Tag Archives: safety

Women’s World Cup: Tips for Managing Risk

The world’s largest sporting event of the summer kicked off (pun intended) in France this month and continues through July 7. According to Reuters, more than 1.5 million supporters are expected to attend the 2019 Women’s World Cup matches in the nine cities hosting the tournament. With record-breaking attendance, the rising popularity of women’s soccer also means an increase in crowd-related risks and the need for a comprehensive risk management plan.

To ensure a safe and positive experience for all, host cities and venues must consider risks from all angles and think about how to prevent and respond to potential incidents. The responsibility for crowd safety goes beyond city and stadium officials, first responders and security staff. Members of the public – the crowd itself – also can and should take an active role in ensuring everyone enjoys the event without incident.

Risk analysis

First and foremost, city and venue officials need to identify and assess risks and have a plan ready to address them. This analysis requires total situational awareness and a thorough assessment of potential vulnerabilities, including everything from how many exits are available at the venue, to what can happen between the stadium and the parking lot, to understanding how crowds typically interact and move throughout the event.

This kind of assessment requires thinking about the event in a broader context, beyond the stadium gates and the confines of the match itself. Risks are not limited to the main location or time of an event. Attendees should remain alert before, during and after an event, as well as inside and outside the venue.

See also: The Globalization of Risk Management  

Total situational awareness encompasses:

  • Infrastructure
  • Environment
  • Crowd/human behavior
  • Emerging technologies

Infrastructure

Host cities and stadium officials need to consider what infrastructure exists to support the event. Is there a comprehensive map of the venue that includes all the entrances and exits? Are they secured? Is there an emergency plan in place for various crisis scenarios? If so, when was the last time it was tested it?

Prior to a major event, every venue should do a practice run-through to make sure the plan is up to date. By going through the various crisis scenarios, you can identify gaps in the plan and figure out how to fill them, before an actual crisis occurs.

Environment

While security personnel are typically sufficient for the entrance into a big event, hostile attacks are increasingly occurring outside the main venue. For example, in naturally open spaces such as parking lots, perpetrators have easy access to large groups outside of the stadium’s protection. Also, think about the venue itself. Is the place/location of special significance to any group or cause? Does the timing coincide with a particular holiday or anniversary? When considering a potential attack, officials should also monitor social media, before and during an event, for clues and possible tips that an incident may occur.

Crowd/human behavior

Finding the right balance between creating a fun, entertaining atmosphere and a safe place for large crowds to gather can be tricky. On one hand, you want an open, inviting space; on the other hand, you must maintain order and some kind of control. With people from all over the world coming together, safety instructions and protocol must be visual and easy to understand. For example, emergency exits should be clearly marked and accessible. Security and other staff, such as concession workers and maintenance crews, should be trained to watch for body language, verbal cues and unusual behavior that might indicate potential threats. A “see something, say something” policy, where people are encouraged to report suspicious behavior, is helpful to enlist community vigilance to prevent incidents.

Emerging technologies

From passive surveillance to handheld apps and artificial intelligence, advances in technology are enabling a better understanding of risks. Closed-caption television (CCTV) cameras that allow a central command center to monitor crowds are widely used in venues today. Advances in facial recognition algorithms and AI enable computers to analyze faces and raise red flags when someone elicits extra scrutiny. With machine learning, computers are getting better at detecting bodies and objects in crowds. Whether it’s distinguishing between a flashlight and a firearm, crowds pushing each other and a fight, or a joke and negative intent, artificial intelligence is analyzing real-time video feeds to better identify threats.

Proactive policing and passive surveillance, such as millimeter wave technology, can identify weapons (explosives, guns or knives) with nearly 100% accuracy. Mobile apps can turn any phone into a body cam, so that all staff (from concession workers to maintenance crews) can feed images to security. Stadiums can even set up “no drone zones” with equipment that can intercept drones within a periphery and turn them around.

See also: Why Risk Management Is a Leadership Issue  

For crowd safety, some stadiums offer apps that can guide event attendees through the venue or allow them to send alerts if a family member or friend is lost. These apps can also “crowd-source” security, allowing fans to provide real-time information on potential threats to the on-site command center. Using sensors placed strategically in and around the venue, exact locations can be determined and security personnel dispatched quickly and efficiently.

