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|HSE advises on the importance of fitting respirators correctly
If a respirator is incorrectly fitted, it will not provide you with protection. HSE is advising healthcare workers currently using respiratory protective equipment (RPE) on the importance of ensuring it is fitted correctly.
The advice can be found here.
Tight-fitting respirators rely on having a good seal with the wearer’s face. A face fit test should be carried out to ensure the RPE can protect the wearer.
Watch our video, featuring HSE’s chief medical advisor, Professor David Fishwick (pictured), which provides guidance on how to fit RPE correctly.
You can also read HSE’s press release about the importance of fitting RPE correctly.
If you need to organise a fit tester you can find a list of all accredited fit testers on the scheme website: www.fit2fit.org
|Fit2Fit and Face Fitting
Alan Murray, CEO, BSIF, warns that a strategic approach to face fitting is essential as the UK emerges from the COVID-19 crisis.
During the last weeks we have all seen the media attention on the availability of face masks for workers in healthcare and social services. What the media has not seen and something which I want us all to appreciate is the work being done by the Fit2Fit accredited face fitters in the UK.
For a tight fitting mask to provide protection it needs to be adequate for the hazard and suitable for the individual. To ensure that it is suitable for the individual it must be fit tested for that person. Face Fitters around the country have been working seven day weeks to try to cover as many people in healthcare as is humanly possible. This task is monumental and I would like to pay tribute and thank them all to a person, for this heroic effort.
Face Fitting can be up close and personal and in these difficult times, a task that carries with risk. The length and breadth of the UK the face fitting activity has gone on and on, just a fantastic effort! Again we pay tribute to you all.
In some cases where there have been logistical limitations face fitters have created and delivered on – line training with follow up personal telephone support. Training courses have been redesigned to fit available time with refocussing content to reinforce key messages on avoiding cross contamination.
The challenges in healthcare face fitting have been added to with some confusion of guidance on which mask is suitable for what application. Whether there are actually distinct differences in the advice given by Public Health England and the Health and Safety Executive or not, the task of the face fitting and reassuring wearers has been fraught.
The government cabinet office team’s objective included a coordinated approach to prioritising face fitting around the UK from a central point. Advice was sought from Fit2Fit on harnessing resource and helping to point it at priority areas, this has not yet been put into action.
As well as dealing with mask supply problems we have had to support the authorities on shortages with components for face fitting kits. While our BSIF members have been doing all that they can to supply kits we have supported, through the Fit2Fit community, alternative manufacturing of fit test taste solution.
When we come out of this COVID-19 crisis it is crystal clear that a strategic approach to face fitting as well as the availability of PPE in Healthcare is absolutely essential for preserving the health of the UK workforces.
|BSIF Webinar – CE Documentation, is it genuine?
With the shortages in COVID-19 related PPE a significant amount of non compliant PPE is being offered to the market.
In this webinar BSIF will help you to understand how you can tell that the documentation you are presented with is genuine.
You can view the webinar by following the link below and registering your details: https://events.streamgo.co.uk/CE-Documentation-Is-it-genuine
The answers to the questions put to us during the webinar can be found on the news section of the BSIF website: https://www.bsif.co.uk/newsarticles/
|Investigation into Fake CE Certificates and organised crime
As we struggle with the widespread presentation of fake documentation, and the polluting effect it is having on the Certification process of PPE, especially respiratory masks BSIF thought it would be timely to share the linked article.
The article is a translation of the Italian article just published. It is written by reporters of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) (see https://www.occrp.org/en/). On the page on CRIME, CORRUPTION, AND CORONAVIRUS there is already an article about masks in Romania. They started looking into the misleading certification in a few Eastern European countries (e.g. Romania), but realised that it is a European wide issue.
They are digging into ECM and ICR Polska mostly, but also the others are of interest to them to get the complete picture. They are also working with people in China to find out how things work there. OCCRP are funded from a variety of sources including some governmental organisations.
The article focuses on the activities of ECM and it should amplify the warnings that we have already put out to the market.
|Food for thought
Since the publication of Dame Carol Black’s seminal review of the health of the working-age population 10 years ago, there has been a noticeable shift in responsibility for workers’ well-being to employers. Workplace health-promotion initiatives linked to what people do outside of work in terms of eating, sleeping and exercising are increasingly common, but the jury’s still out on whether they constitute interest or interference. Tina Weadick investigates
Kombucha. I bet your first thought on reading that was “bless you!” but actually, this type of fermented tea, produced from a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (yum…), is the latest superfood that’s going to work miracles for our overall health. Or so it’s claimed.
