Parking Lot Safety: It’s Three Dimensional – and More!

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As I was working on a set of safety management guidance materials for a large chain restaurant operation, I looked at what existing materials they had across their brands and regions. One interesting finding was that when it came to parking lot and parking area safety, is that sometimes only part of the picture was being addressed.

Here’s what I mean. Do a simple web search for “Parking Lot Safety” and see what sort of material comes up. You’ll see that sometimes the emphasis will vary but there are three different dimensions to safety in parking lots, sometimes not all addressed in preventative planning.

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Vehicular Safety is one dimension: preventing collisions in parking lots and on the way in and out.

Security is another dimension: Preventing crime and making parking areas less likely spots for criminals to target.

Pedestrian Safety is the third, protecting people as they walk in, through, and around parking areas.

The last one, pedestrian safety, has an additional aspect beyond the traditional idea of the people using the lot directly (hence the “and more” in the title of this article.) That added aspect is the protection of people who may be adjacent to a parking area, either on a walkway, at a building entrance, on a patio, or inside a nearby structure. Vehicle-into building crashes, or storefront crashes are the particular risk in question. Here’s an article from the National Association for Industrial and Office Parks’ “Development” magazine where I was interviewed about this topic. This aspect of parking area safety is receiving more attention all the time and is beginning to become the focus of risk management groups, consensus standards and legislative attention. The question of how to best protect people and property is getting regular media attention as well. This issue certainly qualifies as an emerging one, with new information about the nature of the risk and protective measures being developed regularly. Expect to see more and more focus on this issue over time.

More Restaurants Get This Key to Sanitation Wrong Than Get It Right…

Kitchen Pass in Restaurant

Horizontal Surfaces are Everywhere in Restaurants and They Need Care!

The goal of a safe and healthy restaurant operation when it comes to the condition of surfaces is for them to be consistently clean and sanitary throughout the operational day. Modern approaches have resulted in the mediocre operations get better, the poor ones stay the same, and some of the good ones to get worse. Why? Because of a change in sanitation approaches and regulations. What exactly is it that many restaurants get wrong?

Continue reading

News Flash: Hard, Shiny Floors are Slippery When Wet!

Shiny Floor

Yes, this is what a hard shiny floor looks like!

Yes, that’s right. Hard flooring surfaces with a glossy finish are slippery when wet. It’s 2014, and there are still no exceptions to that fact. Yet as I toured one of the more upscale locations of a large restaurant company that I was working with, the restroom floors were done up exquisitely in highly polished natural stone. The look was very refined, the gloss was practically blinding. And the floor was not well suited to the conditions it would face regularly. We are not talking a hallway like the hotel image featured above, we are talking inside a restroom!

Here’s a series of truths that shouldn’t be so hard to understand: Continue reading

Most Workplace Ergonomics Approaches Miss This Simple Truth

Are you aware that there is a simple factor missing from (or buried so deep as to have negligible impact) most workplace ergonomics approaches? Let’s set the stage with a quick look at what most industrial and office ergonomics improvement approaches entail.

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An overview of ergonomics approaches

Workplace ergonomics approaches (including both industrial ergonomics and office ergonomics approaches) typically begin with considering how the job can be best fit to the worker. This includes such considerations as:

Job design

The overall design of the human work activity by assignment, including what work is being performed, for what purpose, what personnel are involved, and what means are used to perform the job.

Tools and equipment

The tools and equipment used to perform the job, and how they are set up, adjusted, and used. This also includes specifications about whether equipment is specified for a given task or if there are options that the end user can choose from.

Posture and movement

This category goes by various names, including “physical technique”, “body use and position,” and “movement skills and habits.” All of these refer to the idea that the worker has a level of options available to them related to how they position their body and move it to accomplish the work at hand. These options are limited by several factors including:

  • The worker’s physical size, condition, and capabilities (including any limitations they may have)
  • Skills and understanding of movement approaches and options for a given task
  • Environmental factors that affect posture and movement choices (for example, a chair that without height adjustability dictates possible seating positions, and handle cutouts on a bin may limit hand positions available for carrying) which also relates to other human factors in the perception of the task and options available the worker for the approach to a physical task.

