The Safety Pro Podcast

By Blaine J. Hoffmann, MS OHSM

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The SafetyPro Podcast, helping you manage safety one episode at a time. With the constant regulatory and workplace culture challenges businesses face, we’ll provide you with all the relevant information necessary to achieve a safer, more productive workplace. No management theory, platitudes, or guru speak - just actionable info you can use right now.

Episode Date
121: Stretching is NOT Work Prep w/Lori Frederic

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After having a private business providing sports massage therapy and strength coaching, Lori wanted to raise her game and reach more people. She quickly found a love and respect for the hard-working men and women that make this first-world country thrive.

Her biomechanics and movement knowledge complement the world of safety & health to provide an unconventional approach to injury prevention. When Lori isn’t inspiring blue-collar badasses, she’s hanging with her husband, 3 kids, and 3 dogs.

Lori is constantly disrupting, innovating, and inspiring as she speaks across the country to safety and management audiences. You can also catch her on the SafetyPro Community page as well!

Please visit or to subscribe for a free stretch & flex course!

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Jan 18, 2021
120: When Does Safety Tech Get Creepy?

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The science and technology around connected devices/software and how we interact with them regarding workplace safety is continuing to advance. At what point do wearables, connected devices and software become intrusive? 

In this episode I run down a list of really cool devices/wearables as well as emerging technology that has real safety and health benefits, but may not be socially acceptable. At least not yet.

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Jan 14, 2021
119: COVID-19 Workplace Perception Survey Results

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The COVID-19 pandemic has completely changed the way we view safety and health in the workplace. Especially the protocols that businesses have in place. Whether it's following social distancing measures, providing personal protective equipment (PPE), or conducting more rigorous cleaning and sanitization, businesses have made safety investments as a result.

To understand employees' and business leaders' concerns regarding COVID-19 safety protocols in the workplace at healthcare, manufacturing, retail, and transportation/warehousing businesses, Stericycle conducted a survey of 1,000 U.S. employees who currently work on-site as well as 450 U.S. business leaders at companies with more than 100 employees.

The Workplace Safety Survey highlights the perceptions that employees and business leaders have on COVID-19 safety investments and protocols, corporate responsibility, and concerns about employee safety. The following top five themes come to mind.

  1. COVID-19 Workplace Safety Investments
  2. COVID-19 Protocols and Training
  3. COVID-19 Compliance and Enforcement
  4. COVID-19 PPE Disposal at Work
  5. Flu and COVID-19 Prevention Efforts

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Jan 06, 2021
118: A Brief Review of 2020

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As 2020 wraps up, I wanted to reflect on a few things that we, as safety professionals, should take away from one of the craziest years we can remember.

Please listen and share this episode with others. If you want to go more in-depth on other topics - become a SafetyPro Community member (FREE to join). Become a PREMIUM member and get access to exclusive Safety & Health Management content and engage with other safety pros! Live chats, mentorship, premium downloads, videos, tools, and more!

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Dec 31, 2020
117: Workplace Violence Response Planning w/Shawn Rafferty

Workplace Violence Response Planning with Shawn Rafferty

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SPR Group LLC was formed in 2018 by Shawn Rafferty. SPR Group LLC's strategic vision centers around threat management, preparedness, training, damage mitigation, and effective response. Shawn sees a dangerous disconnect between law enforcement, organizations, and individuals about how they can work together to help:

1. Prevent incidents

2. Mitigate damage

3. Respond during an active shooter event or other life-threatening situations

Even more troubling is the apparent lack of preparation and training for individuals and organizations. It is unfortunate that even after so many active shooter events, people and organizations are still not prepared, and many do not know what to do. Shawn's main objective is to help save lives by preparing organizations and individuals to prevent, prepare, and respond during an active shooter event.

SPR Group LLC is the embodiment of everything Shawn has learned and experienced over 25 years in various leadership and security roles. The work Shawn performed with the United States Military, local/federal law enforcement, and security firms opened his eyes in ways he would never have imagined. Far too often, people are left to react and hope the natural fight or flight response helps them figure out what to do when the worst happens. - this is not enough.

When lives are at stake, the first line of defense is developing a strategy. Shawn's first weapon of choice is the strategy throughout Shawn's years of training and working as a security specialist for various organizations. When a strategy is in place, people train on what to do when the time comes. And then, if the worst happens, training kicks in, and that strategy helps reduce injuries and casualties.

The event that laid the groundwork and future formation of SPR Group LLC occurred in 2007. Shawn just returned to the U.S. from working in Iraq and was anxiously awaiting his first child's birth. While Shawn was driving, he heard on the radio about the news of the Virginia Tech mass shooting that took the lives of over 32 people. Upon hearing the news, Shawn, both angry and sad, thought out loud, "There must be a way to help people survive these horrible incidents." From that point on, Shawn started to brainstorm ways to better educate people on what they can do and even help police respond in a more direct, informed manner.

Over a decade later, Shawn puts his passion and plans into action to help save lives.

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Dec 20, 2020
116: Safety and the Younger Workforce

Younger Worker Safety

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers say a comprehensive public health strategy is needed to protect younger workers. This comes after their recent study shows that the rate of nonfatal on-the-job injuries among 15- to 24-year-olds is between 1.2 and 2.3 times higher than that of the 25-44 age group.

Data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System found that hospital ERs treated an estimated 3.2 million nonfatal occupational injuries to workers ages 15-24 between 2012 and 2018. Of those, 18- and 19-year-olds experienced the highest injury rate, at 404 per 10,000 full-time equivalent workers. The injury rate for workers ages 20-24 and 15-17 was 287 and 281 per 10,000 FTEs, respectively, compared with 195 per 10,000 for workers 25-44.

Although contact with objects and equipment was the leading cause of work-related injury requiring ER treatment for all age groups studied, lacerations and punctures were the most common type of injury among younger workers. According to NIOSH, adolescents and young adults comprise about 13% of the workforce and traditionally have sustained higher rates of occupational injuries. Around half of the injured workers, ages 15-17 were employed in the accommodations and food services subsector of the leisure and hospitality industry.

Click here for the published CDC report.

If you want to go more in-depth on this, and other topics - become a SafetyPro Community member (it is FREE to join). Become a PREMIUM member and get access to exclusive Safety & Health Management content and engage with other safety pros! Live chats, mentorship, premium downloads, videos, tools, and more!

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Dec 15, 2020
115: Emotional Intelligence and the Safety Pro

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Emotional intelligence is what we use when we empathize with our coworkers, have deep conversations about our relationships with significant others, and attempt to manage an unruly or distraught child. It allows us to connect with others, understand ourselves better, and live a more authentic, healthy, and happy life.

Although there are many kinds of intelligence, and they are often connected to one another, there are some very significant differences between them.

IQ vs. EQ

EQ is emotional intelligence, which, as stated above, is all about identifying emotions in ourselves and others, relating to others, and communicating about our feelings.

IQ, on the other hand, is cognitive intelligence. This is the intelligence that people are generally most familiar with, as it is the type that is most often referred to when the word “intelligence” is used. It is also the type that is most often measured through testing and estimated through things like grade-point average.

This episode goes into detail on this and sheds light on how safety professionals need to develop their EQ to be successful at what we do! Here are some MUST HAVE resources to get started:



Catch Dr. Travis Bradberry and his TEDx here.

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Dec 09, 2020
114: Measuring Facility Safety & Health

Measuring Facility Safety & Health

How WELL Promotes Workplace Safety, Health, and Confidence from FacilitiesNet

The International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) created the WELL Health-Safety Rating application and label for buildings.

The rating program focuses on 25 features for health and safety in buildings. Organizations can earn this designation by achieving compliance with 15 of the 25. This rating for buildings is flexible, scalable across varying building types, and easily applied across an extensive portfolio of properties.

The WELL Health-Safety areas of focus are:

  • Cleaning and Sanitation Procedures
  • Emergency Preparedness Programs
  • Health Service Resources
  • Air and Water Quality Management
  • Stakeholder Engagement and Communication

As our knowledge of SARS-CoV-2 and specifically COVID-19 evolves, so do the safety measures we can apply. The WELL Health-Safety Rating for facility operations provides tools and guidance for facility managers to capture how their onsite team prioritizes health and safety for people at their facilities.

Many facility teams have already implemented enhanced cleaning procedures, preventive measures such as signage and communication to ensure masks and distancing occur, plus outside air and extended run operating procedures and suite-cleaning options to limit spread. Check out the full article here.

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Dec 02, 2020
113: The New SafetyPro Community Site

The SafetyPro Community

The all-new SafetyPro Community is available! 

Now subscribers can get exclusive access to live chats, member-only videos, posts, downloads, guests, and more! Be sure to check out the ALL NEW SafetyPro Community group today!


Nov 17, 2020
112: Employee Well-Being is Workplace Safety/Health


From Gallup:

To say the "world's largest work-from-home experiment" has presented challenges would be an understatement. These challenges range from strategy and brand loyalty to customer centricity and employee wellbeing.

While it might have been easy to dismiss well-being as simply a personal matter in the past, top leaders and managers who emphasize it will see significant returns.

Employees with high well-being are more resilient during widespread or personal tough times, are less likely to have unplanned days out of the office, and have better performance than those with low well-being.

The data tell us that remote workers have experienced well-being challenges, including ergonomics and lower back pain, poor mental and emotional wellbeing, less exercise, low self-care, and fewer social connections. Here's how leaders can address each of these relevant topics with their teams and organization.

Stress and Mental Wellbeing

On average, only 5% of employees reach out to their employee assistance program (EAP) each year. Yet many people are experiencing mental stressors: Gallup data from May showed that about half (47%) of employees felt worried, and 24% felt lonely "during a lot of the day yesterday." Leaders can encourage EAP utilization by bringing in experts to discuss it, identifying champions of mental health within the organization or its partners, and consistently communicating about program benefits. Leaders don't need to be mental health experts; they need to become a conduit to the right resources.

Social Wellbeing

Zoom gatherings have helped boost team relationships because employees have an opportunity to be more vulnerable (i.e., introducing their homes, pets, and children) and see their leaders in a more authentic home setting. But still, employees crave an even deeper solution. To promote social wellbeing, leaders should create a work environment that is conducive to friendship.

Gallup finds that women who strongly agree they have a best friend at work are twice as likely to be engaged as those who say otherwise.

Strong social connections outside of work are essential as well. Leaders and managers should ask employees about their friends and loved ones and ask employees to share stories about time spent away from work to demonstrate their authentic care.

Physical Activity

One of the best ways to sustain team physical wellbeing is by providing a robust organizational wellness program. Leaders should actively participate in well-being initiatives to stay current, strengthen relationships, and encourage employees to participate. When leaders are involved, it "green lights" individuals to activate and experiment with new ways to move and live healthy lives.


As we moved to home offices, many of us settled into chairs and workspaces that don't meet our body's musculoskeletal (MSK) system needs.

Even if leaders can't immediately offer home ergonomic solutions, they can aid workers by sharing free resources like professional videos and advice about reducing the risk and severity of ergonomic ailments.


Prioritizing individual well-being over a long list of responsibilities is easier said than done for many. Leaders should communicate that self-care is more than a trip to the spa; it includes a range of items from getting clinically recommended screenings to relaxing to intentionally using your strengths. Gallup research found that those who spent more time using their strengths experienced less worry, stress, anger, sadness, and pain.

Employee wellbeing isn't something leaders can afford to overlook - on the contrary, it's more important than ever. Leaders who start prioritizing employee wellbeing will start seeing how it correlates with employee engagement - and, in turn, a host of personal and business outcomes.

Reprinted with permission from Gallup.

Join the discussion on LinkedIn. Just be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Nov 11, 2020
111: Root Cause Analysis Best Practices

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Picture: TapRooT®

I recently read an article from the folks over at TapRooT® that I wanted to share. It talks about how to have a successful root cause analysis and lists some best proactices. You can read their full article here.

In order to be successful in completing a root cause analysis you should:

  • Provide a complete, clear picture of what happened.
  • Identify all the problems (Causal Factors) that led to the incident being investigated.
  • Find the real root causes of each problem.
  • Find the Generic Causes of each Root Cause.
  • Develop effective corrective actions.
  • Get management to understand the problems and solutions and take timely action to get the solutions implemented.

1st Root Cause Analysis Best Practice

The first thing you should do is provide a complete, clear picture of WHAT HAPPENED.

Without a complete, clear picture of what happened, the investigator is just making things up. The results of the investigation will be guesses.

If you need to provide a complete, clear picture of what happened, you need to:

2nd Root Cause Analysis Best Practice

Identify all the problems (Causal Factors) that led to the incident being investigated.

Many people focus on a single problem (even a single root cause) when they are investigating an incident. If the investigator focuses on a single cause, they will be missing other opportunities to improve performance and stop future incidents. Why? Because usually there is more than one problem (Causal Factor) that leads to an Incident.

3rd Root Cause Analysis Best Practice

Find the real root causes of each problem.

Even with all the evidence in front of them, people can get tricked into the wrong root cause. How? There are several common errors but here’s a shortlist of potential problems:

  • Confirmation Bias
  • Favorite-Cause-itis
  • No human factors training/guidance
  • No systematic process
  • Thinking the know the cause
  • Picking from a list of causes

4th Root Cause Analysis Best Practice

Find the Generic Causes of each Root Cause.

Some people stop when they find a root cause. But we’ve found a best practice that goes beyond a simple root cause. We discovered Generic Causes.

Generic Causes start with root causes and then go beyond the root cause to find what is allowing the root cause to exist. Fixing Generic Causes can help you eliminate whole classes of problems. Here is an example…

Let’s say that you have a problem with a procedure that has more than one action in a step. On the Root Cause Tree® you would identify the root cause:

more than one action per step

To fix that procedure, you would rewrite the procedure with just a single action per step.

Once you have finished fixing the one procedure involved in this incident, you might start thinking:

What about our other procedures?

Do those procedures have similar problems?

What if you find that many procedures have “more than 1 action per step?” Then you know there is a Generic Cause. You need to ask what in the system is allowing procedures written with more than one action per step.

5th Root Cause Analysis Best Practice

Develop effective corrective actions.

You might think that once an investigator finds the real root causes (and Generic Causes) that we are home free. What could go wrong? But even in the 1990s many people, even when the identified root causes, still didn’t develop effective corrective actions.

6th Root Cause Analysis Best Practice

Get management to understand the problems and solutions and take timely action to get the solutions implemented.

Now we’ve:

  • Understand what happened,
  • Defined the Causal Factors,
  • Identified the all Causal factors root causes,
  • Identified any Generic Causes, and
  • Developed effective corrective action.

What’s left? Getting management to approve the corrective actions and get the corrective actions implemented.

And that’s where the last best practice comes in. The last best practice is an effective method to present the investigation to management and get their approval to implement effective corrective actions.

Management is much more likely to commit resources to corrective actions when they understand what happened and how the:

  • What happened,
  • Why it happened, and
  • How we can fix it,

All fit together into an easy to understand presentation.

Listen to the podcast episode for more commentary. Join the discussion on LinkedIn. Just be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Nov 03, 2020
110: Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2020

Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2020

  • In 2020, an estimated 276,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women in the U.S., as well as 48,530 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer.
  • 64% of breast cancer cases are diagnosed at a localized stage (there is no sign that cancer has spread outside of the breast), for which the 5-year survival rate is 99%.
  • This year, an estimated 42,170 women will die from breast cancer in the U.S.
  • 1 in 8 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime
  • Breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women, except for skin cancers. It is estimated that in 2020, approximately 30% of all new women cancer diagnoses will be breast cancer.
  • There are over 3.5 million breast cancer survivors in the United States.
  • On average, every 2 minutes, a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States.

Join the discussion on LinkedIn. Just be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Oct 20, 2020
109: Hot Work Safety with Wesley Carter, CCPSC

Hot Work Safety

We're back with Wesley Carter, CCPSC, as part of our ongoing collaboration comparing and contrasting the PSM standard with OSHA general industry regulations.

In this episode, we cover the requirements surrounding Hot Work, any work that involves burning, welding, cutting, brazing, soldering, grinding, using fire- or spark-producing tools, or other work that produces a source of ignition.

You'll learn what the PSM standard requires for hot work, its relationship with standard 1910.252 (for the general industry), and even about what the OSHA construction standard says about hot work activities.

You'll also hear an up close and personal story about hot work and associated hazards, and then we'll walk you through 7 key lessons from the CSB to prevent worker deaths during hot work in and around tanks.

Listen to the Contractor Management episode we referenced a few times here:


CSB Fact Sheet: Safe Hot Work Practices (Summary of 7 Key Lessons to Prevent Worker Deaths during Hot Work in and around Tanks)


Full CSB Safety Bulletin: Seven Key Lessons to Prevent Worker Deaths During Hot Work In and Around Tanks

Join the discussion on LinkedIn. Just be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Sep 16, 2020
108: Contractor Safety with Wesley Carter, CCPSC

Contractor Safety

In this episode, I was back with Wesley Carter, CCPSC on the Amplify Your Process Safety Podcast for another collaboration where we talk about both occupational safety and process safety, and this time we cover contractor management. We talk about what OSHA says about contractor management for the general industry, and what's required for PSM-covered facilities, how contractor management relates to both occupational and process safety, and why you should care.

Find OSHA's Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs, Communication and Coordination for Host Employers, Contractors, and Staffing Agencies, here.

* CORRECTION: While we regularly recommend videos from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) and think they make excellent training material, in this episode we mistakenly said that there was a CSB animation video for the Phillips disaster of 1989 in Pasadena, TX. No such video exists, but you may learn more about the incident on its Wikipedia page, on Youtube, or from ABC13 Houston.

Join the discussion on LinkedIn. Just be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Sep 06, 2020
107: What is Your Plan to Reopen During COVID-19?

Opening after COVID-19


In this episode, I share some great resources for businesses considering reopening during the current COVID-19 Pandemic from our friends at Mighty Line Tape.

Mighty Line even got a shout-out from Mr. Wonderful himself, check it out here.

The plan to reopen must be carefully considered and planned in order to protect workers and their families. Listen to this episode for some great tips and links to resources you will need to reopen safely.

Join the discussion on LinkedIn. Just be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Aug 14, 2020
106: Emergency Action Planning and Response

Amplify Your Safety Podcast


We've teamed up with the Amplify folks once again to bring you an episode on emergency planning and response. Wesley Carter will cover the general industry requirements, what PSM says, and a bit about RMP's requirements. If you work at a PSM-covered facility, or in an industry where safety is essential, you don't want to miss this episode.

CCPS Process Safety Beacon - Emergency Preparation - The Titanic Disaster (July 2012)

Join the discussion on LinkedIn. Just be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Jul 20, 2020
105: Incident Investigation w/Wesley Carter

Amplify Your Process Safety Podcast


In this very special episode, process safety and occupational safety worlds collide as Wesley teams up with Blaine Hoffmann from The SafetyPro Podcast to discuss incident investigation.

You'll learn what OSHA's PSM standard says about incident investigations, as well as OSHA's requirements for the general industry, why an incident investigation is important, why root cause analysis matters, and more.

Check out the Amplify Your Process Safety Podcast page!

Mentioned in this episode:

OSHA Recordkeeping Policies and Procedure Manual

OSHA/EPA Root Cause Analysis Fact Sheet

The SafetyPro Podcast, 082: SMS Pt 3 - What is Root Cause Analysis (RCA)

Join the discussion on LinkedIn. Just be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Jun 24, 2020
104: COVID-19 - Updated OSHA Response and Recordkeeping Guidelines

Recording COVID-19 Cases on 300 Log


As more states are taking steps to reopen their economies and workers are returning to their workplaces, OSHA is receiving complaints from affected workers in non-essential businesses. As a result, they have a new interim enforcement guideline.

Click HERE for the interim guideline.

OSHA also has new guidance with respect to the recording of occupational illnesses, specifically cases of COVID-19.

Click HERE for the Revised Enforcement Guidance for Recording Cases of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Check out the podcast episode for more detailed information. Join the discussion on LinkedIn. Just be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Jun 07, 2020
103: COVID-19 Masks Should Have No Valves

COVID-19 Masks


Do valves on respirators impact their effectiveness? The purpose of a respirator’s exhalation valve is to reduce the breathing resistance during exhale; it does not impact a respirator’s ability to provide respiratory protection. The valve is designed to open during exhalation to allow exhaled air to exit the respirator and then close tightly during inhalation, so inhaled air is not permitted to enter the respirator through the valve.

While a valve does not change a respirator’s ability to help reduce a wearer’s exposure to bioaerosols, a person who is exhibiting symptoms of illness should not wear a valved respirator, because exhaled particles may leave the respirator via the valve and enter the surrounding environment, potentially exposing other people.

Check out the CDC FAQ on this topic here.

Take a look at the LinkedIn post that started it all here.

Check out the podcast episode for more detailed information. Join the discussion on LinkedIn. Just be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

May 19, 2020
102: How to Audit Your Leadership Approach During COVID-19

COVID-19 Business Response

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More than three weeks into the pandemic-driven cascade of cancelations, closings, and social distancing, U.S. workplaces are experiencing unprecedented disruption -- and it's measurable.

Here's what has changed in a stunningly short period of time (comparing Gallup Panel surveys conducted March 13-16 vs. March 27-29):

  • The percentage of full-time employees who say COVID-19 has disrupted their life "a great deal" or "a fair amount" has jumped from 58% to 81%.
  • 40% of U.S. employees say their employer has frozen hiring, and 33% say their employer has reduced hours or shifts because of COVID-19 -- up from 33% and 27%, respectively.
  • The percentage of full-time employees working from home because of COVID-19 closures has increased from 33% to 61%.
  • The percentage of parents working full time who have kept their kids home from school because of COVID-19 has increased from less than half (44%) to everyone(100%).

The combined effects of frightening uncertainty about physical and financial health in the near future and the pressures of required self-isolation have led to record levels of stress and worry that far surpass those recorded in past years. Compared with 2019, reports of daily worry have increased from 37% to 60% among the full-time working population. Daily stress has increased from 48% to 65%.

On March 23, Gallup reported on five key elements that organizations can influence and measure to gauge their progress. They have been tracking how well organizations are doing on each of these five elements.

*Reprinted with permission from Gallup.

Listen to the whole episode to get my thoughts. I will post an update on this topic. Join the discussion on LinkedIn. Just be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

May 03, 2020
101: COVID-19 - Masks, Face Coverings

NOTICE: Published April 22, 2020 - The information in this post/episode is subject to change.

CDC Updates to Mask Guidance

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The new CDC face-covering recommendations do not change the MASK guidance. So what is new? What is the same? Let's talk about that in this episode.

Essentially, the CDC recommends anyone going out in public wear a face-covering. These can be homemade cloth-type coverings. What is the intended purpose? Will they offer you protection? What protection do they offer others? 

Also, I decided to add a healthy dose of "rant" for safety professionals that are commenting on others' LinkedIn posts celebrating efforts to stay safe during the COVID-19 Pandemic. In short; stop looking for problems!

Curious? Listen to the whole episode to get my thoughts. What do you think? Masks or no masks? I will post an update on this topic as well as take all of your comments to heart! Join the discussion on LinkedIn. Just be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Apr 22, 2020
100: Celebrating ONE HUNDRED Episodes

100 Episodes

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100 Episodes! Thanks to all the listeners that helped make this happen - you are the reason I continue to produce this podcast. Here's to the next 100 episodes!

Apr 08, 2020
099: COVID-19 - To Mask or Not?

NOTICE: Published April 1, 2020 - The information in this post/episode is subject to change.

COVID-19 Mask

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All of the discussions about surgical masks got me thinking; what do we know about viruses (CVID-19 or others), and what are the EXPERTS saying? I wanted to explore this topic and share my thoughts.

As of April 1, 2020, the WHO, CDC, OSHA guidance on wearing masks (if you are HEALTHY) is the same; you do NOT need to wear a mask except for specific circumstances. Let's read what they have to say.

World Health Organization

On the Questions and Answers page: Should I wear a mask to protect myself?

Only wear a mask if you are ill with COVID-19 symptoms (especially coughing) or looking after someone who may have COVID-19. A disposable face mask can only be used once. If you are not ill or looking after someone who is sick, then you are wasting a mask. There is a world-wide shortage of masks, so WHO urges people to use masks wisely.

WHO advises the rational use of medical masks to avoid unnecessary wastage of precious resources and misuse of masks  (see Advice on the use of masks).

The most effective ways to protect yourself and others against COVID-19 are to frequently clean your hands, cover your cough with the bend of elbow or tissue and maintain a distance of at least 1 meter (3 feet) from people who are coughing or sneezing (the rest of us use 6 feet). See basic protective measures against the new coronavirus for more information.


What does the CDC say about wearing asks?

Wear a facemask if you are sick

  • If you are sick: You should wear a facemask when you are around other people (e.g., sharing a room or vehicle) and before you enter a healthcare provider’s office. If you are not able to wear a facemask (for example, because it causes trouble breathing), then you should do your best to cover your coughs and sneezes, and people who are caring for you should wear a facemask if they enter your room. Learn what to do if you are sick.
  • If you are NOT sick: You do not need to wear a facemask unless you are caring for someone who is sick (and they are not able to wear a facemask). Facemasks may be in short supply, and they should be saved for caregivers.



Surgical masks are used as a physical barrier to protect the user from hazards, such as splashes of large droplets of blood or body fluids.

Surgical masks also protect other people against infection from the person wearing the surgical mask. Such masks trap large particles of body fluids that may contain bacteria or viruses expelled by the wearer.

Surgical masks are used for several different purposes, including the following:

  • They are placed on sick people to limit the spread of infectious respiratory secretions to others.
  • They are worn by healthcare providers to prevent accidental contamination of patients' wounds by the organisms normally present in mucus and saliva.
  • Worn by workers to protect themselves from splashes or sprays of blood or bodily fluids, they may also keep contaminated fingers/hands away from the mouth and nose.

Surgical masks are not designed or certified to prevent the inhalation of small airborne contaminants. These particles are not visible to the naked eye but may still be capable of causing infection.

Surgical masks are not designed to seal tightly against the user's face. During inhalation, much of the potentially contaminated air can pass through gaps between the face and the surgical mask and not be pulled through the filter material of the mask.

Their ability to filter small particles varies significantly based upon the type of material used to make the surgical mask, so they cannot be relied upon to protect workers against airborne infectious agents.

Only surgical masks that are cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to be legally marketed in the United States have been tested for their ability to resist blood and body fluids.

Listen to the whole episode to get my thoughts. What do you think? Masks or no masks? I will post an update on this topic as well as take all of your comments to heart! Join the discussion on LinkedIn. Just be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Apr 01, 2020
098: COVID-19 - To Clean or To Disinfect? Or Both?


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UPDATE: The CDC has made changes to workplace guidance as of March 21, 2020, which may make some of the information on this post obsolete:

  • Updated cleaning and disinfection guidance
  • Updated best practices for conducting social distancing
  • Updated strategies and recommendations that can be implemented now to respond to COVID-19

We are currently in the throws of the 2020 Corona Virus pandemic, or COVID-19. Much information is being disseminated - from how far apart we should stand from one another to how to wash our hands properly. I have even seen videos on how to properly wash hands using ink to illustrate how to achieve full coverage of soap.

Because hygiene is critical, many disinfecting products are harder to find now as a result of panic buyers hoarding supplies of items that they believe will make them safer. The truth is, many of these disinfectants are just not necessary according to all currently available information. Think about it, to prevent the spread of illness, we must avoid touching our face (eyes, nose, mouth) and simply wash our hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

People think they need to use bleach, alcohol, or some product containing these ingredients to disinfect surfaces around the clock. All available guidance tells us that routine cleaning is adequate for general work areas. Disinfecting is only recommended for suspected cases of CORONA-19.

At the risk of sounding like a word-nerd, let me share the CDC definition of the two terms in use here; cleaning and disinfecting.

  • Cleaning refers to the removal of germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces. Cleaning does not kill germs, but by removing them, it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection.
  • Disinfecting refers to using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, but by killing germs on a surface after cleaning, it can further lower the risk of spreading infection.

Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers

So what are employers supposed to do? According to the CDC Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers, you should perform routine environmental cleaning, which means routinely cleaning all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, countertops, and doorknobs.

Perform enhanced cleaning and disinfection after persons suspected/confirmed to have COVID-19 have been in the facility

The CDC also recommends employers to use the cleaning agents that are usually used in these areas and follow the directions on the label. Furthermore, provide disposable wipes so that commonly used surfaces can be wiped down before each use. (UPDATE: The CDC has made changes to workplace guidance as of March 21, 2020).

OSHA goes even further:

Because the transmissibility of COVID-19 from contaminated environmental surfaces and objects is not fully understood, employers should carefully evaluate whether or not work areas occupied by people suspected to have a virus may have been contaminated and whether or not they need to be decontaminated in response.

Outside of healthcare and deathcare facilities, there is typically no need to perform special cleaning or decontamination of work environments when a person suspected of having the virus has been present unless those environments are visibly contaminated with blood or other body fluids. In limited cases where further cleaning and decontamination may be necessary, consult U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance for cleaning and disinfecting environments, including those contaminated with coronaviruses.

Disinfecting Your Facility if Someone is Sick

If there is a worker under investigation of having COVID-19 or there has been a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the workplace, here is where disinfecting comes into play. Employers will need to clean and disinfect all areas used by the sick person, such as offices, bathrooms, common areas, shared electronic equipment like tablets, touch screens, keyboards, remote controls, and ATMs. Here are the steps:

  • Clean surfaces using soap and water. Practice routine cleaning of frequently touched surfaces. Remember, high touch surfaces include tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, sinks, etc.
  • Disinfect using diluted household bleach solutions, alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol, other EPA-registered household disinfectants.
  • Check to ensure the product is not past its expiration date. 
  • Follow the manufacturer's instructions for application and proper ventilation. For example, never mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser.
  • Many products recommend keeping the surface wet for several minutes to ensure germs are killed.
  • Precautions such as wearing gloves and making sure you have proper ventilation during the use of the product.

For soft surfaces like carpeted floor, rugs, and drapes:

  • Clean the surface using soap and water or with cleaners appropriate for use on these surfaces.
  • Launder items (if possible) according to the manufacturer's instructions. Use the warmest appropriate water setting and dry items completely OR disinfect with an EPA-registered household disinfectant. These disinfectants meet EPA's criteria for use against COVID-19.

For electronics, such as tablets, touch screens, keyboards, remote controls, and ATMs

  • Consider putting a wipeable cover on electronics.
  • Follow the manufacturer's instructions for cleaning and disinfecting.
  • If no instructions are available, use alcohol-based wipes or sprays containing at least 70% alcohol and dry the surface thoroughly.

For clothing, towels, linens, and other items:

  • Wear disposable gloves.
  • Wash hands with soap and water as soon as you remove the gloves.
  • Do not shake dirty laundry.
  • Launder items according to the manufacturer's instructions. Use the warmest appropriate water setting and dry items completely.
  • Dirty laundry from an ill person can be washed with other people's items.
  • Clean and disinfect clothes hampers according to the guidance above for the appropriate type of surface.

So remember, increase the frequency you clean the general work environment, which opens up a wide variety of cleaning products that might not be in high demand. Reserve those precious disinfectants for cleaning visibly contaminated surfaces (think bloodborne pathogens) or where there is a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case.

Coupled with other recommendations like reviewing your company's sick policy, social distancing, staggering start/stop times, breaks, lunches, and limiting meetings - these will make your workplaces less likely to experience a significant outbreak.

Let me know what you are doing to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 at work on LinkedIn - be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Mar 23, 2020
097: Quick Vacation Episode about COVID-19 at Work and Social Distancing


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COVID-19 Resources for Businesses and Employers from the CDC

Let me know what you are doing to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 at work on LinkedIn - be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


Mar 18, 2020
096: 10 Tips for Effective Safety Committees

Interview with Drew Hinton, CSP, CHMM, SHRM-CP

Safety Committee

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If you don't currently have a safety committee at your workplace, adding one can seem like a daunting task. Listen to this episode with Drew Hinton, CSP, CHMM, SHRM-CP to get ten tips that are sure to help you create and sustain a successful safety committee!

If you don't currently have a safety committee at your workplace, adding one can seem like a daunting task. While there are no federal regulations that require a safety committee, your state may be one of the 15+ states that require one under certain situations. For example, Alabama state code requires that "any employer subject to worker's compensation rules must establish a safety committee upon the written require of any employee." Connecticut states that "all employers with 25 or more employees, and employers whose rate of injury or illness exceeds the average OSHA recordable injury and illness rates of all industries in the state, must establish safety committees." However, even if it's not required by any legislation, it can potentially save you money on your worker's compensation premiums, but most importantly, it gets your employees engaged in creating a safer, healthier work environment.

Before you can tell everyone that you have a safety committee, below are ten key guidelines that will help ensure you are getting the most out of your safety-leading employees:

  1. How many people should be on your safety committee? As a general rule of thumb, you want between five and ten employees on your committee. Having more than that can produce undesired results, such as meetings lasting longer than expected, creating too much to focus on, and confirmation bias among members. On the contrary, if you don't have enough members, your committee may suffer from a lack of diversity, too much workload for such a small group, and a seemingly "close-minded" group. If you start out with a specific number during your first few meetings and then realize that you need more to add value and different backgrounds to your committee, you can always add more. It's better to add more than having to essentially kick someone off the committee just because you need to reduce numbers.
  2. Who should be on your safety committee? When selecting members to be on the committee, you need to do so very carefully and be intentional. Picking people because they are a close friend and/or valued co-worker may seem beneficial, but it can also lead to the confirmation bias issue mentioned previously. At a minimum, you want to have at least one member on your committee from each department/area. For example, you may have the following departments/areas represented on your committee: EHS, production, maintenance, field service, general shop, engineering, and management.

    Some companies will choose not to have upper management attend the meetings (e.g., General Manager, Vice President, etc.) due to people being afraid to speak up and say something with them in the room. However, if you have established psychological safety in the workplace (which is another issue in itself), this shouldn't be an issue. If you do feel that management may cause fear in others, maybe have them attend every other meeting, or simply follow-up with them separately after the meeting to review the meeting minutes with them one-on-one.

    By doing this, you can take the ideas of your fellow safety committee members to management and present them in an informal, yet documented session.

  3. How often should your safety committee meet? Most safety committees will meet at least once a month. However, this can vary depending on the size of your company. If your safety committee consists of multiple facilities, it may be best to meet quarterly, but stay in contact at least once a month. If you have a smaller group of members, you can schedule micro-sessions. Instead of meeting for one hour per month, it may be more efficient to meet for 15-20 minutes per week.

  4. I have a safety committee member who never shows up. Now what? Your safety committee policy should outline the minimum expectations of the members. Typically on an active and efficient committee, you need to require that all members attend at least 75% of the meetings during each calendar year.

    If a member falls below this quota, you should consider getting an alternative person to come in their place. Keep in mind, however, that the act of being on the safety committee should be completely voluntary, never forced.

  5. Once I've established a safety committee, do the members stay on indefinitely? Depending on the size of your company, this is up to you. However, as a best practice, rotating out the members on an annual basis will bring a fresh set of minds to the table to allow varying perspectives and ideas. You can have members serve from January 1st through December 31st, July 1st through June 30th, or whatever predefined term you want to go with. I will note that not every member needs to be rotated off. For example, you will want to keep the EHS Dept. and department/area supervisors on, but maybe swap out the hourly/front-line workers.

  6. What will your safety committee do? This is where you need to determine the goals and objectives of the safety committee. Some may want safety committees to review recent work-related injuries and illnesses, some may want them to be the go-to person in each department/area for safety-related issues and concerns, whereas others may want to get the committee involved with performing various workplace inspections (e.g., fire extinguishers, housekeeping, etc.).

    Safety committees can serve as a great cross-functional team for getting various safety-related tasks completed in the different areas of your workplace. Regardless of what you determine your goals and objectives to be, you need to do more than just meet once a month to review items that could have been sent out in an email. Of course, you want the safety committee to help maintain a safe workplace, but the big question is how will you do that? That is something you will need to determine based on your site-specific needs, but whatever you decide, be sure to document and track your short-term and long-term goals.

  7. How should you track the progress of your safety committee? If you have your goals established and documented, you need to track the progress throughout the year. This can be done independently or it can be included as part of your company's KPIs, but regardless, you need to see a progression. If your goal is to implement a new incident investigation process, be sure and document the completion of each step. If you assigned a specific task to someone, follow up with them and offer assistance if they need it.

    Remember, you are steering the committee, but you are also in your position to be a coach and mentor when it comes to safe work practices and ensuring everyone meets minimum requirements.

  8. Should the items discussed during meetings be communicated to the rest of the company? ABSOLUTELY! Topics and discussions covered at each meeting should be documented and put into some form of "Meeting Minutes" document, then published so that the company can see that you're not just sitting around at 7:00 AM every week eating donuts and talking about the news (although, that may happen from time to time!). The meeting minutes should be posted on an employee bulletin board, sent out via email, or communicated in whatever method you see fit.

    Employees who are aware that their company has an active safety committee and are "in the loop" of what's going on tend to feel better about how the company takes safety as a whole.

  9. What if my employees work remotely or are "out in the field"? There are numerous web-based platforms that employees can interact from either a computer or a smartphone. You can choose from Microsoft Teams, Skype, GoToMeeting, WebEx, or a number of other different video conference call programs. This allows employees to call in from wherever they are, as well as see the documents and PowerPoint slides that you have to show.

    Not being in one place at the same time is not an excuse to not have a safety committee. This may also be a great idea to have a periodic meeting in which you have safety committees from other facilities call in so that you can meet others from across the country (or world) and gain even more diversity and experience. Use it to your benefit!

  10. Will my safety committee guarantee a safer workplace? Nothing will guarantee a safe workplace, but it will certainly help. If utilized properly and efficiently, the committee will help identify unsafe conditions and behaviors, help determine corrective actions, and boost compliance with applicable standards. BUT, that doesn't mean this is the miraculous bag of solutions that will solve all the world's problems. Even though it may help, it won't fix everything. It takes a lot of effort from all employees at all levels to prevent workplace injuries and illnesses.

You, along with the rest of the safety committee, must adapt to the changing times and determine how to approach your site-specific hazards. You are the ones that know your workplace better than anyone, so you need to determine what works best for you. There is no "cookie-cutter" curriculum for establishing a safety committee, but hopefully, these tips will help guide you on the path to progression!

Let me and Drew know what you think on LinkedIn - be sure to @ mention Drew Hinton and Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Get the full article Drew Hinton wrote on LinkedIn here.

Mar 09, 2020
095: Confined Space Rescue Teams w/Drew Hinton

Drew Hinton

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Confined Space Rescue Teams save lives! They are a critical component of permit-required confined space operations. In this interview with a fellow SafetyPro, Drew Hinton, CSP, CHMM, EMT we will explore what it takes to set up a successful rescue team and some things to look out for when doing so.

If your organization has a team or is thinking about establishing a team - this is the episode for you!

Drew has been in the safety profession full-time time since 2013 and has traveled across the country, teaching over 100+ confined space rescue courses as a safety consultant. He is currently President of Arrow Safety, an EHS consulting company based out of Glasgow, KY.

In the past, Drew has been the Corporate Manager for Industrial Service Solutions, Global EHS&S Manager for Dallas Group of America, and spent ten years as career firefighter/EMT in the metro Louisville, Kentucky area. He was also a member of Jefferson County Special Operations Command (JSOC) - specifically, on the confined space rescue team.

Listen as we talk about this critical topic. Let me know what you think on LinkedIn - be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Feb 24, 2020
094: Discussing OSHA Onsite Consultation with Paula Burleson

Podcasting from the 2020 ACI/OSHA Safety Day.

OSHA Onsite Consultation

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Listen as I talk with Paula Burleson, OSHA Onsite Consultant with the OhioBWC as she explains what OSHA Onsite services can do for small businesses.

Let me know what you think of this episode on LinkedIn if you have used this app at all - be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Feb 17, 2020
093: Speaking Safety to Workers with Eric Lee Buschard

Podcasting from the 2020 ACI/OSHA Safety Day. Listen as I talk with Eric Lee Buschard as he explains his evolution as a safety pro. He shared his take on "Speaking Safety" to workers at a breakout session during the event.

Eric Lee Buschard on the Safety Pro Podcast

Let me know what you think of this episode on LinkedIn if you have used this app at all - be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Feb 07, 2020
092: Are Managers Making Workers Sick?

Safety Pro Podcast

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One of the often-overlooked aspects of EHS is that middle word - health. I mean, we understand the parts related to chemical exposure and substance exposure; silica, asbestos, lead, stuff like that - which are all important. But I want to talk about health in another context - that is the overall health and wellbeing of our workers and how the workplace can be contributing to it (both positively and negatively), thus making this an important aspect of our workplace safety and health efforts. 

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) currently kills more Americans each year and costs more than any other disease, including Alzheimer's and diabetes. Over the next decade, the situation will only get worse: By 2030, the prevalence of CVD among those aged 20 and older is projected to top 40%, and direct medical costs are expected to triple to more than $800 billion.

A study published in International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health - based on data drawn from Gallup surveys of more than 412,000 full-time workers in the U.S. suggests that workplace supervisors could be part of the solution to this deadly and costly problem. That’s right, we are going to talk about the immediate supervisor’s role impacting worker safety and health - again.

A number of previous studies have established links between workplace stress and CVD risk factors. But because trust is such an important part of social capital, particularly in the workplace, the authors of this study chose to examine the associations between trust at work and seven CVD risk factors:

  1. Smoking
  2. Obesity
  3. Low physical activity
  4. Poor diet
  5. Diabetes
  6. High cholesterol
  7. High blood pressure.

The researchers used a work environment question that asked: "Does your supervisor always create an environment that is trusting and open, or not?"

Approximately 22% of women and 20.3% of men indicated that their supervisor did not always create an open and trusting environment

For both women and men, the highest prevalence of mistrust was among workers aged 45 to 64, followed by those in the 30 to 44 age group.

The prevalence of a mistrustful environment was a little higher for women with increasing levels of education (highest for those with college or post-graduate education, 25.2%). Men with technical training or some college/associate degree had a slightly higher prevalence (20.9%) of a mistrustful environment as well.

Divorced women (26.8%) and men (24.7%) had the highest prevalence of reporting a mistrustful work environment, which indicates a possible connection to workers' personal lives - going through a traumatic experience like a divorce may influence the way they trust others in the workplace.

Overall, the authors found that trust was associated with increased adjusted odds of having many of the seven CVD factors. Among those workers whose supervisor created a mistrustful environment (those who answered "no" to the question), the odds ratios were the greatest (more than 20%) for having four or more of the seven risk factors.

After the authors adjusted for demographic factors and whether respondents had health insurance, they found that trust was associated with seven CVD risk factors among both women and men in the sample.

  • Workers who do not work in an open, trusting environment had greater odds of having high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
  • Workers in mistrustful environments also were more likely to be current smokers, have a poor diet and be obese.
  • Women who work in mistrustful environments had greater odds of low physical activity.
  • Odds ratios for having four or more risk factors were elevated in mistrustful environments.

Improvements in the work environment are needed to reduce CVD risk among workers. Social modification to the work environment, such as adjusting managerial style to create an open and trusting environment, can decrease work stress. Considering managerial trust from a Total Worker Health® framework meets the goals of illness prevention to advance worker well-being. Efforts can also be made to target the health behaviors themselves.

There is a range of possible strategies for addressing the risk factors in the workplace. For example, physical modification to the work environment, such as installing sit/stand desk stations and even walking workstations, can reduce sedentary behavior and may increase physical activity for those types of workers. Additionally, increased access to nutritious food in the workplace may improve diet. Take a look at your vending options - several places I worked at in the past had programs through their food vendors that let you earn points for the healthy food choices, which led to free food. Also, they helped subsidize the increased cost of some of their organic or healthier options as well.

Supervisors who support workplace wellness may help in reducing CVD risk factors in workers as well. So allowing workers to participate in walking contests during breaks, go to awareness meetings where they learn new skills that will help them develop healthier habits - all of these things can be supported by the immediate manager.

Be sure to check out my past episodes covering Total Worker Health as well as safety incentives that work. The bottom line is this; the manager has a lot of influence on not only workplace safety but overall worker health and wellbeing. HR and benefits managers need to pay attention to this as well. Their efforts can all be undone by the same issues of managerial trust that roadblock workplace safety success.

We need to target managers with efforts of professional development and safety professionals have a role to play here. We can work to develop safety leadership programs and contribute to roles and responsibilities, even job descriptions. We need to partner across the organization and focus just as much on other levels as we do the frontline workers.

Let me know what you think of this episode on LinkedIn if you have used this app at all - be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Feb 01, 2020
091: What is Psychological Safety?

Psychological Safety

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Why do employees sometimes remain silent when they should speak up? Do they fear consequences or repercussions? Do they feel like new ideas won't be considered without an onslaught of criticism about its inherent risks, a barrage of demands for a detailed project plan, or an insistence on immediate proof of an overinflated ROI? To be blunt, why do workers stay silent when they see things are being done improperly, or in an unsafe manner?

Maybe because it's not safe to engage in such conversations, the benefit of saying nothing tends to outweigh the benefit of speaking up. Employees fear their feedback will be rejected, or that managers or even co-workers will go so far as to penalize them. So, they keep their heads down and their mouths shut.

Think about cases where speaking up was stifled or just non-existent; the NASA shuttle disaster or workers at Volkswagen who failed to speak up about fake emissions numbers?

Gallup's data reveal that only three in ten U.S. workers strongly agree that at work, their opinions seem to count. However, by moving that ratio to six in 10 employees, organizations could realize a 27% reduction in turnover, a 40% reduction in safety incidents, and a 12% increase in productivity.

The term we have become familiar with as it relates to this issue is "psychological safety." Let's define it for this conversation; it is "a climate in which people are comfortable being (and expressing) themselves." It has been confirmed that psychological safety predicts quality improvements, learning behavior, and productivity.

An internal study conducted by Google found that teams with high rates of psychological safety were better than other teams at implementing diverse ideas and driving high performance. They were also more likely to stay with the company.

A culture of psychological safety enables employees to be engaged. They can express themselves without the fear of failure or retribution. Juxtapose this type of culture with one where employees feel too intimidated to speak up or share a new idea. It's hard to imagine these employees can mentally allow themselves to be engaged at work.

