Category Archives: HSE

Working from home Ergonomically

Most of us have been working from home for several weeks now. While working from home a couple of days here and there is fine for most of us, we now run into an odd situation that we really need to think about having a proper workplace while working from home. Still, a number of people are working either on the kitchen table or on some sort of desk. While this is the case, most companies have strict policies when it comes to deskwork, especially on the ergonomics aspects of the job. We need adjustable tables, adjustable chairs and adjustable screens. This all to make the job less demanding for the body. However, while working from home, we don’t always have all these tools at our disposal for working ergonomically.

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Correct sitting at desk posture ergonomics: office worker using a computer and improving his posture

The Table

Most of us are working either on the kitchen table or on a non-adjustable desk. We can debate about why we should work on these types of tables, but most people don’t have room to create a proper home office. However, when you work from home, try to find a way to adjust the height of the table. You can put some wood or books underneath the table legs to change the height of the table. Again, it’s not ideal, but we need to work with what we have.

The Chair

This one is much trickier, especially when the chair is non-adjustable. At least find a position, which relaxes the body somehow. Also try to use a pillow to support your back when you sit in the chair. Unlike the table, it is much easier to buy an adjustable chair. They don’t take up lots of space and will help a lot to sit comfortably and prevent back pains.

The Monitor

The height of your screen is important to prevent neck pain. Looking straight at your screen makes sure you have a good position for your neck. You can either buy an adjustable screen or simply use a book to levitate the screen. Try to come as close as possible to the configuration above.

The Accessories

This is probably the most neglected part of working from home. Most people work on a laptop and simply use the trackpad and keyboard that comes with the laptop. A separate mouse and keyboard allows much more degrees of freedom, because you can configure it yourself. The keyboard and trackpad are fine for working an hour or so, but not to work on them hours on end.

Also a lot of people are used to working with a second screen. Just use your old laptop or an old desktop screen to work with a double screen or maybe buy a new one. Because this working from home could take a while and maybe you like it so much, that in the future you work one or two days at home instead of in the office. Some of our employees are more productive back at home, because there are no distractions from colleagues. Just think about it, how is working from home working for you?

In the end it is important to have a proper workplace at home, which gives the least possible physical problems. We need our body for the rest of our lives, so just make sure you treat it accordingly.

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Working from home as a Safety Manager

This pandemic of course has a big impact on your job as a safety officer. Normally, you are mainly outside or in the production plant to check up on the safety culture in the company. It is important to be among the people in the company and observe their safety awareness. These observations are crucial to improve the safety culture of the organization. Over the last week, this has reduced significantly but the workload probably spiked the first week. Now, you need to find a way to maintain the safety of the workers somehow remotely.

First Line Action

The COVID19 most likely created a big spike in the workload the first couple of weeks. Policies were probably not in place for these circumstances and therefore needed to be created in record time. Most companies have never considered this scenario and this being a health-oriented “Black Swan” risk, you as the safety manager were involved heavily. All procedures and policies need to be in place to make sure people have guidance in these times. Also, the work instructions need to be updated and added to comply with new laws and regulations.

Working From Home

The new norm forces most people to work from home. Of course, you can probably be on site every now and then, but the feeling with the employees in production reduces due to the distance. Despite you not being there, the safety risks didn’t reduce, they might even become bigger due to changes in the way people work. Working with less people on the same square meter can increase the safety risks. On the other hand, from home you can upgrade work instructions, procedures, processes and policies. The lack of colleagues will reduce the number of distractions and allows for better focus, of course, only if you don’t have small children.

Delegate

Being able to delegate some of the safety activities is key in this because you cannot be on site. The right technology can help a lot here. The shift manager or other team leaders can do the necessary safety walks, which gives you important information to check on the safety culture. When people on site perform these checks, you get at least an idea about what is going on. Yes, you will be missing some key parts, but together with the couple of days you are on site you should be able to have some sort of feeling.

Training

One other great thing you can do in this period is creating a great training session. Using the right platform, you can send the training session to the employees to make sure that safety stays on top of their mind. This also allows you to utilize the information from the safety checks and incorporate that information directly into such a training. Besides the awareness training, you can always simply upgrade to new employee training sessions or the general safety training.

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Why Accident Reporting is Important

We had a great interview with Bart Vanraes, a prevention advisor from Belgium. Bart is an expert in “tippex accidents” and did a significant amount of research into this topic.

Tippex Accidents

A “tippex accident” is an accident that actually took place, but for various reasons, was not correctly reported or not reported at all. The name “tippex accidents” comes from the brand Tipp-Ex, the ink removing solution, which makes the wrong answer, or writing error no longer visible. Sometimes it won’t work to cover up or hide the accident, and it still comes to light somehow. Even when it comes to light, it will still be categorized as a “tippex accident.”

An accident is classified as a “tippex accident” as soon as the victims and/or the employers do not report the work accident or report it wrongfully on purpose. Reporting an accident incorrectly is when the victim minimizes the accident or the employer reports the accident but for certain reasons, it seems less serious. This problem is bigger than we think. In Belgium alone, it is estimated that there are 10,000 undeclared industrial accidents. The Dutch inspection suspects that between 30% and 50% of serious industrial accidents in the Netherlands are not reported.

Practical Examples

One of the most striking examples can be found in Qatar. In 2022, the World Cup football will be organized in this country. In order to facilitate such an event, several stadiums, hotels and other facilities needs to be built. Many migrants work on these projects in order to earn a lot of money and to make sure it is all finished before the WC starts. Unfortunately, more than 1400 people have died during these construction projects until now. There are no figures as to whether this is still taking place, the number may therefore be even higher. The distressing work conditions are already worrying, but the fact that fatal accidents are concealed is just as worrying.

