Safe + Sound Week
At the most basic level, a root cause is the fundamental reason—or the highest-level cause—for the occurrence of a problem, incident, or event. Getting to the root cause of any problem is important not just for resolving the issue at hand, but for identifying underlying issues to ensure that similar problems do not recur in the future. Importantly, finding the root cause should not focus on placing blame on an individual but rather on finding the systemic cause of an incident. This starts with a process called the root cause analysis (RCA).
What Is the Root Cause Analysis (RCA)?
RCA is a method of problem-solving used to identify the underlying (i.e., root) cause(s) of a problem or incident. It is a systematic process based on the basic idea that effective management requires more than merely putting out fires and treating symptoms. RCA seeks to identify and address the true, underlying concerns that contribute to a problem or event.
Why is this important? If you just treat the symptoms of the problem, that alleviates them for the short term, but it does nothing to prevent the problem from coming back again. Lasting solutions address the underlying factors—the root cause(s)— that create the problem in the first place. Targeting corrective measures at the identified root causes, subsequently, is the best way to alleviate risk and ensure that similar problems do not occur in the future.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) encourages organizations to conduct RCA following any incident or near miss at a facility. RCA can be broken down into a simple six-step process, as outlined below.
Step 1: Identify and Clearly Describe the Problem
The first step is to understand and document the problem/issue/incident that occurred. This might involve interviewing key staff, reviewing security footage, investigating the site, etc. to get an accurate account of the issue. Safety-related incidents might require an immediate fix or prompt action before carrying out the complete RCA. This is always the priority.
Some problems are easier to define than others based on what happened and the extent of the issue. When defining and describing the problem, it is important to be as descriptive as possible, as this will aid in future steps to identify the root cause(s).
Step 2: Identify Possible Causes…Why?
There are several methods for identifying possible root causes, including the following:
- 5 Why Method simply involves asking the question “Why” enough times (i.e., five times) to get past all the symptoms of a problem and down to the underlying root cause of the issue.
- Event Analysis builds a detailed timeline around the target event and analyzes it to see where things went wrong. This method is best for one-time incidents versus a pattern of behavior.
- Change Analysis helps determine the root cause of a general shift in behavior. It looks at all changes in the organization that preceded the change in safety behavior/metrics; defines the relationship between possible causes and effects; and categorizes each organizational change as either unrelated, correlated, contributing, or root cause.
- Fishbone or Ishikawa Diagram is a visual cause-and-effect diagram that encourages you to think of every possible cause by examining a wide variety of aspects of the incident.
Step 3: Identify Root Cause(s)
Where does your questioning lead you? Is there one root cause or a series of root causes that emerge? The root cause(s) of most incidents ultimately fall under one of the following:
- Poor management/supervision
- Lack of company culture
- Insufficient work environment
- Improper training
Again, identifying the root cause should not focus on placing blame on an individual but rather on finding the systemic cause of an incident.
Step 4: Corrective and/or Preventive Action Taken
Based on the identified root causes, it then becomes possible for the facility to determine what corrective and/or prevention actions (CAPAs) can be taken to fix the problem and, just as important, prevent it from recurring in the future.
Step 5: Analyze Effectiveness
The effectiveness of whatever action is taken in step 4 needs to be evaluated to determine whether it will resolve the root cause. If not, another CAPA should be explored, implemented, and analyzed to assess its impact on the issue/problem. If it is a root cause, it should help to resolve the issue and you should move on to step 6 below.
Step 6: Update Procedures, as necessary
As CAPAs are implemented, once they prove effective, related policies and procedures must be updated to reflect any changes made. This step ensures the outcomes of the RCA will be integrated into operations and used to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.
Benefits of RCA
Following these steps will help ensure a thorough investigation that identifies root cause(s) versus just symptoms is conducted. It further ensures that any changes related to the root cause are integrated into the organization to prevent similar events from happening again. In the end, the RCA can help:
- Reduce the risk of injury and/or death to workers and community members.
- Avoid unnecessary costs resulting from business interruption; emergency response and cleanup; increased regulation, audits, and inspections; and OSHA fines.
- Improve public trust by maintaining an incident-free record.
- More effectively control hazards, improve process reliability, increase revenues, decrease production costs, lower maintenance costs, and lower insurance premiums.
Safe + Sound Week
Most companies have health and safety policies and procedures in place to help ensure the safety and well-being of their employees. At a minimum, it is important to verify implementation of required safety programs at all locations. As a best practice, implementing a safety management system (SMS) provides companies with the opportunity to better manage, control, and improve health and safety performance.
An SMS is the organizing framework that enables companies to achieve and sustain their operational and safety objectives through a process of continuous improvement. The SMS is designed to identify and manage safety risks through an organized set of policies, procedures, practices, and resources that guide the enterprise and its activities to maximize business value. The SMS addresses:
- What is done and why.
- How it is done and by whom.
- How well it is being done.
- How it is maintained and reviewed.
- How it can be improved.
Each company’s SMS reflects its unique safety culture, vision, and values. To be effective and valuable, the SMS must be tailored and focused on how it can enhance the business and safety performance of the organization. It must also be:
- Useful to people in the operations.
- Intuitive—organized the way operations people think.
- Flexible—making use of methods and tools as they are developed and documented.
- Valuable from the outset—addressing the most critical risks and processes.
- A means to better align safety with operational quality, environmental concerns, and overall business operations.