Four Questions That Lead to Psychological Safety

When looking at why things aren't progressing when it comes to creating a safe environment for folks to speak up, consider the following four questions:

  1. For what can we count on each other?
  2. What is our team's purpose?
  3. What is the reputation we aspire to have?
  4. What do we need to do differently to achieve that reputation and fulfill our purpose?

The questions are designed to create a culture of psychological safety. Take note; the order is as important as the questions themselves. The first question speaks to strengths and is fundamental for establishing individual security before diving into the broader team psychological safety challenges.

You may need to help them see a shared purpose and identity with others. Why do they come to work every day? What is the purpose of the production team, HR, safety, quality? How do they achieve that purpose together? Then, with that purpose and process in mind, what do they aspire to be known for in the company? What is the brand they want to create?

This type of activity can help any team establish universal principles by which to work. Some of the ways the organization uses these principles are practical. For example, they use them to filter out and prioritize staff meeting agendas, based on whether agenda topics meet the principles. The HR team might use them when they interact with business partners, setting expectations, and accountability partners with its stakeholders.

Sometimes, however, this all might be a little more theoretical. When a team member needs to ask for help, or bring a new idea or challenge to an existing process, they can couch their request in the language the team uses to describe its collective purpose or brand. The HR Manager or Safety Manager might use the team's principles to explain behavior and coach performance. By consistently using them across the board, these shared guiding principles help them to talk and work together in a way that promotes individual and team psychological safety.

Building the Culture of Psychological Safety

While critical elements like organizational structure, process, and system considerations can influence company culture, the behavioral side of culture is created person by person, team by team, day by day. 

Team and individual safety are both essential, but individual safety must come first in the process of building psychological safety. And it must come first for any hope of improved engagement and performance.

That's what the answers to the four questions can provide; a safety net with which to trust and be open with each other. It allows teams to be vulnerable enough to be engaged. Exploring those four questions can do the same for any group or organization that wants to create a culture of psychological safety.

Leaders and managers can use the four questions to encourage participation, generate ideas and develop honesty. Ideally, every team in an organization would work through the four questions to get to its shared value, purpose, and identity. 

In the best-case scenario, for real culture change to transpire, this has to include -- and start with -- the executive team. Leaders should answer the four questions from a team and organizational perspective. It is when leaders then share their organizational answers with the rest of the company that the expected behavior is encouraged and alignment occurs.

While culture change rarely follows a straight-and-narrow line, a single team can spark a social transformation in any organization. Managers don't have to wait. They can foster psychological safety within their groups or teams immediately by posing and talking through those four questions. They can create an environment where people are safe to engage, safe to address the elephant in the room, and safe to put their whole selves into their work.

Read about this topic and learn more about Gallup here.

Let me know what you think of this episode on LinkedIn if you have used this app at all - be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Jan 27, 2020
090: Planning Makes You Adaptable - Interview with Kris "Tanto" Paronto

Kris Paronto

In this podcast episode, I take a break from the technical topics to which my readers and podcast listeners are accustomed. I wanted to interview someone from outside normal safety circles, someone that can bring a unique perspective on the values we want to hold as safety professionals: integrity, honesty, teamwork, never-quit attitude. Please be sure to listen to the interview as it is not transcribed here. Please read more about Kris below.

Kris Paronto

Kris Paronto - “Tanto” as he is affectionately known in security contracting circles - is a former Army Ranger from 2nd Battalion 75th Ranger Regiment and a private security contractor who has deployed throughout South America, Central America, the Middle East, and North Africa. He also worked with the US Government’s Global Response Staff conducting low profile security in high threat environments throughout the world.

Mr. Paronto was part of the CIA annex security team that responded to the terrorist attack on the US Special Mission in Benghazi, Libya, September 11th, 2012, helping to save over 20 lives while fighting off terrorists from the CIA Annex for over 13 hours. Mr. Paronto’s story is told in the book “13 Hours” written by Mitchell Zuckoff and his five surviving annex security team members.

The Patriot's Creed

The Patriot's Creed - Kris Paronto

When Kris began talking with civilians about his experiences fighting the terrorist attack on the US State Department Special Mission Compound in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012, he was surprised at how often people told him that the story of his extraordinary battle gave them the courage to face tough times in their everyday lives. "The odds were stacked against us that night but the truth is that we refused to quit and we beat them with faith, teamwork, and the principles that were first instilled in me when I joined the Army. You can find those in the Rangers Creed and the Army Values," he says, "and you don't have to be a Special Operations soldier to use them."

In The Patriot's Creed, Kris uses the seven core Army Values that all soldiers learn in Basic Combat Training, and the experiences of other servicemen and women and First Responders, to explain how anyone can improve themselves, the world around them, and live a heroic life. The stakes are dramatic for the brave men and women who put their lives on the line to fight for America, and too many of their acts of courage and honor are unknown. The examples of their persistence and discipline will be inspiring to anyone facing seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

At a time of national polarization, Kris draws attention to values all readers can share and use, and to the honor, integrity, and courage of true patriots who have gone to great lengths to protect and serve. They embody the best of us and make Kris Paronto proud to be an American soldier.

The Ranger Way

The Ranger Way - Kris Paronto

Thousands of people have heard Kris "Tanto" Paronto speak about his experiences in Benghazi on September 11, 2012. But before he was a security contractor, Tanto was a US Army Ranger from the 2nd Battalion 75th Ranger Regiment. Rangers are trained to lead by being pushed to their physical and mental limits so that they can perform against impossible odds in punishing situations.

In THE RANGER WAY, Tanto shares stories from his training experiences that played a role in his team's heroic response in Benghazi as he explains the importance of demanding excellence when you commit to improving your life. He shows you how to define your mission, set goals that are in alignment with your values, and develop a battle plan that will maximize your chances of success. You will learn why you should never quit and why that is different from never failing. Tanto uses his experiences in Basic and Ranger Training to explore how to deal with mistakes and disappointment like a leader, accept responsibility, and turn every obstacle into an opportunity for growth. You will learn why being of service to others, and being willing to sacrifice, will help you succeed, and how the power of humility, strength, faith, and brotherhood will sustain you on the road to accomplishing your mission.

13 Hours

13 Hours - Kris Paronto

The harrowing, true account from the brave men on the ground who fought back during the Battle of Benghazi. 13 HOURS presents, for the first time ever, the true account of the events of September 11, 2012, when terrorists attacked the US State Department Special Mission Compound and a nearby CIA station called the Annex in Benghazi, Libya.

A team of six American security operators fought to repel the attackers and protect the Americans stationed there. Those men went beyond the call of duty, performing extraordinary acts of courage and heroism, to avert tragedy on a much larger scale. This is their personal account, never before told, of what happened during the thirteen hours of that now-infamous attack.


The Patriot's Creed

The Ranger Way

13 Hours

Book Kris for speaking events here

More about Kris

Hear the Interview

Listen to this interview for Kris's perspective on life, the importance of aligning goals with the mission, and living a life of integrity no matter what obstacles you face.

Let me know what you think of this episode on LinkedIn if you have used this app at all - be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Jan 19, 2020
089: 5 OSHA Agenda Items to Watch
15:14 for Safety Reg Agenda

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OSHA has a decent list of regulatory agenda items. While I don't want to go through them all, I do want to highlight five that I think are particularly impactful. Safety professionals always need to be looking ahead at what is coming so we can prepare our employers, update any programs, which includes employee training and certifications that may be required. 

1. Lock-Out/Tag-Out Update - Pre-Rule Stage

Recent technological advancements that employ computer-based controls of hazardous energy (e.g., mechanical, electrical, pneumatic, chemical, and radiation) conflict with OSHA's existing lock-out/tag-out standard. The use of these computer-based controls has become more prevalent as equipment manufacturers modernize their designs. 

Additionally, there are national consensus standards and international standards harmonization that govern the design and use of computer-based controls. This approach of controlling hazardous energy is accepted in other nations, which raises issues of needing to harmonize U.S. standards with those of other countries. The Agency has recently seen an increase in requests for variances for these devices. This RFI will be useful in understanding the strengths and limitations of this new technology, as well as potential hazards to workers. The Agency may also hold a stakeholder meeting and open a public docket to explore the issue.

2. Emergency Response and Preparedness - Pre-Rule Stage

OSHA currently regulates aspects of emergency response and preparedness; they promulgated some of these standards decades ago, and none as comprehensive emergency response standards.

Consequently, they do not address the full range of hazards or concerns currently facing emergency responders, nor do they reflect significant changes in performance specifications for protective clothing and equipment. The Agency acknowledged that current OSHA standards also do not reflect all the considerable developments in safety and health practices that have already been accepted by the emergency response community and incorporated into industry consensus standards.

OSHA is considering updating these standards with information gathered through an RFI and public meetings.

3. Mechanical Power Press Update - Pre-Rule Stage

The current OSHA standard on mechanical power presses does not address the use of hydraulic or pneumatic power presses. Additionally, the existing standard is approximately 40 years old and does not address technological changes. OSHA previously published an ANPRM on Mechanical Power Presses (June 2007) in which it identified several options for updating this standard.

The Agency would like to update the public record to determine how best to proceed. This project is under Executive Order 13777, which facilitates the review of existing regulations that may be outmoded, ineffective, insufficient, or excessively burdensome, and to modify, streamline, expand, or repeal them.

4. Powered Industrial Trucks - Pre-Rule Stage

Powered Industrial Trucks (e.g., fork trucks, tractors, lift trucks, and motorized hand trucks) are ubiquitous in industrial (and many retail) worksites. The Agency's standard still relies upon ANSI standards from 1969.

The Industrial Truck Association has been encouraging OSHA to update and expand the OSHA standard to account for the substantial revisions to ANSI standards on powered industrial trucks over the last 45 years. The current standard covers 11 types of vehicles, and there are now 19 types. Also, the standard itself incorporates an out-of-date consensus standard.

OSHA will begin the process to develop a proposed rule updating the consensus standard referenced from the 1969 version of the American National Standard B56.1 to the 2016 version. This project is also under Executive Order 13777, which facilitates the review of existing regulations that may be outmoded, ineffective, insufficient, or excessively burdensome, and to modify, streamline, expand, or repeal them.

5. Tree Care Standard - Pre-Rule Stage

There is no OSHA standard for tree care operations; the Agency currently applies a patchwork of standards to address the severe hazards in this industry. The tree care industry previously petitioned the Agency for rulemaking. Tree care continues to be a high-hazard industry.

Wrapping it all up

Again, these are just five of the agenda items to watch. How can you keep up on these proposed changes without sitting in front of your computer at Well, luckily, there is an app for that - RegInfo. With RegInfo Mobile, you can have information about upcoming federal regulations and forms at your fingertips.

The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the General Services Administration (GSA) partnered to bring you a mobile version of, an online look into agency rulemakings that are on the books, planned, or under review by OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA).

RegInfo Mobile also provides information about forms and other information collections that OIRA has approved or is currently reviewing under the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA). With RegInfo Mobile, you have access to all of this information, and more, to the palm of your hand! Some of the app features are as follows:

  • Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions and the Regulatory Plan
  • Current and historical information since Fall 1995 edition
  • View detailed information about regulations, including regulation identifier number (RIN) title, abstract, effects on society and completed/planned actions for the next six months
  • Timeline Chart - an interactive visualization of when proposed and final regulations are published, OIRA reviews of regulations, related information collections, and more!
  • Regulatory Reviews
  • View detailed information about OIRA's pending and concluded reviews of significant rulemakings
  • Meetings with the Public
  • Browse the log of past and scheduled public meetings about regulations under OIRA review
  • Information regarding each meeting includes RIN, the title of the regulation, date, participants, and affiliations, and written materials submitted by the public
  • Information Collection Requests under the PRA
  • View detailed information on OIRA's pending and concluded reviews of agency information collection requests (ICRs), including OMB Control Number, expiration date, requested/approved burden on the public, supporting statements, forms, etc.
  • Keyword search that returns results for matching RINs, regulatory reviews and ICRs
  • Subscribe to a RIN and receive notifications when something happens

Let me know on LinkedIn if you have used this app at all - be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Jan 13, 2020
088: The SafetyPro Podcast in 2020

Safety in 2020

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2019 - It was a year of change and growth for me, both personally and professionally: new partnerships, new professional connections, conferences.

The podcast growth was significant last year - it has been growing exponentially year over year since the start, but last year it saw a lot of growth. I was able to expand the podcast in new ways thanks to the growing popularity of podcasts as well as more ways to find and enjoy podcasts. Spotify, Pandora, and iHeart Radio all jumped into the podcast offering space. Also, Google finally offered its official podcast app - although it may have missed the train as most Android users have been listening to podcasts via other podcast apps available to them for several years now.

SafetyPro Podcast

I was also able to expand the podcast by partnering with other podcast networks. You can now hear this podcast on Safety FM network - while I maintain independence, this partnership allows them to re-broadcast episodes. At the same time, I keep creative control and the ability to expand the podcast even more!


2019 also had the podcast on the road for the first time. VPPPA was kind enough to host me at their National Safety+ Symposium in New Orleans. I was able to meet many podcast listeners and even interview a few - a first for the podcast. It was a successful event, and they have invited me back for the 2020 Symposium in Orlando.


I got to meet Wesley Carter from the Amplify Your Process Safety Podcast and interview him - a SafetyPro podcast first!


Another podcast first was my interview with a podcast listener, Diana Paredes - she shared some great insight, and it was so much fun meeting a listener in person.


My interviews also included none other than Abby Ferri - who spoke at the VPPPA Safety+ Symposium as well. Her perspective on PPE for women generated a lot of feedback from listeners that continue to deal with form and fit - which impacts function, regarding protective equipment for women at work. I hope to have her back soon to share more about workplace safety.


Frank King was also one of my guests; it was a fun yet sobering conversation about mental health and how companies need to make it a part of our overall safety and health programs. Frank has some excellent information for companies wanting to do just that - please be sure to connect with Frank on LinkedIn as well.


I wrapped up my trip to New Orleans by interview some VPPPA Board members - you have to check out that interview if you haven't already. It is clear why VPPPA is a leading workplace safety association, and you should seriously consider what they can do for you.

Finally, I made more professional connections in 2019, as well. The podcast has connected me to some incredible professionals. Many of which I have come to know well over the past year. Most of my connections are via LinkedIn - so if we are not connected yet, feel free to reach out.

2020 is looking to be another banner year as well. I have three conferences lined up; I will be presenting at two of them in Ohio and podcasting from one of them as well. The third is the previously mentioned VPPPA National Safety+ Symposium, where I will be conducting more interviews with speakers, VIPs as well as podcast listeners.

I also have other plans for 2020 - including some big interviews with industry leaders and influencers. Interviews will not become a significant part of the podcast, but I will be adding some here and there. So I will announce these as we get closer to releasing the episodes.

I also talked to a lot of listeners asking for more details and downloads about specific topics. While I try my best to offer enough information and links for each topic I cover, there is certainly room for more. The issue for me is the time needed to put together more materials.

That is why I am launching a Patreon subscription program for those looking for more substance - whether that be explainer videos, demonstrations, downloads, etc. I will have member-only posts, feedback, and offers via this subscription. Keep in mind, the podcast and blog is my first focus - Patreon memberships are only supplemental and are not the end goal of the podcast. So nothing, and I mean nothing changes about the podcast. I have heard from enough listeners looking for more information that I wanted to create an avenue for them.

Another launch in 2020 will be a membership option for consultants - I hear from plenty of you looking to attract more customers, offer more services, and leverage social media to that end. I have some unique insights and strategies for this and want to share with those that are serious about helping more companies protect their workers. I am talking about tools like templates, downloads, coaching videos, links to must-have business tools, marketing techniques, and more.

2020 is going to be another growth year for the podcast. I hope to continue to learn from you - the listeners, about how you work, what you are looking to learn more about, and how I can be a part of your professional growth.

What are your big 2020 plans? Post a LinkedIn update, letting me know. Be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Jan 03, 2020
087: 5 Ways to Promote Accountability

Accountability in Safety

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Are concepts like "responsibility" and "being held accountable" viewed negatively by your employees? Most likely, it's because leaders have tried to mandate responsibility from the top down. But that's not how responsibility works.

People are intrinsically motivated to fulfill their commitments for a range of reasons, none of which include being mandated -- at least not effectively nor sustainably.

A top-down approach makes employees feel like a kid again -- it doesn't cultivate trust and freedom -- and it doesn't motivate people to find their way to stay on top of things.

Instead, leaders can encourage more responsibility among employees by creating an organizational culture that promotes and cascades accountability through five areas of focus.

Gallup's research and consulting experience show that to promote accountability, leaders, and managers should:

1. Define what people are accountable for.

Employees need clearly defined expectations to achieve goals. Organizations may have evergreen responsibilities that support the organization's mission, values, and purpose - like customer-centricity or quality - that they need teams to focus on continuously.

At other times, companies may need employees to focus on accountabilities that are short term or long term, but not permanent, such as large-scale change initiatives.

But in every case, managers need to demonstrate accountability through their availability and time spent on defining what their team is responsible for.

2. Set and cascade goals throughout the organization.

Once employees clearly understand what they're accountable for, managers should help them set measurable, individualized goals that align with their role. Most, if not all, employees should have metrics defined that help them know if they're delivering on the organization's goals.

Next, leaders should prioritize ongoing communication about how everyone's contributions and successes impact the organization's achievements.

3. Provide updates on progress.

People need the right information to course-correct toward their goals.

Feedback can come from customer or employee surveys, ongoing project updates, key listening posts with critical stakeholders, or some combination of these. The most effective form of feedback, however, comes from frequent conversations between managers and employees.

When preparing to provide a progress update, managers should not ask themselves if they have all the data, but instead, if they have the correct data, which is performance orientated so they can speak to the behavior that has allowed the progress.

4. Align development, learning, and growth.

Whether through conversations between managers and employees or as part of an ongoing developmental path, organizations must provide opportunities for employees to improve, learn, and grow.

Gallup analytics show that millennials rank the opportunity to learn and grow in a job as being No. 1 - above all other job considerations - and it's high on the ranks for different generations as well.

Managers who focus on employee development help workers address the roadblocks that prevent their ability to deliver on goals while learning and growing in the role.

5. Recognize and celebrate progress.

Praise for good work is the most motivating of all forms of feedback.

Identify, celebrate, and learn from successes. It motivates employees to stretch and creates responsibility role models for others to follow.

What Promoting Accountability Looks Like in Practice

When leaders clearly define and communicate what the organization and employees are accountable for and committed to achieving, they are describing an ideal culture.

But as It's the Manager reports, "a major challenge for leaders of large organizations is that there is no common culture." Moreover, only about half of all workers -- and fewer managers -- even know what's expected of them.

Leaders who define accountability align individuals and teams toward a common outcome, commonly referred to as objectives or goals. Goals inform workers of what's expected of them and help workers determine how to accomplish them.

And giving people a say in goal setting can galvanize their commitment to achieving them. Altogether, these actions can solve a lack of accountability when lack of clarity is the problem, which, Gallup's research shows, is not uncommon.

A to-do list is not enough, however. All employees, from the C-suite down, need follow-up and feedback.

"Everyone should play a role in developing their colleagues by providing meaningful feedback and coaching," says It's the Manager. "Leaders need to be the first to model these demands because their behavior dictates what employees interpret as a realistic expectation."

Setting expectations that all employees will commit to achieving is a leader's job. So is frequently communicating and reinforcing the importance of the goal to the organization's success and that all roles make a crucial contribution to accomplishing it.

However, while clarity and consistency of definition are critical, so is concision. When leaders deliver too many messages, as inspiring as they may be, employees can get confused - even overwhelmed - by myriad expectations that all seem to be the "most important."

To keep definitions and expectations sharply focused - and to improve performance as well - Gallup recommends encouraging managers to have frequent coaching conversations with their direct reports; performance is best directed during the moment.

But 47% of workers received feedback from their manager "a few times or less" in the past year, and only 26% of employees strongly agree that the feedback they receive helps them do their work better. A company's accountability problem may be a coaching problem in disguise.

These conversations should address successes, challenges, ideas for improvement, and ways to integrate ongoing learning and development.

Companies will find that frequent, performance-focused coaching conversations make it easier to recognize development and growth opportunities for employees. Managers who stay in close contact with workers know where their gaps are and where their potential lies.

They also activate responsibility - employees who feel cared for by their managers are more likely to want to come through.

People who feel neglected aren't so motivated. And criticism and threats only demotivate workers and discourage accountability - when failure to live up to a commitment is punished, people may hide their mistakes.

About a quarter of all employees say the most memorable recognition they ever received was from a high-level leader or CEO, which makes praise for good work a uniquely powerful leadership tool.

And it's underutilized. Gallup finds that only about one in three workers in the U.S. strongly agree that they received recognition or praise for doing good work in the past seven days.

Make Responsibility Easier - And More Rewarding

When promoting accountability, this provides structures and processes people need to do what they say they'll do. It makes it easier to be responsible.

It not only makes it easier, but it also makes people want to go the extra mile because they can see their progress, they're regularly receiving individualized coaching and praise. They're not being forced to merely comply.

Again, leaders can't force people to develop a meaningful sense of accountability.

They can create conditions that foster personal commitment -- by shaping an organizational culture that promotes responsibility.

Gallup article used with permission. Read the Gallup article here.

Get "It's The Manager" here.

Let me know what you do to drive employee engagement. Post a LinkedIn update, letting me know. Be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Dec 13, 2019
086: Got Employee Engagement?

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Employee Engagement in Safety

How workers show up each day directly shapes your culture. To be an engaged, safe, productive culture, we want our people highly involved and deeply committed to the company mission. No doubt that today, many organizations are seeking to create and sustain this kind of engaged company culture. That's why we're taking a closer look at just a few of the top ways we can ensure that the systems, the processes, the values, and the norms of your organization all help to improve the employee experience.

Let's talk about a few strategies you can embed in your culture so you can improve employee engagement.

Make accountability a high priority

A positive safety culture is one where someone feels safe enough to say to a colleague, "I noticed that you're not wearing your safety glasses." In turn, we want that colleague to respect the other person enough to respond positively and change their behavior. The values of the team, in such organizations, reinforce constructive accountability.

Workers look out for one another, and they can communicate with one another in a positive way that upholds the values of the company. That might be safety, or it might be something else like an approach towards customer service.

Individual and team accountability also help work against over-confidence or complacency that can happen over time, despite how "engaged" a worker is. Accountability is communication, trust, ownership. In my next episode, I will go over five ways to promote accountability. But for now, know that accountability is a critical factor in driving engagement.

Give workers the right amount of authority

If you want to drive accountability, you also must match that with authority. Authority, paired with trust, is what gives workers a sense of empowerment and true ownership in a role or project.

If and when authority is missing, workers can easily get disengaged because they don't feel like they can genuinely impact the desired outcome. Just think: if you ask a high performer to complete a project, but they lack the resources (time, talent, equipment, etc.), that's a real disconnect. That's precisely the kind of scenario that can result in a high degree of stress.

To support giving your employees a real sense of authority, make sure:

  • The authority given aligns with the outcomes you want to see
  • You show you trust workers with that responsibility and authority
  • Workers know what is expected of them, given their role and responsibilities
  • Workers have the resources, tools, equipment to do the work the right way

Get workers as involved as possible

Provide ample opportunity and space for workers to be as involved as possible at work, in safety-related efforts, and in other areas, as well.

Make sure you have a structure that can allow them to give suggestions and feedback as to how safety can be improved. It's essential to not only provide the opportunity for ideas but demonstrate that action will be taken to address those suggestions, too. That way, people feel empowered and have a greater sense of ownership. Plus, workers will feel like they have a stake in the outcome and in shaping the environment at work.

Look at the employee experience from end to end

Can you confidently say that the organization is showing it holistically cares for employees throughout the entire experience they have with you? That experience starts even before starting their job!

Start thinking of the "employee experience" in terms of every interaction a worker has with your organization. That means from recruitment (or even before that) until the day they exit the company.

To name a few, that can include:

  • The recruitment process
  • The hiring process
  • The onboarding process
  • The work environment(s)
  • The work processes
  • The career path or learning opportunities provided
  • The ongoing communication (informal and formal) provided
  • Coaching sessions or mentoring sessions that are a part of the job, whether formal or informal.
  • The ways input and feedback are collected and acted upon
  • Incentives/compensation
  • The opportunity for training and ongoing education
  • Employee recognition program
  • Exit surveys and exit process in general

The list goes on and on. The point is that the employee experience starts when they first interact with your organization and continues until they potentially leave the company.

Rather than merely a buzzword (experience), you want to do your best to foster trust in each of these stages. That way, workers deeply care about their role and their impact on the company, no matter where they are in the "experience." 

Don't be afraid to challenge the way you do things

Do you have the same old safety meeting format? Do you hold a regular safety meeting, even if you don't necessarily have a pressing topic to cover?

Be open to challenging the "norms" in your culture to fight complacency and boredom. Being open to changing things when needed, can boost creativity and engagement.

Create an environment where you can measure attitudes, perceptions, and behaviors

So much of work is about discretionary effort, and so you want to be sure your company is measuring and monitoring levels of engagement in some way. That way, you can be aware of a problem or issue when it arises.

The reality is that if employees don't feel safe, accepted, or listened to, they probably aren't as engaged with their work. In other words, if people don't feel like they can be themselves at work, then they don't feel comfortable, which takes away from their ability to do their job optimally.

Recognize and reward the right values and practices

Companies with safe, productive, and engaged cultures look for opportunities to make the right behaviors as visible as possible, which serves to model and reinforce these behaviors in employees.

Focus on intentional positive reinforcement, appreciation, and praise. Every company is different, so build a recognition program or process that works for your organization. Not only does that keep workers feeling appreciated, but it can show you support your company values.

Invest in Learning and Development

Does your organization support informal and formal mentoring? What about coaching? When was the last time you had a conversation with someone about their progress?

A critical component of short-term and long-term engagement is developing your leaders in a variety of ways. That includes training, leadership development, coaching and mentoring, skill development, and helping to forge a path for career growth and advancement.

Don't neglect to invest in your employees since it's a powerful tool to help them advance their skills and to keep them engaged and satisfied in their work.

Gallup article used with permission. Read the Gallup article here

Get "It's the Manager" here.

Let me know what you do to drive employee engagement. Post a LinkedIn update, letting me know. Be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Dec 09, 2019
085: SMS Pt 6 - All You Need to Know About OSHA VPP


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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), on July 2, 1982, announced the establishment of the Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) to recognize and promote effective worksite-based safety and health management systems.

In the VPP, management, labor, and OSHA establish cooperative relationships at workplaces that are implementing or have implemented comprehensive safety and health management systems.

Approval into VPP is OSHA’s official recognition of the outstanding efforts of employers and employees who have created exemplary worksite safety and health management systems. OSHA offers assistance to sites committed to achieving the VPP level of excellence.

VPP Principles

Voluntarism: Participation in VPP is strictly voluntary. The applicant who wishes to participate freely submits information to OSHA on its safety and health management system, goes above and beyond compliance with the OSH Act and applicable OSHA requirements, and opens itself to agency review.

Cooperation: OSHA has long recognized that a balanced, multifaceted approach is the best way to accomplish the goals of the OSH Act. VPP's emphasis on trust and cooperation between OSHA, the employer, employees, and employees’ representatives complements the Agency’s enforcement activity but does not take its place. VPP staff and VPP participants work together to resolve any safety and health problems that may arise. This partnership enables the Agency to remove participants from programmed inspection lists, allowing OSHA to focus its inspection resources on establishments in greater need of agency oversight and intervention. However, OSHA continues to investigate valid employee safety and health complaints, fatalities, catastrophes, and other significant events at VPP participant sites.

A Systems Approach: Compliance with the OSH Act and all applicable OSHA requirements is only the starting point for VPP participants. VPP participants develop and implement systems to effectively identify, evaluate, prevent, and control occupational hazards to prevent injuries and illnesses to employees. Star participants, in particular, are often on the leading edge of hazard prevention methods and technology. As a result, VPP worksites serve as models of safety and health excellence, demonstrating the benefits of a systems approach to employee protection.

Model Worksites for Safety and Health: OSHA selects VPP participants based on their written safety and health management system, the effective implementation of this system over time, and their performance in meeting VPP requirements. Not all worksites are appropriate candidates for VPP. At qualifying sites, personnel is involved in the effort to maintain rigorous, detailed attention to safety and health. VPP participants often mentor other worksites interested in improving safety and health, participate in safety and health outreach and training initiatives, and provide OSHA with input on proposed policies and standards. They also share best practices and promote excellence in safety and health in their industries and communities.

Continuous Improvement: VPP participants must demonstrate continuous improvement in the operation and impact of their safety and health management systems. Annual VPP self-evaluations help participants measure success, identify areas needing improvement, and determine such changes. OSHA onsite evaluation teams verify this improvement.

Employee and Employer Rights: Participation in VPP does not diminish employee and employer rights and responsibilities under the OSH Act and, for Federal agencies, under 29 CFR 1960 as well.

Participation Levels

There are three levels of participation in the VPP:

  • Star Program: The Star Program recognizes the safety and health excellence of worksites where employees are successfully protected from fatality, injury, and illness by the implementation of comprehensive and effective workplace safety and health management systems. These worksites are self-sufficient in identifying and controlling workplace hazards.
  • Merit Program: The Merit Program recognizes worksites that have functional safety and health management systems and that show the willingness, commitment, and ability to achieve site-specific goals that will qualify them for Star participation.
  • Star Demonstration Program: The Star Demonstration Program recognizes worksites that have Star quality safety and health management systems that differ in some significant fashion from the VPP model and thus do not meet current Star requirements. A Star Demonstration Program tests this alternative approach to ascertain if it is as protective as current Star requirements.


To qualify for VPP, an applicant/participant must operate a comprehensive safety and health management system that includes four essential elements and their sub-elements. These elements, when integrated into a worksite’s daily operations, can reduce the incidence and severity of illnesses and injuries:

  1. Management leadership and employee involvement.
  2. Worksite analysis.
  3. Hazard prevention and control.
  4. Safety and health training.

STAR Participation

First off, there is no limit to the term of participation in Star, as long as a participant continues to meet all Star requirements and to maintain Star quality.

Injury and Illness History Requirements

OSHA will evaluate the applicant/participant’s injury and illness history by using a 3-year total case incidence rate (TCIR) and 3-year days away, restricted, and/or job transfer incidence rate (DART rate). The 3-year TCIR and DART rates must be below at least 1 of the 3 most recent years of specific industry national averages for nonfatal injuries and illnesses at the most precise level published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Compare both rates to a single year. 

For eligible smaller worksites, companies may use an alternative rate calculation by using their best 3 out of the most recent four years of incidence rates.

Participation Process

The participation process consists of application submittal and review, an onsite evaluation, and an approval or denial process.

OSHA provides the required application template to make it easy for applicants to spell out how the company meets or exceeds the various VPP expectations.

Once approved, OSHA will schedule an onsite visit, and this is where things get interesting. The onsite team will be assembled based on several factors: the size and locations of your various facilities (if more than one), the industry (PSM, construction, and others), the unique conditions at your sites may require IH expertise, ergonomics, or others.

For the most part, OSHA will request volunteers to be a part of this team. Volunteers are from other VPP participating companies and have gone through specialized training with the Department of Labor to become special government employees (SGE) - I use the term employees loosely. OSHA also has provisions in place to prevent competitor companies from being involved as well as guidelines to protect trade secrets.

OSHA will review written programs and documents, interview employees, and conduct site reviews. All of this information will be documented and reviewed each day of the onsite by the OSHA team lead. Any safety deficiencies can be categorized in one of three different ways:

  1. OSHA Requirement
  2. VPP Requirement
  3. STAR Example

Any deficiencies noted that would prevent the approval of the VPP application must be corrected within 90-days of being notified. If not, OSHA may reject the application, and one cannot reapply for another 6-months.


Once approved, the OSHA Area Office will notify the Assistant Secretary of OSHA regarding the recommended acceptance into the VPP. Once signed, OSHA informs applicants of their acceptance into the program. OSHA awards newly approved participants a plaque and flag, and most companies have a flag ceremony to celebrate this well-deserved achievement.

Maintaining VPP

Companies have to comply with ongoing requirements as well, which means submitting an annual report, maintaining injury/illness rates, not having employee complaints, and a few more you can read about on their website.

Yes, companies can be removed for various reasons. One is if the Union retracts its support for VPP - this has happened before. Any Union representation must co-sign on the application or submit a letter stating they do not object to the VPP application. Again, you can read more about Union support on the OSHA VPP website.

I recorded a 4-part series breaking down all four elements a while back and you can listen to them all by following the links below:

011: VPP Element 1 - Leadership Commitment & Employee Involvement

012: VPP Element 2 - Worksite Safety Analysis

013: VPP Element 3 - Safety Hazard Prevention & Controls

014: VPP Element 4 - Safety & Health Training

As a recap, VPP principles are in line with other leading safety management systems in that they require a systems approach and a process of continuous improvement. What I like about VPP is the support for the program, not only from OSHA and other participants, but there is a world-class organization dedicated to supporting VPP participants. They are called the VPP Participants Association or VPPPA. Please take a look at their website and learn more about how they can help you - whether your company is a VPP site, thinking about applying for VPP or just wanting to learn from the best so that you can improve safety for your people, VPPPA is for you!

So what do you think? ISO 45001, ANSI/ASSP Z10, or VPP? Post a LinkedIn update, letting me know. Be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Nov 26, 2019
084: SMS Pt 5 - Breaking Down ANSI/ASSP Z10


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We know by now that the application of a safety management system (SMS) can drastically improve organizational safety performance. Even OSHA's Partnership program, VPP, relies on management system principles, and you can see the results that participants encounter on their website.

So, back in 1999, ANSI started a committee to begin work on what would become known as the Z10 standard. The committee looked at existing national and international standards in occupational safety and health. Initially approved in 2005, it was revised once and reaffirmed in 2017. More recently, the collaboration between ANSI and the American Industrial Hygiene Association was replaced on the Z10 committee by the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP), which is why you will now see the standard now titled ANSI/ASSP Z10.

ANSI Z10 encourages participants to integrate other management systems with the safety management system. Mainly because most other systems follow the Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) model as the basis for continuous improvement, so it should be familiar to most organizations. Not only that, it is incredibly useful! The stated purpose of the standard is to provide organizations a valuable tool for continuous improvement of their safety and health performance.

The standard focuses mainly on the strategic aspects of policies and the things that go into making sure they are carried out. What ANSI Z10 does NOT do is provide companies with things like detailed procedures and job instructions. So let's get into what is required by this voluntary standard.

Like other voluntary standards, the ANSI/ASSP Z10 is broken down into sections. According to the Table of Contents, the seven sections are as follows:

  1. Scope, Purpose, & Application
  2. Definitions
  3. Management Leadership & Employee Participation
  4. Planning
  5. Implementation & Operation
  6. Evaluation & Corrective Action
  7. Management Review

Scope, Purpose, & Application

Just as in the case with ISO 45001, ANSI/ASSP Z10 starts with the Scope, Purpose & Application. It defines the minimum requirements for the safety management system, and its primary purpose is, again, to provide a tool that organizations can use to reduce injuries, illnesses, and fatalities. Of course, the standard can be applied to any organization regardless of size and type.

Management Leadership & Employee Participation

The top management has to mandate all parts of the organization to establish, maintain, implement, and maintain the SMS per the standard.

This mandate starts with top management establishing a documented EHS policy. Companies have to make sure that, at a minimum, the safety policy includes the following:

  • Protection and continual improvement of employee safety and health.
  • Meaningful employee involvement.
  • Require conformance with the organization's safety and health program requirements.
  • Require compliance with established safety and health laws and regulations.

The top leadership must also accept ultimate responsibility for safety and health by doing the things we come to expect in these safety management systems:

  • Provide financial and professional resources to carry out the management system requirements.
  • Define roles and responsibilities, accountability, and authority to carry out the management system requirements.
  •  Integrate the SMS into other business systems and processes, which includes performance reviews, compensation, rewards, and recognition programs are in line with the SMS.

Employees also have to assume responsibility for parts of the SMS over which they have control, like following safety rules and procedures. All of this must be communicated to all employees as well as be made available to relevant external interested parties.

According to ANSI, top leadership should not only hire a safety professional and delegate all of this to them. They must be visible in their leadership by participating in carrying out aspects of the SMS as well.

Employee Participation

The organization has to establish a process that ensures meaningful employee participation throughout all levels. At a minimum:

  • Provide employees the means, time, and resources needed to participate in the planning, implementation, evaluation, corrective action, and preventative actions required by the SMS.
  • Provide employees access to information related to the SMS.
  • Effectively remove all barriers to meaningful involvement.


ANSI states that the planning process goal is to identify and prioritize SMS issues such as hazards, risks, SMS deficiencies, and opportunities for improvement. The organization must also establish goals and objectives to improve upon the SMS as well.

There are four parts of this section:

  1. Review Process
  2. Assessment and Prioritization
  3. Objectives
  4. Implementation Plans and Allocation of Resources

Let's talk about Review; I often mention the need to conduct a gap assessment. Well, so does ANSI. You need to identify the differences, the gap between the organization's SMS, and the requirements of the Z10.

Not only does this need to be done when implementing Z10, but also periodically after that. The organization must document these activities. The activities you should document include:

  • Relevant business systems and processes
  • Operational issues like hazards, risks, and controls
  • Previously identified issues
  • Allocation of needed resources
  • Applicable regulations, standards, and other EHS requirements
  • Risk assessments
  • Opportunities for employee participation
  • Results of other audits
  • Any other relevant activities

Implementation & Operation

This section is where ANSI spells out which elements an organization needs for the implementation of an effective SMS. These elements are considered foundational elements of the SMS and feed into the planning process.

ANSI believes the implementation fo these elements also generates the much-needed experience and knowledge that will be looped back into the planning process continuously.

The elements are as follows:

  1. Risk Assessment
  2. Education, Training, Awareness, and Competence
  3. Communication
  4. Document and Record Control Process

Here I want to focus on the first element. The organization must establish and implement a risk assessment process that addresses the nature of the hazards and level of risks in the business.

In the Risk Assessment element, ANSI spells out the use of the hierarchy of controls, design review, management of change, procurement processes, contractor management, and emergency preparedness. These all must be addressed to comply with the standard.

Evaluation & Corrective Action

In this section, ANSI covers the requirements for processes to achieve the following:

  • Evaluate the performance of the SMS through monitoring, measurement, assessment, incident investigation, and audits.
  • Take corrective action when the organization discovers deficiencies.
  • Consider the results of audits as part of the planning process and management review.
  • The purpose is to help evaluate SMS performance by measuring the company's efforts at reducing risks.

ANSI spells out five areas that will help:

  1. Monitoring, Measurement, and Assessment
  2. Incident Investigation
  3. Audits
  4. Corrective and Preventative Action
  5. Feedback to the Planning Process

In the end, the findings and lessons learned will loop back into the continuous process of improving the SMS overall.

Management Review

In this section, ANSI defines the requirements for occasional management reviews. The reason is for top management, along with crucial leaders in the organization, to do a strategic evaluation of the performance of the SMS and recommend improvements. The difference being that this speaks specifically to top leadership.

Things to consider using during any management review include:

  • Any reduction of risks identified
  • The effectiveness of the organization's ability to identify, assess, and prioritize risk
  • The effectiveness in addressing underlying causes and contributors to risks and deficiencies
  •  Input from employees
  • The status of corrective actions determined to be needed
  • Progress on any stated SMS goals and objectives

The reason top management needs to conduct these reviews is that they have the authority to make the necessary decisions about allocating resources about choices. 

The results need to be summarized, spelling out action items top management needs to address. These go into action plans with targets to achieve as well as identifying those responsible for seeing them through.

To recap, the ANSI/ASSP Z10 Standard has requirements under the following sections:

  1. Scope, Purpose, & Application
  2. Definitions
  3. Management Leadership & Employee Participation
  4. Planning
  5. Implementation & Operation
  6. Evaluation & Corrective Action
  7. Management Review

I wanted to cover ANSI Z10 as I did for the ISO 45001 Standard in the last episode. Which one do you think you would recommend following? Why?

I like aspects of both, but the ANSI Standard reads better. They formatted the standard into two columns. The left-hand side spells out standard requirements while the right-hand side offers recommendations or best practices related to each. It is pretty easy to follow in that regard.

Let me know what you think - ISO or ANSI at this point? Post a LinkedIn update, letting me know. Be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Nov 18, 2019
083: SMS Pt 4 - What Does ISO 45001 Require?

ISO 45001

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According to ISO, the purpose of a safety management system is to provide a framework for managing safety and health risks and opportunities. Of course, this means preventing workplace accidents, injuries, and illnesses by recognizing and eliminating or managing risks by taking preventative and protective measures.

The structure of ISO 45001 will tell you everything you need to know about how effective safety management systems are set up. Let’s take a look at this SMS at a high-level then get into each element.

There are ten areas of focus found in ISO 45001:

  1. Scope
  2. References
  3. Definitions
  4. Context of the Organization
  5. Leadership and Worker Participation
  6. Planning
  7. Support
  8. Operation
  9. Performance Evaluation
  10. Improvement

I will not get into all of these in great detail but will touch on most to get an understanding of what is needed when considering ISO 45001 for your organization. Let’s just skip to number four since I think you get the scope of why ISO 45001 was created if you listened to the past several episodes.

Context of the organization

You first need to understand your organization, it’s context, needs, and expectations of the workers. One must also understand what ISO calls “other interested parties,” like vendors, suppliers, contractors, and even customers.

The scope is everything around why the company is in business and how the company makes or provides the products or services it offers. In the case of manufacturing, what machines and processes are involved? What chemicals, tools, materials are needed? What trades or special skills are required of workers? What planned or performed work-related activities will be required? The same goes for construction, mining, hospitality, retail, or food industries.

Some expectations you will need to identify are going to be legal ones - compliance with laws and regulations. Other expectations will be industry or corporate-driven, such as the case with best practices or compliance with voluntary guidelines, like ISO or ANSI or VPP.

All of this will help you determine the scope of the safety management system. So you have to establish, implement, maintain, and continually improve a safety management system. This includes the processes needed and their interactions - and ISO lays those out in 45001.

Leadership and Worker Participation

This section addresses two of the foundational elements of any safety management system; the leaders and the workers. This relationship is absolutely critical to the success of everything the business does, including safety and health. As for leadership, they need to be committed to the safety management system. Here are some things required to achieve this:

  • Leadership must accept overall accountability for the prevention of workplace injuries and illnesses, as well as establishing a safe work environment and work-related activities.
  • They must ensure that the overall safety and health policy and related goals and objectives are established and compatible with the strategic direction of the company.
  • Leadership must also make sure to integrate the safety management system elements into the rest of the business processes.
  • Leaders must make sure that adequate resources needed to establish, implement, and maintain the safety management system are provided at all times. This includes qualified personnel to contribute to SMS effectiveness.
  • Top leadership must also communicate the importance of effective safety management and compliance with all of the requirements the company has set forth.
  • Ensure the SMS achieves desired outcomes by promoting a continuous process improvement approach.
  • Supporting other management roles so that they may also ensure SMS success.
  • Develop and lead a culture that supports the intended outcomes of the SMS. This means protecting workers from retaliation when reporting hazards, concerns, suggestions, or even just participating in workplace safety activities. Also, by making sure workers are included in the decision-making process when it comes to safety and health. One way to do this is to establish a safety and health committee. NOTE: ISO 45001 does require a committee.

Safety and Health Policy

So when I mentioned that leadership needs to establish a safety and health policy, what are some requirements for this policy? Here is what ISO says the policy must do, at a minimum:

  • It must include a commitment to provide safe and healthy working conditions for the prevention of work-related injury and illnesses.
  • The policy must set up a framework for establishing safety and health goals and objectives. These must be specific to expected hazards or work activities and measured appropriately. Goals must be achievable and relevant to safety and health program elements and set at least annually.
  • It has to include a written commitment to meeting basic legal and other requirements as discussed, eliminating or reducing/managing risks, and continuous process improvement of the management system.

Another written commitment needed is the participation of workers and their representatives. 

So here we see leadership commitment moving from theory to putting it on paper. This written policy has to be communicated and available to all employees, as well.

Roles and Responsibilities

To carry out all of the business commitments, the company needs to staff appropriately. As such, every employee has a purpose in the organization which needs to be defined. This includes safety and health. Here is where we need well-written job descriptions and roles and responsibilities.

Roles and responsibilities are critical because every worker, regardless of their position, needs to know what is expected of them when they start work. This is the first impression they get when they join. These expectations need to be measurable or observable. So we want to avoid the high-level language like “support safety efforts,” and “demonstrate leadership.” We need to define these with actions, spell them out, and communicate them. Download an example of safety and health roles and responsibilities here.

I routinely see companies struggle with middle managers not being “committed,” yet when they were hired, none of this was covered with them. When you tell a group of supervisors to “support” safety without defining it, they will come up with their own version. You see now how this all works together? This is what we mean when we say it requires a systems approach.

Worker Participation (Involvement)

When we say worker participation or employee involvement, it has to be meaningful involvement. As mentioned earlier, workers need to be involved in the decision-making process when it comes to safety and health. You cannot say they report hazards, that is a mandate, a condition of employment. Also, OSHA already requires employees to report hazards to the employer. We are talking about involvement in the development of programs, policies, defenses, and improvements moving forward.

Some examples include:

  • Serving on a safety committee
  • Volunteering as a first aid provider
  • Participating in area inspections and/or program audits
  • Establishing an incentive program
  • Serving on a select team - like ergo, wellness, etc.
  • Participating in training programs
  • Managing a suggestion program
  • Participating in continuous process improvement activities
  • Conducting incident investigations
  • Planning

Once you have the scope of the organization, all interested parties and begin to size up the safety management system, you have to plan for it. This means accounting for all of the hazards, risks, opportunities, and even legal requirements to ensure the SMS is comprehensive and will achieve its intended goals.

This has to be documented, including the process and actions need to address identified risks and opportunities. So, let’s get into what activities support planning for SMS success. 

