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Workplace Lockout Tagout Tips

  • By carlo
  • 26 Aug, 2016

Suggestions for controlling hazardous energy

According to OSHA, failure to control hazardous energy accounts for nearly 10 percent of serious accidents and fatalities in the workplace. Lockout/Tagout violations are one of the most common safety deficiencies employers are cited for during OSHA inspections. Many companies have designed and implemented a comprehensive lockout/tagout program, but do not regularly evaluate it to see where changes and improvements can be made.

Here are three simple improvements based on best practices from leading safety programs:
  • Improve engagement. Don't have lockout/tagout be just a yearly safety topic. Designate a lockout/tagout lead person in each area or department that can act as a mentor, monitor compliance and provide quick refreshers.
  • Keep lockout/tagout equipment as close and convenient as possible. Employees are less likely to use equipment (especially during emergencies or for quick tasks) if they have to go to a far away office or locker.
  • Simplify the lockout/tagout process. Try to design your equipment and lockout systems with easy lock attachment points that don't require extra devices or adapters from kits.

Keep these simple tips in mind when designing or reviewing your lockout/tagout program. Small improvements add up to a big difference when it comes to facility safety and efficiency.


By carlo 22 Jul, 2017
A recent American Heart Association survey finds that half of Americans are afraid to perform CPR in an emergency.  The top reason given is fear of legal problems. While the United States is a notoriously litigious country, this does not extend to first aid situations. First aid responders rarely encounter legal problems, even if the victim does not survive (most will not). In fact, all 50 states have passed "Good Samaritan" laws to protect laypersons who perform CPR or give other emergency care from civil liability, as long as they act responsibly and reasonably. Even for professional responders who provide emergency medical care every day, and don't benefit from Good Samaritan protection while working, lawsuits are very uncommon. 

Unfortunately, urban legends about lawsuits and exaggerated claims about liability risks prevent many persons from helping during an emergency. Other common reasons for not performing CPR included being afraid of hurting the person (which usually links to fears about legal liability), being overwhelmed by the complexity of CPR, and not having up-to-date training. Any good training course should teach attendees to manage liability risks, and for laypersons, should emphasize simple, effective compression-only CPR, which has similar survival rates when compared to CPR done in the traditional way with a combination of compressions and rescue breaths.

Effective CPR compressions boost cardiac arrest survival rates to about fifteen percent. While that may not sound like much, consider that the survival rate without CPR is about five percent. Use of an AED (Automated External Defibrillator) can boost survival rates to over 50 percent. An AED can restart the heart of someone who is in cardiac arrest. Some workplaces have invested in these lifesaving devices, but don't have employees adequately trained in their use. Another American Heart Association survey revealed that in workplaces with AEDs, more than half of the employees don't even know where the AED is, nevermind how to use it. While every employee need not be trained in how to use these devices, they should all be familiar with them, and be able to retrieve one in an emergency to assist a trained employee.

When a person's heart stops beating, every minute counts. Relying on 911 to rescue the victim is a losing proposition...95% of victims will die if the only "help" given is a phone call. However, if a bystander can begin chest compressions, and an onsite AED is deployed, survival rates are over 50%. Few companies are making the investment in proper training and equipment to enable these sorts of survival rates. Paradoxically, some are investing in defibrillators (which generally cost over $1,500), but then not following up with effective employee training and education. 

While certain accidents, like an electrical injury, can precipitate cardiac arrest, the problem is not one that necessarily limits itself to high hazard industries. In fact, with the elevated risk of cardiovascular problems caused by sedentary office work, combined with an aging workforce, high density office environments are perfect candidates for a workplace CPR and AED program. When weighed against the cost of either permanently or temporarily replacing an employee, the cost of training employees and providing an AED can be a bargain. Several years ago, we provided a defibrillator and first aid/cpr training for a small financial services firm, at a cost of over $3,00 dollars. We congratulated the management team on making the investment for the benefit of their employees. Their operations manager confessed that what ultimately led to the program being implemented was a simple cost-benefit analysis; the unexpected loss of any of their key personnel would easily cost the company tens of thousands of dollars...having a program in place to increase the odds of survival after an injury or an accident just made good financial sense. 
By carlo 15 Jul, 2017
While the format of courses may seem similar (classroom training followed by hands-on practice), the details are what will distinguish top-tier training providers.

