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Set Descending Direction
Safety pros undoubtedly are experiencing déjà vu or “already been there” when they view the negative reactions to the recommendations from public health experts for preventing the spread of the coronavirus—from sheltering at home and maintaining a six-foot interpersonal distance to wearing a face mask.

They’ve heard all the excuses for noncompliance before—“It won’t happen to me,” “This PPE is too uncomfortable and inconvenient,” “We have freedom of choice in our country; and if I want to risk receiving an injury or illness, it’s my personal right to do so.”

Given that human nature or the soon, certain and positive consequences of at-risk behavior overpower the delayed, uncertain and negative consequences of safe behavior, organizations implement interventions to influence compliance with safety rules and regulations. Here again, blatant non-compliance with state and community mandates to perform certain behaviors to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is commonly observed in the workplace with regard to safety-related behavior.

Psychologists refer to such contrary behavior as “countercontrol” or “psychological reactance,”—presumed to be a reaction to the threat of losing one’s personal freedom or individuality. Thus, safety pros realize the need to accompany top-down mandates with education/training sessions and sometimes behavior-based incentive/reward contingencies.

Taking Prevention to a Higher Level

Employees are urged to perform a variety of safety-related behaviors in order to prevent a workplace injury—from wearing safety glasses and a hard hat to using a vehicle safety belt and fall protection. These and other desirable behaviors are performed to: a) protect workers from adverse environmental conditions (e.g., air pollution, loud noise, and fire), b) decrease bodily harm from a mishap (e.g., vehicle collisions, human slips, trips, and falls), and c) reduce the likelihood of an injury-causing behavior (e.g., non-skid shoes and Hi-Viz. clothing). When workers do not perform these injury-protective and injury-preventive behaviors, they put themselves at risk for personal harm.

However, behaviors performed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus have a higher-level, actively caring for people (AC4P) purpose. Sheltering at home, maintaining a six-foot social distance and wearing a facemask prevents the spread of COVID-19. Such behavior helps others as much if not more than it helps those who perform those behaviors.

Reaching the Highest Need Level

Almost every college class or workshop on motivation includes a presentation of Maslow‘s Hierarchy of Needs. Categories of needs are arranged hierarchically, and it’s presumed we don’t attempt to satisfy a need at one level until our needs at the lower levels are satisfied to some degree. We are first motivated to fulfill our physiological needs—basic survival requirements for food, water, shelter and sleep.

After these needs are under control, we are motivated by the desire to feel secure and safe from potential dangers. Next, we have our social-acceptance needs—to have friends and feel a sense of belonging. When these needs are gratified, our concern focuses on self-esteem—earning self-respect and feeling worthwhile.

After enjoying a boost in self-esteem, we become self-actualized when achieving our full potential. While many have learned that self-actualization is atop this need hierarchy, Maslow revised his need hierarchy near the end of his life by placing another ultimate achievement at the top—self-transcendence. We are the best we can be when we reach beyond our own self-interests and contribute to the needs of others. Whenever we perform AC4P behavior.

How satisfying to realize that you reach the top of Maslow‘s Hierarchy of Needs every time you act on behalf of another person’s health and/or safety. And doing this, helps to satisfy your lower-level needs that really never get completely satiated—social acceptance, self-esteem and self-actualization.


The risk of gas leaks has been a common concern for decades in many industries, including oil and gas, petrochemical, utilities, mining, public safety and beyond. Combustible gases are commonly used throughout processes that produce raw materials needed to support our economy and result from biological breakdown of waste. Employees face the risk of gas-fueled explosions that can result in severe injuries, loss of life and destruction of property. These risks are amplified when several gases are present on a worksite, which can further complicate how to reliably monitor, identify and react to a potential leak.

To help ensure worker safety in hazardous environments, organizations continually review their strategies for how they address and prevent the threat of gas leaks, from real-time detection to proactive measures that mitigate future incidents.

Many personal gas monitors feature specialized combustible or flammable gas sensors. However, innovation in combustible gas detection has been stagnant for the last few decades, producing sensor technologies that must be calibrated to accurately measure the presence of just a single gas, resulting in higher or lower sensitivity to other flammable gases.

With many businesses conducting their digital transformation, connected safety innovations are keeping people safer and more efficient than ever before. An excellent example of this is a new sensor technology that just emerged and is set to disrupt flammable gas detection — and when connected — expands the overall situational view from digital transformation programs.

Accurately detecting multiple gases at once

While traditional flammable gas sensors, such as catalytic bead and non-dispersive infrared (NDIR) sensors, have been the primary conventional solutions to detect the Lower Explosive Limit (LEL) of flammable gas, they are calibrated to accurately detect one gas at a time. But what happens if an employee encounters another type of combustible gas on-site? This presents the potential for false alarms if the detected gas reads high and a lower reading than actual will present a higher level of risk to the worker.

For the first time in flammable gas detection, a new technology is available that equips users with a sensor that responds accurately to the 12 most common combustible gases. Blackline Safety has partnered with NevadaNano to bring their revolutionary micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) flammable gas sensor to market as part of a cloud-connected gas detection ecosystem. The NevadaNano Molecular Property Spectrometer (MPSTM) Flammable Gas Sensor simultaneously detects multiple gasses as precisely as it does a single gas.