Aids and assists

This includes devices and equipment that may make an existing task easier, such as straps to aid in lifting, or a powered lifting aid. Note that this is technically a subcategory of tools and equipment, but is particularly referring to aids and assists that can be brought to bear in an existing job or task, rather than being made part of the core job design

In practice

Those basic areas describe most of what is addressed or changed in workplace ergonomics. Picture an office setting, where there may be two basic components that are evident from this sort of intervention

  1. Setup is changed by means of altering chair, monitor, and keyboard equipment and position.
  2. Instruction is given to the worker regarding preferred body position at work and how to achieve it with adjustments to their setup.

What’s ignored…

So you have a reasonable and well-put together approach as is described above (which turns out to be fairly typical for office ergonomics interventions in particular) that is regularly deployed in workplaces all over, yet a very important concept is often glossed over if it is covered at all. The concept is this: Even a very well optimized body position does not work so well if the worker does not vary their position regularly.

Why is this an issue?

Static loading, where muscles must hold the body in a single position for a long period, is an established musculoskeletal injury risk factor. holding positions for extended periods without movement reduces circulation and contributes to stress on the muscles and connective tissues. The greater the exertion required to maintain a given static position the higher the stress on the body.

How to implement this idea

Consider how that understanding and conveying the benefits of varied body position can improve your ergonomic program results significantly. Move your discussions and instruction from the idea of one correct setup to a range of preferred setup options. Here’s a little exercise to convey the concept:

Midway through your ergonomics training session, after the basic setup concepts have been discussed, show your trainees an example of a traditionally good workstation setup, such as the one below.

One example of a "textbook" setup

One example of a “textbook” setup

Ask them how favorable it would be to use that position at work. (note how the question is worded in a bit of a vague way to encourage some engagement with the idea). You may get a range of answers, but if the consensus is “yes, ” then ask the clarifying question, “So would this be a good position to work in all day?…” At which point you can highlight that is a great starting position, but that even still needs to be varied to reduce stresses on the body.

At this point, you can highlight that they have a few options for varying positions, including:
Small variations in the same basic configuration (leaning forward or back a bit, bringing legs forward or back), which can be attained without re-adjusting anything in the workstation.
Small adjustments to the workstation, such as raising or lowering the chair slightly.
Switching basic positions, such as going from sitting to standing.
Brief deliberate “micro breaks” at the workstation, such as sitting back and performing a hand and arm stretch for just a few seconds every now and then.
Leaving the workstation for a time, either to perform a different task, or as a purposeful break of a certain duration.

What do you do to convey this concept?

What is Loss Control?

I had a surprising discussion the other day with the COO of a fairly large grocery company about risk, safety, and insurance issues. His company has sizable exposures in the areas of property, liability, and workers’ compensation, and he has policies with several insurance carriers totaling over 7 figures in premiums.

Misconceptions from bad to worse
What was surprising about the discussion was how well versed he was in the costs of his policies, and the claims and administration related to those claims, but what a limited idea he had about the concept and function of loss control related to his policies. What’s even worse about this situation is that a sizable portion of the commercial insurance community shares the same mistaken idea. What is the mistaken idea?

The idea in question
The mistaken idea in question was that “Loss Control” meant “Inspections.” And by inspections, it meant some sort of non-participatory process where an inspector would briefly visit a location, collect some information, make some observations and perhaps take some measurements, and then be gone. Some group of recommendations might appear a month or two later with a little bit of written explanation and not much more.

I asked the CEO if that’s what his idea of loss control was, and he paused and said that was pretty much it from his experience. His stores are nicely organized and maintained, and very well-run overall. He recieves very few recommendations overall.

Engagement determines impact
The issue here is that even though inspections are often an integral part of loss control, and certainly the most visible part for most smaller accounts, inspections are more of an oversight tool (making sure that the insured company isn’t doing anything that will put them at too great of a risk for losses beyond what their business type would indicate) than an improvement tool (helping attain better performance.) The challenge is engaging with business and property owners and operators to help them improve their performance and better their condition.