An effective SMS requires senior management commitment and guidance, coupled with employee engagement. Importantly, the SMS involves a continual cycle of planning, implementing, reviewing, and improving the way in which safety obligations and objectives are met. In its simplest form, this involves implementing the Plan, Do, Check, Act/Adjust (P-D-C-A) cycle for continuous improvement.
There are some basic steps to creating a SMS:
- Invest the time to understand the current scope of operations, functional departments, compliance requirements, governance structure, etc. across the entire organization, not just siloed departments.
- Conduct a gap assessment to evaluate the current (“as-is”) condition of any formal or informal SMS against the desired (“to-be”) condition (e.g., ISO 45001, ANSI Z10).
- Create a development and implementation plan outlining tasks and resources required to close any identified gaps and achieve those objectives.
- Determine key components of the SMS required to achieve business objectives.
- Identify common elements to be standardized and incorporated into the SMS (e.g., policies, procedures, processes, metrics, training).
- Determine what information technology can support and streamline the SMS.
- Provide relevant training to all interested parties to truly operationalize the SMS across the organization.
ISO 45001 and ANSI Z10 both offer widely recognized frameworks for creating an effective SMS—one that helps companies to:
- Identify and control health and safety risks.
- Reduce the potential for accidents.
- Aid in legal compliance.
- Achieve greater consistency and reliability.
- Improve overall performance.
The ISO 45001 and ANSI Z10 standards both contain elements that are designed to be compatible with the structures of ISO 9001 and ISO 14001, allowing organizations to more easily align their SMS with other existing management systems (e.g., environmental, quality, food safety, security). An aligned SMS helps companies to achieve improved and more reliable safety performance, while adding measurable business value.
Companies can become certified to each of the standards discussed above. Certification has a number of benefits, including the following:
- Meet customer or supply chain requirements.
- Use outside drivers to maintain management system process discipline (e.g., periodic risk assessment, document management, compliance evaluation, internal audits, management review).
- Take advantage of third-party assessment and recommendations.
- Improve standing with regulatory agencies (e.g., OSHA, state programs).
- Demonstrate the application of industry best practice in the event of incidents/accidents requiring defense of practices.
However, if there is no market or other business driver, certification can lead to unnecessary additional cost and effort regarding management system development. Certification in itself does not mean improved performance—management system structure, operation, and management commitment determine that.
Bringing Value to the Organization
The connection between the SMS and compliance is vital in avoiding recurring compliance issues and in reducing variation in safety performance. In fact, reliable and effective regulatory compliance is commonly an outcome of consistent and reliable implementation of a management system. Beyond that, there are a number of business reasons for implementing an SMS:
- Establishes a common documented framework to achieve more consistent implementation of compliance policies and processes.
- Provides clear methods and processes to identify, prioritize risks, and communicate risks to employees and management—then allocate the resources to mitigate them.
- Allows for development of meaningful objectives to drive ongoing improvements in health and safety performance.
- Empowers individual facilities and departments to take responsibility for processes and compliance performance without waiting to be told “what” and “how”.
- Enables better collaboration and communication across a distributed company with many locations.
- Provides tracking information and reporting on common safety activities and performance metrics across the company.
- Builds company know-how, captures/retains institutional knowledge, and creates consistent processes and procedures that support personnel changes (e.g., transfers, promotions, retirements, new employees) without causing disruption or gaps.
- Allows for more consistent oversight and governance, yielding higher predictability and reliability.
Safe + Sound Week
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), thousands of workers become sick from occupational heat exposure each year—and some of these cases turn fatal. Hazardous heat exposure can occur indoors or outdoors, during any season, and to anyone. This is why it is important that all employers take steps to reduce heat exposure and protect employee health and safety.
Heat-Related Illnesses and Injuries
Exposure to extreme heat (i.e., heat stress) can result in occupational illnesses and injuries, including heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, or heat rashes. Heat can also increase the risk of ancillary injuries due to sweaty palms, fogged-up safety glasses, dizziness, and even deterioration of fine motor performance. Burns may also occur from accidental contact with hot surfaces or steam.
Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related disorder and should be considered a medical emergency. It occurs when the body becomes unable to control its own temperature. Workers suffering from heat stroke may experience dizziness or unconsciousness, disorientation, slurred speech, chills, and headache. If you or another employee are suffering from heat stroke, exhaustion, or fainting, alert a supervisor immediately and call 911.
Workers who are exposed to extreme heat or work in hot environments may be at greater risk of heat stress. This includes both outdoor workers and workers in hot environments (e.g., firefighters, cooks/chefs, bakery workers, farmers, construction workers, miners, boiler room workers, factory workers, and others). Occupational risk factors for heat illness include heavy physical activity, lack of acclimatization, and wearing clothing that holds in body heat. In addition, individuals who may be particularly susceptible to heat-related illness include those who are 65 years of age or older, are overweight, have heart disease or high blood pressure, or take medications that may be affected by extreme heat.
Planning and Prevention
Heat-related illness is often preventable, especially with management commitment to providing the most effective controls. An effective heat-related illness prevention program should be developed and incorporated into every company’s broader safety and health program. Important elements to consider when creating the heat plan include the following:
- Who will provide oversight and heat monitoring throughout the workday as conditions change?
- How will new and/or temporary workers gradually develop heat tolerance (i.e., acclimatization)?
- How will the employer ensure first aid is adequate?
- What is the protocol for summoning medical assistance?
- What engineering controls and administrative work practices will be used to reduce heat stress?
- How will heat stress be measured?
- How will the company respond when the National Weather Service issues a heat advisory or heat warning?
- What training will be provided to workers and supervisors?
