All posts by Jay

Fire Inspections: What You Must Do Today to Ensure Your Business is Up To Code

As we head into 2014, we thought it was important to share what building and business owner’s responsibilities are when it comes to fire safety. In this two-part series, we’ll highlight comprehensive steps you can take to ensure your building is both up-to-code and, just as important if not more, safe for you, your employees, customers, and family!

Fire Safety Inspections – What to Look For

Most insurers and government fire safety standards require an annual inspection to verify that business buildings and their equipment and occupants are protected by the existing fire control methods. Ultimately, the business and/or building owner is legally responsible for the safety of their premises.

If you don’t have a dedicated fire team, and most small businesses don’t, you could be subject to expensive fines if deficiencies are cited by the local government fire marshal. Your business could even be closed down until any problems are corrected and the repairs re-inspected. There are simple, inexpensive steps that a small business owner can perform periodically to ensure a good annual inspection.

If it has been some time since you performed an inspection or had one done by a third party, or you have recently purchased a business, here are some things to consider. Know what the codes require for your local area. Your local fire marshal and some insurers can furnish you with a checklist. While every jurisdiction may have area-specific codes, in general they tend to follow OSHA and NFPA guidelines. Keep a record of when and what you inspected, using the checklist or standard form if available, or create your own form, note any deficiencies and date and sign it. Keep the document safely stored and accessible. If you use a third-party inspector, be sure you get a copy of their report.

Common Areas for Fire Safety Deficiencies

Here are some of the more common areas that inspectors often cite as deficiencies.

1. Lack of accessibility to fire lanes, fire alarm panels and fire department connections. Make sure that standpipes, panels and valves are not blocked by things like trash containers, vehicle parking, construction debris, outside storage containers or machinery. Mark the required clearances (check with authorities for the minimum requirements) with yellow tape or painted lines inside the building, install guards and use appropriate signage to remind everyone to keep both inside and outside areas clear.

2. Combustible items should be kept out of areas that contain electrical connections or open flames. Things like cleaning rags or paper towels, lavatory supplies and flammable aerosols or solvents should be properly stored in approved storage areas.

3. Check that all portable fire extinguishers have been inspected as required (usually every 12 months) and that they are in the green or operating range. When having portable fire extinguishers serviced do not allow the vendor to remove your extinguishers from the building without leaving you replacements.

4. Check all exit and emergency signage and replace any burnt out bulbs or dead batteries.

5. Be sure emergency exits operate properly (including sounding an alarm when opened) and are accessible at all times. Never allow exits to be blocked or locked during normal business hours.

6. Depending on codes in your area, there may be restrictions on the use of small appliances, extension cords and multi-plug adapters. Find and remove any such items and caution employees about their use.

7. Keep the building in good repair. Damaged or missing doors and holes in walls or ceilings should be repaired or replaced to minimize the spread of fire from room to room.

8. If accessible, check sprinkler heads for damage and obstructions, and keep storage such as racks or boxes away from  sprinkler heads and ceilings. Know what the minimum clearance is for ceilings, panels, manifolds, standpipes and portable extinguisher stations and keep those areas clear. Make sure that there is no buildup of cobwebs, dust and other debris on the walls and ceilings.

9. Check cords and electrical connections on equipment and approved appliances for fraying and damage from cuts or traffic.

10. Make sure that your address is clearly visible from any vehicle access area. Paint or mount large letters with your address prominently displayed on the outside of the building and make sure the address is visible to emergency vehicle drivers. Remember that fire equipment is taller than the average car or pickup and mount your address accordingly, observing local codes.

If all of this sounds like a lot of work, or you are unsure whether you are knowledgeable enough to catch any potential problems, you might want to contract with an qualified third party inspection service. While there are no national governmental standards for fire safety  inspectors, the National Fire Protection Association’s section 1031 outlines recommendations usually followed and even codified by most fire safety professional organizations, including fire departments.

The Adventure of Reducing Risks and Hazards in the Workplace

Whenever starting a new job, it can be difficult to figure out exactly what you should be doing, and how it needs to be done. When I started working at a new facility as a safety manager, I began my first day with a meeting with the facility manager. The meeting was set up so he could tell me what was expected of me in my new role, and provide other details of the job. I was quite surprised when the meeting took less than two minutes, and the only objective I was given was to ‘reduce risks and hazards in the workplace.’

I asked for some clarification or guidance in what exactly he was looking for, but he simply said that I was hired to improve safety, and he was leaving the task of finding out how to do it in my hands. He gave me a sheet of paper with some information about what resources I had available, including my annual safety budget and told me to get to work right away. I should point out there that I had several years experience as a safety manager at a large company, which is why I was brought in to this new facility.