So what is it really?
If loss control (or risk control as it is also called)isn’t just inspections, what is it then? Here’s a start. Loss control requires two dimensions: The first dimension is the active engagement of insured entities to understand the hazards that they are exposed to, the controls currently in place, the loss experience they have had over time, and their approach to managing and guiding safety. The Second dimension is working together with those insured entities to improve their performance in a collaborative way. That second dimension is often absent.

The challenge
The biggest challenge toward that goal is that every organization is different and needs help in different ways. Some companies have well-developed safety management and only need targeted collaboration on certain key issues; others don’t have a clue of where to start and need more help than may be included with the service level set for their policies. Inspections will always be a part of the picture, and perhaps the most visible one in many cases, but loss control professionals and leaders need to remember and convey the bigger picture.

Vehicle Into Building Crashes: A Longstanding Issue Emerging in Recognition and Understanding

I have been working with several groups in the restaurant, retail, and hospitality industries on the issue of vehicle-into-building crashes, also sometimes referred to as “storefront crashes.” This is about the accidental contact (or near contact) with or intrusion into buildings by vehicles, accidental versus intentional in nature. These incidents sometimes damage property, sometimes cause injuries. The outcomes may be severe.

The scope and impact of this issue is huge, but still not as recognized as it should be. Incidents continue to occur, with severe consequences to people and property. No unified standard of care, or regulatory framework has yet emerged, but work is underway in that regard. Thankfully, more attention is being given to this issue all the time. Here are two new articles of note that highlight the issue:

Risk Management Magazine on storefront crashes.

And another recent story on FairWarning.com, highlighting in particular how preventable many of these incidents are.

This issue it starting to receive some long overdue attention. Hopefully prevention approaches will soon become more widely understood and implemented.

Developing a “Safety Culture” vs developing a Positive or Focused or Meaningful Safety Culture…

At the recent National Safety Council annual Congress and Exposition in San Diego, the NSC’s central booth focused on their “Journey to Safety Excellence” initiative. It’s a nice way to summarize one model of a path that companies travel on their way to safety excellence. It looks like a great set of tools to help companies reduce incidents and exposures, improve compliance, and improve management skills as well.

One of the interesting features of their booth display was an in-person survey of the issues that people felt were the most pressing or challenging related to their own companies journey. The results were evident immediately and graphically via dropping a poker chip into a labeled large clear acrylic tube, so the the stacking of chips made an immediate “bar graph” display of results. the four choices were as follows:

Leadership and Employee Engagement

Safety Management Systems

Risk Reduction

Performance Measurement

Is it any surprise that “Leadership and Employee Engagement” was the leading category by a wide margin? People at many companies and organizations are seeking more engagement in safety and risk reduction. They are seeking increased engagement at all levels, and they know that engagement is necessary for any larger success in safety excellence to occur. This is a worthy topic, and there is one simple point I’d like to address today:

What does it mean to refer to “Safety Culture” development?

One of the informal definitions of culture that I want to revisit is the simple phrase “Culture is the way we do (and see) things around here.”

So what is we seek to develop? One recently popular notion that because all organizations have some sort of culture related to safety, including dysfunctional and counterproductive versions of safety culture, just saying that seeking to develop “safety culture” is not enough. The naysayers say that you already have a safety culture and that what you need to do is make it better. Sure, that’s technically true, but framing the situation that way is a needless technical hangup, that will end up confusing a lot of end users. So let it be known that in common use, referring to developing a safety culture means developing a safety culture that is better, more effective, and more advanced than what you are starting with.

Keep in mind the following characteristics of a great safety culture:

  • A great safety culture is effective at reducing risks and losses
  • A great safety culture is understood at all levels
  • A great safety culture is realistic and not theoretical
  • A great safety culture exists across all portions of an organization
  • A great safety culture is focused on meaningful action
  • A great safety culture includes understanding of how safety supports production goals
  • A great safety culture is not just for show

What means do you use to know where you are starting from and where you need to go? Do you do employee safety perception surveys? Do you have meetings that bring different levels together? Do you solicit input and ideas both formally and informally?

And most importantly, do you truly value that the input you get from your workforce? How do they know that?