All posts tagged workplace safety

Creating a Strong Safety Program for Your Fleet Drivers

freight services. commercial delivery vans in row at transporting carrier shipping service company parking

While most operations with an automotive or trucking fleet focus on safety, few businesses are actually monitoring their drivers to make sure they are adhering to the company’s rules, a new study has found.

Many companies only pull reports on their drivers’ records on an annual basis, which means they miss important developments like a DUI or a few moving violations that will increase the cost of insuring them.

In fact, 70% of companies with fleets do not even monitor their drivers and 60% don’t have a safety program in place, according to the study by SambaSafety, a firm that provides background screening and driver safety records for companies.

The key to having a successful driver safety program in place requires management buy-in and a company-wide culture focused on safety that encompasses not only a company’s fleet drivers, but also anybody in the operation that may drive their personal vehicles on occasional company business.

SambaSafety recommends:

Motivating staff to be safer – The company advises against just issuing warnings like “slow down” and “put away the phone,” and instead focusing on what’s at stake if they don’t. Instead of numbers and checklists, make a presentation that lets them think in terms of their well-being, or even loss of life, for the best response.

Providing strong safety leadership – Creating a safety culture requires leadership to model the behaviors that all employees should adopt.

Not just focusing on fleet drivers – Any employees that use their vehicles for work must also be part of the training and they should know that you expect the same safe behavior of anybody you employ that drives.

Drive home the point that an employer can be responsible for anything that happens when employees are conducting company business, even if they are running to the office supply store for you.

Being consistent – Just because you have a safety policy, it may not be enough to get you off the hook if one of your drivers causes an accident. Companies can be held responsible if they do not have proactive intervention policies and detailed documentation.

Using data to your advantage — Collecting data on your employees’ driving habits can greatly improve your ability to make sure you have a safe fleet of drivers. And the best way to do that is through continuous driver monitoring.

“The right data can help employers accurately reward those who are doing well, too, and securely keep up with disciplinary actions toward those who are missing the mark,” SambaSafety says in its report.
Do you have a strong safety policy for your drivers? The company recommends that you ask the following of your safety program:

  • Was the policy established with input from key stakeholders?
  • Has it been clearly communicated to all employees?
  • Does it tie in to company goals and mission?
  • Do employees receive regular reminders and updates about safety policies?
  • Is it aspirational and values-based rather than simply disciplinary?
  • Is there complete buy-in from top management?
  • Is the policy uniformly enforced?
  • Is there a fair, diverse, professional board for incident review?
  • Is data properly used to increase compliance?
  • Is it time for an update?

Silica Safety Enforcement Delayed for Construction Industry

Stonecutter's Workshop

Cal/OSHA has delayed enforcement of its crystalline silica safety standard for the construction industry for another three months to ensure the California rules are in synch with federal rules on the dangerous airborne matter.

The move came after Fed OSHA announced April 6 a delay in adoption of the crystalline silica standard for the sector “to conduct additional outreach and provide educational materials and guidance for employers.”

The silica rules have already been in effect for general industry since 2016 and the delay in enforcement is only for the construction industry. Enforcement for the construction sector was slated to start June 23, but that’s been changed to Sept. 23 under the new order.

Under the new silica standard, the permissible exposure limit is 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, compared to the old standard of 100.

The California standard is similar to the federal standard, which the industry is challenging in a federal lawsuit. One outfit, the American Chemistry Council, wrote to the Cal/OSHA standards board that the 50 micrograms level is unnecessary and that the current standard, in place since 1971, has markedly reduced the cases of silicosis.

Industry has complained that the cost of complying with the new standard for employers nationwide will be about $6 billion, although Fed-OSHA says it will cost $371 million for employers to fall in line.

The sticking point for the federal construction silica rule is that it requires wet cutting of silica-containing materials to reduce the chances of particles in the air.

The California rules allow for wet cutting and dry cutting with vacuum saws that suck in the particles before they escape into the air. Contractors would rather cut dry rather than wet.

