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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.


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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.


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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


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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.


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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.


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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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Exceptions from respiratory protection regulations allowing the use of surgical masks only apply to healthcare facilities and emergency medical services, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reminded employers. Other employers must provide respirators, the agency explained in guidance discussing the differences among cloth face coverings, surgical masks, and respirators.

OSHA does not consider surgical masks or cloth face coverings suitable substitutes for respirators in complying with substance-specific standards, such as those for asbestos and silica. The agency encouraged employers to rely on the hierarchy of controls, eliminating or substituting out workplace hazards and using engineering controls, such as ventilation or wetting, and administrative controls like modification of task duration to limit exposures.

Agency guidance granted compliance safety and health officers (CSHOs) enforcement discretion related to respirator use. OSHA acknowledged it may be necessary to extend the use of or allow reuse of certain respirators, use of respirators beyond their manufacturer's recommended shelf life, or use of respirators certified under the standards of other countries or jurisdictions but that have not been evaluated or approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

Guidance from OSHA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) covering crisis strategies to extend the supply of respirators was intended only for healthcare employers.

Other employers should delay a task if the task poses imminent danger and controls are not feasible and appropriate respirators are not available, according to OSHA. The task should be delayed until feasible control measures are available to prevent exposures or reduce them to levels at or below the agency’s permissible exposure limit (PEL).

Face coverings, surgical masks, respirators

Cloth face coverings are worn in public to prevent the wearer from infecting others from COVID-19 or other airborne infections, according to the agency. Worn in public over the nose and mouth, cloth face coverings contain the wearer's potentially infectious respiratory droplets produced when the infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks and can limit the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), to others.

Face coverings may be commercially produced or improvised—bandanas, scarves, or items made from t-shirts or other fabrics.

Face coverings are not considered personal protective equipment (PPE) and likely will not protect the wearer from transmissible infectious agents due to loose fit and lack of seal or inadequate filtration.

Surgical masks typically are cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as medical devices and usually are worn to contain the wearer's respiratory droplets—healthcare workers, such as surgeons, wear them to avoid contaminating surgical sites, and dentists and dental hygienists wear them to protect patients. During the ongoing pandemic, surgical masks are being used as a stopgap PPE measure for healthcare and emergency medical services workers to protect workers against splashes and sprays containing potentially infectious materials.

However, not all masks that look like surgical masks actually are medical-grade, cleared devices.

Respirators are used to prevent workers from inhaling small particles, including airborne transmissible or aerosolized infectious agents. Respirators like N95 filtering facepiece respirators must be provided and used in accordance with OSHA’s respiratory protection standard (29 CFR 1910.134).

The respiratory protection standard contains requirements for proper training, fit testing, medical evaluations and monitoring, cleaning, and program oversight by a knowledgeable staff member.


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Despite the pressures leadership may feel to return to work, there is a core truth they may not want to face: Rushing back to the way things once were increases the risk of failure in the present.

The coronavirus pandemic is causing uncertainty in all corners of our society. People are anxious for life to return back “to normal,” but can’t envision what normal even looks like yet. Public officials are waiting on data and science to guide them to a benchmark that will tell them when it’s safe to end physical distancing, while business leaders are watching the clock and wondering if they’ll have a business to return to when this pandemic becomes less of a public health threat.

Despite the pressures leadership may feel to return to work, there is a core truth they may not want to face: Rushing back to the way things once were increases the risk of failure in the present.

The reason is because life is not what it was pre-pandemic. People change, equipment breaks down, the process is likely outdated. This is why most companies create what the safety industry calls a Management of Change (MOC) document. Simply put, the MOC is your best guarantee of preventing accidents and injuries that could be catastrophic. It identifies the added risks that have emerged since the crisis, creates a communication blueprint to make sure all the gatekeepers within the company are on the same page, and provides a guide to implement the changes to the operating procedure in a concise and thorough manner.

Before leadership makes the decision to start up production, the following questions need to be answered:

Will operations start back up with the same number of personnel?