The best of both worlds

The two work-horse sensors of explosive gas detection, the pellistor and NDIR sensor, each have advantages and disadvantages to support their use. For example, pellistor sensors can detect hydrogen and acetylene detection well but are easily poisoned by silicones. NDIR sensors cannot be poisoned, but they don’t detect hydrogen or acetylene so are unacceptable for use in many petrochemical facilities. While NDIR sensors are susceptible to false alarms with high-rate environmental changes, pellistor sensors remain unaffected.

With the ability to detect hydrocarbons, hydrogen and acetylene, its intrinsic silicone resistance, as well as built-in environmental compensation, MPS technology has combined the best of the NDIR and pellistor capabilities to set the new standard for explosive gas detection in portable instruments. The MPS sensor has the ability to accurately identify and quantify the true lower explosive limit of single gas and mixtures at one time, called TrueLELTM — increasing gas detection performance, employee confidence and visibility into business operations. Additionally, this technology is immune to poisoning, meaning your sensors will last longer, read more accurately and most importantly, protect your people and assets to a greater extent than traditional pellistors. It also features a higher immunity to temperature and humidity shifts than an NDIR sensor, reducing the number of false alarms that can erode employee confidence in their personal gas monitors.

Combustible gas classification

Going a step further, the MPS sensor delivers the industry’s first classification system that places detected gases or mixtures into one of six categories:

Class 1: Hydrogen
Class 2: Hydrogen mixture with other flammable gases
Class 3: Methane or natural gas
Class 4: Light gas or a light-gas mixture
Class 5: Medium gas or medium gas mixture
Class 6: Heavy gas or heavy gas mixture

Whether it's a single gas or a mixture of gases, MPS delivers an accurate measurement of the actual LEL, factoring into the reading the current temperature, pressure and humidity.

Data science in the cloud

In conjunction with the latest combustible gas sensor technology, data science is a key component in attaining full worksite visibility, contributing to digital transformation goals. By combining the MPS sensor with wireless connectivity, gas readings and corresponding gas classifications can be streamed to cloud-hosted software. There, health and safety professionals can easily view interactive data analytics that present the classification, level, and location of each flammable gas reading workers encountered. This allows them to identify abnormalities, such as the new presence of hydrogen in one area of the facility, and proactively address the leak before personnel or the facility is placed at risk.


Manufacturing plants and industrial sites are opening up again after COVID-19 lockdowns, but the people returning to work will notice many changes in their safety protocols.

Here are five safety guidelines recommended by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and other organizations and experts:

1. Enforcing social distancing when possible

People often think of social distancing as methods intended to keep at least 6 feet between themselves and others. Some facilities have graphics on the floor to show occupants where to stand, for example. Other options include staggering shifts and limiting the number of people simultaneously allowed in communal spaces, like cafeterias or break rooms.

Employees at an automotive plant in the United Kingdom recently made the first Range Rover built while adhering to social distancing practices. Plant managers also implemented other measures to support worker safety, including offering every employee a reusable face visor. Having warehouse safety procedures to protect people when social distancing becomes difficult is a crucial part of an all-encompassing return-to-work plan.

2. Discouraging the sharing of equipment and supplies

One of the OSHA updates released about COVID-19 practices advises against equipment sharing. Many people naturally want to help their colleagues, so letting others use their supplies seems natural. However, researchers identified the risk of the coronavirus spreading through surfaces. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers disinfection tips for facilities that managers can follow.

One of them recommends using solutions containing at least 70% alcohol for maximum effectiveness. It's also important to consider items that people may share without others asking to borrow them. For example, a job site process where everyone signs a sheet upon arrival needs revisiting because of the number of people touching and using the same pen.

3. Increasing the number of hand-washing stations

The World Health Organization (WHO) issued guidance about the installation of hand-washing stations in highly trafficked areas. It suggests putting them at the entrances of every public and private commercial building, for example. Facility authorities should also make hand-washing an obligatory action before someone crosses a threshold to go into a building, WHO officials said.

Job site rules determined before the pandemic required companies to provide one washing station per 20 employees, but employers may wish to install more. When workers see washing stations readily available, it's easier for them to get in the habit of cleansing their hands before eating. They can also decontaminate personal protective equipment (PPE) that may have touched harmful materials.

4. Implementing temperature checks and well-being assessments

Many warehouse safety procedures involve ensuring employees are fit for work. For example, they may have their temperature checked when entering a site or have to fill out a questionnaire at home that confirms they have not experienced any of the most common COVID-19 symptoms within the last 24 hours.

Companies recognized a need in the market and rushed to develop technologies that help employers screen their workers for symptoms. Despite the rapid adoption of these technological solutions, privacy concerns remain. Some analysts say that these options may not be as effective as advertised for identifying potentially ill workers. Another issue is that the COVID-19 health apps now on the market and purchased by workplaces may not adequately protect privacy.

Nevertheless, businesses are frequently adopting these measures. Some low-tech approaches may prove useful, too. For example, OSHA updates recommend companies to stay abreast of public health recommendations about the coronavirus and give workers access to those tips.