Workplace heat stress can be reduced using several methods. Engineering controls involve changing the design of the workplace in ways that reduce exposure to heat. This might include increasing air velocity; using reflective or heat-absorbing barriers; or reducing steam leaks, wet floors, and humidity. Administrative (workplace) practices involve changes to tasks, schedules, and behaviors to reduce heat stress. These may include:
- Limiting time in the heat and/or increasing recovery time spent in a cool area.
- Increasing the number of workers per task.
- Requiring workers to conduct self-monitoring.
- Creating work groups (i.e., workers, a qualified healthcare provider, and a safety manager) to make decisions on self-monitoring options and standard operating procedures.
- Providing adequate amounts of cool, potable water near the work area and encouraging workers to drink often.
- Using a heat alert program whenever the weather service forecasts a heat wave.
Acclimatization— the process of building heat tolerance—is a particularly important control. 50% to 70% of outdoor fatalities occur in the first few days of working in warm or hot environments because the body needs to build a tolerance to the heat gradually over time. Employers should ensure that new workers, temporary workers, and workers who have been on vacation are acclimatized before they work in a hot environment by gradually increasing workers’ time in hot conditions over 7 to 14 days.
Finally, employers should provide training to workers so they understand what heat stress is, how it affects their health and safety, and how it can be prevented. Training should include:
- Signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses and administration of first aid.
- Causes of heat-related illnesses and steps to reduce the risk.
- Proper care and use of heat-protective clothing and equipment and the added heat load caused by exertion, clothing, and personal protective equipment.
- Effects of other factors (drugs, alcohol, obesity, etc.) on tolerance to occupational heat stress.
- Acclimatization process.
- Reporting symptoms or signs of heat-related illness.
- Procedures for responding to symptoms of possible heat-related illness and for contacting emergency medical services.
To avoid becoming a victim of heat stress of any type, wear light-colored, breathable clothing, such as cotton. Gradually build up to more strenuous work. Schedule more breaks on days with extreme heat and humidity. Drink water! Lots of water! Avoid soda, energy drinks, alcohol, or any other drinks that have high amounts of caffeine and sugar in them. And ALWAYS monitor yourself and others who are at risk for heat stress in hot and /or humid conditions.
Safe + Sound Week
In the post-COVID world, working remotely and alone has become much more common. In many industries, particular attention needs to be paid to these lone workers to ensure appropriate practices and procedures are in place to keep them safe.
What Is a Lone Worker?
Lone workers are people who perform their jobs alone—without someone else present and without any supervision. Lone workers cannot be heard or seen by another individual while working. They may work in more remote locations with limited emergency response or perform jobs during nonstandard work hours. Lone workers may also work in the same building or area as others but out of viewing or hearing distance.
Workplace Safety Hazards
A workplace safety hazard is anything that could potentially cause harm or damage to people, property, or equipment. The most common safety hazard for all workers, including lone workers, is slips, trips and falls. Another common safety hazard that lone workers face is from machinery and equipment, which can injure or trap the worker.
To avoid workplace safety hazards, there are certain conditions where lone work is not recommended and/or prohibited, including the following conditions:
- From height
- With electricity or in confined spaces
- During severe weather conditions
- Around avalanche risks
- Near chemical exposure that could incapacitate a worker
- When respirators or air monitoring is required
- Using hazardous equipment (e.g., chainsaws, firearms)
- Where the potential for violence is present
Planning and Preparation
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not have a standard for employees working alone; however, there are several standards that apply to specific lone-work situations (e.g., emergency response, interior structural firefighting). OSHA further recommends that employers develop emergency procedures and provide “a wireless electronic notification device and/or cellphone to those employees.”
As best practice, any company with lone workers should develop and implement a lone worker safety program with specific practices and procedures to minimize the risk of injury. This includes the following:
- Identify, assess, and mitigate work hazards. It is important to identify safety hazards in any work environment but particularly for lone workers who must navigate hazardous situations alone. Each hazard’s level of risk must be assessed. Once this assessment is complete, strategies can then be implemented to remove existing dangers to the extent possible, prioritizing the highest risk hazards. Hazard mitigation should consider physical modifications, safety education and training, and communication to help ensure workplace injuries and incidents occur less frequently.
- Create a lone worker policy. This policy should establish the organization’s rules and practices for working alone. Generally, a lone worker safety policy should include:
- Contact information and location of all lone workers
- General safety guidance
- Roles and responsibilities
- Safety procedures and processes, including predetermined safety check-ins and stop-work guidance
- Methods of communication and available backups (e.g., cell phone, GPS devices, and mobile apps)
- Emergency procedures and contacts
- Lone worker training and continuous education
- Monitor lone workers. Lone workers must be monitored, whether through regular manual check-ins or automated monitoring systems. Both allow the employer to confirm the worker’s safety and well-being. If a worker misses a check-in, an automated system can immediately request help and employ tools such as GPS location tracking to provide necessary assistance.
Don’t forget about your lone workers. They play an important role and special provisions need to be taken to ensure they are monitored and protected.
Safe + Sound Week
When it comes to the characteristics of an excellent safety culture, communication is at the top. It is vital that all levels of management (senior, middle, supervisory) communicate their commitment to safety clearly to workers. It is equally important that workers feel empowered to discuss their safety concerns.
Having a safety culture where workers do not feel like they can speak up at work when it comes to their safety can present significant threats to workers and the overall well-being of the company. A high percentage of workplace injuries occur when a worker witnesses unsafe behaviors or conditions but chooses not to say anything. Those injuries are 100% preventable. However, it requires creating a culture of transparency and openness that encourages staff to look out for each other and speak up when concerns arise—and a culture where team members are not afraid of voicing their safety concerns, no matter how big or how small they may be.
