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New processes to maintain value and functionality over extended time periods - By Hohenstein Research InstituteRead More
Glove standards get a much anticipated update - Simon Courtney provides an overview of the European standard for gloves to protect against mechanical risks.Read More
An employer must provide suitable overalls to protect employees from certain workplace hazards that cannot be eliminated or isolated. - By Ann GoodwinRead More
Albert Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it to a five-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.” Some take this as an insult, but I have always thought of it as the ultimate challenge.Read More
When good footwear links to good foot health; Don’t get carried away with all the serious protective issues of safety and fail to handle the basics.Read More
10,000 construction workers sustain fall injuries annuallyRead More
I think it was George Burns who said, “You know you're getting old when you stoop to tie your shoelaces and wonder what else you could do while you're down there.” Now that I am 40(ish), each year brings new unpleasant signs of age and wear to my body. Some are self-inflicted; too many years of sports, an unfettered love of fried chicken, and a passionate approach to bacon consumption have left me with an aching body and an extra ten pounds that eludes elimination. Others are natural signs of my body deteriorating; challenging memory skills and poor eyesight requiring Hubble-strength lenses.

The latest addition to my growing list of concerns is my hearing. I won’t play the victim and pretend that I have not attended dozens of rock concerts where the decibel level rattled my fillings loose and left my ears ringing for days. However, my exposure to elevated noise levels has been infrequent and for short periods of time. It was not until I entered the industrial environment did I realize that millions of American workers are exposed to unsafe decibel levels for hours each day, five days a week-spanning decades of their working lives. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that 22 million workers are exposed to potentially damaging noise at work annually. If not protected properly, this exposure can result in hearing degradation and a significant reduction in quality of life.

While most industrial facilities offer hearing protection to their employees, there are some very basic, yet overlooked, questions you can ask of your hearing conservation program (HCP) to determine if you are maximizing its effectiveness.

Question 1: Can I eliminate the hazard?

There are few sounds on the planet that evoke the shoulder-raising, grimacing face of discomfort like scratches on a chalkboard. While in most cases it is not realistic to remove all noise from a facility, a productive exercise can be to walk your facility to identify individual sounds polluting a particular workspace. Turn off machines if necessary to isolate each whine or grind. Once each sound is identified, ask your maintenance team to develop a way to eliminate or reduce the amount of noise pollution for each. The answer may be as easy as using lubrication or thread lockers while others may require machine guarding or replacement. PPE is an option, but first work with others within your facility to eliminate or reduce each noise hazard individually.

Question 2: Am I addressing noise pollution outside of the work environment?

Once again, I am victim of my own scrutiny. In addition to stage diving though my adolescence, I also rode a motorcycle for many years. As many motorcycle enthusiasts often do, I spent an embarrassing amount of money on exhaust systems to maximize the sound output of my bike. Wanting to enjoy the labor of my love, I never wore earplugs and was exposed to an unsafe combination of exhaust, wind and road noises for extended lengths of time. While it is normal to concentrate on workplace hearing conservation, it is impossible to separate hearing loss due to home activities from work activities. An effective HCP should include education and best practices regarding prevention measures at home. Some additional hazards against which your employees should protect:

** Headphones
** Firearms
** Home projects (tools and machinery used at home)
** Automobiles (not your Prius, but your 1969 Camaro)
** Boats
** Lawn equipment

Unfortunately, many employees’ safe practices end as soon as they exit the workplace. I work with several facilities that allow their employees to take earplugs for personal use. Addressing noise hazards at home as well as the workplace can help to maximize your HCP.

Question 3: Do my employees know how to use hearing protection properly?

It’s a simple question, but many in our industrial workforce do not know how to correctly insert ear plugs. For years I rolled and crammed ear plugs into my ears with no regard to technique. It wasn’t until I had an ear plug manufacturer rep see me do it and show me the correct way, did I know I was doing anything wrong. Since then, I have been cognizant of how others use ear plugs, and more often than not, they are mimicking my old behavior. As with all PPE, hearing protection programs should have training for new employees and refresher training for existing employees to ensure that everyone is educated on how to use and why. Most safety distributors will provide hearing protection training at no charge.

Vast amounts of resources are engaged to determine the type of glove or safety glasses to employ within a facility. Acute hazards are often prioritized over chronic hazards in safety programs, kicking the proverbial can of responsibility down the road of life. In these circumstances, safety programs relating to areas such as hearing conservation are given minimal effort and allow long-time employees to accumulate the effects of prolonged exposure to noise damage. Asking relevant questions and evolving your HCP will help protect your employees and their hearing.


SHA’s Control of Hazardous Energy standard -- the Lockout-Tagout rule -- (29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 1910.147) addresses the safety of employees engaged in servicing and maintenance activities in general industry when exposure to the unexpected release of hazardous energy is possible. The standard incorporates performance requirements which allow employers flexibility in developing lockout-tagout programs suitable for their particular facilities.