Companies can also plan for sending workers home if they mention feeling sick. If employees see that employers will accommodate them needing to leave early, they'll be less likely to keep quiet about suspected illnesses.

5. Restricting workplace visits

Preparing a workplace to operate safely in the COVID-19 era means thinking differently about site visitors. Perhaps a former process required a person to confirm their arrival time at least 24 hours in advance, plus sign in and out of a site visitor log.

Many industrial sites hosted tours or open days to attract potential clients or get high school students interested in manufacturing careers. Those activities will likely become less commonplace in the new normal where the coronavirus remains a threat. Companies can consider alternatives such as virtual product demonstrations or livestreamed glimpses at factory premises.

In cases where facilities must admit visitors, they should consider having precautionary procedures in place. Those might include giving people disposable masks and having them follow the same sanitation procedures that employees do when entering new sections of a factory or worksite.

Make support available in these changed times
Besides informing workers about warehouse safety procedures such as those above, workplace representatives should emphasize how they are there to respond to any feedback and uncertainty employees may have. For example, people may feel nervous about returning to work, and some may not know how to use masks and other protective equipment properly.

Businesses should create specific communication methods for people to use if they have questions about the new rules or want to suggest changes to safety procedures. When employers show they take worker input into account, it becomes easier to get the workforce on board with what's different now versus before the pandemic.


As states lift stay-at-home orders and workplaces reopen, employers must plan for potential hazards of the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and routine workplace hazards, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reminded employers. COVID-19 is a respiratory illness caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. COVID-19 currently is widespread in most U.S. communities and considered a workplace hazard.

OSHA cautioned that the pandemic may cause employee distraction, fatigue, and stress. The agency also cautioned that employers should:

● Plan their employees’ return to work to ensure operations resume in a safe and healthful manner;
● Carefully plan before attempting to increase production or tasks to make up for lost time to avoid exposing employees to greater safety and health hazards;
● Provide workers with refresher training on safety and health and revisit and update standard operating procedures;
● Address maintenance issues they may have deferred during a shutdown and remember that exposures to hazards may increase during shutdown and start-up periods; and
● Review and address process safety issues, including stagnant or expired chemicals, as part of their reopening efforts.

OSHA also reminded employers that retaliating against workers for raising concerns about safety and health conditions is a violation of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. Employees are encouraged to file whistle-blower complaints with the agency, which OSHA will investigate. OSHA suggested employers adopt the agency’s recommended practices for anti-retaliation programs.

The agency recommended employers develop and communicate workplace flexibility to protect employees during the ongoing pandemic, including instituting flexible sick leave policies that encourage workers to stay home when they are sick. OSHA also suggested not requiring a healthcare provider’s note when an employee is absent due to an acute respiratory illness.

Employers should identify and isolate individuals (customers, employees, supervisors) with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19. They also should clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered disinfectants, according to OSHA.

Employers also should recognize that workers may need to stay home to care for a sick family member, according to the agency, and employers should consider implementing flexible leave policies to accommodate employees with sick family members.

OSHA also recommended implementing engineering controls for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, including:

● Installing high-efficiency air filters and increasing ventilation rates in the work environment;
● Installing physical barriers, such as clear plastic sneeze guards, and drive-through windows for customer service; and
● Using specialized negative pressure ventilation in certain settings, such as airborne infection isolation rooms in healthcare facilities and specialized autopsy suites in mortuaries.

The agency also suggested employers train workers in the signs, symptoms, and risk factors associated with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, as well as practices like frequent hand-washing for at least 20 seconds with soap and water; social distancing; and avoiding touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.

Workers who have been hospitalized or self-isolated with COVID-19 should following recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state, local, tribal, or territorial health department before returning to work. The CDC continually updates its guidance on the recommended length of isolation.

The CDC issued and continues to update more extensive precautions for office environments.


Like most businesses across the country, Examinetics was greatly affected when the coronavirus pandemic hit. Fortunately, our business was able to pivot, and by adjusting our service model to offer COVID-19 screenings, we have continued to provide valuable services to our clients. Our team was agile and nimble, becoming immersed in coronavirus solutions and consulting. We’ve been on the front lines of this pandemic with you and wanted to share some thoughts as companies get workers safely back to business.

Create a roadmap

The first step to any reopening or business continuity plan is to create a roadmap. Just as you wouldn’t throw a facepiece on your employees without first designing a respiratory protection program, you shouldn’t restart operations without a plan. In their recent article “The Restart”, McKinsey & Co. advises companies to create a detailed “relaunch map” that defines a solid framework for action in a highly volatile environment. In the COVID-19: A Safety and Health CEO Perspective webinar hosted by several of the leading safety organizations, Jennifer McNelly of the American Society of Safety Professionals said, “Recovery needs a good framework, a good architecture, but the actions required are unique to each company.”