First, remember that there is no regulation, licensing or certification of fire extinguisher training providers by Cal/OSHA or any other government agency. You should do your due diligence in selecting qualified providers, and evaluate overall value, not just cost.

Second, a key benefit of workplace fire extinguisher training is business continuity and profitability. If employees can use an extinguisher correctly to put out a small fire before it becomes a big fire, it saves product, equipment and buildings. However, they should also understand when it would not be safe to try and fight a fire, and know the limitations of portable extinguishers. A good training class will meet both these objectives.

Here are two important questions to ask potential vendors.

Who is doing the training and what is their background?
Knowing how to service extinguishers is a different skillset than training others to use them to safely put out fires. Make sure the class will be taught by an instructor experienced in workplace training, not just an extinguisher service technician who will occasionally teach a class with a video or powerpoint.

How is the hands-on portion done?
OSHA requires that fire extinguisher training include a hands-on component. Avoid vendors who do an extinguisher “demonstration” that attendees just get to observe, or where only a portion of attendees get to participate. Everyone should get to practice deploying an extinguisher.
The specific method used for the hands-on portion is also important. While a pan of diesel or gasoline and some dry chemical extinguishers provide a realistic training experience, it creates the hazard of a large pan of burning liquid in the workplace, and the residue from the powder chemical extinguishers will spread to surrounding areas of the parking lot, and can also create stormwater runoff/contamination and respiratory irritation in employees. A better alternative is modern propane-fueled training systems with a safe, clean-burning flame that can be controlled remotely, and water-charged extinguishers. Digital training systems are another alternative that use a simulated flame and extinguishers projecting a laser beam at sensors to evaluate attendee performance. 

It's worth taking the time to learn the details of the training methods used by each vendor, and speak with the instructor who will be presenting the training to evaluate their qualifications. For companies in San Diego, contact us to learn more about our fire extinguisher training classes . Course instructors all have 5 or more years of adult training experience, and a background in incipient-stage firefighting, and our trainings use propane-powered, electronically controlled burners and water-charged extinguishers. 

By carlo 12 Jul, 2017
Cal/OSHA General industry regulations for flammable liquid storage is found in   Article 141 . This article summarizes the basic storage requirements for when individual portable containers are kept inside a building.

Categories of Flammable Liquids
There are different rules for different types of flammable liquids. They are divided into categories, based on flash point and boiling point. Flash point is lowest temperature at which vapors of the material will ignite, when given an ignition source. A lower flash point is more dangerous than a higher one. Boiling point is the temperature at which a liquid turns to a vapor. A lower boiling point is more dangerous than a higher one. You can look at the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for a chemical to find out what the flash point and boiling point is.

  • Category 1: Flashpoints below 73.4 °F (23 °C) and having a boiling point at or below 95 °F (35 °C).
  • Category 2: Flashpoints below 73.4 °F (23 °C) and having a boiling point above 95 °F (35 °C).
  • Category 3: Flashpoint at or above 73.4 °F (23 °C) and at or below 140 °F (60 °C). 
  • Category 4: Flashpoints above 140 °F (60 °C) and at or below 199.4 °F (93 °C). 
  • Category Other ("Combustible"): Flashpoint above 199.4 °F (93 °C)
Liquid Storage Requirements
These limits apply for most employers such as shops, offices, laboratories, or retail. Different requirements exist for warehouses ( §5540 ) and hotels and other large occupancy locations ( §5537 ). 

When you have more than a certain total amount of flammable liquids, you must store them in safety cabinet meeting NFPA requirements. Storage in a cabinet is required if you have: 
  • Over 60 gallons of any category liquid
  • Over 10 gallons of a category 1, 2, or 3 liquid, if stored in regular containers. 
  • Over 25 gallons of a category 1, 2, or 3 liquid, if stored in safety cans.
Safety cans  are specially designed containers with a spring-closing lid, spout cover and a flame arrester that are built specifically for fire safety.

Whether they are in a cabinet or not, no container for Category 1, 2 or 3 flammable liquids shall exceed a capacity of one gallon, except that safety cans can be two gallons.

Whether they are in a cabinet or not, flammable liquids should never be stored where they would limit or compromise the use of any emergency exit routes.

Not more than 120 gallons of Category 1, 2, 3 and 4 flammable liquids may be stored in a storage cabinet. Of this total, not more than 60 gallons may be of Category 1, 2 and 3 flammable liquid.