Hazard Identification

You have to create and maintain a process for hazard identification - this has to be proactive and continuous. Some areas you will need to focus on include:

  • How the organization plans and organizes work. Things like workload and shifts, and also discrimination and harassment policies or leadership practices that drive culture.
  • Assessing routine and non-routine work. This could be work involving facilities, equipment, tools, processes, products/services offered, assembly operations, construction, disposal, etc.
  • A review of past incidents needs to be a big part of hazard identification. This not only includes incidents inside the organization but also outside. Things like local/regional disasters, events created by nearby companies, emergencies, etc.
  • You will need to include an assessment of personnel and outside persons. This that have access to the company and property and also those in the vicinity like municipal workers, utilities, neighbors, etc. that could impact the business and also be affected by operations.
  • Some other issues to consider for hazard identification include workstation design, layout, operating procedures, adaptability to change, and support for these activities.
  • Management of change needs to be considered, as well. In other words, how is the company prepared to support the changes required? How will changes impact safety and health? Is the company set up to manage those?

Another aspect of hazard identification is whether or not there are adequate controls in place or needed. You will need to use a recognized and accepted approach to assessing and determining the level of risk so that appropriate controls can be determined. Hierarchy of controls, for example.

You also want to have a process in place to continually assess work, work areas, processes for improvements, and improvements to the safety management system in general. Things like looking at software solutions to help manage aspects of the system or new equipment to mitigate or manage specific hazards. Continuous improvement is the goal here. But you cannot just say it, you need a process in place to ensure that it is being done.

Finally, you need to have access to the latest regulatory information, whether that be Federal, State, or local. This includes professionals that specialize in this, like Safety Pros. The company needs to be able to demonstrate that it took these legal aspects into account when designing work, processes, etc. This too, can be included in a documented hazard assessment process. All of this info needs to be included in everything from the written safety programs, policies, response plans, and more.

Safety and Health Objectives

The business needs to create safety and health goals and objectives relevant to the different functions of the business and levels of the company. These will need to be consistent with the established safety and health policy, also be measurable, communicated, updated, and monitored as required. You will need to document things such as:

  1. what needs to be done
  2. what resources are required
  3. who will be responsible for what parts
  4. a realistic timeframe
  5. how you will ensure the results achieve the objectives
  6. how will results be scaled across the business

Support for Safety

I mentioned already the need to provide Safety Pros and others trained and qualified to carry out aspects of the SMS. This is but one way to show support for safety. The company must demonstrate employees are competent to comply with and act on behalf of the SMS. This competence can be documented in different ways. Everything from specific training and qualifications to establishing a comprehensive on-the-job training program with evaluations and refresher requirements.

At a minimum, workers must be aware of the SMS policies, objectives, and how their participation leads to its success. You also need to ensure they understand the consequences of not meeting SMS requirements.

Another part of increasing awareness of safety includes communicating the results of learnings from incident investigations - including newly discovered risks or hazards and how the company is managing them. And of course, a clearly communicated stop work policy must be a part of ANY safety and health policy. Employees must be aware of what to do when faced with a hazard or risk that was not previously identified and managed. Don’t forget to add the anti-harassment protections they have as well. Very important!


I have mentioned the word “communicate” many times already, so let’s talk about that as a strategic part of the SMS. You need to have a communication process established. That is, when and how often does the company disseminate information? What will you communicate? What channels of communication will the company use? You also need to take into account diversity when communicating. Things like language barriers, literacy in general, culture, and even disability as is the case with the spoken word and the hearing impaired or written communications and visually impaired.

There are also internal communications as well as external; how does the organization handle these?


The organization must keep all documentation required by applicable laws and regulations as well as those needed for the SMS, as discussed. But some basic things that ISO requires are as follows:

  • Documents need to contain a title, description, date, author or reference number
  • Need to follow a standard format, like language, software version, etc. and media like paper, electronic, etc.
  • Establish a review and approval process for suitability, adequacy and any changes made

You also have to have controls in place for SMS documents. Are they available for use when needed and by those needing them? Are they protected from being altered, or are sensitive documents protected from unauthorized dissemination? So, establish a written policy spelling out process around the request, access, retrieval, distribution, and use of specific documents, even ones that would normally be considered “public use,” like safety data sheets. Also, describe how the organization will store, preserve, and even destroy documents as well as handle changes needed.


This section covers operational planning and control, eliminating hazards and reducing risks, management of change, procurement and emergency preparedness and response. So those written programs, policies, and procedures are going to be needed here. Some of these are obvious, but one I want to focus on is the management of change (MOC).

Your organization has to establish a process (or set of processes) planned temporary and permanent changes that will affect the SMS. Examples include new products/services, process changes, tools, equipment, workstation, facility layout, new additions to buildings/structures, changes to general work environments, and even workforce changes.

Other changes needing to be addressed, those stemming from other changes. For example, a change in processes may require legal changes, like permitting. Also, the need for more expertise or specialists you do not currently have on staff. And you will need to review any unintended changes as well.

Performance Evaluation

This includes inspections, audits, and analysis of results. These are needed to ensure the SMS is not only achieving its intended objectives but also that those charged with specific activities are fulfilling them as well. You will need to define what needs to be monitored and measured, the methods that will be sued, the criteria against which you will be evaluated, when and how often, and how to communicate the results. This means you will need to establish and maintain a documented audit program. 

Furthermore, top management has to review the organization’s safety management system at planned intervals to make sure that it is still adequate and is sustainable. All of the things Safety Pros will be doing, organizational leadership needs to do as well. They cannot just pass it off because they have professionals on staff. I talked about this in a previous episode - assigning key elements of the SMS to others to get them involved. It is a great approach and meets ISO expectations.


Finally, the organization has to continuously look for opportunities to improve the SMS and implement needed actions to support any improvements. The first place most of us start is with corrective actions stemming from incident investigations. All recommendations have to be supported by the company. This also serves as evidence of leadership commitment. 

Final Thoughts

As I have mentioned, continuous improvement is a foundational element of any SMS. A lot of what I talked about here focuses first on documenting why and how everything related to SMS will be carried out. In the end, this is a continuous process and cannot merely be created once on paper and forgotten. It is not the traditional written safety program approach. ISO 45001 requires proper documentation, yes, but more importantly, you have to act on what is spelled out in your SMS. That SMS must first start with the scope and context of your unique organization.

The past several episodes discussing SMS, and all of the things that go into it cannot be overlooked. Things like systems thinking, continuous process improvement, root cause analysis, human organizational performance - the mindset and approaches needed to design, implement, and support SMS components. Do not jump straight to writing manuals and policies simply to satisfy a regulating body.

Let me know what you think! Send emails to You can find me on LinkedIn! Post a LinkedIn update, letting me know what you think of the podcast. Be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Nov 11, 2019
082: SMS Pt 3 - What is Root Cause Analysis (RCA)?

Safety Management System

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As mentioned in episode 81 - What is "Systems Thinking," I will talk about root cause analysis or RCA - another aspect of a systems approach, Let’s define it and talk about how it can be applied.

In episode 33: Lean Safety, I recommended some excellent books to help you out. TapRoot® is another great resource as well as the book Pre-Accident Investigation by Todd Conklin - I have this one and contains great insight. But remember, whatever books you read or concepts you follow, if all you get is a strategic overview of these principals, then you will need to follow that up with tactical training to be able to use the right tools and techniques for a given situation. For example, I went through HOP training, was a H.O.P. coach for a former employer, so jump on Linkedin and ask your network how they are applying these concepts, ask for help.

Safety Management System

One thing I want to share about Conklin’s book that has stuck with me (there is a lot, but this one is a favorite); “Safety is not the absence of events; it is the presence of defenses.” So true!

Safety Management System

So Let’s get into a definition of RCA. First, I want to reference TapRoot®. Over 30 years ago, they started with research into human performance and the best incident investigation and root cause analysis systems available. They put this knowledge to use to build a systematic investigation process with a coherent investigation philosophy. Then, they used and refined the system in the field. In 1991, they wrote the first TapRoot® Manual that put all of this experience together into an incident investigation system called TapRoot®.

According to TapRoot®, a definition of Root Cause Analysis is as follows: “The systematic process of finding the knowledge or best practice needed to prevent a problem.“ What root cause analysis tools or methods should you use? Here is guidance to help you pick the root cause analysis system you should use:

  1. You need to understand what happened. Because you can’t understand WHY an incident occurred if you don’t understand HOW it happened, and before that, you need to know what happened.
  2. You need to identify the multiple Causal Factors (this is the HOW) that caused the problem (the incident). Your root cause analysis system should have tools to help you identify these points that will be the start of finding root causes.
  3. You will need to dig deeper and find each of the Causal Factor’s root causes. These are the causes of human performance and equipment reliability issues. TapRoot, with many years of experience, has found that investigators (even experienced investigators) need guidance – an expert system – to help them consistently identify the root causes of human performance and equipment reliability issues. This guidance should be part of the root cause analysis system. Plus, the root cause analysis tool must find fixable causes of human error without placing blame. Blame is a major cause of failed root cause analysis.
  4. If this is a major issue, you should go beyond the specific root causes of this particular incident. For major investigations, you should look one level deeper for the Generic (systemic) Cause of each root cause. Not every root cause will have a Generic Cause. But, if you can identify the Generic Cause of a root cause, you may be able to develop corrective action that will eliminate a whole class of problems. Thus, your systematic process should guide you to find Generic Causes for major investigations.
  5. Root cause analysis is useless if you don’t develop effective corrective actions (fixes) that will prevent repeat incidents. TapRoot has seen that investigators may not be able to develop effective fixes for problems they haven’t seen fixed before. Therefore, your root cause analysis system should have guidance for developing effective fixes.
  6. Finally, you will need to get management approval to make the changes (the fixes) to prevent repeat problems. Thus, your root cause analysis system should include tools to effectively present what you have found and the corrective actions to management so they can approve the resources needed to make the changes happen.

Another take on this is that RCA involves investigating the patterns of adverse effects, finding hidden flaws in the system, and discovering specific actions that could have contributed directly and indirectly to the problem. Which often means that RCA reveals more than one root cause. And thus the title lends itself to criticism by some folks - it implies one root cause when we know that isn’t the intent. I call these folks word nerds, and these are the Gurus I refer to when I point this out - not the ones I mentioned earlier that understand this. They take the literal meaning instead of using their brains a little and understanding that it is just a catchphrase, and the purpose or spirit of the phrase is what is essential.

The second example of an organization focused on this topic; ASQ. The American Society for Quality (ASQ), formerly the American Society for Quality Control (ASQC), they are a knowledge-based global community of quality professionals, with nearly 80,000 members dedicated to promoting and advancing quality tools, principles, and practices in their workplaces and communities.

According to an ASQ article published back in 2004:

“Simply stated, RCA is a tool designed to help identify not only what and how an event occurred, but also why it happened. Only when investigators can determine why an event or failure occurred will they be able to specify workable corrective measures that prevent future events of the type observed.

Understanding why an event occurred is the key to developing effective recommendations. Imagine an occurrence during which an operator is instructed to close valve A; instead, the operator closes valve B. The typical investigation would probably conclude operator error was the cause.

This is an accurate description of what happened and how it happened. However, if the analysts stop here, they have not probed deeply enough to understand the reasons for the mistake. Therefore, they do not know what to do to prevent it from occurring again.

In the case of the operator who turned the wrong valve, we are likely to see recommendations such as retrain the operator on the procedure, remind all operators to be alert when manipulating valves, or emphasize to all personnel that careful attention to the job should be maintained at all times. Such recommendations do little to prevent future occurrences.

Generally, mistakes do not just happen but can be traced to some well-defined causes. In the case of the valve error, we might ask, “Was the procedure confusing? Were the valves clearly labeled? Was the operator familiar with this particular task?”

The answers to these and other questions will help determine why the error took place and what the organization can do to prevent a recurrence. In the case of the valve error, recommendations might include revising the procedure or performing procedure validation to ensure references to valves match the valve labels found in the field.

Identifying root causes is the key to preventing similar recurrences. An added benefit of an effective RCA is that, over time, the root causes identified across the population of occurrences can be used to target major opportunities for improvement.”

So this is why the battle against the word “why” confuses me (see, I cannot even avoid using the word in that statement!) - I mean, I get that it can be used negatively, as in “why did you do that?” Tone and inflection play into this a lot, as well. But we know that it isn’t the reason for asking, nor is it how we should ask the question. I mean, if you have ever heard a child ask “why” (and repeats it 25 times!), then you probably know that it is merely an attempt to understand the world around them. We don’t discourage children from learning more about the world around them by asking “why,” but we do as adults for some reason, and as adults, we are supposed to be smarter than that; able to use logic and reason - you think we would have figured that out. So instead of hating on the word why, then shouldn’t we spend more time training and education on the proper use of it? 

Let me illustrate the use of “why” with an example not related to workplace safety. Simon Sinek, best known for popularizing the concept of WHY (and wrote the book "Start with Why") in his first TED Talk in 2009, the third most popular TED video of all time. He talked about the importance of why, before the how or what. He gave an example of Apple; why is it they are so much more successful than other tech companies? They have access to the same talent pool, same consultants, same media. So what makes them so special? You wouldn’t explain this by describing what they make, or how they make those items - but the why gets to their core purpose, which then determines how they make what they make. Remember the TapRoot® or ASQ approach? Sound familiar?

Ok, so you might be saying that the context of the Ted Talk is completely different when it comes to workplace incidents or accidents. Maybe, but in both cases, asking why is meant to seek a deeper understanding of potential drivers or root causes, rather than explaining how something happened or even simply describing what happened in a single word or phrase. For example:

What happened: There was a fire in the furnace room.

How it happened: Combustible materials were stored too close to the furnace.

Why it happened: We have not established a fire prevention program or an effective housekeeping program, updated roles/responsibilities, assigned accountability, conducted/tracked training, developed a tracking system, inspected/audited, and reviewed to ensure it was being followed/maintained.

So use the word why, don’t use the word - as long as you seek to get a deeper understanding as to all of the potential contributors to an incident. It is important to define this topic accurately because it is crucial to continuous process improvement - the foundation of a safety management system, which kicked this whole series off a few episodes ago.

Final Thoughts

Before I wrap this up, let me say for those criticizing traditional RCA, claiming it doesn’t get it done, likely do not fully understand root cause analysis, or they are peddling something - their book or training course. Or they could just be taking the term literally when most of us are using it to describe ALL of the things we need to do to “root out” all of the potential contributors (causal factors) to failure. See, everyone gets hung up on the words. I mean yes, they matter to an extent. But someone with a high EQ, incredibly self-aware will be able to understand the context. And we should expect that in our profession.

I have even read posts saying things like, “don’t start at the end of the event and work back because there will be bias. Start at the beginning and work forward” - but if this approach is based on the fact that humans are flawed and will bring bias into the investigation (since we already know what happened), don’t you think those same flaws (biases) will be present regardless of where you start? Of course, they will. So we must focus on how we go about investigations - in this case, objectivity is the critical component.

Besides, we were likely trained this way - for recordable injuries look at the old OSHA 301 form; the very first question is NOT “What happened, starting with the event.” It is “What was the employee doing just before the incident occurred? Describe the activity, as well as the tools, equipment, or material the employee was using. Be specific.” So yeah, start BEFORE the event. Oh, and by the way, starting at the beginning is but ONE technique, ONE approach, it still gets to potential root causes and is, therefore, a root cause analysis tool.

There are other types of incidents where you may need to start with the current-state and walk backward. I am reminded of my old fire days. If there were a fire and no one was around, are you going to ask the fire how it started its day? If you happen to have video available, guess where you are going to start - the point at which you see the first sign of smoke or flames.

Working backward, in this case, might be needed to establish a timeline - from there, you can determine at what point in the process it started, what stage of the cycle the process was in, time of day, environmental conditions or temperature at the time, etc. The reason you are investigating will also drive how you approach the investigation, as well as the tools and techniques you use, in the case of criminal investigations, insurance, fraud or liability investigations, for example.

In the 1988 edition of Modern Accident Investigation Analysis, Ted S. Ferry has several chapters breaking down various aspects of accidents that need to be investigated. Among them are Chapter 4: Human Aspects; Chapter 7: Systems Investigation; Chapter 14: Where Did Management Fail? - and all along the way, discussing the relationship between people, environment, and systems.

We have come a long way in many areas, but one thing is sure; we have known for a long time that this approach - a systems approach, looking at all aspects, is the best way to truly root out all potential contributors so that we may make smarter decisions moving forward.

Ferry writes: “Mishaps are a sign of inefficient operations and poor operating practices. We can conclude that a good investigation will uncover, among other things, management practices or oversights that have contributed to the mishap.”

Safety Management System

We can even go way back to the 1960s, to the MORT Process, which defines a mishap as “the unwanted transfer of energy that produces injury to persons, damage to property, degradation of an ongoing process, and other unwanted losses.” MORT is based on the concept that all accidental losses arise from two sources: (1) specific job oversights and omissions, and (2) the management systems factors that control the job. It is frequently used to solve other management problems, as well.

I could go on, but I think you get my point. Become a student of these approaches. Learn about the history of these topics. Our industry will continue to adapt as we learn more about the interactions humans have with systems and organizations. But I wanted to tackle this topic since it is so critical to supporting a safety management system and how we execute this, Root Cause Analysis, will drive every improvement we make to our people, processes, policies/procedures and how leaders continue to develop the sense through which they view their businesses.

I want to hear your take - how do you use continuous process improvement and RCA to support your safety management system? Have you struggled with any of the tools? Are you confused about which tools are ideal for which situations or problems for which you are trying to solve? Let me know - reach out via LinkedIn or shoot me an email.

Send emails to You can find me on LinkedIn! Post a LinkedIn update, letting me know what you think of the podcast. Be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

Oct 25, 2019
081: SMS Pt 2 - Systems Thinking, Continuous Process Improvement, PDCA

Safety Management System

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In this episode, I continue my series breaking down Safety Management Systems (SMS) and will talk about Continuous Process Improvement. Before I can do that, we need to understand something else about SMS - In episode 80 of The SafetyPro Podcast, Safety Management System (SMS) Defined, I talked about how you need to move away from individual programs and toward a systems approach to safety management. Well, there is something called systems thinking, and we are going to get into what that is and how you can shift not only the way you look at managing safety but also how your organization can make the shift from managing programs to integrating safety within the rest of the business by using systems thinking.

I recently came across an interesting article over at The Systems Thinker written by Micheal Goodman, and I thought it would help safety pros better understand what system thinking is all about. Michael is an internationally recognized speaker, author, and practitioner in the fields of Systems Thinking, Organizational Learning, and Leadership. The article is called SYSTEMS THINKING: WHAT, WHY, WHEN, WHERE, AND HOW? He writes:

"The discipline of systems thinking is more than just a collection of tools and methods – it's also an underlying philosophy. Many beginners are attracted to the tools, such as causal loop diagrams, in hopes that these tools will help them deal with persistent business problems. But systems thinking is also a sensitivity to the circular nature of the world we live in; an awareness of the role of structure in creating the conditions we face; a recognition that there are powerful laws of systems operating that we are unaware of; a realization that there are consequences to our actions to which we are oblivious.

Systems thinking is also a diagnostic tool. As in the medical field, effective treatment follows a thorough diagnosis. In this sense, systems thinking is a disciplined approach for examining problems more completely and accurately before acting. It allows us to ask better questions before jumping to conclusions.

Systems thinking involves moving from observing events or data, to identifying patterns of behavior over time, to surfacing the underlying structures that drive those events and patterns."

So you can see how this sets us up for moving away from merely managing programs toward a systems approach to safety. We need to understand the relationships the individual safety programs have with other areas of the business - how people think, feel, and behave when interacting with them.

It is also essential to understand that when we use the term system, it implies that the entire business is a single system and composed of many related subsystems. An accident occurs when a human or a mechanical part or multiple parts of the system fails or even just malfunctions. The system safety approach reviews the accident to determine how and why it occurred and what steps could be taken to prevent a recurrence. The goal of a systems approach is to produce, you guessed it, a safer system.

Therefore, at a minimum, a safety system is a formal approach to eliminate or control hazardous events through engineering, design, education, management policy, and supervisory oversight and control of conditions (environment) and practices, the organizational policies, practices, and overall organizational culture, etc. Notice I included the human and organizational aspects? Yes, traditional systems safety does address these areas.

In episode 80 of this podcast, I also talked about how SMS is a continuous improvement process that reduces hazards and prevents accidents. So what is a Continuous Improvement Process exactly? And how does it help us improve safety? Simply put, it is an ongoing effort to improve products, services, or processes. Or put another way; a recurring activity or activities to enhance performance. Typically, the goal is for "incremental" improvement over time and, in some cases, significant improvements all at once.

So once again, I will use Lean principles to explain this concept. First, I want to start with some structure, which will lead to this concept of continuous improvement. There is a term known to Lean practitioners; Kaizen. The Japanese word kaizen simply means "change for better" and refers to any improvement, either a one-time deal or a continuous process, either large or small, in the same sense as the English word "improvement." So when you hear the phrase "Kaizen Event" - that simply means an improvement event.

The most well-known example of a Kaizen approach is the Toyota Production System, or TPS, where everyone is expected to stop their moving production line in case of any abnormality and, along with their supervisor, suggest an improvement to resolve the abnormal issue. This will initiate a cycle of activity aimed at not merely fixing that one issue, but instead improving the overall process to prevent the issues from repeating. This cycle can be defined as: "Plan → Do → Check → Act."

PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) is a scientific method of problem-solving and involves a 4-stage, iterative cycle for improving processes, products or services, and for resolving problems. It involves systematically testing possible solutions, assessing the results, and implementing the ones that have shown to work. It is a rather simple and effective approach for solving problems as well as for managing change.

This is because it enables businesses to develop hypotheses about what needs to change, test these hypotheses in a continuous feedback loop, and gain valuable learning and knowledge. Again, the value here is that you are testing improvements on a small scale before trying to apply them company-wide. The PDCA cycle consists of four components and can be applied to safety management systems as follows:

Plan – Identify and assess risks and opportunities to establish objectives and processes needed to solve them. There are 3 steps to this part:

  1. Problem Identification - verify you identified the right problem, determine its impact, who will it benefit?
  2. Problem Analysis - what information is needed to understand the problem and its root cause fully? What do we already know about the problem? What do we need to collect to understand the problem further? Who needs to be involved in this process? Once we get a full understanding, is it even feasible to solve the problem?
  3. Run Experiments - What are all possible solutions (think of 3 options)? Who will "own" which options to test? How will we measure expected outcomes? Can we run a small test? Will the small-scale results scale up?

Do – Here is where we develop and implement our tests and gauge their effectiveness. Again, this should be done on a small-scale to allow us to learn quickly, adjust as needed, and are typically less expensive to undertake. It also lessens any potential negative impact on the business. Think of the phrase, "fail small." It also will have a less negative impact on the culture as a large-scale test, and failure might make workers feel defeated or that no solutions are coming. And be sure to collect all data needed so you can objectively decide which ones are best.

Check – Here is where we confirm the results through before-and-after data comparison. What worked? How can you tell? Also, look at what did NOT work - this may help you look back at your planning stage to see what you missed or did not consider. Remember, this is a cycle, even between the stages. So try not to think of this linearly. You may discover that the solution is no longer viable, or that there are simpler ones you had not considered.

Act – Here is where you will document the results and make recommendations for future PDCA cycles. If the solution was successful, implement it. If not, tackle the next problem and repeat the PDCA cycle. Remember, you can always stop and back up a step or go to the beginning. Learning is the objective here. So now you can start to ask what resources are needed to blow up the solutions company-wide? What impact will there be on production? Things like retraining, replacing equipment, parts, etc. Closing a part of a building, or the area will all need to be considered as well.

This PDCA process is critical to safety management systems for obvious reasons. Kaizen focuses on applying small, everyday changes that result in significant improvements over the long run if done correctly. The PDCA Cycle gives you the framework and structure needed for identifying improvement opportunities and evaluating them objectively. So when you hear folks talk about a systems approach to safety management, and the need to apply a process of continuous improvement, this is it.

In doing so you will be able to create this culture of problem-solvers, critical thinkers and folks that step up to tackle issues; willing to take on the accountability because the process to do it is easy and yields results by taking the focus off the person and on the process when it comes to problems that arise. Improvement ideas can be tested on a small scale, analyzed, tweaked, and repeated until solved.

By going through this process, and understanding systems thinking, you can start to see that you need to look at both individual components of your safety program and also the interactions with other areas of the business - the system as a whole. You cannot just do one. What I am saying is that yes, you need to find root causes to mechanical failures, "why" it occurred, but you also cannot ignore the "how" it was able to occur organizationally as well. If you reverse this thinking, start with "how" as some of these gurus want you to believe, it will still require you to find out the "why." You need to be able to both. 

So, in the next episode, I will continue to break down safety management systems by answering the question; What is Root Cause Analysis or RCA? I will explain how it is critical to support systems thinking, a systems approach to safety, and even talk about how it has been redefined by some in our industry to sell books, training courses and prop themselves up as thought leaders when in reality, it's all the same stuff.

Send emails to You can find me on LinkedIn! Post a LinkedIn update, letting me know what you think of the podcast. Be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

Oct 22, 2019
080: SMS Pt 1 - Safety Management System Defined

Safety Management System helps you stay organized

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A safety management system (SMS) is a continuous improvement process that reduces hazards and prevents incidents. It protects the health and safety of your employees and should be integrated into everyday processes throughout the organization. Investing in an SMS makes a measurable impact on your bottom line and can be viewed as a competitive advantage.

The adoption of an SMS framework and thoughtful implementation of the various pieces can have a significant impact on protecting employees and enhancing your organization’s performance and profitability. Now, safety requirements may differ across industries; the best performing organizations focus on continuous improvement that achieves the ongoing reduction of risk with a goal of zero incidents. Yes, we do sometimes have to say that. And yes, just because you have zero incidents in a given reporting period does not mean the organization is risk-free. Like I always say, no injury doesn't indicate a lack of risk. But the best companies know this so they look at the individual components of the SMS that designed to achieve just that - lowered risk which nets us lower (or none) injuries — so focusing on the how gets us to the big aspirational goal.

Ok, so let’s talk about the recent history of SMS and how it may impact the general industry and eventually construction over the years. According to the FAA, SMS is the formal, top-down, organization-wide approach to managing safety risk and assuring the effectiveness of safety risk controls. It includes systematic procedures, practices, and policies for the management of safety risks.

Since requiring it in March 2015, the FAA says Safety Management System is becoming a standard throughout the aviation industry worldwide. It is recognized by the Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO), International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), and Civil Aviation Authorities (CAA) and product/service providers as the next step in the evolution of safety in aviation. SMS is also becoming a standard for the management of safety beyond aviation. Similar management systems are used in the management of other critical areas such as quality, occupational safety, and health, security, environment, etc.

Safety Management Systems for product/service providers (certificate holders) and regulators will integrate modern safety risk management and safety assurance concepts into repeatable, proactive systems. SMSs emphasize safety management as a fundamental business process to be considered in the same manner as other aspects of business management.

By recognizing the organization's role in accident prevention, SMSs provide to both certificate holders and FAA:

  • A structured means of safety risk management decision making
  • A method of demonstrating safety management capability before system failures occur
  • Increased confidence in risk controls though structured safety assurance processes
  • An effective interface for knowledge sharing between regulator and certificate holder
  • A safety promotion framework to support a sound safety culture 

The Public Transportation Agency Safety Plan (PTASP) Final Rule in 2018 requires individual operators of public transportation systems that receive federal funds to develop safety plans that include the processes and procedures necessary for implementing SMS. Among other requirements, the rule calls on agencies to report their Safety Management Policy and processes for safety risk management, safety assurance, and safety promotion.

And as many safety pros know, ISO has developed a standard that will help organizations to improve employee safety, reduce workplace risks, and create better, safer working conditions, all over the world. Participants in the new ISO 45001 development process used other standards such as ANSI Z10 as well as British OHSAS 18001, Canada’s CSA Z1000, and the ILO’s OHSMS guidelines. There is even talk of OSHA’s VPP getting more aligned to the ISO 45001 Standard. So you can see a definite trend emerging when it comes to SMS.

So, in 2018, knowing ISO 45001 was coming, the National Safety Council (NSC) started investigating all the common SMS frameworks and identifying all of the things they had in common. They recognized many companies were getting bogged down with questions such as: What is a safety management system? How can it help me? Which framework is right for my business? How do I go about implementing an SMS? They knew the research supported the benefits of SMS implementation, but they wanted clarity on what that looked like and a simple way to illustrate what elements constitute a successful SMS.

So let’s break down what the core features or functions look like - an effective safety management system has the following features or functions:

  • People – nothing gets implemented without people who are committed, engaged, and motivated; real safety change can’t happen without a competent, skilled workforce. You need the RIGHT people in the RIGHT position within the organization. It isn’t enough to have an incredibly motivated and engaged front-line if all or most of middle to upper management is not engaged or supportive. So you need to put the right people in the right places in the organization from top to bottom.
  • Planning – thinking ahead is half the battle of implementation; planning for foreseeable risks and the administrative parts of a management system will produce smoother rollouts and better measurement of SMS success. You need to be able to break down the individual elements necessary, assess your current state, and measure any gaps. These gaps are the space in which you will work. You have to be good at evaluating current-state - I cannot stress that enough.
  • Programs – most companies have EHS programs that identify and control most hazards, monitor and measure operational impacts to EHS performance, and eliminate deviations from the management system; individual programs must operate as part of the entire system, not independently. So think about machine safety; you will need a robust maintenance management program to fully achieve the level of machine safety required. This means measuring preventative maintenance work orders that are past due, identifying maintenance items that are not just critical to up-time, but also to safety, such as sensors, overflow preventers, valves that are identified as safety measures preventing disaster. So integrating safety with other areas of the business is critical.
  • Progress – to avoid complacency, companies need to periodically measure compliance with regulatory and legal requirements, audit their SMS system, and review SMS performance with upper management. So you need to be able to break down all the pieces of the SMS into logical parts. Like Electrical, Confined Spaces, PPE, and even roles and responsibilities as well as frequent inspections required. I recommend identifying champions for each element and have them “own” that part of the audit. They need to objectively score the organization’s effectiveness of the execution of each element. Get folks from outside the safety function to drive buy-in and accountability and should be an annual thing, but you can break out each element and cover some monthly. Whatever works for your organization.
  • Performance – measures of performance need to be set and include both lagging indicators and leading indicators and moving toward predictive measures; adopting these and evaluating safety metrics among the entire business performance landscape helps companies solidify safety on equal footing with other critical operational practices – adopting a mindset of “safe operations” versus viewing safety apart from operations. So instead of asking how safety performance is doing, measure overall business performance with safety as a part of the overall measurement score. So if production was up, but incidents were as well, then there should be an adjustment made to the productivity score as a result - make sense? Again, this gets us past the whole conversation of looking at WIP, deliveries, and sales together and safety separately - safety performance impacts the others.

The challenge for many safety pros is identifying the tools one can use to manage all of these moving parts. I will tell you that you need to look into a digital safety management system, like iReportSource.

Whatever you tool you use, you have to make sure you can efficiently stay on top of all of these different elements; be able to report, and have others report, the necessary information so the organization can work to reduce hazards; record and track all of the activities associated with those efforts - that make them work; have access to all of the data when needed to make smarter decisions; be able to look back so you can assess your progress objectively and plan for future improvements. I call these the 4 R’s:

  1. Report: Hazards, concerns, incidents, suggestions, etc.
  2. Record: Training/qualifications, observations, inspections/audits, injuries/illnesses, environmental data, etc.
  3. Retrieve: Be able to produce reports and records when needed promptly.
  4. Review: Have the ability to look at all relevant data, so it tells the story of where you have been, what is taking place, and where you need to go in real-time and as efficiently as possible.

It gets difficult to impossible to do this manually in most organizations of considerable size or with complex processes. So again, consider looking into a system to help you manage safety more efficiently and pays you back in time and frustration so you can get out from behind the desk and spend it where it matters most; out with your people where the work happens. Visit iReportSource for more information.

Once again, a safety management system is a continuous improvement process that reduces hazards and prevents incidents. It protects the health and safety of your employees and is integrated into everyday processes throughout the organization. Investing in an SMS makes a measurable impact on your bottom line and can be viewed as a competitive advantage.

Send emails to You can find me on LinkedIn! Post a LinkedIn update, letting me know what you think of the podcast. Be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

Oct 15, 2019
079: 4 Types of Root Cause Evidence According to TapRooT

Safety Root Cause Analysis

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When an incident occurs it is the investigator’s main function to gather all relevant evidence in order to discover root causes and ultimately prevent a recurrence. The tricky part is that evidence isn’t always what it seems. Witnesses accounts can be spotty, inconsistent, they may tell conflicting stories about the same incident, etc. Physical or even environmental conditions can change before the investigation process begins. Paperwork, such as a work instruction or JSA, may be misplaced or even changed in some way. With all of these variables and more, you want to make sure you collect the right types of evidence during your investigation.

I want to share with you some information from TapRooT®, which is a systematic process and training for finding the real root causes and precursor incidents, for not only major accidents but minor mishaps and even near misses. According to TapRooT®, there are four types (or categories) of evidence to be evaluated. TapRooT® calls these categories 3 Ps and an R. This stands for:

  • People evidence
  • Paper evidence
  • Physical evidence
  • Recording evidence

People Evidence

Often, evidence collection starts with people evidence (a witness statement), and that evidence guides the investigator to collect paper, physical and recording evidence.

Examples of people evidence include:

  • Interviews
  • Fatigue-related information
  • Evidence of injuries, including cuts and scrapes, bruises, fractures, or sprains
  • Information about medical conditions that may have influenced performance (refer to HR or corporate counsel for guidance on HIPPA)

Where do you begin? First, determine who was involved. This includes those who planned the work, supervised the work and performed the work. Other considerations include a worker’s capability, capacity, training, and qualification to perform his or her role.

Inquire into the background of those involved. Determine if they have been involved in any previous incidents or if they have any related performance or conduct issues. Find out if those involved had any work restrictions such as an impairment, physical capability, or lapsed accreditation.

Understand how the employees worked together. What were the dynamics of the team including supervision and team performance? Determine the context (such as environmental conditions, distractions or perspectives).

Paper Evidence

Paper evidence may include all sorts of things including:

  • Regulatory paperwork
  • Activity-specific paperwork
  • Personnel paperwork
  • Policy and procedure paperwork
  • Equipment manuals

What do you think the biggest mistake is when it comes to collecting paper evidence… given all of the paper that we have in our workplaces? Collecting too much paper not relevant to the investigation!

You don’t need to collect every piece of paper at your facility. How do you know what you don’t need? By looking at the timeline of events that led to the incident. You need all the paper that supports your timeline of events and supports the facts. If you use TapRooT®, you can easily upload digital copies of this paperwork, and highlight relevant pages in your report to management.

Don’t make the mistake of collecting so much paper that what you need for evidence is somewhere at the bottom of the stack.

Physical Evidence

Physical evidence can range from a very large piece of machinery to a very small tool. It includes hardware and solid material related to the incident. You will gather physical evidence in one of two ways. You will collect it or you will record/document evidence that can’t be collected (for example, it is too large to collect, or it is still in use).

Types of physical evidence to collect:

  • Broken equipment/parts
  • Residue/debris
  • Fluid samples
  • Paint samples
  • Fiber
  • Hair, bloodstains, tissue or other DNA

Types of physical evidence to record/document

Evidence is recorded when it is impossible to collect or when it is still in use by the workforce. Following is a list of possible evidence to collect by recordings:

  • Burn marks and flame patterns
  • Tracks
  • Indentations
  • Handprints, Footprints, Fingerprints
  • Tools
  • Equipment
  • Products in use
  • Equipment status (fixed, portable or temporary?)
  • Lights, noise, and temperature
  • Confined space
  • Obstructions
  • Surface hazards
  • Housekeeping
  • Clarity of signs and labels
  • Instructions

Following are additional pieces of information you may want to collect:

  • Failure history
  • Modification/change of use
  • Operator interface
  • Maintenance records
  • Installing/commissioning
  • Storage/transportation
  • Procurement
  • Design/fabrication

Recording Evidence

Recording evidence, such as photography and video, should be captured as soon as possible after an incident to preserve the scene in images before it is altered in any way. It provides a documented overview of the entire scene. This may occur as soon as you or a qualified team member can obtain access to the scene.

In addition to video and photography recorded by the investigator, recordings include:

  • Video footage (examples: site security cameras, control room cameras, traffic cameras, etc.)
  • Audio recordings (examples: audio of the noise level, voicemail recordings, videos - check State Laws; many prohibit the recording of sound by security cameras in the workplace and there may be restrictions around recording conversations by phone or other devices as well, so always consult an attorney)
  • Photos (examples: wide shots, up-close shots, any pics taken by others, security pics, etc.)
  • Computer data (example: magnetic swipe card system security data for entry doors, data logs from machines/vehicles, inspections completed in the past, previous hazards reported, etc.)
  • Sketches of an incident scene, such as with traffic accidents. Side note, iReportSource has a cool feature that allows you to create a road diagram with different streets, intersections, add multiple vehicles, lights, signs, etc. A pretty cool feature for capturing this stuff accurately without relying on your artistic skills (or lack of)

As you record the scene, ask “Am I recording the scene as it was in its original state or has it changed in any way?” If the scene has changed, make a note about what has changed including those involved and WHY! Be sure to capture that information. Identify fragile, perishable evidence and immediately document, photograph and collect it. Environmental conditions are a good example. Such as in the case of ice/snow and as the day progresses it melts, compounds, etc. Also, make a note of any transient evidence that can’t be captured by a camera or video like steam, smoke/vapors, smells, and temperature, etc.

Remember, the best way to collect unbiased evidence is to gather evidence from each of these four categories: people, physical, paper, and recordings. Each piece of evidence collected will help lead you to the root causes of the incident so that you can properly analyze them for effective corrective and preventative actions. Nothing is more frustrating than going through this process and determining what to fix only to learn that not only were you fixing the wrong things, but another incident has occurred that could have been prevented.

Let me know what you think. Send an email to and share with me the tools and techniques you use!

If you think of it, find me on LinkedIn! Post a LinkedIn update letting me know what you think of the podcast. Be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!

Oct 11, 2019
078: How to Interview for a Safety Mindset

Hire a Safety Mindset

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When a company is looking to hire its next safety leader they must be sure to select the right person for the job. But hiring a safety leader goes well beyond their safety and health credentials and experience. You want to have someone with the right safety mindset, not just safety background and experience. The same thing goes for hiring production or other team leaders.

Everyone knows the importance that teams play in organizational success. However, let’s not forget that teams are made up of individual players, each with strengths and weaknesses. In his book, The Ideal Team Player, Patrick Lencioni reveals the three indispensable virtues that make some people better team players than others, and this speaks to their mindset (1).

According to Lencioni:

Ideal team players are humble. This is a person who lacks excessive ego or concerns about status. Humble people are quick to point out the contributions of others. They are slow to seek attention for their own, explains Lencioni. They share credit, emphasize team over self, and define success collectively rather than individually. They also recognize and are well-aware of their own strengths, and they can easily share those strengths when asked (1).

Ideal team players are hungry. They are always looking for more. Hungry people rarely have to be pushed by a manager to work harder because they are self-motivated and diligent; at the same time, they aren’t so hungry that they are entirely consumed by work. They are continually thinking about the next step and the next opportunity. They have just the right amount of drive you want to see (1).

Ideal team players are smart. By “smart,” Lencioni means they have common sense about people - or high EQ (emotional quotient). You may have heard of this referred to as emotional intelligence or being highly self-aware. Smart team members tend to know what is happening in a group situation and how to deal with others in the most effective way. You may think of them as tactful or good at “dealing with people.” They have good judgment, a great perception of what’s happening a group, and can apply intuition well on teams (1).

So, how can organizational leaders interview for these virtues?

Ask the right open-ended questions designed to get them sharing their thoughts and beliefs. Sure, you need to find out a little more about their professional background as it pertains to the technical aspects of safety. 

However, if the pre-screening process went as designed, hiring managers should only be interviewing technically qualified candidates at this point. So here is an opportunity to ask questions designed to determine if the candidate is going to be an asset to the team. 

Here are some examples of the right questions and what they are designed to uncover:

1. How did you get into safety? Or whatever line of work they happen to fall into.

This question helps to uncover someone’s back story and helps someone to share what drives them and motivates them. 

At this point, you can start to see if they are able to articulate the “why” about their career choice. This question can also encourage them to become more comfortable during the interview, too.

2. Has there ever been a situation or incident in your work that changed or shifted your approach to safety?

Are they able to learn from situations? How have they adapted in the past to improve their life and work for the better? This question, once again, starts to dig deeper and helps you know more about how humble someone is, and their degree of self-awareness, too.

3. What is something you would do to show senior leaders how safety can be a profit center?

This question helps to indicate more about their capacity for critical thinking. After all, you want a candidate to be able to make a connection between safety and other aspects of the business, and this can help you know more about how savvy they are in this arena. 

4. What would you do if you saw a hazard or if you saw someone doing something unsafe at work? Has this ever happened—if so, how did you handle it? Was there anything you wish you could have done differently? (2)

The answer helps you know more about how a candidate chooses to approach others, especially when that situation is uncomfortable or can involve conflict.

5. How do you approach incident investigations?

Once again, this helps us to frame someone’s motivation and mindset and helps us know more about how they deal with others (smart), their ability to be forward-thinking (hungry), and their degree of self-awareness as it relates to their own ego (humble). 

As you talk to the person, see: do they seek to put blame on people, or do they think in terms of fixing and improving processes? Do they start with “what someone did” or “what did we miss in this process”? Both responses are telling.

6. What are the most important accomplishments of your career?

This question, fundamentally, is another way of seeing what someone values. Look for more mentions of “we” rather than “I” to see how team-oriented they are. Of course, it isn’t about being so simplistic as to count the responses. In the event that someone refers to himself or herself individually more than as a member of a team, probe for whether he or she was working alone or with others.

7. What was the most embarrassing moment in your career? Or what was the biggest failure? 

Look for whether the candidate celebrates that embarrassment or is mortified by it. Humble people generally aren’t afraid to tell their unflattering stories because they’re comfortable with being imperfect. And, they know their strengths and are confident in those strengths so failure isn’t seen as taking away from their self-worth, necessarily. Also, look for specifics and real references to the candidate’s own culpability.

Look for specifics about how the candidate accepted responsibility for that failure, what they learned from it, and if they actually acted on what was learned. The ideal time player isn’t arrogant when looking back, but they aren’t lacking confidence, either. They were motivated to grow and learn from the event, and are happy to share that fact, too.

8. How do you define success in safety? How would you measure it? (2) 

This is another example of a critical thinking question. Can the candidate define what success looks like, how to tell, and more importantly, how to achieve that success?

9. What is the hardest you’ve ever worked on something in your life?

Look for specific examples of real, but joyful sacrifice. In other words, the candidate isn’t complaining but is grateful for the experience. Once again, this helps you to know more about what they really value, too.

10. Have you ever worked with a difficult colleague or boss? How did you handle the situation?

By asking the candidate about a difficult work relationship, you will learn if he or she can read situations and people and handle them skillfully.

This question gives you another chance to see if they have people smarts (not the same as intellectual smarts) and how much hunger they have. It’s one more chance to get insight into their overall ability to fit into your existing culture.  

Let me know what you think - email me at Also, let’s connect on LinkedIn so we can continue to collaborate on workplace safety. You can post a comment on LinkedIn about this episode as well - be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter!

Questions in this blog post were taken directly from Terra Carbert’s post, “Interview Questions for Safety” which can be found here and The Ideal Team Player interview guide by Patrick Lencioni.

Link to sources:

Sep 24, 2019
077: A Breakdown of Job Safety Analysis

JSA Template

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Get the JSA template HERE. OSHA has a great page for this topic HERE.

Many companies rely on a super-simple tool to define appropriate safe work practices for specific jobs. The Job Safety Analysis Process (also referred to as a JSA, or Job Hazard Analysis - JHA). The JSA is a very effective means of helping to identify and manage hazards associated with task thus reducing incidents, accidents, and injuries in the workplace. It is also an excellent tool to use during new employee orientations and operator training and can also be used to investigate "near misses" and accidents.

Job Safety Analysis (JSA) is based on the following ideas: 

  • That a specific job or work assignment can be separated into a series of relatively simple steps.
  • Hazards associated with each step can be identified.
  • Solutions can be developed to control each hazard.

To start the JSA Process, select the job or task to be performed. Any job that has hazards or potential hazards is a candidate for a JSA. An uncommon or seldom-performed job is also a candidate for a JSA.

Forms or worksheets (see sample worksheet) may vary from company to company but the idea remains the same. Identify all steps, hazards, and safe work procedures before starting the job. I have a template you can download to follow along. It is filled out with a hypothetical job. So grab that and follow along for more context. The JSA process is a multi-step process and goes something like this:

  • Basic Job Steps: Break the job into a sequence of steps. Each of the steps should accompany some major task. That task will consist of a series of movements. Look at each series of movements within that basic task.
  • Potential Hazards: To complete a JSA effectively, you must identify the hazards or potential hazards associated with each step. Every possible source of energy must be identified. It is very important to look at the entire environment to determine every conceivable hazard that might exist. Hazards contribute to accidents and injuries.
  • Recommended Safe Job Procedures: Using the Sequence of Basic Job Steps and Potential Hazards, decide what actions are necessary to eliminate, control, or minimize hazards that could lead to accidents, injuries, damage to the environment, or possible occupational illness. Each safe job procedure or action must correspond to the job steps and identified hazards.

Through this process, you can determine the safest, most efficient way of performing a given job. Thus JSA systematically carries out the basic strategy of accident prevention: The recognition, evaluation, and control of hazards.

Now, how do we document this process and capture the results? It is prepared in a 3-column chart form, either portrait or landscape - I have seen both and listing the basic job steps on the left-hand column and the corresponding hazards in the middle column, with safe procedures for each step on the right-hand column. The right-hand column will essentially become your safe work instructions.

A completed JSA chart can then be used as a training guide for employees; it provides a logical introduction to the work, it’s associated hazards, and the proper and safe procedures to be followed.

For experienced workers, a JSA is reviewed periodically to maintain a safety-awareness on the job and to keep abreast of current safety procedures. The review is also useful for employees assigned to new or infrequent tasks.

Let’s talk about how to fill out the JSA. First, there is an art and science to breaking down a job or task into steps. If the steps are too detailed, the JSA will be complicated and difficult to follow. If they are not detailed enough, you may miss important steps and associated hazards. For example, let’s say you are planting a tree, and you need a JSA on how to unload the tree from the truck. You don’t want to say:

Step 1. Remove latch pin from the tailgate

Step 2. Release tailgate latch

Step 3. Lower tailgate to open position

Now you move to plant the tree, let’s say by hand:

Step 1: Retrieve shovel from the back of the truck

Step 2: Place shovel on the ground at the specified degree

Step 3: Place dominate foot onto the back of shovel at the mid-sole

This is tedious, no one will read that document. Instead, it may be enough to simply say, “open tailgate” as the job step and move to the second part of creating the SJA - listing all the hazards associated with that step. On the flip side, don’t over-simplify it either. For example, when planting the tree:

Step 1: Put tree in ground…that’s it. No step 2.