Fed-OSHA’s requirements were also scheduled to take effect on June 23, but the agency announced that implementation would be delayed by three months to give industry a chance to provide data showing that dry vacuum cutting is just as safe in reducing crystalline silica dust as wet cutting.

While Cal/OSHA’s move only delays enforcement, the silica rule is already on the books and employers should comply with it.

All construction employers covered by the standard are required to:

  • Establish and implement a written exposure control plan that identifies tasks that involve exposure and methods used to protect workers, including procedures to restrict access to work areas where high exposures may occur.
  • Designate a competent person to implement the written exposure control plan.
  • Restrict housekeeping practices that expose workers to silica where feasible alternatives are available.
  • Offer medical exams – including chest X-rays and lung function tests – every three years for workers who are required by the standard to wear a respirator for 30 or more days per year.
  • Train workers on work operations that result in silica exposure and ways to limit exposure.
  • Keep records of workers’ silica exposure and medical exams.

 

If you have not started complying, you should get your new safety protocols in place now. You have an additional three months to do so.

 

Drug Use Skyrockets among American Workers

Tableau of drugs- pills, coke, marijuana, and alcohol.

Drug use is rapidly increasing among American workers, as more states liberalize marijuana laws, cocaine makes a resurgence and more people abuse amphetamines and heroin.

A new study by Quest Diagnostics Inc., a workplace drug-testing lab, found that the number of workers testing positive for illicit drugs is higher than at any time in the last 12 years.

That puts employers in a tricky predicament, particularly if employees are using at work, which could reduce productivity and also make them more susceptible to workplace injuries since they may not be as focused as they should be on their work.

In 2016, 4.2% of the 8.9 million urine drug tests that Quest conducted for employers turned up positive, compared to 4% in 2015 and 3.5% in 2011. The rate was the highest since 2004, when 4.5% of tests showed evidence of potentially illicit drug use.

While there were marked increases in positive tests for most illicit drugs, the surprising excption was prescription opioids like hydrocodone and oxycodone, thanks o stricter enforcement in many jurisdictions around the country.

Marijuana is the most commonly used drug among U.S. workers and was identified in 2.5% of all urine tests for the general workforce in 2016, up from 2.4% a year earlier. In oral fluid testing, which detects recent drug use, marijuana positivity increased nearly 75%, from 5.1% in 2013 to 8.9% in 2016.

The highest increases for marijuana usage among workers seemed to be in states that have recently legalized the recreational use of marijuana.

The number of workers testing positive in Colorado rose 11%, while in Washington there was a 9% increase. The rates of increase were more than double the increase nationwide in 2016.

 

Changes in test-positives by drug:

  • Amphetamine: Up 8%
  • Marijuana: Up 4.2%
  • Heroin: Zero (after 146% increase in four years prior)
  • Oxycodone: Down 4%
  • Cocaine: Up 12%

 

 

Implications for businesses

About 12% of workers who die on the job test positive for drugs or alcohol in their system at the time of the incident. And incidentally, one OSHA study found that the most dangerous occupations, like construction and mining, also have the highest drug use rates among workers.

Employers suffer from hiring substance abusers in many ways. Not only do they run the risk of having deadly or dangerous accidents occur, but substance abusers also cost employers money in other ways, including poor productivity and decision-making.

Substance abusers may:

  • Have poor work performance.
  • Frequently call in sick or arrive late.
  • Frequently change workplaces.
  • Struggle with productivity.
  • Injure themselves or others at work.

 

The takeaway

If you’re concerned, you can initiate an effective workplace drug program that includes drug testing before hiring and during employment – and the consequences for violating the rules.

You should have in place rules for working while under the influence and the ramifications for doing so.

You may also want to consider an employee assistance program for employees who feel they may have a problem, as well as for those who feel they’re developing a problem. A quality assistance program will offer services such as counseling to deal with substance abuse problems.