How to Effectively Speak Safety
Workers may be reluctant to accept safety advice for many reasons:
- They don’t like being told what to do.
- They don’t believe they are in danger.
- They perceive safety conversations/assistance as punishment or aggression.
The challenge is to have productive conversations about safety despite these barriers, considering not only what you say but how you say it. For many, this does not necessarily come naturally, which is why effective safety conversations should be taught and practiced.
These tips can help make speaking about safety easier:
- Take a persuasive approach versus a punitive one. Safety conversations shouldn’t be about catching someone doing something wrong. The goal should be safety, not punishment.
- Demonstrate care and concern. It is much more meaningful to show concern for the personal safety of individuals than to reinforce compliance with rules.
- Speak the worker’s language. Think about who you are speaking to and what is important to them. Delivering a safety message to senior management will differ than communicating with field staff.
- Focus on specifics. Avoid expressing judgment or disapproval. When addressing a specific safety behavior or situation, limit comments to that rather than making general statements.
- Listen. Good communication goes both ways. A respectful conversation will involve both expressing yourself and listening to the other person.
- Don’t be intimidated. The fear of a negative reaction is common, particularly when a less experienced person must deliver advice to someone more senior. Remember, no one is immune to safety concerns.
- Lead by example and encourage others to do the same. It is one thing to say that safety is a priority; it is another thing to show that it is.
Sometimes, relying on those around us to help notice and communicate when something isn’t right can provide the best form of safety protection—because no one is immune to safety concerns, safety errors, distraction, or complacency. Improving an organization’s overall safety culture and the atmosphere around safety conversations can make it easier to both give and receive advice in a constructive way and, best-case scenario, save lives.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), successful safety and health programs can proactively identify and manage workplace hazards before they cause injury or illness, improving sustainability and the bottom line. An organization’s safety culture is ultimately reflected in the way that safety is managed in the workplace, and having a strong safety and health program can help create:
- Fewer accidents, losses, and disruptions by preventing workplace injuries and illnesses.
- Engaged employees and improved morale.
- Increased productivity and enhanced overall business operations.
- Lower workers’ compensation and insurance claims.
- Improved compliance with OSHA regulations.
- Improved reputation to attract new customers and employees and retain existing ones.
- Better brand and shareholder value that tie to social responsibility.
The National Safety Council (NSC) cites that more than 4,400 preventable workplace deaths and 4.26 million injuries occurred in 2021. Raising public awareness about workplace safety can significantly decrease the number of preventable injuries and deaths. Every June, NSC observes National Safety Month to do just this by encouraging employers and individuals alike to be safety role models.
Much like NSC, OSHA created Safe + Sound Week (August 7-13, 2023) as a year-round campaign to encourage America’s workplaces to commit to workplace safety and health by starting a health and safety program, energizing an existing one, or recognizing health and safety successes.
Taking the Pledge
This year, both NSC and OSHA are encouraging companies to reaffirm their commitments to safety and health by taking a pledge:
Safe + Sound pledge: I pledge to make safety a core workplace value. Everyone has the right to a safe and healthy workplace, and I will work to ensure everyone goes home safe and sound every day. My workplace will be taking action to improve our safety and health program during Safe + Sound Week 2023.
NSC SafeAtWork pledge: I commit to:
- Actively help my employer improve our safety programs.
- Report hazards promptly and suggest solutions.
- Be a good safety role model for my friends and family, even off the job.
Core Elements of Workplace Health and Safety
OSHA reiterates that the core elements of a workplace health and safety program include the following elements:
- Management leadership. Management must provide the leadership, vision, and resources needed to implement an effective safety and health program.
- Worker participation. Engaging workers at all levels in establishing, implementing, evaluating, and improving safety and health in the workplace creates buy-in.
- Systematic approach to finding and fixing hazards. Finding and fixing hazards in the workplace is an ongoing process to better identify and control sources of potential injuries or illnesses.
KTL’s Series on Investing in Safety
Throughout OSHA’s Safe + Sound Week (August 7-13, 2023), KTL will be featuring a series of articles and posts on our blog and social media (i.e., Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter) reinforcing these concepts from OSHA and NSC and discussing why businesses should invest in safety. Topics will include the following:
Watch for these articles! For more information on what your organization can do to participate and promote a strong safety culture, visit the websites for OSHA Safe + Sound Week and NSC National Safety Month.
The most effective way to respond to an emergency is to properly plan for it before it happens. That’s precisely why so many federal, state, and municipal laws and regulations require many facilities to develop and implement some sort of Emergency Response Plan (ERP).
Effective Emergency Response
An ERP is intended to outline the steps an organization needs to take in an emergency—and after—to protect workers’ health and safety, the environment, the surrounding community, and the business itself. The requirements developed by various agencies are important, as they establish the components that must be included in an ERP to comply with regulations and respond effectively.
Most ERPs contain the same basic information. However, it can get complicated when a facility is subject to more than one regulation requiring an ERP, because even though the various regulations share many similarities, they also contain important differences (e.g., command structures, training requirements, equipment needs, operating protocols). Often, facilities end up creating a different ERP to respond to the different regulatory requirements. In an actual emergency, this can create inconsistencies or, worse yet, an implementation nightmare trying to figure out which ERP to follow.