The truth is, no particular food or combination of foods alone can make us totally healthy, but by making a range of sensible lifestyle choices, including around diet, we can improve our chances of living well and, as more and more evidence is showing, working more productively.
Few of us deliberately set out to be unhealthy. We spend most of our waking hours at work and, while we’re there, our employers would prefer us to be firing on all cylinders. If, as the World Health Organisation says, “the wealth of business depends on the health of workers”,1 employer interest in the likes of what their workers eat, how much exercise they do, and their smoking and drinking habits is both understandable and appreciated. Or is it?
Food as fuel – and foe
The idea of looking after the well-being of workers, as well as their health and safety, is not new (although it is still far from being standard practice in all workplaces). Recently, however, some employers have been extending their approach from simply providing for the well-being of employees while they’re at work to encouraging them to look after themselves once they’ve clocked off. Initiatives include things like making healthy options available on the menu in the staff canteen, providing assistance to stop smoking or reduce alcohol consumption, and offering free or subsidised gym membership.
The argument goes that the workplace is the ideal platform for such initiatives, as it’s where people spend most of their time. According to Mark Davies of 7Futures, which has been helping companies develop and deliver well-being strategies for almost 20 years, “studies on the most effective ways of nudging people on health have revealed the top three avenues to be via GPs, schools and employers”. Moreover, a 2010 study on healthy eating strategies in the workplace concluded that “using the worksite as a setting for influencing health by influencing dietary patterns holds considerable promise and may be instrumental in reducing workers’ risk of chronic diseases”.2
It has long been recognised and documented that so-called lifestyle-related factors, such as poor diet, substance abuse and lack of exercise, have a significant impact on work-related sickness absence, particularly when combined with work factors, such as shift patterns, job design, degree of autonomy, etc. However, there is also increasing evidence that people’s eating habits, for example, directly affect workplace productivity. A 2012 investigation of the effects of physical activity, dietary behaviour and Body Mass Index (BMI) on the workplace productivity of employees in construction, manufacturing, transportation and services industries found that BMI (of females) and access to fast food (for males) were inversely associated with productivity.3
Part of the reason for this is the effect of certain foods and drinks on the brain. Angela Steel, director of SuperWellness, a leading provider of nutrition-centred well-being corporate programmes, explains: “A diet high in sugar, carbohydrates and other stimulants, such as caffeine, with the associated blood-sugar crashes, is particularly damaging for concentration, alertness and information-processing. There is also a strong connection between nutrition and sleep – again, with blood sugars playing a big part. The knock-on effect of poor sleep and fatigue can be a huge threat to workplace safety, as well as health.”
Mark Steele wholeheartedly agrees, going so far as to call the problem of fatigue at work an “epidemic” and laying much of the blame at caffeine’s door. He says: “We all have sleep pressure, which builds during the day. But caffeine, which is the most used drug in the world, dilutes our sleep drive. If you haven’t slept well, your stress hormones haven’t had a chance to calm down. If you start the day with high cortisol levels, you have less capacity to cope as the day progresses. Your working-memory capacity diminishes as a result. You start to feel brain-foggy, your ability to concentrate wanes and you take risks you wouldn’t normally take. The fundamental cognitive quality of the mind is affected.”
Teach don’t preach
So, it seems fairly straightforward: if you love your coffee, your chips and your couch, and the physical and mental effects of your lifestyle choices are adversely impacting on your performance at work, then your employer has a right to be concerned. Except it’s not that simple. The TUC regularly warns of the danger of approaches that can be seen as employers interfering in what workers do in their own time and used as an alternative to prevention. The current edition of its Work and Well-Being guide4 claims: “Many employers prefer to look at changing the behaviour of the workers rather than the workplace. They seem to think that, rather than remove stress in the work, they should introduce on-site massage or after-work yoga classes. This approach is little to do with promoting well-being in the workplace and instead is using the workplace to promote changes in how workers live their lives.”