The facility had recently been cited by OSHA for a variety of safety hazards, and there were even some fairly severe injuries that occurred in the previous months. The facility owners made it clear that safety was a priority for them, and they were willing to do whatever it took to pass inspections, and keep the employees safe.

Planning My Safety Program

While that initial meeting was unique, to say the least, I was also quite excited about the opportunity. It is quite rare that a safety manager is given such flexibility, and I wanted to make sure the manager wouldn’t regret that decision. I got to work right away planning my safety improvement program.

I wanted to make some quick changes to help improve safety in the short term, and then also plan out ways to create a culture change within the facility so everyone would be more safety focused. I knew this would be difficult, but with the support of the facility management, I knew it could be done.

Creating a Top 5 List

The first thing I wanted to do was identify the top five risks and hazards in the facility, and get them fixed right away. Even if I couldn’t entirely eliminate a particular hazard, I wanted to make changes that would dramatically reduce the safety concerns in the following five areas:

  1. Reduce Slip and Fall Hazards – The facility had several areas which were well known for being slippery when it was wet outside.
  2. Replace Safety Signage – Most of the safety signs in the facility were either missing, broken or so dirty that they couldn’t be seen.
  3. Update Personal Protection Equipment – Two injuries over the past year were due to the fact that employees were not using personal protection equipment. I found that much of this PPE was either broken or missing.
  4. Label Hazardous Liquid Containers – One of the major areas where the facility got penalized by OSHA was for not having clear labeling on the containers used to store hazardous liquids.
  5. Add Safety Tape to Indoor Driving Lanes – The facility had several forklifts and other vehicles which were used indoors. While the general areas where they were driven was known, there wasn’t a clear lane that they were required to stay within.

LabelTac4+-Label-MakerI chose these five items not only because they represented significant risks to the facility, but also because I could implement the improvements very quickly. Once I had settled on these items, I ordered all the necessary materials, including an industrial label printer (like this one), safety tape (which you can find here), a variety of different types of personal protection equipment, and several floor coverings to help minimize the risks of falling near the entrances and exits of the facility.

SafetyTac Floor TapeWithin three weeks of starting in my job, I had checked off each of these five items from my list of safety improvement goals. I was able to print off custom safety signs, and labels to identify hazardous liquid containers. In addition, I provided the personal protection equipment to the employees and, of course, laid out the floor mats. None of these things were very difficult to do, but they were very important. In these first three weeks, I learned the valuable lesson that if a facility doesn’t pay attention to the little things, it will cause major problems very quickly.

Construction zones are known as areas that are full of potential hazards. Common construction zone hazards include falling objects, electrocution, excavation accidents, asbestos, general machine hazards, automobile accidents, etc. The list literally goes on and on. The job of construction involves a lot of equipment, tools, and motorizedconstruction-safety-signs vehicles, and the risk for injury increases with the expanded usage of such materials. A common and effective method for helping deter adverse events in construction includes the utilization of signage. Construction signs often feature pictograms to help make the message meaningful to everyone. One of the benefits of using of pictograms is that it allows employees and other people to quickly glance and understand the potential hazard without having to actually “read” the sign.

Common Construction Signs

There are many different signs that can be used in construction to convey different safety messages. It depends upon the type of construction and the materials and tools that are in use that help to decide which signs would be most appropriate. Construction signs may be used in road construction, home construction, commercial building construction, and basically any other type of construction situation. Most construction signs feature the color combination of an orange background with black lettering or a yellow background with black lettering. Let’s review a few of the common signs used in construction.

· This type of construction sign is often used when there is a risk for falls. This sign could be applicable in any type of construction situation, especially when employees are working on or around scaffolding, ledges, or on uneven surfaces.

· When this type of construction sign is used, it often means that there are general construction-related activities in process. It basically means that there people are working and building and to use caution.

· This is a caution sign that requires employees as well as any visitors to wear a hard hat to protect their heads from injury. When this sign is seen, there may be hazards such as falling objects in the area.

· This sign means just what it says, “Road work ahead.” This type of construction sign is commonly seen exclusively with road-related construction, and warns drivers to use caution as they will soon be entering a road construction zone ahead.

· This type of construction sign is often utilized in roadways when there is either road construction or building construction that impedes the general usage of a road. This sign features a pictograph of a person holding a sign or flag and warns drivers that there is a flagger ahead and to slow down and drive with extra caution.


Construction Signs Make a Difference!

Work zones and construction areas that feature the use of construction safety signage enjoy a higher level of safety for employees, visitors, drivers, and for the general public as a whole. However, it is important to choose the right sign for the message and to be as specific as possible. For example, it wouldn’t make sense to simply use a general construction sign (the sign with the person digging) to convey the risk of a fall hazard. If a fall hazard is present, the correct sign should be used to indicate that specific hazard. Safety signs can really make a difference between a safe and unsafe construction zone.