Importance of Integration
The solution lies in integration. For example, consider an integrated management system that allows organizations to align standards, find common management system components (e.g., terminology, policies, objectives, processes, resources), and add measurable and recognizable business value. The same can be done with the various ERPs required within a facility.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that in 1996, the U.S. National Response Team (NRT) published initial guidance for consolidating multiple ERPs into one core document. The Integrated Contingency Plan (ICP or One Plan) is a single, unified ERP intended to help organizations comply with the various emergency response requirements of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Coast Guard, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Department of Transportation (DOT), and Department of Interior (DOI). The ICP Guidance does not change any of the existing requirements of the regulations it covers; rather, it provides a format for consolidating, organizing, and presenting the required emergency response information.
While the ICP does not currently incorporate all federal regulations addressing emergency response, it does establish a basic framework for organizations to pull in ERPs for any applicable regulations. And the benefits of doing so are many:
- Streamlined planning process. A single document simplifies the planning, development, and maintenance process. When plans are integrated, it minimizes duplication of effort, eliminates discrepancies and inconsistencies, and helps the organization identify and fill in gaps.
- Improved emergency response. It is much easier—and faster—for emergency responders and employees to navigate one plan rather than multiple separate ones. One plan allows for a single command structure with defined roles rather than potentially conflicting responsibilities. This all allows responders to act quickly and decisively to minimize potential disruption to the organization and public.
- Greater compliance. An integrated ERP provides improved visibility to all parts of the organization’s emergency response and helps reveal gaps that could prove costly and/or dangerous. This is especially important for organizations that must comply with several regulations.
- Potential cost savings. Streamlined and simplified planning reduces the resources required to build the plan. An integrated ERP may also help eliminate regulatory fines and minimize the need for and associated costs of emergency response/cleanup efforts.
Find Your Format
The goal of an integrated ERP is not to create new requirements but to consolidate existing concepts into a single functional plan structure. Regardless of what the plan looks like, it should start with:
- An assessment of the facility’s vulnerabilities to various emergency situations.
- An understanding of the various applicable emergency planning laws and regulations to determine which specific requirements must be incorporated. For example, food emergency response has different implications that must be integrated, particularly when it comes to recovery. A food production facility that is ordered or otherwise required to cease operations during an emergency may not reopen until authorization has been granted by the regulatory authority. Food facilities also have strict guidelines to follow for salvaging, reconditioning, and/or discarding product.
With this understanding, the ERP should then comprise step-by-step guidelines for addressing the most significant emergency situations. The core plan should be straightforward and concise and outline fundamental response procedures. More detailed information can be included in the annex. Most ERPs should include the following basic elements:
- Facility information. Consolidate common elements required in various plans, including site description, statement of purpose, scope, drawings, maps, roster of emergency response personnel, emergency response equipment, key contacts for plan development and maintenance, etc.
- Steps to initiate, conduct, and terminate a response. Outline essential response actions and notification procedures, with references to the annex for more detailed information. Provide concise and specific information that is time-critical in the earliest stages of the response and a framework to guide responders through key steps to deliver an effective response.
- Designated emergency responders. Develop a single command structure for all types of emergencies. Assign qualified, high-level individuals who are familiar with emergency procedures to fill emergency roles. In addition, list the appropriate authorities for specific emergencies, as well as their contact information.
- Evacuation plan/routes and rally points. Clearly mark evacuation routes and identify rally points where employees should meet upon exiting. Do not allow employees to leave designated rally points until it has been documented they have safely left the building.
- Data and information backup technology. Develop provisions for data backup to secondary/off-site systems, as well as alternate options for communications and power.
- Designated plan for communication. Outline who is communicating what, when they are communicating it, and how it is being communicated. This includes internal communication, as well as communication to customers/clients/suppliers/vendors that may be impacted, the media, and the appropriate regulatory authorities.
- Supporting materials. The annex should provide detailed support information based on the procedures outlined in the core plan and required regulatory compliance documentation. Importantly, facilities should create a table that cross-references individual regulatory requirements with the plan to ensure there are no gaps and to demonstrate compliance.
The goal of emergency response planning is to minimize impacts to the environment and workers’ health and safety, as well as disruptions to operations. An integrated ERP has the potential to significantly reduce the number of decisions required to respond in an emergency, eliminate confusion and disagreement regarding roles and responsibilities, and enable a timelier, more coordinated response.
That all being said, an integrated ERP will only be effective if it is thoroughly and consistently communicated to all employees. These best practices will help ensure that the integrated ERP functions not only on paper, but also in practice:
- Periodic training is vital to ensure employees understand the ERP and are fully aware of emergency response procedures. It is especially important in an integrated ERP that first responders are trained to handle all potential emergencies rather than more narrowly trained on response for a single regulation.
- Routine drills significantly improve understanding of the ERP, clarify employee roles, test procedures to ensure they work, and diminish confusion during an emergency.
- Posting an abbreviated version of the ERP throughout the plant provides easy access to all employees if an emergency occurs. This summary version of the ERP should highlight the most vital information for quick response: recognized hazards, high-level emergency procedures, evacuation routes, and key contacts.
Every year, we see a number of environmental, health, and safety (EHS) trends rise to the surface that have the potential to impact many industries. Some challenges and opportunities in EHS remain ongoing; some are just gaining traction with impacts yet to be known. Regardless, the start of a new year provides the opportunity to plan for EHS issues and trends on the horizon and prioritize efforts to ensure ongoing compliance.
Here are some of the top EHS trends KTL is keeping watch on in 2023—and some guidance to help you as you set your EHS strategy for the new year.