You may also want to consider holding meetings about health and safety and drug use. Provide education about what addiction looks like and why people begin to abuse drugs/alcohol. Education can help employees understand how to support those that are struggling, as well as remove negative stereotypes often associated with addiction.

Provide health benefits that offer a more “comprehensive coverage” for addiction. This includes addiction assessment (screening), treatment, aftercare and counseling.

 

Getting Buy-in from Managers on Workplace Safety Programs

Inspections at commercial transport dock

One of the keys to instituting a good safety program is to get management and supervisor buy-in.

You need their support and belief in the system if you are to convince your employees to embrace your safety regimen. If your managers don’t believe in the safety plans you have put together, it will show through when they try to sell them to your staff.

If you don’t have buy-in from your managers, the chances are slim to none that your employees will embrace the changes you are proposing. Managers play a crucial role in getting employees on board with safety.

If you are serious about preventing injuries and want to keep your workers’ comp X-Mod low, the role of your management team is crucial.

You will often encounter a few different personality types among your managers and they need to be convinced of the importance of workplace safety in different ways.

  • The excuse-makers: They are the ones that blame external factors that are out of their control for safety lapses, and they may pooh-pooh the harm that a high X-Mod has. They may talk the talk on safety, but they don’t walk the walk.
  • Half-hearted bosses: These managers may actually buy into the safety program, but they are unable to show their commitment in ways that make an impression on the rank and file.
  • Committed: These managers are fully committed and enthusiastically embrace your safety plans and discuss them with staff with exuberance.

 

You’ll need a different approach with each personality type to get them to embrace the concept. Once they do, they can effectively convey the urgency and importance of workplace safety to the rank and file.

Constructor Magazine recently had these recommendations for getting management buy-in:

Select the right leaders – Choose managers who are firm, yet fair with a passion for the safety of the workforce. They should have a track record of success so that they can be an inspiration to their teams. Also, they should not be afraid to get their hands dirty to make a point or demonstrate how something is done.

 

Talk about risk management holistically – Every facet of your operation needs to be addressed if you want a comprehensive global risk management culture to exist.

Executives can influence this by extending discussions of risk management beyond the worksite to help managers see the bigger picture of why safety matters.

Assessing the risk associated with every task, purchase order, estimate or piece of equipment used will reinforce the notion that risk management is a company-wide function and not only in the sphere that the manager is responsible for.

 

Make periodic site visits – Top leadership should make a point to get on the floor and visit various departments to watch the workflow and reinforce the importance of safety to the workers. They should make these visits with the manager who has been put in charge of safety for that department.

At the same time, they should not arrive and start nitpicking and being enforcers of safety policy. Instead, their role should be to start conversations with the workers about safety challenges and asking for advice and ideas to make the operation safer.

They can use these visits to also celebrate successes and challenge the team to do better and always look for issues that could lead to injuries.

How Tracking Near Misses, Employee Training Reduces Injuries

Business woman gives safety presentation at office. Multi-ethnic group of professionals.

The latest trend in workplace safety best practices is tracking “leading indicators” – or events that take the lessons learned from past events – to reduce the chances of future injuries.

Safety professionals are increasingly keeping track of near misses, hours spent on training and facility housekeeping and measuring the impact on the organization’s overall safety record. And they are finding that this approach is having a significant impact in preventing injuries.

The trend is a new one. For years, workplace safety managers and industrial safety engineers used lagging indicators to track and manage workplace injuries and illness. They would evaluate:

  • Injury rates
  • Injury counts, and
  • Days injury-free

 

The major drawback to only using lagging indicators of safety performance is that they tell you how many people got hurt and how badly, but not how well your company is doing at preventing incidents and accidents.

In the last few years, safety-minded companies have been shifting their focus to using leading indicators to drive continuous improvement. Lagging indicators measure failure, but leading indicators measure performance – and that’s what we’re all after.

And even if you don’t have dedicated safety professionals on your staff, your organization can learn from what its larger counterparts are doing. Surveys like a recent one of safety professionals by the online news site EHS Today can be valuable to even small firms.