Be part of the solution

Public safety is everyone’s responsibility. It takes community involvement, and being aware of and caring about the person next to you, to make a positive impact. Everyone – players, fans, stadium employees and even the public at large – plays a role in keeping the peace. Whether you’re heading to France this summer or attending some other crowded event, my advice to you is simple: Pay attention, be smart and, most importantly, have fun!

Construction Safety: Listen, Learn and Lead

I start this article with listening, as that truly comes first. Learning and leading follow. Used together, these tools can make the construction site a much safer place indeed.

Listening

When I was on the farm, we broke the axle on a piece of equipment that cut grass to bale. Dad took me to the John Deere dealer, and the conversation went like this: “Max, my haybine is in the middle of the field on its belly. Broke most of the knives, so I need a dozen or two, and the main axle sheared right off.” “Well, Robert, I never had an axle break on a haybine since I owned this place. But, let me get you one.” (As an aside, dealer Max was no fan of my dad.) As Max left to grab the part, Dad whispered to me, “If they never break, why does he keep them in stock?” This was my early lesson on listening.

In construction, we easily criticize the guy falling off a ladder. “Of course he fell, he was on the top step!” If we had asked the injured worker and listened to why he was on top, he likely would have replied, “That’s the ladder they gave me.”

My firm works in semiconductor factories and manufacturing plants across the U.S. Today, we celebrated one full year without a recordable incident at our largest site. Most of our projects are routinely injury-free. At a recent site gathering of safety managers from other trades (and our client), the conversation centered on how some of the workers could just not “get it,” and the thought was offered that stricter requirements or more scrutiny would turn them around. We offered that we had a similar project 20 miles away that many considered a safe, model site. No injuries, no drama and a happy workforce.

We proposed a challenge to the group. (This is the “leading” part of our safety philosophy and why our firm is considered a leader in our field.) We told them (not suggested) that we would interview that model project’s team and share what was working at their site with everyone.

So we took the time to listen to our “model” team: John Wood and Steven Enright, our safety managers; Mario Gabriel, our project director; and Brian LaRosa, one of its foremen, who truly stands out. These guys were excited and happy that someone took the time to listen. Filming was simple: a cellphone on a stand in a break room and lighting supplied by a window. It was a big success, and the lamenting group, after watching our interviews, went on and interviewed 30 other folks in the field who know what works. That’s how you lead. You may think it odd I included the names of our team, but we need to recognize success more often and spend less time publishing rates that highlight our misfortune.

See also: Adopting New Standards of Safety  

Summing up, take the time to listen to those doing the work. When there is an accident (remember the guy on the ladder?), interviews are the first thing we do to learn more about what went wrong. Consider the power of asking what he needed to be safe—before he fell. And then remember to thank the person who taught you. It is critical to let those who share their tips know how valuable they were to others. Before you move on to your next battle, thank the warriors from the last.

Learning

I love the idea of simplification. I do not like clutter. So when I spotted the practice of piling as many tools on a cart as we can to take into a clean room, I asked why? “Well, that’s how we have always done it.” That, of course, grabbed my attention. But, consider the fact that a pilot uses the same preflight checklist every time. If you ask him or her why, the reply may be: “We have always done it this way.” Considering we have not had an air disaster in the U.S. in  years, we do need to listen and learn from the experts. However, remember, someone once suggested the idea of a checklist to a pilot.

So, I reviewed the data for the last few years—had we ever had an incident or injury from a messy cart? No. Does the cluttered cart pose a hazard to anyone? Kinda. Have we ever had complaints from the customer on how we use and store these carts? Yes. Should we take the time to organize these carts to simplify? Yes—but with the users. To step in and organize a good worker’s cart or toolbox would be like rooting around in my wife’s pocketbook; something you never do. New to safety, I was once pointedly told by an upset ironworker in Philadelphia (as I searched through his gang box for unsafe things) that you need to ask the owner first and then look with him, my listening lesson.