Ok, an extreme example of over-simplification. But be sure to walk through the job steps and look for opportunities to break it down into steps. If you already have job steps laid out, such as in the case of OEM operating instructions or manual this makes it a bit easier.

To make sure I illustrate this point, let’s talk about another example; let’s say you need to operate a 3D metal printer - you wouldn’t just state, “place build plate inside the print chamber, close door and start print operation.” There is obviously more to this process. This brings me to my next point; understand the difference between a job/task and a process.

A process is a series of physical, mechanical, or even chemical operations, often made up of several different jobs/tasks. On the other hand, a job/task is a single activity - either on its own or in support of a larger process, like 3D metal printing. In this example, there will be the storage, handling, and loading of metal powder. Then there is the build set up - like installing the build plate, and even post-printing work, like removing the printed part from the build plate, any grinding or buffing work on the part, hardening of parts in an oven, just to name a few.

Each job/task will have its own JSA form that, when combined will make up everything that goes into the overall process of 3D Printing. And the steps and hazards could be different for different types of print jobs - the print media could be different, the print machine models could be different, inserting gases, removal process, etc.

A good tip as you complete your JSA, make sure each job/task step starts with action - use verbs, like pull lever, push door, place ladder, etc. Steps that do not present a potential hazard should be left off. The exception would be if you intend to use this as a multi-purpose job aid covering other job steps (like for quality or production).

This layered approach may work well, as employees will see there is ONE way to perform the job. That brings up a great point, you may already have a work instruction that breaks down the steps. Maybe there is a machine operating manual. Be sure to review these with operators to ensure they are actually still relevant and cover all the steps they need to take.

Whether you have existing jobs needing to be reviewed or are implementing a new job or task, employee involvement is critical. So be sure to do a couple of walk-throughs of the process with operators before publishing the document. The JSA should be reviewed, approved, and signed by the supervisor before the task is started. Understanding every job step is very important! Whenever a job step changes or a new step is introduced, the JSA must be reviewed and updated.

Remember, the key reasons for completing a JSA are to encourage teamwork (especially with new employees), to involve everyone performing the job in the process, to increase awareness of potential hazards, and communicate safe operating procedures!

I have a JSA template download link in the show notes. Be sure to practice a few times and review it with others to make sure you get the hang of it. Make sure you do not overlook a job step/task that introduces a hazard! This is the whole point of this exercise - to identify and control hazards associated with performing a job.

Let me know what you think - email me at Also, let’s connect on LinkedIn so we can continue to collaborate on workplace safety. You can post a comment on LinkedIn about this episode as well - be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter!

Sep 19, 2019
076: Leading Safety Excellence an Interview with J.A. Rodriguez, Jr.


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As I continue my podcast interviews in New Orleans from the 2019 VPPPA Safety+ Symposium I had the honor of interviewing some Association Board members. They shared some sound advice for anyone looking to improve their safety and health management system as well as some insights for safety pros struggling with challenges along the way.

Visit for more information about this amazing organization!

You can find me on LinkedIn! Post a LinkedIn update, letting me know what you think of the podcast. Be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


Aug 30, 2019
075: Near Death Safety Lesson with Kelly Pitts


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Here at the 2019 VPPPA National Safety Symposium where everyone you meet has a story to tell. Kelly Pitts shares his message of a near-death experience and what you can learn and take back to your organization.

You can find me on LinkedIn! Post a LinkedIn update, letting me know what you think of the podcast. Be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


Aug 29, 2019
074: PPE Safety for Women in the Workforce with Abby Ferri

Abby Ferri on the SafetyPro Podcast

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As I continue my podcasting interview marathon from the 2019 VPPPA National Safety Symposium, I had the absolute pleasure of sitting down with Abby Ferri to discuss the issues that women in the workforce continue to experience with PPE - which is in large part designed for men.

Abby has over 15 years of experience in the field of safety and health in diverse industries, including construction, manufacturing, healthcare, hospitality, beverage, and retail. Abby has become well-known in this industry as a practical and creative safety professional.

Learn more about Abby by visiting

You can find me on LinkedIn! Post a LinkedIn update, letting me know what you think of the podcast. Be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


Aug 29, 2019
073: Leading Safety From the Heart with Diana Paredes

Safety Pro Diana Paredes

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Diana Paredes is an experienced bilingual safety manager in the tough yet rewarding food & beverage industry. She is a SafetyPro podcast listener joining me at the 2019 VPPPA National Safety Symposium and shares some words of wisdom and strategies to help drive employee engagement, ownership and stresses the simple act of recognizing the many small victories our workers achieve every day.

It was an absolute pleasure to meet Diana and hear about her experiences in safety. I am such a fan!

You can find me on LinkedIn! Post a LinkedIn update letting me know what you think of the podcast. Be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

Aug 29, 2019
072: VPPPA 2019 - Suicide Prevention as a Workplace Safety Strategy

Suicide Prevention as a Workplace Safety Program

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Frank King, nationally-known suicide prevention and postvention speaker and trainer, was a writer for The Tonight Show for 20 years, is a corporate comedian, syndicated humor columnist, and podcast personality, who was featured on CNN’s Business Unusual.

Depression and suicide run his family. He’s thought about killing himself more times than he can count. He’s fought a lifetime battle with depression, and thoughts of ending his life, turning that long dark journey of the soul into sharing his lifesaving insights on mental and emotional health awareness, with corporations, associations, youth (middle school and high school), and college audiences.

As an inspirational and motivational speaker and trainer he uses the life lessons from the above, as well as lessons learned as a rather active consumer of healthcare, both mental and physical, to start the conversation giving people who battle mental and emotional illness permission to give voice to their feelings and experiences surrounding depression and suicide, and to create a common pool of knowledge in which those who suffer, and those who care about them, can swim.

Frank King

And doing it by coming out and standing in his truth, and doing it with humor. He believes that where there is humor there is hope, where there is laughter there is life, nobody dies laughing.

He is currently working on a book on men’s mental fitness, Guts, Grit, and the Grind, with two co-authors. Find him here:

You can find me on LinkedIn! Post a LinkedIn update letting me know what you think of the podcast. Be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter 

Aug 29, 2019
071: VPPPA 2019 - Leading Safety Excellence


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Catch this on-location interview with VPPPA Chairman of the Board Mr. J.A. Rodriguez Jr. and Mr. Terry Schulte - VPP Director at NuStar. We talk about what the VPP framework can do for non-VPP participants and how VPPPA can help them solve even the most basic safety compliance challenges.

You can find me on LinkedIn! Post a LinkedIn update letting me know what you think of the podcast. Be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

Aug 28, 2019
070: From VPPPA 2019 - Process Safety Management

Wesley Carter - Amplify Your Safety Process

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What’s the difference between personal/occupational safety and process safety? Wesley Carter from the Amplify Your Process Safety podcast will get into this and more on this special episode recorded on location at the VPPPA National Safety Symposium in New Orleans.

Find out more about Wesley and Amplify Consultants by checking out the Amplify Your Process Safety Podcast wherever you listen to podcasts or by visiting

Join me in New Orleans for the VPPPA National Safety Symposium -  I will podcast on-location and would like to meet as many listeners as possible! Stop by the media center next to registration! If not attending, catch up on all the latest topics being presented as I share key takeaways and thoughts for you!
You can find me on LinkedIn! Post a LinkedIn update letting me know what you think of the podcast. Be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter
Aug 27, 2019
UPDATE: VPPPA Safety Symposium in New Orleans & New Safety Webinar Announcement
Don't Miss this Free, On-Demand Webinar Powered by iReportSource
5 Ways to Combat Complacency in Safety
Complacency is a state of mind where a worker is out of touch with the hazards and risks around them. It can show up in a number of ways: over-confidence, lack of care, mindlessness, actual physical signs, a rushed approach to the work, frustration, fatigue, your mind not being totally on-task, cutting corners…the list goes on and on.

Complacency is one of the most problematic mindsets that can contribute to injuries and incidents on the job.

So how can you move towards a culture where you reduce and minimize complacency? And in what way can you move from outdated, lagging indicators to leading indicators to help you proactively manage safety? In this free and on-demand webinar, I will uncover:
  • How you can spot complacency in your organization
  • 5 proven and proactive ways to combat complacency
  • Real-life examples of how you can reduce this mindset
  • Best practices in reinforcing behaviors that reduce complacency

Avoid complacency and better manage risk: register and watch the on-demand webinar today!
VPPPA Safety Symposium
Also, join me in New Orleans for the VPPPA National Safety Symposium -  I will podcast on-location and would like to meet as many listeners as possible! Stop by the media center next to registration! If not attending, catch up on all the latest topics being presented as I share key takeaways and thoughts for you!
You can find me on LinkedIn! Post a LinkedIn update letting me know what you think of the podcast. Be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter
Aug 19, 2019
069: What are Employee Medical & Exposure Records?

OSHA Exposure Records

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OSHA requires that employees who are or may be exposed to toxic substances or harmful physical agents be given access to their medical and exposure records. Further, OSHA requires that such records be maintained for a long period of time because often the symptoms of the illnesses that come from the exposure don’t appear until many years later.

OSHA’s requirement to maintain medical and exposure records applies to all employers who have employees exposed to toxic substances or harmful physical agents, such as heat, cold, radiation, repetitive motion, biological, chemical, etc.

Terms you need to know

Access: means the right and opportunity to examine and copy.

Designated representative: means any individual or organization to whom an employee gives written authorization to exercise a right of access. For the purposes of access to employee exposure records and analyses using exposure or medical records, a recognized or certified collective bargaining agent shall be treated automatically as a designated representative without regard to written employee authorization.

: means a current employee, a former employee, or an employee being assigned or transferred to work where there will be exposed to toxic substances or harmful physical agents. In the case of a deceased or legally incapacitated employee, the employee’s legal representative may directly exercise all the employee’s rights pertaining to this OSHA requirement.

Employee exposure record: means a record containing any of the following kinds of information:
  • Environmental (workplace) monitoring or measuring of a toxic substance or harmful physical agent, including personal, area, grab, wipe, or other forms of sampling, as well as related collection and analytical methodologies, calculations, and other background data relevant to the interpretation of the results obtained;
  • Biological monitoring results which directly assess the absorption of a toxic substance or harmful physical agent by body systems (e.g., the level of a chemical in the blood, urine, breath, hair, fingernails, etc.) but not including results which assess the biological effect of a substance or agent or which assess an employee’s use of alcohol or drugs;
  • Safety data sheets indicating that the material may pose a hazard to human health; or
  • In the absence of the above, a chemical inventory or any other record which reveals where and when used and the identity (e.g., chemical, common, or trade name) of a toxic substance or harmful physical agent.

Employee medical record: means a record concerning the health status of an employee which is made or maintained by a physician, nurse, or other health care personnel, or technician, including:

  • Medical and employment questionnaires or histories (including job description and occupational exposures),
  • The results of medical examinations (pre-employment, pre-assignment, periodic, or episodic) and laboratory tests (including chest and other X-ray examinations taken for the purpose of establishing a base-line or detecting occupational illnesses and all biological monitoring not defined as an “employee exposure record”),
  • Medical opinions, diagnoses, progress notes, and recommendations,
  • First-aid records,
  • Descriptions of treatments and prescriptions, and
  • Employee medical complaints.
    • Note: “Employee medical record” does not include medical information in the form of: (1) Physical specimens (e.g., blood or urine samples) which are routinely discarded as a part of normal medical practice; (2) Records concerning health insurance claims if maintained separately from the employer’s medical program and its records, and not accessible to the employer by employee name or other direct personal identifiers (e.g., social security number, payroll number, etc.); (3) Records created solely in preparation for litigation which is privileged from discovery under the applicable rules of procedure or evidence; or (4) Records concerning voluntary employee assistance programs (alcohol, drug abuse, or personal counseling programs) if maintained separately from the employer’s medical program and its records.

Exposure or exposed: means that an employee is subjected to a toxic substance or harmful physical agent in the course of employment through any route of entry (inhalation, ingestion, skin contact or absorption, etc.), and includes past exposure and potential (e.g., accidental or possible) exposure, but does not include situations where the employer can demonstrate that the toxic substance or harmful physical agent is not used, handled, stored, generated, or present in the workplace in any manner different from typical non-occupational situations.

Record: means any item, collection, or grouping of information regardless of the form or process by which it is maintained (e.g., paper document, microfiche, microfilm, X-ray film, or automated data processing).

Toxic substance or harmful physical agent: means any chemical substance, biological agent (bacteria, virus, fungus, etc.), or physical stress (noise, heat, cold, vibration, repetitive motion, ionizing and non-ionizing radiation, hypo- or hyperbaric pressure, etc.) which:

  • Is listed in the latest printed edition of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Registry of Toxic Effects of Chemical Substances (RTECS); or
  • Has yielded positive evidence of an acute or chronic health hazard in testing conducted by, or known to, the employer; or
  • Is the subject of a safety data sheet kept by or known to the employer indicating that the material may pose a hazard to human health.

Overview of what is required

  • Assess the workplace for any toxic substance or harmful physical agent exposures that may generate medical or exposure records.
  • Keep employee medical records for at least the duration of employment plus 30 years.
  • Keep employee exposure records for at least 30 years.
  • Provide access to employees of their medical and exposure records.
  • Inform employees annually of the existence and location of medical and exposure records and the process and rights for accessing them.

When removing obsolete chemicals from the facility, does the removal date need to be documented? If yes, what is the proper procedure to do that?

For the purposes of 29 CFR 1910.1200(e) whenever a hazardous chemical in the workplace are obsoleted, the employer must:

  • Update the hazardous chemical inventory list, which is part of the written Hazard Communication Program; and
  • Update the Hazard Communication Program as necessary. 

The employer should also remove the safety data sheet (SDS) for the obsoleted chemical from its employee SDS stations. 

For the purposes of a different regulation, 29 CFR 1910.1020(d), an employer must preserve and maintain employee exposure records for 30 years. SDSs indicating that the material may pose a hazard to human health are considered employee exposure records. In the absence of SDSs, a chemical inventory or any other record which reveals where and when a toxic substance or harmful physical agent was used and its identity is also an employee exposure record. SDSs must be kept for those chemicals currently in use that is affected by §1910.1200(g).

However, once a hazardous chemical in the workplace is obsoleted, the employer has the choice of preserving and maintaining for 30 more years:

  • The obsolete SDS, or
  • A record concerning the identity of the hazardous chemical, where it was used, and when it was used.

While OSHA does not “specifically” require the employer to document the removal date, it may be helpful to record that date so that an employer knows when the obsolete SDS may be disposed of after 30 years, if that option is taken. If the employer chooses to record the chemical identity and where and when the chemical was used, the employer will indirectly document the removal date because it will be included in the timeframe the chemical was used.

Note that if an employer just keeps the SDS without the other information, the SDSs don’t really meet the original “intent” of §1910.1020. That’s why OSHA “recommends” that if you opt to keep SDSs you also include them when and where information, even though it is not mandated when the SDS option is taken.

What is the liability for transferring/maintaining medical records when there is no successor employer?

The Code for Federal Regulations, 29 CFR 1910.1020, Access to Employee Exposure and Medical Records outlines the correct process of managing employee records. According to that regulation, whenever an employer either is ceasing to do business and there is no successor employer to receive and maintain the records or intends to dispose of any records required to be preserved for at least thirty (30) years, the employer shall do one of two things. An employer must transfer the records to the Director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) or they must notify the Director of NIOSH in writing of the impending disposal of records at least three (3) months prior to the disposal of the records. Depending on the content of the OSHA records, you may wish to share the information in them with the specific employee to whom they belong before transfer or disposal.

Aug 13, 2019
068: Why You Should Care About Total Worker Health (TWH) & Safety

Total Worker Health

Fundamentals of Total Worker Health 

Keeping workers safe is the foundation upon which a TWH approach is built. Total Worker Health integrates health protection efforts with a broad spectrum of interventions to improve worker health and well-being.

The Fundamentals of Total Worker Health Approaches is the practical starting point for employers, workers, labor representatives, and other professionals interested in implementing workplace safety and health programs aligned with the Total Worker Health (TWH) approach. There are five Defining Elements of TWH:

Element 1: Demonstrate leadership commitment to worker safety and health at all levels of the organization.

Element 2: Design work to eliminate or reduce safety and health hazards and promote worker well-being.

Element 3: Promote and support worker engagement throughout program design and implementation.

Element 4: Ensure the confidentiality and privacy of workers.

Element 5: Integrate relevant systems to advance worker well-being.

Getting Started

Create a team of people who know about different policies, programs, and practices in your workplace that impact worker safety, health, and well-being. Draw team members from all levels of the workforce, and consider including the following:„

  • Workers who have requested or participated in changes for safety and health
  • Safety directors
  • Human resources representatives
  • Occupational health nurses or other healthcare practitioners
  • Workers’ compensation professionals
  • Employee Assistance Program professionals
  • Those responsible for disability management and return-to-work procedures
  • Health and wellness champions

Defining Element 1: Demonstrate leadership commitment to worker safety and health at all levels of the organization

Organizational leaders should acknowledge and communicate the value of workforce safety and health as a core function, and they should prioritize worker safety and health on the same level as the quality of services and products.

ProTip: Middle management is the direct link between workers and upper management and plays a critical role in program success or failure. For example, supervisors often serve as gatekeepers to employee participation in programs, and when program involvement competes with productivity demands, they may discourage employee participation

Effective programs thrive in organizations that promote respect throughout the organization and encourage active worker participation, input, and involvement. Leaders at all levels of the organization can help set this tone, but everyone (from managers down to front-line workers) plays an essential role in contributing to this shared commitment to safety and health. Beyond written policies, stated practices, and implemented programs that endorse safety and health in your workplace, consider the extent to which your organization's spoken and unspoken beliefs and values either support or deter worker well-being [CPWR and NIOSH 2013].

Encourage top leaders to:

  1. Establish and communicate the principles of the proposed initiative to all levels of the organization; teach managers to value workers' input on safety and health issues.
  2. Maintain the visibility of the effort at the organization's highest levels by presenting data that is linked to the program resource allocations.
  3. Promote routine communications between leadership and employees on issues related to safety, health, and well-being.
  4. Openly support and participate in workplace safety and health initiatives. „
  5. Facilitate participation across all levels of the workforce.
  6. Add safety and health-related standards into performance evaluations. „
  7. Build safety and health into the organization's mission and objectives. „
  8. Establish a mechanism and budget for acting on workforce recommendations. „
  9. Emphasize that shortcuts must not compromise worker safety and health.
  10. Provide adequate resources, including appropriately trained and motivated staff or vendors, space, and time.

If necessary, ensure dedicated funding over multiple years, as an investment in your workforce.

Encourage mid-level management to:

  1. Recognize and discuss the competitive advantage (e.g., recruitment, retention, employee satisfaction, community engagement and reputation, and workforce sustainability) that TWH brings to the long-term sustainability of the organization.
  2. Highlight examples of senior leadership's commitment to TWH.
  3. Provide training on how managers can implement and support Total Worker Health aligned approaches, such as those related to work-life balance.

Defining Element 2: Design work to eliminate or reduce safety and health hazards and promote worker well-being

A Total Worker Health approach prioritizes a hazard-free work environment for all workers. It applies a prevention approach that is consistent with traditional occupational safety and health prevention principles of the Hierarchy of Controls.

Eliminating or reducing recognized hazards in the workplace first, including those related to the organization of work itself, is the most effective means of prevention and thus is foundational to all Total Worker Health principles.

Although some hazards can be eliminated from the work environment, others (such as shift work) are more difficult to change. These must be managed through various engineering, administrative, or (as the very last resort) individual-level changes.

Workplace programs that adopt a TWH approach emphasize elimination or control of workplace hazards and other contributors to inadequate safety, health, and well-being. This emphasis on addressing environmental determinants of health is a crucial concept for TWH programs.

The Hierarchy of Controls Applied to NIOSH Total Worker Health provides a conceptual model for prioritizing efforts to advance worker safety, health, and well-being. This applied model is based on the traditional Hierarchy of Controls well-known to occupational safety and health professionals.

As in the traditional Hierarchy of Controls, controls, and strategies are presented in descending order of anticipated effectiveness and protectiveness, as suggested by the cascading arrows. The Hierarchy of Controls Applied to NIOSH Total Worker Health expands the traditional hierarchy from occupational safety and health to include controls and strategies that more broadly advance worker well-being.

The Hierarchy of Controls Applied to NIOSH Total Worker Health is not meant to replace the traditional Hierarchy of Controls, but rather is a companion to this important occupational safety and health model. It serves to illustrate how TWH approaches emphasize organizational-level interventions to protect workers’ safety, health, and well-being. To apply this model:

  1. Begin by eliminating workplace conditions that cause or contribute to worker illness and injury or otherwise negatively impact well-being. These include factors related to supervision throughout the management chain.
  2. Replace unsafe, unhealthy working conditions or practices with safer, health-enhancing policies, programs, and management practices that improve the culture of safety and health in the workplace.
  3. Redesign the work environment, where needed, for safety, health, and well-being. Remove impediments to well-being, enhance employer-sponsored benefits, and provide flexible work schedules.
  4. Provide safety and health education and resources to enhance personal knowledge for all workers.
  5. Lastly, encourage personal change for improvements to health, safety, and well-being. Assist workers with individual risks and challenges; provide support for healthier choice-making.


Using the Hierarchy of Controls Applied to NIOSH Total Worker Health, a program targeting reductions in musculoskeletal disorders could consist of the following:

  1. Reorganizing or redesigning the work to minimize repetitive movement, excessive force, and awkward postures
  2. Providing ergonomic consultations to workers to improve job and workstation design and interface, along with training in ergonomic principles and opportunities for workers to participate in design efforts
  3. Evaluating the age profile and health needs of the workforce to provide education on self-management strategies (including preventive exercise) for arthritis or other musculoskeletal conditions that impact the physical ability

Similarly, a TWH program reducing work-related stress might consider the following:

  1. Implementing organizational and management policies that give workers more flexibility and control over their work and schedules, as well as opportunities to identify and eliminate root causes of stress.
  2. Providing training for supervisors on approaches to address stressful working conditions.
  3. Providing skill-building interventions for stress reduction for all workers and providing access to the Employee Assistance Program.

Defining Element 3: Promote and support worker engagement throughout program design and implementation

Ensure that workers involved in daily operations, as well as supervisory staff, are engaged in identifying safety and health issues, contributing to program design, and participating in all aspects of program implementation and evaluation. Again, letting workers be involved in workplace safety, health, and well-being, instead of being just recipients of services, nurtures a shared commitment to Total Worker Health. Some ways to do this include:

  • Identify safety and health issues that are most important to front-line employees
  • More effectively identify potential barriers to program use and effectiveness
  • Improve the long-term sustainability of the initiative
  • Increase employee buy-in and participation in policies and other interventions

ProTip: Design programs with a long-term outlook to ensure sustainability. Short-term approaches have short-term value. Programs aligned with the core values of the organization will likely last. These should be flexible enough to be responsive to changes in workforce and market conditions, workplace hazards and exposures, and the needs of individual workers. A participatory approach can help in this regard, but keep sustainability in mind for the bigger picture.

To help encourage worker engagement, communicate strategically; everyone with a stake in worker safety and health (workers, their families, supervisors, etc.) must know what you are doing and why. Tailor your messages and how they are delivered, and make sure they consistently reflect the values and direction of the initiative.

Whether workers are willing to engage in workplace safety and health initiatives, however, may depend on their perceptions of whether the work environment truly supports safety and health. For example, one study found that blue-collar workers who smoke are more likely to quit and stay quit after a worksite tobacco cessation program if workplace dust, fumes, and vapors are controlled and workplace smoking policies are in place

Defining Element 4: Ensure the confidentiality and privacy of workers

Designing and enforcing appropriate privacy protections goes beyond ensuring that only authorized personnel has access to sensitive safety and health information. Observe all relevant local, state, and national laws regarding the privacy of personally identifiable data and health-related information by taking appropriate steps. So doing things like masking personally identifiable information on reports, and using a digital management system that is encrypted and protected by user passwords are some best practices.

Data sources that require confidentiality considerations and/or protections:

  • „Health risk assessment
  • „„Electronic health records
  • „„Management systems
  • „„Program evaluation data
  • „„Self-reported survey data

Privacy precautions:

  • Rigorous de-identification of records
  • Destruction of personally identifiable information as appropriate
  • Hiring a third party to handle certain aspects of the program to reduce employee fear of retribution or penalty
  • „„Using group or population-level data rather than individual data

Defining Element 5: Integrate relevant systems to advance worker well-being.

Total Worker Health emphasizes the role that organizations have in shaping worker safety and health outcomes, recognizing that a multilevel perspective that includes policy, environmental, organizational, and social concerns may be best for tackling complex challenges to worker safety, health, and well-being. Integrating data systems across programs and among vendors, for instance, can simplify monitoring and evaluation while also enabling both tracking of results and continual program improvement.

  • Conduct an initial assessment of existing workplace policies, programs, and practices pertinent to safety, health, and well-being and determine how they relate to one another. Note: for some larger organizations, this may seem like an overwhelming task. To assist in helping to focus this step, consider, at a minimum, these factors:„„ Human resources or personnel policies on issues such as health insurance, paid sick leave, family leave, vacation benefits, retirement, and disability. „„Safety and health policies and procedures for identifying hazards, reporting work-related injuries and illnesses, and filing worker compensation claims.
  • Identify apparent areas of overlap with existing efforts, and note opportunities for future coordination.
  • Purposefully and regularly bring together leaders and teams with overlapping or complementary responsibilities for planning and priority setting. For example, hold joint meetings of safety committees and occupational health staff, human resources, and wellness committees.

Questions to Consider Asking Yourself or Your Team

  • Do we regularly seek the input of our workers on the selection and design of our offered benefits?
  • How can we change or adjust management policies or programs to more effectively support improved safety and health?
  • „„How does the everyday physical work environment affect worker safety and health?
  • Beyond our workplace policies or programs that may be targeting safety and health, what influence do our workplace or organizational norms have on worker safety and health outcomes?
  • How do our efforts feed into the community at large? What sorts of resources outside the workplace, such as community support, would be useful in helping to reinforce and support our safety and health programs?

Understanding the connections between various systems and levels of an individual worker's experience may help design creative, well-rounded approaches to safety and health challenges.

By working together and discovering what each professional in the organization is already working on you will often find related goals and objectives - the benefits administrator struggling to get workers to participate in an exercise class and the safety professional struggling to get a warm-up/stretching program started will be able to work together.

So to wrap this topic up, I will say this: If you want to have a successful wellness program, you must first have a strong culture of workplace safety. Then you can build on that credibility and ask folks to move toward participating in safety or health-related activities off-the-job. Make sure you are first building a workplace safety culture.

Let me know what you think about this episode. Send emails to and share with me your thoughts.

You can find me on LinkedIn! Post an update, letting me know what you think of the podcast. Be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

Jul 19, 2019
067: Profiles in Risk Podcast Interview

Profiles in RIsk

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In this episode, I interviewed by Mr. Nick Lamparelli, the host of Profiles in Risk Podcast. We talk about general liability and risk management - something we don't touch on enough on the SafetyPro Podcast. We discuss my work with iReportSource and managed workflows for incident investigations.

I want to dedicate this episode to the incredible development team over at iReportSource for all the hard work that goes into building an incredible service that safety pros can use to help keep workers safe:

The intern team:

Let me know what you think about this episode. Send emails to and share with me your thoughts.

You can find me on LinkedIn! Post an update, letting me know what you think of the podcast. Be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

Jun 29, 2019
066: The 7 Elements You Should Have in Your Safety Program

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Responsible employers know that the primary goal of a safety and health program is to prevent workplace injuries, illnesses, and deaths, as well as the suffering and financial hardship these events can cause for workers, their families, and their employers.

Employers may find that implementing these recommended practices brings other benefits as well. The renewed or enhanced commitment to safety and health and the cooperative atmosphere between employers and workers is linked to:


  • Improvements in a product, process, and service quality. 
  • Better workplace morale. 
  • Improved employee recruiting and retention. 
  • A more favorable image and reputation (among customers, suppliers, and the community). 


Each section of the following recommended practices describes a core program element, followed by several action items. Each action item is an example of steps that employers and workers can take to establish, implement, maintain, and improve your safety and health program. You can use the self-evaluation tool found on the recommended practices Web page to track your progress and assess how fully you have implemented (or will implement) each action item.

Listen to this episode for the full rundown on how to implement each element, with examples and explanations.

Let me know what you think. Send an email to and share with me your thoughts.

You can find me on LinkedIn! Post a LinkedIn update letting me know what you think of the podcast. Be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

May 31, 2019
065: Establishing an Effective Fatigue Risk Management System
Fatigue Safety Management Program
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Fatigue and its safety implications is an important topic that likely impacts every single industry. According to the National Safety Council, when people don’t get the sleep they need, they aren’t able to physically or mentally function at optimal levels - routine tasks feel more demanding. Reaction times slow. People become more forgetful, make poor decisions, and don’t communicate or coordinate well with their co-workers.
Many studies have found a connection between fatigue and increased safety risks on the job in a wide range of work settings. Long work hours, working at night, and rotating shifts are some factors that can lead to increased risks of errors, incidents, accidents, and injuries.

Decreased productivity

Absenteeism represents a significant cost to organizations, and sleep loss is one of its leading causes. Presenteeism, being at work but not working effectively, also leads to substantial reductions in productivity. With reduced physical and mental functioning due to lost sleep, productivity goes down.

Increased risk of errors

People with sleep deficits are not as productive as they could be, and they are also more prone to making mistakes and errors. An estimated 274,000 insomnia-related workplace accidents and errors occur yearly and cost U.S. employers more than $31 billion, which is more than any other chronic health-related condition.

Incidents and crashes

A 2014 study estimated that up to 21% of all fatal vehicle crashes might involve a drowsy driver. Factors that contribute to such events include working multiple jobs, working nights or other unusual schedules, getting less sleep than needed, and getting poor-quality sleep. Long commutes add to longer waking days and cut into the time available for sleep, putting many workers at increased risk for driving while drowsy.

ProTip: According to the NTSB: 20% of accidents are related to fatigue, with 40% of highway crashes involving fatigued drivers. Share this information as much as possible.

Fatigue culture is difficult to overcome

A workplace culture that rewards or tolerates fatigue can also be a factor. In some high-performance cultures, employees may view fatigue as a sign of weakness or laziness. They may be committed to getting the work done despite long hours, even coming to believe fatigue doesn’t affect them.

Employers may incentivize long hours with financial incentives or promotions, increasing risk, and promoting a culture of burnout instead of managing fatigue as a potential safety hazard.

Fatigue management as part of safety management systems

We address workplace fatigue through the same types of safety management mechanisms that an organization uses to for overall safety. Such an approach ideally applies multiple elements, recognizing that fatigue is a complex issue that can be minimized but not eliminated.

Getting started with a fatigue risk management system

Fatigue management is a way to further enhance the current safety management system and can rely on many existing mechanisms. As a first step, organizations should make an effort to understand what fatigue risks exist.

Incremental components or comprehensive plan

While a comprehensive fatigue management program may be the best approach, especially for larger organizations, test individual elements at first. A first part, perhaps smaller in scope, can be implemented and evaluated. Lessons learned can then be applied as the component is expanded upon and when considering other activities.

Form a fatigue committee

Designating an individual, or individuals, to head up fatigue management activities is critical for success. For larger organizations, a small committee can oversee activities, gather and evaluate feedback, and determine areas to focus efforts. Having representatives from across the organization such as safety, operations, and health/wellness will ensure that you include different perspectives.

Getting buy-in

It is essential that the fatigue management process be transparent and that appropriate information is shared throughout the effort to obtain buy-in from all levels of the organization. Providing open forums that allow employees to share how fatigue affects them is one way to get engagement from the outset.

Identifying fatigue risks

In addition to employee input, an audit or survey of supervisors and managers can help determine where fatigue risks exist and provide an indication of the magnitude. Such information can help prioritize what countermeasures or mitigation actions to take and where to focus efforts.

For the initial activities, it is imperative to present some action in the near term, so contributors will feel their input was and is incorporated. As a result, they are more likely to be engaged in the ongoing process and actions.

Critical components of a fatigue risk management system (FRMS)

Education and training

Sleep health education is a vital element of any fatigue management effort. Different delivery mechanisms can be considered and may be used over time as the program matures as a way to help keep information fresh. Depending on available resources, external expertise can be beneficial. In a public safety setting, expert-led sleep health training resulted in knowledge acquisition and subsequent actions to address sleep issues. Consider sleep health education as part of annual, recurrent, or new-hire training.

While individuals are generally unreliable at recognizing the effects of fatigue in themselves, developing a "personal signs and symptoms" checklist can provide a structured mechanism for self-assessment. People should include ways in which fatigue affects them, such as yawning or being forgetful and then track the number of hours of sleep in the past 24 hours, hours awake, and time of day. If multiple fatigue factors are present, then the individual should seek out countermeasures to boost alertness.

Policies and practices

Clarify roles and expectations - A recognized internal point of contact with responsibility for fatigue management efforts is a necessary first step towards practical implementation. This individual should be responsible for managing communications about the program and coordinating all program activities. This “fatigue champion” recognizes both the benefit to the organization and employees’ lives. The champion can provide an extra level of motivation and inspiration that can lead to an exceptional fatigue management program.

Policies and practices for work periods - Effective policies and practices for hours of work and rest should be science-based and recognize the physiological need for sleep and circadian rhythms. They should also take into consideration the type of work that needs to be done and understand the characteristics of the workforce. There is no “one size fits all” number for daily or weekly work hours.

Daily and weekly limits - Daily fatigue risks increase with more hours on duty, or with more time on task (hours of work without a break). Daily work limits should also address the impact of hours awake, and how factors such as commute times and shift start times will affect the time workers are awake before the start of their work period.

Sleep loss throughout a workweek impairs performance. Setting weekly limits on total work hours and including a provision for a weekly off-duty “reset” period are common ways that organizations seek to manage the cumulative effects of sleep loss over time. The intent of the “reset” day or days off is to allow workers to obtain recovery sleep and be rested and ready for their next period of workdays.

Time-of-day fatigue (circadian rhythm misalignment) - Working at night and corresponding daytime sleep are both misaligned with the normal circadian rhythms. Fatigue risks increase during night shifts, and sleeping during the day is less than optimal due to the circadian clock. For those working a night shift, consider minimizing monotonous or monitoring tasks that can unmask underlying sleepiness, and safety-sensitive duties should be scheduled earlier in the work shift when possible.

ProTip: Early morning shifts require employees to adjust their sleep schedules, which might lead to chronic sleep loss. They also need employees to be alert when their bodies are still in sleep mode. Discuss this with your employees to raise awareness.

Limits on night shifts - With increased fatigue risks associated with working at night, employers should consider implementing shorter night shifts, which provides a way to minimize the interaction of risks related to hours awake and the increased likelihood of fatigue during the low point in circadian rhythms.

Fatigue risks have also been found to increase over consecutive night shifts, so minimizing multiple nights in a row and providing regular breaks should be considered.

Limits on early morning shifts - Early-morning shift starts can also infringe on individuals’ regular sleep periods. With long commutes, wake times necessary for early shift starts may feel more like the middle of the night than morning.

Difficulty in getting to bed earlier than our circadian clock’s programming is a challenge in getting adequate sleep.

Limits on work hours - While flexibility is necessary in many situations, additional restrictions should be considered for those working irregular schedules, for example limiting the number of on-call periods per week.

Shift workers are vulnerable to fatigue because of non-traditional work schedules that might require long shifts, non-daytime working hours, and changing shifts. As a result, shift workers are at a higher risk of drowsy driving.

One shift-working population that is at a particular risk is medical workers, who can log more than 100 hours in a workweek with very little sleep. After an extended shift, medical interns were five times more likely to have a near-miss incident on their commute home, and twice as likely to have a motor vehicle crash.

Shared Responsibility 

Fit for Duty - An employee arriving fit for duty is the responsibility of both the employer and the employee.

  • Employers should ensure employees have at least 12 hours off between shifts to get proper sleep.
  • Employees are responsible for allocating their off-the-job hours wisely, especially if they are working a second job.

Fatigue Mitigation

A workplace with positive environmental controls promotes better overall working conditions and should be less physically stressful in ways that contribute to fatigue on the job. Factors such as high temperatures, noise, and vibration are leading drivers of occupational fatigue.

Environmental factors can play a role in employees’ accumulation of fatigue. Things that help promote alertness include: 

  • Moderate temperature
  • Bright lighting
  • Clean air
  • Quiet environment

Also, designated break areas that are separate from the work areas can be an essential tool in managing fatigue.  Break time in well-lit, moderate temperatures with adequate ventilation (fresh air) can provide an opportunity to reset for those working in physically stressful settings.

ProTip: Caffeine can provide a short-term boost to alertness when appropriately used. Rather than relying on caffeine throughout a shift, it is best to use it just before a critical work task or before the mid-afternoon period when sleepiness occurs. A cup of regular coffee with 100–200 mg of caffeine can boost alertness up to four hours, with about 15–30 minutes needed to take effect. Be cautious with sugar in coffee or caffeinated beverages, as it can reduce alertness when coming down from the “sugar high.”

Data-driven programs and continuous improvement

A fatigue management program provides the most value when it is data-driven and strives for constant improvement.

Ask employees for their input - Employees can be a wealth of information. You need to ask and listen.

  • What mitigation strategies work best? Employees may have valuable feedback on environmental conditions and the usability of a break room, for example.
  • What adds to your fatigue? Annual surveys of employees on their experiences and perspectives on fatigue-related matters are a great way to get a better understanding.

Low reporting levels? Maybe something isn’t working. Don’t assume that low reporting levels mean there are no issues. Are reporting and monitoring systems effective? Usable? Are employees discouraged from reporting by the use of layered paperwork processes?

Monitoring and reporting mechanisms allow the program champion and other safety managers to assess the levels of fatigue risk in the organization over time, identify trends, and understand the issues that are being reported and need addressing. Incorporate reporting processes into current procedures within an existing safety management system. Keep in mind that when implementing a program, low levels of reporting may indicate a lack of awareness of the program rather than a lack of fatigue-related issues in the workplace.

Incident and accident investigation reporting

Established incident and accident investigation processes should be expanded to include an evaluation of the potential role of fatigue. Generally, a combination of factors present at the time of an incident/ accident would indicate that fatigue played a role. Include the following:

  • Time on shift: More hours may increase the likelihood of fatigue
  • Time awake at the time of event: When hours awake exceed 17, fatigue becomes more likely.
  • Length of the workweek: More consecutive days/nights of work also leads to increased fatigue.
  • Self-reported info on alertness: Use standard measures such as sleepiness scales to measure this.
  • Self-reported info on sleep history: Investigations should gather info on prior sleep history to assess the influence of the previous factors.

Review and learn from data

Incident and accident reports can be a valuable tool for the fatigue program manager. Look for trends in the types and sources of reported fatigue factors. Investigations can provide valuable “lessons learned” to incorporate into ongoing education and training activities.

Continuous improvement: collecting data and applying lessons learned

As with any organizational safety-related effort, it is essential to seek ways to continue improving operations. Monitoring and reporting information, along with incident or accident investigation and reporting, provides valuable information to the program manager.

  • What is working?
  • What isn’t?
  • What can we do better?

Employers should consider a regular internal audit, or use of an external evaluator to address the above questions and determine ways for further improvements and expand the program.

 Fatigue Management Tools

Scheduling software - Some industries, such as aviation, use programs that evaluate work schedules for potential fatigue risks as part of their fatigue management efforts. Such programs use science-based algorithms related to factors such as sleep need, circadian disruption, hours awake, and time of day. Safety managers then evaluate work schedules for potential issues and implement strategies that will attempt to address the problems and minimize risks.

Risk assessment tool - Factors include the length and timing of work periods, time-on-task, workload, consecutive days or nights of work, variations in work schedule, and timing and duration of rest periods.

Other factors to consider include worksite environmental conditions, commute times, and other potential stressors such as critical deadlines. Safety managers can similarly evaluate potential risks with this approach and determine interventions to minimize those risks.

ProTip: You can do all of this by using a tool like iReportSource by the way. So as I often ask folks; if you aren't already using a digital EHS solution, why?

Wrapping it all Up

  1. An integrated, multi-element fatigue program is most beneficial, though the implementation of incremental activities may be more feasible for smaller companies or those with limited resources.
  2. Fatigue champions should remain aware that change is difficult and should be managed with care; highlight benefits for employees such as quality of life and improved health.
  3. Transparency and shared information are essential in getting buy-in from all participants.
  4. Data-driven processes provide important empirical information on what issues exist within an organization and provide a framework for continued improvements to the program.

The National Safety Council is leading the conversation on workplace fatigue in the U.S. Follow the various links in this post to learn more.

Additional Resources
NIOSH offers tips to help reduce the effects of fatigue in the workplace:
  • Allow at least 10-consecutive hours per day of off-duty time for workers to get 7-8 hours of sleep.
  • Provide frequent rest breaks during demanding work.
  • Adjust shift lengths to either five 8-hour shifts or four 10-hour shifts.
  • Schedule one or two full days of rest to follow five consecutive 8-hour shifts or four 10-hour shifts.
  • Train workers to be aware of the demands of shiftwork and to know what resources are available if they have difficulties.
  • Examine near-misses and incidents to determine if fatigue played a role.

Cost of a Tired Workforce

NSC in collaboration with the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Sleep Matters Initiative developed an online fatigue cost calculator that estimates the cost of sleep deficiency for businesses. Entering four data points into the calculator – workforce size, industry, location, and shift scheduling practice – generates an estimated dollar cost that helps the organization quantify the cost of fatigue and justify the implementation of a fatigue risk management system (FRMS).

The cost calculator and the methodology used to create it are in Calculating the Cost of Poor Sleep: Methodology at

Find more information about the effects of fatigue on physical and mental functioning in the NSC report Tired at Work: How Fatigue Affects Our Bodies.

You have a lot on your plate…But iReportSource helps you own safety and become the master of your culture:   

  •  Record, report, and minimize safety incidents using iReport.
  •  Understand your existing safety culture and reinforce the positive aspects, bit by bit, so you can improve the employee experience.

Get in touch to learn more about how you can own your safety culture and prevent injuries before they happen with iReport.

May 07, 2019
065: Join Me at the VPPPA National Symposium in August

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ANNOUNCEMENT: Visit VPPPA to register for the National Symposium and join me as I podcast on location! Listen to this episode for some details.

Let me know what you think. Send an email to and share with me your thoughts about VPP or the VPPPA.

Please tell a friend or colleague about the podcast. It would mean the WORLD to me!

You can also find me on LinkedIn! Post a LinkedIn update letting me know what you think of the podcast. Be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!

Apr 10, 2019
065: Podcast Announcement - New Look, New Sound, Same Mission

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In this announcement, I reveal a new strategic partnership that strengthens the high quality, actionable safety info you have come to expect from this podcast! I am excited to make this announcement.

Apr 10, 2019
064: Is Your Safety Management System ISO 45001 Ready?

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Is your Safety Program Ready for ISO 45001?

Every day, thousands of lives are lost due to work accidents or fatal diseases linked to work activities. These are deaths that could and should have been prevented and must be in the future.

Whether you are an employee, a manager or a business owner, you share a common goal – you don’t want anyone to get hurt on the job. Improved productivity stems from ensuring people operate in workplaces that provide transparency and build trust throughout their operation and supply chain. In addition, responsible practices are becoming increasingly important to brands and reputations.

ISO 45001 is the world’s first International Standard dealing with health and safety at work. Quite simply, it offers a single, clear framework for all organizations wishing to improve their OH&S performance. Directed at the top management of an organization, it hopes to provide a safe and healthy workplace for employees and visitors. In order to achieve this goal, it is important to control all factors that might result in illness, injury, and in even fatalities, by mitigating the impacts hazards have on the physical, mental and cognitive condition of workers – and ISO 45001 covers all of those aspects.

While ISO 45001 does draw on OHSAS 18001 – the previous benchmark for workplace safety – it is a completely new and distinct standard, not simply a dusted off version or revision or a simple update. Organizations will, therefore, need to revise their current thinking and work practices in order to maintain organizational compliance.

What are the major differences between OHSAS 18001 and ISO 45001?

There are many differences, but the main change is that ISO 45001 focuses on the interaction between an organization and its total business environment while OHSAS 18001 was focused on managing hazards and other internal-only issues. But the standards also differ in other ways:

  • ISO 45001 is process-based – OHSAS 18001 is procedure-based
  • ISO 45001 is dynamic in all clauses – OHSAS 18001 is not
  • ISO 45001 considers both risk and opportunities – OHSAS 18001 deals exclusively with risk
  • ISO 45001 includes the views of interested parties – OHSAS 18001 does not

These points represent a huge shift in the way health and safety management and even viewed in business today. Safety can no longer be treated as a “stand-alone” department or silo. Instead, key safety roles need to be embedded within the company - partnering with the various departments in order to run a sustainable organization.

Let's see what has to say:

My company already follows OHSAS 18001. How do I start to switch over to ISO 45001?

When moving over from OHSAS 18001, there are some steps you have to take in order to lay the groundwork for ISO 45001. Here are a few steps says you will need to take to get started:

  1. Perform the analysis of interested parties (those individuals or organizations that can affect your organization’s activities) as well as internal and external factors that might impact your organization’s business, then ask yourself how these risks can be controlled through your management system.
  2. Establish the scope of the system, while considering what your management system is set to achieve.
  3. Use this information to establish your processes, your risk evaluation/assessment and, most importantly, to set the key performance indicators (KPIs) for the processes.

Once you have adapted all the data to the tools of OHSAS 18001, you can reuse most of what you already have in your new management system. So, while the approach is quite different, the basic tools are the same.

What do I need to know if I am new to ISO 45001?

