivity and opportunity even though things seem to be falling apart or are SO uncertain at times. I can hear that “whisper” of positivity, (“but I won’t”) but have to set it aside sometimes for the daily reality of what’s going on. In times of struggle and challenge, it is important to have perspective to avoid going into spirals of negativity or worry over things you cannot directly control. 

When I Am Older

This song goes out to our kids… “this will all make sense when I am older.” Of course, the irony and message of this song as you watch along with the movie is that, NO, this will NOT all make sense when you are older. It doesn’t make sense to adults right now! With age will come tools and ways that our kids will be able to process these current events. 

Reindeers are Better than People

A quick interlude to the next tune… and a reminder to pet your pets. Talk to them too, and make voices for their responses. It’s OK, you might feel better for a moment. Repeat. 

Lost in the Woods

This song is clearly for the parents! If you belted out 80s love ballads and watched the videos on MTV, this is your modern jam. I went through a lot of feelings in the first full week of working from home, my husband working from home, and my child doing her schoolwork from home. Oh, and eating all of our meals at home, and looking to only each other for entertainment, conversation, solace, and everything else we needed. In the close quarters, there was also distance. I think it’s due to our brains each coming to the realization at different times that this is our new normal for an unknown amount of time. 

The song is a love ballad to your spouse, partner, bestie, child, pet, anyone you have turned to for support this past week – even though we are so close, it can be easy to lose ourselves and lose our minds a little bit. We can find our “true north” and come back to each other. 

Show Yourself

Confession: I can’t get through this part of the movie and not cry. I’ve seen the movie three times now, and every time, the tears fall. It’s a good, hearty, “I needed that,” inspiring type of cry – but a cry nonetheless. If you’re usually a stoic person, that doesn’t show emotion readily (ahem, me), the lyrics really speak to you. Being a “fortress, cold secrets deep inside,” I know how it feels to be “home” with a person or an internal feeling of confidence to really “show yourself.” 

This is also a call for my fellow safety professionals to step into their role! “Show yourself!” Your organization needs you, the front line workers REALLY need you. If you think it’s not in you, listen to the song and get your inner badass, prepared, and confident safety pro out of the dark.

The Next Right Thing

This is the gut wrencher. There was probably a time this past week that you felt you weren’t getting through, or that no one was with you, or other hopeless and alone feeling. “I’ve seen dark before, but not like this.” Most safety pros have an incident from the past that called on all of their skills to get through – a serious injury or fatality. We’ve unfortunately seen some of the worst things that can happen, but this is different. We’re in times that there is no playbook, no specific strategy to turn to, “but you must go on, and do the next right thing.” There will be a “day beyond this night,” and the role of the safety pro is so critical right now.

Bottom line: Keep learning, sharing information and best practices, and find the “next right thing” and build on it. Take some time to enjoy the people who are cooped up in the house with you, and to break tension, watch Frozen II or at least jam to the soundtrack for a dance party!