Resource Constraints and Technology Solutions
EHS personnel are being asked to manage a lot—and often in growing areas that may be outside their education, expertise, and/or experience. Resource constraints—particularly related to staffing—remain a significant concern across industry, and EHS is certainly not immune. Impacts from the “Great Resignation” of November 2021 and beyond continue to leave many companies without the resources needed to effectively manage EHS requirements.
Achieving and maintaining EHS compliance requires great management and expertise to ensure all aspects of a company’s technical compliance have been identified and are being actively handled. KTL has been working with more and more EHS departments to fill these gaps—either with outsourced personnel or compliance efficiency tools—as companies look to recruit EHS staff and meet compliance obligations.
- Develop a relationship with someone you trust to do things in your best interest, understanding that EHS should be a process of continuous improvement. Use them to help you understand what regulations apply. Let them help you prioritize your compliance plan. Use them to do your annual training. Rely on them as a part of your team.
- Employ information technology (IT) solutions to create compliance efficiencies. A well-designed and executed compliance information management system brings IT and management systems together to coordinate, organize, control, analyze, and visualize information in such a way that helps organizations remain in compliance and operate efficiently. A system like this will help provide operational flexibility, generate business improvement, and prepare organizations to address these and other EHS compliance challenges that will continue to surface.
EPA Inspections and Enforcement
EPA intends to continue its enforcement path, holding environmental violators and responsible parties accountable. Significant investments are being made to enforce and ensure compliance with the nation’s environmental laws, including $213 million for civil enforcement efforts, $148 million for compliance monitoring efforts, and $69 million for criminal enforcement efforts. The Agency also has plans to improve inspections by sending 75% of EPA inspection reports to facilities within 70 days of inspection and conducting 55% of annual EPA inspections at facilities that affect communities with potential environmental justice (EJ) concerns (see more on EJ below).
- Design and maintain a safe facility to prevent accidental releases and minimize the consequences of accidental releases that do occur. Conduct a gap assessment to ensure the required processes and systems are functioning as intended.
- Establish a quick response internal inspection team that can evaluate all areas of risk in your facility to ensure you are in compliance, particularly at the time of inspection.
- Understand the hazards posed by chemicals at the facility and assess the impacts of a potential release. Complete a waste characterization for all hazardous and solid waste streams to make sure you are appropriately managing your universal waste and hazardous waste.
- Check your Emergency Response Plan to ensure it has identified emergency contacts for your facility and that the contacts are current. Coordinate with local emergency responders.
Environmental Justice (EJ)
EPA’s Strategic Plan includes a goal that EJ and civil rights will be embedded into EPA’s programs, policies, and activities to reduce disparities in environmental and public health conditions. This focus on EJ has continued to gain momentum with a slew of additional significant actions taken in 2022 to further elevate EJ priorities and deliver on the Administration’s promises to advance justice and equity when it comes to ensuring clean air and water for all communities; safeguarding and revitalizing communities (i.e., Superfund and RCRA); and ensuring safety of chemicals through civil rights and compliance reviews, audits, and community outreach.
- Take the time to understand the communities where you operate—be informed, be prepared, and be proactive. Establish companywide priorities and goals and commit the appropriate resources to address EJ concerns.
- There are a number of EJ grants, funding, and other technical assistance available. EPA’s new Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights is positioned to deliver new grants and technical assistance to meet EJ goals.
Sustainability and Climate Change
The Biden Administration previously committed to a net zero economy by 2050. EPA is focused on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by promulgating rules to reduce pollution from the power sector, setting vehicle emission standards, and partnering with the public and private sectors communities (especially those underserved and disproportionally at risk) to increase energy efficiency in the residential, commercial, and industrial sectors. In addition, there is $100 million in grants to support efforts to reduce GHG emissions and increase resiliency in the nation’s infrastructure and $35 million to implement the American Innovation in Manufacturing Act to continue phasing out GHGs.
- Conduct a lifecycle analysis (LCA) to identify and quantify the inputs and outputs in a process and use data to assess the potential environmental impacts across the lifecycle.
- Have an energy audit completed of your facilities.
- Get input from employees on what initiatives are important to them by enacting a sustainability committee or adding sustainability to your EHS agenda.
Safer Communities by Chemical Accident Prevention (SCCAP)
EPA proposed on August 31, 2022 to strengthen the Risk Management Program (RMP) regulations with the SCCAP proposed rule. The proposed SCCAP amendments include a number of requirements that were originally promulgated by the Obama Administration EPA in 2017 and subsequently rescinded during the Trump Administration in 2019, plus several new requirements considering impacts of climate change, EJ concerns, employee participation, and enhanced community notification. Proposed changes would require RMP-regulated facilities to better consider surrounding communities and the consequences of potential chemical accidents that could have significant impacts on industry requirements going forward.
- Identify/understand/prioritize your compliance risks and develop strategies to minimize them to the extent possible.
- Outline steps to improve performance and safe operations, including defining organizational roles and responsibilities. Plan and conduct required tabletop exercises and coordinate with Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs) to ensure your plans work in practice.
- Streamline compliance methods and improve operational efficiencies by implementing IT solutions and compliance management systems that coordinate, organize, control, analyze, and visualize information.
More and more facilities are going to be directly impacted by mitigation efforts and future regulatory action related to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). PFAS contamination is an extremely complicated issue—and concern is mounting over its impacts and how to regulate these chemicals going forward. EPA has set aside $126 million to increase its understanding of human health and ecological effects of PFAS contamination, restrict its uses, and remediate PFAS that have been released. Over the course of 2022, EPA took several actions to further protect individuals and communities from the health risks posed by these forever chemicals and more is on the way.