Flexible Sprinkler Drops: What You Need to Know

Flexible sprinkler drops are connectors between the rigid piping framework and the sprinkler head in a fire sprinkler system design. The sprinkler head supply line can be either rigidly mounted using a pipe nipple or mounted on what is essentially a relatively flexible stainless steel hose, i.e. a flexible drop, that looks and functions much like the braided metal lines used in faucet installations.

The advantages to the flexible drops are that they are much faster to install, the threaded fitting end reduces the chance of leakage, and since they are furnished in lengths ranging from 28″ to 59″, the sprinkler head can be positioned more precisely over the area to be covered by the sprinkler. They can be used in both wet and dry suppressant systems. Flexible sprinkler drops are used with a bracket that holds the sprinkler head in place. This facilitates positioning the sprinkler head accurately in the center of tiles in a drop ceiling application. Flexible sprinkler drops also provide the adaptability to movement required in earthquake-prone areas.
They must be matched to the supply pipe diameter, which governs total gallons per minute (gpm), so that they do not exceed the ability of the system to deliver equal water pressure to all sprinklers. There are guidelines for the number of bends allowed, governed by the length of the flexible line. The higher initial cost relative to a solid pipe style may be a deterrent to some, but in light of the much lower assembly time, this becomes less of a consideration when pricing out the entire fire sprinkler system. A sprinkler fitter can typically mount 50-60 flexible sprinkler drops in an hour, vs. 6 to 10 of the rigid style.

Uncommon Fire Sprinkler System Malfunctions

Earlier this week I was reading through an article about residential fire protection and noticed a commentator calling out the serious maintenance obligations and malfunctioning potential of residential or commercial fire sprinklers. His argument was that malfunctions – and the subsequent water damage – were reason enough to dismiss the growing consensus around the safety benefits of fire sprinkler systems. I’m going to take this opportunity to dismiss some of these concerns.

With the increase in popularity (or regulatory requirement) for fire sprinkler systems in homes and commercial buildings, there is a lingering suspicion that sprinkler head error or unforeseen system malfunctions will lead to substantial water damage absent of a fire emergency. This is commonly called accidental leakage or discharge.
To be clear, the rate of fire sprinkler system malfunction is extremely rare. According to the American Fire Sprinkler Association, the odds of malfunction not resulting from direct human error are around 1 in 16 million. To put that in perspective, sprinkler systems are 16x less likely to malfunction than you are of being struck by lightning. Systematic leaks are also no more likely to be found in the plumbing than from a faulty sprinkler head. Pipe malfunctions, or leaks springing from the pipes that carry water to the system, do happen though they are more commonly associated with much older structures as compared to new, modern systems.
Five common fire sprinkler malfunctions: 
• Overheating
• Freezing
• Corrosion
• Mechanical damage
• Human sabotage or error
Overheating: This is generally the result of sprinkler heads being installed in locations where ceiling temperatures exceed the sprinkler’s heat sensitivity during high heat times in the summer or in facilities with high temperature operations. While definitely a concern, most systems are engineered to take ceiling temperatures into consideration and are rated to handle even the highest summer temperatures. In this scenario, if ceiling temperatures can exceed 155 degrees, the most common sprinkler head temperature, then a 200 degree or 286 degree head is installed.
Freezing: In the exact opposite scenario, if wet systems are installed in facilities with extreme cold temperatures such as non-insulated buildings the pipe or sprinkler heads can freeze and crack. After thawing the system may then leak. This situation is as old as fire sprinklers themselves. Common remedies include anti-freeze solutions added to the pipes, adding insulation around the system, or installing dry fire sprinklers that leverage air pressure and specially designed valves to keep water out of the system until needed.
Corrosion: As with most water systems, corrosion can build up over time and impact the functionality of the system or eat through the pipe. Annual inspections and replacement of corroded components can quickly remedy this situation.
Mechanical Damage: This covers a variety of potential issues including over-tightening of fittings, improperly installed sprinkler heads (for instance, not using Teflon tape to seal the threads), and a variety of very uncommon installation or maintenance errors. Using a qualified and licensed sprinkler contractor can limit the likelihood of this type of malfunction.
Human sabotage or error: Arguably the most common malfunction is the result of human error. Ever see a sign that looks like this:
Do Not Hang on Fire Sprinkler
(via to Kiss A Mezuzah blog on blogspot)
Yup, it’s there because people are … misinformed enough to actually hang items from a fire sprinkler designed to discharge water! Other common errors include hitting sprinkler heads with fork lifts, painting over them which distorts the ability to accurately respond to temperature, or generally doing other really stupid (and preventable) things.
The chance of a sprinkler head expelling water in the absence of a fire or one of those five options is so low it’s almost nonexistent.
The fire sprinkler industry helps prevent malfunctions and manufacturer’ error by following very strict quality control regulations and ensures all their products are tested and listed by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and Factory Mutual Research Corporation (FM). In addition, the industry as a whole (in most municipalities) requires licensed, bonded, and insured contractors install and maintain the system.
Fore more information, see:

Summer Workplace Hazards

When the cold temperatures of winter fade away, and the heat of the summer approaches, it is important to look at how workplace safety can be affected. Each season brings with it a different set of safety concerns, and if not properly addressed, it can lead to accidents, injuries or illness that could have otherwise been prevented. Taking the time to look at workplace summer hazards, and how to respond to them, can help keep a facility running smoothly.