Your workforce is the one thing that can change the most in a crisis. Companies tend to overlook this factor because it’s not obvious. But consider this scenario: What if the pandemic forced your company to furlough employees, resulting in some employees never returning? If this is the case, this now means your three-person control room team is now a single person, or it could involve a team that does not have the knowledge or experience of the team it replaced. That could create significant hazards to your procedures and more. A MOC would recognize the change and create a new process to accommodate your current workforce.

Were there any changes to the equipment during the shut-down or decreased operation period?

Physical distancing, the reliance on face masks and gloves—All of it is expected to be part of our lives in the distant future. So what does that mean for your shop floor? Your warehouse? You will likely have to modify your equipment to accommodate physical distancing. You will likely have to fit in more breaks because your employees are not used to wearing masks and could overheat. Once again, these are factors that you likely didn’t think of, but need to be addressed in your MOC.

Will your current procedures for training hold up?

The answer is simple: Likely not. It will be difficult to safely train everyone in a single room as before. A conference room that holds 75 people should only hold 25 people. Also, training rooms themselves could be redundant, especially now as more consultants are moving to virtual training in an effort to provide a safe environment on both sides of the computer screen.


As you might tell, a MOC is necessary to address inevitable changes ahead. Because you can’t underestimate the risks and hazards that can result from even seemingly minor changes. The MOC helps your organization follow a systemic process to identify risks and ensure that they are properly addressed before implementing changes.

In other words, a MOC program will force you to slow down and take a step back. This could potentially save lives. Think about all physical, process, procedural, personnel and organizational changes that have occurred. Some are made intentionally, and some are the result of the current pandemic: Staff cuts and physical distancing guidelines are just two examples.

A robust MOC program will address the basis for the change, the impact to safety and health, modifications to operating procedures, temporary or permanent changes, and the notification and training of all affected parties. You’ll be in safe hands when the new normal arrives.


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With little federal guidance on how to reopen and operate workplaces during and post-pandemic, employers are questioning their responsibility to test or not test employees for coronavirus.

Workplaces will have to accommodate safety measures like social distancing and PPE—but should employers be testing workers for coronavirus, or taking temperatures?

That is the million-dollar question. Actually, the billion dollar question: Amazon said it plans to spend as much as $1 billion this year to regularly test its work force, while laying the groundwork to build its own lab near the Cincinnati airport, according to one NYT article.

Las Vegas casinos are testing thousands of employees as the city begins to reopen, and they are using primarily nasal sampling testing methods.

Even major league baseball teams are discussing regimens to test players and critical staff members multiple times a week.

By and large, employers want to test because they want to keep workplaces safe, yes. But mostly, it’s because the virus contracted or spread at the workplace could mean big legal trouble down the line.

The main issue with the question of employers’ responsibility to test is the dilemma of testing availability in the country. Public health experts and government officials have said that widespread testing will be critical to reopening US businesses, but there is little federal or clear guidance on the role employers should play in detecting and tracking coronavirus. As a result, businesses are largely responsible for sorting out whether or not to test—and how to do so.

“It is a really hard conversation because people want absolutes: ‘If I do this, will it guarantee I’ll have a safe workplace?’ None of the testing is going to provide that right now,” said John Constantine, the chief executive of ARCPoint Franchise Group, a nationwide lab network offering virus testing to employers. He added that if done smartly, testing could reduce health risks. “Even if it’s not perfect, some testing is better than no testing.”

There are two approaches to the idea of testing, too, the CDC explains. Diagnostic tests, for example, only detect infections during a certain period. Blood tests administered after infection only show if a person has coronavirus antibodies, but scientists are unsure about what COVID-19 immunity even looks like.

Other officials are saying widespread testing may be both unnecessary and cause for a false sense of security. Especially because a person can test positive for the virus one week and contract it the next.

However, despite lack of federal guidance on testing, the CDC released checklists to help schools and businesses in various industries decide to reopen.

At the very least, many workplaces like pharmacies and food service workplaces have been taking employee temperatures at the start of each shift. If a person has a temperature over 100 degrees, they are sent home.

However, a lot will depend on the nature of each workplace, officials say. For example, factories and meatpacking plants with employees already close together will likely need to test workers more often than will corporate offices with less in-person interaction.

According to the COVID Tracking Project, testing has increased to about 400,000 people a day. Nearly 13 million tests have been completed, according to the CDC, accounting for less than four percent of the population. It is unclear how many of the tests are diagnostic and how many are for antibodies.