The standard does not cover:

** Construction and agriculture employment covered by 29 CFR 1915, 1917 and 1918;
** Installations under the exclusive control of electric utilities for the purpose of power generation, transmission and distribution, including related equipment for communication or metering;
** Exposure to electrical hazards from work on, near, or with conductors or equipment in electric-utilization installations, which is covered by 29 CFR 1910 Subpart S; and
** Oil and gas well drilling and servicing.

For every rule there seem to be exceptions. And that certainly is true for the Lockout-Tagout standard. Misunderstanding when an exception is applicable could be costly.

Minor servicing exception

Normal production operations, the utilization of a machine or piece of equipment to perform its intended production function, are not covered by the Lockout-Tagout standard. Rather, they are covered by the Machine Guarding standards in 29 CFR 1910 Subpart O.

Servicing and/or maintenance which takes place during normal production operations is covered by the Lockout-Tagout standard if an employee is required to:

** Remove or bypass a guard or other safety device; or
** Place any part of his/her body into an area on a machine or piece of equipment at the point of operation or where an associated danger zone exists during an operating cycle.

Generally activities such as lubrication, cleaning or unjamming, servicing of machines or equipment, and making adjustments or tool changes, where the employee may be exposed to the unexpected energization or start-up of the equipment or release of hazardous energy, are covered by the Lockout-Tagout standard.

For a task to be considered as minor and meeting the minor servicing exception it must meet the following three criteria:

1. Conducted during normal production operations;
2. Must be routine, repetitive, and integral to the operation; and
3. Must use alternate measure to provide effective protection.

The employer bears the burden of demonstrating, on a case-by-case basis, that the minor servicing exception applies. The activity must be conducted during normal production operations ( i.e., while the machine or equipment is actually performing its intended production function). The activity must be a regular course of procedure and in accordance with established practices, regularly repeated as part of the production process and essential to the production process.

If the task is performed during normal production and is routine, repetitive, and integral, the employer must use alternative measures to provide effective protection from the hazardous energy. Some acceptable alternative measures include specially designed tools, remote devices, interlocked barrier guards, local disconnects, or control switches which are under the exclusive control of the employee performing the minor servicing. These alternative measures must enable the employee to safely perform the servicing task without being exposed to the unexpected energization or activation of the equipment, or the release of stored energy.

Cord-and-plug connected electric equipment exception

One of the most commonly misunderstood exceptions is the cord and plug exception. Lockout-Tagout procedures do not have to be implemented when servicing or maintaining cord-and-plug connected electrical equipment IF complete de-energization of the equipment is achieved by:

** Unplugging the power cord from its energy source; and
** The plug is kept under the exclusive control of the worker performing the service and/or maintenance activity.

Unplugging the equipment must address all energy sources. Several pieces of equipment still pose a hazard even after the electrical power source has been cut off or unplugged due to residual energy. For example, unplugging a compressor does not eliminate the residual pneumatic energy in storage tanks, cylinders and transmission lines. And electrical equipment with capacitors may still hold an electrical charge even though the plug has been unplugged from the outlet.

Also, the plug must remain “under the exclusive control” of the employee performing the work. “Exclusive” means if two or more employees are working on one piece of equipment, this exception is not applicable. “Control” means the plug must constantly remain in the possession of the worker performing the work – holding the plug, sticking the plug in their pocket – or in arm’s reach and the line-of-sight of that worker. If that is not possible, then the plug must be secured with a lockout-tagout device.

Hot tap operations exception

Hot tap is a procedure used in the repair, maintenance and services activities which involves welding on a piece of equipment (pipelines, vessels or tanks) under pressure, in order to install connections or appurtenances. It is commonly used to replace or add sections of pipeline without the interruption of service for air, gas, water, steam, and petrochemical distribution systems.

Hot tap operations are exempted from the Lockout-Tagout standard if the employer can demonstrate that:

** Continuity of service is essential;
** Shutdown of the system is impractical;
** Documented procedures are followed; and
** Special equipment is used which provides effective employee protection.

Energy control procedure exception

OSHA has defined eight criteria that a specific machine or piece of equipment must meet to be exempt from requiring a documented energy control (lockout/tagout) procedure (29 CFR 1910.147(c)(4)(i). All eight criteria must be met. Failure to meet even one will result in the equipment needing a documented machine-specific energy control procedure. The criteria are:

1. There can be no potential for stored or residual energy or re-accumulation of stored energy after shut down;
2. The machine or equipment must have one single energy source which can be readily identified and isolated;
3. The machine/equipment must be completely deactivated by the isolation and locking out of the identified single energy source;
4. The machine or equipment is isolated from that energy source and locked out during servicing or maintenance;
5. The machine or equipment must be controlled and locked out by use of a single lockout device;
6. The lockout device is under the exclusive control of the authorized employee performing the servicing or maintenance;
7. The servicing or maintenance does not create hazards for other employees; and
8. There have been no accidents involving the unexpected activation or re-energization of the machine or equipment during servicing or maintenance.