The answer depends on how much you know about ISO management systems. ISO 45001 adopts Annex SL, thus sharing a high-level structure (HLS), identical core text and terms and definitions with other recently revised ISO management system standards such as ISO 9001:2015 (quality management) and ISO 14001:2015 (environmental management). If you are already acquainted with the common framework, then much of ISO 45001 will seem familiar to you and you will just need to fill the “gaps” in your system.

If this is not the case, things could be a little more tricky. The standard is not easy to apprehend when you read it as a normal book. You have to realize all the interconnections between the specific clauses. The best advice would be to find a good training course to help you unlock the standard’s full potential. You may also want to consider employing consultancy services to assist you in the process.

See the entire article here:

How can I compare my safety management system against ISO 45001?

The best thing to do is to use the checklist that you can download HERE

Let me know what you think. Send an email to and share with me your thoughts about ISO 45001.

You can find me on LinkedIn! Post a LinkedIn update letting me know what you think of the podcast. Be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!

Mar 13, 2019
063: New Tool to Check for Mold in Your Buildings

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NIOSH developed the Dampness and Mold Assessment Tool for both general buildingsCdc-pdf and schoolsCdc-pdf to help employers identify and assess areas of dampness in buildings.

“Implementing regular visual inspections for dampness can help to identify trouble areas before they become major problems and help to prioritize maintenance and repair,” said David Weissman, M.D., director of NIOSH’s Respiratory Health Division. “The Dampness and Mold Assessment Tools provide an inexpensive mechanism to investigate, record, and compare conditions over time.”

Office buildings, schools, and other nonindustrial build­ings may develop moisture and dampness problems from roof and window leaks, high indoor humidity, and flooding events, among other things. Damp building conditions promote the growth of mold, bacteria, fungi, and insects. Occupants in damp buildings can be exposed to pollutants in the air from biological contaminants and the breakdown of building materials.

Research has shown that several health problems are associated with exposure to building dampness and mold, including:

  • Respiratory symptoms (such as in the nose, throat, or lungs)
  • Development or worsening of asthma
  • Hypersensitivity pneumonitis (a rare lung disease in which lungs become inflamed as an allergic reaction to inhaled bacteria, fungi, organic dust, and chemicals)
  • Respiratory infections
  • Allergic rhinitis (often called “hay fever”)
  • Bronchitis
  • Eczema

The Dampness and Mold Assessment Tools guide users through assessing all rooms, whether in a school or a general building, for areas of dampness and mold and identifying the source(s) of the dampness and mold. The tools provide an easy-to-use checklist and instructions for assessing and recording any damage that is found and for tracking conditions through time

NIOSH previously published an Alert, Preventing Occupational Respiratory Disease from Exposures Caused by Dampness in Office Buildings, Schools, and Other Nonindustrial BuildingsCdc-pdf that provides further information on respiratory disease related to indoor dampness and recommendations for preventing and remediating damp buildings.

When workers suspect their health problems are caused by exposure to building-related dampness or mold, workers should report new, persistent, or worsening symptoms, particularly those with a work-related pattern, to their personal physician and, as instructed by their employer, to a designated individual at their workplace.

You can find more information about dampness and mold in buildings, including action steps for management and building owners and workers, on the NIOSH website.

NIOSH is the federal institute that conducts research and makes recommendations for preventing work-related injuries and illnesses. More information about NIOSH can be found at

Let me know what you think. Send an email to and share with me your thoughts about indoor air quality. Also, it would mean a lot to me if you could tell a friend or colleague about the podcast.

You can find me on LinkedIn! Post a LinkedIn update, letting me know what you think of the podcast. Be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!

Mar 04, 2019
062: The Difference Between a Safety Inspection and Safety Audit

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Safety Inspection or Safety Audit?

This issue has come up before, and I want to tackle it in this episode. So some coaching is going on in this episode. First, let’s get the definitions out of the way:

Inspection: Physical checks for acceptable conditions conducted at the direction of regulatory requirements, guidelines, policies, procedures, etc. outlined in your overall safety manual or as a part of a safety management system.

Audit: An independent review of the effectiveness, implementation, and compliance with established regulatory requirements, guidelines, policies, procedures, etc. outlined in your overall safety manual or as a part of a safety management system. It is important to note that independent does not necessarily mean from an outside organization. Independence means not being responsible for the activity being audited or free of bias and conflict of interest, which means you cannot audit your own work.

So think of an inspection as a specific physical check to see if a tool, vehicle, machine, etc. are in safe working condition. Like a forklift inspection; before each shift operators are required to conduct an inspection to ensure it is in a safe condition. Always provide adequate checklists to ensure consistency of inspections and to allow a trend analysis to be developed t look for areas of improvement during any program audits.

An audit is a review to see if inspections are being done and to check the quality of the inspection results. Or, inspections are tactical, and audits are strategic. Most folks focus on the tactical activity of performing inspections. They have checklists, cards, etc. Our industry needs to place more emphasis on the strategic review of safety as well. I would encourage you to go one step further and apply a management system approach to these activities.

To help illustrate the importance, I will use the ANSI Z-10 Standard for Occupational Safety and Health Management Systems (OHSMS) as an example. The OHSMS cycle ANSI lays out entails an initial planning process and implementation of the safety management system, followed by a process for checking the performance of these activities and taking appropriate corrective actions. The next step involves a management review of the system for suitability, adequacy, and effectiveness against its policy and this standard. At a high level, this is an audit of the OHSMS.

It is worth noting that ANSI/AIHA® Z10 focuses primarily on the strategic levels of policy and the processes to ensure the policy is effectively carried out. The standard does not provide detailed procedures, job instructions, or documentation mechanisms. Each organization must design these according to their needs, such as inspections: what to inspect and how often.

In a management system approach, there is an emphasis on continual improvement and systematically eliminating the underlying or root causes of deficiencies. For example, if an inspection finds an unguarded machine, not only would the unguarded machine be fixed, but there would also be a systematic process in place to discover and eliminate the underlying reason for the deficiency. This process might then lead to the goal of replacing the guards with an effective design, or to replacement of the machines themselves, so the hazard is eliminated. This systematic approach seeks a long-term solution rather than a one-time fix.

To see if this is being done effectively, an audit must take place. You would review how many inspections are being done, the total number of inspections resulting in findings, number of outcomes resulting in root cause analysis, and corrective or preventative actions (CAPA).

So I want to give you three criteria you need to use to conduct an audit of any aspect of your safety management system. I call it the 3 P's:


  1. Paper: Look at any written programs, instructions, policies, procedures, etc. and determine if they are adequate for the area they address. HAZCOM is an example; review the written program to ensure it meets the minimum OSHA requirements as well as the SDS index. Does the program check all the boxes? When was it last reviewed? Who has access to it?
  2. People: Interview workers to determine their level of understanding of the written programs, instructions, policies, procedures, etc. Which also tells you a bit about training effectiveness and retention. Sticking with the HAZCOM example, ask workers about chemicals in their work area, SDS location, labeling requirements, spill/clean-up, etc.
  3. Places: Go out to the job site or production floor and look for evidence that the written programs, instructions, policies, procedures, etc. are being followed. For HAZCOM, look for labels-are they worn, missing, are drums labeled? Are SDS books up to date? Are they placed in the proper location? What about spill kits?
So you can see the benefit of the three P’s when auditing your safety management system. Always extend your audit across all three P’s: Paper, People, Places. Which will ensure you have done a proper and thorough audit.

Let me know what you think. Send an email to and share with me your thoughts about safety inspections or audits. Please let a freind or colleague know about the podcast.

Also, you can find me on LinkedIn! Post a LinkedIn update, letting me know what you think of the podcast. Be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!

Mar 01, 2019
061: 4 Tips to Get the Best Out of a Safety Conference

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How Do I Get The Most Out of My Safety Conference Attendance?

A professional safety conference always best treated as a learning experience. Your company is probably footing the bill, and so you may be tempted to handle your next safety conference as a paid vacation. Don’t do that, as you’ll be missing one of the most significant growth opportunities in this field and your career. Here, I’ve included four simple tips to get the very most out of your attendance in a safety or any other conference.

 1. Treat the Conference Like a Class

If you’re attending a safety conference, the odds are good that you’re a safety professional, and that means the odds are good that you’ve spent some time in a classroom at some point in your life. To make the most of this experience, you need to bring those skills to bear on conference seminars, workshops, and demonstrations.

An excellent way to take notes at a conference is to identify which areas your organization could improve, and then tailoring your attendance schedule to events that address these specific issues. It may help to prepare an outline of events you want to attend ahead of time, and use that outline to guide your note-taking during the events themselves.

 2. Compare Notes with Other Professionals

Here is an example; take your written safety plans for your company. One of the most beneficial ways to interact with the safety conference is to bring copies of safety programs based on scheduled sessions/events with you so that you might compare it against the suggestions and innovations offered. In this way, you’ll be able to identify where your plans could be improved, and what aspects of your programs have been rendered out-of-date by advances in technology.

Likewise, actively working on your plans while attending the conference will give you the bonus of providing a product that you can show your employer. By communicating to your colleagues and supervisors a tangible benefit to your attendance, your organization will be much more likely to consider participating in the future--which is an excellent way of saying you might be able to earn yourself another free working vacation!

3. Participate!

Another critical aspect of making the most of any conference is to participate in events and workshops actively. Some of the brightest minds in safety management will be on hand to answer questions--take advantage of this tremendous opportunity to get insight into your organization’s problems by identifying areas in which your team could improve and drafting a series of questions to ask during the question and answer sessions that often follow convention events.

 4. Pace Yourself

Some conference goers face the opposite problem than that alluded to in point three; they not only participate, they run themselves into the ground doing so. Rebecca Knight, of the Harvard Business Review, notes that conference-goers who are enjoying the experience and that are actively engaged in what’s going on tend to get a lot more out of their attendance than those who feel pressure to perform.

Ms. Knight suggests that it’s okay to spend a significant amount of time with a few select people if you’re more comfortable networking among smaller crowds. Put another way, don’t feel pressured to perform or participate in a way that’s going to distract you. The key to getting the most out of a safety conference is to be actively and positively engaged with the material, and you can’t do that if you’re always in a state of dread or fear-remember, not everyone is built the same way and that’s okay.

Let me know what you think. Send an email to and share with me your thoughts about safety conferences.

Find me on LinkedIn! Post a LinkedIn update, letting me know what you think of the podcast. Be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!

Feb 27, 2019
060: 4 Ways to Use Data to Improve Your Safety Culture

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Four Ways to Use Data to Improve Workplace Safety

Every safety leader wakes up each morning looking to avoid any accidents. And, each day, you want to take steps to improve your culture of safety.

That’s no easy task, which is part of why an analytics dashboard is so helpful in giving you the information you need to do just that.

Listen to this episode to get a quick introduction into 4 ways you can use data to improve your safety culture.

Use data to drive shared accountability

A great scorecard tells a story of what’s happened, what’s currently happening, and what needs to be done next. Part of that picture is also about improving accountability to make sure what needs to happen does happen.

iReport’s dashboard is one example of a tool that supports accountability and improvement: it shares accountability documents created, proactive reports, critical actions needed, the number of days without incidents, the number of incidents, the type of incidents, and more.

In doing so, it helps to make the connection between what’s been done and what needs to be done, and why. As simple as it sounds, knowing just what to do and being held clearly responsible for it is invaluable in supporting a safer culture.

Use data to show costs avoided

It’s clear that there are costs to any incident or accident. Direct costs include property damage, theft, workers’ comp, fatalities, lawsuits related to injuries (or worse!), and legal fees in general, just to name a few.

But if an incident happens, there’s also harm done to your company’s brand and goodwill, your reputation, and it affects employees’ trust and morale. It can negatively affect productivity and it can affect the kind of talent you’re able to recruit and hire in the future.

What’s more: there is also a long list of indirect costs: downtime per day, distraction, and your insurance premium increase.

The point is this: effective data will allow you to show at least some of these indirect costs. That’s a powerful tool when it comes to showing ROI and in giving a strong rationale for future safety investments.

Use data to take the guesswork out of corrective actions

One of the best ways to see if your data is working for you: whether or not your data has the ability to prevent future occurrences of a similar or same type of incident. If your data (or dashboard) isn’t informing you of ways to make changes, you have a major opportunity for improvement.

For example, iReportSource’s dashboard generates a real-time view of near miss by type, top causes for corrective action, and Total Case Incident Rate (TCIR). It also gives you a snapshot of other key incident and inspection metrics. Based on what’s most meaningful to your company, it captures behavior-based steps/actions that have occurred so you can know exactly what’s going on and where.

Use data to keep everyone in-the-know

Whatever dashboard you use, be sure that anyone—from upper management to HR to safety—has quick access to your report. When everyone does have that access, there’s no more waiting on the safety leader (or another person) to send the report.

That means your data is more real-time and more actionable than ever. Finally, you can easily show exactly how safety is improving each month and why. Plus, if someone leaves your company, you’re not stuck trying to figure out what he or she had completed in terms of data collection.

Let me know what you think. Send an email to and share with me the tools you use! Also, leave a rank and review on Apple Podcast, it helps others find the show and assists me in making improvements.

If you think of it, find me on LinkedIn! Post a LinkedIn update letting me know what you think of the podcast. Be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter!

Feb 17, 2019
059: 8 Critical Tips for Effective Safety Coaching

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8 Critical Tips for Effective Safety Coaching

Does your company help develop employees through coaching?

Not to be confused with training, or even consulting, coaching is a much more collaborative process that helps to bring out someone’s best work. Two-Thirds of employees cite that coaching improved their performance within their company and also improved their satisfaction (1).

Coaching sessions can include open-ended questions and discussion on personal and professional goals and objectives. If coaching happens consistently, it can strengthen relationships between managers/employees and peers. It can reinforce the right kind of behaviors you want to see in your business to promote safety and health. Last, it also helps workers have more support as they work through challenges or problems, both personally and professionally (2, 3, 4).

Here are the top tips you can utilize for effective safety coaching:

1. Don’t assume leaders know how to coach

Make sure leaders are equipped to start coaching before you ask them to do so. For example, a common misconception is that coaching is where specific performance feedback can be given. While coaching can influence an employee’s performance, a coaching session is not the same as a review session, even if your current reviews are informal.

First, help leaders recognize that coaching is an open-ended conversation that is aimed at helping someone improve…and that is in all areas of their life. On the other hand, an evaluation is going to give specific feedback to someone regarding their performance. If coaching is what you’re after, make sure your leaders know that difference (2).

Second, teach leaders how to use open-ended questions during their coaching sessions. Instead of asking a question that can be answered with a simple “yes” or a “no,” open-ended inquiries can be used to help lead someone into potential solutions. It also helps them to reflect better and to become more self-aware. These kinds of questions can also give the coach more context about a challenge someone is facing. Last, they also keep the focus on the person who is receiving the coaching.

For example, if someone is having uncertainty with how to resolve a safety-related issue on their team, avoid immediately giving them potential solutions. Instead, ask them questions by using words such as “what and “how.”

That could sound like: “How do you envision this process changing?” or, “What have you considered doing to change the way things are done?”

By allowing them to reflect and talk out the solution, leaders can remain focused on listening. After hearing more from the person, then a coach can help the individual learn how to come up with solutions. Which will build confidence, empower the individual and help them break out of three vicious circles that author Michael Bungay Stonier describes in the book “The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever”:


  1. Creating over dependance - by you always having the answer, and others not being able to solve problems on their own. I have often said that the EHS expert’s job is NOT to be the only one that understands the safety requirements and hazard mitigation techniques of someone else’s job. It is to ensure that those doing the work, facing potential hazards are able to so. This requires a coach!
  2. Getting overwhelmed - you will become bombarded with everyone else’s problems. Which creates a classic bottle-neck! You want to avoid this because hazards/issues will persist in the work environment as a result of YOU not being able to deal with them. Folks will learn it takes too long to get anything addressed and stop saying anything!
  3. Becoming disconnected - You will get disconnected from the work that matters - which is creating a sustainable culture of accountability, empowerment, and productivity. You need to free yourself up from the first two circles to focus on the work that will make the most impact on the organization (6).


Getting good at coaching takes practice, but at least try to teach your people some of the subtle shifts in their behavior that can help the dialogue be productive and authentic (1, 5). Which is the difference between consulting and coaching! Consulting is telling someone what to do - coaching is about helping others develop the ability to sense something needs to be changed, problem-solve, draw upon the needed resources the organization has to affect change and make good decisions.

2. Make sure it’s a two-way conversation

Since a coach is often going to be in a position where they are helping to drive some change, make sure you are having a two-way conversation that allows for that to happen. Avoid the temptation to make it all about yourself.  The key is to talk less and listen more (6).

Also, if you are the one doing the coaching, avoid the tendency to share all your stories that are similar to the person being coached; after all, the focus is on them, not you. Again, this is where leading or empowering questions can be a very useful tool to use. Remember, telling someone what they should do is consulting. It also creates dependency. It can be tricky to get into here, but go grab The Coaching Habit book I mentioned and start some of the habits the author described.

The bottom line is that things need to be addressed, but you as a coach, need to develop other leaders’ ability to coach as well. Each problem they bring to you is an opportunity to develop further their ability to coach others as well. So open up the lines of communications and ask the right questions and listen!

3. Provide ‘just enough’ structure

Coaching—even if it’s peer to peer coaching—won’t necessarily happen on its own. Like anything with your culture, be as intentional as possible about how your coaching sessions are going to be implemented. Companies with effective safety coaching take the time to develop strategies and internal processes that support a culture of coaching (4, 5).

Especially when a company is first introducing coaching, the structure is going to help. Give guidance on responsibilities related to coaching, coaching duration, the type of coaching you are looking for, and any desired outcomes or measurement of feedback that you want to be captured (4, 5).

4. Avoid punishment

Coaching should be focused on empowering people to succeed. Which means you want to avoid the perception that there will be negative consequences from anything discussed in your session. We want to see this activity as a way to learn and grow, not discover deficiencies, and hold someone accountable for them.

Look to avoid any punishment or discipline when coaching. That doesn’t mean there can’t be any accountability, but these interactions are not a place where there should be any fear.

5. Capture the progress

Companies that are successful at safety coaching can capture and celebrate all the progress someone has made. Depending on the level of formality your coaching has, at the very least, celebrate small wins and successes. Then, when you can, be sure to capture contributions and share that with your team, when appropriate.

6. Encourage peer-to-peer coaching

Many of us think of a manager coaching a direct report, and in many cases, that’s going to be the kind of coaching relationship that is most effective. But also know that peer to peer coaching is extremely valuable and can also help to deepen relationships and improve morale in your company.

7. Customize your coaching to the learning curve of the employee being coached

Safety training typically requires everyone to meet minimum standards at a certain point in time. In contrast, your coaching sessions are going to have their own pace that is going to be different for everyone.

Embrace how these interactions are going to be mostly based on the learning curve of the employee who is being coached (4). In other words, with much less structure than a training session, coaching sessions are going to follow an employee’s progress—and that progress is going to ebb and flow at times (2, 3, 4).

8. Always come from a place of compassion

Coaching interactions are all about improving an employee and helping them develop in specific areas they care about. For that to happen, there has to be a deep sense of caring and mutual trust in any session. As a coach, you can help that happen by always coming from a place of compassion as you hear about someone’s challenges, issues, and perceptions.

That is what makes safety a great place to start in any organization that wants to develop a coaching culture. Safety begins with the underlying assumption that all workers want to do a good job and be able to return. Even the most average worker that is punching the clock - that’s what they want to keep doing - their job. Preventing injuries and illnesses that ultimately prevent that is compassionate. That’s what I love about this industry; we may have discussions about how to get there, but not getting hurt is something that almost all of us can agree.

Improve Safety & Health In Your Company is an all-in-one solution to record, report, and minimize safety incidents in the field and the office. With iReport, you can go from “I think” to “I know,” which helps you to support and improve safety best practices. Ready to learn more? Start your free trial of iReport today.

Let me know what you think. Send an email to and share with me the tools you use!


Let others know about the podcast and find me on LinkedIn! Post a LinkedIn update letting me know what you think of the podcast. Be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!




Feb 12, 2019
058: 4 Safety & Health Investments You Need to Make

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Invest in EHS

Each year, you want to do all you can to protect the health and safety of your workers. You know that those investments pay off. After all, the average return on safety investment is as much as $4.41 for every dollar that’s been spent.

But how do you prioritize your safety and health investments? Depending on the resources you have available this year and beyond, here are four areas to invest in:

1. Safety performance indicators

It’s so essential for any business to be able to show and measure its safety performance. Learn Faster, spot critical areas that need attention, and take consistent action to support health and safety.

Prioritizing the recording and tracking of leading indicators will also result in:

  • More timely preventive and corrective actions
  • The ability to better respond and recognize hazards
  • More effective prevention through design and training.

If you haven’t already, invest in a comprehensive tool that can simplify or make this kind of real-time reporting possible.

2. Streamlining your workflows

Many organizations are taking steps to have all-in-one safety workflows. Which means leaders across departments can collaborate on safety together. More specifically, they can collect and then manage incident reports, tasks, progress reports, and all other safety activities.

Empower your company to make safety a shared responsibility by design.

Companies are also making investments in areas that can free up employees’ time in other ways. For example, iReport allows companies to quickly and easily automate OSHA logs. When you (or other employees) can generate and submit these reports automatically, you can spend your time on other areas that will add more value to the business.

3. Leadership training and development

Time and time again, research has shown how leadership is tied to employee engagement and safety. Three examples of this include:

  • One study saw that there was a lower lost-time injury rate when leaders displayed concern and care for the workforce;
  • Another study showed that empowering workers, good relationships between management and workers, and an active role by top management in safety and health positively impacted injury rates;
  • A third study showed that the amount of energy and creativity showed by senior managers and safety coordinators was a top factor in reducing injuries.

Even though growing your leaders’ capacity can at times seem allusive, leadership growth is one of the most vital pillars of safety excellence.

Ultimately, leaders have a significant role in shaping their culture. And it’s these same leaders that can help to unleash discretionary thinking/behaving in employees that can benefit your company’s performance and day-to-day safety.

4. The employee experience

Creating a positive, differentiated employee experience is of paramount importance. That starts with researching to see what experiences employees are having currently and seeing where those touchpoints could improve.

It may take a bit of work to define your employee experience and to see where any gaps are, but here are a few common areas where you might look to focus where you spend your time:

  • Recruiting and hiring
  • Company values and how that meets up with norms and expectations
  • Onboarding
  • Reward and recognition practices
  • Community-related efforts
  • Workspace design and environment
  • Compensation and/or benefits
  • Well-being and wellness
  • Safety and health
  • Communication of workplace risks and issues related to safety
  • Continuous learning opportunities
  • Events and activities
  • Coaching (informal and formal)
  • Employee feedback
  • Exit interviews

Engaged employees are advocates for your company. They are less likely to become complacent on the job. They also create a competitive advantage that can’t be easily replicated.

Companies that have been intentional about fostering a great employee experience also tend to be safer and healthier organizations—and the opposite is true as well. This is undoubtedly one area that will continue to be worth the time and investment you put in.

Achieve Safety Success in 2019

iReportSource gives you incident transparency, actionable insights, and easy record-keeping so you can foster your world-class safety program. Learn more about improving performance, lowering your risk, and becoming more proactive with iReportSource today.

You can find me on LinkedIn! Post a LinkedIn update letting me know what you think of the podcast. Be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

Feb 04, 2019
057: 5 Common OSHA Recordkeeping Errors to Avoid

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OSHA Safety Recordkeeping Mistakes

What are some of the top mistakes employers make when it comes to OSHA recordkeeping? (article link HERE)

Even with good intentions, here are some of the top mistakes that can happen, resulting in major headaches and even citations:

  1. Not understanding what an OSHA-recordable work restriction is
  2. Not using enough detail in records
  3. Not using a system to track employees’ days away from work and other events
  4. Not keeping OSHA 300 logs up to date during the required 5-year storage period
  5. Lack of alignment between workers’ comp recordkeeping and OSHA recordkeeping

Let’s take a closer look at some of these common errors, and what steps you can take to avoid making the same missteps.

1. Not understanding what an OSHA-recordable work restriction is

Don’t make the mistake of believing an injury is not recordable as a work restriction if your injured employee is still doing useful work, even if that work is within their job description.

Just because you’ve worked at another employer that made this mistake, don’t make this same error, even if it’s a misunderstanding of the regulation up until now (2, 6). Recognize how OSHA states how much it comes down to the routine functions of the worker:

Restricted work occurs when, as the result of a work-related injury or illness: You keep the employee from performing one or more of the routine functions of his or her job, or from working the full workday that he or she would otherwise have been scheduled to work; or A physician or other licensed health-care professional recommends that the employee not perform one or more of the routine functions of his or her job, or not work the full workday that he or she would otherwise have been scheduled to work [emphasis added] (2, 6).

2. Not using enough detail in records

Be sure you accurately report and record all injuries—each and every time. That means including as many specific details as possible in case you need to defend a certain incident or issue.

For example, that may include factors such as:

  • Where the injury or incident happened
  • The incident and event
  • The source
  • Events leading up to the incident an immediately after
  • Equipment involved—and the state of that equipment
  • The exact nature of the injury or illness (4)

With iReportSource, you have a guided process that was designed to help make sure all information is collected and recorded in an accurate and detailed way…no matter what worker is collecting that information for future use.

A major part of this is making sure you have a way for all workers to record and/or report work-related injuries, illnesses, and incidents. If there’s no simple and accessible way to do so, it’s going to be much harder to make sure that information is consistently gathered in a detailed, comprehensive manner.

3. Not using a system to track employees’ days away from work and other events

Do you have detailed information on what’s happening with all your incidents and/or claims? And are you able to easily see the ongoing status of any injured worker, no matter how long they’ve been away from work? (2)

One of the biggest errors employers can make is forgetting to track the days away from work once an employee has stopped reporting to work. You also don’t want to be in the dark when it comes to updates to an employees’ health that comes from their physician (2).

To fix this potential error, make sure you have a system that can track and monitor these types of subsequent events. With that kind of visibility, recordkeepers can consistently track them—and you can put that knowledge to use, too, so you can mitigate risks that have been causing those accidents in the first place.

4. Not keeping OSHA 300 logs up to date during the required 5-year storage period

If requested by OSHA, would you be able to present your five-year history of logs with 4 hours? Many organizations, for a number of reasons, fail to maintain their OSHA 300 Log during the five-year storage period.

Updating and maintenance include newly discovered recordable injuries or illnesses.

It also includes documenting changes that have occurred in the classification of previously recorded injuries and illnesses. If the description or outcome of a case changes, you must remove or line out the original entry and enter the new information (1, 3).

The bottom line: make sure they are maintained, and make sure they are easily accessible so you can always provide those up-to-date copies to OSHA.

5. Lack of alignment between workers’ comp recordkeeping and OSHA recordkeeping

Yes, these are separate records, but information on workers’ comp records and OSHA records should at least coordinate and the information should be able to line up accordingly. That also means if OSHA were to ask to see your workers’ comp records, the information provided should be able to align with your OSHA log—or else, you should be ready to explain why it doesn’t (5).

Avoid Any OSHA Recordkeeping Errors

One significant obstacle with detailed, accurate and organized recordkeeping: not having a consistent, reliable way for workers to do it. iReportSource changes that, making it possible to track and manage workflow and accountability in real-time.

With everything from reporting employee injuries and auto accidents to performing job safety audits and inspections, iReport is your all-in-one safety solution. Request a demo to learn more today.

What are your thoughts? Send emails bout how you use technology to keep workers safe to

You can also find the podcast on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.


Feb 04, 2019
056: Safety Hazards in the Healthcare Industry

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Safety Hazards in Healthcare Industry

Findings from a survey conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) show that precautionary measures to minimize worker exposure to high-level disinfectants (HLDs) are not always used. The study results were recently published in the journal Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.

The recent release is one of a series of reports detailing results from the 2011 Health and Safety Practices Survey of Healthcare Workers, the largest federally-sponsored survey of healthcare workers in the U.S. Respondents included those who chemically disinfect medical or dental devices using one or more of the following HLDs during the past week:

  • glutaraldehyde
  • orthophthaldehyde (OPA)
  • peracetic acid
  • and/or hydrogen peroxide

Information on various exposure controls and impediments to using personal protective equipment (PPE) was assessed.

Findings suggest that recommended practices are not always used by healthcare workers. The following describes examples of practices that may increase exposure risk:

  • 17% never received training on the safe handling of HLDs.
  • 19% reported that safe handling procedures were unavailable.
  • 44% did not always wear a water-resistant gown or outer garment.
  • 9% did not always wear protective gloves.
  • 'Exposure was minimal' was the most frequently reported reason for not wearing PPE.
  • 12% reported skin contact with HLDs during the past week.
  • Workers reporting skin contact were 4 times more likely to report not always wearing protective gloves.

When precautionary practices are not followed, workers handling HLDs are at risk of exposure. Ensuring proper precautionary measures are utilized requires diligence on the part of both employers and healthcare workers. Employers who provide a safety culture that demonstrates a strong commitment to health and safety of their workers ensure that adequate resources and safety equipment are available.

Yes, workers should seek out training, understand and follow safety procedures, and feel free to report any safety concerns. In order to do this, leadership must set that expectation and provide the support needed to develop this culture of safety excellence.

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Jan 27, 2019
055: Using Drones for Safety

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Drones Used for Safety

How would you like an OSHA inspector to launch a drone over top your job site or building, looking for hazards and violations? Perhaps workers on the roof, forklift operators in the yard, cell tower workers on a mountain - an OSHA inspector could see it all without even stepping foot on your property.

It's not as far-fetched as it may sound.

OSHA has authorized the use of drones by certain inspectors to collect evidence during inspections in certain workplace settings.

But before you freak out, currently, OSHA inspectors are only allowed to use drones for enforcement purposes in areas that are inaccessible or pose a safety risk to inspection personnel.

The other issue worth noting; OSHA must obtain express consent from the employer prior to using a drone on an inspection. In addition, personnel on-site must be notified of the aerial inspection prior to the drone's launching.

So, for now, most employers don't have to worry. But, it is something that employers should keep in mind, in case OSHA decides to expand their use of drones. Obviously, any secret usage over an employer's worksite could bring up constitutional issues, but as technology advances and drones become more commonplace, employers may want to incorporate the issue into their OSHA inspection procedures.

Listen to the full podcast episode to hear about ways you can use this technology to your advantage!

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Jan 12, 2019
054: Integrating Safety with Existing Processes

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Integrating Safety with Business

Have you ever struggled to make your safety processes mesh with other existing business processes, like quality or maintenance? By using lean principles and tools it can be easy to do just that. Stop trying to convert workers and take the work to them, in terms/tools they are comfortable using.

This can be as simple as using a layered audit approach - piggyback off another inspection that is done frequently. Or leveraging existing operator checks, sprinkling safety-related checks in there. If there are chemical checks needed for quality then add checks for labels, SDS, spill kits, PPE, etc. to the list.

Using lean manufacturing is all about first asking what else are we doing that has worker's attention? Can we leverage those efforts? I read a pretty decent article touching on this and you can find it here:

But for a deeper look and some real-world examples listen to this podcast episode. Be sure to share your tips on how you have been able to integrate safety with existing business processes. Send emails to

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Dec 23, 2018
053: How to Handle OSHA Safety Inspections

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How to Handle an OSHA Inspection

In this episode, I will talk about preparing for an OSHA inspection and how to best handle the event should one occur. Here, my focus will be what to do up-front, and should a compliance safety and health officer (CSHO) arrive at your facility, what to expect and what you should have ready to make it go smoother.

I will also talk briefly about how to handle any alleged violation and potential citations that come your way.

Let’s first get some definitions out of the way:

I already mentioned the CSHO (Compliance Safety and Health Officer): This is the federal OSHA employee who conducts inspections for the agency — a.k.a. “OSHA Inspector.”

General Duty Clause (GDC): A section of the OSH Act — Section 5(a)(1) — that requires employers to protect employees from recognized, serious hazards, regardless of whether there is a specific standard addressing that hazard. OSHA often uses the GDC to cite employers for not protecting workers from ergonomic-type risks, workplace violence, and heat stress.

OSHA: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration — the federal agency that sets and enforces worker safety and health laws.

OSH Act: The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, which is the enabling legislation for OSHA. 

Repeat violation: A hazardous/violative condition that is the same or similar to a previously cited condition in the past five years at either the same establishment or another establishment of the same company under federal OSHA jurisdiction.

Serious violation: A violation where there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, and the employer knew or should have known of the hazard.

Willful violation: A violation that the employer intentionally and knowingly commits.
Now let’s get into the arrival and inspection process and how to best handle these and ultimately what you can do to prepare your company better.

Understand that OSHA has the right to inspect places of work. A question I get more often than I am comfortable with is whether or not you can require OSHA to come back with a warrant. Yes, employers may exercise their Constitutional rights to request a warrant; however, there is a relatively low threshold for OSHA to obtain such approval - so this is not advised in many cases and will not show your willingness to cooperate. Instead, use your right to an opening conference upon their arrival.

Pro Tip: When the compliance officer arrives, avoid showing a negative attitude. Creating a wrong first impression could set up your facility for failure, so practice having a positive attitude towards the compliance officer. Being polite can put the inspector at ease and create a positive environment—you might even enjoy the inspection.

Know the reasons that prompt most inspections. Inspections can be triggered in a variety of ways, such as reports of serious injuries, complaints, targeting/emphasis programs, and plain-view hazards. They are seldom at random.

Note that some smaller workplaces in low-hazard industries may be exempt from certain types of inspections. See CPL 02-00-051-Enforcement exemptions and limitations under the Appropriations Act.

Know the phases of an OSHA inspection. Inspections will consist of an opening conference, records review, walkthrough inspection, and closing conference. Citations will not be issued during the inspection; those come later from the Area Office director.

Verify CSHO’s credentials. Always ask to see the CSHO credentials upon arrival. You can also contact the area office to verify their identity if needed.

Get a clear understanding of the proposed scope of an inspection. CSHO’s should generally stick to that scope. This means, what do they want to see? A specific process, part of the facility, program review, etc. Which tells you exactly how to narrow the visit - where to take them and where NOT to take them!

Have documents ready. The OSHA Compliance Officer will look for documentation including but not limited to injury and illness records, written safety plans, past inspections, training, exposures, and other safety-related documents. You should maintain, review, and keep documents in a place where you or an assigned supervisor can easily find and present them to the officer. Remember that OSHA could show up at any time. They'll usually arrive during business hours, but an inspection prompted by a severe workplace injury during third shift could mean a knock at the door in the middle of the night.

Pro Tip: A note about self-audits or inspections; OSHA has never officially stated that they will not use self-audits. However, in a final policy published in the Federal Register (65:46498-46503), OSHA noted that the Agency will not “routinely” request to see self-audit reports at the initiation of an inspection, and the Agency will not use self-audit reports as a means of identifying hazards upon which to focus during an inspection.

OSHA has also stated that where a voluntary self-audit identifies a hazardous condition, and the employer has corrected the condition prior to the inspection and taken appropriate steps to prevent recurrence, the Agency will refrain from issuing a citation, even if the violative condition existed within the six months limitations period during which OSHA is authorized to issue citations.

Keep in mind, OSHA has the right to take photographs during inspections. It is a good idea for employers to duplicate this effort. Employers must also remember that OSHA does have the right to photograph in confidential areas; in instances where there are trade secrets, OSHA has special privacy procedures to follow concerning maintaining the case file documentation.

As for videos, the same rules apply here as well. I remember during one fatality I was investigating; the CHSO informed me of his intent to videotape and he showed me the camera, how he would turn it on, the light indicating it was on, etc. He even told me that he would NOT record me or ask me any questions during the recording. It was merely to capture the worksite and equipment that was involved in the fatality. He made it a point to ensure I was comfortable - he even dispelled the myth that CHSOs would pretend they turned the camera off but kept secretly recording to gain evidence. That is NOT how they operate. I was there alone without an attorney, walking through a site where a 20-year employee of the company was killed - a sensitive and emotional time. CHSOs are highly trained, and more importantly, they are also human; they have empathy like anyone else. I was so impressed by the CHSO I have stayed in touch with him since then, and we have collaborated on Q&A from time to time.

Always correct hazards. Although you might not undergo an inspection, correcting daily hazards can prepare you for an unexpected visit. I have said it for years, your number one strategy for dealing with an OSHA inspection is three words: BE. IN. COMPLIANCE.

You'll have less reason to fear an OSHA inspection if you conduct self-inspections, looking for missing machine guards, blocked fire exits, unkept working areas, and fall hazards. Preparing your workplace for a compliance officer will depend on your ability to identify and correct known hazards consistently.

For each alleged violation found during the inspection, the compliance officer has discussed or will discuss the following with you: 

  • Nature of the violation
  • Possible abatement measures you may take to correct the violative condition
  • ƒPossible abatement dates you may be required to meet 
  • ƒAny penalties that the area director may issue

Do not interfere with employee interviews. Under the OSH Act, OSHA has the right to question employees privately. Supervisors, however, do have the right to legal counsel. Be careful that you do not appear to be coaching or intimidating the CHSO.

I always held a brief meeting with all employees with the CHSO present to introduce them and explain that the only expectation the company has is that the employees, should they be interviewed, are to be cooperative and professional and that their conversation is kept private and confidential. 

OSHA has six months from learning of a hazard to issue citations. Only the Area Director can issue citations. Once you get it, it will be certified mail, and the clock starts ticking at that point. I will explain it.

Post OSHA citations for three days or until the violation is corrected, whichever is longer. The citation must remain posted in a place where employees can see it, for three working days or until the violation is corrected, whichever is longer. (Saturdays, Sundays, and Federal holidays are not counted as working days.)

Pro Tip: Post it as close to the violation location as possible - in some cases, a public location will be acceptable. Like a bulletin board or inside a job trailer.

Exercise your right to an informal conference to discuss proposed citations. Employers may also contest citations before an independent review commission. Which has to be requested ASAP! I always tell employers, even if you are going to agree with the citations, always ask for the informal conference.

It is an excellent opportunity to show to OSHA that you are committed to improving workplace safety and can even negotiate an informal settlement agreement - which will always have some training requirements attached, so be prepared to invest in time and resources and not just expect to smile and get a good neighbor discount.

Pro Tip: The Area Director is authorized to reduce proposed penalties by up to 50% with an informal settlement agreement. I have negotiated many of these and even had some proposed citations vacated during these conferences after bringing evidence and arguing an interpretation of the standard - risky but we were right so it made sense to do it at the time.

Remember there are only 15-working days to file a proper notice of contest. This must be in writing. Which is why it is critical to get the informal conference going right away!

Do not retaliate against any worker for exercising their rights under the law. This is key - and if employee violations of company rules are at play, always ask OSHA about the retaliation rules if in doubt. But this may be needed as a result of any investigations.  

A pro Tip: Simulate inspections…

The best way to train is to simulate an inspection. Before an OSHA Compliance Officer visit, practice the procedures that will be taken when the officer arrives. Insurance underwriters can offer some assistance here - think about it, they will often inspect workplaces as a part of their coverage policy, so why not communicate to staff/employees that this is also a mock audit?

Ask the insurance rep for their agenda and add some activities that the CHSO may conduct. This might include, but not be limited to:

  • Instructing your front office personnel to practice greeting a
  • compliance officer in a polite manner.
  • Training staff to answer questions concisely.
  • Conducting mock interviews with employees.
  • Practicing what you'll discuss during the opening and closing conferences.

Chances are, an inspection will go smoothly if you prepare your facility by having documents ready, correcting hazards before the visit, and simulating the inspection. 

Taking these precautions won't eliminate the possibility of a citation, but the compliance officer might view your effort as "good faith," making it easier to manage any hiccups during the inspection, so put your fears to rest and prepare, prepare, prepare!

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Dec 05, 2018
052: Safety Incentives that Work

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Safety Incentives

OSHA has changed course in its view of employers' post-incident drug testing programs and injury rate-based incentive programs. In a Memorandum to Regional Administrators and State Designees published October 11, the Agency now says most of these types of programs do not run afoul of the anti-retaliation provisions of the injury and illness recordkeeping regulation at §1904.35(b)(1)(iv).

This is a massive shift in policy guidance from that published when the Agency issued the final rule in May 2016 requiring employers to submit injury and illness records electronically. As part of that rulemaking, OSHA added a provision that employers do not have any barriers for employees to report injuries or illnesses. The rule also said that employers could not discriminate or punish employees for being injured.

While the rule itself didn't address drug testing or incentive programs, policy guidance published along with it indicated that most post-incident drug testing programs would be in violation. The same thing was said about incentive programs that were tied to injury rates.

But now, OSHA says that many employers who implement safety incentive programs and/or conduct post-incident drug testing do so to promote workplace safety and health. Also, the Agency says evidence that the employer consistently enforces work rules (whether or not an injury or illness is reported) would demonstrate that the employer is serious about creating a culture of safety, not just the appearance of reducing rates. Thus, action taken under a safety incentive program or post-incident drug testing policy would only violate §1904.35(b)(1)(iv) if the employer took action to penalize an employee for reporting a work-related injury or illness rather than for the legitimate purpose of promoting workplace safety and health.

In the new policy, OSHA says that incentive programs can be an essential tool to promote workplace safety and health. One type of incentive program rewards workers for reporting near-misses or hazards and encourages involvement in a safety and health management system. "Positive action that is taken under this type of program," the Agency says, "is always permissible under §1904.35(b)(1)(iv)."

OSHA describes another type of incentive program that is rate-based and focuses on reducing the number of reported injuries and illnesses. These programs typically reward employees with a prize or bonus at the end of an injury-free month or evaluate managers based on their work unit's lack of injuries. The Agency says these rate-based incentive programs are also permissible under §1904.35(b)(1)(iv) "as long as they are not implemented in a manner that discourages reporting."

So, if an employer takes an adverse action against an employee under a rate-based incentive program, such as withholding a prize or bonus because of a reported injury, OSHA would not cite the employer under §1904.35(b)(1)(iv) as long as the employer has implemented adequate precautions to ensure that employees feel free to report an injury or illness.

What would be an “adequate precaution”?

OSHA says that a statement that employees are encouraged to report and will not face retaliation for reporting may not, by itself, be adequate to ensure that employees feel free to report, mainly when the consequence for reporting will be a lost opportunity to receive a substantial reward. However, an employer could avoid any inadvertent deterrent effects of a rate-based incentive program by taking positive steps to create a workplace culture that emphasizes safety, not just rates. For example, the Agency says that any inadvertent deterrent effect of a rate-based incentive program on employee reporting would likely be counterbalanced if the employer also implements elements such as:

  • An incentive program that rewards employees for identifying unsafe conditions in the workplace;
  • A training program for all employees to reinforce reporting rights and responsibilities and emphasizes the employer's non-retaliation policy;
  • A mechanism for accurately evaluating employees' willingness to report injuries and illnesses.

In addition, OSHA says that most instances of workplace drug testing are permissible under §1904.35(b)(1)(iv). Examples of permissible drug testing include:

  • Random drug testing.
  • Drug testing unrelated to the reporting of a work-related injury or illness.
  • Drug testing under state workers' compensation law.
  • Drug testing under other federal law, such as a U.S. Department of Transportation rule.
  • Drug testing to evaluate the root cause of a workplace incident that harmed or could have harmed employees. If the employer chooses to use drug testing to investigate the incident, the employer should test all employees whose conduct could have contributed to the incident, not just employees who reported injuries.

Listen to this episode for more information on how to set up your incentive program properly.

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Nov 20, 2018
051: How to Write an Effective Accident Report

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How to Write Effective Safety Accident Reports

With proper safety training and an air-tight safety program in your workplace, you won’t have to write too many incident reports. However, sometimes, things slip through the cracks, and it results in an incident or near-miss. When this happens, it’s not only mandated by OSHA to report it, but it can be imperative in future prevention of similar events.

The best way to go about reporting an incident is to fill out an incident report. The following steps will help you to write an effective incident report that covers all of the necessary elements needed for further action.

1. Respond promptly

You should begin to gather the details almost immediately after receiving news and becoming aware of the incident. Which will help you collect details that are fresh in the minds of those involved, and will help you be able to piece together the factors involved in the incident’s occurrence.

2. Gather all of the details and facts

Having all the facts is vital in being able to decipher what caused the incident and how it can be prevented in the future. It’s also necessary for business insurance purposes and to help make decisions in the final stages of analysis. Critical facts of the incident to include are:

  • The date and time it occurred
  • The specific location of the incident
  • All of those who were involved and their immediate supervisors
    • Names
    • Title of their position
    • The department of employees involved
    • Their immediate supervisor(s)
  • Names and accounts of those who witnessed the incident
  • The series of events that took place leading up to the incident
  • What the employee(s) involved were doing at the exact time of the incident
  • The environmental conditions of the location in which it occurred
    • For example, were the floors slippery? Was the area cluttered? Was there a lot of noise? Etc.
  • The circumstance or materials involved when it took place
    • For example, the tools, machinery, equipment, or PPE that was involved.
  • The specific injuries that were sustained to the involved parties, and what area of the body were affected
  • The treatment that was administered to the employees who were injured
  • Any damage to the equipment, materials, areas, etc.

Another resource that is beneficial for documenting events is to take pictures of where the incident took place. Note the conditions of the area and the scene(s) of the incident. If available, CCTV footage is another avenue of reviewing the chain of events that led to the incident.

3. Piece together the sequence of events

Piecing together the series of events will help determine which factors were involved and how they were involved at the time the incident occurred.

  • The details of the events leading up to the incident.
    • What specific actions the employee was doing before the incident
    • What materials, tools, equipment was involved
  • Determine what was involved in the incident.
    • What exactly happened to the employee
    • How they were injured
    • Why they were injured
  • Identify what happened after the incident.
    • What did the employee do after the incident
    • What kind of reaction did they have
    • How did they signal for help if they were able to
    • How was it discovered that the incident occurred

The details gathered above should be specific enough so that anyone reading the report can seamlessly create a story in their mind, and can, therefore, view the incident as a whole. It often helps to create a diagram to start to analyze the incident visually.