Types of Summer Hazards

There are many types of summer safety hazards that need to be taken into account when making a facility safety plan in the hot summer months. The following are some of the most significant risks that may be present in a facility:
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  • Heat Stress – Many facilities can get quite warm due to the heavy macsummer-workplace-hazardshinery, even in the winter. In the summer, the temperatures of a facility can top 110 very easily. Heat stress is very dangerous, and needs to be taken seriously.
  • Sun Exposure – When working outside, direct exposure to the hot sun can be cause a variety of problems. Sun burn, for example, can be very painful and even lead to serious skin problems. The direct sun can also contribute to heat stress, and dehydration. Sun exposure builds up over time, so while some people might not recognize the risk, it is certainly a danger that can cause major problems.
  • Dehydration – When working in high temperatures people can become dehydrated very quickly. In dryer climates, people will sweat a lot, but it will evaporate quickly so they don’t notice it. This can lead to severe dehydration much more quickly than most people expect.
  • Dangerous Bugs – In many parts of the world there are poisonous bugs that come out during the summer. These bugs can bite or sting people, causing a variety of illnesses or injuries that need to be addressed quickly. Bugs that aren’t poisonous can also be very dangerous. Bees and other stinging bugs, as well as mosquitoes can be very painful, and can even spread diseases.
  • Animals – In the hot summer months, some animals will try to enter buildings to get into the shade. These animals can become frightened and dangerous if they feel trapped. Even outside, animals like snakes can be very dangerous. Animals may also be looking for food, and many of them have gotten used to being around humans. If they feel threatened, however, they can still attack.

It is easy to see how the changing seasons can bring about many different hazards to a workplace. By acknowledging these risks, and taking steps to minimize them, it is possible to keep everyone healthy and productive throughout the summer.

Keeping Facilities Safe during the summer

heat-stress-causesOnce the risks of working during the summer are identified, it is time to take steps to help limit or eliminate them. Each facility will have to come up with an effective strategy for each hazard that they are facing. Example of this would be training your employees on Heat Stress Causes using a training DVD (similar to this one). In addition to effective strategies, the solutions must be feasible. In many cases, the solution won’t be as obvious as most people would like.

For example, when a facility reaches temperatures of 120+ degrees, it is clearly unsafe to work in the area. The obvious solution is to reduce the temperature, but that may not always be possible. When the temperature on the outside is 90-100 degrees, and there are machines producing heat inside, it can be very difficult to regulate temperature. Air conditioners often can’t keep up with the cooling requirements, and ventilation is ineffective due to the high temperatures outside. Finding alternative solutions may take more time, but it is often the only option.

How to Fight the Heat

According to OSHA, here are the top factors that put workers at risk of heat related injuries:

[sws_grey_box box_size=”630″]Environmental

  • High temperature and humidity
  • Radiant heat sources
  • Contact with hot objects
  • Direct sun exposure (with no shade)
  • Limited air movement (no breeze, wind or ventilation)


  • Physical exertion
  • Use of bulky or non-breathable protective clothing and equipment

In many cases, the biggest problem associated with working in the summer is the heat from the sun. When this is the case, facilities need to come up with ways to keep everyone safe, despite the high temperatures. There are many options to choose from, and in many cases it will take a combined effort to accomplish. Some effective strategies include:
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  • Frequent Breaks – Offer employees frequent, short breaks to bring down their body temperature. Depending on the type of work being done, a few minutes each hour is often enough.
  • Cool Rooms – Provide small rooms with air conditioning that are kept at a low temperature. This can be a place where employees can go to recover, and rest during their breaks. It is much easier to cool a small room than an entire facility.
  • Lots of Liquids – Provide employees with lots of water and other liquids to help their bodies regulate temperature. Encourage them to drink as often as possible to remain hydrated.
  • Ice or Popsicles – Offer ice and popsicles to the employees to help cool them off. These are great ways to not only lower the body temperature, but also rehydrate and provide energy.
  • Air Circulation – Keep the air circulating as much as possible by using fans or other methods. Even if it is warm air being circulated, it is still better than allowing it to become stagnant.
  • Sun Protection – When working outside, it is important to keep employees protected from the sun. This can be done by providing shade wherever possible, and offering sunscreen for those who are working in direct sunlight. In addition, wearing long sleeves and a hat is also a good idea to prevent sunburn and other similar issues.