- Evaluate your current environmental risk level and develop strategies to minimize risks to the extent possible. Proper usage strategies, a comprehensive environmental management system (EMS), and a forward-thinking Emergency Response Plan will remain vital tools for companies potentially dealing with PFAS to effectively manage the associated risks.
- Work with LEPCs to coordinate emergency response efforts and exercises to keep communities informed and safe.
Set Your Goals for 2023
With these trends toward more regulation, more enforcement, and more focus on EJ and sustainability—but with fewer resources to manage it all—companies need to accurately assess compliance requirements and create a plan for how to meet them. KTL suggests completing the following early in 2023:
- Get senior leadership commitment. It is often clear how an organization prioritizes EHS with little digging. Even with the best EHS personnel, the organization and its EHS system will only be as good as the top leadership and what is important to them.
- Conduct a comprehensive gap assessment to ensure you are meeting the requirements of all applicable EHS regulations. This should be the starting place for understanding your regulatory obligations and current compliance status.
- Perform a comprehensive onsite risk assessment with associated risk minimization planning and plan/conduct annual spill drills to practice emergency response for hazardous chemical incidents.
- Organize your records. Know what records you need. Document your inspections and your training. Develop standard operating procedures (SOPs) so people know what to do.
- Create an integrated management system (e.g., ISO 9001/14001/45001) by finding commonalities between the standards and leveraging pieces of each to develop a reliable system that works for your organization. Implement IT solutions to streamline compliance and create business efficiencies.
- Seek third-party oversight. Having external experts periodically look inside your company provides an objective view of what is really going on, helps you to prepare for audits, and allows you to implement corrective/preventive actions that ensure compliance.
In August 2013, President Obama signed Executive Order (EO) 13650, Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security, with the objective to “improve the safety and security of chemical facilities and reduce the risks of hazardous chemicals to workers and communities.” A key element of EO 13650 involves modernizing federal policies, regulations, and standards.
The Order specifically calls on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to, among other things, review the Process Safety Management (PSM) and Risk Management Program (RMP) rules to determine if their covered hazardous chemical lists should be expanded.
Over nine years have passed since EO 13650 was issued, and the PSM/RMP modernization efforts are still underway. EPA’s most recent action on August 31, 2022 proposed to strengthen the RMP regulations with the Safer Communities by Chemical Accident Prevention (SCCAP) proposed rule. OSHA has yet to propose updates to the PSM rule, which has not been updated since its publication in 1992; however, the PSM rulemaking project is back on the Unified Agenda, and OSHA is working to make progress.
Progress on PSM
OSHA published the PSM standard (29 CFR 1910.119) in 1992 in response to several catastrophic chemical-release incidents. PSM requires employers to implement safety programs that identify, evaluate, and control highly hazardous chemicals. Unlike other standards, PSM is “performance-based” rather than prescriptive. It outlines 14 management system elements for controlling highly hazardous chemicals. Employers have the flexibility to tailor their PSM programs to the unique conditions at their facilities.
In response to EO 13650, OSHA published a Request for Information (RFI) in December 2013 and then completed a Small Business Advocacy Review Panel (SBAR) in June 2016. Following the SBAR, PSM was moved to the Long-Term Actions list on the Unified Agenda but was placed back on the Unified Agenda in Spring 2021.
Most recently, OSHA held an informal stakeholder meeting on October 12, 2022, to reengage stakeholders and solicit comments on the modernization topics mentioned in the RFI and SBAR panel report.
Potential PSM Changes
The PSM and RMP rules were written to complement each other. OSHA and EPA continue to coordinate as both agencies consider revisions to their respective rules. The Federal Register notice for OSHA’s stakeholder meeting lists the following potential changes to the scope of the current PSM standard that OSHA is considering:
- Clarifying the exemption for atmospheric storage tanks.
- Expanding the scope to include oil- and gas-well drilling and servicing.
- Resuming enforcement for oil and gas production facilities.
- Expanding PSM coverage and requirements for reactive chemical hazards.
- Updating and expanding the list of highly hazardous chemicals in Appendix A.
- Extending PSM requirements to cover dismantling and disposal of explosives and pyrotechnics.
- Clarifying the scope of the retail facilities exemption
- Defining the limits of a PSM-covered process.
- Including a definition of recognized and generally accepted as good engineering practices (RAGAGEP).
- Including a definition of critical equipment.
- Strengthening employee participation and including stop work authority.
- Requiring evaluation of updates to applicable RAGAGEP.
- Requiring continuous updating of collected information.
- Requiring formal resolution of Process Hazard Analysis team recommendations that are not utilized.
- Requiring safer technology and alternatives analysis.
- Requiring considering of natural disasters and extreme temperatures in their PSSM programs.
- Covering the mechanical integrity of any critical equipment.
- Better explaining equipment deficiencies.
- Clarifying organizational changes.
- Requiring root cause analysis.
- Requiring coordination of emergency planning with local emergency response authorities.
- Requiring third-party compliance audits.
- Developing a system for periodic review of and necessary revisions to their PSM management systems.
- Requiring the development of written procedures for all elements specified in the standard, and to identify records required by the standard along with a records retention policy.
While there is still much uncertainty regarding what potential changes may be made to the PSM standard—and when those changes could take effect—it is never too early for PSM-impacted facilities to consider the following:
- How might the potential changes listed above impact your business?
- What issues does your facility foresee with compliance?
- What systems, processes, procedures, plans, etc. does your facility need to ensure ongoing compliance?