The union body also points out that it’s often the work itself that causes people to turn to tobacco, alchohol and junk food for comfort in the first place. For example, a Canadian study5 in 2013 found that more cases of high blood pressure among men could be attributed to low job control than to poor health behaviours, such as smoking, drinking, poor diet, etc.
And employers themselves are often wary of coming across as patronising or preachy by running such initiatives. A 2015 review6 of the literature in this area defined the difficulty as “determining which aspects contributing to employees’ health those in management or leadership roles should have responsibility for and to what extent”. It found there was general reluctance among employers “to enforce particular behaviours outside the scope of occupational health and safety” for fear of being seen to be “meddling”, and general agreement that it is “first and foremost up to the individual to maintain an acceptable level of personal health”, with the workplace “playing a more minor role that should support employee health”.
That individuals have primary responsibility for looking after their own health and well-being cannot be disputed. As noted by the CIPD, in its 2016 policy report on well-being: “People will only benefit from well-being initiatives at work if they are willing to participate in them and take care of their health and well-being outside work as well”.7
This is why, says Angela Steel, employers must take an educational and awareness-raising approach when it comes to health-promotion initiatives. She explains: “In our experience, offering eye-opening information and useful knowledge is the key. It’s the difference between making someone feel empowered because they understand what to look for on a food label or making them feel preached to because they are being told simply to ‘cut down’ on sugar or to ‘lose weight’. Creating an environment that makes healthy choices easier during the working day is a step in the right direction. It isn’t enough, however, to have a long-term or significant impact. This is why education and engagement also play a big part in equipping people with the knowledge and motivation to make healthy choices wherever they are and for the rest of their lives.”
Olympic triple-jumper Nathan Douglas, who works alongside Mark Davies as a mind coach, adds: “We don’t nanny people, we educate and motivate them to take more responsibility for themselves. Our approach is one of health promotion and education. You can’t make anyone do anything, so instead we inspire and educate people to be aware of the damage they are doing to themselves. Yes, we get push-back from some but it’s those who do care about their health that we are targeting.”
The best way for employers to ensure they raise awareness rather than hackles with lifestyle-related programmes is to involve the workers in their development. The TUC, naturally, advocates this approach, as does the CIPD, which notes that “if the organisation involves employees in the design and implementation of its health and well-being programmes from the outset, it is more likely to gain buy-in from them”.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, such programmes should be holistic, encompassing prevention, promotion and, where necessary, rehabilitation. As Dr Stephen Luttrell, medical director at Bupa UK, pointed out in a recent article for the Chartered Management Institute: “Well-being is not just about free gym membership and fruit bowls; we have to see it in terms of the wider work environment”.
|A little more conversation
Tina Weadick explores the attitudes to and initiatives around mental health at work, looking at why it has been (and remains) a fairly tricky issue to deal with
Fans of 1990s American TV sitcoms will no doubt remember the wonderful series ‘Frasier’ and the titular character – a radio psychiatrist – played by the inimitable Kelsey Grammer. At the end of every radio phone-in show, Dr Frasier Crane would sign off by wishing his listeners “good mental health”.
More than 20 years later, “good mental health” is as much of a holy grail as ever. One in four people in the UK will suffer from mental ill health at some point in their lives1 and, in the workplace, it remains the leading cause of sickness absence. In 2016/17, HSE statistics revealed that 12.5 million of the 31.2 million working days lost due to work-related ill health and non-fatal injuries were because of stress, anxiety and depression (40%). On average, each person suffering took 23.8 days off.2
There have been myriad initiatives over the last 20 years – Securing Health Together, the HSE’s stress Management Standards, the work by Dame Carol Black, among many, many others – yet, the incidence of work-related ill health, and mental-health problems in particular, has remained broadly flat over the last ten years, or so.
Lately, however, there has been a renewed focus on mental health in the workplace, with a plethora of government reports published on the subject, as well as the development of new training on and approaches to tackling it. This may or may not have anything to do with the wider, public movements like ‘MeToo’ and ‘TimesUp’. While not about mental health per se, what these and similar campaigns do help with is breaking down stigmas and encouraging people to come forward and speak up if they have a problem.
According to Mike Robinson, chief executive of the British Safety Council, this is crucial to solving the problem. He says: “The key is to get people talking – in the case of mental health, about a subject that is still taboo in some workplaces. A lot of people with mental-health issues will lie about why they are off work, so one solution is to get more people talking about it openly. Having more public acceptance of mental-health issues is important, but such acceptance is absolutely vital in the workplace. We need mental health to be seen no differently to physical health.”