At the top of the list of any effort to renew business is ensuring confidence in your company. Trust is going to be a precious commodity in the new world. Your consumers and clients will want to know what you are doing to reduce risk, while your employees will demand to know how you are protecting their health and keeping them safe. There will be no shortage of guidance from various levels of government and your employees will use these to create a checklist as they assess their work environment. Having transparency and alleviating all their concerns will build the confidence critical to moving forward. In a recent Inc. article, Stanley McChrystal – former commander of U.S. Joint Special Operations Command – says that “priority one is candor” in order to have your team’s faith. He should know, having managed thousands of military personnel around the world.

Prioritize employee health

To prioritize employee health, new safety measures must be put in place. Companies across all sectors will need to adapt with new safety, security and environmental protocols. Our consultants are guiding our clients through such areas as:

● Screening employees and visitors (i.e. temperature checks, symptom questionnaires)
● Virus and antibody testing
● Increased usage of PPE
● Efforts to ensure hygiene & sanitation
● Physical distancing
● Better communication and education
● Monitoring and tracing solutions

Many types of business will now be reevaluating and expanding their work-from-home (WFH) policies. Companies may realize both health and economic benefits by doing so, creating a win-win scenario. Safety professionals may now need to evaluate how to engage remote teams. Depending on your state of readiness, new tools might be needed to facilitate communication, increase collaboration and manage distributed teams. Digital transformation is a buzzword that often gets thrown around in conference rooms, but current conditions should elevate the role of technology in safety.

However, don’t rush to overhaul your business to all WFH. Not every company and not every person is suited for this arrangement. WFH often creates less social interaction and communication challenges. In certain environments, a division between different categories of onsite and at-home employees may develop. Ultimately, it may be more difficult to maintain your company culture and detect disengaged workers.

Wherever your team is located – whether all together in a plant or spread out across various locations – communication is critical to engagement. Make sure to support your employees with the resources they need. Safety managers who are used to walking around and seeing everyone face-to-face may need to adjust their habits to include everyone in this new environment. Remember that a communication void often gets filled with misinformation, so over communicating is better than less. But be careful about excessive mandates that may be difficult to follow – pick the important things and create priority tactics people can remember. And beware the hidden dangers – presenteeism, isolation and mental health issues.

Expect constant change

Safety decision makers who embrace an agile mindset will be set up to succeed. Change will be constant in the near term, with new information continually arriving from government agencies and health organizations. OSHA and CDC will need to be monitored for guidance and alerts across various industries and locations. Additionally, the economic health and staffing needs of your company will fluctuate throughout this time. If you can speed decision making, then you can create some stability and quickly bring back a sense of “normal”. We have seen our clients who can make fast decisions get scheduled quickly for their compliance testing and not miss a beat.

Those of us in the safety world are used to a vigilant mindset and can help our companies through these trying times. Safety managers should be seen as experienced and steady voices in decision making. Businesses will be hyper sensitive to their liability and that means the safety role will be called upon for their expertise. In the above-mentioned industry webinar, Larry Sloan of the American Industrial Hygiene Association said this is an opportunity for our profession to step up. According to Sloan, “We need a seat at the table with business leaders. Our profession lends a credibility to helping workers safely return to their jobs in a different way that’s become our new normal.”

Choose empathy

Unfortunately, a crisis often brings out the worst too. Scams will be prevalent as we have seen with con artists trying to take advantage of PPE demand and shortages. Keep an eye on your team as anyone can become vulnerable to tricks and schemes when we add new complexity and technology. We need to be extra attentive to protect ourselves, our people and our business.

The bottom line is that empathy should be our guiding principle - not because of any federal mandate or government requirement, but because we only come out the other side when we all work together. This pandemic has shown us the network effect in real life and we must always remember the human element in safety.


The federal government has launched an online hub where organizations buying and selling personal protective equipment can meet.

"Across the country, efforts are underway to ease restrictions implemented to fight COVID-19,” said Anita Anand, minister of public services and procurement. “This Supply Hub reflects our pan-Canadian approach and assembles a wealth of resources and information so that organizations have a single window to assist them in buying or selling personal protective equipment."

The Supply Hub connects Canadian organizations from coast to coast with federal, provincial, territorial and other resources and information about PPE, including consumer guidance. Buyers will find PPE supplier lists, in addition to guidance to help plan their PPE purchases, including best practices to keep people safe, where to find PPE for purchase, consumer advice and additional health and safety resources.

Suppliers will also get information on product specifications, procurement and donation opportunities and business guidance and programs.

“As Public Services and Procurement Canada continues to engage with our partners and advisory groups, the hub will evolve to include additional resources,” said the government.

In May, Manitoba partnered with several organizations to develop and launch an online marketplace that will connect businesses in the province with non-medical grade personal protective equipment (PPE) and other materials needed for businesses to operate.

“Our government has heard from the business community that they need help to access supplies needed to enable them to open and operate safely during the pandemic,” said Premier Brian Pallister then. “We are proud to join forces with our trusted partners in the business and technology community to launch B2B Manitoba, a tool that will connect businesses with suppliers.”

A recent survey found that 60 per cent of healthcare workers in Canada reported anxiety at levels surpassing an accepted threshold for clinical screening for the condition, and this is most prevalent among those whose needs for personal protective equipment have not been met.

On March 20, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Canada’s Plan to Mobilize Industry to fight COVID-19, which will create pathways to deploy resources to domestic manufacturers and businesses so they can help during this critical time.

