Worker Safety: “Focusing on worker safety can transform an entire organization and dramatically improve culture, quality, productivity, communication, and ultimately profits.” Paul O’Neill made this statement in 1987 when he took over as Chairman and CEO of Alcoa (Aluminum Company). When Paul finished his term as CEO twelve years later, Alcoa’s market value had increased from $3 billion to $27.5 billion, with net income rising from $200 million to just under $1.5 billion.
Paul joined Alcoa when it was in a state of decline, with failed product lines and an employee injury rate of 1.86 lost work days per 100 workers. At his first board meeting, he told investors he intended to make Alcoa the safest company in America and prioritize safety over profit. Many investors panicked and sold their stock, much to their later chagrin. He stated that Alcoa’s “…safety record is better than the general American workforce, especially considering that our employees work with metals that are 1500 degrees and machines that can rip a man’s arm off…” Paul focused on one key parameter to measure success, the number of daily safety issues. He commented on his strategy: “I knew I had to transform Alcoa. But you can’t order people to change. So I decided I was going to start by focusing on one thing. If I could start disrupting the habits around one thing, it would spread throughout the entire company.”
When a worker was hurt, Paul observed that they missed work for days to weeks to months, hampering productivity. His emphasis on having workers prioritize safety over efficiency paid off big time.
Remember the 1.86 lost work days statistic? He dropped it to 0.2 lost work days per 100 workers. By introducing a method of following safety procedures before every task, he implemented protocols for accountability, such as on-the-job work instructions, safety checklists, task management, and safety leaderboards. The process instilled a sense of a progressive and transformative safety culture in the workers. Only one year later, Alcoa reached a new record for its profits.
According to WorkClout, Paul’s influence not only increased Alcoa’s safety, productivity, and profit while positively affecting manufacturing. The number of annual fatal injuries in the manufacturing sector declined from 420 in 2003, to a low of 303 in 2017, and currently stands at 383 in 2021 (Bureau of Labor Statistics most recent data).
So how can you put proactive health and safety at the forefront of your business? Focus on non-monetary things, such as health and safety. Having workers engaged in safety affects everything down the supply chain. Try implementing these practical and positive recommendations in your workplace:
About the Author: Jed Douglas is a Certified Industrial Hygienist, a Certified Safety Professional, and a Professional Geologist, licensed in California, Oregon, Washington, and Arizona.
Mr. Douglas specializes in the health and safety of workforces. He performs indoor air quality investigations for chemical, physical, and biological contaminants, sound and noise studies, hearing protection program, ergonomic evaluation, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) program compliance, chemical usage evaluation, global harmonization system implementation, confined space evaluation, lock-out/tag-out review, security auditing, emergency response plans and evacuation drills, respiratory protection program and fit testing, and training in various safety protocol. Reach out to Jed here or on LinkedIn.
We have seen the Safety First signs in various businesses, but which comes first, health & safety or profit? Some say, without profit, a business would be out of business, and safety would no longer be a concern. However, SCS Engineers thinks safety is first in this chicken and egg paradox. After all, we are discussing peoples’ well-being, but let’s address the business aspects too.
To increase your profit and reduce your operating costs, you need to focus on your employees’ health and safety, not only trip hazards and other short-term problems. The long-term health of employees is a vital component of health & safety – protecting your people from toxic chemical vapors, having a hearing conservation program in a noisy environment, and don’t forget ergonomics in industrial and office settings.
Safety and health are both essential; they only appear to slow down productivity. In the event of an illness or incident, production could slow or stop while resolving an issue and carrying out investigations. Minimize costly production interruptions by changing your health & safety focus to a proactive preventative approach. Instead of reducing accident impacts, prevent them in the first place.
You can implement a better health & safety program and stave off the inevitable risks to personnel and business assets across factories, construction sites, and other work environments by better managing and preventing an incident from occurring in the first place. Being proactive becomes an integral part of the safety equation by achieving efficiency and value, leaving behind the ever-present focus on cost.