Not more than three cabinets may be located in a single fire area, except that in industrial operations, additional cabinets may be located in the same fire area if the additional cabinet, or group of not more than three cabinets, is separated from any other cabinets or group of cabinets by at least 100 feet.

While the regulations for flammable liquid storage may seem confusing, consider that every employer is already required to have Safety Data Sheets (SDS) for almost all chemicals in the workplace. Based on that information, you can categorize what you have and see what the storage requirements are. Basically, the more flammable the chemical, the less of it you can have. One thing some employers do to simplify things is to apply the stricter category 1, 2, and 3 requirements to all categories of flammable liquids, so there's less of a need to differentiate between the different categories, and the amounts of each you have.
By carlo 01 Jul, 2017
Would you know what to do if your coworker collapsed in front of you while working outdoors?  What if a friend or family member started suffering from heat exhaustion while out hiking or playing sports?

While prevention is the most important thing, if a person begins suffering from heat-related illness, you must act fast!  Here's the most current research from the Safewest first aid curriculum.

Heat exhaustion can happen when a person is working hard or exercising in the heat and their body is having a difficult time coping with the elevated temperature.

You will usually see the following symptoms:
  • Heavy sweating
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Feeling tired or dizzy
  • Muscle cramps, especially in the torso and legs

First Aid measures for heat exhaustion are relatively simple, and involve moderate cooling measures.  As with any first aid situation, make sure the scene is safe before rushing in to help anyone.  
  • Have the person lie down in a cool, shady place.
  • Remove any heavy outer clothing, protective equipment and shoes.
  • Wipe the victim’s exposed skin with cool, wet cloths.
  • Fan or move victim to air conditioned room.
  • Offer sips of an electrolyte drink or water.
If the person doesn’t feel better in a few minutes, or gets worse, call your emergency response number and continue cooling them.

If a person suffering from heat exhaustion doesn't get help, they can suffer from a more serious condition called heat stroke.  With heat stroke, the body can no longer maintain a normal temperature, and begins overheating.  This is potentially deadly, and you will have to act fast.  

A person suffering from heat stroke will have many of the same symptoms as a person with heat exhaustion, but the important difference is the effect on their mental status. If they're getting so hot that their brain is affected, you will see symptoms like:
  • Seizures or hallucinations
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Irritability and personality changes
  • Uncoordinated, Difficulty walking well
  • Not responding/unconscious

First Aid for heat stroke involves rapidly and aggressively cooling the person.  As always, make sure the scene is safe before helping with any emergency.    First, if you suspect heat stroke, call or have someone call 911 or your emergency response number immediately, then begin the following steps.  
  • Move the victim to a cooler environment, such as indoors, shade or an air-conditioned vehicle.
  • Remove clothing down to underclothes.
  • Reduce body temperature with a cold bath or sponging.  
  • If you have ice bags or instant ice packs available, these can be placed at the sides of the neck, at the groin, under the armpits and behind the knees to help cool the body.  
  • Use fans and air conditioners.
While there's no substitute for taking a First Aid class, reviewing these symptoms and emergency treatment measures for heat-related illnesses can help you be more prepared while working or recreating outdoors.  
By carlo 31 Mar, 2017
Employers in the hospitality industry should be aware of upcoming/proposed Cal OSHA regulations for preventing musculoskeletal injuries in hotel housekeeping staff.

Many proactive employers are already meeting or exceeding these requirements, but this is a good opportunity to:
-Provide formal comments to Cal/OSHA about these new regulations.
-Get an idea about what new regulations may be coming that could affect your industry.
-Use the proposed regulation as a way to check your own existing safety programs for your housekeeping staff.

Keep in mind that these proposed regulations are requiring an injury and illness prevention program specific to housekeeping staff, but every employer should already be evaluating and mitigating workplace hazards for every employee position. 
For San Diego employers, we offer first aid/cpr classes, hazard communication training, bloodborne pathogens, active shooter courses and more, conducted onsite at your hotel or resort property. 
By carlo 27 Jan, 2017
For California employers, Cal/OSHA's general industry requirements for eyewash stations and safety showers can be found in the Title 8 regulations, §5162 ( source ). While the full details on how to comply are found in the regulations, we've provided a summary of how to evaluate your need for eyewash stations and safety showers.

First, evaluate the types of tasks employees perform, and identify any job duties that might result in a chemical exposure to the eyes or body. This exposure could be either during routine tasks or forseeable emergencies. Make a list of these chemicals.