Protection from Insects & Animals

In addition to the heat, the summer also brings with it a number of different types of potentially dangerous insects and animals. In most cases, these creatures don’t pose much threat to people, because they can either be avoided, or the animals are able to run away without any conflict. On many worksites, however, animals are trapped or hiding in some type of equipment.

When employees enter the area, they can cause the animals to attack, which can be very dangerous or even life threatening for both the people and the animals. Whether it is something small like a hive of bees, or something larger like a sleeping bear, wild animals can be a major threat, especially in the summer months.

In order to keep everyone safe while at work, it is a good idea to provide training to the employees on how to minimize the risk. This training can start by instructing people to make extra noise while traveling through an area. Whether talking, whistling, singing or humming, the noise will alert larger animals to their approach, giving them the chance to run away.

For poisonous bugs, insects, lizards and other small animals, it is most important to be alert and watch out for signs of these dangerous creatures. If you see bees, wasps or other flying insects in the area, it likely means there is a nest of hive around. Avoiding the area until it can be properly checked out will help prevent injury. For other small animals, it is best to use caution when moving equipment or supplies where they might be hiding beneath.

If there are known problems with bugs or other animals, employers are responsible for taking action to have them removed. This can include setting traps or even hiring professionals to take care of the problem. Animals can be a significant risk not only to the safety of the employees, but to the entire facility. Some animals can chew through electrical wires, and others can damage products or equipment. During the summer months, animals are often very active, and must be seen as a serious threat.

Fire Sprinklers: Standard Response vs Quick Response

Before we begin, a brief history
In 1874, pioneer and private business owner Henry S. Parmelee installed the first fire sprinkler system. Initially his aim was to protect his piano company in New Haven, Connecticut, from factory fires. Parmelee understood that the first line of detection and defense against an impending fire would be from above the factory floor. Leveraging existing patents and historical precedence, Henry designed and installed the first automatic fire sprinkler system. As a result, he effectively prevented cataclysmic damage to his hand-built wooden pianos and protected the lives of his employees and customers. 
Well over a century from the first practical application of the sprinkler head, Parmelee’s legacy lives. But the challenge of a fire in a hotel high rise or a commercial office building differs greatly from that of a warehouse containing large quantities of plastics. Therefore, different types of sprinklers have been designed to meet the needs of varied occupancy and hazard. 
The six characteristics that define a sprinkler’s ability to control or extinguish a fire and hence define its listing are: 
  • Thermal sensitivity 
  • Temperature rating
  • Orifice size
  • Installation orientation
  • Water distribution characteristics
  • Special service conditions
We’ll go into more detail on these characteristics in a future post. 
This leaves us with two main sprinkler head response types that need to be understood when installing fire suppression systems from above which we are very proud to offer at Quick Response Fire Supply, LLC.
Standard Response versus Quick Response 

Standard Response Sprinkler Heads (SR): The most widely used type of sprinkler head. Their effectiveness is based largely on their ability to pre-wet nearby materials that the fire has not yet reached and cool adjacent areas. Fire control with the standard response sprinkler occurs as the original fuel burns out. The fire spread is gradually slowed because the fire can’t ignite surrounding areas that have been pre-wet by the sprinklers. Because the fire is confined to one area, only sprinklers above the fire operate. 

Quick Response Sprinkler Heads (QR): These are primarily used for light hazard applications and have a higher discharge pattern than the standard response heads. They’ve been developed for discharging water higher on the walls in order to keep the ceiling at a lower temperature. This helps prevent flash-over in a fire and increases the chance of human survivability which is why they are now the industry standard for installation in health care facilities, assisted living facilities, and residential occupancies.
The most common difference between a quick response sprinkler head (QR) and a standard response sprinkler head is known as thermal sensitivity. Quick response sprinkler heads activate slightly faster in a fire than a standard response head. As a result, extinguishing and suppressing the spread of fire in a more expedient fashion. Learn about a fire sprinkler’s thermal sensitivity here.
Physically, the only difference between a standard response fire sprinkler and a quick response fire sprinkler is the size of the bulb. Standard response sprinklers have a 5 mm glass bulb while quick response fire sprinklers have a 3 mm glass bulb. Can you spot the difference?
Standard Response vs Quick Response
“I can do anything you can do better…”
Both types of fire sprinkler have specific areas of coverage and control fire hazards per NFPA 13 guidelines
Cost Efficiency versus Product Practicality
Ceiling height is a key factor and you should always take into consideration the temperature of the environment during all the seasonal months of the year. The size of the spray area should be a primary concern when you installing a specific type of sprinkler head. Depending on what type of building you are outfitting, sometimes substituting several standard response sprinkler heads for a fewer amount of quick response sprinkler heads may be more of a cost effective approach depending on how large or small of an area you are working in.