Back to learning and listening. When I asked a foreman why the cart was often messy, he replied that it was a real hassle to leave the work area (clean room), ungown, get the tool he needs, wipe down the tools, regown and return to the work area. That system was the contributor to clutter. I asked why he didn’t install a simple shadow box rack on top to hang his tools; his answer: “They just give me the cart.…” I replied, “If we can cut down the time it takes for you to search through the clutter to find your level and make sure everything you could possibly need is on the cart, would that make the job easier and faster?” That’s what we are figuring out, together, today.

Great workers treasure their tools and are proud of how they are used. Any changes we recommended must answer his or her classic question: “What’s in this for me?” The answer we are working toward is for those users to be part of something big (leading) and for them to want to share their knowledge (listening) and then share that outcome with the rest of our company, our clients and the industry (leading).

Leading

Reportedly there is a quote at West Point that goes something like, “Before you can lead, you need to learn to march. Over the course of my career, I have witnessed and worked for firms that are more than happy to just march. The interview approach we just discussed is a great example of stepping up in front of your clients and your competitors to lead. Leading is easier in safety, for we love to share everything we know and do not see another contractor’s safety manager as a competitor. We are one of the few groups that strive to protect everyone—not just whom we work for. I call my safety team the “lifesavers” with pride, for that is what true safety professionals are.

The tendency for many firms is to follow because it’s easier. But as with a sled dog, unless you are the lead dog, the view ahead is never pretty. I once had the idea of a national database to share lessons learned among general contractors and our owners. The lessons would be filtered through a well-known safety school and made available to everyone. When I proposed the idea to my boss at the time, he told me, “TJ, it’s not what you can do for the industry, it’s what you can do for this firm.” That’s following.

Organizations that are content with marching, not leading, will realize little improvement in their safety efforts. Rates will be static, and people will be unhappy. Many of us love to lead, and many of those doing the work with us want to be a part of that. When everyone is involved in leading, you are surrounded by leaders, not followers.

See also: Connected Buildings and Workplace Safety  

In one of my most satisfying efforts while working at Turner, I gathered 14 of my safety professionals, and we brainstormed in a basement break room for an hour. While I sat atop a stool wearing a wizard’s outfit and cap, we had a focused and fun conversation on what the perfect scissor lift could look like. No suggestion was too wild. What resulted were some of the freshest ideas from some of the best people. We drove that list of suggestions to Canada and met with the largest scissor lift manufacturer in North America. Some of those ideas can now be seen on lifts today. That’s leading.

Conclusion

As you plan your day, look for those exciting opportunities to lead, and give others the chance. It will bring a sense of professionalism to you and highlight your company, and, for those doing construction safety work each day, you will see excitement in the ranks and pride in their faces, and everyone will look forward to going to work.

This article was first published on IRMI.com and is reproduced with permission. Copyright 2014, International Risk Management Institute, Inc.

Adopting New Standards of Safety

The duty of insurers is not to deny the need for new standards but to dedicate themselves to standardizing new—and superior—levels of safety. Why should they insist on doing otherwise, when the technology exists to heighten safety and lower costs; when the cost of doing business as usual looks safe but is far more dangerous than it appears to be; when cameras can reveal—and record—what workers cannot see for themselves?

Why should insurers resist what trial lawyers will soon insist be the exclusive standard of safety, by way of multimillion-dollar settlements and verdicts? Why should insurers persist in their wait-and-see attitude, when they can see what lies ahead?

The questions speak for themselves.

If insurers do not like the answers, they should remind themselves that sometimes the refusal to answer a question is worse than acknowledging that an answer is true. Which is to say nothing is static; technology can make change easy to adopt or extremely hard to avoid.

Take my column about workplace safety.

Consider this piece, then, a continuation of my conversation with Chris Machut of Netarus, whose company develops innovative solutions for overhead cranes, tugboats and construction sites.

See also: Let’s Open Our Eyes to Work Safety Issues  

Machut is a visible—and vocal—advocate for using cameras to help workers see everything that matters. He says what matters most is what insurers can do now: champion the adoption of crane cameras so “policies can be more expansive without necessarily being more expensive; because safety translates into saving lives; because life-saving tools facilitate success; because success is more than the sum of even the largest sums of money.”