4. Analyze your findings of the incident

You can now begin to create an in-depth analysis of what caused the events, the factors involved, and ultimately answer the “why” of the incident. With the details you gathered, you should be able to speculate the following items:

  • The primary cause (Ex: a machine that wasn’t locked out released hazardous energy)
  • The secondary causes (Ex. an employee did not check to see if the machine was locked out before maintenance)
  • Additional factors (Ex. Employees haven’t received their refresher lockout tagout training)

 5. Formulate a preventative action plan

An incident report is useless without a plan to correct actions for future prevention. Every incident is a hard lesson that has yet to be learned or has been overlooked. The following items are examples of areas that may need correcting based on the facts surrounding the incident:

  • Adequate employee safety training
  • Sufficient and proper maintenance of machinery, equipment, workspace, etc.
  • Re-evaluating standard operating procedures regarding specific jobs, and re-assessing how they should be carried out
  • Identifying and conducting a job hazard analysis (JHA) to cover all risks associated with particular job tasks thoroughly and carrying out the necessary safety training.
  • Operational changes and adjustment that include more thorough safety measures, such as adding additional safety equipment, changing procedures, etc.

Bottom Line

A good incident report identifies the problem using in-depth analysis and research and offers a viable solution to that problem. A thorough, well-prepared report will accurately pinpoint what corrective action is necessary so that you may prevent future incidents and keep your team safe!

Reprinted with permission from Atlantic Training

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Nov 15, 2018
050: Electrical Safety-Related Work Practices

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Electrical Safety

OSHA's Safety-Related Work Practices standards for general industry are performance-oriented requirements that complement the existing electrical installation standards.

These work-practice standard include requirements for work performed on or near exposed energized and de-energized parts of electric equipment; use of electrical protective equipment; and the safe use of electric equipment.

These rules are intended to protect employees from the electrical hazards that they may be exposed to even though the equipment may comply with the installation requirements in, 1910 Subpart S (electrical). When employees are working with electric equipment, they must use safe work practices. Such safety-related work practices include keeping a prescribed distance from exposed energized lines, avoiding the use of electric equipment when the employee or the equipment is wet, and locking-out and tagging equipment which is de-energized for maintenance.

The training requirements apply to employees who face a risk of electric shock that is not reduced to a safe level by the electrical installation requirements of §1910.303 - §1910.308. Employees in the following occupations would typically face these risks and are required to be trained:

  • Blue-collar supervisors
  • Electrical and electronics engineers
  • Electrical and electronic equipment engineers
  • Electricians
  • Industrial machine operators
  • Material handling equipment operators
  • Mechanics and repairers
  • Painters
  • Riggers and roustabouts
  • Stationary engineers
  • Welders

Except for electricians and welders, workers in these groups do not need to be trained if their work or the work of those they supervise does not bring them close enough to exposed parts of electric circuits operating at 50 volts or more to ground for a hazard to exist.

Other employees who also may reasonably be expected to face the comparable risk of injury due to electric shock or other electrical hazards must also be trained.

These standards cover electrical safety-related work practices for both qualified persons (those who have training in avoiding the electrical hazards of working on or near exposed energized parts) and unqualified persons (those with little or no such training) working on, near, or with the following installation:

  • Premises Wiring. Installations of electric conductors and equipment within or on buildings or other structures, and on other premises such as yards, carnival, parking, and other lots, and industrial substations;
  • Wiring for Connections to Supply. Installations of conductors that connect to the supply of electricity; and
  • Other Wiring. Installations of other outside conductors on the premises.
  • Optical Fiber Cable. Installations of optical fiber cable where such installations are made along with electric conductors.

Other Covered Work By Unqualified Persons

The provisions of these standards also cover work performed by unqualified persons on, near, or with the following installations:

  • Generation, transmission, and distribution installations. Installations for the generation, control, transformation, transmission, and distribution of electric energy (including communication and metering) located in buildings used for such purposes or located outdoors.
  • Communication installations. Installations of communications equipment to the extent that the work is covered under OSHA standard §1910.268
  • Installations in vehicles. Installations in ships, watercraft, railway rolling stock, aircraft, or automotive vehicles other than mobile homes and recreational vehicles.
  • Railway installations. Installations of railways for generation, transformation, transmission, or distribution of power used exclusively for the operation of rolling stock or installations of the railway solely used for signaling and communication purposes.

IMPORTANT: Excluded Work by Qualified Persons

If a qualified person is performing work near one of the four types of installations listed above, and the work is not being done on or directly associated with the installation, then that work is covered under the Safety-Related Work Practices. 

Definitions you should know

Barrier: A physical obstruction that is intended to prevent contact with equipment or live parts or to prevent unauthorized access to a work area.

Deenergized: Free from any electrical connection to a source of potential difference and free from electrical charge; not having a potential different from that of the earth.

Disconnecting means: A device, or group of devices, or other means by which the conductors of a circuit can be disconnected from their source of supply.

Energized: Electrically connected to a source of potential difference.

Exposed: (As applied to live parts.) Capable of being inadvertently touched or approached nearer than a safe distance by a person. It is applied to parts not suitably guarded, isolated, or insulated.

Live parts: Energized conductive components.

Qualified person: One who has received training in and has demonstrated skills and knowledge in the construction and operation of electric equipment and installations and the hazards involved.

  • Note 1 to the definition of “qualified person”: Whether an employee is considered to be a “qualified person” will depend upon various circumstances in the workplace. For example, it is possible and, in fact, likely for an individual to be considered “qualified” concerning specific equipment in the workplace, but “unqualified” as to other equipment. (See 1910.332(b)(3) for training requirements that specifically apply to qualified persons.)
  • Note 2 “qualified person”: An employee who is undergoing on-the-job training and who, in the course of such training, has demonstrated an ability to perform duties safely, and who is under the direct supervision of a qualified person, is considered to be a qualified person for the performance of those duties.

 In general, the standard requires covered employers to:

  • Provide appropriate training to both qualified and unqualified employees.
  • Provide effective safety-related work practices to prevent electric shock.
  • Deenergize live (energized) parts (operating at 50 volts or more) before employees work on them.
  • Provide suitable safety-related work practices for employees working on energized parts.
  • Treat de-energized parts that have not been locked out or tagged out as energized parts.
  • Place a lock or a tag (or both, if at all possible) on parts of fixed electric equipment circuits which have been de-energized.
  • Maintain a written copy of the lockout/tagout procedures.
  • Determine safe procedures for de-energizing circuits and equipment.
  • Disconnect circuits and equipment from all electric energy sources.
  • Release stored electrical energy which may endanger personnel.
  • Block or relieve stored non-electrical energy in devices that could reenergize electric circuit parts.
  • Place a lock and tag on each disconnecting means used to de-energize circuits and equipment.
  • Attach a lock to prevent persons from operating the disconnecting means.
  • If a lock cannot be applied, a tag may be used without a lock.
  • Make sure a tag used without a lock is supplemented by at least one additional security measure that provides a level of protection equal to that of the use of a lock.
  • A lock may be used without a tag if only:
    • One piece of equipment is de-energized, and
    • The lockout period does not extend beyond the work shift, and
    • Employees exposed to the hazards of reenergizing the equipment understand this procedure.
  • Verify the de-energized condition of the equipment.
  • Have the lock and tag be removed by the employee who applied it, or if that employee is not at the worksite, by another person designated to do so.
  • Only allow qualified persons to work on electric circuit parts or equipment that has not been de-energized.
  • Deenergize and ground overhead lines or provide other protective measures before work is started.
  • Maintain the distances in 1910.333(c)(3)(i) when an unqualified person is working in a position near overhead lines.
  • Maintain the distances in 1910.333(c)(3)(ii) when a qualified person is working in a position near overhead lines.
  • Maintain the distances in 1910.333(c)(3)(iii) when operating any vehicle or mechanical equipment capable of having parts of its structure near energized overhead lines.
  • Provide necessary illumination for employees in confined spaces.
  • Provide necessary shields, barriers, or insulating materials so employees can avoid contact with exposed energized parts in confined or enclosed spaces.
  • Require portable ladders that could come into contact with exposed energized parts to have non-conductive side rails.
  • Prohibit the wearing of conductive jewelry and other items if the person might contact exposed energized parts.
  • Prohibit the performing of housekeeping duties around energized parts.
  • Allow only qualified persons to defeat an interlock temporarily.
  • Visually inspect portable cord- and plug-connected equipment and flexible cord sets (extension cords) before each use.
  • Take the defective portable cord and plug connected equipment and extension cords out of use.
  • Make sure flexible cords used with grounding-type equipment must have an equipment grounding conductor.
  • Prohibit employees from manually reenergizing a circuit de-energized by a circuit protective device until it has been determined the equipment and circuit can be safely energized.
  • Visually inspect test instruments and equipment before it is used; do not use defective equipment.
  • Use only test instruments and equipment that is rated for the circuits, equipment, and environment.
  • Provide employees the necessary PPE (and require its use) in areas where there are potential electrical hazards, including arc flash and blast.
  • Maintain PPE in a safe, reliable condition and inspect or test it periodically.
  • Require guarding be put in place when normally enclosed live parts are exposed for maintenance or repair.
  • Use safety signs, safety symbols, or accident tags as needed to warn employees about electrical hazards.
  • Use barricades in conjunction with safety signs when necessary.
  • Station attendants to warn of danger if signs and barricades are not enough.

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Oct 09, 2018
049: 8 Tips for Selecting Key Safety Performance Indicators

Mentioned in this episode:

How do you measure safety in your workplace to enhance performance and reduce employee downtime? There are several tested methods that Environmental, Health, and Safety (EHS) leaders use to reduce employee incidents and illnesses. Among the leading methods, which the Gensuite white paper discusses, are Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)–or leading and lagging indicators.

Leading indicators are pre-incident measurements, as opposed to lagging indicators, which are measurements collected after an incident occurs. For example, a slip and fall incident from stray construction materials is a lagging indicator because the incident has already occurred, but an inspection that notes the poor quality of the surrounding area and prevents a future slip and fall from taking place is a leading indicator. A key component of leading indicators is that they measure safety events or behaviors that precede incidents and have a predictive quality.

By measuring leading indicators including conditions, events and sequences that precede and lead up to accidents, these KPIs have value in predicting the arrival of an event and can provide the opportunity to introduce control measures to stop the event from happening.

Recently, many articles have stressed the importance of looking beyond lagging indicators, but then how can your organization learn from past incidents and track results? By combining incident measurement and training management software, your company or organization can adopt a holistic approach to reducing workplace incidents and meeting Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards.

Both leading and lagging indicators can be relevant to workplace safety and worth measuring. They present important aspects of an overall safety management system. We have to use all the tools available to us to create an environment that drives us to a zero-incident job site.

Selecting and Using the Right Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for Your Organization

Attempting to track complex data analytics and results, train employees and keep your team safe on your own can be dicult tasks to handle. Leading and lagging indicators can help reduce and prevent incidents. One way EHS leaders begin using KPIs is by selecting the appropriate sets for their organization.

Lagging Indicators

  • OSHA recordable injuries
  • OSHA citations
  • OSHA recordable-case rate
  • DART-case rate
  • Fatality rate
  • Worker compensation claims
  • Experience modification rate

Leading Indicators

  • Near misses (Note: this is still responding to something that already happened, just no consequences; might consider this lagging)
  • Behavioral observations
  • Training records
  • Department safety meetings
  • Employee-perception surveys
  • Trainee scores on post-training quizzes
  • Preventive-maintenance programs

When trying to pinpoint the indicator type essential for your organization–understand that both are essential. Leading indicators are like a car windshield, and lagging indicators are like the rearview mirror. You’ll certainly spend more time looking out the windshield to see what's coming–with leading indicators–than looking in your rearview mirror to see where you've been–with lagging indicators.

Look at your company and see how you can start moving forward–toward a culture of safety–rather than looking behind. Within the leading and lagging indicator types, there are eight important characteristics that KPIs should have. Ensure that you follow this guideline when selecting the ones important for your workplace.

1. Actionable–metrics that have measurable steps

2. Achievable–setting goals that are obtainable

3. Meaningful–obtaining information for continued tracking

4. Transparent–metrics that are clearly understandable

5. Easy–to communicate effectively

6. Valid–relevant to the organization’s objectives

7. Useful–metrics that are beneficial to the organization’s safety goals

8. Timely–distributing information that is still relevant to the organization

Once you select your set of indicators and follow the necessary characteristics, it's important to track how well they are working and be flexible if the set needs to be revised for consistent improvement.

Why Leading and Lagging Indicators Are Important: Rising OSHA Regulations & Safety Trends

Each year brings about new regulations and carries over existing regulations that companies must abide by. Thus, it’s important to stay on top of ever-evolving regulatory trends so you don’t risk non-compliance. Use the leading and lagging indicator system to help with the following key OSHA regulations and safety trends.

Overview of the Occupational Exposure to Crystalline Silica Rule

OSHA’s final rule aims to reduce the risk of lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease in America’s workers by limiting their exposure to respirable crystalline silica. The rule is comprised of two standards, one for Construction and one for General Industry and Maritime. Responsible employers have been protecting employees from the harmful substance for years, but now it’s becoming mandatory. Here are some of the rule requirements:

  • Reduces the permissible exposure limit for silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air
  • Requires employers to: use engineering controls to limit worker exposure; provide respirators when engineering controls cannot adequately limit exposure; develop a written exposure control plan, and train workers on silica risks and how to limit exposures
  • Provides medical exams to monitor highly exposed workers and gives them information about their lung health

Overview of OSHA Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses Rule

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports more than three million workers suffer from a workplace injury or illness every year. Currently, little or no information about worker injuries and illnesses is made public or available to OSHA. With this new rule, employers are required to submit a record of the injuries and illnesses to OSHA to help them with identifying hazards and fixing problems.

Here are the rule requirements:

  1. Establishments with 250 or more employees must *electronically submit injury and illness information from OSHA forms 300, 300A and 301 (300 & 301 starting in 2018)
  2. Establishments with 20-249 employees in high-risk industries must submit information from OSHA form 300A

Trend #1: Dealing with Workplace Stress

The National Institute of Occupational Safety And Health emphasizes that work-related stress disorders are expected to rise as the economy continues to undergo various shifts and impacts.

Therefore, companies should take steps to ensure that any current programs are robust enough to reduce the concerns associated with stress in the workplace, as well as implement any new programs that show an increased effectiveness at reducing the generation of stress.

Trend #2: Leveraging Risk Management

2017 saw a continued trend in developing internal risk management programs and systems, and 2018 into 2019 looks to be the year where many of these programs are leveraged for results across the company spectrum. In other words, sucient time has occurred for the internal development of risk management data and effectiveness that this can now be translated directly into specific areas of the business to further reduce inherent risk development within the company.

Trend #3: Increased Reliance on Predictive Analytics

A new trend becoming prominent in 2018 is an increased reliance on predictive analytics. Many companies have been developing risk management and mitigation data and using analytics to help derive sense from this mountain of information. 2019 looks to be the year where many of these are put into practice company-wide. In addition, the trend of emphasizing the use of these predictive analytics is expected to rise as much of this information is refined even further.

This should begin to show positive returns for companies that have been implementing this predictive technology as part of a risk management profile. However, there is still time to take advantage of these systems for those companies that have not implemented these types of analytics.

Trend #4: More Regulatory Changes

There are few that doubt that more regulatory and legislative changes are expected in 2018.

While many differences continue to grow between national policy and those enacted on the state and local level, few can predict what the specific changes will actually be. However, what is an almost certainty is that for companies, flexibility will be necessary in order to adapt to the new policies to come.

Models and Methods for Using Leading and Lagging Indicators: A Contextual and Visual Guide

Various proven, yet antiquated and manual, methods have been used for measuring KPIs, such as those discussed in the report, A Method for Modeling of KPIs Enabling Validation of Their Properties. The authors cover two techniques workplaces use to track KPIs.

The first model integrates the following attributes for tracking performance: indicator name, type, scale, source, owner and threshold. Though, it is not easy to find all of this information so EHS experts often rely on documentation, expert knowledge and previous conceptual models.

The second model used for KPI formalization is known as performance indicator expression. It is “a mathematical statement over a performance indicator evaluated to a numerical, qualitative”.

In other words, a given value for a time point, for the organization, unit or agent. The authors suggest specifying the required values of performance indicators as constraints coming from goals. The relations between performance indicators are modeled using predicates.

The third model used by EHS professionals and safety teams is known as the Heinrich Pyramid–a traditional way of tracking occupational illnesses and injuries.

The Heinrich Pyramid (also known as the Safety Triangle) quantifies the number of reported workplace incidents into four main categories: major injuries, severe accidents, first aid cases and near misses. Employee concern reports, safety observations and at-risk observations can also be added to the base of the triangle to incorporate leading indicators into the analysis.

This is a 1-10-30-600 model. For every 1 incident reported in the major injury category, severe accidents are 10 times as likely to happen. Also, for every 1 major injury, approximately 30 first aid cases, and 600 near misses.

When companies plug their own incidents into this model or pyramid, they can see if they have the corresponding model ratio, as described above, and if they have a significant amount of major and severe incidents. The premise for this model is that the more companies focus on reducing the numbers at the bottom of the pyramid, the more likely they are to reduce major safety incidents at the top.

The pyramid is inclusive of many types of injuries and incidents, but it doesn’t assist EHS professionals with narrowing down the data to the critical cases/accidents, root causes and solutions. For example, a site could have a series of cases that stem from ergonomic-related issues and spend significant amounts of time on root cause and trend analysis instead of the cases/accident that have a high potential to result in an employee fatality or significant property damage.

Critics of the Heinrich Pyramid also claim that “adhering to it can lead to an over-emphasis on worker behavior and not enough attention on health and safety management software systems.” No matter the flaws, there is always a solution to the system.

These methods are used to benefit companies’ safety success rates and business performance objectives. The methods can be adapted to any enterprise modeling approach. Companies can apply these measures of thinking into a conventional and modernized process by integrating EHS management software into their workplace as discovered in the following section.

A Gensuite Solution: Implementing Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) Into Your Workplace

To simplify and digitize the three models and methods discussed above, companies turn to compliance and management software systems such as Gensuite. Such systems enhance workplace safety performance by simplifying the tracking of leading and lagging indicators.

Utilize Gensuite EHS software tailored to measure KPIs and manage training compliance. Just a few of Gensuite’s specialized features of these tools include:

  • Framework for managing regulatory and program-specific training requirements.
  • Validate training effectiveness through course-specific e-quizzes
  • Incident investigation, root cause analysis, corrective and preventive action tracking
  • Integrate with occupational health, medical and computer systems for case tracking and program visibility

What makes this important right now? Why should your business invest? Other than avoiding everyday safety violations and reoccurring workplace injuries, investing will help you meet current and upcoming OSHA regulations. Here’s a look at customizable Gensuite applications.

Incidents & Measurements

The Gensuite Incidents & Measurements application can help you address the new regulation by enabling one-click generation of a site/business OSHA 300, 300A, and 301 forms. In addition, Gensuite joins ongoing discussions with subscribers and industry groups to meet with OSHA to talk through options for direct system integrations, thus removing the need for sites to manually generate logs and input them into OSHA’s website.

Other benefits of the Gensuite Incidents & Measurements application:

  • Tracking of hours worked and sites recordable rates
  • Monitoring site performance on a monthly/quarterly basis through auto-generated site metric reports
  • Instant system-generated email notifications upon entry/modification of incidents so site-leadership stays up-to-date

Training Compliance

The Gensuite Training Compliance suite can help you address both new OSHA regulations by keeping your employees up-to-date with OSHA’s mandatory training requirements. In addition, training employees prevent new and future injuries from occurring, so you don’t have to evaluate progress based on how many employees have been severely injured and how that number has improved. Prevent them from happening in the first place.

Other benefits of the Gensuite Training Compliance application:

  • Establish a framework for managing regulatory and program-specific training requirements,
  • Alert training leaders of new and transferred employees for training needs assessment
  • Integrate automatic updates from HR systems, offer multiple training instruction types to
  • Engage employees in classroom and e-learning training; integrated training calendar solution
  • for session scheduling, provide employees with access to a diverse library of pre-loaded
  • Training content licensed from leading providers such as RedVector®, SkillSoft®, PureSafety®
  • Validate training effectiveness through course-specific e-quizzes; log completions through
  • Online, bar-coding, Mobile & batch upload
  • Identify qualified employees by task based on training completion status

Look to Key Performance Indicators so your business can avoid safety violations and injuries.

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Sep 30, 2018
048: Wearable Tech for Safety

Wearable Technology for Safety

In this takeover podcast episode, I visited the offices of Gensuite to talk about wearable tech and the impact it has on safety. Hit the links in these show notes for more info on the cloud-based EHS software solutions Gensuite can provide for your business. Join the over 600,000 users that trust Gensuite with their compliance and EHS software needs.

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Sep 08, 2018
046: What Are Industry Consensus Standards?

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Workplace Safety Consensus Standards

Throughout OSHA regulations, you will find references to industry consensus standards such as those in Subpart I - Personal Protective Equipment. These PPE regulations refer to ANSI standards as the safety criteria manufacturers must meet when producing eye, face, head, and foot protective equipment. OSHA requires employers to purchase personal protective equipment that bears the ANSI mark to ensure that the equipment provides the maximum protection for the wearers.

OSHA does not include industry consensus standards in the regulations; rather, it refers employers to various consensus standards as the safety procedures and specifications that must be met in the workplace. This referral procedure is called "incorporation by reference."

Incorporation by reference was established by statute and allows Federal agencies to meet the requirement to publish regulations in the Federal Register by referring to materials already published elsewhere. The legal effect is that the material is treated as if it were published in full in the Federal Register and, like any other properly issued regulation, has the force of law.

In some cases, OSHA may not incorporate by reference a particular industry standard, but it may hold employers to that industry-standard under the General Duty Clause of the OSH Act, recognizing that the industry-standard contains best practices the employer should use. For instance, ANSI/ISEA Z308.1, Minimum Requirements for Workplace First Aid Kits an Supplies, has not been adopted by OSHA. However, ANSI/ISEA Z308.1 provides detailed information regarding the contents and types of various first aid kits; OSHA has often referred employers to ANSI/ISEA Z308.1 as a source of guidance for the minimum requirements for first aid kits.

Where an OSHA standard incorporates an old consensus standard, what is the significance of an updated industry consensus standard?

Under OSHA's de minimis policy, where OSHA has adopted an earlier consensus standard, employers who are in compliance with the updated version will not be cited for a violation of the old version as long as the new one is at least equally protective.

Remember, though, that where an OSHA standard incorporates an earlier consensus standard, the only way the OSHA standard can be changed to adopt the new version is through rulemaking. For example, OSHA’s aerial lift standard references ANSI A92.2-1969. Even though ANSI A92.2 has been revised, the OSHA aerial lift standard continues to require only compliance with the 1969 standard. There is no automatic adoption of the more current industry consensus standard.

Industry consensus standards are just that, a voluntary standardization system for private industry. They set conformity and uniformity criteria for the development and manufacture of a great volume of products. These criteria are developed by committees of qualified representatives from industry, labor, and government agencies. In many instances, U.S. consensus standards are adopted in whole or in part as international standards.

Some organizations that publish consensus standards include:

  • American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists;
  • American Society of Agricultural Engineers;
  • American National Standards Institute;
  • American Petroleum Institute;
  • American Society of Mechanical Engineers;
  • American Welding Society;
  • Compressed Gas Association;
  • National Fire Protection Association; and
  • Society of Automotive Engineers.

Copies of the consensus standards may be purchased from the organization that issues them. OSHA’s Docket Office and each regional office also maintain copies of the standards referenced in the regulations. These standards are available for public review at those offices.

What is NIOSH?

NIOSH, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, is an agency separate from OSHA. NIOSH is part of the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIOSH, also established by the OSH Act, is the research agency for occupational safety and health.

What is ANSI?

According to their website; As the voice of the U.S. standards and conformity assessment system, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) empowers its members and constituents to strengthen the U.S. marketplace position in the global economy while helping to assure the safety and health of consumers and the protection of the environment.

The Institute oversees the creation, promulgation and use of thousands of norms and guidelines that directly impact businesses in nearly every sector: from acoustical devices to construction equipment, from dairy and livestock production to energy distribution, and many more. ANSI is also actively engaged in accreditation - assessing the competence of organizations determining conformance to standards.

And there you have it; a quick run-down on national consensus standards. Let me know what you think; send emails to

You can find me on LinkedIn! Post a LinkedIn update, letting me know what you think of the podcast. Be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Jul 21, 2018
047: Machine Guarding Safety in 5 Easy Steps

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Machine Guarding Safety

In almost all industries, we may work with or around machinery. Moving machine parts have the potential to cause severe workplace injuries, such as crushed fingers or hands, amputations, burns, or blindness. Safeguards are essential for protecting workers from these preventable injuries. Any machine part, function, or process that may cause injury must be safeguarded. When the operation of a machine or accidental contact could injure the operator or others in the vicinity, the hazards must be eliminated or controlled.

OSHA’s machine guarding standards apply to employers having employees exposed to dangerous moving parts.

29 CFR 1910.212General requirements for all machinery. This is OSHA’s general requirement for all machinery. It is a catch-all standard (like the General Duty Clause) requiring employers to protect employees from dangerous moving parts and to guard points of operation. OSHA also has some machine-specific standards, which you may need to know: 

29 CFR 1910.213Woodworking machinery

29 CFR 1910.215Abrasive wheel machinery

29 CFR 1910.216Mills and calendars in the rubber and plastics industries

29 CFR 1910.217Mechanical power presses

29 CFR 1910.218Forging machinery

29 CFR 1910.219Mechanical power transmission apparatus

Definitions you should know...

  • Fixed guard: A fixed guard is a permanent part of the machine. It is not dependent upon moving parts to function. It may be constructed of sheet metal, screen, wire cloth, bars, plastic, or any other material that is substantial enough to withstand whatever impact it may receive and to endure prolonged use. This guard is usually preferable to all other types because of its relative simplicity.
  • Interlock: When this type of guard is opened or removed, the tripping mechanism and/or power automatically shuts off or disengages, the moving parts of the machine are stopped, and the machine cannot cycle or be started until the guard is back in place. An interlocked guard may use electrical. mechanical, hydraulic, or pneumatic power or any combination of these. Interlocks should not prevent “inching” by remote control if required. Replacing the guard should not automatically restart the machine. To be effective, all removable guards should be interlocked to prevent occupational hazards.
  • Photoelectric (light) device: The photoelectric (optical) presence-sensing device uses a system of light sources and controls which can interrupt the machine’s operating cycle. If the light field is broken, the machine stops and will not cycle. This device must be used only on machines which can be stopped before the worker can reach the danger area. The design and placement of the guard depend upon the time it takes to stop the machine and the speed at which the employee’s hand can reach across the distance from the guard to the danger zone.
  • Point of operation: The point of equipment at which work, such as cutting, boring, or bending, is performed. With a few exceptions, the point of operation must be guarded.
  • Power transmission apparatus/device: The power transmission apparatus is all components of the mechanical system which transmit energy to the part of the machine performing the work. These components include flywheels, pulleys, belts, connecting rods, couplings, cams, spindles, chains, cranks, and gears.
  • Pullback: Pullback devices utilize a series of cables attached to the operator’s hands, wrists, and/or arms. This type of device is primarily used on machines with stroking action. When the slide/ram is up between cycles, the operator is allowed access to the point of operation. When the slide/ram begins to cycle by starting its descent, a mechanical linkage automatically assures withdrawal of the hands from the point of operation.
  • Restraint: The restraint (hold-back) device utilizes cables or straps that are attached to the operator’s hands and a fixed point. The cables or straps must be adjusted to let the operator’s hands travel within a predetermined safe area. There is no extending or retracting action involved. Consequently, hand-feeding tools are often necessary if the operation involves placing material into the danger area.
  • Self-adjusting guard: The openings of these barriers are determined by the movement of the stock. As the operator moves the stock into the danger area, the guard is pushed away, providing an opening which is only large enough to admit the stock. After the stock is removed, the guard returns to the rest position. This guard protects the operator by placing a barrier between the danger area and the operator. The guards may be constructed of plastic, metal, or other substantial material. Self-adjusting guards offer different degrees of protection.
  • Two-hand control: The two-hand control requires constant, concurrent pressure by the operator to activate the machine. This kind of control requires a part-revolution clutch, brake, and a brake monitor if used on a power press. With this type of device, the operator’s hands are required to be at a safe location (on control buttons) and at a safe distance from the danger area while the machine completes its closing cycle.
  • Two-hand trip: The two-hand trip requires the concurrent application of both the operator’s control buttons to activate the machine cycle, after which the hands are free. This device is usually used with machines equipped with full-revolution clutches. The trips must be placed far enough from the point of operation to make it impossible for the operator to move his or her hands from the trip buttons or handles into the point of operation before the first half of the cycle is completed. The distance from the trip button depends upon the speed of the cycle and the band speed constant. Thus the operator’s hands are kept far enough away to prevent them from being placed in the danger area prior to the slide/ram or blade reaching the full “down” position. To be effective, both two-hand controls and trips must be located so that the operator cannot use two hands or one hand and another part of his/her body to trip the machine.

In general, you can use the following 5 steps to ensure safe machine operation in your workplace:

  1. Determine the types of machinery in the workplace. Then, determine if there is a machine-specific standard (e.g., 1910.213-.219), or if the equipment is covered under the “catch-all” guarding requirement of 1910.212. Follow the applicable standard.
  2. Provide one or more methods of machine guarding to protect the operator and other employees in the machine area from hazards such as those created by point of operation, ingoing nip points, rotating parts, flying chips, and sparks. Note: Some of the machine-specific standards prescribe specific safeguarding measures.
  3. Ensure the point of operation of machines is guarded.
  4. Ensure the necessary guards are affixed and secured.
  5. Anchor machines designed for a fixed location to prevent walking or moving.

These basic steps will cover almost all of your machine guarding needs. Let me know what you think, send emails to

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Jul 14, 2018
045: 10 Steps to Improve Driver Safety

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10 Steps to Driver Safety

Mentioned in this episode:


The National Safety Council

The NSC Safe Driving Kit

Preliminary estimates from the National Safety Council indicate motor vehicle deaths dipped slightly – 1% – in 2017, claiming 40,100 lives versus the 2016 total of 40,327. The small decline is not necessarily an indication of progress, as much as a leveling off of the steepest two-year increase in more than 50 years. 

The 2017 assessment is 6% higher than the number of deaths in 2015. If the estimate holds, it will be the second consecutive year that motor vehicle deaths topped 40,000.

About 4.57 million people were injured severely enough to require medical attention in motor vehicle crashes in 2017, and costs to society totaled $413.8 billion. Both figures are about 1% lower than 2016 calculations.

So what can we do about all of this? A driver safety program should keep the driver safe, as well as others who share the road. If necessary, the program must work to change driver attitudes, improve behavior, and increase skills to build a “be safe” culture. By instructing your employees in basic safe driving practices and then rewarding safety-conscious behavior, you can help your employees, and their families avoid tragedy.

Do current prevention efforts address the problem? 

• Nearly all legislation focuses on banning only handheld phones or only texting while driving. 

• All state laws and many employer policies allow hands-free cell phone use. 

• Public opinion polls show people recognize the risks of talking on handheld phones and texting more than they realize the risks of hands-free phones.

• Many drivers mistakenly believe talking on a hands-free cell phone is safer than handheld.

A hands-free device most often is a headset that communicates via wired or wireless with a phone, or a factory-installed or aftermarket feature built into vehicles that often includes voice recognition. Many hands-free devices allow voice-activated dialing and operation. 

Hands-free devices often are seen as a solution to the risks of driver distraction because they help eliminate two obvious risks – visual, looking away from the road and manual, removing your hands off of the steering wheel. However, the third type of distraction can occur when using cell phones while driving – cognitive, taking your mind off the road. 

Hands-free devices do not eliminate cognitive distraction. 

The amount of exposure to each risk is vital. Crashes are a function of the severity of each risk and how often the risk occurs. Most people can recognize when they are visually or mechanically distracted and seek to disengage from these activities as quickly as possible. However, people typically do not realize when they are cognitively distracted, such as taking part in a phone conversation; therefore, the risk lasts much, much longer. This likely explains why researchers have not been able to find a safety benefit to hands-free phone conversations. 

The National Safety Council has compiled more than 30 research studies and reports by scientists around the world that used a variety of research methods, to compare driver performance with handheld and hands-free phones. All of these studies show hands-free phones offer no safety benefit when driving.

Conversation occurs on both handheld and hands-free phones. The cognitive distraction from paying attention to a conversation – from listening and responding to a disembodied voice – contributes to numerous driving impairments. Specific driving risks are discussed in detail later in this paper. First, let us look at why hands-free and handheld cell phone conversations can impair your driving ability. 

Multitasking is a myth. Human brains do not perform two tasks at the same time. Instead, the brain handles tasks sequentially, switching between one task and another. Brains can juggle tasks very rapidly, which leads us to erroneously believe we are doing two tasks at the same time. In reality, the brain is switching attention between tasks – performing only one task at a time.

The brain not only juggles tasks, but it also juggles focus and attention. When people attempt to perform two cognitively complex tasks such as driving and talking on a phone, the brain shifts its focus (people develop “inattention blindness”). Important information falls out of view and is not processed by the brain. For example, drivers may not see a red light. Because this is a process people are not aware of, people can't realize they are mentally taking on too much. 

Brain researchers have identified “reaction-time switching costs,” which is a measurable time when the brain is switching its attention and focus from one task to another. Research studying the impact of talking on cell phones while driving has identified slowed reaction time to potential hazards are tangible, measurable, and risky. Longer reaction time is an outcome of the brain switching focus, which impacts driving performance. 

The cost of switching could be a few tenths of a second per switch. When the brain repeatedly switches between tasks, these costs add up. 

Even small amounts of time spent switching can lead to significant risks from delayed reaction and braking time. For example, if a vehicle is traveling 40 mph, it goes 120 feet before stopping, which equals eight car lengths (an average car length is 15 feet). A fraction-of-a-second delay would make the car travel several additional car lengths. When a driver needs to react immediately, there is no margin for error. 

Brains may face a “bottleneck” in which different regions of the brain must pull from a shared and limited resource for seemingly unrelated tasks, constraining the mental resources available for the tasks.

Research has identified that even when different cognitive tasks draw on two different regions of the brain, we still can have performance problems when trying to do dual tasks at the same time, which may help explain why talking on cell phones could affect what a driver sees: two usually unrelated activities become interrelated when a person is behind the wheel. These tasks compete for our brain’s information processing resources. There are limits to our mental workload.

The workload of information processing can bring risks when unexpected driving hazards arise.31 Under most driving conditions, drivers are performing well-practiced, automatic driving tasks.

For example, without thinking about it much, drivers slow down when they see yellow or red lights and activate turn signals when intending to make a turn or lane change. These are automatic tasks for experienced drivers. Staying within a lane, noting the speed limit and navigation signs, and checking rear- and side-view mirrors also are automated tasks for most experienced drivers. People can do these driving tasks safely with an average cognitive workload.

During the vast majority of road trips, nothing terrible happens, as it should be. But that also can lead people to feel a false sense of security or competency when driving. Drivers may believe they can safely multitask; however, a driver always must be prepared to respond to the unexpected.

The industrial ergonomics field has been able to identify physical workload limits and, in the same way, the workload limits of our brains now are being defined. The challenge to the general public is the bottlenecks and limits of the brain are more difficult to feel and see than physical limits. 

Multitasking Impairs Performance 

We can safely walk while chewing gum in a city crowded with motor vehicles and other hazards. That is because one of those tasks – chewing gum – is not a cognitively demanding task. 

When chewing gum and talking, people still can visually scan the environment for potential hazards.

People do not perform as well when trying to perform two attention-demanding tasks at the same time. 32 Research shows that even pedestrians don’t effectively monitor their environment for safety while talking on cell phones. 33-35 The challenge is managing two tasks demanding our cognitive attention.  

Indeed, most would agree that driving a vehicle involves a more complex set of tasks than walking. 

What are primary and secondary tasks? What happens when people switch attention between them? 

When people perform two tasks at the same time, one is a primary task and the other a secondary task. One task gets full focus (primary) and the other moves to a back burner (secondary). People can move back and forth between primary and secondary tasks. 

The American National Standards Institute publication ANSI Z15.1, Safe Practices for Motor Vehicle Operations, offers guidelines and best practices for motor vehicle safety programs. Also, the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS) assisted in developing a 10-step program.

NETS 10-step program to minimize crash risk

The Program provides guidelines for what an employer can do to improve traffic safety performance and reduce the risk of motor vehicle crashes. Following these steps helps to ensure that you hire capable drivers, only allow eligible drivers to drive on company business, and maintain company vehicles properly. Adherence to these ten steps can also help to keep your motor vehicle insurance costs as low as possible. These steps are from the NETS Traffic Safety Primer: A Guidebook for Employers.

Step 1: Senior management commitment and employee involvement

Senior management can provide leadership, set policies, and allocate resources (staff and budget) to create a safety culture. Actively encouraging employee participation and involvement at all levels of the organization is a good practice and will help the effort to succeed. Workers and their representatives must be involved in the initial planning phase.

Step 2: Written policies and procedures

A written statement emphasizing the commitment to reducing traffic-related deaths and injuries is essential to a successful program. Create a clear, comprehensive, and enforceable set of traffic safety policies and communicate them to all employees. Post them throughout the workplace, distribute copies periodically, and discuss the policies at company meetings. Offer incentives for sticking to the rules, and point out the consequences of disregarding them.

Step 3: Driver agreements

Establish a contract with all employees who drive for work purposes, whether they drive assigned company vehicles or personal vehicles. By signing an agreement, the driver acknowledges awareness and understanding of the organization’s traffic safety policies, procedures, and expectations regarding driver performance, vehicle maintenance, and reporting of moving violations.

Step 4: Motor vehicle record (MVR) checks

Check the driving records of all employees who drive for work purposes. Screen out drivers who have poor driving records since they are most likely to cause problems in the future. Periodically review the MVR to ensure that the driver maintains a good driving record. Clearly define the number of violations an employee/driver can have before losing the privilege of driving for work, and provide training where indicated.

Step 5: Crash reporting and investigation

Establish and enforce a crash reporting and investigation process. All crashes, regardless of severity, should be reported to the employee’s supervisor as soon as feasible after the incident. Company policies and procedures should guide drivers through their responsibilities in a crash situation. Review all crashes to determine their cause and whether or not the incidents were preventable. Understanding the root causes of crashes and why they are happening, regardless of fault, forms the basis for eliminating them in the future.

Step 6: Vehicle selection, maintenance, and inspection

Properly maintaining and routinely inspecting company vehicles is an essential part of preventing crashes and related losses. Review the safety features of all vehicles to be considered for use. Choose vehicles that demonstrate “best in class” status for crashworthiness and overall safety.

Regular maintenance preventive maintenance should be done at specific mileage intervals consistent with the manufacturer’s recommendations. A mechanic should do a thorough inspection of each vehicle at least annually with documented results placed in the vehicle’s file.

Personal vehicles used for company business are not necessarily subject to the same criteria and are generally the responsibility of the owner. However, personal vehicles used on company business should be maintained in a manner that provides the employee with maximum safety and reflects positively on the company.

Step 7: Disciplinary action system

Develop a strategy to determine the course of action after a moving violation and/or “preventable” crash. The system should provide for progressive discipline if a driver begins to develop a pattern of repeated traffic violations and/or preventable crashes. The system should describe what specific action(s) will be taken if a driver accumulates a certain number of violations or preventable crashes in any pre-defined period.

Step 8: Reward/incentive program

Develop and implement a driver reward/incentive program to make safe driving an integral part of your business culture. Safe driving behaviors contribute directly to the bottom line and should be recognized as such. Incorporate driving performance into the overall evaluation of job performance. Reward and incentive programs typically involve recognition, monetary rewards, special privileges, or other incentives to motivate positive behaviors.

Step 9: Driver training/communication

Provide continuous driver safety training and communication. Even experienced drivers benefit from periodic training and reminders of safe driving practices and skills. It is easy to become complacent and not think about the consequences of poor driving habits.

Step 10: Regulatory compliance

Ensure adherence to highway safety regulations. It is essential to establish which, if any, local, state, and/or Federal Regulations govern your vehicles and/or drivers. These regulations may involve, but may not necessarily be limited to the:

  • Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
  • U.S. Department of Transportation
  • National Highway Transportation Safety Administration
  • Federal Highway Administration
  • Employment Standards Administration

Promote safe driving practices

The safety issues described below should be addressed in an employee awareness and training program.

Secure materials for transport: Tools or equipment should be secured while being transported to prevent unsafe movement. During a crash or when making sudden maneuvers, loose objects can slide around or become airborne, injuring the driver or passengers. Objects that could become a hazard should be secured or stored outside the passenger compartment.

Seat belt use: Seat belts are the single most effective means of reducing deaths and severe injuries in traffic crashes.

Alcohol and drug-impaired driving: It is estimated that three in every 10 Americans will be involved in an impaired driving-related crash sometime in their life. Alcohol, certain prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, and illegal drugs can all affect a person’s ability to drive safely due to decreased alertness, concentration, coordination, and reaction time.

Fatigued driving: Fatigued or drowsy driving may be involved in more than 100,000 crashes each year, resulting in 40,000 injuries and 1,550 deaths. Employees should be well-rested, alert, and sober on the road, so they are in a position to defend themselves from drivers who do not make the same choice. Train employees to make smart decisions when they’re behind the wheel, on and off the job.

Aggressive driving: Employees commuting to and from work or traveling for work often get caught up in bottlenecks and traffic delays, wasting their time, and reducing their productivity. These situations create frustration that can spark aggressive driving behavior. Aggressive driving acts include excessive speed, tailgating, failure to signal a lane change, running a red light, and passing on the right. The best advice is to avoid engaging in conflict with other drivers and to allow others to merge.

Young drivers: Under Federal law, 16-year-old workers are prohibited from driving as part of their job, and 17-year-olds may drive for work only under strictly limited circumstances. Some state laws may be more restrictive than federal laws. For more information on child labor laws, visit, or

Be sure to check out the National Safety Council and get their FREE online Safe Driving Kit HERE.

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Jul 03, 2018
044: Safety, Security and Workplace Violence - What's your policy?

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Workplace Violence and Safety Security


Because workplace violence is a growing problem at workplaces across America, it is good for a company to develop its own company-specific worksite violence policy and procedures manual.

There is evidence that suggests worksite violence is largely preventable through the development and implementation of a specific policy and procedures. To be effective, company policy and procedures must discourage all types of worksite violence. They must also encourage employees to come forward in the event they are victims of, or witnesses to, any prohibited behavior. Additionally, whatever disciplinary action is deemed appropriate for policy violations, it must be handed out impartially and consistently. This will send a clear message that threats and other violent acts will not be tolerated by your company.

When developing your company’s policy and procedures, it is important to remember that employees are not likely to adhere to something they don’t understand. To prevent this from happening, refrain from using legal jargon, or referencing other documents that employees may not be familiar with. Also, resist the urge to adopt any model or sample policy and procedures without first modifying them to address the specific needs of your company. Once you have a draft document prepared, you may find it helpful to solicit employee feedback regarding its clarity and completeness.

A final point to keep in mind is that policies and procedures should not be forgotten once they have been published. Make plans to review them on a regular basis, and to update them to reflect changing roles and conditions. Also, encourage employees to provide suggestions for ways they can be improved.

At a minimum, your company’s workplace violence policy and procedures should include:

  • A statement that your company will not tolerate workplace violence of any kind.
  • A description of prohibited behaviors and actions.
  • Detailed procedures for reporting and investigating alleged instances of such behavior.
  • Measures which will be taken to ensure confidentiality.
  • Reassurance that retaliation for reporting an incident will not go unpunished.
  • Disciplinary action that will be imposed for engaging in prohibited behavior, as well as for retaliating against another employee.
  • Efforts that will be made to communicate company policy.
  • Methods that will be used to monitor workplace security.

To be effective, policies and procedures must be:

  • Appropriate for the workplace.
  • Easily understood by all employees.
  • Revised as necessary to address changing conditions.
  • Reviewed with employees on a regular basis.

You can find me on LinkedIn! Post a LinkedIn update letting me know what you think of the podcast. Be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

Jun 07, 2018
043: Workplace Safety Postings

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OSHA Workplace Safety Poster

NERD ALERT! This episode covers all those little posters and postings that have to be displayed in the workplace. Most public and private employers fall under at least some posting requirements under federal, state, and/or local government laws, regulations, and/or executive orders. These workplace posters (also known as labor law posters or notices) are generally meant to make employees aware of their rights under certain laws or executive orders, or otherwise, impart information about the employer and/or the law or executive order.

Employers need to be aware of the posting requirements that apply to them, as not having the appropriate information posted for employees may result in citations and fines. Some of these posting requirements have penalties associated with them for noncompliance. Failure to post federal employment law posters can potentially result in fines of over $32,000.

In addition, it is important to be in compliance with posting regulations because the posters can help an employer prove that it has made employees aware of their rights under the law. Courts have ruled that failing to display a poster can extend the amount of time an employee has to sue for damages.

The posters that a private or public employer needs to display will depend on its location, the number of employees who work for the employer, the industry type, and/or the contracts under which it performs work. The scope and applicability are specified in the posting law, regulation, or executive order.

The federal government enforces workplace posters under the following regulations and executive orders (I only cover a few in the episode):

8 CFR 214 — Nonimmigrant classes

9 CFR 381 — Poultry products inspection regulations

20 CFR 655 — Temporary employment of foreign workers in the United States

20 CFR 658 — Administrative provisions governing the job service system

20 CFR 1002 — Regulations under the uniformed services employment and reemployment rights act of 1994

23 CFR 635 — Construction and maintenance

29 CFR 4 — Labor standards for federal service contracts

29 CFR 5 — Labor standards provisions applicable to contracts covering federally financed and assisted construction (also Labor standards provisions applicable to nonconstruction contracts subject to the contract work hours and safety standards act)

29 CFR 10 — Establishing a minimum wage for contractors

29 CFR 13 — Establishing paid sick leave for federal contractors

29 CFR 24 — Procedures for the handling of retaliation complaints under the employee protection provisions of six environmental statutes and section 211 of the energy reorganization act of 1974, as amended

29 CFR 471 — Obligations of federal contractors and subcontractors; Notification of employee rights under federal labor laws

29 CFR 500 — Migrant and seasonal agricultural worker protection

29 CFR 501 — Enforcement of contractual obligations for temporary alien agricultural workers admitted under section 218 of the immigration and nationality act

29 CFR 516 — Records to be kept by employees

29 CFR 525 — Employment of workers with disabilities under special certificates

29 CFR 801 — Application of the employee polygraph protection act of 1988

29 CFR 825 — The family and medical leave act of 1993

29 CFR 1601 — Procedural regulations

29 CFR 1627 — Records to be made or kept relating to age notices to be posted

29 CFR 1635 — Genetic information nondiscrimination act of 2008

29 CFR 1903 — Inspections, citations, and proposed penalties

29 CFR 1904 — Recording and reporting occupational injuries and illnesses

29 CFR 1960 — Basic program elements for federal employee occupational safety and health programs and related matters

41 CFR 60-1 — Obligations of contractors and subcontractors

Executive Order 13495 — Nondisplacement of qualified workers under service contracts

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May 20, 2018
042: 7 Ways to Prevent Ergonomics Injuries

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7 Ways to Prevent Ergonomic Injuries

What is an ergonomic injury?