Reducing Workplace Injuries

Reducing workplace injuries should be an important goal of every company in every industry. Millions of people are injured, sometimes severely, every year while at work. These types of injuries not only hurt the individual, however, but they cause a lot of damage to the employer as well. Injuries capredictive-solutions-chart-reducing-workplace-injuriesuse downtime in production, expenses related to the injury, and may even result in legal costs. With this in mind, reducing workplace injuries is an essential part of keeping any facility running smoothly, and profitably.

While workplace safety has improved dramatically over the past 50 years, there is still much that can be done. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are 3.6 million work-related injuries treated in emergency rooms each year. The majority of these injuries are non-life threatening, but they can have serious, long lasting impacts on the lives of employees. By taking the time and resources necessary to identify and reduce the risks in a workplace, it is possible to bring the total number of injuries down significantly.

Identifying Likely Risks

There are many different types of injuries which occur in the workplace, and depending on the type of facility you work in, you’ll be more likely to be injured in specific ways. If, for example, you work on construction sites, you’ll be far more likely to be injured by a falling object than someone who works in most other environments. Knowing that types of injuries are the most likely to occur in facilities like yours is a very good way to help reduce the risks.

By identifying the most common types of workplace injury in a particular industry, it is possible to take proactive steps to reduce the chances of those hazards from happening. Of course, improving workplace safety requires far more than just an understanding of the most common types of injuries in a given industry. You need to take a well-rounded approach to improving the overall safety in the workplace.

How to Reduce Workplace Injuries

There are many different things that can be done to help reduce the number, and severity, of workplace injuries. Some strategies that employers use include:
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  • Staying OSHA Compliant – One of the first things employers need to do when it comes to workplace safety is remain OSHA compliant. OSHA requirements are in place to help keep everyone safe, so staying compliant will naturally improve safety. Of course, staying compliant will also prevent any fines or penalties from OSHA.
  • Safety Signs – Identifying areas where there is a particular safety concern and alerting people to the risk is extremely effective. Using floor signs, wall signs or other safety signs it is easy and affordable to improve people’s risk awareness.
  • Proper Safety Gear – Supplying employees with the right safety gear for the facility, and requiring them to wear it is an effective way to prevent injuries, and reduce the overall severity of them too.
  • Predicting Injuries – One of the latest strategies employers are using is predicting and preventing workplace injuries. Using advanced systems, it is possible to predict when and where injuries are likely to occur. With this information, it is possible to dramatically reduce the overall number of injuries in many facilities.


Predicting Injuries Effectively

While all injury prevention strategies work on the concept of predicting injuries, and taking steps to prevent them, there are really two ways of doing this. The first way has been used for generations, and works by identifying specific risks, and attempting to do something to eliminate or reduce the hazard. For example, if there is a machine that has a moving arm which could cause injury, a facility may place a gate around the area. This will keep people away from the risk, and prevent injuries.

The other method of predicting and preventing injuries uses modern technologies to help find patterns which would have otherwise gone unnoticed. Computer software can use predictive analytics, tools and models to help identify potential hazards that otherwise would have been unseen. While this is a much newer workplace safety tool, it has helped many facilities reduce the number and severity of accidents significantly.


Predictive Solutions

Predictive Solutions is a leader in the accident prevention software industry, and they have successfully helped many companies in a variety of industries reduce the number of accidents they experience. They use predictive models to draw real-time conclusions about each customers’ future risks. This is done by inputting a wide range of data from the workplace, including information about past accidents. Once entered, the Predictive Solutions service can identify what types of hazards are present in an area.

This can be done based on specific projects, work groups, physical sites, or other categories, which gives safety managers a lot of options to choose from. When an area exhibits the characteristics of heightened risk, the program will alert the facility of the problem.

In addition to just relying on the specific information from one facility, however, the system actually references their internal dataset, which includes more than 100 Million observations from over 15,000 worksites.

Customers who have used the Predictive Solutions product have reduced the number of accidents quite significantly. The following example shows just how beneficial this type of accident prevention system can be:

  • Industrial Scientific Corp – This Atlanta-based energy utility company began using Predictive Solutions to improve overall safety. Since using the system, their construction division has reduced the injury rate by 65% over the course of four years. This shows just how effective the system can be, and over time as it ‘learns’ about a business, it can provide even better results. Read more about these results HERE.