I agree with Machut, not because I think or hope he is right, but because I know he is right. I know that knowledge of a danger—and the construction industry is, if nothing else, a study in danger—is often the key to liability.

If real estate developers know how dangerous it is to add a chapter to the story of the history of a city, to measure that chapter not in pages but in stories, if they know the dangers of including another building to the skyline of their city; because they do know these things, insurers should seek to lessen the number of payouts by lowering the probability that they will have to pay out in general.

If awareness is a given, how do we give workers the ability to see farther, thanks to an aide that neither weakens nor tires, that neither succumbs to the tedium of the task nor surrenders to the trials of exertion, that neither leaves the job site nor loses its sight?

The answer is visual technology.

In a word: cameras.

Cameras represent a new standard in safety.

See also: Awareness: The Best Insurance Policy  

To debate that fact is to miss the point—and to possibly drop the beam or steel girder, injuring workers and pedestrians alike. To doubt the urgency of this point is be vulnerable to lawsuits and bankruptcy.

To adopt this standard is for insurers to mitigate risk and to minimize danger.

It is too dangerous for insurers to ignore this standard.

Game Changer for Incident Reporting

With new OSHA electronic incident-reporting requirements ready to go into effect later this year, the time to focus on workplace safety data collection is now.

Recently, I came across a video that went viral a couple of years ago of a worker climbing an enormous TV tower in South Dakota—to change a light bulb. Safely I might add.

If you have a fear of heights, the video recorded by a drone might be uncomfortable to watch, but I can tell you that the man appears to follow best safety practices by continuing to hook the bars above him with his carabiners as he makes his ascent to the top of the structure, which stands the equivalent of five football fields—1,500 feet—above the ground.

The video is a good reminder that there are scores of workers performing dangerous jobs every day—from miners to deep-sea fishermen and everything in between—who put their health and safety at risk at work.

However, even in what normally would be considered a safer work environment, accidents and even deaths occur as well. In one recent example, a teenager from Streator, Illinois, died while collecting samples from a rail car after he accidentally came in contact with power lines near the train tracks, according to the local Pantagraph newspaper. Overall, there were 2.9 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses reported in 2015 and 4,800 deaths, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the most recent data available.

Insurance companies in particular have a vested interest in ensuring their clients—the companies that offer their workers insurance for health, life, workers’ compensation, etc.—do everything in their power to ensure their workers stay safe at work. An injury or death can lead to five-, six- and even seven-figure insurance payouts and not to mention potential lawsuits that could hit insurers through liability insurance.

See also: Setting the Record Straight on Big Data  

To help keep workers safe on the job, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently released new rules for companies to track their workers’ incidents and illnesses electronically through an OSHA reporting portal. Initially, the reporting requirement for certain employers was scheduled to go into effect July 1, but a recent proposed rule in the Federal Register pushed that date back to Dec. 1. Even so, OSHA has already opened the Injury Tracking Application portal for companies with more than 250 employees or smaller firms working in industries with “historically high rates of occupational injuries and illnesses” to start tracking their work-related incidents. According to OSHA, it takes about 20 minutes to log each incident, which includes “the time for reviewing instructions, searching existing data sources, gathering and maintaining the data needed, and completing and reviewing the collection of information.”

While the filing extension should give companies a chance to catch their breath, there’s really not much time to get a compliance process in place. A recent Sphera and EHS Daily Advisor survey of more than 400 Environmental Health & Safety executives found that about half (46 percent) of respondents have begun the process of addressing the e-reporting requirements. On the other hand, 44 percent said they have not.

It’s important to note that OSHA has required safety-related recordkeeping for decades—even if OSHA recently changed course on the so-called Volks rule, which would have required companies to maintain safety records for five years rather than six months. The new part of the OSHA recordkeeping requirement is the electronic submission process, which, the agency says, will enable it to analyze safety-related data and “use its enforcement and compliance assistance resources more efficiently.”