Taking a preventative approach instead of a reactive one, every business, employee, visitor, and stakeholder benefits. There will no longer be a question of balancing safety and efficiency. Instead, safety is a catalyst for quicker production, superior logistics, easier movement of goods and people, and an overall better working environment.
In January of 2022, two business owners were sentenced to prison for violating Worker Safety Laws, resulting in two workers’ deaths when a rail tanker car exploded. Imagine the blow to employee morale when this incident occurred. Morale is also affected by issues not nearly as dramatic, such as when an employee develops cancer from inhaling chemical vapors over the course of their career or if a co-worker needs back surgery due to incorrect lifting techniques. When OSHA or the lawyers come knocking and asking for training records and personal exposure data, what will you have to show them?
A thoughtful, proactive written health & safety program, regular training, thorough written documentation, and meticulous collection of personal exposure data show agencies and your staff that your employees are knowledgeable about health & safety. They are not exposed to stressors at levels that exceed harmful or regulatory limits. Implementing engineering or administrative controls can also reduce excessive exposure below the legal limits and recommended guidelines. Something very important to potential new hires.
About the Author:
Jed Douglas, CIH, CSP, PG is SCS Engineers’ National Expert on Industrial Hygiene, and a senior technical advisor specializing in Occupational Health and Safety issues. He has 30 years of experience as a health and safety specialist and project manager, and has managed numerous environmental projects involving: safety; soil and groundwater investigations and remediation of hazardous constituents; and, indoor air quality (IAQ) assessments for physical, chemical, and biological contaminants. Read more from this IH&S expert who shares his knowledge abd insights here:
Commercial, industrial, and multi-family buildings about to undergo major renovations commonly contain hazardous materials, whether asbestos, lead, mercury-containing devices, Freon, PCBs, or others. They’re present in various building materials, painted surface coatings, mechanical equipment, or other items utilized for property operation.
Examples include, but are not limited to, old dial thermostats, fireproofing, floor coverings, adhesives, paints/varnishes, smoke detectors, and fluorescent lights. If left intact during renovations, they can create inhalation, ingestion, and dermal hazards that pose a significant risk to human health and the environment. These materials must be identified and managed properly to mitigate accidental human exposure and environmental risk; stay in good graces with regulators, and prevent project delays.
The safest and most effective approach is designing and executing a good abatement plan where highly skilled, licensed workers come in and properly remove potential offenders before the renovation begins.
Abatement is an involved process commanding adherence to tightly regulated protocol around securing materials, ensuring contaminants do not become airborne, properly containerizing and disposing of them in landfills permitted to accept these regulated wastes. It takes orchestration, with multiple trade contractors working in tandem, and ideally a third-party professional to oversee and streamline the entire process.
Full abatement is practical.
Mike Dustman, an SCS Engineers senior project manager who oversees environmental remediation jobs, recommends that property owners survey their buildings for the presence of hazardous materials before renovation begins and remove them, rather than remove some materials and entomb others—particularly for major overhauls.
“While a full, thorough abatement costs more upfront, it saves over the project span in both money and headaches. You will pay more to monitor and provide upkeep if you leave live building systems like plumbing and electricity entombed with asbestos or other hazardous materials. Leaving them in place can delay or complicate the renovation, or even impede ordinarily quick maintenance projects in the future,” Dustman says.
He illustrates using a scenario where asbestos-containing fireproofing left in exterior soffits holding the building’s roof drains caused expensive repairs later. A full asbestos containment must be set up when the drains leak to make a relatively simple plumbing repair. “To avoid situations like this, property owners should plan and budget to abate and remove all hazardous materials from their buildings fully,” Dustman says.
Suppose you have limited cleanup dollars, your resources for renovation shrink when involving abatement. Property owners without the upfront capital might limit the scope of their renovation at first. An initial survey helps determine where conducting abatement projects is necessary and where it is practical to leave materials in place while raising money to plan for a full abatement later.