The plan introduces new measures to directly support these businesses to rapidly scale up production or re-tool their manufacturing lines to develop products made in Canada that will help in the fight against COVID-19. These products could include critical health and safety supplies and equipment, including personal protective equipment, sanitization products, diagnostic and testing products, and disease tracking technology.


Why is the exposure risk for manufacturing workers so high?

Manufacturing employees, especially those who work on the line, have a high risk of exposure to the novel coronavirus simply due to the nature of the job. Firstly, the distance between workers on assembly and production lines is often minimal.
Secondly, shifts tend to be long; between 8 and 12 hours. That means workers have prolonged contact with each other. Lastly, there are a lot of communal surfaces, from workstations to tools to break areas. Germs can be spread through airborne droplets from a cough or sneeze as well as contaminated surfaces.

This post will help you tackle the challenges listed above head on, using recommendations from the CDC and OSHA.

What can you do to help protect your employees?

Designate a coronavirus safety coordinator who will stay up to date on recommendations from the CDC and OSHA as well as state and county guidelines. This person can help implement your COVID-19 assessment and control plan before your facility reopens as well as lead ongoing assessments.

Use the hierarchy of controls method (recommended by the CDC and OSHA) as the base for developing your coronavirus safety plan. In this case it could include: eliminate the hazard, install engineering controls, put administrative controls into action and implement appropriate sanitation, cleaning and disinfection practices.

1. Screen and monitor returning workers to help eliminate hazards

Screening for COVID-19 symptoms reduce the potential for exposure by removing the hazard as quickly as possible. Here are the basics of an effective screening process to help protect your workers:

● Set up a station to screen all personnel before entrance to your facility
● Verbally screen by asking specific questions about COVID-19 symptoms including cough, shortness of breath and loss of taste or smell in the last 24 hours
● Verbally screen by asking about contact with coronavirus patients and high-risk travel
● Check temperatures for 100.4°F or higher or reports of feverish feelings such as chills
● Identify screened employees with coronavirus screening solutions that range from color-coded visual identification to barcode-capable wristbands for digitally tracking access
● Anyone who’s screening results indicate they may have COVID-19 should be separated from others and sent home

2. Increase distance between workers with engineering controls

Engineering controls change the environment where people work. Here is a short list of engineering controls you can implement to specifically to help reduce germ spread due to manufacturing employees working closely together:

● Reconfigure workstations and break area seating to be at least 6 feet apart (in all directions) wherever it is possible to do so
● Where reconfiguring is not possible, consider installing physical barriers such as strip curtains, clear acrylic dividers or other impermeable dividers and/or partitions
● Place hand-sanitizing stations in multiple areas
● Manage facility temperature to avoid overheating without the use personal cooling fans (which can distribute droplets from a cough or a sneeze)

3. Mitigate prolonged contact with administrative controls

Administrative controls change how people work. One of the most effective ways to use administrative controls to help protect manufacturing workers is to rearrange schedules for shifts and break times to avoid crowding.

A carefully planned schedule can help avoid many employees clocking in and out, taking breaks and using locker/changing rooms at the same time. Here are a few more admin controls you can implement to help mitigate prolonged contact among returning employees:

● Limit access to essential workers only
● Get rid of non-essential meetings
● Use safety signage to communicate guidelines for social distancing, handwashing techniques and PPE use
● Consider distributing respirator and non-medical face masks facility-wide
● Digitally manage and track the influx of COVID-19 PPE and other coronavirus safety supplies with barcoded PPE asset tags
● Use adhesive floor signs and other floor markings to help personnel maintain 6 feet spacing whether stationary or moving through aisles and walkways

4. Implement appropriate sanitizing, cleaning and disinfection practices

At the very least, communal tools should be wiped down every time workers change stations or move to a new set of tools. Shared spaces such as workstations, break rooms and bathrooms as well as frequently touched surfaces (door handles, machine levers, etc.) should be disinfected once per shift.

CDC-recommended disinfectants for infection control include 60-90% alcohol solutions, chlorine, chlorine compounds, formaldehyde, hydrogen peroxide, peracetic acid and other potentially hazardous chemicals. Make sure your coronavirus safety program is in harmony with chemical safety and HazCom best practices:
● Provide adequate PPE for reducing exposure while cleaning such as disposable gloves and respirator masks
● Provide any additional PPE or controls that protect workers from chemical hazards posed by disinfectants
● Ensure adequate ventilation for using cleaning chemicals
● Make sure all hazardous chemicals have compliant GHS labels, even when secondary containers are used


How do you feel the role of the safety professional has changed? Share your insight in this editorial project.

Over the past few months, safety professionals have been tasked with a set of ongoing challenges as the novel coronavirus outbreak evolved into a global pandemic.

EHS leaders have had to balance compliance with an unprecedented set of tasks focused on illness prevention. From the C-suite down and from operations to HR, workers across the country have looked up to safety professionals for guidance.

As this situation continues into the future, the crucial role of the safety professional has been realized.

EHS Today is writing a report for its July/August issue highlighting the challenges and opportunities faced during this time.