EHS Today surveyed about 1,000 environmental, health and safety professionals about which leading indicators they are tracking the most. The top 10 are:

  1. Near misses
  2. Employee audits/observations
  3. Participation in safety training
  4. Inspections and their results
  5. Participation in safety meetings
  6. Facility housekeeping
  7. Participation in safety committees
  8. Overall employee engagement in safety
  9. Safety action plans execution
  10. Equipment/machinery maintenance

 

 

As you can see, a leading indicator is a measure preceding or indicating a future event that you can use to drive activities or the use of safety devices to prevent and control injuries.

Leading indicators are focused on future safety performance and continuous improvement. These measures are proactive in nature and report what employees are doing on a regular basis to prevent injuries.

Used correctly, leading indicators should:

  • Allow you to see small improvements in performance
  • Measure the positive: what people are doing versus failing to do
  • Enable frequent feedback to all stakeholders
  • Be credible to performers
  • Be predictive
  • Increase constructive problem-solving around safety
  • Make it clear what needs to be done to get better
  • Track impact versus intention

 

Creating a leading indicator

To design a leading indicator, you need a framework that takes into account the near-term, mid-term and long-term objectives that will lead you to your goal.

Suppose you want to reduce strain injuries in your printing plant. You might want to start by identifying the factors that lead to these injuries.

Ergonomics is an obvious factor, but you could get more granular or more general in your consideration. Loads, repetitions and workstation design might be factors at the individual level, while work procedures, the pace of work, and safety culture might be important factors at the operational or corporate levels.

You can track the data to see which areas are likely to cause future strain injuries. And once you do that, you have a model for how the injuries occur. At that point you can consider what type of interventions you may want to implement to prevent future strain injuries.

 

Report, Investigate Near Misses to Improve Safety

Man nearly steps on a banana peel on a city street.

One of the most important workplace safety tools that you can put to use is the reporting of near misses and correcting the factors that led to such a close encounter.

A near miss is an event that could have led to a workplace injury, illness or death. While you are not required to report near misses to your insurer, you should be taking note of them as they can help you identify deficiencies in your workplace safety protocols.

You should use near misses as the starting point to conduct inspections that could help you prevent a real workplace injury in the future. But you can’t investigate what you don’t know, and it’s crucial therefore that your staff report such events.

Investigating near misses is part of any successful workplace safety management program and you should make the process for reporting them easy and without ramifications for the reporting employee.

 

What is and isn’t a near miss

An OSHA factsheet defines a near miss – or close call – as an incident in which no property was damaged and no workers were injured, but where, given a slight shift in time or position, damage or injury easily could have occurred.

The factsheet stresses that although near misses cause no immediate harm, they can precede events in which a loss or injury could occur.

You should resist the urge to chalk the near miss up to just luck or bad luck, because a series of events or lack of precautions would have led up to the close call.

Typically, near misses are the result of a faulty process or management system and it should be your goal to investigate and find out where the breakdown occurred and what you can do to improve it.

 

A near-miss program

Near-miss reporting is vitally important to preventing serious, fatal and catastrophic incidents that are less frequent but far more harmful than other incidents.

The National Safety Council recommends that the following should be part of your safety program:

  • Clearly define “near miss.”
  • Establish a reporting system that reinforces the notion that every opportunity to identify and control hazards, reduce risk and prevent harmful incidents must be acted on.
  • Investigate near-miss incidents to identify the root cause and the weaknesses in the system or employee action that resulted in the circumstances that led to the near miss.
  • Use investigation results to address the failure that led to the near miss and to improve safety systems, hazard control and risk reduction.
  • Use the lessons learned and your new protocols in employee safety training.

 

Reporting system

One of the key aspects of a near-miss program is reporting. Most importantly, you want to encourage your workers to report such incidents because often they may occur out of sight from a supervisor or manager.

