Let’s help the UK make working at height safer

I’m unaware of the last time working-at-height safety was a government priority. But last month the UK Government issued a call for advice on this very topic.

More specifically, a committee investigating working-at-height injuries and fatalities put out a statement, through an All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Working at Height, seeking information to understand fatal fall causes and solutions.

The committee is concerned that falls from height, and falling objects, account for the highest number of preventable fatalities and injuries across all sectors in UK industry, according to the APPG.

“The APPG will seek to understand the root causes and propose effective, sensible measures to reduce this toll and send people safely home from work,” it says.

For now, the APPG is asking industry players to provide answers to eight simple questions, such as ‘what are the primary reasons for falls?’ or ‘are there specific measures you believe are necessary?’

As a business committed to improving operational safety through improved personal protective equipment management, at Papertrail we are naturally delighted that this issue has been taken up by the UK administration.

And we are keen to spread the word so the APPG gets as much support as it can from industries employing working-at-height practices.

To get involved, take a look at the APPG’s questions and submit your responses by March 2, 2018, to appg@workingatheight.info or Working At Height APPG, 32-34 Great Peter Street, London, SW1P 2DB.

Contact us now for more information about how to make your organisation safer and more efficient.

Questions about GDPR?

If you’re working in a European Union (EU) business and you haven’t heard about GDPR already, then you should have… and you will in 2018.

The General Data Protection Regulation is an instrument by which the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union and the European Commission intend to strengthen and unify data protection for all individuals within the EU.

It has been variously called “a game-changer” and “the biggest shake up in 20 years.”

But for companies that must comply with it by May 25 this year, the regulation, which gives citizens much greater control their personal data, is potentially a bit of a headache.

The key thrust of GDPR is that it allows citizens to better control their personally identifiable information (PII). The EU says the regulation will give citizens:

  • The right to know when their personal data has been hacked, since organisations will have to inform individuals promptly of serious data breaches, and will have to notify the relevant data protection authority.
  • A clearer right to erasure (or the ‘right to be forgotten’), so when an individual no longer wants their data processed and there is no legitimate reason to keep it, the data will be removed.
  • Easier access to their data, including providing more information on how that data is processed and ensuring that the information is available in a clear and understandable way.
  • A new right to data portability, making it easier to transmit personal data between service providers.

For companies, the challenge will be to identify all relevant PII and make sure it can be easily provided to an individual or deleted if needed. And this PII can include all information about staff and customer certifications.

If you hold this kind of information on spreadsheets or other traditional methods, complying with GDPR could be a problem because you have to track down and take into account every single copy of documents containing PII.

That is why you might want to consider moving to a central, cloud-based system such as Papertrail. With Papertrail, you store all relevant certification data in one place, and can access it quickly and easily from anywhere.

You also benefit from holding the data in a highly secure environment, where access is restricted to the administrators you choose. In theory, Papertrail covers most of the GDPR boxes you need to worry about… but by all means get in touch for more information.

Contact us now for more information about how to make your business more efficient and compliant, no matter where you are.

Could greener energy yield a ‘safety dividend’?

The UK energy system ended last year on a high note. According to the National Grid, 2017 was the greenest year ever for electricity in the country. Renewable energy sources provided more power than coal for around 90% of the year.

This is clearly great news for those concerned about climate change. But increasing the UK’s reliance on renewable energy may have another, less obvious advantage, linked to safety.

Coal, oil and gas are all hard to get out of the ground. They can catch fire or explode when handled. And they are major sources of air pollution. This all means they can have a significant impact on health.

Coal, for instance, is thought to cause 100,000 deaths per trillion kilowatt-hours of electricity, which is about the amount that Russia consumed in 2014. For the same amount of electricity, oil kills around 36,000 people. Natural gas results in 4,000 deaths.

The death rates from renewable energy, meanwhile, are comparatively small. Rooftop solar panels, which are made in pristine lab conditions and have practically no pollution or maintenance risks during operation, have a mortality rate of 440 per trillion kilowatt-hours.

Wind power is even safer, with a mortality rate of just 150 per trillion kilowatt-hours. Naturally, these figures should not discourage renewable energy companies from striving to improve safety.

But it is also clear that simply switching from fossil fuels to wind and solar could cut energy sector-related deaths by two or three orders of magnitude, which is a major achievement.

The key, of course, will be for the wind and solar industries to maintain or improve their safety records wherever possible. This won’t happen automatically.

On the contrary, even though wind and solar are inherently safer than coal, oil or gas, the fact that renewable energy sectors are growing rapidly means special emphasis needs to be placed on keeping safety standards high while scaling up production.

Part of this will need to be through improved training and policies. Part of it will be through the application of technologies ranging from drone-based inspections to personal protective safety equipment management systems, such as Papertrail.

Provided renewables firms make sure this remains a priority, the move to clean energy could deliver a safety dividend as well as better deal on climate.

Contact us now for more information about how to make your wind business safer.

