The PPE industry gets serious about safety

If there is one motto you can’t argue with, it must be ‘safety first’. Even in the most foolhardy occupations, you would have to be really mad to ignore basic safety rules.

And when it comes to any industry with an element of risk, companies are fully aware of the need for caution. The problem is that until recently many of them may not have had all the tools to cater for that need.

Take companies that rely on personal protective equipment (PPE), for example. The reason PPE exists at all is to provide users with a measure of safety, yet for it to be effective it usually must be regularly inspected and declared fit for purpose.

Carrying out these inspections is one thing, but being able to quickly and easily find out if they have been done is another. It is a problem that has plagued companies that rely on PPE, for example for working at height. But it is a problem that is increasingly in the past.

Companies such as World Challenge, DMM Professional and Offshore Painting Services are modernising their inspection records processes so they can quickly locate any record or certification from anywhere, at any time.

And a recent white paper from Papertrail predicts a continuing shift towards smart PPE management systems that help organisations improve safety while at the same time cutting costs and administration overheads.

“Users of the Papertrail smart PPE management system have reported more than a 90% reduction in administration workload, along with reduced human error and increased equipment use,” says the paper.

“Furthermore, such smart systems are expected to grow in value over time, as they increasingly evolve to receive and manage status data from future generations of connected PPE devices linked to the rise of the Internet of Things.”

The extent to which PPE record keeping is being modernised, to further increase safety while boosting efficiency, is expected to be a matter of debate in Düsseldorf, Germany, at the A+A international trade fair and congress from October 17 to 20.

The world’s largest international trade forum for safety, security and health at work, A+A’s programme will cover everything from workplace design to occupational fire protection.

In all areas, attendees will be looking for evidence of advances that can help improve the safety of their people and their customers. Thanks to advances in records management, PPE shouldn’t let them down.

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

Theme park safety: increasing the fairground attraction

The tragic death of 11-year-old Evha Jannath on Drayton Manor’s Splash Canyon ride in May was naturally a terrible blow to all who knew her. It was also a shock to the UK’s theme park sector, which has worked hard to maintain an almost impeccable safety record.

The numbers speak for themselves. According to the BBC, Jannath’s was the first theme park fatality in the UK since 2004. Based on a 2009 admissions figure of 13.8 million visitors a year, that equals less than a one in 179 million chance of dying during a theme park visit.

To put that figure in context, the chances of winning the jackpot in the UK National Lottery are around one in 14 million. In other words, you are more than 100 times more likely to win the National Lottery jackpot than you are to lose your life in a theme park.

Is that good enough? Of course not. Visitor attractions must strive for an accident rate of zero, forever, and not just because it’s the right thing to do. Accidents are also terribly bad for business.

The Splash Canyon tragedy, for example, led Drayton Manor to close altogether for a day, as well as shutting the water ride for the duration of the investigation that followed. At least one other operator, Alton Towers, closed a similar ride as a precaution.

On top of the loss of revenue that this may have represented, operators face heavy investigation costs and the potential for hefty fines if any wrongdoing is uncovered. And then there’s the massive reputational damage that accompanies an accident.

Despite this, and for all the safety precautions that theme park operators already take, it is unrealistic to expect that accidents will never ever happen. When they do, the best an operator can hope for is to show they had done everything in their hand to avoid it.

This means showing evidence of regular equipment inspections, demonstrating staff had the right training and certifications, and generally being able to prove that every health and safety requirement was being adhered to.

Dealing with all this paperwork is a hefty task, but there are now tools that will allow any theme park operator to do the job quickly and easily. It’s a small investment in exchange for helping to make sure no further theme park deaths are reported for a long, long time.

Why your lawyer might want you to get Papertrail

There are plenty of people in your organisation who might appreciate you introducing an inspection, certification and audit management platform such as Papertrail.

Your health and safety manager, for instance, would be happy to have a system that makes it easier to log fire certificate and equipment inspection records. Your quality control chief will be pleased to get a simpler way of tracking audit data.

But what you might not realise is that your legal department could thank you, too. How come? After all, lawyers don’t normally spend their time dealing with inspections or managing certifications.

What they are concerned about, though, is evidence that could be permissible in court. And that’s where a system such as Papertrail has important advantages over traditional, manual audit tracking methods, often based on Excel spreadsheets or the like. Here’s why.

Let’s say you suffer a workplace accident. There’s an issue of responsibility. Was your equipment up to scratch? Had you been following the rulebook in terms of inspections and legal compliance?

If the case goes to court then it’s vital you have valid data to prove you’ve been meeting your obligations. Maybe you’ve got an Excel spreadsheet to show when your most recent inspections were carried out.

It looks impressive, but it might not carry much weight in court. The reason is that entries in Excel (or most other digital office files, for that matter) are not time-stamped, so it’s harder to prove you did not go back and fill them in after the event.

That’s hardly surprising: Excel and its brethren were not created with safety records compliance in mind.

That’s why you need a bespoke package such as Papertrail or iAuditor, where every entry is automatically time-stamped and cannot be tampered with, offering clear and legally solid proof that the data is genuine.

You could, of course, argue that this issue is a minor detail and probably not one worth worrying about. But think again. If you do get embroiled in a courtroom scenario like the one outlined above, it could quite possibly have an impact on your operations.

Depending on the nature of your business, you may be suspended from doing further work until your organisation has been cleared of responsibility.

If that’s the case, then it won’t just be your lawyer who will be glad you can pull up a full inspection, certification and audit history on Papertrail. Your financial director will thank you, too.

Britain’s going green. Let’s make sure it does so safely.

We live in exciting times for the energy industry. A shift to clean power is taking hold around the world. And one of the best examples in recent months has been the UK.

The country that spawned the industrial revolution, and with it a growing global appetite for coal, has moved into renewables in a big way. In April, the UK went without coal for an entire day, for the first time since around 1882.

This was after coal’s contribution to the UK energy system dropped to just 9% in 2016, compared to 23% in 2015. By 2025, coal is expected to have been phased out of the system altogether.

And this month the National Grid reported that renewable energy (meaning wind, solar, hydro and biomass) had for the first time in the modern era provided more than half of UK electricity supplies.

“For the first time ever this lunchtime wind, nuclear and solar were all generating more than both gas and coal combined,” National Grid said.

For anyone who is concerned about man-made climate change, this is great news. And the inexorable rise of renewables is good for jobs, too.

Not only do clean-energy industries create high-value employment, but the work is safe: wind engineers are more than 660 times less likely to suffer a fatal accident than people working in the coal industry, for example.

Most of this difference comes from the hazardous nature of coal mining, though. Let’s not kid ourselves: working on a turbine nacelle at 80 metres above ground is hardly a cakewalk. One slip could be fatal.

And the risks are even higher in the offshore wind farms that industry attention is shifting to. To maintain its well-earned reputation for safety, the renewables sector must work harder than ever to make sure things don’t go wrong.

That means checking, double-checking and triple-checking equipment. Making sure everyone is trained up to the highest standard. Confirming all components have the right certifications and quality stamps. And keeping records of the whole lot.

As the need to focus on workplace safety gets ever more key, storing records on Excel spreadsheets or bits of paper is no longer really an option.

If an engineer needs to confirm that a harness has passed its latest safety check, and they are in a ship in the North Sea, having a record back in the office just won’t cut it. Thankfully, there are smarter ways to do things now. The industry just needs to adopt them, fast.

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