You should put out clear instructions for all personnel on how to report near misses, including whom to report to. Create forms that detail the events, what happened and why they think it constituted a near miss.

Make sure to not assail any worker reporting a near miss. Encourage your personnel to report near misses without fear of retribution or being blamed.

Avoid thinking in terms of whom to blame when investigating a near miss and instead focus on what precipitated it.

 

Case studies

LESSONS LEARNED – A manufacturer uses event and near-miss analysis to head off future incidents. It uses an event system that records the near miss, including detailed information on what led to the close call and what lessons can be learned from the event. Those lessons are shared throughout the organization.

 

IMMEDIATE ACTION – A chemical manufacturer tracks lower-level claims and near misses to identify areas where more significant injuries are likely to occur. The company encourages employees to take action to resolve issues on a temporary basis until permanent controls can be implemented.

New Slip, Trip, Fall Prevention Rules for General Industry

A Caucasian, female office worker climbing on a ladder trying to reach for a box on a shelf.  She wears a black outfit from top to bottom and has brown hair.  She stands on a ladder that is a bit too short and leans forward dangerously trying to retrieve the box.  The shelf has several compartments with the same box in each compartment.  There is a wall and large glass windows on the left, behind her.  There is a white ceiling above her.  The floor of the office is out of view.

Federal OSHA implemented a new rule on Jan. 17 that is aimed at reducing slip, trip and fall hazards in the workplace.

The revisions are aimed at tackling one of the main causes of worker deaths and injuries in American workplaces by applying rules designed for the construction and manufacturing sectors to other general industries.

They add requirements for personal fall protection systems and eliminate existing mandates to use guardrails as a primary fall protection method. They also allow employers to choose from accepted fall protection systems which type they want to use.

The new standard will prevent some 30 workplace deaths and more than 5,800 injuries every year, OSHA says.

While the rules will have little impact on construction and manufacturing, management in other industries needs to bone up on the rules to ensure companies are in compliance.

The most significant update to the rules allows employers to choose the fall protection system that is most effective for them and based on a variety of acceptable options, including the use of personal fall protection systems.

The agency has allowed the use of personal fall protection systems in construction since 1994, and the final rule adopts similar requirements for general industry.

The final rule also allows employers to:

  • Use rope descent systems up to 300 feet above a lower level.
  • Prohibit the use of body belts as part of a personal fall arrest system.
  • Require worker training on personal fall protection systems and other equipment designed for falls.

 

OSHA says it tried to align fall protection requirements for general industry “as much as possible” with its requirements for construction because many employers perform both types of activities.

The final rule for general industry updates requirements for ladders, stairs, dockboards, and fall and falling object protection.

 

Key provisions

Fall protection

An employer’s obligation to provide fall protection is triggered when employees work at least four feet above a lower level.

The final rule requires employers to select one or more of these options, depending on the particular situation or activity:

  • Guardrail system
  • Safety net system
  • Personal fall arrest system (body belts now prohibited)
  • Positioning system
  • Travel restraint system
  • Ladder safety system (does not include cages or wells)
  • Handrails
  • Designated areas (only permitted on low-slope roofs)

 

The rule establishes fall protection options and other requirements for some specific situations like hoist areas, runways, wall openings, repair pits, and stairways.

 

Ladder safety

The final rule sets out general ladder safety requirements applicable to fixed ladders, portable ladders, and mobile ladder stands and platforms.

Employers must ensure that:

  • Ladders are capable of supporting at least the maximum intended load, i.e., the total weight and force of anticipated employees and equipment or other materials.
  • Mobile ladder stands and platforms are capable of supporting four times the maximum intended load.

 

Ladders must be inspected before initial use during a work shift, and as necessary, to identify visible defects that could cause worker injuries.

 

Training

Employers must ensure training of workers who use personal fall protection or work in dangerous circumstances, including working on loading docks. Workers must be trained by a “qualified person,” and the training must be understandable to employees and cover:

  • Identification of fall hazards.
  • Proper use of personal fall protection systems.
  • Maintenance, inspection, and storage of equipment or systems used for fall protection.