To this end, the British Safety Council (BSC) has recently launched a series of training courses designed to “start difficult conversations” and support people suffering from mental ill health.3
Robinson explains: “We have developed three levels of training: ‘Start the Conversation’, which is aimed at everyone in an organisation and lasts 45 minutes. The idea is to get people to start talking openly about mental health and the issues around it. People understand that every individual has mental health and sometimes it’s better than other times, just like physical health.
“The second level is ‘Manage the Conversation’. We realised that most people go to their manager or supervisor first, so we need to equip these people – anyone with line-management responsibility – to be able to have those conversations.”
The third level of the BSC’s training involves delivery of the two-day Mental Health First-Aid England (MHFA) course.4 MHFA training courses were first developed in Australia in 2000 and have since evolved into a global movement, with licensed programmes in 24 countries. They came to the UK in 2007, as part of a national approach to improving mental health. MHFA courses teach people to spot the symptoms of mental-health issues, offer initial help and guide sufferers towards further support.
Andy Flockton, an approved MHFA instructor who has been delivering courses across the UK for more than ten years, explains that the approach is about “acting on the distress a person is in and asking ‘are you OK?’ We teach people to respond in a non-judgemental way. Often, that is what causes the most stress – thinking you are going to be judged. Often, sufferers just want someone to listen.”
He goes on: “I like to use the ‘stress bucket’ analogy: imagine we all have a container that demonstrates what we can cope with before we break. Life experience has a great impact on our capacity to cope. I could have a thimble, you could have a skip – it doesn’t mean I’m weaker than you, just that I’ve had different life experiences and thus more vulnerability. The role of the mental-health first-aider is to spot who are the thimbles and who are the skips, but also people themselves need to know what their own level is and what their personal stress signature is.”
Transport for London
One large employer that has been successfully using the MHFA approach – as part of a much wider programme of employee mental-health support – is Transport for London. The company has run a Stress Reduction Group (SRG), centred around resilience-building, for more than 15 years and a Trauma Support Group for train drivers and station staff, among whom certain types of stress and, in severe cases, psychological trauma are, understandably, more common. In addition, it carries out ‘hot spot’ work, where feedback from staff is acted upon to target teams among whom stress and mental health are bigger issues, and offers face-to-face counselling as well as a 24-hour employee-assistance telephone counselling and well-being service.
Ray Roberts and Ben Gatty, of TFL’s Mental Health Team, explain: “MHFA is now a firm part of TFL’s Health & Well-being Improvement Plan. Last year, we trained 170 people in mental-health peer support as part of our Supporting Colleagues Network (SCN) programme and will train about the same number again this year. A lot of the focus of training is on boundaries, as we want to make sure that staff have sufficient input to enable help of this sort to be safe.”
The BSC, MHFA and TFL all agree that early identification of mental-health problems is key to assisting sufferers, but this is often the hardest part – especially if those suffering won’t open up. The best way to tackle this is to raise awareness of mental-health issues and embed that awareness in the company culture such that any stigma is removed. Say Roberts and Gatty: “Clearly, it takes time to embed such a culture but, at TFL, we are progressing this by working with the workforce from multiple angles.
“For example, towards the end of 2017, we delivered presentations to the Board of Directors and saw our mental-health peer-support network grow. We are also working on incorporating mental health into HR policies and procedures, and into core training. As leaders, managers are particularly influential, so we’ll shortly be developing mental-health components in the annual CPD for all managers, too.”
All of these approaches are very much in line with the Government’s current thinking on the issue, if its responses to recent independent reviews are anything to go by. In February 2018, following publication of Good Work – the review of modern working practices by Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the Royal Society of Arts5 – the Government’s response highlighted the fact that “well-being at work not only refers to an individual’s mental health or satisfaction at work, it also relates to how supportive and inclusive an organisation is, helping to retain and support employees in work”.6
Thriving at Work: The Stevenson Farmer Review of Mental Health and Employers – published in November 2017,7 – set out a number of recommendations for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), in recognition of the regulator’s “important role in encouraging employers to effectively implement the mental-health core and enhanced standards”. These included revision of HSE guidance to raise employer awareness of their duty to assess and manage work-related mental ill health, and an increase in focus on workplace mental health during inspections.