According to the American Lung Association, sneezes and coughs are your body’s way of releasing irritants found in the nose and lungs. In effect, people have a high-speed face cannon capable for expelling all sorts of bugs and germs. Unfortunately, getting rid of irritants in such a violent method means spreading germs in a large spray of saliva, mucus, and germs. A cough can travel as fast as 50 mph and expel almost 3,000 droplets in just one go. Sneezes are even more forceful —they can travel up to 100 mph and create upwards of 100,000 droplets.

Public health experts and elected officials have emphasized again and again that social distancing is the best tool we have to slow the coronavirus outbreak. However, many organizations are unable to effectively manage to keep people six feet or more apart, simply due to the nature of their business. Consider the interactions between a teller and a bank customer, employees in side-by-side cubicles, or assembly-line workers standing shoulder to shoulder in food processing plants. In those situations, and many more, safe social distancing cannot be achieved and a shield may help limit the spread of pathogens.

Restaurants first installed cough and sneeze shields around the “all you can eat” buffets and supper-club salad bars of the 1950s to prevent guests from contaminating food. Today, cough and sneeze guards are being mounted in all types of settings, from grocery stores to post offices, as a blockade against the highly contagious coronavirus (COVID-19).

Sneeze guards are not medical devices, but they have PPE qualities contributing to transmission slowdown — even if a customer and employee aren’t wearing masks. In addition, shields provide customers with an extra reassurance of safety as they cautiously re-enter the so-called new normal of everyday life. Installing shields demonstrates an organization’s dedication to the health of their staff, which helps to retain employees. Shields may also serve as a visual reminder to use proper hygiene to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Like N95 masks and disposable gloves, sneeze shields have become another new icon of the current pandemic.

Sneeze barriers work best when they are used alongside other proven methods including enhanced cleaning and hygiene practices, PPE, social distancing measures, and drastic changes in how services are provided, especially in the hard-hit retail and hospitality industries.


Back in 1959, Johnny Garneau, who owned and ran the American Style Smorgasbord chain of restaurants in Ohio and Pennsylvania, filed a patent for the “Food Service Table,” later known as the sneeze shield.

An admitted germaphobe, Garneau couldn't stand customers smelling the entrees and having their noses too close to the food. He installed his invention in each of his restaurants, and as an indirect result, he played a crucial role in food safety initiatives. By the early 1960s, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulated the presence of food shields in restaurants across the country. Garneau passed away in 2003 but would certainly have been proud of how his invention has today become instrumental in preventing COVID-19 infections.


While the CDC recommends the use of shields as protection against COVID-19, there are currently no enforceable government standards or codes requiring shields for this specific purpose. The FDA governs sneeze guards for food safety only, requiring that restaurants with buffets, hospital and school cafeterias, portable food carts and self-serve fast food displays have shields.

Some of the country’s largest unions have recently called for emergency regulations to ensure the safety of essential workers against COVID-19. They have joined together to lobby OSHA to implement enforceable emergency coronavirus workplace regulations for those workers who have continued to punch into work despite COVID-19, including store clerks, machine operators and of course, the healthcare workers on the frontline.


The most effective sneeze guards are tall and wide enough to protect an individual whether they are standing or sitting. These calculations are based on an average-sized customer who is between five and six feet tall. Shields should cover the full interaction.

Cheaply made shields are unlikely to withstand the rigors of daily wear and tear. In clean-room settings, for example, shields need to withstand the rigors of frequent deep cleaning, using very hot temperatures, pressurized wash downs and specific cleaning agents, such as ethanol, hydrogen peroxide, isopropyl alcohol, ammonia and soap solutions, all of which are cleaning agents specifically recommended by the CDC in the fight against the coronavirus. Disinfection should be performed daily.


Although some manufacturers opt to use tempered glass or plexiglass, shields constructed of polycarbonate hold many advantages over their counterparts. Polycarbonate is harder to scratch, reducing the risk of bacteria hiding within scratches, and it can be cleaned with ease. In addition, it is far stronger than glass yet considerably lighter in weight, while also providing excellent resistance to long-term exposure to environmental elements such as UV rays. Enhanced strength means that sharp impacts or abrasive cleaning chemicals aren’t a danger. Also, sturdy polycarbonate panels can resist damage caused by customers leaning on them. From the manufacturer’s standpoint, polycarbonate holds the advantages of being easily routed, drilled, formed, bent and sawed without snapping or breaking under stress.

Just as you wouldn’t want a mask without a tie string, you don’t want a sneeze shield without a sturdy frame. A rugged metallic frame offers strength and durability. Stainless-steel frames allow shields to be washed down and sterilized per the CDC’s recommendation for frequent cleaning. Avoid frames that have large gaps or cracks that encourage bacterial build up. Instead, insist on full penetration welds.


What will the new normal look like when the COVID-19 lockdown finally ends? Most likely, adjustments to life that were thought to be temporary will become permanent including the wearing of masks, the habitual washing of hands and, of course, sneeze shields any place people interact in close proximity.


Knowing when workers need foot protection and how to select the best boots for a job can help avoid serious foot injuries

Safety footwear is getting more technically advanced, and there are ever more types on the market. Yet, making sure workers have the footwear best suited to their task is still essential.