Assessment and cleanup grant dollars may be available through U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grants issued to local municipalities through Brownfield programs.
Planning for the future is key.
Prepare abatement design with thought to existing structural, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing designs that will either be retrofitted or use new building systems.
The design considers where those new systems will run, removing hazardous materials before installing new systems, preventing potential worker exposure and project delays. Contractors can safely and quickly access structural members, run new plumbing lines, or update interior finishes.
It’s on the property owner to identify potential hazardous building materials and equipment and inform renovation contractors of the presence and location of these materials preceding a renovation.
“The way we ensure and prove proper identification is by collecting bulk samples of suspect building materials and submitting them for lab analysis as part of the pre-renovation survey. The survey typically includes sampling building materials for asbestos, testing surface coatings for lead, and inventorying universal/hazardous waste items.
If the analysis does not detect the presence of harmful contaminants, you can safely proceed with your renovation project. However, if the survey identifies such contaminants, an abatement plan is necessary,” Dustman says.
A coordinated effort.
The first step is figuring out the abatement goal and the general contractor’s plans. And you must ask, what is the redesign of the building, its purpose, and the underlying material hazards?
Understanding the goals, what hazardous materials exist, and which materials will be impacted by a renovation allows for better awareness by all parties. It lowers the risk of accidental disturbance before and during removal, and it helps workers avoid disturbing hazardous materials until properly remediated.
The consultant that prepares the abatement design, the architect, engineers, and every party involved in the remodeling or renovation must be on the same page around such details as the scope of work, budget, and schedule. Transparency gives the abatement contractor and design consultant an understanding of what to clean before other trade contractors begin their work.
Preventing accidental exposure while work is in progress and upon project completion.
Worker safety is a common thread from start to finish. SCS performs daily air sampling throughout the removal process as third-party consultants to ensure the engineering controls are functioning as designed.
Enclosures are monitored during the renovation to confirm and document that no exposure is occurring outside of regulated work areas.
Once completing an area, Dustman’s team goes back in and visually inspects the work area, searching for remaining dust or debris. If the work area passes the visual inspection, they perform more air sampling to ensure safe reoccupation without respiratory protection.
In the case of a lead abatement project, the team conducts both air sampling and dust wipe clearance sampling. Dust wipe sampling is necessary since lead is a heavy elemental metal and quickly settles out of the ambient air and onto horizontal surfaces.
Once completing abatement, a close-out report confirms hazardous waste disposal to the appropriate regulatory enforcement agency. The report contains all air sampling and clearance data, with findings and conclusions supporting the data. “This report shows that you have executed and completed an effective abatement plan in compliance with federal, state, and local requirements,” Dustman says.
What if the building wasn’t, or couldn’t be, fully abated?
If hazardous materials remain, develop an operation and maintenance plan. It entails monitoring for future deterioration and meticulous recordkeeping documenting details such as type, location, and condition of remaining materials and removing or adding any materials. It’s a living document that is continually updated to determine when abatement is necessary and ensure that all details are readily available to move forward promptly.
“Identifying, removing, and properly disposing of hazardous materials found in your buildings before the renovation is an involved process with many steps. But every step counts to avoid occupant and worker exposures, accidental material disturbances, and to help complete your project on time,” Dustman says.
Michael Dustman’s experience is in environmental project management, remedial design activities, building inspection, site assessments, and field training. He possesses an in-depth knowledge of relevant and applicable Federal, State, and local environmental laws and protocols. Mike has served as project manager for numerous local agencies and private clients, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 4 Superfund Technical Assessment and Response Team (START), City of Kansas City, Missouri Brownfields Office, and Commerce Tower Redevelopment Team. Mike’s expertise includes natural disaster emergency responses to major floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes. He is a certified asbestos project designer, management planner, building inspector, certified air sampling professional, and certified lead-based paint risk assessor.