According to a Creative Safety Publishing Podcast with Griffin Schultz, Griffin states:

[sws_blockquote_endquote align=”” cite=”Creative Safety Publishing Podcast – Griffin Schultz” quotestyle=”style02″]There’s a big challenge for us in safety, and that’s why we’re focused on what we’re doing to find some new ways to address workplace fatalities. Within our portfolio of businesses what we do around predicting and helping our customers prevent injuries is just one aspect of that. But, I would say we still have a lot of work to do to end workplace fatalities.[/sws_blockquote_endquote]

This is just one example of how well this type of workplace safety improvement system can work. As more and more companies adopt this type of service, not only will the effectiveness improve, but the numbers of injuries will go down.

Improving Workplace Safety Makes Sense

More and more companies are beginning to realize that improving workplace safety isn’t just something that they need to do for their employees. It is actually an excellent investment into the long term profitability of their company. According to one report from OSHA, for every one dollar invested into safety programs, employers are able to save between $4 and $6.

This is a huge return on investment for employers, who will also enjoy the benefits of safer, happier employees. Of course, there is a limit to the amount employers can spend on workplace safety while still getting the great return. This is why it is so important to focus the money where it can have the biggest impact. Whether that means improving the safety of a particular area of a facility, or investing in a program like Predictive Solutions, it is critical to take workplace safety seriously.

Working Together

One final thing to keep in mind when attempting to reduce workplace injuries is that this is something that everyone from the CEO down to the newest front line employee need to be concerned about. By working together, employees and management can identify all sorts of potential hazards, and take steps to reduce or even eliminate them. Employees need to follow safety procedures, and employers need to provide the facility with the right equipment and information to know how to stay safe. When everyone works together, workplace safety will become a reality. Make sure to check out Creative Safety Supply for all your workplace safety needs.

How to Spot Risk and Stay Alive

How to Spot Risk and Stay Alive

How to Spot Risk and Stay Alive

A safety professional may read the title of this article and feel it’s child’s play. How could somebody not know how to look for risk? That same safety professional may even be tempted to use a phrase that I cannot stand: common sense. I once heard a speaker explain that common sense is a learned phenomenon. We cull the experiences of our life and, from them, develop our so-called common sense. This is very true. If I spent my entire career reaching into a machine that wasn’t locked-out and nothing happened to me, I may believe that doing so was safe. This is the experience that develops my common sense.

Can You Rely on Common Sense?

That same scenario may seem like a lack of common sense to somebody who knows better, but we’re assuming that I have no other education or experience to help me come to a better conclusion. Of course, this example is extreme; it would also require that I had no experience or knowledge to let me know that rollers, gears, or blades were dangerous. The point of the matter is this: common sense is different for everybody, and therefore cannot be relied upon.

It’s important for safety professionals to realize that what seems like second-nature to us now, didn’t always. The fact that we can walk onto a construction site or a manufacturing floor and immediately begin pointing out unsafe conditions and practices stems from years of education and experience. When I first began in the industry, I could barely tell one piece of heavy equipment from another, let alone start pointing out problems. It took time to develop that particular skill set.

Walk a Mile in Their Shoes

To understand where a non-safety professional may be coming from, we need to put ourselves back in their shoes. Maybe you can’t remember what it was like before you knew safety so well, so instead, think of a time more recently when you had to visit a new facility or, worse yet, a new industry with which you were not used to dealing. Sure, there are things that carry over from facility to facility, from industry to industry, but most likely there were things there you had yet to understand – new machines, new procedures, new tasks. The first thing you needed to do was learn what those machines, procedures and tasks were. You needed to find out where the exposures were and how those exposures should be controlled.

The Importance of Risk Assessment

Yes, that’s right, you did a Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) or whatever preferred acronym you use for a risk assessment. Whether you stopped and did this on paper or you ran through it in your head, you went through a very methodical process. The problem is that you went through this process because it is a part of your training and background. Not so for your line employees, your laborers, or even members of management. Their inherent focus may be, “How do I properly operate this equipment?”, “What is the most efficient way to operate this?” or even “This is a piece of cake, so I guess I no longer need to pay attention,” not necessarily, “Where and why is this dangerous?”

Don’t Fish for Them, Teach a Them to Fish

It is important to instruct your employees that assessing risk is an important part of their job, not just something that is done for them . Train them on the proper way to perform a JHA. This should include running through some practice assessments and reviewing the existing assessments for your facility. When you see workers on the floor or jobsite, ask them what hazards are presented by their job and what they – or the company – have done to reduce their exposure. This is no time to be protective of your job and skills. You want everybody thinking like you do when you walk into a work area because you cannot be everywhere at once. If the employees can’t tell you what hazards their job presents and what controls are in place, then how can they possibly be aware if those controls or the precautions that they are supposed to be taking are effective?

What’s Wrong with This Picture?