Asked if it is acting on these recommendations, the regulator replied: “The HSE has recently revised its web guidance and reviews this content regularly. This has included providing a workbook to help employers work through the Management Standards approach to tackling work-related stress. We are working with employers to trial the Management Standards approach to ensure it remains fit for purpose.”
It added that while it has not increased its focus on mental health during inspections, it would “never preclude the use of enforcement action where there has been a failure to carry out any regulatory duty, where the action is warranted and there is sufficient evidence to do so”.
Mike Robinson believes that all of this activity around mental health in the workplace is causing a sea change in how it is perceived and addressed. He says: “The focus on mental health is now ten times greater than what it was even three years ago. Something like our ‘Start the Conversation’ course is pretty unique – it immerses the whole organisation in talking about it. And there has also been a change in the mindset of company leadership: when I talk to CEOs now, we invariably discuss employee mental health. I really do believe a corner has been turned.”
And it really does seem that more and more people – employers, colleagues and others with the power and/or resources to effect change and ensure we all enjoy good mental health – are saying, to borrow another of Dr Frasier Crane’s catchphrases, “I’m listening”.
7) https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/thriving-at-work-a-review-of-mental-health-and-employers (includes a link to the Government’s response)
|Have your say in our reader survey
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|Mind how you go
There are some careers you simply should not consider if you are a bit of a day-dreamer: air-traffic controller, interpreter at the UN Security Council, public-transport driver, heavy-machinery operator. Even a momentary lapse in concentration while fulfilling these demanding roles can result in disaster. Tina Weadick explains how complete awareness and total focus – in other words, mindfulness – can be of benefit to both employee and employer
The origins of mindfulness lie in religious meditation (Buddhism, to be specific) but the practice has now been embraced by a wider secular audience of people looking for ways to reduce the level of stress in their busy lives. Given that stress is, by far, the biggest cause of working days lost each year due to worker ill-health, it was only a matter of time before the applications of mindfulness for the workplace began to be recognised – and exploited.
An article in the online Huffington Post in 2013 noted that “the booming popularity of the mindfulness movement has turned it into a lucrative cottage industry [with] business-savvy consultants promising that it will improve work efficiency, reduce absenteeism and enhance the soft skills that are crucial to career success”.1 More recently, a report by the UK government’s Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group (MAPPG) concluded that there is “a proliferation of mindfulness programmes” available, evidence of the usefulness of which, “while promising, remains patchy”.2
But that same government report also clearly acknowledged that mindfulness is “an important innovation in mental health, which warrants serious attention from politicians, policy-makers, public services, as well as employers and professional bodies”. So, what exactly is mindfulness?
Take your time
As well as developing the aforementioned concentration, focus and awareness, mindfulness is about approaching things with an open, calm, peaceful and non-judgemental mind. It’s about taking time to take stock – something that comes naturally at the beginning of a new year – and having self-compassion. It is ignoring the niggling voice and to-do list in your head and focusing on the now – being aware of what you’re doing, while you’re doing it.
Typically, a workplace mindfulness course runs for four to six weeks, with an hour-and-a-half of training per week, plus 10-15 minutes of personal mindfulness practice every day. Course content revolves around how to pay attention and stay focused, examining the connection between the mind and the body, and addressing compassion for the self and others.
Lest you get the impression that it’s some kind of beansprout-munching, yoghurt-weaving pursuit for new-age types, there is some sound science behind it. Chris Langer, project change manager with CIRAS and co-presenter of an extremely well-attended session on mindfulness at last year’s IOSH conference, explains: “It does have a scientific basis. People can be trained to notice things. You can train in concentration, which can lead to fewer safety incidents, and there is an evidence base for that.”
A 2011 study, led by researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital, was the first to document meditation produced changes in the brain’s grey matter and found that “participating in an eight-week mindfulness meditation programme appears to make measurable changes in brain regions associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress”.3 Two years later, researchers at the University of California examined the effect of mindfulness training on reading comprehension, working memory capacity and reduction in the occurrence of distracting thoughts. They concluded that it led to “reduced mind-wandering among participants prone to distraction” and that “cultivating mindfulness is an effective and efficient technique for improving cognitive function, with wide-reaching consequences”.4
Langer’s IOSH presentation – with Monica Monti, HSQE manager at transport operator Abellio – highlighted a recent case study of Catalonian transport company, FGC.5 Monotonous driving, repetitive tasks and stress had been identified as key issues among its bus drivers, so a custom-designed MBSR programme (mindfulness-based stress reduction) was provided for 23 drivers to help them develop more resilience, cope with stress, be more ‘present’ in the cab and avoid being on ‘auto-pilot’. After the course, 85 per cent of the participants said their attention was higher or much higher, and the company recorded no operational incidents in the six months following the course.
