What do you understand by ‘safety’?

What do you understand by ‘health and safety’? For many business leaders, health and safety is a compliance issue. For the good of society, we have legal checks and balances in place to minimise the chances of accident and infection in the workplace.

Some businesses treat these checks and balances in the same way as some motorists treat speed limits: it’s OK to bend the rules so long as you don’t get caught. In practice, this may mean ticking just enough boxes to give an impression of compliance.

But a growing number of organisations, in my view, are taking a different approach. They recognise that compliance is just a small part of what workplace health and safety is about. What is really important is risk reduction.

Think about it: if someone gets injured in your workplace then you face an increased risk of legal action. You risk operational downtime. Financial loss. Reputational damage. Staff discontent. Recruitment challenges.

On the flip side, having a good health and safety record can pay off with higher staff satisfaction, lower absenteeism and reduced legal, financial and reputational risk.

Seen this way, it makes sense to look at workplace health and safety as something worth investing in. And this investment need not stop with obvious measures, such as staff training and safety equipment procurement.

It could, and should, also cover all the systems and processes needed to maintain a high safety profile, including regular inspection schedules and a smart inspection-tracking platform. Anything else would be taking a risk.

  • Contact us about how to make your organisation safer and more efficient.

Tragedy highlights need for PPE management

An investigation into a tragic accident has once again put the spotlight on the need for
better personal protective equipment (PPE) management.

Zachary Cox’s fatal fall attracted press attention because it happened on an emblematic
site: the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, which will be used in the Qatar 2022 World
Cup.

The incident, in January 2017, could clearly have been avoided if PPE safety standards had
been up to scratch. An inquest heard Cox was using potentially lethal equipment,
according to a report by the BBC.

Cox was doubly unlucky, the report says. He fell when a faulty hoist broke, but the safety
harness that could have saved his life also snapped. The 40-year- old worker, born in South
Africa but living in the UK, died from multiple injuries after dropping 130 feet.
It is unclear whether Cox’s equipment had undergone regular inspections, but the findings
of the inquest make this seem unlikely.

The coroner for the case said working practices on the site were “inherently unsafe” and
that site managers “knew or should have known that they were effectively requiring a
group of their workers to rely on potentially lethal equipment.”

Following the inquest, Cox’s family called for lessons to be learnt.

One of these must surely be that any major building site should not only have appropriate
working-at- height safety procedures in place, but that these procedures should be
transparent and regularly audited.

As we can attest at Papertrail, putting the systems in place to achieve this is not hard or
costly. And if it helps to preserve lives, surely no expense should be spared.

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

Making sure your white-knuckle experience is safe

How do you make sure your customers are perfectly safe while giving them the thrill of their lives? That’s the dilemma facing UK-based Zip World, which has built a business on pushing the boundaries of what is possible with a pulley suspended on a cable.

In 2013, for example, it established the record for the longest zip line in Europe, spanning a mile and sending riders along at more than 100 miles per hour. The following year, it opened Zip World Velocity, the first four-person zip line in Europe.

And in 2015 it inaugurated Zip World Caverns, the world’s largest fully underground zip line course. Other Zip World attractions, including Bounce Below, Zip World Fforest and Zip World London, all vie to offer thrill seekers the very best in white-knuckle rides.

Naturally, though, Zip World takes care to make sure its customers are perfectly safe all the time. Items such as carabiners and harnesses are inspected every month, while the cables and other zip line components are checked daily.

Carrying out the checks is only part of the story, though. As its business has grown, Zip World has needed to professionalise the way it recorded and stored inspection reports. So in 2014 the company introduced Papertrail to manage all of its inspection activity.

Today, the system handles more than 7,500 records on behalf of 46 members of staff, who deal with critical business functions ranging from employee qualifications and certification to the management of equipment across five venues.

The company is now enjoying a host of benefits too long to go through in a short blog post. But if you want to find out more, take a look at our new Zip World case study. And then get in touch to find out how your white-knuckle experience could be just as safe.

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

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.