“If we have to request a minute’s silence for each estimated dead migrant when building the stadiums, we will play the first 44 games in silence.”

What Does This Mean for Companies?

Tippex accidents not only have serious consequences for the victims, but also for companies. Due to tippex accidents, employees get the feeling that statistics are more important than people. A direct consequence from this is having dissatisfied employees and it will increase tension and stress among the workers. Colleagues will work with fewer employees in a project, which means that the workload can increase.

Another byproduct from this type of behavior is that as honest employers, you are the victim of companies that do not report all accidents. Suppose you have had 8 accidents and reported this honestly, while your competitors have had 10 accidents, but only reported 1. You will then have the inspection bodies all over your facilities even though your competitor has had more accidents.

Also, the company cannot resolve issues, let alone prevent repetitions, if it is not aware of them. Not reporting accidents will prevent similar problems coming to light. This makes it difficult to detect, monitor or adjust problematic situations, therefore avoiding future accidents. The organization will lose a lot of important data for improvement.

Finally, companies that have been “Zero Accidents” for years become ‘lazy’. Proposals and difficult decisions to work on safety-related improvement projects are more difficult to take. After all, there is no sense of necessity or urgency, because it has been going well for years and the company is “industrial accident-free”.

Of course, tippex accidents are not only annoying for companies, but it is also not pleasant for the victim if their accident is scratched from the books!

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The Power of Near Miss

Near miss is still seen as a big burden by many people, and companies for that matter. The general feeling is still, “Nothing actually happened, so why should we report it?” Yes, nothing happened in the end, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t report it. Heinrich claimed that every 300 near-misses lead to about 29 minor accidents and 1 major one. There isn’t a consensus on the numbers, but it is reasonable to assume that a lot of near misses will inevitably lead to an accident. Hence, reporting and analyzing the near misses is crucial in improving the safety of the employees and preventing incidents from happening.

Prevention

Preventing incidents is so much better than dealing with them. Having an open culture where people are able to report unsafe behavior and situations is crucial. When people start reporting, the Safety Manager has a much easier job making improvements. Also, the Safety Manager gets a more focused approach because (s)he can make these improvements based on data. In order to facilitate, the company needs to have an easy way to report these near misses. Of course a mobile app is the best way to capture this data and allow people to take pictures of the situation. These pictures can then be used as examples in toolbox meetings or to classify the near misses even better for future trend analysis.

Balancing Act

Collecting near misses can be quite a balancing act. Some companies have KPIs on the total near misses reported by an employee. This can lead to simply reporting a near miss to reach the number. A better way is to look at the job people do and come up with an appropriate number based on the risks they face during the job. Activities in the workshop obviously lead to more near misses than office-related activities. Never use this number as a KPI but use it merely as guidance, and keep track of the number of near misses have been created. When there are over 50 employees in the field having 10 near misses a quarter, this means you are missing data.

Data for Improvement

All the data collected by these reports are a goldmine for the Safety Manager. Properly classifying these reports will lead to a great source of information for improving the safety culture. A near miss show the things that have almost gone wrong, so proper awareness training can be created based on these reports on an individual basis. On a more aggregate level, trends can be found in the data related to culture or maybe lack of training or communication. Besides the internal affairs, it becomes easier to track the performance of suppliers, customers or subcontractors. When near misses happen more often on a site of a certain customer, it is at least time for a good talk with their Safety Team. Including the near misses in the toolbox/safety meetings also give employees a sense that the company is really doing something with all the reports they create. A great way to strengthen the culture.

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What Is HSE 4.0?

In line with Quality 4.0, there is also HSE 4.0. Maybe this speaks a little less to the imagination, but there are some fantastic examples of HSE 4.0 initiatives. However, the same as for Quality 4.0, you need to have a solid infrastructure before you can even start to think about HSE 4.0. A proper and open HSE platform is a necessity if you want to push the HSE into the new era of HSE 4.0. Without this infrastructure, it will be next to impossible to handle all the data that is coming out of sensors, cameras and human interactions. The latest techniques will significantly increase the amount of data and a proper cloud platform is required to handle all the data.

The Data

HSE 4.0 will lead to a significant increase in the data that is generated in the HSE system. Sensors will be installed to track safety behavior, which leads to so much data that the platforms need to be able to handle this. There are even companies that are using cameras to detect unsafe situations and near misses. When this data is becoming available, the HSE platform should be able to easily integrate with these options to create near misses in the HSE system.

HSE 4.0 in real life

Quality 4.0 is quite straightforward when it comes to using data to improve the process, which should lead to better Quality. For HSE 4.0, the examples aren’t really out in the open but we do see some amazing examples of how to use AI, IoT and Augmented Reality. We have seen companies using sensors to detect stress on safety harnesses to detect when somebody falls. Also accelerometers in combination with GPS in helmets to see if people wear them is another example. When it comes to AI, companies are looking at options to use this technology to detect unsafe situations. Cameras are trying to identify these situations and classify them. Augmented Reality is used to show the safety instructions and safety data sheets in front of the employee when needed. These examples are premature but companies are experimenting with this. When these technologies become widely accessible, it is important to have the right platform to leverage them.

Better Safety Training

All the data that is gathered has as main goal: making work safer. That is the main goal for everything done within an HSE system. This should be accomplished by creating (awareness) training programs. The HSE data coming from all these different sensors and other data sources are the main input for this training. This way, the data get used to improve the safety of the employees. It is now possible to create training sessions based on machine-generated data combined with user-generated data. This will give a great option to build the training because people don’t always say what they mean, whereas machines don’t have this fallacy. Combining these two sources allows for much better training.

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