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.

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.

Include smart PPE management in your 2018 budget

It’s that time of year when most company leaders start to ponder the year ahead. You think about objectives, worry over targets and start to juggle budgets. That last part is never easy, particularly since 2018 will likely be another belt-tightening year for many companies.

When it comes to personal protective equipment (PPE), the task is doubly difficult. This material costs money but does not generate revenues. Instead, it’s primary role is risk mitigation: making sure your business does not suffer an expensive catastrophe.

Putting a price on an unforeseen event is almost impossible, so the chances are you will invest enough to make sure you meet legal and best-practice guidelines, and leave it at that. But this year you might want to throw smart PPE management into the mix, too.

Naturally, implementing a PPE management platform carries a cost. But unlike PPE itself, a smart management system can yield a measurable return on investment. XI Training, for example, has cut PPE administration times by 60% after bringing in Papertrail.

And administrative savings are just the start. According to Cleo Cabuz, vice president of engineering and chief technology officer for Honeywell Industrial Safety, 2018 will be the year that smart PPE takes off.

“In future, by using retrofitted wireless data transfer technology, 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,” Cabuz says.

Part of that evolution will involve having platforms that can store information about each PPE item, along with its work history and future—a kind of digital passport, if you like.

That kind of platform exists today, and could already be delivering benefits to your business in terms of reduced cost, improved efficiency and better safety. Why not make 2018 the year you introduce it into your organisation?

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

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.

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.

How smart is your PPE management system?

Being smart is all the rage these days. You have smart watches, smart cars, smart TVs and even smart cities. But what about smart personal protective equipment (PPE) management systems?

According to a new white paper from Papertrail, smart PPE management is a reality now… and could be bringing benefits to your business today.

“These systems use automated remote data entry to create a permanent, one-time, cloud-based record of each PPE item, which can then be updated at any time with inspection records posted on site via a mobile device,” says the paper.

Doing this makes it easy to comply with the demands of professional bodies, meet standards for legal inspections, cut compliance administration, reduce risk for clients and workers, prevent equipment supply bottlenecks and extend the lifetime of PPE equipment.

A move towards smarter PPE management is being driven by shortfalls in current record-keeping approaches, which include spreadsheets and even paper-based files. These soak up administration time and are prone to errors.

Smart PPE management systems, on the other hand, can help cut administrative workloads by more than 90%. At the same time, the white paper notes, the volume of PPE that organisations must handle is increasing.

Research shows the global PPE market could increase at a compound annual growth rate of 6.5% between 2017 and 2022.

Much of this increase is down to corporate use: at the start of 2014 more than a million businesses and 10 million workers in Britain alone were estimated to carry out jobs involving some form of work at height every year.

Finally, tougher health and safety regulations means there is more of a duty on organisations to show that PPE equipment has been maintained and checked according to relevant standards.

Moving to a smart PPE management system can allow you to create and maintain a ‘digital certificate of ownership’ that registers every significant point in the lifespan of an item, from purchase through to disposal.

Furthermore, says the white paper, 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.

“Indeed, over time these smart PPE systems are expected to become the foundation for much broader platforms that can be used for a wide range of applications, from inventory control through to safety compliance,” it says.

Checking on your lone workers? What about their kit?

Looking after lone workers is a big responsibility. If you have an employee, such as a security guard or night watchman, who is on their own for long stretches of time then you need to make sure they can get help if they are in trouble.

This need has spawned a small technology industry addressing the fact that many lone workers, of which there are about 4 million in the UK alone, may not be able to able to use their mobile phones to call for help in the event of a problem.

In the UK, for example, SoloProtect supplies a device called the Identicom that provides personal safety features along with identity badge functionality for organisations such as the National Health Service.

If a health worker is in a potentially confrontational situation with no other staff around, by discretely pressing their identity card they can activate a hotline to an alarm receiving centre where an agent will record what is going on and send help if needed.

German firm LIV tec goes a step further with a gadget that will broadcast a user’s location if the bearer stops moving for a suspiciously long amount of time.

Such technologies can bring help to someone in trouble at a remote location, but they cannot prevent people from getting into trouble in the first place.

For that, you need to make sure that the equipment a worker is relying on does not cause an accident… and can be fully relied upon if it is needed.

An intruder alarm that fails to work, a fire door that will not open or a flare that will not ignite are all examples of equipment problems that can be challenging in any situation, but are potentially much worse when you have nobody around for backup.

And if you are equipping your lone workers with some form of alarm-giving device, you need to make sure the technology itself works whenever it is needed.

Thus the only way to really keep your lone workers as safe as possible is to make sure the items they may have to rely on are checked regularly, and any defects are logged in a way that is easy to see and assists with quick remediation.

Doing this is easy with a system such as Papertrail, which can help you schedule inspections at regular intervals and check that each inspection has been carried out. Don’t let your people leave without having it in place.

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.