Dust is an often overlooked yet serious concern inside industrial facilities where it can affect our sinuses, lungs, and the whole respiratory system, with potentially serious health consequences. Employers must recognize that the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has set a permissible exposure limit (PEL) for both total dust and respirable dust. Dust comes in many forms, and OSHA specifically regulates certain types of dust such as:
Dust that does not fall into a defined category, such as paper dust, food product dust, inert dust, or nuisance dust, is classified by OSHA as “Particulates Not Otherwise Regulated” (PNOR). These PNOR have a PEL of 15 milligrams per cubic meter (mg/m3) as a Time Weighted Average (TWA), which is the average concentration of a contaminant over the course of a workday (typically 8-hours).
When these PNOR are very tiny, smaller than 10 microns, they are known as Particulate Matter 10 (PM10), or respirable dust. Dust that is small like PM10 is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the “fraction of inhaled airborne particles that can penetrate beyond the terminal bronchioles into the gas-exchange region of the lungs.” OSHA has set the respirable dust PEL at 5.0 mg/m3.
As dust is transported around a building via air currents, wind, and the building’s heating/ventilation/air conditioning (HVAC) system, it can lead to respiratory symptoms, airway obstructions, asthma, and other health effects. Ultimately, exposure to elevated levels of dust leads to unhealthy employees and affects worker productivity.
SCS has helped building owners, facility engineers, property managers, and industrial building tenants investigate and evaluate factors contributing to dust exposure in their buildings. Dust buildup on surfaces and in the breathing air depends on air handling systems, local exhaust ventilation, dust collection systems, and HVAC systems. Excessive dust can also present an explosion hazard, in addition to health effects.
SCS Engineers specializes in investigating and correcting poor air quality related to dust. From building design to specifying dust collection systems and implementing corrective measures such as local exhaust ventilation for machinery or dust-generating processes, and removing asbestos building materials.
SCS professionals are also experts in air clearance sampling after remediation. We are sensitive to analytical testing costs and will design our investigations to address specific dust issues to keep expenses down.
Meet our author, Jed Douglas, one of our specialists located nationwide. Mr. Douglas is a Senior Project Advisor specializing in Occupational Health and Safety Programs. He is a Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH), a Certified Safety Professional (CSP), a licensed Professional Geologist in California, Oregon, Washington, and Arizona, and a U.S. Green Building Council LEED Accredited Professional. Jed has over 25 years of experience as a health and safety specialist and has managed numerous environmental projects involving safety; soil and groundwater investigations and remediation of hazardous constituents; and, indoor air quality (IAQ) assessments for physical, chemical, and biological contaminants.
On Tuesday, November 10th, SCS Engineers announced the promotion of Sandra Ripplinger to Director of Health & Safety. Sandy will oversee all industrial health and safety guidance and training for the SCS employee-owners in her expanded role, reporting to the Board of Directors and Chief Financial Officer Curtis Jang.
Ms. Ripplinger is a Board Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) and Safety Professional (CSP) with three decades of experience providing occupational and environmental health and safety services. She is currently also a Project Director with SCS’s Environmental Health Services Practice in Henderson, Nevada.
Her experience includes providing industrial hygiene expertise for industrial facility health and safety audits, process safety management audits, training, environmental evaluations preventing worker exposure. “Sandy has done a great job strengthening our clients’ safety programs and evaluating the risks to prevent accidents,” said Curtis Jang. “She is a strong leader, and I’m confident she will guide our employees with ever-smarter Industrial Health and Safety (IHS) protocols.”
“I am looking forward to working with our team of business unit directors and IHS professionals, continuing to make improvements that benefit our staff and clients,” Ripplinger said. “Safety and industrial safety are an important part of people’s lives, and SCS is committed to continuing delivery of our services in line with legal compliance, industry guidelines, and our clients’ business needs.”