KTL will continue to monitor developments with the PSM standard. As things progress, we can help you to:
- Identify/understand/prioritize your facility risks.
- Define organizational roles and responsibilities.
- Better manage documents and information to demonstrate compliance.
- Identify resources to help your facility comply with potential changes to the PSM standard.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is stepping up enforcement. On September 16, 2022, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced expanded criteria for placement in the OSHA Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP) to strengthen enforcement, improve compliance with workplace safety standards (i.e., OSH Act), and reduce worker injuries and illnesses.
SVEP: Then and Now
The expanded criteria build off the original SVEP, which was first introduced on June 18, 2010, to focus OSHA’s resources on inspecting employers who continually expose workers to very serious dangers, even after being cited for them. This includes employers who have demonstrated indifference to OSH Act obligations by either “willfully or repeatedly violating federal health and safety laws or demonstrating refusal to correct previous violations” (i.e., failure to abate).
The changes enacted by OSHA in September 2022 are intended to broaden the SVEP’s scope and maximize the tools available to ensure employers comply with their legal obligation to provide safe and healthful workplaces. The new instructions “reflect the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to ensuring OSHA has the tools it needs to ensure employers protect their workers or hold them accountable when they fail to provide safe and healthy workplaces,” explains Doug Parker, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health. He reinforces, “These changes to SVEP will hold a microscope to those employers who continue to expose workers to very serious dangers.”
This goes hand-in-hand with the Biden Administration’s recent efforts to make significant improvements in workplace safety protection for American workers through proposed increases in funding and significant increases to OSHA’s maximum penalties, as proposed in the original Build Back Better Act.
The table below outlines how the SVEP criteria are changing from 2010 to 2022.
|THEN: SVEP 2010||NOW: SVEP 2022|
|Limited to cases involving fatalities, three or more hospitalizations, high-emphasis hazards, the potential release of a highly hazardous chemical (PSM), and enforcement actions classified as egregious.||Expands program criteria to include all hazards and OSHA standards, broadening the program’s scope and potential for additional industries to fall within its parameters.|
|Focused on cases where there was a willful or repeated serious violation or a hazard the employer failed to abate that was directly related to either an employee death or an incident that caused three or more hospitalizations.||Focuses on program placement for employers with citations for at least two willful or repeated violations or who receive failure-to-abate notices based on the significance of serious violations.|
|Required no designated timeframe in which OSHA would conduct a follow-up inspection after the final order.||Requires follow-up or referral inspections to be conducted one year (but no longer than two years) after the final order.|
|Permitted removal from the SVEP three years after the final order date.||Allows for potential removal from the SVEP three years after the date of receiving verification that the employer has:|
· Abated all SVEP-related hazards.
· Paid all final penalties.
· Where applicable, followed and completed all applicable settlement provisions.
· Received no additional serious citations related to the hazards identified in the original SVEP inspection or any related establishments.
· Received one follow-up or referral OSHA inspection.
|Only allowed employers to become eligible for removal from SVEP after three years.||Enables employers to reduce time spent in the SVEP to two years if they consent to an enhanced settlement agreement that includes use of a safety and health management system (SHMS).|
The final two updates included in the table above are intended to incentivize employers to fix problems quickly with solutions that ultimately work to transform the health and safety culture. The new SVEP instructions also add sample documents and guidance for specific situations to assist companies in complying.
Implementing a SHMS
Developing and implementing an SHMS is one of the best ways to help ensure a company does not end up in the SVEP. As stated in the table above, it is also a requirement for early removal from the SVEP. That is because a properly structured SHMS will get the processes, programs, and systems in place—and documented—to ensure the company is protecting employee safety and health and meeting OSH Act requirements.
OSHA requires the SHMS include the following Core Elements of the Safety and Health Program Recommended Practices:
- Management Leadership: Top management demonstrates a commitment to continuous improvement in safety and health, communicates that commitment to workers, provides adequate resources and support, and sets program expectations and responsibilities.
- Worker Participation: Workers understand their responsibilities and are involved in all aspects of the safety and health program, including setting goals, identifying reporting hazards, investigating incidents, communicating with management, and tracking progress.
- Hazard Identification and Assessment: Procedures are in place to continually identify workplace hazards and evaluate risks. Initial assessment of existing hazards, exposures, and control measures is followed by periodic inspections to identify new hazards; any incidents are also investigated to identify root causes.
- Hazard Prevention and Control: Employer and employees cooperate to identify and select methods for eliminating, preventing, or controlling workplace hazards according to the hierarchy of controls: engineering solutions, safe work practices, administrative controls, and personal protective equipment (PPE).
- Education and Training: Workers are trained to understand how the safety and health program works, how to recognize workplace hazards, and how to carry out their responsibilities under the program.
- Program Evaluation and Improvement: Processes are established to evaluate control measures for effectiveness, monitor program performance, verify program implementation, and identify opportunities to improve overall health and safety performance.
- Communication and Coordination for Host Employers, Contractors, and Staffing Agencies: Hosts commit to providing the same level of health and safety protection to all employees, communicating hazards present at the worksite, and resolving any conflicts that could impact safety or health.
Based on the plan-do-check-act cycle of continuous improvement, the SHMS should also include provisions for continually evaluating and improving program effectiveness and for OSHA’s review and evaluation. Finally, implementation must be verified by an independent third party (CSP, CIH, national union safety and health representative) subject to OSHA’s approval.
As usual, the best way to get ready for the increased enforcement is to understand the regulations and be prepared.