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You can't manage what you don't measure

23 January 2013

The management of the many potentially dangerous physical and chemical agents found in workplaces can be a daunting task. Neal Hill and Tim Turney of Casella Measurement offer some pointers on where to start In their

The management of the many potentially dangerous physical and chemical agents found in workplaces can be a daunting task. Neal Hill and Tim Turney of Casella Measurement offer some pointers on where to start

In their web article Choosing the right noise exposure assessment tool, (www.phaseto.com) David S. Cmar and John A. Rioux state that the chosen strategy depends on many circumstances; the matrix reproduced below summarises the available tools for noise exposure assessment (but this equally applies to agents other than noise).

Area monitoring refers to the use of a hand held (sound level) meter, while (noise) dosimetry allows a bodily worn instrument to measure across a full shift (FS), which can be targeted at certain 'mobile' workers and offers a compromise in terms of cost and complexity. The task based (TB) concept involves an exposure being calculated based on a breakdown of the elements a person typically performs. This means making assumptions about the tasks performed and typical time 'on task(s)' combined with a noise level based on a sample of each individual task.

Consequently this approach can be both costly and complex but software packages exist to help the process.

Clearly, the same method used in a small engineering shop would not be relevant to a mining operation employing thousands of miners. Mining is a good, albeit extreme example, of simultaneous exposure to several agents i.e. gas, noise, vibration, temperature & humidity. The mining sector have highly developed regimes for near continuous sampling of noise and dust exposure to ensure statistical validity (as highlighted in the matrix). The construction sector is another example and studies have been undertaken comparing FS measurements and TB assessments with varying degrees of correlation.

Many instrumentation vendors see themselves just in the measuring business and tend to be 'vertical' in nature, specialising in just one discipline. By contrast, companies such as Casella Measurement provide a complete solution for workplace assessment across a range of physical and chemical agents. This has been facilitated in Casella's case by its investment in Casella Insight data management software.

Rather than using several software applications to download from many instruments, Casella Insight allows data from a range of supported instruments to be downloaded and stored into one versatile package. Data is stored on a centralised database which may be managed by Person, Place or Process criteria. Data can be viewed in tabular or graphical format and analysed as necessary.

When an instrument is connected to Casella Insight, it automatically downloads stored data. Casella Insight manages all the instrument's re-calibration dates and gives notification when they are due, as well as storing the actual calibration certificates.

Users of existing Casella CEL software packages e.g. dB35 can import previously downloaded data. While data within Casella Insight can easily be exported and sent to other colleagues or users, allowing data to be shared easily across larger organisations Exposure levels can be colour coded by a simple 'traffic light' system, making it easy to see which individuals or locations exceed action levels. These limit values can be user defined if a more stringent action value is desired. Graphs can be further analysed by adding zones which subsequently provides exposure levels, inside and outside these zones. This allows the exclusion of extraneous events, breaks and so on to provide comparative exposure calculations. Any exclusion zones added to data are retained with the data file and shown on reports.

A simple 'tree view' can be created with which to store and manage data by Person, Place or Process since, once data has been downloaded, files can be 'dragged and dropped' to the relevant tree location and all data subsequently stored within a central database. This is together with any notes and information added by the user about the measurement and mitigating actions for the employee. Templates are provided to view data, which can be further customised, displayed and reported as simply or as comprehensively as required.

Reports can be stored in multiple formats (e.g. .pdf, .jpg, or .csv) allowing them to be shared and viewed easily, as well as exported to other applications.

In addition exposure data from multiple agents may be viewed and reported simultaneously and being able to correlate noise and dust exposure is advantageous to those tasked with process improvement aimed at minimising exposure.

Casella Measurement's vision is one of a complete solution to monitoring exposure of companies' employees for a range of occupational hazards. Casella insight software allows this by providing the 'answer' in terms of exposure levels without the need for indepth analysis, saving time and effort for the health & safety professional in today's multitasking world where it is remains undeniably true that you "can't manage what you don't measure".