 

Employers must also ensure the retraining of workers when they have reason to believe workers lack the required comprehension and skill.

OSHA Sets Limits on Drug Testing Injured Workers

drug test

Employers are not allowed to have a blanket policy of requiring drug and alcohol tests after a workplace injury as it may discourage injury reporting, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has said in an interpretation letter.

It issued the letter in response to a company’s blanket policy after some intoxicated workers had been injured on the job, and it comes as a new OSHA regulation on post-injury testing is slated to take effect at the start of 2017.

These recent actions should spur any employer with a policy of testing its workers post-accident to revisit its rules so they don’t run afoul of OSHA’s regulations.

OSHA’s “Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses” rule does not bar employers from drug or alcohol testing its workers, but it does prohibit companies from using such testing or the threat of it as a form of retaliation against employees who report injuries. These new rules were published in May 2016 and will take effect on Jan. 1, 2017.

However, the rules specifically point out that if an employer conducts drug testing to comply with the requirements of a state or federal law or regulation, the employer’s motive would not be retaliatory and this rule would not prohibit such testing.

With this new rule the agency is likely to take a hard stance on mandatory post-injury drug testing without a compelling reason.

It is unclear what will happen to employers who enforce post-incident testing policies that OSHA deems unreasonable, although several experts say they expect the agency will attempt to cite employers.

The rule will likely have far-reaching effects considering that 56% of U.S. manufacturers had such policies, according to a 2012 study by the Government Accountability Office. That same study found that these policies “may discourage workers from reporting injuries and illnesses.”

OSHA says in the rule that employer policies should limit post-incident testing to situations in which employee drug use is likely to have contributed to the incident and for which the test can accurately identify impairment caused by drug use, according to the final rule.

Examples of instances that OSHA says would not be reasonable to conduct a drug test include:

  • An employee who reports a bee sting.
  • A repetitive strain injury.
  • An injury caused by a lack of machine guarding, or by a machine or tool malfunction.

 

Under the rule, employers do not have to specifically suspect drug and/or alcohol use before testing, but there should be a reasonable possibility that such use by the reporting employee contributed to the reported injury or illness for the employer to mandate the testing.

The probable cause for a drug test would need to be based on observation and a good-faith belief that an employee is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Such observations should be made by two people trained to spot such impairments and should be documented in writing

Employment law attorneys recommend that all employers look at their current policy for post-injury drug and alcohol testing, how that policy is communicated to employees, and what kind of feedback they had when the policy was put into place.

OSHA Gets Tough on Audits and Penalties May Apply Earlier than Expected

OSHA inspection

Those higher fines that federal OSHA plans on implementing Aug. 1, can actually start applying to any workplace safety violations that were cited in inspections as early as February of this year.

That’s because OSHA can take as long as six months after an inspection to issue citations and the penalties it proposes for the employer. This sobering news comes as OSHA finalizes new regulations regarding electronic reporting of injuries and has started conducting more probing investigations than it has in the past.

Under the federal budget for 2016, fines for the most common violations – serious and other-than-serious – fines are expected to rise to $12,471 from the current $7,000. Also, willful and repeat violations will rise to a maximum of $124,709 on Aug. 1.

The final penalties have yet to be set and pundits say that the Labor Department has until July 1 to publish the new interim final rules. OSHA may choose to set a lower figure if it concludes that the new maximums would have a negative economic impact or that the social costs would outweigh the benefits.

The higher penalties are also coming as OSHA has revised its requirements for recording and submitting records of workplace injuries and illnesses. Once the new rule takes effect, you will be required to electronically submit the recorded information for posting on the OSHA website if you have 250 or more workers.

This new rule will also cover those establishments with 20 to 249 employees that are classified in 67 specific industries which have historically high rates of occupational injury and illness. These businesses must also electronically submit information from their 2016 OSHA 300A Summaries to OSHA by July 1, 2017. Beginning in 2019, the submission deadline will be changed from July 1 to March 2 for the previous year.