Nevertheless, as the MAPPG report emphasised, the current evidence base for its effectiveness as a workplace tool remains patchy. A 2013 Chinese study6 on the influence of mindfulness on task and safety performance of nuclear power-plant operators found that while it did have a positive effect on those engaged in highly complex tasks (control-room operators), it had no influence on those involved in low-complexity tasks (field operators), and actually had a negative influence on task performance. These results, the study authors concluded, “suggest that the benefit of being mindful outweighs its cost for complex but not simple tasks”.
What is fairly clear, however, is that for mindfulness training to have any positive effect in a workplace context, it needs to be integrated with company practices and culture. Chris Langer talks about ‘organisational mindfulness’. He says: “Traditionally, mindfulness is about the individual and concentration, paying attention, etc. To move on to organisational awareness people must understand the assumptions they are making regarding the decisions they take – in other words, collective assumptions. We are looking for as many people as possible to be aware of their environment and safe working conditions. If the majority of people are, then you have organisational mindfulness.”
Nikki Watters, mindfulness trainer and stress management coach with course provider Business Minded,7 agrees: “For it to realise benefits, mindfulness has to become the norm in an organisation, so that people will be more likely continue with their own individual practice after the course, which is very important. To make its presence felt and make it the norm, employers can, for example, have mindfulness champions, host lunchtime meditation sessions or, in the summer, mindful walks. Regular meetings could be rounded off with a short mindfulness practice, and the intranet or noticeboard could be used to disseminate information on mindfulness.”
Passing the buck?
Of course, there is also the argument – often also made in relation to behaviour-based safety approaches – that training people to be more attentive and more resilient to stress shifts the burden of responsibility for dealing with problems in the workplace from the employer to the employee. As the Huffington Post article points out: “Stress is framed as a personal problem, and mindfulness is offered as just the right medicine to help employees work more efficiently and calmly within toxic environments.”
This is a concern voiced regularly by employee representative groups, particularly the unions. The TUC has criticised resilience interventions such as mindfulness training for treating the distressed worker and not the dysfunctional workplace, while the Prospect union has warned that companies are increasingly looking to fix the worker rather than fix stressful jobs. Speaking in 2016, Prospect’s health and safety specialist, Sarah Page, claimed that “rather than adopting the HSE’s excellent, evidence-based and free [stress] Management Standards, employers are allowing themselves to be seduced by expensive ‘well-being’ products…so they can shift responsibility for stress management to a self-management model”.
Chris Langer understands the reservations about mindfulness encouraging the acceptance of ‘reality as it is’. He says: “This is why you have to extend the concept out to organisational mindfulness, which converges neatly with safety culture. It’s about trying to promote safety and risk awareness at a collective, organisational level. It’s not about pinning blame on individuals or making individuals responsible. And it should be targeted at front-line staff and managers, as well.”
Adds Nikki Watters: “The acceptance thing can be a stumbling block, as it is seen as passive – just put up with it. But I tend to teach people to look at what the opposite of whatever ‘it’ is and, instead of getting down about what is happening in the company and fighting against it, examine why it is happening, what is the company’s rationale for it and, most importantly, what are my options. Making room for reality includes embracing the difficulty itself – you stop fighting it and start dealing with it.”