One nascent strategy circulating among public health experts is running “pooled” coronavirus tests, in which a workplace could combine multiple saliva or nasal swabs into one larger sample representing dozens of employees. The technique—used during WWII to test soldiers for syphilis—would allow companies to see whether there is coronavirus circulating among workers. A positive result would lead to further individual testing within a group.

The future of what America’s workplaces will look like continues to be a burning question. Testing is likely to be a big part of that conversation.


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Welcome back. In the last issue, we discussed the concept of self-triggering and the importance of learning how to self-trigger quickly, or at least quickly enough to prevent making a critical error, which means that we have to train the sub-conscious mind.

Now, to a certain extent, we have already discussed the importance of involving or using the subconscious mind to prevent injuries when we talked about developing good habits with eyes on task, so that if or when your mind goes off task, you’ll still get the benefit of your reflexes. Habits and reflexes are not things we are deciding to do in the moment with our conscious mind. They are both subconscious.

Dealing with skeptics

All this is where the neuroscience comes in. Until the last 10 years or so, scientists and psychologists could speculate as to what part of the brain was being used. But it wasn’t until FMRIs that they could prove it. And I think that it’s interesting how the neuroscience and the critical error reduction techniques are aligned or how the neuroscience supports or validates the critical error reduction techniques. But my dad, who is an engineer, was unimpressed. When I explained it to him, he said that it was one of the best examples of “locking the door after the horse has got out” he’d ever heard.

His point was that the CERTs (critical error reduction techniques) were around for 10 years before they started doing experiments with FMRIs so if the CERTs didn’t work, they would have been “dead and gone” long before the neuroscience was published. So he’s got a point. But it’s still pretty interesting. And it is science which always helps when dealing with skeptics.

We’re going to get into at least a bit of it as we go through all four critical error reduction techniques. Two of which we have discussed already: work on habits, or work on improving your safety-related habits and self-triggering on the states (rushing, frustration, fatigue) so you don’t make a critical error. And obviously, this has to happen quickly. Even if it’s only a split-second too late, it’s still too late. And in order to get close to reflex speed, we need to use the subconscious mind.

The subconscious mind

The conscious mind just isn’t quick enough. Ironically, training the subconscious mind — isn’t quick—and when you think about learning arithmetic, it wasn’t always exciting either. To give you an example of speed, repetition and the power of the subconscious mind, just answer the following question as quickly as you can: What is 3 x 4? You probably already have the answer in your head before you read it here. It’s 12. That’s how quick your subconscious mind is. But how many repetitions did it take to get that quick so you didn’t have to process anything? Now try 13 x 14.

Like the example above, you could probably do the calculation in your head, but not before you read the answer, which is 182 — or before you were seriously hurt in a motor vehicle collision on the highway or fell down the stairs at work. That’s how fast self-triggering has to be. Repetition is the key to training your subconscious. It’s like someone walking over a grass field. Not much changes. But if two or three people walk over it, then twenty or thirty, pretty soon you have a path. And as more and more people walk over it, it gets wider.

And it’s much the same with neural pathways. The more it’s repeated, the faster it gets. And just like the path through the grass field, it doesn’t matter how smart the people are who are doing the walking, it’s just about the back and forth — the repetitions. What you’re trying to achieve is that “instant sense of danger” that you get when you see a snake or look down from a really high cliff. Only now that sense of danger has to happen — as soon as you start to rush, as soon as you start to feel frustrated and as soon as you start to feel tired.

And just like the grass, the key is repetition: getting people to keep associating rushing, frustration and fatigue with risk to develop that sub-conscious sense of danger. Which brings us back to the moment, so we can use our conscious brain to keep our eyes and mind on task. So even though there are no shortcuts to training you subconscious, with enough stories and repetition you can learn how to self-trigger quickly enough to prevent making a critical error.

If only it was so easy with complacency. Complacency is different than rushing, frustration or fatigue in that you can’t notice it very easily in the moment. It’s something that happens over time.