Opinions vary on how to define an ergonomics injury, and the definition of the term may depend on the context. However, ergonomic injuries are often described by the term “musculoskeletal disorders” or “MSDs.” This is the term that refers collectively to a group of injuries and illnesses that affect the musculoskeletal system.

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) include a group of conditions that involve the nerves, tendons, muscles, and supporting structures (such as intervertebral discs). They represent a wide range of disorders, which can differ in severity from mild periodic conditions to those which are severe, chronic and debilitating. Some musculoskeletal disorders have specific diagnostic criteria and clear pathological mechanisms (like hand/arm vibration syndrome). Others are defined primarily by the location of pain and have a more variable or less clearly defined pathophysiology (like back disorders). Musculoskeletal disorders of the upper extremities include carpal tunnel syndrome, wrist tendonitis, epicondylitis, and rotator cuff tendonitis. Both non-occupational and occupational factors contribute to the development and exacerbation of these disorders.

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome,
  • Tendinitis,
  • Rotator cuff injuries (affects the shoulder),
  • Epicondylitis (affects the elbow),
  • Trigger finger, and
  • Muscle strains and low back injuries.

There is no single diagnosis for MSDs.

As OSHA continues to develop ergonomics-related guidance material for specific industries, the agency may narrow the definition as appropriate to address the specific workplace hazards covered. OSHA says it will work closely with stakeholders to develop definitions for MSDs as part of its overall effort to develop guidance materials.

Musculoskeletal disorders

Lower back disorders
The research into MSDs supports a relationship between the development of lower back disorders and each of the following workplace risk factors:

1. lifting and forceful movements,
2. bending and twisting in awkward postures, and
3. whole-body vibration.

Disorders of the neck and shoulders
For disorders of the neck and neck/shoulder region, the research identifies two important workplace factors:

  1. sustained postures causing static contractions of the neck and shoulder muscles (for example, working overhead in automobile assembly or in construction), and
  2. combinations of highly repetitive and forceful work involving the arm and hand, which also affect the musculature of the shoulder and neck region.

Disorders of the hand, wrist, and elbow

There are several conditions to consider within the hand and wrist region. Combined work factors of forceful and repetitive use of the hands and wrists are associated with carpal tunnel syndrome. Vibration from hand tools like chainsaws (those that do not have vibration controlling mechanisms) also contributes to carpal tunnel syndrome.

Vibrating tool use has also been strongly linked to hand and arm vibration syndrome, a separate condition of the hand and wrist that affects the nerve and blood vessels.

Carpal tunnel syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a cumulative trauma disorder (CTD) affecting the hands and wrists. CTS is the compression and entrapment of the median nerve where it passes through the wrist into the hand in the carpal tunnel.

The median nerve is the main nerve that extends down the arm to the hand and provides the sense of touch in the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and half of the fourth, or ring, finger.

When irritated, tendons housed inside the narrow carpal tunnel swell and press against the nearby median nerve. The pressure causes tingling, numbness, or severe pain in the wrist and hand. The pain is often experienced at night. The pressure also results in a lack of strength in the hand and an inability to make a fist, hold objects, or perform other manual tasks. If the pressure continues, it can damage the nerve, causing permanent loss of sensation and even partial paralysis.

CTS develops in the hands and wrists when repetitive or forceful manual tasks are performed over a period of time. For example, the meatpacking industry is considered one of the most hazardous industries in the United States because workers can make as many as 10,000 repetitive motions per day in assembly line processes, such as deboning meats, with no variation in motion Consequently, stress and strain placed on the wrists and hands often results in CTS.

Today, more than half of all U.S. workers are susceptible to developing CTS. Anyone whose job demands a lot of repetitive wrists, hand, and arm motion, which need not always be forceful or strenuous, might be a potential victim of CTS. CTS is common among meat and poultry workers, letter sorters, carpenters, garment workers, upholstery workers, shoe and boot makers, electronic and other assemblers, packers, product inspectors, machine operators, computer/keyboard operators, and cashiers.

Since the early 1980s, CTS has been reported widely among many service-sector employees, including office workers and newspaper and news service employees who use video display terminals (VDTs). CTS, among other health effects, is becoming a growing problem among VDT users because of the numerous repetitive motions of keystroking data into the computer over long periods.

Compounding problems is the fact that employees are often unaware of the causes of CTS and what to do about them. Initially, the person may have fatigue and pain that develops during the workday and disappears overnight with no physical symptoms. After a length of time, fatigue and pain develop earlier in the day, some physical symptoms such as clumsiness may occur, which affect work performance, and there may be no overnight recovery. When the case becomes full-blown, there is constant fatigue and pain with no overnight recovery, and disturbed sleep results.

At this point, work performance is inhibited to the extent of requiring off-duty time or light/restricted duty. Often victims do not associate their pain with their work because symptoms may only occur during evening or off-duty hours. When workers finally seek medical help, they may be given the wrong diagnosis and find the road to recovery takes more time and money than had been anticipated.

Length and intensity of exposure

The research indicates that the greater the level of exposure to a single risk factor or combination of factors, the greater the risk of having a work-related musculoskeletal disorder. An additional important factor is a time between each episode of exposure. With adequate time to recover or adapt, and particularly when lower forces are involved, there may be less harm done to the body from repeated exposures. The intensity, as well as the extended length of the exposure to forceful, repetitive work, plays a substantial role in the risk of work-related musculoskeletal disorder in many traditional occupational settings.

What factors may contribute to symptoms of MSDs?

Each person has physical limits or a “comfort zone” of activities and work levels they can tolerate without developing symptoms of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). Some factors which may contribute to MSD symptoms include:

  • Furniture designs or a work area arrangement which produces bad postures.
  • Physically demanding work which employees are not accustomed to.
  • Workers who are generally out of shape.
  • Underlying arthritis.
  • Diminished muscle strength or joint flexibility.

What’s a good plan for preventing work-related musculoskeletal disorders?

A good plan starts with employee involvement. Employers and employees can work together effectively to reduce work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs). Here are some ways:

  1. Look at injury and illness records to find jobs where problems have occurred.
  2. Talk with workers to identify specific tasks that contribute to pain and lost workdays.
  3. Ask workers what changes they think will make a difference.
  4. Encourage workers to report WMSD symptoms and establish a medical management system to detect problems early.
  5. Find ways to reduce repeated motions, forceful hand exertions, prolonged bending, or working above shoulder height.
  6. Reduce or eliminate vibration and sharp edges or handles that dig into the skin.
  7. Rely on equipment (not backs) for heavy or repetitive lifting.
    Simple solutions often work best. Workplace changes to reduce pain and cut the risk of disability need not cost a fortune. For example:
  • Change the height or orientation of the product or use tools with handles designed so that workers won’t have to bend their wrists unnaturally to use the tool.
  • Offer workers involved in intensive keyboarding more frequent short breaks to rest muscles.
  • Vary tasks of assembly line workers to avoid repeated stress for the same muscles.
  • Provide lifting equipment so workers won’t strain their backs.
  • Lifting equipment is available for everything from boxes and crates to nursing home patients.

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Apr 29, 2018
041: 7 Elements to an Emergency Action Plan

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Emergency Action Plan

Download the Elements to an Emergency Action Plan HERE

How would you escape from your workplace in an emergency? Do you know where all the exits are located? What about a 2nd way out? A safety plan is needed, let' talk about that in this episode.

Send emails to You can find me on LinkedIn! Post a LinkedIn update letting me know what you think of the podcast. Be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

Apr 26, 2018
040: Trenching and Excavation Safety

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Trench Excavation Safety 

OSHA Sloping/Benching Diagrams

I am sure you may have heard about trenching incidents near you or reading about them on a national level. Managing safety for these operations is quite simple once you know the requirements and understand some of the nuances that go along with the different soils and protective systems we have.


Cave-ins pose the greatest risk with these activities and are much more likely than other excavation-related accidents to result in worker fatalities. Other potential hazards include falls, falling loads, hazardous atmospheres, and incidents involving mobile equipment. One cubic foot of soil can weigh 100 pounds.

One cubic yard of soil can weigh as much as a car, and the kinetic energy of soil falling 3, 4, 10 feet, and you can see the danger here. It has been said that an unprotected trench is an early grave. So let me start by stating the obvious: do not enter an unprotected trench.

Protective Systems

So at what point do we need to protect a trench? According to OSHA, trenches 5 feet (1.5 meters) deep or greater require a protective system unless the excavation is made entirely in stable rock. Oh, and forget about stable rock, I will explain that later. If less than 5 feet deep, a competent person may determine that a protective system is not required.

Competent Person

OSHA standards require that employers inspect trenches daily and as conditions change by a competent person before worker entry to ensure the elimination of excavation hazards.

A competent person is an individual who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards or working conditions that are hazardous, unsanitary, or dangerous to workers, soil types and protective systems required, and who is authorized to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate these hazards and conditions.


OSHA standards require safe access and egress to all excavations, including ladders, steps, ramps, or other safe means of exit for employees working in trench excavations 4 feet (1.22 meters) or deeper. These devices must be located within 25 feet (7.6 meters) of all workers. Here are some other requirements to follow:

Ground Safety

Keep heavy equipment away from trench edges. In the fire department, we tried to keep all heavy rigs at least 25 feet away. But this was to prevent vibrations to already unstable trenches during rescue operations. But heavy equipment that could pose a hazard of falling into the trench or even knocking materials into the trench has to be located back at a safe distance.

The standard requires that you keep excavated soil (spoils) and other materials (like sand and gravel used for backfill or pipes being installed) at least 2 feet (0.6 meters) from trench edges. Ongoing inspections are needed to ensure this requirement is being met.

Underground Safety

Know where underground utilities are located before digging. This is a requirement in the OSHA standards, but it requires you to follow State laws that actually govern locating and marking PUBLIC utilities. Private utilities still need to be located and marked as well. So, familiarize yourself with the 811 "call before you dig" system.

Test for atmospheric hazards such as low oxygen, hazardous fumes, and toxic gases when > 4 feet deep. This is when you suspect there could be a hazardous atmosphere or one could reasonably be expected to exist, such as in excavations in landfill areas or excavations in areas where hazardous substances are stored nearby.

Falls and Falling Objects

Do not work under suspended or raised loads and materials. This means workers down in the trench and the track hoe bucket swinging over their head to drop gravel, sand or pulling the material out.

Also, Walkways have to be provided where workers or equipment are required or permitted to cross over excavations. Guardrails that comply with §1926.502(b) shall be provided where walkways are 6 feet (1.8 m) or more above lower levels. Again, only when workers are to CROSS OVER the open trench of 6 feet deep or more.


Ensure that all personnel has high visibility or other suitable clothing when exposed to vehicular traffic. This is a requirement and you have to reference the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for minimum requirements for highways as well as flaggers being used. This tells you the ANSI rating needed for certain reflective apparel needed for day and night work.

Emergency Preparedness

Also, prepare for an emergency, especially if in an unfamiliar area, a rural area and/or working with a hazardous atmosphere by contacting the local emergency response service and determining whether or not they are equipped and prepared for a potential rescue. This may also drive the need to have someone trained in 1st aid/CPR at the site as well. Also, know where the nearest emergency medical center is located. For job sites, this should ALWAYS be a part of a site-specific safety plan anyway.

Soil Classification

Now, let’s get into soil classification. You need to understand what OSHA deems to be stable or unstable soil and how the class of soil drives the protective system you choose. So let’s get into some definitions you need to know and the different types of soil classifications as well as HOW to test soils. Remember, these terms are important to understand as we move forward:

  • "Cemented soil" means a soil in which the particles are held together by a chemical agent, such as calcium carbonate, such that a hand-size sample cannot be crushed into powder or individual soil particles by finger pressure.
  • "Cohesive soil" means clay (fine-grained soil), or soil with a high clay content, which has cohesive strength. Cohesive soil does not crumble, can be excavated with vertical side-slopes, and is plastic when moist. Cohesive soil is hard to break up when dry and exhibits significant cohesion when submerged. Cohesive soils include clayey silt, sandy clay, silty clay, clay, and organic clay.
  • "Dry soil" means soil that does not exhibit visible signs of moisture content.
  • "Fissured" means a soil material that has a tendency to break along definite planes of fracture with little resistance, or a material that exhibits open cracks, such as tension cracks, in an exposed surface. So anywhere in the Standard where you see reference to whether or not the slope or bench of a trench is “fissured”, that is what it means.
  • "Granular soil" means gravel, sand, or silt (coarse-grained soil) with little or no clay content. Granular soil has no cohesive strength. Some moist granular soils exhibit apparent cohesion. Granular soil cannot be molded when moist and crumbles easily when dry.
  • "Layered system" means two or more distinctly different soil or rock types arranged in layers. Micaceous seams or weakened planes in rock or shale are considered layered.
  • "Moist soil" means a condition in which a soil looks and feels damp. Moist cohesive soil can easily be shaped into a ball and rolled into small diameter threads before crumbling. Moist granular soil that contains some cohesive material will exhibit signs of cohesion between particles.
  • "Saturated soil" means a soil in which the voids are filled with water. Saturation does not require flow. Saturation, or near saturation, is necessary for the proper use of instruments such as a pocket penetrometer or sheer vane. Which I will get into shortly.
  • "Stable rock" means natural solid mineral matter that can be excavated with vertical sides and remain intact while exposed.
  • "Submerged soil" means soil which is underwater or is free seeping.
  • "Unconfined compressive strength" means the load per unit area at which a soil will fail in compression. It can be determined by laboratory testing or estimated in the field using a pocket penetrometer, by thumb penetration tests, and other methods.

How to Classify Soil

So let’s dig into classifying soil. “Soil classification system" means, for the purpose of this subpart, a method of categorizing soil and rock deposits in a hierarchy of Stable Rock, Type A, Type B, and Type C, in decreasing order of stability. The categories are determined based on an analysis of the properties and performance characteristics of the deposits and the characteristics of the deposits and the environmental conditions of exposure.

"Type A" means:

Cohesive soils with an unconfined, compressive strength of 1.5 ton per square foot (tsf) (144 kPa) or greater. Examples of cohesive soils are clay, silty clay, sandy clay, clay loam and, in some cases, silty clay loam and sandy clay loam. Cemented soils such as caliche and hardpan are also considered Type-A.

However, no soil is Type-A if:

  1. The soil is fissured; or
  2. The soil is subject to vibration from heavy traffic, pile driving, or similar effects; or
  3. The soil has been previously disturbed; or
  4. The soil is part of a sloped, layered system where the layers dip into the excavation on a slope of four horizontal to one vertical (4H:1V) or greater; or
  5. The material is subject to other factors that would require it to be classified as a less stable material.

"Type B" means:

  1. Cohesive soil with an unconfined compressive strength greater than 0.5 tsf (48 kPa) but less than 1.5 tsf (144 kPa); or
  2. Granular cohesion-less soils including angular gravel (similar to crushed rock), silt, silt loam, sandy loam and, in some cases, silty clay loam and sandy clay loam.
  3. Previously disturbed soils except those which would otherwise be classed as Type C soil.
  4. Soil that meets the unconfined compressive strength or cementation requirements for Type A, but is fissured or subject to vibration, or
  5. Dry rock that is not stable; or
  6. Material that is part of a sloped, layered system where the layers dip into the excavation on a slope LESS steep than four horizontal to one vertical (4H:1V), but only if the material would otherwise be classified as Type B.

"Type C" means:

  1. Cohesive soil with an unconfined compressive strength of 0.5 tsf (48 kPa) or less; or
  2. Granular soils including gravel, sand, and loamy sand; or
  3. Submerged soil or soil from which water is freely seeping; or
  4. Submerged rock that is not stable, or
  5. The material in a sloped, layered system where the layers dip into the excavation or a slope of four horizontal to one vertical (4H:1V) or steeper.

In order to properly classify the soil, OSHA requires at least on visual analysis and one manual test be performed on the soil.

Visual analysis is conducted to determine qualitative information about the excavation site. In general, you need to consider the soil adjacent to the excavation, the soil forming the sides of the open excavation, and soil samples taken from excavated material. Here are the steps:

  1. Observe samples of soil that are pulled out of the ground as well as the soil in the sides of the excavation. You need to estimate the range of particle sizes and the relative amounts of the particle sizes. Soil that is primarily composed of fine-grained material (like a putty) is cohesive material. Soil composed primarily of coarse-grained sand or gravel is to be considered granular material.
  2. Watch the soil as it is excavated. If it remains in clumps when excavated and dropped out of the bucket or shovel it is considered cohesive. If it breaks up easily, falls apart and does NOT stay in clumps you would consider it to be granular.
  3. Look at the sides of the opened excavation and the surface area next to it. Crack-like openings, like tension cracks, could mean that you are dealing with fissured material. If chunks of soil spalls off a vertical face of the excavation, this is another sign the soil could be fissured. Small spalls are evidence of moving ground and are indications of potentially hazardous situations. So be sure to look for this.
  4. Watch the area next to the excavation and the excavation itself for evidence of existing utilities and other underground structures, and to identify previously disturbed soil. An obvious sing would be indicated via utility markings made prior to digging or conduit, pipe, etc. being exposed as you dig. A less obvious sign of this would be a small patch of gravel or sand that you may have cut through or running alongside the trench. This may indicate backfill material and thus previously excavated soil.
  5. Also, watch the open side of the excavation for a possible layered system. Examine layered systems to identify if the layers slope toward the excavation. Estimate the degree of slope of the layers. This will also drive the slope angle allowed or if you can even bench the sidewalls.
  6. Look for evidence of surface water, water seeping from the sides of the excavation, or the location of the level of the water table. Both in the excavation as well as at the surface.
  7. Check the area for sources of vibration that may affect the stability of the excavation face. If you are running a front end loader up and down the length of an open trench carrying loads or straddling a part of the end of the trench with the track hoe then you might be subjecting the excavation to vibrations that could lead to unstable sections.

OSHA also requires at least 1 manual test to be performed in order to determine quantitative as well as qualitative properties of soil. This provides more information in order to classify soil properly so as to get us to the next step; selecting appropriate protective measures. Let’s run down the options for manual testing:

  1. Plasticity test. For this test, you simply mold a moist or wet sample of soil into a ball and then try to roll it into threads as thin as 1/8-inch in diameter. If the soil is cohesive (sticks to itself) it can be rolled into threads without crumbling and falling apart. For example, if at least a two-inch (50 mm) length of 1/8-inch thread can be held on one end, so dangling it, and it does NOT tear, the soil is cohesive.
  2. Dry strength test. If the soil is dry and crumbles on its own or with moderate pressure breaks into individual grains or even a fine powder, it is granular - so, any combination of gravel, sand, or silt. If the soil is dry and falls into clumps that break up into smaller clumps, but the smaller clumps can only be broken up with difficulty, it may be clay in any combination with gravel, sand or silt. If the dry soil breaks into clumps that do not break up into small clumps and which can only be broken with difficulty, and there is no visual indication the soil is fissured, the soil may be considered un-fissured.
  3. Thumb penetration test. The thumb penetration test can be used to estimate the unconfined compressive strength of cohesive soils. (This test is based on the thumb penetration test described in the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) Standard designation D2488 - "Standard Recommended Practice for Description of Soils (Visual - Manual Procedure).") Type A soils with an unconfined compressive strength of 1.5 tsf can be readily indented by the thumb; however, they can be penetrated by the thumb only with very great effort. Type C soils with an unconfined compressive strength of 0.5 tsf can be easily penetrated several inches by the thumb and can be molded by light finger pressure. This test should be conducted on an undisturbed soil sample, such as a large clump of spoil, as soon as possible after excavation to keep to a minimum the effects of exposure to drying. If the excavation is later exposed to rain, flooding, etc. the classification of the soil must be changed as well.
  4. Other strength tests. Estimates of unconfined compressive strength of soils can also be obtained by the use of a pocket penetrometer or by using a hand-operated shear vane. These are instruments used to penetrate a sample with a rod containing a resistance spring and a measuring cylinder to read unconfined compressive strength. The shear vane is a tool with a numbered dial and needle and requires a soil sample with a flat surface where you impress a disc with vanes and twist it until it shears off a section of the soil sample thus giving you a reading. These instruments come with instructions and also have some environmental limitations (springs acting differently in cold vs hot weather) and could be subject to wear over prolonged use.
  5. Drying test. The basic purpose of the drying test is to differentiate between cohesive material with fissures, un-fissured cohesive material, and granular material. The procedure for the drying test involves drying a sample of soil that is approximately one inch thick (2.54 cm) and six inches (15.24 cm) in diameter until it is thoroughly dry:
    1. If the sample develops cracks as it dries, significant fissures are indicated.
    2. Samples that dry without cracking are to be broken by hand. If considerable force is necessary to break a sample, the soil has significant cohesive material content. The soil can be classified as an un-fissured cohesive material and the unconfined compressive strength should be determined.
    3. If a sample breaks easily by hand, it is either a fissured cohesive material or a granular material. To distinguish between the two, pulverize the dried clumps of the sample by hand or by stepping on them. If the clumps do not pulverize easily, the material is cohesive with fissures. If they pulverize easily into very small fragments, the material is granular.

Some of these tests are more for soil engineering and designing complex protective systems. Your average worker involved in excavation activities is probably going to use the visual analysis along with the plasticity test or thumb penetration test. Just getting your hands on a sample and trying to mold it, feel it, see how it behaves is really a good way to determine what you are dealing with.

ProTip: Forget solid rock; it can have any fractures/fissures, if you are scraping, blasting, hydraulic fracturing, pile-driving, drilling, then you are creating this condition. Which means pieces of varying size could potentially come loose and fall into the trench. Therefore you move to the next level: Type A soil. Well, if it is fissured or subject to vibration, etc. then it cannot be considered type A. And let’s face it, most excavations will be subject to varying degrees of activities that meet this criterion.

So, we are left with Type B soil and C. Cohesive or non-cohesive? (ok, there is a gray area known as non-cohesive type B, but honestly, just call it non-cohesive and get to work!). So is it Clay or Sand? It really is that simple. Once you know the soil type, you can determine what protective system to use.

Here your options are sloping, benching or shoring of some kind. The maximum allowable slope is as follows:

  • Stable rock - vertical (90)
  • Type A - 3/4:1 (53)
  • Type B - 1:1 (45)
  • Type C - 1 1/2:1 (34)

Notice I said MAXIMUM allowable slope! This means you may need to make it “flatter” if it is needed. Sloped means the angle at which it will lie and NO LONGER MOVE! So keep that in mind. If you have Type B soil based on the visual and manual test and slope it to a 45-degree angle and you get sloughing then you need to dress that slope back more.

Benching is the same; the angle of the bench as measured from the TOE of the trench (nearest bottom side). So you can tell how many steps will be needed to achieve the 45-degree angle. You are only allowed a 4-foot maximum face for the first bench step you make, then a 5-foot maximum face thereafter.

You can also use a single bench; make a 4’ maximum face, cut it back then go to the slope needed for the soil type. Or an unsupported vertically sided lower portion; you can come straight up no more than 3 1/2 feet then hit your slope. But keep in mind, Type C soil according to OSHA CANNOT be benched! Only sloped or shored.

And, these are ONLY allowed for trenches up to 20 feet deep. Trenches 20 feet (6.1 meters) deep or greater require that the protective system be designed by a registered professional engineer or be based on tabulated data prepared and/or approved by a registered professional engineer.

As for shoring; like trench boxes and speed shoring - you have to make sure you have what is called the tabulated datasheet for that system ONSITE. This tells you the depth limits based on soil type as well as width limitations, whether you can stack 2 or more trench boxes on top of one another, things like that. This gets tricky as there are all sorts of systems so I won’t get into specifics here. Just keep in mind, if your box or shield is below grade at any point, you must slope or bench as allowed per the soil type for any soil above the top of the device and you need at least an 18” lip to catch any rolling materials from going into the trench.

Same for the bottom; you can only raise the box or shield off the bottom of the trench up to 18” if conditions allow. So there are some little rules that go along with these systems; but again, you need to know the system requirements BEFORE beginning work and have that data onsite while work is taking place.

I hope you got some good info from this episode. Please follow up and seek more formal training for yourself and your co-workers on this topic. If you are overseeing work at your facility that involves this type of activity then I hope I gave you some good tips so that you can begin to go out and look at this work and assess whether or not things are compliant. Please let me know what you think, share your thoughts by emailing me at

You can find me on LinkedIn! Post a LinkedIn update letting me know what you think of the podcast. Be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

Apr 11, 2018
039: Vacation Message - Off the Job Safety

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Off-the-job Safety

Final vacation week! Thanks for being loyal listeners. I wanted to remind everyone in this quick episode about taking safety with when you leave work.

I may put together an episode about this topic soon. Share your off-the-job safety tips by sending me an email to

You can find me on LinkedIn! Post a LinkedIn update letting me know what you think of the podcast. Be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter 

Apr 03, 2018
038: 6 Steps to an Effective HAZCOM Safety Program

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6 Steps to an Effective HAZCOM Safety Program

I am on vacation! But, I still managed to get a quick episode out for all the awesome listeners. 6 Steps to an Effective Hazard Communication Program for Employers That Use Hazardous Chemicals!

It's a good one! Get the document mentioned in this episode: Hazard Communication: Steps to an Effective Hazard Communication Program for Employers That Use Hazardous Chemicals Fact Sheet


Hazard Communication: Small Entity Compliance Guide for Employers That Use Hazardous Chemicals

Email comments or questions to You can find me on LinkedIn! Post a LinkedIn update letting me know what you think of the podcast. Be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

Mar 19, 2018
037: Safety for Tree Trimmers

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Tree Trimmer Safety

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As I get ready to head to the beach for Spring Break (I will already be there when this episode drops!) I was thinking about some of the seasonal work we need doing at our homes as well as at our businesses. And that got me thinking about tree trimmers. And it hit me - when it comes to workplace safety, it is easy to overlook the folks that do some of this work, either at our homes or when we hire these companies to help us maintain our facilities.

Each year thousands of trees are uprooted by powerful winds from hurricanes, thunderstorms, etc. And usually taking power lines and transformers with them. I wanted to get a quick topic out about the safety needed for workers that come out and take care of these trees and help us improve our personal property as well as our businesses.

Tree trimming is serious business. There are numerous SERIOUS safety hazards involved. Everything from falls to electrical hazards, these workers must be well-trained, well-equipped and focused to do this job safely.

One of the more common hazards deals with power lines. Either downed lines from a storm or tree that fell or just trimming tress near power lines. The safest approach is ALWAYS ASSUME THAT POWER LINES ARE ENERGIZED! 

If clearing trees, contact the utility company to discuss de-energizing and grounding or shielding of power lines. This takes time, yes, but just search online for stories involving tree trimmers being shock or electrocuted on the job! Oh, and it often involves ground workers; yep, this can happen when a ladder or the boom of cherry picker unknowingly comes into contact with an energized lines and the operator is insulated in the basket, doesn’t realize it and a ground worker walks up and grabs the metal door of the truck, reaches for a tool or something like that and becomes part of that circuit. It happens more than you think! These can all be avoided.

One way to avoid disaster is to always perform a hazard assessment of the job in general as well as the work area prior to the start of work. So for electrical hazards, ask will you get closer than, say, 10 feet to your average power line? What about the stability of the ground for outriggers on the cherry picker? Is there traffic nearby or will you need to be in the roadway? What about clearance for your work, especially when removing or cutting down a tree?

Let me say, to “fell a tree” means more than just cutting it down. Felling means to cut the tree in such a way that it falls in the desired direction and results in the least damage to the tree. To safely fell a tree, you must eliminate or minimize exposure to potential hazards found at the tree and in the surrounding area. This means BEFORE YOU BEGIN WORKING!

Part of being prepared for your work means having the right equipment. Always use proper personal protective equipment as recommended by the manufacturer’s operating manual, including eye, face, head, hand, and foot protection for tools and machinery. Chippers, shredders, chainsaws, etc. all have very specific safety requirements. And don’t forget TRAINING!

Your employees NEED to be trained on all the tools they will be using. Don’t rely on the old “I have been using chainsaws for years” certification. Just look online for any number of manufacturer videos or literature on chainsaw safety. Or any other power tool. The Power Tool Institute has some good videos a well, so search for them too. By the way, I have an OSHA publication that covers the hazards of wood shippers as well. So be sure to hit that link!

Broken or hanging branches, attached vines, or a dead tree that is leaning can be of concern. All of these hazards can cause injuries. So making sure employees are trained to spot these overhead hazards and stage work accordingly should also be covered. I have an OSHA publication that covers falls and falling objects hazards for tree care workers. Just hit the link in these show notes or on the website for this episode.

What about working outdoors in general? There is extreme cold and heat concerns. This should all be a part of your employee training. How to spot poisonous plants, what about insect bites and stings? How about encounters with snakes or other wild animals? Basically, if it is a realistic hazard of the job, have a plan to educate workers on the hazards and to manage them! If you are not sure what to cover in any training. Just break the job down into stages:

  1. Getting ready for a job: utilities location/de-energization, insulating, etc., shop safety, vehicle safety, storing/transporting fuels, oils, etc. PPE inspections, things like that.
  2. Arriving on the job: staging, sizing up the scene (especially after a storm or downed tree event), nearest emergency room, 911 coverage (for rural areas)
  3. Working: Process safety. As an example:
  • If the tree is broken and under pressure, make sure you know which way the pressure is going. If not sure, make small cuts to release some of the pressure before cutting up the section.
  • Be careful of young trees that other trees have fallen against. They act like spring poles and can propel back. (Many professional loggers have been hurt in this manner.)
  • A tree may have not fallen completely to the ground and be lodged against another tree. Extreme care must be taken to safely bring the trees to the ground.
  • If possible, avoid felling into other trees or objects. Don’t turn your back on the tree as it falls, and hide behind a standing tree if possible.
  • As trees fall through other trees or objects, branches and objects may get thrown back towards workers.
  • Look at other standards for guidance. You may not consider yourselves loggers, but the logging standard has some really good best practices on which to base your operations. Share facts about logging in general to drive a point: like more people are killed while felling trees than during any other logging activity.

These accidents CAN be avoided! So when getting ready for the spring season and all the storms it brings, downed trees and power lines; remember safety starts well before the work begins! I hope I gave you some things to look for, some topics to research and begin training your workers on as well as started you all thinking about this work in general. If you hire these workers to help you maintain your facilities, be sure to ask for certifications for aerial lift training, if that applies, ask for a pre-job plan to include where they will stage their equipment, provide them a list of PPE they will need to wear while at your site. This can really start a conversation about safety and give you an idea on how proactive that contractor is and whether they are ready for this type of work.

If you are a tree trimmer, either worker or company owner, this is a good time to start looking at safety as both an employee benefit as well as customer service. It is the right thing to do, it is good for business, it just makes sense.

Share your tips for safety during these types of activities by sending me an email to or by visiting

You can find me on LinkedIn! Post a LinkedIn update letting me know what you think of the podcast. Be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter


Mar 12, 2018
036: Confined Space Entry Safety Part 3: Rescue Teams


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Confined Space Entry Safety

In the last couple of episodes, I dance around the rescue team parts of the standard. I want to get into that section here. Let’s start with an outside rescue option since a lot of folks go this route. If you recall, whenever you use outside resources you must evaluate a prospective rescuer's ability to respond to a rescue summons in a timely manner, considering the hazard(s) identified.

So you have to have done a hazard assessment first so that you can have a meaningful conversation with the outside agency. Also, don’t forget, bring them in to do a walk-thru, look at the spaces involved, the internal configurations, chemicals used onsite, etc.

You also have to develop and implement procedures for summoning rescue and emergency services to your location. Ask about whether the local authorities use a regional dispatcher, this may delay response time a little, does your site use a different number to dial out to emergency services, instead of 911? All of this goes into your program and training.

Once you determine the rescue team that will be used, you have to develop a procedure for rescuing entrants from permit spaces and be able to provide necessary emergency services to those workers. The primary requirement in the first aid standards is that an employer must ensure prompt first aid treatment for injured employees, either by providing for the availability of a trained first aid provider at the worksite or by ensuring that emergency treatment services are within reasonable proximity of the worksite.

You have to take appropriate steps prior to any accident (like making arrangements with the service provider) to determine if emergency medical assistance will be promptly available when an injury occurs. While the standards do not prescribe a number of minutes, OSHA has long interpreted the term "near proximity" to mean that emergency care must be available within no more than 3-4 minutes from the workplace, an interpretation that has been upheld by the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission and by federal courts.

One option these standards provide employers is to ensure that a member of the workforce has been trained in first aid. This option is, for most employers, a feasible and low-cost way to protect employees, as well as putting the employer clearly in compliance with the standards. OSHA recommends but does not require, that every workplace include one or more employees who are trained and certified in first aid, including CPR.

The first aid training standards at 29 CFR 1910.151 and 1926.50(c) generally apply throughout the industries that they cover. Other standards which apply to certain specific hazards or industries make employee first aid training mandatory, and reliance on outside emergency responders is not an allowable alternative. For example, see 29 CFR 1910. 266(i)(7) (mandatory first aid training for logging employees), and 29 CFR 1910.269(b) (requiring persons trained in first aid at work locations in the electric power industry).

So seriously look at getting a team of volunteers to be trained, on all shifts. More support for this is that medical literature establishes that, for serious injuries such as those involving stopped breathing, cardiac arrest, or uncontrolled bleeding, first aid treatment must be provided within the first few minutes to avoid permanent medical impairment or death.

Also, in workplaces where serious accidents such as those involving falls, suffocation, electrocution, or amputation are possible, emergency medical services must be available within 3-4 minutes, if there is NO EMPLOYEE on the site who is trained to render first aid. So this can buy a victim more time if folks are trained and equipped onsite already.

OSHA exercises discretion in enforcing the first aid requirements in particular cases. OSHA recognizes that a somewhat longer response time of up to 15 minutes may be reasonable in workplaces, such as offices, where the possibility of such serious work-related injuries is more remote.

Now, I will restate what the standard says: In the absence of an infirmary, clinic, or hospital in near proximity to the workplace which is used for the treatment of all injured employees, a person or persons shall be adequately trained to render first aid. Adequate first aid supplies shall be readily available. This is a way to meet that standard!

And, for an in-house rescue team, at least one member of the rescue team or service holding a current certification in first aid and CPR is available. Trust me, ALL of them should have it. What if the only member trained in 1st aid goes down? So spread the love folks!

So what does this tell us? Well, it tells us we need to carefully examine and consider the actual hazards likely to be present as well as the injuries and illnesses likely to occur. This has to be included in the training in order for us to claim our in-house first aid team is “adequate”.

Let, me illustrate this for you; A lot of the first aid training programs I have reviewed are really good at preparing you (as best as possible) for an emergency. They cover what to do, how to react, things like that. A lot of effort goes into keeping the responder safe; bloodborne pathogens, PPE, checking the scene; which is great. Then there are sections that get into how to perform a patient survey, for both an unconscious and conscience patient. And then there are sections of training covering how to stop bleeding and immobilize a limb maybe.

Here is where you need to be sure to include covering injuries likely to occur at your facility. Work with the instructor ahead of time to include how to treat a chemical burn, and be specific - like hydrochloric acid, or chlorine gas for example. This site-specific or even chemical or hazard-specific training is what will deem your personnel “QUALIFIED” to render first aid at your facility. The basic community first aid training, just won’t be enough.

Okay, let’s move on to an in-house rescue team. First, they have to be equipped for and proficient in performing the needed rescue services. Do you have underground tanks? Do they have rectangular, square or round entry points, or a combination? This tells me what types of hoists I will need to have available for rescue. What about horizontal spaces? Are some of them above grade, requiring staging from an elevated platform? This tells me aerial lifts, personnel hoists, stair chairs, stokes baskets, etc may be needed as well. What about SCBA, airline respirators, things like that for rescue teams?

So equipped means just that; equipment needed to facilitate a rescue from any and all possible spaces to be entered. Standardization really helps but some older facilities that have been upgraded and modified over the years do not have this luxury. But think about this moving forward; standardize openings (their shape and size) whenever possible, and their location (at grade vs. elevated openings, things like that.). This ALL has to be set up and gone over each time you have training for this team. Every piece, all the PPE that may be needed, all of the monitoring instruments, everything!

Ensure that rescue and other affected employees (like potential victims) practice making permit space rescues at least once every 12 months. This has to be by way of a simulated rescue in which you remove dummies, manikins, or actual persons from the actual permit spaces or from representative permit spaces. Representative permit spaces shall, with respect to opening size, configuration, and accessibility, simulate the types of permit spaces from which rescue is to be performed. I have seen a few facilities that have old tanks that have been cleaned and the sides cut open but they keep them onsite as a training aid for this purpose. Of course, you may not have the room for this, but that was a representative space from them.

Of course, non-entry rescue is where it’s at whenever possible. If your rescue personnel never have to enter this is best. To facilitate non-entry rescue, retrieval systems or methods have to be used whenever an authorized entrant enters a permit space unless the retrieval equipment would increase the overall risk of entry or would not contribute to the rescue of the entrant.

So practicing at LEAST every 12-months is the OSHA standard. I recommend quarterly just so that you can reinforce these procedures and familiarize rescue teams with this equipment better. Also, hold a monthly first responder meeting instead of just the annual refresher for first aid and every two years for CPR recertification. This is a “use it or lose it” skill, it's perishable, so keeping it fresh is going to help save lives. Give your responders a chance to talk about scenarios, practice first aid techniques in the meetings, dry runs, even debrief past responses since the last meeting to see what went right, what could be better, things like that. It will really add value and enhance the bare minimum OSHA sets for this stuff.

Look at your training program; what is it missing? What don’t you cover that we just ran through? How can you enhance your existing training? Make it stick? This is the challenge I have for you: do a full review of your written confined space entry program, the written permit, the rescue plan, your chosen method of rescue (non-entry, in-house or outside rescue team) and try to poke holes in the plans. That way you can improve it.

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Mar 06, 2018
035: Confined Spaces Pt 2 - Safety with Entry Permits


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Confined Space Safety


This is part 2 in a series about confined space entry, the requirements including training and entry procedures and we will wrap the series up with some tips, interpretations, and examples written programs. If you remember from the last episode I covered the basic definition of a confined space:

* Is large enough and so configured that an employee can bodily enter and perform assigned work

* Has limited or restricted means for entry or exit (for example, tanks, vessels, silos, storage bins, hoppers, vaults, and pits are spaces that may have limited means of entry.

AND (yes, it has to have all of these)

* It is not designed for continuous employee occupancy. And we talked about what that means as well.

And a ”Permit-required confined space (permit space)" means a confined space that has one OR more of the following characteristics:

1. Contains or has a potential to contain a hazardous atmosphere
2. Contains a material that has the potential for engulfing an entrant
3. Has an internal configuration such that an entrant could be trapped or asphyxiated by inwardly converging walls or by a floor which slopes downward and tapers to a smaller cross-section OR
4. Contains any other recognized serious safety or health hazard

Okay, we touched on just some of the training requirements as well. Not too much detail there, but I will go into rescue teams including in-house rescue and the training requirements in the next episode, so be listening for Part 3. For now, let’s move into the actual permit and entry procedures.

Let’s begin with the actual space. Any time you remove covers to openings, especially at ground level, it has to be guarded immediately by a railing, temporary cover, or another temporary barrier that will prevent an accidental fall through the opening.

You always want to address safety outside the space, before beginning work - addressing the space itself. This means identifying any potential hazards that may impact ground workers outside, but also those that may create hazards inside the space. For example, any generators or other combustion engines (like from service trucks) that may be running nearby and could create a carbon monoxide hazard entering the space.

And of course, before any employee can enter the space, the internal atmosphere has to be tested. You do this with a calibrated direct-reading instrument, for oxygen content, for flammable gases and vapors, and for potential toxic air contaminants, in that order. Most multi-gas meters will test for all of these simultaneously. So no need to worry about the order in that case.

Keep in mind, any employee who enters the space has to be provided an opportunity to observe the pre-entry testing directly. This avoids the whole “hey I checked, it’s fine in there” type of scenario.

A note on this one; anyone that witnesses the monitoring needs to be trained on monitoring as well. This means how to operate and read the results. This way they know what they are looking at. Plus, if continuous monitoring goes on, they know what the alarm sounds like and of course, if they take one in with them, they know how to operate it as well.

If you plan to use forced air ventilation, be sure to set it up the right way. Notice I said “forced air”. You cannot use negative pressure. That is, a fan pulling air OUT of the space. Some folks may think pulling “bad air” out is a better idea. It is not. Forcing fresh air is required.

And testing has to be done with the forced air ventilation in place and operating. So what do you do with the test results?

Well, it is all part of the permit system. According to OSHA, the employer must verify the space is safe for entry by way of a written certification that contains the date, the location of the space, and the signature of the person providing the certification.

The certification must be made before entry and be made available to each employee entering the space. This is accomplished by using an entry permit. Let’s get into what the permit looks like.

Let’s talk about the permit itself for a bit. The actual permit has to contain the following information:

1. The permit space to be entered: This can be a site name such as vault 2B, or autoclave oven # 4, something like that.

2. The purpose of the entry: This can say PM check of tank welds, changing O-rings, stuff like that.

3. The date and the authorized duration of the entry permit: If there are issues with extreme heat or cold, you may have placed a 15-minute time-limit on the entry. Or if using breathing air, like SCBA, you could place a time limit for the entrants. These are examples of authorized durations, as I get asked about this one frequently. Essentially, the duration of the permit cannot exceed the time required to complete the assigned task or job identified on the permit.

4. The authorized entrants: This can be done by listing their names or by using a roster or accountability log - For example, entrants check-in and out moving names on and off the log. The goal is that attendants can know who is inside at any given time.

5. The name of the attendant(s): This is needed especially if you will be rotating attendants, you can see who is authorized to do so.

6. The name of the entry supervisor: Remember, this is just the person supervising the entry process, not necessarily a work supervisor. The permit also has to have a space for the entry supervisor’s signature. This authorizes the entry.

7. The permit has to also list the hazards of the space: These should be spelled out. I am not a fan of the checklist, that is, a list of typical hazards and a box next to it for you to check. It just adds to the length and visual clutter of the permit itself. I prefer to list the hazards that are present or likely to be present so those involved fully understand what they are protecting themselves from and what to look out for. This helps when communicating with entrants, looking for signs and symptoms of exposure. This requires that all involved be trained on such symptoms of different hazards as well.

8. This gets us to listing the measures taken to eliminate or control those hazards. Like blanking, purging, LOTO, etc. It also gives all involved something to check during the entire process. If you indicated a forced air blower, that is plugged into a generator, you know that you have to check the fuel level periodically, or you may have indicated CO as a potential hazard. Again, all this stuff is useful when you think about how you can use it to protect yourself and your co-workers.

9. You have to list acceptable entry procedures as well. This is key because you then have to continuously check conditions against this list. If there are any differences, that is a red flag. You may determine a condition improved, not worsened. But you still have to flag it and determine whether or not to evacuate the space and cancel the entry permit.

10. This also means you need a section for the initial and periodic test results. This helps us document ongoing monitoring activities.

11. A section for the rescue and emergency services that can be called and you have to detail HOW they will be called; such as the equipment to use and the numbers to call.

12. The communication procedures that are to be used by authorized entrants and attendants to maintain contact during the entry. Constant audible or vial contact must be maintained during the entire entry process. If at any time a specified communication device goes down, you have to pull entrants out until you establish another acceptable, an agreed-upon way of communicating, note this change on the permit, retest, and proceed again.

13. You also have to list all the equipment to be used, such as PPE, testing equipment, (again, communications equipment), alarm systems, and rescue equipment as well. This also tells us what types of pre-entry inspections are needed, based on what will be used.

14. Any additional info that would be pertinent especially additional permits like hot work, that you will rely on for the entry.

I have a permit template available here as well as a written program template in case you want to compare it to the one you have, or if you are looking to create one altogether. Some points to consider in your program:

The entry supervisor must terminate the entry (in writing on the permit) once operations have been completed and all personnel, materials, tools, etc have been accounted for and are out of the space.

They also have to terminate the entry when a condition that is not allowed under the entry permit arises in or near the permit space. Again, not just the entry supervisor, but the attendant and any entrant can terminate the entry for this reason. But only the entry supervisor of record should sign and terminate the entry permit itself.

OSHA requires that you keep each entry permit for at least 1 year to facilitate the review of the permit-required confined space program. So at least annually, go over all the entries that were made, look for issues discovered, reasons entries were terminated prematurely, hazards encountered that were not noted on the permit originally, etc. This is so you can improve the written permit-required confined space entry program, improve training, and so on.

Not just for confined space entry, but all of your written safety programs; conduct an annual review to verify they are still adequate and do not need updating. This is a requirement! It is also a great way to use a safety committee; have the group go through a program and talk about how it applies, what needs to be added, what needs to be removed, and so on.

This is a perfect place to stop and tease the next episode; we will get into training specifics and rescue teams; both in-house and external services. Then wrap it all up with some best practices and a template you can use to get started writing your own program.

You can find me on LinkedIn! Post a LinkedIn update letting me know what you think of the podcast. Be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

Feb 25, 2018
034: Confined Space Entry Safety Pt 1

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Confined Space Safety

I want to get into confined spaces and permit-required confined spaces. I need to break this topic up into a couple of different episodes, beginning with a general introduction to terms, definitions, emergency response, and some training requirements before getting into specifics around the actual entry permits and entry procedures like monitoring in the next episode.

Ok, so let’s first define the terms for our discussion:

According to 29 CFR 1910.146, a confined space is ANY space that:

* Is large enough and so configured that an employee can bodily enter and perform assigned work
* Has limited or restricted means for entry or exit (for example, tanks, vessels, silos, storage bins, hoppers, vaults, and pits are spaces that may have limited means of entry.)
* Is not designed for continuous employee occupancy.