Do you remember – as a child – doing those “What’s wrong with this picture?” puzzles? That’s how I approach every site or facility I enter. Consider the original picture – your frame of reference – to be the OSHA regulations, your company procedures, and your general knowledge of what is safe or unsafe. This original picture is how everything should be, in a perfect world. Next, you have the altered picture – the one with things missing, backwards, changed, whatever. This is reality. This is the facility or jobsite you’ve walked into. Having the first page in hand makes it easy to spot the problems, but what if you didn’t have that first page? What if you hadn’t known exactly how it should be, or had only gotten a quick glance? Now it becomes harder to see the problems. Our jobs must include giving our supervisors and workforce that first page – that frame of reference from which to work.

Do You Have the Right Picture?

To achieve this, they must understand the OSHA regulations that apply to their work, but just citing them chapter and verse helps only a little bit. They need to know how those regulations apply to what they do and be able to use them to help identify hazards. This is what the goal of a good OSHA 10 or 30 hour Outreach course should be – hazard identification. If you’re sitting through a class with an instructor that is just trying to cram as much of the CFR text down your throat as he or she can do in 10 or 30 hours, then your instructor has not been trained well and you have wasted your money. A good course teaches you the regulations and how to recognize if things are not right.

Now Do a Gut Check!

Finally, tell your people to trust their gut. No, common sense isn’t always good, but if something feels wrong to someone, most likely it is wrong, even if they’re not sure why. Tell them to take the time to find out why they feel this way or to get somebody with more experience or knowledge who can review it for them. In order for this to be successful, your company must be receptive to workers doing this. If every time a worker approaches a supervisor with a concern they hear “Just get back to work,” they will quickly stop trying to raise issues. Yet, if your company encourages this, eventually those same employees will begin to know why they feel something is wrong and, most likely, begin to be able to fix problems themselves, where possible.

Experience, knowledge, and good training, with good coaching along the way will help your employees get to a point where spotting risks is child’s play. It won’t happen overnight, but every day that passes is another day they’ve gotten better at it and another day they’ve stayed alive.


Perhaps you decided to read this because you thought, “Of course not!  Everyone knows that is a crazy dangerous, not to mention non-productive.” However, studies show that walking and texting are pretty much akin to walking blindfolded.

Isn’t this Just Common Sense?

Researchers at Stony Brook University (study published in Gait & Posture) confirmed what many think is common sense in a study of young people walking while texting or talking on mobile phones. The study showed that “cell phone use among pedestrians leads to increased cognitive distraction, reduced situation awareness and increases in unsafe behavior.”  In short, it’s dangerous to walk and text!

As a baseline, the study participants were shown a target on the floor 25 feet away. Then with their vision obstructed, participants were instructed to walk at a comfortable pace to the target and stop. The researchers recorded time and accuracy observations of each of the 3 walks each participant completed.

A week later, one-third of the group completed the same task with obstructed vision focusing them on a mobile phone, one-third while talking on a mobile phone, and one-third while texting.  Eric M. Lamberg, PT, Ed. D., co-author of the study, remarked, “We were surprised to find that talking and texting on a cell phone were so disruptive to one’s gait and memory recall of the target location.”

The study concluded texting or talking while walking phone slow task completion significantly with 33% and 16% respective reductions in speed. Additionally, texting participants veered off course demonstrating a 6% increase in lateral deviation and 13% increase in distance traveled. Another study by Jack Nasar, an Ohio State University professor, reports emergency room visits due to pedestrians injured while walking with cell phones have soared in recent years.

Mobile Devices on the Construction Site

Mobile device usage on a construction site places your workers in danger and reduces productivity. Construction sites are inherently fraught with more danger than streets and sidewalks. So the dangers pointed out in these studies are miniscule compared to what mobile device users face in a construction zone.

You may not have a policy against working blindfolded, but you probably do have a health and safety policy against operating machinery, driving, or even being present on a job site while intoxicated. Texting has the same effects as intoxication when it comes to multi-tasking.  It is the safety professional’s duty to Increase safety and productivity by establishing and enforcing a written mobile device usage policy.

Developing a Mobile Device Usage Policy

Tips to develop your mobile device usage policy:

  • Prohibit mobile device use including talking, texting, emailing, browsing, gaming, or use of any other feature while engines are running on any kind of motor vehicle or machinery. Note that this includes company-provided and personal devices.
  • Require any mobile device usage to be done outside the work zone. This may require additional signage at work sites.
  • Provide tips for safe mobile device usage and etiquette anywhere. Examples include to pick your spot carefully when you stop walking to text.
  • Distributed a written policy to all employees
  • Require each employee to sign off on the policy.
  • Enforce the policy.

Continue the discussion: How do you balance mobile device safety with the productive use of mobile devices on the job site?