As you get used to something, like driving 60 mph/100 km/h, although there is plenty of hazardous energy, we get used to it pretty quickly. And as soon as the fear or skill is no longer pre-occupying, your mind can wander. We don’t give our minds permission for this, it happens as soon as our subconscious determines we’ve “got it.” So we can’t really stop complacency from leading to mind not on task. But as mentioned before, we can find ways to bring our mind back on task quickly and efficiently. And that’s where the third critical error reduction technique comes in.

Fighting complacency

As soon as things become too familiar, they tend to get “filtered out” by a part of your brain called the Reticular Activation System or RAS. Its purpose is to filter out the “noise” in the environment, such as the birds in the trees so you can instead hear the rustle in the grass and know it could be a snake. And while this might have been a really good thing dozens of years ago, it isn’t much help for things like driving at highway speed and trying to remain vigilant.

So we talked about habits like leaving a safe following distance when driving to help compensate for complacency, leading to mind not on task. But if you’re driving and you happen to see someone following way too close, you will find yourself almost automatically checking your own following distance as well. So, taking this idea a bit further, if we observe others for state to error risk patterns, every time we see one, we will think about risk, which will make us think about ourselves and the risk of what we are doing.

And if we practice looking for these state to error risk patterns enough, it’s like training our RAS to “light up” whenever we see one. So the RAS isn’t all bad, because you can also train your RAS to see or find what you want to pick out of the noise.

Unfortunately, some people only use this “talent” to be able to find liquor stores or their favorite hamburger joint. And they can do this much faster than others who have not trained their RAS to look for those “important” things.

You can try it yourself: just look for anything you see that’s red before you leave the house. Say what it is out loud as you see each thing or item. Now pay attention to how many red cars you notice when you start driving (there’s lots). So provided you make a bit of an effort, you can train your RAS to look for risk patterns. And once you start to see them, you’ll see them everywhere. And it will really help to keep your eyes and mind on task. Or, to put it another way, this CERT will help you fight complacency.

Analyzing small errors

The last CERT we need to cover is, “Analyze close calls and small errors” so you don’t have to agonize over the big ones. The basic principle here is that there are so many little injuries or close calls compared to serious injuries. But they’re all caused by the same state to error risk pattern.

If we could learn from the “free” ones we wouldn’t have to agonize over the serious ones. So, whenever you make a mistake, bump into something, or momentarily lose your balance — even if you don’t fall down — ask yourself why. Was it a state like rushing, frustration or fatigue that you didn’t self-trigger on; was it complacency leading to mind not on task.

If it was complacency, then you probably need to work on improving a safety-related habit, or you might need to put more effort into observing others for state to error risk patterns. So that’s the basic or the fundamental part of this technique. But another part of this technique is to think about how this close call or minimal injury could have been worse.

By contemplating the worst-case scenarios, more and stronger neural pathways are created in our brains, which eventually will give us that almost instant sense of danger. So getting people to tell stories about injuries and serious close calls that have happened to them, the states and critical errors involved, and then getting them to think about how it could’ve been worse isn’t fear mongering. It’s actually just using the neuroscience to our advantage.

Using your imagination

Instead of always having to experience the pain ourselves, we can think about it when we hear stories from other people, and that works almost as well. Did you know you could use your imagination to help prevent serious injuries? (My dad didn’t.) And as you can imagine, it’s a fairly big shift for a lot of managers and safety professionals who can’t understand why we’re wasting time getting employees to tell stories about their serious accidental injuries and the pain/inconvenience they caused. These are usually the same folks who are still back at the “hazards and sunk costs” paradigm. So, for them, there is some good news because using your imagination doesn’t cost any money.

In summary, there are four critical error reduction techniques to deal with the injuries in the Self-Area (over 95 percent). These techniques are supported by neuroscience, which proves, among other things, why you have to put some time and effort into the four CERTs. Just like the path through the grass field, a lot of repetition is the key to making the neural pathway in the first place, and a certain amount of repetition is also required to maintain the pathway so it doesn’t erode or fade away.

Just like with a musical instrument that you haven’t played in a while or a language you haven’t spoken in a long time, those pathways will also get weaker if you don’t keep using them. So we can learn a lot from the neuroscience. Especially as it relates to complacency, habits and how enough rushing and frustration can override even good habits.


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