It is often said that operation is the last link in the chain – before sorting it out, first make sure that the conception, design, construction and supervision/leadership are all solid. It’s the classic top-down approach and while, in health and safety terms, the bottom-up approach also has its proponents, it is clear that mindfulness training – like any tool that focuses on the individual – must be part of a bigger cultural picture. Better concentration, greater focus, sharper observation, more compassion for yourself and others – these are things everyone can benefit from. In the workplace, they facilitate choice, rather than automatic reaction, and that will certainly have an effect on the number of unsafe incidents due to human error. Ultimately, it makes sense – for individuals and organisations – to try to go from ‘mind full’ to ‘mindful’.
|Ahead of the rest
Georgina Bisby investigates the challenges and opportunities around smart technology in above-the-neck PPE
The current trend towards smart personal protective equipment (PPE), which incorporates advanced technologies including Internet of Things (IoT) and sensors into wearable protective equipment, is expected to continue and accelerate in 2018, according to the report Global Smart PPE Market 2017-2021 published by Technavio.As the rise of Industry 4.0 gathers pace, PPE is an obvious opportunity for introducing smart technology into the workplace and large scale investment and product development is seeing technologies move quickly from trial phases onto the market. Simon Field, a technical specialist at science-based technology company 3M, who, according to the Technavio report, is one of the key players in the smart PPE space along with Honeywell, DAQRI and General Electric, says: “Going forward, I think smart and connected personal protective equipment (PPE) will become much more commonplace across a wide range of industries. Technology is permeating our personal and work lives like never before, and the potential benefits for workplace safety are significant. Innovations in above-the-neck PPE have the potential to revolutionise the field of workplace safety, helping workers to avoid hazards more effectively and simply than ever before.”
Field gives the example of 3M’s Organic Gas and Vapour End of Service Life Indicator Filters as a case where smart technology is improving worker safety. The filters use End of Service Life Indicator (ESLI) technology to give users a clear visual warning when they need to change their filters. This technology, which is said to be the first of its kind, can help to combat the problem of some respiratory protective equipment (RPE) users only changing their filters once they detect contaminant odour, taste or contamination inside the respirator, meaning the substance has already broken through.
Cleo Cabuz, vice president of engineering and chief technology officer for Honeywell Industrial Safety, believes that above-the-neck PPE is one of the areas where some of the most exciting technology developments are set to take place in terms of smart PPE: “In the era of Industry 4.0, RFID and Bluetooth-enabled PPE can already connect to smartphones to become edge devices able to collect and transmit data. In future, by using retrofitted wireless data transfer technology, like Near Field Communication (NFC), everything from eyewear to hardhats could become connected, while further innovations in wearable sensors could make it possible to monitor any parameter that affects a worker’s health."
In hearing protection, for example, one of the key trends is enhancing communication while preserving hearing in the long term, explains Cabuz: “Increasingly, devices such as earmuffs are becoming communication hubs that connect to smartphones via Bluetooth, enabling workers to answer phone calls, hear alarms or receive vital instructions without putting their hearing at risk. Additionally, the integration of miniaturised microphones to register residual noise, combined with software and cloud technology, is enabling a new, app-based approach to hearing conservation, with the ability to monitor sound exposure in real time and fight noise induced hearing loss (NIHL).”
According to Cabuz, hardhats also have great potential to be transformed into smart devices which could help the safety industry move towards an information-driven approach to workplace risk reduction: “Hardhats embedded with miniaturised biometric sensors could gauge and monitor in real time, through sweat and pulse, vital parameters such as heart rate, body temperature, and stress, which can be early signs of an imminent threat."
There are already examples of smart technology being integrated into headwear on the market. For example the Australian company Smart Cap Technology is helping companies to manage worker fatigue with its LifeBand device which can be fitted to headwear including safety helmets. Smart Cap’s early warning alarms, combined with real-time monitoring enables proactive intervention to better manage fatigue risk which could be particularly useful for preventing drivers from falling asleep at the wheel.
Augmented Reality as a Health & Safety management tool
Not only is smart PPE a way of keeping workers healthier and safer but it also provides a vehicle for iintroducing technology such as Augmented Reality (AR) which offers numerous opportunities and benefitsin terms of managing occupational health & safety. In 2017 DAQRI ran a trial of smart helmets which incorporated professional industrial grade wearable technology to provide users with instant and relevant information, overlaid on their line of sight. The DAQRI Smart Helmet was a developer edition explains Jason Haggar, vice president, global partner & developer programs at DAQRI. “We learned a lot from our customers of the DAQRI Smart Helmet, one learning being that they wanted lighter weight glasses, and so we moved the Computing and Battery Pack out of the helmet (and the corresponding weight off the user’s head) and into a belt-worn “Compute Pack”. In the words of one of our early adopter customers, 'I don’t want to wear an entire computer on my head.'”