Elevating wind turbine lift maintenance

Could smart tracking systems give wind turbine elevator maintenance a lift? This might seem like a trivial question, but it’s not. Lift availability is an important health and safety topic for the wind industry. And on reflection, it’s hardly surprising.

In 2015, according to the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the average hub height for offshore wind turbines was around 90 metres, which is about as tall as the Statue of Liberty (or a bit shorter than Big Ben, for readers this side of the pond).

As you can imagine, having to climb up stairs this height is an exhausting affair, particularly within the confines of a turbine tower. That is why turbine towers come equipped with lifts.

According to a G+ Global Offshore Wind report from March 2017, “lifts are ‘usually available’; however, where unavailability occurs it can have a dramatic impact upon work packages, and its effects can be chronic both for physical health and morale.”

Clearly, if a lift isn’t working then it would be pointless and possibly dangerous to try to use it. But lifts aren’t always unavailable because of a fault. G+ says: “Another common reason for unavailability is the lift being overdue for its statutory inspection.”

With the availability of platforms such as Papertrail, specifically designed to track inspections, it seems remarkable that wind farm operators could hamper productivity and compromise health and safety because of an inspection oversight.

And let’s be clear about the risks here. Says G+: “The impact of climbing activities on health, safety and well-being is considered to be significant, and effects can be direct or indirect. Direct effects include immediate and delayed musculoskeletal strain.

“Issues have included several older technicians suffering from knee muscle strain and pain and these effects have been reported on incident/injury forms.”

It is important to stress that offshore wind technicians work in environments where every care is usually taken to ensure health and safety.

In 2016, for example, there were only nine emergency response or medical evacuation incidents in the whole of the UK offshore sector. Everyone in the industry will be hoping to keep this level as low as possible.

All we are saying is that, in this day and age, missing lift inspections shouldn’t be a factor.

Contact us now for more information about how to make your renewable energy business safer and more efficient.

Shining a light on solar power safety

The wind industry is doing a great job of creating safe operating conditions in a frequently hostile and dangerous environment. There have been incidents, to be sure, but in general wind has a great safety record compared to other power sectors.

In part, this may be because it is hard to take safety for granted when you are working on a wind turbine. Up high above the ground, surrounded by moving parts, it makes sense to put safety first. Not all renewable energy workers operate in the face of such clear risks.

Take solar panel installers, for instance. Solar PV has got to be one of the safest forms of power generation you can imagine. It has no moving parts. It will not spill or burn. And if the sun isn’t shining it won’t even produce an electric current.

But that is not to say the sector is free from risk. In 2015, for example, a solar installer tragically died after falling through the roof of a barn in Preston, UK, while he was putting up panels.

His employer, Eco Generation, was fined £45,000 after it emerged the company had failed to provide vital safety equipment. “The court was told there were several measures Eco Generation could have taken to protect workers,” Installer Magazine reported.

As with many work-related incidents, it appears this was sadly a case of an accident that could have been avoided if the right safety culture had been in place.

There are many ways a business can improve safety, and one of the most basic, which will also help to improve business efficiency, is to have a smart tracking system in place so each technician goes to work with the right equipment, in the right condition.

The solar sector might seem like a low-risk industry, but as long as rooftops and high voltages are concerned it would pay to play it safe… and introduce the kinds of technologies that wind companies have been relying on for years.

Contact us now for more information about how to make your business a safer, more efficient place.

6 ways to make your workplace safer in 2018

Think - safety first! Workplace safety in 2018

Here’s one New Year’s resolution worth saving for January: what can you do to make your workplace safer? Improving health and safety at work is never a bad idea. And you don’t need to invest much to make it happen. Here are six simple things you should be doing.

  1. Train your people

Basic training can make all the difference when an emergency strikes. Make sure health and safety training is hard-baked into your business and use a tracking platform such as Papertrail to check that people have the knowledge they need.

  1. Inspect your workplace

Loose wires, crumbling infrastructure, blocked fire escapes… it is easy to overlook potential hazards, which is why regular safety inspections are key. Keep a note of your findings, and a schedule of inspection dates, using Papertrail.

  1. Investigate incidents

Get to the bottom of the issue when things go wrong, and bear in mind you may need to present paperwork to the authorities. Store all relevant information in a way that is easy to access.

  1. Maintain records

Inspections and certificates don’t mean much if you don’t keep track of them. Implement a tracking system so you have a 360-degree view of all safety-related matters at any point in time.

  1. Have a health and safety plan in place

Every workplace has its hazards, so know yours and think about what should happen in an emergency. Write it down and make sure your people know about the plan.

  1. Check your equipment

If your workers require personal protective equipment (PPE) then it is vital their kit is checked for safety and reliability. Many PPE manufacturers now make it easy to track inspections via industry-standard platforms such as Papertrail.

Contact us now for more information about how to make your workplace a safer, more efficient place.

What if each item of equipment had a passport?

One of the great things about our data-driven age is the amount of information we can get on everything. From the calories in your breakfast cereal to the second-hand value of your car, information is just a few keystrokes away. And this is just the beginning.