But whether it’s at the government or corporate level, being able to analyze and preferably benchmark workplace safety data puts companies at a distinct advantage not only for keeping workers safe—which is the top priority—but also improving the company’s bottom line. When aluminum-maker Alcoa’s former CEO challenged the company to a goal of zero work-related accidents a few years ago, for instance, the company’s earnings jumped 600 percent over a five-year period and sales grew 15 percent per year. And a large component of that safety initiative was data collection.

With the amount of technology available today, especially mobile applications, companies have more tools than ever for data collection. That’s why it’s a bit surprising that only 1 out of 5 (21 percent) respondents to the Sphera-EHS survey said their workers use mobile apps to collect data on incidents. Compare that to the 46 percent who said that their employees manually type information into a web-based application, 56 percent who said their staff email or fax the information, and 74 percent who said their personnel orally report the information to an operator or supervisor.

In other words, many companies are missing a huge opportunity to collect data quickly and more accurately with mobile software for safety-related purposes.

Indeed, field workers who don’t have access to mobile technology to record events are at a disadvantage in documenting the details of an incident or near-miss. At best, they would likely have to write things down and then enter the details into a computer later or tell their supervisors when they see them in person or possibly over the phone, which could lead to a “telephone game”-like scenario where the details change as the information gets passed on. But any type of reporting delay or secondhand chronicling could compromise the usefulness and accuracy of the event data.

Being able to take pictures and notes and enter them into a database gives companies a more accurate picture of the event or safety hazard.

It should be noted that OSHA’s new e-reporting rules don’t address near-misses, but it is worth pointing out that 77 percent of the respondents to our survey said that their workers make those types of reports via verbal updates to their supervisors. Additionally, 57 percent of respondents said those near-miss records are maintained in paper form. (Note: respondents could choose more than one option here.)

On the other hand, it is encouraging that about half of those surveyed (47 percent) said they plan to use collected data for benchmarking purposes to ensure they are keeping up with the Joneses of the corporate world if you will in terms of keeping workers safe. To do that properly, companies will need more inputted data, and oral and written records are much more difficult to manage in that regard. Timely and accurate data entered into a risk-management solution will give companies the data they need to ensure their safety processes are working and where the greater risks in the organization lie so they can be addressed.

With proper solutions and systems in place, any fears of so-called “analysis paralysis” caused by managing too much data should not be a deterrent to collecting safety-related information.

A true risk-reporting culture requires two things: empowering workers to be able to speak up without fear of retaliation, which is also addressed in the new e-reporting rule, and giving employees the tools necessary to report incidents quickly and accurately. If you’ve ever tried to tell a friend a story about something disappointing—or even exciting—that happened to you the other day, you know that some of the details get lost along the way, and it’s easy to embellish or confuse facts. And the longer you wait to tell the story, the less likely it is to be accurate.

Recent research from Donna Bridge, a then-postdoctoral fellow at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and currently an assistant professor at the school, found that human memories “aren’t static” and that “if you remember something in the context of a new environment and time, or if you are even in a different mood, your memories might integrate the new information.”

See also: Sensors and the Next Wave of IoT  

And that’s not a good thing for accuracy, especially when it comes to tracking incidents and even near-misses in the workplace.

Using OSHA’s upcoming e-reporting rules as a talking point, insurers should help lead the push for more advanced safety analytics in the workplace. Not only will this mitigate insurance carriers’ exposures, but also it will keep people out of harm’s way and ensure that companies meet the new OSHA e-reporting requirements.

How to Expand Safety Supervision

Safety performance can either make or break a project and help or hinder one’s future career prospects. It can both positively or negatively reflect on a company’s reputation and affect its financial health. Front-line supervisors hold the key to unlocking your company’s potential for high safety performance. Supervisors are responsible for directing the allocation of your company’s key assets of people, equipment, machinery and tools that affect the execution of projects and financial results. They are either the vital link or the missing one in a successful construction safety program.

Many construction companies hold supervisors accountable for safety compliance, training, performance and results. Proper safety supervision is the byproduct of defined roles, specific responsibilities, clear expectations and measured accountabilities. Not all companies fully equip supervisors with the tools or resources needed to effectively lead safety in the field. This leads to an unnecessary, yet preventable, safety performance gap.