For many there is still confusion regarding these criteria. Given below are some examples of equipment/machines that are commonly thought to fall under this exemption, but do not:

** Exhaust fans have electrical and residual moving parts energy sources.
** Trash compactors have electrical energy and stored hydraulic and pneumatic energy sources.
** Overhead doors have electrical, pneumatic and hydraulic energy sources.
** Mills, lathes and drills all have electrical and kinetic energy sources and possibly hydraulic or pneumatic sources.


Exceptions to the Lockout-Tagout standard can help employers optimize the operation and maintenance of equipment by reducing the time it takes for the tasks to be completed, but employers must ensure that when used the same or greater level of protection as afforded by locking-tagging out is provided.


How do supplied air, loose-fitting respirators eliminate excessive spending, safety issues and downtime? Keeping employees safe can be a huge expense to your company. But when you consider what’s at stake, human lives and life’s best moments, personal safety is invaluable. The good news is, it doesn’t mean that protecting your employees will stifle your business, because if you choose the right protection, it will also eliminate excessive spending, safety issues and downtime. This way, safety becomes an investment that earns a return.

What is a supplied air respirator?

Supplied air respirators provide compressed air through an airline, filter and flow control device to your respirator. Other types of respirators include powered air purifying respirators (PAPR) which utilizes a motor, battery and a fan to draw air through a small filter mounted on the operator’s hip or back, and negative pressure respirators which require the wearer to breathe to filter the air.

What is a loose-fitting respirator?

Loose-fitting respirators typically cover the entire head as opposed to tight-fitting respirators, such as a full-face or half-face mask. Because they cover your head and are always used with supplied air, loose-fitting respirators don’t require a seal between the respirator and the user. Tight-fitting respirators, supplied air or negative pressure, do require a seal.

Supplied air respirators typically utilize a large, heavy duty filter. The size of the filter along with the fact that it is drawing air from outside the immediate working environment means the filter cartridge doesn’t need replacing as often as a PAPR. which uses smaller filters that draw air from the immediate working area.

No seal is required between a loose-fitting respirator and the user. This eliminates the ongoing expense of fit-testing.

Supplied air, loose-fitting respirators provide greater protection than those that are tight-fitting or use a PAPR. Supplied air, loose-fitting respirators have an Assigned Protection Factor (APF) of up to 1000, while tight-fitting respirators have an APF maximum of 50.

As stated earlier, tight-fitting respirators require fit-testing. However, the seal is only secure under the same conditions that it was tested at. For example, if the user puts on weight or has any facial hair growth, the seal is jeopardized.

Air supplied (both SAR and PAPR) provide breathable air to the respirator, allowing the wearer to breathe easily. Negative pressure respirators require the wearer to breathe through a filter which can cause additional pressure to the heart.

Loose-fitting respirators have a wider range of compatible safety additions. Certified eye protection, hearing protection and head protection are available in some loose-fitting respirators, either in-built or as optional extras.

Reducing downtime

Loose-fitting respirators are more comfortable than tight-fitting respirators. This reduces fatigue and means that you can operate for longer periods of time before needing a break.

Supplied-air respirators have air conditioning options, allowing you to work at a comfortable temperature, also reducing fatigue and enabling you to work longer with less breaks.


The following scenarios highlight the impact different respiratory systems have on your business.

Scenario 1: An automotive painting company has 15 painters. Each painter has a supplied air, loose-fitting respirator. They charge out at a rate of $65 per hour.

Scenario 2: Each of the 15 painters wear a tight-fitting, cartridge mask. They also charge out at a rate of $65 per hour. Effect on costs and savings

Scenario 1:
A loose fitting respirator would initially cost $13,860. The ongoing annual cost would be: Replacement filter cartridges each quarter: $44 x 3 x 4 = $528 Replacement respirator parts: $4,000 Total: $4,528

Scenario 2: A half-face, tight-fitting respirator would initially cost $3,510. The ongoing annual cost in scenario 2 would be: Replacement filter cartridges each week: $12 x 15 x 52 = $9,360 Total: $9,360

The annual productivity savings for scenario 1 are: Productivity increase (24 mins/day, 2 hrs/wk): $60 x 15 x 2 x 52 = $93,600 Reduced Downtime (60 mins/day, 5 hrs/wk)*: $60 x 15 x 5 x 52 = $234,000
*Rationale explained below

Effect on safety

Scenario 1: loose-fitting, air-supplied respirators have an APF rating of 1000. Users will benefit from complete protection and comfort which will minimize fatigue and maximize their quality of living.

Scenario 2: tight-fitting, negative pressure respirators have an APF rating of 50. While safety standards can be met, users may be subjected to minor dangers that can have a cumulative effect, and the discomfort experienced can cause fatigue and pain.

Effect on downtime

We estimate that users wearing tight-fitting, negative pressure respirators need four 15-minute breaks each day. That means users wearing loose-fitting, air-supplied respirators gain 60 minutes per day just on downtime.


Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre, January 21 - 23, 2018
Venue: Halls 1 - 8, Zabeel Hall 3, Trade Centre Arena and Sheikh Saeed Halls 1 - 3Read More
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