Second, evaluate the chemicals themselves by reading the safety data sheet, or consulting the manufacturer. Identify if these chemicals can cause any of the following: corrosion, severe irritation, permanent tissue damage, toxicity by absorbtion. If so, you will need an eyewash station and/or shower.

Third, select the correct equipment. If the potential exposure is to the eyes, an eyewash station should be provided. If the potential exposure is to the body, a safety shower should be provided. If both an eyewash and shower are needed, they should be located so they can be used at the same time by the same person. This equipment must comply with certain requirements (look for ANSI Z358.1 compliant products); just having a sink, hose or regular shower nearby doesn't count. The equipment should be installed in an area that is unobstructed, no more than ten seconds from the hazard, provide at least 15 minutes of flow, and be tested/inspected regularly.
By carlo 01 Dec, 2016
There is a lot of confusion and misinformation surrounding the OSHA requirements for fit testing full face respirators.

If a full face mask is required for respiratory protection, quantitative fit testing of that mask is also required. Quantitative fit testing uses computerized equipment to measure how well the respirator seals to the wearer's face. Qualitative fit test methods like irritant smoke, bitrex, saccharine or isoamyl acetate ("banana oil") are not permitted for these full face respirator usage situations.

The fit testing requirements are found in the Federal 29 CFR 1910.134 ( link ) or Cal OSHA T8 §5144 ( link ) regulations. However, the language used in the regulations can be difficult to understand. They are more clearly explained in the Federal OSHA Small Entity Compliance Guide for Respiratory Protection ( link ):

"If a full facepiece APR [air-purifying respirator] is to be used in atmospheres with levels of contamination greater than ten (10) times the PEL, a quantitative fit test must be used."

OSHA defines a Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) for nearly all chemicals. This is the maximum airborne concentration of a substance an employee can be safely exposed to. If the concentration of a contaminant in the air is more than the PEL, the employee must use a respirator. If the concentration is more than 10 times the Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL), a   full face   respirator must be worn, since half face masks are not rated to provide protection in concentrations more than 10 times the PEL.

In summary: if the contaminant concentration requires the level of respiratory protection provided by a full face mask, then quantitative fit testing is required. This is because:
  • OSHA requires full face respirators where contaminant concentration is more than 10 times the PEL.
  • OSHA also requires quantitative fit testing where contaminant concentration is more than 10 times the PEL.
Theoretically, a full face respirator could be worn in a situation where that level of respiratory protection is not required (concentrations less than 10 times the PEL) and could be qualitatively fit tested. In practice, it's rare for a full face respirator to be used when that level of protection isn't required, since these masks are heavier, less comfortable and more expensive.

If you have employees that are required to wear full face masks for respiratory protection, make sure you are conducting quantitative fit testing. If you are outsourcing your fit testing, as many employers do, verify with the vendor that they are doing quantitative fit testing, and ask to see a copy of the current calibration certificate for their equipment. There are only two manufactures of quantitative fit testing equipment (TSI Incorporated and OHD USA) and both require annual calibration.

There are other benefits to quantitative fit testing even when not required by OSHA. Quantitative fit testing provides a more accurate and precise measure of respirator fit, and certain quantitative fit test methods (Controlled Negative Pressure) are also faster than any existing qualitative method, so your employees get back to work sooner.

Note: This article explains regulatory requirements as they apply to full and half face air-purifying respirators; there are different requirements for other respirator types, as well as for situation where contaminant concentration is more than 50 times the permissible exposure limit or Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health.
By carlo 13 Oct, 2016
Geophysicists have predicted there is a strong probability that a 5.0 or greater quake will strike southern California in the next three years. Knowing what to do in a quake can help save your life. However, there are a lot of misconceptions about earthquake survival, and a lot of myths and outdated advice about what to do.

Here are some simple and correct tips on what to do when an earthquake hits.

Stay where you are until the shaking stops. Do not run outside. Do not get in a doorway as this does not provide protection from falling or flying objects, and you may not be able to remain standing.

Drop down onto your hands and knees so the earthquake doesn’t knock you down. Cover your head and neck with your arms to protect yourself from falling debris. Stay where you are until the earthquake stops. If you are in danger from falling objects, and you can move safely, crawl for additional cover under a sturdy desk or table and hold on. If no cover is available, stay low to the ground and find an inside corner of a wall away from windows and objects that can fall on you.