Let’s talk about that last part for a moment; OSHA defines continuous human occupancy vaguely, but use the following as a benchmark:

Can the worker safely remain inside the space during operation? Of course, we are talking about not being exposed to a recognized hazard while inside; moving/rotating parts, live electrical components, gases, fumes, or other hazardous atmosphere, things like that.

I have heard all sorts of crazy excuses why a space is NOT a confined space:

- It has a door
- There is a light, they meant for someone to be in there
- There are two ways out

You need to assess and evaluate ALL aspects of the space to determine whether or not it is considered a confined space according to OSHA.

So, confined spaces can include underground vaults, tanks, storage bins, manholes, pits, silos, underground utility vaults and pipelines, etc. It really depends on you being able to assess the space in question.

Now, OSHA states that the employer shall evaluate the workplace to determine if any spaces are PERMIT-required confined spaces.

Well, a ”Permit-required confined space (permit space)" means a confined space that we already defined, has one or more of the following characteristics:

1. Contains or has a potential to contain a hazardous atmosphere

2. Contains a material that has the potential for engulfing an entrant

3. Has an internal configuration such that an entrant could be trapped or asphyxiated by inwardly converging walls or by a floor which slopes downward and tapers to a smaller cross-section OR

4. Contains any other recognized serious safety or health hazard

If the workplace contains any permit spaces, you have to inform exposed employees, by posting danger signs or by any other equally effective means, of the existence and location of and the danger posed by the PERMIT spaces.

I always recommend controlling access further by adding physical locks when possible. Especially if your policy is that no employees are permitted to enter these spaces. This adds another level of security to the postings.

Ok, for me, starting with managing the spaces themselves as well as the activities in and around these spaces is the key to ensuring worker safety. And it all starts with making sure you are PREPARED to respond to ANY emergency in the workplace.

Emergency services (whether you have confined spaces or not) is critical for any workplace. First and foremost, you need to determine whether or not emergency crews are able to reach your facility in what OSHA calls a “reasonable amount of time” for life-threatening situations.

So, according to OSHA, in workplaces where serious accidents such as those involving falls, suffocation, electrocution, or amputation are possible, emergency medical services must be available within 3-4 minutes, if there is no employee on the site who is trained to render first aid.

OSHA recognizes that a somewhat longer response time of up to 15 minutes may be reasonable in workplaces, such as offices, where the possibility of such serious work-related injuries is more remote.

Also, OSHA has interpreted the standard to require a separate (either in-house or outside) rescue and emergency service when permit space entry operations are performed in an immediately dangerous to life and health (IDLH) atmosphere.

This means any condition that poses an immediate or delayed threat to life or that would cause irreversible adverse health effects or that would interfere with an individual's ability to escape unaided from a permit space. An example would be during inerting activities.

Even in permit space entry operations involving non-IDLH atmospheres, more than one rescuer may be required in permit space entry operations depending on the hazards present and the number of authorized entrants that may require rescue.

The minimum number of people required to perform work that is covered by OSHA standards for permit-required confined space entry standards and respiratory protection standards will be driven by facts such as the hazards or potential hazards, the number of entrants who may require rescue and the configuration and size of the space. So planning is critical!

When using outside services that are able to meet the response time, consider the following:

* Have local response crews been out to see your facility?
* Have they done a walkthrough of some high-hazard processes and activities (not just confined spaces)?
* Are they equipped to manage the types of emergencies your site may present? (Many rural departments may lack some of the resources needed)
* Have emergency services crews trained or conducted simulated rescues at your site?

These are just a few examples of best practices you can follow to ensure a higher level of safety.

Also, keeping track of who is entering these spaces at any given time is key. Whether they are contractors or your own employees; knowing when entries are taking place and tracking entrants is a major part of the OSHA requirements.

This gets us into the permit entry system. This is your written procedure for preparing and issuing permits for entry and for returning the permit space to service following the termination of entry.

This is important; for a PERMIT required confined space, NO entry is allowed unless a written entry permit is completed, you have identified the trained attendant, entrants and entry supervisor (we will go through all that in the next episode) and have documented each hazard of the space and how each hazard is mitigated.

Now, since deaths in confined spaces often occur because the atmosphere is oxygen-deficient or toxic, confined spaces need to be tested prior to entry and continually monitored. More than 60% of confined space fatalities occur among would-be rescuers; therefore, a well-designed and properly executed rescue plan is a must.

If spaces are properly evaluated prior to entry and continuously monitored while the work is being performed and have appropriate rescue procedures in effect, fewer incidents would occur. OSHA considers entry to have been made into space whenever ANY part of the entrant’s body breaks the plane of the space opening.

CAUTION: hazards may still be present right outside the opening, like when a space has undergone nitrogen purging; an oxygen deficiency could exist just feet outside the opening and someone could be bending down to look inside (without breaking the plane) and be overcome, and pass out, fall into the space, etc. And this HAS led to fatalities before.

So just because OSHA says you have to break the plane to have made an entry, don’t forget about the general environmental controls standard that applies just outside the space.

Let’s stop there with entry procedures and save that specific topic for the next episode. I wanted to give you an overview of what is involved and what to expect moving forward.

Now that you have an idea of what these spaces are (according to OSHA) and some of the requirements; let’s focus on preparing for confined space operations in general. In a word; TRAINING.

Employees need to be trained BEFORE they are assigned any duties related to confined space work. Let me break these into some categories for you:

1. General safety
2. Entrants
3. Attendants
4. Supervisors

For general safety training, all employees, regardless of their role, need to understand the common hazards present or that may be present in any of the spaces that they might work. Especially hazards they may be introducing themselves. Are they cutting or welding? Are they using chemicals? Are they using electrical equipment?

Training also has to include signs and symptoms of exposure to certain hazards. All workers need to know how to identify whether or not an entrant is being affected by any of the hazards that may be present. They also need to understand how hazards are to be controlled, the monitoring equipment used in spaces, etc.

General training also has to include how to respond in an emergency. If you do rely on 911 (local emergency services, assuming you already verified they are able to perform such rescues as I already discussed) they need to go over the communication system to be used prior to work beginning.

According to the Standard; you have to develop and implement procedures for summoning rescue and emergency services, for rescuing entrants from permit spaces, for providing necessary emergency services to rescued employees, and for preventing unauthorized personnel from attempting a rescue.

Also, if there is any fall protection or retrieval equipment being used, they have to be properly trained on its set up and use. Especially if non-entry rescue is being utilized. This is crucial. You can see that knowing the confined spaces standard is not enough. You will need to know general safety requirements, PPE standards, Fall Protection, Respiratory Protection, Emergency Services, and First Aid, and more!

Attendants need to know all of the general training requirements as well as the need to remain at the space at all times. They cannot perform ANY other duties that interfere with being an attendant. The entrant can’t yell out to the attendant that they need a wrench or something and the attendant runs to the toolbox real quick and grabs it. They can’t be chatting up another site worker about the game last night, nothing like that!

This all has to part of the training. The same goes for the entry supervisor. Now the entry supervisor is responsible for ensuring ALL the sections of the permit have been addressed appropriately. The entry supervisor can also serve as the attendant if they are trained to do both, but I always recommend off you have the ability, use another layer of oversight by having someone else be the entry supervisor.

The permit itself we will go into detail on in the next episode. How to fill it out, terminating the space entry, how long you need to keep these on file, all that stuff. I will have permit templates available, checklists for you so you can get started. But this episode, I wanted to introduce the topic, talk about some of the definitions and training requirements to get us started.

So keep an ear out for the next episode as we go deeper into this topic. Let me know what your thoughts are regarding confined spaces. I would like to cover some FAQs as well and talk about some common letters of interpretation in the next episode that will help you improve your confined space entry program.

You can find me on LinkedIn! Post a LinkedIn update letting me know what you think of the podcast. Be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

Feb 19, 2018
033: Lean Safety

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Lean Safety

In this episode, I want to talk about Lean manufacturing principles and how it can help you transform safety in your organization.

If you listen to this podcast regularly (and I hope you do!), you probably have heard me tell you to look at what tools the lean or quality folks are using in your organization. And there is a good reason for that. They CAN help you improve safety processes.

I am going to reference two good books I studies and will draw upon their lessons in this episode. One is called Lean Safety: Transforming your safety program with lean management by Robert B. Hafey and the other is called Safety Performance in a Lean Environment: A guide to building safety into a process by Paul F. English.

Lean is a manufacturing philosophy that reduces the total cycle time between taking a customer order and the shipment by eliminating waste.

What is excellent about lean principles are they apply to all business processes and especially safety. Also, lean can be used for all types of businesses.

Edward Demming is widely considered the father of lean and what became the Toyota Production System (TPS). He went to Japan after WWII to teach Japanese business leaders how to improve quality. His work went unnoticed in the US until the early 1980’s.

Of course, that period is important; it’s when Japanese automakers overtook US companies in quality and productivity. Ford first brought Demming in to help improve their quality.

This is when Demming determined Ford’s quality systems were not at fault, but instead, their management practices were. A significant cultural change would be needed.

So Demming developed 14 points of management. Let’s go through them and see how they relate to safety:

1. Create constancy of purpose for improving products and services.
2. Adopt the new philosophy.
3. Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality.
4. End the practice of awarding business on price alone; instead, minimize total cost by working with a single supplier.
5. Improve constantly and forever every process for planning, production, and service.
6. Institute training on the job.
7. Adopt and institute leadership.
8. Drive out fear.
9. Break down barriers between staff areas.
10. Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and targets for the workforce.
11. Eliminate numerical quotas for the workforce and numerical goals for management.
12. Remove barriers that rob people of pride of workmanship, and eliminate the annual rating or merit system.
13. Institute a vigorous program of education and self-improvement for everyone.
14. Put everybody in the company to work accomplishing the transformation.

It is clear to see how universal these can be. Another useful tool we can take from lean (and trust me, there are many, as I have covered in past episodes) is DMAIC: Define, Measure, Analysis, Improve, and Control.

Let’s go through what this might look like for safety.

Define: Who is the customer? What is the voice of the customer? What is critical to safety? What is the cost of poor safety?

Measure: Cause & Effect fishbone. Is the safety process state and in control? What is the current safety process performance (or capability)? What actions are being taken to protect the employee/company (containment)?

Analysis: Which issues are effecting health & safety the most? How many samples do you need to conclude?

Improve: What is the ideal solution? What is the proof the solution will work? How many trials are needed? What is the work plan to implement and validate the solution?

Control: Can you demonstrate the improvement is sustainable over time? Is the process in control? How do we keep it that way?

Again, here is just one example of how lean principles and tools can be applied to safety. Furthermore, this can empower everyone in an organization to champion safety. So safety leadership doesn’t require a business leader or manager. Shop floor workers can get lean training and begin identifying ways to improve the systems they have to interface with every day; including safety.

We see this in accident investigations as well. One of my favorite lines to use is to focus on the process, not the person. In his book, Lean Safety, Robert Hafey tells a story about accidents at a manufacturer he once toured. There they uncovered a trend involving forklift accidents.

Some managers looked into force monitors; these shut down the forklift in the event of an impact requiring operators to seek out a manager to turn it back on. You see, most of the incidents were hit and runs, no witnesses.

His approach was different. Because they had no idea who caused the damage, since someone other than the driver usually reported it, they needed a plan that removed that aspect from the equation. The approach was to invite a forklift driver (any driver) in that area and help investigate.

They were told that they would not be spending time looking for WHO was responsible, but rather to determine the root cause and come up with corrective processes in place to prevent a recurrence.

What they discovered was the majority of the incidents were a result of poorly placed racks, improper clearances, etc. So they went about fixing those things, and wouldn’t you know, soon enough the drivers that had an incident began self-reporting.

The reason is TRUST! The approach to many accident investigations destroys trust - if it focuses on “what did you do wrong?” instead of “how can this be improved?”

I remembered at a client site years ago an operator got a laceration from removing a glove to grab a sample piece of metal off the line for a quality check. Management wanted to issue discipline, for removing PPE.

The problem was that everyone was issued the same gloves - heavy leather gloves because of the sharp metal edges on their product. But they were also required to cut a sample piece for a quality check. They all knew you could not pick up this thin 4” wide sample with those gloves on. So, everyone, every worker removed their glove to do so. And management knew this. But the others had not gotten a laceration…yet.

So issuing discipline would destroy trust, and drive reporting underground. Also, it did NOTHING to address the root cause; the conditions remained the same. Therefore they were doomed to repeat this cycle.

By focusing on the process, we were able to determine the form, fit and function of those gloves (on that line anyway) needed to change, and samples were brought in for operators to try and then score based on cut resistance level needed and dexterity. That operator, he became a part of the solution, not just another victim of a hazard of the job.

I could go on with hundreds of stories like this I have seen in my work as a consultant for over a decade. But let’s save those for future episodes!

The main takeaway I want you to get here is to look toward Lean principles to help you improve safety. Mainly build the trust needed to create a collaborative environment where you turn workers into champions for change and improvement across all areas of the business.

You can find me on LinkedIn! Post a LinkedIn update letting me know what you think of the podcast. Be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

Feb 11, 2018
032: Is Online Safety Training Effective?

Online safety training has come a LONG way from what it was even 5 years ago. Technology like mobile devices and apps has made digesting information easier and more interactive.

So in this episode I want to focus on what works best as far as online safety training goes, and what to avoid.

Years ago, a model for training emerged called Adaptive Learning. I won’t bore you with the higher education definition of the term. Not because I don’t think any of you would understand it; of course you would! But because when we use the term in the context of online safety training, the definition takes on a whole new meaning.

Adaptive learning for this discussion simply means the learner can drive the direction of the training based on their interactions. This goes well beyond the old “CORRECT/INCORRECT” feedback responses they typically get.

So let’s get into what to look for in online safety training and what to avoid.

So for online safety training, adaptive learning is simply the lesson presenting an activity whether it is a questions, matching, photo to select what is wrong, even a short clip of a work scenario and some question after, and then, based on the learners answer, they are presented with more information.

A simple example is if the lesson presents a question like, True or False: “safety glasses are only to be worn when you are performing a task with a power tool.” and the learners selects true, the lesson presents information explaining that “many times employees are around someone or will pass by someone using power tools that may present a hazard, given this information what should you do?”

The learner would then select an answer, again, either answer results in more information other than a simple CORRECT/INCORRECT. You see, the lesson seems to adapt to the learner’s responses. So how does this work?

The answer is quite simple. Using software one can easily create different “slides” with this information. Then using buttons for answer options, link each option to a slide with the relevant info. You could even do this with PowerPoint - create branching slides based on responses.

The question is, how deep do you want to go with it? Ideally you want to go as far it takes to make a point. If someone doesn’t get a simple concept by the third slide or so, it would be best to present a policy statement and ask several different ways if they understand; requiring a “yes, I understand” selection. If not, their training is paused until an actual person can coach them.

But back to the training concept, it is that simple. It is more engaging and informative to ask if PPE needs to be worn in a specific scenario (either described or shown in pictures or video). And if they choose the wrong answer, present a slide or video or picture with text with the rationale for the right answer, then ask it again in a different way to verify they understand the concept. Make sense?

So imagine an online training lesson that adapts this way? It is far better than the old “Pump and Dump” approach that is still used today. This adaptive learning model is great as it allows you (if you are the creator) to really dive deep on concepts and ideas for the learner. Even the correct answers can introduce another level of depth into a concept.

This graduated approach makes complex issues like CSE or Fall Protection easier as it allows you to introduce and validate foundational elements before getting into more complex ones. The learner tells the system when he/she is ready for the next level.

Another way to approach ANY online safety training is to use a blended approach. This can be live or broken up over time. Meaning, combining online training with instructor-led training. This can really enhance learning.

Imagine taking basic definition of terms on concepts of fall protection in an online adaptive learning course, then jumping into the classroom for hands-on demos and activities to reinforce what you were introduced to online? That is really powerful. I have seen this work well.

This brings up a distinction worth noting; the difference between training and education. I have a simple way (maybe too simple) of looking at the two terms:

Education is transferring knowledge of a particular subject.

Training is the practical application or use of that knowledge.

So to me, taking an online course about fall protection simply educates one on the requirements of the subject; definitions, procedures, policies, etc.

Training is the hands-on demonstration where learners have to inspect harnesses with hidden flaws, practice donning/doffing, using snap hooks, practice using a beam strap on a simulated beam, etc.

You need BOTH in many safety and health topics. So to me, you need to be involved in the training and education process for all employees. You cannot simply pass this off to an online option with no input whatsoever.

That said, online safety training is extremely effective and user friendly, accessible, and affordable. Many topics that simply require knowledge (education) about requirements can be taken online. A lot of us safety professionals need to keep up on regs, permit requirements, etc. and much of this is at the education level I just talked about. Maybe one could add an activity to fill out a permit or shipping manifest or something like that as a training aide.

But by and large, much of what we professionals need is definitely in the realm of education vs training. There are so many options out there for this. Personally, I have an affiliate relationship with Atlantic Training. Their courses are affordable, and give you what you need to get started; knowledge of the topic. I have a link in the show notes if you want to check them out. Again, they are not a sponsor or anything like that.

Other options are the National Safety Council. They have industry recognized training and education courses that I have recommended for years now to clients and even listeners that have contacted me about how to brush up on their safety management skills. 

So look around, ask peers what they did and how they liked it - that is still the best way to get feedback before you buy. Also, many offer free lesson previews as well. So be sure to look at those to see if the look, feel and style of the online training is best for you. I have taken some where the voice was digitized, monotone and just unbearable! I would not have chosen that course if I had a preview first.

So look for that. Also, look for anything that provides downloads or supporting materials like manuals, handouts, even job aides to use with others at work, like tool-box talks, safety huddles, etc.

The internet is seemingly endless with options these days. So I hope I have given you some options to look for. Let me know what you think - have you taken some really bad lessons? How about your recommendations?

Please share your thoughts by sending an email to

Mentioned in this episode:

Mighty Line Floor Tape

Atlantic Training

National Safety Council

Feb 05, 2018
031: A Process to Change Workplace Safety Culture

MOC Defined

Changing Safety Culture Requires a Framework! The link to the book mentioned in this episode can be found HERE

In this episode, I want to talk about changing workplace culture. I have had a couple of episodes on Safety Culture already. And all of that still applies. Again, for the discussion let’s define the term:

Culture is the character and personality of your organization. It's what makes your organization unique and is the sum of its values, traditions, beliefs, interactions, behaviors, and attitudes.

This is key: the values, traditions, beliefs, interactions, behaviors, and attitudes. These are what drive behavior, specifically, what helps workers make CHOICES that we then see in actions or behaviors.

The reason I bring this up is that for the last year or so I have been talking to colleagues, reading and chatting in online groups and I keep reading about a common theme out there by so-called “thought leaders’ and ‘guru’s’ in organizational development and safety culture development. As many of you know I had been in consulting for a decade specializing in these areas; culture development. And yes, I have an opinion on this as you may have guessed.

So let me use a specific example of what I am talking about;  I have seen a number of LinkedIn posts and articles about NOT talking too much about regulations or starting a conversation with “OSHA says…”. or similar discussions. While we can all agree that not having to drag in the references to regulations is good; we often have to go to those minimum standards. The reason? It is a sign of a “bad” safety culture.

Workplace culture often drives HOW we communicate about safety. The mistake most folks make is they manage by aspirational cultural values or from a future state. Here is what I mean; I see a lot of professionals pick up a book about culture this and culture that or read The Toyota Way and then look at their work culture and think, “yeah, we need to be like this!”

Problem; You are NOT like that. You need a roadmap to get there, yes. But do NOT approach your work culture as if they already are, based on what you wish were true about your work culture. These aspirations are commendable but sets you up for failure.

You manage from where you ARE, not where you wish to be. So I have some examples of what I mean. If you think you should not have to talk about minimum regulations because you feel your culture is so much beyond this yet you continually get challenged by leaders and coaches to “show me where I have to do this” or “where does it say I have to do that?” then you are not there yet!

You can try and avoid stating regulations or reciting the unfortunate phrase “according to OSHA…” but at some point, you will have to simply because your culture is still at that place. I have heard time and time again and have had key maintenance and leadership personnel flat out ask, “What is the policy or regulation on this or that?” And if they are seeking validation, give it to them. These are folks that just need to be consulted. Give them the info because this is what they are saying they need as a basis for their work. OR justification for how they work. You may eventually get past this point but if this is where you are now…manage from there.

Another sign of where you are is when key personnel asks what the minimum amount of effort needed is to get by? Or, when you attempt to go above and beyond but the workforce pushes back with “we never had to do this before…”

These are clear signs of YOU needing to understand where your work culture is right NOW, not wishing where you would like them to be. Again, those aspirations should motivate us to discover where we are (or current state) and determine the difference between that and the ideal (or future) state. This is the gap we need to work to close. That way we can devise a change plan that is realistic and addresses the areas that need developed and not focus on things we will never be able to improve.

So, if you are tired of having to say, “According to the Standard…” then ask WHY you are still having to say it. If you try to improve something beyond minimum compliance and get pushback, ask WHAT it is folks are resisting. It may just be the change and not the specific safety rule. So you may want to shift focus to change management in general. Go ask the quality folks or the lean folks if they have issues implementing even small changes to tasks or the work environment. Chances are they do.

So don’t get wrapped around the axle that your SAFETY culture is broken, when it may just be a PEOPLE thing. Strive to work with the other teams to find common obstacles and barriers. Safety needs to STOP operating in a vacuum and collaborate with other areas of the business to strategically align efforts to improve workplace culture.

If you are reading a book about workplace safety culture, fine. I recommend several on my resources page. But again, don’t get so wrapped up in your silo and think that this is unique to YOUR department. Most likely it is not. And if you have something figured out, like an aspect of the culture that you can improve, then you need to reach out and share this with others. Look into some management of change approaches. Helping workers deal with change.

You have a change plan, laid out timelines for training on this initiative you want to implement, how long before everyone gets the new equipment, etc. You know, a project management process. But do you have a process for change? One example is the ADKAR Model (again, just ONE example). This is a framework for understanding change at an individual level. It has 5 elements or building blocks, that must be in place for real change:


Awareness: this represents a person’s awareness of the nature of the change, why it is being made and the risk of NOT changing.

Desire: This represents the willingness to support and engage in the change.

Knowledge: This represents the information, training, and education needed to know HOW to change.

Ability: This represents the realization or the execution of the change. It addresses turning the knowledge into action.

Reinforcement: This represents those internal and external factors that sustain change.

The elements of the ADKAR model fall into the natural order of how one person experiences change. Desire cannot come before awareness because it is the awareness of the need for change that stimulates our desire or triggers our resistance to that change.

Knowledge cannot come before desire because we do not seek to know how to do something we do not want to do.

Ability cannot come before knowledge because we cannot implement what we do not know.

Reinforcement cannot come before ability because we can only recognize and appreciate what has been achieved.

The lifecycle for ADKAR begins after a change has been identified. From this starting point, the model provides a framework and sequence for managing the people side of change.

In the workplace, ADKAR provides a solid foundation for change management activities, including readiness assessments, sponsorship, communications, coaching, training, recognition and resistance management.

Look, there are other models. This is but one that I have used and have seen success in the past. But I want to point you in the right direction to get started addressing what I stated earlier, that is identifying the change that is needed is one thing, having a process to facilitate the change, ensuring its success is another.

This is a tool that can help. Stop managing from where you wish you were. Identify where you are today and get started laying out a plan to achieve successful, lasting change.

Let me know what you think! Send emails to You can find me on LinkedIn! Post a LinkedIn update, letting me know what you think of the podcast. Be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Jan 30, 2018
030: Is that Workplace Safety Injury/Illness Work-related or Not?

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OSHA Recordkeeping

As we know, the language of the OSH Act limits the recording requirements to injuries or illnesses that are "work-related." The Act uses but does not define, this term.

OSHA has interpreted the Act to mean that injuries and illnesses are work-related if events or exposures at work either caused or contributed to the problem. Work-related injuries or illnesses may (1) occur at the employer's premises, or (2) occur off the employer's premises when the employee was engaged in a work activity or was present as a condition of employment.

What most people would read under paragraph 1904.5(b)(1), is the "work environment" means "the establishment and other locations where one or more employees are working or are present as a condition of their employment. The work environment includes not only physical locations but also equipment or materials used by the employee during his or her work."

Work-relatedness is presumed for injuries and illnesses resulting from events or exposures occurring in the work environment. Mainly, there must be a causal connection between the employment and the injury or illness before the case is recordable. There are some exceptions. These exceptions help us to better understand what WOULD be recordable. So let’s go thru the exceptions:

Injuries or illnesses will not be considered work-related if they involve symptoms that surface at work but result solely from a non-work-related event or exposure that occurs outside the work environment. OSHA's recordkeeping system is intended only to capture cases that are caused by conditions or exposures arising in the work environment. It is not designed to capture cases that have no relationship with the work environment.

For this exception to apply, the work environment cannot have caused, contributed to, or significantly aggravated the injury or illness. 

An example of this type of injury would be a diabetic incident that occurs while an employee is working. Because no event or exposure at work contributed in any way to the diabetic episode, the case is not recordable. This exception allows the employer to exclude cases where an employee's non-work activities are the sole cause of the injury or illness. The exception was included in the proposal, and OSHA received no comments opposing its adoption.

Injuries and illnesses will not be considered work-related if they result solely from voluntary participation in a wellness program or in a medical, fitness, or recreational activity such as blood donation, physical, flu shot, exercise classes, racquetball, or baseball. This exception allows the employer to exclude certain injury or illness cases that are related to personal medical care, physical fitness activities, and voluntary blood donations. The were here are "solely" and "voluntary."

The work environment cannot have contributed to the injury or illness in any way for this exception to apply, and participation in the wellness, fitness or recreational activities must be voluntary and not a condition of employment.

This exception allows the employer to exclude cases that are related to personal matters of exercise, recreation, medical examinations or participation in blood donation programs when they are voluntary and are not being undertaken as a condition of work.

For example, if a clerical worker were injured while performing aerobics in the company gymnasium during his or her lunch hour, the case would not be work-related. On the other hand, if an employee who was assigned to manage the gymnasium was injured while teaching an aerobics class, the injury would be work-related because the employee was working at the time of the injury and the activity was not voluntary.

Similarly, if an employee suffered a severe reaction to a flu shot administered as part of a voluntary inoculation program, the case would not be considered work-related. However, if an employee suffered a reaction to medications administered to enable the employee to travel overseas on business, or the employee had an illness reaction to a drug administered to treat a work-related injury, the case would be considered work-related.

Injuries and illnesses will not be considered work-related if they are solely the result of an employee eating, drinking, or preparing food or drink for personal consumption (whether bought on the premises or brought in). OSHA has gotten many letters asking for interpretations on this very topic. So they addressed it in this exception.

An example of the application of this exception would be a case where the employee injured himself or herself by choking on a sandwich brought from home but eaten in the employer's establishment; such a case would not be considered work-related under this exception.

On the other hand, if a trip/fall hazard injured the employee in the employer's lunchroom, the case would be considered work-related.

In addition, a note to the exception makes clear that if an employee becomes ill as a result of ingesting food contaminated by workplace contaminants such as lead, or contracts food poisoning from food items provided by the employer, the case would be considered work-related.

Another wrinkle here worth noting is if an employee contracts food poisoning from a sandwich brought from home or purchased in the company cafeteria and must take time off to recover, the case is not considered work-related. 

On the other hand, if an employee contracts food poisoning from a meal provided by the employer at a business meeting or company function and takes time off to recover, the case would be considered work-related. Food provided or supplied by the employer does not include food purchased by the employee from the company cafeteria but does include food purchased by the employer from the company cafeteria for business meetings or other company functions.

So the test is whether the employer is providing food for a work-event or not.

Injuries and illnesses will not be considered work-related if they are solely the result of employees doing personal tasks (unrelated to their employment) at the establishment outside of their assigned working hours. This exception allows employers limited flexibility to exclude from the recordkeeping system situations where the employee is using the employer's establishment for purely personal reasons during his or her off-shift time.

For example, if an employee were using a meeting room at the employer's establishment outside of his or her assigned working hours to hold a meeting for a civic group to which he or she belonged, and slipped and fell in the hallway, the injury would not be considered work-related.

On the other hand, if the employee were at the employer's establishment outside his or her assigned working hours to attend a company business meeting or a company training session, such a slip or fall would be work-related.

Injuries and illnesses will not be considered work-related if they are solely the result of personal grooming, self-medication for a non-work-related condition, or are intentionally self-inflicted. This exception allows the employer to exclude from the Log cases related to personal hygiene, self-administered medications and intentional self-inflicted injuries, such as attempted suicide.

For example, a burn injury from a an adverse used at work to dry the employee's hair would not be work-related. Similarly, a negative reaction to a medication brought from home to treat a non-work condition would not be considered a work-related illness, even though it first manifested at work.

Injuries will not be considered work-related if they are caused by motor vehicle accidents occurring in company parking lots or on company access roads while employees are commuting to or from work. This exception allows the employer to exclude cases where an employee is injured in a motor vehicle accident while commuting from work to home or from home to work or while on a personal errand.

For example, if an employee was injured in a car accident while arriving at work or while leaving the company's property at the end of the day, or while driving on his or her lunch hour to run an errand, the case would not be considered work-related.

On the other hand, if an employee were injured in a car accident while leaving the property to purchase supplies for the employer, the case would be work-related. This exception represents a change from the position taken under the older record keeping rule, which was that no injury or illness occurring in a company parking lot was considered work-related.

So, OSHA has concluded that some injuries and illnesses that occur in company parking lots are clearly caused by work conditions or activities e.g., being struck by a car while repairing asphalt, slipping on ice permitted to accumulate in the lot – and by their nature point to conditions that could be corrected to improve workplace safety and health.

Common colds and flu will not be considered work-related.

OSHA allows the employer to exclude cases of common cold or flu, even if contracted while the employee was at work.

However, in the case of other infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, brucellosis, and hepatitis C, employers must evaluate reports of such illnesses for work relationship, just as they would any other type of injury or illness.

Please listen to the full episode as I explain some more OSHA Q & A’s on this topic. Please leave your comments or questions! Let me know what you think. Send an email to and share with me your thoughts about OSHA recordkeeping.

Please leave a ranking and review on Apple Podcast; it helps others find the podcast and assists me in making improvements.

If you are not on Apple Podcast, you can find me on LinkedIn! Post a LinkedIn update, letting me know what you think of the podcast. Be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedInpage. You can also find the podcast on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter!

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Jan 23, 2018
029: Safety Meetings that Succeed

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Regular meetings can be beneficial to your business (if done right). In this episode I want to talk about meetings. Yes, the dreaded business meeting. But don’t worry, I have some great tips for you to follow so you can make sure your business meetings don’t put folks to sleep, turn employees off to being engaged, or make you look like a knucklehead!

No matter why you are having the meeting, some simple rules apply; the meeting should be specific, you should only invite those absolutely needed, and you must understand what makes a meeting BAD! So you can avoid it.

In his book, Death by Meeting: A Leadership Fable About Solving the Most Painful Problem in Business, Patrick Lencioni talks about four types of meetings:

  1. The Daily Check-in
  2. The Weekly Tactical
  3. The Monthly Strategic
  4. The Quarterly Off-Site

Here I want to talk about the first 3. Specifically the third one - the monthly strategic meeting. Ask yourself what information is important enough to pull employees together once a week, or once a month and sit down to review? This can be difficult. Fear not! I break it all down in this episode.

Get the book mentioned in this episode by clicking HERE

Jan 16, 2018
028: Bloodborne Pathogens Safety Program

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Bloodborne pathogens are infectious microorganisms in human blood that can cause disease in humans. OSHA requires employers to protect employees who are occupationally exposed to blood or Other Potentially Infectious Materials (OPIM).

While most would associate exposure to bloodborne pathogens with healthcare workers, there are many other occupations, including first-aid team members, housekeeping personnel in some industries, and various other workers who may be at risk of occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens

OSHA’s bloodborne pathogen standard applies to all occupational exposures in General Industry. Let's break dow some definitions of terms, training requirements as well as program requirements in this episode.

Send episode questions or topic suggestions to Also, be sure to visit our official floor marking and floor sign company Mighty Line - 


Jan 06, 2018
027: Engaging Workers In Safety

If you want to increase safety engagement between leadership (direct supervisors) and workers try asking what coaching leaders are already getting. Chances are HR is coaching front line supervisors on how to engage workers to increase morale, retention and productivity. Instead of reinventing the wheel, piggyback on what they are already doing.

I have used the Gallup Survey information many times with many clients. It just works! Listen to this episode for details but you can get the one-pager of the 12 questions by clicking HERE. If you are SERIOUS about learning more about this approach, you NEED the book! Click HERE FOR THE BOOK.

And of course, head over to my RESOURCE page for ALL the essential tools you should have! This topic is a good one and I will definitely expand on it in a later episode. Send your thought to

Be safe, enjoy the Holidays with your friends and family:)

Dec 26, 2017
026: Corrosives Safety

Our exposure to corrosive chemicals in the workplace is more common than folks realize. Just think about the chemicals we use around the home! Safety, on and off the job, is key to managing the hazards associated with these chemicals.

Listen to this episode to find out the most common safety hazards, types of corrosive chemicals and how to better prepare your employees for working with them.

I also cover ANSI requirements for emergency eyewash stations and emergency showers, workplace safety best practices, OSHA requirements and I share some simple workplace safety tips to help you keep workers safe around these workplace chemicals.

Leave your feedback, including topic requests, via email:

Don't forget to visit the official floor marking and floor sign company of The SafetyPro Podcast, Mighty Line Floor Tape - go to for a free sample today!

Dec 18, 2017
025: Multi-Employer and Contractor Safety

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Contractor Safety

Increasingly, companies are using contract or temporary workers to perform work. This work ranges from maintenance and construction to security and even production-related tasks. It’s easy to pass off responsibility for contractor safety to someone else — particularly the contractor.

Under the OSHA multi-employer worksite policy, citations may be issued to employers using temporary employees. 

OSHA’s multi-employer worksite citation policy states that on multi-employer worksites (in all industry sectors), more than one employer may be citable for a hazardous condition that violates an OSHA standard. A two-step process must be followed in determining whether more than one employer is to be cited. Listen to learn all about it and better protect your company and your contractors.

You can find me on LinkedIn! Post a LinkedIn update, letting me know what you think of the podcast. Be sure to @ mention Blaine J. Hoffmann or The SafetyPro Podcast LinkedIn page. You can also find the podcast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Dec 11, 2017
024: Aerial Lifts, Powered Platforms and Scissor Lifts

In this episode, aerial lifts, powered platforms and scissor lifts - they all have slightly different requirements.

Be sure to share your thoughts by sending a message to

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Dec 04, 2017
023: OSHA Outreach Training Issues

Outreach training was never supposed to replace required safety training under specific OSHA regulations. So what about contractors that we hire that simply produce the 10 or 30-hour OSHA Outreach training card? What questions do we ask? How do we verify they have had actual safety training beyond the OSHA Outreach Training Program? Listen as I tackle this topic.

Be sure to drop me your thoughts by sending a message to

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Nov 23, 2017
022: Learning From Safety Mistakes of Others

I often have folks share safety news stories or OSHA citations they hear about. Most of the time it's an odd curiosity and serves no other purpose than to shake our heads and say, "idiots!".

What if we take this information and bring into our organizations and try to place ourselves in those situations? I do this all the time. It is a great way to learn from the mistakes of others.

Everything from accidents, injuries and news about OSHA citations for alleged violation of workplace safety standards; I try to use this info to challenge teams to go out in their facilities and find those or similar situations, conditions or practices.

We can use this info to engage operators/workers, look at policies, processes and facilities/equipment. Listen to this episode to learn how you can do this in your company.

Be sure to subscribe and drop an email if you have comments or a request for a topic.

Also, Mighty Line Floor Tape is now the official floor tape and floor marking company for the SafetyPro Podcast. All of your industrial floor marking needs are in one place. Visit to learn more.

Nov 17, 2017
021: Charting Your Safety Culture

Special announcement! Mighty Line Floor Tape is now the official floor tape and floor marking company for the SafetyPro Podcast! All of your industrial floor marking needs in one place. Visit to learn more.

Where are you on the culture maturity curve? How do you chart this? Click HERE to download the free graph and listen as I talk about the different levels of safety culture and how you can tell where your company is right now. Click HERE to join the email list!

Send feedback and topic requests to

Nov 10, 2017
020: Let's Start Talking About Safety Culture

Mentioned in this episode:

NIOSH TWH Workbook


Let's talk about culture. What culture do you want? What do you currently have? Look to 2 areas of focus for culture. Listen as I explain.



Nov 02, 2017
019: Creating 13-Week Roadmap for Safety Projects

Get the 13-Week Roadmap journal I use:

Staying focused can be hard. Listen as I describe the journal that helps me create a 13-week roadmap for projects, stay focused on what matters and track my progress along the way. The Self Journal can help you as a safety professional, check it out today here

Dont' forget to HIT THE SUBSCRIBE button to get every episode. Send emails to

Oct 27, 2017
018: Fishbone Diagram for Safety Incident Reviews

Get your FREE Fishbone Diagram Template HERE

One way to capture different ideas and stimulate the team’s brainstorming on root causes is the cause and effect diagram, commonly called a fishbone. The fishbone will help to visually display the many potential causes for a specific problem or effect.

Listen as I explain how it is used. Download the FREE template to follow along!

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Oct 12, 2017
017: 5-Why Problem Solving Tool for Safety

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**To get the free 5-Why template mentioned in this episode click HERE.

Using 5-why for safety problem-solving will really help those looking for an easy yet effective tool to get to the root causes of issues.

Be sure to subscribe and leave a rank/review so others can find us and  so we can improve the podcast.


Oct 07, 2017
016: Intro to HAZCOM

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HAZCOM is still a frequently cited OSHA violation. Listen to this intro to the topic so you can keep your employees safe.

Be sure to SUBSCRIBE via Apple Podcasts and please leave a rank and review so I can improve!

Send your email questions or topic request to

Sep 27, 2017
015: Chemical Safety Labels

Labels still create problems for many employers. Learn what is needed and listen to some examples of what to do and not do when it comes to labels in the workplace.

Be sure to send email questions or topics for future episodes to


Sep 25, 2017
014: VPP Element 4 - Safety & Health Training

The fourth element in the OSHA VPP is safety & health training. Let's dive into this one and simplify it. Remember, the VPP Simplified Tool will explain all the elements of the VPP, the sub-elements, and track your progress along the way. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast and visit the website to learn more about the VPP Simplified Tool.

Send email questions to I may answer your question on the podcast!

Sep 05, 2017
013: VPP Element 3 - Safety Hazard Prevention & Controls

The third element in the OSHA VPP is hazard prevention & controls. Let's dive into this one and simplify it. Remember, the VPP Simplified Tool will explain all the elements of the VPP, the sub-elements, and track your progress along the way. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast and visit the website to learn more about the VPP Simplified Tool.

Send email questions to I may answer your question on the podcast!

Aug 31, 2017
012: VPP Element 2 - Worksite Safety Analysis

The second element in the OSHA VPP is worksite analysis. Let's dive into this one and simplify it. Remember, the VPP Simplified Tool will explain all the elements of the VPP, the sub-elements, and track your progress along the way. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast and visit the website to learn more about safety and the VPP Simplified Tool.

Send email questions to I may answer your question on the podcast!

Aug 26, 2017
011: VPP Element 1 - Leadership Commitment & Employee Involvement

ANNOUNCEMENT: We are now offering the #1 safety and health management system review tool used to prepare companies for the partnership with OSHA. Now you can use the same tool I have used for years.

But don't worry, staying true to my values and goals for this podcast, I explain it all in the next 4 episodes covering the VPP elements and sub-elements in detail.

Take notes! A lot of info is packed into the 4-episode series on VPP! email me at

Aug 25, 2017
010: BONUS - SMART Goals Part 2


I got a lot of responses from the last episode and noticed an odd trend each time I release a new one as well. I talk about those here in this bonus episode.

Keep the emails coming! And hey, if you enjoy the info in the podcast please be sure to leave a ranking and review on Apple Podcasts or drop me a personal message using the email address above.

Aug 19, 2017
010: Workplace Safety & Health Goals and Objectives

How to set S.M.A.R.T. workplace safety and health goals and objectives and avoid vague lofty goals you will never realize!

OSHA wants you to set safety goals. Listen as I talk about how to set S.M.A.R.T. workplace safety and health goals and objectives and avoid vague, lofty goals you will never realize!




Aug 02, 2017
009: Safety & Health Management System

Have you ever wondered what should be in your safety program? Where do you begin? In this episode I give you a quick rundown on how to get started and the elements of your written program. Don't forget to subscribe and rank/review the podcast so that I can improve it for you!

Email your safety question or comment to

Aug 01, 2017
008: OSHA Aisles and Walkways Safety Update

Aisles and walkways are being updated! Mainly floor markings. Learn what to do by listening to this episode. More update episodes coming!

Email your safety question or comment:


Jul 24, 2017
007: OSHA Safety Recordkeeping Listener Questions Pt 2

From parking lots to chipped teeth, this episode has me covering interesting OSHA safety and injury recordkeeping scenarios for you. Be sure to let me know what you think!

Jun 25, 2017
006: OSHA Safety Recordkeeping Questions from Listeners

In this Q&A episode, I tackle some of the most common OSHA recordkeeping questions that past clients have asked me!

Be safe!

May 28, 2015
005: Safety Questions from Listeners
  1. In this episode, I answer listener questions about workplace safety and compliance. To leave me a voice message with a question to answer on the podcast please visit my website. Click HERE to ask the SafetyPro!

Also mentioned in this episode is my 5 tips to navigate the OSHA website without losing your mind! You really want this cheat sheet if you find yourself looking up info on their website. Click HERE to get it now!

May 01, 2015
004: Meaningful Employee Involvement in Safety

In this episode, I discuss the importance of meaningful employee involvement in the safety and health management system.


Some barriers to employee involvement in the safety and health management system:


-Disregarding the fact that all injuries and illnesses result from exposure to hazards.

-Perception by employees that management is primarily interested in disciplining “un-safe” acts without adequately addressing hazards and root causes.

-Personnel actions, such as promotions, compensation, demotions, disciplines, and re-assignments that are administered in such a way as to reduce or undermine the commitment to safety.

-Treating worker behavior as though it is a root or underlying cause rather than identifying hazards or system-related causes.

-Administering a post-accident program, such as drug testing, in a way that discourages injury reporting

-Not implementing hazard recognition and control measures and/or ignoring the hierarchy of controls.

-Blaming employees with undue emphasis on discipline instead of implementing system changes.

-Uneven accountability – focusing only on the line/hourly worker and not addressing “behavior” of supervisors, senior management and corporate leadership.

-Employee perception that production takes precedence over their personal safety and health.


Be sure to subscribe, rank and review this podcast so I may improve and to aid others in finding me!

Mar 05, 2015
003: What Does Leadership Support For Safety Mean?

Have you ever heard the recommendation to conduct periodic reviews of the safety and health management system? Ever wonder what was meant by the term 'system'?

I want to take some time and talk about what is involved in a comprehensive Safety and Health Management System review. You may have heard this phrase and wondered what exactly does it mean? So let's break it down. Basically, the safety and health management system starts (at least initially) with a review of all facilities, machines, chemicals, tasks, etc. to determine hazards.

If you listened to my previous episode, I talked about how to go about conducting such an assessment in preparation for writing a safety manual, which will become a part of this management system. So that assessment kicks off a cycle. 


Feb 04, 2015
002: Worksite Safety Analysis

I go over how to begin a basic Worksite Analysis or Hazard Identification and Assessment process.

According to OSHA, each employer must assess the workplace to identify all hazards; evaluate new equipment, materials, and processes; and review safety and health information. This would need to be done initially, then I always recommend at least once every year or when workplace conditions change.

Assessment records must be kept and made available to OSHA upon request-employers with 10 or fewer employees are exempt, but a good best practice is to have this done no matter how many employees you have!

A worksite assessment means that managers and employees analyze all worksite conditions to identify and eliminate existing or potential hazards. Worksite assessment involves a variety of worksite examinations to identify not only existing hazards, but also conditions and operations in which changes might create hazards.

Jan 23, 2015
001: Written Safety Manuals

Welcome to the first in a series of introductory episodes about safety and health management. I wanted to release a series of episodes that break down important aspects of safety and health before I dive into specific things you need to do in order to manage safety in your business.

The overall safety and health management system, or safety program, refers to everything you are doing within the company to manage safety. This includes training, audits, written programs, surveys, etc. This episode, we will focus primarily on the part of the written manual of that system.

Now, most companies have specific things in mind when looking at safety and its benefits, such as reducing the costs of downtime, and workers' compensation premiums, etc. Because the underlying cause of accidents is directly related to the safety program (or lack of a safety program), then having effective safety and health management systems and processes is critical. Yet, many companies do not have these systems or processes or have comprehensive manuals describing each of their safety programs.

Written safety manuals are only an indication of top management support for safety and health. In order to ensure everyone understands their role, what is expected of them and what to expect regarding safety, the company needs to develop a comprehensive safety program with written safety manuals for each topic covered. Having a formal written program helps you to define and direct the safety effort; ensure that the programs cover all major safety issues on a topic-by-topic basis, organizing the safety information in an accessible and logical order.

Developing a written safety program (which includes manuals and procedures) can take time and a considerable amount of money, but in return, it provides a company and its employees with:


  • Communication of known safety hazards associated with tasks, equipment, processes, facilities, etc.
  • Well-established goals and objectives
  • A Mission statement & written commitment to safety
  • Written standards and expectations of management & employees
  • Clear boundaries, and disciplinary actions for failure to follow safety guidelines
  • Defined safety roles and responsibilities for managers, supervisors, and employees
  • Establishment of a safety budget



Jan 02, 2015
000: Intro to The SafetyPro Podcast

This is the SafetyPro Podcast with Blaine J. Hoffmann, MS OSHM. Think of me as your personal safety professional!

In this quick intro, I talk about my professional experience, background and what to expect from this podcast moving forward.

I will cover real-world workplace safety and health management issues and how to implement safety and health program elements in your workplace. I will also tackle training issues, audits, safety trends, interview experts, and more!

I will also provide bonus materials (downloadable tools) for you to use on the job! Things like safety talks, charts, inspections, surveys, and more.

Dec 19, 2014