Take personal protective equipment (PPE). Until recently, the most you might know about this was a) whether it was yours and b) where it was.

But since this equipment is essential for safety, it’s useful to know a bit more, like how much it has been used, by who, and for what. The ideal would be for every item to have its own passport: a record of its travels through life.

That ideal is rapidly becoming possible thanks to the advent of smart PPE management platforms such as Papertrail. This technology allows you to keep a track of every inspection from purchase to disposal, along with any extra information you may feel is useful.

This data can help you make decisions about what material to use for given tasks, for example, or when you may need to start thinking about ordering replacements.

Linking this information to each item of PPE is the first step in the ongoing evolution towards the Internet of Things, when intelligence will be embedded into everyday items.

In future, PPE items will be able to tell you where they are and what they are doing in real time, communicating via sensors and sending alerts when problems occur. We’re not quite there yet, but the passport concept is a good indication of the direction of travel.

Find out more about smart PPE management

Floating wind: let’s not let safety sink

Last month was a momentous one for those of us who work alongside the renewables industry. The world’s first floating offshore wind farm began delivering electricity to the grid.

Located about 25 kilometres off the coast of Peterhead in Scotland, the Hywind Scotland project is not particularly far from shore. But floating turbine designers aim to go much, much further.

The whole point about floating foundations is they can be towed out to places where the water is too deep for existing bottom-attached structures. That extra distance means far more energy can now be harvested from the wind above the waves.

But it also means construction and operations teams must travel further to get on site, and there is greater distance to travel in the event of an incident.

So while the advent of floating offshore wind is great news for the industry, it also means project owners will need to revisit safety protocols and procedures.

As part of this, it will be vital to make sure all personal protective equipment (PPE) is properly maintained and checked.

Many offshore wind operators are already switching from manual inspection tracking methods to smart PPE management systems such as Papertrail.

It’s a move that not only improves safety, but also boosts efficiency and reduces costs, both of which are important considerations in the ongoing struggle to cut the levelised cost of energy for offshore wind.

Recent developments might mean it is a good idea to float the idea at your company, too.

Find out how one offshore wind contractor is maintaining an unblemished safety record with help from Papertrail.

Welcome to the wind farm technician’s worst hour

It’s a pretty thankless task, saving the world. Those massive wind turbines turning far out to sea need careful nurturing as they fight global warming and bring down the cost of energy.

To look after these gigantic machines, technicians must rise with the first light and prepare meticulously for the day ahead.

Each technician travels many hours a day, from home to a distant port and then out into the vast ocean, enduring drizzle, cold and wind. Then they climb into the belly of an air-slicing monster and scale hundreds of feet into the grey North Sea sky.

There they must stay alert for the tiniest details, like the hairline crack that gives away a budding blade failure or the flicker on a boroscope that signals a gearbox in trouble.

The work must be done carefully but fast: fading light, changing tide, wind picking up, a storm front moving in, can all add to the pressure to work as quickly as possible.

Still, though, every observation must be meticulously noted down, because tomorrow another technician could be climbing these same rungs and looking for the same hairline crack. Then it’s back to the vessel and the long, cold trip back to port.

All the technician wants to do now is get home, to a warm supper. They can’t, though. Instead, they must go to the office and log every note, every incident, every update, into the system, so tomorrow’s crews know where to go and what to look for.

That final hour, cursing as numb fingers make mistakes and numb neurons search for details, is the offshore wind farm technician’s worst. But it need not be so.

With Papertrail, the nightmare hour ceases to exist, because everything they do can be logged as they work. A crack on a blade? Save the photo on Papertrail. A check that a safety hatch is in working order? Add it to Papertrail. A missing harness? Notify it on Papertrail.

Then, as soon as the technician comes within reach of a mobile or Wi-Fi network, the notes on their mobile device flow seamlessly onto the system. So the technician steps off the vessel, waves goodbye, and heads home to get a good night’s rest before the next day.

 Working in renewables? Find out more about how Papertrail can make your life easier.

Do you know what PPE management really is?

If you’re heading to the A+A international trade fair and congress then it’s a fair bet you already know what personal protective equipment (PPE) is. But are you on top of PPE management?

While PPE is all about equipping your people with things that will keep them safe, PPE management is about knowing those things are up to the task: that they are not out of date, have passed all relevant inspections and so on.

It is important because in PPE the status of an item can be just as important as its availability. A harness that is not in its legal inspection date, for example, is no more use than no harness at all.

For all its importance, though, PPE management is still often relegated to the status of an administrative chore. And in fairness, managing PPE with manual methods such as spreadsheets can be a pain. But there is no need for it.

With systems such as Papertrail, you can make sure PPE management is simple, standardised and robust. If you want to know more, then why not start with the following online resources:

And if you are still hungry for information then book a demo or look us up at A+A in Düsseldorf, Germany, from October 17 to 20.

  • Visit Papertrail at A+A at the DMM (Hall 6/F40) and SingingRock (Hall 6/C48) stands.