In addition, OSHA is set to approach inspections differently, trading frequency for rigor, which could mean that once a company is being inspected there’s a chance it will incur multiple penalties.

Specifically, it will switch from trying to reach a certain number of inspections per year to conducting more rigorous inspections. That could mean more penalties per company because more can be uncovered during longer inspections.

More detailed inspections will likely mean more employee interviews by OSHA investigators, providing the time to wait for sample results and make return visits, and generally diving deeper. That can mean more citations and bigger penalties.

 

What you can do now

Companies that want to ensure they’re in compliance should consider getting a hazard assessment.

You can also arrange for a compliance audit that will identify any gaps and create an action plan to close them.

Companies should also look at a trend analysis of the most common injury types that happen with their employees and create safety activities around those, which is a step toward mitigating or eliminating accident occurrences.

Those activities combined should keep you from popping up on OSHA’s radar.

The Next Wave in Workplace Safety: Wearables

smart cap

As our workplaces and operations continue to evolve, the next frontier is wearable technology for workplace safety.

Some companies have started testing various types of wearable technology to reduce injuries in a number of industries, including oil fields, construction sites, mines, power plants, shipyards, warehouses, manufacturing, aviation and logistics.

Hands-free wearables can be employed to monitor workers’ vitals along with their exposure to harmful elements and chemicals, as well as their proximity to dangerous areas in the workplace.

And new technology is being developed that can collect data on the job site and detect changes in the work environment and the condition of equipment and machinery. The devices are designed to alert workers wearing the gadgets to any problems.

Wearable devices can provide safety alerts and prompts to employees in the field, remind workers of specific safety procedures when conducting different routines, and even enable an injured worker to reach out for help.

In this issue we explore some workplace wearables that are designed to reduce workplace injuries.

 

One-touch SOS alert

Matrix Medical Network, which provides in-home care services, is using wearables to help its 500 employees send out a distress call if they are at risk or threatened.

The company is using a system sold by AlertGPS to provide one-touch SOS alerting. If an employee in the field feels at risk or threatened, a simple touch of a button will instantly alert authorized personnel to the emergency.

Since the system uses GPS, authorized personnel are able to know exactly where the employee in distress is located.

The wearable technology provides additional safety features such as predator alerts, so if a staff member is scheduled to work near the home of a registered sex offender, he or she will be alerted right away.

AlertGPS also lets the company send mass notifications to all of its workers, if needed.

No dunce caps here

Australian mining giant Rio Tinto issues its dump truck drivers a wearable called the SmartCap.

It looks like a baseball cap, but it has a twist: It can conduct regular EEG tests on the wearer to gauge the worker’s alertness.

If it senses that a truck driver’s mind is approaching something called “microsleep” – the feeling you have if you are close to dozing off behind the wheel – the SmartCap will send out an alert.

The product’s applications are not limited to the mining industry, and it can be used in any production environments, trucking and for a company’s fleet drivers.

Fatigue is a major contributor to workplace accidents and deaths, so a device like this would be appropriate for any workplace in which employee alertness is critical to their safety and productivity.

 

The gas detector

Marathon Petroleum teamed up with Accenture in 2011 to develop the Accenture Life Safety Solution, a “wireless-enabled multi-gas detection system” that helps protect workers in potentially hazardous situations.

Employees wear a single, multi-gas detector (within 10 inches of their breathing zone) that is able to detect a number of gases, including:

  • Hydrogen sulfide
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Lower-explosive-limit (LEL) hydrocarbon gases
  • Sulfur dioxide
  • Nitrogen dioxide

 

The device combines Wi-Fi and location-based technologies with gas detectors. The combination enables safety and operations managers to remotely monitor workers.

The company says that because its employees knew their safety was being monitored continuously – no matter their location – they had a greater sense of confidence and security.

In addition, Marathon reported cost savings resulting from its implementation of the wearable tech.