If you are outside when you feel the shaking, move away from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires. Drop and cover if possible. Stay there until the shaking stops. This might not be possible in a city, so you may need to duck inside a building to avoid falling debris.

If you are in a moving vehicle when you feel the shaking, stop as quickly and safely as possible and stay in the vehicle. Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, overpasses, and utility wires. Proceed cautiously once the earthquake has stopped. Avoid roads, bridges, or ramps that the earthquake may have damaged.
By carlo 30 Sep, 2016

It is important to understand that proper training for your powered industrial truck operators may involve two related, but distinct types of courses.

Operator safety training courses are designed for people who know the basics of driving a forklift or other powered industrial truck, but need to be educated on how to perform material handling tasks safely, follow OSHA safety guidelines, and be evaluated as they demonstrate these safe handling behaviors “behind the wheel.” This is an important part of your facility accident prevention program, and is required by OSHA for all forklift operators.

These types of operator safety trainings are   not designed for brand new operators   (those who have never driven a forklift before). It would be like hiring someone who has never driven a car before, and sending them in a company vehicle to a defensive driving class or performance driving school when they don't even know how to control the car.

So what can you do when you have a hire that you want to drive forklifts in your facility, who needs to attend a safety training course, but has no driving experience? This is where new operator training comes in.

In new operator training, attendees will typically work one-on-one with an instructor in a controlled environment to gain knowledge and practical experience in the basics of forklift operation. This will prepare them to attend a forklift safety course and succeed in the behind-the-wheel evaluation.

As an alternative, employers who have an experienced forklift operator with the training, knowledge and experience to safely train new operators in the basics of forklift operation may elect to conduct this new operator training themselves, and then have these employees ready for the forklift safety training course conducted by a vendor.

Either way, employers should ensure each attendee is in a course appropriate for their skill level. Having brand new operators in a safety training class is both unproductive and unsafe.

By carlo 02 Sep, 2016
Active shooter training courses for workplaces are in high demand in the aftermath of several high profile mass shootings that occurred throughout the last few years. A variety of training programs were presented to employees, and as is expected from any newer training subject, there were some shortcomings.

Many classes were brief, usually presented by human resources or safety generalists without a background in security or active shooter response. They utilize “stock” materials provided by the Department of Homeland Security or other government agencies. Make no mistake, these simple trainings are an   excellent start ; they get employees who might have never thought about what to do in a workplace shooting to start thinking about what they can do to survive. However, from a training perspective, it does not go far enough in teaching employees specific techniques, and the facilitators usually only have an awareness-level knowledge of the topic themselves.

In contrast, many employers turned to hiring third party instructors, generally ones touting military or law enforcement credentials. While this can be an excellent background for facilitating these courses, having experience as a soldier or police officer doesn’t in itself equate to being a good instructor. Showing up as one of many armed responders after a shooting has started is a very different position from being an unarmed worker caught by surprise when an incident begins. Many attendees seemed to leave these classes feeling more frightened and less empowered than when they started.  

Over the last few months, active shooter training programs have improved significantly to better address the needs of the typical workplace, and employers have learned to become more discerning when evaluating the qualifications of vendors or instructors.

Training providers are developing better programs, and fielding instructors that have the right combination of experience and teaching ability. Attendees are learning not just that they   should   run, hide or fight, but getting confident about knowing   how   to do these things. However, one critical topic is still missing from many workplace active shooter trainings: first aid.

According to FBI statistics ( source ), most active shooter incidents are very quick: almost all under five minutes, most under two minutes. While protracted gun battles and standoffs might capture more media attention, statistically mass shootings in workplaces start rapidly and end a few minutes later when the shooter either flees or commits suicide. In other words, the event will probably be over long before 911 arrives. Even once professional responders arrive, their priority will be security: making sure the shooter is either gone, dead or arrested. Medical help for shooting victims will not be provided until after the area is secure.

An employee injured during a shooting faces a very long wait until medical help will be provided. Run, hide, fight is a great strategy that we teach in all our workplace active shooter classes at SAFEWEST. However, the reality is that a training course on not getting shot should also include training on what to do if someone does get shot. This is a step beyond mass shooting prevention and defense, and also different from standard workplace first aid trainings. However, first aid for gunshot wounds is a topic that can be simplified and taught to employees, and should be a key component of any comprehensive workplace active shooter training.
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