Understanding the Safety Performance Gap

The safety performance gap is the difference between what is expected versus what is accepted. In other words, the safety performance gap is the difference between what behaviors a company says it expects employees to adhere to and what behavior it actually allows to occur. Put even more bluntly, the safety performance gap is the delta between defining and driving superior performance standards and condoning and excusing less-than-target safety performance. For construction companies, the performance gap applies to other key performance areas beyond safety, including accounts receivable, contract management, IT outages, quality defects and rework and labor costs.

See also: How to Understand Your Risk Landscape

Closing the Gap

How do company owners and senior leadership teams close the safety performance gap? Leaders can alleviate this gap by changing how safety is conceived, defined and actively communicated within the company. Is safety a core value in your company, or is it regarded as a top priority? Many construction companies say safety is a priority, and they mean it, until push comes to shove against an impending schedule or sequencing change, and safety is compromised. Safety must be conceived as a core value. Priorities shift over time and rise and fall based on perceived urgency. In contrast, values endure the test of time and withstand the changing pressures of project scope, schedule, sequence, quality and budget.

When company leaders view safety as a core value, the proper commitments can be made and, more importantly, kept. This approach leads to a more proactive culture because safety is woven into every aspect of the project life cycle.

Clarifying the Vision, Commitment & Mission

After clarifying that safety is a core value and not just a priority, it is vitally important to provide front-line supervisors with a clear understanding of the vision, commitment and mission of the company’s safety program. This drives and reinforces alignment on safety throughout the organization. It also helps close the safety performance gap by establishing baseline expectations for performance. The following is an example of how this is done.

  • Safety vision—Your company should aim to not only get employees on projects home safely at the end of the shift, but to also get employees back to work safely for their next shift. This is built on the foundation of promoting safety at work, home and at play.
  • Safety commitment—Your company should be committed to protecting the safety and well-being of employees, customers, subcontractors, engineers and inspectors and the traveling public.
  • Safety mission—Your company should create a culture of safety leaders who are empowered to identify and correct unsafe conditions and behaviors and who accept personal responsibility and shared accountability for safety.

Ideally, all supervisors will receive specific instruction in supervisory responsibilities and tools to help effectively implement the safety strategy. A simple way to involve supervisors in the safety strategy is to develop a series of safety objectives or special emphasis programs. These actions will help reinforce the development of a proactive safety culture.

Unlocking Improved Supervisory Safety Performance

Use the 10 questions below as a needs assessment or gap analysis to determine how your company can expand the level of effectiveness of safety supervision.

  1. Does your company clearly communicate the expectations for safety responsibilities to supervisors?
  2. Do you consider safety competencies for supervisors in your hiring decisions?
  3. Does your company consider the core safety competencies for supervisors in your promotional decisions?
  4. Does your company’s performance review process consider safety supervision as a performance criterion?
  5. Does your company’s discretionary compensation or bonus system align with safety performance such that safe work is incentivized and poorly executed performance is not rewarded?
  6. Does your company provide training to supervisors in safety skills?
  7. Do your company supervisors provide job- and task-specific safety instruction to new hires?
  8. Do your company supervisors lead or oversee daily safety huddles or toolbox talks for pre-task planning?
  9. Do your field supervisors and front-line workers have stop-work authority to address safety challenges encountered in the field in real time?
  10. Do your field supervisors and front-line workers actually exercise stop-work authority in the field to address safety challenges and determine appropriate corrective actions?

See also: Why Workers’ Comp Claims Stay So High

Although this is an unscored assessment, the questions and your responses will help guide your company to leverage supervisors in your company’s safety program and processes. Too frequently, supervisors are an underutilized resource in achieving your company’s safety strategy. Supervisors who understand their role, responsibilities and expectations can be a force multiplier as your company builds a proactive safety culture.

This article is the first in a six-part series about supervisory safety responsibilities, which will discuss leveraging supervisors within your company to build a stronger safety plan. Visit www.constructionbusinessowner.com/supervisory-safety to learn more.