1. Who needs to wear safety shoes?
If a hazard assessment shows that foot hazards are present in the workplace, workers will need to wear safety footwear. Protective shoes are generally required in heavy industries — such as oil and gas, construction, mining, forestry, factories and mills — but also in light manufacturing companies and distribution warehouses, where forklifts and falling objects are hazards.

Workers who may not face constant risk of foot injuries are often now required to wear safety footwear, too, says Graeme Hill, owner and operator of Calgary-based Reddhart Workwear Stores. The requirement for safety footwear has in recent years been extended to workers in a wider range of professions.

“Over the last couple of decades, the type of industry or environment in which you’re now required to wear them has been broadening. In the past, salespeople working in the office and who occasionally went onto the shop floor would wear their regular shoes. But regulations have tightened up, and they’re now mandated to have a pair of safety footwear on if they go onto the shop floor,” he says.

2. When exactly are they required?
Safety footwear protects workers’ feet and legs against a variety of crush, puncture, chemical and burn injuries. These injuries result from hazards including: heavy objects falling, dropping or rolling onto feet; sharp objects that can cut the top of feet; materials, such as nails, that can penetrate bottoms or sides of feet; hot, corrosive or poisonous substances; splatters from welding, molten metal; chemicals; electrical hazards; static electrical discharges; and slips and trips caused by hazardous walking surfaces and environmental conditions, including uneven terrain, slippery surfaces and extreme temperatures.

Safety boots, made chiefly of leather, help protect against these hazards because they include elements such as protective toecap; metatarsal guard (which protects the top side of the foot) and protective sole plate (a metallic or non-metallic component that provides puncture protection to the sole of the foot). High-cut boots provide support against ankle injury.

3. What is the CSA standard for safety shoes, and do I have to follow it?
Occupational health and safety regulations in most jurisdictions in Canada require that safety footwear meet the requirements of CSA Z195:14 Protective Footwear. The standard, reaffirmed in 2019, includes design and performance requirements for protective footwear, including requirements for toe impact protection, sole puncture protection, metatarsal protection, electric-shock-resistant and slip-resistant soles, as well as for static-dissipative footwear and for slip-resisting footwear.

Andrew Violi, president of Toronto-based Mellow Walk Footwear and chairman of the Z195 technical committee, says the standard provides employers and safety managers with information on protective footwear that meets a very high bar for safety.

“From a manufacturer’s standpoint, it ensures that that we commonly agree on the criteria that the finished footwear must comply with. Today, footwear is made all over the world, so having common standards helps us create that shared responsibility to uphold quality and uniformity.”

Another standard, CSA Z195.1:16 Guideline for selection, care and use of protective footwear provides advice to employers on how to establish and maintain a safety footwear program and shows how to properly select, maintain and dispose of footwear. It also provides a guide for the assessment of risk factors and a hazard assessment worksheet.

A third related standard is the CSA Z334:14 (R2019) Over-the-shoe toe protectors. This discusses design and performance requirements for toe protectors intended to be worn over non-safety footwear.

4. How should safety footwear be selected?
All workplaces should complete a hazard assessment of the job and environment to identify the level and type of footwear protection that workers require. The basic safety boot provides impact and puncture resistance, but boots will often need to protect against additional, specific hazards.

Moreover, some employers will have their own particular requirements, says Terry White, safety manager at Fredericton, N.B.-based Eastern Construction Safety. “Some places want workers to have footwear of a certain height, for extra support around the ankle. Other employers want workers to have laces because they feel laces are better in the event a worker is injured. Medical people can just cut the laces and remove the boot from the foot more easily.”

Other criteria may arise from incident history, he adds. From an incident investigation, employers may have concluded an injury might have been prevented if the worker had been wearing a different pair of boots. “They’ve had people who have been injured, and to prevent that from recurring, they say this time we need a metatarsal guard on the boot.”

Look for the CSA marking that appears on every pair of CSA-certified footwear, which indicates the specific type of protection the boot provides and for which it has been certified. These markings, or symbols, are explained in the CSA 195-14:

● Green triangle: indicates sole puncture protection with a Grade 1 protective toecap. (Heavy industrial work: construction, machine shops where sharp objects are present.)
● Yellow triangle: indicates sole puncture protection with a Grade 2 protective toe. (Light industrial work.)
● Blue rectangle: indicates a Grade 1 protective toecap with no puncture-resistant sole. (Industrial work not requiring puncture protection.)
● Grey rectangle: indicates a Grade 2 protective toecap with no puncture-resistant sole. (Industrial and non-industrial work not requiring puncture protection.)
● White rectangle with orange omega: indicates electric-shock protective footwear. (Industrial work where contact with live electoral conductors can occur.)
● Yellow rectangle with black “SD”: indicates static-dissipative footwear. (Industrial work where a static discharge can create a hazard for workers or equipment.)
● Yellow rectangle with “SD” and plus sign: indicates super-static dissipative footwear and sole puncture protection with a Grade 2 protective toecap. (Industrial work where a static discharge can create a hazard for workers or equipment.)
● Red rectangle with white “C”: indicates electrically conductive footwear. (Industrial work where low-power electrical charges can create a hazard for workers or equipment.)
● Dark grey rectangle with “M”: indicates metatarsal protection. (Industrial work where heavy objects can hurt the foot’s metatarsal region.)
● White label with green fir tree: indicates protection when using chainsaws. (Forestry workers and others who work with or around hand-held chainsaws and other cutting tools.)
● Slip-resistance: Slip-resistance footwear has a marking indicating level of slip resistance on the packaging, a label on the footwear or on a product sheet.