Subsequently in November 2017, DAQRI launched the DAQRI Smart Glasses, a wearable AR solution that is also certified to eye and face protection safety certifications: ANSI Z87.1, EN166 1S and EN167.
It’s early days for AR as an HSE management tool – DAQRI reports most customers are starting with training use cases, but many companies are also looking at using AR to visualise dangerous areas (ex: tagging a hot pipe or electrical danger) something which DAQRI has recently successfully trialled with Siemens. Key customer feedback is that as well as keeping workers healthier and safer, being able to get work instructions, training, or remote expert help via Augmented Reality is saving employers time and money.
DAQRI is currently evaluating PPE and head protection options that work with the DAQRI Smart Glasses, and say they will have some future news on this topic: “We understand that many customers require a combination of PPE and a wearable AR solution,” says Haggar.
There are plenty of other names to watch in the Smart PPE space. For example General Electric Oil and Gas has developed a Smart Helmet which allows the wearer to connect with remote engineers for faster troubleshooting through a shared collaboration space featuring live feed and direct audio contact with the site.
Meanwhile New York based Human Condition Safety (HCS) is creating a suite of tools that helps workers and their managers prevent injuries before they happen. Incorporating wearable devices, artificial intelligence, building information modelling and cloud computing, the product suite is being designed for the industries that hold the highest risk for workers, including manufacturing, energy, warehousing and distribution, and construction.
Meeting the needs of a changing workforce
Honeywell’s Cabuz thinks the rise of smart PPE is good news for a workforce with a changing demographic: “This connected approach could encourage the uptake and correct use of PPE among millennials, who are expected to make up 50 per cent of the global working population by 2020. By equipping itself with the kind of technology that meets the expectations of this generation of digital-natives, the safety industry will put itself in the best position to protect their health in the long term.
“At the other end of the spectrum, smart PPE that can address the needs of the ageing workforce will be of increasing importance. Statistics show that occupational fatalities are more likely to occur among older workers with many of these fatalities due to lack of appropriate preventative measures and effective rescue procedures."
What about the risks?
The advantages of smart PPE are clear but with questions remaining about the impact of wireless technology on human health are people going to be comfortable with all of this technology being concentrated above the neck?
PPE specialist Intellinium does’t think so which is why they have developed what is said to be the first Smart Safety Shoe. Using “health by design” and “health by default” principles similar to “Privacy By Design” and “Privacy By Default”, Intellium spent six months researching the best location for its smart hub and concluded that the foot was a good candidate since it is far from the head, breast and genital area. This hub located in a smart connected safety shoe is designed to connect to other wearables using a lower emitting protocol such as BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy). In addition, Intellium located its technology on top of the upper shoe to give more distance between the body and the electronics rather than using a smart sole which the company said could place the telecom antennae too close to the body.
How much of a concern the location of smart technology is will depend on the individual technology and how long a worker is wearing it for but understandably workers expect anything they are wearing above the neck to be both comfortable and safe so these considerations are likely to strongly influence product design. As DAQRI found, people don’t want to wear a whole computer on their head so perhaps the smart money when it comes to future developments is on PPE with smart functionality but with the bulk of the electronics based elsewhere.
|Producers of The Walking Dead hit with maximum fine
The production company behind hit TV show The Walking Dead has been handed the maximum possible fine by the US Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) following the death of a stunt man last year.
The production company behind hit TV show The Walking Dead has been handed the maximum possible fine by the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) following the death of a stunt man last year.
John Bernecker fell 25 feet onto concrete while rehearsing a fight for the show. The 33-year-old was airlifted to Atlanta Medical Centre where he spent time on a ventilator before passing away.
It was announced on the 5th of January 2017 that OSHA had fined production company Stalwart Films the maximum amount permitted, $12,675 (£9,340), for ‘failure to provide adequate protection from fall hazards’.
OSHA released a statement saying: ‘This tragedy should serve as a wake-up call for the entertainment industry. The entire industry needs to commit to safety practices for actors and stunt people involved in this type of work.’
However Stalwart Films expressed its disappointment to Entertainment Weekly, claiming that Bernecker's death was a 'tragic and terrible accident.' and that it 'takes the safety of our employees extremely seriously on all of our sets and comply with – and frequently exceed – industry safety standards. We disagree with the issuance of this citation and are considering our response.’