SCS Engineers announces the expansion of its environmental consulting team with the hiring of Senior Project Manager Michael Dustman.
Mr. Dustman brings 17 years of experience providing environmental consulting to public and private entities desiring to assess, delineate, and remediate environmental conditions adversely affecting properties and facilities. Clients often utilize Mr. Dustman’s expertise following natural hazards like hurricanes, tornados, and floods, causing significant risk to health and property.
As a Senior Project Manager, he will continue to focus on remediation and the planning for, and the recovery from natural and human-made hazards. His experience also includes health and safety (IHS) consulting to clients in Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Ohio, and Oklahoma, all locations with SCS clients. He has previously supported municipal agencies, private clients, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 4 Superfund Technical Assessment and Response Team, hospitals, and the U.S. Postal Service, among others.
Mr. Dustman has a wide range of environmentally hazardous conditions he mitigates, including asbestos, lead-based paint, and other hazardous materials, mold, radon. He regularly performs soil and groundwater testing and air monitoring.
“We genuinely strive to understand our clients’ challenges and goals, states Vice President and Environmental Services Lead, Michael Miller. “We appreciate the quality, standards, and leadership that Mike Dustman brings to them and our environmental teams.”
SCS Engineers’ environmental solutions and technology are a direct result of our experience and dedication to industries responsible for safeguarding the environment as they deliver services and products. Mr. Dustman’s educational credentials, professional certifications, and training are available on the SCS Engineers website. For more information about SCS, enjoy our 50th Anniversary video.
Safety hazards can exist in the brewing industry, some of which are environmental, biological, chemical, physical, ergonomic, or organizational. Jed Douglas’s latest article explores a variety of safety hazards in the brewing industry, why they are hazards, and how they can be addressed to reduce risks to brewery employees.
Every employer is legally obligated to provide a safe and healthy workplace. A healthy and safe workforce is a happier workforce, which in turn yields greater productivity and lower costs for insurance and also leads to a culture of safety in the workplace.
About the Author: Jed Douglas is a senior project advisor specializing in Occupational Health and Safety Programs. He is a Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH), a Certified Safety Professional (CSP), a licensed Professional Geologist in California, Oregon, Washington, and Arizona, and a U.S. Green Building Council LEED Accredited Professional. Jed has over 25 years of experience as a health and safety specialist and senior project manager, managing numerous environmental projects involving safety; soil and groundwater investigations and remediation of hazardous constituents; and, indoor air quality (IAQ) assessments for physical, chemical, and biological contaminants.
Silica dust exposes over two million construction workers per year and is an area of high concern for OSHA. Workers create the dust when cutting, sawing, grinding, drilling, and crushing stone, rock, concrete, brick, block, and mortar.
Although crystalline silica is a common mineral found in the earth’s crust, common construction operations and cutting or crushing stone could result in unsafe conditions for workers. Industrial grade sand used in certain foundry work and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is also a source of exposure.
OSHA’s standard (29 CFR 1926.1153) requires employers to protect workers from overexposure to respirable crystalline silica during construction, demolition, blasting, and tunneling activities. SCS Engineers Health and Safety (H&S) practice offers services and training to protect your workers and the public from exposure, therefore reducing your business risk.
SCS helps businesses fully implement control methods as the OSHA standard dictates, and we can measure and assess workers’ exposure to silica to determine which controls work best.
The value of using an SCS Engineers team is that we are not only qualified H&S practitioners; we are in the construction business too. We understand what is necessary to protect workers and your business under many different construction operations and conditions whether they are on petrochemical, utility, transportation, or brownfield project sites.
SCS can also create a written exposure control plan to identify all relevant tasks involving potential exposure and the methods to protect workers.
Our services are comprehensive and include accredited laboratory analysis and any necessary regulatory reporting. We also offer various types of training for workers to implement your company’s exposure control plan.
We’re here to help.