Two grades of toe impact resistance are referred to in these markings, Violi says. “Grade 1 is the highest level of toe impact protection: The toecap is designed to withstand 125 joules of energy. Grade 2 is a lesser standard: The toecap can withstand 90 joules of energy.”

“But, today, what you find is that all manufacturers have gravitated to the highest level of protection, so it’s unusual today to find a Grade 2 toecap on the market,” he adds.

The high visibility of the markings makes them useful for safety managers, Violi says, allowing them to see at a glance whether a worker is wearing the shoes that have been selected for that workplace.

5. Who pays for it?
Safety boots can range from less than $100 to more than $300. Whether the employer or the worker pays for them and how much a worker pays depends on the company, White says.

In unionized workplaces, workers will often get an annual subsidy to cover the cost of protective equipment including footwear. “Through a collective bargaining agreement with their workers, the employers give them the amount they’re entitled to. It’s sometimes called a boot fund. They will give them maybe $250 for a pair of safety footwear for the year.”

Some employers, without an agreement, will give their workers a certain amount for boots. Others may negotiate purchasing agreements with safety supply stores that provide workers with a discount.

Then there are companies that require workers to pay the full price of the boots. “They make the purchase of the boots a condition of employment; if you’re going to work here, you have to come to work with a pair of safety footwear. The companies don’t buy them,” White says.

6. How should safety boots fit?
Boots should fit properly and be comfortable. For proper fit, the foot must be measured, Hill says. There should be enough room for the toes to move freely.

“You want your toes to be able to wiggle around freely, not touching the cap. Yet, you also want the rest of the boot to fit snugly. Snugly is the word we like to use, not tight but snug. As you wear the boots, over the first couple of weeks, the inside lining and the boot tend to mold to your own feet, and the boots will become more comfortable.”

Because feet swell during the day, the best time for fitting shoes is midday. Always allow space for work socks or arch supports. The user should walk in and flex the footwear to ensure a proper fit. Price is generally indicative of quality: The higher the cost, the better the fit and comfort are likely to be.

7. Do safety shoes expire?
There is no expiry date on safety boots. The lifespan of boots will primarily be determined by the worksite: Someone working around harsh chemicals, for example, will find their boots break down quickly.

When safety boots are getting worn, the bottoms start to get smooth; the inside linings break down (in part due to sweat); the leather develops cracks. Damaged footwear should be repaired or replaced.

Owners should inspect their safety boots regularly, White says. “Look at the soles to see if they are worn or have cracks. That’s a cause of concern because they won’t be able to grip a surface as well. Also, look at the condition of the material. It can’t be worn. There can’t be holes in them on the sides, such as cracks and cuts — wear and tear like that. And the material over the toe part has to be covering the toe. It can’t be worn and bare.”

8. Do visitors need to wear safety shoes?
Where a hazard assessment has established that safety boots need to be worn in a work site, then the footwear must be worn even for brief visits into the area. For example, politicians or VIPs attending a publicity event at such a work site need to put on safety shoes. If safety footwear is provided for occasional use, these must be cleaned and sanitized before offered to the next wearer.

9. Can safety shoes damage your feet?
Safety shoes sometimes cause problems for workers’ feet. These difficulties usually occur when the shoes are poor quality or were incorrectly fitted in the first place, Hill says.

“If boots are too tight and toes are touching a steel toecap, it will be extremely painful, and the wearer may get cuts or corns. If the boots are too big, the worker will be flopping around in them; the boots will not provide proper support, and the worker may be more vulnerable to twisting an ankle,” he says.

“A badly fitting pair of boots can put your skeleton structure a bit out of balance and that can contribute to back and knee pain over the long term.”

Violi says safety footwear is constantly evolving. Manufacturers are finding new ways to make the shoes easier on the feet.

“Different compounds are being used to make shoes lighter and more comfortable. There’s more cushioning support, better slip resistance. Instead of using steel, safety shoes often use composite materials such as non-steel toe caps or woven puncture-resistant sole plates,” he says.

“It’s not just about meeting the CSA standards, it’s also about giving the wearer a better-fitting and more comfortable safety shoe, a shoe that you can wear eight to 10 hours a day, five days a week and not feel fatigued in.”

10. What needs to be done to take care of them?
Applying a wax, oil or spray coating to footwear will make them water-resistant and help them last longer, says Hill. “Workers should condition the leather on a regular basis to keep it softer and supple. And let the boots air out each night, so the moisture that’s built up during the day can dry out overnight. That increases the lifespan of the insides.”

Following the manufacturer’s instructions for proper storage, cleaning and care will help workers maintain the effectiveness and extend the lifespan of their safety boots.


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